Big Sky

We said “So long” to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks yesterday as we continued our westward journey. Heading north on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway toward Yellowstone, there was a traffic jam.  People were jumping out of their parked cars and running with their cameras in hand.  We were towing our camper so we did not pull off the road but we slowed down.  I rolled down the window and asked a woman, “What’s up there?”  She answered, “A grizzly bear!”  Sure enough, as we slowly made our way forward, we saw the grizzly bear by the road.  The park rangers were there too. They were monitoring both the bear and the crowd. They did a good job of keeping the bear and the park visitors safe. So, we got to see a grizzly bear on our way out of the park.  What a great send off!

In this post, I wanted to highlight two of the visionaries who helped make Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks a reality, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Horace Albright.  The latter was the superintendent of Yellowstone and he recognized the importance of preserving not only Yellowstone but also the Tetons and the area that surrounded them. In 1929, Congress had moved to protect the Teton mountain range and some of the alpine lakes but not the land along the Snake River at the base of the Tetons.  Albright took Rockefeller to the area and Rockefeller was so inspired by what he saw that he established a company to begin purchasing land in Jackson Hole, the valley at the base of the mountains.  Over the years, Rockefeller acquired the vast majority of the land and then he donated all of it to the Federal government.  In essence, he donated it to all of us so that it would be protected and so that all of us could enjoy it.  This year, there will be about five million visitors who come to the Grand Teton National Park alone.  This wonderful Yellowstone basin is now part of our nation’s patrimony due to two great men’s vision and generosity.

Our drive took us through the western part of Yellowstone.  We passed through the town of Madison and then followed the Madison River out of Wyoming and into Montana.  As we followed the river through the Madison valley, we came upon an area where elk were grazing. We stopped and observed them for a while. They were moving between a marshy area and the river.  There were four elk and one of them was a calf.

Yellowstone West-25

Once we left the town of West Yellowstone, we moved into “Big Sky Country,” and the landscape changed from what we had seen in the National Park.  The land was very open with many cattle ranches.

One interesting lake that we passed in southwest Montana was Earthquake Lake.  This lake, which is in the Gallatin forest, was formed by a strong earthquake and is 190 feet deep and is 6 miles long. In 1959, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale shook the area and part of the mountain slid into the Madison River damming it up.  The effects of this seismic shift were felt as far away as Yellowstone, where several geysers erupted.  There were numerous aftershocks for a period of several months.  We saw the landslide and many dead trees standing in the lake.  It was an unusual sight.

We arrived in Ennis, Montana in the early afternoon.  We had decided to spend the night at the Ennis RV Village. This turned out to be a well maintained park with a wonderful view.

Big Sky Montana-19

Fishing, especially fly-fishing, seems to be the favorite activity in this area.  We saw many fly-fishermen in the rivers as we neared Ennis.

Big Sky Montana-21

We talked to folks in the campground who come there specifically to go fishing in the lakes and rivers. To our surprise, many spend months at this location.

Ennis RV Village-2
Ennis RV Village

Today we travelled across Montana and Idaho to Spokane, Washington.  It was an absolutely beautiful drive and it was obvious why Montana is called “Big Sky Country.”

Big Sky Montana-3438

We have an appointment to get one of our air conditioners repaired tomorrow morning.  We are staying at the dealership tonight which is another “first” for us.  We hope that this delay will only take a day or so.  We are not worried about it since we are sure to find some interesting things to see and do here in Spokane while we wait.

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