Category Archives: waterfalls

waterfalls

Billings, Montana AUG 11, 2020

We drove from Lewistown to Billings (pop 104,000) for a one week stay. The weather during our stay was hot, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees on our last day! 

Billings most striking feature is the Rimrock, a natural feature rising 500 feet above the Yellowstone Valley. Legend says that in 1837 two Crow warriors, dressed in their finest and singing death songs, rode a solid white blindfolded horse over Sacrifice Cliff from the Rimrocks. They did this to appease their gods in order to halt the spread of smallpox among their people. The Native Americans call the cliff “The Place Where the White Horse Went Down“. The Crow, who had no immunity to the disease, had contracted smallpox from the people of the American Fur Trading Company. The disease caused great loss to the Crow people between 1837-1838. IMG_20200814_142111

The Rimrocks sandstone formations were formed 80 million years ago. The Western Interior Seaway, where Billings is today, slowly rose and fell over time, leaving behind compressed sand that became this massive formation. The Yellowstone River has been cutting into it for a million years, leaving a canyon in the bedrock. IMG_20200814_144013

We drove along the top of the Rimrocks with nice views of the city of Billings below. MVIMG_20200814_143927

Then we visited Riverfront Park where we found a geocache and got a glimpse of the Yellowstone River. We had several views of the Yellowstone River flows through Billings. IMG_20200814_155839IMG_20200814_152617

We also stopped by Boothill Cemetery, the final resting place between 1877-1881 of three dozen individuals, many who died with their boots on. This is one of many such named cemeteries throughout the west. Buried in this cemetery was Muggins Taylor, the scout who brought the world the news of Custer’s last stand. There was a large rock memorial with quotes on each of the four sides.

Quote 1:
“This Monument Marks A Historic Site
Where Thirty-Five Lie Buried
For Fortune and Fame
Lost Their Lives Lost Their Game” 

Quote 2:
“Upon This Rugged Hill
The Long Trail Past 
These Men Of Restless Will
Find Rest At Last” 

Quote 3:
“The Stream Flows On But It Matters Not
To The Sleepers Here By The World Forgot
The Heroes Of Many A Tale Unsung 
They Lived And Died When The West Was Young” 

Quote 4: was unfortunately too worn to read IMG_20200814_154906

On Saturday we drove to Red Lodge, Montana to begin driving the Beartooth Highway (All-American Highway) which goes from Montana into Wyoming. Charles Kuralt called this “the most beautiful roadway in America“. IMG_20200815_143822

IMG_20200815_125628-EFFECTS

Can You See The Bear’s Tooth?

It is also designated one of the most dangerous roads in America as it climbs to 10,947 feet with numerous switchbacks.

On our GPS you can see the five switchbacks which gain about four thousand feet. IMG_20200815_125116IMG_20200815_111529PANO_20200815_115105.vr

Completed in 1936, it provides views of some of the most rugged and wild areas in the lower 48 states.  Along the way are visible twenty peaks over 12,000 feet, 950 alpine lakes, glaciers, Rocky Mountain goats, waterfalls and wildflowers. It took us eight hours to make the round trip drive with all the scenic overlooks. What a beautiful drive! IMG_20200815_121312IMG_20200815_122042IMG_20200815_131837IMG_20200815_122318IMG_20200815_131631IMG_20200815_130922

This is a herd of Rocky Mountain Goats, many are still shedding their coats. IMG_20200815_125852_1IMG_20200815_125854

MVIMG_20200815_141849

Pilot and Index Peaks

We saw Lake Creek waterfall and snagged a short video with sound. MVIMG_20200815_140748


Lake Creek Waterfall
Select this above link to see and hear the video. MVIMG_20200815_140844

We went to Crazy Creek waterfall and turned back for home. IMG_20200815_142828

We liked this old wrecker we found in one of the small towns we passed through. It looks like one of the cars (Mater) in the animated movie “Cars”. Mater is the rustiest, trustiest tow truck in Radiator Springs. IMG_20200815_165750
And an interesting sculpture as well! IMG_20200815_165828

After two wonderful months in Montana, it is time to move on to North Dakota. 

Next up: Medora, North Dakota 

Great Falls, Montana July 21, 2020

We arrived in Great Falls, Montana, (pop 59,000) for a two week stay. Great Falls is the third largest city in Montana. IMG_20200803_131659

It is located along the upper Missouri River where the Lewis and Clark Expedition had to portage around five waterfalls in June 1805 and then again during their return trip in 1806. IMG_20200802_133342L&C Portage Route MTIMG_20200803_131817Within a 15 mile stretch of the Missouri River there is an elevation change of 500 feet. This very difficult 18 mile portage around the falls took over 31 days. This portage was one of the most difficult of their journey. Great Falls gets its name from these five waterfalls. Today the city is called “The Electric City” because each of the falls has a hydroelectric dam. 

We spent time exploring the different falls and dams that make up Great Falls. The falls look much different today than they did during the time of Lewis and Clark because they were altered by the construction of the dams. The falls which at one time was seen as a great obstacle by Lewis and Clark is now seen as of great benefit to supply energy and power to the city. 

Of the five falls, one is not accessible by car and one is submerged. We were able to visit the other three. IMG_20200725_110316

Great Falls/Ryan Dam was the first we visited. When first seen by Lewis and Clark, a measurement of the height was taken by Clark using a sextant and a rod using geometry. Clark estimated the height to be 97 feet and ¾ inches which is remarkably accurate to the 96 feet shown by recent electronic measurements. Clark was only off by a foot! IMG_20200725_111308rThe Big Falls Missouri River MT 1910

To best view the dam and falls we walked across a suspension bridge across the Missouri River to Ryan Island Park. The upper part of the falls were covered by the 1,336 foot Ryan Dam. At first the dam was called Volta Dam after the Italian Alessandro Volta for whom voltage was named. It was later renamed Ryan Dam. IMG_20200725_105958IMG_20200725_110123PANO_20200725_111525.vr

Next up was Rainbow Falls/Rainbow Dam. Captain Lewis referred to this as “Beautiful Cascade”. The dam was constructed in 1910. IMG_20200726_115412IMG_20200726_105423IMG_20200726_105659MVIMG_20200726_105711

The last falls we visited was Black Eagle Falls/Black Eagle Dam. This falls is 26 feet high and 600 yards wide and was the first to be dammed in 1890.  We viewed the falls and dam from the Black Eagle Memorial Island Park which was accessed across a bridge. IMG_20200725_124239IMG_20200726_122717

On the riverfront trail along the Missouri River was a statue of Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea. IMG_20200726_122751-EFFECTSIMG_20200726_122948IMG_20200726_123109IMG_20200726_110616

We also visited Giant Springs State Park, a beautiful state park. Clark first found this great spring in June, 1805 and called it the largest fountain or spring he ever saw. It is one of the largest freshwater springs in the United States. Over 150 million gallons of water flow from Giant Springs into the Missouri River everyday. MVIMG_20200726_111554IMG_20200726_112343IMG_20200726_112419

The springs are the source of the Roe River, which at one time was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the shortest river in the world. Whether or not that record stands today, at only 201 feet in length it is definitely one of the shortest. The Roe River flows into the Missouri River, the longest river in the United States. IMG_20200726_111547IMG_20200726_111655IMG_20200726_112602

Next up we visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It was disappointing that both the theater and entire lower level of the Center were closed due to the pandemic. IMG_20200726_114936IMG_20200726_120309IMG_20200726_120309(1)

There were still interesting exhibits and displays here about the Expedition. Meriwether Lewis wrote that he saw more buffalo in this area than he ever witnessed before. Buffalo was a staple diet for the local Native Americans and became a favorite meal for the members of the Expedition. IMG_20200726_115758IMG_20200726_115853

We stopped by the Great Falls Visitors Center which was closed but we did see a nice statue of Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea, York a slave and Seaman the dog. We also found a geocache there. IMG_20200726_135500

We found a nice police memorial nearby. IMG_20200726_135702

On another very hot day we drove to the Upper Portage Camp Overlook. This area overlooks the site of the 1805 Lewis and Clark Upper Portage Camp on the banks of the Missouri River. Even though the landscape has changed over the centuries, it was still a place where we felt a deep sense of history.

IMG_20200802_133524

A Reenactment Of The Boat; In the Background In the Trees Is the Campsite

While Clark directed the portage around the falls, at this site Lewis supervised the assembly of a boat they had hauled in pieces from Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Considered an experiment, the iron boat frame was designed by Lewis in 1803. The canoe shaped frame was 36 feet long and 4 ½ feet wide with nearly 200 pounds of iron strips connected with screws. It was further strengthened with willow limbs and covered with animal skins. It was designed to carry 8,000 pounds. Lewis’ crew labored for weeks preparing 28 elk and four bison hides. Unfortunately during a trial run the boat at first floated like a cork and then sank. Lewis was devastated by the failure and ordered the boat to be buried here.

They then quickly moved upstream and made two large cottonwood boats as a replacement. The iron boat and failed experiment was never mentioned in their journals. A replica of the boat experiment is located here today. 

Meanwhile at the Lower Portage Camp, Clark and the rest of the Corps of Discovery struggled around the five falls. Four times they loaded baggage into six canoes laid upon carts and then pushed and pulled the heavy loads across 18 miles of rugged terrain. They used sails to help them whenever strong winds allowed and endured brutal hail storms. At one point they documented hail as large as seven inches in diameter that bounced 12 feet and landed 30 feet away. It left them bruised and bloodied. They endured heat, rain, prickly pear cactus, and mosquitoes. Through it all Sacajawea, having recently been deathly ill, carried her four month old baby. 

The Expedition all gathered together at the Upper Portage to rest and plan the rest of their journey before leaving on July 13, 1805. They stockpiled meat, wrote lengthy journal entries, made detailed maps, and dug a cache to store items and equipment they wouldn’t need until their return trip when they camped here again from July 13-26, 1806. It was here they celebrated the nation’s 30th Independence Day on July 4, 1805 with a feast of bacon, beans, dumplings, and bison meat as well as singing and dancing. They wrote they fought off mosquitoes and grizzly bears that harassed them daily. 

We also found a geocache here after a long search in the hot sun. 

We enjoyed our time in this historic city except for the extremely hot temperatures. 

Next up: Lewistown, Montana

Yellowstone NP part 3 June 24, 2020

Yellowstone is such an amazing national park. Whatever your interest, it has something for everyone. Geysers, hot springs, animals galore, gorgeous scenery and waterfalls. On our third day into the park we focused on waterfalls. IMG_20200627_105328

Yellowstone has a grand canyon. Not as huge or magnificent as THE Grand Canyon, but still fabulous and beautiful with not one but two magnificent waterfalls. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River was created from a lava flow 484,000 years ago.  It is mainly made of rhyolite rock.  Past and current hydrothermal activity weakened and altered the rock, making it softer.  The Yellowstone River eroded these weakened rocks to deepen and widen the canyon, a process continuing today.  The canyon is twenty miles long, more than a thousand feet deep, and between 1,500 and 4,000 feet wide with two waterfalls. IMG_20200624_100902

One end of the canyon begins at the 308 foot tall Lower Falls which may have formed because the river flows over volcanic rock more resistant to erosion than rocks downstream.  The same is true for the 109 foot Upper Falls. IMG_20200624_100707IMG_20200624_110656

When we were here five years ago we hiked several trails around the falls and one strenuous hike with 13 switchbacks that took us to the top of the falls. This time the trail was closed due to the pandemic. Just one of many things still closed throughout the park. But we still had plenty to see and do to keep us busy. IMG_20200624_105630IMG_20200624_110752

Along with visiting the canyon we drove through Hayden Valley where we saw plenty more bison, some elk and a bear. IMG_20200624_141025IMG_20200624_142401

We didn’t get a picture of this bear since he was too far away to get a clear picture. IMG_20200624_123955IMG_20200624_123747

This area took us along Yellowstone Lake (elevation 7,733 feet) with stunning views of water with snow capped mountains in the distance. IMG_20200624_124355

We stopped at an area with rapids where we actually talked with a park ranger, our only real interaction with a ranger all week. He told us if we looked closely we could see fish. This time of year is when the water flows at its highest. The fish were waiting because they knew as the water flow decreased during the hotter summer months, it would be time to swim back to the lake. We enjoyed some time there, watching the fish near the surface occasionally jumping out of the water. Too fast to catch with a camera! MVIMG_20200624_132732IMG_20200624_132824

This hill side is called Roaring Mountain. On the hill side if you zoom in you can see two active steam vents. IMG_20200624_150410IMG_20200624_150855

We stopped at a mud volcano area with a nice boardwalk around the hot springs. There were plenty of signs warning people to stay on the boardwalk because thermal areas have a thin crust above boiling hot springs and scalding mud. Some of the pools are acidic enough to burn through boots! More than twenty people have been scalded to death and hundreds more badly burned or scarred because they left the boardwalks. Imagine our surprise when we saw three bison very close by as we reached the halfway point around the boardwalk. A ranger was there and stopped people from continuing to get close to the bison out of fear of them becoming agitated.  We saw this happen on our first day when a lady with a camera got too close, and we were glad of the strong fence.  One was rubbing against a small tree, evidently trying to rub off the last of his winter coat. IMG_20200624_135718

Another was drinking water from a small pool of muddy water, yuck!! IMG_20200624_135544

The third was actually inside a mud pot area and we wondered how hot the ground was on his hooves. Eventually another ranger came with yellow caution tape and stopped anyone from entering that area of the boardwalk.  IMG_20200624_135520

The elevation drops significantly by a waterfall on the Gardner River as we travel to Mammoth Hot Springs and eventually to the North Entrance at 5,314 feet. MVIMG_20200624_153847

Near this waterfall we saw a lone Dall sheep high on the hillside feeding on the grass. He was so high up it was difficult to get a clear picture. IMG_20200624_154120IMG_20200624_154219

The next day Bill took a half day white water rafting trip on the Yellowstone River with the Yellowstone River Raft Company located in Gardiner MT.  IMG_20200627_111804MVIMG_20200626_095218

They went right behind our RV and I was waiting to take his picture. IMG_20200626_103952IMG_20200626_104012~2

The river was running with a good volume/flow of 10,000 cubic feet per second. He had a great time/ride and was glad to add the Yellowstone River to the lists of rivers he has rafted. IMG_6614~2IMG_0815~2IMG_6604

Next up: Our last day in Yellowstone NP

 

Yellowstone NP part 1 June 20, 2020

We looked forward to visiting Yellowstone National Park again this summer. We were last there in 2015. We left Idaho Falls and traveled to Island Park, Idaho for a two night stay. Along the way we could see the beautiful Grand Tetons mountain range in the distance. IMG_20200620_120115MVIMG_20200620_120131

Island Park, located just outside the west entrance of Yellowstone, was the perfect place to stay to visit the Old Faithful geyser. 

Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the world’s first national park.  Of the 2.2 million acres, 80% is forest, 15% is grassland and 5% is water.  Ninety-six percent of the park is in Wyoming with 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho.

Yellowstone is HUGE with:

  • five entrances into the park
  • ten visitor or information centers
  • three medical clinics
  • six gas stations
  • seven general stores
  • five hotels or lodges
  • twelve campgrounds of various sizes
  • and numerous restaurants and gift shops

But it was a very different Yellowstone than what we visited five years ago. The Visitors Centers were all closed. We always really enjoy the movies about the park shown at the Visitors Centers and we were disappointed not to see them again. With the Visitors Centers closed, access to Rangers and information on the park was very difficult. There were no informative Ranger talks and hikes. Restaurants were closed leaving tourists scrambling for food at the few general stores open. Most lodges and hotels were closed. Crowds were down but there were still plenty of people enjoying the park, some with masks and many without. In spite of it all, we were very grateful the park was open for us to visit and enjoy. 

Unfortunately the day we chose to visit Old Faithful was cold and windy with rain showers. The cold and high humidity gave us a very different perspective at the geysers. IMG_20200621_103745

This was most noticeable at the Grand Prismatic Spring. The wind was blowing so hard and there was so much hot steam as we walked along the boardwalk, we were not able to see the beauty of the hot spring. We noticed that some Bison had stomped around before we got here. IMG_20200621_101446

As we walked along the boardwalk we were enveloped in hot blowing steam, which quickly would fog your glasses. Here are pictures taken today IMG_20200621_095725IMG_20200621_101001IMG_20200621_101020IMG_20200621_101253IMG_20200621_102650IMG_20200621_101436

followed by pictures taken five years ago on a much better weather day. IMG_20200621_101706IMG_0555IMG_0560

It is always a thrill to see Old Faithful, the most popular and famous attraction in Yellowstone. It is rightfully named because it faithfully erupts every 60 to 90 minutes, spewing 8,400 gallons of steaming hot water up to 180 feet into the air. It is one of the most predictable geysers on earth. We timed our visit just right so we only had a ten minute wait for the next eruption. MVIMG_20200621_105605IMG_20200621_105910IMG_20200621_105741IMG_20200621_110637

Yellowstone is home to more geysers than any other place on earth and is one of the world’s most active geothermal areas.  Within the park are hundreds of geysers, hot springs, mud pots and steam vents.  This is because the park sits atop an enormous “supervolcano” and the immense heat from the underground magma powers the geysers.  The volcano last erupted 640,000 years ago and shows no signs of erupting anytime soon. Water from precipitation seeps into the ground, meeting the superheated earth near the underground magma chamber.  Tremendous pressure builds up until the water is forced back to the surface.  Some geysers like Old Faithful have their own underground “plumbing systems” and erupt at predictable intervals.  Other geysers share plumbing “pipes” with adjacent geysers and erupt more sporadically.

Yellowstone has approximately 700 to 3,000 earthquakes a year, most not felt. IMG_20200621_140157IMG_20200621_140245IMG_20200621_141824

After seeing Old Faithful show off, we explored some more of this side of the park. IMG_20200621_134327IMG_20200621_134054IMG_20200621_134439

We stopped by beautiful Kepler Cascades IMG_20200621_131058

and then impressive Gibbon Falls. IMG_20200621_145509

We also stopped at the Continental Divide and had lunch. IMG_20200621_125739

Despite the weather, a great first day in the park! 

Next up: Yellowstone part 2: Bison, pronghorn sheep and bears, oh my! 

Soda Springs & Idaho Falls, ID June 10, 2020

As we continued with our summer travels, we left Twin Falls and drove to Pocatello (pop 55,000) for a one week stay. Truthfully there wasn’t a lot to do in Pocatello, but we relaxed and killed time waiting for the weather to warm up at Yellowstone National Park. Pocatello is home to Idaho State University. 

Over the years on the road we have learned how to sniff out unique places. One day we drove an hour to Soda Springs to see their geyser. Soda Springs has approximately thirty mineral salt springs. Early trappers and pioneers called the area “Beer Springs” because of its natural soda water. They documented people drinking the soda water in large amounts while the Indians refused to taste it. Women used the water to make bread and documented it as being great light bread similar to yeast bread. 

Captive Geyser in Soda Springs is a carbon dioxide geyser controlled to erupt every hour on the hour. The town made the geyser into a tourist attraction with a viewing area. I was surprised to see on a weekday afternoon the small town geyser had attracted a small crowd.

The geyser is said to be the world’s only “captive” geyser. In 1937 some people in Soda Springs were trying to locate hot water for a community swimming pool. They drilled into the ground and unleashed the 100 foot geyser roaring like a dragon. They were surprised to say the least! For most of the night the town was enveloped in a mist of steam water running down Main Street and threatening to flood businesses. IMG_20200612_134933

Two weeks later the geyser was capped. IMG_20200612_135129

The Secretary of the Interior sent a telegram to Soda Springs asking the City to turn off the geyser because it was taking attention from the world famous Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone. Today a timer on a valve permits the eruption of the 72 degrees water every hour on the hour throughout the year. IMG_20200612_140227IMG_20200612_140411

Also at the viewing area is a Ground Observer Corps Skywatch Post used from 1956-1959. It was manned due to concerns about the growing capabilities of the Soviet Union to launch surprise air attacks against the United States. IMG_20200612_135005

On the way home we were on a hunt for Oregon Trail wagon ruts. As many as 350,000 pioneers and tens of thousands of covered wagons traveled the Oregon Trail between 1840 and 1870. In certain areas of the west, wagon ruts are still visible and we had read they were visible in this area. We stopped and tried to see the ruts but it would take some imagination to see them. IMG_20200612_142457IMG_20200612_143221IMG_20200612_143128

We also did some geocaching. One place we stopped for a cache was at Sheep Rock which towers 1,200 feet above the Bear River. Sheep Rock was a prominent landmark described in many pioneer journals as they traveled west on the Oregon and California Trails. Sheep Rock received its name from the pioneers because of the sizable flock of bighorn mountain sheep which occupied the rocky ridge above the river throughout the year. IMG_20200612_151005IMG_20200612_150428IMG_20200612_150151

On June 17th we moved to Idaho Falls (pop 57,000) for a three night stay. Our travel day was cold, rainy and windy. When we left Pocatello around noon the temperature was 44 degrees with rain and 20 mph winds. When we arrived at Idaho Falls it was 43 degrees, raining and 20 mph winds. We were so glad to get set up and turn on the furnace! Meanwhile the Yellowstone National Park area was getting some late season snow. IMG_20200618_132107

We had a short time in Idaho Falls but we did want to see the falls. The Idaho Falls waterfalls are created by a diversion dam for a hydroelectric plant. The original dam was created in 1909. The dam today was constructed in 1982 as part of a hydroelectric power development project. IMG_20200618_142946IMG_20200618_143202IMG_20200618_143315IMG_20200618_143332IMG_20200618_143549IMG_20200618_143907IMG_20200618_144007IMG_20200618_144137MVIMG_20200618_144200IMG_20200618_150158

This plant, as well as three other hydroelectric plants help the city of Idaho Falls generate approximately 50% of its own electric power needs. MVIMG_20200618_145747

Along the falls is the Snake River Greenbelt with paved walking trails along beautifully landscaped areas where people can sit on benches and enjoy the beauty and sound of the falls. IMG_20200618_142345IMG_20200618_142632

Next up: Yellowstone National Park at last!! 

Twin Falls, ID June 02, 2020

Leaving Utah, we headed northwest into Idaho. We had reservations for a week at a campground about ten miles south of Twin Falls. 

Twin Falls city, pop 45,000 is a lovely city with waterfalls, big and small in all directions. Twin Falls is the center of 500,000 acres of prime farmland irrigated by the waters of the Snake River. This area is referred to as “Magic Valley” because the early settlers seemed to magically transform the arid, largely uninhabitable land into a lush, agricultural paradise by irrigating their fields with water from the nearby Snake River.  IMG_20200605_113754

Twin Falls is also on the edge of the Snake River Canyon which was gouged out by the Great Bonneville Flood 15,000 years ago.

The city got its name from the two falls co-located on the Snake River that resulted from this flood. However the 1935 Twin Falls Dam and power plant, built to control the flow of water for irrigation and hydroelectric power, diverted the flow of the Snake River away from the southern falls. This left a single waterfall that plunges 200 feet into the Snake River from upstream lakes. So Twin Falls is no longer a twin falls. The power plant is capable of generating enough power to provide electricity for approximately 31,900 homes. IMG_20200605_115115IMG_20200605_115637IMG_20200605_125445

Five miles northeast of Twin Falls city is the much more impressive Shoshone Falls where the rushing white waters of the Snake River plunge more than 212 feet. It is called “the Niagara of the West” which is quite a stretch in our opinion. It is said to be one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States and is 46 feet higher than Niagara FallsIMG_20200605_141327IMG_20200605_140201IMG_20200605_140142

We stopped by the Visitors Center at the Perrine Bridge.  IMG_20200605_113734

The bridge, called the “Gateway to Twin Falls”, spans 1,500 feet and rises 486 feet above the Snake River Canyon. It is a popular bridge for parachute jumping. IMG_20200603_165126IMG_20200603_165113IMG_20200603_165107IMG_20200605_133758

In a nearby park is the Perrine Coulee Falls, which free falls nearly 200 FT.  IMG_20200605_133651_MP

In 1974 Evel Knievel attempted to fly his sky cycle/rocket across the Snake River Canyon but was not successful because his parachute opened too soon. There was a memorial to Knievel for many years but the plaque was continually stolen so the memorial is no longer available. 

Another day we drove the 68 mile Thousand Springs Scenic Byway through farmland with natural springs, hot mineral springs and cascading waterfalls.  IMG_20200603_153714IMG_20200603_144607IMG_20200603_144627IMG_20200603_150220IMG_20200603_150514IMG_20200603_150936
We drove through Buhl, the “Trout Capital of the World” which produce a majority of the rainbow trout consumed in the United States.
IMG_20200603_153306

Parts of the Byway had visible evidence of volcanic rock known in this part of Idaho. The area is known as “A Land Born of Fire and Water”. IMG_20200603_143150IMG_20200603_143252

We really enjoyed our visit to beautiful Twin Falls/Magic Valley. During the week the weather ranged from a high of 94 degrees one day followed by days with highs in the upper 40’s to low 50’s with strong winds. IMG_20200605_113845

Next up: Pocatello, Idaho as we work our way toward Yellowstone. 

Provo, Utah May 20, 2020

We left Panguitch a day late due to high winds with gusts of 55+ mph forecast for the area. We had to drive back over the pass towards Salt Lake City and didn’t want to do that with extreme winds. 

Our next stop was in Provo, pop 119,000 about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City. We were once again treated to beautiful views of snow capped mountains. The first thing we noticed at the campground was all the green trees and grass. After being in southwest Arizona for so long, we had forgotten the sights and smells of green trees and freshly cut grass. IMG_20200520_155442IMG_20200520_155603IMG_20200520_155630

We also noticed tiny white seeds falling from the cottonwood trees. If it had been winter we would have thought it was snow flurries. After an especially windy day the ground was covered in cotton seeds that looked like snow. We learned that this shedding of the cottonwood seeds occurs in late spring and early fall. In the past Bill and I have both had allergies from the cottonwood trees in Arizona. Thankfully this time they didn’t bother us.  IMG_20200526_102720IMG_20200526_102725IMG_20200526_102749

During our time in Provo the weather was very chilly with nighttime lows in the 30’s.

Utah continued to be under a yellow advisory and we were still careful and wore masks when going to the grocery store. Other than grocery shopping we stayed away from stores and public areas. 

When we planned our summer travels last fall we planned to visit the Utah state capitol building in nearby Salt Lake City. When we were in Salt Lake City five years ago we drove by the outside of the capitol but didn’t take the time to tour the inside. Unfortunately, this time the building was closed to the public due to the pandemic. IMG_20200525_132239-EFFECTS

We did manage to visit Bridal Veil Falls, a short drive from the campground. It was a beautiful drive with the snow capped mountains around us. The falls is a beautiful natural 607 foot tall double waterfall in Provo Canyon along the Provo River. In 1961, a tram was built, supposedly one of the steepest in the world which took visitors to the top of the falls. The tram was destroyed in an avalanche in 1996 and was never repaired. Such a shame as that would have really been fun to ride! IMG_20200523_142650IMG_20200523_142641

One afternoon we drove around the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo. Opened in 1877 and with a 634 acre campus, it is one of the largest church related private universities in the country.  IMG_20200523_144655

We saw the 112 foot Centennial Carillon Tower where 52 bells ring at intervals during the day. The university was closed and the campus empty due to the pandemic.  IMG_20200523_150848-EFFECTS

Next door to our campground was an interesting area with antique gas station signs. IMG_20200523_135622IMG_20200523_135812IMG_20200523_135838IMG_20200523_135933IMG_20200523_140056_MP

We even saw Elvis and Marilyn! IMG_20200523_135858

Next up: Brigham City, our last stop in Utah

 

Ridgway, CO July 28, 2019

After a wonderful time in Rico and Telluride we headed north on the San Juan Skyway to Ridgway State Park. Even though we were going north, we were dropping from 9,000 feet to just under 7,000 feet which meant warmer temperatures. We sure were going to miss the cool temperatures!

Ridgway State Park is located in Ridgway (yes, it doesn’t have an e). Ridgway, Colorado has a population of around 1,000 and an elevation of 6,985.  Beginning in 1891 it was a railroad town until part of the rail line was abandoned in 1953 and then completely abandoned due to a reservoir being built. The original location of the dam for the reservoir would have placed Ridgway underwater. A 1975 decision to put the dam further downstream saved the town, earning it the nickname “The Town That Refused to Die”. Ridgway has the only stop light in Ouray County. 

The Grammy Awards trophy is handcrafted by Billings Artworks in Ridgway. The trophies are hand cast in an alloy called grammium and then hand filed, ground and polished before being plated in 24k gold.

Ridgway and the surrounding area was the setting for John Wayne’s “True Grit” and “How the West Was Won”. In fact more than 100 films have been made in southwestern Colorado. 

Actor Dennis Weaver, from Gunsmoke and McCloud fame had a home in Ridgway and died there in 2006. Weaver was committed to preserving the environment and commissioned an architect to design and build his home from recycled materials such as old automobile tires and discarded cans. The Dennis Weaver Memorial Park in Ridgway is a sixty acre wildlife preserve with several walking trails. 

Ridgway State Park has three campgrounds and our campsite was located in the Pa-Co-Chu-Puk section with full hookups. 

We stopped by the park’s Visitors Center where they had a large display of animals native to the area. IMG_20190727_140437IMG_4836

The highlight of our stay here was the drive we took on the US Highway 550, also called “The Million Dollar Highway”.  I thought it was called this because of the million dollar views but research says the reason is disputed. Some say it is because it took a million dollars to build it in the late 1880’s, while others say it is because the fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore. Another idea is that people say you couldn’t pay them a million dollars to drive it during bad winter weather. Regardless of the reason, it is known as one of the most scenic drives in America but is also known as one of the 25 most dangerous roads in America. IMG_4729

US Highway 550 runs from New Mexico and ends/starts at Montrose  Colorado but the most scenic, and dangerous part runs 25 miles between Ouray and Silverton that goes over Red Mountain Pass, elevation 11,018. And that is the part we drove!

The road is cut into the side of a mountain with steep drop offs, narrow lanes, hair pin curves and no guardrails. It takes 100% of the driver’s concentration while passengers hold their breath as they look over the side. Along with 8% grades there are 153 curves! IMG_4742IMG_4778IMG_4755IMG_4811

We first passed through Ouray, known as the “Switzerland of America” and the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Colorado”. It is a picturesque mountain town at the base of the San Juan Mountains with one main street and no traffic lights. IMG_4715IMG_4707IMG_4710IMG_4717

We stopped by Cascade Falls Park with a lovely waterfall. IMG_4833

Red Mountain Pass at 11,018 feet is one of Colorado’s highest paved passes. IMG_4777

We saw avalanche signs and could see damage to trees that happened during an avalanche. IMG_4766IMG_4765

Along the way we saw waterfalls such as Bear Creek Falls, tunnels and evidence of once active mining in the area. IMG_4730IMG_4720IMG_4827IMG_4762IMG_4764

This area was used by gold and silver miners in the 1870’s.  It produced four million ounces of gold, 21 million ounces of silver and twelve million tons of lead, zinc and copper. It helped fuel the industrial revolution and supplied raw materials to support America’s involvement in two World Wars. 20190728_122602IMG_4822IMG_4770IMG_4824

Our turn around point was Silverton, a former silver mining camp. With a population of 630, its main source of income today is tourism, like Ouray. IMG_4781IMG_20190728_13484520190728_125802IMG_4785IMG_4786

We drove a dirt road that took us to a nice spot overlooking the town and the Christ of the Mines Shrine. 20190728_115943IMG_4791

After lunch at a little barbecue restaurant we headed back home. The road wasn’t quite as scary going the other direction, but we still had the hairpin turns and the occasional steep drop offs. It was the lack of guardrails that made it very unsettling.

Another day we drove a short distance from our campsite to the Dallas Divide Summit, elevation 8,970 ft, to take pictures of the mountains. So beautiful! IMG_4843IMG_4846IMG_4847

One evening we had visitors stop by our campsite. IMG_4854

Next stop: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Rico & Telluride, CO July 26, 2019

Leaving McPhee Reservoir Recreation Area, we drove an hour on the San Juan Skyway, called “Road to the Sky” to our next destination. Along the way we had beautiful views of the towering 14,000 foot San Juan Mountains and green rolling hillsides. 

We arrived at our campground, Cayton Campground in the San Juan National Forest for a six night stay. We had a very nice electric site along the Dolores River. At night we were lulled to sleep by the sound of softly flowing water. IMG_20190725_153505

The only drawback to this campground was we had absolutely no cell phone service which meant no internet. We were able to get satellite TV so we had news and weather. At an elevation of 9,400 feet, the daytime highs were in the low 70’s and nighttime lows in the mid 40’s.  A wonderful respite from the hot weather we had recently experienced. Each afternoon we had a brief thunderstorm or rain shower. IMG_20190725_153045

Our campsite had 50 AMP power and even though it worked, the 50 AMP power connector was cracked and potentially unsafe. The camp host brought a new one by and Bill offered to replace it. 20190723_123955

Six miles south of our campground was the tiny town of Rico. Twice we drove into town to use the internet access at the public library. Thank heavens for these friendly public libraries that are a big help to travelers like us. IMG_20190725_124100-EFFECTS

Rico was settled in 1879 as a silver mining town. At its peak Rico had a population of nearly 5,000. It had two dozen saloons and a thriving red light district. IMG_20190725_150448IMG_20190725_150425No longer a mining town, today it has a population of 266 and is made up of a main street with an inn, gas station, post office and town hall. 20190725_12072720190725_120802The public library is open four hours a day Monday through Saturday and is located in two rooms of the town hall building. I talked a bit with the librarian who said the public school in Rico closed last year due to declining enrollment. Today the parents have to take their children either 35 minutes north to the town of Telluride or an hour south to Dolores. Parents are responsible for getting their children to and from school. She said most parents work in Telluride and therefore their children go to school there. Quite different from most towns and cities in the United States where children just walk a block or less to catch the local school bus. The librarian said she wonders if the Rico library would ever close and expressed sadness that she no longer has children come by after school. She said the library summer reading program ended a couple years ago. Now she averages six or seven people who visit the library each day, less than fifty a week. The two times we visited we only saw two locals come in to use the library internet. I never saw anyone return a book or check one out. Very sad. We did note that after many many years of significant declining population, the population did rise by 65 people between 2000 and 2010. Maybe there is hope for this sweet little town. 

We visited the Rico post office while we were there and noticed it is also open only four hours a day but it had a steadier stream of traffic. 20190725_120743

On Friday we drove our car north to Telluride for the day. IMG_4611IMG_4622IMG_4625Also once a mining town, what a difference from Rico. With a population of 2,400, Telluride is a busy, active resort community similar to Vail. In the winter it is crowded with skiers staying in the many condominiums, resorts and hotels. In the summer people visit to enjoy the cool weather and gorgeous views. It is nicknamed the “Festival of the Rockies” because of the vast array of cultural events each summer. The name Telluride came from gold telluride minerals found in parts of Colorado. Strangely, telluride minerals were never found in Telluride but zinc, lead, copper, silver and other gold ores were mined there. IMG_4687

One of the best things about Telluride was the FREE gondola rides. We have been on several gondola rides in our travels and they are usually pretty pricey. This is the first free gondola ride we have ever seen and according to Telluride it is the first and only free gondola public transportation in the United States. It was begun in 1996 to address air quality concerns by keeping cars off the eight mile route between Mountain Village and Telluride. Since 1996 it has transported over forty million people. 20190726_142021

We read it is best to park at the free parking garage at Station Village and ride a gondola down to Telluride because street parking is very limited in Telluride. We parked the car at Station Village, elevation 9,545 and rode a gondola to Mountain Village Resort, elevation 9,540. IMG_4664IMG_4632We got off there and got another gondola which took us to Station St Sophia, elevation 10,535 and then continued down to Telluride, elevation 8,750. The whole trip took about thirty minutes. All the gondola workers were extremely friendly and helpful. The tricky thing about gondolas is they never completely come to a stop so you have to quickly jump on and off. Pets, bikes and skis are all allowed on the gondolas. It was interesting to see how the bikes are attached to the outside of the gondolas. 20190726_155906The Big Mountain Enduro bike event was going on during our visit. Bikers ride the gondola up the mountain and they ride bike trails to the bottom. IMG_4636IMG_4639

As we descended to Telluride we could see the town In the distance IMG_464820190726_15273220190726_153028IMG_4649as well as beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, at 365 feet the tallest waterfall in Colorado. IMG_4667IMG_4669

Every Friday they have a Farmers Market with fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods and beautiful flowers. 20190726_14453020190726_144920We found a geocache at the Galloping Goose, a unique hybrid vehicle that was a truck and train combination.  It was powered by a truck engine that rode on train tracks beginning around 1930. It ran on gasoline and carried both passengers and freight until 1951. We noticed the hybrid buses around town today are nicknamed Galloping Goose.  IMG_4665We really enjoyed walking around Telluride! IMG_467220190726_144419

We caught the gondola back from Telluride to Station St Sophia and got off and walked around the area. In the summer this is a popular area for bike riders to ride up and down the steep slopes. IMG_4676IMG_4679IMG_4686We went in the Nature Center where they had the biggest container of sunscreen I have ever seen. It was freely available to everyone. At 10,535 feet, you burn quickly. By this time our ears were stopped up and I was starting to feel some altitude sickness. I was lightheaded, slightly nauseous and my skin was clammy. We still had to ride two more gondolas to get back to the parking garage. I was dragging by the time we got back to the car. But after drinking an entire bottle of cold water from the cooler, I was feeling much better. We drove into Telluride and had a nice dinner. I think just the act of chewing food helped our ears recover. We both agreed this was the most fun we have had in awhile! 

The mountain views and alpine meadows were beautiful. IMG_4696IMG_4697IMG_4703

IMG_4699

Lizard Head Peak

Next up: Ridgway, CO

South Beach Olympic NP, WA AUG 12, 2018

After Forks we had a reservation for one night at a campground in Olympic National Park.  However I read about a first come first serve (no reservations) campground, also in Olympic National Park, with campsites that overlooked the ocean.  This campground is at one of several beaches in Olympic National Park and some of the last protected wilderness beaches in the contiguous United States. Since it was first come first serve we got up early Sunday morning and drove the 45 minutes to South Beach campground. This is one Pacific Ocean viewpoint along US-101. IMG_20180817_121518IMG_20180817_121509

We found the perfect site and asked the current occupants if they were leaving and if we could claim it by putting a folding chair on the picnic table. The current occupant said no problem. In the meantime we pulled into a less desirable site and waited. And waited. For five hours. Even though checkout was 11:00 AM, they finally pulled out around 2:30. With this view I can see why they hated to leave. IMG_3483IMG_3484

We stretched what was originally going to be a one night stay at the other campground to six nights here. Who could resist staying longer at this site with ocean views and the sound of the ocean right outside your window? A short distance from our campsite was a path down to the beach. IMG_20180813_180927IMG_20180813_175803IMG_20180813_175931

And can you believe with our national park senior pass the price was $7.50 a night? We were thrilled. Only drawback was it had no hookups. Small price to pay in our opinion. While we were there it was very hazy and we were under a poor air quality alert for many days. The Seattle TV News said it was due to wildfires in Canada with the air pressure system pushing the air down into our area. IMG_3488IMG_3497IMG_3503

During our six days we spent a lot of time enjoying the beach but one day we drove to another rain forest.  Last week it was the Hoh Rain Forest and this time we visited Quinault Rain Forest south of us in the southwestern edge of Olympic National Park. Last time we were here was 2014.  IMG_3482IMG_3477

We drove the 31 mile loop around Lake Quinault and Quinault River through the Quinault Rain Forest. We took a short hike to the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce. IMG_3461IMG_3460IMG_3466IMG_3462IMG_3464

It is 191 feet tall, diameter of 18 feet, 9 inches and a circumference of 58 feet, 11 inches. It is estimated to be about 1,000 years old.

Along the drive we stopped at Merriman Falls and IMG_3468

Bunch Falls. IMG_3471

We ended the day by hiking the Maple Glade Trail.  We really enjoyed our walk because it was far less crowded and seemed more green and lush than the Hoh Rain Forest we visited less week.  All of Washington state is really hurting for rain. The local news said that in the last 120 days the state has received less than an inch of rain. All areas are under a fire ban. 20180814_12564220180814_130741IMG_3478IMG_3480

Four years ago we took a difficult trail to see the large Quinault Cedar Tree here but we learned that it has now fallen over. IMG_20180814_133046
Here is our pictures from 2014:

IMG_0804IMG_0802

Next up: A visit to Beach 4 and some amazing sea life