A Travellerspoint blog

Following the Snake River: Boise ID - Moscow ID

sunny 26 °C

Boise featured strongly in my brother's plans, mainly because he thought it is the potato capital of the world and really wanted to see some potatonalia. Sadly, it was not even the potato capital of Idaho - that would be Blackfoot, near where we started the day's travels. Blackfoot has a very highly rated potato museum, which claims to "lead you through the revolution of the potato industry" and has the largest potato chip on display. Most interesting of all, they have chocolate covered potato chips which look pretty good.
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Since leaving Boise, I have heard of Florenceville, New Brunswick being the big cheese of the potato world - it is where McCains started, claims the title of French Fry Capital of the World and boasts the Potato World museum. No sign of any chocolate chips, however. There is a Big Potato in the Idaho Historical Museumin Boise but the museum was closed for renovations.

So we wandered downtown Boise for a bit, didn't really see much to admire except for the State Capitol, which had a tableau of Chief Twisted Hair of the Nez Perce people talking with Lewis and Clark in 1804, and headed for the Whole Foods for breakfast (where I got a bit of stick for having chicken curry). Thinking ahead, we had them make some fabulous sandwiches which kept us going.
Idaho Capitol, Boise

Idaho Capitol, Boise


Chief Twisted Hair, Lewis and Clark

Chief Twisted Hair, Lewis and Clark

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The drive for the day didn't have anything spectacular like the Beartooth Pass but all in all it was a nicely varied drive, a combination of forested ravines, big sunburnt hills and prairie - about 300 miles in all. We followed the Payette River which fed into the Snake River as we headed north up ID-55 and then rejoined US-95. Not far out of Boise we caught up with the Thunder Mountain Line train, which does a 15 mile trip up the river. The river is a pretty major destination for white water rafting and, where it is calmer, paddle-boarding and kayaking.
Heading out of Boise ID

Heading out of Boise ID


Thunder Mountain Line

Thunder Mountain Line


Thunder Mountain Line

Thunder Mountain Line


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The paddle-boarder had a lot of trouble getting up on the board and came close to falling in several times although never actually did before the triumph seen in the last photo. The road took us into McCall which was so pretty we had to stop and wander around and try out the Fogg Lifter cafe - which was rather more like a living room than a cafe. Nice place, even of we got hopelessly lost leaving, because we had no idea we were actually on the road we wanted, so tried some others.
McCall ID

McCall ID


McCall ID

McCall ID


McCall ID

McCall ID


Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID

Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID


Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID

Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID


Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID

Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID


The road took us up past the Nez Perce forest and then a place called Grangeville: as we drove, I started to realise that I had been before, certainly the Nez Perce territory was looking familiar and I remembered going into Grangeville and thinking it was a dump.
Riggins ID

Riggins ID


White Bird ID

White Bird ID


White Bird ID

White Bird ID


Nez Perce territory, ID

Nez Perce territory, ID


Nez Perce Country

Nez Perce Country


The land flattened out as we went through the Camas prairie, which was intersected by the Lapwai Canyon - which required some rather large wooden trestles to let the Camas Prairie Railroad through.
Camas Prairie

Camas Prairie


Camas Prairie Railroad Wooden Bridge

Camas Prairie Railroad Wooden Bridge

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The big reason for coming this way was my brother's desire to see the locks and shipping at the major inland port of Lewiston. Poor bugger, because there were no locks and not much more shipping - this is how busy it was.
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Lewiston was a funny sort of place - across the river from the main road, there were several small big-box shopping areas ascending the hill, with a defunct Walmart perched at the top. The small historic district was on a bend in the river and looked like it might have been worth a look, but we didn't really stop - got hassled by some young guys hooning around who apparently had driven up from California, and this was all they could find to do. The Motel 6 was cheap, so I would have been OK to stay but we decided to carry on. The drive out of town was spectacular.
Bridge @ Lewiston

Bridge @ Lewiston


Road above Lewiston

Road above Lewiston


Road above Lewiston

Road above Lewiston


Road above Lewiston

Road above Lewiston


Leaving was probably the right thing to do, as it meant we could stay in the very pleasant town of Moscow, a place I really enjoyed on my last visit to this part of the world, and home base of the University of Idaho. Oddly, despite being Saturday night, town was very quiet - a combination I guess of most students being too young to drink and many of them leaving town for the long weekend. It isn't a very big place, but it has a wonderful modern Italian restaurant - Maialina - where the staff was very careful to point out that they didn't make doughy, cheese-soaked slabs of crap. The waiter may have been a bit full of himselfbut it really was good food.

Posted by NZBarry 21:28 Archived in USA Tagged roadtrip_2014 Comments (0)

Jackson WY - Boise ID

sunny 26 °C

Jackson meant nothing to me when I booked the hotel there, it was just a convenient stopping point for when we came out the south end of Yellowstone. It turned out to be delightful, essentially a resort town, so there were lots of shops and galleries selling art, t-shirt shops, some outdoorswear shops selling the kind of outdoorswear that you wear to the pub to show you love the outdoors but would be unsafe to wear outdoors (where the weather might actually get a bit extreme), a hat shop where I could have bought a handmade hat, had I been prepared to stump up a minimum of $650. But it was relaxed and had at least one great cafe (others looked good as we walked around but we didn't check them out) and very close to the mountains - a ski slope actually terminated on the edge of town. Although the official name is Jackson, it had at one point been called Jackson Hole, and despite the less than salubrious resonances, many proudly label their businesses and the like as being in Jackson Hole.

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Broadway, Jackson

Broadway, Jackson

Arts Centre, Jackson, WY

Arts Centre, Jackson, WY

Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters

Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters

Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters

Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters

large_WP_20140829_004.jpglarge_WP_20140829_005.jpgTransport, Jackson style

Transport, Jackson style

At the bottom of the ski slope, we noticed a tunnel, which went straight into the mountain

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We had to see where it went - it curved upwards

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and when we got out of the tunnel (it was only a couple of hundred metres), we saw lots of these

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The side of the mountain was a pretty exclusive housing development, there are several streets running along the side of hill which have similarly big houses, and yet, apart from the first one, they are invisible

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Jackson Square was a nice place to hang out - there was some sort of umbrella thing happening in the square itself and, on one of its bordering streets, an exhibition of performing arts - I only noticed as one act was finishing and another didn't start before it was time to go. There was also a fair amount of street art

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Early settlers

Early settlers

Enjoying the sun @ Jackson

Enjoying the sun @ Jackson

Sitting about @ Jackson

Sitting about @ Jackson

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The arch is made up of elk antlers - they have some sort of campaign to get people go out and collect them after they drop from natural causes, which somehow works to stop hunting. We left town but didn't get very far - a sign to Teton Village distracted us - I was thinking we'd be able to get a cold drink or the like, and really had no idea of what we would find

Lodge @ Teton Village

Lodge @ Teton Village

Jackson Hole Aerial Tram

Jackson Hole Aerial Tram

Ski Lift @ Teton Village

Ski Lift @ Teton Village


Teton Village, WY

Teton Village, WY

Teton Village

Teton Village

Arts Centre, Teton Village

Arts Centre, Teton Village

Apparently it is one of the best ski resorts in the world - at least one of the guides to such things we consulted put it at # 1. Even I, a complete non-skier, was impressed - massive lodges, several ski lifts as well as a gondola and an aerial tram. We were there in summer, but there were still plenty of people about, some to mountain bike but most, I suspect, to linger.

Our nest stop was about two hours later, to investigate Idaho Falls, We'd been through a couple of places with falls in their name but no actual waterfalls to be seen (hello, Columbus Falls) so I was a bit suspicious, but ended up impressed. The Idaho Falls do not fall very far, but they are right in the centre of town and very wide, generating electricity for more than 100 years.

Idaho Falls, ID, USA

Idaho Falls, ID, USA

Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls

Three hundred miles of very boring driving then confronted us - we could have taken the Interstate which would have been a wee bit quicker but could find no reason at all to stop, so took US-20 - which offered us the chance of stopping at the Craters of the Moon National Monument - since it was a monument not a park, I thought there's be a wee visitor's centre or the like, but it is actually 620 square miles: a " vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush ... [a] weird and scenic landscape" according to the National Park Service.

Harvesting in Swan Valley

Harvesting in Swan Valley

Snake River

Snake River

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon, ID

Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon

There is, of course, also the National Laboratory - a nuclear reactor museum ("Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-I) Atomic Museum") but we had left it a bit late in the day to visit. Eventually, we made it to Boise, where a very helpful chap at the Holiday Inn printed out a list of eating establishments, which led to us having a most excellent dinner at the Bittercreek Ale House.

Bittercreek Ale House

Bittercreek Ale House

Posted by NZBarry 13:47 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Yellowstone

sunny 20 °C

Yellowstone is iconic, probably the most famous of all the American National Parks. It was also the furthest point on our journey. This made it more than a little ridiculous that we didn't actually enter the park until 4:00 in the afternoon, and had less than five hours of daylight - although it was only a 50 mile drive from top to bottom, there was stuff to see and of course we had to make the occasional detour. We saw some good stuff, but it was a rush and I would have liked the chance to see the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces (photos taken from the park website):

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We were wondering of we would see any wildlife at all - the woman in the Visitor Centre at Cooke City had made us feel hopeful, but we had gone quite a way into the park before we saw this fellow

Our first bison

Our first bison

We screeched to a halt and ran across to get a better look - he was kind enough to get up and have a bit of a look at us, he may have even pawed the ground a bit, but he wasn't much of a threat, being lame and across a small river - another bloke who had seen us stop and followed us in seemed a bit apprehensive, and stayed a fair way away.

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We went on a bit more, and saw a few more

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and it was not a whole lot later and this started to happen

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So, yeah, we ended up seeing hundreds, maybe even a thousand bison - they ended up being a bit of a nuisance as they'd clump in the middle of the road and take their own sweet time to leave - not the kind of animals you want to get all shouty with, I suspect.

Buncha bison

Buncha bison

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They were actually the only animals we saw. Driving through the park, it wasn't as dramatic as the Beartooth or the Glacier National Park, but it had its moments. For about 20 miles, the Yellowstone River gets all compressed by a large ravine - they call it the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. A lot of work has been done to put boardwalks and paths along the top to give people a good view, although we only made the one stop.

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

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Down the road a bit was Sulfur Cauldron

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Sulfur Cauldron @ Yellowstone

Sulfur Cauldron @ Yellowstone

Sulfur Cauldron @ Yellowstone

Sulfur Cauldron @ Yellowstone

The big event is probably Old Faithful, a geyser which goes off with some regularity even 50 minutes or so. We're pretty sure we saw him in action as we drove in towards him, but by the time we arrived, he'd quietened down a bit.

Old Faithful, between blows

Old Faithful, between blows

Geothermals @ Yellowstone

Geothermals @ Yellowstone

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I have to say that the facilities they have built for tourists are really spectacular, more than the park itself. We did dither a bit in the hope we'd see him, tried to get something to eat but everything shut at 8:30 except the Old Faithful Inn, and they wanted us to wait. So we bought some shirts and, because it was so dark, didn't wait for Old Faithful, as we still had a bit of a drive - 100 miles, to be precise. What I didn't know was that as the road went down through the Grand Teton National Park, it was speed restricted (45, maybe 50 miles an hour): after my tangle with the Police a few days ago, I didn't want another, and we did see them with people pulled over. So, after an 8:00 start, I was a wee bit tired when we finally pulled into our hotel in Jackson Wyoming at around 11:30. It is obviously not a town of night owls, as the only place open was a pizza place, Pinky G's. Luckily, the pizza was pretty good, the place had a bit of a buzz so we relaxed over a couple of beers. Its one way to spend my birthday.

Posted by NZBarry 22:02 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Butte to Beartooth

sunny 20 °C

One of the reasons I wanted to stay in Butte in the Finlen was that I liked the idea of waking up there on my birthday. I also liked the idea of a relaxed start and a slow-paced day. It didn't quite turn out that way - according to the map, we did more than 450 miles, some of the roads were slow, some had wildlife on them which hindered progress (next post) but mostly what we were seeing was so fantastic that we had to stop lots. We left really early and still didn't manage to get to the next hotel much before midnight.

So, the photos are going to tell most of the story. The first bit of the drive was a fast drive for nearly 200 miles down the Interstate to Columbus, MT (the easternmost point of our trip), where we hung a left onto US 212 and on to Red Lodge where we finally stopped for something to eat. I was expecting very little as it barely shows up on google maps, yet Red Lodge is a sizeable town of 2000+ people.

River near Columbus MT

River near Columbus MT


Heading away from Columbus MT

Heading away from Columbus MT


Heading away from Columbus MT

Heading away from Columbus MT

Heading away from Columbus MT

Heading away from Columbus MT

Red Lodge main Street

Red Lodge main Street

Red Lodge was quite the place in the 1890's:

In 1896, Red Lodge had twenty saloons and, as the library records show, riotous and violent living was characteristic of the town...

Foolishly, it touts itself as the gateway to Yellowstone, and almost ignores what lies between it and the Park - the Beartooth Highway, which goes over the Beartooth Pass. Now, we had already gone over the Crowsnest Pass and were left completely underwhelmed, so I did not share my brother's enthusiasm. The road was built in the 1930's to provide access to Yellowstone but, dare I say it, easily outshone anything we saw in the park (and didn't require a $25 entry fee). To get up to the pass, the road climbs nearly 2 kilometres, and the going is not exactly easy.

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Heading in to Beartooth Pass

Heading in to Beartooth Pass

Road ahead to Beartooth Pass

Road ahead to Beartooth Pass

Road up to Beartooth Pass

Road up to Beartooth Pass

Road up to Beartooth Pass

Road up to Beartooth Pass

Road up to Beartooth Pass

Road up to Beartooth Pass


Looking back from Beartooth Pass

Looking back from Beartooth Pass


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Already you might have some idea why it has been called the most beautiful drive in America. The Pass is 3,337 m (10,947 ft) above sea level - the land flattens out to form a plateau, and then gets wildly beautiful.

Top of Beartooth Pass

Top of Beartooth Pass

The tops

The tops


Entering Wyoming

Entering Wyoming


large_IMG_8879.jpgThe Pass

The Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

Beartooth

Beartooth


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Heading down the other side was a little bit anti-climactic, although the Crazy Creek Falls were worth a stop and wander around, and then the land flattened out.

Crazy Creek Falls

Crazy Creek Falls

Crazy Creek Falls

Crazy Creek Falls

Crazy Creek Falls

Crazy Creek Falls

West end of Beartooth Highway

West end of Beartooth Highway

Cooke City is at the other end of the Beartooth Highway - the day was running out rapidly, so the sensible thing would have been to stay there for the night, and carry on though Yellowstone the next day. Again, Cooke City hadn't really shown up in my researches, so I had booked a hotel the other side of the park, so we pressed on.

Posted by NZBarry 20:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Heading East: West Glacier - Butte MT

sunny 26 °C

This was a stint of 350 miles or so. We left the park quite late in the afternoon, planning to stop at Whitefish MT for the night. It was a pretty wee town, with a couple of streets worth of very good looking bars and restaurants where I am sure it would have been fun to hang out and sample the wares of the local brewery. Unfortunately, it was not to be - too many other people had had the same idea and had the foresight to arrive earlier. So, after a fruitless scan of hotels on my phone on some free wifi I stole from one of the bars, we headed south to Kalispell - a more functional but still pleasant enough town. It gave us a good hotel room (although we didn't stay at the very trad looking Kalispell Grand), and thanks to a recommendation from the hotel, a nice dinner in a very old skool seeming Italian restaurant, ScotiBelli's. In the morning, we stumbled into the very busy Colter's Coffee Roasters (thinking it was a bit early to hit the Kalispell brewery next door) and set off.

Main Street, Kalispell MT

Main Street, Kalispell MT

Kalispell Grand Hotel

Kalispell Grand Hotel

Colter Coffee Roasters, Kalispell

Colter Coffee Roasters, Kalispell

A fellow guest at the hotel was trying to get the receptionist to saying that either Bigfork or Whitefish was prettier: she said she couldn't. Since it was only a minor deviation, we headed to the east of the gigantic Flathead Lake to see for ourselves, and then down the eastern side of the lake on a slowish road to Missoula. The town was a bit older and perhaps had a bit less on the boil, but that was made up for (at least) by the wee inlet from the lake and the lake itself.

Barn

Barn

Barn

Barn

Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT


Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Train in the Woods

Train in the Woods

Train in the Woods

Train in the Woods

The road

The road

Missoula was a bit of a disappointment - I had fond memories of a great bar I had visited last time, but we were there late morning. We took a punt and went out to Fort Missoula, where there are some barracks and training grounds. Our wee automated friend (i.e. the GPS voice in my brother's phone) got us hopelessly lost getting into Missoula proper, trying to tell us that a convenience store or similar was all there was of downtown. We eventually found it, had a very quick walk around, grabbed an enormous lunch at Crackerbarrel and headed for Helena. I even relented enough to take the Interstate.

Fort Missoula

Fort Missoula

Fort Missoula Barracks

Fort Missoula Barracks

I really wish I had done a bit more reading about Helena before we got there, because there is a lot to see - I did enjoy it, but there's more. We were unfortunate enough to get there just as the two coffee shops closed for the day, so had a wander through the central open-mall/pedestrianised street - an odd mix of some quaint shops and brutalist architecture, but with attention paid to street art to make it appealing. There was a fair going on (as has been the case in almost every town we've visited). Off this main street, there are lost of cool old buildings and, of course,a few blocks away, the State Capitol.

Helena Cathedral

Helena Cathedral


Helena Cathedral

Helena Cathedral

Bullwhacker

Bullwhacker

Cigars?

Cigars?

Newspaperman

Newspaperman

Fair, Helena MT

Fair, Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Train, Helena MT

Train, Helena MT

Apartments, Helena MT

Apartments, Helena MT

Helena Town Hall

Helena Town Hall

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Just on dark, we made it to Butte - my second visit. I first read about it in a book called The Road to McCarthy, in which one of my all time favourite travel writers, the late Pete McCarthy, travelled to various places to trace his Irish roots (he has also inspired me to drive across Tasmania). On St Patricks day, 30,000 descend upon Butte to celebrate (mind you, 50,000 come to celebrate Evil Kneivel day and 170,000 for the folk music festival (according to Wikipedia)!) I then saw it in a Wim Wenders movie, Don't Come Knocking. The blurb for the film has this to say about Butte:

In 1900, Butte, Montana was the biggest city west of the Mississippi. Now it is a place of deep depression. Downtown Butte is a ghost town...

The reason it was the biggest town was copper: it struck it rich - to the tune of $50 billion or so, making it the wealthiest town on earth for decades - and was also processing ores from mines around the USA and Canada (including the one we visited in Kimberley). This made it the "richest hill on earth". With all this money, they built grand brick buildings up on the top of a ridge - most are still there, but their purpose has gone. There is a gigantic open cast mine, but the most substantial mining happening today is extracting dissolved copper from the poisonous water which is slowly filling the pit.

But the ghost town thing seems to be history - there were quite a few signs of regeneration, and the population has stabilised at nearly 35,000. I'd have liked to have spent a couple of days or more to soak up the atmosphere and get some photos, but instead we did our best to see the sights in the last hour of near-daylight we had. There's a hill at one end of town we drove up and had a view for miles around, and we drove in and out many of the streets containing small miner's houses before hitting the uptown historical district.

Across the road from our hotel was the fabulous Uptown Cafe to provide "Civilized Dining in the Wild, Wild West" - one of the flashest meals we had on the whole trip. The same can be said for the hotel, the grand old Finlen - we've been in Motel 6 style rooms with two beds but in this hotel we had separate rooms, and they were extremely well presented. If the motels have provided breakfast, it has mainly been in a wee corner of a small reception area - the Finlen has a proper lobby, and a bar where we hung out and had a couple of rums, along with the three elderly gentlemen who were obviously regulars and the young couple who hardly noticed their surroundings. All in all, it was a great evening for me (my brother had not so good news from home).

Finlen Hotel @ Butte

Finlen Hotel @ Butte

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Posted by NZBarry 20:07 Archived in USA Tagged roadtrip_2014 Comments (0)

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