Monday, July 9, 2012

How I Spent My Spring--Travelogue: Part V Mesa Falls

Me and the Hot Chick overlooking Lower Mesa Falls

On June 16th, the theatre department held a retirement party for Susan Whitfield up in West Yellowstone, Montana.  Susan has been the costume designer and a faculty member at Ricks College and Brigham Young University-Idaho for forty-one years.  She has been a mentor, a friend, a colleague and an inspiration to me.  We honored her with an exhibit in the Spori Gallery this semester.  I blogged about it and you can read about it Here.

Chimene and I decided to leave a little early and take the scenic route up to West Yellowstone, via the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  Mesa Falls is a two waterfall system on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River.  They are both very beautiful and well worth the visit.  The byway begins in the town of Ashton, Idaho and winds it's way down past Warm River and up the side of the Island Park Caldera.  Along the way there are a few stops that offer beautiful vistas over deep canyons and views of the distant Teton Range.

The Teton Range in the background

Bear Gulch scenic overlook

Along the way, there are several trails that we didn't have time to take, but made note of them for a future excursion.  The next major stop was Lower Mesa Falls.  Lower Mesa Falls drops 65 feet over several tiers through a narrow gorge.  Even from the rim of the canyon, you can hear the thunder of the falls.  Along the canyon wall, there is an area of talus that should be navigable if one wished to climb down.  I may some day to reach the base of the falls trail.

Lower Mesa Falls from the observation area

Talus slope

About a mile upstream from the lower falls is Upper Mesa Falls.  At this parking lot, there is a five dollar day use fee.  Cheap at twice the price.  Five dollars is well worth the price of admission here.  From the parking area there is a paved trail that descends to the brink of the falls and at some point becomes boardwalk.  There are several flights of stairs along this path.  Thick green vegetation is abundant on both sides of the trail and it almost has the feel of a rainforest.

Vegetation along the canyon trail

More vegetation

As you descend into the canyon, every now and then you can see glimpses of the falls.  Upper Mesa Falls drops 114 feet and is 200 feet wide.  This is an impressive falls and not an insignificant amount of water flows over it.  Upper Mesa Falls is also the only major falls on the Snake River that hasn't been co-opted for hydroelectric power or irrigation.  It is pristine and beautiful.

The boardwalk takes you to the brink of the falls, then continues downstream along the canyon wall with frequent overlooks to give entirely different views of the magnificent falls.  The spray from this falls has created a micro climate on the far wall of the canyon, which is very much like a rainforest.

Brink of the falls from the canyon trail

The brink of the falls from the first overlook

Mesa Falls from the second overlook

The Hot Chick at the second overlook

Eroded rock pillar in the canyon, downstream of the falls

Micro climate on the far side of the canyon

Layers of columnar jointed basalt on the canyon wall

There is an historic lodge near the parking lot that is over a hundred years old and has been restored.  It is now a museum and visitor's center.  One of the exhibits is a very unique petting zoo.  They have pelts of many of the animals from the area that were trapped and hunted during the fur trade and they encourage patrons to touch.  It's quite interesting.

The historic lodge

A very odd petting zoo

What could be better than a wall of skulls?

"Y'all come back now, y'hear?"

We ate at an ethnic Spanish restaurant in West Yellowstone.  I can't remember the name, but it is now my favorite restaurant there.  The food was very flavorful and many of the menu items were naturally gluten free.  Not only that, but the price was right.  Very reasonable, affordable in a town that is neither reasonable nor affordable in most cases.  After dinner, we caught a show at The Playmill Theatre, my Dad's old business.  We saw  "The Drowsy Chaperone."  It was a good show and very enjoyable. 

The Playmill Theatre

My Dad often said, "The secret to a happy life is to create beautiful memories."  This was one of those.

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