Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Henry’s Lake, Idaho and West Yellowstone, Montana

We left Yellowstone NP and moved west to Henry’s Lake State Park, Island Park, ID. It was nice to link up with some friends there. Dick Reed, founder of RV Driving School (now owned by Dennis and Carol Hill), and the person who personally taught me to handle a motorhome (after I’d been full-timing in a 5th wheel for over 5 years), brought his grandsons on a summer trip. Dick stopped by to share coffee with us the morning after we arrived.


We could see Dick’s beautiful custom bus from our site. Dick’s planning to sell the bus so he can down-size, now that he’s not traveling as much after his dear wife Lu passed away. It will be a wonderful RV for someone!


Dick’s grandsons Zack and Blake are enjoyable and interesting teenagers (ages 13 and 15), who were fascinated by the wildlife of the area. They made the most of their visit, touring the Park and the town of West Yellowstone. We were able to spend a little time with them, including a S’mores treat one evening by the campfire.


We had another get-together with friends Betsy and John Crawford, who are volunteering at the Old Faithful Ranger Station, and Betty Prange, who volunteers as a tour bus driver taking guests on photography tours around the park.


We arrived at the Ranger Station in time to see a helicopter taking off with a patient, headed for a hospital in Cody, WY.


We had a fun but brief visit with Betty Anderson and Duane Peyton, plus her daughter, her son and husband, and his parents. All arrived in 3 RVs to stay at Henry’s Lake the day before we left. Alas, I didn’t get any photos, but it was really nice to see Betty and Duane and to meet the family.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we did make it back to the Old Faithful Inn to take the guided tour. What an interesting history this place has! It was built in 1903-04 including the winter months, when temperatures can dip to –50 degrees. Workers stayed in tents with very little heat or other amenities. Still, their living quarters were more comfortable than the Inn, as there was no heat and little protection from winter storms until the structure grew close to completion. Most of the original guest quarters were small bedrooms with a bed, a sink, and a chair, with a bathroom down the hall or upstairs. Robes were provided so that guests didn’t have to carry clothes with them to the shower/tub. Here’s a guest room that hasn’t changed much since those early days.




Although this may seem spartan compared to today’s typical hotel/motel, it was luxurious compared to the alternative of tent camping for visitors to the national park in the early 1900’s. Rooms rented for $4 per night then; they now range from $107 up. Additions and renovations have provided more comfortable and spacious accommodations in the Inn. Many of the original bedrooms were converted to offices, gift shops, etc., but there are still quite a few of the original rooms without bathrooms. The architect, Robert C. Reamer, incorporated some mysteries into the Inn’s design, including two non-functional dormer windows on the front (see two extra dormers on the left below). These windows aren’t visible anywhere inside the Inn.


Most of the building is anything but symmetrical, supposedly to reflect the chaos of nature. Below is the outside of the dining room and lounge.


The Inn is one of the few remaining log hotels in the U.S., and was built almost totally from local timber, the prolific lodgepole pine. Even the railings and supports for the 65-foot ceiling in the main lobby are from naturally-formed pine branches.



We found some interesting places to visit in West Yellowstone, MT, just outside the national park. After watching the Imax movie on Yellowstone (not recommended; very expensive for a 30-minute movie), Don tried to coax the Jelly Belly lady in the parking lot into telling him how she got her job. She refused, saying she didn’t want him to take it away from her! We saw the Jelly Belly motorhome and it’s “toad",” a similarly-decorated VW bug, again at two other places before leaving the area. The husband and wife team travel full time in this coach, promoting Jelly Belly and giving away samples wherever they go. Don filled his pockets with free Jelly Belly samples.


We finally had a nice weather day for kayaking. An outfitter at Macks Inn gave me a ride back to the starting point at Big Springs where Don and I had put our boats in the water, so our car was ready for us at the end of our trip.


This was one of the best kayak trips we’ve taken. In fact, Don said it’s among the top 5 for him, and he’s been kayaking many more years than I have. The Snake River at this location in the Targhee National Forest is very slow and even so shallow in some spots that I got stuck and had to be pushed into deeper waters by a friendly woman in a canoe. She was able to get out of her boat faster than Don could. The river’s current was fast enough that we did very little paddling, just steering away from the banks and occasional obstacles.


We spotted two moose cows on the banks. These are two of only 4 moose that we saw during our 3 weeks in the Grand Teton/Yellowstone NP area.


I barely got a shot of a bald eagle, although a little blurry.


A picture of the nearby nest turned out a little clearer.


As we neared the end of the float/paddle, with the bridge on Hwy 20 (at the outfitter’s ramp) visible, more people were on the river as many of them departed from the ramp at Macks Inn. Some teenagers can’t even get off their cell phones long enough to enjoy nature!


And several amateur boaters were struggling to manage their boats. Umm, Fella, they float better if the water is *under* the boat, not *in* it!


All in all, we had a wonderful time in this area, and have fulfilled one of our major “Bucket List” items.