Idaho -- More than potatoes!
You may be wondering (or not) why I spent a week in South Central Idaho. The truth is, this area was chosen because it was halfway between West Yellowstone, MT and my next destination, the Columbia River Gorge. That said, once I started researching "what to do", I was quite surprised at how ignorant I am about the history, terrain and sites to see.
Home base was Eden, Idaho (pop. 406, including me); just outside Twin Falls. On the way, I stopped to walk on the moon (see photos), and while I missed 2 or 3 sites on my list (life challenges distracted me), I really enjoyed my time here. Both the city of Twin Falls and the countryside of Eden offered great cycling, too.
The biggest surprise is that this area is naturally arid, desert land (think Nevada). It's called "the Magic Valley" because a series of dams along the Snake River (yes, from the Tetons snow melt) created canals & an irrigation system that "magically" turned this from uninhabitable to farmland.
The people I met could not have been nicer though my journey out of town was led with the song, "Play that Funky Music" as indeed it was very white, boy. Say what you will.
YELLOWSTONE: A 2-part Story
While Yellowstone National Park gets no points with me, I loved the area and the little town of West Yellowstone, MT where I spent most of my time.
I enjoyed doing nothing my first day at Hebgen Lake then headed out early for Yellowstone NP the next morning. Let me interject --- my 1st two nights in the tent, it was 34 degrees! and my camp site just had vault toilets & potable water. Back to nature, baby, after being spoiled just a bit these past few weeks.
While I saw some amazing sites (see photos!) in my 6 hours at Yellowstone NP, it was not an enjoyable park experience. I didn't see the Grand Prismatic Spring because I gave up after circling the parking lot 3 times looking for a spot. The mobs at the Visitor's Center near Old Faithful were painful, and I almost had to slap a surly ranger from Jersey. On my way out that first day, traffic was backed up for as far as I could see in both directions. Why? Because tourists didn't pull over; they simply stopped the car to take a photo from the window. This is the NP of yahoos!
I knew that I would only see a small speck of Yellowstone NP (it's 3500 sq miles) but I never imagined how poorly managed the park is or how out-of-control the tourist situation would be. There are no shuttles, no bike lanes, and limited hiking (many trails were closed). If you love driving hundreds of miles; sitting in traffic; circling for parking spaces; and interfacing with hordes of ornery tourists, you'll love this park! I did just read that visitation was up 24% this year.
I did see some geologic wonders and bison were everywhere but this was no outdoor experience after what I have enjoyed in the past month. I tried to go into the park 2 days later and after moving 1.2 miles in 35 minutes, I simply turned around (road work that day).
Ignoring the park scenario, I was easily entertained in West Yellowstone, MT which reminded me of small towns in Alaska. It's kept its charm and personality intact, and the people love to share conversation.
It was an odd transition from Southern Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I went from 2 weeks in my tent to a large hostel in Teton Village (think skiing). The first full day, I actually had to work so I skipped the park & biked a gorgeous paved path through Moose, Wilson & Jackson in late afternoon. My last 4 miles were in a thunderstorm of rain & hail but I made it back OK, only to discover that my phone had been swimming in its case in my bike bag. Toasted.
Not a good way to start the week but I woke early and headed to the Grand Tetons. Oh joy!
I spent 3 full days in this glorious, mountainous, lake-filled National Park. I do believe I would've been happy with another day or two. I hiked through the Rockefeller Preserve to Phelps Lake, around Taggart and Bradley Lakes, the perimeter of Jenny Lake, and fit in a bike ride or two. There's a historical walking tour of original buildings, very friendly rangers, and a wonderful film!
The mountains do just burst up to the sky from the crystal clear lakes. The hiking trails smell fresh and piney, and there's not a spot in this park that isn't a scenic view. I did see a badger, many antelope in a meadow, NO bears! but best of all, I saw moose for the first time ever, and many times! I do believe that the Grand Teton NP is in my top 5!
I'm now living in West Yellowstone, Montana & spending most of my time in Yellowstone NP. One more day and on to Idaho!
I am SUCH a goofball! Take two minutes to view this ABC segment and see if you catch me twice!
"UTAH: Life Elevated"
Whoever developed that tagline for Utah deserves an award!
I was mesmerized by Southern Utah, and truly needed 2 weeks there; one to the East and one to the West. I also had 2 days of thunderstorms & flash flood warnings that interfered with my itinerary but didn't keep me in my tent.
I did not see Zion, the Arches, Capital Reef or Cedar Breaks (the turnaround list is getting longer). Indeed, there were choices to make, and what choices they were. While I couldn't catch any critters in a click, I did see antelope, mule deer, and those oh-so-adorable prairie dogs.
I'll let the photos tell the story but I must say that while I've arrived in the Grand Tetons, my heart & soul are still in Southern Utah.
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover