Sunday, September 20, 2015

I Didn't Know ...

As you read this post, you might want to listed to
Peter Seeger sing Woody's ballad: This Land Is Your Land.

Monday, September 14, 2015

We left Yellowstone National Park, regretfully, and headed south on lonely U.S. 20. The road ran through a wilderness area marked by a large lake: Henry's Lake and its effluence: Henry's Fork, known as one of the West's outstanding fly fishing rivers. The blue line on the map below shows our route for the day, a total of 244 miles. 

Our route today, 244 miles, from West Yellowstone, Montana
to Hailey Idaho in Sun Valley.

This is fly-fishing country. The fisherman here are trekking out to the river for a day of tricking
the trout to bite at their prize lures.

Henry's Fork flows out of Henry's Lake.
The area is a beautiful and wild sportsperson's paradise.

Beautiful Henry's Fork.

Wild and wonderful Idaho.

We drove on until we reached the city of Idaho Falls. We've learned to get off the interstate  (or in this case, the main highway) if you really want to see the country and not the homogenized vision of America that is repeated ad nausem at virtually every interstate exit: fast food chains serving up crappy junk food, mega truck stops and  gas stations. There really is life beyond the interstate and its exits, though much of it has disappeared thanks to the inability to compete with the giant chains. Their off-the-beaten-path locations didn't help matters either as drivers stuck to the new Interstates. Yet life and interesting history remain and, now that people are realizing the value of cities, more life and vitality are returning. And many travelers now want to see more and have become more adventurous. It can be very rewarding, interesting and exciting. It pays to explore and not stick to your straight ahead road. And let me tell you -- it's really straight ahead out here!

That's why we stopped to explore Idaho Falls on the Snake River. That waterway gives the city the 'falls' in its name and a large percentage of its electricity as well., the churning motion of its water driving the generators to produce hydroelectric power. This city has done a nice job in restoring its historic section which has a plethora of lovely old art  deco buildings.

The Snake Bite restaurant in a restored art deco building on Park Avenue,
It featured modern American food in a very cool setting and we loved it!

Park Avenue is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants in
Idaho Falls' restored historic district.

Out for lunch at the Snake Bite.

Modern fare at Idaho Falls' Snake Bite restaurant.
And , oh! I'm balancing a coffee cup on my head!

Stacey's enjoying a burger.
I, a salmon burger.
After lunch we crossed the Snake River which runs through town and took a stroll in the park alongside the falls that gives the town half its name.

Unique bench In a park alongside the falls of the Snake River.

These Chinese tourists had to get a shot with Biggie.
As you can see, Biggie was not as anxious to be in the photo.

Did you know? When the German Nazi troops were defeated
in Northern Africa some 275,000 prisoners-of-war were
captured. Fifteen thousand were taken to Idaho to live on
prison camps and work in local agriculture.
After they war, some remained and became U.S. citizens.
The rest were repatriated.

A moose planter/sculpture in the park at the falls.

Food trucks are increasingly popular in cities across the country.

Idaho Falls was a nice way point but it was time to move on. US 20 turns west after and goes straight across the rest of the state. The landscape, like so many places on our trip, is marked with vast, wide-open spaces , prairie, that extends to the horizon where we saw huge mountains looming. But there in front of us were some buttes that stood, large and isolated. They looked like volcanoes and soon a rest stop with signs informed us that they were. They were called the Three Buttes and they were spaced some miles apart. The first one was East Butte and was the most prominent. It was an unusual sight because it was not part of any mountain range. It just rose, solitary, from the surrounding flat grassland.

Sign explaining the mysterious buttes that interrupted the flat, wide open
spaces that marked Idaho's landscape to the west of Idaho Falls.

We had been watching this mountain for quite a while, wondering what it was and why it was standing
all alone out on the prairie. This, we found out, was East Butte one of three extinct volcanoes in the region.

Idaho - wide open vistas. Awesome beauty!

This is East Butte. The nearby town is called Butte City!

Other than the Three Buttes, this part of Iowa was open prairie that
stretched out to the horizon where giant mountains awaited us.

As we drove along, other historic signs indicated that this was home to one of the largest nuclear testing and development facilities in the world., the Idaho National Laboratory, spread over 900 square miles! Over 50 reactors had been built here and it was also used for large scale munitions testing in addition to being home to the Nuclear Navy - reactors for their subs were developed, tested and personnel trained in this landlocked state. The nearby town of Arco boasted that it was the first city in the world to be powered by nuclear energy. Too bad, thinking to myself that wasn't something to really boast about. I wondered if there had been any adverse health effect since this was early on in the development of nuclear power which, even today, poses a serious hreat to the environment and health and safety of residents because of the inability to dispose of nuclear waste with any assurance that it won't come back to haunt us in years to come. Oh yes, and then there's the unseen risks, like tsunamis for example! I'm thinking Fukushima.

Arco, Idaho, where perhaps people glow in the dark.

US 40 westbound, a highway less traveled. There are only 1.6 million
people in the entire state of Idaho. 

As we traveled along there was more evidence of Idaho's early seismic and volcanic past. More and more black soil and rocks studded the yellow grasslands. We came upon a sign that said
"Just Up The Road -- a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself."
That was an understatement. This was like no other place we've ever seen and was dubbed Craters Of The Moon National Monument and Prseserve. The sign went on to tell us that
"volcanic eruptions ranging from gentle to explosive created the landscape before you. Deep cracks in the earth allowed lava to blast, pop and flow above and below the surface to create cinder cones, splatter cones and lava tube caves."

A seven mile National Park Service loop allowed us to drive through parts of this unique area where we learned that some of the eruptions were only 2,000 years old. I suppose that's why the results are still so visible today.

Like Yellowstone, this was another phantasmagorical place -
a vast area filled with black boulders, cones, hills and lava rock,
that was expelled as molten lava and then cooled as it flowed
over the landscape.

Black lava rock as far as the arth can see. Other wordly.


Phantasmagorical. This lava flow was only about 2,000 years ago...a blip in time, and probably
why this landscape is so visible and prominent today.

Tiny white flowers eke out an existence in this hostile environment.

White flowers bloom in a bed of lava rock.
Temperatures  can reach 120 degrees in heat of this desert's day and
then plunge to well below freezing at night. The plants adapt.  

Miles and miles of black lava rock. Another planet?
No, it's Idaho's high desert.

It was late and we had miles to go to our stopover in Hailey, Idaho. We departed US Route 20 and turned north, heading up into Sun Valley, the well known ski resort in Idaho's Sawtooth mountains. We took the detour, not out of any desire to go north but because that's where the hotels and restaurants were. We'd head back to the highway tomorrow on our way to Washington. But we weren't sorry - these were pretty towns, nestled in the mountains and with nice accommodations to cater to the jet set that frequents these resorts.

Tomorrow, we're off to Walla Walla. Hubba hubba. And Ciao ciao!


  1. do the people in Arco glow in the dark?

  2. I have three buttes. Or So it seems!

  3. Beautiful photography, wonderful blog. You should put together a book at the end! Seriously!