Saturday, May 30, 2015

On The Road Again Last Chapter

We left our hotel in West Yellowstone fairly early in the morning.  We didn't have a really long drive, but we could not abide the annoying (Chinese) tourists in the hotel for another minute.  Someone needs to teach these guys how to behave before they go traveling internationally.  Rant over.

Anyway, we hit the road for Butte, MT.  Before we had gone too far, we ran across Quake Lake.  This is a lake that was formed due to a massive earthquake/landslide that occurred in 1959.  An entire campground full of people was swept away and the river valley was turned into a lake.  Dead trees protrude up from the water in a ghostly way.  Reminder:  Click photos to enlarge.

The drive was nice; we enjoyed seeing wide open spaces and beautiful mountains as a backdrop.  Now these guys have big yards!

We stopped along the way in Ennis to have breakfast and did a little shopping for some Montana products but pressed on as DH was scheduled for dialysis in Butte in the mid-afternoon.  I have to say that Butte really surprised me.  We had scheduled it as a dialysis stop and I hadn't thought of it as a place that would really be interesting.  I was pleasantly surprised.

While DH was busy, I checked into our B&B, which was very nice, and took a long walk around the neighborhood.  There seemed to be snow-capped mountains on every side.  Lovely to see.

The weather was great for my walk, which was a nice surprise after the rain/snow/sleet we had run into the day before.  We found a nice restaurant for dinner and then went to see a memorial to some miners who had died in a mining disaster.  The memorial was at the top of a hill and was very tasteful.  You could also look over the edge to see the open pit mine that took the place of the shaft that had been there originally.  Learning about the mining history of Butte was fascinating, since we hadn't really been exposed to that industry before.  Seeing the pits that continue to be mined reminded us how lucky we are to live in an environment that isn't dug out and scarred like that.

The next day, we visited some other local sights we found out about.  The Clark Mansion was fascinating; I recently read Empty Mansions, which recounted the history of the Clark family.  William Clark, Senator, banker, and investor in copper mines, built the house originally.  Most of the furnishings are not original, but the architecture and details are amazing, as is the size.  The "tour" signs take away something from the elegance, however.

We went on to the campus of Montana Tech (go Orediggers!)  Isn't that a great name?

It's built right beside an abandoned mine shaft, the Orphan Girl.  There are preserved buildings from the former camp, and you can walk around the old equipment and see what life would have been like to work there.  They also offer an underground tour of the mine shaft, but we passed.  Hello, can you say claustrophobia?  We finished our tour of the yard right before the sky opened up with another cloudburst of rain and hail.

We pressed on then, to Coeur d'Alene, ID.  It was nice to get back to some more familiar Northwest scenery, and the right time zone!  The weather was beautiful here and we had a very long walk on a nice, new trail that is being finished along the river and lake.

Then it was finally the day to go home!  We had a wonderful trip and saw so many amazing things, but two weeks on the road is a long time.  As we drove from Idaho into Washington, the sights became more familiar.  There was still range land and prairie, but farms, too.

The Columbia river:

We neared Central Washington where Mr. Hollywood went to school and stopped at a favorite restaurant there for lunch.

Then it was less than two hours to home.  Our little house made it through the winter and looked great.  We were happy to unload the car (and make it possible again to see out of the rear-view mirror.)

Then we had to check out the back.  The yard was hardly finished when we left last fall and we're looking forward to a great summer here.

And now I sit here writing this on the patio and looking out at this great view.  It doesn't get much better than this!

Monday, May 25, 2015

On The Road Again Chapter 3

Picking up where we left off, we drove away from Devil's Tower and continued on toward Gillette, WY.  If you're wondering why we picked some of these places to stop, it was because DH had dialysis appointments set up before we left CA and the availability and location of appropriate facilities somewhat decided our stopping points.  Anyway, we ended up going through some more mountains to get there and this time it was snowing quite heavily for awhile.  Of course, it was my turn to drive again and windy mountain roads with slush on the pavement makes for nervous driving.  We made it, of course, and then continued through spectacular mountain scenery with switchback roads cut right out of the rock in some cases.  Getting behind the slowpokes who think speeding up to 25MPH is what the road signs mean made it a little more interesting(!)  We arrived safely in Gillette, and stayed in a sort of industrial area that was nothing to speak of.  With dialysis out of the way the next morning, we headed out to Cody, NE.

It was quite cool and windy as we headed toward Yellowstone the next morning.  I didn't realize that the elevation at the park is so high and we climbed again through mountains.  Snowy mountains, stone mountains, tree-covered mountains, we saw them all.  We spent two days exploring the magnificence of Yellowstone National Park and enjoyed every minute of it (except some of the people there, who were annoyingly rude and stupid drivers.)    We entered the park through the east gate from Cody and from there went to the upper area to explore.  We saw wildlife, raging rivers, snow covered fields, massive areas burned out in the last forest fire, and newly growing areas regrowing from past fires.  We saw geysers, hot springs, travertine terraces, unspoiled forest, and much more.  I'll just post some photos and try to caption them briefly.  Seeing so much in such a short time makes it hard to remember what was what but it all was wonderful.  Again, click the photos to enlarge.

View from the hotel window in Cody.  Threatening skies and mountains.

Tunnel right through the rock.  Wasn't long enough to get really creepy.

All sorts of terrain come together here; mountains, carved cliffs, trees, and rivers.

Acres and acres of burned trees from the last big wildfire.  So sad to see.

Snow capped mountains peeking out in the distance.

Our first close encounters with wildlife.  It was great to see herds of bison quite frequently throughout the park.

Sometimes the photos taken when you're not quite ready are interesting....

There was quite a lot of snow alongside the road in some areas.  It actually hailed and snowed a bit the second day we visited; of course I was driving again.

These three bears caused quite a traffic jam along the road as people stopped and tried to get photos.

The travertine terraces were spectacular to see.  The hot water bubbles up and leaves mineral deposits on the rock, causing beautiful colors to appear.

The second day we began at Old Faithful, arriving right before a scheduled eruption and before the rain started.  The clock in the lodge said the geyser was supposed to erupt at 9:20.  It started about 9:22.  How do they know that?

The steam plume got large and the hot water rose high into the sky, eventually falling as sprinkles on the spectators.  Very cool.

We toured lots more geysers in the area.  Some were covered with so much steam that our glasses fogged up and we couldn't really take photos.  Amazing.   Some were small and steaming, some were bubbling.  All were beautiful.  You could feel the warmth and smell the sulphur.  There were animal tracks and droppings around the geyser areas indicating that the wildlife probably sleep there where it's warmer.

We went up a trail that led to an overlook where you could see the whole Old Faithful geyser area.  It eventually led to a beautiful solitary geyser where the colors were striking and the woodsy setting was lovely.  As we neared the Old Faithful lodge on our way down, the hail started falling and it got cold.  A lucky break for us to have been able to see so much in the morning sunshine.

After a tour of the geyser areas we drove to Lake Yellowstone and had lunch at the Lake Hotel.  I don't have a photo of it; it's a huge old yellow building, opened in 1893.  It's very elegant and the dining room was great.  The lake is huge, formed during one of the massive volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

Tomorrow we head for Butte, MT.  After that it's Coeur d'Alene, ID and then home.  We're looking forward to seeing our own little lake.  I don't know how much more sightseeing we'll do, but I'll wrap up the report on Thursday or Friday.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

On the Road Again Chapter 2

When last we left our intrepid travelers, they had made it out of the mega  yarn store with only minor damage and yarn, knitting needles, and a cute new bag to show for it.  Our next destination was Scottsbluff, NE and to get there you travel on secondary roads and look out mostly at fields.  Sometimes there are cows.

Then comes the magic.  In the middle of these seemingly endless plains, there arises a magnificent stone structure, a giant bluff, or other geologic masterwork.  I haven't figured out how, through exposure to the elements over millions of years, some stone towers/bluffs/hillsides remain while others do not.  In any case, we saw some interesting topography at the Scottsbluff National Monument

and again at Chimney Rock, which is a most amazing sight in the middle of a whole lot of nothing.

Oh, but there might be snakes.  Probably not on the day we visited, though, since it was cold.

The next day we headed out for Rapid City, SD.  This was a busy day of sightseeing, as it turned out. Again, we drove on long, straight roads that were mostly empty and admired the prairies and ranches.  We had a surprise on one road, however, when we came upon a cattle drive happening right on the highway.  Cows, dogs, horses, cowboys, and ATVs.  Herding the cows to a new pasture somewhere down the road apiece.  We were the only car coming, so they told us to go ahead, "just honk at them and they'll move."  Well they didn't and finally one of the kids on an ATV drove ahead of us and got those cows to move.

Back to the usual.

The next stop was one of my favorites.  We visited the unfinished Crazy Horse Monument.  The visitor's center is very nice and it was great to learn about the project and the family of the artist who is carrying on his legacy and plan.  How it looks:

How it will look if it's ever finished:

Mt. Rushmore came next.  It was nice but to tell you the truth, I liked Crazy Horse better.  I liked the story behind it and the fact that it's much bigger.  When you view Mt. Rushmore second, I think it really pales in comparison.  But it was sunny by then and we ate lunch there in the cafeteria that was featured in the Hitchcock film, North by Northwest.  That was fun.

Rapid City turned out to be a very nice town.  When we left, we drove by a historic district full of cute, well preserved homes.  From there we headed to Gillette, WY.  Along the way, we stopped at Devil's Tower.  If you saw the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you know Devil's Tower.  It was one of the most enjoyable hours I've spent.  The tower itself is awe-inspiring, but the National Monument (which I think was the first designated as such in the US in 1906) was really nice.  There was a small visitor's center and a couple of trails that you could take to walk around the tower and see it from all sides.  You were walking through essentially unspoiled forest and it was lovely.  There were climbers there going up the tower and it was fun to see them, too.

Enough for today.  I'll pick up the story next time.  But first, here's my car knitting.  Handspun socks!

Note:  I looked for Rocky Raccoon in the Black Hills but there was no sign of him.