We have figured out the weather pattern here. Beautiful mornings and rainy afternoons. Not a problem. Hike in the morning, nap in the afternoon. We drove back into the park to take a hike to Alberta Falls. On the way in there, we had to stop because there were some mama and baby elks in the road. Unfortunately the car in front of us had the best view, but we still got a picture. They walked right by our car, so Leslie was thrilled.
We found a few Aspen that are showing off their fall colors as well as some beautiful views on the way to the falls. We included some more old pictures from the first time we were here. We are sure you can figure out which ones they are. We found the rock that we are standing on in two of the pictures, but in 23 years, trees have grown up around it and there was too much shadow to recreate the picture. The last three pictures are Sprague Lake. Such a beautiful, peaceful place.
Well, the best made plans of mice and men. We drove 5 hours to Missoula, Montana to find the air quality hazardous and Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park – our destination for the next 11 days – closed due to fires. We had no choice but to spend the night. All was not lost though, we went to Missoula Brewing Co. and got Don some beer.
The next day we drove 5 hours to West Yellowstone (where the air quality was only unhealthy) to determine what to do. We could not move the reservations for the last 4 weeks of our trip, so we had to find something to do for 11 days. We considered Moab, Utah but the weather is still 98 or 99 every day and we were ready for fall, so we decided to go to Estes Park, Colorado (outside of Rocky Mountain National Park) and spend a week. As you can see from the pictures, we still did not get totally out of the smoke, but there is rain in the forecast, so hopefully it will clear out.
We stopped at 2 breweries in Fort Collins on the way to Estes Park. Funkwerks was the first one. Merlin got to come in with us and he tried very hard to try the beer. Don was too fast for him though – he did not get anything. Zwei Brewing was the next stop. They specialize in German beer. Don really liked the helles he tried. Unfortunately it only came in 32 oz. cans or growlers and we did not have room in our little refrigerator for them.
Today, we finally got to take a hike. We went to Hermit Park and took a very steep hike to a view of the mountains. We did not find yellow Aspen yet, but we saw other signs of fall. This evening we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park to see elk. We saw a few does right when we got in the park, but after spending 45 fruitless minutes in the park looking for the males, we decided to come back to our RV. Low and behold, walking through our campground was a beautiful male elk. We followed him to a field where there was a female and a young male. The two males bugled at each other for a bit, but the young one left pretty quickly.
By now you should be detecting a theme in our blogs. Lots of time spent hiking in a lot of beautiful places. We saw a hint of fall color today. It got us excited for what is to come. Today we went to Redfish Lake (pictures 4 and 5) an alpine lake (6,547 above sea level) near Stanley, Idaho. It is named for the brilliant sockeye salmon that once returned from the Pacific Ocean in such massive quantities that the lake shimmered red during spawning season. Sadly, only a small percentage of the wild sockeye succeed in making it through the several hydroelectric dams along their route back to the lake to spawn.
We hiked along Fishhook Creek (8th and 9th picture) to a beautiful view of the Sawtooth Mountains. The air is a bit hazy due to forest fires near here. The hike was beautiful. Don had to cross a very narrow fallen tree (next to the last picture) to get the pictures he really wanted. He said it was important to get the creek in the foreground (11th picture) and of course he was right.
We spent the morning at Bald Mountain, one of the higher summits of the Smoky Mountains of Idaho, located in the Sawtooth National Forest. When we saw the clouds in the mountains (2nd and 3rd pictures), we said that it reminded us very much of the Smoky Mountains in the Carolinas. Later we found out that these mountains were named for their propensity to summer forest fires. The 6th picture shows the smoke from a fire in the background, so they are living up to their name.
We had to take a closed gondola and then a ski lift to get to the top. Leslie is not wild about going up in these things. She was very happy when we reached the top. In the winter, this mountain is the primary ski mountain of Sun Valley, Idaho. It has 14 chair lifts, in addition to the gondola, and 70 ski runs. We were there early enough that we had the place to ourselves for a little bit, then all the mountain bikers and hikers came.
We went to lunch at Sawtooth Brewery and to let Don try some beer. We took a very beautiful drive on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway to get to our campground for the next three days in Stanley, Idaho. We know that it is August, but we are pretty far north and it was 88 when we got here. Luckily it will be 38 tonight. What a temperature change.
We are still roaming around southwest Idaho and made a couple of unplanned stops today.
Our first stop was Bruneau Dunes State Park (pictures 1-5). The park is the site of North America’s highest single-structured sand dune which is approximately 470 ft high (4th picture). Other dunes in the Americas form at the edge of a natural basin. The Bruneau dunes form near the center. The basin has acted as a natural trap for over 12,000 years. It was a tad hot when we were there, but this would be a great place to come in the fall or spring. Our kids would have loved this place – you can rent sleds from the rangers and go sand sledding.
The next 5 pictures are from Malad Gorge which is a 250-ft-deep canyon formed by the Malad River, (pictures 6-10). The canyon walls are a good example of several that we have seen in Idaho. The color and texture is beautiful. The 9th and 10th pictures are of the Devil’s Punchbowl, a place where the canyon narrows and the river rushes through.
Our last stop was Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument which contains the largest concentration of Hagerman horse fossils in North America (picture 11 (inside and around the lake)). The 4,351-acre monument is internationally significant because it protects the world’s richest known fossil deposits from the late Pliocene epoch, 3.5 million years ago. These plants and animals represent the last glimpse of that time that existed before the Ice Age, and the earliest appearances of modern flora and fauna. This is also significant because the fossils present during this period of the Pliocene represent species which were alive during the early stages in the evolution of man, albeit on a different continent. The monument also includes a section of the Oregon Trail (picture 12).
We spent most of today along the Snake River in southern Idaho. It is a beautiful river with some great waterfalls. Shoshone Falls, sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls—and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide. Formed by catastrophic outburst flooding during the Pleistocene ice age about 14,000 years ago, Shoshone Falls marks the historical upper limit of fish migration (including salmon) in the Snake River, and was an important fishing and trading place for Native Americans.
We went to a couple of state parks also. More driving in the middle of nowhere and more steep, windy roads. Idaho made it more interesting by making most of the roads gravel. The beauty at the end though is always worth it. The 10th picture shows Balanced Rock which is over 48 feet tall and 40 tons, the wind-carved rock balances precariously on a pedestal only 3 feet by 17 inches. The last two pictures are of Niagara Springs. The churning, icy blue glacial water is a National Natural Landmark and part of the world-famous Thousand Springs complex along the Snake River. The drive to the falls is through the 350-foot-deep Snake River Canyon which is just beautiful (you can see the canyon walls in the next to the last picture).
We spent the morning in Elko, the first real civilization we have seen in a while. We took advantage of some of the stores and had a leisurely morning. In the afternoon, we took a scenic byway to Angel Lake. Another exciting drive climbing a mountain and coming back down a very steep windy road. We need to have a discussion with the people that build the roads in Nevada.
Speaking of driving, Leslie took the first picture of her phone. Merlin was sitting staring out the front window just like he totally knew what he was looking at and she wanted to get a picture. The hilarious thing is that he was the only one watching the road evidently. Thank goodness someone was looking while the photographer was scoping out potential pictures. Don’t worry – this picture was taken on a straight road.
Back to Angel Lake. The drive was actually worth it. The lake is a glacial tarn at an elevation of 8,378 ft. The second and third picture shows Greys Peak (10,674 ft). The lake was very beautiful and it was quite peaceful there.