Monday, September 28, 2015

Tumbling Waters

Post by Henry

We've spent some time recently around two (2) scenic rivers in Wyoming and Idaho - the Snake River and its major tributary, Henry's Fork.

Henry's Fork

No!  Not that one!
THIS Henry's Fork:

Headwaters of Henry's Fork

Clear Water of Henry's Fork

The headwaters of Henry's Fork is a beautiful spot called Big Spring in Idaho.  Here you can see the spring gushing out the side of a mountain as well as gurgling from below the crystal clear water.  The spring produces over 120 million gallons a day and is one of the 40 largest natural springs in the world.

Headwaters of Henry's Fork
Big Spring

Located at the spring is the Johnny Sack cabin.

Johnny Sack Cabin

This cabin AND its furnishings were built using mostly hand tools by the German immigrant.  It took three years to build, starting in 1929, and he lived there until his death in 1957.  The cabin is now part of the National Register of Historic Places and is open to visitors during the summer up until Labor Day.  We actually missed the time frame the cabin is open by just a few days, so we were unable to see the inside.  Our friends, Ken and Trisha, visited it a couple of weeks earlier and told us of the amazing craftsmanship that was put into the cabins' furniture and interior.

A short way downriver is a canoe and kayak launch.  We spent a day paddling the first four miles of Henry's Fork.  It was a warm, early autumn day for the enjoyable, lazy float through the scenic Idaho landscape.

Paddling on Henry's Fork

Further down, the river transforms from a tranquil river to thunderous Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. These are two quite impressive falls.  At the upper falls is a former lodge converted to a Visitor Center.

Mesa Falls Visitor Center

From there a paved trail leads you to an up close and personal view of the falls.

Upper Mesa Falls

The lower falls viewing area is a couple of miles down the road.  Here, the falls are seen from more of a distance than the upper falls, but is just as spectacular.

Lower Mesa Falls

As I mentioned, Henry's Fork is a tributary of the Snake River and is 127 miles long.  The Snake River is pretty major at over 1,000 miles long.  It starts near the Tetons in Wyoming, winding it's way into Idaho where it merges with Henry's Fork outside of Rexburg.  The Snake continues to southern Idaho, where it turns Northwest.  It forms the Idaho/Oregon border and then on into Washington, where it becomes the largest tributary of the Columbia River, which flows into the Pacific.

Map of Snake River

We experienced the Snake River early in its journey where it compliments the awesome beauty of the Tetons. One of the most scenic views of the Tetons is along the flood plain of the Snake River at Schwabacher's Landing.

Tetons Reflecting in Snake River 

On a return trip from the Tetons to our campsite in Ririe, Idaho we followed the river most of the way, providing us with more outstanding views.

Snake River

The Snake River travels right through the city of Idaho Falls.  We visited the Snake river Greenbelt, which is a park in downtown, highlighted by a six mile walking trail, some artistic benches, and a very interesting set of waterfalls.

Idaho Falls

One of the Unusual Benches
Idaho Falls

That's probably all we'll experience of the Snake River on this trip, as soon it starts heading Northwest and we'll be going South.  I can see a future trip, though following the river on its journey to Washington and exploring it's beauty along the way.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Yellowstone Experience

Post by Henry

We moved north from Colorado several weeks ago, along with our friends Ken and Trisha, and have been staying on Hebgen Lake in Montana.  We are a stones throw from both Wyoming and Idaho and just outside Yellowstone National Park.  I have been to both Yellowstone and it's neighbor to the south, Grand Teton National Park several times, but have always wanted to spend an extended period here.  Those two parks together are so massive that a one week vacation doesn't do it justice, so we're here for a month.

The first week or so was difficult to see the mountains as we were experiencing the smoke from the huge forest fires in Washington and Oregon blowing this way.  Passing through GTNP, the massive Tetons could barely be made out in the smoky haze.

Smoky Haze Over Grand Tetons
(Look in the Background)

Closer View of Smoke Covered Tetons

It has since cleared out and we've had mostly great weather.  The mornings start out quite chilly (20's and 30's), but warm up quickly to the 70's and mostly blue skies.  And, of course, we are still loving the low humidity.

So, in Yellowstone we've seen lots of wildlife.  Bison can be found almost everywhere and seeing herds of them in the valleys is a site to behold.

Where the Buffalo Roam

On one smoky morning, we were lucky enough to see a grizzly bear strolling along the Lamar River.

Grizzly on Lamar River
(Zoomed from long distance, so fuzzy)

We did catch a glimpse of a wolf, but mostly it was a dot on the horizon.  In the Madison River Valley, we've seen a lot of elk and now in September, they are in rut.  Hearing a bull elk bugling is one of the true sounds of the wild and sends chills up my spine!

Bugling Male Elk

The scenery in Yellowstone is not bad, either, though evidence of the big fire of 1988 is still visible almost everywhere.

Evidence of 1988 Fire

One of our favorite areas is the hot springs and the geysers.  The hot springs come in all shapes and sizes.  Seeing them bubbling and steaming is both amazing and kind of eerie.

Steamy Hot Pool

Grand Prismatic

A "Not So Steamy" Pool

Colorful Bacterial Run-Off

The geysers come in all shapes and sizes, too.  Of course, there's the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful, with bleachers built to accommodate the crowds that come to watch it erupt every hour (+/- 10 minutes).

Old Faithful

There's plenty of geysers that aren't as predictable as Old Faithful, and then there's some that are constantly erupting  We did a hike to Fairy Falls, which was nice in its own right, but an additional half mile hike past the falls (which almost nobody did) took us to Imperial Geyser  This geyser was constantly bubbling and spewing hot water and sat in a beautiful turquoise pool.

The Grand Tetons are a bit of a haul for a day trip from where we are staying, so we loaded up the car with our camping stuff and headed down for four nights of tent camping in the GTNP.  Of course, the Teton range is the centerpiece of the park, rising 5,000+ feet from the surrounding valley floor.  We caught four days of about perfect weather with clear, blue skies and the views of the mountains were outstanding!

The Grand Tetons
on a Clear, Sunny Day

We went on a few good hikes while we were there.  One out to Bradley Lake set directly beneath THE Grand Teton was absolutely beautiful.

Bradley Lake

Another day was a hike of endurance, which started with a boat ride across Jenny Lake.  Once across, we hiked a short way to Hidden Falls, followed by a heart rate busting uphill hike to Inspiration Point.

Inspiration Point
Overlooking Jenny Lake

We topped it all off with a hike back around Jenny Lake to where we originally caught the boat ride, for a total six mile hike.  Phew!  We slept pretty good that night.

When I think of the Tetons, mostly it's about the mountains, but we saw quite a bit of wildlife here, too.  Near the campground we spotted moose in the Gros Ventre River and a herd of bison was usually seen in the fields nearby.  Several times at night, we heard coyotes yipping up a chorus.  We saw a family of beaver hanging out near their lodge they had built in the Snake River, directly below a bridge which gave us a birds eye view of them.


Bison Herd and Baby

Beavers Under Bridge

Near the Moose Visitor Center, though, was a road with an abundant supply of ripe Hawthorn berries, which attracted an abundant supply of black bears.  It also attracted crowds of bear watchers too, but the bruins hardly paid them any mind as they gorged themselves in preparation for the upcoming winter.  They were even in the tops of trees!

Mama Bear

Baby Bear One - Black

Baby Bear Two - Cinnamon

At the top, I mentioned how a week didn't do a visit here any justice  After being here for close to a month now, we've been able to see a lot at a more relaxed pace, but I can't say we've seen it all.   Plus it's changed quickly from end of summer peak vacation crowds to somewhat less crowded early fall, and Ken and Trisha have now headed home. The mornings are cool and crisp. The sky is clearer.  The lakes and rivers are bluer, and the aspens are turning more golden every day.

Fall Colors

It makes us want to stay a bit longer, but we know it will quickly change to winter, too, and we are not set up for that.  We'll be like the birds, instead, and start our migration to the south.