Earthquake Lake

The night of August 17, 1959 forever changed the landscape and the lives of the residents and visitors of Madison Canyon (about 10 miles northwest of West Yellowstone). Close to midnight, an earthquake, measured at 7.5 on the Richter Scale, struck this area without warning. At the time, it was the 2nd largest earthquake measured in the lower 48 states. A massive landslide, over 80 million tons of rock, crashed down into the canyon and blocked off the Madison River.

Many people were camping along the banks of the river in a popular campground. The landslide buried parts of the campground, and the rapidly rising waters submerged the remainder of the campground. Twenty-eight people were killed as a result of the earthquake. By dawn, a lake had formed in what was once just a river.

In this photo below, you can see what is now referred to as “ghost-trees”, where the campground used to be. The hill where the landslide occurred is on the left side, and you can see what is called the “bathtub ring”, along the right side of the photo. This is how high the water rose after the landslide.

Ghost-trees

Ghost-trees

After the landslide, the water continued to rise and began rising backwards over the dam in nearby Hebgen Lake, causing several cabins to be destroyed. The water washed out many sections of Highway 287 which runs along the river. Within three weeks, what was once just a river, became a 5 mile wide, 190 foot lake. The Army Corps of Engineering was deployed and was able to blast through part of the landslide to create a spillway and relieve the pressure of the lake and control the flow of water. They were concerned if the landslide shifted, the Madison Valley area would be flooded.

This photo shows the other side of the landslide, where they created a spillway to prevent the valley from flooding. Originally the spillway was a straight river, but over time, nature has taken back the landscape and created this winding river, which has become a popular trout fishing area.

Madison Valley river

Madison Valley river

It is believed that the lake will continue to drain down, and eventually return to a river. But it could be decades before this happens. In the meantime, the lake is a beautiful, scenic area that covers up the scars of the past.

Earthquake Lake

Earthquake Lake

But once you turn around, the evidence of the landslide remains, with a large barren area.

area of landslide

area of landslide

A portion of the rocky cliffs was sheared off, and this remaining rock has been turned into a memorial for the deceased. A plaque has been placed on the boulder with the names of those that did not survive. Over 250 people were camping in the area, so the death toll could have been much worse.

Memorial Boulder

Memorial Boulder

rest in peace

rest in peace

The U.S. Forest Service maintains a visitor’s center at Quake Lake. It offers an excellent video detailing the events on that fateful night, along with many photographs taken after the earthquake, and survivor’s stories.

One interesting fact from this earthquake. Over 200 geysers in nearby Yellowstone National Park erupted following the earthquake.

If you are in the area, this is definitely worth taking a short day trip to see this area.

Quote for the day: “In the morning we looked across from where we were, and the mountain had just fallen down.” – JoAnn Gartland, earthquake survivor

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

Whitewater Rafting and Big Sky Country

We decided to take advantage of a few freebies with our coupon book before they expired, and headed up to Big Sky, Montana (about 40 miles north) for a full day of playing tourist.  Our pass for Montana Whitewater offered two options:  a zipline tour, or whitewater rafting.  When I first mentioned to Dan that I would like to try Whitewater Rafting, he was very surprised, as I do not swim.  However, I knew I would feel a lot safer in a boat, with multiple people, a helmet and life jacket than zipping  over trees held on by nothing more than small cable.  The company offers several different tours , and we opted for the less challenging 1/2 day on the Gallatin River with Class 2-3 rapids.

If you want to go whitewater rafter, the earlier in the season, the better the water will be, in terms of water level and speed of the water.  After mid-June, you will not really encounter much “rapids”, and the company will offer river tubing tours.  So the earlier you can go, the more challenging it will be.  Of course, the earlier you go, the colder the water temperature is!  In our case, it was a brisk 40 degrees, so every splash was a bit refreshing!

There were three rafts in our group.  The guides give a lot of safety instructions, and you practice your strokes as a group.  Then each raft is on its own with a guide, going down the river, for the next 90 minutes or so.

the calm before the rocks

the calm before the rocks

We bounced off a few rocks, and our guide Nicole, informed us she is an ‘equal opportunity splasher’, and she would turn the boat in different directions so we all got wet.  Fortunately, this tour company provided free wetsuits and neoprene boots, which helped, but it was still chilly.

There were areas of calm water, followed by rocky, fast-moving water, which made for a fun morning.  Enjoy our little sequence where we all got wet!

Our group

Our group

MW1_9041 MW1_9042 MW1_9044 The Gallatin River runs along Highway 191, and the scenery is very beautiful.

a small waterfall behind us

a small waterfall behind us

watch out for the rocks!

watch out for the rocks!

We had a great time with Montana Whitewater, and would definitely recommend this company.  The cost for a 1/2 day tour is $55.00 per person, and does include wetsuits.  There are other tour companies, but they charge you extra for the suits.  If you go early in the year, you definitely want to have them.  We had free passes, but this was definitely something we would pay for with this company.

We stopped along the river for a quick picnic lunch, then headed into the city of Big Sky.  On our drive in, we saw a sign for Lone Peak Brewery, so we decided to stop in and sample some of their local brews.  Our 5 sampler came on a mini ski!

snow ski sampler!

snow ski sampler!

Of the beers that we sampled, we liked two, Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout, and a bourbon beer that was finished off for several weeks in a used bourbon barrel.  Unfortunately, they do not can or bottle either of these two flavors.  So if you want to try them, you will have to come to the brewery!

We continued on to the Big Sky Resort, for our complimentary scenic ski lift ride ($16/adults) from Mountain Village (7500 feet) to Swift Peak (8800 feet).  There is an additional tram that will take you to the top of Lone Peak (11,000 feet), but we did not have time for that tour.  The lift was very quiet, and took about 15 minutes to get to the top.  I found that staring at my feet helped with the heights!

don't look down!

don’t look down!

Lone Peak 11000 feet

Lone Peak 11000 feet

In the summer, the trails open up for hiking and cycling, and they have special lifts to take the bikes to the top.

bicycle chair lift

bicycle chair lift

Even though we did not go to the top, it was still a beautiful view of the mountains.

Lone Peak double diamond trails

Lone Peak double diamond trails

You can see the city of Big Sky down below.

Big Sky country

Big Sky country

A view of the resort area coming down on the chair lift.

closer look at the resort area

closer look at the resort area

For those that love skiing, there are many trails for all abilities.

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After our quick tour, we headed over to 320 Guest Ranch for our complimentary Pig Roast which they have on Mondays in the summer.  For $15, you get a pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, potato salad, beans and a cookie.  While the ranch itself is very nice, we were happy that we did not have to pay for the meal.  This went into our “glad it was free” category.

We enjoyed our time Big Sky.  It is a wonderful, and growing city.

Quote for the day:  “When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.” – Leonardo DaVinci

How do you start a horse?!

One of the perks with some work camping jobs is free passes to local attractions.  Last summer, we were fortunate to receive VIP passes for working in the Black Hills, and were able to see and do many activities, free of charge.  This summer, we did not think we would have that opportunity, but happily, we were wrong!  If you are considering work camping jobs, asking if there are any free perks/passes is a good idea.

The Big Sky and West Yellowstone Chambers of Commerce have created Host Week passes.  These are passes to many local attractions and restaurants that offer free or reduced prices.  The only caveat is that it only valid for 10 days in June.  So we did our best to cram as much as we could on our off days.  As such, I will have several blog posts of our activities over the next several weeks.

Work itself is slowly picking up.  Most schools should be out by now, so bring on the tourists!!  I can only dust the same items at work so many times!

One of our first “free” attractions that we visited was a horse ride courtesy of Parade Rest Guest Ranch.  A one hour ride through the Custer Gallatin National Forest is normally $55.00 per person.  Since we booked so early in the season, Dan and I were the only two people during our ride with Tristan, our guide, which made for a more personalized experience.

They make it easy for beginners, as you mount the horse from stairs.

Beginners Mount

Beginners Mount

My horse was named Buck, and Dan’s was on Rowdy.  When we started our ride, Dan and our guide took off, and I just sat there.  I was a bit puzzled on how to get the horse moving!  Our guide gave us a lot of safety instruction, and how to steer the horse, but not how to “start” it.  Tristan quickly noticed I was not moving, and told me to kick Buck.  I don’t want to kick an animal, so I gave Buck a gentle tap….and he did not budge!  Then Tristan yelled “kick, kick, kick, kick, kick!”  So I followed his instructions and kicked and kicked.  And off Buck went, a bit too fast for my liking!  I quickly realized that saddles have no padding.  If they can make bicycle shorts, I wonder if they have saddle pants?!

Buck quickly settled down, and probably realized I was an easy target, as he frequently stopped for a mouthful of grass. We kept a leisurely pace well behind Tristan and Dan.

not keeping pace

not keeping pace

Our ride started out in prairie grass, but quickly climbed up through the forest.

through the woods

through the woods

After about 20 minutes, we came to a scenic overlook, where we could view Hebgen Lake down below, with the mountains in the background.  It was a beautiful and peaceful view.

Hegben Lake

Hebgen Lake

Dan and Rowdy seemed to get along nicely.  He was a pretty big horse.  I think our guide said he is a Quarterhorse.

Howdy!

Howdy from Rowdy!

Buck just continued snacking along the route.  I tried to pull up when he put his head down, but he was stronger than I was.

Buck is snacking

Buck is snacking

The views throughout our ride were beautiful!

North of West Yellowstone

North of West Yellowstone

a beautiful ride

a beautiful ride

happy trails

happy trails

As we started to descend back down the hill, we had an overview of the barn and corral at the Ranch.

Parade Ranch below

Parade Ranch below

We had a great time on our ride, and would definitely recommend the Parade Rest Guest Ranch for anyone interested in a horse ride in West Yellowstone.  There are several companies that offer rides, but given that this ranch has a special use permit to ride in the forest, made for a challenging (up and down narrow trails), fun and scenic ride.

CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES!!!

Dan and I also want to give a special shout-out to my nephew Jeremy, for graduating from a very challenging Nurse Anesthetics program in Minnesota.

Congrats Jeremy!!

Congrats Jeremy!!

Also, congratulations to my niece Molly, for graduating from High School!

Congrats Molly!

Congrats Molly!

One of the few downsides of this lifestyle is that you are going to miss some special occasions.  So hugs and high fives from Montana!!

Quote for the day:  “No hour of life is wasted, that is spent in the saddle.” – Winston Churchill

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