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Driving up to Yellowstone from Flagg Ranch involves some terrifying cliffs on the side. I almost couldn't even take this picture. (And there were worse places where I couldn't even look.)

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We saw tons of mosquitoes, as well as this lovely butterfly, who tried to hitch a ride with us:

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Yellowstone Lake, which was frozen over last time we saw it.

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There's a natural bridge up by the lake, which we wanted to hike out to earlier this year, but it was closed due to grizzly activity. (!) This time it was open, and well populated by tourists. It's an easy walk (a mile?). We also saw some marmots there, and a chipmunk.

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Then we had to drive through the Hayden Valley, which everyone says is a good place to watch wildlife, only we have seen very, very little wildlife there ever. There were tons of cars off the road and people walking in front of oncoming traffic to take pictures of very, very faraway buffalo--but you can go just about anywhere else in the park and see huge herds, so I don't see what the point was. Shortly after we passed that area, we encountered three police cars and an ambulance headed that way, so maybe someone got hit there. That, or someone did find some wildlife to spar with. I don't see anything in the news yet, but I'll be checking the paper when it next comes out.

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We saw the Brink of the Upper Falls, up by Canyon, but were careful not to get too close. (A few weeks ago, a brand-new employee from Russia fell to her death by bypassing the barriers and trying to take a picture at the Canyon. Maybe it doesn't matter in some places, but here, please, PLEASE stay behind the barriers and on the paths! We're not worried about you getting a fine--we're worried about you getting killed.)

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Interestingly, the tourists yesterday were largely Chinese, as opposed to the Japanese ones from last week.

We are maybe getting to be buffalo snobs, but we still stop for baby buffalo.

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On the way out, through Island Park, Idaho. Another lily marsh, one we always see blip by, but never stop to look at. This time, we did, and found another trumpeter:

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The Tetons rising, ghostly, above Ashton.

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I LOVE where I live!

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When it comes to mountains, you have to take advantage of days when there are no storms. Especially when it comes to dirt roads in the mountains. For a long time we've wanted to take the Ashton-Flagg Ranch road into Yellowstone, which is a 50ish mile dirt road between Ashton, ID and the northern border of Grand Teton National Park. It's definitely the most direct route from our house to either park--er, except for the fact that you have to drive so slow that you can almost walk it faster. But yesterday was clear and storm-free, so we tried it. And it was interesting!

At first it looks an awful lot like dirt roads in Arkansas. My mind kept telling me I was on a familiar road, one I surely must have driven a thousand times before:

Flagg Ranch Road from the Idaho side

But then we came to this lake off to the side--it had a sign about loons, but I'm not sure what it's really called. It was beautiful, though! Covered all over with lily pads. We saw no loons, but we did see a trumpeter swan, and also lots of electric-blue dragonflies.

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Then it started to NOT look like Arkansas. We don't have these kinds of mountains there!

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The only "traffic" we passed on the way. I don't know who this outfit is, but they are WAY off the beaten path!!

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Also, if you spend too much time on line, you get sent to Camp LOL(L), which is about as far from any internet as you can get:

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Another lily pond:

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Grassy Lake Reservoir, almost on the Grand Teton border (and Yellowstone, too, actually), where my daughter paid no attention to the surroundings and instead read Sarah Williams's PALACE BEAUTIFUL quite obsessively. The reservoir was nice, but driving in to it, the water came within about two inches of the road, and we nearly didn't get over the large, eroded channel going out.

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Combination of volcanic hill, marsh grass, and willow clumps.

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A "creek" that feeds into the Snake River, rather close to Flagg Ranch at the north tip of Grand Teton National Park.

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Apparently, my FIL drove it once with his dad. At some point he wondered if they'd have to just start homesteading on the Idaho-Wyoming border because the road was so bad. I imagine after a rain or snow, it would be pretty hard to get through, and there were some moments where we gritted out teeth, but we made it through. (OTOH, I think if I DID have to start homesteading on the ID-WY border, Grandpa Green the Mountain Man would be the guy to have along.)

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The main road through Yellowstone runs in a figure 8, and the bit that gets closed for the season first is the east side of the upper loop. Dunraven pass is at nearly 9000 feet, and while the road itself doesn't feel steep, the whole area is high enough that I'm sure snow comes early and leaves late. It's quite beautiful, though, with the falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It's the part with fewer thermal features, and therefore there are more hiking possibilities. It's definitely my favorite part of the park!

On our awesome tour guide's direction (thank you, Holly!) we started with the lower rim of the falls. There was this shortish trail (Uncle Tom's Trail) we could take from the parking lot to the bottom of the falls, and as it really wasn't very far, we decided to try it. There was a warning sign that people with heart issues and people not accustomed to strenuous exercise at 8000 feet maybe shouldn't try it. But we've been living at nearly 5000 feet, and figured we could do it. And actually, everyone was just fine. I would add that if you are afraid of heights, um, maybe you shouldn't try this one! "Uncle Tom," whoever he was, originally led tours down here on rope ladders. They've since built see-through metal stairs. Just...don't look down too much, and you'll be fine.

Looking down Uncle Tom's Trail (Yellowstone)

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I wish the nice weather would go on and on, but alas, the weather forecast is for gross stuff coming our way as of tomorrow. So the next post about Idaho and environs might be more about what you can see in the populated valley than what you can see up in the mountains. Hopefully there is something interesting in that as well!
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So, it's a warm and lazy Sunday. We've been watching the LDS general conference on the internet at home, which means no one's really uh, bothered to get dressed or anything...plus being home all day (AND with it being spud harvest--the kids have been off starting Friday and will be off all week), my husband's cooking gene is going off. Let's just say that food is flowing and baking is taking place and everyone is more or less contented. We couldn't do this for days on end, but it's nice every once in a while.

So today's get-to-know-the-intermountain-west post is on Wyoming. Least-populated state (including Alaska) due to high elevation/tons of impassible snow/short growing season/oh yeah and that supervolcano in Yellowstone that allows boiling water and sulphuric acid to spawn from the ground at any time. But beautiful! We've been trying to see as much as Yellowstone before it closes for the season, and slowly I'm getting around to posting more on the park. We've now seen the whole upper loop and about a third of the lower one. The park closes Nov 8, so we'll see what we can work in before then. In the meantime, here are a few facts about Wyoming/Yellowstone/the greater environs this time of year:

elksign

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We may live in the flat and agricultural Snake River plain, but we are close to so many interesting things here! If it weren't for the trees we could see Wyoming from our house. You can from most places in town. And all the volcanoes and springs and raw lava just lying on the ground, and the forests just up the way into the mountains...it's just a really interesting place. I'm quite amazed at the people who managed to settle these areas without any modern conveniences necessities, like cars or central heat or indoor plumbing or snowplows. Who knows how long we'll be here, but we do intend to enjoy as much of it as possible.

Labor Day

Sep. 6th, 2010 10:51 pm
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I hope everyone had a nice one! We went back to Yellowstone. I'm sure Labor Day weekend is busy at the national parks, but on Labor Day itself (with school/work starting for most people the next day), most of the people there are retired with no kids, or live close by. So it was nice. We went from Madison Junction up through Norris and to Mammoth. We've still only seen a fraction of the park, but we are enjoying the chance to go back often and take it in smaller amounts. It's interesting, but um, stinky. Our coat closet now has a certain eau de Yellowstone...

(BTW did you know that Saruman's orcs are at work in Yellowstone?)



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This trip was made possible thanks to a personalized itinerary by the one and only Holly Green. :)

Departing Idaho, with the Tetons rising like ghosts in the background:

Tetons

Son 2's leg was fine so we went to Yellowstone yesterday. I think that um...we could do a better job of preparing next time, but hey, we have a year's pass and can go any time we want (weather permitting). We didn't see a lot of wildlife, probably because we were mostly looking at thermal features that animals are probably smart enough NOT to walk on, and also, visiting Yellowstone means visiting very wild, dangerous nature--with ten thousand of your closest friends. I guess it scares away the bears, but on the flip side, it's very populated. We did see a bald eagle (no photo) and its nest (I took a photo but someone who didn't realize what I was taking a picture of deleted it...). We also saw a herd of elk.

The pictures are starting from the west entrance and going south on the lower loop. We got as far as Old Faithful, but there was seriously no parking, and thousands of people, so I think we'll wait until schools starts and the crowds die down, and start there for our next segment. Certain Spouses were adamantly opposed to seeing OF at all, but Certain Children would have felt it was a serious oversight to get within a quarter mile of it and not even try. Hopefully everyone will get their satisfaction before the year is out. Read more... )

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