My youngest son and I got up well before dawn at the place we were staying in Jackson, Wyoming, and headed for the trailhead at String Lake (north of Jenny Lake), for a hike along the east shores of Leigh Lake. Leigh Lake is named after Richard Leigh and Jenny Lake, is named after his first wife (Shoshone). Beaver Dick, as Richard Leigh was called, lost Jenny and their four kids to small pox. It is heart wrenching to read his diary and letters, telling of the tragedy. He later married a 16 year old Bannock woman (Susan Tadpole) and had more children by her.
Since we left Jackson so early in the morning we took a couple detours on our way to the trailhead, stopping for some excellent photo ops at Oxbox Bend on the Snake River on our way, among other stops.
The hike was beautiful. We didn’t see one other hike on the entire hike. We hiked to the north end of Leigh Lake to where a trail junction marks the short hikes to Bearpaw and Trapper Lakes.12,605′ Mt. Moran was majestic, reflected in the often mirrored surface of Leigh Lake. A great hike and on this Father’s Day 2013 as I post this comment, a wonderful memory.
These photographs were taken on a 2,700 mile 11 day road trip in June of 2013. My wife and I left our home in Eastern Washington on Sunday the 9th of June and drove to Kalispell, Montana where we spent night one. We enjoyed back road driving from St. Regis to Kalispell with wonderful views of Flathead Lake.
Day two, we left Kalispell and chose to drive highway 2 to Browning, Montana. The Going to the Sun highway through Glacier NP was closed and we had traveled that road several times. Rain arrived big time by the time we reached Browning. My wife paid a visit on the local Blackfoot casino in Browning, while I gassed up the car (Our little Honda Fit got 41.4 mpg on this trip), and bought "travel food" for us a.k.a. "junk food".
The Blackfoot Indians we saw in Browning were a handsome, tall athletic group and I could see why other tribes once feared them, as did the early pioneers, who attempted to travel their territory.
The drive from Browning to Great Falls was some of the most beautiful big open big sky country I have ever seen. Even with the rain it was beautiful. Stopping to read many of the historic makers, I was surprised that the encounter (that left two Blackfoot Indians dead and Capt. Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame), with a few of his men, running for a fortuitous reunion with some of his men on the Missouri River) – – was in such big open country.
When I read the journals of Lewis and Clark I had mistakenly assumed the event took place in forested mountains, much like the Lochsa River country of Idaho. We spend the night at Great Falls.
I wanted to visit the "Great Falls" of the Missouri River. Once again my preconceived notions and knowledge were…wrong. I didn’t realize that Lewis and Clarks portage of 18 miles was around a whole series of waterfall, not just one great big one with a tough canyon requiring the long portage.
There are five waterfalls on the Missouri River that the Lewis and Clark expedition had to portage around, at least there "were five". One is no underwater. Great Falls is the lowest and biggest; then moving up the Missouri River there is Crooked Falls; Rainbow Falls; Colter Falls (under water now) and Black Eagle Falls.
My wife and I made a point of visiting each of the four fall that can still be seen. Dams impact all of them with dams built right across the top of Black Eagle and Great Falls. Another dam diverts the water around Rainbow and Crooked falls, much of the time so very little water was passing over them. Still, it was so interesting to see where this part of the Lewis and Clark expedition took place. We visited the Lewis and Clark visitor center and found it really well done and informative. We spent the second night of our road trip at Great Falls.
Day three. I didn’t want to wait until 10 am for the Charlie Russell museum to open in Great Falls to open so we headed from Great Falls to Bozeman. We took highway 89 south and got snowed on at King Hill summit. Still, the weather showed some signs of improvement and the scenery was great on our drive. We checked into our motel room early at Bozeman and rested up for an early start to Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP the next morning.
Day four. The sun came out. What a beautiful morning. We drove the scenic Gallatin River route (highway 89) down to West Yellowstone, where we had breakfast and gave our son a call on his cell phone. We had plans to meet up with them a time share they had in Jackson, Wyoming and spend Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night with them.
We didn’t know when we called them that they were headed for Yellowstone and wanted to take the same hike we intended to take (for different reasons). We agreed to look for each other at the Midway Geyser Basin at the Grand Prismatic parking lot OR at the trail head parking lot for Fairy Falls.
We arrived within minutes of each other (they coming from Jackson and we coming from Bozeman) at the Grand Prismatic parking lot. Then off we all went (son, daughter in law, granddaughter, my wife, and me) to the trailhead for the Fairy Falls hike.
At a point on the trail to Fairy Falls you can take an "unofficial" tread up a hill covered with downed timber, and get a panoramic view of Grand Prismatic. At that point on the trail, I took leave of the group and made my way up to the top of the hill (the best photos were at about halfway up the hill so all the extra hiking did for me, was give me some extra exercise – – which I can always use).
I hurried to catch up with the "group" but they had arrived at Fairy Falls about 15 minutes ahead of me, and were ready to return, soon after I arrived. I took a fun turn at carrying our 8 month old granddaughter in the nice Osprey poco daypack, my wife and I had got for her. She enjoyed trying to unscrew my Tilley hat from my head as we hiked along the trail. What fun!
After the Fairy Falls hike my wife and I headed straight for Grand Teton NP to do a few drives and short hikes on our own, while the kids remained in Yellowstone for most of the rest of the day. We all met up in Jackson and all got a good night’s sleep at their time share, which was within walking distance of downtown and had three bedrooms.
Day Five. The most event filled day of our road trip. The girls (Grandma, Mom, and Granddaughter slept in before going window shopping in Jackson). My son and I got up around 4 am, put together our day hiking gear and headed out for the Leigh Lake trailhead for a nice early morning hike. Since we had lots of time until "daylight", we went to Oxbow Bend for some photo ops and made several other photo ops stops before starting our hike. The two of us had the trail to ourselves. We hiked the length of Leigh Lake to the trail junction for Trapper and Bearpaw Lakes.
The morning was cool, and the sight of the Grand Tetons (Mt. Moran @ 12,605′) were spectacular. Little wind ripped the lakes so we got some good reflection photographs.
We rejoined the gals at Jackson and Grandpa and Grandma OMT did a little baby sitting so our son and daughter-in-law could get out take a good drive and hike on their own.
Day Six. On this morning, my wife and I got up early and took off for some drives and hikes of our own in Teton NP. The highlight of the morning was a drive up the Gros Ventre River (we saw a big healthy cinnamon colored black bear) and a trip up Signal Peak. What views from up there! We returned to Jackson mid afternoon for another stint of enjoyable "baby sitting", while our son and daughter-in-law went out to and to a cowboy concert with friends staying at nearby Wilson, Wyoming. A good time was had by all.
Day Seven: The kids headed home to Utah and my wife and I headed down scenic back roads to Evanston, Wyoming where we spent the night.
Day Eight: My wife and I were hoping that highway 150 through the high Uintas would be open and snow free – – and it was. So we took our time driving that scenic road, scouting campgrounds and trail heads for future reference, for later this year. We eventually made it to the kids place where I spent Sunday and Monday night – – before heading back to Washington state (Grandma OMT stayed on with the "Junior Ranger" (our granddaughter) for awhile longer.
Day Ten: I decided to take a scenic route back home and because I had not brought any car camping gear I had justified a trip to REI to buy the least expensive car camping tent I could buy (and a super cheap ground pad and sleeping bag at Wally Mart).
I then took off early (real early) Tuesday morning and drove the interstate to Twin Falls, Idaho. There I turned north up to Stanley, then across through camas blossom covered meadows to Lowman, Banks, then north to McCall, Idaho.
I found a small campground on Goose Creek north of McCall. It was two miles off the highway on a dirt road, and was just what I was looking for. I paid my five dollars "senior rate" for my campsite and found I was the only one camped for the night (the next morning I saw where one other party "tent camping" had joined me nearby.
A character "camp host" with a metal detector and few teeth, kept the little campground (Last Chance Campground), it spotless good order and so I built a fire and watched the clouds float by until crawling into my cheap tent, in my rated to 40 degrees poly Ozark brand $15 sleeping bag…and slept like a log. Much happier than I would have been in a motel room, and besides I now have another tent and a sleeping bag (throw in a $7 closed foam sleeping pad as well).
Day 11. Up the road to Riggins and photo ops along the Salmon River. At White Bird, I did something I have always intended to do but never taken the time. I left highway 95 to drive the old White Bird hill route (old highway 95), and walk the White Bird Battlefield (Nez Perce won that one). It had been over 40 years since I had driven that scenic road. I was in college at Washington State University then, and that was the only road to travel between Riggins and Grangeville …. way back then.
Photo ops as I drove Camas Prairie with the tail end of the rapeseed blossoms still covering many of the fields, then a visit to the new Nez Perce visitor center at Lapwai. Thai food in Lewiston and I was soon on my way home. Quite a trip!
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