Final thoughts on Idaho

From our campsite at the Beaver Dick Park near Rexburg, we enjoyed a few out and back day trips exploring eastern Idaho.  After spending two months in this state, I’ve come to expect the unexpected.  The land around here is some of the most diverse I’ve ever seen.Idaho

July 2016 – home base was situated among rolling agricultural land.   One of our day drive excursions took us past green and golden fields that were occasionally interrupted by quaint towns, small subdivisions, farms and ranches.  Fifty miles northwest of Idaho Falls, hills of fine white sand loomed in the distance.

Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes
Elgin Lake at St. Anthony Sand Dunes

Talk about a playground fit for any age with a diverse landscape that is extremely intriguing ….. huge sand dunes that are bordered by freshly harvested fields to the south, brush-covered lava plain border the north, and a body of water that sits at its base (Elgin Lake).  Fun recreation abounds!

Boys and there toys!
Boys and their toys!
Ah, but lots of girls get in on the action. Isn't she the cutest? Safety first - helmet and gloves!
Ah, but girls get in on the action too. Isn’t she the cutest? Safety first – helmet and gloves!

These out-of-place sand dunes spill across the Snake River Plain in a wide arc and provide endless OHV adventure (off highway vehicle).  St. Anthony Sand Dunes consists of 10,000 acres of dunes rising 400 feet up and look to be quite the thrill…. check out this video….

I did try talking Al into renting a razor for the day, but alas, one of us needed to be the voice of reason.  So that means, I did not get to experience those amazing sand dunes up close and personal…. sigh.  However, hubby did promise – if we ever find ourselves in this part of Idaho again, we would definitely camp at St. Anthony and rent an OHV.

This Sheriff enjoys his job!
This law enforcement officer enjoys his job!

After getting that promise in writing (LOL), it was time for us to head north to the little town of Ashton.  You see, our daughter’s name is Ashton and I just had to get a photo of Ashtonthe town sign, AND she is definitely my adventurous child. Thus, this sign seemed fitting.

But the town of Ashton wasn’t the only reason for us to head in this direction …… The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  This thirty mile scenic road meanders through the Targhee National Forest.

The combination of rolling meadows, pine woodland, and views of  rushing water was a visual delight.

The major tourist stop along this route is Upper Mesa Falls.  The Big Falls interpretive center is a great place to learn about the geology and history of the area.

Upper Mesa Falls
Upper Mesa Falls
scenic overlooks
scenic overlooks

From the interpretive center there are several developed trails, allowing visitors to view the falls and rushing water below.

The interpretive center building was charming
The interpretive center building was charming

Upper Mesa Falls is 200 feet wide and drops about 110 feet, and although I found the area to be difficult to photograph, the setting was perfect for a picnic lunch.  While munching away, we Mesa Fallsbreathed in the fresh scent of pine as the sound of rushing water below and singing song birds above serenaded us.

Our picnic table was pleasantly located under the shade of pines near a meadow filled with wildflowers.  Yep, great place to relax and enjoy our lunch .

We did stop at lower Mesa Falls, but the view is from a roadside overlook and the falls are pretty far away.  The view was a bit of a disappointment and almost not worth the stop, but there were some large informative signs that enlightened us on the flora, fauna, wildlife, and geology in the area making it Mesa Fallsworthwhile after all.

Personal opinion ….. Upper Mesa Falls definitely has better views than lower Mesa Falls.  We thoroughly enjoyed this visit.

Other Idaho note worthy sights……

Henry’s Lake just north of Island Park and not far from West Yellowstone offers a state park with camping, but if you don’t mind driving to the other side of the lake, the Bill Frome County Park offers free dry camping.  Donations are appreciatedcampingAl and I had every intention of moving up to this location so we could explore West Yellowstone, but we had some commitments that required us to head east, thus the timing didn’t fit.  Plus, I was starting to miss my beloved Colorado.  We’ll save a stay at Henry’s Lake for another time.

Henry's Lake looked like a great place to park for a while.
Henry’s Lake looked like a beautiful place to camp

If you own an OHV or are into four-wheeling, then you’d fit right in in eastern Idaho.  Island Park was loaded with off-roaders having a great time tooling around the back country, but anglers seemed to enjoy the area equally as well with no shortage of places to test their hook and line.

Ririe Reservoir
Ririe Reservoir

Our last camping spot in Idaho was near the tiny town of Ririe – The Juniper Campground.  We ended up staying here for a couple of nights so we could get caught up on household chores and stock up on supplies in nearby Idaho Falls.  Tidbit – you can call the camp host to make a reservation at the Juniper Campground. If you do, please ask for his recommendation on sites.  The map that’s on their website is out of date and labeled incorrectly.

Juniper Campground - Ririe Reservoir
Juniper Campground – Ririe Reservoir

From what we gathered, the majority of the time a reservation isn’t necessary but does give you the opportunity to secure one of the nicer sites.  Many of the sites are unlevel or sloped which would make setting up a little more challenging for some RV’s.  Therefore, checking with the camp host is a huge advantage.  We thought the Juniper Campground was a gem of a park to stay while exploring this side of Idaho.

The Oregon Trail and Goodale's cutoff
The Oregon Trail and Goodale’s cutoff

On a final note …… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fascinating history found in Idaho.  Idaho has done a fantastic job with signage; educating us on her past ….. reminders of those far more adventurous than today’s full-timing RVer’s.  While I sit on a leather seat in the comfort of a climate controlled truck, pulling my equally comfy home behind me, complete with refrigerator and toilet (my two most important items), I envision the strength and fortitude it must have taken those pioneers to embark on that western migration via horse and covered wagon navigating the Oregon Trail.Oregon trail

Oregon Trail

Many lost their lives.  Many decided to not travel any further and homestead here instead.  Others came to Idaho seeking riches in mining.  Whatever reason they had to leave behind all that was familiar, I can’t help but admire those that paved the path west.

Mackay Idaho

After spending two months in Idaho, it was time for me to bid farewell to this agriculturediverse and fascinating state.

I hiked a Lava Tube for the first time, laid eyes on one of the most picturesque lakes I’ve ever seen, photographed a carpet of unusual wildflowers growing in the harshest of conditions, experienced the roar of powerful waterfalls, witnessed an extreme sport, and followed the trail blazed by Pioneers.

It was an interesting and fascinating visit filled with fond memories.  Auf Wiedersehen Idaho …. until we meet again!

My blogging friend, Char, wrote “Between Hope & the Highway” while living in Boise, Idaho.  Unfortunately, timing didn’t work for us to meet in person, but I do have a copy of her new book on the way!

                

Visit Idaho

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What’s in a Name?

The other day I was asked by a non RV’er how we decide on our travel destinations and how we choose where to camp?  It actually took me a few minutes to think about this and I couldn’t come up with just one simple answer.  Sometimes our decision-making is easy and other times it can be down right challenging.

Stylish Chicks!
Which way should we go?

I tried to simplify my answer ….. Our interest in an area is usually from a good old-fashioned road atlas/map, or someone’s blog post, or brochures we pick up at a Visitor Center.  Once we have a basic idea of where we think we’d like to go and what sights there are to see, we peruse several websites to find camping options in that areas’ general vicinity.  Our two favorite websites are RV Park Reviews and Campendium.

When we first arrived in Idaho last May, I managed to visit a very nice Visitor Center in the town of Idaho Falls.  It was there that I picked up a ton of information covering some highlights and must see attractions in this beautiful and diverse State.

After glancing through a few brochures, I was reminded that I had read a blog Beaver Dickpost about Yellowstone Bear World, and quickly added it to my list of Idaho places I wanted to see.  Since we prefer camping as close to an attraction as possible, I started doing my research……

and that’s when I stumbled across the Beaver Dick County Park.  Come on, with a name like that, we had to overnight there.

Say it with me…. “Beaver Dick”.  Doesn’t that just want to make you giggle like a silly school child?  I know every time I say Beaver Dick, I chuckle.   This was an easy camping decision and a decision based purely on the name….  😄

Camping at Beaver Dick Park
Camping at Beaver Dick Park

The Beaver Dick Park is a small nine acre county park popular with the locals.  It’s located about 5 miles west of the town of Rexburg, Idaho off Highway 33, and situated on the west bank of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.

Plenty of hiking trails
Plenty of hiking trails

It also backs up to 400 acres of BLM Land available for hiking and hunting (during hunting season that is).

The park was named after Richard Leigh, a widely known and liked outfitter, guide, and trapper of beaver – thus, the nickname, Beaver Dick.

He married a Shoshone Indian named Jenny.  Did you know, Leigh Lake and Jenny Lake in the Grand Tetons were named after these two?  I love stumbling upon this kind of whimsical history.

Our relaxing campsite at Beaver Dick Park
Our relaxing campsite at Beaver Dick Park

The park offers picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets, fifteen dry campsites, and a boat ramp.  We stayed for five nights for a total cost of $15.  Whoohoo!  With that kind of price, the wine fun budget for the month was increased 😉

July 2016 – Beaver Dick Park turned into a great place not only for us to relax but also to explore eastern Idaho. First order of business …. a visit to Yellowstone Bear World, a drive-thru wildlife park.

Yellowstone Bear World
Yellowstone Bear World

After paying admission, I was given firm directions (verbal and written) to leave my windows on the truck UP, drive slowly, and not to let a bear climb into the bed of the truck 🤔 Huh?  The road first meanders past free roaming bison, elk, and deer.  Eventually, I approached another gate where I was stopped by an attendant who once again reminded me to keep my windows up, then I entered the Bear area….

Bear roam freely at Yellowstone Bear World
Bear roam freely at Yellowstone Bear World

Yellowstone Bear WorldI encountered Bear walking in front of me, to the side of me, and behind me.  Although, I did keep the windows in the truck rolled up, the bears quite frankly could’ve cared less about the vehicles driving past and not one wanted to hitch a ride. I’m sure they’re thinking, “Just another day of crazy tourists taking photos”.

cute bear cubs at play
cute bear cubs at play

Yellowstone Bear WorldAfter the drive, I parked at the visitor center and browsed the gift shop before venturing into the petting zoo.  Upon exiting the building, I was greeted by the cub habitat …. a great little fenced island that was home to three very active bear cubs. Watching these little cubs wrestling with one another was worth the price of admission.  For an additional fee, you can sign up to actually bottle feed a bear cub.

For an additional fee, you can bottle feed a bear cub
For an additional fee, you can bottle feed a bear cub
Teething?
Teething?

The little cubs were so darn cute, but the cuteness didn’t end with them …..

This little fawn was adorable
This little fawn was adorable
The petting zoo was fun - watch out for t-shirt nibbling deer!
Watch out for T-shirt nibbling deer!
Goats are such characters!
Goats are such characters!
This guy liked nibbling on peoples clothing.
This guy liked nibbling on peoples clothing.

Petting zoo

Although the petting zoo itself is extremely entertaining, I found a special treat just beyond ….. in an enclosed area.  This little lady (moose are anything but little) was lounging on the other side of the fence at the far end of the petting zoo. I was but a mere twenty feet away from her.MooseWhat a treat to see this magnificent animal up close.  A very tall chain link fence separated me and Ms. Moose, but I was able to shoot this photo between the links.

Yellowstone Bear World is a relatively small attraction and can easily be explored in 2-3 hours.  I thoroughly enjoyed my morning visit in early July, and would definitely return should I find myself near Rexburg, Idaho again.

Let’s see, communing with animals while camped at a relaxing county park – so far, so good.  Next up, we wrap up our Idaho visit with a few more interesting places worth mentioning.

When History turns into Entertainment

May 2016 – It was Memorial Day weekend and although we knew we were running the risk of encountering crowds, we were on a mission to see what all the hype was about.  We were enlightened on the small town of Mackay, Idaho, from numerous people and all encouraged us to explore its history.Mackay Idaho

When Al and I first heard about the Mackay reservoir with a campground and lots of shore boondocking, that alone piqued our interest, but add in some fun back country 4×4 roads with remnants of yesterdays mining days…. well, let’s just say, we were all in for a day of sightseeing.Mackay Idaho

Located in the south central part of Idaho along Highway 93, the quaint town of Mackay exudes an inviting Western charm and plenty of interesting history. The Mackay Mine Hill Tour is a self-guided  tour of mining locations found in the hills southwest of town.

We picked up a route map at a local gas station and verified we wouldn’t have any trouble on the back country roads with our F-250 truck with extended bed…. the ‘big dog’ isn’t exactly agile with its long wheel base.

There are three different color-coded routes; each designated for vehicle accessibility.

The Green Route (the one we took) is accessible to all modes of transportation.  It’s about 15 miles of graded dirt roads, and although rough in spots it can easily be navigated with a CRV, Subaru, or even a car, if careful.

Points of interest
Points of interest

Mackey Mine Hill TourThere are twelve points of interest along the green route that are clearly marked on the map and along the road way.

The Blue Route adds another five points of interest, but requires a high clearance vehicle.  Considering the road is extremely rough, steep, and narrow making it a challenge for our less than agile length, we didn’t venture onto any Blue trails.Mackay IdahoThe Red Route is open only to ATV’s, UTV’s, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, horses, and hikers.  This is one time I wish we still owned our ATV.  The area is truly an off roaders paradise with plenty of 4×4 back country dirt roads offering interesting sights along the way to keep one entertained.Mackay Mine Tour

Al and I had packed a picnic lunch and set off mid-morning the last Saturday in May.  Although we occasionally had to share the road with groups of all-terrain-vehicles, we were still able to enjoy plenty of solitude considering the multitude of routes available to choose from …. allowing us all to spread out.Mackay mine hill tourEach numbered stop was clearly marked and offered information about the site.   What surprised me most is that much of the land is still privately owned.  Thus, the land we toured is owned either by private individuals, companies, the US Bureau of Land Management, or the US Forest Service.  The tour is sponsored by the South Custer Mining ExhibitCounty Historical Society and White Knob Historical Preservation Committee.

Stop number one is of course the closest to town, most accessible, and definitely a must see stop.

This is a former Smelter site and is now home to an extensive hardrock mining exhibit.

Fascinating Mining Exhibit. The building was filled with tools, equipment, and detailed information
Fascinating Mining Exhibit. The building was filled with tools, equipment, and detailed information

Mackay Idaho

Although most of the smelter facility ruins have been removed, many features remain, including an 8-hole company outhouse …..Smelter siteOuthouse

 

 

 

I guess, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go !  Nothing like being chummy with your co-workers.

Continuing up the road, we came across Aerial Tramway Towers, a Compressor Building, a Sawmill, Tunnels, and several Homesteads.

a homestead
a homestead
I thought I lived in a tiny house! I have indoor plumbing ;-)
I thought I lived in a tiny house! But I have indoor plumbing 😉
Open Pit Mine Site - Produced gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc from 1902 to 1975
Open Pit Mine Site – Produced gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc from 1902 to 1975
I was tempted to step into the building BUT first off, this is private property and second, note the scribble on the black tank. I wasn't interested in seeing that kind of wildlife!
I was tempted to step into the building BUT first off, this is private property and second, note the scribble on the black tank. I wasn’t interested in seeing that kind of wildlife!
From one historic site to another!
From one historical site to another!

Mackay Mine Tour

Interesting tidbit….. Mackay’s Mine Hill: Ore was first discovered in 1879 and was mined into the 1980’s.  Geological sampling still occurs to this date, and mining could Mackay Mine Hill tourbe renewed at any time to withdraw the millions of dollars of Ore remaining in the ground.  Hmm, I wondered – does that mean I was driving over millions of dollars?

All the routes entail a change of elevation from about 6,000 feet in the town of Mackay to about 8,500 feet at the highest point, which (I think) is near site #12. This change in elevation provides some wonderful views but also some changes in temperature. Weather seems to move in quickly.  So it’s best to be prepared for just about anything.Mackay Mine Hill Tour

Al and I had a great time traveling these back country roads and exploring an important part of Mackay’s history.  It was a very fun and entertaining day …. one I would recommend.

Rachael and I check out the old Compressor building
Rachael and I check out the old Compressor building

At the RV Park a couple of weeks later, I met a single gal traveling solo in her Class C Mackay Mine Hill tour Idahomotorhome.  This artistic, talented gal and I hit it off, and I was quick to share the Mackay Mine Hill Tour with her.

We only had time to visit the first three mining sites, which was fine by us considering our focus that day was on photography.

As a solo traveler, Rachael is usually short on photos of herself and asked if I wouldn’t mind taking a few shots of her for her to share on her Instagram site:  @bohemian.dreamer

Little did she know, I was giddy with delight when she handed me her Fujifilm camera.  I always have my eye on new cameras and I was impressed with the color quality and ease of use of this camera Fujifilm X-E2 16.3 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD – Body Only (Black)  Hopefully she didn’t notice me drooling 😅

Mackay Mine Hill tour Idaho

I had a great time trying to tap into my inner Scavullo ….. yeah, I’m a work in progress, but with Rachael’s artistic direction, my photos and her modeling improved as the day went on and we both tapped into a wonderful groove.Lava Tube Craters of the Moon

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we arranged to spend another day together hiking a Lava Tube at Craters of the Moon before it was time for her to hit the road for new territory.  I’m hoping to run into her again sometime this winter so I can play with her camera again…… and oh yes, meet up with her too!Mackay Idaho

Additional RV information on Mackay, Idaho.
Camping: There’s a very nice campground at the Mackay Reservoir called Fallini Campground.  There’s also plenty of free boondocking along the shores (near mile marker 14)  Interested in a quick overnight? There’s free overnight parking in the town of Mackay at the visitor center along with a restroom and free dump station. The visitor center is merely information boards in a parking lot.  There is also some nice boondocking along the river near mile marker 11 but a lot of dense brush that can easily cause some of natures pin striping (aka vehicle scratches).  There are several private RV Parks in the area, but keep in mind, Mackay is a very popular second home location, meaning a lot of folks park their RV’s in a site for the entire season.

👍👍 Two thumbs up for a visit to Mackay, Idaho!  We heard there’s some great hiking in the area, which unfortunately, we never got around to tackling.

My latest mode of transportation?
My latest mode of transportation?

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