Yellowstone was the destination for our 2016 summer road trip (starting Wednesday 5/18/2016). The goal was spent 4 days getting there and finding as many photo spots as possible. The route varied and changed as we drove.
Day 1: Marysville to Grand Coulee
Got a mid-morning start and drove east on Hwy-2. In eastern WA we photographed a variety of old and abandoned buildings, rusty vehicles, and other interesting subjects. We took a detour to the Grand Coulee Dam and photographed the old-school metal bridge in front of the dam. Continuing on the road to Wilbur we found a very nice campground at Lake Roosevelt just outside of Coulee City. The upper campground area had a nice view of the lake and the top of the Grand Coulee. A couple of deer visited our campsite. The camping area was well groomed, the parking area in front of the tent sites was covered, and it was $18/night. There were lots of spaces but I would expect that this site to be full in the peak summer months.
Day 2: Grand Coulee to McCall, ID
From Grand Coulee we headed towards Spokane and found a few more interesting photo subjects along the way. We ate breakfast at the Satellite Diner. This old-school diner fare had really good food at good prices. In Spokane we stopped at the First Presbyterian Church for some photos. We took some interior and exterior photos and the staff was very friendly and helpful. Cool things to see and do in Spokane include:
- Satellite Diner: Really good food and good prices.
- Lady of Lourdes Cathedral: Very impressive cathedral with handmade brass doors and beautiful stained glass.
- First Presbyterian Church: Nice stained glass, pipe organ, and beautiful gothic exterior.
- St John’s Cathedral: Extremely impressive interior, extraordinary stained glass, and gothic architecture.
We got back on the road and decided to go Boise via Hell’s Canyon and passed through Moscow, Lewiston, and Lapwai. The canyon route added a little bit of time over the normal I-90 highway route but the canyon was quite impressive. The road was not hard to drive during the day but it did get slower and more windy towards the end of the canyon. We found the Hagerman Fossil Beds Visitor Center. It is a small but interesting museum with some original fossils found in the area. The museum also had a small space with artifacts from the WWII Minidoka internment camp. We drove to the Ponderosa State Park in McCall, ID but the entire park was closed and it was dusk. Other campsites were also closed and we found a lone public camping spot at Little Payette Lake that was right on the lake shore. It was a nice spot to camp but it was cold.
Day 3: McCall to Craters of the Moon, ID
From McCall we drove to Boise, ID and did some photos in the state Capitol and St John’s Cathedral. The interior of the Idaho State Capitol is quite spectacular and it is mostly white marble and very brightly lit. St John’s Cathedral was very inspirational and it had some truly remarkable stained glass. We visited Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, ID. The falls is called the “Niagara of the West” but the water level was very low. We continued to Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID. It has rained off and on all day and we decided to sleep in the car rather than setup the tent and possibly pack a wet tent in the morning. The night was much warmer than the previous night and in the morning we went around the Craters, took photos, explored a large lava tube, and visited the Visitor’s Center. Craters of the Moon is definitely a place to see if you are in the area. Afterwards we took the scenic byway on Hwy-33. One of the sights on the byway was Mesa Falls which was only a short walk from the parking area and was an impressive waterfall.
Yellowstone is one of those truly remarkable and magical places. Geysers, hot springs, colorful pools, and fascinated geology abound throughout the park. The wildlife is incredible and seeing bison roam free is spectacular. Adjacent to Yellow is Grand Teton National Monument that is also a must-see place. See the blog articles on Yellowstone and Grand Teton for more details.
Homeward Bound: Yellowstone to Cataldo, ID
We took out time driving to Yellowstone so that we could make a quick return home. From Yellowstone we drove up to Helena, MT to get some photos from the state Capitol and from The Cathedral of St Helena. We didn’t see much on the road from Yellowstone to Helena as the weather was wet and gray and we were trying to make good time. In Helena we stopped at Steve’s Café for an excellent and reasonably priced lunch. On their card it shows Steve Vincelli as the CEO, CFO, COO, Chairman of the Board, President, Recipe Writer, and dishwasher. How could not love a place like this? The State Capitol building was very impressive and completely different than the Capitol in Boise. The Helena Capitol was mostly rose marble and there were murals and paintings of early inhabitants. We spent a fair bit of time photographing the interior. We had to burn a few hours because there was a wedding at the Cathedral. Once we got in the cathedral I took very few pictures because this is one of those places that simply cannot be photographed. The interior was so impressive and majestic that photo images would simply not do it justice. We were now several hours behind schedule and the goal was to get somewhere around Cataldo, ID.
The driving hours rolled by and we got near our goal and started looking for campsites. This was Memorial Day weekend so I knew spots would be at a premium but I was hoping to find a more backcountry spot to pitch the tent. We tried several campsites and many were off the beaten path and all were full. We decided to skip going to Cataldo and find a Walmart parking lot near the Washington/Idaho border. While on the way we saw the sign for Cataldo, ID and decided to try to find a campsite.
The town of Cataldo is small and the only restaurant in town is the Mission Inn. It was past 9pm and they were closed but the door was still open. The staff was super friendly and I told the owner that we were in a bit of a pickle and were looking for a campground for the night. I then showed him my driver license (Tony Cataldo now in Cataldo, ID) and he asked if I was related to Father Cataldo. I said that I was not sure but I need to do some genealogy research after the trip. He said we could camp in the picnic area adjacent to the restaurant. He also said that they open at 11am but he would be there early and he would cook us something for breakfast. To say that we were appreciative was an understatement. After a good night’s sleep I spent some time in the morning walking around the area and taking photos. After breaking camp we explored the Old Cataldo Mission which is the oldest mission in the state of Idaho. We returned to the Mission Inn and had a hearty breakfast. They specialize in ribs with homemade BBQ sauce. I asked if I could sample the BBQ sauce and it was pretty amazing. Next time through Idaho I want to try their ribs with a nice cold beer.
On the drive back home we took I-90 through eastern Washington. We tried to see the Palouse Falls but there were so many people that the park service turned us away. We found a few more abandoned buildings along the way but mostly drove through. I-90 is a very fast and direct route but much less interesting from a photographer’s perspective. It was a fun road trip and I took several hundred photos over the nearly two-week adventure.