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2001 West Vacation - September 4 through 15, Part 4


My 2001 West Vacation - 12 days, 5400 miles.
Days 8 & 9, Twin Falls, ID to Yellowstone National Park.
September 11, 2001

Idaho - September 11, 2001

We had the TV on. I think there was a report of a plane hitting one of the twin towers in New York. Well, we've had some dumbasses do that in Chicago. There were conflicting reports about the size of the plane, until the networks got live shots, and the next few hours unfolded.

We were all packed up and ready to go, but we didn't. I had checked out, and the person behind the counter asked why anyone would want to do that to us? Are people that naive?

We had to leave. We had reservations in West Yellowstone that night, and it was 400 miles away. We were 1600 miles from home, and couldn't do anything about it anyway, so we were going to continue the vacation as best we could. The second tower collapsed when we were on the road.

Idaho - September 11, 2001
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Craters of the Moon National Monument - September 11, 2001

June 15, 1903. "The country took on a new character. Soaring heights of denuded slopes. Monstrous cliffs and giant boulders scattered in magnificent confusion." -- Horatio Nelson Jackson, as he passed through what is today Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Lava Field
Lava field along Cave Area Trail. Craters of the Moon National Monument.

It's either hard to believe an automobile passed through this area 100 years ago, or it's hard to believe it's only been a hundred years. I guess it depends on your perspective.

I was curious about Craters of the Moon, ever since I saw an exit sign for it on I-15 on my way to Yellowstone in 1998. Looking at a map, I found I could route myself right through the park. So I did.

I wasn't disappointed. Craters is an old lava field, victimized by several eruptions over the past few thousand years. The hotspot under this area stopped erupting 2000 years ago, but it's generally agreed it'll erupt again. The hotspot under Craters, is the same hotspot that forms the Caldera in Yellowstone today.

Even though the Apollo astronauts came here in the late 60's to train for the moon landings, this place was named in 1924. It's one of those places that is so different, so unlike any other area of the country, that you wonder what Mother nature could do next to top this one.

I returned and took some images during better circumstances in 2006.

Craters of the Moon National Monument
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Idaho National Engineering Laboratory - September 11, 2001

We passed through Arco, the first city in the US to be powered by nuclear energy.

Soon after, we entered the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. They've built over 50 nuclear reactors on this plain, including the first breeder reactor, EBR-1. Unfortunately, the public tours ended the week before I arrived.

Even though the facility was closed, I still drove down and took a couple of pictures. I wonder how many pictures were taken of my license plate...

I was actually able to visit this place for an hour or so in 2006.

Idaho National Engineering Laboratory
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Palisades Reservoir / US-26 / Snake River - September 11

Between Idaho Falls and Jackson, Wyoming, is a beautiful drive up US-26, as it threads its way between the mountains and the Snake River.

This was the second time through this area, the first was in 1998.

We got to Jackson, Wyoming, and the Visitors Center was closed. We grabbed lunch at a mostly empty restaurant that should have been much busier. There was a radio station on a portable boom box tuned to the news. For once, I might have appreciated some elevator music.

Palisades Reservoir / US-26 / Snake River - September 11
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Grand Teton National Park - September 11

Once again, like in 1998, Grand Teton would get the short end of the stick. It was already 5:00pm local time, and other than to take a couple of pictures of the range, we drove right through the part. We still had to get to West Yellowstone.

Jackson Lake was remarkably low. The next time I would see it, it would be full.

I think because of this trip, that I made the decision to spend some significant time in the park in 2006. If you want to see pictures of this park, see my 2006 trip.

We left the park, drove the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, and entered Yellowstone.

Grand Teton National Park
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Yellowstone National Park, Day 1 - September 11

Like Grand Teton, this was my second time in Yellowstone, except by the end of this trip I'd have logged six days in Yellowstone, and about six hours in Grand Teton.

The destination of my 1998 trip was Yellowstone. This year, it was a side trip from Glacier, though I'd spend just about the same amount of time in the park. In 2006, it would just be a brief visit (for Yellowstone) of almost two days, mostly as an excuse to drive the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. But that's another page.

We entered Yellowstone from the South, and about 10 miles into the park, we encountered a bunch of parked cars. In case I've never mentioned it, a lot of people gathered around in a National Park like Yellowstone, means there's an animal around. A single buffalo will sometimes attract a crowd. Sometimes, after you've seen a bunch of said wildlife up close, the newbies can become annoying. But I digress.

This time it was a Moose. A big bull, with no squirrel attached. The first one I'd actually seen in the wild. The longest lens I had was a 200mm, about 4x in today's terms. So I got out the TRV-20, which had a 20x zoom, and took some pictures. Interestingly, with the rescan project finished, the tightly cropped 35mm scan was a better image than the 20x 1MP camcorder image.

We proceeded down the Grand Loop Road to the West Entrance Road. It was right around the time the President addressed the nation about the attack. It was later than I'd planned, since we stayed watching the television coverage in Twin Falls that morning.

It was dark by the time we got to the exit, and there was a line. The Rangers were taking down the license plate numbers and origin of all the cars leaving the park.

I got a crappy room on the top floor in the corner at the Comfort Inn in West Yellowstone, not the one I had reserved. I was pissed, but what could I do? With the entire airline network shut down, no one went home today...

Yellowstone National Park, Day 1
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Yellowstone National Park, Day 2 - September 12

A buffalo jam. Yellowstone National Park.
I got up and went downstairs to get something out of the car, and saw the USA Today box had papers, but by the time I got change, they were all gone. The guy behind the front desk had finished reading his, so he gave it to me. Okay, I cut them a little slack for the crappy room.

I should add here that the night before, after we had unpacked the car and were in the room for the night, I wanted to make sure the car was locked. I could see it from our room, so I got my key fob and locked the car. By car's horn beeps and the lights flash for confirmation.

I didn't realize it, but there was a lady walking in front of the car at the time and must have jumped four feet into the air. After a stressful day, I had a good laugh at her expense. If you ever read this lady, I apologize.

To pile onto the trip taking a sudden turn toward the crapper, was the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone. It had a small 16 mile stretch of road closed between Norris Junction and the West Entrance Road, and because of that, we had an 84 mile detour.

Extremely poor planning on the part of the National Park Service. Had I known far enough in advance, I would have stayed on the other side of the park. Something I would do in 2006, when I was just "passing" through the park.

So on the start of Day 2, we took the West Entrance Road to the Grand Loop Road and turned South, the same way we came, and detoured around the road closure. But I admit, because of that, I did run into my best Buffalo Jam yet, where eventually we were the first car in line for some excellent pictures.

We stopped in at the Canyon Visitors center, then went and took some pictures of the Canyon and the Falls.

We were sort of amazed at the lack of tourists. Also the complete lack of airplanes/jets of any sort and the complete lack of contrails.

Yellowstone National Park, Day 2 - Part 1
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End 2001 West Vacation - Part 4.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

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