Ice Caves, Cows, Camas, and Cinder Cones – Southern Idaho

Ice Cave

During our six years of travels we’ve never been inside an Ice Cave, and we certainly didn’t expect to find one in the Idaho desert.  So when we discovered that Shoshone Ice Cave was right on the way to our next stop, we weren’t going to miss it.  The place has a huge parking lot, even big enough for Betsy with the car attached!  She was well watched as we went inside for our guided tour.

A caveman riding a dinosaur?  This was an interesting place!

With time to kill before our guided tour began, we perused the small museum to learn a few interesting tidbits about the cave.  The photo below especially caught my attention – ice skating inside an ice cave!

Vintage photo of ice skating inside the cave in the 40’s

During the tour, Garret, our young tour guide told us that this natural ice chest had been used to advantage by early settlers, and it was the only place within hundreds of miles folks could get a cold beer at the time.  Years later it became well known, and like many things it was abused by man as all of the ice was removed and shipped throughout the area for refrigeration purposes.  As this was done, the front of the cave was opened up and the critical airflow needed to produce ice was destroyed.

Coming to the rescue was Russel Robinson, who bought the land in the 1950’s.  He researched air flow patterns through the cave and re-sealed the entrance to restore the natural environment inside. After several years the ice was restored, and the cave was opened for guided tours.

Heading down to the cave entrance

We were advised to bring a light jacket, as the temperature inside the lava cave remains constant at 28º.  It was a fairly short tour, and macho Garret sported a T-shirt as he pointed out various features and facts about the amazing place.

The ice here is formed as super-cold air flows through as water trickles in.  Some water is pumped out to keep the cave from completely filling with ice

Russel Robinson’s legacy was patience and hard work, as he restored this unique spot in the Idaho desert – pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  It was not a grandiose cave like others we’ve visited, but it was definitely unique and worth the stop.  If you’re ever driving on I-75 between Twin Falls and Sun Valley you may want to check it out – especially if it’s a hot day!

Cows and Camas Lilies

A spring attraction that caught my interest was seeing the Camas Lilies in full bloom. Whenever we’re close to wildlife sanctuaries, prairies or flower fields, I’m all over it (usually without Steve, as he happily hands over the car keys).  So with my camera in tow, I drove to the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh located in Fairfield, Idaho.  On the way there I found my answer to the question, “Where’s the beef?”

The cowboy signaled me to go ahead, but these guys weren’t cooperating!
Driving slowly and trying to scare them out of the way, it took me 15 minutes to reach the main road

A festival is held in Fairfield to celebrate the annual “Big Bloom” of the Camas Lilies, which occurs throughout the month of May.  The Camas Prairie here runs along both sides of Highway 20 and is about 15 miles long, but for the best viewing I continued further to the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh.  For thousands of years, these same plants sustained Native Americans living in the area.

I love being greeted by my feathered friends whenever I visit one of their habitats

Well, my doubts were confirmed – I was a bit late and past the peak bloom.  I missed the blanket of blue in the valley that I was hoping for, but was happy that I’d brought my telephoto zoom lens.  Most of the remaining blooming lilies were a long way from the road, but I enjoyed my photography session as the songbirds and ducks kept me company.  It was quiet and peaceful as the breeze rustled through the prairie grass.

Camas roots were collected by Native American women and used to make bread
Camas Lily
Native Americans also used Camas Lilies extensively for medicinal purposes
Camas Centennial Marsh
A glimmer of blues in the Marsh
A lone Pronghorn had more food than it knew what to do with

Cinder Cones and Craters

To complete my “C” themed post, we spent a half day visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  What we saw there brought to mind the volcanic havoc underway in Hawaii.  Many of the plaques along the walkways referred to the Kilauea volcano while describing what we were looking at.

Steve surveying an ocean of rock

Geologists have found that although the craters here are volcanic in nature, it was not a volcano that created this moonscape.  Rather, it resulted from several eruptions originating from a series of deep fissures known collectively as the Great Rift that crosses the Snake River Plain.  Eruptions from deep cracks in the earth forced lava up to create cinder cones, spatter cones and lava tube caves.  The most recent eruption was only 2,000 years ago.

Climbing up the short but steep Inferno Cone
From the top of Inferno Cone we could see cinder cones lined up along the Great Rift.  In the foreground are blooming Purple Phacelia

We followed the 7-mile loop road that took us around various volcanic features:

We were amazed that while seemingly barren, the lava fields have become islands of vegetation, and we’d arrived during the annual wildflower blooms.  These plants have adapted to the harsh environment and we noticed they grow close to the ground to resist losing moisture from the heat and wind.

And the star of the moonscape was the Dwarf Monkeyflowers that painted the lava fields in a sea of pink:

Dwarf Monkeyflowers added color to the otherwise black cinder beds
Dwarf Monkeyflowers and Dwarf Buckwheats appear to be planted with equal spacing due to competition for water

Being here during the wildflower bloom enhanced our appreciation of the barren landscape.  But according to biologist Richard J. Vogl, “What you see depends mainly on what you look for.”

We climbed out of the Indian Lava Tube unscathed

 



 

Magic Valley – Filer, ID

We’re in Idaho again – Yay!

In Sept of 2016, Idaho became the 49th and final state we entered, achieving our goal of visiting every state and adding the last one to our map.  Back then we got a taste of Idaho’s natural beauty while camped at Coeur d’Alene up north, but we were excited to be back now to see much more of the state.

Our home base was in Filer, at Twin Falls County Fairground RV Park, and we were happy to have the quiet place practically to ourselves.

After several stops at noisy and busy parks, this was more like it!

Magic Valley was constantly mentioned in the local weather forecasts, and we realized we were in Magic Valley.  But what’s so magical about this area?  Siri advised me that we were camped in one of the 8 southern Idaho counties that comprise Magic Valley.  It was named after the early settlers who built dams and irrigation canals along the Snake River to create productive farmland and towns that seemed to magically spring up out of nowhere on the sagebrush-covered southern Idaho desert.

Farmland in Hagerman Valley, they must have just harvested the famous potatoes here

The Snake River is in the heart of this region, and what the early settlers built also resulted in the reservoirs becoming recreation havens.  The river cut through ancient basalt lava flows, forming the Snake River Canyon which is a mile wide and 500′ deep in some spots. What’s so unique and special about this rugged canyon are the numerous waterfalls pouring out of its sheer basalt walls, creating a dramatic background that extends for more than 50 miles.

Close-up view of one of many springs that push huge amounts of water off volcanic cliff faces

It was along Thousand Springs Scenic Byway from Hagerman up north to Twin Falls that we saw dozens of these springs/waterfalls surging over the canyon walls.  We also noticed a mix of geological features resulting from the Bonneville Flood, along with miles of beautiful rural farmland.  It actually was kind of magical!

These partly rounded basalt boulders were deposited in Hagerman after bouncing along the Snake River during the Bonneville Flood.  They’re called Melon Gravels
Tall basalt cliffs and a nearly dry waterfall

The valley around Hagerman contains the largest concentration of horse fossils in North America.  It’s being protected by the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument because it holds the world’s richest known fossil deposits from a time period called the late Pliocene epoch – about 3 to 4 million years ago.

Had the visitor center been open, I would have learned more about the area’s history and paleontology.  But I had to settle for this photo of the monument from the Snake River Overlook:

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument from across the Snake River

Twin Falls sits on the south rim of the Snake River, the largest city in Magic Valley.  It’s also known as Idaho’s own “City of Waterfalls”, from the broad crashing waters of Shoshone Falls to the smaller rapids along its outskirts.  The best way to enjoy the panoramic views and interesting facts of the canyon is to follow the 10-mile Canyon Rim Trail.

We did it in two walks; first going east from the visitor center to Evel Knievel’s historic jump site, and on another day walking from a parking lot to the west of the visitor center back to the bridge.  Then we walked both ways across the Perrine Bridge before visiting Centennial Park at the bottom of the canyon.

What I learned as we gazed into the deep, scenic canyon is that Snake River Canyon was actually sculpted and shaped when Utah’s Lake Bonneville overflowed about 17,500 years ago.  It was one of the largest floods to ever occur on Earth.  The 70 mile-per-hour deluge plucked huge boulders from the basalt cliffs and gouged out channels along the canyon floor.

An unnamed waterfall on the canyon wall
Pillar Falls in part of the rapids
Shoshone waterfall
Lunch with a view of Shoshone Falls

It was here in 1974 that Evel Knievel unsuccessfully attempted to jump across the Snake River Canyon in his Skycycle X-2 rocket.  The dirt ramp built for that jump is still here, and we stood on it while marveling at the scope of the stunt.

The hill that Evel Kneivel built
Steve remembers the event and was happy the ramp is still here

Perrine Bridge spans the canyon nearly 500′ above the Snake River, and is a hot spot for base jumpers from around the world.  It’s the only location in the U.S. open to legal BASE jumping year-round.  We saw many jumpers preparing during our visit, but never actually saw any of them take the plunge.

We walked across Perrine Bridge, can you spot the kayaker way down there?
Here’s what the BASE jumpers see as they jump.  I don’t think so!
A kayaker approaches the canyon wall
Perrine Bridge
The bridge was the highest in the world in 1927, at 476′ above the river

On the day we followed the path from the west end parking lot toward the visitor center, we passed through residential areas with gorgeous canyon views.  It was unusual to see the Canyon Springs Golf Course and Blue Lakes Country Club down there at the bottom of the canyon.

Winding Snake River
Canyon Springs Golf Course looked beautiful from above
Perrine-Coulee waterfall viewed from the path
View of the south side of the canyon from the north end of the bridge
Touching the water, one of my rituals!
Steve cooling off behind the Perrine-Coulee Waterfall

To complete our visit in Magic Valley we drove east of the Snake River to see two waterfalls that were created as a result of the Bonneville Flood.  Our first stop was to see the namesake of the city, Twin Falls, which was named when there were originally two parallel falls on the river.

An old photo of Twin Falls shows two separate falls before the powerhouse was built (the shadows are from the protective railings)

The power plant was built on one side of the falls, and Twin Falls Dam altered the falls by diverting the flow of the Snake River into a single waterfall.

Twin Falls with the power plant on the right side

The premiere attraction of Magic Valley is what is being claimed as the Niagara of the West, Shoshone Falls.  Having been to Niagara Falls, we were intrigued with the reference and pretty darned impressed.  Shoshone Falls is 36′ taller than Niagara Falls, with a 212′ drop that cascades over a broad series of rocks. Because we visited here during spring with high water flows from snowmelt, the tremendous volume of water lived up to its nickname.

That house on top of the cliff has a million dollar view of the falls for sure!
A double rainbow at Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls
That’s a beauty

Our first stop in Idaho was definitely impressive.  The Snake River, the vast rural farmland and the dramatic Snake River Canyon made Magic Valley a great place to visit!

 



 

Celebrating Milestones- Coeur d’Alene, ID

We did it!

We had several reasons to be excited as we crossed the U.S border into Idaho, although the weather gods weren’t as enthusiastic.  We hunkered down overnight at a small RV park 4 miles from the border until the heavy rain passed.  The following day we ventured on to our next destination at Coeur d’Alene, where we took a break to do some chores and re-stock the cupboards.

First we shook the grit and grime we had carried from Canada off Betsy, giving her a good wash.  We also had to replace the rice that had been confiscated at the border, as we were informed since it was no longer in its original packaging they could not determine if it had come from a prohibited country.  I guess we should have known that after 25 border crossings!

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Finally we were ready to celebrate a milestone.  Idaho capped our goal of visiting all of the 49 states, and our USA map is finally covered!  Yes, after over four and a half years of running around the country we have accomplished one of our main retirement goals.  It was quite a ride, and in doing so we also visited 8 picturesque Canadian Provinces; British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia), plus 1 Canadian Territory, the Yukon.  An unexpected bonus was our foray into Sonora, Mexico when we joined a caravan to Puerto Penasco in February.

We’ll post highlights and statistics covering our entire adventure once we arrive back at our starting point in northern California.  At that time we’ll consider our RV adventure completed and figure out what to do next.  We’ll continue fulltime RV’ing, of course, but probably in a more “traditional” and spontaneous way without the need to visit particular states.  We don’t know yet, and that’s the fun of it!

For now we’re elated, excited and happy that our main goal has been reached with no major problems.

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Cheers to the Lowe’s RV Adventures!

Coeur d’Alene

Sparkling Coeur d’Alene Lake was the backdrop for another celebration, our 11th wedding anniversary.  Living in Betsy’s close quarters 24/7 for the past several years was an accomplishment of its own, and we’re very happy that we’re still the best of friends, with only a few lover’s spats thrown in to make it interesting.

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We had a beerlicious anniversary, as the city’s annual Oktoberfest happened to be scheduled for that very day.  Along with hundreds of others, we partied and strolled the streets to sample several craft beers.  Strangely, no streets were closed for the event, and most of the beers were dispensed from within local shops.  It was definitely nothing like the major party that shut down Brekenridge for their celebration last year.

We strolled through town and stumbled onto what is called the “world’s longest floating boardwalk” by folks hereabouts.  Completed in 1985, it’s 3,300′ long and 12′ wide.  We thought it was pretty cool walking on the lake over the 16,000 cedar logs it took to build the thing.

Coeur d' Alene Resort
The floating boardwalk, complete with picnic tables overlooking the lake

 

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Bridge on the boardwalk
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Slip Marina –  Steve loves all the blue in this shot!

We were aching for a hike, and just across from our campground (Steve’s review here) was access to the 23-mile long Centennial Trail that extends to the Idaho/Washington border. We walked a section of it and learned the difference between a hobo, a tramp and a bum – the last sentence on this plaque enlightened us:

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There’s Betsy across Spokane River

We also took on the Tubbs Hill and Mineral Ridge trails, recommended by Andy who sent me a message thru RVillage.  It was a nice surprise to get recommendations from strangers who know the area through this site.

Tubbs Hill Trail
Viewing Coeur d’Alene lake from Tubbs Hill Trail
Mineral Ridge Trail
The leaves had turned along the Mineral Ridge trail
View of Coeur d’Alene Lake from 2,724′

The last celebration was Steve joining the smartphone crowd after holding off for several years.  I just hope he won’t be playing Pokémon Go during our hikes!

Mineral Ridge
Monitoring our hike and elevation with his new toy.  I’d better be nice – I’m getting mine soon!

Cheers to our milestones celebrations!