Thursday, October 26, 2006

Westward Ho: Day 6

We woke to a beautiful clear and cold morning (14F) morning in West Yellowstone, MT. Our first stop was to head back into the park to watch Old Faithful. There were very few folks around, so we got to drive the Suburban right up to the entry way of the Old Faithful Inn and wait for the next eruption. The geyser came through in only 30 mins or so, and it was a good show.

For anyone who wants to visit Yellowstone, we whole-heartedly recommend coming in the Fall, near the end of the season. Kids are in school and it seems that few folks make the trek to the park once all the main facilities close. I abhor the crowds at popular tourist destinations, especially something like Yellowstone where the remoteness and solitude is a big part of the attraction (to me at least). We could just imagine the park in mid-July, teeming with people all getting in each other's way at every scenic view and every encounter with the animals. Most of the time, we couldn't tell there was any other humans in the park.

After the 30min drive back out of the park, we gassed up and headed for the
Craters of the Moon National Monument in Arco Idaho. This is a beautiful drive on mostly level high plain (about 5,000ft) with a great view of the Grand Tetons to the east. Along the way, we passed through Idaho Falls.

On US20 to Arco, we passed through the vast (900 square mile)
Idaho National Laboratory, operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy. The first reactor used to demonstrate the generation of electricity for residential power, the EBR-1, is now open for tours, but closes after Labor Day. I would have enjoyed seeing this site. INL is still a big part of America's nuclear energy program, employing 8,000 people. Their public mission is to do research on reactor designs and fuels. I have no doubt that there's a fair amount of classified military stuff going on in there too.

I hate to say it, but the Craters monument was interesting, yet not worth the drive. We expected something we had never seen before, but it was really much like the lava fields on the Big Island of Hawaii. After we left, I realized that I hadn't even taken any pictures.

We've settled for the night in a very nice hotel called the AmeriTel in Pocatello ID after 381 miles and 7 hours of driving time. Tomorrow we'll head into Utah for what we expect is a short day.

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