Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shoshone Falls

Wed morning we headed to Idaho Falls – this was just a stopover to break up the trip on our journey to Yellowstone.  On our way we stopped off at Shoshone Falles in Twin Falls to see what they call Niagara Falls of the West.  Not nearly the size of Niagara (according to pictures I’ve seen) but the Shoshone Falls were gorgeous.  They were pretty tall, but the width was what was so amazing.  I couldn’t capture them all in one picture, but you can get the idea of just how big they are. 

The Falls were huge.

Another rainbow at the base of the falls

Whitebird Summit Lodge B&B - Grangeville, Idaho

Monday morning we left Whitefish to drive to the Whitebird Summit Lodge Bed & Breakfast in Grangeville, Idaho.  A little bit of background… we are not your typical B&B kind of people.  The idea of staying in a stranger’s house is a bit weird to us.  However, Scott found this place online when searching for a halfway point between Whitefish and Boise so we could break up the 10 hour drive.  This place looked like it would be great and looked more like a separate lodge rather than someone’s actual house.  Then after reading the reviews, we decided to book two nights instead of one.  In fact, when we saw that the bedroom had four separate beds, we were sold!  We could each have our own bed for a couple of nights!  HA!

When we arrived, we pulled onto their property and were greeted by two goats tethered to their fence.  As we pulled further down the driveway, two bunnies scurried under the deck of the first building we came to.  Then we looked over at the “lodge” and saw a horse roaming the front yard.  The girls were hooked and wanted out of the car!  We pulled around to the second building, what we assumed was the lodge, and saw the entrance.  We didn’t know whether to knock or just go on in, so we opted for knocking.  After all, we were realizing this was indeed someone’s home.

Welcome from the goat!

Harley, the Horse

Yep... that's a rooster!

Fortunately, they gathered up the "birds" at night
so we wouldn't hear the rooster at the crack of dawn!

Bunnies roaming the yard
We were invited in, and our host/homeowner gave us a tour around and showed us to our room.  Two sets of bunk beds – four beds… one queen, three twin.  I made Scott take the queen by himself, since I was sick (wink, wink), and I got my own bed!  I picked a top bunk… just kidding!

The d├ęcor in the B&B was a story in itself.  It seemed that our hosts were avid hunters and had hunted all over the world.  And their “trophies” were everywhere… everywhere!  Hanging from the walls, hanging from the ceiling, laying on the floor, draped across the furniture, upholstered to the stools… everywhere!  There were deer, elk, buffalo, warthogs, crocodiles, fish, a baboon, mountain goat, mountain lion, cheetah, and animals that I had never seen before… there was even a zebra and a giraffe (the girls were NOT happy about that!).

This is just one corner of the room.
The entire room was filled wall-to-wall with "trophies."

Sad to say, yes, that is a giraffe. The girls almost cried.

A full size dead bison! Looks like he's wearing a wig!

 It was more sad to see all of these because we had just
visited the zoo and wild animal safari in San Diego. :-(

After unloading our stuff and checking out the horseshoe pit, our hosts started the bonfire and brought out the fixins’ for smores.  They had one other family staying that night, so we all sat around the bonfire, roasted marshmallows, and chatted (heard some “hunting” stories too) before turning in for the night.

Checking out the horseshoe pit

Smores and stargazing at the bonfire
We also learned that the horse roaming around the yard was Harley – he used to be their best trail riding horse but they had retired him.  He was 42-years-old, too old for trail riding, so they just let him roam around the yard instead of putting him in the field with their other horses.  They said he was too old to fight for his food.  After the girls spent some time loving on him, he would follow them around the yard for more attention.

The next morning, we were treated to a fabulous, home-cooked breakfast.  No continental breakfast this morning!  Our host had homemade Belgium waffles with homemade maple cream syrup, fresh fruit, homemade banana bread, homemade cinnamon bread, and lots of other things to choose from.  So we pigged out before our horseback ride.  Scott wimped out on us for the horseback riding, so it was just the girls on this one.  We saddled up and headed out for a 2.5 hour mountain trail ride.  The ride took us out to the back country overlooking the Camas Prairie, the Gospel Hump Wilderness area and the Salmon River Valley.  We traced the steps of Chief White Bird and Chief Joseph while overlooking the Nez Perce grounds where the US Cavalry fought the Nez Perce Indians in the war of 1877.  We were also able to overlook Hells Canyon and see mountain peaks way off in the distance that were actually in Oregon.  The views were amazing, and the horseback riding was a blast!

Getting ready for our trail ride.

Emilee and her horse, Blue

Ashlee and her horse, Oreo

This is my horse, Concho. Do you see the grass
hanging from his mouth? This is what he did for the entire 2.5 hour ride.
He just walked along and grabbed at the grass as he passed by it.

Listening to the story of the Nez Perce War.

These are the dogs that went along on the trail with us.
If you look closely, you can see that they found a carcass from
something that was very big at one time.  Yuck!

Overlooking the Nez Perce War battleground

Back at the lodge
We finished up on the horses around 12:30, ate lunch, and then we took off to Hells Canyon to check out one of the trails we heard about.  When we arrived, we realized we were the only ones there… not another single car in any one of the three parking lost along the Snake River.  A bit creepy, but we decided to take off.  We grabbed our water and found the trailhead.  We started off on a paved trail that was a bit narrow, about two feet wide, and a bit overgrown with some kind of tall brown weed that looked like wheat.  We had gone about 30 feet when Scott said he didn’t have a very good feeling about continuing on, and we were all thinking about snakes.  While Ashlee ran back to the car to grab her binoculars, Scott walked about 50 more feet down the trail.  By the time she got back with her binoculars, Scott had turned back around and reported to us that the trail was totally overgrown and we weren’t taking any chances on it.  We went back to the car, got about ½ mile down the road, and there basking in the sunshine in the middle of the road was a snake.  Yikes!

Hells Canyon National Park

Saw this sign driving down into Hells Canyon. We stayed away from the edge!

Just saw a sign warning of rattlesnakes

Snake River in Hells Canyon

ICK!  Glad we didn't walk that trail!

Nez Perce War Battleground
We got back to the B&B and spent the rest of the evening playing horseshoes, feeding carrots to the horses, chasing the bunnies, and sitting in the living room reading while being stalked by dead animals!  Hee-hee!  We then retired to “our” end of the house, and the girls watched a movie and had popcorn before bed.

Carrots for the horses

Morocco, exhausted after our trail ride
Listening to some tunes while being stalked by dead animals!

Dexter is pooped too!

Reading to Morocco
Dexter & Morocco getting some lovin'
We packed up the next morning and, once again, were treated to a delicious breakfast before heading off… homemade baked “Summit French Toast” along with fresh fruit, homemade breads, etc.  The girls said one last goodbye to Harley, and we hit the road toward Idaho Falls for our stopover before heading to Yellowstone National Park.

Bye, Harley!
Ashlee wanted to take him home with her.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Glacier National Park - Day 1

On Friday morning we got up early to take on our drive to Whitefish, Montana for our visit to Glacier National Park – it took 12 hours!  Of all the places we were to visit on our summer trip, this is the one place Scott didn’t want to have to be driving to in the dark, thus our early start.  We were about two hours away from our hotel, and Scott started spotting deer grazing along the side of the road.  Within a five-mile span, we counted about 30 of them - most of them were alone.  Fortunately, Scott was driving; he has eagle eyes when it comes to spotting critters on or near the road.  We have prayed for travel mercies daily, but this time I asked Ashlee to say one specific to keeping the deer out of our path.  We arrived safely at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake around 11:00 pm, unloaded, and hit the hay!  Here are some fun pics from along the way

Taking advantage of the long car ride to do summer reading for school

This is Ashlee's 6th book to read since starting our trip!

Ace Hardware sign

This huge nest was perched atop what looked like a phone pole.
We didn’t set any records for getting up early the next morning, but we didn’t sleep in too late either.  After our all day visit to Victoria, Canada the day before, my body was still aching all over… from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes, but we only had two days to spend at Glacier and we weren’t about to spend them sleeping.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect - clear with sunny skies, and the temperature was not too hot, not too cold.  We set off for our 40-minute drive to get to the entrance of the park and the visitor center, which was our first stop.

At the visitor center, we talked to a ranger, told him we wanted to do the hike to Grinnel Glacier (a 10-mile roundtrip, all day hike), and we asked him his recommendation.  He informed us that the trail to Grinnel Glacier was “officially” open… BUT it was covered with 10 FEET OF SNOW!  Scott and Ashlee were bummed!  Emilee was jumping for joy.  I had mixed emotions… I really wanted to see the glacier and do the trail, but my body was rebelling on me.  So armed with pre-trip planning info and our trail guide and park map, we finished up at the visitor center and loaded back into the van.  We decided we’d hit the “Going to the Sun Road” today as well as taking a couple of the smaller hikes we found along the way, and then we’d get up early the next morning and hit a longer hike.  “Going to the Sun Road” is a 52-mile loop, up one side of the mountains and down the other side, with views to knock your socks off.  I was driving, so I think we pulled into almost every single available to snap some pictures.  It is called “Going to the Sun” because at times as you are going up the mountain, you look like you are going right off!  It is a winding, cliff-hugging road with so many spectacular views.

Our view at the first pullout along Going to the Sun Road

We spotted more deer snacking alongside a creek.

 This waterfall was flowing under the roadway
and through the bridge.

We got about halfway around the loop up to the Logan’s Pass Visitor Center and stopped off.  There was snow everywhere.  They’d had their record snowfall this year, especially for so late in the season.  It was July 16th, for heaven’s sake, and there was still several feet of snow on the ground.  One of the rangers said that there was so much snow that it had actually covered the visitor’s center.  This was also the trailhead to Hidden Lake, so we hopped out.  In front of us was the visitor center and trailhead.  Behind us was a huge mountain with mountain goats.  I still can’t figure out how they got up there.  You had to zoom in on the camera to really see them up there. Right in front of the visitor center was also the Continental Divide – an imaginary line that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean and, along the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean.

Check out that snow bank!

 That white dot you see in the middle of this picture
is actually a mountain goat.
How in the world did he get up there?
Here is a bigger picture of the mountain the goat is on.

After checking out the visitor center and grabbing our jackets, snacks, and water, we hit the trail.  The trail was totally covered in snow.  In fact, you couldn’t even see the trail.  It was marked with poles that the rangers had stuck down into the snow to show hikers which way to go.  We were slipping and sliding all over the place!  It was one of the most fun hikes we had done so far.  And when we got close to the top, we spotted a mountain goat close to the trail!  My favorite view on the trail was the little pond close to the end of the trail – it was absolutely gorgeous!

The trailhead for Hidden Lake - covered in several feet of snow

Our view along the trail

A pond near the top of the trail

This was my favorite view along the trail.

The mountain goat was about 30 feet away from us.
We walked a little further to the end, at least this was as far as we were going, and came to a viewpoint where we could see a glacier in the distance as well as Hidden Lake – it was totally covered in ice.  We sat at the top for a while and just enjoyed the view while eating our granola bars, and then we headed back down.  I think we slid down more than we walked down.  I don’t know how we managed to do it, but Scott and I didn’t fall in the snow.   I came very close to falling a couple of times, but I made it to the bottom without a wet butt!

Another view from the top

This is a picture of the glacier toward the top right of the photo

The glacier is the two peaks in the middle.

Looking  out toward the glacier

Scott & Ashlee - slippin' and a slidin'
Emilee said for every step she took forward, she slid two backwards.
We walked on out to the parking lot and there was a mountain goat roaming around on the sidewalk.  Then he made a leap up onto the snow bank as if he was posing just for the cameras.  As we drove out of the parking lot, we spotted a few more mountain goats roaming around some DOT trucks.  A couple of them were trying to get underneath the trucks.  We had read in one of the park’s brochures that the mountain goats lick the antifreeze from vehicles because they need salt in their diet.  They were licking the underside of the trucks!  Hilarious!

Yummy... antifreeze!

Here are some more pictures of our drive on the Going to the Sun Road.  I think one of the favorite spots along the road is called “The Weeping Wall.”  It’s where the rocks overhang the road just a bit and water from melting snow pours off of the rocks onto the roadway.  If you drive close to the edge of the road, you can drive under the “waterfall”.  I was driving, Scott was armed with the camera in the passenger seat, window down, and he got a good soakin’!  It was great!  And he was laughing just as hard as the girls and I were.  Too much fun!

On our way back down the road, we stopped off at a short trail to see a couple of waterfalls.  Once again, we were a bit concerned about bears – there were lots of warnings at Glacier about bears.  They tell you that the best thing you can do is not sneak up on a bear (as if I would do that on purpose!).   So we’re supposed to make noise as we go… talk loud, etc.  We need not have worried.  Emilee took that advice as a personal mission.  The child jabbered for the entire two-mile hike.  She was leading the way, and none of us could even hear what she was saying or what she was talking about.  I don’t know how she even took a breath… I never heard her stop talking.  No surprised bears on this hike!  We got almost to the end of the trail, of which the last half-mile was uphill, and I was starting to struggle a bit.  Scott and Ashlee typically finish a trail way ahead of Emilee and me, but Scott wanted us to all stay together on this one since were pretty much alone on this trail.  So I was trying to keep up as best as I could.  We then spotted an area along the trail that was covered in little white feathers, lots and lots and lots of little white feathers.  Something had gotten a hold of something!  And those feathers had not been there on the way down the trail.  Needless to say, that was all the motivation I needed to put a little pep in my step.  I had no problem keeping up with them after that!

YIKES! Feathers everywhere!
When we got to the car, my body was done!  Don’t know what happened, but it hit, and it hit hard.  The body aches I had been experiencing for the past couple of days, the ones that I just assumed were from walking and hiking and being on my feet constantly, were hitting with a vengeance.  I had wanted to do one more short trail on our way out, but Scott said we were heading back to put me in the bed.  We stopped off for some cold/flu medicine on our way back to the hotel, and I collapsed when we got back.  Then I just prayed that nobody else would get sick.  It was an incredibly rough night.

The next morning, Scott got up and took the girls back to Glacier and made me stay at the hotel in the bed.  I don’t think I could have made it if I had wanted to, but it was so hard to miss out on what they were doing.  After being on the road together for six weeks, I missed having them around.  However, I got some much-needed rest!  I physically felt much better the next day, but the cough then set in and, as of this writing a week later, the cough is just now fading.  Fortunately, after losing my voice for a couple of days, I sound much worse than I feel now, and I only lost one day of fun!  And even better, thanks to our prayers, nobody else got whatever it was that I had!  Stay tuned for Ashlee's post on their day at Glacier with Daddy!

Here are a few more of my favorite pics of our 1st day at Glacier National Park... definitely my favorite national park so far!