Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Inspired by Yellowstone

LaVon Driggs (my mother's cousin, and my friend) and I used our long Pioneer Day holiday weekend to visit Island Park, Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. I came home feeling totally rejuvenated and refreshed...what beautiful and amazing country that is! One of my coworkers mentioned that his friend called Yellowstone "inspiring", and I'd have to agree!

Here's a photo of LaVon and I at Yellowstone's "Grand Canyon", where you can see the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. This was the first time I'd ever visited that part of the park, and I finally realized how the park got its name.....from the color of the walls of that there canyon!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. It's about a 5 hour drive from Salt Lake City to the hotel where we stayed in West Yellowstone, Montana. Along the way, we stopped in the city of Rexburg where we attended the newly built LDS temple, rode the old carved wooden horses of the Idaho Centennial Carousel, and visited the Teton Dam Flood museum. I was very interested to see houses floating down the street in the movie they show at the museum, and was surprised to learn that the dam had only been in operation for 8 or 9 months on the day it broke back in 1976.

A little ways north of Rexburg and Ashton, you can visit two gorgeous waterfalls on the Henry's Fork river. Here's a video of the lovely Upper Mesa Falls:

About a mile downstream you can see these beautiful Lower Mesa Falls.

We next made our way to the Henry's Fork Lodge, which had made it into the "1000 Places to See Before You Die" book as a mecca for fly fisherman. It's very expensive to stay there (like $400 per person, per day), so we didn't stay there but just went there for a scrumptious dinner on their patio that overlooks the peaceful Henry's Fork river. As we sat on the patio, we saw the resident yellow bellied marmot (who stood politely begging for food from LaVon), and a number of beautiful and colorful birds.

The best part, though, was meeting some of the fly fisherman who were staying there. We chatted with a father and son...David and Dave...who run a software company in San Francisco and were there for a week of rest and relaxation. Each day of their trip, the lodge took them on an outing to a different place, where they learned a different fly fishing technique. It was obvious that they were passionate about fly fishing, which made talking with them about it totally delightful. They told us that women often make great fly fishermen, because it requires smarts and subtlety, rather than brute strength (of course that made us like them even more!). They talked about how fly fishing humbles CEO's who are used to having their commands obeyed and quickly learn that they are in no position to demand anything from nature...they must instead use smarts and intuition and patience to have any success out here.

Here's a shot of LaVon chatting with David.

David's son Dave was excited to show us his collection of flies. He let me study them, and they were pretty darn cool!

Here's a photo of Dave in the river:

LaVon captured this shot of me as I was chatting with David

Meeting David and Dave and seeing their passion for fly fishing made visiting Henry's Fork Lodge a magical experience....the kind of travel experience you always hope for!

The next day, we explored Yellowstone National Park. I hadn't been there since the forest fires in 1988, and so I was interested to see lots of new young trees amid the tall toothpick-like older burnt trees that were still standing.

Here's a video at one of the first places we stopped, Gibbon Falls:
Next we went to the Norris Geyser basin, where we saw this area where you can use the color of the algae to detect the temperature of the water:

We next made our way to Yellowstone's "Grand Canyon" where we visited the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone river.
We took the strenuous "Uncle Tom's" hike down lots of stairs to get a close up view of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Here's a little video of our experience there:

As we made our way towards Old Faithful, we stopped to see this interesting "Churning Cauldron" at the Mud Volcano area that is along the way:

Right near there, I had this experience with a bison:

We did have a few other animal experiences that day...mostly traffic jams caused by bison or bears or eagles.

You can't visit Yellowstone without seeing Old Faithful, which we did. Since I grew up in Soda Springs Idaho, where there's a geyser as tall as Old Faithful that goes off each hour, I probably wasn't as impressed with Old Faithful as I should have been. My favorite part of Old Faithful was visiting with all the other tourists we met there. I chatted with a family from New York City who was spending a month visiting all the National Parks in the Western U.S....that seems like a really long road trip to me....I suspect I'd get grouchy if I tried to do that! We also chatted with a guy who had ridden his motorcycle all the way from Tennessee to be there, and a lady from Utah about my age who had patches all over her backpack, representing the places she's visited. I usually pick up a refrigerator magnet each place I go, but now my fridge is getting quite covered with them, and so perhaps I'll need to start getting patches instead. I love souvenirs that don't clutter up your house or your life too much!

On the way back to West Yellowstone, we found this delightful place, called the Fountain Paint Pots:

Later, when it was very dark, we went back into Yellowstone to see the brilliance of the starry night sky far from city lights. We saw a few falling stars and the milky way. I was able to brush off some of my rusty Astronomy 127 class memories and identify a few constellations. The best part was being in a peaceful place, and remembering what an amazing world God created for us!

We spent the following day in the Island Park area. In the morning, we took a canoe trip down the Henry's Fork. Here's a little video of that:

In the afternoon, we hiked through Harriman State Park, in hopes that we would see the Tetons, but it was too cloudy that day. We did enjoy seeing the "Railroad Ranch" buildings there, which were the summer homes of some of the railroad magnates. We walked through wildflowers and saw a huge white pelican (which we had thought might be a Trumpeter Swan from the distance), along the river. Here's a photo where you can see both the ranch buildings and the river.

Before going to a silly and entertaining dinner theatre show in the evening, we visited Big Spring, where the Henry's Fork river starts as water just flows out of a mountain spring. The water is very, very clear there, and we could see rainbow trout through it. Here's a little video of that experience:

Finally, here's the beautiful Island Park sunset:

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