August 31, 2012

8/27/12 - Dinosaur NM

Dinosaur National Monument is another place where I revisted my childhood.  I was 12 first time I went there.  I took my kids there in 1983.  Now I'm sharing with George. 
In 1909 a paleontologist discovered a rock layer full of dinosaur fossils that he excavated for the Carnegie Museum. 

About 1,500 of the fossilized bones have been partially exposed in the quarry wall, with the exhibit hall built around it.  The Dinosaur Quarry was the original "Jurassic Park"--this is the first dinosaur we saw!
The Exhibit Hall that my kids and I visited is no more.  The soil where they built it was a kind of clay that expands and contracts--not much good for building stability.  The walls cracked and split. It was closed in 2006 and rebuilt--opening just last year.  See how it's built right up against the quarry wall?


Personally, I think the original building plan was better.  The Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall are now in separate buildings, and the lab is going to be in Vernal. 
First stop is the VC, then you take a shuttle 1/4 mile to the quarry.  The original Exhibit Hall had ramps built closer to the quarry wall than this one does, with lots of info about the fossils and dinosaurs.  Apparently the low bidder for the interactive displays hasn't finished programming yet, so you haven't a clue what you're looking at.  Good thing there were a couple of volunteers around.

After we finished at the Quarry, we took the driving "Tour of the Tilted Rocks" to look at fascinating rock formations like Split Mountain.


As usual, we stopped for petroglyphs. It was pretty hot, so we didn't hike anything except very short trails.  (What a year--it took until the end of August for us to finally find summer!  No, wait!  I'm from Seattle so why should I expect more than 2 weeks of really hot weather???)

Here's the 6' lizard:
This one looks like a bouquet of flowers, but I'm pretty sure that's not what it represents.
And this one is pretty cool too.  Every time I look at it, I see something different.

Want to see more pictures?  Go to this link:  Dinosaur National Monument

August 24, 2012

8/22/12 - EBR #1 Atomic Museum NHL

Picture this:  WWII is over.  Atomic power has a really bad rep.  They  needed to change the image of nuclear fisson. In 1951, out in the middle of the Idaho desert, Argonne's Experimental Breeder Reactor #1 generated the world's first electricity from atomic energy when it lit up 4 lightbulbs. 

Four years later, it powered up the town of Arco.  Sounds impressive, huh?  Our tour guide told us that it was only for a couple of hours in the middle of the night for a publicity stunt.  Remember, it was just an experimental reactor.

Now it's a National Historic Landmark and a museum.  EBR #1 was deactivated in 1964, so the technology seems archaic to those who didn't grow up thinking stuff like this was state-of-the-art. 
Our guide Jasmine started the tour with a brief explanation of nuclear fission.  I told her that most of what I knew about it came from when I was a kid watching a thing Walt Disney produced using mouse traps and ping pong balls.  She thought that was pretty good. 

When she first took us into the building, she explained that there was asbestos in the walls, but it was a very minute quantity and we didn't have to worry about itl.  You should have seen the look on her face when I told her that we used asbestos pads like in our high school chemistry labs! 
Jasmine told us the guys who were on the project signed their names on the wall in chalk to commemorate the historic event.  Since it was 1951, they wouldn't let the women who worked there add their names--even though the janitor's name is listed!  Took them until 1995 to put up a plaque to acknowledge the women. 


Another story I liked was the one about the rod farm, where they stored the fuel rods.  Each one is numbered and recorded.  But if you look carefully, there's no "L5".  First no one noticed.  When a tourist asked about it, they went crazy trying to figure out what happened to it.
They didn't lose it--when they repainted the floor, they accidentally skipped L5. 

What more can I say about this?  I'm sure you don't want technical stuff.  I didn't either.

There are a few more pictures here:  EBR #1 NHS

August 23, 2012

8/21/12 – Craters of the Moon NM

Right in the middle of a southern Idaho desert is a huge chunk of lavaland designated as Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.   (The pictures look a little faded because there was so much smoke in the air.  A big chunk of Idaho forests are burning right now.  Makes it really hard for George to breathe.)
Somebody thought it looked like the moon seen through a telescope. Since I’ve actually seen close-up pictures of the moon, I don’t really think that’s what it looks like. I mean, what the moon looks like. (Or whatever…)  I mean, did you ever see pictures of grass growing on the moon????
The fascinating thing about the park is the different kinds of volcanoes and lava that are in such a small area. 

There are big craters...
                         and cinder cones...

                                                          and spatter cones.

There’s sharp a’a lava that looks like crushed rock
and pahoehoe lava that looks like rope
                                                                  and lava bombs that are just big globs.
There are also lava tubes like caves--that WE didn't get to see!  The ranger wouldn’t issue us cave permits because we’d gone to other caves and we might be contaminated with white-nose syndrome, a virus that kills bats.  (It’s OK--George hardly ever fits anyway.) 
I think this stuff looks like buckled asphalt.

Even the plants that grow there are different.  This stuff is called dwarf buckwheat:
It's only about 4 inches high, but it's roots can grow out 3 feet!  That's why it spaces itself like this on the cinders.  (The yellow plant in the front is "Rubber Rabbit Brush"--try saying that out loud 3 times!  It's almost as good a tongue-twister as "Well, we're real weird!")

The higher we went, the windier it got, until it got this bad: we left.
For a few more pictures, check out this link:  Craters of the Moon NM

August 22, 2012

8/16/12 - Grand Teton NP

To get to Grand Teton National Park, we drove through Yellowstone geyser basin, past Old Faithful, then crossed the Continental Divide 3 times. 

We then drove all 8 miles of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway.  (I have 3 pictures; trust me, you don't care!)

We drove along the shore of Jackson Lake, and I got my first glimpse of the Teton Range  (those pale shadows fading off in the distance to the left.)
We stopped at Colter Bay--Visitor Center and Marina.
When I was a little kid, my aunt and cousin took a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I've seen those slides a gazillion times. I always thought the Tetons were impressive mountains, so I was really looking forward to this park.  There are lots of forest fires in the area, and the smoke got worse as the day progressed.  So did the visibility.  If you'd waited over 50 years, you'd have been disappointed too.  (sigh)

Want to see more pictures of the Tetons through the smoke?  Click on this link:  Grand Teton NP

August 21, 2012

8/14-18/2012 - Yellowstone NP

My daughter Laura joined us to visit Yellowstone National Park.  We had a great time!

EVERYONE at Yellowstone takes pictures!  Line up the family on one side of the boardwalk, hand someone your camera to take a picture with the geyser (waterfall, mountain, whatever) in the background. Of course, everyone else has to wait while you do it. Sometimes I got annoyed and took pictures of them too...

Here's one of the 3 of us:

On our first visit to Yellowstone, we chanced to see:

          12 geisers steaming:  (I'm sure we saw more than 12, but I lost count.)
Tortoise Shell Spring and Castle Geyser

 11 springs a-flowing:
Terrace at Pallette Spring

10 pools a-boiling:  (I know this is really, really hot water!  But of course, I wanted to test it...which is really, really stupid, huh?)  

Beryl Pool
9 mudpots glubbing:  (they really do go "glub, glub, glub"!)
8 fields of flowers:  (If you've been paying attention to the other places we've been, you knew I'd take flower pictures.)

7 flocks of geese:  (I confess I have no pictures of Canada geese.  They're such a common bird at home I didn't even think of it--however, lots of other tourists stopped whenever they saw them in the water!  Big fat things in water so shallow they had to walk instead of swim.) 

6 chipmunks begging:  (they're really cute, aren't they?)
5 waterfalls:  (Gibbon Falls, Upper Yellowstone Falls, Lower Yellowstone Falls, Virginia Cascade, ummm...gotta be another one somewhere!)
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


Gibbon Falls
4 rivers flowing:  (Madison, Gibbon, Yellowstone, Firehole--got 'em all this time!)
Firehole River

Madison River

3 bison grazing:  (Park rule:  stay 100 yards away from bears and buffalo; 25 yards away from all other critters.)
2 herds of elk:  (The elk were even farther away than the buffalo--except for this one in the trees.  You get extra points if you can actually find him.)

...and Old Faithful e-rup-ting hiiiigh. 
(Sorry.... Open-mouth smile)
I took way too many pictures of Yellowstone.  You can check some of them out at this link:  Yellowstone NP