EPIC US ROAD TRIP DAYS 7-10

NORTHERN ROCKIES - WYOMING, MONTANA, IDAHO & NORTHERN UTAH


Image || Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Epic US Road Trip 2016 – The Northern Rockies

Capturing an Old Faithful eruption in Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Capturing an Old Faithful eruption in Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 7 || September 3, 2016


‘Here Fell Custer’. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana.

Day 7 || September 3 2016

Route || Deadwood to Billings, Montana (via Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming & Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 354 (570)
Posted From || Billings, Montana
Today’s Highlight || Custer’s ‘Last Stand’, a.k.a. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Historic Main Street Deadwood, Black Hills, South Dakota. September 3, 2016.

A parting shot from Historic Main Street Deadwood in the Black Hills of South Dakota. September 3, 2016.

We needed to be on the road early today, day 7. We weren’t. A slow breakfast and a quick final scoot around some as yet unseen Deadwood highlights meant we eventually departed a hot Deadwood (someone turned the heat up overnight) later than planned, getting back on the road in the early afternoon to continue the drive west. Less than an hour later and we were at the South Dakota/Wyoming state line, the first of two we’d cross today (but the only one we made a fuss over) en route to Billings, Montana via not one but two US national monuments.

At the 'Welcome to Wyoming' sign on the South Dakota-Wyoming state line, Interstate 90, USA. September 3, 2016.

At the ‘Welcome to Wyoming’ sign on the South Dakota-Wyoming state line on Interstate 90 outside Beulah, Wyoming. September 3, 2016.

Save for the ubiquitous signs, you’d scarcely know you’d crossed a state line in most instances. However, here on Interstate 90 the frontier is a tad obvious.

Zero mile marker on the South Dakota-Wyoming state line on Interstate 90, USA. September 3, 2016.

Seemingly the South Dakotans prefer their I-90 asphalt darker while the Wyomingites prefer a lighter shade of I-90 mineral pitch. Let there be no confusion as to who is responsible for what on this particular stretch of US Interstate. At the zero mile marker – the start of I-90 in South Dakota (& the end of the 207-mile stretch of I-90 that runs through Wyoming), on the South Dakota-Wyoming state line. September 3, 2016.

At the 'Welcome to Wyoming' sign on the South Dakota-Wyoming state line on Interstate 90, USA. September 3, 2016.

State sign #5 || We were straight. The sign was straight. The terra firma below us wasn’t (& getting the camera straight was way too much work). All that said, I think we’re getting better at this. At the ‘Welcome to Wyoming’ sign on the South Dakota-Wyoming state line on Interstate 90. September 3, 2016.

wyoming_glossy_square_icon_256Wyoming

State Nicknames – Equality State (official); Cowboy State; Big Wyoming; Wonderful Wyoming. State Motto – Equal Rights. Admitted To The Union – July 1890 (44th state). Population – 587,000 (least populous state). Area – 97,800 sq miles (10th largest state). Capital – Cheyenne. National Parks – 2 (Yellowstone & Grand Teton). National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 0/1. Famous For – Yellowstone National Park; (Cheyenne) Frontier Days; cowboys; ranches; windswept prairies; bison. State Highlights – Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks. Wyoming Titbits – The state is the biggest producer of coal in the US; it’s the least populated US state – there are almost twice as many people in tiny Rhode Island, the country’s smallest state, 63 of which would fit into Wyoming; locals are called Wyomingites; Wyoming is one of only three states (along with Colorado & Utah) to have borders along only straight latitudinal & longitudinal lines rather than being defined by natural landmarks; Wyoming is one of only two states (the other being South Dakota) in the 48 contiguous states to not have a passenger rail service; Wyoming was the fist state in the US to grant women the right to vote; the state sport is rodeo & the iconic silhouette image of a “Bucking Horse and Rider” is a federal and state-registered trademark. Yee-haw!
Plate. Laramie, Wyoming, USA. September 14, 2016.

Wyoming. State #5. On the streets of Laramie, Wyoming. September 14, 2016.

Wyoming is where the untamed spirit of the West and majestic natural beauty open your mind and invigorate your senses to release your own inner freedom and sense of adventure. For some, adventure may mean taking the kids camping in Yellowstone or visiting a rodeo for the first time. For others, it could be conquering one of the most difficult mountain climbs in the West. It’s a place where your own true grit is matched by all that surrounds you. Because some things can’t be explained, only experienced.

– TravelWyoming.com

Wyoming – Take I
This was to be a brief visit to Wyoming. We’d be back of course but for now we were simply passing through the extreme northeast of the state en route northwest to Montana. A little over 200 miles of light-shaded I-90 separates the ‘Welcome to Wyoming’ sign outside Beulah to the state line with Montana, with a detour of some 30 miles needed to take in the sight of the country’s very first national monument, and the first of two we’d visit on this day, the so-called Devils Tower.

Grazing in front of the Devils Tower National Monument, designated in 1906 as the very first national monument in the US. Crook County, Wyoming, USA. September 3, 2016.

Grazing in front of the Devils Tower National Monument. Abruptly rising from the surrounding plain some 867 feet (265 metres) from base to summit means this mammoth laccolithic butte is, not surprisingly, visible for miles around. A prominent landmark in these parts since time eternal (geologists estimate it to be over 50 million years old), its origins, even today, are not fully understood; its composition – solidified molten rock – is agreed upon by those who can’t agree as to how the rock came to be thrust skywards, an ancient volcano or a sheet of molten rock injected between rock layers the two most likely culprits (see below for a Native American legend that puts forth a much more entertaining, less scientific explanation for the tower’s formation). Devils Tower was designated as part of the 1906 Antiquities Act as the country’s very first national monument (protected areas in the US of which there are 124 to date), 10 years prior to the formation of the National Park Service which today cares for the monument and its surrounds. Playing a staring role in the 1977 movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ brought it to public attention and today over 7 miles of walking trails contained in the monument’s 1,347 acre (5.5 km²) boundary means it’s a popular attraction. Needless to say it’s also a popular challenge for rock climbers; first climbed in 1893, today some 5000 each year scale its massive columns via over 200 routes, much to the ire of local Indians who consider the rock sacred. Devils Tower, Crook County, Wyoming, USA. September 3, 2016.

There are things in nature that engender an awful quiet in the heart of man; Devils Tower is one of them.

– N. Scott Momaday, Native American author

Devils Tower – A Native American Legend
Many Native American legends have been passed down through time, but this version from the Kiowa Tribe seems to be the most popular.

One day an Indian tribe was camped beside the river and seven small girls were playing at a distance. The region had a large bear population and a bear began chasing the girls. They ran back towards their village, but the bear was about to catch them. The girls jumped up on the rock about three feet high and began to pray to the rock, “Rock, take pity on us; Rock, save us.”

The rock heard the young girls’ pleas and began to elongate itself upwards, pushing them higher and higher out of the bear’s reach. The bear clawed and jumped at the sides of the rock, but broke its claws and fell to the ground. The bear continued to jump at the rock until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are, to this day, in a group of seven little stars (the Pleiades constellation). Marks from the bear’s claws still line the sides of Devils Tower.

As one looks upon the Tower and contemplates its uniqueness, it isn’t hard to imagine the legend as fact

– Reproduced from DevilsTowerCountry.com

It’s over three hours of a drive from Devils Tower National Monument to what was to prove to be the highlight of road trip day 7 for me, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, the site of Custer’s infamous ‘Last Stand’.

Know the power that is peace.

– Black Elk, Oglala Lakota

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
In June 1876 on a hill above a winding river called the Little Bighorn, and in one of the most infamous defeats in the history of the United States military, George Armstrong Custer and all 210 men under his direct command, 5 whole companies (out of a total of 12 7th Cavalry companies), were annihilated by an overwhelming force of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Plains Indian warriors. The devastating loss of a daring & highly decorated Civil War general caused uproar among the public with Custer, conveniently dead, taking the brunt of the blame. Located on the Crow Indian Reservation in Big Horn County, southern Montana, the site of Custer’s famous ‘Last Stand’ is probably the country’s best-known Native American battlefield, and the reason we drove 280 miles to get here from Deadwood, South Dakota, passing through a portion of northeastern Wyoming (& over two state lines) in the process.

7th Cavalry marker stone, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana, USA. September 3, 2016.

A marble marker to the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry, a US Army cavalry regiment formed in 1866 and which was under the command of Custer in 1876. The cavalry’s official nickname is ‘Garryowen’, after the Irish tune Garryowen (air) that was adopted as its march tune. Custer National Cemetery of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana. September 3, 2016.

The Sioux Wars Darkest Days
Tension between the native inhabitants of the Great Plains of the US and the encroaching white European settlers in the latter half of the 19th Century resulted in a series of conflicts known as the Sioux Wars (1854-1890). The battle of Little Bighorn, known to the Plains Indians as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, was to be the darkest day of the Sioux Wars for the US Army, a victory that ultimately proved fruitless for the Indians who were to feel the full wrath of the US Government thereafter.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana, USA. September 3, 2016.

The resounding loss during the 2-day battle (June 25-26 1876), and Custer’s actions in particular, have been studied extensively by historians ever since. The precise details of Custer’s fight are largely conjectural since none of his men survived the battle and the accounts of surviving Indians are conflicting and unclear. What is clear is that, and although evidence suggests he suspected that he’d be outnumbered by the Indians, Custer underestimated his foe believing his 7th Cavalry could “handle anything it meets” or any Indian force, however large. He rejected an offer of an additional battalion and the use of Gatling guns, fearing the latter would slow him down on his dash across the plains to meet his enemy (& his maker). He also ignored warnings of Indian numbers & their capabilities from both his Crow Indian scouts & his highly regarded guide, “Lonesome” Charley Reynolds, and he chose to divide his whole 7th Cavalry force into 4 smaller detachments, meaning his men were widely scattered and unable to support each other (but it also meant the majority of the 7th Cavalry companies not under Custer’s command on June 25 & 26, 7 in total, survived the 2-day battle). A display in the Visitor Center of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana. September 3, 2016.

Custer rode down to the river bank and formed a line of battle and prepared to charge. But then he stopped and fell back up the hill; but he met Indians coming from above and all sides, and again formed a line. It was here that they were killed.

– White Bull, Cheyenne (1895)

Last Stand Hill & The 7th Cavalry Monument
Today the Little Bighorn battlefield, renamed in December 1991 from Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, serves as a memorial to those who fought and died in the battle. It’s a vast area of largely flat & windswept grassy ranch land and prairie, a high point of which is the so-called Last Stand Hill.

We circled all around them, swirling like water around a stone.

– Two Moons, Cheyenne

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Indian warriors surrounded this position near the climax of the battle on June 25, 1876. Custer and his regiment of 41 remaining men, having fallen back to this location, dug in, shot their horses for breastworks, and fought to the death, Custer’s famous ‘Last Stand’ – although it wasn’t really much of a ‘stand’ as historians estimate that the battle climax lasted less than an hour. Custer and several of his men were found at the crest of the this hill by the surviving members of the 7th Cavalry and were hastily buried on June 28. Most were exhumed in 1877 and reinterred in eastern cemeteries, Custer’s partial remains reburied in West Point Military Cemetery, New York. Those not reinterred in eastern cemeteries in 1877 were reinterred in a single grave on this site in 1881, at the same time the granite obelisk atop Last Stand Hill, the 7th Cavalry Monument, was erected. The slopes surrounding the monument are dotted with some 249 small headstone markers. Erected by the Army in 1890, they denote were the slain troopers were found & originally buried. There are only 2 such markers – red, not white – in the vicinity for the estimated 40-100 fallen Indians, and they were only added to the site in the 1990s in conjunction with the erection of the neighboring Indian Memorial (see later pictures). Last Stand Hill, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana. September 3, 2016.

It was a terrible battle… a hard battle because both sides were brave warriors.

– Red Feather, Lakota

Custer marker stone, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana, USA. September 3, 2016.

‘Here Fell Custer’. The Custer marker stone among the wavy grass on Last Stand Hill, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana. September 3, 2016.

They came on us like a thunderbolt. I did not think it possible that any white men would attack us, so strong as we were.

– Low Dog, Lakota

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana, USA. September 3, 2016.

A display in the Visitor Center of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana. September 3, 2016.

Indian Memorial
Somewhat belatedly, it wasn’t until the 1990s that a monument to honor the Native American participation at the Battle of the Little Bighorn was erected, the result of many years of lobbying by Indian groups; it was as a result of this that the site was renamed, in 1991, from Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

We have waited too long for a memorial symbolizing our bravery, our personal loss, our victory in battle, and our commitment to protecting the way of life which our people knew.

– A. Gay Kingman, Minniconjou Lakota, Testimony before Congress, 1991

Indian Memorial, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana, USA. September 3, 2016.

The Indian Memorial, a sacred open circular structure with a theme of “Peace Through Unity”, is located less than 100 metres from the 7th Cavalry Monument obelisk. The memorial’s wall, a weeping wall, symbolises the tears of the Indian people, their suffering that resulted from the battle fallout, and their struggle to retain their nomadic way of life. The wall’s interior commemorates the five tribes that fought on the site, listing warrior names as well as many pictures, sketches and quotes etched beautifully into a circular slab of granite. It’s a touching memorial, the highlight of which for me was this work at the memorial’s rear. Titled ‘The Spirit Warriors’ by Oglala Lakota artist Colleen Cutschall, it represents the free spirit of warriors as they ride into battle. Indian Memorial, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana. September 3, 2016.

We now have to try to forget what happened here 100 years ago; we have to unite together… Peace through unity.

– Austin Two Moons, Northern Cheyenne Elder, November 11, 1993

Billings, Montana
It was a 60-mile drive from Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument to Billings, Montana, our destination for this day. It was late evening on a Saturday pulling into town. It was quiet and we had difficulty believing this to be what it actually is, namely Montana’s largest city (although it’s not the capital… that’s Cheyenne… we’ll get there, eventually). Indeed, with a population of just over 100,000, happening Billings is the only city in the state to boast a 6-digit population. Nicknamed the “Magic City” because of its rapid growth from its founding as a railroad town in March 1882, the city is continuing to have the largest growth of any city in Montana. We’re just passing through – we’ll be gone in the morning – so as a pit stop Billings and its Montana Brewing Company brewpub, about all we’re gonna have time to see of the city, will do just fine. Just fine indeed.

montana_glossy_square_icon_256Montana

State Nicknames – Big Sky Country; The Treasure State. State Motto – Oro y Plata (Gold and Silver). Admitted To The Union – November 1889 (41st state). Population – 1 million (7th least populous state). Area – 147,000 sq miles (4th largest state). Capital – Helena. National Parks – 1 (Glacier). National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 0/1. Famous For – Nature; fishing; big wildlife; (even bigger) blue skies & clean, crisp, pine-scented air; Custer’s ‘Last Stand’. State Highlights – Wilderness; Glacier National Park. Montana Titbits – The state levies no sales tax; some of Montana’s highways didn’t have a set speed limit until the 1990s; Montana has more miles of wild trout rivers than any other state in the lower 48.
Montana plate, Beartooth Highway, Montana, USA. September 4, 2016.

Montana, State #6. On the Beartooth Highway, Montana. September 4, 2016.

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 8 || September 4, 2016


Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Day 8 || September 4 2016

Route || Billings to West Yellowstone, Montana (via the Beartooth Highway & Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 262 (421)
Posted From || West Yellowstone, Montana
Today’s Highlight || Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

We awoke today to a miserable Sunday, Labor Day Sunday no less. Chilly & wet. Very wet. We were hopeful over our Denny’s breakfast in Billings that conditions would improve as the day progressed such that our much-anticipated drive over the Beartooth Pass en route to Yellowstone National Park, the two obvious high highlights for road trip day 8, would be something other than a total nonevent. Doubtless we’d need our rain jackets for the first time on the trip (we did) and although not much rain fell from the filthy sky, the clouds, stubborn buggers, did indeed hang around for the whole day. That said, they limited their killjoy antics somewhat; they either blanked the awe, like on the Beartooth Pass earlier in the day, or they added to it, as in Yellowstone National Park towards the end of it. It was a swings & roundabouts, a pluses & minuses, an up & down (literally) kind of day. A wet, damp, chilly day that saw us turning off the air-con in the Hyundai Accent and turning on the heating for the first time. But it was still a memorable day. Of course it was.

Silhouettes by Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 4, 2016.

Evening silhouettes on the boardwalks of Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 4, 2016.

We arrived at the start of the Beartooth Highway, our first All-American Road of the road trip, at 1 p.m. Conditions hadn’t improved much from earlier, if at all. And nor did they as we progressed up and up into the clouds.

On the

On the cloud-covered upper portions of the Beartooth Highway, Wyoming. September 4, 2016.

All-American Road #1 – The Beartooth HighwayBeartooth HW
Opened in June 1936, the Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, is a 67 mile stretch of U.S. Highway 212 which winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming and leads to the Northeastern Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Offering breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains of Wyoming and Montana, the route, dubbed “the most beautiful drive in America”, climbs to an altitude of 10,947 feet (3,336 metres) at the Beartooth Pass. Closed in winter, the route’s numerous high alpine plateaus dotted with countless glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls, and wildlife ensure one hell of a scenic drive assuming, of course, the weather plays ball. It didn’t today.

There are sheer drops virtually along the entire route and enough hairpins to make a whirling dervish dizzy.

DangerousRoads.org commenting on the Beartooth Highway

National Scenic Byways & All-American Roads

US Scenic Byways Logo
While each state can and does designate its own Scenic Byways, a National Scenic Byway is a road recognized by the US Department of Transportation for one or more of six “intrinsic qualities”: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. The program was established by Congress in 1991 to preserve and protect the nation’s scenic but often less-travelled roads and promote tourism and economic development. The National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) is administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The most scenic byways are designated All-American Roads. These roads must meet two out of the six intrinsic qualities. An All-American designation means these roads have features that do not exist elsewhere in the US and are unique and important enough to be tourist destinations unto themselves.

As of November 2010, there are 120 National Scenic Byways and 31 All-American Roads, located in 46 states (all except Hawaii, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Texas).

Periodic breaks in the clouds meant we were treated to fleeting glimpses of distant valleys, high-alpine lakes, & far-off peaks, of which there are 20 above 12,000 ft (3657 metres) in the vicinity. We rounded countless blind corners; we tackled numerous switchbacks; we were presented with hundreds of 20 M.P.H. signs; & we passed dozens of scenic lookouts, some of which we actually stopped at in the hopes of seeing something. We rarely did; cloud-enveloped scenic lookouts are just not that scenic. At least it never rained up there.

At the Montana/Wyoming state line on U.S. Route 212, the All-American Beartooth Highway, USA. September 4, 2016.

State sign #6 || The Beartooth Highway zigzags somewhat, twice crossing the Montana-Wyoming state line as it snakes its way across the rugged Beartooth Mountain Range before arriving at the Northeastern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We entered Montana yesterday (Wyoming, too) and today saw us entering it again…. twice (ditto for Wyoming; you need your state line wits about you around these parts). The requisite state line photo today when nearing the 10,947 feet (3,336 metre) Beartooth Pass, the highest point of the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies, was something of a challenge, a blustery & cold but dry affair. Not getting the entering Montana picture yesterday means we got it when exiting, for the first time, the state today. At the Montana/Wyoming state line on U.S. Route 212, the Beartooth Highway. September 4, 2016.

A section of U.S. Route 212, the All-American Beartooth Highway, en route to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 4, 2016.

A section of U.S. Route 212, the All-American Beartooth Highway that we could see having now crossed into Wyoming en route to Yellowstone National Park. September 4, 2016.

Timing. By mid-afternoon we had descended from the Beartooth Pass to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, one of 5 entrances to the park. It was obvious that it had not long since finished raining. The weather was fast improving, the sun breaking through the fragmented clouds with blissful regularity and causing steam to rise from the road surface and from the surrounding foliage. The misty shimmer of our very first glimpses of the greenery on the fringes of Yellowstone ensured it was a beautiful & memorable scene, not to mention a good omen for our pending introduction to one of the world’s most famous protected wilderness areas.

On U.S. Route 212, the All-American Beartooth Highway, outside the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Montana, USA. September 4, 2016.

The beginning of the Beartooth Highway at the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Montana (yes, we were back in Montana at this stage). September 4, 2016.

02 Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park

Size: 2,191,791 acres/8,870 km². Founded: 1872. Annual Visitors: 4.1 million (5th most visited).

This, the first U.S. national park, in part owes its physical asset to the active volcano that lies beneath its surface, where the Park Service says there’s enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon about 11 times.

Seismologist Robert B. Smith has described the park as “an active geologic laboratory — and the laboratory is alive.”

That living landscape speaks through 10,000 hydrothermal features: hissing fumaroles (steam vents), spewing geysers and gurgling mud pots. Old Faithful geyser, the most well-known, erupts about 17 times a day.

The subterranean side of Yellowstone is what the Park Service has called a pressure cooker. Aboveground, much of Yellowstone is a protected paradise. Its beauty became widely known when photographer William Henry Jackson documented the region for the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. His images helped inspire Congress to establish the park.

[It] is no more representative of America than is Disneyland.

– John Steinbeck, author, in “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”

Yellowstone is large, with 17 rivers, 290 waterfalls, five entrances, 4,000 bison and acreage spanning portions of three states (96 percent in Wyoming, 3 percent in Montana and 1 percent in Idaho). It has the largest lake on the continent at a high elevation (7,733 feet).

Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48. In addition to bison, those inhabitants include grizzly bears, wolves, lynxes, foxes, moose and elk.

Humans also have left their mark on this western range. It has 26 associated Native American tribes, 466 miles of roads (310 miles paved) and more than 900 historic buildings. Included among those vintage structures are Old Faithful Inn and the Lake Hotel, built in 1891, the oldest operating hotel in the park.

Also here is an unexpected category: “other life forms.” That “other” is heat-loving bacteria, which create the ribbons of color in hot water.

As the Park Service explains, the green, brown and orange mats are cyanobacteria, which can thrive in waters as hot as 167 degrees. Here, the colors are visible in the Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin. Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the country and the third largest in the world.

In 1871, well before color photography could document the vibrant phenomenon, Ferdinand Hayden, leader of the U.S. Geological Survey expedition, described the hot spring’s “peculiar vividness and delicacy of color [from] nature’s cunning skill.”

From The Washington Post – The Essential guide to all 59 U.S. national parks.

At the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Montana, USA. September 4, 2016.

The sun is out at the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone National Park on U.S. Highway 212 outside the town to Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana. September 4, 2016.

UNESCO logo

The vast natural forest of Yellowstone National Park covers nearly 9,000 km2 ; 96% of the park lies in Wyoming, 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho. Yellowstone contains half of all the world’s known geothermal features, with more than 10,000 examples. It also has the world’s largest concentration of geysers (more than 300 geyers, or two thirds of all those on the planet). Established in 1872, Yellowstone is equally known for its wildlife, such as grizzly bears, wolves, bison and wapitis.

– UNESCO commenting on Yellowstone National Park

First national park in the World, and possibly still the best; amazing geothermal phenomena, spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery, and a vast array of wildlife.

Americansouthwest.net commenting on Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
Incomparable Yellowstone National Park, one of Mother Nature’s most fabulous creations, is easily Wyoming’s flagship attraction, and it would attract more than the 4.1 million people a year it does attract if not for its remote location and limited visitor season – because of the northerly location and high elevation (mostly over 7,500 feet/2,300 metres) the park is fully open for only seven months a year. A massive wildlife-heavy geothermal wonderland, it was America’s, indeed the world’s very first national park: it was established in March of 1872, a full 20 years prior to Montana, Idaho & Wyoming being granted statehood, in a bid to preserve the park’s wildlife inhabitants, everything from bighorn sheep to shaggy grizzlies to giant moose to wolves to bison; its spectacular geography, a cornucopia of alpine lakes, rivers, waterfalls, canyons, & mountain ranges; and of course its unrivaled array of active geothermal features of spouting geysers, boiling mud pools, hissing fumaroles, & colourful hot spots. Over 10,000 geothermal features in total, one-half of all such features found on planet earth.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 4, 2016.

My first picture of Yellowstone National Park proper, not far beyond the Northeast Entrance & just beyond the latest Montana-Wyoming state line (yes, we’re back in Wyoming again). Although world-renowned for its wildlife & geothermal wonders, 80% of Yellowstone’s expansive territory is forested, and of 80% of that 80% are lodgepole pines, a tree with an approximate 200-year lifespan and one that’s particularly common in this region of North America. Now I’m no forester but I’m assuming these are lodgepole pines, looking gorgeous as the mid-afternoon sun attempts to dry them out following a recent downpour. Off U.S. Highway 212 in Northeast Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 4, 2016.

Yellowstone – Protected, For Now
Location location. Given Yellowstone’s national park & UNESCO-listed status, its treasures are protected for eternity, or at least until it decides to blow again. With volcanism at its heart, Yellowstone National Park sits snug atop a 45 mile (72 km) x 30 mile (48 km) caldera of not only the world’s largest active supervolcano but also the only one of the world’s 30+ supervolcanoes to be located on land. Estimates say it – the supervolcano – first erupted about 2 million years ago, then again about 1.3 million years ago, and most recently about 640,000 years ago, the latter eruption collapsing the central part of the present-day park. The clock is ticking on the next eruption, one which, gosh, has the potential to wipe out two-thirds of the US; volcano levels have been rising at a record rate since 2004 with the magma floor rising three inches per year each year between 2009 & 2011 alone, the fastest rate since records began in 1923. The end might indeed be nigh.

Yellowstone – Day 1 – Introduction & The Grand Loop Road Scenic Drive
At 3,424-sq-miles (8,870 km²), Yellowstone is rather big; it’s larger than the states of Rhode Island & Delaware combined and it’s approximately the same size as the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. The park is split into 5 regions, representing the five distinct ecosystems found within its borders – Roosevelt Country, Mammoth Country, Canyon Country, Lake Country, & Geyser Country. While Yellowstone’s backcountry offers almost 1,000 miles of hiking trails, the majority of the park’s highlight features, especially its geothermal delights, are accessible via the paved Grand Loop Road scenic drive, a 142-mile (230-kilometre) circle drive in the very heart of the park. The loop connects visitors to every classic gem from all but 1 of the park’s 5 regions, missing out only on the remote, scenic & underdeveloped Roosevelt Country in the northeast of the park, ironically the region we drove into today having descended from the cloudy heights of the Beartooth Highway. We have tomorrow set aside for a more in-depth exploration of the park via the Grand Loop Road scenic drive but late afternoon today saw us passing through Mammoth Country & south into Geyser Country en route to our overnight location of West Yellowstone, Montana. This is some of what we saw.

Entering Yellowstone National park, USA. September 4, 2016.

National Park #2 || My Dad has longed to visit Yellowstone for many, many years. Me too. I’m so glad we got to experience it together. Thumbs-up, smiles, sunshine, & steam at the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone National Park on U.S. Highway 212 outside the town to Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana. September 4, 2016.

Mammoth Country – Hot Springs & Terraces
A 50-mile drive from the park’s Northeast Entrance and through Roosevelt Country‘s Lamar Valley, following the course of the Lamar River, popular with fishermen, brought us into Mammoth Country in the north of the park. In a park awash with thermal activity, Mammoth Country in particular is home to the continent’s most volatile and oldest-known continuously active (115,000 years, give or take) thermal area, Mammoth Hot Springs.

The terraces of Mammoth Springs, Mammoth Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 4, 2016.

Our first stop proper in Yellowstone was at the undoubted highlight of the the park’s northern reaches, the vast terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs, a large complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine, a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. Created over thousands of years as hot water from the spring cools and deposits calcium carbonate in the form of travertine, today the constantly changing landscape, easily explored via an extensive system of elevated boardwalks, is one of the world’s best protected examples of travertine-depositing hot springs. A portion of the Mound Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs, Mammoth Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 4, 2016.

Geyser Country – Hot Springs & Geysers
Heading south from Mammoth Country brings to you Geyser Country at the western & southwestern portion of the Grand Loop Road scenic drive. Itself split into 5 so-called geyser basins – West Thumb, Upper, Midway, Lower, & Norris – this is probably the most visited region of Yellowstone, and for good reason as it boasts the largest concentration of active geysers on the planet – two-thirds of all the world’s geysers found within Yellowstone’s boundaries, the majority of them here. Our destination was Old Faithful, the most famous geyser of them all located in the Upper Geyser Basin, but en route we stopped off at Grand Prismatic Spring of Midway Geyser Basin, 50 miles from Mammoth Hot Springs and somewhere that was to be the highlight of road trip day 8 for me.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 4, 2016.

A hot spring is a geothermal feature in which hot water rises to the surface allowing heat to escape through evaporation and runoff. Some are larger than others. Grand Prismatic Spring, measuring approximately 200 feet (61 metres) wide & pumping out over 4,000 gallons of boiling water every minute, is Yellowstone’s largest hot spring, the largest of its kind in North America, and the third largest in the world after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica. On the boardwalks of Grand Prismatic Spring in Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 4, 2016.

Although the weather had improved since descending from the Beartooth Pass earlier in the day, it was still very chilly and overcast when at the Midway Geyser Basin. It was late in the day when these pictures were captured (approximately 19:30). The setting sun was sporadically breaking through the cloud cover. This coupled with the thermal steam and mirror-like reflections made for some gorgeous scenes along the 800 metres of elevated wooden boardwalks that provide access to the edge of the scenic steaming spring.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 4, 2016.

Given its striking coloration (it’s not called ‘Grand Prismatic’ for nothin’), Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the most photographed Yellowstone features – colours matching the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism (red, orange, yellow, green, and blue) are all present, some more prominent than others depending on the climatic conditions, the time of day, and area of the spring itself being viewed. While the center of the spring is always an intense blue colour due to sunlight being scattered off particles in the water, at the spring’s fringes, at its runoff, a dark brown/rust colour dominates as seen here from a section spring’s elevated boardwalk system. This colouring is the result of thermophiles, heat-loving microorganisms with colourful pigments that have the ability to take energy from sunlight and thrive in the harsh conditions of a hot spring. Late evening at Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 4, 2016.

We did make it to Old Faithful, our last stop on this day, 7 miles further south from Grand Prismatic Spring. It was dusk (20:30), it was cold, Old Faithful wasn’t scheduled to entertain again for over an hour (when darkness had descended), and we still had a 1-hour drive ahead of us to get to West Yellowstone, Montana, 30 miles away & our overnight location for this day. So we left safe in the knowledge that we’d be back tomorrow, road trip day 9, another day sampling Yellowstone’s many geothermal wonders.

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 9 || September 5, 2016


Buildings on Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

Day 9 || September 5 2016

Route || West Yellowstone to Jackson, Wyoming (via Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 227 (365)
Posted From || Jackson, Wyoming
Today’s Highlight || The thermal wonders of Yellowstone National Park

It was Labor Day today, the unofficial end of the summer. That figures. There was certainly no summer feel around these parts, not for the bulk of the day. It was a chilly, damp, & sometimes wet outing as we continued to sample the geographical features, thermal wonders, and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park. Climatic conditions, and just as they did yesterday, improved towards the very end of the day, so much so that it was almost too nice when driving south through neighboring Grand Teton National Park. One day, two national parks, and two very different climatic outlooks on epic US road trip day 9.

Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

People on a viewing platform atop the 93 metre Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Canyon Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Yellowstone National Park – Day 2 – Grand Loop Road Scenic Drive, Take II
Bidding adieu to Montana’s West Yellowstone, a rather charmless place on the outskirts of the park – and across the state line – whose only purpose seems to be to cater for & overcharge the hordes who descend on Yellowstone, we returned to the park to rejoin the Grand Loop Road Scenic Drive. Our first stop on this day as we embarked on a clockwise drive of the Grand Loop Road was Gibbon Falls, 19 miles from West Yellowstone. While this is where the park’s Gibbon River tumbles for some 84 feet, we stopped here to catch a glimpse of the remnants of the enormous volcanic caldera left behind after the last eruption of the supervolcano Yellowstone sits atop approximately 640,000 years ago. Unfortunately it was raining and we didn’t see a whole lot.

Moving on, it was still raining when we arrived at the nearby Artists Paintpots, 5 miles from Gibbon Falls.

The Artists Paintpots geothermal feature of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

A mile+ of a loop walk from the car park means the Artists Paintpots is one of the quieter features on Yellowstone’s popular Grand Loop Road Scenic Drive. A small hydrothermal basin accessed through a forest of scorched lodgepole pines, the area offers boardwalk access to boiling mud pools of various colours, said to resemble artists’ paintpots, on a hillside overlooking the whole geothermal area. The conditions didn’t show the pools at their finest but the views back whence we came through the steam & rain were rather nice. At the Artists Paintpots hydrothermal basin in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Canyon Country – Canyons & Waterfalls
Twenty miles from the Artists Paintpots, and just outside Canyon Village in Canyon Country, is Yellowstone’s very own Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Officially called the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, the canyon is believed to have formed between 160,000 and 140,000 years ago with the combination of subsequent hydrothermal activity and the flow of the Yellowstone River widening & deepening it ever since; as seen here, the river makes a dramatic entrance into this portion of the canyon via the 308 feet (93 metre) Lower Falls, one of 40 major waterfalls in Yellowstone and one of 290 Yellowstone waterfalls that are more than 15 feet tall and that flow year-round. Twenty miles (32 km) long in total, over 1000 feet (305 metres) deep at its deepest point, & measuring from 1,500 feet to 4000 feet (450-1,200 metres) wide, the canyon is full of dramatic colours and shapes and can be viewed from a variety of rim overlooks or from walkways that descend into the canyon itself. However, easily the canyon’s most accessible, and thus popular, view is from here at the so-called Artist Point, thought to have been named by park photographer F.J. Haynes possibly as early as 1883. Framed by the vibrantly coloured canyon walls, composed of rhyolitic lava & tuff, with idyllic pine forest as a backdrop and the Yellowstone River thundering over the Lower Falls in the distance, this is the one of the iconic Yellowstone images. On a largely damp & overcast morning, the sun actually broke through only for a few minutes when we were at Artist Point, making a special scene all the more pretty. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River as seen from Artist Point in Canyon Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

… As I took in the scene, I realised my own littleness, my helplessness, my dread exposure to destruction, my inability to cope with or even comprehend the mighty architecture of nature…

– Nathaniel P. Langford, 1870, one of the first explorers to record his impressions of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone Wildlife
Yellowstone National Park has the largest concentration of free roaming wildlife in all of the lower 48 states. The park is home to Black & Grizzly Bears – with a healthy population of some 150, Yellowstone has the greatest concentration of grizzlies south of Canada; several hundred Wolves, flourishing since their reintroduction in 1995; Elk; Moose; Deer; Bighorn sheep; Coyotes; Pronghorn; and numerous smaller species. The most commonly spotted Yellowstone resident, especially if not venturing further into the park and away from the Grand Loop Road scenic drive, is the iconic Bison. a.k.a. the American Buffalo, large shaggy-haired meanderers of the North American plains that can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900+ kilograms).

Bison in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

A lone Bison in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley 7 miles south of Artist Point, a broad treeless grassland that was once submerged by nearby Yellowstone Lake. The two best locations for Yellowstone wildlife viewing are the Lamar & Hayden Valleys, the former we drove through yesterday, the latter we drove through today en route from Canyon Country to Geyser Country. We saw bison in both valleys, waiting a while for them to meander across the road so we could continue on your way, a rite of passage for nearly every visitor to the park driving the Grand Loop Road Scenic Drive. The Yellowstone National Park Park bison herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the US and the park is the last place in the country where bison still roam in their natural state. We expected to see more bison than we did, especially grazing here by the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley, but sightings were rare and somewhat far-off. Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Geyser Country – Upper Geyser Basin – Old Faithful, Take II
Continuing for 50 miles through Hayden Valley and via the northwestern shores of Yellowstone Lake, the centrepiece of Lake Country and the largest freshwater high-alpine lake in North America, brought us back to the Geyser Country’s Upper Geyser Basin, some 19 hours after leaving it late the previous evening. We had to wait around for a while in the biting chill but we eventually got to see Yellowstone’s most famous resident do what he does without fail approximately 17 times a day. Faithful indeed.

Capturing an Old Faithful eruption in Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Iceland has spouting geysers. Russia, Chile, & New Zealand too. But Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin houses the majority of the world’s active geysers, some 300 in total, two-thirds of the world’s total. Many of these put on their own show, blowing at regular intervals, but the darling of all Yellowstone spouting springs is of course the geyser known as Old Faithful. Easily Yellowstone’s most popular feature and named for its frequent eruptions, this is one of the most predictable geographical features on Earth; 90-second to 5-minute long eruptions occur approximately every 90 minutes (+/- 10 minutes) spewing from 3700 to 8400 gallons (14,000 to 32,000 litres) of water up to 180 feet (55 metres) into the air (a geyser is a basically a spring with ‘plumbing’ issues, constrictions that increase pressure buildup resulting in periodic and sometimes spectacular discharges of hot water and steam). The Old Faithful show is a busy spectacle (the old geezer – see what I did there? – can certainly draw the hordes) and like any busy spectacle, sometimes it’s just as much fun capturing those capturing as it is photographing the main event itself. Capturing an Old Faithful eruption in Upper Geyser Basin of Geyser Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

It was cold and overcast when we were arriving at Upper Gyser Basin, a biting wind blowing light, sideways hale for a period when we were standing on the Old Faithful boardwalk awaiting the start of the performance. It felt anything but early September. But that same wind also blew the clouds away and as the show began the sky was quickly clearing from the north, to the left of Old Faithful as we faced him. Again, and just like earlier in the day at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River in Canyon Country, the weather improved right on cue.

Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

He may be regular and he may be stationary but make no mistake, Old Faithful is not an easy subject to photograph. He’s too far away for a start and doing him justice with a camera requires more than just being there ready, willing, and able with a wide-angle lens. Quickly realising this, I dispensed with the camera and resorted to a smartphone panorama of the Old Faithful scene, a much better option for the situation I found myself in. Seen here is the tail end of what could only be classed as a rather tame and brief eruption – it barely lasted 2 minutes & didn’t nearly reach expected heights. On the boardwalks surround Old Faithful in Upper Geyser Basin, Geyser Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Geyser Hill & Old Faithful Historic District
Old Faithful hogs most of limelight but he’s only one of many geothermal features in Geyser Country’s Upper Geyser Basin, home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world. An array of hydrothermal features on Geyser Hill behind Old Faithful can easily be explored via a loop on raised boardwalks – more colourful hot springs, fumeroles, mudpots, and of course geysers. We explored the area in (mostly) beautiful sunshine, the likes of which we hadn’t been treated to in days, but only after a sustenance stop in the cozy but busy innards of the 1923 wood-shingled Old Faithful Lodge. With large floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Old Faithful itself, the log cabin-style lodge is part of the wider Old Faithful Historic District, the concentration of historic wooden buildings in the vicinity of the world’s most famous geyser.

Gyser Hill, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Boardwalks through boiling & colourful hydrothermal features in a section of Gyser Hill in Upper Geyser Basin of Geyser Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Old Faithful and the Old Faithful Inn as seen from Geyser Hill of Upper Geyser Basin, Geyser Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

When exploring Geyser Hill, Old Faithful did his thing again (left), approximately 60 minutes after his last eruption, the one we witnessed, and some way short of the estimated 90-minute (+/- 10 minutes) interval. We didn’t see that coming. To the right of the image is the famous Old Faithful Inn, a multi-storey inn built in 1904. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 & part of the wider Old Faithful Historic District, the structure is the largest log hotel in the world, possibly even the largest log building in the world. With its log and limb lobby and massive (500-ton, 85-foot/26-metre) stone fireplace, the inn is an example of the “Golden Age” of rustic resort architecture, a style which is also known as National Park Service Rustic. The first of the great park lodges of the American west, today it is one of the few log hotels still standing in the US. Old Faithful and the Old Faithful Inn as seen from Geyser Hill of Upper Geyser Basin, Geyser Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

On Geyser Hill of Upper Geyser Basin, Geyser Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble. A parting shot from Yellowstone, a bubbling hot spring on Geyser Hill of Upper Geyser Basin, Geyser Country, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Yellowstone to Grand Teton
It was a 1-hour, 40-mile drive south from Old Faithful to the Southern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, and a further 7 miles via the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway to the official northern boundary of Grand Teton National Park.

03 Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park

Size: 310,044 acres/1,255 km². Founded: 1929. Annual Visitors: 3.1 million.

The superlatives “awesome” and “amazing” have been diminished by overuse. But we still have “majestic.” And there are still landscapes — including here — that merit that description.

Majestic might also apply to the creatures that populate the ground that surrounds the Teton peaks. Park inhabitants include bison, weighing in at as much as 2,000 pounds, and calliope hummingbirds, as light as two paper clips.

This is how mountains are supposed to look.

– President Theodore Roosevelt

The tiny calliope breeds in the chilly mountain environments and is remarkable for being the smallest bird in the United States and Canada and the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world, according to Cornell University.

The beauty that surrounds such creatures is, like them, both grand and subtle. They all play a role in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which encompasses this park, Yellowstone Park and portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

This vast network of flora, fauna and geology is a significant interconnected environment. Here, grass is essential for the soil and for the animals it feeds. Tickle grass and tufted hair grass, among others, tint the vistas with subtle hues.

The land here beside the city of Jackson Hole also fed early tribal inhabitants. Native Americans roasted camas bulbs, for example, in underground pits.

Today Grand Teton, named for the main peak, feeds visitors’ hunger for nature and recreation. Activities include mountaineering, hiking, backpacking, bicycling, fishing, boating, floating, skiing, snowshoeing and, of course, sightseeing.

Among the hiking trails is the Paintbrush and Cascade canyons’ 18-mile loop. The Wilderness Society says this route offers “winning views” of the Cathedral Group, which are the tallest peaks in the Teton Range.

The panoramas here have attracted moviemakers. Grand Teton has served as a backdrop for parts of “Django Unchained,” “Rocky IV” and “Shane.”

From The Washington Post – The Essential guide to all 59 U.S. national parks.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

National Park #3 || At the Northern Entrance to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Especially high, rugged, steep and spectacular mountain range, north of Jackson and south of Yellowstone National Park. Below the summits are glacial lakes, steep canyons, forests, meadows and the wide valley of the Snake River.

Americansouthwest.net commenting on Grand Teton National Park

It was late in the day – 18:30 – when we found ourselves driving US Highway 191 south through Grand Teton’s Snake River valley with the spectacular 30-mile-long stretch of the twelve glacier-carved summits of the Teton Range, all above 12,000 feet & collectively one of the nation’s most awe-inspiring landscapes, towering above the flatlands to the west/our right. Always to the west/our right. The sun too, it, and having been absent for the majority of the day, now determined to make up for lost time. Still yet to disappear behind the jagged wall of the Teton peaks, its intrusiveness rendered it impossible to photograph the Tetons themselves – this is a place to visit in the morning when the sun is rising from the east, not the evening when it’s setting to the west.

We continued on, keeping a close eye on the progress of the sinking sun. While its presence was a nuisance where photographing the Teton Range was concerned, I was hoping for its company at our destination towards the southern end of the park, the historic buildings of the park’s Mormon Row.

Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Mormon Row Road, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Mormon Row
Mormon Row is a line of homestead complexes near the southeast corner of Grand Teton National Park. The locale was settled by Mormon migrants from Idaho in the 1890s; they were sent from the Salt Lake Valley to find new settlements to support their expanding population. As per Mormon tendencies to create clustered communities, to enable the sharing of labor & community, Mormon Row was developed as a line village, a relatively dense development of buildings clustered along the line of a connecting road – Mormon Row Road – & allowing for extensive pasturage along either side behind the buildings; it was a development style in stark contrast to isolated homesteads elsewhere in the region. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, today Mormon Row is a popular destination for tourists and (especially) photographers on account of the historic buildings, the herds of bison that tend to roam the flat grassland (nowhere to be seen today), and, of course, the presence of the spectacular Teton Range rising in the background.

Buildings on Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Settled as Grovont but commonly known today as Mormon Row, the settlement, stretching for 1 kilometre along Mormon Row Road, once had 33 homesteads surrounding a church and a school. Today buildings from only 6 homesteads remain. This is one of the most photogenic of all the remaining structures, the so-called Pink House of the John Moulton Homestead (also seen here is the small homestead outhouse, and a bleak prospect it would have been to visit that in the depths of a Grand Teton winter). Captured late in the evening (19:30), the sun was setting behind the towering Teton Range across the flat grassland of the park’s Snake River Valley. Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

The T.A. Moulton Barn on Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA. September 5, 2016.

Keeping the sun behind me (but also the spectacular Teton Range), this is a panorama showing Mormon Row’s T. A. Moulton Barn. Situated on one of the very last parcels of land sold to the National Park Service by the Moulton family, this barn is the only remaining building of the homestead built by Thomas Alma Moulton and his sons between about 1912 and 1945. By some accounts, this is the most photographed barn in America, a titbit I tend to believe. However, and unlike this capture, the barn is nearly always photographed from the other side, in the morning light with the Teton Range as an obvious backdrop (Google it), an iconic image that has come to symbolise the wider Grand Teton region. The T. A. Moulton Barn on Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. September 5, 2016.

Jackson
We didn’t plan on holing up in Jackson but rolling into town close on 9 p.m. meant it was convenient to do so; Jackson is only a short 15-mile drive south of Mormon Row beyond the Southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park. Again, we’re just passing through and will be continuing on our merry way in the morning. We could have picked a worse place to spend the night, the high prices aside – as the southern gateway to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park, you can bank on frontier-esque Jackson being busy & things being a tad more pricey than they probably should be. That said, it’s a pretty little town. Friendly too, so friendly in fact that people have taken notice. Yes, we could have picked worse indeed. But then again, there are 7 better options, unfortunately none of which were as conveniently located tonight as Jackson was.

“The people are friendly and the views are out of this world” here below the “breathtaking Tetons.” It’s a “genuine taste of the original American West” that includes “fantastic nightlife for the younger crowd.” And let it be known that a raft trip down the Tetons was “the most enjoyable experience” one reader “ever had with clothes on.”

– Conde Nast Traveler commenting on Jackson, Wyoming, which they voted to be the 8th friendliest city in the US 2015. (link)

PICTURE OF THE DAY || DAY 10 || September 6, 2016


Abandoned. Church & 1955 DeSoto. Montpelier, Idaho.

Day 10 || September 6 2016

Route || Jackson, Wyoming, to Salt Lake City, Utah (via Alpine, Wyoming; & Montpelier, Paris, & Bear Lake, Idaho)
Miles (Kilometres) Driven || 280 (450)
Posted From || Salt Lake City, Utah
Today’s Highlight || The Utah State Capitol Building

After the hectic last few days of the Labor Day weekend, we envisaged today, road trip day 10, to be something of a down day. Upon first glance, the almost 300-mile drive south from Jackson, Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah, via a small portion of southeast Idaho, doesn’t seem to offer up many distractions. The highlight today was to be Utah’s 41-mile Logan Canyon Scenic Byway; we chose our route south to incorporate that. As it turned out that scenic road wasn’t all that scenic. Dusty yes, scenic not so much. Today was special for other reasons. Many other reasons. We didn’t bank on the Americana overload of the Yankee Doodle’s Café in Alpine, Wyoming; the Salt River Pass of western Wyoming’s Salt River Range; the photogenic castoffs in bear-fetish Montpelier, Idaho; the famous Tabernacle in Paris, Idaho, the most photogenic remnant of the region’s pioneering Mormon past; the region’s gorgeous aquamarine Bear Lake, the ‘Caribbean of the Rockies’; and sunset at the impressive Utah State Capitol Building in polished Salt Lake City. Throw into the mix two state line crossings and brilliant, uninterrupted sunshine from sunup to sundown and you’ve got the ingredients for a long day of unexpected photogenic treats.

On the steps of the impressive State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

Towards the end of road trip day 10. Evening shadows on the sweeping steps to the impressive Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

U.S. Highway 89 – The West’s Most Western Highway
Although we drove a portion of it yesterday in getting from the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park to Jackson (via Grand Teton National Park), today will be the first day heading south via U.S. Highway 89. This north-south backbone of the Rockies connects Canada to Mexico and was once billed by National Geographic as “The #1 Drivers’ Drive in the World”. It is sometimes called the National Park Highway as it links seven national parks, five of which we plan on visiting & two of which – Yellowstone & Grand Teton – we already have. We’ll follow the road south from here all the way to Page, Arizona, some 650 miles & three days’ drive from here via 3 (more) national parks, and no doubt many, many scenic highlights.

US Route 89 is a slow road, just two lanes for most its 1800 miles from Canada to Mexico. The views are unobstructed and right out the window. It is easy to stop to take a picture or just to smell the air. Small town museums and shops invite you to come in and browse. Be surprised. Learn something new. Or just catch your breath and relax.

– US89Society.org

The chill in the air aside, the brilliant sunshine we woke to today in Jackson was a welcome change from the inclement conditions we’d woken to the previous two mornings of the trip. With the benefit of hindsight, opting not to breakfast in Jackson itself was an inspired decision as it meant we did stop at the Yankee Doodle’s Cafe in Alpine, 37 miles south of Jackson at the end of the Snake River Canyon. Breakfast was to be just the first of many road trip day 10 highlights.

Americana overload. Yankee Doodle's Cafe in Alpine, Wyoming. September 6, 2016.

Americana overload. An Aladdin’s Cave of Stars & Stripes, everything in Alpine’s gun-friendly All-American Yankee Doodle’s Cafe is red, white & blue, and proud of it too; even the sugar is tinged with specs of red & blue. It’s the kind of place where camera-toting tourists stand out, mainly because it’s impossible not to; I challenge any out-of-towner to not brandish a camera in here. Despite the claim that this is ‘Where The Food’s Just Dandy!!’, the fare is the usual diner staples, at least where breakfast is concerned. The surrounds are a tad more memorable. This is one start to a day I’ll not be forgetting for a long while. Yankee Doodle’s Cafe in Alpine, Wyoming. September 6, 2016.

The stretch of U.S. Highway 89 south of Alpine passes though western Wyoming farmland and quiet cowboy towns; it’s all ranches and irrigation; there’s certainly a healthy reliance on water around these parts. Fifty miles from Alpine we reached the Salt River Pass where there was something to read, reason enough to stop, stretch our legs, and bask in the sun.

Atop the Salt River Pass of the Salt River Range, western Wyoming, USA. September 6, 2016.

It didn’t feel like we were on a pass but we were, the Salt River Pass. At 7,630 feet (2,325 metres), the pass crosses between the Gannett Hills and the Salt River Range of southwestern Wyoming. In the days of the 19th century westward migration of pioneers who crossed the Rocky Mountains in wagon trains to settle the West, the Salt River Pass was situated on the so-called Lander Cut Off, an alternative road from the Emigrant Trail, the collective name for the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. Emigrant travel over the pass rapidly declined with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, information garnered from the info boards seen here. On U.S. Highway 89 atop the Salt River Pass of the Salt River Range in southwestern Wyoming. September 6, 2016.

A further 10 miles along U.S. Highway 89, and after descending from the heights of the Salt River Pass, we reached the Wyoming-Idaho state line, bringing an end to our time, for now, in Wyoming.

At the Wyoming - Idaho state line in on U.S. Highway 89, western Wyoming, USA. September 6, 2016.

No GPS here. It’s old school maps the whole way. Arriving at the Wyoming-Idaho state line on U.S. Highway 89. September 6, 2016.

idaho_glossy_square_icon_256Idaho

State Nickname – Gem State. State Motto – Esto Perpetua (Let It Be Perpetual). Admitted To The Union – July 1890 (43rd state). Population – 1.6 million (12th least populous state). Area – 83,600 sq miles (14th largest state). Capital – Boise. National Parks – 0. National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 4/2. Famous For – Potatoes; outdoor adventure options. State Highlights – All that blue-green backcountry wilderness. Idaho Titbits – Idaho has more protected wilderness areas and national forest than any state not called Alaska; the locals are called Idahoans; measuring only 45 miles (72 kilometres), Idaho shares the shortest land border of all the 13 US states that share a border with Canada; Idaho is among the few states in the nation without a major freeway linking its two largest metropolitan areas, Boise in the south and Coeur d’Alene in the north; the state boasts two time zones; nearly every known type of gemstone has been found here, hence the nickname ‘Gem State’; Idaho produces one-third of the potatoes grown in the US, the humble spud is the official state vegetable, & ‘Famous Potatoes’ even makes an appearance on the state vehicle registration plate.
Idaho. State #7. Montpelier, Idaho. September 6, 2016.

Idaho. State #7. Montpelier, Idaho. September 6, 2016.

At the Wyoming - Idaho state line on U.S. Highway 89 in western Wyoming, USA. September 6, 2016.

State sign #7 || At the Wyoming-Idaho state line on U.S. Highway 89. September 6, 2016.

…Hop in the car and go for drive. You might be surprised by what you discover…

– VisitIdaho.org

Surprised indeed. We drove all 42 miles of U.S. Highway 89 through the extreme southeast corner of Idaho, the stretch of highway connecting the Wyoming/Idaho & Idaho/Utah state lines. We spent a little over 3 hours in the state. Far from being just a conduit, what I saw today of Idaho’s U.S. Highway 89 has me panging for a return to do the rest of the state justice.

Signs in Montpelier, Idaho, USA. September 6, 2016.

Traffic junction signs heading south through Montpelier in southeast Idaho. September 6, 2016.

Montpelier
Seventeen miles across the state line via U.S. Highway 89 is Montpelier, the largest community in the Bear Lake Valley, a farming region north of Bear Lake that was settled in 1863 by Mormon pioneers on the route of the old Oregon Trail. We stopped off for petrol (gas), quickly noticing the town has a fixation with bears. Bear statues abound. There were even bears offering us a seat.

Beware Of The Bears. Montpelier, Idaho, USA. September 6, 2016.

We couldn’t resist. As far as we could discern, ‘Beware Of The Bears’ is something of a Montpelier slogan. Across the road from where were were sitting, on the corner of the town’s Washington & Tenth Streets, is a life-sized statue of a chained Old Ephraim, a 10-foot-tall (3 metre), 1,100 pound (500 kilogram) grizzly bear that lived in the early part of the 20th century. A scourge of local livestock (he was said to have a particular liking for sheep), he was hunted and killed in 1923 by a local farmer. Sadly he was believed to have been the very last grizzly to roam these parts. Washington Street, Montpelier, southeast Idaho. September 6, 2016.

Abandoned 1955 Desoto in Montpelier, Idaho, USA. September 6, 2016.

This caught our attention and made us pull over as we were leaving Montpelier, an abandoned 1955 DeSoto, an American automobile marque that was manufactured by the DeSoto Division of the Chrysler Corporation between 1928 and 1961. Today this DeSoto sits by the side of the road, a restoration project just waiting to happen; a ‘For Sale’ sign also provides a number to call for interested buyers. By the side of U.S. Highway 89 outside Montpelier, southeast Idaho. September 6, 2016.

Abandoned - 1955 DeSoto & church. Montpelier, Idaho, USA. September 6, 2016.

Abandoned – 1955 DeSoto & church. Montpelier, Idaho. September 6, 2016.

Paris
It’s only 10 miles south on U.S. Highway 89 from Montpelier to Paris, another pioneer town that was founded in September 1863 when a wagon train brought more than 30 families of Mormon colonisers. More soon followed and within a year nearly 1,000 people lived here, all of whom believed they had settled in Utah; it wasn’t until a boundary survey was completed almost a decade later in 1872 that they discovered they were actually living in Idaho. Close – Paris is only 17 miles north of the Utah state line – but no cigar.

The Romanesque 1880s Tabernacle in Paris, Idaho, USA. September 6, 2016.

Paris is a sleepy town that’s home to the famous Mormon Tabernacle, a building that can hold some 2000, four times the population of the town itself. The gorgeous Romanesque building was designed by one of Brigham Young’s sons – Don Carlos Young – and was built by skilled local craftsmen between 1884 and 1889; carved red sandstone was hauled via ox teams from a canyon 18 miles away & shingles and other timber came from nearby forests. Its interior, closed when we were snooping around the exterior, houses an intricate wooden ceiling, stone carvings, heirloom art, and historic artifacts of early settlers in the Bear Lake Valley. The building, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, was most recently refurbished in 2004-2005. After well over a century of use, this unaltered monument remains to this day as a reminder of pioneer achievement and continues to operate as a meeting place for the local community. Main Street, Paris, southeast Idaho. September 6, 2016.

Bear Lake
Leaving Paris and the photogenic hits just kept on coming. It’s only a further few miles south down U.S. Highway 89 to the northern shores of fulgent Bear Lake.

By the aquamarine waters of Bear Lake as seen from U.S. Highway 89 in southeast Idaho, USA. September 6, 2016.

Measuring 109 square miles (280 km²), Bear Lake is a natural freshwater lake straddling the Idaho-Utah state line and split equally between the two states. The lake is renowned for its Cutthroat trout and is home to four species of fish found nowhere else on earth due to the lake’s 100,000 years of geographic isolation. It has been called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” due to its intense turquoise color, caused by the presence of suspended calcium in the water, water colour that seems to change depending on climatic conditions. On a sunny day today it was a dazzling sight. By the waters of Bear Lake as seen from U.S. Highway 89 in southeast Idaho. September 6, 2016.

One of the most agreeable prospects imaginable, saluted and blessed our vision… At first seen the lake appeared smooth and polished like a vast field of glass, and took its colour from the sky which was clear, unclouded blue.

– Warren Angus Ferris, Mountain Man (1832)

Idaho-Utah State Line
Equidistant along the western shore of Bear Lake is the Idaho-Utah state line, bringing an end to our brief visit to the 7th state of the road trip. Next up Utah, a state that I suspect is going to be a bit special.

At the Idaho - Utah state line on U.S. Highway 89. September 6, 2016.

State sign #8 || At the Idaho-Utah state line on U.S. Highway 89 by the shores of Bear Lake. September 6, 2016.

utah_glossy_square_icon_256Utah

State Nickname – Beehive State. State Motto – Industry. Admitted To The Union – January 1896 (45th state). Population – 3 million (20th least populous state). Area – 84,900 sq miles (13th largest state). Capital – Salt Lake City. National Parks – 5 (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef & Zion). National Scenic Byways/All-American Roads – 7/1. Famous For – Mormons; geographic grandeur; skiing; being a hard place to get a beer. State Highlights – Polished Salt Lake City & its Temple Square; scenic southern sandstone landscapes. Utah Titbits – Utah is the only state with a majority population belonging to a single church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; in 2012, the state was voted as the “best state to live in” based on 13 forward-looking economic, lifestyle & health-related measurements; Utah is the only state where every county within its borders contains some national forest; Utah has the lowest percentage of births out of wedlock but also the highest total birth rate and thus the youngest population of any US state; although originated in Kentucky, Salt Lake City hosted the very first KFC franchise; with strict laws regarding alcohol, tobacco & gambling, Utah is also one of only two states in the US, the other being Hawaii, to outlaw all forms of gambling. Boring.
Salt Lake City, Utah. September 7, 2016.

Utah. State #8. Utah relies heavily on income from tourists and travellers visiting the state’s parks and ski resorts. Thus, and as with most US states, the need to brand Utah and create an impression of the state throughout the world has led to several state slogans, the most famous of which being “The Greatest Snow on Earth”, which has been in use in Utah officially since 1975 (although the slogan was in unofficial use as early as 1962) and now adorns nearly 50% of state license plates. In 2001, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt approved a new state slogan, “Utah! Where Ideas Connect”, which lasted until March 10, 2006, when the Utah Travel Council and the office of Governor Jon Huntsman announced that “Life Elevated” would be the new state slogan, the slogan still in use today. On the streets of Salt Lake City, Utah. September 7, 2016.

Utah – Defies Expectations
I did a lot of research prior to hitting the US road. Somewhat unexpectedly, Utah got me excited more than any other state. Aside from the state’s fascinating Mormon history and a desire to experience for myself the showcase Mormon capital of Salt Lake City, I was to learn pre-departure that between the pine-forested mountain valleys in the north of the state and the red-rock canyon & desert country of its south, multi-coloured Utah boasts an enviable number of national parks – 5, second only to Alaska & California (8 each) – and a total of 8 scenic byways meaning the state is one endless road trip. It was mostly VisitUtah.com that perked my interest, the best of the many state tourist board websites I perused – it’s awash with information, pictures, videos, (downloadable) maps and road trip itineraries. Fodor’s, a leading name in travel recommendations for almost 80 years, did their bit, too. Their ‘Go List’ for 2016, a yearly list of 25 can’t-miss spots around the world, topped out with Utah at number 1, claiming that it “defies expectations” and that it is “the place to get outdoors in 2016.” Don’t mind if I do.

Utah & The Mormons
Fleeing religious persecution in Illinois – which included the death of their founder, Joseph Smith, in 1844 – & led by Bringham Young, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a.k.a. LDS or Mormons, arrived in the region in July 1847. Feeling a spiritual connection to the place, they claimed it as their new home, their Zion, establishing Salt Lake City in July of that year.

Young had an expansionist’s view of the territory that he and the Mormon pioneers were settling, calling it Deseret – which according to the Book of Mormon was an ancient word for “honeybee”. This is symbolized by the beehive on the Utah flag, and the state’s motto, “Industry”.

– Wikipedia

Repeated petitions for statehood to the U.S. government, which had only taken control of Utah from Mexico in February 1848, were rejected, the US government not liking the Mormon’s polygamist ways. Eventually concessions were made, wives forfeited (the LDS Church banned polygamy in its Manifesto of 1890) and Utah joined the union in 1896. Today approximately 62% of 3 million Utahans are Mormons with the church greatly influencing state culture and daily life.

Utah – Road-Trippin’

Prepare to have your breath taken away — or breathe new life into the road trip. Either way, with more than 2,200 miles of destination roadways, Utah has the cure for your carcolepsy. No matter where you are traveling in Utah, take the scenic byway there and you’ll be rewarded with an eyeful of inspiring landscapes, ancient heritage, profound geology or diverse wildlife. While Utah’s scenic byways are themselves destinations, they also connect many of The Mighty Five® national parks, forty-three state parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas and more than nine million acres of national forest land with Utah’s vibrant cities and welcoming towns.

VisitUtah.com

National Scenic Byway #2 – Logan Canyon Scenic BywayUS Scenic Byways Logo
With 7 National Scenic Byways and 1 All-American Road, maybe Utah really does have ‘the cure for your carcolepsy.’ It didn’t take long after crossing over the Utah state line before we reached Garden City, a popular summer resort town on the shores of Bear Lake and the start/end of the state’s Logan Canyon Scenic Byway.

Signs on the Bear Lake overlook of the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway of US Highway 89 in northern Utah, USA. September 6, 2016.

The 41-mile Logan Canyon Scenic Byway between Garden City & Logan in extreme northwestern Utah runs parallel to the Logan River through Logan Canyon. First completed in 1871, it wasn’t until 1939 that it was improved and maintained for year-round travel (I hear the winters are fierce around here). Assigned National Scenic Byway status in 2002, the road passes through dense forests, lush meadows, & rugged rock formations. The thing is, it reads more scenic than it actually is – it’s not all that scenic, or at least it wasn’t today, brilliant sunshine aside (seemingly it’s best in autumn/Fall). The scenic highlight of the not-so-scenic route today was the vista overlooking the brilliant turquoise-colored Bear Lake as seen from the Bear Lake Overlook, 6 miles beyond Garden City & our first stop of the byway. There’s plenty to read up here with information panels covering everything from the geology to the fauna to the history of the region. There’s even regional itinerary suggestions and some Bear Lake-inspired poetry from Utahan poet May Swenson, as seen here. On the Bear Lake Overlook of the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway of U.S. Highway 89 in northern Utah. September 6, 2016.

An Ill-Fated Logan Canyon Scenic Byway Adventure Sidetrip
Approximately half way along the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway of U.S. Highway 89 is a turnoff onto the unpaved Temple Fork Road. Having being introduced to him earlier in the day in Montpelier, Idaho, we decided to tackle this road in a bid to visit the grave of Old Ephraim, said to be the last grizzly bear to have lived in this region. Things didn’t quite go to plan.

On the dusty Temple Fork Road off the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway of U.S. Highway 89, northern Utah, USA. September 6, 2016.

It became apparent rather quickly that the Temple Fork Road is a road suited for four-wheel drive vehicles only, just like this one seen here driving a portion of the road we’d not long since passed. Somewhat stubbornly, we pushed on assuming all the while that road conditions, punishing in places, would improve. They never did and we were eventually forced to concede defeat & turn around 6.1 miles into the 9-mile drive to Old Ephraim’s grave. On a section of the dusty Temple Fork Road of Temple Fork Canyon off the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway of U.S. Highway 89, northern Utah. September 6, 2016.

Dust on the Temple Fork Road off the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway of U.S. Highway 89 in northern Utah, USA. September 6, 2016.

Dust. Lots of it, inside & out. Our memento from our adventure on the four-wheel-drive-only Temple Fork Road off the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway of U.S. Highway 89 in northern Utah. September 6, 2016.

The rest of this day was spent driving the remaining 100 miles to Salt Lake City, a drive that did little to rid us of the dust. We arrived looking very gauche in the polished Utah capital. It was a balmy 24°C, the 4°C of yesterday in Yellowstone National Park a distant memory. We were in dire need of a car wash. Instead, however, we headed straight for the highest point of the city, Capitol Hill, home to the impressive Utah State Capitol, the main building of the wider 40-acre Utah State Capitol Complex. Looking so inviting when bathed in the late afternoon sunlight, the building’s massive Utah granite facade and Corinthian-style lines beckoned us from afar.

Fronting the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

Fronting the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is located in the northeast corner of the Salt Lake Valley surrounded by the Great Salt Lake and the steep Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges. The city that stands here today was founded in July 1847 when Brigham Young famously led Mormon pioneers into the valley declaring “This is the right place, drive on.” At the time the region was part of Mexico – it wasn’t until February of 1848 that it became US land. The early pioneers extensively irrigated and cultivated the arid valley floor, the ancient lakebed of Lake Bonneville, an extension of the nearby Great Salt Lake which existed at the end of the last Ice Age. The city prospered and became the capital of the Utah Territory in 1858 and then the state capital of the new state of Utah in 1896, but only after the Mormons, who had petitioned for statehood since just after the city’s formation, agreed to give up their polygamist ways. Today SLC has a population of just under 200,000 making it the most populous municipality in Utah. Very much a gateway city for travellers en route to Utah’s ski resorts, Utah’s renowned red rock country to the south, or to the wonders of Yellowstone & Grand Teton national parks to the north, the vibrant city itself, thrust into the international limelight by hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, is becoming more of an attraction in its own right, a place that hasn’t yet been “discovered” by the masses.

Sunset at the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

The last rays of the day striking the southwestern side of the dome of the Utah State Capitol. The Neoclassical revival, Corinthian-style building was constructed of Utah granite between 1912 and 1916. The symmetrical building measures 404 feet (123 metres) long, 240 feet (73 metres) wide, and with a central dome rising 250 feet (76 metres). It southern facade and east & west sides are adorned with a total of 52 Corinthian columns each measuring 32 feet (9.8 metres) tall by 3.5 feet (1.1 metre) in diameter. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and underwent an extensive 3-&-a-half-year restoration beginning in 2004. The restoration, which included work to earthquake proof the building, didn’t come cheap meaning this is, according to some sources, the costliest state capitol complex in the US. Capitol Hill, Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

Like most state Capitol buildings not in Washington D.C., the Utah State Capitol is fully open to the public with tours running at regular intervals. No tours were scheduled when we were taking a look around (it was late in the evening) but we had unrestricted access to the building’s stunning interior, no doubt looking all the more dapper for the mid-2000s restoration.

The dome of the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

The Utah State Capitol shines inside & out, nowhere more so than when standing here, under the dome in the centre of the building’s impressive rotunda. This ‘main floor’ is actually the third floor of the 5-storey building, and the first floor of the building’s 3-storey rotunda, the geographical & symmetrical centre of the building. The rotunda is supported by 4 massive coffered arches, murals on which depict 4 scenes from Utah’s history, the coffered arches themselves supported by 4 massive columns housing 4 statues known collectively as “The Great Utahs”. The flanking east atria seen in the distance, & just like the matching west atria, contains large skylights and two levels of balconies supported by twenty-four columns. At the end of each atrium is a marble staircase and a semi-circular mural, the first commissioned works of art in the capitol. A tribute to the early pioneers, the mural seen here, located above the entrance to the Supreme Court, is known as the ‘Madonna of the Wagon’. The building’s interior really is an impressive sight, not to mention a popular movie location – the Georgian marble floors and sweeping stairways are often used by Hollywood filmmakers looking to depict the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. The interior of the Utah State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

The dome of the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

The interior ceiling of the Utah State Capitol dome, which reaches 165 feet (50 metres) above the floor of the rotunda, includes a large painting by artist William Slater of seagulls flying among clouds; the California gull is Utah’s official state bird and represents the Miracle of the gulls from Utah’s history. Also within the dome, towards its base, is a cyclorama depicting eight scenes from Utah’s history. Not painted until the 1930s, this portion of the dome was undecorated when the capitol opened in 1916. Finally, suspended from the dome’s ceiling is the original chandelier. Looking small when hanging from the massive dome, the fixing still weighs in at 3,000 lb (1,400 kilograms), the chain supporting alone adding an additional 1,000 lb (450 kilograms). The chandelier is an exact copy of one hanging in the Arkansas State Capitol; during the mid-2000s restoration, Arkansas sent several period glass diffusers to Utah to replace broken ones found in its chandelier. The dome of the Utah State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

Salt Lake City at sunset as seen from the steps of the State Capitol Building. Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

A panorama showing the Capitol Hill Complex region and downtown SLC resting in the Salt Lake Valley as seen at sunset from the top step of the Utah State Capitol. While the Utah State Capitol building is the obvious centrepiece, the well-maintained 40-acre Capitol Hill Complex houses many buildings & memorials including a Vietnam War Memorial, Utah Law Enforcement Memorial, and a monument dedicated to the Mormon Battalion. As seen here, the arid valley floor that was extensively irrigated and cultivated by the early pioneers and from which SLC sprung is surrounded by the Wasatch Mountain range, left/east, & the Oquirrh Mountain range, over which the sun is setting to the right/west. Bare this time of year, in winter months these hills are alive with skiers and snowboarders enjoying the facilities of world-class ski resorts in ski areas like Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude. This is seemingly where you find the ‘Greatest Snow On Earth’. Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

Salt Lake City today was easy. Finding accommodation in the central North Temple Inn, a few blocks from the city’s famed Temple Square, the spiritual heart of Utah; utilising the TRAX, SLC’s awesome light rail system, into central downtown, where the service can be used for free; and finding somewhere to eat (& drink). It was all very easy. All very straightforward. The only problem, which wasn’t really a problem at all, was the keeping abreast of the state’s alcohol laws.

Squatters Pub Brewery, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. September 6, 2016.

Full Suspension Pale Ale, my beer of choice in the city’s Squatters Pub Brewery, available on tap (draught) and in bottles. I was thirsty. I ordered a pitcher. It wasn’t allowed; state law dictates a pitcher can only be served to two or more people. I was also to be schooled that state law prohibits tap beer exceeding 4% alc/vol. but that there’s no alc/vol limit on bottled beer. It was all a bit unnecessary. That said, Utah’s alcohol laws may not be as restrictive as they once were (or as restrictive as I assumed them to be) but evidently there are still some weird rules to abide by. Squatters Pub Brewery, Salt Lake City, Utah. September 6, 2016.

Epic Road Trip Home

THE UPPER MIDWEST || Wisconsin & Minnesota

DAY 01 139 miles || Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to Madison, Wisconsin

DAY 02 302 miles || Madison to Saint Paul, Minnesota (via Pewit’s Nest State Natural Area & Prescott, Wisconsin)

DAY 03 259 miles || Saint Paul to Bemidji, Minnesota (via St Cloud, Brainard & Walker, Minnesota)

THE DAKOTAS || North & South Dakota

DAY 04 458 miles || Bemidji to Bismarck, North Dakota (via Grand Forks, Lakota & Rugby, North Dakota)

DAY 05 459 miles || Bismarck to Deadwood, South Dakota (via Fort Yates, North Dakota & Badlands National Park, South Dakota)

DAY 06 167 miles || Deadwood & The Black Hills (Mount Rushmore National Memorial & Crazy Horse Memorial)

THE NORTHERN ROCKIES || Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, & Northern Utah

DAY 07 354 miles || Deadwood to Billings, Montana (via Devil’s Tower & Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monuments)

DAY 08 262 miles || Billings to West Yellowstone, Montana (via the Beartooth Highway & Yellowstone National Park)

DAY 09 227 miles || West Yellowstone to Jackson, Wyoming (via Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park)

DAY 10 280 miles || Jackson to Salt Lake City, Utah (via Alpine, Wyoming; & Montpelier, Paris, & Bear Lake, Idaho)

THE SOUTHWEST || Southern Utah, Arizona & New Mexico

DAY 11 330 miles || Salt Lake City to Panguitch, Utah (via Brian Head & Cedar Breaks National Monument)

DAY 12 273 miles || Panguitch to Page, Arizona (via Bryce Canyon National Park, & Zion National Park)

DAY 13 307 miles || Page (Horseshoe Bend) & Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim)

DAY 14 175 miles || Page to Kayenta, Arizona (via Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona & Monument Valley, Utah)

DAY 15 252 miles || Kayenta to Durango, Colorado (via Monument Valley, Utah, the Four Corners Monument, & New Mexico)

THE ROCKIES || Colorado

DAY 16 348 miles || Durango to Leadville, Colorado (via Wolf Creek Pass & Monarch Pass)

DAY 17 299 miles || Leadville to Estes Park, Colorado (via Independence Pass, Aspen, Berthoud Pass, & Rocky Mountain National Park)

THE GREAT PLAINS || Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri & Arkansas

DAY 18 307 miles || Estes Park to Cheyenne, Wyoming (via Laramie, Como Bluff, Medicine Bow, & Buford, Wyoming)

DAY 19 404 miles || Cheyenne to Burwell, Nebraska (via Scotts Bluff National Monument & Carhenge, Nebraska)

DAY 20 407 miles || Burwell to Kansas City, Missouri (via Spalding, Nebraska; SW Iowa; & Omaha, Nebraska)

DAY 21 286 miles || Kansas City to St Louis, Missouri

DAY 22 322 miles || St Louis to Memphis, Tennessee (via Dyess, Arkansas)

THE SOUTH || Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama & Georgia

DAY 23 308 miles || Memphis to Vicksburg, Mississippi (via Clarksdale, Yazoo City & Bentonia, Mississippi)

DAY 24 336 miles || Vicksburg to Prattville, Alabama (via Selma, Alabama)

DAY 25 297 miles || Prattville to Cornelia, Georgia (via Montgomery, Alabama & Stone Mountain, Georgia)

THE APPALACHIANS || Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia & West Virginia

DAY 26 261 miles || Cornelia to Asheville, North Carolina (via Helen & Brasstown Bald, Georgia & Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina)

DAY 27 200 miles || Asheville to Galax, Virginia (via the Blue Ridge Parkway)

DAY 28 004 miles || Galax, Virginia

DAY 29 354 miles || Galax to Lewisburg, West Virginia (via the Blue Ridge Parkway & Shenandoah National Park)

KENTUCKY & THE GREAT LAKES || Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana & Illinois

DAY 30 404 miles || Lewisburg to Lexington, Kentucky (via Chesapeake, Ohio; Cordell, Kentucky; & Sandy Hook, Kentucky)

DAY 31 241 miles || Lexington to Beaver Dam, Kentucky (via Lincoln Homestead State Park & Mammoth Cave National Park)

DAY 32 190 miles || Beaver Dam to Bloomington, Indiana (via Rosine & Owensboro, Kentucky)

DAY 33 282 miles || Bloomington to Chicago, Illinois (via Indianapolis, Indiana)

DAYS 34-36 017 miles || Chicago, Illinois

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