Transit to Foley AL

As advertised in my last post…early in the morning of Oct 11 we left Albuquerque, the Balloon Fiesta, and Bill and Linda (actually…they left us rather than the other way around as they had to pull out first in our close quarters parking spot at the Fiesta) and headed east. South on I-25 for 10 miles or so then on to I-40 east…where we stayed for almost 3 full days.

Overnight stops in Amarillo TX at Amarillo Ranch RV, Choctaw OK at Oklahoma East KOA, North Little Rock AR at Little Rock North KOA, and then Canton MS with 2 nights at Movietown RV. We stopped to (a) rest a day and (b) visit the battlefield at Vicksburg MS where one of the last major battles in the western Confederacy was fought in 1862. Unfortunately…Neil had come down with a cold…not Connie’s as it was too long after hers but something he picked up somewhere along the way…and feeling poorly we just did about half of the driving tour after Mass on Sunday before he faded and we went home. We didn’t even unhitch Big Red any of the first 3 transit days…and only hooked up water the first night so Connie could wash her hair and he could dump the tanks after our boondocking in Albuquerque. After that…we just put the front jacks down, hooked up power, put the slides out, and used the remaining water in our fresh water tank…good thing as with his cold he wasn’t up to much else.

Monday Oct 16 we pushed on another 250 miles and arrived at Foley AL and stopped at Anchors Aweigh RV about 3 blocks from the Elks Lodge here for a 5 night stay. By the time we got here he is starting to improve so we ate dinner at a local wing place before heading back to the rig. We don’t have much planned for this week…gotta run over to Pensacola Naval Air Station to go to the commissary and such but other than that we just have a couple places we want to eat and we’ll catch up on some homebody stuff…between visiting with Bill and Linda, the Balloon Fiesta, and traveling we need some down time to catch up on rest and such.

On to the photos…these are from Vicksburg as he hasn’t gotten around to working on the balloon ones yet.

Vicksburg was a vitally important outpost for both sides during the Civil War…it’s fortifications tower 300 feet over the Mississippi and essentially denied Union forces free passage of the river. Once it was taken…the Union controlled the entire length of the river and essentially split the Confederacy into two pieces that could be separately engaged.

General Grant tried numerous times to take the city by force…all failed miserably with lopsided losses on the Union side…so he shifted to a siege of the city with daily artillery bombardment…the city’ garrison was low on food so they surrendered the city and were paroled.

The White House as it’s known…owned by a Union sympathizer that owned slaves…go figger on that one…that was located right in the middle of the siege line and the defensive line on the north side of the city.

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Looking the other direction from in front of the White House…the Union siege lines are on the left and the defensive lines are to the right…despite numerous attempts to storm these lines before and during the siege all of them held until the city was surrendered due to lack of supplies.

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A couple of shots of the Union ironclad USS Cairo…it was sunk by a torpedo as they called mines back in those days early in the campaign and laid untouched on the bottom for a hundred years before it was salvaged and put on display. It actually sunk twice before that but was raised, salvaged and put back into service the first two times. It carried 13 guns. As you can see…the timbers didn’t fare well in the river mud and a lot of the upper structure has been reconstructed over the original parts of the hull.

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Looking westward to the Mississippi from the overlook that controlled river traffic. Downstream is to the left and upstream to the right…the river forms an oxbow bend right under these bluffs. The course of the river that you can see today is not what it was during the war…the original channel was just in front of the road that is visible at the bottom of the bluff…during a river flood in 1873 the river cut a new channel further to the west where it is located now. The old channel was known as the Yazoo River but it was eventually filled in after it silted up for construction of the road you see now. From this point…guns on the bluff completely controlled traffic on the river.

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Interesting stuff found on the net.

Flu shots…I get a couple every year.

FluShots

West Virginia indoor hot water.

IndoorWarmWater

Et tu Brute.

EtTuBrute

There’s a glitch in the matrix.

GlitchInTheMatrix

Seems like a perfectly normal response to me.

PerfectlyNormalResponse

Cyas.

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Transit to Albuquerque NM

We departed Colorado Springs in convoy with Bill and Linda on the morning of Oct 5 for the 316 mile transit to Santa Fe NM where we pulled in and quickly got setup for the night in site W2 at Santa Fe Skies RV. We needed to be at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque on Friday Oct 6 at 1000…so we stopped 45 miles short of the Fiesta grounds. While there…we dumped and flushed our tanks and filled our fresh water tank to it’s 100 gallon capacity…there are no hookups at the Fiesta (well, no hookups unless you pay well over 100 bucks a night) and we would be boondocking the next 5 nights. We had a nice dinner out with Bill and Linda at a local BBQ place…it was OK but not great.

Next morning…we pulled out about 0835 with a scheduled arrival time at the Fiesta of 0930…we figured the traffic checking in would take the rest of the time until 1000. We were wrong and basically pulled right in to attend the Escapees HOP…this is sort of a mini rally. Our fee for the 5 days of about $1000 included parking, tickets to the Fiesta, 4 dinners, and breakfast every day.

The routine at the Fiesta was dictated by the weather…basically we started with breakfast every day at 0500 so that we could be at the field a mile away for the Morning Glow where the first balloons go off at 0600 to check the winds aloft…these use a special burner that lights up the envelope with a nice orange glow. Following that…there was a mass ascension scheduled every day for 0700 and by 0930 or so the day’s activities were pretty much over until the evening. There were some chainsaw carving demonstrations and some balloon competitions that we didn’t go over to watch. Evening activities were an Evening Glow which is like the Morning Glow except the balloons are tethered since they can’t really fly at night…followed by a fireworks display. We watched these from the campground about a mile south of the launch field.

Due to the early mornings…evenings socializing with Bill and Linda…and a severe lack of internet connectivity…not to mention the almost 2,000 photos Neil has to process…then add in that Connie was sick with a cold the first 3 days and Neil had it the last day…well, I just ain’t got round tuit on processing those photos. I’ll put them up in a few days once I get caught up and he is feeling better.

Here’s a sample to wet your appetites though. This balloon came in from the launch field a mile to the left, almost touched down right behind our rig, and then took off again. It was participating in the competition where you try to drop a streamer in a rowboat on the ground at the launch field and had to start a mile away…I guess he figured that if he came down to ground level a mile away that counted. That’s the window frame of our rear windows around the sides of the shot.

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We spent 4 or so hours every morning recharging our batteries to about the 85% level with our portable Honda 2000 watt generator then let our solar panels top us off the remainder of the day. Temps were in the mid 30s to mid 40s over night with daily highs from 60 to about 75. No clouds, no rain, and abundant sunshine which makes your solar controller happy.

After 5 days though…we had enough and were all ballooned out…so we set out early on Wed Oct 11 to start our travels eastward. We have 4 transit days from 290 to 360 miles scheduled with stops in Amarillo TX, Choctaw OK, and North Little Rock AR before arriving in Jackson MS where we’ll spend 2 nights so that we can go visit the Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg MS. Then we’ll do about a week in Gulf Shores AL and another 10 days in Cedar Key FL before arriving back at North Fort Myers on Nov 1 for the winter.

Interesting Stuff from the Net.

Good Point.

GoodPoint

The winning dad.

WinningDad

Taken at the Olympic Bathroom Competition venue.

ToiletLevelExpert

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | Leave a comment

Colorado Springs Fun Stuff

Following our final day at Loveland CO and Rocky Mountain NP…we set out the next morning for the 129 mile drive down to Colorado Springs…basically back onto I-25 and straight through the middle of Denver to Colorado Springs then south of the city we exited and headed a few miles up to Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Since it was a short travel day…and since it was possible that our sites would have been occupied on Fri/Sat nights…we made sure that we wouldn’t arrive until after the 1200 checkout time. 

On arrival…we paid our entry fees to the state park…they charge you those in CO in addition to the camping fees…at the entry gate then had to U-turn and go back down to the visitor center to check into the campground as the work-kamper up at the campground had departed Saturday before we arrived. 

We quickly got setup in site 9 for Bill and Linda and 3 for us…we’ve got a great view of the valley containing Colorado Springs on one side and of Cheyenne Mountain on the other.

It’s a nice full hookup pull through site with a concrete pad and a huge patio area that we won’t be able to make much use of due to the fairly low temps and pretty high winds. Colorado Springs is at about 6,000 feet and our campground is another 500 feet above that so we’re pretty much up in the wind coming over the mountains from the west.

Here are a couple of iPhone pano shots of the campground.

This one is a 180˚ view from our entry door…the apparent curvature in the far side of the patio is an optical illusion due to the short distance to it in the pano…The mountain in the background is Cheyenne Mountain which is where the NORAD and Strategic Air Command bunker is located…you can see the entrance to it in the movie War Games. 

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Another 180˚view from just behind the rig sitting in our site…again the road is actually straight but is too close for the phone to stitch the pano together properly…that’s our rig’s driver side on then far right and Bill and Linda’s rig across the street from us. Colorado Springs and the valley are beyond the road in the middle distance. 

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Here’s a shot of site 3 from across the road next to Bill and Linda.

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With 3 full days scheduled for here in Colorado Springs…we had plans for all of them. Monday we took Bill and Linda up to the Air Force Academy located just north of Colorado Springs to tour around and see what there is to see. We figured it might be a bit difficult to get them onto the grounds as it’s a military installation and they don’t have any military ID…but it was actually pretty easy…way easier than getting onto Fort Carson across the highway from the state park to get beer Sunday afternoon. That required a cavity search of Big Red…for the 3rd time in our last 5 visits with the big truck to a military installation we were “randomly selected for additional screening”…which means that instead of just showing them a Defense Department ID you have to give them license/registration/insurance on the vehicle and then open every compartment including the hood and glove compartment so that they can look inside.

The academy is pretty huge…18,000 acres or about 28 square miles with elevations on the base from 6,000 to a bit over 9.000 feet. It includes it’s own airport and at one of the overlooks we watched a continual stream of small aircraft both doing takeoff and landing drills as well as dragging sailplanes up…there were 2 runways in use averaging about 1 takeoff or landing a minute. All USAFA students take flying lessons and most of them get at least their single engine private pilots license…they have over 17,000 sailplane sorties per year with 90% of the instruction being accomplished by students and not professional flight instructors.

They have a few static aircraft displays…but not nearly as many as one would imagine. Everything from a B-52 strategic bomber to the A-10 Warthog close air support platform are included in the dozen or so aircraft on display.

Looking southwest from the north gate overlook over the sports complex at the academy. The chapel and Polaris Hall are in the distance just in front of the shadows on the mountains…better photos of them below.

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The spire on Polaris Hall. It points towards Polaris…better known as the North Star. Neil wanted to know what they did when six months went by and Polaris wandered just a bit…it moves about 2˚during the year…and finally decided that it pointed towards Polaris for broad definitions of towards. He also thinks it’s a bad design…from an architectural standpoint it looks a lot like an airplane tail and points towards Polaris…but from an engineering standpoint it’s made almost entirely of glass and is just a terrible waste of heating capacity and cooling capacity depending on the season.

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The chapel…which actually has 4 chapels in it. The main floor is given over to the Protestant chapel with the Catholic one underneath and both a Jewish and Buddhist one located adjacent to the Catholic one.

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Protestant chapel…it was really bluish inside due to all the stained glass…with a nice organ in the rear. 

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The altar in the Catholic chapel…might be not in the best floor position…which is probably understandable based on the percentages of the various religions in the student body…but definitely just as nice. Really great mosaic and carvings behind the altar.

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One of the Stations of the Cross in the Catholic chapel…carved by a local artist as was the Saint Mark one below.

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The Jewish synagogue. Small…but again it was based on the percentage representation in the student body.

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T-28 trainer display…this is the second aircraft that Air Force pilots learn to fly. They start with a prop driven trainer and those selected for jets than transition into this type.

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A-10 Warthog…basically a flying tank.It has hard points for missiles and bombs under the wings but it’s main armament is the 30mm 4,200 rounds per minute cannon. You can see the end of the barrel sticking out under the nose and basically everything from the leading edge of the wing forward is the gun. The barrels stick forward just underneath the armored bathtub that the pilot sits in. The pilot actually has to correct the course of the plane as the gun fires since the barrels are mounted off center and the torque of the firing affects the flight path. The shells are 11 inches long and weigh 1.5 pounds each firing a 30mm diameter projectile that weighs 14 ounces…this thing packs quite a wallop. The engines are mounted high for three reasons…protection from anti-aircraft fire, increase ability to operate from non-improved (i.e., dirt or gravel) runways, and to keep the exhaust gases from the main armament from flaming out the engine due to lack of oxygen. Despite this…the engines do have a tendency to flame out (i.e., stop running) in certain flight situations…so the trigger on the gun also triggers the igniters in the engines to keep them running.

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I cribbed this one from the wikipedia page…this is the GAU-8 Avenger gun from the A-10 next to a VW Beetle. When the gun needs to be removed from the fuselage for maintenance…the mechanics must first put a jack underneath the tail so it won’t hit the ground when the weight of the gun is removed from the plane.

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On Tuesday our scheduled activity was a visit to first the Cave of the Winds and then to Helen Hunt Falls on the way back home. Cave of the Winds was discovered by two brothers in 1880 or thereabouts and developed as a tourist attraction. This included blowing larger holes via dynamite to allow better access, carting the rubble to less attractive portions of the cave, and installing concrete floors and hand rails and stairs everywhere. In short…they ruined the natural condition of the cave in an attempt to make it more accessible. Nowadays…conservationists would not really allow that to happen but back in the 1880s the various park and conservation organizations had slightly different agendas than they do now…very similar to how fighting wildfires has changed from “put them all out” to “only put out non-natural fires unless necessary to preserve infrastructure or structures”. 

Looking down the canyon that contains Cave of the Winds from just outside the visitor center…the bridge just right of center in the distance is the highway west from Colorado Springs.

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A couple of cave shots…yeah, they don’t do much for me either…but we’re not really cave people.

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The sinkholes that led the brothers to originally find the cave. They were up in the canyon on a windy day and heard a strange moaning sound and went exploring and found the cave entrance. We didn’t hear any noises while we were there…but given the amount of dynamiting to increase the entrance and passageway sizes…that’s not surprising.

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On to Helen Hunt Falls. They are located on Cheyenne Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park just outside of Colorado Springs and comprise a single drop of 35 feet…they’re named after Helen Maria Hunt Jackson who was an American poet and Indian rights activist in the late 1800s…she is buried in Colorado Springs. Neil thinks this is one of the better waterfalls we’ve seen this summer…it’s got a lot of character and provides great photos of not only the main falls as seen in the first and last photos but also a bunch of small falls and cascades just above the main falls and beyond the bridge just above the main falls. This waterfall has a lot of character.

These are also the first shots he’s done with his new HDR program…he’s been using Photomatix Pro for years but switched over to Aurora HDR 2018 just this past week. It’s got all the same bells and whistles that Photomatix does…but the user interface is better and the sliders used for adjusting parameters are much more descriptively named hence it’s a lot easier to use. As noted…first and last shots are of the main falls and the ones in the middle are of the various babbling stuff above. The last one is looking down over the main falls from the bridge.

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Connie got this great shot of a Scrub Jay while Neil was wandering around getting the waterfall shots…we could have stayed here longer as there were many other babbling brook things above the bridge he wanted to shoot…but everybody in the party was getting hungry for lunch as it was about 1300 by this time…so we headed off to eat.

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Wednesday we headed of early for the Peterson Air and Space Museum at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs…we had a great docent that had spent 30 years in the AF and he spent about 90 minutes or so giving us a tour of the aircraft on display as well as a tour in the hanger where some spacecraft were displayed as well as a Peacekeeper Missile (those are the ICBMs spread around the west from MT to SD to ND to NE).

Lockheed Constellation (known as a Connie) aircraft…one of the few military aircraft that actually started as a civilian one…it was an airliner before the Air Force bought them…this was the first iteration of what we know now as an AWACS or Air Warning and Control System aircraft…those are the airliner looking things with the big dish radome on the top. The C-69 as it was called by the AF had two radars…the one below the fuselage is the bearing and range radar while the one above is a height finding radar.

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Connie standing next to the aircraft decal.

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A closeup crop of the Connie decal in case ya can’t read it in the one above.

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The main radar screen.

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An early jet fighter aircraft.

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Two stage early long range/high altitude anti-aircraft missile…it had a rocket booster for launch and two ramjets under the fuselage. Speed about 2,000 knots and 80,000 or so feet ceiling.

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The business end of an AIM-9 Sidewinder air to air missile…the infrared sensor for homing on the heat from the target’s engines is behind the glass.

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Our docent Glys explaining one of the early Distant Early Warning System (DEWS) control panels…DEWS was the predecessor of the current day DSP (Defense Support Program) satellites which watch for nuclear tests around the globe as well as both strategic and commercial rocket launches.

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The first US photo reconnaissance satellite…known as “The Bucket”. It was launched and contained hundreds of feet of 70mm black and white photo film. Once the photos had been taken the retro rockets fired and it re-entered to be caught by a C-130 aircraft that snagged the parachute shrouds as it drifted down.

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Nose art on a P-47 prop driven fighter aircraft…this was a stop gap between the end of WWII and the deployment of the first jet powered fighters in the late 1940s. Nose art is no longer used on AF aircraft. 

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Interesting stuff from the net this week.

Some headlines just write themselves.

SomeHeadlinesWriteThemselves

Only in Maine.

OnlyInMaine

Hidden Lake in Montana…amazing how clear this water is.

HiddenLakeMontana

I never would have guessed.

NeverWouldHaveGuessed

Dogs vs cats.

DogsVsCats

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 6 Comments

Been Way Busy These Past Two Weeks

Wow…two weeks sine my last post…but I got my reasons…of course I do. They might not be good reasons…although I think they are…but it is what it is like I always say.

When last we left our heroes they had completed their scheduled time at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons NPs and were heading off to Spearfish SD for the NHOG rally…when they arrived there were 43 couples that either owned a New Horizons already or were contemplating a purchase…there were 3 of those (I think) included in the 43.

From our arrival at the rally until today we’ve been going pretty much flat out…and it ain’t getting any better for the next 9 days. First up was the 5 days at the rally…with seminars all day, happy hours and dinner in the evenings, and various other social activities. Once the rally was over…we headed south with our friends Bill and Linda Napier for 4 days at Rocky Mountain NP right outside of Denver then continued on south to Colorado Springs where we’ll be for another 4 days…just arrived there today…and then we’ll be heading another 350 miles south to Albuquerque NM for the Balloon Festival. Linda and Neil are alternating cooking days…at least for those when we’re not out at the pub…with a lot of wine, Fun Stuff© planning with the girls, and naturally the actual accomplishment of the Fun Stuff©.

We’ve had really concentrated fun the past 2 weeks…almost what we would call “vacation mode”…and will continue to have fun for awhile longer as we visit things here in Colorado Springs and then head on down to the Balloon Rally with Bill and Linda.

We had some rain both up at the rally and last week in the Denver area…along with a bit of snow up at the higher elevations when we were up there. We weren’t able to drive across Trail Ridge Road as we had planned…it was closed due to snow, ice, and lack of visibility just about every day. Down here at Colorado Springs…it’s a bit warmer and it appears that we’ll have less rain than we did last week.

Bama is continuing to roll along through their season and is 5-0. They opened their SEC season at Vanderbilt last week…in the week before the game one of the Vandy defensive backs got a little cocky as Vandy was 3-0 for the first time since Eisenhower or something like that. Anyway…he said during a live interview “Bama, you’re next.”…tossing it down as a challenge. Bama’s QB was asked about the quote the next day and he responded “Well, technically he’s correct.” The game started and I guess the the Bama players were just a little bit ticked about that comment so they administered a 59-0 beatdown. Next up on the schedule was Ole Miss…they’re operating under an interim coach as their coach got fired for arranging for some strippers on his college issued phone and the one before him was fired for recruiting violations. Anyway…the interim coach specified repeatedly in his press conference that in no way was anybody associated with the Ole Miss program saying anything like what the Vandy idiot said…he actually called the guy an idiot during his press conference…but it did them no good. Another beatdown…66-3 this time but it was 45-3 after the first possession of the second half and we called off the dogs. Nine touchdowns by nine different players…and they played the entire depth chart at running back all the way down to #8…#7 is a senior who scored his first collegiate touchdown and the entire team ran down to the end zone to congratulate him…he’s apparently a pretty popular guy in the locker room and even the starters were obviously happy for him. Next up is the Aggies of Texas A&M this Saturday…although they’re 4-1 they’ve barely beaten a couple of teams so I’m looking for another beat down hopefully…but I’ll be happy to settle for the W. We’re playing our typical Bama ball…defense and run the ball and that’s gonna result in a lot of success.

On to some photos…didn’t take any at the rally. After the rally we headed south…stopping overnight at Glendo WY then continuing on down to Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland CO just north of Denver.

Our first day there we drove into Rocky Mountain NP through the east entrance from Estes Park CO and headed up Trail Ridge Road…at least as far as we could go before it was closed due to snow/ice/visibility…we got up to almost 11,000 feet elevation but did not reach the highest point on the road at 12,000something.

Just past the visitor center we spotted this bull elk and his harem. There was another harem a quarter mile or so to the left from this one…and both bulls were on guard on the fringes of his harem towards the potential rival…they alternated bugling at each other although at the distance they were apart they were likely just warnings and not a challenge to a duel.

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Continuing on upward we stopped and Connie got this shot of a stream right outside the picnic area we stopped at.

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At Rainbow Curve…as far as we got westward on Trail Ridge Road…snowing as you can see and about 30 degrees.

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Stopped at an overlook for lunch on the way down from Rainbow Curve…a nice moody shot of the clouds drifting into the valley below. Had to eat lunch in the truck as it was drizzling by this time.

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Instead of heading straight back to Estes Park on US-34…we continued southward on US-36 where it branched off and left the park through the Beaver Meadows entrance south of that town…we still ended up going back through town as 36 eventually rejoins 34 in beautiful downtown…not…Estes Park before continuing east back to Loveland and home.

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The next day…we drove in again. Bill and Linda headed off on a hike to the Devil’s Backbone area but Connie has been down with a cold since halfway through the rally and didn’t feel up to hiking. So we drove into the park again for…hopefully…some better photos as it was a clearer day than on our first trip.

Long’s Peak…the highest point in the park at 14,000something feet.

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Aspens in full fall glory.

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Big Thompson Canyon…you have to pass through this to get from Loveland over to the gates to the NP…quite narrow.

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Spotted some sheep on the way out of the park…these were actually in Big Thompson Canyon and not in the park itself. About 15 or so grazing up on the slopes next to the road including the 3 ram Bighorns seen here. They’re a herd animal so these are probably all related.

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Another shot of Big Thompson in the really narrow section. The Big Thompson River is just past the roadway and down about 50 feet to the riverbed. Lots of rapids and nice little waterfalls but no place to pull over for a shot. Both this and the one above were actually taken through Big Red’s windshield by Connie.

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Our last day in Loveland we visited the Sculpture Garden next to Loveland Lake which is just west of Boyd Lake before heading to dinner with Bill and Linda at the Rock Bottom Brewery.

Very large bunny…about 6 feet long.

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Extraordinarily detailed Girl with Basket…much more so than the other Girl with Basket which was mostly just a curvy blob. Her skirt had so much detail it almost looks real instead of bronze.

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Two Horse Heads…again just exquisite detail including stitching in the bridle areas as well as skin wrinkles…almost looks real.

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Neil’s favorite sculpture…he’s not a big art guy as you well know but he did like this one as well as the others in this post.

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These are either Monarch Butterflies or Viceroy Butterflies…they are almost identical and share the same range. We think they’re Monarchs as they don’t have the black line across the wing about 2/3 of the way back. Monarch Butterflies are one of the few species that migrate…they fly at about 5.5 miles per hour and migrate from the northern United States all the way to southern Mexico and northern South America.

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On the way back from Rock Bottom we spotted the brightest rainbow we’ve seen in a long time…it’s a phone shot so quality isn’t what I would have liked…but the camera you have with you is the camera you have with you.

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Heading south the next day to Colorado Springs…a shot of the Front Range just north of Denver and west of I-25. Snowing heavily at the higher elevations as you can see with a pretty decent snow cover on the peaks already.

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Interesting stuff from the net…just a couple this time as internet here at Cheyenne Mountain State Park…yes, right next to the NORAD command center deep inside Cheyenne Mountain…is pretty much poop. I’ll try to get a shot of the entrance to the facility for ya while we’re here.

Never really thought about it this way…but obviously true.

WizardOfOz

US Marine Corps warning sign

USMCWarningSign

A note on the recent BS the NFL and other supposed role models are doing with their “take a knee” protests. They have a right to protest of course…but respecting the flag and national anthem takes higher priority…bastards should have their citizenship revoked.

FlagRespect

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 4 Comments

We Messed Up…Seriously Messed Up Ima Tellin’ Ya

We’re way too damn far north for this time of year…just look at the photos below and you’ll see whaddimean.

It rained all afternoon yesterday and the high for the day was all of 37 degrees…then down into the upper 20s last night. Tonight is another upper 20s and then low 20s Sunday night. Luckily…we’re headed to Hardin MT Monday for two nights and the lows there are only in the upper 30s and then over to Spearfish SD for the NHOG rally on Wednesday…it’s only in the low 40s overnight there.

It’s crazy talk…Ima tellin’ ya…crazy talk.

I can’t believe this happened…Ima blamin’ it on the rally…if it weren’t for that we woulda already headed south for the winter.

Guess I’ll just have to tough it out the next couple of nights.  Luckily…it’s melting quickly.

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Anyway…back to the Fun Stuff©…our original plan was to drive over and go up the Beartooth highway over on the east side of the park out to Red Lodge and back…but we decided it was just a bridge too far. It’s going on 2 hours to get from here over to the east park entrance and then another 70 miles over to Red Lodge before heading back. This was originally planned for Thursday but it would have been going on at least 10 hours on the road there and back since the Beartooth is one of those curvy scenic mountain roads. The drawback was that it was supposed to rain in the park and eastwards Thursday afternoon…and we decided that coming back in the rain…over the curvy scenic mountain road…that went up to 11,000 something feet and would probably be freezing rain or sleet instead of just rain…well we just decided that was not a great idea. So we cancelled that…which conveniently let us move our drive down to Grand Tetons NP from Sunday back to Thursday…thus giving us the opportunity to not have a long drive the day before we traveled.

So…with that figured out…we headed off early again. It was in the low to mid 30s when we left…which we hoped would give us the mist on the Madison River that Connie blew the video of the other day. We stopped and picked up a couple of maple donuts…well maple bars actually…but they’re just rectangular donuts…and headed east into the park. Once we got to the same pullout we were at the other day…we shot a couple of videos for ya…Madison River Mist 1 and Madison River Mist 2…neither is really as good as the one she borked up the other day but there was more mist then and Neil hadn’t trained her yet to always, always look at the video before you leave. 

You probably/maybe/mighta/sorta spotted the elk over on the other side of the river during the videos…here are a few shots of them.

The harem.

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The boss.

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Across the mist.

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These Canada geese were on our side of the river.

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We continued on south towards Moose MT…crossing the continental divide  3 times on the drive. For those of you not familiar with what the continental divide is…it’s a somewhat nebulously drawn line running basically north/south through the western mountains…Rockies, Cascades, Tetons, and the other ranges…anyway any stream or river on the west side eventually drains to the Pacific and those on the east side eventually drain to the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. There’s actually one lake up at the top in the southern part of the park that during the spring melt actually drains both ways.

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Along the way we stopped at Lewis Falls for a few photos…then continued on south.

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We continued south out of Yellowstone NP and across some National Forest land along the west ridge of the Snake River towards Grand Tetons NP.

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Grand Tetons NP is…of course…named for the mountains it contains, the eastern portion of the Tetons Range is in the western half of the park and the Teton Valley and Jackson Hole is on the eastern/southern portions of the park. The Teton Range is named for the three Tetons…Grand, Middle, and South…they were originally named by French explorers as les trois tétons…or the three nipples…due to their distinct breast like shapes. The three Tetons are the 1st, 3rd, and 5th highest peaks in the Teton Range with Mount Moran (2nd highest) a bit further to the north and the other peaks of what’s called the Cathedral Group of the range Mount Owen, Mount Wister, Buck Mountain, and Static Peak a little farther to the west and south. The Tetons are different from most other mountain ranges in that they are bordered to the immediate east by the Teton fault and hence have no foothills or lower peaks to obscure the views of Moran and the 3 Tetons from the east…these 4 peaks are about 4 miles directly west of the main road through the park and 7,500 feet higher than the road elevation with nothing to obscure the view.

Pano looking across Jenny Lake towards the northern peaks of the Teton Range.

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Flora at the lakeside.

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We took a short side trip up Signal Mountain Road…here’s the sign at the bottom of the road.

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Neil wanted to stop by the park headquarters and ‘splain to them that they needed to redefine what they thought was a steep, narrow road…this one was paved, mostly not on the edge of the cliff, wide enough for two trucks to pass, and nobody even had to backup to find a wide enough spot to pass. Compared to Blue Mountain Road and Obstruction Point Road over in Olympic NP this is practically a highway. Even the No Trailers limitation really didn’t apply until the last couple of switchbacks in the last half mile to the summit. Connie wouldn’t let him stop though.

Views from the summit…although both are unfortunately looking east into the valley and not west towards the mountains.

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Flora at the top.

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After coming back down…we headed south into the central portion of the park…the weather was not looking promising…clouds coming over the peaks from the west and obscuring the views…and off and on rain with occasional periods of pretty heavy rain.

At that point…we had…mostly…despaired of really seeing the 3 Tetons…but pressed on anyway taking shots whenever an overlook and less cloudy moment allowed.

Mount Moran.

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Grand Teton (right) and Middle Teton (left) just barely below the cloud tops…as we headed south from here it started to rain harder and we figured this would be the best view we got all day.

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Looking southwest across Jenny Lake towards 13,775 foot high Grand Teton and Mount Owen to the right side.

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We stayed at the lake a half hour or so…running out between rainstorms to get what shots we could…when it was raining we completely lost sight of both Grand Teton and Mount Owen to the right of it…at one point we could barely make out the trees in the foreground on the edge of Jenny Lake.

Grand Teton, the lower slopes of Mount Owen to the right, and Cascade Canyon in between them. The peak to the left side is either Middle or South Teton…South we think with Middle hidden behind Grand.

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Mount Owen to the left and Mount Moran to the right, looking northwest across Jenny Lake. 

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Grand Teton summit.

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Coming out into the valley…the weather unexpectedly cleared…the storms had passed and the next line was 20 or so miles to the west heading east.

Pano shot of all 3 Tetons…South Teton to the left, Middle Teton almost dead center and Grand Teton obscured by the cloud and Mount Owen to the far right. We had some issues identifying them for sure…and there was no sign at the overlook to help. Neil took some compass bearings and compared them to the park map and where we were pretty sure we were on the road. 

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We were quite surprised by how much better the weather had gotten in a half hour since we left Jenny Lake. Grand Teton coming out of the clouds.

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Middle, Grand, and Owen.

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We headed on down into Jackson and had lunch at Snake River Brewing…bison burger for Neil and Bacon Mac’N’Cheese for Connie along with pints of milk stout…then split a creme brûlée for dessert. All quite yummy and we had leftovers for lunch on Friday.

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After lunch we stopped by the National Elk Refuge visitor center in town to see where the elk were…turns out they haven’t come down from the high country yet. So we got a shot of the Antler Arch across the street instead.

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We filled up Big Red with fuel…it’s 25 cents a gallon cheaper down here and we needed about 67 gallons so we saved about 1/3 of the price of our lunch then headed back to West Yellowstone…we elected to take Teton Pass to the west and then some state highways back north…the speed limit was higher than going back through the park and the mileage was about the same. 

Some shots from the top of the 10% grade Teton Pass…we went over this pass in Neil’s old VW Bug back in the 70s when we were stationed in Idaho Falls and both ways across it’s little tongue was hanging out.

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We got home about 1700…which considering we left the house at 0700 was about a 10 hour day…if we had stuck to our original plan to do this drive Sunday after Mass we wouldn’t even have left West Yellowstone until noon…so it would have been well after dark when we got home with a travel day the next morning. Excellent outcome.

On the way north on the ID state roads…we thought we were going to get caught by several serious rainstorms…we could see the sheets or rain just a few miles off. Luckily…we managed to thread the needle between them as the road curved and we got lucky…got a bit of rain but nothing serious that required us to slow down for visibility. By the time we turned east on US-20 the last 25 miles or so we were in the clear weather wise.

Friday…we just stayed home as it was going to rain most of the day. Did laundry then went out to the Slippery Otter Pub in town for dinner after spending a couple hours in the library downloading stuff…internet here at the KoA is terrible.

Overnight to Saturday…well, it snowed as I showed you at the beginning of the post. By 1100 the weather was clear and the snow is melting…hopefully it will be all gone by the evening. Tomorrow we’ll get packed up to leave and head off early Monday morning for the 290 mile trip to Hardin MT where we’ll spend 2 nights. While there…we’ll go visit St. Labre Indian School…it’s a combined orphanage/boarding school for Indian kids. Connie’s mom supported them for many years and we’ve also supported them since Connie and Neil were married. Then it’s off to Spearfish SD for the NHOG Rally which starts on Thursday…we’ll spend some quality time with our friends Bill and Linda Napier and the rest of the NHOG group before heading south to Denver, Colorado Springs, and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.

Interesting stuff from the net.

Bet ya didn’t know this.

BetYouDidNotKnowThis

Meanwhile in Ireland.

MeanwhileInIreland

Found it.

FoundIt

This is a house in the Thousand Islands area of the St. Lawrence River…they better hope the creek don’t rise.

ThousandIslandsStLawrenceRiver

Another terrible superhero.

TerribleSuperhero

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | 4 Comments

Yellowstone NP Fun Stuff©

Sunday we took a day off after our travel day on Thursday and Fun Stuff© on Saturday. Went to Mass and ate dinner…leftover pulled pork gumbo. Neil made it out of the leftover pulled pork from Missoula’s Notorious Pig…and although the pulled pork did improve on aging in the fridge it really made good gumbo. He put in the “trinity”…onions, celery and carrots…along with some Andouille sausage…let that cook for awhile and then added flour…cooked it into a nice medium brown roux and then added beer, chicken stock, and the pork. Seasoned with file powder…of course…various other stuff and hot sauce. We had it over rice and put the leftover rice into the leftover gumbo…then ate it for dinner leftover the next night with sour cream on top.

Monday we set off for another day of Fun Stuff©…the plan for the day was to drive to the Old Faithful area with a stop on the way at Biscuit Basin to take the Mystic Falls hike then continue on down to Old Faithful. Along the way…we discovered that our GPS pronounces the word “geyser” as “geezer”…we got quite a kick out of that.

As I indicated…our first stop was at Biscuit Basin where we had to take the boardwalk through the thermal thingies for about 1/2 mile before heading out on the 1 mile each way (and 150 or so feet vertically) Mystic Falls hike. Most of the hike was in the woods but the last 1/4 mile or so was out in the sun and it was starting to get warm.  When we got up in the campground…temps were in the 40s but by the time we got to the Biscuit Basin parking lot Neil stripped off his sweatshirt and changed into shorts for the hike and was glad he did.

We got some nice shots on the way to and as we walked through the Biscuit Basin thermal area.

Cow elk along the road just south of Madison.

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Firehole River Cascade…this was taken from upstream. We backtracked a half mile or so and Neil hiked a couple hundred yards down to where he could see the cascades.

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Firehole River Cascades…about 15 or 20 feet total drop but a nice view nonetheless…the falls doesn’t always have to have a great drop to be photogenic…some of the great closeups you’ve seen the past couple of month were of a drop of just 3 or 4 feet…it’s what it looks like, not how far it falls that counts.

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Sapphire Pool…at the Biscuit Basin thermal area…about 40 yards across, 30 or so feet deep and this beautiful color. Didn’t even smell either…it’s a hot spring so that ‘splains the steam drifting around.

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Shell Spring…the hole is about 3 feet across and didn’t bubble up too far. It was one of those set quietly with just some steam escaping for awhile and then did this whole bubbling thing. I have no idea why it’s a spring and not a geyser…but Ima a bear, not a vulcanologist.

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Here’s a short video of Shell Spring…reader Ron (Neil’s older brother…hey Ron, disregard the people speaking French in the video…that wasn’t coming from the spring, it’s the bubbling/hissing stuff you want to hear) wanted to know if they sounded like farts or what and asked for some sound effects. You’ll need to right click and open in a new window…or else view the video and then hit the back button to get back to the blog…Neil’s too cheap to pay the extra bucks so that WordPress will allow him to embed the videos in the blog directly.

After a bit on the boardwalk across the thermal area…we headed into the forest and up to Mystic Falls. Here’s a shot Connie got while Neil wandered a little more uphill and cross rocks to get the dreamy flowing shots. Those were taken from just behind the large grey rock on the right side…it doesn’t look far but it was another bit up hill then sort of downhill and cross country to get to the edge of the river.

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The shot above misses a couple of the upper portions of the falls…which drops a total of 70 feet on the Little Firehole River…and is actually quite a pretty falls reached via a moderate 2.4 mile or so round trip hike. There are a total of 8 (at least the way I counted ‘em) cascades making up the whole falls…plus another couple small ones downstream of the falls proper…although it’s not clear that all are included in the measured height as the total looks more than 70 feet to me. Downstream of the falls there’s a really steep section of rapids heading on downhill.

Looking downriver fro where Connie rested.

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A shot of Neil Connie took after he wandered over to the better vantage point.

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The main part of the falls.

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A wider shot showing all of the cascades.

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And a couple more closeups of various portions of the falls…Neil really liked this one from a photographic point of view.

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We headed back down to the parking lot…crossing back over Biscuit Basin and stopping by for a shot of Jewel Geyser…it’s about 10 feet high and goes off every 9 minutes or so.

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Neil also got a short video of Jewel Geyser…only the end of the eruption and we didn’t find out about the 9 minute period until later or we would have stayed and gotten more.

We had a snack when we got back to Big Red and some iced tea from the cooler…then headed on down to the Old Faithful area. Old Faithful is the most famous geyser at Yellowstone…it was originally named Eternity’s Timepiece by the guys that discovered it but then even they didn’t like that name so it was changed to Old Faithful.

OK, a little info on geysers. There are only 900 of them on earth…Yellowstone, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, New Zealand, and a couple other places I can’t remember. Of the 900…over 500 of them are located in Yellowstone NP…and of the 500 over 150 of them are located in the Upper Geyser Basin region of Yellowstone along with Old Faithful. I had no idea that there were that few in the world.

Old Faithful…well, it’s not actually the most timely reliably erupting geyser either…but it’s the famous one anyway. It currently erupts every 69 to 98 minutes…the exact interval depends on how long the previous eruption was. Scientists have tried to send cameras down Old Faithful to figure out how it works…and they managed to get their camera a whole 42 feet down before it melted. Old Faithful itself has a narrow restriction 4 inches wide about 21 feet down…this restriction is what cases it to only periodically erupt. It sits there and steams until the pressure builds up enough for it to erupt. When it does…the eruption lasts for 1.5 to 2.75 minutes and averages about 8,000 gallons per eruption…all of which comes up through that 4 inch hole.

Here’s some more video for Ron…first is a short clip of OldFaithful in the non eruption mode than the second is a longer clip of the Old Faithful eruption we watched…again, you’ll have to disregard the shutter clicks and talking during the eruption. The geyser is about 100 or so yards out and the eruption is 180 or so feet high.

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We stopped and had lunch while we were waiting on the eruption interval to go by…we got there just after it went off. Connie had a pretzel and Neil a Philly cheese steak on a pretzel bun…they were nothing spectacular but both were way better than the last park service sandwiches we had and they satisfied our hunger.

After Old Faithful…we headed back to Big Red and went another 3 or 4 miles south to the Kepler Cascades for a few shots…another nice fall but sort of crowded as it’s right off the road and not nearly as photogenic as Mystic Falls earlier in the day was. Kepler is about 150 feet total drop with 50 feet in the largest single drop. Unfortunately…the canyon is relatively narrow at that point and the viewpoint isn’t optimally placed for photos…but we got some pretty decent ones anyway.

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With that our day was down and we headed home. Dinner was the leftover gumbo then it was off to bed after some TV. 

Tuesday we were up early…we had an 0900 scheduled ranger led hike at Artists Point near the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River…Connie just made coffee directly into our travel mugs and we grabbed breakfast from McDonalds on the way into the park. 

About 8 miles past the entry station as we drove along the north bank of the Madison River we spotted a ranger in his pickup herding a cow elk out of one of the parking areas along the river towards the forest on the north side of the road. We ignored her since it was pretty dark still under the trees but then just beyond the parking area we spotted a bull elk in the middle of the river…obviously he was heading towards the cow with amorous attentions which were spoiled by the ranger. He turned and headed back south to the far side of the river…but kept turning and looking back towards his intended…and unintentionally gave us a pretty perfect pose…right in the middle of the river in a sun beam coming down from the east. Pretty darned spectacular we say.

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A little farther on…a buffalo decided to cross the road directly in front of us…like 4 feet directly in front of us. He just wandered across the road…obviously he gets the right of way…didn’t get a shot as it was still pretty early and dark under the trees, we really lucked out getting the elk above.

Then…just a bit further on we pulled off in another parking area to see if there were any creatures over on the river and there was this really great misty scene…drifting gently down the river with the sun lighting it up. Got some great shots…and Connie got a great video as well…except it turned out that she forgot to start the recording on the video so we didn’t actually get it. We’re going to try again tomorrow morning as it’s supposed to be cool again.

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The reason for our early outing was the Canyon Rim walk with Ranger Laura…that got underway just about 0900 with about 2 miles round trip and 120 feet or so of elevation gain. First stop on the walk was Artist’s Point…where you can get a pretty excellent view of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This is a single drop of 308 feet and is a mighty impressive waterfall.

These were taken from the south rim of the canyon looking westward to the Falls…it’s about 2 or 3 miles away in these shots. Take careful note of the area just to the right side of the drop at the top…that will become important later. Most of the south rim trails are closed for construction as are several of the overlooks on the north rim.

Wide shot.

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Zoomed in a bit…the river is about 25 yards wide at the top of the falls.

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The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is 21 miles long and only about 13,000 years old. It was not primarily formed by river erosion as the Grand Canyon was…but rather by glacial action. This section of the park is composed primarily of Rhyolite Rock…which means it has a lot of iron in it. Over time…due to the heat generated by the super-volcano underneath the park gradually baked this rock so that it became relatively soft. Then about 15,000 years ago during the last Ice Age the canyon (which didn’t exist yet) was covered by about 3,000 feet of glacial ice…the movement of this glacier gouged out most of the canyon. Even today…the edges of the canyon are pretty soft and weak and frequently sections drop without warning…hence the almost constant reminders by rangers for visitors to stay away from the edge. Doesn’t work though…we saw dozens of people literally sitting on the edge of the canyon during our walk. We continued our walk getting stories and information from Ranger Laura and taking pictures as we went.

Lodgepole Pines…so named because of the long straight trunk which native people used for their teepees. About 90% of the trees in the park are Lodgepole Pines…the trees you see on the ground were killed by a fire sometime in the past and eventually fell. Lodgepole Pine cones do not open except when the area around the cone burns…this basically kills off the grasses and such so that the seeds can take root. You’ll see large stands of them that are obviously the same age, height, and diameter…they were all born from the same fire. You can easily recognize a Lodgepole as it’s only got branches at the top when it’s a mature tree…the lower ones don’t get much sunlight so the tree self prunes itself and kills off the lower unproductive branches.

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Looking east down river in the canyon…which is about 1,000 feet deep for most of it’s length.

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Another shot of the lower falls as we returned from our ranger walk…little later in the morning so there was more light.

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Our next stop was back west a little then across the river to the north rim of the canyon a mile or so upstream of the upper falls…then a trip down the north rim heading downstream stopping at various viewpoints along the way.

First stop was the brink of the upper falls…a 1/3 mile or so round trip with 120 or so feet of elevation drop from the parking lot down to the overlook…which is literally at the top of the upper falls. The upper falls is about 30 feet wide as it goes over the lip.

Looking upstream from the brink…the lip of the falls is about 10 feet out of frame to the left here.

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Neil turned 90 degrees to his left from the above shot for this one…the brink itself.

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And a couple more shots down into the basin.

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Next was an overlook where you can see the upper falls…it’s not possible to see both upper and lower at the same time as there’s a river bend in between them. The Upper Falls drops 109 feet.

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From there…next stop was…you guessed it…the brink of the Lower Falls. Connie chose to skip this one as her knee was starting to ache…she injured it a week or two back when we were visiting Joe Claxton in Coeur d’Alene…their English Mastiff (all 180 pounds of her) ran into the side of her leg. Its getting better, but she still has to baby it a little. Neil went on down anyway…about 1/2 of a mile and 600 feet down …quite a climb coming back up. Some great shots of the lower falls and the canyon from the overlook.

Looking downstream. Inspiration Point…which provides the most famous angle of the Lower Falls is on the north (left) rim just before it goes around the bend.

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Turning 90 degrees to his right to see the brink itself.

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And a couple of almost straight down shots into the basin 309 feet below. He kept the camera strap around his neck and stuck his arms and the camera out and took these shots blind.

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With that…our day was done. We stopped one more time to get a shot of the Lower Falls from the north rim…but it looks pretty much the same as the ones from the south rim so I’m not going to post it.

We did take a short video of both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls from the brink viewpoints.

Dinner was grilled halibut, asparagus, mushrooms, and romaine lettuce…all on the grill and all delicious.

Wednesday…well, we set off early again in hopes for more wildlife on the roads and another shot at the misty waters so Connie could try the video again. Struck out on both so we continued on our other planned visits for the day…Grand Prismatic Spring and a couple other thermal thingies locations.

First stop was the park sign…sorry we missed it before but we didn’t see it on the way in.

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Next up was Firehole Canyon Drive…which turned out to be a nice 2 mile side trip with a couple of really great…but unnamed…waterfalls.

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We stopped by Fiery Falls road…but didn’t do the hike as it was too far for us at this elevation. However…we did get a few nice shots while driving through there.

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Next up…the Midway Geyser Basin…which had some more thermal thingies.

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Then off to the Grand Prismatic Spring…which is one of those “famous Yellowstone things”…don’t do much for us but we went anyway and put it here in the blog for ya’ll. Actually…I think the last 2 above were from here as well…but the name really ain’t important…they’re thermal thingies, they’ve got pretty colors, and if you come to Yellowstone it’s just one of those things ya gotta do.

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Next…the Thumb Geyser Basin…it’s right on Yellowstone Lake.

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Yellowstone Lake.

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The Howard Payne Memorial Dead Tree photo…can’t imagine what killed it…sulfur smell, alkaline water, 200 degree water running over it…nah, none of that. Musta been old age.

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Lakeside Geyser…or geezer as Neil likes to call them now. About 2 feet high and the rock opening is 4 feet or so in diameter. That’s the lake behind it…this one is almost under the waterline.

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Aren’t those the prettiest blue-green colors…I can’t get over how great they look…even if they do stink.

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And some orange thermophiles…they’re bacteria that love heat and have a pretty color scheme.

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Just incredible aqua-blue-green colors. 

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Another hot spring…again right on the edge of Yellowstone Lake.

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Next stop…LeHardy Rapids…not really all that much to look at…but they were supposed to be so we stopped. Kinda of a wasted stop…especially as it was 100 or so stairs down to them and we were really tired.

Seems like the altitude is affecting us much more today than earlier in the week…same altitude I know but we were really struggling to get enough air today. 

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Last stop…the Mud Volcano. 

Here’s the first one…yeah, it didn’t do anything for me either. Smell really sulphur dioxide (rotten egg chemical)…to Neil it looked like a geyser except it had mud in it. Connie sat this one out…her knee was hurting again so she sent Neil the 200 feet vertically uphill to get these…he’s a nice guy…ain’t he.

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Sour Lake.

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Mud volcano #2…still not doing anything for me…but at least it don’t stink as bad.

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After that…we headed home for dinner which would be Mushroom Risotto. It was tasty. Tomorrow we’re headed down through Yellowstone NP to the south entrance…which is also the north entrance to Grand Tetons NP and then we’ll continue on down to Jackson WY…home of Jackson Hole Ski Resort and then back home. After that…well, it’s gonna snow overnight Thursday to Friday and rain Saturday so we’ll just stay around the rig. Sunday we’ll get ready to head east and Monday we’re off on another travel day.

Here’s a short video of Mud Volcano #1…still don’t do anything for me.

Interesting stuff from the net.

Sorry…no photo for this one but it’s a classic. LA Tech was playing Mississippi State in football last Saturday and at the end of the 3rd quarter was trailing 50something to 14. No worries though…they started the 4th quarter with 2nd and goal from the MSU 7. The center snapped the ball over the QBs head, he ran back to about the 25 and tried to dive on it…it squirted free and continued down the field with at least 4 or 5 players trying to get it. Finally…LA Tech recovered the ball and lined up for the next play. It was now 3rd and goal…on their own 7 yard line…I don’t think there’s a play in the book for 3rd and 93.

Irish Riding Mower.

IrishRidingMower

 

How old is Granddad.

HowOldIsGrandDad

A real Cliff Hanger.

ARealCliffHanger

Playing volleyball across the US/Mexico border…international cooperation indeed.

MexicanAmericanVolleyball

Absolutely nailed the headline.

NailedTheHeadline

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | Leave a comment

Transit to Yellowstone NP and Fun Stuff©

Before I get into the meat of this post…a quick sidebar on Hurricane Irma…which as I write this is making landfall within about 20 mile of our winter home at Seminole Campground in North Fort Myers FL.

First…we’re in West Yellowstone MT as I write this…and there are no tropical storm or hurricane watches or warnings for the state of Montana. Nope…not a one. There’s actually not even a smoke warning today as the levels are down into the safe range. There are however…forecast temperatures in the high 20s by the end of the week…but that’s way better than 114F and also way better than smokey…or hurricane-ey for that matter.

So…we’re safe for now from Irma…but several of our readers and family members have asked us what’s our plan B now that Florida is going to be blown off the map. Short answer is…we have no idea yet.

We’re supposed to be in Cedar Key FL the last 10 days of October at the Low Key Hideaway…and then move down to Seminole on the first of November. Now there’s gonna be a lot of wind and water damage and power outages and toilet paper shortages and all that jazz…but that’s today and tomorrow in pretty early September. We’ve got over a month until we are scheduled to arrive in Cedar Key and going on 45 days until scheduled arrival at Seminole. As Emeril Lagasse would say…don’t panic.

Cedar Key had a direct hit from a hurricane back in early October 2015…when we were again scheduled to spend the last 10 days of October there. The RV park part of the Low Key Hideaway was back in operation in a week, the Tiki bar portion in just 2 or 3 days, and the rest of Cedar Key was pretty much back in operation in 3-4 weeks. We ended up cancelling our plans for that year but as it turned out we would actually have been just fine. That hurricane was much smaller than Irma is…but was the same category 3 at landfall as it was…and the predicted winds, rain, and storm surge are pretty similar to what happened in 2015…so my best guess is that Cedar Key and the LKH will be back in pretty much full operation by the first of October. Of course…we’ll check with them after the storm is over and keep tabs on the recovery efforts there…and if necessary we’ll go somewhere else for those 10 days…but I don’t really expect any delay in those plans this far out from the storm’s arrival.

Seminole…again we’ll talk to them next week and see what their damage actually is…and when they’ll be back in operation. As a normal winter Floridian RV park…they make their money in the winter…so again I expect that things will be just fine there by November 1. If necessary…we’ll figure out something else to do…but if we do then it’s likely not going to be in the Fort Myers area at all…my guess is that either all of the RV parks in the area will be operational or none of them will be. We’ll figure out Plan B if/when it looks like we need to.

This isn’t Florida’s first hurricane you know…in fact both Cedar Key and Cape Coral got slammed pretty bad in 2015…and both turned out just fine.

I gotta wonder about how much hype is included in both the media reports and the predicted storm surge numbers we’ve been reporting. There is one inundation prediction for the area just south of Seminole that claims there will be 8-12 feet…but that just seems like a little hyperbole to me. Seminole is 14 or 15 feet above sea level…and to get 12 feet of water in the park the surge at the beach would be in the mid 20 feet range. My personal guess is that there will be some water in the park at Seminole…but it will be rain flooding and not sea/river water flooding and that it will subside fairly quickly. 

In any event though…we’ll figure it out later and if we have to have Plan B we’ll let ya’ll know as soon as we know what it is.

One early interesting stuff from the net rather than leaving them all to the end…after all it is appropriate for the Irma.

Here’s an aerial photo of the emergency evacuation route looking north…the single car going south forgot his phone charger.

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All of the above about the storm was written early Sunday afternoon MDT…we’ve just heard from all our RVing friends who potentially may have been caught in the storm…Bill and Linda Napier left NC yesterday to head to SD for the rally, Ray and Betty Danet left their home on the east coast of FL a week or so ago heading to SD for the rally, and Robert S. got out Friday and is in Natchez MS for the duration of the storm…so all are clear. Just heard from Jeff Burnett…our Seminole wintering over friend…he’s in TN and hasn’t come down yet. He’s in touch with Victor (the maintenance head at Seminole)…Victor is the only person there along with his wife. As of 1900 EDT today (Sunday Sep 10) Irma made landfall at Marco Island just south of Naples…water level at the ocean in Naples is up about 6 feet…winds of 120 or so in Naples. Seminole has lost power and is getting rain and wind but is apparently otherwise not too bad so far. As of now…the eye is ashore east of Naples and heading a little east of north…this will put the eye about 20 or 30 miles east of Seminole near La Belle FL and heading northeast toward Orlando. So…not looking too bad for either Seminole or Cedar Key. Looks like not even as much rain as they thought…just saw on the Weather Channel that the left (west) half is a lot drier than the east side so that means somewhat less rain and hence less to drain and hence less flooding at Seminole. Yea!

Ok…enough of that storm stuff.

Thursday we headed out about 0930 or so from Missoula MT for the 293 mile transit to the West Yellowstone KOA. Stopped for fuel just as we got off the freeway for the last 100 miles or so…not because we needed it but because it was 30 cents a gallon cheaper than the Disneyland prices just around the park. We quickly got checked in and pulled into site 164 for a 10 day stay.

While we’re here…there is plenty of Fun Stuff© scheduled and we’re also working on a meetup with blogging friends Clarke and TLE (The Lovely Elaine) Hockwald…they full time in a 1982 Newell Classic class A and have been on the road for about a year longer than we have. Neil and Clarke are both bikers and have been email buddies for a few years now in addition to following each other’s blogs. We were originally going to meetup when we were in South Lake Tahoe on our 50 trip that got cancelled this year…but they’ve moved on and are workamping at Yellowstone and working at the Mammoth Hot Springs General Store. We’ve swapped an email with them and will likely get together for some brewskis and food early next week. 

The first thing we said to ourselves when we got here was…there’s no air. Yup…we’re back up at 6,637 feet here at the campground…and the altitudes in the park range up to about 9,000 that you can drive to. There are several hikes that go up to about 10,500…but the likelihood we’re going to head out on an 8 mile round trip hike with 2,500 feet of elevation gain with a starting elevation of 8,800 is approximately equal to zero. We were originally going to do some 4 milers with altitude gains of 300-400 feet…but forgot to look at the starting altitude so we reevaluated and are only doing shorter ones. Plus…we worked way too hard having Fun Stuff© in Olympic NP…and are going to take it easier here. Still though…we’ve got 6 days of Fun Stuff© scheduled for our 10 days here…but two of those are primarily just driving stuff with no hiking outside of short walks at the overlooks and such.

Ok…the basic geography of Yellowstone is that it’s all volcanic in nature…lots of mountains, steam fumaroles, geysers (or geezers as the GPS pronounces it…that tickled our funny bones this morning on the way to Mass) along with mountains, grasslands, and a metric butt load of waterfalls. The park is about 3,500 square miles and is roughly square at about 58 by 58 miles. It’s bordered to the immediate south by Grand Tetons National Park…which we’ll also visit while we’re here.

Road-wise…there really aren’t that many roads in the park…there are entrances on all 4 sides with a giant figure 8 road that covers most of the park for access. West Yellowstone where we’re staying allows you to enter at the western side and Friday we headed clockwise around the northern half of the figure 8…mostly because the road on the western side of that half will be closed for rebuilding after today (Sunday) and there were a few things we wanted to see along that road. The highlights for the day were waterfalls, the old Fort Yellowstone from back in the early 1900s when the Army administered the park and whatever else seemed interesting. We would also hit up a few of the thermal areas…although to our thoughts if you’ve seen one of them you’ve seen them all…they aren’t really our thing and we would rather go see waterfalls…but we understand that other people might think that waterfalls are a “if you’ve seen one…” sort of thing…to each their own we say.

Anyway…the northern half of the figure 8 takes you from the west entrance to Madison on the Madison Road, then north to Norris along the Madison-Norris Road, then north to Mammoth Hot Springs, east to Tower-Roosevelt, south to Canyon Village, back to Norris, back to Madison, and back to the west entrance…all on equally imaginatively named roads I can tell you. The driving mileage is 126…and this is the small half of the figure 8…but the maximum speed limit is only 45 and by the time you take into account traffic, bikes, bison wandering across the road, bear jams, elk (and whatever other kind of wildlife might happen to be there) jams, and idiots just plain old stopping in the middle of the road to gape at something…well you only average about 30 while you’re driving. Add in stops for waterfalls, wildlife, lunch and such and it makes for a long day.

We headed off just about 0800 and quickly got into the park…one good thing we did figure out that if you’re just going from place to place without stopping then the estimated times to transit each of the road sections are only about 1/2-2/3 of what the park service claims on their park map. Our first stop was at Gibbon Falls as we headed north from Madison.

Gibbon Falls is right off of the road and is a cascade type fall of about 84 feet…even as we get towards the end of the dry season it was still flowing pretty well. Parking was a bit of an issue…although not as much as we thought it would be…there aren’t many school kids in the park but after Labor Day when school starts it’s mostly retired folks you see…and there’s a whole passel of ‘em.

Connie got this shot which includes both the falls and the wildflowers on the side of the gorge.

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As well as this one looking about 90 degrees to the right of the one above for more wildflowers.

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Meanwhile…Neil got the tripod setup and got the flowing, tripod-required shots.

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And a wider shot showing all of the trees and debris that gets carried down during the spring floods…I found a shot of the falls during the spring floods and it looked like about twice as much water flowing over as this. The upstream river is not accessible to fish for spawning from downstream but is stocked with Rainbow Trout and Arctic Grayling so there’s good fishin’ to be had.

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Next…we continued north and got some shots of various mountains, views, and thermal thingies (that’s a technical term that means I don’t have to figger out the difference between a fumarole, mud pot, geyser…although there aren’t any of those in these shots…steam vent, hot spring and various other thermal what-have-you-what-different-name-can-I-give-this-hot-thing names…as I said this ain’t our thing and I’m not about to look all of ‘em up.

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Just before the entrance to the Golden Gate (described below) was this waterfall.

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This is the bridge through Golden Gate Canyon…it was quite expensive to build when it was constructed to connect the Army fort in the northwest corner of the park to the northeast entrance that was relatively close to the railroad.

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One thermal feature worth mentioning is the Upper and Lower terraces just above Mammoth Hot Springs…where there’s a famous hotel where they used to take the waters back in the day…they still do today but it doesn’t have quite the same cachet now that they let the common riffraff people into them…anyways Mammoth sits down in a valley and above it is first the lower and then the upper terrace. These are larger concentrations of thermal thingies…including some that have made quite interesting formations.

These were taken in the Upper Terrace…the lower one is pretty flat and is just bazillion steam vents thing…really not photogenic at all from the top.

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Once we got down into the Mammoth Hot Springs valley…this shot is looking back up at the edge of the Lower Terrace…it’s about 500 feet above the valley floor.

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Then we headed on down into Mammoth Hot Springs proper to tour the fort. There’s a herd of Elk that make their full time home in the area around the hot springs…it’s warmer in the winter so I guess they only measure their snow in single digits of feet rather than multiple digits…anyway as you can see this bull made himself quite at home…that building is living quarters for some of the park rangers there. We never did see any of his harem…no cows around at all…just this solitary bull.

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And from the other side of the quarters…they were originally built as married field grade officer quarters back in the early 1900s and now house Park Service rangers.

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Lenticular cloud over the mountain next to the valley.

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Fort chapel.

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A couple more shots as we headed east towards Tower-Roosevelt.

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Looking back…a better view of the edge of the Lower Terrace.

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Undine Falls…we stopped and had lunch here. We were also going to do the 1 mile out and back hike to Wraith Falls…but it’s low water there and hence not much flow so we skipped it as we were getting tired by this point. Notice the red leaves turning on the right side…it’s only early September and it’s already fall here. The upper fall is 60 feet and the lower 38…there’s also a steep rapid section just afterwards as you can see in the second photo.

Lunch was leftover pulled pork sandwiches…which actually made it taste a lot better…and Neil’s making Pulled Pork Gumbo out of the rest of it tonight…yum.

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Petrified tree near Tower-Roosevelt. This was a Redwood…genetically identical to the California Redwoods we have today…that was buried in a landslide about 50 million years ago and quickly petrified by the silica in the slide. Sorry ‘bout the fence.

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This bull bison walked right up to us…we stopped and noticed there was a bison jam (i.e., stupid assholes stopping right in the middle of the road…because)…Neil pulled off into an empty pullout and turned out to have perfect positioning for a couple of nice shots.

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Spotted this young doe mule deer next to the road…she wasn’t payin’ any attention to anybody.

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The Yellowstone River…this is well downstream of the two major falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone south of here…we’ll see those later in the week.

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Tower Falls…a short walk off of the road.

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The hoodoos just above Tower Falls.

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OK, quiz time. Take a look at the two panoramic shots below…they were taken within about 30 seconds of each other.. One was taken with about $3,000 worth of semi-pro camera gear and post processed with about $2,500 worth of computer gear (although you could have accomplished the same post processing with a $1,000 Mac just somewhat slower) and the other was taken with Neil’s iPhone 6s+ and has zero processing…it’s straight out of the iPhone camera. Shows you how far camera phone technology has come over the years. I did suck the iPhone shot into Lightroom but that was just to preserve and export it…I did no post processing of that shot. Even at 100% magnification in Lightroom…and with a camera lens on the DSLR that we know is out of calibration and needs some adjustments back at Nikon…I really can’t see much difference between these two shots.

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Got your guess locked in? Final answer? Ask a friend?

Space left here so you won’t accidentally see the answer while you’re thinking on it.

Ok, the first one is the DSLR shot and the second is the iPhone shot. Dang those things are good.

Interesting stuff from the net this week.

Bacon flow chart…’nuff said.

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Cats.

Cats

Favorite country to visit.

FavoriteCountryToVisit

Ta Da.

TaDa

Cyas.

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