The sun shone brightly the morning of the 21st as we rolled out of Ogden, having fortified ourselves at the breakfast bar at the Holiday Inn Express (Mmmm, cinnamon rolls). I volunteered to take the first driving shift of the day again, and off we headed, the Wasatch peaks gleaming in the distance, snow still clinging to their caps and acres and acres of horse and cattle pastures. There was nary a tree in sight, other than the yards of residences, but the grasslands were lovely and rolling in the breeze.
Utah’s state motto, as I wrote in one photo caption, is “Industry”, symbolized by the beehive. This is the symbol they have for their state highways. Of course, from a distance, it doesn’t appear to be a beehive – I’ll leave that to your imagination. I believe that Utah takes their alignment with honeybees to heart, as we passed signs for places like Bear River, which happens to be next to Honeyville. I pondered if we should keep an eye out for Winnie the Pooh. We didn’t spot him.
The valley that we drove through on the way into Idaho was lovely, with various shades of green decorating the landscape. We continued on through this valley, down into a canyon populated by the town of Inkom, and then up and out, summitting at Pocatello, Idaho. It was then off to Hells Half Acre, which is much larger than a half-acre, in fact, I dare say the official area is several thousand acres. Hells Half Acre is a rest stop/scenic area at the edge of a large lava field. The state has “improved” the area with paved walkways and a lot of signage to teach visitors about the area. We spent the better part of an hour walking the paths, reading the signs and snapping photos.
Back on the road and heading towards Montana, we powered through lunch (there were E.L. Fudge cookies at hand) decided to take a scenic byway through Targhee National Forest – because their were waterfalls. Upper and Lower Mesa Falls to be exact. The falls were gorgeous and I snapped a lot of photos, playing with the action setting on the camera once again. We tramped around the area for a good while, and I ended up getting my one and only mosquito bite on the whole trip. The mosquito was a sneaky one, and I don’t know how long she was there, but upon discovery, she was nearly as big as a blueberry – and just about the same color. She didn’t survive, though she did leave me with quite the memento to remember her by.
As we rolled out of the parking lot at the falls, we were approaching the 130 PM mark and our stomachs started to protest the lack of “real food”, but still we pressed on. West Yellowstone wasn’t very far away. We arrived into West Yellowstone at 3 and checked into our hotel, one of three Best Westerns in town, and the guys inquired about a good place for dinner. We dropped our gear off at the room and walked the two blocks to Beartooth Barbeque. It’s not an elegant place, in fact, borders on low-rent, backwoods bar type of place, but it was comfortable and welcoming. The pulled pork, the Bad Dog (smoked sausage with pulled pork on top on a bun) and the brisket were ordered, along with beers and a root beer (for the non-beer-drinking DH). The food was good, of course – we were HUNGRY, not having eaten anything but 2 E.L. Fudge cookies (at least in my case) since breakfast. The “hot” barbecue sauce wasn’t really hot, and after trying the mild – I stuck with the “hot” version as it wasn’t as sweet. The cole slaw was so-so, I’d go with something else next time. The barbecue baked beans were very good, and the french fries were as well.
The town of West Yellowstone is a tourist trap. Really. But, if you don’t know that going in, there is no help for you. We made our way to the Yellowstone Park office down the street after dinner and purchased our park pass, inquired the best route to view the parts of the park we could get to in the time we had, and then it was back to the hotel to grab the car and head into Yellowstone.
This was the first foray into Yellowstone that myself, DH or BIL have ever taken. We were told to expect traffic jams if there was any wildlife within eyesight of the roadway, even a rabbit. The rangers were not kidding. Thankfully, our first traffic snarl was due to a grizzly bear on the far side of the Madison River. We got pictures just before the bear moved back into the trees and we were off again. Our next stop was due to elk grazing alongside the Madison River, and then a small group of three “bachelor” bison bulls, lounging along the roadside. We pressed on to see Old Faithful, spending over an hour touring the exhibits and walking the trails before witnessing the geyser erupt. I’m glad I got to see it. I’m also glad that I was off on a trail near Lion Geyser and had a great view of Old Faithful as she blew, and got to enjoy the smaller geysers in the area as they erupted shortly afterwards. From Old Faithful, it was off to see the Grand Prismatic Spring and the Artist’s Paint Pots. The sun was fading fast and we got in as much as we could for the available light, it was then back into the car and off to the hotel. There was only one more traffic jam on the way, a herd of bison, approximately 16 or so, led by a large bull was making their way to the interior of the park via the eastbound lane. Thankfully, we were traveling westward, so we got a nice shot of the incoming group, and went on our merry way once traffic has resumed. How thoughtful of the herd to use the appropriate lane.
Next time: Yellowstone to Sturgis, SD