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Posts Tagged ‘Craters of the Moon National Monument’

Idaho Praraie

Somewhere in Idaho…

Five friends, 2200 miles, 15 fuel stops, and Ten Sleep Canyon – priceless!

Sure it’s a nod to MasterCard, but priceless experiences are better when shared and now that I’m back from some extended work travel that is my intent.

It was a sunny Saturday (August 24) and the leather-clad group rolled east like Pacific Northwest thunder to where more than 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts were expected for the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary festivities in Milwaukee.  

Looking down on Jackson, WY

Looking down on Jackson, WY

The group had laid out a casual route plan, but embracing total spontaneity of the open road to see where ever the wind might take us wasn’t really in the cards for this trip.  We did eat when we got hungry, slept when we got tired and would drink refreshments when the bikes were parked at a motel for the night.

Three of us in this group had made a northern journey in 2008 for the 105th Anniversary (HERE), but on this trip we decided to take a more southern route.  That meant a lot more freeway travel and covering some very familiar road for at least the first 500 miles.

Pano of Grand Teton's

Pano of the Grand Teton’s

Boise, Idaho was like déjà vu all over again, (weren’t we just here?) and we must have been thinking about that Toby Keith song, I Love This Bar & Grill because we landed at the Reef restaurant again.  We met a couple Canadian float plane pilots at one of the pub stops and shared some interesting stories.

Grand Teton's

Grand Teton’s

The next morning we departed Boise after a McD’s power breakfast and headed toward Jackson, WY.   We initially planned to take Highway 20, through a desolate place known for the National Reactor Testing and then maybe a quick stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Climbing down a lava tube sounded like fun, but it was another incredibly hot day.  Too hot to be walking around on black lava in motorcycle gear so we took the faster route and continued on I-84/I-15 to Idaho Falls.  

Heading toward Ten Sleep

On Hwy 26 riding toward Ten Sleep

From there we rode out on Highway 26 to Swan Valley then rode on Highway 31 (Pine Creek Rd) through the Targhee National Forest into Victor, ID where we picked up Highway 33/22 (Teton Pass Hwy).  This road took us through the western end of the Teton Pass and southern part of Teton Valley.  There were some great views!

We overnighted in Jackson, WY., which has a cowboy theme about the place.  Downtown has a daily gunfight and there are a lot of shops to spend $$ in if you like the tourist thing.  We had dinner at the Rendezvous Bistro which had outstanding food and to die for Meatloaf!  Strongly recommend the place if you’re in the area.

The next morning we headed out on Highway 191/89 and admired the majestic mountain view of the Grand Teton’s.  The park gets over 4M visitors each year, but the traffic on this day was light.  We stopped for a couple of photo ops, but continued on.  We were leaving the “high-country” and at Morlan, we took Highway 26 east and rode toward Riverton then on to Thermopolis.  There was a sign when we entered that said it was “the world’s largest hot spring” and is situated in a state park.  We stopped for lunch at a local dive that was having issues with the grill vent.  The entire place smelled like an open BBQ, but the burgers went down well.

Pano of Ten Sleep Canyon

Pano of Ten Sleep Canyon

We continued on to Ten Sleep Canyon.  Once a little known backwater, Ten Sleep is today a premier limestone climbing area in Wyoming.  

The Posse at Ten Sleep Canyon

The Posse at Ten Sleep Canyon

At Worland we rode out on Highway 16.  It’s called The Sweet 16 for being the easiest route to Yellowstone Park due to the gentle curves and lower grades.  This 92 mile corridor is a great ride and should be added to your bucket list.  From the town of Ten Sleep, US 16 leaves agricultural land and heads east along Ten Sleep Creek and through a spectacular canyon.  The canyon is filled with vivid colored limestone and dolomite rock walls and the cliffs take on a life of their own with shapes and faces.  The road continues into the Big Horn Mountains, which offers up lush grasslands, alpine meadows and glacier lakes.  The road crosses over the Powder River Pass at an elevation of 9,666 feet and then makes a steep descent (6-7%) into Buffalo.  There we rode on I-90 east and overnighted in Gillette. 

This riding day was truly a highlight of the road trip in my view and one that is most memorable.  It was filled with lots of mountain eye-candy, painted desert and Wyoming wonders.

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 2 (HERE).

Post Script:  I neglected to include a shout out to MC who couldn’t make this trip.  He and Sherry were excited to make the journey “home” and planned to ride out and join our group in Milwaukee.  Unfortunately MC was hit by a driver (HERE) who was trying to beat a red light while attending Shark Week III in St. George, Utah in early August.  We missed you MC and all of us are looking forward to future rides together!  You can follow MC’s recovery progress HERE or on his blog HERE.

Photos taken by author. 

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PORTLAND to BOISE – The outbound ride route was about getting miles under our tires as we looked for the fastest and most direct route (I-84) to Boise, ID.

The day started off with a heavy coastal cloud layer, but the futher we rode through the gorge the sunny weather was clearly present in the distant east.  By mid-morning the clouds burned off and as we rode up the gorge we stopped at a rest area prior to Boardman and met up with another group of riders/friends who were taking the northern route to the rally.

We continued on along a more southern route and headed toward Pendleton and over the Blue Mountains of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  The crest of the range sits at 4193 feet just prior to La Grande and then we dropped down into the southeastern flank of the range and Baker City, home of the Hells Canyon Rally.

We arrived in Idaho, the coast-less, semi-arid, mountainous state to near triple digit temps and stopped at a rest area where the Snake River meandered along the interstate to cool off.  We made our way into the downtown Hampton Inn having to navigate around road blocks for a 3-on-3 basketball street tournament running over the weekend.

As a side-bar, the Hampton Inn experience (price/quality/service) was the best we experienced on the entire trip.  Major shout-out to Phil Cordell (GM) and team!

"The Posse"

We needed something to do and luckily for the group it was Friday night!  We grabbed some “Boise Caviar” (at: Bar Gernika) i.e. some spicy lamb grinder and a drink mixture of cola and red wine.  No thanks, I stuck to a local hops.

Bar Gernika is a dark little corner joint, but a fav for Basque food.  Some in the posse decided to doubled down on the croquetas and ask for extra spice because let’s face it – is there any better drunk food than spicy lamb?!  The joint had a sidewalk patio and was in close proximity to “Alive After Five” and the “cougar” deck at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant where we finished off the evening.

BOISE to IDAHO FALLS – We departed Boise fairly early and continued our route to the “Craters of the Moon National Monument.”   About an hour outside of Boise we headed east on Hwy 20 and traveled through the semi-arid rolling hills landscape.  About 18 miles from Arco, ID on Hwy 20/26/93 is the National Monument and we pulled into the visitor center to cool off.  Even though we were at 5900 feet, the temperature remained in the 90’s.  The Craters of the Moon is a geologic wonder.  It’s a preserved volcanic landscape with craters, cinder coves, lava tubes and large fields on the Snake River plain.  It’s quite the contrast in colors.

Craters of the Moon

After leaving the monument we continue east toward Arco and rode through part of the nearly 1000 sq mile Idaho National Laboratory (INL) complex located in the high-desert.  For as far as the eye can see (~20 miles) there was nothing but sage brush and then a small industrial complex comes into view. INL manufactures highly radioactive plutonium-238 for classified national security purposes.

According to the reports there have been more than 50 one-of-a-kind nuclear reactors built at the INL facility yet all but three are shut down now.

"Middle Butte"

More important from a tourist viewpoint is that we passed by the now famous EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor) which first produced electricity back in 1951 and was the design test-bed for a nuclear military.  It’s on public display.

We continued heading east on Hwy 20/26/93 and rolled past “Middle Butte” which is this large cinder cone shaped mountain in the high-desert with every conceivable antenna tower on the flat top to broadcast or capture an electronic signal.  Undoubtedly it provides the 4000+ workers at INL cell phone coverage so they can check their email.

Idaho Falls

Evidently AT&T has yet to learn about this mountain as I had no service.

Finally after some road construction delay’s we arrived literally at Idaho Falls and the Best Western hotel.  Dinner was great at the Brownstone Restaurant and by moonlight and a small flashlight we made some late night foot peg adjustments before calling it a day.

IDAHO FALLS to CODY —

Grand Teton National Park

(via southern Yellowstone National Park entrance) – This day took us through northwestern Wyoming, via Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park.  We were most fortunate to have sunny weather to view a spectacular landscape rich with majestic mountains and blue clear lakes.

The jagged Teton Range provides an incredible contrast to the sage-covered valley which Hwy 191 runs through on our way north to Yellowstone.

The Teton's

Yellowstone National Park is always inspiring with waterfalls, Lodgepole pine and the thermal areas. The south road entrance passes the Continental Divide three times and the route passes five geyser basins.  We drove by Lewis Lake and over Craig Pass (8262 ft) and then west to Old Faithful.  It’s the world’s best known geyser and erupts at intervals from 40 to 120 minutes.

We watch it do its thing and back tracked toward the East entrance through Lake Village and the Fishing Bridge where we were rewarded with panorama views of Yellowstone Lake.

Lewis Lake - Yellowstone

The lake is North Americas largest mountain lake at 20 miles long, 14 miles wide and 430 ft deep with average August surface temp of 60 degrees.

We traveled around what seemed like the entire lake then progressed over Sylvan Pass (8530 ft) and finished out the riding day with about 50 miles to Cody, WY.

The last hour of this route took us on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway which is a two-lane road in the rugged canyon carved by the North Fork of Shoshone River.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir - Cody, WY

Just prior to arriving in Cody are a couple of interesting tunnels and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir which provides recreational activity for locals as well as some limited hydropower from the dam.

With the sun setting behind us the scene made for some great photo’s.

CODY to STURGIS/LEAD – It was our 4th day of adventure and Cody is a transition point between the forested mountains of northwest Wyoming and the plains of the Bighorn Basin.

At Shell Falls Trail

There is spectacular scenery in all directions from Cody, the Beartooth Mountains to the north, the Absaroka Range to the west and Wapiti Valley to the south.  Our posse headed east on Hwy 20 to Greybull and picked up Hwy 14 which traverses the Bighorn National Forest.

We all have our favorite roads and one that I really like riding is the Bighorn Scenic Byway (US 14) which connects the cities of Greybull and Sheridan and includes 45 miles of scenic mountain driving.

Posse rolling across SD Plains

Within the National Forest area, you’ll encounter grass prairies, evergreen forests, mountain meadows, rugged alpine peaks, dramatic canyons, arid desert lands and cascading waterfalls — all within a couple hours journey.  The Cloud Peak Wilderness area, is quite unique and diverse.  I’d like to spend more time exploring the area rather than quickly rolling through on a motorcycle.

The Deadwood Cabin

We connected onto I-90 and headed east toward Sturgis.  Although the interstate is fast it’s somewhat of a boring ride until you get near Spearfish and the US 85 junction which routes riders south into Deadwood/Lead.  We had a cabin south of Lead, located near Recreational Springs.   Although it was a bit of drive into Sturgis it turned out to be a really sweet setup!

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 2 HERE.

Photos taken along the route.

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