Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Notice: Spinoff Blog

When I began the Bascombe Mania blog, it was my intention to discuss my hobbies, and especially my addiction to all things Halloween.  Recently, it has become more of a travel blog rather than a hobby blog.

For this reason I am spinning off Bascombe's Travelblogue where I will dedicate the entire site to my outdoor adventures.  Here's the link:

I will begin posting more Halloween items and other hobby things on this site very soon.  I'm working on a skeleton hand how to that I hope turns out well.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

How I Spent My Summer, 2012 Part V: Travelogue, Darby Canyon and the Wind Cave

Rhys and me at the Wind Cave

My son Rhys spent a week up at Treasure Mountain Boy Scout Camp.  Last year, when he was there, we hiked Table Rock together.  This year, the hike was to be the Wind Cave in Darby Canyon.  Darby Canyon is a glacial valley in the greater Teton area.  I don't know if it is actually in the Teton Range, but it's a next door neighbor if it isn't.  The Wind Cave is a water carved cave through dolomite.  Somewhere in the miles of cavern is another entrance which allows a brisk wind to blow through.

In 1951, a group of girls from Iona, Lincoln and Idaho Falls were camping at the Darby Canyon Girls Camp and chose to hike to the Wind Cave.  It was an overcast day and after playing in the cave for awhile, they came back to where they had stashed their lunches and began to eat.  As they were eating, lightning struck nearby and some of the camp leaders shouted for the girls to go to the open field and lie down while others told them it would be safer for them to hide in the trees.  Before anyone could really move, another lightning bolt crashed into a tree that some of the girls were huddled under.  Accounts say that girls were flung through the air up to a hundred feet.  Two of my aunties were there and one was knocked unconcious and the other was badly burned.  Four girls and one leader lost their lives that day.  A memorial was placed near the site where the unfortunate incident happened.

Memorial to the ones lost

When my boys go to camp, I like to take a day and spend with them if I'm available.  Lately I've tried to go with them on their hikes.  I was excited to go to Darby Canyon with them.  I had only been there once before and had only gone as far as the memorial.

We met at the trailhead at about 7 AM which meant I had to leave home no later than 5:30.  I drove through the Teton Valley and arrived a little early.  When the boys arrived, we spent a few moments getting ready and then we embarked.  I've discovered that each hike I go on takes on a different characteristic.  This one ended up being all about wildflowers.  I was absolutely amazed at the abundance of wildflowers in the canyon and the many different varieties.  There were many varieties I don't believe I have ever seen before.

Leaving the house at first light

The Teton Valley at first light

The trailhead

Images at the trailhead

Images at the trailhead

Images at the trailhead

Images at the trailhead

Our troop at the trailhead

The trailhead lies at 7069 feet above sea level and over the course of 2.6 miles gains about 1800 feet in elevation.  The elevation gain is masked by the fact that the trail switches back and forth frequently so even though there is significant gain, it is really a moderate hike.  It is a very pleasant hike, even for someone like me who is out of shape and has bad knees.

At 8940 feet above sea level, the hike isn't quite alpine, but close.  The trail is forested for most of the way but further up the trail, it breaks out into sub-alpine meadows strewn with wildflowers.  There is evidence of glaciation everywhere, from the U-shaped valley to glacial outwash and deposits to striations on the rocks. 

The valley is fairly narrow where the trailhead begins and there is a giant boulder that has either fallen from above or dragged into place by the advancing glaciers.  Rhys called it the "tent rock" because of it's shape.  The vegetation and thick undergrowth everywhere reminded me at once of the Jenny Lake Trail we went on last summer in Grand Teton National Park.

The "Tent Rock"

The "Tent Rock" from above
Cool rock in the canyon wall

Lush undergrowth

Rhys is usually a very fast hiker and last year he summitted Table Rock a full two hours ahead of me.  This year, he hung back and hiked with me.  Also in our group was my dear friend, Christan Airth and Rhys' friend Kyle. 

Along the way, there are a few huge boulders still clinging to the side of the valley, left over from the periods of glaciation.  There is great water erosion marks on the tops of the boulders.  Those flat boulders offer great views of the valley and the first views of the Wind Cave.  On one of the boulders, one of the boys spotted what he thought was a wild turkey, but as I looked at it, I thought is was a sage grouse.  I photographed it and identified it online when I returned home and found we were both wrong.  It was a "dusky grouse" male, which is a species I had never heard of before.  When I got close, the bird fanned it's tail, inflated it's body to make it look bigger and thumped it's air bladders and made a 'threatening' sound.  It was very cool.

Rhys and Christian on the trail

Boulder on the side of the canyon

Erosion patterns in the top of the boulder

First view of the Wind Cave

The "wild turkey" on the boulder

Closeup of the dusky grouse

We crossed a beautiful sub-alpine meadow filled with wildflowers before we reached to last part of the forested trail to the Wind Cave.  The last hundred yards or so are the toughest of the hike, the elevation gain is quite steep.  There are stairs there, however but I'm not sure if they were placed or naturally occuring in the rock.  At the base of the summit, the trail splits off to the bottom of a waterfall and the other side goes to the brink of the falls and finally the Wind Cave.  We played around at the base of the waterfall then we hiked into the cave.  It is quite a cavern.  The ceiling has collapsed over time and coverd over the creek that flows under the rubble.  Rhys thought that was extremely cool to be walking over the scree and hear the water flow underneath.

We spelunked back into the cave to the point where it narrows and I stayed there and let Rhys and his friends explore beyond.  It felt too small for me to get through with my camera.  Next time, however I will go deeper into the cavern.  Right at the narrows, the wind is the strongest and very cold.  Next time I go, I will definitely take a jacket for this part of the hike.

The sub-alpine meadow just before the summit

Christian, Rhys and Kyle just before the summit trail

Glacial striations in dolomite on the trail

Sub-alpine meadow

View of waterfall and Wind Cave just before the summit

This picture makes me feel peaceful

The valley from the base of the falls

Rhys and Kyle

Rhys and Kyle under the falls for a sense of scale

Waterfall through scree going up to the cave

Lots of moss

I just liked this picture

Rhys and chums at the narrows

Rhys in the cave

The troop at the waterfall

When we were done with the hike, we went back to the scout camp.  This is the same scout camp I attended when I was a boy.  There is a giant boulder in the center of the camp that is now called Chief Rock.  When I was at scout camp it was called Eagle Rock.  When I was there, only people who had attained the rank of Eagle Scout were allowed to stand on it.  I hadn't been an Eagle when I was at scout camp so I never did.  Some of my troop mates did stand on it without getting their rank however.  Today, the requirements for standing on Chief Rock are different than when I was a scout.  They aren't tougher, by the way but more reasonable for someone attending.  I went to the camp counsellors and asked them if I could stand on Chief Rock under the old standards and they agreed.  This has been something on my bucket list for 36 years.  I scratched it off.

Me standing on Chief Rock, scratch an item off the bucket list

This post has become too long and I still have more material, namely all the wildflowers to show, so I am going to add a part II to this blog post that will be dedicated to the wildflowers I saw on this hike.  There were so many and they were so pretty that they deserve their own blog post.  I will add it at a future date.

This was a great day, from spending the day with Rhys and our friends to hiking up to the Wind Cave, to standing on Chief Rock.  I very much enjoyed my time in Darby Canyon.  Christian said that we needed to find a time when we could take our wives up to this cave.  I agree.  I will hike here again.  Now I'll leave with a parting shot of the Tetons in the afternoon from the same position I photographed them that morning.  Enjoy

The Teton Range in the afternoon from the same vantage point

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How I Spent My Summer, 2012 Part IV: Travelogue: Yellowstone Canyon

Lower Fall of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

I grew up with Yellowstone National Park literally in my backyard.  When I was young, though we mostly went into Old Faithful and then returned home because of the family business.  When I was about fourteen I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with Dad and my brothers to fish.  I did that two summers in a row.  The joke was that it took fifteen minutes to get down to the bottom of the canyon and two hours to climb out.  It wasn't a joke.  Other than that, I had been to Artist's Point and a few of the other scenic overlooks over the years, but I had never really experienced Canyon.  I found out for the first time last summer that Canyon is Chimene's favorite part of the park so I determined that we would do Canyon right this summer.

My oldest sister, Cynthia and her husband Byron and son Chad were in town last week and wanted to have a picnic in Yellowstone with as many family members as possible.  Since I was out of school, it was possible for us to attend.  We decided to meet at noon on Tuesday at the Wapiti Picnic Area on the south rim of the canyon.  My Mother was there as well as my sister Paula and her husband, Ferron and two of their daughters, Emily and Shelley.  I brought Chimene and two of my sons, Haydn and Garrett.

We met for the picnic and enjoyed one anothers' company for an hour or so and then we went our seperate ways.  Mom and Cynthia had tickets for The Playmill and were headed that direction, Paula and her clan were headed to Cody, Wyoming for a vacation.  That left us to explore Canyon.

Picnic in the park

I bought a book last year called "Day Hikes in Yellowstone National Park--82 Great Hikes" by Robert Stone.  We consulted the book and found that the Crystal Lake hike had it's trailhead at the Wapiti Picnic Area.  It was a loop hike that started and ended at the picnic area.  I like loop hikes better than there and back hikes because I always want to see something new.  The Clear Lake Trail seemed like the right thing to do.  Last season, a man was killed by a grizzly bear on that trail, so naturally we had to take it.  The trailguide called it a moderate hike, nearly level.  It started out in a sub-alpine meadow filled with wildflowers and snaked it's way toward the forest for almost a mile before we ended up in the trees.  Throughout the meadow we saw numerous buffalo wallows, where bison paw and scratch at the dirt and roll around supposedly to keep biting insects away.

Chimene, Haydn and Garrett on the trail

I was there too

Sub-alpine meadow covered in wildflowers

Wildflower covered hillside

Beautiful view

One of many buffalow wallows

The trail entered the forest and we came almost immediately upon a thermal feature called Clear Lake.  There was no inlet and no outlet and we could see a steady stream of gas bubbles out in the middle of the lake.  The water was cool to the touch, though so it wasn't a particularly hot lake. 

We followed the trail past Clear lake and entered into a barren, almost alien looking landscape where thermal activity had once flourished.  There were remains of exploded geysers and the rubble that ejected from them littered about the ground.  There were also a few active mudpots, but nothing so impressive as Fountain Paint Pots or some of the others.

After we passed through the alien landscape we came to another thermal lake covered in lily pads and aptly named "Lilypad Lake".  It was a pretty little lake out in the middle of the forest with a marshy area at one end and a floating bridge spanning it.  After that the trail wound through the forest past interesting rock formations.

Clear Lake

Barren landscape

Lichen covered boulders ejected from an exploding geyser

Lilypad Lake

Floating bridge over the marsh

The boys in front of a rock

After Lilypad Lake, the trail wound through the forest for a quarter mile or so and suddenly burst out onto the south rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  Up until this moment, I had kind of considered the hike to be a bit of a letdown.  The scenery was pretty, but not outstanding.  Chimene and I both commented that we were glad we chose to hike the direction we went instead of going in reverse because it would have been anticlimactic otherwise.

The view of the canyon was breathtaking and astonishing.  Words and pictures don't do it justice, they just whet the appetite for future travels to the canyon.  From the rim to the bottom of the canyon is about 1000 feet.  The Yellowstone River is a mighty stream that has carved this canyon and continues to carve it.  The rocks on the walls of the canyon are colorful but the predominant color is yellow, which is where the park got it's name.  There is a high sulphur content in the rock because of all the thermal activity and vulcanism of the region.  All along the canyon walls were remnants of harder rock eroded into spires and minarets.

We followed the trail along the canyon rim and emerged at Artist Point for a wonderful view of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.  That is the iconic view of the falls and one of the signature images of Yellowstone National Park.

The Yellowstone River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Yellowstone River

Where the park got it's name

A colorful canvas of rock

Rocky outcroppings all along the canyon wall

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River from Artist Point

A random tourist snapped this for us

After we had enjoyed the view from Artist Point, we made our way along the south rim toward the Wapiti Picnic Area.  The trail passed by the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River as well.  The scenery was spectacular all along the trail.  The beginning of the trail was okay, and I'm glad we took it but once we arrived at the canyon it was fantastic.

First view of the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River

Lush undergrowth along the trail

Moss on the rocks near the brink of the upper falls

The old road, now a walking path

When we arrived back at the car, Chimene said she wanted to go to Inspiration Point on the North Rim.  I mentioned that it would be sad to come all this way and not see Crystal Falls which was at the Brink of the Upper Falls pullout just across the river from where we were.  We walked down to the brink of the Upper Falls, then did a short hike to Crystal Falls, then we drove to Inspiration Point.  On the way we spotted a large bull elk in a meadow along side the road.

Bull Elk

Wildflowers that found purchase in the rocks at the brink of Upper Falls

Crystal Falls

The south rim from Inspiration Point.  We hiked all along that, right on the edge

On the way home, we decided to take a scenic drive along the Virginia Cascades Loop Road.  It had been years since we had seen the Virginia Cascades and we wanted to photograph them.  It's a two or three mile one way road past the cascades and opens up in a beautiful meadow where moose ought to roam.  We didn't see any of them this trip, but I'm still holding out hope that we will this summer.

The Virginia Cascades

The meadow

The sun setting over the Madison Plateau

In total, we hiked around 7 miles in the canyon area.  It was a pleasant hike that I would not be opposed to doing again.  We had a wonderful time with our family.  It was a good day.