Friday, July 31, 2009

Catching Up in Idaho Falls

We’ve been enjoying our time here in Idaho Falls, getting a few things done while we’re in the “big” city.  I’ve got my appointment set up for my routine blood work to be done next week.  We’ve done some shopping, but not exactly at the mall, as Mark asked me to do!  In my last entry, I mentioned we’d stopped by Best Buy to check on some electronics.  We both have new toys!  Jim has a Bose speaker system for his MP3 player, I have a new Toshiba laptop, and we also have a new wireless printer.

We made our purchases on Wednesday, but left the computer with the Geek Squad to be optimized and  have some software installed.  While we were waiting for that to be done, Thursday we headed off to explore two scenic byways that are nearby:

IMG_9615 Where we caught some very interesting views of the Grand Teton mountain range:

IMG_9644The Teton Byway starts about 35 miles southeast of Idaho Falls at Swan Valley and ends at Ashton, where the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway starts. 

On the Mesa Falls byway, we stopped at the Lower Falls, where the observation deck is a long ways above the falls.  Then we went to the Upper Falls:


Where they have stairs and walkways to get closer to these dramatic falls:

IMG_9550 Happy dogs got to go with us:



We have gone down part of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in a small drift boat, but not this section!

IMG_9548After our two byway drives, we stopped at a small restaurant in Ashton and had a bite of lunch before heading back to the rv park.

I picked up my new computer and started the process of getting familiar with Windows Vista and finding out what programs I run that might have “compatibility issues.”  This process continued all day today, and I’ve finally got to the point I can use the new machine.  The issues have been surprisingly minor, all things considered.  I will be buying a couple of new programs that don’t have upgrades available, but they are not critical. 

Tomorrow, Dortha and Mark will be arriving and we’ll continue our adventures!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Easy Travel Day to Idaho

Of course it was easy, it was downhill all the way!

I took this picture when we were a little more than halfway through the 6% grade area, it was a total of 5 miles long:

IMG_9603 It’s hard to see in this picture, but the Idaho flatlands are out there on the horizon:IMG_9602 We got underway at almost exactly 10 a.m. this morning for our 2 hour drive to Idaho Falls.  Our fuel stop was an easy-in, easy-out truck stop at Rexburg.  Gas mileage for the day was 10 mpg – Jim would like to have that kind of mileage all the time!

We got to  Idaho Falls a little before noon and found our exit, Lindsay Blvd. with no problem:


Just down the street from the exit is the Snake River RV Park:

IMG_9607 This park used to be a KOA, but now is privately owned.  The check in process was easy and friendly, and getting to our site was no problem at all.  There are a lot of trees here, but we found a little open space and got a satellite signal pretty quickly.  We also had no trouble getting level, so we were happy about that.  The downside is that every other site is 50 amp, so when Dortha and Mark arrive on Saturday, they will not be right next to us.  The pull throughs in this section also go opposite directions, so one neighboring site (driver’s side) is very close to ours, while the other side is a little further away.  But the park has a nice feel to it, and we’ll be fine here for the next 9 nights.

After we got set up, we took the owner’s recommendation and went to a nearby Mexican place for lunch:


The restaurant is just across the street from the falls that gave the town it’s name.  Below is a very small section of the falls, which actually cover about a city block or more:


The afternoon has been spent relaxing, although we did make a quick trip across town to check out some electronics at Best Buy and a stop back by the river walk for a nice stroll.

Over the next few days we will be catching up with business and shopping.  Mark asked us to be sure to buy out all the stores at the mall before they get here. I’ll sure try, Mark, you can rest assured I will do my best for you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wrapping Up Yellowstone

The past few days have been a mix of going and staying.  On Friday, we got up early and made the 2-hour drive to Idaho Falls so I could go to a Weight Watchers meeting, plus we needed a few things from the store that we did not want to wait close to a week to get.  We also checked out a fuel stop and the directions to the RV park where we’ll be staying. It was a productive day.

Saturday was dog grooming and laundry day.  Jim got the laundry together and took off for town while I bathed both dogs and got them trimmed up.  I gave them both a “summer” haircut, much shorter than I usually do.

When the work was done, we took a drive over by the Earthquake Lake area to explore a little more.  I think we see the other side of this mountain from our RV park:


On our way back home, we stopped at a restaurant called the Longhorn Saloon and had an early dinner.  It was a little pricey (like most things in this part of the country), but very good.

Yesterday was mostly an at-home day without much going on.  We grilled burgers and sausages for a late lunch, and afterwards went into West Yellowstone for a little shopping.  We got caught in a rainstorm and ducked into an ice cream shop for a treat while we waited for the storm to pass.

We thought we might find some wildlife out and about after the rain, since it was still cloudy and cool.  Mark drove us back over to some beaver ponds near Earthquake Lake that is supposedly known for spotting moose.

No moose were out:


The wildflowers are so beautiful here:

IMG_9429 And, on the way back, we did see this osprey in her nest:

IMG_9437 As well as this cormorant:

IMG_9434 Since today is our last day in this area for awhile, we decided to visit the park one last time and see a couple of areas that we didn’t have time to explore before.  Our fist stop was Firehole Canyon to see Firehole Falls:


Well, here’s some wildlife:

IMG_9565 IMG_9581


Then we stopped by the Midway Geyser Basin for a look at the beautiful colors:

IMG_9489_1 We made one more stop at the gift shops near Old Faithful to be sure we hadn’t overlooked some treasure.  Then we headed back home to rest up before happy hour.

Tomorrow is travel day to the Snake River RV Park in Idaho Falls.  We hope to have better cell and internet connections there!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Some days, I find it hard to write about what we do because it’s just so awesome that putting it into words and pictures seems so inadequate.  I think today was one of those days. 

First, as I was walking the dogs this morning,  I caught a glimpse of a doe elk crossing a road just behind the rv park.  That was quite a sight!  I had a feeling then that today would be a good one.

The plan for the day was to go into the park and explore the upper and lower falls in what’s known as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  Dortha and I put together a quick picnic lunch with what we had on hand.  We still needed to make a quick stop at the grocery in town on our way to the park.  With three grandchildren visiting Mark and Dortha, food goes quickly.  We got to the park entrance a little after 10. 

If you’ve gone in the West Entrance to the park, you may have experienced seeing the bald eagle’s nest just a few miles from the entrance.  This morning, the traffic slowed to a crawl and then a stop long before we got to the nest.  We never could figure out why it took nearly an hour and a half to get through to see this adult bald eagle on the nest.  People just stop in the middle of the road instead of pulling over to the side to let others pass.  But we always like to get a new picture when we can.  We think there is a fish on the edge of the nest, but we can’t tell for sure:

IMG_9314We got through that bottleneck and continued on.  In another section of the park, they are doing road construction, and they have traffic down to one lane.  We thought we got lucky there this morning, as we got to the construction zone, our lane was moving along.  But, about halfway through, we once again got slowed to a crawl and then a stop.  Finally, we cleared the construction, and just as we passed the flag-person, Zachary called out that there was a wolf!  Yes, there was – but we got only a glimpse as we passed by, and couldn’t get a picture, this time.   Maybe next time.

Only another 30 or so miles to the canyon and the falls.  By the time we got in the area, we were ready for that lunch.  We stopped at a picnic area and had our sandwiches before continuing the exploration.

The picnic area was right by the Yellowstone River, just a little upstream from the falls and the canyon.  This picture is looking upstream:

IMG_9461 Zachary and Lauren were happy to be running around after lunch:

IMG_9455 Just after we pulled out of the picnic area and were on the way to the first lookout, we saw this fellow having his lunch:

IMG_9341 Time to explore! The sign explains that the canyon is from 800 to 1200 feet in depth and 1500 to 4000 feet wide and about 24 miles long.  The color in the rocks is from hot spring activity that alters the lava rock:

IMG_9501 We first went to the Artists Point on the south rim to view the lower falls:


IMG_9482 Andrew and Lauren enjoy the view of the canyon:


We made our way to a couple of other viewpoints before returning to where we could see the upper falls:

IMG_9509Finally we were explored out, and started the journey back.  One thing about Yellowstone National Park, with over 2 million acres, it takes a long time to get anywhere!  We always know it will be a long day, even if we only plan to see one area, because it just takes a while to drive anywhere.

Finally, we exited the park and headed west on US 20 towards the rv park.  About half-way there, Jim said, “What’s that?”

Well, this is what that was:

IMG_9393a Why did the black bear cross the road?

IMG_9399Because the grass was greener on the other side!

What a day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Big Spring

Joann left us a bag of travel booklets and magazines related to Idaho and the northwest. In the Idaho book, I found a reference to Big Spring, a source of water for Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. Since it isn’t far from Lionshead RV Resort, which is located just a few miles from the Idaho state line, we chose to visit it yesterday.

We didn’t know what to expect, except the write-up mentioned that the spring provides millions of gallons of water to the river every day, and there is a half-mile trail that is not difficult. We found the turn-off from US 20 with no trouble and drove to where the GPS took us into a campground. Just before turning into the campground, we noticed a parking lot next to what we thought was a pool. That turned out to be the Big Spring! The water doesn’t gush out, but bubbles from the bottom of the pool and along it’s edges. It’s at a fairly constant 52 degrees year round. The water is crystal clear, and the area is beautiful!

Dortha, Mark, Andrew, Lauren and Zachary standing in front of the spring:


A little girl sitting on the platform at the edge of the spring, with the bridge in the background:


Seagulls! Are they lost?

IMG_9394 The half-mile trail turned out to be about a quarter of a mile one way, leading to a little cabin which was built by John Sack, complete with a little water wheel that he built to provide electricity. He was a woodworker, and built not only the cabin, but all of the furniture. The house is open to the public, so we walked the little path and went through the cabin.

IMG_9439 Jim caught me coming back on the trail:

IMG_9284 This was the view down river from the bridge over the spring:

IMG_9436 All that walking made us hungry, so we went back to West Yellowstone and stopped at Gusher’s Pizza for lunch:

IMG_9443 Later on in the afternoon, we took a drive on a road near the rv park, which leads to Hebgen Lake’s south shore. The road starts out as a 2-lane blacktop, but eventually turns into:

IMG_9307 And, then, that’s all there is! Time to turn around:

IMG_9309 It was a fun day!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Wonderful Visit

Friday evening, Doug and Joann came over for the inaugural fire in our new, portable fire pit. We first saw one of these at our gathering in Kerrville in March and, of course, just had to have one. It all comes apart and fits into a small enough container to store in the trunk of the Saturn.

IMG_9322 IMG_9323

And we enjoyed s’mores:

IMG_9325The sun doesn’t set here until around 9 p.m., but once it goes down, it gets pretty chilly, so we said goodnight as soon we started getting cold.

Saturday morning, Joann and I took a short walk on the nature trail that is near the campground. After our walk, she and Doug came over to take a look at our Wii game console and the games we have, including Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Guitar Hero. Doug had never seen any of these, so he was pretty interested to see what all the fuss is about.

Then we decided to take a drive over to see Earthquake Lake and the visitor’s center, about 30 miles from here. The lake was formed as a result of a massive landslide that blocked the Madison River during an earthquake which occurred on the night of August 17, 1959. A campground and several cabins and homes were destroyed by the event which claimed the lives of 28 people. Hot springs and geysers in Yellowstone Park were also affected by the 7.5 quake, with some geysers going off for days. One geyser, the Clepsydra, has been going off continuously since that night. It was interesting, and a little sobering, to see the effects of just a flash of time.

After we got back, we had a rest time before the evening get together out in our yard. Dortha and Mark had taken their 3 older grandchildren, Andrew, Lauren, and Zachary, to Yellowstone for the day, and we all got together to grill buffalo burgers and brats for dinner. We had a great evening of eating and visiting.

This morning, Doug and Joann were ready to go by 8. They came over for a last hug and our “See You Down the Road” and were off on their journey. Travel safe, dear friends!

A little while later, we joined Dortha, Mark, and the grandchildren for a day in Yellowstone. The plan was to take our lunch and hike the area around Tower Falls. We also hoped to find more wildlife, maybe some wolves and black bears. However, the weather had other ideas for us, and by the time we reached Tower Falls, it was raining. We kept going and headed towards the northeast entrance, through Lamar Valley, because that’s where we’d heard other folks mention seeing wolves and black bears. We saw a lot of buffalo and a few antelope, but nothing else. Well, except for the beautiful scenery, of course.

Finally, the sun came out and we stopped at a picnic area to have our lunch.

Here’s some wildlife that was hanging around the picnic area! Even with teeth bared, just for Gordon, who left a comment about our grizzly bear. Sorry it’s just a ground squirrel, Gordon!IMG_9226a

While we were cleaning up our picnic things, a lady was arriving for her own picnic, and mentioned they had just seen a bear not far back on the road. We hurried along with loading up and headed back. Not far along the road, we saw the characteristic group of cars stopped, and pulled in to see. We just missed it! There was a black bear spotted, but by the time we got there, he was no longer visible.

We continued on, and not far down the road, we saw a speck of brown out in the grass. Yes! It was a black bear! Unfortunately, it was too far away, and our pictures don’t show anything but a little brown dot that gets blurry when we try to enlarge it.

So, instead of bear and other wildlife pictures, I have these mountain scenery pictures to share:


IMG_9247 IMG_9364


Wildlife, rain, or sun - it doesn’t really matter – Yellowstone is awesome!