A Travellerspoint blog

On The Road Home

On The Road Home

Almost to Lolo Pass on highway 12

Almost to Lolo Pass on highway 12

Today was another travel day. We are making our way home a few hundred miles at a time. Today we traveled US Highway 12 from Missoula to Walla Walla. I’d been told that this is a very torturous route through the mountains. On the contrary, this is an incredibly scenic route through the mountains. OK, if you’re in a hurry forget it. If you have time this is one of the nicest drives we’ve taken. Of course the season has a lot to do with it. Right now fall color is everywhere in the mountains.

Early morning in on highway 12

Early morning in on highway 12

As we departed Missoula the temps were in the mid 30s. Along our route the temps often dipped below freezing, but the roads were never icy. Right now there are road construction projects all through the mountains. We had to wait for pilot cars several times. Since we weren’t in a hurry it was all just part of the adventure. Our short waits gave us a chance to enjoy the scenery. Oh, there really wasn’t any traffic. There were never more than three other cars waiting with us.

Lolo Pass

Lolo Pass

Idaho visitors Center at Lolo Pass

Idaho visitors Center at Lolo Pass

At about 200 miles into our trip we stopped at Clarkston, WA. Yes, Washington! We were finally back in our own time zone and there were more Washington license plates than from other states. Since we did a walk around Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA earlier this year we knew our way around town. We stopped at Riverside Park in Clarkston for a picnic lunch. It was a bit cool, but sunny and pretty. While there we had a look at one of the National Geographic cruise ships. They are doing cruises up the Columbia and Snake Rivers this summer. At just a hundred passengers, I decided this is a cruise ship I could enjoy cruising on.

Riverfront Park in Clarkston

Riverfront Park in Clarkston

National Geographic cruise ship in Clarkston

National Geographic cruise ship in Clarkston


After lunch we drove our final 100 miles to Walla Walla. After checking into our hotel we did a 5km walk around town and the Whitman College Campus. The afternoon was cool and very cloudy, so the fall colors didn’t seem as bright as they might have in the sun. It was a pretty walk though anyway. This evening we are just relaxing from our day of travel. Tomorrow we will finish the last segment of our journey. To tell the truth, I’ll be very happy to arrive home tomorrow. Its been a great trip, but its time to rest up and chill out for a few days.

Fall Colors on the Whitman Campus

Fall Colors on the Whitman Campus

Downtown Walla Walla

Downtown Walla Walla

Unless something earth shattering happens on our way home tomorrow this will be the last entry in this blog. I’ve enjoyed sitting at the i-pad each night re-living the days events and I hope you’ve enjoyed riding along with us on our journey.

Until next time,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 19:00 Comments (0)

Sadly, On The Road Again

Sadly, On The Road Again

Missoula, Montana

Missoula, Montana

We were sorry to be leaving Cody and Yellowstone Park behind. We will have lots of great memories of our time in the park. Its nice to see Yellowstone in pictures, but to experience it in person is so awesome! It seems to change in subtle ways every day. I wish we’d had more time there.

Today we got another early start, leaving Cody at 7:15. We headed straight north on state route 120. This and other two lane highways took us to Columbus, Montana where we joined Interstate 90. It was touch and go at first with the temps dipping below freezing, but the roads remained wet, not icy. It seems the sugar beet harvest is in full swing. We encountered truckload after truckload of beats going to a rail transfer facility.

Along the interstate 1

Along the interstate 1

Along the interstate 2

Along the interstate 2

It was interesting to see all of the activity along the way on the back roads. Once we got to the interstate we pretty much just went numb as we hurtled down the highway at 80mph. The weather was very gray and rainy most of the time. The miles just clicked away as did the hours. Three hundred miles later we arrived at Missoula. Actually, we did stop for lunch and gas at Butte. I wish I could say something positive about Butte, but it is what it is.

Along the interstate 3

Along the interstate 3

Along the interstate 4

Along the interstate 4

Missoula on the other hand is really nice. If it wasn’t so cold in the winter I think I could live there. After checking in to our hotel we started to relax and shake off some of the road weariness. I was looking up the Big Sky Brewing Company on my phone and discovered that they give guided tours on Thursday at 3:00. It was 2:45 when I made this discovery. It turns out Big Sky is only 6 minutes from our hotel. Karen is such a good sport, she quickly changed her plans to relax and grabbed her coat. We were out the driveway in record time and made it to the brewery just in time for the tour. After the tour we sampled some of the beer we watched them making.

Big Sky Brewing Co.

Big Sky Brewing Co.

Brewery Tour 2

Brewery Tour 2

Brewery Tour 1

Brewery Tour 1

Cheers!

Cheers!

From the brewery we drove to the center of downtown and parked the car. We spent the next hour and a half walking all over town. We found the old train station, the rail yards, the courthouse, the river walk, and lots of pretty old buildings. It was quite cold and a bit windy, so we didn’t spend as much time walking as I would have liked. Beside, it was getting to be dinner time. We went back to one of the restaurants that we passed on our walk. The food was great, but it was very crowded (popular) and noisy.

The Depot Restaurant

The Depot Restaurant

Missoula Yard

Missoula Yard

Finally tired and with full tummies, we came back to the hotel. Now its time to relax and rest up for tomorrow’s journey. We will take US highway 12 from Missoula to Walla Walla. I hear its quite a twisty highway and there could be snow on the passes. I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes. Our backup plan is to take I-90 to Spokane and then go south to Walla Walla. At least we have options.

Until tomorrow,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 19:50 Comments (0)

Yellowstone Park Day 2

Exploring what we didn’t see on day one.

Yellowstone Park Day 2

Along the Shoshone River

Along the Shoshone River

We got a slightly earlier start for our second day in Yellowstone. Today’s journey to the park was so different than yesterday. Yes, it was the same road and the same mountains, but the light was altogether different. Again, there was no traffic on our route to Yellowstone. It was just a nice easy drive enjoying the sights. Even in the park today there was very little traffic. Today’s 267 miles were much less stressful, enjoyable even.

Amazing sky

Amazing sky

Waiting for wildlife to show

Waiting for wildlife to show

Our ultimate goal for the day was Mammoth Hot Springs. For those not familiar with Yellowstone, thats right up almost to the north entrance to the park. Most of the roads we drove on were new to us, so very little back tracking. The scenery was magnificent! Of course I stopped many times to take pictures. We decided to really take our time and enjoy as much as we could.

Today we really hit the jackpot for viewing wildlife. We saw lots of Bison, a few Elk, a Bear (from a distance), a Golden Eagle, and some Hawks. In one of the huge grassy meadows, along a stream, we saw a very large herd of Bison. They were way back from the road, so I had to do a bit of hiking to get close enough for a picture. Don’t get the wrong idea, close enough was still several hundred yards away, and down wind. Next we saw a smaller group of Bison grazing right next to the Yellowstone River. These were quite close to the road and easy to photograph. And so it went all day, an animal here a herd there, etc.

A Bison at last!

A Bison at last!

A small Bison herd grazing

A small Bison herd grazing

We arrived at Mammoth at lunch time, so we ate our picnic lunch before heading out to explore. We walked up and we walked back down, we drove to the top and walked even more. The hot springs at Mammoth are really interesting. I took many pictures of course. Things we also saw include The Mud Volcano, Tower Falls, Artists Paint Pots, and The Yellowstone River rapids. I’m sure I’ve left something out, but hey, its getting late.

Karen at Mammoth Hot Springs

Karen at Mammoth Hot Springs

Pools at Mammoth Hot Springs

Pools at Mammoth Hot Springs

Artists Paint Pots

Artists Paint Pots

Steamy stream near Artists Paint Pots

Steamy stream near Artists Paint Pots

Once back to Cody we freshened up a bit and went out Pat O’Hara’s Irish Pub for dinner. A Shepards Pie and a pint of beer eased the aches and pains acquired during the day. We’ve got our travel plans all figured out for tomorrow, so the only thing left is to finish this and get a good night sleep. Until tomorrow,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 19:49 Comments (0)

Yellowstone Park, Day 1

Our travels around Yellowstone National Park on our first day.

Yellowstone Park, Day 1

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Today was pretty much the opposite of yesterday. Yes we spent hours deriving in the car, but we stopped every time we saw something interesting. We got an early start for us. We were on the highway by 7:30. We would have left earlier, but the Best Western here doesn’t start serving breakfast until 7:00. So it’ll have to be the same tomorrow. We even checked places downtown for breakfast and they don’t start serving until 7:00 either. I don’t know what’s with that, but maybe its just a Wyoming thing?

Entering the park from the east is magnificent in the early morning. today the sun shone brightly against a background of ominous dark clouds. It made for really nice pictures, and I took way too many. The highway starts by running through a narrow canyon with the Shoshone River right next to the road. Then it broadens out and is bordered by pastures and stands of Cottonwood trees. The 50 miles to the park entrance took quite awhile because I stopped so often.

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9DCCF14C-BF6E-4177-B253-DCBEFF563D97

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Once in the park we still had another 50 miles to Old Faithful. Driving in the park can be slow going, although there was very little traffic until afternoon. Of course we stopped at lots of sights along the way. Old Faithful didn’t disappoint. We missed one eruption by mere minutes, in fact we saw the steam from the parking lot. This gave us time to hike around and explore the many steam vents and bubbling ponds.

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We returned to the Old Faithful viewing area and got really good front row seats. While waiting we met a nice couple from Idaho to visit with while we waited. Then, slowly at first, Old Faithful did her thing. Its really quite different seeing it in person. So far it was one of the highlights of the park. From Old Faithful we continued north through the Geyser Basin and stopped at several other attractions such as pools and bubbling mud pits. We continued on looping around through Madison, Norris, Canyon Village, and back to Fishing Bridge.

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The Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River

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Yellowstone is known for its wildlife, right? We didn’t do too well on that count today. We saw one Bison outside the park and two more inside the park. We saw lots of Ravens. I saw some Canadian Geese and a few ducks. Let’s see, there was the squirrel that ran across the road in front of the car. Thats about it for today. Maybe we’ll see more tomorrow.

We encountered two major road construction projects. The worst at Fishing Bridge was four miles of gravel road with flangers, making for very slow going. We had to go through this project both directions. By afternoon the traffic was getting bad, as you would expect at Yellowstone. Even though there are lots of turnouts for slow cars to pull into, no one does. The ride home was painfully slow! We didn’t get back to Cody until dark and I am absolutely beat. We covered 250 miles today, much of it at a crawl.

We head back for our second day in the park tomorrow. We have a tentative list of places we want to see, weather permitting and traffic allowing. Until tomorrow,

Jim

Posted by olytrains 20:53 Comments (0)

The Great Yellowstone Basin

Traveling over mountain and across the basin from Hill City to Cody.

The Great Yellowstone Basin

Buffalo at last

Buffalo at last

Today’s episode is going to be rather brief. I don’t know if its because we over did it yesterday, or because we’re just getting tired of traveling. Today I just focused on getting us to Cody. Our trip started by crossing over the Bighorn Mountains. They are beautiful, but I was so focused that I didn’t stop for pictures. The twisty highway was excellent though. Then we dropped down into the Yellowstone Basin.

Early morning picture as we left Hill city

Early morning picture as we left Hill city

A much needed rest stop in Wyoming

A much needed rest stop in Wyoming

Traveling across the basin was interesting if sometimes a little boring. Vast distances of seemingly empty rolling hills. I now wish we’d stopped and had a closer look, but thats behind us now. I did see a lonely little train racing along, off to the side of the highway and made a quick stop to take a picture. Then there is Gillette, WY. With its huge coal mines visible from the highway. Oh, and there are oil wells pumping away everywhere you look.

A train racing across the Yellowstone Basin

A train racing across the Yellowstone Basin

In spite of Google Maps taking us off on some ridiculous side trips, we made it to Cody by mid afternoon. Our first stop was the Buffalo Bill Center of The West. This is a fantastic collection of museums under one roof. It is all of the highest quality and very interesting. It would be easy to spend a whole day there. We enjoyed every minute of our two and a half hours.

One of the displays at the Buffalo Bill Museum

One of the displays at the Buffalo Bill Museum

Weary from travel we checked in to our hotel for the next three days. Its less than I was hoping for, but good enough. We need to rest up for our first day In Yellowstone. I’m excited to be able to see in person some of the spectacular things I’ve only seen in pictures. The weather there is supposed to be good tomorrow so we should see a lot.

Stay tuned for our adventures in Yellowstone.

Jim

Posted by olytrains 19:46 Comments (0)

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