Friday, February 27, 2015

Mesa Falls, Idaho

We spent the night in Ashton, a small wheat and seed potato town in easternmost Idaho, a town we have visited several times before for the start of the long ride to Flagg Ranch and then on to the Continental Divide trails. Ashton to Pinedale, and back, a ride of a couple hundred miles each way we probably would not contemplate anymore. Anyhow, from Ashton, we drove out to the start of the Mesa Falls trail, just a few miles, which we extended to the Eccles trail, near to Island Park, and back. In this winter of little precipitation in the West, the falls were not as impressive as in previous years, and the trails were hard, rutted, nearly icy. We thought about trying West Yellowstone again, but decided that snow conditions there probably were no better. And so we drove over past Rexburg, hit I-15, back to Montana, and got as far as a rest area just short of Butte. Perhaps our snowmobile season is over, unless more snow arrives.
Ashton is a town of architectural and cultural wonders--e.g.,
this art deco auto service building

And this drive-in...the mug actually revolves (in Driggs or
Tetonia we saw a drive-in theatre...)

And the beautiful Rankin 1924 motor hotel...major Americana

And the Reinicke Grain complex...Frank Gehry eat your heart
out! (note geodesic dome offices) 

On a more serious note, the Forest Service
warns that the bears are out, and hungry

Snow pole at Upper Mesa Falls...2 feet

Upper Falls

Lower Falls...far more impressive, but not viewable close-up

This is what a snowmobile tour bus looks like

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snowmobiling The Continental Divide Trail, 6: Last Days

We were tired after our Green River Lakes ride, and nasty weather was threatening, so Saturday morning we came down off the pass to spend a couple days in Dubois--one whole day at the very nice and welcoming public library--avoiding the worst of the weather. It snowed an inch or two in Dubois, and Sunday and Monday mornings registered -7 and -11 respectively. Cold, yes, but our camper seemed to do just long as the propane held out. Monday the highs and lows returned to more comfortable levels, and we drove back up to the parking lot just beyond Brooks Lake and did a couple more days of good snowmobiling...trails CD, T, E, F, A, B, TH, PB, and so on. Despite the recent cold and a few inches of snow, even the Continental Divide trails seems to be melting down, especially some of the access points. Tuesday afternoon we drove back through Jackson to Alpine, where there was less snow but still plenty of snowmobiling, and spent the night. Wednesday we resolved to drive on back into Idaho, to try something we had missed earlier, the Mesa Falls trails out of Ashton. And then back to West Yellowstone and Montana.
Most of Monday's sledding was quite varied if unspectacular, and
I thought I'd take just this one photo to remember the great trails

But then we hit this beautiful white forest

Which went on a ways

And then we came to the Continental Divide Overlook, and its
viewof the Tetons


And then, a few miles further south on F, another great view
of Squaretop, in the Winds

And more views of the Absarokas as we returned home

And then, next day, riding atop a plateau at 10,000 feet or
more, a panorama that included the Winds

The Gros Ventres

And the Grand and the Middle Teton just sticking out above the
ridge (for some reason I didn't shoot the Absarokas, but then
we've seen enough of them)--anyway, all four of the great ranges 
that enclose this area...

And then, a few more miles up the trail, even better views of
the Tetons than the day before

Thus...the Middle Teton, the Grand, Gunsight Notch, Mt. Owen,
and Teewinot...a fitting end for our rides on the Continental

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snowmobiling The Continental Divide Trail, 5: Green River Lakes

Vicki ventures out onto the ice; clearly, the lake gets a bit of
snowmobile traffic; we don't do ice with our 1,000cc two-up;
most snowmobile fatalities are drownings, not avalanches nor

Evidently the lake sees other traffic also, including the big bear
pad in the middle that needs a mani/pedi

And kitty cats

There being no one else around, we resort to ussies (plural of

Thus, after lunch, as we depart

The Green; now heading south on N

Looking to the Gros Ventres, again

Green River valley, in the general direction of Pinedale

To the west, the Wyoming Range, and beyond, Alpine, where
we were a week earlier

Parking lot, some miles north of Pinedale

On S, heading back home

A last look back at the ramparts of the Winds

With a glimpse into the interior big mountains

Nearly home, taking time to up-right a fallen snow person

Snowmobiling The Continental Divide Trail, 4: Green River Lakes

The ride to Green River Lakes has always been my favorite snowmobile ride, and Thursday's ride was easily the best of them all. It was 48 miles, mostly on the CD, from the Warm Springs parking lot to the edge of the lower lake. The skies were clear and the temperatures were almost warm for February. And the whole ride had been beautifully groomed the night before. The were other snowmobiles in the area—the Rapid City club had shown up in the parking lot that morning, with 28 sleds—but clearly they had other priorities. It took us about two hours to get to the lake, and, first time ever, we had the place entirely to ourselves. Never saw another soul. (Did see moose and elk, and bear and mountain lion tracks near the lake). The silence, not to mention the scenery, was incredible. On the way back, we took variants N and S. S would have been better on the way to Green River, since much of the ride faces the Winds, relatively close up. About 120 miles total, and six hours of great riding.

So, what are the Green River Lakes, you ask? The Green River, aka the Colorado River, downstream, rises in the Wind River range, from one of the five glaciers on Gannett Peak. As it leaves the mountains, it passes through the beautiful Green River Lakes. The lakes are surrounded on three sides by high walls and peaks, and back-dropped by Squaretop Mountain. Wyoming has three utterly iconic scenes: Devil's Tower, the Tetons, and Squaretop Mountain rising behind the Green River Lakes. This trail, on Forest Service land (there's a popular summer campground on the lake), is as deep as you can get into the Winds on a snowmobile (or a car, in the summertime). Legally.
Our snowmobile, with it many campaign pennants, 2004-2015

Headed south on the CD, the Absarokas on the left

A bit further on, the Gros Ventres range on the right

From the Strawberry Hut south, all the way to the junction with
the N trail and the bridge over the Green...12-15 miles of
unridden, freshly groomed trail...typical CDT

On trail N, the Green River over there under the snow

Not far from the junction of the CD and N, a warm springs
where a protected fish species lives...the Kendall Warm
Springs Dace

After several more miles of N, you branch onto GL and encounter
a prominent elk feeding area

Thus; hundreds of elk

That close

Approaching Green River Lakes

Up closer

Enlarge and find the two moose in the trees

At the entrance to the summer campground and trailheads

There, finally, on the shore of Green River Lake

Squaretop be continued