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….

(2679)

Eastern Wyoming to Yellowstone: Cowboy Country, Buffaloes and more

Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Buffalo Bill Reservoir

On June 2, 2013 I continued my trip westward from Lexington thru South Dakota and into Wyoming.  On this leg I started in Gillette, Wyoming and made my way to Rexburg with a trip through Yellowstone National Park.

Welcome to Gillette, WY
Welcome to Gillette, WY

Gillette, Wyoming is the first large town in Wyoming on the western end of I-90.  It was incorporated in 1892 and is now called the “Energy Capital of the Nation” due to the high grade coal reserves as well as nearly 13,000 oil wells.

Cowboy Mural
Downtown Cowboy Mural by Harvey Jackson

Downtown Gillette is not too large, but, along the main street there are a number of sculptures and a great wall mural.  The mural above was done by Gillette artist Harvey Jackson, who has murals throughout Wyoming including a giant mural on the side of L &H Industrial in Gillette called “Campbell County Industrial Mural“, which is twice as large as Mt. Rushmore.

Poco a Poco Se Va Lejos by Pokey Park
Poco a Poco Se Va Lejos by Pokey Park

Gillette has a Mayor’s Art Council which features an “Avenue of the Arts” annually.  They have a number of pieces made and display them on the Main Street through town and then auction them.  Here are a few that I took while driving through town.

Abraham Lincoln - by Gary Lee Price
Abraham Lincoln – by Gary Lee Price

This Abraham Lincoln bronze work by Gary Lee Price is a duplicate of a piece in Jackson, Wyoming, which I visited a couple of months ago.

Talvez Manana by Pokey Park
Talvez Manana by Pokey Park

Pokey Park is a sculptor from Georgia.  She has the two turtles on display.

Belle - Jeannine Young
Belle – Jeannine Young

“Belle” is a work by Jeannine Young of Salt Lake City.

Cowboy - artist unknown
Cowboy – artist unknown
Feeding the geese
Feeding the ducks

Gillette is also home to the “Rockpile Museum.” This Campbell County Museum focuses on general, regional, and local history with an emphasis on the culture and people of Campbell County.  It was opened in 1974 at the site of the historic natural rockpile, which has been a piece of Gillette history since the 1890s.

Rockpile Museum - Gillette, Wyoming
Rockpile Museum – Gillette, Wyoming
Gillette's Rockpile
Gillette’s famous Rockpile

From Gillette I headed west towards Buffalo, Wyoming on I-90.   It was a beautiful day heading into the mountains of Wyoming.  There were some nice views and I also saw some antelope.

Mountains near Buffalo, WY
The Bighorn Mountains near Buffalo, WY
Heading West on I-90 in Wyoming
Heading West on I-90 in Wyoming towards the Bighorn Mountains
Antelope grazing near Buffalo, Wyoming
Antelope grazing near Buffalo, Wyoming
Welcome to Buffalo, WY
Welcome to Buffalo, WY

Buffalo, Wyoming is a nice small town in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.

Horse Sculpture - Buffalo, Wyoming
Cool Water – Buffalo, Wyoming

The sculpture above is called “Cool Water” and was done by Buffalo artist D. Michael Thomas, who has been sculpting cowboy themed pieces for over 30 years.

Nate Champion's Last Run - D. Michael Thomas
Nate Champion’s Last Run – D. Michael Thomas
Buffalo by Lyndon Fayne Pomeroy
Buffalo by Lyndon Fayne Pomeroy

Havre, Montana artist Lyndon Pomeroy did the unique bronze buffalo above.  I noted some of his work in Havre on a previous post.

Mountain Wildflowers - east of Buffalo on US 16
Mountain Wildflowers in a Mountain Meadow – east of Buffalo on US 16

The road from Buffalo, WY to Cody, WY has mountain majesties, wondrous wildflowers and amazing canyons.  Following is some of what I was able to see along US Route 16.

Mountain Scene on US 16 east of Buffalo, WY
Mountain Scene on US 16 east of Buffalo, WY

There are lots of wildflowers in bloom.  The yellow ones closeup look like this

Yellow Wildflowers in Bighorn National Forest
Arrow Leafed Balsamroot in Bighorn National Forest
Lupine in Big Horn National Forest
Lupine in Big Horn National Forest
Meadowlark Lake in Bighorn National Forest on US 16
Meadowlark Lake in Bighorn National Forest on US 16
Tensleep Canyon on US 16
Ten Sleep Canyon on US 16
US Route 16 into Worland, WY from Ten Sleep, WY
US Route 16 into Worland, WY from Ten Sleep, WY

Worland, Wyoming is also home to the Washakie Museum which features exhibits that portrays the history of the Big Horn Basin.  It is also home to a giant Mammoth Bronze statue.  The statue is 25 feet tall and weighs 6000 pounds.  It is the work of Casper, Wyoming (and Sedona, AZ) artist Chris Navarro.

Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

From Worland I headed north on US 20 towards Greybull and then west on US 14/16/20 towards Cody.  This provided some great scenes of the mountains of Yellowstone.

Heading west on US 14/16/20 out of Worland
Heading west on US 14/16/20 out of Worland
Another view of the Rocky Mountains near Yellowstone
Another view of the Rocky Mountains near Yellowstone

I eventually arrived in Cody, Wyoming by late morning.  Named after William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who was one of the founders of the town. There is plenty in town of you are a Buffalo Bill (and I don’t mean football) fan!

Welcome to Cody, Wyoming
Welcome to Cody, Wyoming
Painted Grizzly on a corner in Cody
Painted Grizzly on a corner in Cody

The grizzly above is part of a Cody fundraising program called “The Grizzly Gathering“, which was created to raise funds for their library.  Many towns are doing similar things.  We had the horses in Lexington (“Horse Mania“) and I have seen buffaloes (“Buffalo Roam” project in West Yellowstone, WY), birds, etc., as I go through some towns.

Large mural in Cody, Wyoming
Large mural by Austin Kuck in Cody, Wyoming

The mural above is on the wall of Seidel’s Saddlery in Cody.  It was painted by Colorado Austin Kuck.

Cody Theatre - Cody, Wyoming
Cody Theatre – Cody, Wyoming

Of course, like many older towns in the west, there is still plenty of neon….

Irma Restaurant, Cody, WY
Irma Restaurant, Cody, WY
Irma Hotel, Cody, WY
Irma Hotel, Cody, WY

Then, of course, there are the many Buffalo Bill items in town…

Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY
Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, WY
The Scout by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
The Scout by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Alternate view of the The Scout - Buffalo Bill statue
Alternate view of the The Scout – Buffalo Bill statue

The Scout is a bronze statue of a mounted rider outside the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. It was placed in 1924 to commemorate the town’s most famous resident, Buffalo Bill Cody. Originally in open land on the western outskirts of town, the statue today stands at the end of Sheridan Avenue. The project was initiated by Cody’s niece, Mary Jester Allen, who had established the basis of what would become the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. A New Yorker, she persuaded heiress and artist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to sculpt the piece.

"Hard and Fast All the Way" - Buffalo Bill sculpture by Peter M. Fillerup
“Hard and Fast All the Way” – Buffalo Bill sculpture by Peter Fillerup

The above bronze was done by Peter Fillerup of Heber, Utah.  It represents a younger Buffalo Bill as a Pony Express Rider.

Old Indian Woman -m Cody, Wyoming
Indian Woman, Cody, Wyoming
Indian Chief, Cody, Wyoming
Indian Chief, Cody, Wyoming

From Cody I was next on my way to Yellowstone, continuing along the same highway.  As I got closer there were more spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and other unique things as well.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Buffalo Bill Reservoir
Highway to Wapiti, WY
Highway to Wapiti, WY
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20

Then there is the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill in Wapiti. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family.  He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992.  The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances.  There is a great deal written about this odd place.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to venture up there, but I did get a good shot from below.

Smith Mansion - Wapiti, WY
Smith Mansion (The Crazy House) – Wapiti, WY
A Black Billed Magpie on a fencepost in Wapiti
A Black Billed Magpie on a fencepost in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
Giant stack of Antlers and Skulls in Wapiti
Giant stack of Antlers and Skulls in Wapiti
Closeup with skulls
Closeup with skulls

From Wapiti the road winds slowly into the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park.

Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
The Approach to Yellowtone
The Approach to Yellowstone

The last time I visited Yellowstone National Park was in 1973 while my family lived in Bozeman, Montana.  So, it has been about 40 years since then.  Much has changed, but much has remained the same (or at least appears to have – we all know that geology is also ever changing).

Sumoflam at Yellowstone - First time in 40 years
Sumoflam at Yellowstone – First time in 40 years

In the lower 48 states there are many magnificent National Parks including my personal Big Five of Yellowstone (WY), the Grand Canyon (AZ), Glacier National Park (MT), Zions National Park (UT) and Grand Teton National Park (WY).  There are many others ( I probably would have included Yosemite, but I have not been there yet).  Indeed, I may be known for my visiting offbeat and quirky sites, but don’t let that fool you.  I am enamored by the amazing geographic and historical diversity of this country.  But, I  have only made it to 22 of the nation’s 59 national parks thus far.  I dream of getting to Denali in Alaska and the North Cascades in Washington, along with Yosemite. (Here is a complete list of the National Parks)

Snowy Mountains in Yellowstone
Snowy Mountains in Yellowstone

Unfortunately, I did not have a lot of time on this trip, so I tried to hit the highlights I could on the Grand Loop Road through the park to West Yellowstone.  Here are a few scenes from the drive, some without any captions.

SCENES OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Lake - Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Lake – Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Pass - Yellowstone National Park
Sylvan Pass – Yellowstone National Park
Burned trees - Yellowstone National Park
Burned trees – Yellowstone National Park
A survivor - Yellowstone National Park
A survivor – Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Steam from Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park
Steam from Hot Springs – Yellowstone National Park
Upper Falls of Yellowstone River from Artist's Point
Upper Falls of Yellowstone River from Artist’s Point
Sumoflam at Yellowstone Upper Falls
Sumoflam at Yellowstone Upper Falls

Buffalo and Elk in Yellowstone Park

Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park

Of course, everyone knows that wild buffalo roam Yellowstone National Park, as elk as do deer, elk, moose, antelope, mountain goats, bears and more.  Unfortunately, all I saw were the buffalo (and almost hit one too!!).  I saw a couple of elk as well.  I heard from a few other tourists that they saw some bears hanging around the rivers, but I didn’t see any.

Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Another bull elk meanders into a field
Another bull elk meanders into a field
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park

As I noted above, I almost ran into a HUGE buffalo while driving through the park.  I rounded a corner and there he was crossing into the road almost in front of me.  This guy was taller than my car and could care less about me rounding the corner. He just kept meandering across the road casually.

Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Buffalo in Yellowstone Park
Huge buffalo right next to my car
Huge buffalo right next to my car

Alas, I eventually made my way to the road out towards West Yellowstone and into Montana.

Heading west out of Yellowstone National Park
Heading west out of Yellowstone National Park
Welcome to Montana
Welcome to Montana

West Yellowstone still has some of the old motels from ages past.  Here are a few of the Ho-Hum Du

Ho-Hum Motel - West Yellowstone
Ho-Hum Motel – West Yellowstone
Dude Motel - West Yellowstone
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone
Westward Motel - West Yellowstone
Westward Motel – West Yellowstone
Leaving Yellowstone for Idaho
Leaving Yellowstone for Idaho

I finally made it into Rexburg late that evening…what a fantastic day this was!!

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Road Trip Home from Idaho – Day 5: Des Moines, IA to Springfield, IL – Dutch, American Pickers and Cozy Dogs

Antique Archaeology
Antique Archaeology

April 3, 2013: Yet another day on the road home as Julianne and I take our time to see a few of the sites on the way.  This day we drove from Des Moines to a couple places in Iowa and eventually into Illinois. Here is our route:


View Larger Map – Des Moines, IA to Springfield, MO

First thing we did was head to Pella, Iowa, which is not too far from Des Moines.  Pella prides itself as being a “Touch of Holland” and indeed is very Dutch.  Home of the largest working Dutch windmill in the United States.  Pella was originally settled in 1847 by about 800 Dutch immigrants.  They named the town Pella, which in Dutch means City of Refuge, due to the fact that these immigrants were fleeing religious persecution in their home country of the Netherlands.  Pella is also the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, the famed sheriff of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Downtown Pella
Downtown Pella
Welcome to Pella
Welcome to Pella

We had been advised by friends to definitely try the “Dutch Letters” while here.  Dutch Letters are a flaky almond paste filled pastry.  Shaped like an S, they were apparently a traditional Christmas pastry in Holland.  We stopped at the Jaarsma Bakery on Franklin Street in Pella to have some of these.  They would be our breakfast.  Turns out they have a lot of other goodies!!

Jaarsma Bakery - Pella, Iowa
Jaarsma Bakery – Pella, Iowa
Yummy Goodies at Jaarsma Bakery
Yummy Goodies at Jaarsma Bakery
Almond Pies at Jaarsma Bakery
Almond Pies at Jaarsma Bakery
Famous "Dutch Letters" from Jaarsma Bakery
Famous “Dutch Letters” from Jaarsma Bakery

Another treat we were advised to try was Pella Ring Bologna. There are two well known places to get this ring bologna in Pella and we stopped at Ulrich’s Meat Market which is a couple doors down from the Jaarsma Bakery.  Not onl is the ring bologna good — the meat sticks were fabulous!!

Try smoking Pella Bologna
Try smoking Pella Bologna
Pella Ring Bologna
Pella Ring Bologna

The town of Pella is quaint and picturesque.  It was a pleasure to walk around and see some of the scenery, including a few smaller windmills and the larger one.  Here are a few scenes from Pella.

Daffodils in Bloom - Pella, IA
Daffodils in Bloom – Pella, IA

Pella is famed for its tulips, but we were too early for them.  But, daffodils are another Dutch bulb plant.  And they were in full bloom.

Buildings fronts in Pella, IA
Colorful building fronts in Pella, IA
Unique building corner in Pella, IA
Unique building corner turret in Pella, IA
Small Clock Tower in Pella
Small Clock Tower in Pella
Old Brick Wall Advertisement in Pella
Old Brick Wall Advertisement in Pella
Dutch-style Tiled Walls in Pella
Dutch-style Tiled Walls in Pella
Dutch Wooden Shoes - Pella, IA
Dutch Wooden Shoes – Pella, IA

Of course, perhaps the most famous thing in Pella (besides the famed Pella window factory) is the huge authentic working Dutch Windmill.  The Vermeer Mill, as it is called, is an 1850s style working windmill.  It is 124 feet tall and is the largest working windmill of its kind in the United States.  The mill is totally wind powered and is actually used like the windmills of old to grind wheat into flour.  It was built in Holland and assembled in Pella in 2002.

Sumoflam and the Vermeer Windmill
Sumoflam and the Vermeer Windmill
Vermeer Windmill - Pella, Iowa
Vermeer Windmill – Pella, Iowa
Vermeer Windmill towers above Pella to catch the wind
Vermeer Windmill towers above Pella to catch the wind

There is a Dutch Interpretive Center and small Dutch Village attached to the Windmill.  Within its confines are a number of Dutch style buildings , including Wyatt Earp’s birthplace.  We didn’t go into the village since admission was $10 per person, which we though was rather pricy.

After a pleasant time in Pella, we were back on the road.  With my penchant for going to strange named towns, I wanted to make our way down some back roads to What Cheer, Iowa. Originally named Petersburg in 1865 but was renamed What Cheer in 1879 after the Postal Service declined the name of Petersburg.  The Wikipedia article linked here has some details as to the origin of the name What Cheer.

Welcome to What Cheer, Iowa
Welcome to What Cheer, Iowa

Ironically, as we drive through town, I exclaimed to my wife that the town name should be “What Cheer?” as the small town looks like it is falling apart and many of the businesses have been abandoned. There were a little over 600 people in this small town according to the 2010 census.

Back road to What Cheer, IA.... a six mile long dirt road
Back road to What Cheer, IA…. a six mile long dirt road.  My GPS took us this route!!
Downtown What Cheer - many abandoned buildings
Downtown What Cheer – many abandoned buildings

Reminiscent of downtown Pella, there is one nicely kept building in What Cheer, with the nice corner turret.  It used to be a bank, but is apparently now a residence.

Corner Tower on building in What Cheer, IA
Corner Turret on building in What Cheer, IA
What Cheer
What Cheer
What Cheer Post Office - even this sign is becoming illegible and run down
What Cheer Post Office – even this sign is becoming illegible and run down
What Cheer, Iowa
What Cheer, Iowa

There was one other refreshing site in town.  One home had some unique artwork surrounding the yard.

Bunnie's House in What Cheer, IA
Bonnie’s House in What Cheer, IA
Wheel Fence at Bonnie's house in What Cheer
Wheel Fence at Bonnie’s house in What Cheer
A "Flower Bed" in What Cheer, Iowa
A “Flower Bed” in What Cheer, Iowa

From What Cheer we made our way northeast to I-80 and then into Le Clair, Iowa, a small touristy town along the Mississippi River.  This was my second visit to Le Claire as I had been here before to visit Antique Archaeology,  home of the “American Pickers” TV show on History Channel.  On my previous visit back in June 2012 I even got to meet Danielle and get a shot with her.

Sumoflam with Danielle Colby Cushman - June 20, 2012
Sumoflam with American Pickers star Danielle Colby – June 2012

When I visited in June last year Danielle had a shop in Le Claire across the street from Antique Archaeology called 4 Miles 2 Memphis.  She is actually well known for “up-cycling” things and making them into clothing, jewelry, etc.  The shop has since moved to Chicago.

Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers
Antique Archaeology, home of American Pickers
Antique Archaeology's famous old car
Antique Archaeology’s famous old car
Antique Archaeology
Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam at Antique Archaeology
Sumoflam at Antique Archaeology

There are lots of unique things for sale at the shop, many which had been picked from shows past.  Here is a small sample of some of the things in the shop.  Recognize anything?

Old boots and stuff - Antique Archaeology
Old boots and stuff – Antique Archaeology
Motorcycle Goggles and Hat - Antique Archaeology
Motorcycle Goggles and Hat – Antique Archaeology
Mike's favorite subject - Indian Motorcycles - Antique Archaeology
Mike’s favorite subject – Indian Motorcycles – Antique Archaeology
Yucky Mask - Antique Archaeology
Yucky Mask – Antique Archaeology
Old Motorcycle - Antique Archaeology
Old Motorcycle – Antique Archaeology
Laurel and Hardy and Sumoflam
Laurel and Hardy and Sumoflam

A video clip of the American Pickers episode with the Laurel and Hardy masks.

You would be mistaken if you think that Antique Archaeology is the center piece of Le Claire.  This unique little town is chock full of personality, antique shops and more.

Old neon for Pelo's Sundries
Old neon for Pelo’s Sundries
Old back porch behind Pelo's in Le Claire
Old back porch behind Pelo’s in Le Claire

 

Pelo’s is your typical old sundry and fountain type shop, except that it now has a coffee shop, open mike nites and more.

River Boats in Le Claire, IA
River Boats in Le Claire, IA
Wooden Flag in Le Claire, IA
Wooden Flag in Le Claire, IA
More Antiques - Mike and Frank are not the only pickers in town
More Antiques – Mike and Frank are not the only pickers in town
The Auction Center
The Auction Center
Old Milk Cans - Le Claire, IA
Old Milk Cans – Le Claire, IA
Lots of stuff - Le Claire, IA
Lots of stuff – Le Claire, IA
More stuff - Le Claire, IA
More stuff – Le Claire, IA
Whimsy in Le Claire
Whimsy in Le Claire

Julianne was thrilled to visit some of the shops, but her biggest thrill was being able to “pick” a 1930s quilt from a shop in Le Claire.  This hand pieced and hand sewn quilt was in a small shop along the river.  The gal in the shop obviously didn’t know quilts like Julianne does as she had this quilt for sale for $150!!  It was a splurge purchase for us, but, we believe that the value of this quilt is really closer to $800 or $1000 due to its age and almost pristine quality, along with all of the 1930s fabric.

Julianne all smiles after getting a steal of a deal on a quilt. She is a Real Picker!!
Julianne all smiles after getting a steal of a deal on a quilt. She is a Real Picker!!
Le Claire was fun
Le Claire was fun

We could have spent more time in Le Claire, but had to move on.  My ultimate goal stop for the day was to get to Cozy Dog in Springfield, Illinois.

Illinois Route 66
Illinois Route 66

Springfield is one of those iconic Route 66 towns and along this road is the Cozy Dog Drive In, which claims to be the home of the all-American famed Corn Dog!  Though there is some dispute as to the true origin of the corn dog, the Cozy Dog story is that Ed Walmire and his friend Don Strand invented the deep fried battered hot dog on a stick while stationed in Amarillo, Texas during World War II. They called them crusty curs, but, upon Ed’s return to Springfield, Ed and his wife decided on the name “Cozy Dog” and began selling them from their house and at the Illinois State Fair in 1946.  Ed’s wife designed the “hot dogs in a loving embrace logo” for the drive in. In 1996 they moved their Drive In a bit up the road to its current location and gave it a decidedly Route 66 theme.

Cozy Drive In - Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Cozy Drive In – Home of the famous Hot Dog on a Stick
Route 66 Memorabilia in Cozy Drive In
Route 66 Memorabilia in Cozy Drive In
Cozy Drive In - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois
Typical Table Top at Cozy Drive In - Springfield, Illinois
Typical Table Top at Cozy Drive In – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive In is an official Route 66 attraction
Cozy Drive In is an official Route 66 attraction

And of course, this is why we come to Cozy Dog – not healthy at all, but sure Yummiferous!!

Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries - Cozy Dog - Springfield, IL
Cozy Dogs and Homemade Fries – Cozy Dog – Springfield, IL
We got our kicks with a Cozy Dog!!
We got our kicks with a Cozy Dog!!
Sumoflam and Cozy Dog
Sumoflam and Cozy Dog

This was officially our final stop on the way home so it was a perfect place to “cozy up” with my sweetheart….

Cozying up at Cozy Dog
Cozying up at Cozy Dog

After spending the night in Springfield, Julianne and I booked it back to our old Kentucky Home in Lexington.  It was a long trip, almost 2,800 miles (including side trips into towns, etc.) and over 55 hours of driving time.  We traveled from Rexburg, ID to Shelby, MT (to see the grandkids) and then across northern Montana, south into North and South Dakota, east thru Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and finally home.  This was Julianne’s longest road trip ever (her previous one was when we moved from Mesa, AZ to Frankfort, KY in 1991 — that was about 2100 miles).

Map of our entire road trip - April 2013
Map of our entire road trip – April 2013 – over 2800 miles

Now that is how you ENJOY THE RIDE!!

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……


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