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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Day Tripping in Idaho

Throughout the months of May and June, Al and I took full advantage of our days off from our work camping gig to explore parts of Idaho via a series of day trips.  The Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho are a sight to behold with their jagged and impressive mountain peaks, and just like so many other beautiful places we visit, photographs don’t always do justice to the majestic beauty laid before our eyes.

Exploring the back roads in central Idaho

Exploring the back roads in central Idaho

We found Central Idaho to be a visual treat and an RVer’s delight with a ton of raw wilderness just ready to discover.  Finding a place to dry camp in remote national forest does not seem to be a problem around here.

Looking toward the quaint town of Stanley, Idaho

Looking toward the quaint town of Stanley, Idaho

Sun Vally

Shopping – loved the European feel

One of my favorite day trips was a loop drive that took us about ten hours to complete.  We started at our home base in Arco, Idaho, and our first stop was the popular mountain town of Ketchum, also known as Sun Valley.

To get to Ketchum we had to drive through Hailey, Idaho, which I was particularly curious about.  Now mind you, I’m not one to get all caught up or go gaga over Hollywood celebrities, but I do have a curiosity about the lives they lead behind the scenes.

Back in the 1990’s when Demi Moore and Bruce Willis started growing their family, they moved to Hailey to escape the Hollywood scene and helped rebuild this struggling little town.  “Why Hailey”, I questioned?  What made this little town so desirable to a couple who financially could afford to live anywhere.  After driving around the town of Hailey …. up one street, down the other on more than one occasion, I don’t have an answer.  Although cute, it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice if money were no object.

Maybe its more about Sun Valley.

Sun Valley Idaho

Sun Valley is a popular winter destination with its challenging ski slopes and European Nordic feel.  However, Sun Valley Idahomoderate weather, wonderful biking and hiking trails, and an eclectic variety of dining options, makes Sun Valley equally popular during the summer months.

Expensive second homes dot the landscape.  The elegant mountain style architecture blends in beautifully with the terrain of rolling, flowersgrassy hills.

Wildflowers speckle the hillsides with color while gardens filled with flowers adorn well manicured yards.  I loved the abundance of flowers seen in all directions.

Although I found the area to be charming, I somehow felt disappointed.  After visiting so many mountain resort towns in Colorado, perhaps I was expecting an unrealistic wow factor.   Various places resonate differently with each of us and just because I wasn’t feeling it, doesn’t diminish its allure or beauty.

Sawtooth MountainsThe mountains around Sun Valley are unimposing, but from what I hear, are steep and challenging for skiing enthusiasts.  Our time in Sun Valley was brief and we didn’t get a chance to hit the trails to really delve into the lay of the land as much as we would’ve liked.

While strolling the streets of Ketchum, we found folks to be particularly friendly and helpful.  And unlike the mountain towns in Colorado, Sun Valley was not crowded.  Let’s face it, it does take some considerable effort to get to this part of the country.The Kneadery

I must share …. we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at The Kneadery  located in downtown Ketchum.  I’m all about décor and atmosphere along with fresh wholesome ingredients and The Kneadery hit the spot perfectly; cute place, a tasty meal, at a reasonable price – highly recommend.Sawtooth MountainsWith tummies full, it was time for us to meander north.  As the road twisted and turned, it wasn’t long before we were greeted by those craggy, snow speckled Sawtooth Mountains.  What a stunning mountain range!  We passed numerous places to dry camp, and as much as we wanted to stop and check out the possibilities, I was on a mission to get to our next stop.Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake ….  Wow!  Thanks Donna and Char for insisting I visit this place.  I haven’t seen such turquoise and pristine waters since I last visited the Caribbean. Redfish Lake

I could’ve sat at that beach for hours admiring the view.  I may not have been feeling it in Sun Valley, but I sure as heck was feeling it at Redfish Lake. The beauty of our surroundings had Al and me feeling somewhat nostalgic  as memories of our Caribbean trips were conjured up.  Then there are the memories of us paddling our canoe in northern Minnesota or taking our kids out on our fishing boat in southern Utah.  Yep, we’re lake people and a beautiful body of water always brings a smile to our faces.Redfish Lake

Al and I grabbed a snack and a drink from the cooler and found a spot to sit.  We initially sat in silence as we watched the kayakers and stand up paddle boarders paddle by.  Sigh!  Oh how I longed to be out on that water.  Al and I reminisced about our boating days and although there are many aspects about those days that I miss,  I somehow felt incredibly content and fortunate to be relaxing on the shore admiring that view.Redfish Lake

We were quite smitten with Redfish Lake and the quaint town of Stanley.  It is breathtakingly, mesmerizingly, beautiful here! It was tough to pull ourselves away, but return home we must ….. though not before checking out the campground for future reference. This area made our “return” list, which I’ll admit, seems to get longer the more we travel.

Thanks Donna and Char. I’m so glad we made it a priority to visit Redfish Lake.  If there’s one place in Idaho I’d say is a ‘must see’, this would be it.

The scenery along the way was every bit as memorable as the stops

The scenery along the way was every bit as memorable as the stops

Now it was time to complete our loop drive with one more exploratory stop before reaching home.

Mackay Reservoir - boondocking along the shores is a consideration

Mackay Reservoir – boondocking along the shores is a consideration

Mackay, Idaho: from a former mining town to a small recreation town …. folks escape the big cities (big for Idaho, that is) to come to Mackay on the weekends to get away and relax.  The water (my personal fav) and back country 4×4 roads are the draw for this rustic and remote area.

colorful mountains around Mackay, Idaho

colorful mountains around Mackay, Idaho

For now, we need to head back to camp, but we’ll visit Mackay in the next post!

Idaho

All that water we saw has me eyeing one of these inflatables… hmm! Christmas is coming – wink, wink dear hubby 🙂  Perhaps there will be plenty more boating adventures in our future!

Eerie yet Beautiful

Upon entering the park for the first time, I was met with a diverse flood of thoughts ranging from eerie to beautiful.  The land appears stark and foreboding, but if you look close, a vast array of life can be seen.Craters of the Moon

I was lucky to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve at the very beginning of wildflower season, and since arriving in Arco, Idaho, in early May, I’ve been dropping by the park regularly to keep an eye on the status of the craters of the moonwildflowers.   With each visit, more and more delicate beauties were popping up.

In early June, I was able to share this strange and scenic place with friends, Faye and Dave.

I believe the peak of wildflower season is suppose to be in mid June, but we thought our timing was darn good and were overjoyed with the abundance of blooms everywhere we looked during our early June visit.

Dave and I were going crazy with our cameras trying to capture the gorgeous periwinkle color of the Scorpionweed.

those wildflowers captivated our attention

Scorpionweed flowers captivated our attention

Since I’d had a few weeks to explore Craters of the Moon before Faye and Dave’s visit, I knew exactly where to find an abundance of wildflowers to photograph up close, but that would require a bit of a climb… a climb up the inferno cone.

it was hard to photograph 'inferno cone' and capture its size. Note the hikers on the trail - offers scale.

it was hard to photograph ‘inferno cone’ and capture its size. Note the hikers on the trail – offers scale.

me climbing the Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon

me climbing the Inferno Cone at Craters of the Moon

With less than a half mile up and back, this large, black, barren hill is worth the 160 foot elevation gain.  Once at the top, there are views in all directions and a surprise bonus of wildflowers.  We were also able to observe the spatter cones from above.

At the top of inferno cone - views of spatter cones

At the top of inferno cone – views of spatter cones

What exactly are these cones?  A cinder cone, like the inferno cone, are formed when gas-rich volcanic froth erupts high into the air then falls back to earth forming a huge mounded pile of cinders.  Spatter cones are miniature volcanoes that form when thick, pasty globs of lava plop up to the surface, piling up in the shape of a cone.

Craters of the MoonThe volcanic nature of the park, creates a lunar like terrain.  So much so, that NASA routinely uses Craters of the Moon NM for research and development.  In 1969, Apollo Astronauts prepared for their moon mission here at Craters of the Moon.

Next week, the Mountain View RV Park (our work camping home this summer) will be hosting a large group of NASA scientists/engineers, which will keep all of us super busy for a two week period.  All hands on deck!

After Faye, Dave, and myself hiked the inferno cone, it was time to explore another interesting geological feature – a lava tube.  Lava or magma?  Hot, molten rock from deep within the earth is called magma. When magma erupts onto the earth’s surface, it’s called lava.  A lava flow that hardened on the outside while the lava still flowed within, creates a lava tube.

me inside Indian tunnel lava tube

me inside Indian tunnel lava tube

There are several lava tubes in Craters of the Moon that are accessible for exploring, but most are geared toward those familiar with caving.  Since we didn’t fall into that category, we opted to hike the Indian tunnel cave/tube which is clearly marked and offers enough daylight to explore without a flashlight.  There is one short section though where I thought the aid of a little artificial light was helpful.

There is a fair amount of rock scrambling involved in this hike, especially at the end of the tunnel where we exited out of a small hole.

The exit

The exit

Me exiting Indian tunnel lava tube

Me exiting Indian tunnel lava tube

Before embarking on any lava tube exploring, a permit is required.  The permit is free and is simply a matter of answering a few questions at the visitor center regarding any previous caving.  This is for the health of the bat population and to stop the spread of white nose syndrome.

Yes, we were hiking down in there!

Yes, we were hiking down in there!

I have to admit, the first time I hiked the lava tube, I was extremely uncomfortable.  This time around, I knew exactly what to expect and was familiar with the general area of the trail.  Thus, the second time around was much more enjoyable.  Oh, and entertaining company always helps 😉

me, Dave, Faye inside Indian tunnel lava cave tube

Me, Dave, Faye inside Indian tunnel.  Dave enjoyed introducing us as “his wives” to fellow hikers.

Although the caving was a fun experience, those wildflowers were calling.  And several more stops were in order.  Over 600 different types of plants have been identified growing in Craters of the Moon.

Dave stalking wildflowers!

Dave stalking wildflowers!

We stayed on the road to photograph the stunning display of wildflowers.  These delicate plants have to overcome a lack of moisture, meager soil conditions, and surface temperatures that can exceed 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  The thought of accidently stepping on one of these beauties, was not an option.  Respect and admiration for these tough little things were at the forefront of our minds as we took in the amazing sight.

Cryptantha

Cryptantha

Scorpionweed and Dwarf Buckwheat

Scorpionweed and Dwarf Buckwheat

Equally as striking were the carpets of pink produced by the Dwarf Monkeyflower.  If there was any open space, the Monkeyflower was eager to fill it.

a pink carpet of Dwarf Monkeyflower

a pink carpet of Dwarf Monkeyflower

Monkeyflower

Dwarf Monkeyflower up close

Dwarf Monkeyflower up close

Thank goodness for digital photography or I fear Dave and I would’ve easily run out of film.  Eventually, we returned back to camp where Al was eagerly awaiting our return.  While we were having fun, he was busy building picnic tables and seems we all had worked up an appetite.

Al, Dave, Faye, and me at our place at in Arco, Idaho

Al, Dave, Faye, and me at our place in Arco, Idaho

We enjoyed a healthy meal of grilled chicken, baked potatos, steamed broccoli, followed by my somewhat healthy carrot cake cupcakes.  For my carrot cake cupcake recipe, click here.

I’m sure as the summer progresses, I’ll continue to visit Craters of the Moon, but up next, Al and I take a vacation!

Craters of the Moon

Syringa growing in a crevice

Live life to the fullest.  Don’t let the weeds smother out your flowers – unknownWildflowers

Here’s my latest addition to my arsenal of photography toys…. after having a camera topple from a fence post, I felt it was time to invest in a light, easy to carry, tripod.JOBY GorillaPod Hybrid Tripod for Mirrorless and 360 Cameras – A Flexible, Portable and Lightweight Tripod With a Ball Head and Bubble LevelJoby gorilla pod

Waterfalls and Jumping off a Bridge

Life has been anything but boring lately.  This summer, I find myself living in a small town with a population of less than 1,000.  Now keep in mind, I’ve been to plenty of small towns including the one my husband grew up in located in northern Illinois, but I’ve never spent this much time living in the hinterland. craters of the moon

I’m not complaining, but I grew up in the Chicago suburbs with excellent shopping mere minutes away and even our RV travels keep us somewhat near a major city (whether parked or driving by).  So now here I am in Arco, Idaho, with the nearest Walmart, Target, Kroger, Home Depot, etc. over an hours drive away which requires me to do a little better planning than I’m accustomed to.  I’m notorious for going to the store and coming home with everything but the one thing I went there for.  When we’re in Phoenix, Denver, Corpus Christi or any of our other favorite places, running back to the store is no big deal.  It’s a big deal around here, especially when my drive to the store looks like this…

My drive to Walmart

My drive to go shopping!

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Just a little further!

Just a little further!

The little town of Arco does offer a mom and pop grocery store and in a pinch I’m grateful they usually have what I’m looking for.  I do most of my major shopping about every seven to tens days.   Since I have a six cubic foot refrigerator, stocking up has a whole new meaning when compared to having the luxury of a residential size refrigerator.  Some planning and adeptness with puzzles goes a long way when it comes to living in small spaces.

After ‘stocking up’, Al doesn’t even attempt to open the frig door for fear of one of those puzzle pieces falling out which usually leads to a domino effect with half the frig items on the floor.   “Watch those toes!”   Nope, no dull moments around here.

Since I’d already shopped a couple of times in the big city of Idaho Falls (population 60,000), I thought I’d head in another direction – Twin Falls (population 46,000).  Not only did I have my long list of shopping items with me, I had directions to two sites I just HAD TO SEE.

BASE jumpers - Perrine Bridge

BASE jumpers – Perrine Bridge

To get to Twin Falls, I had to drive over the Perrine Bridge – one of those must see sites on my list.  And oh, what a sight!  Yes, the bridge itself is a work of art, but the draw is the jumpers – BASE jumpers to be precise.

No, that is not me saying, "WEEEE!"

No, that is not me saying, “WEEEE!”

This landmark bridge spans the Snake River Canyon just north of the town of Twin Falls, Idaho.  It’s a four-lane truss arch span about 1,500 feet in length (457m) and sits 486 feet above the river (148m).  Folks from around the world (about 5,000 crazy people a year) visit the Perrine Bridge to literally jump off the bridge.  It’s legal, hassle free, and no permit required.

Two at a time!

Two at a time!

Everyone has their own style of jumping

Everyone has their own style of jumping

BASE jumping is similar to sky diving but instead of jumping out of a plane, a thrill seeker will jump off a fixed object like a bridge and deploy a parachute.  BASE is an acronym for buildings, antennas, spans, and Earth –  BASE jumpers practice their sport from any of these elevated places.

Note the jumper - black/green chute over the river.

Note the jumper – black/green chute over the river.

As I stood there watching, I wondered how does one go about practicing this sport?  It’s not as if you can jump right in (or rather off), go splat, and request a do over.  Yes, people do die doing this and I noticed at the landing point along the shore of the river that there does appear to be a memorial, although I didn’t confirm.

Looks like a memorial near the landing site

Looks like a memorial near the landing site

There’s a beautiful, new visitor center near the southwest end of the bridge with plenty of parking for any size vehicle.  The views of the bridge and canyon are spectacular and there’s easy access to the trail along the canyon rim.  The trail goes under the bridge and there’s a pedestrian walk-way on both sides of the bridge to take in the amazing scenery.  The visitor center is a year-round launching point for those interested in parachuting to the canyon floor.  So are you ready to jump off a bridge?  Schedule a jump with Tandem Base – I’ll watch 😆

WildflowersSince I had a long list of shopping to do, I parked by the Best Buy on the southeast side of the bridge instead of the visitor center and stopped to watch the jumpers in between my stops into TJ Maxx, Best Buy, and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

Soon I was off to my other “must see” site.

The weather was so, so with storms rolling in and out and I began to wonder if it would be worth the stop.  I rolled down my window in the pouring rain for the attendant to collect the $3.00 entrance fee.  I’m pretty sure it should’ve been free when I showed him my National Parks Pass, but he said no, it was only the senior park pass for free admittance.  With both of us getting drenched it wasn’t worth questioning any further and I handed over the three bucks and drove on.  The moment I had the truck parked, the storm clouds moved on and the falls presented its visitors with a beautiful rainbow.

Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls is quite often referred to as the Niagara of the West, and tumbles 212 feet to the canyon floor – 50 feet further than the famous Niagara.  Spring is the best time to visit Shoshone Falls.  Later in the year, cliffs may be nearly dry, as most of the river’s flow is diverted to produce hydroelectric power and irrigate Idaho’s fertile farmlands.  Here’s a link to a live webcam to see just how much water is flowing at any given time.Shoshone Falls

Shoshone FallsThere’s plenty of hiking opportunities along the canyon rim including a hike to the famous Evel Knievel jump site.  Because of the weather, I personally didn’t see the Knievel jump site or hike any of the trails.  I understand the jump site is basically a dirt ramp remnant from Knievel’s failed attempt to jump over the Snake River.  I was a little disappointed the weather was so inclement.  Once the raindrops started falling again, accompanied by thunder, I knew that was my cue to  move on and run those errands.Shoshone FallsThis is when my day got real interesting.  Remember that long shopping list?  Well, I still needed to go to Walmart and Costco.  I had a general idea where they were located but for some reason I turned left when I should’ve turned right.  It was late afternoon on a Saturday.  The rain was pouring and traffic was congested.  I drove through the historic downtown area and immediately realized my faux pas.   “Hmm, where to turn, where to turn?”  There seemed to be a lot of traffic heading north on a particular road. Thus, I followed thinking it had to be a main road that would put me back in the right direction and help lead to the general area I was looking for.

MarmotOops, I was almost at the plant gate showing up for second shift.  I quickly did a U-turn and then another turn.  I knew I needed to go in a northeast direction but with the heavy rain and dark skies, I couldn’t find the sun to verify my direction.

I usually have a great sense of direction, and  I did feel I was traveling north, but the signs and poor visibility had me second guessing myself.  I kept thinking to myself…. I’ve successfully navigated cities two to three times larger than Twin Falls.  It can’t be that difficult to figure out where to go.

I soon found myself out in the country with the cows and critters and no place to stop and ask for directions (not that I’m quick to ask for directions – we definitely suffer from role reversal in this household).  I rarely admit to being lost.  I get turned around all the time, but not lost. In this instance I was truly uncomfortable and not sure where I was.  Yes, I was lost!  I pulled off on the side of the road to ask Siri for help only for her to respond with a “I’m sorry, I can’t connect.  Try again later”….  are you kidding me, no cell service!  And Hildi, our annoying GPS, was back at the RV getting updated.

Shoshone FallsI pulled out the Atlas, which wasn’t much help either.  It only confirmed I needed to go northeast.   I sure could’ve used an Idaho Benchmark Atlas which offers a lot more detail. (We have Benchmark’s for AZ and CO)

Finally, I turned around, retraced some steps, and pointed the truck east thinking I’d hit town eventually, which I did.  I finally made it to Walmart although frazzled and tired. I quickly filled the shopping cart with only the items on my list.  After all,  I still needed to go to Costco for the RV Park owner’s list.

Would you believe it took me over fifteen minutes to navigate the Costco parking lot?  Congestion was worse than I’ve ever seen in Phoenix.  I was so ready to head home and blow off this stop, but I made a commitment to pick up a list of items.  Don’t even get me started on the check out lines.  With all my errands and sightseeing complete, I hit the road for my nearly two hour drive home, and finally made it back to the RV shortly after 7:00 p.m.

Let’s see…. I didn’t jump off a bridge.  I didn’t slide down a waterfall.  I managed to get myself un-lost without any help.  I didn’t go postal in Costco.  And I made it home in one piece without any road rage.  All in all, I’d say it was a great day!

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson

Idaho Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas

I finally found some good hiking socks!Thorlos Womens Lite Hiking Thin Padded Ankle – Low Cut Socks | LTHMXW

Adventure Comes in Many Ways

Once I realized how much I like to use the word adventure, I began to wonder if I was using the word correctly, which lead to a little Googling.  Here’s a definition I came across that resonated with me.Lilacs

  1.  an undertaking usually involving unknown risks
  2.  an exciting or remarkable experience
  3.  engaging in an exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.

After absorbing this information, I feel I am indeed using the word adventure correctly.  With that said, allow me to share part of this summers adventure – my exploration of unknown territory.Idaho

First we’ll need to backtrack…..  When Al and I sold the house and moved into the RV full-time three years ago, it wasn’t a dream or something we’d given much thought to.  There was no plan, no budget, and no bucket list of destinations.   From what I’ve gathered, most folks embark on this lifestyle via a well prepared plan including goals, budget, and destinations in mind.

Arco, IdahoWe on the other hand moved into the RV full-time on a whim.  You see, life had not only thrown us one curve ball, it had thrown us a bunch of curve balls.

We were faced with several losses and challenges which drained us emotionally.  Instead of sitting on the front porch feeling sorry for ourselves, we decided to throw caution to the wind, jump in the RV, and wing it.

It’s been an interesting ride and definitely an adventure, but every now and then, I have felt lost….. certainly not physically (well, except for last week when I got ‘turned around’ so badly, I actually admitted to being lost.  Ah, but that’s a tale for another post).  I’m not sure if that lost feeling is part of the grieving process or just part of normal life.

wildflowersWith that said, I started talking to Al about temporary work otherwise known as Workamping in the RVing community.  There are all kinds of positions out there geared toward the RVer and temporary seasonal jobs.

The term “Workamping” is actually a blending of the words work and camping and is a registered trademark of Workamper News ;  a great website matching up RVer’s with work assignments.  Another popular website is CoolWorks, and then there’s word of mouth and forums.

Last winter when Al and I realized we had no summer travel plans in mind, we decided to look into Workamping opportunities.  Although we did get called for a few locations, we chose the Idaho job.  One – we’ve never been to south central Idaho and two – we were introduced to the RV Park owners at a social gathering in Phoenix.  After a three-hour luncheon with the owners, it was determined this could be a win-win situation for both couples.

our home for the summer

our home for the summer

We now have a month under our belts working at the Mountain View RV Park in Arco, Idaho, and I can honestly say that up to this point, this has been the perfect scenario easing us into the Workamping experience.  It has been a win-win for both couples.

Since Al and I ran our own business for fifteen years, we’re self-starters, and we’ve stayed at enough RV Parks to understand what needs to be taken care of.  We asked the owners for a quick list of priorities, then jumped right in and started taking care of things.

What things, you ask……….

There's always lawn mowing. Al was having fun riding a tractor again. Not sure how long he'll consider it 'fun'.

There’s always lawn mowing. Al was having fun riding a tractor again. Not sure how long he’ll consider it ‘fun’.

Getting out the tools, had Al doing a little Tim Allen male grunting

Getting out the tools had Al doing a little Tim Allen male grunting

With music playing in my ears, there was a little dancing while painting going on

With music playing in my ears, there was a little dancing while painting going on

We all know by now that I enjoy baking. This day, I made pies for the restaurant.

We all know by now that I enjoy baking. This day, I made pies for the restaurant.

On a daily basis, Al and I will ride around the park in the golf cart making sure garbage is picked up, the bathrooms are clean, and campers are enjoying their stay.  I’ve even waitressed in the restaurant a couple of times when they got short-handed.  Do you know it has been over thirty years since I last waited on tables?  I jumped right in and acted like I knew what I was doing and had so much fun that I volunteered to waitress regularly.  I know, is that crazy?  I enjoyed meeting and talking to the locals coming into the restaurant for a meal.  They are all eager to share the beauty their home state has to offer, giving Al and me plenty of ideas to explore on our down time.

Exploring the backcountry near Mackay Idaho.

Exploring the backcountry near Mackay Idaho.

And there has been plenty of down time allowing us to explore the area….  Craters of the Moon National Monument, drive the old mining roads near Mackay, take a trip to Twin Falls to watch Base jumpers at the Perrine bridge and see the stunning sight of Shoshone Falls.  With so much going on, where will I ever find the time to blog 😉

I’m not sure why Al and I are so enjoying the Workcamping gig, but we think it has something to do in knowing the position is temporary.  We also realize we have the freedom to pack up and move on anytime we’re unhappy.  That sense of freedom is liberating.  After all, it’s not as if we’re trying to build our resumes 😆

For a few days next week, we’ll pack up the RV and take a vacation from our Workamping duties.  Oh yes, this summer is definitely turning into a summer filled with exciting and new explorations….. adventure all around and in many different ways!Craters of the Moon

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences – Eleanor Roosevelt

 


Sisters on the Fly: Caravans, Campfires, and Tales from the Road

Beauty Abounds

Beauty comes in many forms.  Sometimes beauty is in your face obvious while other times it takes a little longer to seek out.  From my first scenic overlook sighting at Bryce Canyon National Park to each subsequent visit, wow was usually the first word I uttered.  The scenery was breathtaking, stunning, mesmerizing, and obviously beautiful.

beauty abounds when we open our eyes

beauty abounds when we open our eyes

After spending an incredible week exploring Bryce Canyon Country, it was time to move on.  Although I must admit, I could’ve easily spent another week staring at those mind-boggling hoodoos.Bryce Canyon

Willard Bay State Park, South Campground

Willard Bay State Park, South Campground

Our journey from Panguitch, Utah took us north through Salt Lake City, Utah.  We enjoyed a quick overnight stay at Willard Bay State Park camped near the shores of the Great Salt Lake.  We thought about spending a second night which would allow us to explore the main part of the state park, but the bugs were rather bad and the next day a severe storm was heading in our direction.

Note all the bugs in this photo. Traipsing through the tall grasses for photo-ops was probably not my smartest move. I left with more bug bites than photos :-(

Note all the spots in my photo in the sky, those are bugs. Traipsing through the tall grasses for photo-ops was probably not my smartest move. I left with more bug bites than photographs 😦

Thus, with high wind warnings in the forecast, we hightailed it out of there early the next morning before the 66 mile per hour gusts of wind arrived.  A little over three hours later, we were setting up camp at our summer home at the Mountain View RV Park in Arco, Idaho.  Al and I decided to give “Workamping” a whirl this summer which is how we ended up here.  Once I get a chance, I’ll do a separate post on life as a Workamper.

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument

The biggest draw to this part of Idaho is Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  Since arriving in Arco, Idaho, I’ve had the opportunity to visit this park a few times.  During my first visit, Al and I gathered information at the visitor center and drove the scenic loop while stopping at a few points of interest.  Knowing we had the entire summer to explore Craters of the Moon NM, we focused on a general overview.

entrance to a Lava tube

entrance to a Lava tube

On our next visit, we embarked on a hike that took me out of my comfort zone.  I’m not usually a fan of enclosed spaces like caves or crowded elevators.  So, I didn’t exactly jump at the  thought of hiking a Lava tube tunnel, but I am on an adventure after all, and the last thing I was going to do was allow a little phobia to hinder my explorations.

inside Indian Tunnel - Lava tube cave

inside Indian Tunnel – Lava tube cave

On my third visit, I focused on the beauty found around this harsh landscape.  Just like at Bryce Canyon National Park, I uttered the word “wow” routinely, but more in a strange and curious tone as opposed to wow that’s beautiful.

Sometimes it takes looking at the smaller details to see the beauty.

Sometimes it takes looking at the smaller details to see the beauty.

When I first laid eyes on Craters of the Moon, the word beautiful was not at the forefront.   I think my thoughts were more along the lines of …. stark, harsh, unforgiving, barren, mean, bewildering, and maybe even ugly.  With each subsequent visit my opinion seemed to change …. intriguing, fascinating, perplexing, and yes, beautiful.Craters of the MoonIn my attempt to find the beauty, I visited the morning after a heavy rainstorm.  As I meandered along a trail, I could hear water trickling between the rocks.  Birds were chirping.  Chipmunks were running around foraging for food, and the wildflowers were springing to life.  There seemed to be a bevy of activity.Craters of the Moon

I found myself surrounded by a strange beauty, and couldn’t help but feel a level of respect for all things surviving in this severe landscape.

I found beauty in the strangest place.  I assure you, there will be more posts about Craters of the Moon.  Stay tuned….

finding beauty in the smaller things

finding beauty in the smaller things

Moon Idaho (Moon Handbooks)