Montana Trip: US Highway 89 thru Montana – South 89

89 South in Montana
89 South in Montana

After spending a nice day with my children and grandchildren along US Highway 89 north of Great Falls, it was time to begin the long trip back to Kentucky  the next day. I would begin the return trip with a quick jaunt south on I-15  to Great Falls and then south on US 87/89 towards Kings Hill Pass on the Kings Hill Scenic Byway, which runs along US 89 from the US 87 junction to the US 12 junction just north of White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Welcome to Conrad, Montana
Welcome to Conrad, Montana

Before moving on, I should mention that on the previous day we made a quick stop in Conrad, Montana to see if there is anything interesting there.  Conrad is south of Shelby and just off of I-15, so it is easy off and easy on.  Conrad is just a bit smaller than Shelby.  Not too much, but they still have a nice looking old theater and an old 70s style motel. A nice stop for the nostalgic-minded.

Orpheum Theater in Conrad, Montana
Orpheum Theater in Conrad, Montana
Northgate Motel in Conrad, Montana
Northgate Motel in Conrad, Montana – Clean and Quiet

Since it was early morning, I didn’t stop in Conrad on the way to Great Falls. Rather, I was in town before sunrise and on to US 89 south, which joins with US 87.  I had to head east through town past Malmstrom Air Force Base just as the sun came up. It was a beautiful Montana morning.

Sun peaks over the hill east of Great Falls on the morning of May 27
Sun peaks over the hill east of Great Falls on the morning of May 27
Sunrise near the Highwood Mountains east of Great Falls
Sunrise near the Highwood Mountains east of Great Falls

US 87/89 passes by Belt, Montana, but I didn’t drive through there on this trip as I wanted to get down US 89 and into Yellowstone and US 212 over Beartooth Pass.  Just shortly after passing by Belt, US 87 continues east and US 89 breaks off southward toward Monarch, Montana and pretty much follows Belt Creek, which at the time I was driving the route, was a raging creek with all of the winter runoff in full force. This is the beginning of the Kings Hill Scenic Byway.

Kings Hill Scenic byway
Kings Hill Scenic Byway in Central Montana
US 87 and US 89 split south of Belt, Montana
US 87 and US 89 split south of Belt, Montana
US 89 south towards Monarch, Montana
US 89 south towards Monarch, Montana
A view of Belt Creek from US 89 north of Monarch, Montana
A view of Belt Creek and the entrance to Belt Creek Canyon  from US 89 north of Monarch, Montana
US 89 approaching the Belt Mountains north of Monarch, Montana
US 89 approaching the Little Belt Mountains north of Monarch, Montana
Old cabins on a hill with the early morning light as seen from US 89 north of Montana 427
Old cabins on a hill with the early morning light as seen from US 89 north of Montana 427
Beautiful views abound on US 89 through Montana (and Big Sky views abound too)
Beautiful views abound on US 89 through Montana (and Big Sky views abound too)

I reached Monarch, Montana at about 7:30 AM. Monarch was originally established to service the silver mines in the area. It is near the Sluice Boxes State Park.

Monarch, Montana
Monarch, Montana
Deer on the roadside in Monarch, Montana
Deer on the roadside in Monarch, Montana
A nervous doe stares me down in Monarch, Montana
A nervous doe stares me down in Monarch, Montana

The drive through the Lewis and Clark National Forest is very nice on a spring morning. Wildlife was in abundance and the raging Belt Creek could be heard, the smell of pine in the air.  It was very refreshing (with the car windows down of course!)  Soon enough, I was passing through the town of Neihart.

Welcome to Neihart, Montana (oh well...not all photos come out perfect!)
Welcome to Neihart, Montana (oh well…not all photos come out perfect!) The sign says ” Our small town is like Heaven to us, please don’t drive like Hell through it.”

Neihart had a few unique things so it was well worth a short stop for a look/see.

US 89 runs through Neihart, Montana
US 89 runs through Neihart, Montana
An old barn in Neihart, Montana
An old barn in Neihart, Montana

I always like the unique shops on road trips, and Neihart offered one of those up in GJ’s Junkers Delight….fun signs, unique metal art

GJ's Junkers Delight in Neihart, Montana
GJ’s Junkers Delight in Neihart, Montana
Love this sign on GJ's - This ain't no museum, this junk is for sale
Love this sign on GJ’s – This ain’t no museum, this junk is for sale
This scrap metal dude apparently guards GJ's Trailer
This scrap metal dude apparently guards GJ’s Trailer

From Neihart, US 89 begins to offer a spectacular drive through the Rocky Mountains and gets you up to Kings Hill Pass which hits an altitude of 7,385 feet. Kings Hill Pass is part of the Kings Hill Scenic Byway which passes through the Little Belt Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana, United States.

I saw numerous snow runoff formed waterfalls that fed into the raging Belt Creek. This was one of the nice ones.
I saw numerous snow runoff formed waterfalls that fed into the raging Belt Creek. This was one of the nice ones.
Most of the drive on US 89 south of Neihart is in the pine forests.
Most of the drive on US 89 south of Neihart is in the pine forests.

As the altitude climbed I could see that there were ski resorts and then I came across the Showdown, Montana sign near the summit of Kings Hill Pass.  Created in 1936 and originally called King’s Hill Ski Area, Showdown is a small-scale ski area that caters mainly to weekend skiers.  It also has nice summer activities for bikers, hikers and campers.

Showdown Montana Ski resort
Showdown Montana Ski resort
Sumoflam at Kings Hill Summit in Montana
Sumoflam at Kings Hill Summit in Montana
The views south from Kings Hill Pass
The views south from Kings Hill Pass at 7,393 feet
Ski Trails of Showdown near Kings Hill Pass
Ski Trails of Showdown near Kings Hill Pass
US 89 south of Kings Hill Pass
US 89 south of Kings Hill Pass

From Kings Hill Pass US 89 heads down hill towards White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

US 89 south of Kings Hill Summit
US 89 south of Kings Hill Summit
I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird
I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird
Horses graze in verdant meadows under the snow-capped mountains of the Big Belt Range
Horses graze in verdant meadows under the snow-capped mountains of the Big Belt Range
US 89 heads into rolling hills about 5 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, MT
US 89 heads into rolling hills about 5 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, MT

The end of the Kings Hill Scenic byway is about 3 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, which sits at the base of three mountain ranges. A truly beautiful setting.

End of Kings Hill Scenic Byway at US Route 12
End of Kings Hill Scenic Byway at US Route 12
US 89 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana
US 89 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana at 8:30 AM
A ghost sign on an old building takes you back to the hey day of White Sulphur Springs
A ghost sign on an old building takes you back to the hey day of White Sulphur Springs
Battling peaks of hay challenge the snow capped peaks in the distance south of White Sulphur Springs
Battling peaks of hay challenge the snow capped peaks in the distance south of White Sulphur Springs

From White Sulphur Springs US 89 continues south towards Livingston. This portion of the drive has some spectacular mountain views, especially of the Crazy Mountains (also known as the Crazies). I can envision the awe of pioneers as they realized they would have to get past them.

The Crazies as seen from US 89 near the Smith River Valley in Montana
The Crazies as seen from US 89 near the Smith River Valley in Montana
US 89 and the Crazy Mountains in Montana
US 89 and the Crazy Mountains in Montana
Another view of the Crazies
Another view of the Crazies
Mountains and plains as seen from US 89
Mountains and plains as seen from US 89

Wyoming lays claim to being the pronghorn capital of the world, but Montana has to be a close second.  Some of my best pronghorn photos have come in Montana.  I saw a small group by the road near Wilsall and stopped for a visit.

A curious pronghorn enjoys the morning sun
A curious pronghorn enjoys the morning sun
Mountains from US 89 near Wilsall, Montana
Mountains from US 89 near Wilsall, Montana
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.

From the Wilsall area I continued south towards Livingston, Montana.  The mountains scenes were breathtaking on this section of US 89 near Wilsall. I knew that on the other side of the mountains sits the city of Bozeman, where I lived from 1971-1973. I loved Bozeman.

Mountain views are breathtaking
Mountain views are breathtaking near Wilsall, Montana

Wilsall, along with Clyde Park,  is in the Shields River Valley.  The Shields River was named by Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in honor of John Shields when they arrived here in July 1806.  This area was also visited by the famous trapper, trader and scout Jim Bridger in the 1860s.

A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper overlooks the Shields Valley
A sculpture of a pioneer/trapper “Thunder Jack” overlooks the Shields Valley – artist Gary Kerby
Sumoflam and Thunder Jack
Sumoflam and Thunder Jack

The above sculpture by local artist Gary Kerby was dedicated in 2006. Titled “Welcome to the Shields” it is nicknamed “Thunder Jack.”

Welcome to Wilsall, Montana (with the Welcome Bird on top of the sign!)
Welcome to Wilsall, Montana (with the Welcome Bird on top of the sign!)
This day there were beautiful clouds over Wilsall, MT
This day there were beautiful clouds over Wilsall, MT
Bank Bar in Wilsall, MT.  Old neon and a question...is there a drive thru ATM at this bank?
Bank Bar in Wilsall, MT. Old neon and a question…is there a drive thru ATM at this bank?
Wilsall Mercanitle Company in Wilsall, Montana
Wilsall Mercanitle Company in Wilsall, Montana
Wilsall Grocery Neon sign
Wilsall Grocery Neon sign

And of course, I finally found a nice wall mural on this trip.  This one on the side of the Mercantile building takes you back to the early 1900s in Wilsall. This was painted by Gary Kerby, the same artist that made the pioneer sculpture pictured above. Gary is a resident of Wilsall. Kerby has painted murals in Montana (I saw another of his works in Cut Bank last year), Oregon and Washington.

Wilsall Mural in Wilsall, Montana
“Wilsall Unleashed”  Mural in Wilsall, Montana by Gary Kerby
Grain elevator with mountains in the background in Wilsall, MT
Grain elevator with mountains in the background in Wilsall, MT

Continuing south on US 89, there are miles of open range ranchlands with the amazing mountains in the background.

US 89 heading south.  This is about 6 miles north of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 heading south. This is about 6 miles north of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 just south of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 just south of Clyde Park, MT
US 89 north of Livingston, MT
US 89 north of Livingston, MT

Livingston, Montana is one of those wonderful communities nestled in the mountains (like Leadville, CO – see my post about Leadville).  There are old buildings, old neon signs, and majestic mountains framing the buildings.  I spent 30 or 40 minutes in Livingston to capture the feel of this town. The town is also touted as the “Original Gateway City to Yellowstone National Park.”

The mountains tower over the city of Livingston.
The mountains tower over the city of Livingston.
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Old Empire Theater in Livingston, MT
Old Empire Theater in Livingston, MT
Dan Bailey's Fly Fishing Supply
Big Fish on the store front of Dan Bailey’s Fly Fishing Supply (see website)
Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Old Coca Cola Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Old Coca Cola Ghost sign in Livingston, Montana
Classic Neon sign in Livingston, Montana
Classic Neon sign in Livingston, Montana
Livingston Bar & Grille Neon in Livingston, MT
Livingston Bar & Grille Neon in Livingston, MT
The Mint Neon sign in Livingston, MT
The Mint Neon sign in Livingston, MT
Mountains surround the city of Livingston, Montana
Mountains surround the city of Livingston, Montana

After a breather in Livingston it was on to Yellowstone National Park via US 89.  From Livingston, the highway basically follows the Yellowstone River, which was running very heavy due to runoff from the mountains. The mountain scenery at this point is amazing.

The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
The Absaroka Range (Western Beartooths) and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
Wayside Chapel on US 89 south of Livingston
Wayside Chapel on US 89 south of Livingston

Not too far south of Livingston I came across a small wayside chapel with a splendid view of the Yellowstone River and Emigrant Peak (10,915 feet) of the Absaroka Mountain Range. The chapel was built in 1968 and had once sat on a small hilltop overlooking Yellowstone River adjacent to the rest area on US Hwy 89. It’s been a landmark as well as a curiosity. The chapel is always open providing shelter and a resting place for weary travelers. The chapel is 12 foot tall including its steeple; the building is 10-by-14 foot with stained glass side windows. There are eight wooden seats facing a white cross on the pulpit.

US 89 south just north of Gardiner, Montana and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park
US 89 south just north of Gardiner, Montana and the entrance to Yellowstone National Park

I soon found myself in the touristy town of Gardiner, Montana. The town definitely caters to the tourists and adventurers. It is also home the entry point for the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and the massive Roosevelt Arch. Constructed under the supervision of the U.S. Army at Fort Yellowstone, its cornerstone was laid down by President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The top of the arch is inscribed with a quote from the Organic Act of 1872, the legislation which created Yellowstone, which reads “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”

Entering Gardiner, Montana
Entering Gardiner, Montana
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything
Old ghost sign in Gardiner where they claim to sell everything

And thus ends my journey on Montana’s US as I enter through the Roosevelt Arch into Yellowstone National Park and eventually into Wyoming.

Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Sumoflam at Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Looking north to Roosevelt Arch and Montana from Yellowstone entrance
Looking north to Roosevelt Arch and Montana from Yellowstone entrance
At the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, still on US 89 in Montana
At the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, still on US 89 in Montana

From this point I entered Wyoming on my way to Mammoth Hot Springs and US 212 which will take me across the northern section of Yellowstone National Park and into the Beartooth Mountain Range.  That will be the subject of my next post!

(6369)

Montana Trip: US Highway 89 thru Montana – North 89

Glacier National Park
Snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park as seen from US 89 just south of US Route 2 near Browning, MT

As I continued my trip in Montana, I spent some time with my daughter and her children in Shelby.  From there I proceeded to head back to Kentucky the “back roads” way over a number of US Highways and State Highways.

US Route 2 and US Route 89
US Route 2 and US Route 89

My goal was to travel the majority of Montana’s US 89 during this trip.  I did not hit the portion north of Browning to Alberta on this trip, though I have traveled it in the past.  In fact, over the years I have traveled US 89 from the Canadian border all the way to Mexico (back when US 89 went that far). This post will cover the section of US 89 north of Great Falls and I will follow with a second post covering the portion of US 89 in Montana south of Great Falls.

A scene from US Highway 89 in northern Montana
A scene from US Highway 89 in northern Montana

Sometimes called the National Park Highway, U.S. 89 links seven national parks across the Mountain West. In addition, fourteen other national park areas, mostly national monuments are also reachable from this backbone of the Rockies. The highway goes through prairies, mountains and deserts and, in my opinion, is the most scenic US Highway in America.

Sunrise on US 89 near Great Falls, Montana
Sunrise on US 89 near Great Falls, Montana

My wife flew out to Montana so I took her down to Great Falls and spent the night there.  The next morning she had an early flight, so I dropped her off and then headed north on US 89 from Great Falls and would travel all the way to US Highway 2 near Browning and then back to Shelby for one more night with the family.

US Highway 89 west of Vaughn, Montana
US Highway 89 west of Vaughn, Montana

US 89 near Great Falls merges with Interstate 15 until Vaughn, Montana, where it cuts northwest towards Glacier National Park.  In the early morning, this is a fabulously beautiful drive along the eastern edge of Glacier.

Sunrise over the Rockies as seen from US 89 north of Vaughn, Montana
Sunrise over the Rockies as seen from US 89 north of Vaughn, Montana
Morning sky on US 89 south of Fairfield, Montana
Morning sky on US 89 south of Fairfield, Montana

The first town along US 89 north is Fairfield, where the highway continues northward. I pulled into town on an early Monday morning and things were still quiet. Like many small Montana towns, there are old neon signs, old buildings and a unique personality.

Morning in Fairfield, Montana
Morning in Fairfield, Montana
Old Neon Sign, Fairfield, Montana
Old Neon Sign, Fairfield, Montana
Silos against the morning sky in Fairfeld, Montana
Silos against the morning sky in Fairfeld, Montana
Mo Meth Mural in Fairfield, Montana. Murals such as these are common in many small towns in Montana
Mo Meth Mural in Fairfield, Montana. Murals such as these are common in many small towns in Montana

Fairfield is also the southern gateway to Freezeout Lake, which can be seen from US 89. This lake is a spring home to snow geese and swans as they fly north to Canada in the spring. I drove by a bit late to see the swarms of birds, but I did catch a couple of bird shots as I drove by.

Early morning on Freezeout Lake as seen from US 89 north of Fairfield, Montana
Early morning on Freezeout Lake as seen from US 89 north of Fairfield, Montana
Another nice view of Freezeout Lake
Another nice view of Freezeout Lake
A black-necked stilt looks for its morning breakfast at Freezeout Lake
A black-necked stilt looks for its morning breakfast at Freezeout Lake
Geese enjoy an early morning swim in Freezeout Lake
Geese enjoy an early morning swim in Freezeout Lake

Route 89 continues north into beautiful country on the approach to the town of Choteau, which is a southwestern gateway to Glacier (the town refers to itself as “The Front Porch to the Rockies”).

A metal cowboy sculpture on a hill south of Choteau, Montana is silhouetted against the morning sky.
A metal cowboy sculpture on a hill south of Choteau, Montana is silhouetted against the morning sky.
Welcome to Choteau, Montana
Welcome to Choteau, Montana

The town is the northern terminus of US 287 which actually starts in Port Arthur, Texas, about 1,791 miles away.  (I actually drove a good portion of US 287 on a previous trip to Texas from Dalhart through Amarillo and Wichita Falls into the Dallas area.) As I pulled into Choteau from the south I was greeted by two grumpy looking cowboys (in the Ace Hardware parking lot).  I contacted Ace owner Steve Nyland to inquire about the pieces and learned that they were made by Lincoln, Montana born artist Rick Rowley who now runs the Lost Woodsman Studio in Sedona, Arizona (which, by the way is ALSO on US 89 in Arizona) and is world renown for his art.

Big Wooden Cowboy in Choteau, Montana
Big Wooden Cowboy in Choteau, Montana (carved by Rick Rowley)
Grumpy Cowboy in Choteau, Montana
Grumpy Cowboy in Choteau, Montana (carved by Rick Rowley)
Visiting a couple of cranky cowboys in Choteau, Montana
Visiting a couple of cranky cowboys in Choteau, Montana

Choteau is home to a beautiful old courthouse, a 70s style motel and a few other unique things.

Teton County Courthouse, completed in 1906 and designed by Joseph B. Gibson and George H. Shanley
Teton County Courthouse, completed in 1906 and designed by Joseph B. Gibson and George H. Shanley
Old Neon - Big Sky Motel in Choteau, Montana
Old Neon – Big Sky Motel in Choteau, Montana
Welcome to Choteau, Montana sign
Welcome to Choteau, Montana sign
Old covered wagon on a building in Choteau, Montana
Old covered wagon on a building in Choteau, Montana
Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
Roxy Theatre in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
A wall mural in Choteau, Montana
Choteau, Montana
Choteau, Montana – banner with dinosaurs

It is also home to a unique little museum called the Old Trail Museum, and is one of 14 stops on the Montana Dinosaur Trail. They even have three big dinosaur statues outside of the museum.

Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana
A T Rex coming after Sumoflam in Choteau, Montana at the Old Trail Museum
A T Rex coming after Sumoflam in Choteau, Montana at the Old Trail Museum
Grizzly Bear Exhibit at the Old Trail Museum
Grizzly Bear Exhibit at the Old Trail Museum
Bear Trap on display at the Old Trail Museum
Bear Trap on display at the Old Trail Museum

The folks at the Old Trail Museum are ultra friendly and there is a lot to see there including paleontology exhibits, grizzly bear exhibit, an art studio and a luscious ice cream shop!  A great place to bring the kids…and that is why we came with the grand kids.

Some of the Old Trail Museum
Some of the Old Trail Museum (including a dinosaur tail!)
Another dinosaur at the Old trail Museum
Another dinosaur at the Old trail Museum
The third outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum
The third outdoor dinosaur at the Old Trail Museum

The next town north of Choteau is Bynum, Montana.  The town is home to yet another dinosaur museum, the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, another Dinosaur Trail stop.  The center includes the world’s longest dinosaur, a skeletal model display of a Seismosaurus, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Other displays include the first baby dinosaur remains found in North America and the actual remains of other new dinosaur species.

Bynum, Montana
Bynum, Montana
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana
Come See the World's Largest Dinosaur in Bynum, Montana
Come See the World’s Largest Dinosaur in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana
Big Dino Statue in Bynum, Montana

This is another one of those very small towns, but it does have a unique character in that it has a dinosaur museum in a giant T Rex that you can see from the highway. Great for a photo opportunity!

Trex Agate Shop and wall mural in Bynum, Montana
Trex Agate Shop and wall mural in Bynum, Montana
Old Purkett's Grocery in Bynum, Montana
Old Purkett’s Grocery and Bus Depot in Bynum, Montana
J.D.'s Wildlife Sanctuary in Bynum. Apparently known for its steaks.
J.D.’s Wildlife Sanctuary in Bynum. Apparently known for its steaks.

Another few miles up the road US 89 meets Montana 219 which leads to Pendroy and then on to Conrad on Interstate 15.  Pendroy, Montana is a sparsely populated little place.

A dilapidated barn near Pendroy, Montana
A dilapidated barn near Pendroy, Montana
An old house in Pendroy, Montana
An old house in Pendroy, Montana

My biggest excitement about Pendroy was the discovery of some unique yard art outside a house there. It included a wind chime made of oxygen tanks, a metal bear sculpture, a metal gal on an old tiller and more.

Metal Gal on Tiller in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Gal on Tiller in Pendroy, Montana
Oxygen Tank Wind Chime in Pendroy, Montana
Oxygen Tank Wind Chime in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Grizzly Bear in Pendroy, Montana
Metal Grizzly Bear in Pendroy, Montana
Old cabin near Pendroy, Montana
Old cabin near Pendroy, Montana

The drive north on US Route 89 really offers some spectacular views of the mountains to the west and they are extra beautiful when the sun is coming up.

Rocky Mountains as seen from US 89 near Pendroy, Montana
Rocky Mountains as seen from US 89 near Pendroy, Montana
US 89 heading north from Pendroy, Montana
US 89 heading north from Pendroy, Montana
Another view of the Rocky Mountains just south of Dupuyer, Montana
Another view of the Rocky Mountains just south of Dupuyer, Montana

The next town on US 89 is the historic town of Dupuyer, Montana.  The sign below says it all, calling is a “colorful cattle town” and the “oldest town between Fort Benton and the Rocky Mountains.”  I found it to still be colorful.

Dupuyer History
Dupuyer History
Welcome to Dupuyer, another unique metal town sign, common in northern Montana
Welcome to Dupuyer, another unique metal town sign, common in northern Montana

While driving into Dupuyer, I noticed a unique cemetery on a hill west of town with the flag flying high and the Rockies in the background.  I decided to veer off the road a bit onto Dupuyer Creek Road and catch some of the scenery and was glad I did.

Dupuyer Cemetery on a hill with a spectacular view of the Rockies
Dupuyer Cemetery on a hill with a spectacular view of the Rockies
Dupuyer Creek Road is a gravel road west out of Dupuyer heading straight to the mountains
Dupuyer Creek Road is a gravel road west out of Dupuyer heading straight to the mountains
A flag flies at the gate to Anderson Ranch, just west of Dupuyer
A flag flies at the gate to Anderson Ranch, just west of Dupuyer

The road was also lined with colorful wildflowers all on bloom on this early morning.

Wildflowers set against the mountains
Wildflowers set against the mountains
Bright yellow wildflowers
Bright yellow wildflowers
Purple Wildflowers
Purple Wildflowers

Then, what struck me as fun was the “Boot Fence.”  I had seen one similar on a highway in Idaho in 2013.  Each post had its own boot on it.  I have also seen it in Texas.  I wondered about the tradition and found a few write-ups about the tradition. A search in Google images shows dozens of photos of boots on fences.

Many ranchers wear cowboy boots and like everything else, they eventually wear out. Ranchers are very resourceful and when this happens — they put the boots on top of the posts to keep them covered and prevent rain water from seeping into the posts and rotting them out.

Boot Post Fence near Dupuyer, Montana
Boot Post Fence near Dupuyer, Montana

Sometimes, a rancher will put boots on the fencepost to honor the passing of a beloved horse, a hired hand or fallen comrade. Also, before telephones were invented, a rancher would indicate he was home and the workday was over by hanging boots on the fence. Whatever the reasons, it is an interesting tradition in the west.

My favorite post
My favorite post

Finally, back on US 89 I was tempted to visit the Dupuyer Cache, but they were still not open when I drove by at 8:45 AM.

Dupuyer Cache sells yarn, honey, books, groceries and more.
Dupuyer Cache sells yarn, honey, books, groceries and more.
An old tractor at rest in Dupuyer, Montana
An old tractor at rest in Dupuyer, Montana

A couple of miles north of Dupuyer on US 89 is a cut off to Valier. In and of itself, Valier is not too exciting of small town but it is scenic as it borders Lake Frances, a great bird estuary.  On the afternoon leg of my trip with my grandchildren we ventured to Valier on our way to Choteau in order to take a ride out to “Rock City.”  It is a six or seven mile drive due north of town.  This is not the same Rock City that is located near Chattanooga, Tennessee and has advertisements on barns all over the southeast.  Rather, this Rock City is a natural “city” of rock formations that have been eroded away by the Two Medicine River. (See my detailed post about here)

Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana
Rock City north of Valier, Montana

To get to Rock City you drive north towards Cut Bank out of Valier on Cut Bank Highway and as the road turns west, you continue north on a dirt road which eventually turns into a little path that’s kind of bumpy and probably more suited to a four-wheel-drive or a large base vehicle.

A portion of the road to Rock City
A portion of the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City
Farmland along the road to Rock City

On the approach through prairie lands and farmlands, a big Valley, a chasm opens up in front of you. The Two Medicine River flows down below and it was quite a strong current at the time we visited due to all the glacier runoff as spring had gotten started.

Chasm formed by Two Medicine River
Chasm formed by Two Medicine River (Glacier Wind Farm in background)
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana
Two Medicine River forms a small canyon north of Valier, Montana

Hundreds of strange rock formations dot the landscape, creating many eerie features.  Many of the formations are 12 to 20 feet tall and many have big flat tops on them indicating massive amounts of water in wind erosion over but I would assume is centuries of time.

Hoodoos of Rock City
Hoodoos of Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City
Unique formations at Rock City

For the adventuresome person, hiking down to the river is probably quite possible as there are many locations that are not beholden with cliffs. On this occasion we walked around through many of the formations, but didn’t venture down into the canyon itself.

Rock City near Valier, Montana
Rock City formations near Valier, Montana

To me, though much different in appearance, it was not unlike Coal Mine Canyon which is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation east of Tuba City, Arizona. Like Coal Mine Canyon, it is an undeveloped geologic location that might otherwise be a National Monument or a State Park. But in both cases neither of these appear to be headed in this direction. Both require going down narrow dirt roads and paths to get to them. Both have unique and otherworldly formations. And both have big chasms with beautiful scenes.

Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT
Formations at Rock City north of Valier, MT

Up in northern Montana near Sweet Grass, there are some similar formations known as the Jerusalem Rocks. But the Rock City formations are much larger and much more expansive. (See my detailed post about Rock City here)

More Rock City Formations
More Rock City Formations

Continuing north on US 89 I entered the Blackfeet Reservation at its southern entrance. And, similar to the East Entrance in Cut Bank (see photos in THIS POST),  there are two scrap metal Indian Chiefs that greeted me. The same artist, Jay Polite Laber has put these sculptures at all four directional entrances to the reservation.

Sumoflam with Blackfeet Chiefs at south entrance to Blackfeet Reservation south of Browning, MT
Sumoflam with Blackfeet Chiefs at south entrance to Blackfeet Reservation south of Browning, MT.  These were made by Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber
South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation
South entrance to the Blackfeet Nation – artwork by Blackfeet artist Jay Polite Laber
Blackfeet Chief by Jay Polite Laber
Blackfeet Chief by Jay Polite Laber

From this location looking west, one can see the grandeur of the massive snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park.

Heading north on US Route 89
Heading north on US Route 89
Horses graze on Blackfeet land as seen from US 89 southeast of Browning, MT
A horse grazes on Blackfeet land as seen from US 89 southeast of Browning, MT
Approaching Browning, MT just south of the Junction with US Route 2
Approaching Browning, MT just south of the Junction with US Route 2

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A Day Drive in Central Idaho: Volcanoes, Mountains and Rivers

Teepee in Stanley, ID
Teepee in Stanley, ID

June 8, 2013:  I had a free day in Rexburg, ID so I thought I would take a day trip into the heart of Idaho.  I visited old nuclear sites, sagebrush filled grasslands, ancient volcanic flows, rugged (and jagged) mountains and riverine landscapes .  It was an awesome day of geographic and scenic diversity.  Here is my map of the trip:


View Larger Map – Rexburg to the Sawtooths and Salmon River

I decided to leave early so I could catch all of the day’s sunlight.  It would be a long day.  After heading south to Idaho Falls, I stayed on US 20 west and made my way to the gravel road that leads to the small, nearly ghost town of Atomic City.  I had seen earlier reviews on the town on Roadside America. I could see that the content of the article was a bit dated as I made my way into the small town.  Atomic City was, at one time, a boom city due to the growth in nuclear research facilities in the area, namely the Idaho National Laboratory and its many secret test facilities in the area.

US 20 west out of Idaho Falls
US 20 west out of Idaho Falls
Land of Elephant Hunters
Land of Elephant Hunters

About 12,000 years ago hunters came to this area for big game such as mammoths, camels and giant bison.  Looking at the landscape now, it is difficult to imagine.

Big Butte, Idaho
Big Butte, Idaho
Three Buttes Site
Three Buttes Site
Sagebrush and mountains near Atomic City
Sagebrush and mountains near Atomic City
Gravel Road to Atomic City
Gravel Road to Atomic City
Atomic City, ID
Atomic City, ID

The town used to have a store, a bar and a Texaco gas station.  The gas station used to house the bar.  Both appear to be closed now.  In fact, the gas station does not even have the Post Office sign on it any longer.  but the vestiges of the old town still remain…

Old bar sign by the old Texaco Station
Old bar sign by the old Texaco Station
Old Twin Buttes Cafe
Old Twin Buttes Cafe

Despite the ghostly appearance of the town, from May thru September the weekends are pretty active here with the Atomic Motor Raceway, which still offers locals the opportunity to race their dwarf karts, minis, modifieds and other stock cars.  They had no event the day I was there.

Atomic Motor Raceway, Atomic City, ID
Atomic Motor Raceway, Atomic City, ID

There are some old potato barns and wildflowers that caught my eye in Atomic City as well.  A sign that there is still some semblance of life….

Potato Barns
Sod Roof Potato Barns in Atomic City
Wildflowers in Atomic City
Wildflowers in Atomic City

I left the town of about 20 people and headed west on US 20/26 towards the town of Arco next.

US Routes 20/26
US Routes 20/26
Twin Buttes near Atomic City as seen heading west to Arco, ID
Twin Buttes near Atomic City as seen heading west to Arco, ID
Sawtooth Range n the Distance
Sawtooth Range in the Distance

Along the way there was a nice new Rest Area that had some history included, especially concerning the Nuclear Work in the area.

Nuclear Reactor sign
Nuclear Reactor sign
Nuclear Reactors info
Nuclear Reactors info
The Road to Arco, ID
The Road to Arco, ID

Arco, Idaho is a town of about 1000 people and is located in Butte County, Idaho. Originally known as Root Hog, the original town site was five miles south at the junction of two stagecoach lines (Blackfoot-Wood River and Blackfoot-Salmon). A suspension bridge that crossed the Big Lost River funneled traffic through the settlement. The town leaders applied to the U.S. Post Office for the town name of “Junction.” However, The Postmaster General thought the name too common and suggested that the place be named Arco for Georg von Arco (1869–1940), an inventor and pioneer in the field of radio transmission, who was visiting Washington, D.C. from his home country of Germany at the time. The town later moved four miles southeast when the stage station was moved to Webb Springs at Big Southern Butte. When the Oregon Short Line railroad arrived from Blackfoot in 1901 the stage lines became obsolete and the town of Arco moved northwest to its present site.

Downtown Arco, Idaho
Downtown Arco, Idaho

Arco was the first community in the world ever to be lit by electricity generated by nuclear power. This occurred on July 17, 1955, powered by Argonne National Laboratory’s BORAX-III reactor at the nearby National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS), which eventually became the site of the Idaho National Energy Laboratory, a predecessor of the current Idaho National Laboratory.

Arco, Idaho City Hall
Arco, Idaho City Hall – First City to be powered by Nuclear Energy
Historical Sign in Arco
Historical Sign in Arco

Arco is also known for “Number Hill”, a butte behind the city with a bunch of numbers on it.  History of the hill states that the tradition began with the 1920 graduating class of Butte County High School when they painted a 20 up on the hill.  Since that time the tradition has continued with each class adding their years to the hill.  There is now even a cafe in town named after it.

Number Hill - Arco, ID
Number Hill – Arco, ID
Number Hill Grill - Arco, ID
Number Hill Grill – Arco, ID
Number Hill Grill
Number Hill Grill

A few more scenes from Arco

Submarine Sail of USS Hawkbill
Submarine Sail of USS Hawkbill

The USS Hawkbill SSN-666 (also known as the Devil Boat) was launched in 1969 and was decommissioned in 2000.  The sail was sent to Arco to be added to the Idaho Science Center, which is housed in Arco.

Pickles Place - Home of the "Atomic Burger"
Pickles Place – Home of the “Atomic Burger”
EAT sign at Pickle's Place in Arco, ID
EAT sign at Pickle’s Place in Arco, ID
Wall Mural in Arco, ID
Wall Mural in Arco, ID
The DK Motel - found a motel named after me
The DK Motel – found a motel named after me!!

My next stop on the route was a visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument, one of at least six National Monuments dedicated to volcanoes (see list of National Monuments). Lewis and Clark came across this expansive area of Cinder Cones and Lava Flows in 1805.

The road to Craters of the Moon
The road to Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon Entrance
Craters of the Moon Entrance
Craters of the Moon sign with mountains in background
Craters of the Moon sign with mountains in background

Though many had come before, the official name “Craters of the Moon” was coined by Robert Limbert who was the first man to thoroughly explore and promote the area. The name became official in 1924 when the area was established as a National Monument.

Expansive views of the lava flows
Expansive views of the lava flows

The lava flows here were a result of fissure eruptions that would create cinder cones due to the high fluidity of the basalt flows that allowed gasses to escape.  Sunset Crater in Arizona is very similar to this.

Blocky aa Lava Flow
Blocky aa Lava Flow

Lava flows called “aa” are basaltic lava flows characterized by a rough or rubbly surface composed of broken lava blocks called clinker.  This is really rough stuff and scary to walk on.

Lava monoliths in the Devil's Orchard section of the park
Lava monoliths in the Devil’s Orchard section of the park
Devil's Orchard
Devil’s Orchard
Basalt Flows
Basalt Flows
Green in the lava flows
Green in the lava flows

There are a number of Cinder Cones in the park, some of which may be climbed by visitors.

Hiking a cinder cone
Hiking a cinder cone
Flows and hills
Flows and hills

I was very fortunate in my timing in the park as many of the native wildflowers were in bloom.  These wildflowers struggle for the little water and naturally space themselves, pretty amazing.

Fields of Yellow
Fields of Yellow
Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Larkspur
Larkspur
Larkspur closeup
Larkspur closeup
Delicate Yellow Wood Sorrel
Delicate Yellow Wood Sorrel
Dwarf Buckwheat
Dwarf Buckwheat – amazed with pink and white – blooms are smaller than a dime
Pink Wildflowers
Pink Wildflowers
Who knows?
Who knows?

And a few more lava photos…

Green in the Lava
Green in the Lava
Lava, trees and mountains
Lava, trees and mountains

From the Craters of the Moon I headed down the “Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway” for what I consider to be the real HIGHlight of the trip….

Peaks to Craters Scenic byway
Peaks to Craters Scenic byway

And then passed by Goodale’s Cutoff

Goodale's Cutoff
Goodale’s Cutoff

The road goes on forever through the lava…much easier today then it was for the emigrants

US 20 heading to Idaho 75 and Carey, ID
US 20 heading to Idaho 75 and Carey, ID
Welcome to Carey, Idaho
Welcome to Carey, Idaho

Carey, Idaho is basically the Gateway to Idaho 75 heading into the Sawtooth Mountains. Actually, Carey is located at the junctions of U.S. Routes 26/93 and 20 and is the commercial center of the Little Wood River Valley. It was founded by a group of Mormon colonists led by Cyrus Joseph Stanford in 1883 who named the town “Marysville.” It was renamed “Carey” with the arrival of his younger brother, Thomas C. Stanford in 1884.

Farm tractor on highway in Carey, ID
Farm tractor on highway in Carey, ID
Dino sighting in Carey, ID
Dino sighting in Carey, ID
Mountains as seen from Carey, ID
Mountains as seen from Carey, ID

And then onto Idaho 75 and a new scenic byway

Sawtooth Scenic Byway
Sawtooth Scenic Byway

I would have to say that this drive was probably one of the more stunning mountain drives I have ever been on.  The jagged look (thus Sawtooth) of the range is impressive and awe inspiring.

First Look at the Sawtooth Range peeking out over the foothills
First Look at the Sawtooth Range peeking out over the foothills
First Stop - Bellevue, ID - Gateway to the Sawtooths
First Stop – Bellevue, ID – Gateway to the Sawtooths

The first town on ID 75 is Bellevue, Idaho, which is Idaho’s only chartered city. The town was established in March 1882 and currently has a population of about 2300.  It is nestled in the foothills at 5.170 feet, before advancing up into the higher altitudes.

Coke Ad on Bellevue Wall
Coke Ad on Bellevue Wall
Antelope Mural, Bellevue, ID
Antelope Mural, Bellevue, ID
Old Truck with Old Gasoline Ads
Old Truck with Old Gasoline Ads
Old Cabin in Downtown Bellevue, ID
Old Cabin in Downtown Bellevue, ID
Original Bellevue City Hall - Now the Old City Hall Museum
Original Bellevue City Hall – Now the Old City Hall Museum – unique building

Then there are the continuous stream of scrap metal animals, like this bear at a garden shop in Bellevue…

Scrap Metal Bear - Bellevue, ID
Scrap Metal Bear – Bellevue, ID

From Bellevue it was north to Hailey and then into the Ketchum/Sun Valley area.  From Bellevue the climb began and the mountains north began to look regal and grand.

Sawtootsh from ID 75 north of Hailey, ID
Sawtooths from ID 75 north of Hailey, ID

I arrived in Ketchum around noon.  This is a touristy town, obviously with the Sun Valley ski resorts and all of the summer mountain activity.  As with many of these kinds of towns, unique art abounds.  Here are a few “artsy” things I saw in Ketchum….

Straw building in Ketchum, ID
“Centerpiece” by Patrick Dougherty in Ketchum, ID

The above twig and branch sculpture, called “Centerpiece” was made by artist Patrick Dougherty, a North Carolina artist who works with tree saplings as his medium.  This was made in 2010for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, which will be building a new facility on the grounds where Centerpiece stands.  Dougherty has over 230 creations on exhibit all over the world.  See more of his work here.

Unique Sculpture
Unique Sculpture – Ketchum, Idaho
Moose! Yet another one for the collection. This one in Ketchum, Idaho
Moose! Yet another one for the collection. This one in Ketchum, Idaho

And then there are the unique places in town:

Pioneer Saloon - Ketchum, Idaho
Pioneer Saloon – Ketchum, Idaho

The Pioneer Saloon… Or the Commercial Club as it was called originally, was opened in the 1940’s as a gambling casino operated by Otis Hobbs. A few years later the casino was closed and the American Legion then took it over and used it as a meeting hall. For a short time, the building was converted into a dry goods store.  In the mid 60’s, the Pioneer was redesigned as a restaurant. The present version of the Pioneer Saloon dates from 1972 — hence the phrase “Where were you in 72.”

Gnome on a Bike - loved this graphic on a bike shop in Ketchum
Gnome on a Bike – loved this graphic on a bike shop in Ketchum

From the Ketchum/Sun Valley area I continued north on ID 75 into the mountains.  On this day I happened to be heading north while the Sawtooth Relay was in action.  I saw runners for miles and thought it was just a marathon.  Turns out it is a 62 mile relay race with teams of 6 running from Stanley, ID to Ketchum, ID along ID 75.  It is a fund raising event that apparently had over 300 teams in 2013.  I saw many of the team vans along the road.

Mountains and Runners - The Sawtooth Relay 2013
Mountains and Runners – The Sawtooth Relay 2013
More Mountain Views - with runners...
More Mountain Views – with runners…

The drive eventually got me to Galena Pass, which is at a little over 8700 feet.

Sawtooth Mountains heading north in ID 75
Boulder Mountains heading north in ID 75
More of the Boulder Mountains heading north in ID 75
More of the Boulder Mountains heading north in ID 75
Boulder Mountains heading north in ID 75
Boulder Mountains heading north in ID 75
Sign at Galena Pass, Idaho
Sign at Galena Pass, Idaho

Galena Summit marks the divide between the Big Wood River and Salmon River drainage areas.   Just a bit more down the road is the Galena Overlook, which offers an expansive view of the Sawtooth Range to the north and the headwaters of the Salmon River in the Stanley Basin below.

View from Galena Overlook
View from Galena Overlook

The view from Galena Overlook was awesome.  The blue lake in the bottom center will be seen in another photo from lake level as I ended up on that road below in the valley.

Sawtooth Range as seen from Galena OVerlook
Sawtooth Range as seen from Galena Overlook

DSC_8726

Bottom of the Stanley Basin. Lake from ground level
Bottom of the Stanley Basin. Lake from ground level
Salmon River source
Salmon River source

Just a small stream here, but turns into a mighty big river as it goes down the hill (which will be seen later in this post)

The beginnings of the Salmon River
The beginnings of the Salmon River
Antelope hanging around the source of the Salmon River near Vienna
Antelope hanging around the source of the Salmon River near Vienna

 

Vienna, Idaho
Vienna, Idaho

From this vantage point the rugged Sawtooth Range is clearly in sight….

Sawtooth Range as seen from Vienna
Sawtooth Range as seen from Vienna

From this area, as I ventured further north, I came to the Sawtooth City historical marker and then into the area around the crystal clear Alturas Lake.

Sawtooth City, Idaho
Sawtooth City, Idaho

 

Fun chain saw carving near Sawtooth City
Fun chain saw carving near Sawtooth City

The scenery from here was awe-inspiring as many of the views of the snow covered peaks also offered scenic carpets of flower covered meadows.

Flower Covered Meadows near Sawtooth City, ID
Flower Covered Meadows near Sawtooth City, ID
Alturas Lake in the Sawtooth Valley, ID
Alturas Lake in the Sawtooth Valley, ID

 

Fishing on Alturas Lake
Fishing on Alturas Lake
Kayaking on Alturas Lake
Kayaking on Alturas Lake
Mountains as seen on the road near Alturas Lake
Mountains as seen on the road near Alturas Lake

I continued north towards Redfish Lake and then into Stanley.  I wanted to stop at Redfish Lake, but my time was running short.  But the scenery was amazing…

Sawtooth Mountains near Redlake
Sawtooth Mountains near Redlake
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Jagged Sawtooths near Stanley, ID
Welcome to Stanley, Idaho
Welcome to Stanley, Idaho

Stanley, Idaho….I could SOOOO move here (in the summer at least).   Stanley is is the hub point for three different Scenic Byways (The Sawtooth, the Ponderosa Pine and the Salmon River). It sits in a valley surrounded by mountains at a little over 6200 feet in elevation.   It is a town with a number of small resorts/motels and a couple of places to eat.  Wikipedia says the population in 2010 was 63, but it appeared to be closer to 200 to me.

Hello from Stanley - with the Sawtooths in the background
Hello from Stanley – with the Sawtooths in the background
Cabin in Stanley, Idaho
Cabin in Stanley, Idaho
Scene from Stanley, Idaho
Scene from Stanley, Idaho
Filling up the Married Up Mobile with mountains in the background
Filling up the Married Up Mobile with mountains in the background

It had been a long day so far and I was hungry, so I stopped in at the Mountain Village Express (part of the Mountain Village Resort) to find something to eat.  Turns out they make breakfast all day and an omelet sounding appealing!!

Mountain Village Express interior
Mountain Village Express interior
My Lunch - an omelet at Mountain Village Express in Stanley
My Lunch – an omelet at Mountain Village Express in Stanley
Hotel in Stanley, Idaho?
Motel in Stanley, Idaho?

Perhaps one of the most scenic photos I have ever taken….

The Sawtooths as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho
The Sawtooths and the Salmon River as seen from Lower Stanley, Idaho
Teepee in Stanley, ID
Teepee in Stanley, ID

I hated to leave Stanley, but I had to begin the winding descent along the Salmon River back into Rexburg.  I went through Lower Stanley and then followed the Salmon River Scenic Byway.  At first it was still rugged mountains and a raging river, enticing to rafters and kayakers (and probably bears too…)

Scene along the Salmon River byway
Scene along the Salmon River Scenic Byway
Salmon River Scenic Byway
Salmon River Scenic Byway
The Salmon River surges
The Salmon River surges
Some rafters enjoy the ride on the Salmon River
Some rafters enjoy the ride on the Salmon River
Raging Rapids on the Salmon
Raging Rapids on the Salmon

The mountains soon began to fade away in the background as a more desertish/volcanic landscape.  Nonetheless, this was rugged country full of deep gorges, steep hills and to me was reminiscent of western movie scenes.

One of many chasms along the Salmon River
One of many chasms along the Salmon River
Slippery lava slopes on the Salmon River Scenic Byway
Slippery lava slopes on the Salmon River Scenic Byway
Old cabins and flowery meadow along the Salmon River Scenic Byway
Old cabins and flowery meadows along the Salmon River Scenic Byway
Multi-Colored views along the Salmon River Scenic Byway
Multi-Colored views along the Salmon River Scenic Byway
Clayton Smelter
Clayton Smelter
Clayton, Idaho - Population 7
Clayton, Idaho – Population 7

As I approached the historical marker above, there was a County Sheriff taking radar.  It is a downhill road and Clayton is on the county line.  I stopped for a couple of photos and a small chit-chat with the sheriff who told me that Clayton is practically a ghost town.  The sign above says it all!

Old wagons seen near Challis,ID
Old wagons at Land of Yankee Fork Interpretive Center seen near Challis, ID
Old mining equipment at Land of Yankee Fork Interpretive Center near Challis, ID
Old mining equipment at Land of Yankee Fork Interpretive Center near Challis, ID
Colorful buttes near Challis, ID
Colorful buttes near Challis, ID

As I hit US Route 93 from ID 75, I headed southeast towards Mackay, ID on US 93.  To my excitement the mountains were not all gone.  Indeed, I headed toward a new set range of mountains and drove through some pretty spectacular canyons as I entered the Grand View Canyon then out into the Lost River Valley which then opens up to an awesome view of the Lost River Mountain Range, which is home to the 9 highest peaks in Idaho.

Grandview Canyon on US 93 - northern section of the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway
Grandview Canyon on US 93 – northern section of the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway
Lost River Mountains, Idaho
Lost River Mountains, Idaho
Mount Borah as seen from Willow Creek Summit, Elev 7160 feet
Mount Borah as seen from Willow Creek Summit, Elev 7160 feet

Mount Borah is the highest mountain in Idaho at 12,667 feet and one of the most prominent peaks in the contiguous states. This mountain was named for William E. Borah, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1907 until 1940. A major earthquake fracture in October 1983 that was 26 miles long and 7 miles deep surfaced forcing the Lost River Valley to slide away from Mt. Borah.  The valley subsided 9 feet after the quake.

Driving towards Mt. Borah, Idaho's highest peak
Driving towards Mt. Borah, Idaho’s highest peak
Lost River Mountains, Idaho
Lost River Mountains, Idaho

Funny thing — along the way I came across a fence about 40 yards or more covered with boots and shoes….

Boot Fence near Mount Borah
Boot Fence near Mount Borah
Boot Fence with Mount Borah in background
Boot Fence with Mount Borah in background

Continuing south on US 93 i rolled into the small town of Mackay (prounounced MacKee locally).

Welcome to Mackay, Idaho
Welcome to Mackay, Idaho
Downtown Mackay, Idaho
Downtown Mackay, Idaho
Mine Hill Grill, Mackay, Idaho - home of the "World Famous Burnt Lemonade"
Mine Hill Grill, Mackay, Idaho – home of the “World Famous Burnt Lemonade”

Mackay is home to the Mackay Mine Hill which still allows tours, some of them apparently pretty grueling.

More slow tractors - started the day off with one...ending the day with another. This is Idaho.
More slow tractors – started the day off with one…ending the day with another. This is Idaho!

I made my way down US 93 back thru Arco and then to US 26/20 until the junction with Idaho 33, where I then proceeded east back towards Rexburg thru the small town of Howe.

Out of the mountains and into the sagebrush
Out of the mountains and into the sagebrush on ID 33 east towards Rexburg.
Scenic cinder Hills and Shadows as seen on Idaho Hwy 33
Scenic shadowy hills as seen on Idaho Hwy 33

This was a 13 hour road trip with an amazing diversity of scenery, geography and landscapes.  Probably one of the more amazing day trips I have ever taken to this point in terms of variety and excitement.  I really could have spent three days doing this and really digging in deeper.  Maybe next time….

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