The Revenant & Yellowstone National Park

Yesterday sweet husband and I took in an afternoon movie; The Revenant featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (c. 1780 – 1833). Based on true events, Glass was an American frontiersman, fur trapper, and explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River in present-day Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Platte River area of Nebraska.

Although it was never stated where these events took place, there was one mention that someone was last spotted near the “yellow stone”. Yellowstone is called Yellowstone because the river flows through a yellow stoned canyon.

As you know by now, we spent the summer in Wyoming and Montana, therefore, from the scenery, I believe this part of the story of his life took place in that area; perhaps what is now the Chief Joseph Highway area?

I’m not a movie critic, but the cinematography was academy award quality.

Seeing this movie, which is extremely rough, took me back to Wyoming and Montana; it has haunted me all day.

It started with Glass walking through an overflowing creek in the middle of a forest. The first sounds were of an Elk Stagg trumpet. It is an unmistakable, loud and wonderful sound. One can actually go to YouTube and type in, “Elk Sound”, to hear it, you will never forget it – please do.

There was only one scene involving Bison, but they were stampeding away from a pack of wolves. The Bison’s trumpet or groaning sounds more like a lion. The rocks, cliffs, Lodge Pole Pines, rivers and waterfalls took me “home” to Yellowstone.

This 144 year old national park is located primarily in the state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho and oh how I love it and miss it.

The stats:

  • It spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges.
  • Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent.
  • This lake has MORE thermal features under water than in the entire rest of the park.
  • The caldera is considered an active volcano. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years.
  • Half of the WORLD’S geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism.
  • Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone.
  • The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining nearly-intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone.
  • If you work in the park, naturally you live in the park. If you need something as simple as a haircut you will need to drive an hour and half, in good traffic (which is rare), one way.
  • They do have general stores and small health clinics in each village within the park.

One clear evening in August we drove up to Hayden Valley to hopefully see the asteroid events and the Milky Way and, of course try to hear the Elk and Bison trumpet and groan. We were successful on all counts.

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We made friends easily with several of our co-workers and hope to see five of them in the next couple of weeks.

I will not be working there again even thought we had probably the best store manager and cafeteria manager in the entire park. We won’t for three good reasons: (1) it is a long, long drive from Tennessee to Wyoming and (2) my body doesn’t do changing shift work very well and (3) Yellowstone had in excess of 4 million visitors this year; a record. Sadly the company we worked for did not or could not supply our general store with enough help. Oh, my heart will miss it, to be sure.

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Yellowstone (Part 3) Geysers and the Hydrothermal Systems

The most famous geyser in the park, and perhaps the world, is Old Faithful Geyser, located in Upper Geyser Basin. Castle Geyser, The Grand Geyser, Lion Geyser and Beehive Geyser are in the same basin.  There is a 1.5 mile board walk through this basin.  We were fortunate to have seen three of these erupt in our two visits.

Old Faithful erupting taken by Sweet Husband

Old Faithful erupting taken by Sweet Husband

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance.  Notice the size of the people next to it.

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance. Notice the size of the people next to it.

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance.  Our friend Tee-gie in the foreground.

The Grand Geyser erupting in the distance. Our friend Tee-gie in the foreground.

The Grand

The Grand

During one of our visits to this basin we were walking toward the Castle Geyser just as it began to erupt.  Concurrently one of Yellowstone’s famous storms was moving in at the same time.  When the storm met the eruption it formed a Geyser Spout (pictured below).  We just stood there in awe, snapping pictures as fast as we could without a thought of getting wet or hit by hail, which is common in these passionate, but short storms.

Castle Geyser with geyser spout

Castle Geyser with geyser spout

Castle Geyser with storm approaching

Castle Geyser with storm approaching

Speaking of passionate storms, a co-worker was in Norris Valley when one came rolling in.  There was a large heard of Buffalo, with calves grazing when the hail began to hit them.  They immediately began to stampede into the nearby forest.  What a sight that must have been.

This is also the location of the second oldest Lodge, Old Faithful Lodge.  The Lodge was built as a series of detached buildings through 1923 and was consolidated into one complex by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood in 1926-27.  The Lodge includes a common lobby, dining spaces and a recreation hall, known as Geyser Hall, of log construction in the National Park Service Rustic style. The hall is arranged with a central nave-like structure, with subsidiary side aisles.  This Inn also featured musical entertainment each evening, but we never got to experience that venue as it was a little further drive and much more crowded.

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn.  The central object is a four-sided fireplace with a copper clock.

The open nave of the Old Faithful Inn. The central object is a four-sided fireplace with a copper clock.

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn

The park contains the largest active geyser in the world—Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin. It erupts more often than Old Faithful, but doesn’t last as long and does not reach the heights of Old Faithful (pictures below).

Steam Boat Geyser

Steam Boat Geyser

Steam Boat Geyser

Steam Boat Geyser

A study that was completed in 2011 found that at least 1283 geysers have erupted in Yellowstone. Of these, an average of 465 are active in a given year.  Yellowstone contains at least 10,000 geothermal features altogether. Half the geothermal features and two-thirds of the world’s geysers are concentrated in Yellowstone.  Some of these are under Yellowstone Lake, some require quite a hike to see, and naturally we did not see them all.  At 7,000+ feet above sea level, I do not hike well…I did not breathe well for the first 2 weeks.

Yellowstone experiences thousands of small earthquakes every year, virtually all of which are undetectable to people. There have been six earthquakes with at least magnitude 6 or greater in historical times, including a 7.5‑magnitude quake that struck just outside the northwest boundary of the park in 1959. This quake triggered a huge landslide, which caused a partial dam collapse on Hebgen Lake; immediately downstream, the sediment from the landslide dammed the river and created a new lake, known as Earthquake Lake. Twenty-eight people were killed, and property damage was extensive in the immediate region. We had friends (co-workers) in the park who hiked to this Lake. Pictures below are borrowed.

earth quake

I was told in March, 2014 a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck almost the very middle of Yellowstone near the Norris Basin at about 6.30am; reports indicated no damage. This was the biggest earthquake to hit the park since February 22, 1980.

Norris Basin is where you get to see most of the Bison (American Buffalo).  They are the monarchs of the park.

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The General Store we worked in was built to float with the movement of the earth.  I got used to it, but almost every customer asked if the building was moving. The more people walking around in the store, the more it moved, too.

I finish by letting the beauty in pictures of the mud pots, hot springs, etc. speak for themselves.

Mammoth Hot Springs.  Called for it shear size.  It is constantly flowing and growing with mineral deposits.

Mammoth Hot Springs. Called for it shear size. It is constantly flowing and growing with mineral deposits.

Life around the hot springs

Life around the hot springs

Mud Pot

Mud Pot

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Fumaroles

Fumaroles

Fumaroles

Fumaroles

Morning Glory Hot Spring

Morning Glory Hot Spring

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Part one of ?

Here is how it works.  There are big corporations who bid on concession contracts with the National Park Service to run the retail, lodging, restaurants and entertainment in the National Parks.  We found this out by visiting several national and state parks last year while we were “Living In Our Minivan”.  Once this information was obtained, we discussed it, picked a park, applied, were hired and we reported for work on June 8, 2015.  To protect the innocent the company name will remain anonymous.  We were really lucky, as the other company in the park was huge, impersonal and had very low dress standards (just an observation).

We agreed on jobs, were assigned a nice dorm room, were given our uniform t-shirts and directed to the EDR (employee dining room).  The EDR fed us very well.  A portion of our salary was deducted for room and board.  Our room was like a Days Inn room:  Sink, closet, private bath and good-size bedroom.  We also had a (free) laundry room on the basement floor where the only TV lived.  We had no Wi-Fi and very poor to no cell coverage.  The public areas of the dorm were kept OCD clean.  We were responsible for our space (not OCD).

NOW FOR THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WONDERFUL:

GOOD:  There were three age groups (1) college age (2) retired and (3) middle-aged teachers off for the summer.  Most of the college age are from foreign countries (?), this company seems to have a hard time getting American students who want to work for them in the summer.  The retired (us and a few others) are here because we cannot sit on the couch any longer and because they, like us, want to see these parks.  These are all really wonderful people to work with, we all became friends and formed a tight team.  We spent time out in the park together or visiting in our rooms, playing cards or pool in the TV room.

Brandon, Robert and Rose

Brandon, Robert and Rose

Brandon, Lily, Teegie and Grace

Brandon, Lily, Teegie and Grace

Rose, Robert and me

Rose, Robert and me

Teegie, Grace and Mel

Teegie, Grace and Mel

BAD:  We worked for a very large, privately owned corporation with juvenile rules that had to be upheld by our manager, who obviously didn’t always agree with them, because she was normal and human.  We had to “clock-in” and couldn’t do it two minutes early, even if we were just standing there.  The General Store was open 14 hours per day, seven days a week.  We alternated shifts each week, (hard to get used to).  We stayed short staffed all summer and HR either would not or could not get us the proper help.  My assumption, from years of working is, the smaller the payroll, the larger the profit.  This MAY be the reason American college students won’t come to work for them – their reputation proceeds them.  This was real work, standing/walking 7+ hours per day.  The poor customers had to pay the high price by waiting in long lines.  This was especially hard on them because Yellowstone is huge and moving from one area of the park to another takes a very long time.  They were tired, but they didn’t take it out on us (much).  I don’t have a picture of the dorm, but I do have a couple critters who came to visit us at our dorm.  Sweet husband purchased bear spray after one of these visits.

Black Bear next to our dorm

Black Bear next to our dorm

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WONDERFUL:  Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas.  Teton National Park, Cody, WY, The Bear Tooth Highway, Mesa Falls in Idaho, The local live theater in West Yellowstone and so much more.  I will have details in the following posts.

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More later…

I’m In Love with Buffalo Bill Cody

Cody, Wyoming was the first stop we made in Wyoming going from South Dakota to Yellowstone.  We (me, Leonard and my grand-wonder Aubrey) met our friend Tee-Gie Hamilton and her three precious grandchildren in Keystone, SD.  After three days of “playing” at Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park and soooooooooooo much more, we headed out toward Yellowstone.  We got as far as Cody, WY – totally exhausted.  We drove over the pass allowing the grands to actually play in snow at the top of the pass.  This is a rare opportunity for children from south Louisiana…and quite a wonderful sight to see.

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We got to see very little of Cody on this first trip because our goal was to spend the day showing the grands as much of Yellowstone as is possible in a day and where we were to work.  The bridge between Grant Village (where we were to work) and Old Faithful (our main goal) was completely closed, so the grands didn’t get to see it, but did enjoy Yellowstone Falls, the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, falls and Mammoth Springs before driving up to our friend’s home in Livingston, MT for a few days of rest.  We put the grands on a flight home to New Orleans from Bozeman on June 2nd (sniff).

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Our first day trip on our first day off was to Cody.  We (Tee-Gie, me and Leonard) packed our lunch and headed to The Center of the West Museum.  This is a must see stop, I would give it a minimum of two days, we had one.  This is just a tiny sample of the incredible western art (eye candy) available at this wonderful museum.

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We made a brief stop at the Cody Reservoir Dam, created for irrigation on the Shoshone River.  We went to the Irma Hotel for supper before heading back to Yellowstone.

Yes, the water up here is emerald green...I am used to brown.

Yes, the water up here is emerald green…I am used to brown.

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The Hotel was built by Bill Cody for his daughter, Irma and is still quite the show piece.  The bar in the salon is made of Rose Wood given to Bill Cody as a gift by Queen Victoria.

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After Leonard and I left Yellowstone for the summer we headed back to Cody for another afternoon at the museum and dinner at the Irma Hotel after a Wild West show done by local volunteers to raise money for local children’s charity done in the street next to the Irma Hotel. These volunteers portrayed Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Wild Bill Hitchcock.

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After dinner we enjoyed a true Cowboy Music Show featuring Dan Miller, his youngest daughter Hannah, Wendy Corr and Ed Cook – well worth the time and money (which was reasonable).  http://cowboymusicrevue.com/about-the-band  Check out more information on the band on this link.  So very talented.

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Bear Tooth and Chief Joseph Highways

During our tenure at the Yellowstone General Store this summer, we are given two days off, in a row, each week.  We have taken day trips up to this point.  None of these trips will be posted in date order as each has its own unique subject.  This was our first overnight trip because it would be impossible to see this region without an overnight stay. Motels are almost always full in and around the National Park area during the summer months.  If one is fortunate enough to find a room, one must be prepared to pay a premium rate ($200. to $600. per night – no joke).  Fortunately, we know how to “Live In A Minivan”, so we secured a small lot at a KOA in Red Lodge.  It is a precious little town, by the way.

Red Lodge has a micro-brewery (Red Lodge Ales), which WE DO NOT RECOMMEND …save your money.  There are many other great choices in town for meals and cold beer. I have attached a crude map of our route out of Yellowstone from our temporary home at Grant Village.

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Travel is slow through the park with bear, buffalo or elk jams to contend with, which is never a bother to us.  We were told, when coming to Yellowstone, one needs to pack a lot of patience.  I will pass along this very necessary advice.

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Osprey

Osprey

Moose

Moose

Grizzly

Grizzly

Black Bear next to our dorm

Black Bear next to our dorm

Elk

Elk

We left through the NE entrance to Cookeville, MT where we picked up the Bear Tooth Highway.  This route also took us through Lamar Valley.  This is an exceedingly large, open expanse, surrounded by mountains and striped with meandering creeks where wild life thrive in 360 degrees of calm, green beauty.  This is usually where one see wildlife; we did not.  I enjoyed it more than Sweet Husband, as he was the driver.

BEAR TOOTH is a winding, two lane highway climbing to an elevation of over 11,000 feet with many cut backs and 7% grades.  If you have any issues with altitude sickness or fear of heights, I would not recommend this trek.  However, it is one of the most beautiful drives in North America.

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

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This is "The Bear Tooth Mountain" from which the name of the highway comes

This is “The Bear Tooth Mountain” from which the name of the highway comes

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Glacier lake - naturally, frozen over in the winter

Glacier lake – naturally, frozen over in the winter

Ice caps (glaciers) still in July

Ice caps (glaciers) still in July

Ski Lift at the crest of Grasshopper Valley

Ski Lift at the crest of Grasshopper Valley

Glacier Lake

Glacier Lake

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

Grasshopper Valley

There is one location on this highway where skiers take snowmobiles to an area called Grasshopper Valley (see pictures above).  It has a near vertical slope to a valley of frozen glacier lakes.  They then can ride the ski lift back up to the road and repeat.  I wouldn’t do it in three lifetimes, but some people love these near death experiences.

MOTORCYCLE RALLY:  I promise, I’m not exaggerating, there was at least 3 motor cycles for every car (maybe more).  Red Lodge is at one end of the Bear Tooth Hwy and Cody, WY is on the other.  Red Lodge is where motorcycles converged going to two different cycle rallies:  The BMW Rally n Billings , MT and the 75th anniversary of the Harley Davidson Rally in Sturgis, SD.

I only saw two brave people driving an RV on that highway; I would NEVER, EVER do that.

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Bikers are quilters - like who knew? Sign in Red Lodge at quilt shop.

Bikers are quilters – like who knew? Sign in Red Lodge at quilt shop.

We arrived in Red Lodge with time to drive past on to Billings.  We were told about an area near Billings where William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame) and his company stopped at a site he named, “Pompeys Pillar (Tower)”.  The pillar itself stands 150 feet above the Yellowstone River and consists of sandstone from the late Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation, 75 – 66 million years ago. The base of the pillar is approximately one acre.  It is simply a giant rock in the middle of a vast valley, on the edge of the river.  If you are driving along highway 312 near Billings, you cannot miss it.  BTW:  It appears much grain, etc. is grown in this rich valley for Coors.  William Clark would probably approve.

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William Clark's signature in the rock

William Clark’s signature in the rock

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The pillar features an abundance of Native American petroglyphs, as well as the signature of William Clark, co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clark’s inscription is the only remaining physical evidence found along the route that was followed by the expedition.

The inscription consists of his signature and the date, July 25, 1806. Clark wrote that he climbed the sandstone pillar and “had a most extensive view in every direction on the Northerly Side of the river”. He named the outcropping after Jean Baptiste Charbonneau—the son of expedition member Sacagawea—whom he nicknamed “Pompy”, as he had become quite attached to the 18 month old member of the company. His original name for it was “Pompys Tower”; it was changed to the current title in 1814.

DAY TWO:  Started with waking from an 11 hour night of much needed rest…we must have been extremely tired.  Red Lodge has a wonderful, locally owned bakery (City Bakery).  After a stop for breakfast pastries we headed south out of town to Chief Joseph Highway. This highway was named in honor of Chief Joseph, the Nez Perch Chief who resisted resettlement by the United States and fought in this region, but eventually lost.  His surrender speech is below.  This is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places Sweet Husband and I have traveled. Surrender Speech by Chief Joseph, born Hinmatóowyalahtq̓it, which means Thunder Rolling Down The Hills, (1840-1904) Chief of the Nez Perce Tribe:

Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph

“I am tired of fighting.  Our chiefs are killed.  Looking Glass is dead.  Toohulhulsote is dead.  The old men are all dead.  It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets.  The little children are freezing to death.  My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food.  No one knows where they are–perhaps freezing to death.  I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find.  Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs.  I am tired.  My heart is sick and sad.  From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

We were the conquerors and they the conquered.  That is the way of life in all wars.  Much has been lost and much gained.  The land is preserved, but war cannot and will not change – until the day we beat our swords into plows.  Yes, that day will come.

National Museum of Wildlife Art

This lovely museum is located on a hill overlooking the National Elk Refuge (picture of a portion of the refuge meadow below) in Jackson Hole, WY.

BLDG VIEW

After all the art museums sweet husband and I have visited (and they are legion) we have learned that the landscaping, setting and building foretell the beauty within. This is no exception. It is small in comparison to some we have seen, but the building, landscaping, setting and included works rate a ten-plus.

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The building is designed to blend into the hillside with native rocks. Each door handle is made of giant Elk antlers. The form is of ancient, western architecture. It is surrounded by a sculpture trail designed by renowned landscape architect Walter J. Hood. The sculpture trail introduces fine art sculpture into the fabric of Jackson Hole’s incomparable landscape. Sculptures of wood, granite and bronze play with light and the different seasons offering an ever-changing view of art in the wild. There are over sixteen different sculptures on this exterior trail. I have pictured only a few.

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The interior features art of wildlife by American and European artist of the last two centuries. Again, I have included only a sampling of the many great works.

ANTELOPE BISON 2 BISON1 BISON22 BLACK BEAR CAT EAGLE ELK STAMPEAD FALCON GRISLEY1 GRISLEY3 MOOSE3 MOOSE4 MOOSE5 SHEEP1 SHEEP2 SHEEP3 SHEEP5 TOTUM

If you find yourself in this area, make a point of driving up the hill, past the Elk Stampede. After viewing the sculpture garden and the gallery, exit the front to enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding refuge from their shaded terrace.

ELK ENTRANCE2

OUR DAY TRIP TO IDAHO FALLS

DISCLAIMER:  These blogs from Wyoming, Yellowstone, etc. are not going to be in exact order, nor do they need to be.  I just got my MIFI (Verizon portable internet) repaired and am finally able to post again.

We drove from our spot in Yellowstone to Idaho Falls on our 4th Tuesday off of the season.  I did not want to go – I was so tired after working five days on my feet and because the evening before a group of us drove in to West Yellowstone to the Playmill, a Local Community Theater (truly the best community theater – EVER! ….we saw, “The Foreigner“).  That event put us back at our dorm well after midnight.  As a result, I woke up grumpy and tired…I pushed through because Sweet Husband and good friend, Teegie where excited and DETERMINED.

On our way out of the park we passed a mother bison with calf just walking down the road in the opposite direction from us.  She had the traffic backed up a mile.

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Idaho is mile after mile of changing topography.  from rolling hills, canyons, and the most beautiful farm land.  Idaho grows all the products needed for Budweiser, as well as potatoes, grass for cattle and a couple of crops we couldn’t identify.

Mustard with the back of the Titons in the background

Mustard with the back of the Titons in the background

Barley

Barley

Flax

Flax

There were streams filled with fly fishermen on one side of the highway and the back side of the Grand Titons on the other, with farm valley between.

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We took a side trip to Masa Falls (a must see) created by a massive volcanic eruption 25,000 years ago.  Two thousand times more massive than the one at Mt. St. Helen back in the 80’s.

Lower Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Lodge at Mesa Falls

Lodge at Mesa Falls

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This whole region has three Calderas.

We has errands to run in Idaho Falls, including seeing these magnificent falls are being used to produce hydro power.  In addition to that, on our way out of town back to Yellowstone we saw hill tops lined with wind turbines.

Idaho Falls in downtown Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls in downtown Idaho Falls

wind

Many downtowns these days have statues symbolizing their region.  Idaho has big rock potatoes, turned into benches.

Potato back

Potato back

Potato front

Potato front

I expected this region to be arid and brown.  It is lush and green and filled with wild flowers … PLUS: Elk, Bison and Bears,Oh My!

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Moose across the river

Moose across the river

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A rare white elk

A rare white elk

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We Went back a different route through Jackson Hole and had dinner at The Jackson Lake Lodge.  This was our view at dinner.

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