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  1. #11

    Default Parks and Sparks - July 3

    Today was one of the days I feared had too much activity in it, and I was proved right. I had set a goal of nearly 400 miles of driving combined with four sites to visit. We were doomed from the start.

    First, I read about road construction in Glacier National Park with delays and closure of some overlooks and trail heads. Then I missed a critical turn to reach the eastern entrance. We drove 40 miles before I realized my error and we turned around, only to find that we could get to the western entrance easier from there and not have to drive over the road construction after all. Of course, it ate up an hour to figure it all out and start back over that bypass road again.

    Though we drove the southern bypass for Glacier, we still saw some good scenery

    My third miscalculation involved not planning on as many stops as we would make along the Going to the Sun Road. It was totally awesome, and we drove it from the West Glacier entrance up to Logan Pass and back, a distance of 64 miles. It took about three hours for that alone.

    The Going to the Sun Road is a narrow two-lane road with low stone walls at some places and no guard rails or walls at all in others. It climbs to an altitude of 8,600 feet and has numerous waterfalls, snow bridges and hundred-mile views. The smoke we had encountered yesterday was not present, so everything was crisp and clear. There are adequate turnoffs and overlooks for some magnificent photo ops.

    Up there in the center of the picture was our destination, Logan Pass

    Now we're nearing the top of the park

    Our next plan was to drive completely around Flathead Lake, the largest Clearwater lake in North America. It is also one of the clearest lakes; you can see all the way to the bottom in most of it. We were only able to take in the east side of the lake with the time we had lost. A bonus was the discovery that, besides tourism, (there are at least five state parks on the lake, including an island park that requires a boat ride to reach it) the east side has numerous cherry orchards. We bought two pounds of the sweet red ones called Flathead Cherries - what else?

    From the end of a pier, Flathead Lake is about 40-feet deep at this point

    I had scheduled a drive through the National Bison Range south of Flathead Lake, too. It is administered by the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, whose land it occupies. However, it is a treeless prairie and the temperature today was 97 Degrees, so I was glad to forego that. We did see a lone bison on the edge of the range from a rest area along Highway 93 near the town of St. Ignatius.

    Yes, that is a lone bison out there in the distance on the National Buffalo Range

    On our road down to Missoula we passed through a unique animal bridge. It enables wildlife to cross the busy and dangerous highway and is about 50 yards wide and covered in grass. It forms a tunnel for highway traffic. There are only four such animal bridges in North America.

    A unique sight: the Animals' Trail Bridge for wildlife along Highway 93

    I included a few extra pictures in Glacier NP below to show you how neat it really was. There was a distinct lack of glaciers in the park, though you could see remnants of some and hollows where others had been. I have become a believer in global warming, but only as nature governs it, not man. We are far too inconsequential to control climate, and besides, now scientists are predicting a new ice age, so maybe the glaciers will return.

    Our last stop was to be at the Smokejumpers Headquarters in Missoula. We arrived after closing at 5:30, so we took a few pictures of the buildings and training center and called it a day. Our hotel was in Missoula, so we had arrived at our home for the night.

    A snow bridge (hollow underneath)

    Towering peaks but not much glacial activity

    Mileage - 370 Total - 3225

  2. #12

    Default Parks and Sparks - July 4

    One important lesson I've learned since I began road tripping 25 years ago is that you have to keep your options open. You can't plan for every activity or attraction along the road, so it's best to keep a little extra time and an open mind for the unexpected.

    Today was one of those days. We started out toward Salt Lake City, but when we were approaching Butte, we were ready for a cup of coffee, so we passed the junction of I-90 and I-15 to find a McDonalds. Then one thing led to another, and we decided to go see the Museum of Mining at Montana Technical College. The school is located on a high hill, so when we got there we had a great view of the entire city. In fact, the museum wasn't open yet, so I started snapping pictures of the city instead.

    Once called "The Richest Hill on Earth", Butte is a quaint mining town with a big history

    Now, if you like quaint Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century towns with lots of beautiful homes and businesses, Butte is a must see. A real eye popper is the many mining rigs throughout the city. (Remember that I related in an earlier journal log that there are 10,000 miles of underground mines below Butte) I could have spent the day there if we hadn't had to travel 500 miles.

    I regret that I didn't have my camera ready for another sight we saw along the road. A creek was winding alongside the interstate, and at one bend in it there was a huge bald eagle perched on a protruding log. What a sight to see on Independence Day! Alas, I don't have a picture of the eagle.

    When I first preplanned this trip, I considered a side trip over to Craters of the Moon National Memorial. It would have been a 120 mile detour and was going to cost at least 2 hours in the park. But I recalled from my trip along the same route 3 years ago that the volcanic lava beds extended across Idaho to I-15. There is even a rest area in the middle of the lava bed that the road builders named Hell's Half Acre and they were nice enough to make paved paths up through the lava so that people could enjoy their rest break. We accomplished in half an hour what could have taken 3 hours and a lot of gas otherwise.

    How can you beat a rest area with a paved lava trail for exercise!

    For once, we arrived at our hotel before 5 o'clock, so I decided to go downtown to Temple Square and see the famous Mormon Tabernacle. It turned out to be a straight shot from the hotel to the square and back 5 minutes each way. I got good photos of all the buildings. I must say that I was impressed.

    The famous Mormon Tabernacle

    A smaller Mormon church in Temple Square

    A little rain shower helped to cool things off, but I'm afraid we're still in for hot travel ahead. Tomorrow we're headed for Moab, and that is a desert climate indeed!

    Mileage - 550 Total - 3775

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Nice pics !

    I am enjoying the report Harry which is also bringing back some memories of a previous trip.


  4. #14


    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    I am enjoying the report Harry which is also bringing back some memories of a previous trip.

    Thanks Dave,

    I've done this trip, or portions of it several times, and I see or experience something new on every one of them. Three parks to go, and I'm certain that they will provide more memories.


  5. #15

    Default Parks and Sparks - July 5

    Tonight we are in Heaven; figuratively, not literally. On the map it is shown as Moab, Utah, but there must be a supreme being who shaped and sculpted the amazing and impossible rock formations in the two national parks just north and west of here as well as those same formations in the cliffs above the city. This is my fourth time here, and I am always overawed by the beauty.

    We started out of Salt Lake City this morning in a light and cooling rain and drove a hugely scenic Route 6 down through Price and Helper. Along that road was a rest area like none I've ever seen before. It was a tiny replica of a train roundhouse, complete with engine, track and openings where other engines would be housed. But the openings were actually picnic shelters with tables in each one. It sat below a genuine railroad track and the restroom building, looking like a real station, had a sign on the front showing it to be Tie Fork.

    Tie Fork Station Rest Area

    A rest area with real class

    The road all the way from Spanish Fork to Price went through a series of canyons and was parallel to that double railroad track. Lots of twists and turns and high walls made it a drive that kept us awake and alert.

    Our first goal, Canyonlands National Park, was reached by 12:30, and we spent two hours there. It had rained there as well, so the temperature was pleasant enough for good hiking. We used the opportunity to hike the 1/2 mile loop trail to Mesa Arch. By the time we left the park for our next destination, Arches National Park, the sun was out and the temp had climbed about 20 degrees. Hiking was at an end for today. We did drive most of the park, but a lot of the pictures were taken either through the window or alongside the car.

    Monitor and Merrimac are two mesa formations near Canyonlands

    Our hike out to the Mesa Arch in Canyonlands was hot and hilly, but it was worth the effort. We've been out there twice before, but the arch always amazes me. There are signs all through the park that climbing on arches is not allowed, but many people ignore the signs and take the risk. Mesa Arch has a dead drop of about a thousand feet right behind it, and those rocks are sometimes slippery, so I imagine there are some casualties.

    There's a guy standing atop the Mesa Arch with a huge drop behind him

    Mesa Arch is in Canyonlands and really is on the edge of a high mesa

    Double Arch in Arches NP is huge - that white dot at the bottom is a person

    People are hiking out to Delicate Arch, but I shot my photo from a viewpoint below

    Balanced Rock is not cemented in place but sits atop a lighter colored slab

    Our hotel concierge (desk clerk) recommended a steak house for dinner. She said she could get us a window table with a fantastic view and even a shuttle ride from and back to the hotel. Needless to add, it is the priciest restaurant in Moab. We settled instead for a nice authentic Mexican restaurant and enjoyed the cuisine.

    Tomorrow, we will visit a few more stand alone arches along the local roads and then take yet another scenic drive to Gunnison, Colorado with a stop at the Black Canyon near there.

    Mileage - 315 Total - 4090

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Next time: that steak house view!

    I've eaten at that steak house and the view is pretty great.

    Moab actually has a number of good restaurants now --


  7. #17


    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    I've eaten at that steak house and the view is pretty great.

    Moab actually has a number of good restaurants now --

    What view in Moab isn't great? It certainly is a fantastic city in every respect!


  8. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    So, where's the sparks? I was thinking 4th of July, you haven't mentioned any fireworks displays.

  9. #19

    Default Parks and Sparks - July 6

    At 3:13 this morning a huge bolt of lightning and a equally loud clap of thunder woke me up. Shortly after the rude awakening, the rain came, and I thought we might have to abandon our plans to see just two more arches before heading eastward to Colorado.

    We left Moab heading south and went first to a formation called Looking Glass Rock, which was only accessible down a dirt road. The rain had wet the surface, but it was passable. Then we went a few miles further on the paved roadway to Wilson Arch. It was visible from the main road, so I snapped my pictures and we drove a southern scenic route over to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

    Looking Glass Rock - The man standing on a rock to the right gives perspective

    Wilson Arch near Moab

    On the way over to the Black Canyon, we drove over the lower half of the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway. That gave us an excellent view of the San Juan Mountains to the south. I got another panoramic picture from an overlook near Ridgeway, Colorado.

    After a 3-1/2 hour stay at Black Canyon and walks out to nine of the thirteen overlooks, we started on the last leg of the journey to our hotel in Gunnison. On one of the overlook trails, we got a treat; a four-foot bull snake crossed our path and stayed long enough to get his picture taken.

    The 'Painted Wall' in Black Canyon - Do you see the two dragons?

    Black Canyon of the Gunnison has overlooks on both rims, but the ones on the north rim are more primitive, require a long 90-mile drive from the south rim to reach and are way more scary - there isn't much erosion on the north rim, so you look almost straight down 2,300 feet to the Gunnison River. The picture above is shows the difference

    This beauty is a harmless bull snake

    Along the way to Gunnison we passed through two more canyons and the ever expanding Blue Mesa Lake in the Curecanti National Recreation Area. It is a man-made lake that continues to grow behind a dam. When we first saw it about twenty years ago, it was only a mile long, but now it seems to be more like five miles in length. We also passed a very strange huge rock formation of needle-like spires called the Dillon Pinnacles.

    Blue Mesa with Dillon Pinnacles at the front
    Our cuisine for tonight was Italian, provided at a riverside restaurant, Garlic Mike's. The food was excellent! I would recommend it to anyone traveling through Gunnison. Our hotel was only about two miles from there.

    Mileage - 300 Total - 4630

  10. #20


    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    So, where's the sparks? I was thinking 4th of July, you haven't mentioned any fireworks displays.
    The Sparks are yet to come, but they are not what I intended, and they had nothing to do with the 4th. Patience...

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