The 2019 Road Trip: Yellowstone – Day 2

It was another cold morning in Park Spring, Idaho, but not as bad as the previous one.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to depart the cabin that we had been staying in for two nights and move on to the next destination.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe eyes on the deer seemed to be following me through the house as we prepared to leave.  I could not make out any particular expression.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI turned over the driving responsibility for the day to Jesse.  This allowed me to better see what was going on all around us as we drove to the park.   Here you can see one of the big ranches that we passed.  There was a lot of cattle and horses out there.  We were wondering how the animals survive out in the sub-freezing temperatures of the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed through West Yellowstone for the last time.  A search in the town for Yaktrax, cleats that you put over your shoes to let you walk more easily on snow and ice, was unsuccessful.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had forgotten to take our obligatory National Park picture at the entrance of Yellowstone earlier during our visit.  We took the pictures that morning.  In case you are wondering, the other side of this sign welcomes you to the park.  We chose to take the picture from this direction because of the direction of the sunlight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fly fishermen were out in the rivers early in the morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first stop within the park was roadside at Beryl Spring.

Steam rose from below the boardwalk as we walked from the parking lot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFumes filled the air from the fumaroles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeryl Spring is supposed to be the hottest spring within the park, with temperatures close to boiling.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe combination of the steam with the below freezing air temperature made for interesting formations.  We were thinking that some of these scenes would have been suitable for Christmas cards.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ice crystals formed delicate patterns on the leaves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was Artists Paintpots.  We had to walk a little bit to get to the terrace where the underground activity was obvious.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can climb a hill behind the terrace from which you get a view of the activity below youOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand also some of the venting activity on the hillside.

The small holes in the ground in the pictures below allow gases and steam under pressure to escape from below.  The symmetry of the hole below was interesting to see,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand also the manner in which the deposits can grow with time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWater bubbled out of the mud pots.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe could see both levels of the trail as we walked back to the parking lot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was the Norris Geyser Basin.  The trails were a little tricky in this location because of snow and ice.  Some of us walked to one of the terraces.  We followed a small loop in the back basin.

This area has the tallest geyser in the world, Steamboat geyser.  Here it is before it eruptsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand here is an eruption in progress.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sound that emanates from the Vixen geyser below, and its appearance, is quite unique and notable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were many geysers and hot springs of different kinds in this area.  Apparently, they are caused by the faults running below the ground in this particular section of the park. These faults allow moisture to seep into the ground through the cracks, and through the crust, into the thin mantle of the earth and close to the magma bubble beneath.  What is interesting is that every geyser has its own personality and character.  It could be in the size, the timing, in the noise that it generates, the nature of output – clear water spray vs. the spraying of drops, the pattern of eruption, etc.  And all of these characteristics change with time as the dynamic underground forces impact the crust above it.  Unfortunately, some of the changes are due to the humans who have been visiting Yellowstone.  One of the geysers closed due to visitors throwing rocks into the vent for their own amusement.  It is a disappointment that we humans indulge in this kind of destructive behavior even today, and not just in the context of taking care of the nature around us.

This is a general picture of the activity going on in the back basin.  In the background, on the hill in the midst of the trees, is steam rising from some kind of geological activity in the ground.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe area in front of us in the picture below is called the Porcelain basin.  There is a trail that runs through it.  We had no time to explore further.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of the venting in the Porcelain basin.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was tricky walking back to the car in the snow and ice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur next stop was at Canyon Village.  They had an interesting museum with a focus on the geological history of Yellowstone.  There are very few places in the world where the forces inside the earth are close enough to the surface to be revealed to us.  Iceland and Hawaii are two other such regions.

We took a drive to Inspiration Point on the north rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then went to Artist Point on the south rim of the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are views of the Yellowstone river and the lower falls from Artist Point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked from another parking lot on the south rim to get a closer view of the upper falls.  The view might have been more impressive from the North Rim, but the parking lot there was closed.PA120619.jpgThis was going to be our last day at Yellowstone.  We began our drive south towards Jackson and the Grand Tetons.

On the way, while still in Yellowstone, we stopped to see Sulphur Caldron, considered the most acidic hot spring in Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a newly formed vent in the parking lot.  It was cordoned off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur final stop in the park was at the location called Mud Volcano.  We had to walk a trail up a hill to get to the location of the activity.  This area was interesting because of all the “mud” activity.  The picture below was a scene next to the parking lot.  I believe it is called the Mud Caldron.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here is a bubbling mud spring half way up Cooking Hillside, with mud flowing out of it all the way to the bottom of the hill.  I think it is called Sizzling Basin. There are bubbles constantly coming out of the muddy surface, like the surface of a sizzling pan.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Churning Caldron.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Black Dragon Caldron.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Mud Volcano.  It stopped erupting a long time ago.  It is now just a hot spring.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADragons Mouth Spring.PA120693.jpgAs we drove south, we came upon a section where a single coyote was hunting for food in the grass beside the trail.  We stopped for a little while to take in the action.PA120697.jpgOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was setting as we left the park.   It was a pretty sunset over the lake with the Tetons in the distance to our right.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun set behind the Tetons a short while later.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a full moon out.  I tried to get a picture of the moon but did not do too well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at Jackson for dinner.  We went to  Pica’s Mexican Taqueria in a Hispanic side of town.  It was a small place serving the locals with authentic food.  They had some canned local beers that satisfied my thirst.  A huge heaping of fajita vegetables and chicken satisfied my hunger.

Then it was on to the town of Victor for the night, crossing the Teton Pass into Idaho once again.  This was something that we did several times during the trip.

It was not difficult to find the cabin that we were going to stay in that night.  We were very happy to find a spacious place with all the modern amenities, and best of all, two full bathrooms!

The house seemed to be located on a plain in the middle of nowhere.  We got a better idea of our surroundings the next morning.  I took a few pictures of the clear sky before we went to bed.  I still need to develop my skills when it comes to taking nighttime shots.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd that was it for the long day!

The 2019 Road Trip: Yellowstone – Day 1

It was very, very, cold the the next morning. According to the weather app, the local temperature was about -3° F outside when we woke up.  Fortunately, we did not have to go out immediately.  A breakfast of cooked oats and hot coffee warmed us up for the outdoors.  I made sure to start the car up early to try to warm it up for others.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first stop  was the West Yellowstone airport. Our rental car company had a counter there where we could register another driver for the car.  The airport itself was quite tiny, and it was about to close for the winter.

Traffic in the town of West Yellowstone was light as we drove through.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter entering the park we drove for a while by the Madison river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt a place called Madison, we took the road going north towards our first destination of the day – Mammoth Hot Springs.  The other option would have been to take the road south towards Old Faithful.  Our plan was to head to Old Faithful later in the day.

During our drives, there were sometimes places where steam rose from close to, or even  underneath, the roadway.  There were parking lots  to pull into to take in the sights.  This particular place where we stopped was called Terrace Spring.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see the steam and hot water bubbling out of the ground in the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you stop at places like this, you usually walk on boardwalks that have been put in place.  This protects you from the unstable ground under.

The recent snowfall made things a little tricky on this boardwalk. In order to prevent contamination, the park avoids the use of salt and other chemicals to melt snow and ice from their boardwalks and roads.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped for pictures at Gibbon Falls on the Gibbon river.  The parking lot for this view was just beside the road.  The Gibbon flows into the Madison river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe meadows were covered with a light layer of snow.  We saw bison close by in one of these meadows.  I took pictures with my zoom lens.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove through the Golden Gate Canyon that connects Mammoth Hot Springs to the the rest of the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at the parking lot for the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.  It was time for lunch.  Our sandwiches were made with peanut butter and banana, a combination that, along with the steel cut oats that we had eaten in the morning, created a lot of extra activity on my digestive system.  It was good to be able to walk it off in the open air.

From the area of the hot springs, one could see Fort Yellowstone below us.  A visitor center and park headquarters is located there today.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was possible to take a trail from where we were to the fort.  Instead, we decided to walk on the Upper Terrace Loop Drive.  The road was closed to motorized traffic, probably because of road conditions in certain sections.PA110201.jpgThis is one of the formations we came upon during the walk.  It is called the Orange Spring Mound.  It was formed over many years by the deposition of the minerals from  the water (steam) emanating from the earth. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is called the White Elephant Back Terrace.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe area below is called Angel Terrace.  You can see the interaction of the hot water with the fresh snow.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove down to Fort Yellowstone.  The visitor center at Fort Yellowstone proved to be one of the smaller ones in the park.

We stopped to look at some of the activity on the lower terrace of Mammoth Spring on our way back from Fort Yellowstone.PA110232.jpgThen it was on to Old Faithful.

During our drives we saw people fly fishing in many of the rivers and creeks.  The folks would be right out there in the middle of the water flow in their waterproof waders.  They did not seem to be feeling the cold.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe headed straight for the geyser after getting to the parking lot at the Visitor Center for Old Faithful.  It was fortunate that we did this because the geyser put up a show and erupted within a few minutes of our arrival.  It was perfect timing.

It all looked benign when the activity started.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe geyser built up steam slowly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt peaked.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then the wind began to carry the steam high into the sky!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe activity was over within a few minutes.  Old Faithful erupts about once every hour and a half these day.   It used to erupt once an hour in the past.

A stop at the Visitor Center allowed us to catch one of the videos that they have about a park.  We make it a point to try to see these videos whichever national park we happen to be in.

It was time to start making our way back to Park Island.

We ended up making two stops along the way. One was at the Black Sand Basin. It was going to be a quick drive by, but I was intrigued enough by what I saw that we spent a little more time.

This picture shows the different colored minerals that are being deposited on the rocks from the hot water and steam coming out of the earth.  The colors are muted in the picture below because the sun was  setting behind a mountain at this point when I took the picture. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken on the Fountain Paint Pot trail further along the drive back to Park Island.  We walked along a boardwalk.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a section of the boardwalk here that was so slippery that only two of us followed the loop to its end to get back to the car.  Others retraced their paths in order to get back.

The Paint Pot walk was the last stop for us within the park that day.  In general, there were many more locations where one could have stopped to experience the wonderland that is Yellowstone National Park.

On the way back, we stopped in West Yellowstone once again for dinner.  The place we ate at was called Beartooth Barbecue.  The food was good, and the place was crowded.  They told us that they were about to shut down operations for the winter.

Back in our log cabin in Park Island, we were hoping that the heating issues would have been addressed.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Fortunately, the temperatures had risen a little bit – but it was still below freezing in the night.

I cannot remember much more of what happened that evening.  This was going to be our last night in Park Island.  We were going to drive through Yellowstone towards the Grand Tetons the next day.

The 2019 Road Trip: Beginnings

The first day was a very long travel day.  The family was going to gather in Wyoming, and get ready for the visits to the National Parks that were starting the next day.

We departed from BWI in the early afternoon. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Arrival at Salt Lake City, UT, was in the early evening after a flight that lasted more than four hours.  Angela landed up separately at about the same time.  We picked up the rental car and began our drive towards Jackson, WY, as soon as we could.   Very soon we were off the highway and driving north over smaller roads along the border of Idaho and Wyoming, with instructions being given to me every so often to turn either left or right from one road to another.  This being the boondocks in the western states, the speed limits on these roads were quite high.   Nevertheless, it took us about 5 hours to cover the distance and get to our destination.

Throughout our drive to Jackson, we were in touch with Christina and Jesse who were landing at Jackson Hole later in the evening.    We all ended up meeting up at the restaurant for the Roadhouse Brewing Company in Jackson rather late in the evening just before the kitchen was about to close.  We were hungry and thirsty.  It had been a while since we had our lunch at BWI airport.  The craft beer was welcome after the long drive.  The food was good.

It was well past my normal bedtime by the time we started our drive from Jackson to Driggs, ID, to our place for the night.  Very soon after we left town the road began to climb up the mountainside to the Teton Pass.  We were warned about 10% grades!  And then the snow also started falling.  I had to slow down further on the winding mountain road.  It was a little challenging.  We crossed into Idaho after descending from the Teton Pass.  We had a few more miles to drive after that to get to Driggs.

It was close to midnight (Mountain time!) by the time we located the place we were staying that night.  I crashed out very soon.  I was dead tired.

It was quite cold when we woke up the next morning, well below freezing.  There was also a thin layer of snow on the car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACoffee was being made in the house, but, this being the first morning of the trip, we were not prepared for breakfast.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesse and I drove into the main section of town to pick up something to eat.  While we were there, we went to the local tire store to have the tires on the vehicle checked out since the low pressure indicator had come on.  We were told that there was most likely nothing wrong with the tires.  The change in the air temperature made events like the low pressure indicator coming on fairly common.  It turned out to be the correct diagnosis.  The indicator light went off after a few hours of driving.  This phenomenon repeated itself the next day.

The objective for the first day was to drive towards Yellowstone National Park.  We would have to drive north through Grand Teton National Park in order to get there.   The goal was to get to our place for the night by evening time.  This was going to be primarily a driving day. We would be driving into Yellowstone from the South entrance and leaving for our place for the evening through the West entrance (or exit, in this case).

After getting ready for the day and repacking our stuff back into our vehicle, we drove back towards Wyoming and Jackson. We had prepared ourselves for a very cold day.  We had to drive through the Teton Pass once again, this time in the opposite direction.  This being our first day in the mountains, we had to stop every once in a while to enjoy our surroundings and the recently fallen snow.  We had not been able to see anything the previous night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was snowing once again by the time we got to the top of Teton pass.  Jackson lay in the valley in front of us, but the view was not very clear because of the precipitation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was also very windy and brutally cold at the top of the pass, something that we were not that well prepared for.  We had to take to obligatory pictures quickly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We stopped at the supermarket in Jackson to pick up some supplies for the next few days, and then we were on our way.

Soon we were beginning to get our first views of the Tetons – covered with a layer of fresh snow!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first stop was to be the car rental place at Jackson Hole airport.  The reason for the stop was to add one more driver to the list of people allowed to drive the rental vehicle.  Unfortunately, our rental company did not have a booth in the airport.  We had made the mistake of not stopping at their office in the town of Jackson on the way.  I was going to have to drive the rest of the day since we did not have a registered second driver.  The next opportunity for us to add such would be at the town of West Yellowstone in Montana, on the way to the place we were staying at for a couple of nights.

The airport lies in the vast valley to the east of the Tetons.  I thought the background for the airport was stunning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe drive took us on the highway to the east of the Snake river.

Over millions of years, the river has carved out a meandering path over the plain.  The layering of the erosion that happened at different times in the history of the river clearly shows, and can be studied more carefully from a few viewpoints.  You can also drive down to today’s river side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way towards Yellowstone, we took a detour to the east towards a location that was supposed to have good views. We ended up driving through a snow storm.  On the other side of the storm we arrived at a section of the Continental Divide and decided that this was a far as we would head in this direction.  The views were not as great as we expected.  We turned back after getting some nourishment into us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a view of the Teton Mountains on our drive back to the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed an entrance to the Grand Teton National Park and stopped to take the obligatory picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was another view of the Grand Tetons as we were driving beside the Snake river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to actually drive through an entrance gate for Grand Teton NP, and then for a little while along a highway, before we got to the entrance for Yellowstone.  At that point we discovered that one of the roads that was closed because of the weather was the one that went past the famous geyser, Old Faithful. This was the road that provided the most direct route to our destination for the night. Fortunately, the roads in Yellowstone form a loop, and we could come around to where we needed to be by driving around in the other, longer, direction.  Instead of going clockwise in the loop, we went anti-clockwise.IMG_20191010_155208450_HDRIt was only now that we also began to realize that we had come to the park when things were beginning to shut down in general.  In fact, the first Visitor Center that we went to at Grant Village, on the shore of the West Thumb of Lake Yellowstone, was about to close for the rest of the year.  There were also no ranger-led tours for the rest of the year.

We drove by Lewis Lake and Lewis Falls during the early section of the drive within Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got onto the road that ran along the west shore of Lake Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the rest of the drive towards the west entrance of Yellowstone we drove past a our first herd of bison, backlit in the sun that was beginning to set.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out of the park, we stopped at the town of West Yellowstone to get some dinner before proceeding towards Island Park and our place for the night.  We ate at what was rated to be the best restaurant in town.  It was called the Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon.  The place was busy and the pizza was good.  The massive saloon area next to the restaurant seating had a native feel.  I might have felt a little uncomfortable hanging out in that section of the establishment.

The town of West Yellowstone itself had its own unique feel.  It is a small place and does not have the more modern and very touristy feel of a place like Jackson.  From the nature of the buildings and the signs, I imagined being in a western town in a different place and time, perhaps in the movies.  Things shut down for the winter.  There are no supermarkets.  I did not see any chain motels.  Even the grocery store had character.  The population definitely appeared to to be more homogeneous than I am used to experiencing.  We did see a Chinese restaurant, and the some of the service staff at the restaurant that we ate at appeared to be Hispanic.

We had to drive a further distance from West Yellowstone to get to Island Park.  We drove from Montana into Idaho during this drive.  The road conditions were still a little dicey from snowfall.  The local road that we drove onto in Island Park was covered with snow.   (I found out later that the Toyota Highlander Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) that I was driving was an All Wheel Drive vehicle.  It was a free upgrade from the intermediate size SUV that I had originally booked with the rental company.  That was a good thing!)  We had good traction and clearance, which was especially important when we got on to the snow-covered and uneven gravel road that led to the log cabin we were staying at.

The cabin was real nice, except that it got very, very, cold that night, and we had issues with the gas fireplace and the heating in the house.  The adults slept in the bedroom downstairs, that had its own heating.  The kids slept upstairs in the attic.

Four States, Two National Parks, and much more

The name 30-60-30 was suggested at one point during the later part of this trip.  After all, the trip was meant to be a celebration of two 30th birthdays, and one 60th, all taking place in the order noted above.   It had been in the works for a while, and it was taking place in spite of fractured elbows that had gotten in the way of another 60th birthday celebration trip.  That particular one had gotten cancelled a couple of weeks earlier.  This one was a get-together with the kids, and a visit to the National Parks of Yellowstone and the nearby Grand Tetons, after which the two of us were to set off on adventures of our own, extending the trip to visit the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho and then also spend some time in Salt Lake City.  During this trip, we were to travel through the states of Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

It has been a few days since we finished the trip.  I have been unsure about how to put this one into the record books.  Should it be summarized in one blog?  Should it be broken up into a day by day, blow by blow, description?  How should I use the hundreds of pictures that I took related to this story?  What should I emphasize and where will particular pictures fit in?  I have decided on a “hybrid” approach.  Only time will tell how this will turn out.

Traveling in this part of the country is mostly about the outdoors.  Besides the parks that visitors come to see, this part of the country is occupied by large ranches and farms where cultivation of crops and the raising of animals takes place.   The properties are huge, and it takes specialized equipment and vehicles to manage the large spaces.  Some ranches have animals grazing in them as far as the eye can see – primarily cows and horses.  In many places the landscape is dotted with massive irrigation systems that can water significant chunks of farmland in short time.  And then there are the open and rugged lands that are more sparsely occupied.

Yellowstone National Park was a pleasant surprise for me.  I was expecting the geyser Old Faithful to be the primary attraction, after which I expected to be done with the park, but I found out that the land that this huge park occupies is truly a wonderland.   The Yellowstone Caldera is a massive ancient volcano basin where the volcanic activity has brought the heat and fury of the inner earth very close to its surface.  The super-hot magma lies close enough to the crust to have a visible impact all over the park.   Steam rises into the air everywhere.  There are very few places in the world like this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHot springs,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgeysers,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA fumaroles,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmud pits,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and all other combinations of phenomena that result from steam, hot water and hot mud rising out of the earth result. The throwing up, churning and/or bubbling of the water, or mud, is continuous as the underground forces are released.  The air is filled with fumes with different smells.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is an amazing place.

The cold temperatures that we experienced in the park lent an additional beauty to the scene.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Then there is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is very much a geologically active area.  In one location, steam has erupted from the pavement in a parking lot.  You are warned everywhere in the park to keep to the boardwalk.  The crust is thin.  You do not want to fall into a hole that opens up beneath you.  Neither would you want to be there when subterranean forces burst out of the ground.

Yellowstone covers a huge area, and it takes a few days to get around to the different locations. So, if you visit, plan to spend enough time, perhaps a few days. It is one of those places well worth having on your bucket list.

The Grand Tetons are a different experience.   The massive, rugged, and majestic massif that rises in a straight line up out of the flat plateau dominate the scene.  Geologically, the Teton mountains rise along a fault line.  Over a period of millions of years,  the land on one side of the fault line was uplifted because the land on the two sides of the fault line pushed against each other.  This process ended up raising and exposing really old rock in a relatively new mountain range.  Imagine the nature of the forces that are powerful enough to actually create majestic mountains! Geology is fascinating.

The experience of the Grand Teton National Park is mainly about its beauty and the outdoor activities that are possible.

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The Tetons rise behind Jackson Hole airport
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The breadth of the Teton mountain range
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Sunset behind the mountains
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Mountains and Lakes
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Chapel of the Transfiguration, Grand Teton National Park

 

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In the evening

In many sections of both the parks the roads ran along, or crossed, mountain rivers and streams.  The main rivers that I noted were the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri, that flowed to the north through the parks, and the Snake River, a tributary of the Columbia, that flowed to the south through the parks.  There are a few large and very pretty lakes whose bright and clear blue color catches your attention immediately on a sunny day.

We arrived at the parks at a time when the weather was much colder than it usually is at this time of the year.  We had to be bundled up in layers to stay warm, and there was snow and ice to be tackled on some of the trails.  The kids were instrumental in making sure we could navigate some of the more slippery trails without incident and additional damage to elbows.  There was some tricky driving involved on a couple of occasions.  Driving up and down the winding mountain road through the Teton Pass in the falling snow on a dark night after a long day of driving from Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole was an interesting challenge.  Waking up to below zero degrees (Fahrenheit!) temperatures in Island Park in Idaho one morning was a unique experience.  We spent two very cold nights in a nice (but somewhat cold) cabin there.  Fortunately, it warmed up somewhat – to closer to freezing temperatures – during the day as we drove into the park.

There are many kinds of animals to be seen in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, but we encountered only a few of them, including those in the pictures below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did spend a lot of time looking for moose, and also hoping that we would not run across bears when we were by ourselves. Only the bears cooperated.  A couple of people in the car managed to catch sight of a moose one day, but there was no place to stop for the rest of the folks in the car to get a view.  We came back to the same area of the park a few times without success.

The kids left us after our explorations of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  It was quality time that was well spent, and without their assistance we could not have been able to experience all that we did.  After their departure, the two of us headed out further west in our rental car.

Our destination was the Sawtooth National Recreation area. Along the way,  we stopped at the Craters of the Moon National Monument.  This is a really strange place with bizarre landscape.  The remains of ancient lava flows and their aftereffects dominate the area, making the place look like it is of another world.PA160360.jpgApparently astronauts come here occasionally to train.  There are some caves that have formed in this area, and I managed to crawl in and out of one of these and do some exploration (spelunking?!) without hurting myself.  The area of the Craters of the Moon is active from a volcanic perspective.  The National Park Service site states “The time between eruptive periods in the Craters of the Moon Lava Field averages 2,000 years and it has been more than 2,000 years since the last eruption.”

The drive past this park took us through the area occupied by the Idaho National Laboratory, a place that I had not known about before.  Apparently, this is one of the historical centers of nuclear research in the country.  It is still active.  There are a few nuclear reactors still in the area, and nuclear waste is also stored here.  I suppose the location makes sense considering how sparsely populated this part of Idaho is, and how far it is from major population centers.

We spent the night in a small town called Bellevue in the Sun Valley area of Idaho before heading for the Sawtooth Mountains that lay further to the north.  As with our drives earlier on in the trip, this one was spectacular. This was in spite of the fact that the weather did not cooperate too much in the early part of the day.  We had to drive through intermittent events of rain and snow fall.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust beyond a mountain pass over Galena mountain, we arrived at the headwaters of the Salmon river, also called the “The River of No Return”.  We drove onward to the town of Stanley.  The place looked like it was out of a Western Movie, but a more modern version. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt felt like the major form of transportation in this part of the world was the pickup truck.  The popular fashion statement seemed to involve clothing with camouflage design on it.  The Salmon river flows past Stanley on its way north along this section of the road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn general, many of the small towns that we drove through in the countryside during this trip could be considered “cute”.  The few commercial buildings in town would mostly be centered around the one main traffic intersection on a main road.  There could be the town’s only traffic light at the intersection.  There was usually a gas station.  The towns that were not too far from the tourist areas would have a few  restaurants and drinking holes, and perhaps a motel or two, some of them new and modern.  I did notice a Buddhist establishment in at least one town.  Young people seem to find jobs in some of these places.  Perhaps they keep them alive.

The stop at Shoshone Falls in the town of Twin Falls, Idaho, took place the same evening that we visited the Sawtooth Mountains. It happened because of an encounter we had the previous day at the Craters of the Moon.  A fellow visitor had shown us pictures she had taken of the place.  The waterfalls are impressive. They are also called the Niagara of the West.   The waterfalls happened to be on our way back to Salt Lake City.   Not many people visit, although we did see the obligatory busload of Chinese tourists.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent a significant part of the next day on our way back to Salt Lake City at Antelope Island, located on the Great Salt Lake.  Antelope Island hosts a popular state park and is reached by driving over a causeway from the mainland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe island is dedicated to outdoor activities.  We were limited in what we could do because of the pre-trip injuries. We did a little bit of hiking on the easier trails.  In general,  these trails were not that well maintained, nor well marked.

We made it to a beach to check out the salinity of the water.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou do get a view of Salt Lake City from a distance from certain viewpoints on the island.    The Wasatch mountains dominate the background.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was hoping to see more of the local flora and fauna on the island.  That did not happen.

The final day was spent visiting the sights in Salt Lake City.  The city is small enough that you can cover it on foot.  The main attraction is Temple Square, where you can see the outside of the Mormon Temple, and visit their chapel and Tabernacle.  They have visitor centers where you can learn more about Mormonism.  It is an interesting experience, and there is no pressure.  Salt Lake City is the seat of the Mormon religion.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe caught a performance on the organ at the Tabernacle. PA190756.jpgAfter a visit to the nearby Utah State Capital Building,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe headed back to our hotel.  Autumn was very much in the air in Salt Lake City.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went to the Saturday evening service at the Cathedral of the Madeline later on in the day,  went out for dinner at a sushi restaurant after that, and finally called it a day.

And that was the end of the vacation and the visit to the four northwest states.

We flew back to Maryland the next morning.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(That’s Salt Lake City in the background in the picture above!)

Riding The GAP in 2019

This bike ride came together in a hurry.  A group of us, friends from high school, had ridden the  Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O Canal together in 2016.   It was a 300 mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC, area over six days.  Earlier this year, there was a documentary about this trail produced by a PBS station in Pittsburgh.  It was called  The Great Ride.  It was quite inspiring, and reminded us of the wonderful time we had had in 2016.  I said that I was prepared to do this ride with the same group once again.  Koushik immediately took me up on the the offer, and proposed that we ride this year, without waiting too long.  The others agreed almost immediately after that.

It took just a few weeks for the plans to come together.  We decided that we were going to do the ride at a more relaxed pace this time.  Instead of covering 300 miles, we would just do the 150 miles of the GAP.  We would spend a day exploring Pittsburgh, and 5 days doing the GAP itself.  This is how it came together.

Arrival in Pittsburgh for Bike Ride
Seeing Pittsburgh by Bicycle and Boat

Riding to Smithton, PA
On to Ohiopyle. PA
A “Rest” Day in Ohiopyle, and then on to Confluence, PA
In the Rain to Meyersdale, PA
Destination Cumberland, MD

This was a special ride. The more relaxed pace of this ride allowed us to enjoy each other’s company much more.  We were not rushed in any way.  And as we rode, I could feel a deeper and simpler level of connection emerge.  Another layer of my inhibitions in the company of friends slipped away.  This ride was especially good for the spirit.

Just as for the previous ride in 2016, not all details of the ride where completely figured out ahead of time.  We did know where we were staying – the towns and the establishments in those towns, but the particulars of the places we would stop at during the day, and what we were going to do at any particular place, or where we were going to get food and water during the day, were fluid.  We were flexible.  It worked out well.  We saw some great things, and ate some great food (there was the one clunker for me, but that’s all I am going to say about that!).  The boat tour of Pittsburgh turned out to be unexpectedly special.

All the establishments we stayed at along the way this time were different from those we stayed at in 2016.  We also stayed at more Bed and Breakfast establishments, and only one motel.  The owners of all of these places were great in their own ways.  They all made us comfortable, and also spent some time with us.  We got to know more about each other.  One of the owners was the mayor of the town!  All of these places had a character of their own.  The experience was not about staying the night at the most luxurious place available, but was about something deeper than that.  We were staying at places that represented the local town in some way, and we were getting to know some of these places better.  We lived in some of the really old buildings that had been renovated.  We met the locals and talked to them. We were getting a flavor of the real America.

One would think that rain would ruin a bike ride.  Not for me!  Even though the rain did change the nature of the experience on the one day that it poured, it brought out a different kind of joyousness.  I became a child once again, riding in the rain.  I could hear the sound of the rain through the trees, and on my poncho.  There was the dirt thrown up by the wet tires.  My glasses were getting wet and my shoes and socks soaked.  But, somehow, all of that did not matter that much as I was riding.  We just rode on through the rain to the next stopping point while others stopped for shelter.  We were able to dry out and warm up nicely finally, at the end of the ride.  The rain gear did help!

Something different this time was that towards the later half of the ride we encountered some people over and over again in different places along the trail.  And we met all of them again at the end of the ride.  We were all people on the same mission.  I do not remember anything like this from 2016.

The nature of the end of our ride in Cumberland was simply awesome.   It could have been anticlimactic – a slow ride to the end line in a plaza in Cumberland in the middle of a hot day.  But, no!  We had a cheering squad awaiting us.  Our families, and even classmate who was visiting from India.   The garlands and the awards were a bonus, but I would have been happy enough simply seeing their smiling faces at the finish line.  That was special, and unique to this particular bike ride.

A few days have passed since the end of the ride, and I have had time to ponder the richness of the experience of the week that we rode our bikes.  It is going to be a hard act to follow.

Destination Cumberland, MD

This particular blog in the series about the bike ride is coming out a little later than usual.  First of all, I want to assure all of you that we completed the ride without any accidents.  In light of what happened to me in 2017 on the last day of that ride, I was especially relieved and happy that I made it without causing any damage to myself.

The blog is late because I am now in the relaxed atmosphere of home,  in a more relaxed state of of mind, not having to worry about the next day’s ride.  Perhaps this blog will also be more coherent as a result.  Perhaps, unfortunately, it will also tend to go on a little longer than usual.  Let me begin to the talk about the events of yesterday without further delay.

To remind readers who are following the blog, we were starting the ride this day at Meyersdale, PA, where we had spent the night at Yoders B&B.

Breakfast at this particular B&B was continental style, the first time it was happening at a B&B during this ride.  I did tuck in more food than I expected despite this fact.  Bike rides tend to make you hungry!

As was my habit during the ride, I did take some pictures outside the house before departure.  The two pictures below are repetitive, but what the heck!  The first picture is of the diner and the small old motel, still in use, in front of the B&B.  The second picture is of the B&B itself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik had bought everybody new riding jerseys with the GAP logo on them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride started with a somewhat steep climb through the town itself to get back to the trail.  Back on the trail, it was back to the regular uphill climb, but with a much reduced angle of attack than what we had experienced in town.

The first landmark we passed was the Bollman truss bridge.  It gets its name because of the design of the truss. This particular bridge was transported from another location in another state to the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was the Keystone Viaduct bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the CSX railroad tracks below us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Flaugherty Creek flowed below us next to a roadway.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were windmills on the ridge in front of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride took us up the side of the ridge and on to a flatter and more open area behind it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the Flaugherty Creek a few times during this section of the ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a pit-stop at a place called Deal to use the restroom.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail was surrounded by meadows and wildflowers of different colors.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next milestone was the Eastern Continental divide.  This was the highest point of the bike ride.  It was going to be a downhill ride the rest of the way!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik photo-bombed the picture I was taking of the elevation range of the GAP.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe always gets great elevation on his jumps.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was at the 3000 foot long Big Savage tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would not recommend the activity shown in the picture below to anybody!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt almost looked like there was a car approaching us through the tunnel. It was actually the light from two bicycles next to each other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken at the exit of the tunnel.  It is at a slight angle to the rest of the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is what it looked like from a viewpoint just outside the tunnel.  We could see the entire valley in front of us (click on the picture!).  The Cumberland Narrows that we are heading for can barely be seen in the distance, and is better visible in the picture below this one.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was always the photo opportunity to be taken advantage of.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was at this point that Shankar realized that he had left his riding gloves behind at Deal. Two of us decided to ride back to look for it, while the others pedaled on.  They would wait for us further along the trail.

Shankar and I zipped back to Deal on our bikes to find that the gloves were not there.  As we were returning, we passed a tour group that was traveling in the same direction as we were.  Hoping that the person supporting the tour whom we had talked to at Deal (he was carrying snacks for the group in a van and met up with the group at certain points) had picked up the gloves and taken it on to Cumberland, Shankar talked to person who was actually riding with group.  She confirmed that the gloves had been picked up and taken to Cumberland!  Shankar could pick them up there!

We ended up riding 5 to 6 miles more than the others, and we also experienced the Continental Divide and the Big Savage tunnel thrice in a single day!

Koushik and Ram were waiting for us at the Mason Dixon line.  This forms the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail was taking us steadily down the side of the ridge.  We picked up a lot of steam going downhill.   We passed the side trail for the town of Frostburg next.  We decided not to take this trail because it required a stiff climb up a hill, and also because we were running late.

The railroad tracks that are used by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad excursion train going between Cumberland and Frostburg appeared soon after.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail and the tracks would run next to each other the rest of the way into Cumberland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom this overlook above the town of Mt. Savage, one could see the ridge that we had just ridden down.  We had some difficulty sighting the entrance to the Big Savage tunnel from this distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail crossed the railroad tracks in many places, from one side of the track to the other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been told about a big raspberry patch next to the trail.  We stopped there to pick and eat fruit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fruit was quite tasty.  I was picking it off the plant and popping it into my mouth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARam was collecting the fruit to share with the folks meeting us at Cumberland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed through a tunnel that was shared between the trail and the rail line.  There is a little fence running in-between the two through the tunnel.  As with the Big Savage Tunnel, it felt much cooler riding inside the tunnel than outside it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, we were in the Cumberland Narrows, getting very close to our destination!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rode slowly into town.  As we crossed the finish line, we were greeted by family and friends.  Ganga, our classmate from high school who was visiting from India, garlanded us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur spouses were there to meet us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe received awardsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand posed in front of the statue that marks the beginning of the C&O canal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt felt great to have made it, and to have been greeted by our close friend and family at the end.  We had covered 150 miles of trail safely.

It was amazing that we also met many of the people we had encountered in previous days along the trail, starting all the way back in Confluence, at Cumberland.  The little boy, Henry, had also arrived with his dad.  I still cannot get over the fact that a 7 year old rode the 150 miles of trail.

We picked up our luggage after returning our bikes to the place we had rented them from and went to a local restaurant for lunch.  Some of us celebrated with a beer or two even though it was early in the day.

Ram returned home to Pittsburgh soon after, while the other riders came home with us to Gaithersburg.  Exhaustion hit during the drive home and folks took naps in the car. Koushik and Shankar departed town today.

All is quiet at home.  The adventure has ended.

In the Rain to Meyersdale, PA

Our host at the B&B we were staying at in Confluence, Sandy, was already there, busy at work in the kitchen, by the time I went downstairs from my room.   Ram and Koushik were chatting with her.

After having a cup of coffee, I decided to take a walk around town while breakfast was being prepared.

This is the house in which we stayed.  It was really charming, both inside and outside.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe early morning fog was rising over the hills, and behind the community center.  The population of Confluence is about 800.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were people sitting on the benches in the park in the central area in town having an early morning chat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe breakfast Sandy had prepared was quite grand – with scrambled eggs, chopped up potatoes with fresh vegetable mixed in, tasty sausage links, fruits of different kinds, orange juice, bread, and homemade jam.  It was all fresh and substantial.  Sandy fussed over us as we enjoyed the food, and she helped keep up a steady stream of conversation. We learnt a lot about the place.  By all appearances, Sandy seemed to be a very active member of the community.

The weather forecast was not optimistic.  The chances of getting rained on during the ride were significant.  But we were prepared, and we were determined to press on.

Sandy came out of the house to talk to us, to bid us goodbye and give us last minute directions, as we got our bikes out of the garage and got ready to ride once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to ride a short distance on the main road before we hit the trail once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a steady climb right from the start.  There were places where the river ran well below the trail and the train tracks on the other side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it started to rain.  We had to bring out the rain gear.  I had to stow my camera away in my backpack and put on my own poncho.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the approach to the Pinkerton tunnel.  The bridge is over the Casselman river.  It was raining like crazy at this point.  I was in no position to take pictures and enjoy the view from the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at the entrance of the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boy in the picture above was riding the trail with his dad.  He must have been less than ten years old.  He was really pounding the pavement and appeared to be enjoying the experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe encountered many more riders who had stopped to take shelter within the tunnel while waiting for the storm to pass, but we pressed on.  I was actually enjoying the ride in the rain.

The funny thing was that we encountered many of the same folks that were waiting in the tunnel when we finally got to our destination for the evening at dinner.   And we might encounter some of the same people on the trail on the way to Cumberland today.  There is definitely a kind of fellowship that is generated between people who bike this trail.  I do not remember this from our ride in 2016.

The picture below was taken when we made a short stop for a restroom break.  Koushik and I rode over the bridge to the other side of the river.  It was still raining heavily at that point.  It was difficult to take pictures since I had to first take my poncho off to get to my camera bag underneath it, then extract the camera from the bag in the rain, and only then, finally, take the pictures.  I had to go over the process in reverse after I was done.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally arrived at the town of Rockwood as the rain was beginning to subside.  There was a group of cats on the trail.  It felt like they were there to welcome us.  Apparently, they have become rather well known on the trail.  I could not take a picture.

We rode off the trail to a place we had stopped at during our previous ride in 2016 to get some sustenance and warm up a little bit.  There were many other riders of the trail who had stopped there, most likely with the same purpose.

It was a nice atmosphere inside, and a general spirit of camaraderie.   We were all there with the same spirit of purpose.  Many folks seemed to be familiar with the drill.  This was not the first time they were doing the ride.

I had been imagining a turkey sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate during the wet ride.  I got what I wanted!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was back on the trail.  Our rain gear was put away.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack on the trail, it was back to the steady uphill climb.

We took our time to enjoy the stops that we made.  There were many small waterfalls along the way.  The air was actually cooler as you passed these waterfalls. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were also the waterfalls that were formed just because of the rain that had fallen.

In one section of the trail with walls of earth on both sides, we came across a young deer that was trapped on the trail in front of us.  It kept running ahead of us until it found a place to climb the slope on one side of the trail.   We slowed down for it.

And then the rain started coming down in earnest once again.

It was pouring heavily by the time we got to the long Salisbury viaduct.  We could not afford to stop too long on the viaduct since there was some thunder and lightning action going on around us – and we also happened to be the tallest objects on the viaduct.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would have loved to have stopped and taken more pictures on the viaduct, but it was not to be.

It was an uphill slog the last couple of miles into town. There was water running down the the trail as we kept our heads down and pedaled as hard as we could. A steady stream of water was picked up by the tires and a line of dirt coated our rain gear.

We kept at it until we arrived at Meyersdale, PA.  We found our way to the place for the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first order of business was to clean up the bikes and put them away in the shed that you can see to the right of the above picture.  Then we had to clean ourselves up. There was an incredible amount of dirt all over us.. My shoes and socks had gravel all over them.  (The shoes are still wet this morning.  I will have to ride in my sandals today.)  A hot cup of coffee after a shower brought us back to normal.

This picture was taken from the front of the B&B.  There are only a few places close by to eat at, and this shows two of them.   The Donges Diner and the small motel next to it are very old, and both are still functional.  The Donges has a good reputation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went to the Morguen Tool Company for dinner.  There was a nice breeze blowing outside as we chatted.  We were joined by a few of our fellow riders on the trail, including the little boy and his father.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was back to the B&B for some more conversation.  The bottle of Scotch was demolished.  The people that we had stayed with at the B&B in Confluence stopped by to chat.  We headed for bed as late as usual.

We rode about 30 miles yesterday.  We have about the same distance to cover today, into Cumberland.  There is a good downhill stretch towards the end, after we cross the Continental Divide, that could make this a short run.