30 August 2014

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Lower Falls, Yellowstone

Yellowstone Part II

Hi folks, this is my final vacation post. Here are a few more pics from Yellowstone. Enjoy!

Sunrise and fog, Yellowstone

Sunrise Yellowstone

There was a good layering of fog along Blacktail Deer Plateau at sunrise.

The northern flanks of Mount Washburn in prime grizzly bear country in Yellowstone National Park.

The slopes of Mount Washburn, according to the Park, are prime grizzly bear habitat. We’re looking east from Washburn’s north flank.

Morning fog blanketing the Canyon Village area of Yellowstone National Park.

A morning fog bank covers the Canyon Village area as seen from Dunraven Pass.

Snowcatcher Photo

Grizzly bear and cub, Yellowstone

Grizzly bear and cub, Yellowstone

a walk amongst the wildflowers
Snowcatcher Photo

A sow grizzly and this year’s cub foraging on Dunraven Pass.

Snowcatcher Photo

A black bear foraging close to Phantom Lake.

Snowcatcher Photo

Another large denizen of the forest.

Lower Falls, Yellowstone

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River

Vacation mileage

4 Runner mileage

We left Yellowstone close to noon, arriving in the Denver Metro area close to midnight. It was a long trip, but a good one. I’m already anxious for our next road trip. The above two pics tell the tale regarding trip miles and total miles. The 4-Runner just keeps running and running!

Good Stuff!

In the end, a good trip requires a good ale, and the Nut Brown Ale from Montana’s Bitterroot Brewery hit the spot.

Thanks for reading.


28 August 2014

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Yellowstone geysers at Midway Geyser Basin, I think.

Yellowstone Part I

Hi, Boo Boos! (Remember Yogi the Bear?) Welcome to Yellowstone! This was the last stop of our vacation. Yellowstone is a special place. The more you visit it, the more it grows on you. It’s huge in aerial extent. It is still very wild when away from the popular tourist pull-ins.

North Yellowstone and recent hail

The bear population is strong for black and grizzly bear. The human-habituated bears lining roadways of past are no longer seen. Bears have slowly been de-habituated with humans. That’s good for both. Hiking remote sections of the park is still wild. In other words, carry bear spray and know how to use it.  Park rangers only recommend hiking backcountry trails with a party of three or more.

North Yellowstone National Park

Our short stay was just that, short. We spent our evening and early morning wildlife viewing and had some luck, two black bears and a grizzly bear with this year’s cub.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone

We bypassed the geysers because they were, quite frankly, too busy. We’ll come back and play in the geysers during off season. However, we did get some late evening shots of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces.

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, Yellowstone


26 August 2014

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DC 3 cockpit

Missoula Smokejumpers

The Missoula Smokejumpers are elite wildland firefighters who parachute into isolated areas to fight fires. Their base and main training area is Missoula, Montana. The organization also provides tours of their compound. We visited the training center prior to hitting the road east.

Sewing room

Except for parachutes, they put together and sew their own gear in their own sewing room.

Hang parachutes from the ceiling room.

When not in use, their parachutes are hung from the ceiling in the parachute room.

The parachute folding room.

In the parachute folding room, the long tables are used to fold the parachutes. The jumpers do not fold their own chutes. Several master jumpers/folders fold all of the chutes.

I'm bigger than you, na na na nana...
Former Montana residents, and guardians of the parachute folding room, watch your every move.

This United State Forest Service DC 3 Smokejumper aircraft is packed and ready to go.

Above is a DC 3, fueled, loaded and ready to fly. Supplies to be dropped are secure and ready to go. Our tour was rather small and we were allowed aboard the aircraft for a look around.

DC 3 cockpit

A senior Smokeumper gave a small presentation on what takes place just prior to, and during, exit from the airplane. Some jumpers are on static lines (shoot pulled open as they exit) and drop under round chutes. These jumpers will exit the plane about 1,000 feet above the drop zone. The parachutists not on a static line exit the airplane at about 3,000 feet. They have more maneuverable rectangular chutes and drop faster than the round chutes. However, they don’t freefall; they have a streamer chute attached to them for stability until they open their main chutes. They can't freefall very well since they are heavily laden with gear.

Slurry bomber

Most of the aircraft used to drop slurry are under contract with the Forest Service. They also have a base in Missoula. Above is a slurry bomber at the retardant loading area.

I think this aircraft was also being used in a slurry bomber capacity.

I think this jet is also a slurry bomber; it was parked at the slurry loading station for a while. This was a fun tour and very low key. Firefighters were milling around in most of the rooms while we were there. Many were packed and ready to jump that day.

Next stop, hey, Boo Boo – Yellowstone!


23 August 2014

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The third (straight across), left and right (far right)powerplants can be seen in this shot.

Grand Coulee Dam

Dams, love ‘em or hate em’, you have to marvel at the engineering, especially considering the age of many of the old and very large dams, such as Grand Coulee Dam and Hoover Dam. Although it’s good to see wind and solar coming on strong, I think their efficiency at supplying the masses is still a way off. It’s coming, but it isn’t going to happen overnight.

Grand Coulee’s first two powerplants, the left and the right, were built between 1933 and 1941. Remember using slide rules? Neither do I. The Third Powerplant was built between 1967 and 1974.

Third Powerplant

The newest Third Powerplant is across the Columbia from the visitor center.

Left powerplant (left) and main dam

The Right Powerplant is also across the river at the river right position.

The following Grand Coulee data is supplied by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation.
  • Largest hydropower producer in the United States
  • Generates more than 21 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year
  • Height 550 feet, length 5,223 feet
  • Contains close to 12 million cubic yards of concrete
  • Sends power to WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, CO, CA, NV, NM, UT, AZ and Canada
  • Left Powerplant main unit turbines create 315,000 horsepower (sum all turbines)
  • Right Powerplant main unit turbines create 165,000 horsepower
  • Third Powerplant main unit turbines create 1,873,900 horsepower (sum all turbines)
  • Total generating capacity is 6,809 megawatts

Power Baby!  Dams, love 'em or hate 'em, provide something our society would collapse without.  Most of the big power dams were built well before solar and wind were even at the embryo level.  Remember slide rules?  Me either.

One of tens of towers delivering electricity to the grid.

Woody Guthrie even got involved.

Rolling wheat fields of eastern Washington State.

Time didn’t allow us to tour the dam, as the stop wasn’t quite on the intinerary. I would like to tour it sometime, especially if it’s as interesting as the Hoover Dam tour. Back on the road and heading east, we hoped to make Missoula, Montana, by early evening. In between eastern Washington and Idaho is a lot of rolling fields of wheat.

Up next, the Missoula Smokejumpers!


21 August 2014

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Lake Diablo

North Cascades National Park

Day Six found us cruising north again. Soon we changed to an easterly course and headed inland toward Sedro Woolley, Washington, and the jagged North Cascade Mountains rising just beyond. Our next overnight would be within spitting distance of Canada – North Cascades National Park.

What the Pacific Northwest is known for.

We found a delightful little camp spot just up from the Skagit River and fairly close to Park Headquarters. Thus, a trip to the Park Bookstore was in order. I like Park bookstores because you can pick up on literature you don’t see at say, Barnes and Noble. Moreover, you may find local authors as well as scientific-based text of the area.

We all know who this is.

There’s a lot of magic floating around this place. To capture the magic would be to spend months here. There isn’t much car gawking; you need to get out on foot and experience it. Snowcatcher was enjoying the temperate rain forest and crochet until we went out exploring.

Diablo Lake

Still early in the day, we ventured into the Park for awhile, turning around at the Diablo Lake (actually a reservoir) overlook. The water is groovy green. I haven’t delved into the water chemistry yet. My guess would be travertine deposits mixed with glacial runoff. We know we’re surrounded by mountain peaks, but they’re shy, only opening their grandeur to those taking the time to penetrate the area non-mechanically. As Arny would say, “I’ll be back!”

I think this is Pyramid Peak with Pinnacle Peak behind it.

There is a buffer zone on each side of State Highway 20, which splits the Park, called Ross Lake National Recreation Area. In other words, North Cascades National Park has two halves, one on each side of the Highway. Within this buffer are three hydroelectric dams, the George Lake Dam, the Diablo Lake Dam and the Ross Dam. The Ross Dam impounds huge Ross Lake back north into Canada. All three were part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, owned and operated by Seattle City and Light. The project began with George Dam in 1921 and ending with the Ross Dam in 1953.

Rant Alert: I’m kind of finicky on water project nomenclature. In my world, water impounded behind a dam is a reservoir. A lake is a natural occurrence of impounded water. Engineers design reservoirs not lakes. For a variety of reasons, I think John Wesley Powell would roll over in his grave knowing Lake Powell was named after him. Kind of off topic, but if you are interested in the water history of the American Southwest between the early and late 1900s, may I suggest reading Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner. End rant.

Totem Pole, Newhalem, WA0

We took the bikes out for an evening ride and found a campground service road which led to a water pumping station of some sort. From here a little trail dropped down to the river and a foot bridge. Crossing the bridge brought us into the hamlet of Newhalem. It appears some people associated with the hydroelectric projects may live here. Moreover, it appears former hydroelectric work teams may have been housed here.

The following morning had us traveling early for sunrise photos of the few peaks we could see.

Early Winter Spires and Liberty Bell Mountain

Looking south at Early Winter Spires and Liberty Bell Mountain from Washington Pass.

Kangaroo Ridge

Viewing southeast at a small length of Kangaroo Ridge, also from Washington Pass.

Vasiliki Ridge and possibly Silver Star Mountain in foreground

The Vasiliki Ridge and possibly Silver Star Mountain (foreground) greet the sun from Washington Pass.

Washington Pass, North Cascades National Park

In addition to thick forest, the Washington Pass area had numerous snags dotting the hillside. From Washington Pass we continued southeast until we hit the mighty Columbia River. We also cruised through the small towns of Pateros, Brewster and Bridgeport – apple farming country. From the Columbia, we headed east across the north central Washington desert. Our next stop? Here’s a hint, electrical power – lots of it!

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