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Clare
Clare

Day Twenty: Dubois to Bellevue

The air-conditioning in our shed worked absolutely perfectly last night; so well, in fact, that it almost became a bit too cold and we ended up needing to go under the covers. That meant we felt much more rested this morning than yesterday, which was good because we had another long drive ahead of us today as we made our way to Idaho.

We didn't originally plan to visit Idaho on this road trip and it's perhaps the sort of state which rarely makes it on to anyone's bucket list :D The initial intention was that our road trip would culminate with a visit to Yellowstone National Park, the southern part of which merges into the northern reaches of Grand Teton. I'd booked us a lovely place to stay in the town of Gardiner, only around a mile from the northern entrance to the park, and I had an itinerary planned of all the sights we were going to see on each day. Then, in June, Yellowstone suffered a devastating, once-in-a-lifetime kind of flood, which - among other damage - completely washed away sections of the road which leads into the national park from Gardiner. The damage is so serious that the repairs might not be complete for several years.

That meant that we had accommodation booked in a place where we would be incredibly close to the national park and yet unable to access it without a three-hour drive to the western entrance outside the town of West Yellowstone. That would clearly have been too much travelling to make visiting the park feasible, even with the earliest of early starts. The western entrance is now open and I looked into the idea of alternative accommodation, but there was barely anything available and certainly not anything affordable. Accommodation around Yellowstone is expensive at the best of times and things tend to get booked up a year or more in advance. 

It was disappointing, but it made sense to cancel our booking in Gardiner and try to come up with an alternative plan. Coming up with an alternative plan at short notice was quite challenging. We could happily have spent more time at the Grand Canyon or in the Rocky Mountains if we didn't have a series of hotel bookings already mapped out and, in several cases, paid for. We were also constrained by the fact that on Friday evening we have a flight booked from Bozeman airport in Montana to Chicago, as the first leg of our long journey home. So we needed a destination which was within reasonable driving distance both from our base of Dubois in Wyoming and Bozeman in Montana. In the end we came up with Idaho :) 

We made a fairly early start again this morning, checking out of the shed around 06.30. The first part of the journey retraced our steps from yesterday, as we drove towards Grand Teton and through Jackson. We had discussed when we were tired yesterday whether we should save some of the viewpoints on my Grand Teton list for this morning, as we would be driving right past the turning for the Mormon barns, for example. I was glad this morning that we hadn't, because as we drove past the Tetons we saw that the sky was nowhere near as clear as it had been yesterday and the views definitely wouldn't have been as good.

After around two hours of driving, we reached the Wyoming-Idaho state border. Unfortunately I didn't get a very good photo of the Idaho sign, as it seems to be one of those that people have decided to cover with stickers!

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Our initial impression of Idaho was that it seemed quite hilly. Unfortunately another not very impressive photo; the number of flies crashing into our windscreen continues to grow!

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After around 4.5 hours of driving, our first stop was the town of Idaho Falls. We had an early lunch there before setting off for a walk along the nearby river, to try and find the falls that the town is named after.

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The unusual building which you can see in the background of these photos is a large Mormon temple, the first such to be built in Idaho. Its construction was completed in 1945.

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I was more excited by this floral bison sculpture. We managed to see a herd of bison as we were driving past Grand Teton this morning, though we couldn't take any photos because it was against the rules to stop on the roadside. So this is the closest to a bison photo that we've got :D

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The falls themselves, once we reached them, aren't really anything to write home about.

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It's more like an oversized weir than an actual waterfall. One of the info boards gave me the impression that they're not 100% natural and have been created as part of the construction of a hydroelectric power plant.

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With that, we'd seen the main sights of Idaho Falls so we jumped back in the car and drove west for another 90 minutes or so. The landscape here was flatter and we saw some of the potato fields which Idaho is famous for. As we got closer to our destination, the countryside began to look a bit hillier.

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We were visiting a place called Craters of the Moon National Monument. As with the Colorado National Monument which we visited last week, the entry into this one was covered by our 'America the Beautiful' pass.

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Craters of the Moon is an enormous lava field, which in total spreads across 615 square miles in Central Idaho.

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There are no active volcanoes here today; the lava flows date from between 2 000 and 15 000 years ago.

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It was a really unusual landscape and one that reminded us of our visit to Iceland in 2018.

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There's a circular route which you can drive around the small part of the park which is accessible, with various stops for viewpoints. We made our first halt at a place called Devil's Orchard, where we did a short nature trail.

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Here's me attempting to sit on a rock partway round, but finding it was too hot :D 

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And here's me standing beside a particularly huge lava formation to demonstrate its size.

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The scenery was fascinating, but one of the most exciting things was that we managed to get close enough to this little chipmunk to take a photo :) It saw us but wasn't bothered and carried on eating some sort of nuts from this bush. Chipmunks normally dart away at the speed of light, so this felt like quite an achievement.

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After the walk at Devil's Orchard, we continued to follow the circular road through the park.

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Our next stop was alongside this rather impressive volcanic cone. This is apparently a spatter cone, a miniature volcano which forms during the final stages of a volcanic eruption.

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We were able to climb to the top of the spatter cone in the photo, but I think it's one of those features that looks better from a distance than when you're actually on it.

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There was a larger volcanic cone which it was also possible to climb to the top of, but the car park for that one was full so we gave it a miss. To be honest, it looked steeper than we probably wanted to climb in the heat anyway.

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After the spatter cone we drove to a more remote viewpoint, from which we were able to do a slightly longer walk.

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Initially the scenery along the trail was fairly green...

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...then we turned a corner and found ourselves on what seemed like the rim of a crater.

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Again, it was all very reminiscent of some of the scenery which we'd seen in northern Iceland a few years ago.

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There were also some lovely views from here towards mountains in the distance.

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From Craters of the Moon we had another drive of an hour or so towards the small town of Bellevue, where we are staying for the next two nights.

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We've got a suite at the hotel, which is a bit more spacious than last night's shed :D 

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We've also got a bit of a mountain view out of our window :) 

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First impressions of Idaho are good; it's maybe not quite as spectacular as Yellowstone, but I think we'll have fun here :) 




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