Grand Teton National Park

South of Yellowstone sits its sister park: Grand Teton. The change in topography within the span of 20 miles is mind-bending. Yellowstone is hills and curves; the Tetons are tall peaks and sharp angles. Another difference: you traverse THROUGH the hills of Yellowstone, but you travel ALONG the edge of the Teton mountains. If you speak French, you may already know what the term “Tetons” refers to…if not, you’ll have to look it up. 🙂

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Our first stop of the morning was at the Jackson Lake Lodge. The best work I can think of to describe this hotel is magnificent, but even that word hardly does it justice. You enter the lobby at the grind floor level, then climb a single flight of stairs into a sitting area that showcases the floor to ceiling windows that overlook the meadows and mountains beyond. It was truly breathtaking!

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Capturing the view from inside didn’t work too well because of backlighting issues, but this is essentially the view. I took it from just outside the hotel.

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We ate breakfast there at a diner style counter. But unlike most places, this counter was continuous and filled the entire room. Very cool!

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With happy tummies, we went back to admiring the view. There were animals all over in this meadow. We saw mostly elk, but did spy a female moose ducking in and out of the brush. I think moose may be camera shy- she eluded my camera!

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We made one last stop at the activities desk to schedule a trip on a scenic raft float. We loaded up and headed it to the Snake River, eventually pushing off at the landing where Ansel Adams took his famous photo of the Grand Tetons.

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It was a picture perfect day to spend on the river. Sunny, warm, and just a little breezy. I am happy to say we all looked stunning in our life preservers!

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A couple of hours later, we returned to the lodge, having spied a bald eagle and some pronghorns on our river ride.

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We headed for a short boat ride on Jenny Lake, then onto Teton Village. Unfortunately, our options were sort of limited in Teton Village, as many of the shops and restaurants closed early. We settled on The Alpenhof. You guessed it- Swiss/German food. Personally, I was thrilled! Mom had a brat, dad tried the burger, as for me- Jagerschnitzel mit Rotkohl und Spaetzle. (Pork loin with red cabbage and Spaetzle- a noodle). Mmmm….

By this time, the sun had set and it was time to head back to the cabin. I offered to drive, and we took the “shortcut” road back…8 miles of white-knuckle death trap road. Yeah, never again!

Our day in the Tetons was great….such a beautiful place!

Rafting under western skies,
B.

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Yellowstone, Unplugged

I am almost a week behind on blogging! Yikes! I’ll do a post tonight, and try to catch up over the next couple days…

Last Tuesday night, I met up with my parents in Bozeman…yeah! I was very happy to see them.

On Wednesday, I took the rental car back to the airport with a mere 4,033 miles more on its odometer than it had when I picked it up 4 weeks before. I love unlimited mileage!

From there, we headed south to the gateway to Yellowstone. We entered the park through Roosevelt arch at the north entrance.

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Finally in America’s first National Park, we stopped in Mammoth Springs for a bite to eat in the dining hall. It was beautiful!

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Then it was on to the west side of the park. We were in search of the 2Ws…waterfalls and wildlife. We didn’t get far before we saw our first critters. In fact, we didn’t even get to the parking lot! There was a herd of elk wandering through Mammoth Springs!

Very cool to see. We then headed south along the west end of the park to the actual springs. They are really interesting, as they steam even in the 80+ degree heat. However, the smell of sulphur is enough to make you sick..it’s so strong.

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It wasn’t too long until we had our next two wildlife encounters-both with bison. We passed one just standing in the middle of a clearing alone. That’s something I noticed a lot throughout the days in the park- lots of these animals seem to be loners. I guess I thought they always followed a “herd” mentality.

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We went to the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” area of the park and met the second bison of the day..he was just hanging out on the side of the men’s restroom building…apparently he needed to make a pit stop as well.

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The Grand Canyon area was magnificent. It had waterfalls, a stream, and of course, sheer cliff faces. We were there after the sun began to set- and the canyon seemed to glow with the rays of the sun. GORGEOUS!

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After a long day of exploring, we decided to cool off with a tasty treat…huckleberry ice cream!

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Yummy!

We headed to the park’s south entrance and located out cabin. It held a few surprises for us…no tv, radio, air conditioning or wi-fi connection. It had running water and indoor plumbing, but otherwise..RUSTIC.

So, no posts. More Yellowstone to come soon!

“Reconnected” under western skies,
B.

Cue Willie Nelson….

‘Cuz I’ve been “on the road again!” Corny, I know. But that’s been the theme of the last two days-lots of time spent on the road, driving from central Oregon to the east edge of Idaho. It’s farther than one might think.

I started out the day yesterday (Sunday) packing up the car and heading out.

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I drove for several hours on U.S. 20- yep, the western end of the same highway that runs through Angola. Oregon really flattens out, and becomes a vast, open space filled with scrubby shrubs. Not terribly scenic…

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I ended up in Boise last night. After asking the hotel desk clerk for a recommendation, I headed into downtown Meridien, Idaho to Bardenays. It’s a local distillery that has good food. It was pretty neat inside- the bar was huge, the kitchen was open, and the distillery equipment was much like what you would see in a brewery.

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I decided to try their lemon vodka in a huckleberry lemon drop drink. Tasty!
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I got a good night’s sleep last night, knowing I had another long day of driving today. I headed out into the hot sun, in search of the Moon….

South and east of Boise, the landscape starts to get more scenic- lots of hills and some really dark soil. The dark soil makes sense, if you know about the area’s past volcanic activity. The only green I saw was around rivers…you can always tell where water is…

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I eventually arrived at the moon. Craters of the Moon National Monument, near Arco, Idaho. This area looks unreal. On one side, you have the smaller starts of the Rockies, on the other side, it’s giant lava fields. It really does look like a lunar landscape- stark and alien.

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I hiked a couple of the shorter trails, trying to absorb the contrast in the scenery. It was something to see! There are some hardy plants and trees that have found ways to survive in the barren landscape.

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After leaving Craters of the Moon, I headed for tonight’s stop- Idaho Falls. My room actually overlooks the falls, created by the Snake River. It’s quite pretty.

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Tomorrow it’s back to Bozeman, in search of some different wildlife. Have you seen them recently?

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Listening to the falls under western skies,
B.

The Blogger Returns

Ok, I took a day off from blogging last night. I got wrapped up in a sewing project for class this week and didn’t get a post written. That’s okay though. There wasn’t a lot to report.

My adventures began bright and early yesterday morning, at 6 a.m. I was super excited to go check out the tide pools, and the ‘net indicated that the Cape Perpetua Visotor’s center had a good trail with which to start. I had seen awesome pictures of what people had found, and I just knew I was going to find some awesome things for myself! Well, turns out, not so much. I hiked for awhile, only to realize that I was on the wrong trail, headed inland instead of out to the coast. D’oh! It was really pretty, though.

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So I hiked back to the trailhead and tried another trail. This time, I got the right one. It was an overcast, cool morning and the shoreline was shrouded in fog. I found lots of little tidepools, but I guess they we too close to shore. I was hesitant to venture farther out onto the rocks alone…given my natural grace, the slippery rocks, and oh yeah, the OCEAN…it just didn’t seem all that wise.

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I hope these people had better luck than I did!

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I did manage to spot one piece of wildlife to photograph…

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Ha! I hiked back to the car, disappointed, but happy to have 2.5-3 miles of hiking done for the day. I stopped to read the signpost near the parking lot before I left, in case the visitor’s center was hosting something I thought I’d like to see. Turns out, maybe I should have read it first, before I wandered into the woods alone.

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I spent the afternoon at the beach, and the evening working on a sewing project for later this week. This morning, I packed up my things and left my little ocean retreat. Of course, I stopped and took some pictures along the way- it’s gorgeous there!

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My last stop on the coast was at the sea lion caves. Apparently, this is the only rookery for this type of sea lion all along the Pacific coast. It was an interesting stop, even if it did feel “touristy.” The cave was dark and stinky, but to be able to hear the sea lions was amazing. They make really loud noises. Some sound like grunts, some are squeaks, and still others sound like moos. I have some inside and outside shots of them.

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From there, I drove about 5 hours to Bend, OR. I took a dip in the pool, tried trout and marionberry cobbler for dinner, and am now tucked away, anxiously anticipating the pet portrait class tomorrow.

Drowsing under western skies (that I can see through the skylight!),
B.

East Side Story- Exploring Two Medicine

Today was supposed to be a quiet day of lazing around the house, exploring Kalispell, and just taking it easy. However, I apparently have a good deal of my father in me- I sat here, relaxing and enjoying my breakfast, and I couldn’t help but think…”I’m in Montana! I can sit around and relax at home! I need to find something to do today.” Yep, reminded me immensely of Mr. Johnny. So I grabbed the iPad and started looking, and decided to take the drive along the south end of the park to the area known as Two Medicine. I figured it would be a good trial run for Tuesday, since the tour into Canada leaves from that side of the park.

The drive between the west side and the east side is beautiful. I spent the time meandering through curvy, hilly roads in National Forests and in Glacier National Park. Off to the left, I kept getting amazing views of the Flathead river and of the mountains. The only bummer was that there are 4 country music stations and nothing else. Don’t get me wrong- I can enjoy a few songs, but this girl likes her pop and rock! I ended up digging out the Zune, and felt better almost immediately.

Along the road, there’s an area marked as “Goat Lick,” where the goats often meander down from the mountains and lick the minerals from the rocks in this one particular location. My wildlife viewing enthusiasm was high…but there were no goats anywhere. I checked on the way there and the way back. It’s pretty, even without wild animals licking it.

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I eventually got to Two Medicine, and was in luck: the tour boat and hike had space left. So I grabbed my backpack, water, and changed into my tennies.

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The tour was o.k. The girl leading it was very new and very nervous. She needed a public speaking fresher course, I think. But, the main purpose for going was the 1.8 mile hike to Twin Falls. It was nice, because the hike was guided. There were lots of other people, which made spotting a bear a lot less likely.

The falls were, of course, beautiful. I need another work for them…spectacular? Magnificent? Breathtaking? Yes to all of the above!

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I have found that people here are really very friendly. I must have that look about me that says, “Please let me tell you about me…and why I’m traveling in a group of one.” Of course, it’s not all of the single men that ask, but the older men and women are really interested! I’ve talked with people from all over- Idaho, California, Montreal, of course, Montana, and even Finland. Once people find out that I’m a teacher, some of them really want to talk. Some have heard rumblings about Indiana, and lots want to ask about Common Core. So, it’s fun to find out what’s happening in other places, whether they love or hate the common core, and what their personal perspectives on education are.

I have no food stories to share today: I packed a lunch and cooked at the house when I got back. PB & J and tacos are hardly blog-worthy.

Maybe tomorrow. I have big plans for tomorrow….

I’ll close out tonight with some photos from today-

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Sun-kissed under western skies,

B.

Finally! A Peek at The Crown of the Continent!

Today I awoke with no real plan of action. I spent the morning puttering around the house…unpacking, doing some laundry, and making breakfast. I sat down with the guidebooks I have accumulated as I drove here, and decided to see if any of the red bus tours through Glacier National Park had any availability in the next couple of days. Turned out I could book my Canadian tour on Tuesday, and the “Western Alpine” tour today. So I grabbed my camera and headed out the door!

The guide picked me up at the Apgar Transit Center on the west end of the park, and away we went!

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We made stops at the Apgar store, where I got to hop out and snap a few lovely pictures of Lake McDonald. I’m thinking of using the one below for my first landscape quilt.

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Then it was off to Lake McDonald Lodge and on to the Going-the-Sun road. It was spectacular! We wound around rivers, forests, and climbed the hillside until we reached Logan Pass at 6,647 feet. It was cold up there..cold enough that they still had about 4 1/2 feet of snow on the ground! We saw some mountain goats frolicking on the peak of a mountain, and then to our surprise, we also saw a bighorn sheep wandering the parking lot!

As soon as we left the peak, we headed back down into the valley, hitting a patch of rain. While the view was somewhat limited, it was still lovely! The people on the bus were all very nice, and the driver, Rich, was phenomenal. Of course, he is Hoosier native!

Here are some pictures I took today…just a glimpse of why Glacier is known as The Crown of the Continent!

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On the way home tonight, I saw a rainbow right above the house I’m staying in. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Loving the western skies,
B.

Into the Wild- Bison, Antelope, Elk, Deer, and Horses

Today’s mission involved finding the “wild” animals of Montana. I didn’t see bears or mountain lions, but I did uncover a whole host of other critters!

I left Missoula bright and early this morning, determined to see and tour the National Bison Range before meeting the guide at 10 a.m. for the tour to Wild Horse Island. I had a 90 mile drive plus the bison range…would I make it? Yeah, sort of. Late, but I did get there before they left me.

Let’s first discuss the National Bison Range. I’d love to fill you in on all of the history, but to be perfectly honest, I got there before the visitor’s center opened. As I looked at my map, it said, “Speed Limit 25 m.p.h.,” and it indicated that the driving path was 19 miles long. So do the math, and you come out to just under an hour, right? Well….it would be if at any point you COULD go 25 mph. The driving path was a gravel, single lane road that would literally around the side of a mini-mountain. The views from up there were breathtaking, but then again, so was the drive! I crept along at about 10 miles an hour, and felt like I was being the daredevil if the speedometer touched 15.

As I wound my way around, I saw mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, antelope, and finally,a the big guys- the bison. Right after I saw the first bison, I costed the hill, and was met my a sign no driver really wants to see. “Steep Downhill Grades Begin in 100 Feet.” Yeah, they weren’t kidding. So, I continued to creep along, at one point coming around a curve to find an antelope in my path. I slowed to a stop and waited for him to move. And waited. And waited. It became apparent that the antelope wasn’t going to move. So I crept as close to the inside of the hill as I could and passed the antelope…on a switchback. It didn’t phase him in the slightest. Eventually, I was able to drive 20 mph most of the way out.

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It was beautiful, but it did put me behind schedule. Luckily the people at Flathead Raft Company were understanding, so they waited a few extra minutes for me to get there!

The next part of the day found me cruising along the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi in a pontoon. It was wonderful, despite being really chilly. Flathead lake has several islands in it, including Wild Horse Island. It’s a state park now, but has a rich history of Native Americans, homesteaders, and even a prohibition era speak-easy. I made it through a two and a half mile exploration hike (lots and lots of hills), and managed to find the small herd of horses that the island is known for. Unfortunately, my camera battery died, so the pictures I do have were taken from my cell phone, and the quality isn’t so hot. It was a lovely hike and boat ride. In addition to being full of natural beauty, our guide, Chris, was able to fill in lots of interesting facts about the area. He’s a high school biology and gym teacher, so he added a lot of science background as well.

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Rachael Ray always advised asking the locals about good places to eat. Following a tip from Chris, I found myself at the Tamarack Brewery. I’m not much for beer, but their house made draft root beer ( known as “training wheels”) was fabulous! The food was yummy, and I was happy to find that it was happy hour…so I saved a little money, too!

My last stop of the day was at my first rental house in Kalispell. I got settled in, made a quick run for groceries, and called it a day.

Happily under western skies,
B.

Westward, Ho!

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This was the view just south of where I stayed last night. Compared to the relative flatness of Indiana, it really is beautiful. As I headed out this morning, I was on a mission. I had read rave reviews of this place in Bozeman called “Granny’s Donuts.” Tucked away on a side street near the campus of Montana State University, I found it. What a gem! They had some of the best looking donuts I had ever seen, not to mention tasted. The people in the shop were really helpful and extremely friendly. I settled on a strawberry cam, a chocolate frosted cake, and an orange cream. I am happy to report that I only as one. At that moment. The chocolate frosted made it to just past Butte. And the orange cream still survives. I have a feeling that it will be sampled tomorrow. Best of all, each of these beauties @ only cost 75 cents.

The strawberry cream was so lovely, I took its picture!

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From Bozeman, I headed west through breathtaking scenery…rolling hills, sheer rock hillsides, and pine Forests. I will admit that the drive was really fun. The were lots of downhill curves, and it’s a rush to feel like you’re driving a race car!

On the other side of Butte, there’s a National Historic Site called Grant-Kohrs Ranch. It was interesting to look around and see what a real “wide open spaces” ranch would look like. I didn’t get to tour the ranch house, but I looked around the grounds and as always, admired the view! I got to talk to the blacksmith, and even made a new friend named Josie. Here are some pics from there:

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My new friend, Josie
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Mamas and babies lazing in the grass
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Can you imagine traveling and camping like this?? Not me!!
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I finally made it to Missoula, where I had a late lunch and made my way to the motel. I tried a couple of local eateries, even trying out pasties. Think empanadas, only not heavily spiced. The owner said they’re really popular in Butte and the U.P. in Michigan. I did a little research, and it turns out that these were favored by miners, particularly Irish miners. Both Butte and the U.P. have long mining histories, somI guess that makes sense. This isn’t meant to be a food blog, but I love sharing about local places!

Tomorrow’s another full day. Want to know what I’m up to? You’ll have to check another day and read the blog!

From firmly under western skies,
B.

Up, Up, and Away!

Today starts the real adventure! As I type this, I’m located at 33,000 feet, somewhere above Illinois. Getting ready for this trip has been challenging and exciting at the same time. On paper, 5 weeks doesn’t look that long, but in reality…it feels like it will be a LONG time. I’m sure once I hit Bozeman, it will fly right by.

I want to thank my family and friends who helped me get even more excited about my trip by having little get togethers the past couple days or being my voice of reason and support via phone calls and texts. They were so much fun, and it was awesome to get a chance to see/ talk to you and catch up!

Traversing the airport with my luggage was a hoot…I have 3 rolling suitcases. Two have my clothes and one contains my sewing machine. I approached the reservation counter with apprehension, fearing that my suitcases would break the 50- lb weight limits and cost me some cash…but I made it! Bag number one weighed in at 46 lbs, and bag number twos was an even 50! Eek gads! Who packed these things…oh wait, never mind…

Miraculously, I made it through security with the sewing machine. They didn’t even blink, and, I didn’t have to open the bag. Which is good, because I may never have gotten it closed again.

We’re crossing a large river now..perhaps the mighty Mississippi? I should probably close this post now. I’ll publish it when I get somewhere with wi-fi.

Almost under western skies,
B.

The Adventure Starts to Seem Real…

It’s June 10. Only 9 days until I leave on my big adventure. And now it starts to feel real. For those of you who stumble on this blog and wonder what it’s about, allow me a few sentences to get you caught up:

In February, I learned that I was the recipient of a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship. My plan to travel through the Western US and its national parks while learning about a style of quilting called landscape quilting had been chosen!

Fast forward a few months, and here I am. I’ve booked my flight, workshops, lodging, and a rental car. I’ve started cutting out fabrics and taking pictures for patterns. I’ve got a lot done,but as always, it seems like so much to do!

I would imagine that my next post will come to you from under Montana skies….