Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Adventures in Yellowstone!

Last week Aaron and I went on a little vacay with his parents. Some of their friends graciously opened up their little farm house in Rigby, Idaho, allowing us the opportunity to visit Idaho, and neighboring Yellowstone National Park. Here is our trip in pictures. Who am I kidding? I have to write about it... I am way to verbose just to use pictures.

Day 1: Road trip: Pinole, CA to Elko, NV! Where's Elko?!? It's a little town in the middle of Nevada; complete with three large casinos, two Starbucks and a few Basque restaurants. We had a delicious Basque-American dinner during our stay. "Want to know what rhymes with varmint?" Check out the town's annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. We missed it, but maybe you can catch it on your next trip through the middle of the Silver State.

Day 2: Road trip: Elko, NV to Rigby, ID.
Gosh, there was a whole lot of road construction during this leg of our trip. It was a nice little drive. The scenery leaves a little to be desired. (How many sage brushes can you see before you get a little bored?! Not many.) But we arrived onto the farm in Ribgy, Idaho, in time to be welcomed with open arms, delicious dinner, and a beautiful sunset. Aren't the clouds reflecting in the Snake River beautiful?!?

Day 3: The World's First Nuclear Power Plant, and Craters of the Moon
We took a day trip to see the sights in Idaho. Our first stop was EBR-1: The World's First Nuclear Power Plant. It produced enough nuclear power to produce all in-house electricity. I kept wanting to say 'new-cue-ler' rather than 'nuke-lee-er' to see if the tour guide would correct me; but I chickened out. We stopped for lunch in Arco, where they had a piece of a submarine sticking up out of the ground in this little park where we had lunch. Aaron's dad tried the area's (in)famous fried pickles. Then we concluded the day at Craters of the Moon. It was a little drizzly at first, as we walked around a few trails. We decided to take a 'Ranger Walk' toward the caves. Of course, it started pouring half-way to the cave, and it stopped raining as soon as we got to the cave. That and the ranger was a little funny about her 'program' and her inability to deviate from said 'program' despite the fact that it was clearly created and intended for a much younger audience. But we got a lot of really nice photos throughout the day.


Day 4: Yellowstone! 

The next day we got up and packed for Yellowstone. As soon as we go to the park, we were forewarned that rangers were 'herding the bison.' We inquired about the process, and the ranger stated that they were trying to get the bison across the street. We asked why they were crossing the bison, and the ranger curtly replied , "To get them across the street." And boy, did they stop traffic. They were beautiful! And HUGE! We stopped for a very nice picnic lunch, after which poor Aaron experienced a migraine. Aaron's parents and I stopped to see a few waterfalls and various things while Aaron rested in the car. The scenery was beautiful, and before long Aaron was feeling better. Our first thermal observation came at the "Painting Pots." They were beautiful, but smelled horrific. Remind me not to tell you the stories we heard in the car about how people died by jumping into the thermal pools after their dogs. Seriously, I had nightmares. Anyways.... The pools were beautiful! They looked so enticing. The colors were remarkable shades of blue and aqua... but, after the stories I heard, I knew to stay away. Far, far away. The gurgling mud ponds were pretty cool. It was need to see them bubble up! I also thought it was neat to see the mounds of mud that had formed where previous mud springs had been, but were now nothing more than towers of nasty, cakey mud. Amidst the thermal pools were also smaller springs and steaming holes. Mini-geysers dotted the landscape. It was beautiful. 

Following the Painter's Pots area, we visited the area which is often used in photographs, and was featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine, Grand Prismatic Spring. We were not able to secure a photo as dramatic as the one featured in the magazine. Due to the steam, we could barely see in front of our faces for a few minutes. But it was beautiful! The colors in the water were dramatic, and brilliant. The bacteria that flourished in the warm waters pouring off the lake made wonderfully fascinating patterns on the rock. 

Following the steamy sulphuric facial, we made our way toward Old Faithful. We stopped at the Old Faithful Lodge, me for some shopping, Aaron for a little nappy-nap on the super comfy couches. We didn't have to wait too long before the geyser was schedule to go off. It was pretty cool. It lasted nearly two minutes... which was awesome, but seemed a little short. We then visited the Visitor's Center, watched a quick video, and spoke with a kind gentleman who informed us that we would not have to wait long before Old Faithful would go off again: It seems that if the eruption lasts 3-5 minutes, the next eruption will take place approximately 90 minutes later, if the eruption is shorter than that, the next eruption takes place in about an hour! Huh! So, we watched Old Faithful erupt again. It was beautiful. We decided to have a special dinner at the Old Faithful Inn. I had delicious Bison Ravioli. Yum! Following dinner, we were able to watch Old Faithful erupt again! Three times. It was awesome, and it made us tired enough to call it a night.

Day 5: Yellowstone!
We were greeting to the park with a tremendous amount of traffic. We casually assumed that the rangers were, once again, herding the bison. Little did we know it was the bison herding the humans! Well, sort of. This bison just decided he was going to walk leisurely along the main thoroughfare. He certainly was in no hurry. It was awesome (and a little scary) to have a bison within three feet of you. No amount of Toyota Prius made you feel safe as this guy sauntered past.

What a great day of animal watching and hiking! Today we saw a coyote jogging along the river bank, and a trumpeter swam flapping it's wings over the river. We also got to see many grazing elk, and of course, bison! Today we decided to head north of Madison Junction, toward the two Yellowstone Waterfalls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The views were spectacular. We hiked (down) to the top of both Upper Yellowstone Falls, first. The amount of water rushing over the ledge was tremendous. It seemed both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. From the top of the falls you could see the cliffs of yellow, with what appeared to be a trickling brook between it's peaks (roaring river is more like it!) We followed the road, to a view point looking down on the exact spot where we had been standing, what seemed like miles and miles away. It was beautiful and very windy atop the bluff. Then we headed toward Lower Yosemite Falls, where we hiked all the way down to the platform overlooking the falls.

Day 6: Yellowstone!

On our final day in the park we decided to head up to one of the northernmost areas of the park.  There was just so much to see, there was no way we would manage to see it all in three days! One of the highlights of the day was the bear spotting(s). Yes, plural! Randomly tons of people would be pulled off to the side of the road with tons of binoculars. We would ask what we were looking at. The first spotting was of a mama bear and her two cubs, climbing up a distant hillside. They were but mere specks of dark color, dotting the lighter colored hill side. Shortly thereafter, we were able to see a single bear tromping around in the edge of the forest. (Can you see him hiding in the center of the picture?)
Later on in the afternoon, another caravan of cars had stopped. A bear and her three cubs were hiding and frolicking in the high grass. They were so cute. But you knew they were not to be messed with with two bison, minding their own business, stopped dead in their tracks as they were within yards of the mama bear and her three cubs! After our bear sitings, we went to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Allegedly there was a spot where you could legally put your feet in a heated river... but it was closed off due to high water levels. As the weather started to take a turn for the worse, we were still able to take in the beauty of the Mammoth area, including the beautiful springs in the Upper and Lower Terraces. Following our hike around the terraces, we visited the Historic Fort Yellowstone and learned of the days when the National Guard protected our country's first national park. It was pretty cool --- but it also started pouring down rain. With that, we decided to call it a day and head back to the farm.

Day 7: Idaho Potato Museum and the Birth of the Television! 
No visit to Idaho would be complete without a visit to the Idaho Potato Museum. It was pretty interesting. I did learn the term spud came from: the Society of  the Prevention of Unhealthy Diets, who felt that the potato had little nutritional value and was all but evil. However, upon checking my trusty wikipedia, I learned that this was an erroneous association. The museum was pretty cool (even more so once I discovered that many local distilleries made their own potato vodka!) We were slightly disappointed that we did not receive our "Free Taters for Out-of-Staters" due to the fact that we were waived the $3 admission due to free admission days. We decided to hit one more quaint little museum in Rigby. Rigby's claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Philo Farnsworth., who created the vacuum tube television display. The museum was awfully small and kind of silly, but it was very interesting.  We concluded our day with a final tour around the farm house and a beautiful sunset over the Snake River.

Day 8: Road trip: Rigby, ID to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Since neither Aaron nor I had been to Salt Lake City, we thought it might be a good idea to take advantage of being in the area to tour the city. So we begrudgingly left the farm, and Aaron's parents, and set out for a new adventure in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Not before stopping to buy some local potato vodka first. Mmm..... huckleberry potato vodka. Yum.) Arriving to Salt Lake City was little different. The outskirts of the city were very dirty, with a lot of oil refineries and such. But the city center was really pretty neat! After checking in to our hotel, we drove over to the city center. First we took a picture next to the state capitol building. It was bug and pretty, but it was a capitol building. Next we went into Temple Square to see the sights. The architecture is remarkable, and its history is pretty impressive. The gardens were lovely and the people were very friendly.... a little too friendly, it kinda weirded me out a little. Being a little unnerved, we decided to calm them with some local libations. The first place we stopped was a local brewery called Red Rock Brewery for dinner. I had delicious fish and chips. I don't remember what Aaron ate. I was drinking. Anyways! Then on the way back, we visited Squatters where Aaron partook in a tasty beverage and I had some delicious rootbeer. We also picked up a case of Polygamy Porter. "Why have just one!"

Day 9: Salt Lake to Home, and everything in between! 
We thought we might stop off somewhere and take in a quick viewing of the great Salt Lake. But , honestly, we were not all that impressed. Maybe it is because we just drove along the highway, but the viewpoints they did have did not create a view I needed to stop for. We did stop once we got to the Bonneville Salt Flats. That was pretty cool. The salt was so blindingly bright, you thought it was freshly fallen snow. It crunched loudly when you stepped on it, and it stuck to your shoes and pants with a vengeance.  Aaron wanted to run across the flats as far and as fast as he could; I told him I would wait by the car! :) We stopped in Wendover on the border to Utah and Nevada at the Wendover Nugget. That was the nearest Starbucks for miles! We went in for a Frappuccino and came out $40 richer due to a "Thanks a Latte!" penny slot machine.  Ironic, I know! We drove through boring ol' Nevada, stopping at a random Walmart because I got sick of the radio not working (I bought an adapter for my ipod!) Getting hungry, we stopped for dinner in Reno. We had a delicious Chinese Food meal at the Silver Legacy diner. Then I decided to test my luck at the slots again. Aaron lost $20, but I got to play a really cool 'Sex in the City' slot machine... and by the time we left, I was up $10 more! So close to home, but yet so far, I got a craving for a Blizzard. Aaron, being the good man he is, helped me find the nearest Dairy Queen --- too bad it was in the ghetto of West Sac! I ate my ice cream with the windows rolled up, and the air conditioner on! While it was a wonderfully adventurous and fabulous trip, I will not deny the fact that, as rolled up to my little house, it felt so good to be home.


  1. This is my first visit to your website and my first comment for you: I love all of your vacation pictures!

  2. WOW! What a trip. Thanks for sharing.