Cousins come a callin’

First off, thank you for all the wonderful comments, e-mails and telephone calls from our last blog post.  It really meant a lot.

Dan’s cousins, Roni and Jodi, made a long road trip from the Twin Cities to come out and visit with us for two days.  We tried to pack as much as we could in the short amount of time they had, and we think we succeeded.  The only thing they were not able to check off their list was seeing a grizzly bear.

We spent the first day on a quick tour of Grand Teton National Park, trying to stop at some of  the highlights: Colter Bay, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain, String Lake, Jenny Lake, Lupine Meadows, The Chapel of Transfiguration, Schwabacher Landing, etc…

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Dan, Jodi, Roni

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After seeing some of  the highlights, we stopped in Moose for a little pizza at Dornan’s.  While sitting outside we were briefly entertained by a fox walking near the deck.

DSC04474 (2)The next morning we headed up to Yellowstone, making a few stops in the Tetons to view a herd of Elk,

P1000307 (2)followed by a mama and baby moose!

P1000363 (2)And no morning is complete without a stop at Oxbow Bend, with the low-lying clouds covering parts of Mt Moran.

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Yellowstone was pretty busy, but Roni said she had “positive vibes”, especially after our wonderful start to the day.  She was right, and we never had issues finding parking spots!  Our wildlife sightings continued, with an Osprey in a nest,

P1000516 (2)and a lone buffalo taking a nap along the side of the road!

P1000500 (2)The cousins were impressed with the view of the Lower Falls.

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I think Roni and Jodi may have a new future career in the park service!

P1000472 (2)No stop to Yellowstone is complete without a visit to Old Faithful.  It was Roni’s first time seeing the geyser go off.  Despite its name, it did not erupt until 25 minutes after its scheduled time.  The crowd of thousands was growing very restless, and a lot of cheers erupted when it finally went off.  Roni said it was worth the wait!

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Although their visit was very short, we had a wonderful time and are thankful Roni and Jodi decided to venture out west to see us!  Our door is always open for our family and friends to visit!

Quote for the day:  “Nobody will understand the craziness of your family better than your cousins.” – unknown

 

Fire update, tourist time and graduation!

The road to Yellowstone National Park (South Entrance) from Grand Teton National Park has re-opened, thanks to the brave efforts of over two hundred fire fighters.  They spent a week battling the Berry Creek fire that had jumped over Jackson Lake and Highway 191/89.  The fire is still burning, but has been contained enough to keep the highway open.

We had a brief scare last week when a new fire started just 3 miles East of Luton’s Teton Cabins, on US Forest land.  It is believed someone had an illegal campfire which quickly grew out of control.  Because this fire was so close to homes and businesses, they worked to quickly extinguish this fire.  We watched several helicopters dump water on the fire, and they had it out in a few hours.  It made a few of our cabin guests very nervous though!  You can see the smoke and one of the helicopters in the photo below.

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Just 3 miles away

BOAT/DINNER CRUISE TRIP

Brad and Joanne, the owners of the cabins, surprised all of us with tickets on the Jackson Lake Dinner Cruise.  We only had a week to book the dinner though, as they were shutting down the cruise for the season.  The State of Idaho actually owns the water rights to Jackson Lake.  With it being so dry, the potato farmers have been requesting a lot of water this summer.  Apparently it was the farmers that paid for the dam on the lake many years ago, and in return they received the water rights.  They have been drawing down the lake at a rate of 1 foot every 5 days.  So we booked a Wednesday night cruise with Karen, Al and Jane.  If you look at the far left on the photo below, the water level is normally up to the trees.

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Jackson Lake marina

The boat leaves the marina and docks on an island close to Mount Moran.  The buffet dinner consisted of steak and trout.  The salad bar is served out of the canoe!

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a beautiful setting

We all enjoyed the boat ride over, as well as dinner.  I think Dan was still chewing in this photo!

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Jane, Karen, Al and Dan

After dinner we did a short hike up a steep hill and ha a great view of Mount Moran and the boat ramp on the island below.

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Mount Moran

FLOAT TRIP

A very popular “touristy to-do” in Grand Teton National Park is a float trip down the Snake River.  There are many companies that offer trips.  Barker-Ewing is the company that we recommend to our guests, as they will give them a discounted trip.  To reciprocate, Barker-Ewing gives all of the work campers a free trip.  We finally made time to book an evening float trip, and had a great time.  We would definitely recommend a float trip to anyone coming to the area.  Unlike whitewater rafting, this is more of a “lazy float” down an 8 mile stretch of the river.

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the boat launched ahead of ours

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having a good time!

We had good views of the evening sky over the Grand Tetons.

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Grand Tetons

And beautiful views down the Snake River.

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Snake River

We were fortunate to see plenty of wildlife along the way as well.

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a giant beaver home

Along with several beavers in the area.

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This beaver was busy carrying a tree branch!

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busy, busy, busy!

We saw quite a few bald eagles, and I was able to get a photo of one of them.

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a majestic bird

The highlight of our trip was seeing a mama and two baby moose.  Unfortunately, I was only able to capture a photo of one of the babies.  Mama and the other baby were too hidden from my view.

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Hello!

GRADUATION!

Back in June, when I was still wearing the boot on my foot, we were looking for things to do in the park that did not involve a lot of walking.  Karen suggested a ranger led talk on Menor’s Ferry.  During the talk, Ranger Casey mentioned the Junior Ranger program that they offer in the park (almost all of the national parks have programs).  When the Ranger mentioned the program was not just for young kids, but anyone “young at heart”, well that caught my attention!  One of the requirements of the program is to attend a Ranger led program in the park.  Check!

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Ranger Casey

The booklet that you have to complete has various activities, geared to different age groups.  All Junior Rangers have to complete various activities, from a hike in the park, to viewing some of the historical structures.  For the older kids (and the “young at heart”) there are additional math and science related activities.  (it’s always about math!)

After our ranger led program, I was reading the booklet and commented to Karen, Al and Dan that one of my activities is to pick up litter in the park.  So they all obliged and threw trash down on the ground for me to pick up!  (ummm….thanks?!)  So I studied up on the booklet, and worked on it over the summer.

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Enter a caption

Once I got my boot off and was able to do more in the park, I continued on the program.  Last Wednesday I finally “graduated” and went back to the visitors center for my Junior Ranger oath and badge ceremony!  Al played the ‘pomp and circumstance’ graduation march on his Apple watch!

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an official Junior Ranger

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taking the oath

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my “official” badges

I would highly recommend this program to anyone.  It really forces you to take the time to learn a lot more about the park that you are visiting.

 

Quote for the day:  “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Yellowstone – summary of recent visits

Today is the 99th Birthday of the National Park Service!

We have taken advantage of having an entire summer to explore at the very first National Park, Yellowstone. We are very grateful that many intelligent folks had the foresight to protect and preserve so many parks, monuments, caves, historical sites, etc., for future generations to enjoy.

Yellowstone is such a wonderful park with so many unique features and areas to explore. Previously I have written about the thermal features in great detail. Instead of doing a lot of separate posts on the different areas, this one will summarize our last several visits.  So this is a bit photo heavy.

ANIMALS

The animals are a big attraction in the park, and sometimes people forget this is not a zoo. The animals are wild, and this is their home. To date, five people have been gored by bison (buffalo). Four of them simply walked up to the bison to take a better picture, and one startled a sleeping bison while hiking. Just remember, bison have no interest in being in your “selfie”! We have seen our fair share of animals, except for a grizzly and Bull Moose in the park. The Lamar Valley area is best known for animal sightings, and we spent a day driving in that area. If you want to see animals, go early (think 6am).

Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley

The park has a lot of Pronghorn’s

pronghorn

pronghorn

As well as bison

where the buffalo roam

where the buffalo roam

And a few bison that seem to hang out right near the road, so you can view them safely from your vehicle

no selfies please!

no selfies please!

But the highlight of our trip this day was seeing a bear foraging for food. We watched him/her(?) about 10 minutes lifting up trees stumps with ease, searching for food. The bear finally stopped and looked back at all the people, and then disappeared into the woods. A park ranger had also stopped, to insure people were not getting any closer to the bear. We stayed in our truck, but many people had exited their vehicles. I think my photo from the safety of the truck turned out just fine. No need to walk closer to the bear.

hmm, tasty people

hmm, tasty people

WATERFALLS

As you are aware from previous posts, Yellowstone has plenty of waterfalls. After viewing the animals, we headed over to Tower Fall, which we had not yet seen. At 132 feet, the falls is a very popular viewing area. It is a very short walk (150 yards) from the general store in the Tower-Roosevelt area of the park.  I am not sure why it is called Tower Fall, instead of Tower Falls.

Tower Fall

Tower Fall

There is a more challenging ¼ mile walk down to the river, but you are rewarded with some nice views in the valley.

Tower Creek

Tower Creek

On our way back up, we encountered a baby pronghorn that was munching away right on the path, oblivious to the warning on the sign!

what sign?

what sign?

MORE GEYSERS

After viewing the falls, we decided to hit the Norris Geyser Basin even though it was over flowing with visitors. They say attendance is way up this year, and we believe that! This geyser basin has a lot a fumaroles (steam vents), which are the hottest of the geothermal features in the park. They have been measured at 280 degrees, and quickly boil away what little water is in the vent.

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

steam vent

steam vent

steam vent boiling

steam vent boiling

ARTIST PAINT POTS

On another day we checked out the artist paint pots area, which is a short walk around some mud pots, geysers and hot springs.  The trail climbs to an overlook, which gives a nice overview of the area.

Artist Paint Pots

Artist Paint Pots

mud pot

mud pot

FOUNTAIN PAINT POTS

Another section of the park, on the way to Old Faithful, has more paint pots. Paint pots are a vat of bubbling mud formed by the mixture of heat, gases, volcanic rock, water, minerals, acid and living microorganisms. The pots in the Fountain Paint Pot section are fun to watch.  Photos just do not do justice to these.  You have to watch and listen to them plop and throw mud up and around.

Fountain Paint Pots

Fountain Paint Pots

In this same area, is another fumerole, Red Spouter. This was formed after the earthquake in 1959, which is example of just how unstable the ground is in many parts of Yellowstone. Prior to the quake, it was just a grassy hill.

Red Spouter

Red Spouter

And as luck would have it, we were fortunate to watch two geysers in this area erupt at the same time! Spasm geyser on the left, and fountain geyser on the right.

twin eruptions

twin eruptions

Having our geyser fix, we headed down Firehole Lake Drive to see what was located there. The Great Fountain Geyser, which had erupted the day before, was still very impressive to look at.

Great Fountain Geyser

Great Fountain Geyser

If you notice in the picture above, there is a castle shaped geyser in the background. (you may have to click the picture to enlarge) Shortly after this photo, that geyser started to erupt, so we watched from a distance. Given the relatively few people around that geyser, it was not a planned eruption.

White Dome Geyser erupting

White Dome Geyser erupting

After that one settled down, the Great Fountain Geyser started acting up, spewing a bit of water, before settling back down.

Great Fountain acting up

Great Fountain acting up

We drove over to the White Dome Geyser for a closer look. This geyser continues to get taller every year, as a small amount of silica is deposited on the sides after each eruption.

White Dome Geyser

White Dome Geyser

On our last visit to the park, we explored the West Thumb Geyser Basin and Yellowstone Lake. Due to the wildfires in Montana and Idaho, the air quality has really decreased, and there is a constant haze over the area. We stopped along the road to watch this little geyser erupt, with Yellowstone Lake in the background. You cannot see the mountains on the other side due to the haze.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Fishing Bridge used to be a popular area for fishing, but the park service no longer allows fishing in the area, as people were too successful, and the wildlife in the park depends on the fish more than us humans do. I was lucky to snap this photo just as four corvettes were crossing the bridge.

Fishing Bridge

Fishing Bridge

The most famous feature at the West Thumb is this hot springs fishing cone in the lake. Fisherman would boast about how they could catch a trout in the lake, then dunk it in the boiling water in the cone to cook it! This practice was banned in 1911.

Fishing Cone

Fishing Cone

We just never get tired of all the ever-changing features of Yellowstone National Park. It is truly an amazing place. If you have never visited, please put this on your ‘bucket list’. You will not regret a visit to the park, even if you only have a day. Thank you for following along this summer on our trips to Yellowstone. Hopefully you have enjoyed the photos (we have taken hundreds each visit), and learned a few things on geothermal features.

Quote for the day:  “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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

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