Buckle your seatbelts boys and girls…this one will be a long one. It covers our 2 day transit from Idaho Falls ID via West Yellowstone MT to Cody WY…including our first ever combined Travel/Fun Stuff© Day (well, with the exception of a couple of drive-by’s that don’t really count because I said so), and our really neat day trip yesterday through Dead Indian Pass and over the Beartooth Highway.
Two housekeeping items for you first though…first up is that this blog now supports secure or https:// connections in addition to non secure http:// connections so if you prefer to use that for security go ahead. You might get a notice the first time to accept the certificate from tls.automattic.com issued by Let’s Encrypt Authority X3 the first time you try that. Go ahead and trust the certificate in your browser if you use https connections. Second…I figured out a way…actually somebody that knows how to code html told me how to do it as I can spell html but not code it…anyways whereas before whenever I posted a video if you click on it your browser went to that page and you had to hit Back to get back to the blog…alternatively you could right click on the link and select Open in a new tab or Open in a new window and it would do so. Now clicking it should automatically open the video in another tab leaving the blog open in the original tab…so you don’t have to do the right click and select option any more.
First up though…we discovered last night (Friday) at about 2300 that Neil has a kidney stone in his right kidney…we guess it finally got fed up and decided to keep up with the Joneses as the left one had a stone 10 or 12 years back. He was peeing brown and had some lower back pain so we went over to the ER where they gave him a CAT scan…it was a Siamese…and told him that he had this kidney stone. The good news is that it isn’t really hurting him, just a little low grade back ache periodically. The bad news is that the reason it’s not causing him pain is that at 7x7x5 millimeters in size…it’s too big to pass the normal way which is what causes the acute pain of most kidney stones. The other bad news is that since it is too big to pass normally…something else has to be done about it. At this point we have no real idea what that is. He’s got contact information for the one and only urologist here in Cody WY and we’ll contact them on Monday to see when/if we can get an appointment to figure out the next steps. Of course…we’re supposed to leave here Tuesday for the even smaller town of Thermopolis WY then head to the in between size town of Douglas on Saturday. Once we have some idea on what the treatment will be and how long it will take to both get it done and recover…we’ll adjust our schedule as needed to accommodate things…the next real date we actually need to be somewhere isn’t until August 18 when we need to get to Junction City KS to get our passenger side rear skirt fixed after it’s encounter with the ditch almost a month back in CA. The CT scan that found the stone also verified that the rest of his innards are pretty much fine. Enough of that though…more details to follow on treatment and followup when we actually know something.
We left Idaho Falls last Wednesday morning for a 2 day transit…90ish miles to West Yellowstone MT over Targhee Pass which is actually not much of a pass as passes go then another 340 miles from there over to Cody WY. We elected not to take the shorter 150 mile route straight east through Yellowstone National Park…there is some construction on the park roads, they’re pretty narrow and curvy, the likelihood of bear jams (or moose or bison or whatever jams) as idiots just abandon their cars in the middle of the road to take phone photos of wildlife that’s 300 yards away out in the distance so all they get is bear dots (or moose or whatever) in their photos, and it’s the middle of July so there’s just way too much traffic in the park. We figured that mileage wise it was farther to go around the north side of the park but time wise it was pretty much a wash and aggravation wise the northern route was definitely superior. In retrospect…heading up to West Yellowstone in the first place was not the optimum thing we could have done…if we had been smarter we would have done it differently in the first place. Ah well…such is life.
Anyways…since we only had a short first day…we took the opportunity to stop by Lower Mesa Falls and Upper Mesa Falls which are located…amazingly enough…on Mesa Falls Parkway just east of US-20 as it heads north towards West Yellowstone MT. Here are some photos of the views.
Lower Mesa Falls was the less impressive of the two. As you can see…it’s about 700 feet down in the gorge and although we could have hiked down to the spot on the right side of the top…it was 4 miles round trip and 700 feet down and back up…and we didn’t have either the time or the ambition to do that. You can only see the top portion of the falls, about1/3 of it is out of sight behind the trees as the river then heads left out the bottom of the frame behind the trees. Looking down on it like this…it’s hard to get a really good image…but hey, it’s a waterfall so we needed to stop.
We then drove another mile upstream and pulled into the Upper Mesa Falls visitor center…this was more difficult to get into than Lower which was a nice little pull out from the highway. Upper however…was about a mile down a steep curvy road to get to the parking lot. Bad news…it was downhill and curvy. Good news…it got us right to the lip of upper falls and we got very nice photos both from the lip and from a little downstream. This is a really nice fall at about 120 feet high and the flow was pretty high so there was a lot of spray coming off of it.
We arrived in West Yellowstone and pulled into our site at the West Gate KOA…after a brief detour through the Mountain View KOA a couple miles west of West Gate…we were heading east on 20, Connie saw the KOA sign and pulled in before Neil could tell her on the radio it was the wrong one. We did a quick loop around the office building and went back out then continued east another 1.5 miles to our actual campground. After a minimal setup…we did nothing in the afternoon but did head into town in the evening to eat at the Slippery Otter Pub where we had a brew and a pizza.
Thursday morning we were out of the campground by 0800 and headed east to downtown West Yellowstone…then north to I-90 via Bozeman and Billings MT then south to Cody WY. It was a nice stress free albeit somewhat long drive. Once we got to Cody Trout Ranch Campground…we pulled in and got setup…then since neither of the adults was feeling very well just had some pasta with garlic, butter, and cheese for dinner. After that…we fell asleep watching TV before waking up just enough to crawl into bed.
Friday we headed out about 0900 for our 130 or so mile round trip from Cody northwest into the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and Dead Indian Pass…then back out eastward via the Beartooth Highway…which naturally goes through the Beartooth Mountains…to Red Bluff then south back to Cody. This is supposed to be one of the prettier and most dramatic drives in the US…we all agreed that it was way up at the top portion of the list.
Chief Joseph was the last chief of the Nez Perce and led them on an ultimately unsuccessful 1200 mile fighting retreat towards Canada in the 1877 Nez Perce War. They transited over 8,000 foot high Dead Indian Pass…the only route through the mountains down into the Yellowstone area…in hopes of joining up with the remaining other bands of Nez Perce and their allies. Blocked at the western side of Yellowstone…they turned north and eventually surrendered just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Despite the surrender agreement which specified they could return to the reservation they had left…the band was sent to the southern great plans reservations…another in the long line of less than honorable treatment of Indians by our government. Dead Indian Pass was so named because the band had to abandon several severely injured braves at the top of the pass…those wounded either died or were killed by the pursuing cavalry.
Panoramic view to the south of the valley and ridges leading up to the pass. There was a considerable amount of really spectacular views on the way up the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.
Views from the top of Dead Indian Pass.
Looking westward towards the Yellowstone Basin…the road you see is the one we eventually passed down on our way northwest…7% grade for 15 miles before it levels out again.
Looking back to the southeast where we came from.
Normal sized chipmunk…you’ll see later why I called this one normal.
We passed over the gorge of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River…which has been designated “forever wild”…whatever that really means…by Congress.
Along the Byway…we spotted this sign…which reminded Neil of the old Eagles song…you know the one…it’s got the line that goes “you can’t hiiiide your lying’ signs”. Not a darned deer to be found anywheres.
Towards the north end of the byway, right before it intersects the Beartooth Highway…we spotted this peak and said to ourselves…that’s why they’re named the Beartooth Mountains.
Then again…the same mountain next to the Beartooth All American Road sign…looks like we were right.
Unfortunately…there’s a different pinnacle farther to the east the was named Bear Tooth by the Indians that is supposedly the actual namesake peak for the mountains…we saw that pinnacle later on and we all thought this one was much more suggestive of a bear both than it was…but then we did not get to see the actual one from the best angle based on where the highway goes.
We stopped at Lake Creek Falls for some photos.
This store/motel/gas station claims to be the Top of the World…but (a) it’s not even at the top of the pass and (b) having been on the real Top of the World Highway up in the Yukon this is clearly a bogus claim.
We all know there are bear precautions you need to take…don’t leave food out…only camp in hard sided campers…make sure you can outrun your hiking partners…bears have the right of way…but apparently there are special rules if there are grizzly bears around. One of the precautions they tell you to take if you are hiking in bear country is to wear bells, carry bear spray, and keep calling out “hey bear” to alert them of your presence. We read somewhere that the way you can identify black bear poop from grizzly bear poop is that the latter is full of bells and smells like pepper spray.
This lake is at least 1,000 feet higher than either the Top of the World establishment above and the supposedly summit lake two images back…and we’re 500 or so feet above this lake.
Connie spotted some sheep…so naturally Neil hiked down a bit with the bird lens to get some photos. He just missed two of the juvenile males practicing fighting each other.
There were 50 or so in this flock…eating 50 yards from the road.
This one is farther along in shedding its winter coat.
And this is what a fat, overfed by tourists in violation of the law chipmunk looks like.
Edgar Allen Poe must have been here I guess.
This is the remains of the Smith mine…it was a coal mine that exploded and burned in 1947 killing 74 in Montana’s worst mine disaster. Seam #3 at the mine was destroyed in the blast but the entire mine was closed and never reopened.
Shortly after the mine site…we finished the Beartooth and headed home…we were originally going to eat at the Edelweis Haus halfway back but we were tired of eating out…so we went home and Neil baked some fish filets for dinner that we had along with leftover baked potato from Outback the other night and leftover broccoli (Connie only) from some other restaurant.
On the way home…we spotted these pronghorns alongside the road…quite close, probably 20 yards away maximum so Neil didn’t even need the bird lens for these shots…we turned around a half mile down the road and came back. Neil stopped in the middle of the completely deserted highway and we got some shots…we carefully did not get out of Li’l Red as that woulda spooked them. As it was…they definitely alerted to our present and these two bucks watched us like a hawk until we were done taking photos with the female a little farther away and mostly ignoring us.
As I discussed in my post 2 years back when we last saw these beautiful and really fast creatures…they are frequently called pronghorn antelope but that is incorrect. They are not antelope at all…those live in Africa. They’re just pronghorns…and their closest living relatives are giraffes and okapi. They fill the same ecological niche as true antelope in Africa do and look similar, hence the incorrect name. Pronghorns can run up to 55 miles and hour for a half mile and keep up 35 for 4 miles…making them the second fastest land mammal in the world behind the cheetah but the fastest in the Western Hemisphere…but they can keep up their speed far longer than a cheetah can. In addition…their antlers aren’t true antlers that shed annually like most similar animals…there is a bony core that is permanent and part of the skull with an outer sheath very similar to fingernails…the sheath sheds and regrows annually for the rutting season. At full speed…each stride is as much as 24 feet. The solo shot is a female…you can tell by the smaller size and the antlers without the forward facing prongs which give the animal its name…this grouping of 2 males and a female is unusual as usually bucks are solitary but females tend to herd together in small groups. If it was mating season then these two could be courting the same female…but that isn’t until the fall and it’s only mid July. They’re good eatin’ too…Neil had some once and it is very similar to venison or elk.
Just when you thought that politics…Democrats in particular…couldn’t possibly get any dumber…remember how Bernie Sanders protested out at the Walmart shareholders meeting and is all in favor of a $15 an hour federal minimum wage and for unions everywhere?
You can’t make this up kids.
Under the rules are for thee, not me…peasants; policy…turns out that back in the fall he unionized his entire campaign and claimed they were the first campaign to ever do so. Well…according to a report in the Washington Post which you may or may not be able to easily read…his campaign staff is demanding the same $15 an hour “living wage” and 100% paid health care for workers earning under $60K that he says he will implement as President. Well…the campaign says “that will make us non-competitive and jeopardize our ability to get our message out” and is refusing to renegotiate the salaries or change the work rules. Apparently the staff is paid a fixed salary based on $15/hour over a full year…but then after they agreed to that salary their working hours were raised from 40 to 60 hours a week which means their actual wage is less due to the mandatory unpaid overtime. Talk about hoisted on your own petard…of course this hypocrisy is lost amid the hero worship of the posse or squad or whatever they call themselves.
Of course…the other side does stupid stuff like this too…but it seems our socialist friends are shooting themselves in the foot with maximum effectiveness.
Interesting stuff found on the net.
As you know…chutzpah is a word meaning nerve or gall. One of our readers forwarded this example to me.
Sometimes…the thought doesn’t count.
Harley Davidson Motorcycles sales have fallen precipitously over the past couple of decades. They commissioned a study to find out why millennials and whatever came after them aren’t buying them. Here are the answers.
Only people the adults age will get this one. It depicts what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin found on the moon.
And finally…the difference between a 6.4 earthquake and a 7.9 earthquake in Alaska.