Tag Archives: Mountains

Yellowstone | Northeast Entrance

by Jim and Melanie

Highlights of day 4 of our journey to Yellowstone NP. We stayed overnight after day 3 in Thermopolis, Wyoming. The hot springs there were an attraction to the native residents for centuries. Today they are a tourist attraction. We soaked for a while in the free state park pool. Others cavorted in the commercial facility next door. The flow rate of the springs is much less than in the past.

We headed north to Cody after breakfast. From Cody, Yellowstone visitors usually drive west to enter the park. We chose to drive northwest and enter the park at the Northeast Entrance near Cooke City, Montana at the top center of this map. Later that evening we checked into a B&B north of the park. Click to embiggen for detail.

Google Maps

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Oklahoma Hike | Glass Mountains State Park

by Jim and Melanie

Drive 45 minutes west of Enid, OK and you reach the Glass Mountains State Park. It is small, only 640 acres (1 mi2). Sometimes referred to as the Gloss Hills, their name comes from the sheen and sparkle of selenite crystals, or gypsum. The tops of the mesas are thick with them and appear light gray and green. There are also thin layers of selenite in the red dirt of the Permian soil in these “Shining Mountains”. Click this Google Maps image to do some exploring.

Light gray areas are tops of 150 ft high mesas.

Light gray areas are tops of 150 ft high mesas.

At the lower left of the map is a turnout from highway 412 into a parking lot. From there, you can take the trail up the steep 150 foot climb to the top of the largest mesa.


Roadside entrance sign.

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Grand Tetons | Mountains of Inspiration

This was our view from the room at the B&B in Wilson, Wyoming, near Jackson. What a contrast to the hills and farmland of Iowa we left a few days before. In the distance are the mountains of Grand Teton National Park.

Join us for a hike to the base of these peaks.

Banff National Park, part 2

by Jim and Melanie

Our hosts at our B&B urged us to ride the gondola to Sulfur Mountain next door to Banff. Near the base of the mountain is a place called Cave and Basin. It is the first of Canada’s national parks, established in 1885. We secured our tickets and climbed aboard with two other people. The ride started out kind of level as you can see below. By the time we reached the top several minutes later, we were going nearly vertical. It was great fun and scenic. The town of Banff and the surrounding valley and mountains were beautiful.

Come see what was at the top.

Banff National Park, part 1

by Jim and Melanie

We left the east side of Glacier Park on July 7 and headed north for Canada. The border was less than an hour away. We got to the inspection station and waited for the two cars ahead to clear. Melanie was driving. We were sitting at this stop sign about 20 ft behind the vehicle ahead currently being cleared by the agent. I suggested to Melanie that she pull ahead so we were closer.

The agent waved the car ahead through. We drove up and handed him our passports and photo IDs. He looked them over and said “You folks were doing just fine until you drove up closer. Next time, stay back at that stop sign like the sign says.” He smiled, asked a few questions, and let us pass. I felt kind of sheepish.

Join us for a few days in the Canadian Rockies.

Glacier National Park, part 2

by Jim and Melanie

Please see our Part 1 post on Glacier National Park.

That Thursday morning, Independence Day, we celebrated in one of the magnificent parks in our great nation. The breathtaking scenery, and sometimes breathtaking hairpin turns on the Going to the Sun road, kept us moving toward the east side of the park. The other three nights of our stay were at the Rising Sun location.

On the mountain side south of Rising Sun, pockets of snow still clung in the crevices. This snow patch created a shape that looked like an airplane to us.

From the parking lot at the visitor center, the red buses filled with passengers to tour the park. Many people prefer to have someone else do the driving so they can concentrate on the scenery.

Join us on our walk at Logan Pass and the boat ride on St. Mary Lake.

Glacier National Park, part 1

••• by Melanie and Jim

Between travel time to get there and days to soak in the sites, some of the wonders on our own continent require extended holidays to appreciate them. In the last few years we’ve had more time to travel than we had before, allowing us to enjoy Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks in Wyoming, as well as the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam in the southwest.

More than a year ago we began talking about visiting Glacier National Park in Montana. If we were going that far, we would go “a little” farther and travel into Alberta, Canada, into the Banff National Park area. From our town, it’s more than 20 hours’ of driving time to get to Glacier. We know our limits, and decided to fly most of the way, and then to use a rental car to get around.

On July 3 we left Iowa, this time to national parks of the northwest. We flew into Spokane, WA. It’s possible this wasn’t the best choice, and we’d encourage travelers to check other airports for ticket prices. However, it ended up working out fine for us.

Because of the two hour time zone change, from Central to Pacific time, we arrived late morning. After a stop at a Cabela’s sporting goods store to buy hiking poles, we made our way across Idaha and into Montana, arriving through the west gate of Glacier in the early evening.

We checked into our motel, the Village Inn at Lake McDonald. The building is older, the units unimpressive both outside and inside. Ours had a kitchenette, which we did not use.

If you ignore the building, however, and turn around, the vista is more impressive! This, literally, was the view from our doorway.

The next morning Jim captured the sun rise over the peak of the mountain.

After the sun rose, a mist settled for a short time, giving a more ethereal look.

Come with us as we travel along Lake McDonald along Going to the Sun road.

Iowans Conquer California High Desert

joshuaDuring the week of Thanksgiving 2011, we traveled to the southwest to vacation. After an over night in Vegas, we drove to Ridgecrest, CA, to visit friends for two days. On one day we were taken on a mountain climb. We drove an hour north up the Owens Valley on 395. , We were told it was a small range and would be a leisurely climb. We are from Iowa. Anything above 800′ elevation gets us into the thin upper reaches of the stratosphere. See the slope behind those Joshua trees? The first leg was a 700′ elevation gain from 5100′ on a slope just that steep and with no trail. We made it, last in a party of eight.

We are headed for the ridge way up there.

Once on the ridge, we reached the first peak at 6020′ without as much heavy breathing. There, we paused for water and a snack before heading along a ridge toward another peak at 6400′.

After another hour of rocks, loose sand, gravel, pricklies, burro poop, snow, mud, etc, we faced the final ascent. We were way behind and out of sight of all but two people in the party. I yelled for them to stop. I told them we are not going up there.

We waited among some nice boulders in the sun and had a rest and ate our lunch. We watched the rest of them reach that peak and have their rest and lunch. We enjoyed the scenery and peace as we waited for them to recover us on the way back down.


We were told to beware of the Joshua tree spines.


A sample of the dried plants while we waited for the return of the others.


Someone called this Mormon Tea.


This might have been a pretty flower at an earlier time of the year. Our host said they have about 3-4 weeks of green in the spring and then it all dries up.

The descent want not much easier than the ascent. We had no hiking poles, the things that look like ski poles. They add stability in the loose footing. So, we had to be more cautious. We were last again.


On the way down we saw a large two foot wide boulder with a dished out top. There was a pool of water about 6″ across in the dished out area. Submerged was this rock and these 1/2″ long pellets. They were soft. Maybe animal droppings?