Two Days to Dallas: Day 1 – Idaho Falls, Idaho to Eagle, Colorado

Flowery Meadows near Hayden, Colorado
Flowery Meadows near Hayden, Colorado

On June 12 I commenced on a trip to Dallas, Texas from Idaho Falls, Idaho.  This would be a long two day trip, but I certainly wanted to hit some places I had never been before.  So, on Day 1 I ventured south through Pocatello and then onto Eagle, Colorado, about 588 miles.  Following is my route map for Day 1.


View Larger Map – Idaho Falls, ID to Eagle, CO

Just near the hotel I stayed at in Idaho Falls, there was an amazing Eagle Sculpture in a roundabout.  This is a HUGE work and is quite stunning.  Called “The Protector”, it is touted as the “World’s Largest Eagle Monument” and was unveiled in the fall of 2006.  The work was done by Wyoming artist Vic Payne and portrays a mother eagle perched to feed her two young eaglets with a salmon that is held in her great talons. The father, “The Protector”, circles around his territory in majestic flight keeping a vigilant watch for anything that may bring danger to his family. Payne created the eagles 3 times life size with a 21 foot wingspan. Each of the eaglets are 4 1/2 feet in height.

The Protector by Vic Payne in Idaho Falls, Idaho
The Protector by Vic Payne in Idaho Falls, Idaho

Go figure…I will start the morning off with an “Eagle” and end the day in an “Eagle.”

Mother Eagle portion of "The Protector" by Vic Payne
Mother Eagle portion of “The Protector” by Vic Payne

I then proceeded south on I-15 to Pocatello.  This drive goes through volcanic fields and other geology.  An interesting drive.  As I approached the crest of a hill though, there was a stunning change in scenery as the lava fields turned into a huge field of yellow.

Highway to Pocatello
Highway to Pocatello
Amazing field of yellow north of Pocatello, Idaho
Amazing field of yellow north of Pocatello, Idaho

From Pocatello I continued south until I hit US 30 and then proceeded east towards Lava Hot Springs. This road leads into the hill country and offered more great views of flowery meadows.

Flowery meadows west of Lava Springs, Idaho
Flowery meadows west of Lava Springs, Idaho

I rolled into the small resort town of Lava Hot Springs, which is nestled in a nice little valley.  I didn’t have time to stop except for a photo or two.  But the Welcome Sign pretty much says it all.

Welcome to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
Welcome to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho

This area was frequented by pre-historic Indians long before the white men arrived in 1812.  They used the hot water for bathing and processing hides.  It was also a major campground during the winter.  Now the town touts itself as a “Vacation Resort” with spas, water slides and more.

Lava Hot Springs Resort
Lava Hot Springs Resort

Not much further east is the town of Soda Springs. Like Lava Hot Springs, it sits atop of hot springs and has a geyser too!! There is a lot of history here.  In fact, Brigham Young, the great Mormon leader, even had a home here.  as noted, Soda Springs has the only captive geyser in the world.  It was discovered in an attempt to find a hot water source for a swimming pool.  On November 30, 1937, the drill went down 315 feet and unleashed the geyser.  The extreme pressure is caused by carbon dioxide gas mixing with water in an underground chamber.  The water is around 72 F.  It is now controlled by a timer.  It erupts every hour on the hour and reaches heights of 100 feet year round. 

Soda Springs Historic Marker
Soda Springs Historic Marker
Idan-Ha Drive In Theatre - Soda Springs, Idaho
Idan-Ha Drive-In Theatre – Soda Springs, Idaho
Main Street Soda Springs
Main Street Soda Springs
Murals in Soda Springs
Murals in Soda Springs
The Soda Springs Geyser - erupts every hour on the hour
The Soda Springs Geyser – erupts every hour on the hour

I really would have liked to have spent a couple of hours here.  It is a nice little town with some great history.  But, I had to press on to Montpelier, which is “Pioneer Central”.

Ranch Hand Trail Stop - Montpelier, ID -- Eat 3 pancakes Eat Free...
Ranch Hand Trail Stop – Montpelier, ID — Eat 3 pancakes Eat Free…
Welcome to Montpelier, Idaho
Welcome to Montpelier, Idaho

Montpelier, Idaho was founded in 1864 and received its name from Brigham Young in deference to his birthplace in the town of the same name in Vermont.  Mormon heritage in the Bear Lake area of Idaho.  Many Mormon families moved and settled in this area in the 1860s and 1870s.  Indeed, my wife’s direct ancestors were some of the families that came to the area.  In her case, her great great grandfather William Shepherd migrated from England and settled in nearby Paris, Idaho, which later became the county seat of Bear Lake County.  He was a shoemaker and a farmer and was considered a “leading citizen” of the county (see this article for more on the Shepherds). My wife’s grandfather Rulon T. Shepherd was born in Paris as was her mother Arlene.  Rulon and family eventually were some of the original settlers in Mesa, Arizona.  So, the Pioneer Heritage of this area has a special place in the hearts of my family.

Welcome to Montpelierr - Part II
Welcome to Montpelier – Part II

Montpelier is home to the National Oregon/California Trail Center, which is all about the pioneers. The Trail Center was built to preserve, perpetuate and promote the pioneer history and heritage of the Oregon/California Trail and the Bear Lake Valley.

Sumoflam at National Oregon/California Trail Center
Sumoflam at National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier, Idaho
Life size Pioneer Diorama on outside of the Trail Center in Montpelier
Life size Pioneer Diorama on outside of the Trail Center in Montpelier
Trail Center Covered Wagon
Trail Center Covered Wagon
Wildflowers at the Trail Center
Wildflowers at the Trail Center
The National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier, Idaho
The National Oregon/California Trail Center, Montpelier, Idaho

I had to move on and into Wyoming.  I got to the border via US 30 as it wound through areas trekked on by pioneers

 

US 30 east of Montpelier
US 30 east of Montpelier, Idaho
Welcome to Wyoming sign on US 30
Welcome to Wyoming sign on US 30
Border, Wyoming sign
Border, Wyoming sign

From the border I headed into the small town of Cokeville, Wyoming.

US 30 heading south to Cokeville, Wyoming
US 30 heading south to Cokeville, Wyoming
Welcome to Cokeville, WY
Welcome to Cokeville, WY

Cokeville, Wyoming is a small town of about 535 people.  The town got its name from coal deposits found in the area.  The railroad arrived in 1882 and the town incorporated in 1910 and, in the early 1900s, was called the “Sheep Capital of the World” due to the number of sheep ranches. (Newell, SD is now called the “Sheep Capital of America”).  Perhaps the only really interesting thing I saw in Cokeville was the non-descript sign for “Blondie’s Cafe”.

Blondie's Cafe - Cokeville, WY
Blondie’s Cafe – Cokeville, WY

From Cokeville I continued s outh on US 30 until it turned east and then followed it on to Kemmerer.

US 30 South of Cokeville, WY
US 30 South of Cokeville, WY
US 30 turning east towards Kemmerer
US 30 turning east towards Kemmerer
US 30 heading east to Kemmerer, WY
US 30 heading east to Kemmerer, WY

 

Almost to Kemmerer sign...
Almost to Kemmerer sign…

Kemmerer, Wyoming and Diamondville, Wyoming are basically twin cities that reside in what is called “The Fossil Basin” due to the abundant fish fossils in the area.  On the way into Kemmerer I passed Fossil Butte National Monument, but did not have time to stop there. Some of the world’s best preserved fossils are found here including fossilized fish, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals.  They are apparently exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation.   There are also “Dig-your-own” fossil quarries located in the hills surrounding ancient Fossil Lake, just west of Kemmerer and Diamondville.  So, this is a haven for fossil enthusiasts.

Welcome to Kemmerer Diamondville
Welcome to Kemmerer Diamondville
Fish Fossil Sign
Fish Fossil Sign
Wyoming's Wonder Sign - Kemmerer, WY
Wyoming’s Wonder Sign – Kemmerer, WY
Oregon Trail SIgn
Oregon Trail Sign

The two towns boast a number of beautiful wooden signs that dot the area.  A few samples are above.

Kemmerer, Wyoming has about 2,700 residents and is the county seat of Lincoln County. The town was established as a result of the discovery of coal deposits by explorer John Fremont. In 1881 the Union Pacific Coal Company opened an underground mine in conjunction with the newly added Oregon Short Line Railroad.  The actual town was founded in 1897 and was named after Pennsylvania Coal Magnate Mahlon S. Kemmerer, who provided major funding for the mine operations. As a result of the mines, the town grew rapidly.

J.C. Penney Mother Store
J.C. Penney Mother Store

In 1902 James Cash Penney came to Kemmerer to open a business.  He set up the “Golden Rule Store” and opened its doors on April 14, 1902 in partnership with two other individuals. The partnership later dissolved, and, in 1909 Penney moved his headquarters to Salt Lake City to be closer to banks and railroads.  By 1912 he had expanded to 34 stores in .  In 1913 he made the decision to change their names to J.C. Penney Company. and the company eventually moved its headquarters to New York. An interesting side note of history: In 1940, Sam Walton began working at a J. C. Penney in Des Moines, Iowa. Walton later went on to found future retailer Walmart in 1962.  The “Mother Store” still operates in Kemmerer.

Wall Mural in Kemmerer
Harvey Jackson Wall Mural in Kemmerer

The town has a beautiful (and large) wall mural in the downtown area depicting the history of the area. It was done by mural artist Harvey Jackson in 2006.  I have wrote about another of his murals in Gillette, Wyoming in an earlier post.

Harvey Jackson mural
Detail of Harvey Jackson mural
Detail of Harvey Jackson mural
Detail of Harvey Jackson mural
Wooden Ma and Pa, Kemmerer, WY
Wooden Ma and Pa, Kemmerer, WY

I found this old wooden couple outside of Bob’s Rock Shop in Kemmerer. I didn’t stop in due to time constraints, but I had to get a shot of this fun couple!

Sumoflam with Ma and Pa
Sumoflam with Ma and Pa
Antler Motel Neon Sign in Kemmerer. Love old neon signs.
Antler Motel Neon Sign in Kemmerer. Love old neon signs.

Like Kemmerer, the small town of Diamondville, Wyoming got its start from Cole Mining when coal was discovered nearby in 1868 by a man named Harrison Church.  A tent town soon formed and eventually the town was established in 1896.  The town apparently got its name from the quality of the superior-grade coal that seemed to resemble black diamonds.

Diamondville Water Tank
Diamondville Water Tank
Diamondville Town Hall sign
Diamondville Town Hall sign

From Diamondville I proceeded east on US 30 towards the small town of Opal, WY.

US 30 east of Diamondville
US 30 east of Diamondville

Opal, Wyoming is practically a ghost town.  There are only a few occupied buildings and a number of old run down houses.  It was originally an old railroad town and is also a center for sheep and cattle ranching. According to one site, the town ships 10,000 head of cattle annually.

Old Mercantile Building, Opal, WY
Old Mercantile Building, Opal, WY
Pioneer Monument - Opal, WY
Pioneer Monument – Opal, WY

Continuing eastward, US 30 moved southeast towards Interstate 80 south of Granger, Wyoming.  From there it was on to Little America, Wyoming.

US 30 East near Granger, Wyoming
US 30 East near Granger, Wyoming
Approaching Little America, WY
Approaching Little America, WY

Little America got its name from the Little America motel, which was purposefully located in this remote location as a haven, not unlike the base camp the polar explorer Richard E. Byrd set up in the Antarctic in 1928, thus the use of penguins as the icons. However, being situated on a coast-to-coast highway and offering travel services, it thrived, launching a chain of travel facilities by the same name. Its developer, Robert Earl Holding, who died on April 19, 2013, with a personal net worth of over $3 billion.  Holding was the owner of Sinclair gas, the Little America hotel chain and the Sun Valley and Snowbasin ski resorts, among other businesses.

Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America
Famous Sinclair Dinosaur at Little America

In 1974 I began work with a company in Salt Lake City called Alta Distributing.  It was a record and tape rack jobber and I was given a sales territory that included southern Utah, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming.  Once a month I made way from Vernal, Utah to Rock Springs, Wyoming and then west to Evanston and back to Salt Lake.  I always stopped in Little America…it was truly a haven and they had a great dining facility with amazing portions. It was one of my fonder memories.  Later, while in college, I worked for a short time at the Little America in Flagstaff, AZ and then, as a tour guide, made frequent trips to this classy hotel to pick up guests.

Famous Little America sign
Famous Little America sign

Heading east on I-80, the landscape is fairly bleak.  Lots of sage brush and high desert landscapes.  To some it is likely a boring drive.  But, there is plenty of life out there and, as one gets closer to Green River, the scenery starts getting more interesting.

 I-80 East of Little America
I-80 East of Little America
I-80 near Green River, Wyoming
I-80 near Green River, Wyoming – looking at Castle Rock on the right
Green River Tunnel east of Green River, WY
Green River Tunnel east of Green River, WY

From Green River it is a hop skip and a jump to Rock Springs.  I always remembered Rock Springs as a town full of singlewide trailers, but the town of 23,000 is actually quite vibrant due to the energy-rich region that contains numerous oil and natural gas reserves.

Welcome to Rock Springs, WY
Welcome to Rock Springs, WY
Landscape near Rock Springs, WY
Landscape near Rock Springs, WY

I continued east on I-80 until I got to exit 187 which linked with Wyoming HWY 789, which headed south towards Colorado. This exit had a couple of old gas station signs, remnants of a vibrant time now long gone.

Baggs Rd - WY Hwy 789
Baggs Rd – WY Hwy 789
Old Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming
Old Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming
Old Neon Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming
Old Neon Mojo Gas Sign near Baggs Rd., Wyoming

The drive to Baggs, Wyoming on WY 789 is a 50 mile drive through some pretty amazing desert scenery. including colorful buttes, badlands, arroyos, wild horses and antelope.  I was quite thrilled to take this drive on a road I had never been on and on one that is obviously not heavily traveled.  At one time this was part of the Overland Trail and there are apparently still some ruts visible from the late 1800s when the trail was used.

The Overland Trail historic Sign
The Overland Trail historic Sign
Colorful buttes along Hwy 789 in south central Wyoming
Colorful buttes along Hwy 789 in south central Wyoming
Colorful hills on WY 789 South
Colorful hills on WY 789 South
Wild Horses as seen along Hwy 789 north of Baggs, WY
Wild Horses as seen along Hwy 789 north of Baggs, WY
Badlands north of Baggs, WY
Badlands north of Baggs, WY

The drive down Hwy 789 is also historic.  It is reputedly where the famous Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and their “Wild Bunch” hung out.  Baggs is one of many towns in scenic Carbon County, Wyoming, which includes the towns of Rawlins, Baggs and a number of others.

Welcome to Baggs, WY
Welcome to Baggs, WY

Baggs, Wyoming is a short drive from the Colorado border and is only about 40 miles or so from Craig, Colorado.  To get there I continued south on 789 which turns into Colorado Hwy 13 heading into Craig.

Welcome to Colorado WY 789 and CO 13
Welcome to Colorado WY 789 and CO 13
Colorado Hwy 13
Colorado Hwy 13

The drive down Colorado 13 is scenic with rolling hills and lots of antelope.  I saw quite a few including the two below and then the amazing scene of the mother and two calves.

Antelope on CO Hwy 13
Antelope on CO Hwy 13
Pronghorn Antelope on CO Hwy 13
Pronghorn Antelope on CO Hwy 13
CO Hwy 13 in Moffat County
CO Hwy 13 in Moffat County
Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Another shot of the antelopes
Another shot of the antelopes

Along this highway one can see the “Fortification Rocks” which is an old basalt pillar that is believed to be used by Indians as a fortification. The historical marker for Fortification Rocks thew in some humor noting that “this area is better known as home to a large number of rattlesnakes.”  This structure juts out of the prairie like a sharp razor back and is fairly impressive.

Fortification Rocks as seen from the north on CO 13.
Fortification Rocks as seen from the north on CO 13.
Fortification Rocks as seen from the side on CO Hwy 13
Fortification Rocks as seen from the side on CO Hwy 13

Continuing southward towards Craig the scenery continues to get more impressive.

CO Hwy 13 near Craig, CO
CO Hwy 13 near Craig, CO

And, of course, my GPS knows me well as it sent me on a gravel road bypassing Craig and heading towards US Route 40 and Hayden, CO.

Gravel Road - Yoleta Trail Rd. east of Craig, CO
Gravel Road – Yoleta Trail Rd. east of Craig, CO
Old Cabin on US 40 west of Hayden, CO
Old Cabin on US 40 west of Hayden, CO
Elkhead Creek Valley west of Hayden, CO
Yampa River Valley west of Hayden, CO

Hayden is a small town of abut 1600 people just a few miles east of Craig, CO and west of Steamboat Springs, CO on US Hwy 40. The area was first settled in 1875, with the town established in 1894 and incorporated in 1906. Hayden was named for F.V. Hayden, head of a survey party for the U.S. Geological & Geographic Survey in the late 1860s. Hayden explored western Colorado during the late nineteenth century.  It has a small mainline passenger airport due to it’s proximity to some major Colorado ski resorts.

Welcome to Hayden, CO
Welcome to Hayden, CO

I continued east on US 40 a few more miles until I hit Colorado Hwy 131 which headed south towards Eagle through the Yampa River Valley and some wonderful late spring scenery of wildflower covered hills, as well as a drive by a huge Peabody Coal operation near Oak Creek, Colorado.

Mountains and meadows as seen from CO Hwy 131
Mountains and meadows as seen from CO Hwy 131
Flowery Meadows on CO Hwy 131
Flowery Meadows on CO Hwy 131
More flowers along the road
More flowers along the road
Closeup of flowers
Closeup of yellow wildflowers
Coal mining near Oak Creek, Colorado
Coal mining near Oak Creek, Colorado
Train coming out of Peabody Coal Mine near Oak Creek, CO
Train coming out of Peabody Coal Mine near Oak Creek, CO

From the Peabody Coal facility, CO 131 winds its way down into the small town of Oak Creek.  Funny how it reminded me of the drive from Flagstaff, AZ to Sedona, AZ thorough Oak Creek Canyon with the sharp curves.

Oak Creek, Colorado
Oak Creek, Colorado
Large wall mural on Chelsea's Chinese restaurant in Oak Creek, CO
Large wall mural on Chelsea’s Chinese restaurant in Oak Creek, CO
A mystic mural in Oak Creek, CO
A mystic mural in Oak Creek, CO

From Oak Creek I proceeded south to Phippsburg and then into Yampa, CO, where I caught a pretty amazing sunset.

Rocky Mountains south of Phippsburg
Rocky Mountains south of Phippsburg
Sunset hits Devil's Grave Mesa south of Phoppsburg, CO
Sunset hits Devil’s Grave Mesa south of Phippsburg, CO

I finally arrived in Yampa, Colorado at around 8:30 PM in time to catch a glimpse of a wonderful sunset on the hills.

Sunset as seen from Yampa, CO
Sunset as seen from Yampa, CO
Another view of sunset from Yampa
Another view of sunset from Yampa

The remainder of the drive was in the shady light of sunset as I continued south and crossed over the Colorado River at State Bridge Landing south of Bond, CO.  It was too dark to get any photographs but it was lit enough that I could imagine that it was a spectacular scene.  I eventually made my way to my hotel in Eagle, CO.  It was a long day after nearly 600 miles of driving…but left some lasting memories.

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