Monthly Archives: June 2020

Yellowstone NP part 4 June 28, 2020

On our last day in Yellowstone NP we drove from our campground to Mammoth Hot Springs. On the way we passed the 45th parallel sign. IMG_20200627_092030

As we entered the village of Mammoth Hot Springs we were delighted to see a large herd of elk grazing in the traffic circle. We especially enjoyed seeing all the calves. IMG_20200627_092725MVIMG_20200627_092838IMG_20200627_092754

We continued on to the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces area. MVIMG_20200627_100856IMG_20200627_101630

Mammoth Hot Springs has mineral laden hot water from deep within the Earth’s crust which finds its way to the surface and builds beautiful tiers of cascading, terraced stone.  Hot water and gases ascend through limestone deposits, sculpting the rock.  Once exposed to the air, calcium carbonate from the limestone is deposited as a rock called travertine.  These hot springs do not erupt but instead build these spectacular terraces.  The terrace sculpting has been going on for thousands of years as thousands of gallons of water well up and deposit large amounts of travertine, or limestone, daily and as quickly as three feet per year! IMG_20200627_093730IMG_20200627_094605IMG_20200627_094707IMG_20200627_100314IMG_20200627_100616

We walked around the extensive boardwalk area, up and down many steps as we made our way around the area. Just beautiful! IMG_20200627_100840IMG_20200627_100958IMG_20200627_101150IMG_20200627_101308IMG_20200627_101313IMG_20200627_101416

Near the parking area is what they call “Liberty Cap”, a dormant hot spring cone 37 feet tall. The 1871 Hayden Geological Survey strangely named the cone after the peasant caps worn during the French Revolution. They were also depicted on early American coins. IMG_20200627_093722

The village of Mammoth Hot Springs is where the Yellowstone park headquarters is located and it has a village of stores, gift shops, a Visitors Center and a couple restaurants.  In the early days of Yellowstone National Park’s existence the park was protected by the U.S. Army from 1886 to 1918. From what you might wonder. From people damaging the geothermal areas and hunting the wildlife.  The original buildings of Fort Yellowstone such as the guardhouse, jail and soldiers’ barracks are preserved and still standing in Mammoth Springs today. IMG_20200627_101706IMG_20200627_101816IMG_20200627_102322IMG_20200627_105550

This concludes our time in Yellowstone NP. Next we continue our summer travels into 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 2 June 22, 2020

After our two night stay in Island Park to see the south part of Yellowstone and Old Faithful, we moved to a new location north of the park. In order to get to our next campground we drove into the west entrance of the park, quickly crossing from Idaho into Wyoming, through the park crossing from Wyoming into Montana and came out the north entrance. Three states in a short distance. Remember in the last blog I said Yellowstone is in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana with the largest section of the park located in Wyoming. Along the way we ran into a brief “buffalo jam” which is always fun! MVIMG_20200622_105255MVIMG_20200622_105352IMG_20200622_105355IMG_20200622_105401

Near the north side of Yellowstone we saw this coyote. IMG_20200622_120101

We went by the Park’s Post Office and noticed the bears had on face masks! IMG_20200623_152756
IMG_20200623_152725In this picture you can see the historic arch at the North entrance to the park and there is Bill making the turn in front of me. The cornerstone was laid down by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.

Our next campground was located in the tiny town of Gardiner, Montana, conveniently located just outside the park. We checked into the campground and started to get settled into our new campsite along the Yellowstone River. Bill was outside getting things set up and talking to our new neighbors, also from Florida. Suddenly I heard a commotion and the lady next door was very upset. Going to the window I discovered a large snake had slithered up the tree behind us and was going after a nest of baby birds. Her husband grabbed a long pole and knocked the snake with a baby bird out of the tree. The snake coiled up and began to hiss. IMG_20200622_150256

Everyone backed off and the snake quickly ate the baby bird and then continued to coil and hiss. The neighbor managed to use the pole to flick the snake over the river bank. The mother bird was quite upset screeching and circling overhead. The neighbor looked at us and said, “Welcome to the neighborhood”. If we hadn’t prepaid and had nowhere else to go, I would have been tempted to pack up and leave. I wondered if there were more baby birds in the nest and the snake would come back. After some discussion it was determined it was most likely a bull snake since it didn’t have a rattle. In case you are wondering, we thankfully never saw the snake again and after a couple days I forgot about it. 

The next day we left the campground early and spent the day touring one of my favorite places in the park, Lamar Valley, known as the  premium place to see wildlife. This is a blog where pictures can describe better than words. We saw many bison, pronghorn sheep and even a bear. We loved every second of this day! IMG_20200623_121641IMG_20200623_112503IMG_20200623_112808IMG_20200623_113401IMG_20200623_113440IMG_20200623_141729IMG_20200623_123620IMG_20200623_142742IMG_20200623_144434IMG_20200623_144034IMG_20200623_142813IMG_20200623_142641IMG_20200623_133751IMG_20200623_133254IMG_20200623_120056IMG_20200623_142130MVIMG_20200623_142006IMG_20200623_132720IMG_20200623_140013IMG_20200623_135954IMG_20200623_132608


Next up: Yellowstone part 3 Waterfalls and more animals

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.

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.