After visiting Moose Falls we headed for our actual destination that day. Flagg Ranch or Grass Loop Road (I have seen the names used interchangeably on maps) is in the John D. Rockefeller Memorial parkway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. This 47 mile gravel road is closed in the winter and seems to be maintained by the BLM or National Forest Service in different sections. So be warned the road is in variable condition as you travel it, but if you are looking for a place off the beaten track this is definitely it.
The initial stretch of the road actually had several BLM and NFS rustic campsites and we did see many families camping there. The road was also grassland, then a burned out section from a forest fire, and ultimately dense forest. Grass Lake is also a popular spot and we saw several people fishing there. You sort of get a feel for what is a local hangout versus tourists and this was definitely locals.
One of my favorite parts of the day (and the reason we spent so much time on the road) was it was berry palooza. I have been looking for berries for awhile now and there were TONS along the road. I kept stopping and tasting…probably not the best idea…and many of them were so-so and others were bitter. Keeping in mind I have no idea what was toxic I took a tiny taste of most. I soon realized that I really needed a guidebook (I had no idea there would be so many varieties) and when I got home I ordered the Rocky Mountain State Wild Berries & Fruits field guide from Amazon.
I have to say I am a huge fan of this book. It is thick but carry sized and the berries are grouped by color for easier identification. Turns out LOTS of berries look the same and its really the leaves that helped me identify. As a disclaimer many of these berries look really similar (hence my issue trying to do this with the internet), but here are some of my identifications after the fact. Thankfully I only ate one that was mildly toxic and believe me it tasted like it. Here are a few of the MANY varieties I saw.
Overall I am really excited I found a good berry in the wild and with my new field guide I will be ready next time! As great as that was though it wasn’t the best part of the drive. On a whim Lee stopped at the Cascade Creek sign (not far from the dam heading west) and we walked over to the edge and saw a really cool canyon with cascades. We took an old path along the water (not the trail itself) and went right down to the edge. It was absolutely gorgeous and what an unexpected surprise.
There were tons of berry bushes along the creek and best of all you could walk right out into the water and the stones were not super slippery. I was really surprised when Lee took his shoes off (a rarity) and went into the water. I joined as well and we had a great time walking around. It was a wonderful moment. If you know Lee you understand how unusual this was for Lee so enjoy the moment as I captured it.
After the cascades the road went through more mountains with tons more berries. I was getting hungry though so I was glad when we saw the farmland up ahead that meant we were getting close to Ashton, ID. It was crazy how it went from dense forest to farmland, but it did and we stopped in the small rural town at an old fashioned drive through for a sandwich and some excellent ice cream! Overall really nice day just us and the dog and I thoroughly recommend it if you are in the area for awhile.
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