Friday, November 26, 2021

RonnieAdventure #0492 - Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake, Utah


A visit to Antelope Island has been on my Bucket List for a long time, but I never seemed to make it there for a RonnieAdventure. When my grandchildren suggested that we go hiking on the Island, I was really excited to make the trip. 

With a land area of 42-square miles, Antelope Island is the largest of 10 islands located within the Great Salt Lake. The Island is reached by an elevated causeway that connects the north end of the Island to the shoreline.  

On October 2, 1992, five Army Rangers and seven Air Force Special Operations Airmen were killed on a night training mission when their MH 60G Pave Hawk helicopter flying a few few above the Lake's surface hit the elevated causeway and burst into flames before landing in ten-foot deep water. A seven-foot tall granite monument has been constructed at the west end of the causeway to remember those killed in the accident. 

Our first stop on the Island was the Visitor Center to pick up some hiking trail maps and view the various exhibits. In front of the building there were various animal exhibits and an elaborate stone castle bird house.

Much of the Island is covered with native grass that supports populations of American Bison, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, porcupine, badgers, coyotes, bobcats, mule deer, and millions of waterfowl. There are over 40 springs on the Island that provide freshwater for the wildlife. After we left the visitor center, there was a bison standing next to the road posing for pictures. 

Picture by Elizadrew

Picture by Elizadrew

A paved road runs along the east side of the Island down to the Historic Fielding Garr Ranch. The Ranch was settled in 1848 and a log cabin was built near a freshwater spring. In 1850 the log cabin was replaced with a stone ranch house, which is now the oldest Anglo building in Utah still standing on its original foundation. 

The area around the Ranch is a popular birding area with over 250 different bird species recorded at the site. I think we were there at the wrong time of year because we only saw a few small birds flying around the treetops. The birds may have been some type of exotic one eyed one horned flying purple people eaters, but to me they looked like Sparrows. (Where were Mary & Fred when we needed them!)

In the early 1900s cattle ranching was phased out and sheep were introduced at the Ranch. By 1920 there were over 10,000 sheep on the Island and it was one of the largest and most industrialized sheep ranches in the United States. A gas engine was used to provide power for the mechanical shearing equipment and using the mechanical equipment a sheep could be sheared in a few minutes. It took almost 30 minutes to shear a sheep using hand shears.   

There were very few people that actually lived at the ranch. Most of the sheepherders lived in Sheep Camps that were pulled by horses to the various grazing areas. Sheep camps are still used today by sheepherders throughout western United States. 

In 1981 the State of Utah purchased the entire island for a State Park, which ended ranching on the property.       

Sheep Shearing Barn

Sheep Camp
After visiting the Ranch we hiked up part of the Dooley Knob Trail to an overlook that had nice views of the Great Lake. Even though most of the flowering plants were dormant in mid-November, surprisingly, there were still a number of plants with blooming flowers. 

Picture by Elizadrew
Picture by Elizadrew

Picture by Elizadrew

On the way back across the causeway, we stopped by the side of the road to take a few more pictures. In some areas there were large flocks of nesting birds and the smell discouraged staying in the area too long.  

When we arrived home, we found Loki decorating the Christmas tree -- with himself. 

While I was in Utah I was also able to watch my favorite stage actress in a production of The SpongeBob Musical.

Although not able to attend any games in person, I subscribed to ESPN so that I could watch my favorite California State University Northridge (CSUN) basketball player. 

Photographer Unknown
As I passed through the new Salt Lake City Terminal on my way home, there was a beautiful Christmas Tree in the main lobby area. Unfortunately, it is a long walk from the terminal lobby to the "B" gate area (about 25 minutes). A second new terminal is scheduled to open in 2024, which will make the walk to the "B" gates a lot shorter.  

Friday, November 19, 2021

RonnieAdventure #0491 - Glacier National Park, Montana

Several years ago I had some frequent flyer miles that I needed to use before they expired, so I scanned a US map to find a place that was on my bucket list and out of the Nevada August heat. Since I had never been to Glacier National Park, this seemed like a great time to make the trip. Unfortunately, the closest airport I could fly into and use my frequent flyer miles was Spokane, Washington (289 miles away). On the map it looked like it would be a nice scenic drive, so we decided to make the trip. (It was a beautiful drive, but it took a lot longer than I had anticipated.)

We had just crossed into Montana on U.S. Highway 2 when I noted a sign by the side of the road for "Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge." I enjoy walking across suspension bridges and decided to make a quick stop. Although not on my trip agenda, it turned out to be a great place to get out of the car for a rest break. 

Before we left Las Vegas we reserved a room at the historic Glacier Park Lodge in Glacier National Park. The Lodge was built in 1912 in East Glacier at the foot of Dancing Lady Mountain. At the time we visited, train service was available just a few hundred feet east of the front door. Some people still arrived by train. 

Early the next morning I hiked to Running Eagle Falls, which is also known as "Trick Falls" because in the spring water pours off a cliff onto the top of the falls, making it look like one water fall when it is really two separate falls. Unfortunately, I was there at the wrong time of year and there was no water pouring off of the upper falls.

Boat tours are available on several of the lakes, so at Two Medicine Lake we rode the historic Sinopah on a loop around the lake. We had a very a knowledgeable captain that provided a lot of information about the area and local history, along with some entertaining stories. (The Sinopah is the oldest wooden boat in the fleet at all of the lakes within the Park.) 

Baring Falls near Saint Mary Lake was a nice picture stop  

There is a visitor Center at Saint Mary Lake and a boat tour facility. We did not take the boat tour because the entire area can be viewed from a road that runs along the north side of the lake .  

We had planned to visit Glacier Park in Canada, but we forgot to bring our passports; so we added more time at Many Glacier Hotel, which is located just south of the Canadian Boarder.

 When the hotel opened in 1915, the Great Northern Railway promoted it as "one of the most noteworthy tourist hotels that ever has been erected in America." Unfortunately, the lobby has now been cluttered with gift shops and was not as nice at the lobby in the Glacier Park Lodge. However, the Many Glacier Hotel is adjacent to a lake and in an ideal location for people that like outdoor activities. 

The room we had reserved did not have a lakefront view; but somehow they lost our reservation, so they gave us a nice room with a lakefront view at no extra charge. The room overlooked Swiftcurrent Lake and there were beautiful views across the lake in both the mornings and evenings. 

There is a nice boat trip that leaves the hotel marina about every hour and travels to a boat dock on the far side of Swiftcurrent Lake. This boat trip is one of the "Top Ten Things To Do" in Glacier National Park and many people make the trip a full-day outing.  

Once across Swiftcurrent Lake, we had several options: don't get off of the boat and return to the hotel marina; hike back to the marina along the shoreline watching for bears feasting on wild berries (see picture below taken from a boat); get off of the boat and enjoy hiking around the west side of the lake until the next boat arrives; or get off of the boat and hike up a well maintained trail to Lake Josephine for a ride in a different boat across the upper lake. (We elected this option.) 

From the west side of the lake there are various trailheads to the "three greatest hiking trails on the continent - Grinnel Glacier Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail, and Swiftcurrent Pass Trail." If I would have had more time, I would have hiked all three trails; but since I did not have the time, I added them to my Bucket List. I have read a lot of travel and hiking books about hiking in Glazier NP, but it is not possible to describe the beauty of this area until you experience it in person. 

Once back at the hotel marina there are canoe rentals for exploring parts of the lake not covered on the guided boat trip.  

Brown bear feasting on wild berries
A trip to Glacier National Park would not be complete without driving over the Continental Divide on the famous Going To The Sun Road

Once on top of the Continental Divide there are numerous hiking trails that start from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. One of the most popular hikes is the trail to Hidden Lake. To protect the tundra, board walks have been installed for first part of the trail. For people that like to photograph wild animals, the animals in this area are accustom to visitors and feed fairly close to the trail; i.e. no camera telephoto lens required to take pictures of the animals. A Mountain Goat about ran over me as I was walking up the trail. 

The Red Bus Tours are a historic symbol of Glacier National Park and are  popular with tourist that are less adventurous and worried about driving their own vehicle over the Continental Divide on Going to the Sun Road. Bus drivers are called "Jammers," which is a carryover from the days when the 17-passenger vehicles had non-synchronized manual transmissions and the drivers could be heard "jamming" the gears as they went up and down the road. (Only people that have driven a vehicle with a non-synchronized manual transmission will recognize this sound. We called it "grinding the gears" when we were kids.)

From the Continental Divide we traveled down Going to the Sun Road to the Park's west entrance and the Apgar Visitor Center. We also stopped at "Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail" and Lake McDonald to take a few final pictures.