Two Sundays in the Park

The past two Sundays, we have ventured down to Grand Teton National Park, about 2 hours South of West Yellowstone, MT. The 40 mile long Teton Range was formed over 10 million years ago, during a series of earthquakes along the Teton fault line. The western side of the line rose up, creating the mountain range, and the eastern side sunk down, creating the valley referred to as Jackson Hole. Over two million years ago, glaciers were present, carving out the mountains, and creating Jackson Lake, which is over 400 feet deep. The lake is very popular for boating, canoeing and kayaking.

Jackson Lake

Jackson Lake

Our first visit to the park, was mainly social. We met up with friends, old and new, for lunch at the Signal Mountain Lodge in the park. It was great getting caught up on everyone’s summer jobs, and we have some great opportunities to think about for future work camping positions. Karen and Al are working at Luton’s Teton Cabins. Steve and Joan, along with Maxine and Dave, are working for a company that maps out BLM land.

lunch with friends

lunch with friends

After lunch, instead of driving on the heavily populated main roads, Al led the pack in an off-road adventure on the Snake River. It was a great way to view the park and wildlife, without fighting all the tourists. July is the busiest month for both the Tetons and Yellowstone.

Snake River overlook

Snake River overlook

herd of Pronghorns

herd of Pronghorns

Once we completed our off-road adventure, we headed back to Karen and Al’s fifth wheel, to visit for an hour or so, before saying our goodbyes, as we all had two-hour drives back ‘home’. On our way back, we did stop at the sign in Yellowstone where the Continental Divide passes through the park (I like to take pictures of signs)! The Continental Divide, in case you are wondering, is the line that divides the flow of water between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Every continent except Antarctica has their own continental divide.

I stop for signs

I stop for signs

While we were stopped at the pull-out, this gentleman pulled up with a very cool RV set-up. A Ford Falcon (year unknown) towing a T@B trailer.

a cool RV set-up

a cool RV set-up

This past Sunday (July 19), we drove back down to the park to do a little more exploring, and met up again with Karen and Al.   They were running a little behind, so Dan and I stopped in to check out the Jackson Lake Lodge. While we were looking at the scenery out back, a women came up to the man next to me and said ‘did you see the moose’? He shook his head and she said to follow her. I quickly followed her as well! She pointed to an area of tall brush, and we waited and were quickly rewarded with this quick view of a moose!

Moose!!!

Moose!!!

I have never seen a moose before (Dan has while fishing in northern Minnesota with his college roommate Mike) so this was very exciting for me. And then there was more movement in the brush, and we saw a brief glimpse of a baby moose!

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

That just made my day right there! They both went out of sight, and we waited a while, but then continued on to meet up with our friends. We headed up to the top of Signal Mountain, which overlooks the valley.

Signal Mountain View

Signal Mountain View

If you look at the photo above, you will notice a uniquely shaped lake. We discussed various names, and Al came up with “Viagra Lake”. We will leave it up to you to decide what object you think it resembles! We headed back down and continued along the Teton Park Road, stopping at various overlooks. The first one overlooked Mount Moran (elevation 12,605 feet). We had low-lying clouds in the morning.

Mount Moran

Mount Moran

We stopped in at String Lake, which is a very popular swimming and kayaking area. It is also where many of the backcountry hiking trails begin. We saw a number of very tired, but happy guys that were just completing a multi-day hike.

String Lake

String Lake

We continued on down the road, and we were going to stop by Jenny Lake and the Jenny Lake Visitors Center, but they were overflowing with cars and people. We headed down towards Moose Junction to do some hiking in the Rockerfeller Preserve and noticed a lot of cars pulled over with a Park Ranger nearby trying to clear the traffic jam. We were briefly able to see another moose, fairly close to the road! This is when I am glad we have a sunroof in our truck, as I can pop up and take pictures while Dan continues driving.  Now we just need to see a Bull Moose with a big rack.

Another Moose!

Another Moose!

Unfortunately, when we arrived in the parking lot at the Preserve, it was all backed up and the Park Ranger told us there were eight cars ahead of us waiting for a parking spot. We talked it over with Karen and Al, and decided to just head out to lunch. We will plan on a hike later in August, when the park is less crowded. This is certainly a huge advantage to work camping, in that you can pick and choose when to do the things you want. Gone are the days of cramming in everything in one exhausting week of vacation. We see many people at night in the gift store that have “hit the wall” and are just exhausted from battling the crowds all day.

We had a nice late lunch at Dornan’s, which has an upper viewing deck overlooking the Tetons.

our lunch view

our lunch view

After lunch, we headed over to Lower Schwabacher area to view the Grand Tetons, before heading back home. The Grand Teton, at 13,770 feet, is the tallest peak in the range, with the Middle Teton and South Teton beside it. Since the clouds had finally lifted, it was a beautiful view with a nice reflection in the Snake River..

view of Grand Tetons

view of Grand Tetons

Life is Good

Life is Good

We had another great day, with friends, in the park. There are still many more things to do, and we will plan another visit in August. We also plan on spending some time in the city of Jackson, just south of the park. Most people refer to the city as Jackson Hole, but that is the name of the valley region, not the city. And we do plan on coming down through Idaho next time, so we can view the western half of the Teton Range.

Quote for the day: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

YNP – Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs is in the Northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, near the city of Gardiner, Montana. Previously, we discussed how Yellowstone contains the largest hydrothermal features in the world. This area, as the name implies, contains hot springs. There are no geysers in the area. With hot springs, hot water travels underground through limestone, and dissolves carbonate materials.   Water can easily flow to the surface where the heat escapes from runoff or evaporation. The water coats the surface with the carbonate materials, which hardens into travertine rock. Travertine is too soft to create enough pressure to form a geyser.

The drive up to the area is very pretty, and gives you an idea of how expansive this park is.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

As you get closer to the area, you can see how the landscape changes, as a result of the hydrothermal features. The white colored rock is from the limestone deposits.

limestone hills

limestone hills

The park service has put in extensive board walks around the travertine terraces in the area, so you can spend an hour or two taking a leisurely stroll to admire the beauty of these features.  The colors in the springs are from thermophiles, an organism (think bacteria) that can survive extremely high temperatures. The hot springs area is constantly changing, as it is a living, breathing eco-system.

Liberty Cap, a hot spring cone, where the “plumbing” system remained open in one place for a long time, allowing mineral deposits to build up to a height of 37 feet.

Liberty Cap

Liberty Cap

Palette Springs is a beautiful display of the hydrothermal features of this area, created over thousands of years.

Palette Springs

Palette Springs

Palette Springs

Palette Springs

Hot Springs can have a life cycle as this example of Jupiter Terrace demonstrates. In 1923, it was documented that water was flowing extensively in the area. The calcium carbonate materials choked off the roots of the trees, and they died off. Since 1998, this area has been dormant. If it continues to remain dormant, new trees and grass will start to grow in the area. As you can see by this picture, a small amount of vegetation has grown over the past few years.

Jupiter Terrace

Jupiter Terrace

grass starting to grow

grass starting to grow

Minerva Terrace is an area that alternates between abundant water flow, and minimal flow. This changes over several years. The area of color, is where the water was flowing when we were visiting.

Minerva Terrace

Minerva Terrace

Here are some additional views along our walk

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New Blue Springs

New Blue Springs

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Cleopatra Terrace

Cleopatra Terrace

This is an overview of the Mammoth Hot Springs visitors center, shops and hotels.

view down to

view down to “city”

The original entrance to the park, in Gardiner, has the Theodore Roosevelt arch, which was constructed in 1903. President Roosevelt himself placed the cornerstone during construction of the arch by the U.S. Army which was stationed in the park. Dan and I remembered driving through this arch in 2004 on our brief visit to the park, and since we were so close, we decided to drive through it again. Only to discover it currently looks like this:

Roosevelt Arch

Roosevelt Arch

slogan on top of arch

slogan on top of arch

The park service and the town of Gardiner are re-doing the entrance into the park and making the road through the arch one-way, with pedestrian access as well. There is a doorway in the arch, and people will be permitted to walk through the door. The town is also putting a bypass around the arch, to improve traffic flow. This construction should be completed later this year.

After a brief stop in the town of Gardiner, we headed back into the park, and down towards home, with a brief stop to check out the Golden Gate Canyon bridge and waterfall. The first bridge in this area was built in 1885 after blasting out 14,000 cubic yards of rock, and hauling them off via horse and wagons.   By 1900, the bridge was too unstable and stagecoaches were falling off. The bridge has been rebuilt 3 times since, most recently in 1977.

Golden Gate Canyon

Golden Gate Canyon

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A highlight of our trip today was a brief visit with Christine and Herb, who were busy working at the Mammoth Hot Springs gift store. We worked with them last year at Crazy Horse. It was great catching up with them, and we hope to try to get together this summer, although our off days do not coincide with theirs.

Quote for the day: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu

Rain, Rain and a brief park visit

Since we arrived in West Yellowstone, MT three weeks ago, it has rained every day.  The locals are happy about the rain, as they did not have much snow this winter.  As many have put it, more rain in May means less smoke (forest fires) in August.  I’m thinking it will be a bumper crop for mosquitos this summer!

The forecast for this past Sunday indicated it would be nice until the afternoon, so we decided to get up early and head over to Yellowstone National Park for the morning.  We got up bright and early….to thick fog!  The best wildlife viewing is early morning or just before sunset.  We decided to wait a few hours for the fog to lift, so we were not expecting to see much wildlife on this visit.  Since we are here for the Summer, we have decided to do the park in small sections.  The park is divided into eight sections, and we decided to head to the Canyon Village area, to view the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, along with the Upper and Lower Falls.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

The canyon is over 24 miles long, and is continuously changing, due to wind, water, earthquakes and other natural occurrences.

Along the way to several viewing positions, remnants remain of the glaciers that melted over 10,000 years ago.  This boulder, as big as a small home, remains nestled in the pine trees.

glacier boulder

glacier boulder

At 308 feet, the Lower Falls is the tallest waterfall in Yellowstone National Park.

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

The Lower Falls

The Lower Falls

The Upper Falls, is named because it is at a higher elevation on the river.  However, the waterfall is only 109 feet.

The Upper Falls

The Upper Falls

We did stop and view one geyser on our way to the Canyon Village area, but I forgot to take a picture of the sign, so I have no idea what this one is called.  It was very small and all by itself.

unknown geyser

unknown geyser

The highlight of the day was encountering two beautiful Elk that were hanging out near the parking lot by the Upper Falls viewing area.  Elk shed their antlers late March thru April, and then begin re-growing them almost immediately.  They can grow as much as 2 inches per day.  They are velvet covered during the period of growth, and by summer the blood flow stops to the antler, and it hardens.  The Elk scratch their antlers along trees to scrape off the velvet.

Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Hello!

Hello!

We are very excited about having the entire summer to take our time exploring the park.

Quote for the day:  “Think of your life as a waterfall; it may come crashing down at some point, it may have it’s ups and downs, but in the end, it will continue to flow.” – unknown

A day of Geology and Geography

We are currently in Kentucky, but I will be posting a few more blogs from South Dakota.

With a dog sitter in place for Makena (thanks Dick and Cheryl), we took a day trip over to Devils Tower, Wyoming, about 120 miles from Custer, SD.  In 1906, Devils Tower became the nations first national monument.  It plays a prominent part in the classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” movie from 1978.

a view from afar

a view from afar

There are two theories about how the tower formed, one from geologists, and the other from Native Americans.  Geologists agree that the tower is an intrusion, formed by magma, and has been exposed by erosion.  There are multiple theories on how this occurred, but in simple terms, as the rock cooled, it contracted and formed hexagonal columns.  (Todays math lesson: a hexagon has 6 sides)

The Native American legend is several girls were playing and a bear began chasing them.  As they tried to get back to their tribe, they jumped on a rock and began praying to the rock to save them.  The rock, only several feet in height, began rising out of the ground, out of reach of the bear.  The bear attempted to claw its way to the top, forming the “claw” marks on the tower, but was unable to do so.  Devils Tower remains sacred to many tribes today.

getting closer

getting closer

 

Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower, WY

There is a relatively easy 1.3 mile walking trail encircling the tower, affording many different views of the columns.  The base of the tower has a large rock pile, from the rock believed to have fallen off after the magna had cooled.  The rocks at the base have been slowly eroding away, further exposing more of the columns of the tower.

Close Encounters

Close Encounters

 Devils Tower, at a height of 867 feet, is a very popular park for rock climbing.  There is a voluntary closure during the month of June, as many Native American Tribes hold ceremonies during this month.  We were able to watch 3 climbers for a while.  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the three, one at the top center, middle left, and bottom center. (you may need to click on the photo to enlarge it)

3 hikers

3 hikers

In 2008, Japanese sculptor Junkyu Muto installed a sculpture on the property, “Circle of Sacred Smoke”.  The sculpture represents the first puff of smoke from the pipe used by Native Americans during their ceremonies.  The two granite boulders beneath the sculpture are blast fragments from Crazy Horse Memorial.

scultpure

sculpture

view thru sculpture

view thru sculpture

After soaking up all the geology, we heading over to Belle Fourche, SD to finish up with some Geography and History.  Belle Fourche (pronounced Bell Fuush), is the geographic center of the United States of America.

Belle Fourche, SD

Belle Fourche, SD

There is a large monument, with a geographic marker that I am standing on.  Been there, done that!

standing in the middle

standing in the middle

All fifty state flags surround the monument.

the monument

the monument

Also at the monument is the Tri-State Museum (free admission, donations welcome) which has some interesting items on display.  For the ladies that wanted curls, they could go down to the beauty parlor and sit under this machine, that looks like something found in a Frankenstein movie!

high tech perm machine

high-tech perm machine

The museum had a photograph showing a women getting her hair done.  It did not state how long this process took.

getting a perm

getting a perm

Vacuum cleaners have come a long was as well.  This is the Great Northern Vacuum Cleaner, made in Chicago, Illinois.  It is not electric, but a suction plunger model.

vacuum cleaner

vacuum cleaner

This is the Ironrite Mangle, a 1940’s model ironing machine.  You would feed your clothes into the heated roller.

ironing machine

ironing machine

Below is the Hodge Bootery X-Ray Shoe Fitting Machine, which was popular in the late 1940s and early 1950’s.  The shoe salesperson would take an x-ray of your feet to determine your proper shoe size.  In 1950, they realized the hazards from the radiation, and by 1970, 33 states had banned the machines.

shoe x-ray machine

shoe x-ray machine

The museum was also selling a poster of ‘Crazy Horse’, with a disclaimer that it is “believed” to be the only known photograph taken of him, in 1877.  In reality, no known photograph of Crazy Horse exists.

Crazy Horse??

Crazy Horse??

It was an interesting day, and the museum was a nice little find.  We would recommend a trip out to Devils Tower if you are staying in the Black Hills, or as a stopover on the way out West.

Quote for the Day:  “You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery, and always challenge yourself to try new things.” – Nate Berkus

 

 

 

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

After our first foggy visit to Mount Rushmore, we returned with our friends Forrest and Mary while they were in town.  As you approach the memorial from Highway 244 out of Hill City, you enter past a turnout that displays a profile of George Washington.  When we pulled in to the turnout, not a single person was looking up at George, and we quickly discovered what all the excitement was about.  There were Rocky Mountain Goats on both sides of the roadway,   We had these two right in the parking lot.

Mom and baby

Mom and baby

And a more adventurous pair across the roadway into the hillside.  These goats were introduced to the Black Hills in the 1920’s, and have adapted quite well to the area.

DSC_0319 (1)When Gutzon Borglum started carving Mount Rushmore, he originally planned to put Thomas Jefferson on the right  side of Washington.  After the workers started blocking out his face, it was discovered there was not enough good quality rock for carving, so they blew up what they hard started.  As a result, it left a good profile of Washington.

profile of Washington

profile of Washington

As you enter the memorial, you go through the Avenue of Flags, which has 56 flags representing all of the states and territories of the US.  It also makes for a popular photo opportunity.

Dan, Forrest & Mary

Dan, Forrest & Mary

The memorial has a Grand View Terrace, for excellent views of Mount Rushmore.  Beneath the terrace if the Lincoln Borglum (named after the sculptors son), which contains a museum, theatre and bookstore.  The museum has a photograph of what Mount Rushmore looked like prior to the construction.

prior to October 1927

prior to October 1927

After Gutzon Borglum died in 1941, his son Lincoln spent seven months working on the monument, but then Congress declared the monument complete on October 31, 1941  This is how the memorial looks today.  The heads are 40 feet tall.  (since we are working at Crazy Horse Memorial, I do have to note that all four heads of Mount Rushmore will fit on the side of Crazy Horse’s head!)

Mount Rushmore 7/2014

Mount Rushmore 7/2014

There is a walking path that takes you a little closer to the memorial, and down to the sculptors studio.  In the studio, there is a 1/12th scale model of what Borglum had planned for Mount Rushmore.  His plans were never completed.  All of the Presidents were to be carved down to the waist.

1/12th scale model

1/12th scale model

The small museum near the visitors center has many photographs and articles that go into great detail on the history of the memorial.  It also talks about the pointer device that was used to project the dimensions from the 1/12th scale model on to the mountain for carving.  This photograph demonstrates an example of the pointer (Math is important!)

pointer device

pointer device

We took the walking path around the memorial, and were able to get a nice photograph of the grand view terrace, and the amphitheater.  They have a nightly lighting ceremony, which we plan on attending one of these nights. (admission to the memorial is free, but there is an $11.00 annual parking pass).

Grand View terrace & ampitheater

Grand View terrace & amphitheater

Mount Rushmore is a “must see” item if you are in the area.

Quote of the day:  “Well, those figures were there for forty million years.  All I had to do was dynamite 400,000 tons of granite to bring them into view.”  – Gutzon Borglum

Jewel Cave National Park

Last week we had a wonderful time visiting with Forrest and Mary, whom we met in Cedar Key, Florida.  They are from Wisconsin, and are slowly making their way out to the Southwest, for the winter.  We all managed to get many things off our ”bucket list” during their visit.  Hopefully I can start getting caught up on my blogs, as I am very behind due to the lack of reliable internet.

Forrest & Mary in Jewel Cave

Forrest & Mary in Jewel Cave

There are many cave tours available in the Black Hills area, and so far the two best ones (in our opinion) are operated by the National Park Service.  We have previously visited Wind Cave National Park, and went with Forrest and Mary to Jewel Cave National Park.

Jewel Cave, Custer, SD

Jewel Cave, Custer, SD

Jewel Cave was discovered around 1900 by two brothers, Frank and Albert Michaud, and their friend Charles Bush, when they heard some wind blowing into a hole in some rocks.  They discovered a cave full of sparkling calcite crystals, and made a claim to this “jewel mine.”  Soon they realized there were no valuable minerals in the cave, and turned it in to a tourist destination instead.  Since “calcite crystal cave” doesn’t sound too exciting, they named the cave Jewel Cave.  The National Park Service took over the cave in 1908 which has protected the cave.

calcite crystals

calcite crystals

In 1959, Herb and Jan Conn were asked to join a cave expedition, and they spent the next 21 years discovering over 65 miles of additional passageways in the cave.  After they retired in 1981, additional explorers have continued discovering and mapping additional passages.   To date, over 170 miles of passageways have been discovered at Jewel Cave.

They offer four different cave tours, and we opted for the Scenic Tour, which is the most popular of the tours (and free with our VIP pass).  At $12.00, it is an excellent value.  The tour covers about 1/2 mile of the cave, in 1 hour and 20 minutes.  You take an elevator down into the cave, and there are about 700 stairs to climb up/down.  Of all the cave tours we have been on so far (still have several others to blog about), this would be the best tour for anyone who is claustrophobic, as this is a very wide open, cavernous cave.

Photography inside a cave is hard to do, because of the lighting, and lack of depth perception in photographs.  To get an idea of the size of this cave, you can see the stairs in the photo below, showing how far down we will be going.

Jewel Cave

Jewel Cave

And then back up again to another area of the cave..

up through a narrow passage

up through a narrow passage

Into a larger room of the cave.

cavernous area

cavernous area

This cave has several interesting formations.  I thought this piece of flowstone looked like a brain.

"cave brain"

“cave brain”

They call this very thin piece a soda straw.

soda straw

soda straw

Curved pieces of calcite on inclined walls and ceilings create these interesting “curtains”.

curtains

curtains

This piece of “bacon” is over 20 feet long.  It is also formed from calcite, but has magnesium in it as well, which provides the coloring.  This was our favorite formation in the cave.  Again, the photograph does not display the enormity and full color of this piece of “bacon”.

mmmm bacon!

mmmm bacon!

Jewel Cave is well worth the visit if you are in the Black Hills.  It is estimated that only 5% of Jewel Cave has been discovered, based on barometric pressure readings of the cave.  Future generations will be able to continue enjoying new discoveries for years to come.  Many visitors inquire about which cave to visit, Jewel Cave, or Wind Cave.  If you have the time, I would recommend both, as they are very different.  If you are short on time, or a bit claustrophobic, then stick with Jewel Cave.  And in our opinion, the National Park Service has done an excellent job in taking care of and preserving both of these caves.

Quote for the day:  “In the United States the best of our national scenery and our most interesting scientific and historic places are retained in public ownership, for the benefit and use of all people.” – Isabelle F. Story