Ginger and Ken drive to Alaska from Texas, through Wichita, Madison, Chicago, Corpus....

We decided to make a lifestyle change and move. Following are tales of our trips, packing mishaps, beautiful drives, visitations and more! This is Texas2Alaska2 because it is my second time to make the drive.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One more Round of Appreciation for Friends

Ken and I spent six days with Beverly, visiting Jake at the Veteran’s, and at Rosie and her mom’s house. It was a fantastic, leisurely, helpful, and friendly time. We had such a fun time laughing and learning and sightseeing we got over the car trouble and heavy load pretty quick. We spent the day reloading the trailer and restructuring the sleeping quarters. Ken and I will have a full additional ten inches for bed space, added to our cramped 5 will give us space to actually turn on our sides! Woohoo! 

With an extended somewhat relaxed pit stop, we were able to see another cool business Ken had been interested in for years: Kitfox Airplanes. Kitfox is actually located in Homedale, Idaho about two miles from Beverly’s house. Ken has been interested in these kit planes for decades. It is such a great idea for an individual to build their own plane, so they could know all the ins and outs of it. This would also keep the cost of owning a plane down. 
Ken and I called Kitfox and asked if we could come visit and they said yes. We went down on a beautifully sunny day and the owners were so generous as to give us a tour. We saw the manufacturing hangar with all the hand made parts, forms and assemblages. I had a great feeling seeing the parts for a quality product made in the United States. The final hangar was a museum, there were three beautiful planes shining brightly proud of the awards they had won at Oshkosh. Here we are with our next project after the boat! 
We wrapped up our fine visit with a classic family dinner. Finally Beverly was able to reconnect with Rosie and see where she lived. When Beverly travels, she is usually on a mission but it always nice to know someone in the area if you need them! 

There was such a warm feeling of friendship it was hard to leave. And maybe my head was telling that literally, the next morning when I woke up to leave, I had a pounding, piercing headache. I thought we were going to just get up and go early since we had the trailer at Rosie’s doing the unloading and reloading. Not so today. This was one of those nasty migraines I did not catch in time and it was difficult to reel in. So, basically I stayed in bed all day. Ken was a great caretaker and rounded up all the elements and Rosie offered up chicken noodle soup when I was able to eat. Nice to have a second mom around! But a bummer that the day could not be enjoyed. 
Around sunset is when I finally could move, here is the great view they have from their upstairs window. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Knowing Someone Who has Driven to and From Alaska is a big Help!

Besides rebuilding planes, Johnny also rebuilds cars. The next project he is embarking on, the 1952 Chrysler, sounded like a major one to me. It had been sitting on his Aunt’s land for over 40 years, what condition could it possibly be in? No one had really seen it in ages so He and his sister Rosie will be going to visit the car to make a preliminary plan on how to move it. 
Johnny and his cousin will be putting the car and a farm tractor on a trailer and towing the whole load up to Alaska with the cousin’s truck. The car will be going to Eagle River and the tractor to Soldotna. Pretty amazing feat to carry out as we are learning just with our little trailer. While Johnny waited on his cousin, Rosie suggested we ask Johnny about carrying some of our gear in the car to help lighten our load. 

One thing Ken became concerned about with our rig due to the oil loss was too heavy of a load. Rosie had the great idea of putting some boxes in the Chrysler on the trailer as a way to help us out. Plus, another serendipitous moment for us, our destination is Chugiak which is two miles from Eagle River!!!!! How crazy is that! We talked to Johnny about it and he had no problem with it. He talked to his cousin who was not totally hip to the idea, but went along with it anyway. 
Ken and I spent the day separating out goods that could withstand frigid temperatures and that would fit in the car easily. We figure we offloaded about 800 pounds of goods. These containers were not light. There were two with clothes in them. The clothes where in vacuum bags so there were a lot of clothes smashed in there! One container was office equipment, the two below are tools, a kitchen mixer, juicer and all kinds of small items filling the voids-things that might be missed, but can be replaced should anything happen to them. We also gave Johnny a few extra dollars for gas and the trouble. We could not have been more lucky or grateful! Thanks a million times over to Johnny and his cousin.
Our original total rig weight was 7940 pounds measured the day we left Wichita at a truck scale. 
The vehicle alone weighs 4000 (with us). Which leaves 3940 for the trailer so that WAS a little over our 3500 pound towing limit. OOPS
With our offload, we estimated now to weigh 7000 total. Estimate.....

We also packed up a few more boxes and sent them through USPS, adding to what we sent from Wichita we have spent $555.00 on media mail, parcel post, and priority mail.
Plus we gave up our Canon ink jet printer. It would not fit in the car so we left it with Rosie. Not a big deal as she was more than kind to us while we were in Nampa! Thanks Rosie! Clearing out some bulk should also make it more comfortable for us to sleep in the trailer without moving too much around. 
Moving is rarely fun or easy. Moving from one end of a continent to another is the exact opposite of easy. We knew we could not take all of the possessions we had been living with for the past 3, 5, 10 years with us. Ken had already moved from the mainland to Hawaii and back, so he was aware of the drastic slashes that had to be made in material possessions. Sure, I had moved across the U.S. a couple of times, but each time I made provisions for storage or made the purchase of a used moving truck happen. This time I did have space offered to me by my sister, that was a huge help for family mementos and artwork. To the folks who only drive a car up, our rig may have seemed big, but to us it felt small. After assessing what would or must be kept and stored, selling or otherwise donating that which was not absolutely necessary, we thought we were left with what we could afford to carry and what we felt was absolutely required to start a new life in Alaska. Alaska is not uncivilized, many of the things we left behind we knew we could replace if we wanted to. I thought we had limited what we carried with us very well. However, with the realization today that we had to take more stuff out of the trailer, looking at this stuff and deciding what I could do without should I not see it again, was just an amazing decision to make. After a few moments though, I did not let it overwhelm me. We had made a decision to move a long way from where we were entrenched, from where we had connections. By letting go of more items, it seemed we were really cutting our ties to our old life. But a bigger realization than that emerged. We were discovering the minimum requirement of stuff we needed to survive. Our rig had to be mostly self sustaining, especially due to the time of year we were driving north. So really, what did we need? Safe transportation, food, shelter, warm clothing, safety gear. 
Just a few things to think about if you are planning on moving to Alaska.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A New Alaska Friend and Veterans with Similar Interests

The Warhawk museum is located at the municipal airport in Nampa, Idaho. It was Veteran’s day during our stay in the area and there were many events celebrating Veterans including open house at the Warhawk. With both Ken and I having family members associated with airplanes and our own interest in planes, we figured it would be an educational place to visit. This photo feature is for Vicky, Curtis, Uncle Ken, Uncle Andy, Bill, Grandpa’s and us!

How is this for another coincidence: while we were spending time in southwest Idaho with our friends Rosie and Beverly, it just so happened that Rosie’s brother was coming down to visit from Alaska. Wonderful for Rosie and her mother, and fantastic for Ken and I to meet another Alaskan and get some road trip tips. 

Johnny is a Veteran and an avid plane expert. He has rebuilt what is called a boxcar, a C119 transport plane. See his fine work here Johnny has worked on and rebuilt too many planes to mention. He is truly an artist at reconstruction. Johnny is in town to retrieve an old 1952 Chrysler Imperial that he parked at his Aunt’s house back in the 1960‘s! He is waiting for his cousin to arrive to help pack up the car on a trailer and they will be driving the rig to Alaska. 

This is the type of submarine Ken served on from 1978-1984.

All the history buffs should enjoy this trip and the fine work the museum has done to preserve these planes as well as the history and stories of the dedicated forces that served the U.S.

Carved shell casings are works of art that I had not heard of or seen before. Kind of made me think of the old sailors that carved ivory or word on long tours of duty. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learn the Limits of Your Auto before You Drive to Alaska

I was so excited when I purchased my new to me Lexus earlier this year in Austin. I bought it from the original owner who took excellent care of the vehicle. It was not the vehicle I was originally looking for when I was ready to get rid of my truck and convert to a consulting type professional instead of a laborious professional. Additionally, with the long drive to Alaska in mind, I had been looking at mini-vans with space so Ken and I could carry as many personal items as possible. We spent hours researching cars, vans, and SUVs. I test drove numerous new and used vehicles. When I decided on the Lexus RX300, I felt I had made the best decision possible with all the information I had. It is a comfortable and reliable vehicle. 
However, today, my head was thrown into serious doubt. Ken and I were driving out of the Target parking lot after purchasing some groceries when the engine started making a ticking sound. We turned the radio down, put the car in park, revved the engine, put it in drive accelerated, stopped, turned, and listened. Thankfully, right across the street was a Toyota dealer. We took the car straight over there.
Here is something we were not expecting or prepared for: when the Tony Scott Toyota dealer mechanic checked the fluid levels, he found the oil was completely gone. No indication on the dipstick! I had continued with the regular maintenance schedule the previous owner adhered to, and I had the 90K complete inspection done before leaving Austin. With all the drives back and forth to Wichita, to Madison and Chicago, I had the oil changed before the final departure from Wichita. It was only about 1,500 miles to Boise, so how could we be out of oil? 
Ken started doing research on the internet while in the waiting room of the dealership. He found a known issue we had not come across before, oil gelling. Ken presented this information to the service manager and she was understanding. But, she told us, we would have to take the vehicle to the Lexus dealer for that inspection since it could be considered a legal case. Thankfully there is one Lexus dealer in Idaho, and we are in that city. 
After refilling the oil we made an appointment at the Lexus dealer for the next morning. The service managers where very accommodating and reinforced my experience of excellent customer service which I had already been through with the Austin dealer. Without expanding on my many hours of agony about this vehicle selection, I will jump to the end of the story with this lovely photo of the inside of our RX300’s crank case, beautiful! I was so relieved as was Ken. Being the man and mechanic in the family, the poor guy had so much weighing on him that he was allowed to let go of when we snapped this photo. 
We were so appreciative of Traci, the Service Manager at Lexus, , and the technician for calling us into the shop to see the engine. The technician explained to us that although our vehicle is rated for towing, and we are within the weight limits, the extra strain is probably what contributed to the loss of oil. Yet where did it go? There were no visible leaks around the engine compartment, no blue smoke out the tail pipe? We were advised to check the oil more often due to the long trip. YEA!

ReConnecting for an Alaska Connection

This is the coolest story ever of finding someone you know but don’t know how to find. I have another friend whom I met through Uncle Andy, Rosie, and I know she is somewhere in Idaho. Uncle Andy was an interesting character. He had been all over the country selling the rock he mined and worked himself. And that is how he came to know Jake and Beverly, and Rosie and Dave, and Dagmar and Julian, and so on.
Rosie’s story is convoluted, though. She moved back to Idaho from Alaska due to an illness, to live with her mother somewhere in this part of the state. She had called me a while back, but used her Alaska phone number. That number had since been disconnected and she had called again with an Idaho number, but in my move I had misplaced it. I was not able to find her name in a phone book or online, which makes sense as everything is probably in her mother’s name which I do not know. 
This fine Idaho late fall morning we are sitting up with Beverly in Homedale, having hashbrown potatoes of course, with eggs and bacon. This is her lovely maple tree in the back yard with piles of some of Jake's hand dug stone. I have asked Bev if she has heard from or seen Rosie. Of course she hasn’t since all this medical emergency episode with Jake. She has, however, gone with Jake to Portland for his surgery (there was no one qualified to remove a brain tumor in Boise) which the Veteran’s Administration took care of. 
This is a tangent to my Rosie story, but I think its a good story to relate. Jake had not taken advantage of his Veteran’s benefits since leaving the military after the Vietnam era. Upon diagnosis of Jake’s health, Beverly promptly marched him down to the VA, got him enrolled and lined up for medical treatment. And it has all gone well. So, notice to all my friends who may have family that was ever part of the military and needs medical care, go sign up with the VA!
After catching up with Beverly and how the rock sales have been going, I found a way to possibly find Rosie. Beverly knew that one of Rosie’s sons ran an upholstery business in Nampa. Beverly did not know the name of the business, the name of Rosie’s son, or the exact location. Here’s what she told me, it was his father’s business, its been there for years, and if I went down the main road, the building was at the intersection and I couldn’t miss it. It might be named Don’s or Dan’s or Jim’s or John’s?
Ken and I take our now leisurely drive out of Homedale and into Nampa on the Caldwell road. Leisurely because we have parked the trailer at Jake and Bev’s for a couple of days. Now in the daylight, the drive is not as stressful and we can enjoy the views. As we come into the more commercial edge of Nampa, there straight in front of us is Jim’s Upholstery. Could that be it? There was only one way to find out. Ken drives into the parking lot and I go in looking for someone who has a mother named Rosie. 
This is the coolest find ever! Rodney is the owner, and he said Rosemary is his mother.  He called her up and told her that a Ginger was in his shop looking for her. Little did I know, she knows a couple of Gingers. I tell Rodney I am Ginger from Texas and boy could I hear the shriek on the other end! It was smart of Rodney to call and get confirmation that his mom knew me. He then gave me the address and Rosie’s new phone number and we laughed and I gave big thanks! Rosie lives very close by so we were there!
Reconnecting the easy way! See, the internet cannot do everything for us! 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Southwest Idaho, Potatoes, Good Friends, and Good Health

We crept into Homedale, Idaho at about 8pm on the 8th after yet another installment of “Where the Heck is my &*&^%# GPS taking me?!” It never helps when it is night and you are not familiar with your surroundings anyway, but to be led by the crazy GPS programming is really nerve-wracking. The Homedale-Parma-Caldwell area of southwest Idaho is basically level farmland. There are a few rises and a picturesque drop off along the banks of the Snake River. Potatoes are king here, elevated to superstar status by J.R. Simplot after he clenched the McDonald’s french fry contract. I didn’t believe it was a real person’s name at first, you know, kind of harkens to Soylent Green. But, there was a real person and he has done great things in the processed food business and for the commerce of Idaho. 
Other large swaths of farmland in this area include alfalfa, mint, onions, vineyards, and sugar beets. Yes, sugar does come from a beet my southern friends. I didn’t believe that one either but after seeing piles and piles of melon sized beets waiting for squeezing, I learned. In the northwest, a great deal of sugar is made from beets, not cane. Interesting what you learn when you get out of your home. 
Back to the GPS issue, all this farmland is usually (or was) divvied up by sections that were rectangular. When roads were dozed, they where constructed around the fields. As farms grew and families expanded their farmland, the road was moved to outline the field. Of course, no farmer wants a road through his property causing him headaches to move equipment back and forth. Farming has been going on in that part of the state for decades. As such, there was a time when cars did not go or were not driven as fast as they are today. So all the circumnavigating of farmland was not as distracting as it is today. We don’t like having to slow down for a 90 degree turn out in the middle of nowhere. 
Which brings me back to our frustration of the evening, its pitch black, no street lights, no malls or convenience store lights to give us any indication of the lay of the land. What came to be a normal 20-30 minute drive from Homedale to the freeway, seemed like two hours that night. Never-the-less, Ken, myself, and the obedient trailer made it safely to our pit stop of the week. 
Our hostess, Beverly, is a bubbly retiree from the office but a squirrelly busy rockhound. I met her and her partner Jake through my Great Uncle Andy while visiting him in Arizona. Jake is an avid rockhound, miner, stone worker. He and Beverly each have several claim leases they mine for agates, jaspers, and other natural wonders. They sell their beautiful rock in bulk for others to work, in slabs, and finely polished for presentation. Picture jasper, Blue lake jasper, Graveyard Point jasper, Morrisonite, Bruneau jasper, mushroom jasper, and many more are some of the stones you could purchase from Jake and Beverly. If you visited the big sales in Quartzite, Arizona in the winters over the past few decades, you would have seen them. 

Much to my surprise on contacting Beverly for a visit, she informed me Jake was in the Veteran’s hospital recuperating from a mild stroke and surgery to remove a brain tumor.  Thank goodness he was doing well, he is a hardy goat of a man and I can’t imagine him being hurt, nevermind that he is a Vietnam vet, a smoker, coffee drinker and wine drinker. Nevermind all that, he gets out in the deserts of Oregon, Idaho, and Arizona to excavate rocks! TONS of them. 
Before we get to our final stop in Homedale, Ken and I stop in Boise to visit Jake in the Veteran’s Rehabilitation center. Its a fine facility and it was a great surprise for him! We had not seen each other since Uncle Andy’s passing in 2006. And Jake was recovering great, he was walking with an aid and cognition was excellent. 
Here is a little bit about Jake’s Graveyard Point Plume agate diggings
buy some of jake’s picture jasper here 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Twin Falls and the Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey

I know, it does not look real does it! It looks like a background painting for a movie! 
By lunch time we were in Twin Falls, a good rest point. Neither Ken nor I had been here before and hadn’t really thought much about the name. To enter Twin Falls, highway 93 is taken south off interstate 84. When we approached the main part of town, 93 took us across the Perrine Bridge over the Snake River. Oh my goodness, what an incredible sight! After coming off the flat lands of the southern Idaho valley and Craters of the Moon area, seeing this 90 degree drop off into a river was breathtaking! 
I had seen the Snake before and already knew it was an amazing geological feature. Seeing it here, far away from Hell’s Canyon, and still being so dramatic reinforced its role as a wild and scenic destination. There is actually Twin Falls as well as Shoshone Falls and Pillar Falls. We did not stay long enough to visit the falls, but the view from the visitor’s center was entertainment enough. 

This makes for a great moment to segway into a book I had been reading on our travels: Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel. Ken and I both kept commenting to each other: ‘Imagine seeing this in a covered wagon’ or ‘How long would it have taken in the prairie schooner to get from Idaho Falls to Twin Falls’ (though these cities may not have been named such at the time) or ‘What did the pioneer do when they came to a sheer cliff such as this?’ Some of these questions are answered in Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey and many other books on the pioneer event in the U.S. However, Women’s Diaries focuses on the migration as recorded by women, wives, fiancees, daughters, and even a few single women. My mother gave me this book many years ago when I was traveling west to Arizona to visit my great Uncle Andy.  I had not read it until now and this was the perfect time! 

In 2003 when my brother, sister, and Uncle Andy traveled to Montana to disperse of my mother’s ashes, we spent a lot of time on some of the Oregon Trail roads. We also spent a lot of time on the Lewis and Clark Trail. Even earlier, on my first drive to Alaska with my sister in 1999, we spent some time on different parts of the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and even stopped in Guernsey, Wyoming to view wagon ruts . In 2007, the first time I drove to see my sister’s new home in Wichita, Kansas, I visited at the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City, Oklahoma .  All of these locations were now tied together with Women’s Diaries. For those interested in U.S. history, women’s history, mass migrations of people and some reasons why migrations happen, this would be an educational read. 

As seen here in the sunset, most of southern Idaho is flat. This aspect magnified the dramatic effect of the drop into the Snake River. 

We stay the course! Thank goodness our prairie schooner has 220 horses, enclosed climate control,  enclosed gear locker, and GPS (though it could be argued which is better, this or a scout)!

Snow Arrives, but we Skirt Winter!

Ken was reminiscent about this stop in Idaho Falls as he spent time here training at The Idaho National Laboratory when he was in the Navy. Ken served on a nuclear submarine from 1978-1984. Believe it or not, nuclear sub training was in Idaho! Crazy! Was that some senator’s pet project? Job creation program? Or safe place to build a nuclear training facility? Interesting. 
Sure enough the snow manifested as predicted. It started lightly as we saw out of our hotel room window. There was a fantastic view for miles across farmland. The hotel we chose-this time from roadside advertisement, was built on the very far west side of Idaho Falls. And by far I mean in new territory. I am going to surmise that being right next to farmland meant someone was selling off land and there was a grand west-side development process beginning. 

As we packed up our belongings knowing we needed to head further west before the snow piled up, the showers got heavier. The angle of snowfall increased indicating a moving front, and as the snow flakes multiplied, they began to turn the ground white. I thought it had been too warm to stick, but never underestimate the persistence of nature. 

The interstate west out of Idaho Falls goes through Craters of the Moon territory. This is a vast ancient volcanic field of pumice, basalt, and ash. I had been to Idaho a couple times before, but only on the west side: Orofino, Coere D Alene, Lewiston, Homedale and Nyssa areas. I had always wanted to see the Craters area and now I finally see it and its covered in snow! That’s ok, the snow gave it an extra eery feel.

One of the main benefits in staying in a hotel instead of struggling to find a camp site, internet access. I checked my favorite website, NOAA, and saw that the front was narrow and we would be out of the precipitation by afternoon. If we left when we were confident enough to drive through it! 

Here we go, running away from the snow-until Alaska!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yellowstone in One Day-Not Recommended for the Slow Natured at Heart

How lucky can we humans be in this day and age to have the ability to visit acres and acres of gorgeous scenery in one day! Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating it, as I would have liked to stay for days in order to fully learn and appreciate the environment. But with our cars and high speed cameras, we are able to sight see a lot in the span of twelve hours! 

At a fork in the visitor central trail system, there is a path through nearby woodlands that leads to a high viewpoint overlooking Old Faithful. This is Geyser Hill where we caught the one more eruption of Old Faithful from a high vantage point.  The new Old Faithful Visitor Center is directly behind the geyser, the lodge is to the right. 

Our visit was timed just about right considering we only had this day. There was a little snow storm coming and as such the Park Service had made the announcement that all roads would be closed as of November 8. This morning had started out stunningly blue, as the day wore on, the clouds closed in and by night fall we knew we had to get out of the park and find a place to hunker down. 

Our drive out the west entrance was just as exciting at the ride in from the east. More mountains, buffalo, and elk, and sumptuous creek beds all made for a nice exit. 

Sadly, we did not go to Mammoth on this trip. Just leaves a reason to stop in again on our way back to Kansas to retrieve more of our belongings. 

With the closing of the park to automobiles, the east and west entrances were ghost towns at this time of year. Amazingly, the entrances are not flanked by huge cities. They are very small communities keeping the park low key. As I mentioned before, some of my relatives spent a lot of time growing up in the western states. They were there from the 1800's through the 1960's. The picture below reminds me of looking at my grandfather's photo albums. His mother had a Kodak Brownie and that got him hooked on photography (and his work at Eastman) and he got me hooked. Grandpa narrated his photo albums to me whenever he had a chance. The photos were aged just so and full of history. When I view my photo in this style, I can imagine Yellowstone the way he would have seen it when he and his mother photographed and painted the west. (only after taking the photo, grandpa would have taken the elk for dinner! A necessity in the early part of the 20th century.)

The relatively low lack of development is a nice observation for an eco-conscience person, however, for a person looking for a place to sleep, its a challenge. Like with eastern Wyoming, even the RV parks are closing up for winter. As such, we kept driving to Idaho Falls. Another family memory is Uncle Andy saying he would have been traveling this area on foot with a bed roll on his back. Then he'd just plop down anywhere he wanted to rest!  We're such poofs!

Old Faithful Boardwalk Part II "Micro" Education

The new visitor center at Old Faithful is clean, large, and professional. there is a huge theater set up with interpretive displays galore. There is information on the mechanics of the geysers, paleontology, flora and fauna. You can find information on the ecology of the hot springs. Yes, there are plants and critters that live in and around the water. You can also learn about scientific research in the area. Information is not just for adults, a children’s exhibit is on display as well.  There is a fabulous virtual center here 

Over-mineralization from the geysers has caused these dead pine trees to look white. Most of the pine that thrive around the thermal areas are lodge pole.

In my previous post I thought ‘what about those early visitors who may have drunk the water-what happened to them?’ Here is why we know not to drink it directly now, it is full of bicarbonates (not so bad), chloride-mmmm, arsenate- beware!, sulfuric acid, and sodium. Most of these minerals end up as deposits along flows that create what I call hard ‘bubbles’ and white cascades. The most dramatic are from the carbonate springs.

Some of the microbes that live in the water give the hot pots their bright colors. (The same was true of the water flow at Thermopolis). Guess what these bacteria, algae, and  protozoa are called? Extremophiles! As the display says “what else could live in water filled with baking soda or acidic enough to burn holes in clothing?”

While these intense levels of minerals and strange micro-organisms may not be good for us to ingest, they are good for the greater macro-environment. The substances flowing out of the thermals supply rivers and habitats downstream with nutrients for plant growth and food for larger insects and fish. 

OK, that was everyone’s basic education on how our environments are intertwined! 

Kind of gives you an idea of how agates are formed.

Yellowstone-Its more than just one Geyser!

The scenery on the boardwalk at the Old Faithful visitor center was just as beautiful and inspiring as the main attraction itself. The trail goes past Castle Geyser, Beehive Geyser, Daisy Geyser, Grand Geyser, among others that erupt just as impressively as the big one although at many different intervals. 

Remember our stop just yesterday at Thermopolis? (really, a couple of posts ago) Does any of this hot pot, natural spring landscape look familiar? Similar underground activity at work here. 

There is a long boardwalk over delicate natural features.  Some of the surfaces cannot support the weight of people. Some are gooey, some are deep holes!

Imagine this: my great Uncle Andy worked here around the time of the depression at what he called a “dude ranch.” He and my grandfather and the whole family grew up in the west (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Arizona). They were very much cowboys. One summer Andy, who at the time was probably late teen or early twenty-something, got the job of bear wrangler. Back then everyone around, including the park service, would feed the bears in order to bring them in close for the ‘dudes’ and tourists. Can you imagine that being done now?

At that same time, early in the history of Yellowstone, visitors walked all over the hot spring and geyser areas. How many people burned themselves? Or drowned? Or how many uneducated ‘dudes’ drank the sulfur strong water? Can you imagine walking on these features today? Not really, although somewhere else on the earth someone probably has a feature like this on their property that they and the animals traverse without a second thought. I personally don’t think that would cause any damage on a private scale. However, reserving the broad landscape here considering the throngs that visit during the summer does make sense. 

Sadly, we did not go to Mammoth on this trip. Just leaves a reason to stop in again on our way back to Kansas to retrieve more of our belongings. 

Look closely at the main stream on this geyser, you can see the water swirl as it is ejected!

Old Faithful

What is the one destination everyone has to see when visiting Yellowstone Park? There could be a few answers out there, but in the top three would be Old Faithful. That would be our fist destination. After a leisurely morning drive in, we arrived at the brand new Old Faithful Visitor’s center at about 11:30 am. Right in the middle of the rotunda is the sign that posts the next estimated eruption time: 11:55! How perfect could that be. I made a beeline for the viewing area. The layout of the visitor center includes a huge picture window on an axis looking straight out to the geyser. No question of where to go. 
Ken and I walked briskly to the seating area. A long, wide boardwalk makes a semi-circle around the geyser. There were a few other visitors today, but not a crowd, again, think about a fall visit! There was plenty of seating if anyone required it, and plenty of shoulder space. As the boiling action started, everyone stood still and watched. Shutters clicking, oohs and ahhs, cheering as if the geyser could respond! It was really amazing to stand there and think, we are on top of a giant old volcano! There is still some tremendous activity underground. We humans should never forget that we cannot totally control nature. 

Old Faithful spews up water and steam up to a height of 184 feet.
Once this eruption died down, Ken and I refocused on our lack of coffee this morning. I felt for sure there would be a snack bar of some sort available. We had stopped at the old visitor center and snack bar, yet it was shuttered for the season. We inquired at the visitor center desk about refreshments and they directed us to a new catered facility across the parking lot. Now I know the parks need to make money however they can, and I know they contract out most hospitality products, but they really need to require these places to match the quality of product to price. We went in for lunch: a cold sandwich, cup of chili, two coffees, and hot dog with chili. It was over $25!!!! The food was barely cafeteria quality. As such, we filled our coffee cups twice. I complained because I had food in the car that would have been better-namely a peanut butter and black cherry jelly sandwich would have been better. So, just a tip for you future travelers. 

After lunch we went back to the trails that wind around Old Faithful, through the forest, and across many other smaller geysers, mud pots, mineral pools, and streams. There are a good many photos from this walk so move along to the next post.