After the kids all left from our family birthday get-together in Alpine, Cherryl and I drove back to the Grand Tetons for one more visit. We’d had a couple of days of rain, but we figured by mid-week most of the crowds would be gone. Wrong. The parking lots were jammed full (as usual) and we joined dozens of others circling the lot in case we snagged a spot someone just left. We Did! A perfect spot, with plenty of room to put our kayak together. We launched the kayak on String Lake, navigated up to the north end, and there portaged across to Leigh Lake. Lest I make that sound too tough, we have wheels that go under the kayak, and the portage was only .1 mile. But so worth it!!
As we pedaled our way up String Lake, a guy with a camera yelled at us, saying if we gave him our number he’d send us a picture of us! So here it is!
When we reached the end of the short trail between the lakes, we were greeted with this picturesque staircase. We carefully bumped down on the wheels, while wondering what the return trip would be like!
As we’d been told, Leigh Lake was well worth the effort!
We basically travelled the length of the lake, saw some nice waterfalls, and even met some nice folks where this stream met the lake.
The wind came up a bit, and we wondered if we were headed for nasty weather. We got back to the stairway to the portal trail, and just pulled the kayak right up the stairs. Not too bad! Back on String Lake, the trees are close enough to block a lot of the wind, so it felt much calmer. Lots less “Fetch” on the small lake! (A sailor’s term for how much space wind has to travel across a body of water… more means more rough water)
It’s almost impossible to drive past these mountains without taking pictures. Here’s some more of the trip back to our rig in Alpine.
Next stop was Arco, Idaho. The first city in the world to be lit by Atomic Power. We weren’t aware of that milestone; we were just here to see the Craters of the Moon National Park.
I thought it would be fun to learn about the atomic power story, but everything was closed. And it turns out the lighting of the city was only for a little over an hour, in July 1955. There was an Experimental Breeder Reactor about 18 miles south of town, conducting a test. Still a landmark event, but not what I’d expected from all the signs.
More visually interesting than closed Atomic Power museums was the sail of a nuclear powered submarine. Nicknamed the “Devil Boat,” in reference to its number, its real name was the USS Hawkbill. She was launched in 1969, and retired in 2000.
Walt Disney drew this cartoon as a tribute to the first USS Hawkbill – a diesel sub of WWII vintage. The cartoon was kept, and displayed in the newer Hawkbill as a lighthearted symbol of the boat.
Glance at the photo below… did you think it was our rig? Really? I’d like to think I made you think so, at least for a second. It’s a Newell, not a Newmar. About a $2,000,000 step up from ours. Don’t see them too often! This one pulls a full sized pickup, and there is a special trailer attached to the pickup for the bikes. Fun! (If you look carefully, above the black pickup you can see the back corner of our home…)
From our campground you can see Arco Number Hill… where the graduating class of 1920 from Butte County High School painted a huge “20” on the cliffs. Since then each class has continued the tradition. I didn’t try to locate all the numbers.
We did make it to Craters of the Moon. It’s not so much about craters as it is Lotsa Lava! A very large area of lava is said to come from the same “Hot Spot” that fuels Yellowstone. They say the hot spot doesn’t move, the earth’s crust moves over it. Whatever, there is a lotta lava here.
We were intrigued with these little white plants. They seemed to be scattered all over certain slopes, but never touching each other, and not growing too big. Turns out they are Dwarf Buckwheat, and each plant’s root system can be over 3 feet in diameter, explaining the spacing. The spacing helps make maximum usage of any rainfall.
Some of these “Cinder Cones” have a deep hole in the middle. This one actually had snow at the bottom! And the wind pretty regularly snags folks’ hats and dumps them in the pit!
While we didn’t see much in the way of actual craters, we did see enough desolate land it might as well be moonscape. We need to move on to cooler climes!