Our new look, and the dog days of summer – Fruita, CO

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Our 5-week stay in Fruita, Colorado is winding down.  The extended stop had a two-fold purpose; to get a better feel for the area as a possible place to settle down one day (it’s on our short list), and to wait for the Fall colors to change so we can enjoy them as we continue our travels south and then east.

You see, in 2015 Steve experienced the turning of the Aspens into gold by himself while I was in the Philippines. He raved about it and promised that we would enjoy it together someday. And we’re excited that we’re starting to see the signs now! Keep on reading …

Hiking where the Dinosaurs roamed – Vernal, UT

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Continuing our slow move southward, the next stop was at Vernal, Utah.  Betsy had some serious mountains to traverse as we crossed the Wyoming-Utah border on the Flaming Gorge-Uintas National Scenic Byway.  We saw several major geological formations that exposed the core of the Unita Mountains, and as we neared the summit we paused for a few minutes to take in the breathtaking views of the deep multi-colored canyons:

Flaming Gorge

Taking a break near the summit overlooking Flaming Gorge

We’ve driven this section of the byway before, and the unique geologic features never fail to “wow” us.  Several signposts can be seen along the roadside that teach motorists the geology of the area.  They identify the various rock strata and types of fossils found there, and describe the geologic time period.  My previous post contains more photos and information from our last trip through the area.

The type of geology and what creatures lived here are nicely displayed along the road

The city of Vernal and its surrounding area is “dinosaur country”, well known to geologists for the fossilized relics found in the ancient seas that existed here.  Our 2016 trip took us to Dinosaur National Monument, where more than 1,500 dinosaur bones and fossils have been found.  Click here to read more about the logjam of fossils located at the monument.

Vernal – Dinosaurland

Temperatures hovered at or above 95 degrees during our one-week stay.  We were initially concerned that the smoke blown here from the California fires would hamper our outdoor activities, but we forged ahead with plans to hike trails that we missed during our last stay.  Unfortunately most of my photos are a bit hazy and smoky.

There are many excellent trails here on the ancient floodplain which was once home to dinosaurs.  Sticking to our mantra of early starts and lots of water helped us to beat the heat and have the trails practically to ourselves 🙂

Smoke enveloped Dinosaurland

Dinosaur Trackway Trail

The reward at the end of the 1.8-mile Dinosaur Trackway Trail is not as obvious as other hikes.  Based on plaques along the way, we had to search for the reward: 200-million-year-old dilophosaurus tracks preserved in the slick rock shores of Red Fleet reservoir.

While neither of us is into paleontology, seeing the tracks is still pretty amazing.  The trackway is found on a slanted rock at the end of the reservoir, which is sometimes partially covered during high water periods.

Looking across from Red Fleet State Park at the slanted rock where dinosaur tracks exist

A short 1.8-mile hike from a road across from the state park got us out to the tracks

The Red Fleet track site reveals several hundred footprints, and includes five distinct trackways.  A trackway is a set of three or more footprints left by the same creature, and they are rare.  Some were much harder to see than others, but we managed to find several:

 

Red Fleet

Red Fleet SP was named from 3 sandstone formations in the area that resemble battleships from various angles

Sound of Silence/Desert Voices Trail combination

Both of these trails reside within Dinosaur National Monument, and can be combined by a connector trail to provide a wonderful 6.3-mile loop hike.  They are interpretative trails; the Sound of Silence Trail has numbered trail markers that coincide with a guidebook, while the Desert Voices Trail has plaques that include commentary about the park system and local challenges involving water and land use, and traditional ranching activities.  There are also displays created by kids for kids, one of which taught us about Antlions – never heard of them!

Sound of Silence Trail

Exposed geologic layers at the start of the Sound of Silence Trail

Sound of Silence Trai

Nugget Sandstone dated to the Triassic age, 200 million years ago

Sound of Silence Trail

A narrow path through the remains of a shallow water environment – 250 millions years old

The presence of iron is responsible for rust-colored rocks, intermingled with layers tinted in yellow, orange and green

A hazy view of Split Mountain in the distance

Desert Voices Trail

Green River was the turnaround point for the Desert Voices Trail

Yes, it’s as steep as it looks

Desert Voices

Steve pushes a rock off the path – yeah, right!

Some of the thought-provoking plaques along Desert Voices Trail

This was a moderate hike, and happily we didn’t meet a single soul along the trail.  We were awed by the monument’s geologic diversity, colors and textures.  Because of the guidebook and plaques on this trail, we’re more aware of the many amazing changes that have occurred over millions of years, and the recent environmental changes surrounding us. We highly recommend this hike!

Moonshine  Arch Trail

This was another winner.  Hiking to an arch is always exciting, even one less spectacular than this one.  Moonshine Arch is one of Vernal’s best kept secrets, and we’re very happy that our friends John and Pam had done this hike in the past and recommended it.

It took us a couple of tries to find the trailhead, and we suggest using the map provided by the State Park – and the All Trails app if you have it.

Moonshine Arch

It was a short but quite strenuous hike to the arch.  I know, I know – a Jeep would have gotten us much closer!

Moonshine Arch

After huffing and puffing for a mile we got our first view of the arch

Steve scaled the arch and got this cool photo of us, his shadow on a rock and me below

Moonshine Arch

Moonshine Arch is large, at 85′ long and 40′ high

We played in and around passageways next to the arch

Jones Hole Trail

When our friend Hans noticed on Facebook that we were in Vernal, he immediately suggested an excellent hike – but it was 40 miles to the trailhead.  Hans and Lisa know a good hike when they do one, so after a bit of groaning by Steve we were on our way.  Wow, they weren’t kidding – just the drive to the trailhead at Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery was worth the trip!

An early drive on Diamond Plateau gave us a view of sagebrush fields with literally hundreds of deer grazing all around.  We had to slow down several times to avoid hitting them

Descending off the plateau, the scenery changed radically and we were gawking at massive cliff faces

The trail is in a remote and scenic part of Dinosaur National Monument that runs from Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery to the Green River.  It was an easy 8-mile round trip hike, changing only about 200′ in elevation.  The walls of the canyon towered almost 2,000′ overhead, giving us shade during much of our trek.

The trail begins at the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery – not much hatching going on today!

Jones Creek

Listening to rushing water during a hike is the best!  Is there a bathroom around here?

This is an awesome trail that offers so much – a scenic canyon, Fremont Indian archeological sites, a spur trail to a small waterfall, and a Bighorn Sheep sighting if you’re lucky – all while meandering along babbling Jones Creek until it joins with the Green River.  We loved it!

The steep cliffs gave us shade all morning

Clear rushing waters in Jones Creek

 Ely Waterfall

Touching the clear, cold water at Ely Waterfall

Petroglyphs (rock art) and Pictographs suggest that Fremont Indians hunted game here some 800 to 1200 years ago:

 

End of the trail where Jones Creek joins Green River.

Rafters/Kayakers taking a break at Jones Hole

On our way back, a splash of cold water kept me from overheating

We were ready to give up on seeing Bighorn Sheep, until we ran across a herd of them right along the trail and less than a mile from the trailhead where we had started!

Quite a few of them showed up to congratulate us on our successful hike!

Steve says the calorie count in my app is totally bogus – too low.  But what matters is the “high” you get after the hike, right?

Eagle Ridge Trail

On our final day at Steinaker State Park, we accessed the park’s Eagle Ridge Trail from the group camping area.  It followed the ridge and gave us great views all around, including a glimpse of Moonshine Arch, Hogback Ridge, Betsy in the campground, and almost empty Steinaker Reservoir.  It’s expected that the reservoir will be re-filled in Fall of 2019 after planned dam modifications are completed.

Now that we knew where Moonshine Arch was, it was easy to spot from Eagle Ridge

Steinaker Reservoir

Steinaker Reservoir is being emptied for planned repairs/upgrades

Steinaker State Park Campground with Betsy among the trees, do you see her behind the green cover?

That wraps up our one-week stay at Steinaker State Park.  It was hot and smoky, but we felt we had explored much more of the place where the Dinosaurs once roamed.

 

Note:  Now that we’ve settled in for a few weeks at Fruita, Colorado to wait for the Fall colors, I’m planning to refresh our blog site with a new theme (WordPress has retired my current theme).  It may take a while to get everything set up, but I’ll be re-joining the blogosphere as soon as possible.  See you then!

The Teton Range and a Fort – Jackson, Wyoming

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I like to pose at signs 🙂

It’s been eleven years since our last visit to Grand Teton National Park, and we looked forward to driving through again while we were relatively nearby.  Although the crowds and traffic tend to keep us away from the national parks we’ve already visited (we skipped Yellowstone this time), our early arrival kept the crowds away until the early afternoon when we were leaving.

Our last visit was in the springtime when the range was covered in snow, and we really enjoyed the new perspective this summer journey gave us.

Bison

Bison, one of the beloved locals of the area

We thought of adding a hike to our tour, but the 60-mile drive from our campground at Thayne put us past our usual start time.  Instead, we drove the scenic route counter-clockwise to experience the legendary beauty in a half-day visit.  The spectacular Teton Range with snow-capped spires thrust toward the sky is a beauty to behold from every angle!

In 2004, Steve and his pilot buddies flew over the jagged peaks of the Teton Range in a small plane

At the top of Lunch Tree Hill was a plaque commemorating John D. Rockefeller Jr., who created a controversy when he purchased “the entire Jackson Hole Valley” under a different business name in 1933.  His intent was to donate the land to the National Park Service to bolster the acreage of Grand Teton National Park.  While Rockefeller’s connection to the project was revealed during a hearing, the Grand Teton National Park vision was eventually realized in 1950 with the expansion of the park to include Jackson Hole.  The term “Hole” was used early on by fur trappers to describe high altitude plateaus surrounded by mountains.

Willow Flats

Searching for moose at Willow Flats overlook

Moose

As if on cue, mama and baby moose casually strolled out from some bushes for a photo op

Pausing at each overlook along the scenic route, the striking magnificent views and wildlife did not disappoint:

Herds of bison grazed with a spectacular backdrop

It wasn’t just bison causing traffic delays, the cowboys and ranchers have to get around too!

Pronghorn were active that day

We drove out to Colter Bay, where Grand Teton seemed to float on Jackson Lake:

Grand Teton on a clear, cloudless day at Colter Bay

Teton Glacier is the largest of the twelve named glaciers in the park

Mount Moran

Zooming in on Mount Moran, a distinctive dark basalt intrusion known as the Black Dike runs to the summit on the south side of the mountain

A great view of the range from the lobby of Jackson Lodge

By 1pm we couldn’t find a parking spot at Jenny Lake.  I jumped out of the car and snapped a picture of the Cathedral Group Towers above the lake:

Jenny Lake nestled at the mouth of glacially carved Cascade Canyon

I was too far away to get a good shot of a nesting Great Heron

During our first visit in 2007, Grand Teton was shrouded in clouds.  This time the weather was perfect to see the whole range on grandiose display.  Except for the very popular Jenny Lake at the end of our drive, the summer crowds weren’t too bad.

Teton Range

My Peak Finder app named the peaks correctly.  Mt. Moran is the one on the far right, looking taller since it was relatively close to us

On our way home we passed through the crowded and very touristy western town of Jackson.  I captured one of the four dense elkhorn antler arches guarding the corners of Town Square.  I preferred these over the larger one in Afton, Wyoming.

One of the four elkhorn arches in Jackson

At first, I was scared to think how many elk had been killed to gather the thousands of antlers!  But then I learned they simply fall off naturally from animals who grow new sets every year.  Each of these arches is a mosaic of 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of antlers and replaced every 30 to 40 years.

Heading south on Bridger Valley Historic Byway – formerly the California/Oregon Trail

Fort Bridger State Historic Site

We left Thayne the following day and drove 152 miles south to Fort Bridger, our last stop in Wyoming.  Right next door to our campground was the Fort Bridger Historic Site where we learned that Jim Bridger and his partner, Louis Vasquez, established Fort Bridger to service emigrant traffic in 1842.

Human imitating art!

One of the plaques advised that Jim Bridger, the discoverer of Great Salt Lake, was a notable pioneer, trapper, fur trader, scout and guide.  He’s been called America’s greatest frontiersman, so it’s no wonder a national forest has been named after him.

Taking a break at a replica of Jim Bridger’s fur trading outpost

The historic site maintains and interprets historic structures and remnants from its 5 eras of occupation, including Jim Bridgers trading outpost, mormons, military, milkbarn/motel, and now a museum.

One of the original stone barracks has been turned into a museum, with artifacts from different time periods in the fort’s history

Officers Row – The Army established a military post here in 1858, operational until its closure in 1890

Unusual officer’s lounging chairs

Black and Orange Garage Camp cabins

The Lincoln Highway drive-in garage cabins were built in 1929 and restored in 2009.  For $1 folks got a room with a garage, but the bathrooms were in a separate structure

Little did we know that the area where we camped – now known as Bridger Valley – served as a crossroads for the Oregon/California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Route, the Transcontinental Railroad and the Lincoln Highway.  We enjoyed the quiet campground, relaxing and learning some history at the same time.

Both of our stops in Wyoming, Thayne and Fort Bridger, led us off the beaten path to see a natural phenomenon and an historic site which used to be a major stopping point on the old west trails.

 

Next up:  Back to Utah for a week



 

A spring that breathes? – Afton, WY

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With scenic Idaho and its famous potatoes in our rearview mirror, we crossed into the northern part of Wyoming’s Star Valley for a 4-night stay in the little town of Thayne.  Our plan was to visit Grand Teton National Park (60 miles to the north) on a weekday during our stay, to avoid the busy weekends there.

While checking in, the RV park owner suggested we visit Intermittent Spring – also known as Periodic Spring – located near the town of Afton, some twenty miles south of Thayne.  It piqued our interest, as it happens to be one of only three springs of its kind in existence.

On our drive to the spring, we discovered that Afton’s other claim to fame is the “elkhorn arch” located there, evidently the largest in the the world!

We drove under the arch that spans the main street (Hwy 89) through town.  It’s 75′ wide, 18′ high and adorned by over 3,000 antlers.  Elkhorn arches are somewhat common in Wyoming, but this baby makes the more famous one in Jackson look tiny by comparison.

Intermittent Spring is about five miles east of town, at the end of a dirt road.  The scenic drive on the way there featured beautiful rocky ledges protruding from hillsides along the road:

From the parking lot we walked about 3/4 mile to access the spring, and our early arrival was rewarded with a peaceful trek devoid of other humanoids; we had the whole place to ourselves – just the way we like it 🙂

Fireweed lined the creek

The water from the spring flows 1/4 mile down the narrow-walled canyon to Swift Creek:

View from Swift Creek looking up toward the source

Imagine this water periodically stopping for 12-18 minutes

If not for the beautiful setting and soothing gurgling noise of the water we would have been disappointed, for it only flows intermittently beginning in late August and continuing through the winter.  During those months, the rare geological feature starts and stops the water’s flow every few minutes at regular intervals, a phenomenon thought to be caused by underground siphoning:

How the spring “breathes”

Unfortunately we could only imagine what it would be like to see the water flow stop, but this beautiful and relaxing place was totally worth the trip.

Intermittent Spring

The cement cap where Steve is sitting was placed over the mouth of the spring to prevent rocks and debris from falling into the water

This fascinating oddity is only known to occur in a couple of other places in the world, with Periodic Spring being the largest by far – a fact that Afton is very proud of.

Looking 1/4 mile down from the source of the spring

After taking pictures and enjoying the peaceful spring, we started back down and spotted the trailhead for Swift Creek Trail winding up the side of Swift Creek Canyon.  We hiked up 2.5 miles, enjoying another perspective of the spring from our high vantage point along the way.  We also crossed a hillside with a variety of wildflowers still in bloom – a bonus treat!

Intermittent Springs

Looking down at Intermittent Spring from Swift Creek Trail

A happy hiker!

This rock ledge reminded me of Angels Landing at Zion NP

The trail was a moderately difficult out and back affair, and we were happy that we crossed paths with only about a half-dozen folks along the way.

On our way back we noticed a lot of people heading toward the spring far below

Completing our hike, we were shocked to see a packed parking lot as dozens of people had arrived to visit this popular place.

Sherry, I use the “Pacer” app on my iPhone to track and record our hikes.  Steve prefers “Walkmeter

Betsy was snuggled in near a big tree at Flat Creek RV Park.  Definitely not a “resort”, but we really liked our site at this small park.

A Wyoming sunset over Salt River Mountain Range

 

Next up:  Revisiting Grand Teton



 

 

 

Small town, big mountains – Island Park, Idaho

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Heading out of Montana, we crossed the Continental Divide at Targhee Pass, excited to experience more of the beauty of Idaho.

We arrived at Henrys Lake State Park, located in the city of Island Park.  Scanning around the park as we entered, we were looking for Barney – the coach owned by Kevin and Laura of Chapter3 Travels.  You see, we had just learned that not only were they in the area, but they were already parked just a few spaces down from ours!  We’d previously met up with these fun folks in Tucson, so we knew good times were ahead!

Henrys Lake State Park

At Henrys Lake State Park, Betsy and Barney were practically neighbors

Each morning began with this view outside our windshield

Steve serves from a growler of stout beer we brought from Smelter City Brewing in Anaconda, MT

Henrys Lake SP is in the city of Island Park.  We learned that in the late 19th-century local stagecoach drivers would use natural clearings in the forest as rest areas for horses and passengers.  As businesses started popping up in these areas the drivers began calling them “parks”, and one of them became known as Island Park since it was surrounded on all sides by beautiful rivers, forests, waterfalls and lakes.

Alcohol turned the park into a city.  To circumvent Idaho’s liquor laws prohibiting the sale of booze outside city limits, businesses along the strip of U.S. 20 banded together and incorporated the city in 1947.  The current population of 272 living in the city that’s 500′ wide and 33 miles long have claimed that it has the longest “Main Street” in the world.

Can you spot the black bear?  Steve says it doesn’t count as a sighting, since I didn’t even notice it until I was reviewing the picture on my computer 🙂

Beautiful summer homes circle Henrys Lake

While following a hiking trail around and through the park, we noticed numerous insects fluttering around a carpet of flowers in the meadows:

Suddenly I noticed two groups of butterflies on the ground, attending what appeared to be a “poop party” on dried cow pies.  I’ll never think of butterflies the same way again!

Given the beautiful backdrop of mountains, lakes, rivers and forest, it’s no wonder this place was buzzing with all kinds of recreational activities.  Island Park is also only 20 minutes from West Yellowstone’s gate.  The proximity to Yellowstone explains the landscape here, for Island Park is situated within the 23-mile wide caldera of an extinct volcano, with its west rim visible along U.S. 20:

In the distance is the west rim of Henrys Fork Caldera, the remains of violent volcanic activity

Caldera Landscape

Description of the caldera landscape

The day of our arrival, we got together with Kevin and Laura to set up a hike for the next morning.  The 7.2 mile moderate trek went by quickly as we all chatted endlessly, and the girls had a field day photographing vibrant wildflowers in the dense meadow.  If there were any bears around they would have heard us coming from miles away!  The 9,000’+ elevation really wiped me out, but the company of great friends certainly made it all worthwhile.

Everyone looked pretty perky before we started!  Kevin and Laura had their bear spray holstered and ready

Camera overdrive on wildflowers!

I’ll never forget this meadow!

A photographer in wildflower heaven

Hubbies captured us as we captured our “same shoes” moment

We’re sporting the same Keen hiking shoes!

While Kevin and Laura were being captivated by wild and scenic Yellowstone National Park for several days, Steve and I explored nearby Harriman State Park and later drove the Mesa Scenic Byway and Teton Scenic Byway.  It once again confirmed what a truly wild and beautiful scenic area this is.

Harriman State Park

Once the site of the “Railroad Ranch,” Harriman SP is located on the Henrys Fork of the Snake River.  We followed several intersecting loop trails that led us past the preserved original buildings of the ranch, then continued on to meadows, lakes and forest.  We did run into mosquitoes in the forest area, which we haven’t had to deal with in a long time.

Harriman State Pa

He’s asking, “What’s not to like about this trail?”  He found out later when the ‘skeeters attacked!

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes calling their friends

Tundra Swans

Golden Lake is home to Tundra Swans

Moose

Bullwinkle having breakfast in Silver Lake

Another section of the huge caldera rim is visible across the park’s large meadow

I didn’t have to use my bear spray, but it would have been cool to see one from a distance

Mesa Falls Scenic Byway

At 114′ high for Upper Mesa Falls and 65′ for Lower Mesa Falls, we enjoyed a double-dose of waterfall adventure.  Both natural beauties cascade into the Snake River in a beautiful forest setting. They were the highlight of our drive along Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Lower Mesa Falls

Teton Scenic Byway

We drove Teton Scenic Byway through the backcountry of eastern Idaho, passing through agricultural communities while gawking at the western side of the Teton Range.  The sharp contrast of the mountains against the rolling fields of potatoes, wheat, barley and canola was a feast to the eyes.

Teton Mountain Range

Western side of the Teton Mountain Range

Seemingly endless miles of agricultural fields lined the byway

Before we went our separate ways, Kevin and Laura once again invited us to their home to savor another of Kevin’s creations.  We had them over for dinner one night as well, but I somehow forgot to take pictures as good conversation, laughter and fine wine flowed on into the evening!

Flank steak with excellent veggie fixings – yum!  Please invite us for dinner again!

Our final stop in eastern Idaho was at Ririe, where we camped at Juniper Campground.  This was a fitting final stop, since the region grows a great deal of Idaho’s potato crop.  This is where the state began its association with potatoes, leading to the “Famous Potatoes” slogan still embossed on their vehicle license plates.

Potato fields in full bloom

Other crops covered the rolling hills, including wheat, alfalfa, and all-important barley for beer 🙂

A wheat field at sunset

That wraps up our Idaho adventures for now. The state left us with lasting impressions and we already plan to return!

A last dance in Idaho, but we’ll be back!

 

Next up:  A spring that breathes?



 

Our northernmost point in 2018 – Montana

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Once in a while I like to look back and reminisce about where we were in our travels on certain dates, holidays or occasions.  Then I quiz my darling husband to see if he can remember, which he hates because he rarely answers correctly.  My memory is much better than his, and he admits that’s true 🙂

While writing this post I quizzed him on what was the farthest point north we were during each of the previous 6 years.  He failed miserably, but I remembered and decided to list them below. And if you like you can click on each link and see what we did on those stops and reminisce with me.

2012 – Fairbanks, Alaska

2013 – Prince Edward Island, Canada

2014 – Upper Peninsula, Michigan

2015 – Winnipeg, Manitoba

2016 – Edmonton, Alberta

2017 – Corrales, New Mexico

Our northernmost visit during 2018 is Missoula, MT.  To get there, we crisscrossed from Wallowa, OR along beautiful Rattlesnake Grade, which straddles the Oregon/Washington border.  I enjoyed taking pictures of the awesome views as Steve carefully guided Betsy along SR 129, a steep road that hugged tightly to verticle hillsides and wrapped around multiple gullies and ridges in 25 mph speed zones.

SR 129 twists back and forth for miles to traverse the elevation change of Rattlesnake Grade

We climbed back out of the canyon from where we started down way back there

Orofino, Idaho

Sticking to our rule of driving 200 miles or less per day, we touched 3 states on this drive – Oregon, Washington, and Idaho – before my handsome captain burned out from all the mountain driving.  We had booked two nights at Clearwater River RV Park as our rest stop.  The small town of Orofino is nestled in a valley bordered on one side by the historic Clearwater River (Lewis and Clark Trail) and the other by a 54-mile-long lake created by the Dworshak Dam.  And what a dam it is!

Ahhh, the river rushing by right behind our site was sooooo soothing!

We immediately noticed that Dworshak Dam wasn’t like the others we’ve toured.  It’s a straight-axis concrete gravity dam standing 717′ tall with a crest length crossing of 3,287′.  It’s the largest of its type ever constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a flood risk management project that was completed in 1973 after seven years of construction.

Dworshak Dam

Dworshak Dam is the highest straight-axis concrete gravity dam in North America

Steve and I were the only tourists on the first guided tour of the day.  We were taken down to a galley which runs about 3/4 of a mile through the entire dam.  Have you ever looked down a hallway that’s 3/4 of a mile long?  It’s an amazing experience, I’ll tell you that!

After walking only halfway down that galley we were guided to an excellent diorama that showed how the dam was built, then we went to the top of the structure for the walk back to the visitor center.  We learned that the COE also built a nearby National Fish Hatchery to offset the loss of natural spawning grounds for Chinook Salmon and Steelhead caused by the dam’s construction.

Missoula, Montana

Entering Missoula, we saw the unmistakable letter “M’ on the slopes of a mountain near the university.  I immediately blurted out that we had to hike to “the Mona Liza M”.  So, on a Monday, Mona Liza hiked to her M in Missoula, Montana!  The hike was short but strenuous, as we climbed 11 switchbacks while gaining 620′ of elevation.

We continued a ways above the “M” for great views of Missoula and the surrounding area

University of Montana

Looking down at the oval at the University of Montana

After the hike, we walked around the campus and looked up at where we had gotten our morning exercise:

Looking back up at the “M”” from the University of Montana oval

We love supporting local farmer’s markets, and Missoula had three of them.  Visiting the Clark Fork Market, I grabbed some pastries and delicious huckleberries to keep my sweet tooth appeased:

Hidden away in Missoula’s surrounding mountains are plenty of hiking opportunities, and we managed to tackle two of them.  We followed Ravine Creek Trail #34 from Lolo National Forest and Sawmill-Curry Gulch Loop Trail in the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area.  They were moderate hikes between 6-7 miles, and we enjoyed them both.

We were happy that we crossed paths with Donald and Gail of Winecoasters Blog, meeting up with them at Highlander Brew Co. for hours of RV’ing and travel stories.  We’re planning to get together with them again in Florida next January.  Thanks for the yummy pizza, we owe you one!

Steve with Donald and Gail

Arlee, Montana

One morning I visited a Buddhist garden of peace called the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas.  Located about 29 miles north of Missoula, it’s dedicated as an International Peace Center, open to all faiths to come and experience peace, enjoy the Montana outdoors, and learn about Tibetan Buddhism.  Click here to learn more about this interesting place.

The garden is a 750′ circular monument that sits on ten acres of rich natural land

The statuary is arranged in the formation of a “wheel of dharma”, meant to represent the “Noble Eightfold Path” which encompasses the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.  I followed a path in a clockwise direction to find peace along the way.  Unfortunately, “lawnmower man” was at work that day and he shattered my experience of peace and tranquility.  But I did find a variety of statues, ponds and vibrant flowers that created a nice contrast to the white buddhas and stupas with their inspirational quotations.

1000 Buddhas statute

Some of the 1,000 Buddha statutes

Somebody has to pose with the Old Man 🙂

Anaconda, Montana

Not far from Butte, our next stop was highlighted by a massive smelter stack on the side of a mountain.  At 585′, the old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack, completed in 1919, is one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world.

The top of the stack is 60′ across, big enough to drive a Jeep around in circles as was done for a commercial

On our first full day, we took a nice 6-mile hike at nearby Lost Creek State Park.  We trekked along a 3,000′ deep canyon with gray limestone cliffs and pink and white granite formations.

Not wanting to miss out on the brewery-rich environment here, we followed our hike with some excellent brews at Smelter City Brewing.  The beers were excellent, and the retro-rebuilt bar made it one of our favorites in a long time.  We just wished they served food, because after that hike I ate about 5 bowls of popcorn!

Philipsburg, Montana

Following a suggestion from the pourer at the brewery, we drove the Pintler Scenic Highway from Anaconda the next day to check out the restored mining town of Philipsburg.  The Hwy 1 scenic byway follows the northern shoreline of Georgetown Lake, a beautiful and busy mountain lake tucked away at the base of the Anaconda Range.

We loved the quaint little town of Philipsburg

Philipsburg is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a best-preserved late 19th century mining town.  Silver, Sapphire and Manganese mining led to its boom and growth, but now the economy is based on agriculture, logging and tourism.

Butte, Montana

We passed through Butte on our way to a hike at Thompson Park, and when we saw the town up on the hill we were intrigued.  We wanted to learn more, and what better way to do that than take a narrated trolley tour?   Butte was and still is a mining town.  In the late 1800s, it was deemed “the richest hill on earth”, thanks to the mining of gold, silver, and copper.  But it was copper that put this town on the map, as it produced a fourth of the world’s copper after three men emerged as “copper kings”.  Evidence of the massive mining operations remains, with many headframes standing over the tops of the 10,000 miles of underground excavations.

Butte, Montana

Obviously a major mining town, several shaft headframes dot the landscape

The town of Butte at the height of mining in the 1890s, note the many headframes

Unfortunately, Butte has more recently become infamous due to the unintended creation of a toxic lake known as the Berkeley Pit.  The closure of Kelly Mine, a former copper open-cast mine, gave rise to a “lake” that turned into a nasty toxic and highly acidic cocktail of heavy metal and hazardous chemicals.  In 1995, and again in 2016, thousands of Snow Geese died when they made a stopover at the pit on their southward migration.

The pit now has a 24-hour birdwatch program to prevent birds from landing in the water. Click here for an interesting article about their bird deterring efforts.   Along with the upper Clark Fork River headwaters at Butte, the pit has been declared a superfund site due to its highly contaminated groundwater, surface water and soil.

Berkeley Pit

Entrance to the tunnel that leads to the Berkeley Pit overlook

Berkeley Pit

The Berkeley Pit is a mile long and a half-mile wide, and over 1,780′ deep.  What a mess!

At the World Museum of Mining, we enjoyed touring and exploring a town’s mining legacy through a mock-up of a Wild West frontier mining town of the 1880’s.  Built around the original 100′ tall headframe of the former Orphan Girl Mine, the various displays showed the technological and social history of mining focused on dozens of mines in the Butte area.  Steve enjoyed this tour a bit more than I did – it must be a guy thing!

On the guided underground mine tour we were told about a fiery disaster in one mine that killed 166 miners in 1917.  We also learned that thousands of mules played a major role in getting ore from the mines, living and working underground their entire lives.

Unrelated to mining, we saw the Our Lady of the Rockies statue standing 3,500′ above Butte on the Continental Divide.

The 90′ tall Our Lady of the Rockies statue stands watch over Butte

We found Butte to be a very interesting city, well worth spending some time to poke around in.  While we wouldn’t want to live there, its history and unique mining history make it an interesting and worthwhile stop.

Final sunset for us in Montana – so long!

That wraps up our visit to quaint and historic towns in beautiful Montana!

 

Next up:  Back to Idaho!



 

Discovering the “Alps of Oregon ” prt. 2 – Wallowa County, OR

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This is the second of a 2-part series covering our fabulous week in Wallowa County, OR.  You can check out part 1 here.

Day 4- Mountain High on the Wallowa Lake Tram

During our six+ years of travel, we’ve always tried to partake in activities that give us a unique perspective on the area we’re visiting.  One of those activities is riding trams to mountaintops where we can experience the majesty of the surrounding area.  We had an opportunity to do just that here in Joseph, as we rode the Wallowa Lake Tramway up to the 8,000′ peak of Mt. Howard.  It was a fourteen-minute trip up in what the operators claim is the steepest four-person gondola ride in North America.

Once at the top we followed all of the available hiking trails. It added up to only 3.5 miles, but a couple of them led us to fantastic views of the valley below, mountains flanked by glacial cirques, canyons, the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho.

This cute little greeter at the summit came up hoping for a treat!

Looking down at the town of Joseph

Wallowa Lake is a textbook example of a glacial lake, with its perfect 900′ lateral and terminal moraines

Hurwal Divide

One trail led to Hurwal Divide (in the foreground)

At Royal Purple Overlook with the Wallowas as the background

Joseph, OR

Patches of farms and ranches in the valley

Day 5- Hiking Hurricane Creek Trail

Hurricane Creek Trail takes hikers deep into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.  It’s popular and heavily trafficked by people who just want to hike in a ways and turn around.  That’s what we did, going about 3.5 miles before turning back, and enjoying the sounds from the roaring creek as we wandered along.  The trail twisted through forest before entering wildflower-filled meadows and mountain peaks.

Should I jump on the end of the log?

Tall pine trees lined the trail

Sacajawea Peak is Wallowa’s highest peak at 9,839′

Hurricane Creek

After 3 miles and 760′ of elevation gain, we found Dead Man Falls surrounded by beautiful mountains at the edge of a meadow

Spreckled along the trail were these vibrant wildflowers.

Excellent background music during lunch!

A cold brew is always welcome after a long hike – especially at Terminal Gravity

Day 6 – From Canyons to Prairie

Another must do here, especially during the wildflower bloom, is a drive to Zumwalt Prairie Preserve.  It encompasses 33,000 acres and is part of the largest remaining intact Pacific Northwest Bunchgrass prairie in North America.  Luckily we came at the right time, as the hills were carpeted with all kinds and hues of wildflowers.

Yellow was the dominant color on the prairie, but these beauties added some contrast and begged to be photographed:

I don’t think the ticks can get me up here!

The Wallowas gleamed in the sun as we headed home

Day 7 – Nez Perce Homeland Hike

At Wallowa River RV Park, Betsy faced an open field and basalt ridges.  We had noticed a switchback trail leading up the ridges to grassy upland at the top, and we vowed to hike it before moving on.  Finally on our last day we put the boots back on and headed out from our site.

Purple Vetch

Purple Vetch carpeted the hillside

It was during this trek that we discovered we were hiking on a 320-acre piece of Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland.  The 4-mile trail led to a summit called Tick Hill, which inspired us to stomp our feet and check our clothes even more often than usual  😉

One of several bronze interpretive plaques placed along the trail

Once on top, we soaked up the views of Wallowa Valley and our RV Park at the end of town below.  As we followed the trail we learned that the Nez Perce name for this place is “Tamkaliks”, meaning “From where you can see the mountains.”  The natural vistas were quite impressive!

Looking down at our RV Park, we saw Betsy in the middle of the front row

Goodbye, Wallowa!

We were glad we’d gotten this hike in before leaving.  The trail was moderate, and a great way to see the blooming wildflowers up close.  We didn’t find any ticks on ourselves when we got home, but to be sure we wasted no time in shaking out the backpacks and shedding our clothes before immediate showers.

Map of Wallowa County (courtesy of Wallowalogy)

And that wraps up our exhilarating week at Wallowa County.  The map above shows how encompassing the county is, with so many activities available.  As usual, we had to prioritize things we wanted to do, leaving some for another time.  We enjoyed every minute of our stay, despite the daily “commute” to most destinations.

A picture-perfect farm scene

Breathtaking vistas, off-the-beaten-path gems and friendly laid back rural folks filled our days with a wonderful northeastern Oregon experience.  Whether or not we ever make it to the Swiss Alps, we had a great time at the Alps of Oregon.  The Wallowas is definitely one of the most scenic areas in the northwest we’ve set eyes on!

 

Next up:  Revisiting a slice of Montana



 

 

 

 

Discovering the “Alps of Oregon”, prt. 1 – Wallowa County,OR

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From Idaho we crossed into the far northeast corner of Oregon, with our sights set on the towns of Wallowa County – Joseph, Enterprise, Lostine, and Wallowa.  When making our reservations in January we wanted to stay in the small town of Joseph, about which we’d heard great things.  But apparently a lot of other folks had heard great things before we had, so with everything booked up there we ended up at Wallowa River RV Park in the little town of Wallowa.

Although it meant we had to drive at least 25 miles to enjoy most activities in the area, our “commute” included Wallowa Valley, beautiful farmland, cool barns and wide-open skies – all against the backdrop of the jagged Wallowa Mountains.

The Wallowa Range has been dubbed the “Swiss Alps of Oregon”.  Although we haven’t made it to Switzerland yet, we’ve seen pictures and could understand the comparison while driving along I-82.  The range resides in the Nez Perce region (meaning “land of running waters”), and is home to 17 mountains that eclipse 9,000′.  The Eagle Cap Wilderness features almost 360,000 acres of alpine peaks, meadows and lakes in the heart of what’s known as the Oregon Alps.

The Wallowa Mountain Range stretches 40 miles

Charming old and new barns dot the valleys

With so many things to see and do, our one-week visit had us on the move every day.  That prompted me to divide our stay into two parts, sharing what we did each day of our stay.  Besides, I took more than enough pictures to fill several posts!

If Betsy had a “windshield cam” this is what it would show from our site

Day 1 – A look at Joseph

When we arrive at a new destination, we usually just chill out and research what we’re going to do during our stay.  But here we already had lots of ideas from Wheelingit‘s 4-part series and Raven and Chickadee‘s post, so we were already off to a good start.  Minutes after completing our setup we drove to Joseph to discover what the allure of this little town nestled at the base of the Wallowa Mountains was all about.

OK, we like this place already!

The town of Joseph is named after elder Chief Joseph, who was an esteemed leader of a band of the Nez Perce Tribe.  We strolled through downtown in just a few minutes – it’s that small.  So many things captured our eyes; life-size bronze sculptures, hanging flower baskets lining the streets and art studios all around.  Although full of tourists, the vibe we got was simply of a small-town with many activities available nearby.

Chief Joseph stood smack in the center of town with his namesake mountain towering beyond

After ogling the many bronze statues adorning town, my body was gravitationally pulled through the front door of Arrowhead Chocolates – resistance was futile!  Steve enjoyed a cup of delicious spicy Mexican Coffee, while I drooled over a decadent spicy Mexican Mocha…heaven!

Day 2 – Maxwell Lake, or not!

We quickly learned that most trails in the Wallowas are long and steep, and access to them is via dusty gravel roads.  On our second day we opted to tackle the Maxwell Lake trail, nestled in a bowl of granite mountains.  It began with a series of switchbacks for about three miles, then abruptly turned into a steep incline.  The trail lead into fairly deep snow, and we eventually figured out that the lack of prior footprints meant we were done for the day.  So we didn’t actually make it to the alpine lake, but we did get an excellent workout on a beautiful 9-mile roundtrip trek with a 2,500′ elevation gain.

Day 3 – Hell ain’t a bad place to be

Getting up super-early, we packed lunch, topped off our fuel, and headed toward the long dusty road to hell.  Hell’s Canyon, that is!

Hat Point Overlook

Our destination was Hat Point Lookout

The first 30 miles were on asphalt, Hwy 350 from Joseph to the tiny town of Imnaha.  The fantastic hillsides along the way did not disappoint:

The unique layered canyon walls along Hwy 350

The gravel road began at “downtown” Imnaha, and we followed the steep (up to 16% grade) and sometimes single-lane road for about 6 miles.  This was the most challenging section, but definitely do-able with a standard-height 2-wheel drive vehicle.  After that it was a fairly easy jaunt on a well-maintained forest gravel road for the next 18 miles to Hat Point Overlook.  The views along the entire drive were stunning, with wildflowers coloring the hillsides as a bonus!

Hat Point Drive

This section was the most challenging part of the trip, slow and steady did the trick

Hat Point Drive

At Five-mile Overlook – Imnaha Canyon drainage

Wallow Mountain

The Wallowas seemed to be floating

Imnaha Canyon

Imnaha Canyon as seen from Granny Viewpoint is northeastern Oregon’s second largest Canyon

The hillsides were alive with colorful flowers, my camera was in overdrive!

So hard to pick where to stop for lunch!

At Hat Point Overlook we saw a vast swath of Oregon and Idaho at the deepest river-carved gorge in the U.S.  Created by the Snake River, Hells Canyon plunges more than a mile below Oregon’s west rim, and 8,000′ below snowcapped He Devil Peak of Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains.

Illustration showing how Hells Canyon is deeper than Grand Canyon

And what a view!  The Seven Devils Mountains across the Snake River in Idaho rise to 9,300′, making the depth of the gorge nearly 8,000′.  According to the NFS, the canyon was created from uplifting deep in the earth’s core that formed the Seven Devils and Eagle Cap Mountains, a process that continues today. The canyon itself is a result of both uplifting and erosion by the river.

Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho

The Snake River marks the state line between Idaho and Oregon.  There’s no way to convey the vastness this picture shows – you must be here!

The layered canyon walls are striking

Hat Point Lookout

We climbed the 82′ tall Fire Tower for more views from the top.  Can you see me?

Now this is lunch with a view!

It was a long day of driving and gawking at the incredible canyons and wildflowers, and the effort was definitely well worth it.  If you ever visit Joseph or this part of northeastern Oregon it would be a shame to miss it.

One final look at hell?  We don’t think so!

 

Next up:  A Fabulous Week, pt 2



 

Back to Civilization – Hanging out in Boise, Idaho

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Leaving beautiful Stanley behind, we headed down, down, down the rugged mountains to Garden City, just a few miles outside of Boise.  Steve was totally focused on driving Betsy as I enjoyed the scenery along the Ponderosa Scenic Byway, Wild Canyon Scenic Byway and the Payette River Scenic Byway.  The 130-mile drive took us from an elevation of 6,253′ in Stanley to 2,566′ at our destination- the airbed mattress was totally flat when we arrived 🙂

Steve hates missing the gorgeous scenery on challenging drives like this one

After a week of feasting our eyes on stunning natural scenery, we shifted gears to check out some man-made creations.  Garden City, Idaho is only a few miles west of Boise, the state capital.  What do we do when in a capital city?  Tour their capitol building!

Our interest in touring capitol buildings began when we were very impressed while touring the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka.  Since then we’ve made it a point to visit other capitol buildings when we can, including the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln and the North Dakota State Capitol in Bizmark. And they were all impressive.

 

Beautiful faux marble columns support the rotunda

The Idaho State Capitol was constructed in 1905, and a recent restoration,preservation and rehabilitation led to its rededication in 2010.

Looking way up at the interior of the dome

Boise’s capitol building was deserted when we arrived on a Sunday morning, so we enjoyed the quiet until we heard screaming from a toddler echoing through the building a while later.  It’s bothersome enough to hear that outdoors, but inside a cavernous building it can make you want to tear your hair out!  Don’t get me wrong, I like kids – I have more than 2 dozen nieces and nephews.  But in a situation like this I got a bit cranky – but I digress 😦

Gov. Otter, may I have a word?  Hello?

House chamber holds 70 members

Looking out at Capitol Boulevard toward downtown

Idaho State Capitol, the only one in the U.S. heated by geothermal water

Leaving the government building behind, we walked a few blocks to see another of man’s creations known as Freak Alley of Boise, Idaho.  It runs west between 8th and 9th streets, and has been re-decorated constantly since 2002.  Walking through the alley we saw a range of painting styles, abstract art and graffiti-like images.  We’ve seen similar use of spaces that have being transformed into unusual urban attractions.  As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Meandering along the wet city streets, our thoughts turned to quenching our thirst via some handcrafted Idaho beers.  Locals we talked with were happy to tell us about their favorite brews, and we listened intently while taking copious notes.  We were able to visit three breweries within the city, and we both enjoyed at least one beer at 10 Barrel Brewing, Barbarian Brewing and Cloud Nine Brewery.

Steve and I have different tastes in beer; he likes stouts and porters, while I go for the lighter Hefeweizens and wheat beers.  But for once at Cloud Nine Brewery we both enjoyed the same beer – The Salted Caramel Stout – agreeing it was flavorful and delicious.

We camped at Hi Valley RV Park north of Boise, in close proximity to the Ridge to River network, 190 miles of trails in the Boise Foothills.  After replenishing supplies, completing household chores, ticking items off Betsy’s to-do list, and exploring the city it was time to head for the hills.

With dozens of trails to choose from, we settled on three – Spring Valley Creek, Hulls Gulch and Polecat Loop.  They were all moderate and followed numerous finger ridges with decent ups and downs.  We enjoyed great views of the Boise Ridgeline, Treasure Valley and the city skyline.

Looking down at the creek trail we had just completed

Hey there, where do you think you’re going?  I Hope Steve remembered his cow spray!

Steve interrupted the Deer’s peaceful breakfast

Boise skyline

These were really fun hikes, mostly in open space.  Good to start early after applying the sunblock and hat…

Along the trails, several bugs and wildflowers caught our attention:

I caught sight of a few Sagebrush Mariposa Lilies showing off their tulip-like flowers

Syringa Flowers (Idaho’s state flower) were blooming profusely

It must have been breeding season, as we heard several Lazuli Buntings singing from the shrubs.  Hearing them and the Meadowlarks made the hikes even more delightful.  Wildflowers, birds, bugs and beautiful views were the highlights of our treks.

Isn’t he handsome? – Lazuli Bunting

In less than a week we had gotten some good vibes from Boise and its suburbs – maybe a contender as a place we’ll settle down one day?

 

Next up:  A fabulous week in the Wallowas!



 

Stunning and Scenic Stanley, Idaho

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All the hype we’d heard about Stanley, Idaho turned out to be absolutely true – and then some!  We spent a fabulous week experiencing its unforgettable stunning scenery, breathing its crisp clean air and enjoying its unspoiled landscapes.  And frankly, we couldn’t get enough of those mountain views.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Cruising Sawtooth Scenic Byway, toward the base of towering mountain peaks

Betsy got a good workout as we headed along the Sawtooth Scenic Byway (Hwy 75).  We drove through sagebrush valleys to the heart of Sawtooth National Forest, and climbed up and over the high mountain pass of Galena Summit at 8,701′.  Then down we went into Sawtooth Valley, which is the headwaters of the Salmon River (the River of No Return).  We stopped at an overlook and were treated to panoramic views of the still snow-capped Sawtooth Mountains with lush Sawtooth Valley below:

Sawtooth Mountains

First glimpse of the Sawtooth Mountains from an overlook

At the base of the Sawtooth Mountains lies the tiny town of Stanley, home to less than 100 permanent residents.  It’s also at the intersection of three very picturesque scenic byway routes: Ponderosa Pine Highway (Hwy 21 from Boise), Salmon River Highway (75N and 93 from Montana) and Sawtooth Highway (75S from Shoshone).

Approaching the town from either direction, a jaw-dropping view of those jagged Sawtooth Mountains unfolds before you, the gorgeous landscape that is the wilderness area of Sawtooth National Forest.

Dramatic skyline over Stanley and Lower Stanley

The visitor center host told us she’s one of the hardy souls living here year round.  Even if it is one of the coldest places in the U.S. outside of Alaska, she believes Stanley is the greatest place to live in Idaho.  It’s hard to argue after seeing the area, but no way could I tolerate the mind-blowing winters here!

Conversely, the mild summers host a tourist season that peaks in July, and our June 6-13 visit enabled us to miss the big crowds while enduring reasonable weather swings.

Stanley, Idaho

Chilling at Mountain Village, but no jacket required on this day!

Our first 3 nights were spent dry camping at beautiful Sockeye Campground on Redfish Lake, where sites are first-come, first-serve. The campground is situated in a lodgepole pine forest, where it was very quiet when generators weren’t running – including ours.  We hated interrupting the serenity by using it for hours every day, but with a residential refrigerator and no solar panels we didn’t have a choice.

We loved our spacious site with a large sitting area

Most of you know we always hike early in the morning, but the need to recharge our batteries got us off to late starts here.  While Steve handled the recharging, I was in full photographic bliss at Redfish Lake as the sun rose.  I wish all mornings could be like this – calm, tranquil and so beautiful!

Catching the alpenglow of the Sawtooth Mountains, thanks to Nina of WheelingIt for the tip on where to get the best shots!

The still waters of Redfish Lake

Several trailheads were within walking distance of our site, making the hikes super convenient.  First we tackled Redfish Ridge Trail, a beautiful but steep trek along a moraine crest through Douglas Fir forests.  It offered awesome views of Thompson Peak, White Clouds and Grand Mogul massifs.  We weren’t equipped to complete the entire loop around the lake, so we turned back after 4 miles to make it an 8-mile roundtrip.

Next we followed the popular Fish Hook Creek Trail, a 5-mile roundtrip hike.  It was a dreary day as we meandered across a meadow and along the fast-moving creek under a canopy of pine trees:

Our next Stanley stop was at at Elk Mountain RV “Resort”, a short and scenic 12-mile drive for Betsy.  More and more RV parks are calling themselves resorts, making the term meaningless – this one was more like a storage facility!  But it did have very friendly tenants and a tiny laundry room with free machines, so we’ll overlook it this time 😉

From our gorgeous and spacious site at Sockeye Campground to this!

Folks here were so friendly that when our neighbor saw me with a dangling camera he urged us to take a scenic drive on the Nip and Tuck Road for another perspective of the imposing jagged mountains.  We made the drive, but only after taking a wrong turn onto a county road.  We finally figured out our error, enjoying a beautiful drive in blissful ignorance.  After turning around we got back on track as a Western Tanager and a Red Crossbill watched the lost humans with curiosity:

The Pronghorns were curious as well

Stanley’s proximity to Sawtooth National Forest makes it a recreational paradise in central Idaho, and with over 2,000 miles of trails to choose from we were in hiking heaven.  It also sits on the banks of the Salmon River, and Steve mentioned that a rafting trip might be in order.  But the cold mornings and frigid river curbed our enthusiasm, and instead we strapped our hiking boot back on to explore 2 more trails – Bridal Veil Falls and Iron Creek.

Our hike to Bridal Veil began in fog and light snow flurries.  Then after 3 miles an obstacle came into view – no way could we cross the deep and fast-flowing waters of swollen Stanley Creek.  So after confirming there was no other way to cross the creek from where we were, we headed back while telling other hikers the bad news on our way 😦

We caught sight of a Badger on our way back – only the second one we’ve seen…

Badger

This guy was playing hide and seek with us before finally running off

…and wildflowers too!

We just had to hike the moderate but long Iron Creek Trail, which lead us to 2 glacial lakes – partially frozen Sawtooth Lake, and Alpine Lake which had already thawed.  We climbed over 1,760′ in 5 miles up to Sawtooth Lake at 8,435′ and played in the snow as we enjoyed our lunch.  The beautiful views there and the overlook of Alpine Lake on our return trip made the 10 miles of huffing and puffing worth it!

Getting a close-up view of jagged granite peaks

We hit the snow line at around 7,600′

Partially frozen Sawtooth Lake

Looking down at thawed out Alpine Lake – it brought back memories of Alaska!

The little town of Stanley from far above

On another day we drove to the Yankee Fork Historic Area off the Salmon Scenic Byway.  It’s an area that was established in 1990 to preserve and interpret the rich mining heritage of Central Idaho.

It was snowing lightly when we reached the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge

The four-level Yankee Fork dredge floated for miles as it extracted gold and silver from the river bed

Six miles of dredge piles are preserved as evidence of Idaho’s mining heritage

An informational plaque taught us that these peaks were once molten rock under the earth’s surface.  Through slow cooling they became granite, and tremendous forces later thrust the rock through earth’s surface.  Erosion and glaciers exposed and shaped what we see today, jagged peaks that inspired the name Sawtooth Mountains.

Our wonderful week in Stanley had come to an end far too quickly.  The weather while we were here was a mixture of warm and cold, sun and clouds, light snow and rain.  But it didn’t hamper our activities; we had fun scheduling outings around the next day’s conditions.

Salmon River passes by Stanley

As is usual in our lifestyle, upcoming reservations and the need to replenish supplies urged us to move on.  Leaving the area, we posed Betsy in front of the incredible mountains as we took a few last breaths of the amazing mountain air.  We agreed that we’ll always have special memories of this magnificent place.

Goodbye, Sawtooth Mountains!

If you haven’t done it yet, try to make Stanley a summer destination – you won’t regret it!

 

Next up:  Back to civilization…