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Monday, November 15, 2010

You're all wet! So am I.

For the second summer in a row my son and I (along with some friends) decided to do some rafting while on our  motorcycle trip.  Last summer we rafted out of Pagosa Springs, CO.  During our trip to Yellowstone National Park we decided to raft out of Gardiner, MT on the Yellowstone River.

Gardiner is right outside the famed north gateway to the Yellowstone National Park known as the Roosevelt Arch that was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1903.
We stopped for pictures at the famous arch on our way back to camp.

There were four rafting companies each offering full and half day trips.  After doing some research and reading different reviews I chose the Yellowstone Raft Company.  We opted for the 1/2 day trip.  Four of us, including my son and I, got up early and got in a great hike to Osprey Falls prior to our afternoon rafting experience.

We met the rest of our group at the Yellowstone Raft Company store in the afternoon.  We changed into appropriate clothes, picked up our life jackets, and were briefed about the trip.  We loaded up in the vans and rode to the launching locations only about a 1/4 mile from the store.  We carried the rafts to the river and began the wet and wild adventure.  Since there were eight of us in our group and another couple we split up with five in each raft along with our guides.
Raft #1 had five from our group and a guide.
Raft #2 - my son is manning the front right of the raft and getting really wet!
Both of our guides were friendly, funny, and knowledgeable.  They pointed out different mountains, plants, and geological features, including Devil's Slide.  Our guide had a great sense of humor and kept us laughing.  He would skillfully steer the raft toward the biggest waves ensuring maximum splashes.
Preparing for a big wave.
The other group also had some big splashes.
During one stretch of the river the water was pretty calm, but still flowing at a good rate.  Anyone that wanted to was welcome to go swimming or float along side the raft.  That mountain water is a little chilly so I stayed in the raft, but some jumped in.

To the south we could see Joseph Peak and Gray Peak of the Gallatin Range in YNP.  The views were awesome.  We saw birds, but no mammals.  The river was flowing at a good rate so there was plenty of excitement.  Overall it was a much "wetter" adventure than our rafting trip in 2009.

If you are visiting YNP or that area and you want to do some rafting I would check out the Yellowstone Rafting Company.  They did a great job - we had fun, got wet, learned about the area, and we were kept safe.  What more could you want?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not as famous but awesome!

When this Texan was planning our trip to Yellowstone National Park a friend insisted in visiting an area outside the park that I had never heard of.  Reluctantly the side trip was included in our plans and I am so glad it was!  The Upper Mesa Falls and Lower Mesa Falls in Idaho do not have the name recognition that Yellowstone has, but they are beautiful and well worth visiting.

The falls are located on the west side of ID 47 a.k.a The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  From the west entrance to Yellowstone NP to the parking lot at the Upper Falls is about 50 miles.  If you are coming from the south part of Idaho you will take US 20 from Idaho Springs to Ashton and then turn east on ID 47/Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  About 14 miles later the entrance will be on the left side of the road.  If you are coming from West Yellowstone you will travel US 20 to Island Park and then south for about 8 miles out of Island Park to the junction with ID 47.  Travel about 13 miles to the entrance to the Upper Falls.
Upper Falls in the morning light
The road to and the parking lot at the falls are well paved.  You will find restrooms, visitor center with exhibits, and a gift shop at the Upper Falls parking lot.  Access fee is $5/car or $1/motorcycle.  There are 9 campsites at $12/night with tables, fire rings, restrooms, and water available. Camping, hiking, backpacking, picnicking, and winter sports are allowed. More info and even more info.

A walkway from the parking lot/visitor center will take you to the overlook of the Upper Falls.  Upper Falls is 300 feet wide and plunges 114 feet creating a thunderous roar and a far reaching spray.  It is very impressive and is actually higher than the Yellowstone Upper Falls by 5 feet.  The spray keeps the sides of the canyon moist which produces a small ecosystem of its own. We saw numerous species of wildflowers and birds including osprey.  Eagles, deer and bear are known to frequent the area.
The only bear we saw was the rock below the falls that we thought looked like a bear
There is a mile hiking trail from the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls that takes hikers lower into the canyon and closer to the Lower Falls.  It runs adjacent to the Henrys Fork River and through some trees.  It is an easy hike.  You can view the Lower Falls from the Grandview Campground and Overlook or from the trail.  The Lower Falls plunges 85 feet creating a fantastic scene.
Lower Falls.  Notice the hiking trail in the canyon.
The two falls and area are pristine.  These two falls are the last two major falls in Idaho that have not be disturbed for irrigation or hydroelectric projects.  The low number of visitors make this an ideal location for hikers/campers wanting some time away from the masses.  The air is clean, the sound of the falls is relaxing, the surroundings are beautiful, and the neighbors are far away!
Henrys Fork River rolling toward the Lower Falls
It may not be Yellowstone, but that is a good thing and it is a beautiful area.  If you are in that area of Idaho I highly recommend you stop by the Mesa Falls and stay a while.