Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012-28 Marsing Idaho to Hermiston Oregon



Marsing Idaho
Baker Oregon
Hermiston Oregon

Campground:  River Haven Park, Marsing.  $11.25.  Passport America rate.  Full hookups.  Pull-thrus but at 90 degree angle.  No shade.  View of Snake River.  Very basic campground.  Laundry available.  Drive down to the lower row of sites, they are easier to pull thru and larger which isn‘t apparent when you first drive in.

Campground:  Oregon Trail West RV Park, Baker.  $25.28 per night.  Lots of shade.  Full hookups.  30 amp.

Campground:  Hat Rock Campground, Hermiston.  $17.87 per night at the weekly rate: $125.  Full hookups, 50 amp.  Free wi-fi.  Nice grassy sites with just enough trees for some shade.  Swimming pool.

Distance traveled:  129 miles

Sometimes things just don’t workout.  Even though it was a short drive to Three Island Crossing SP in Glenns Falls,  They wouldn’t let me in because I got there too early for camping.  Seems they water the grass in the camping area and won’t let anyone in until after 2pm.  Not sure what the folks already camping there have to do…. Maybe they’re required to leave the park until 2pm…. Not sure.  So it was water the grass over letting a camper in.  Darn, and it looked like a really nice park.

The Three Island Crossing is one of the most famous stops along the Oregon Trail and is where many pioneers crossed to the other side of the Snake river.  It’s a beautiful spot with tons of history.

So rather than go to another campground in the area, I decided to drive to Boise Idaho, actually about 20 miles past Boise to end up at a Passport America park.  Not the prettiest park by any means, but it’s cheap so I’ll stay a few days.  It’s near the town of Marsing, which is just a most pathetic little town out in the country.  If it wasn’t for staying at a Passport America park, I don’t think I’d ever have even passed through this little town.
Shoshone Falls, Twin falls Idaho

To back up just a bit, while in the Hagerman/Twin Falls area there are a couple things I would have enjoyed if I’d spent more time in the area.  Along the scenic hwy 30 are a couple of hot springs, one recommended to me is called Miracle Hot Springs and Rv Park.  Not sure if the campground is any good, but they tell me the hot springs are wonderful.  Also along the snake river near Hagerman one can take the 1,000 springs boat tour which is a catamaran cruiser.  It comes with either a lunch or dinner cruise.  Unfortunately they don’t always run every day, so if your in the area book a date near the weekend to ensure a river cruise.  And not too far up the road are the Shoshone Indian Ice Caves.  Sometimes there’s just not enough time or scheduling conflicts that seem to get in the way of seeing everything.  Obviously I need to come back to this area someday.

Thousands Springs

Don’t you just hate to bring your vehicle in for even a simple thing like an oil change?  You know there’s a good chance it will cost more than you expected.  Without going into details, this was one of those times where instead of it being around $50 I had to add a “0” to that number.  Just made me feel crappy all day.

In the evening, after the sun was setting, I walked down to the grassy park setting below all the Rv camp sites and met an older couple with a friendly black cat sitting at a picnic table.  They shared a few locations in the area I might be interested in and I told them a few of my camping stories.  The next day I drove over to Chicken Dinner Road where there are a few sculptures of horses and a stage coach made out of horse shoes.  Really beautiful pieces of art.  I understand there are more pieces out back, but I didn’t want to trespass on someone’s property so I drove off,  passing Drum Stick Lane along this back country farming community.  You know me, I’d neeeever go on private property just to get a good picture.

Distance traveled:  115 miles.

Just an overnight stay in Baker Oregon.  But I did get a chance to go see the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.  Quite a mouthful of a name.  The site, sitting on top of a hill.  The building jutting out over three sides with the most commanding views of the valley far below.  The Oregon trail once ran through this valley carrying wagon train after wagon train of hopeful settlers along a 2,000 mile journey.  Most men women and children walked the entire way.  Their wagons filled to the hilt with essential goods and treasures.  Many eventually being left beside the trail after oxen or wagons broke down and had to be left behind.  You know I’ve followed much of the trail on my journey through Idaho and now Oregon along the Snake river and now the Columbia.  A trail that took the pioneers six months to walk.  Finally reaching their final destinations in Oregon.  What a journey they had to endure.  Then with the coming of the railroad, that same journey would take only a matter of days and would continue the populating of the west.  Interesting to travel along these historical paths.  Occasionally stopping in these museums and interpretive centers to learn more about the history and lives of those pioneers brave enough to make the journey.

Distance traveled:  139 miles

I had planned on staying at one of two Passport America campgrounds in the Hermiston area but one had recently closed and the other was all booked up.  That’s when I went to plan B.  One of the web sites I’ve been using of late is called All Stays Camping and of course you can find a link to it on the left side of the Blog.  It really lists quite a few sites and I’m able to view them on a map which I always like doing.  That’s how I ended up at Hat Rock campground.  A nice family style campground with lots of grass and just enough trees for some shade, though the campsites are quite close together.  And it’s right across from Hat Rock State Park.  The site of a most stunning rock outcropping that Lewis and Clark first saw on their trip down the Columbia River before eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean.  Hat Rock was the first recognizable landmark they described along the Columbia River.  Many of the others sites have since been buried by water with all the dams and lakes created along the river.

I’ll be here for a little over a week getting a bit of a break from heavy touring before heading onto the Columbia Gorge area which is between Oregon and Washington.  I’m hoping to visit with friends who live in Washington State and then begin my trek south for my eventual stay in Arizona again for the winter months.

I’ve recently been evaluating my travels and I do enjoy them at the pace I’ve been going.  Usually staying a week or so in each destination, I’ve come to think that I may do it a bit differently next year.  Picking destinations and staying for a month before heading to the next location and possibly even staying two months in a destination I particularly like.  How this will work out in the future will have to be seen.  It great to realize I can travel at any pace I feel comfortable at.

Now on this last journey heading to Hermiston Oregon, I did stop off at The Wildhorse Casino along the way along hwy 84.  I couldn’t help but think of my sister Dorothy, knowing how she would have enjoyed this Casino.  They had all the usual slot machines, card games and poker rooms and a buffet that was one of the best I’ve eaten at in quite some time.  Even though I know her husband Dave is a great cook, I’m sure they would have both enjoyed the quality of the food.

I must comment on the scenery along hwy 84 which heads north  and eventually west along the eastern boarder of Oregon.  Though the mountains and hills do not appear all that big and I’ve driven along some of the most stunning broad valleys, I’ll suddenly be surrounded by rounded hills, dotted with Ponderosa pines.  The hills become so steep next to the highway that they blot out the sky.  I eventually head over a mountain pass that’s only about 4,500 feet, but the decent has warning signs galore as it’s a continuous 6% grade downhill for six miles.  Quite a distance for trucks and big campers making it essential to use lower gears to slow one down without burning out ones breaks.  I also cross over the 45 Latitude line marking the half way point between the Equator and the North Pole.  Oregon has done a wonderful job of removing all billboards and signs along most of this route, having designated it a special scenic and historical route.  At a couple of points along the way, the views are so expansive, I’m able to see the curvature of the earth.  How cool is that.

Many more photos on PICASA

Friday, August 17, 2012

2012-27 American Falls, Idaho


American Falls, Idaho, continued
Hagerman Idaho

Campground:  High Adventure River Tours & RV Park, Hagerman Idaho.  $15 Passport America Rate. Water/Elect. 30 amp.  All pull-thru sites.  This is a modern well designed park with easy access to each pull-thru site.  Half are full hookups and half are water/elect. sites.  Big shade trees with grassy islands between sites. Extremely well maintained.

Note:  the town of American Falls is very small.  It’s not a place I would eagerly come back too.  Although it has a nice library, it has no real downtown or restaurants worth going too.  Pocatello is 20 miles away which isn’t too bad, but gets tiring after driving it a couple of times.

ps.  there are no falls in American Falls.

I was having lunch at the marina café a short walk from my camper.  Now the café overlooks the lake, but there isn’t a marina and the boat launching pad goes down to a dried up channel due to low water levels in the lake.  A couple sits opposite me discussing joyful things in life.  I mention that their breakfast’s look quite inviting.  Conversation ensues and before you know it, I’ve been invited to join their party to see a Little Theatre production of “Heaven Help the Po’ Taters”.

That evening I drive into American Falls, only a few minutes away from the camper.  The small theatre is housed in a building that was once a local department store, a grocery store and is now home to the small theatre with it’s exposed steel and wood barreled ceiling. Much of the cast are young school kids along with half a dozen adults.  The stage is minimal at best but with wonderfully painted backdrops.

The story revolves around the potato farmers and an evil doer who has built a dam and holds all water rights.  A  woman of ill repute, wearing a bright red off the shoulder dress, working for the evil bad guy tries to snare Spud Farmer into turning over half the potato farmers profits for the right to use the water.  Lots of cheers and boo’s from the audience and laughter as the town folk set out to right what’s wrong.

Good wins out as characters like Etta Tater, Irish Tater, Candide Yam and the tater tots all get involved.

A super fun evening experiencing what a small town has to offer.

Just a couple exits on down the highway I arrive at Massacre Rocks State Park for a visit.  They have a decent campground as well, though some of the sites would be tough for larger rigs.  Great discount for Seniors too.  The park is along the Snake river and the Oregon trail.  A short two miles down the road from the park is Register Rock.  One of many sites that contains signatures of folks who took the Oregon trail back in the1880’s.  One of the signatures including two rock drawings done by a 12 year old while on one of those wagon trains.  Years later, as a sculptor he returned to check out his early work and re-signed the rock.  Another has the name “Hepler” and I wonder if my nephew Rusty is related.  Now this is another one of those sites where the main rock is surrounded by a covered pavilion and a tall chain link fence which I find so odd since the hundreds if not thousands of Indian rock art is rarely ever protect with more than a wooden railing to keep folks from destroying or defacing the sites.  Still, it was something to see those signatures placed on those rocks by all those wagon train travelers.  And what a tough time they had.  Many recorded experiences with mosquitoes so thick that the horses looked black and were bleeding all over by morning.  Sage was so thick that when run over by all those horses, oxen and wagons it gave off a most pungent odor along with stirring up dust so thick the wagoner’s couldn’t see their oxen a few feet in front of them.

a 12 year old artist, who later came back and signed and dated it again many years later
Oh and a final note on the name of the State Park.  It is where the Indians were able to ambush the wagon trains in which approx. 10 white travelers were killed.  You see the Shoshoni Indians were upset that the wagon trains were following Indian trails, not only destroying the trails but over grazing and hunting the wildlife the Indians used to subsist on. Hardly a massacre but places get named quite often by what someone wrote of the experience.   

Snake River

Temperatures have been hovering into the 90’s of late and the sky has a hazy appearance with so many wildfires off to the north of here in the mountainous areas.  Sunrises and sunsets are orange and red though the haze.   I do an early and late walk before the day heats up.  The large windmills turn slowly as this is a perfect area for wind turbines.  Signs along the highways warn of dangerous winds but so far I haven’t experienced any of those heady winds.  The Great Falls Reservoir is, I’ve been told, the second largest lake in Idaho.  Though after doing some fact checking I find the lake is down over 80% making it currently one of the smaller lakes in the state.  Leaving many docks and marinas high and dry.  Continually being drained to irrigate the many farm fields in the area.  Not much left in the lake.  Wonder how much longer it will last.
Oh and the trains going by day and night next to the campground are continuous.  How are they able to manage the trains going in both directions on only one set of tracks?  It must be a logistics nightmare.  Though if the number of trains carrying all those shipping crates, bulk items and petroleum products are any indication for the economy, I’d say things are moving along quite well.

Sun burning red with hazy smoke filled sky


My final day in the area, I decided to drive over to Atomic City and Craters of the Moon NP.  I’ll tell you up front the Loop tour took over 8 hours and involved more driving than I’ve ever done in one day.  I was exhausted at the end.  The first stop was at the site of the first Experimental Breeder Reactor, EBR-I Atomic Museum.  That alone would have been a great adventure on it’s own.  It’s deep in the heart of Idaho, surrounded by nothing.  It’s a self guided tour and a bit spooky to say the least but in a good way.  The large square building contains the first ever nuclear reactor used to create electricity safely.  The 4 lights lit by nuclear power were turned on on Dec. 20, 1951.  Everything has been preserved with the removal of the radio active materials of course.  I started out at the front where a living room set from the 1950’s with a small TV were set up to introduce the visitor to the site.  That eerie feeling pervades the who building partially due to the stillness only broken by an employee silently walking through the space on the rare occasion.  Even the few displays with sound are muted to the point one has to lean in to hear what is being said.  Each display, often written on chalk boards which were used throughout the building for notes and instructions in the 1950s, provide the visitor with the basic details of atomic fission.

EBR-I Atomic Museum

Even the names of the original team that built the first EBR-1 are written in chalk on the wall.  Seeming so impermanent for such an important invention.  I learned so much about the design and safety of nuclear reactors and was not surprised to learn that other countries come here to learn how to improve their nuclear power plants, but that our country has hardly taken advantage of those improvements.  The EBR-II design can utilize the already spent byproducts of the existing nuclear reactors to create energy today thus eliminating the nuclear waste currently being stored.  It’s design has not been implemented in this country and our nuclear plants continue to build stockpiles of nuclear waste.

This to me was one of the most educational and enjoyable learning experiences I’ve had in quite some time.

The surrounding area continues to be an active Idaho National Laboratory site(s) where research continues to find ways to use nuclear power for the good of mankind.

Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon

The second part of the tour continued on into the small town of Arco where I had lunch at Pickles.  A Philly cheese steak which was quite good.  Then it was driving, driving, driving through some very remote flat country side with the not too distant mountain ranges shrouded in smoke from the many wild fires in Idaho.  After what seemed like hours, since I’d been on the road in 8:30 in the morning and it was now almost 1:30, I arrived at the Craters of the Moon NM.  It was what I expected, a vast land covered in a lava landscape of splatter cones, lava flows with their twisted rope and flowing ripple effects.  Lava tubes and caves and overall a most desolate landscape.  Of course the Apollo Astronauts came here to learn about volcanic geology before going to the moon.  I’ve seen a few other sites with lava formations and one can experience those throughout much of Idaho, though this is the mega site of them all.  Though it hasn’t quenched my thirst for wanting to see a live volcano.  That day will come I’m sure.

So there you have it, one of the longest day trips I’ve ever taken and I still had 3 hours of driving to get back to the campsite.

Distance traveled 110 miles to:
Hagerman Idaho

The next day I headed to my next campsite in Hagerman, only a 110 mile drive, as opposed to that humongous journey of the day before.  I’ll be here for at least 3 days, before heading to Glenns Ferry and Boise Idaho.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

2012-26 American Falls Idaho



Soda Springs
American Falls
Idaho Falls

Campground:  Blackfoot Reservoir NF/BLM campground.  $10 senior rate.  $15 regular for improved sites w/elect.  50 amp.  Large open expansive sites overlooking reservoir and rolling grasslands.   No shade.  Pull-thru sites have Ramada w/picnic table.  Water and dump station available.

Blackfoot Reservoir Campground

Caution:  Locals park their trucks and vehicles on the causeway while fishing.  The causeway is only a one lane dirt cross over to the campground.  Do not attempt to drive your camper onto the causeway while they are parked on it.  There is not enough room to pass safely.  Ask them to move before crossing.  Hopefully one day they will put up a no parking sign on the causeway.

Campground:  Willow Bay Marina and Café.  $16 water/electric w/10% senior discount @ wkly rate ($112).  Nice setting, grassy sites, about half have shade, pull-thru and back-in sites.  Some with lake views.  Note: close to railroad tracks, but no whistles blowing, so not bad.

Distance traveled:  175 miles.
15 miles outside of  Soda Springs 

Soda Springs

I've been preparing myself for the trip off the mountain where it’s been wonderfully cool throughout this past week.  Traveling on a Sunday meant no waiting for a lead car to travel over the Togwotee Pass, though once I got to the Grand Teton NP, I had to stop often to take in the stunning scenery and picture taking.  Haven’t seen as much wildlife as on past visits, but since I hadn’t stayed right in the National Park, it’s to be expected.
Having been on this route before, heading to the Blackfoot Reservoir,  I decided to stop for breakfast along the way along with sightseeing stops along the way.  Adding a couple extra hours to my travel time.  Which isn’t a concern when I know what to expect at the campground I’m heading too.  I’ll only stay at Blackfoot for 4 days, as it’s another site that has no TV or cellphone coverage and I’m eager to get back to some form of civilization.  I guess I could spend the bucks to get satellite tv again and a different cell phone power booster, but I’m holding off on those expenses at present.  There’s just the weakest cell phone signal which gives me e-mails and messages periodically when it can connect, but I’m unable to send anything out.

Still enjoying the expansive views, big skies and stars at night, I can’t complain.

Arriving at the Blackfoot Reservoir campground on Sunday, a half dozen campers were still there, though by the time I’d set up and looked around, they had all gone.  Leaving only the camphost and myself in the campground.  It’s such a nice campground but most deserted much of the time.  Perhaps it’s the remoteness that people don’t care for.  I love the grand open feeling of the prairie type landscape  with low rounded mountains off in the distance. Fields of golden yellow wheat fields surround the park and lake.  Or perhaps it’s the lack of shade out here in the summer months with temperatures reaching into the 90 degree range that keeps campers from enjoying this park.

So I spend a few days going into the town of Soda Springs to use the libraries wi-fi.  Have lunch, wash my truck which has really needed a good scrubbing.  And enjoy some down time where I can read a book or watch a DVD movie on the telly.   Oh and I’ve had to take care of a couple of small critters.  The smallest cutest little mouse(s) have gotten into my camper.  About the size a round puffy quarter with two tiny black eyes.  If only I could have kept him for a pet, but alas, they have to go onto other dimensions and I’ve added some spray foam insulation between the pipes and flooring, hopefully that will keep any more critters out of the main living areas.  And I’ve decided to purchase a number of poisons and devices to capture the little rascals in the basement holding area.  More or less a Du-jour of tempting treats to finish off their days in my camper.

More repairs, what’s up with this?  I’ve discovered that my battery charger in the camper is functioning erratically.  Keystone, the manufacturer of the camper has provided some insight and it may just be a faulty fuse.  Which is of all places, behind the fuse box where the charger resides.  Now isn’t it odd that a fuse that has gone bad would not be in the fuse box where all the other fuses are, but behind the fuse box.  Update:  after tinkering around, it appears to be working fine for now…. So what was wrong with it?  Who knows.

Distance traveled:  99 miles
American Falls Idaho

Plan B came into action when I arrived in American Falls.  I had planned to stay at the fairgounds for $12 a night, but it was full up and the sites were really close together.  Instead, I found Willow Bay campground, a much better location with wonderfully grassy sites and I got a couple of nice shade trees, if a bit overgrown as my roof scraped some branches as I pulled in.  Oddly the marina currently has no access to the very large lake.  Seems the water is down a bit and the channel leading out to the lake is closed in with muck.  They’re working with BLM, the City and a number of other organizations to see what can be done.

This is a small community about 30 minutes from Pocatello Idaho where I’ve stayed in the past.

A day trip brought me to Idaho Falls, what a nice community.  Good size but not too big.  Vibrant active community.  Could easily see spending more time in this area.  I picked up a new device for boosting my cell phone signal.  It appears to work fine, now to install it permanently or semi-perm. In the camper.

That’s enough news for this week.  Next week, a continuation of exploring Idaho.

PS, I did make it to the potato museum in Blackfoot Idaho with the large potato out front and all the history of the potato inside… “the museum, not the potato” and I got pictures of the lady waitress statue outside of a local restaurant….  She was recently refurbished and no longer carries the huge tray of French fries, but instead has a huge diamond ring on her finger.  Hmmm, maybe she met the potato king and is now the potato queen.

more pictures on PICASA.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

2012-25 Lander to Dubois Wyoming


Dubois Wyoming
Grand Teton
Shoshone National Forest

Campground:  Shoshone National Forest, Falls Campground.  Elect. $10 senior rate.  Reg. $15-20.  Some pull-thu sites can accommodate larger rigs.  Most sites recommended for 32ft or less.  Water available and pit toilets.   No Tv, radio or cell phone service.  8,000 ft elevation.

I thought I’d start out this blog report talking about my modus operandi when traveling during the summer months.  My Canadian friend Mary, was questioning it and got somewhat of an answer from my previous report.  Basically I have a few major destinations planned for the season and then just start traveling in the direction of the first major stop.  Now it could be many hundreds of miles to the destination, so I begin by looking on a map and start plotting a route.  Part of my decision is based on where inexpensive and beautiful campgrounds are located.  Like Army Corp. campgrounds, Passport America and others that may fit the bill.  Because I usually stay at least a week at most places, or longer, I now check to see what commercial campgrounds are in the area and what their weekly rates are as well.  Sometimes even without using my Passport or Gov. senior Pass, I can still get a great rate at one of those commercial campgrounds.

Next I use my National Geographic map book to see what is highlighted in red.  These are usually important or interesting sites that may fall along the route I’m planning.  Or I may change my route to accommodate those unique sites.  This year I planned on hitting Hot Springs Arkansas and Bentonville home of a wonderful new art museum.  I had previously highlighted those maps with my own points of interest and found out that Bartlesville Oklahoma was not that far off from my upcoming destinations and they had the Frank Lloyd Wright high-rise building in their town.  So that got added to my route as well this year.

This years wildfires also had me scrambling to change my routes around those wicked forest fires.

I try not to have any schedules what so ever.  Now for most folks that’s not always easy.  What with birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions that require a whole different route and planning of itineraries.  Usually I don’t have those to be concerned about.  Without any schedules, I can stay as long as I like or leave at a moments notice if I decide to move on.  Of course by staying out west this season, I will miss visiting both my sisters, Ann and Dorothy.  Both in Michigan and for that I do have some pangs.

Although the Grand Tetons were on my list of major places to visit, my timing puts me in the area at the height of the tourist season.  So I may just bypass the area for now.  Besides, Idaho is calling and I have barely visited the southern third of the state so far.  But then an E-mail arrives from a friend Elaine who tells me about a Shoshone National Forest campground that has electric sites and is a 45-60 minute drive into the Grand Teton National Park.  So my route changes once again.

So that’s a bit of how I plan, if you can call it planning of my travels throughout the summer.

Back here in Lander, I did drive into Sinks Canyon.  It’s where the Sinks Canyon State park is located and features the Popo Agie river as it sinks into a limestone cave and comes back out about a half a mile away.  Lots of trout are along this river for you fishermen.  Another note if I haven’t mentioned it is that Wyoming’s state parks for the most part don’t have hookups.  They are mainly primitive campsites.  I talked to the park ranger and he said even their camp host has no hookups.  I suggested they at least install solar panels to charge the volunteers batteries.

Drive distance:  97 miles.
Shoshone National Forest.

Moving day is on Monday and as usual I’m eager to get out on the road.  The drive along hwy 26 heading NE towards the Grand Teton mountains is easy going with very little traffic.  A nice wide two lane road with good paved skirting.  As I head NE the scenery becomes more rugged.  Bare tan mountains surround broad green valleys covered in lushly irrigated farmlands create a striking contrast as the high dry desert stops the minute irrigated farm lands appear.  Then as the land continues to rise, rich red rock outcroppings appear and then the mountain ranges covered in spruce, lodge pole pines, Douglas fir begin to take over.  Only this time I notice that well over half of the forest has been blighted with the pine bark beetle.  Dead trees interspersed with still living half surviving pine trees.  How long before a devastating forest fire completes the remaining devastation this area has already gone through.  I stop at a beautiful log cabin style Resort along the way.  It’s brand new, beautiful restaurant, gas station, convenience store, cabins and RV park.  But this season after having been open only 5 years the gas station has no gas and the restaurant is only open on weekends for BBQ dinners. Come to find out the owner was a lotto millionaire and had the place built with his winnings.  I understand they do a booming business in the winter with all the snowmobilers. Always interesting to note small things.  The main buildings have beautiful metal roofs and had rain gutters and spouts, probably for all of one summer.  Unit the first snows and then the snow and ice came crashing down and took those gutters with them.  Big signs warn vehicles to park 8 feet from the roofs edge.

Now don’t you meet the most interesting people sometimes?  At the campground, our camp host, Ed, after my talking about living in Northern Michigan, said he was from Duluth MN, which of course is on Lake Superior.  Said he was one of the last people to see the Edmond Fitzgerald before in sank into the depths of the deep, clear cold waters of Lake Superior.  Said he was standing out on a peninsula in Duluth watching the Edmond Fitzgerald head out to sea and waved at one of the sailors on board.  The sailor waved back… never to be seen again.

I’m already impressed with the Shoshone Forest, even with it’s tree blight problems.  Being so high up, at 8,000 feet, the sun is a little brighter, the air is a little cooler and without any TV or cell service, I’m practically boon docking.  Only with electric.  Though I could do without that as well if need be.  I always enjoy being surrounded by forest and in particular the very tall narrow spruce trees that feel as if they are trying to reach for the sky.

I drove back into Dubois today.  It was originally going to be called Never Sweat, but the post office said it could not give a town that name and instead selected a prominent citizen by the name of Dubois from I believe Idaho or some other state.  The town folk didn’t really appreciate the name and insisted on pronouncing the towns name as “Dew-boys”.  So today if you pass on through, be sure to call it by what the 971 citizens of the town call it, Dew-boys.  National Geographic calls it one of the most remote towns in the country, being 80 miles from the nearest stop light and 120 miles from the nearest interstate.  It’s truly a western town in every way.

I did my usual weekly laundry, talked to a volunteer at the Dubois Museum who was most informative on the area and things to see and do.  So much so, I may need to extend my stay in the area a while longer.

A brief note on expenses.  Even though I do a pretty good job of watching my expenses I had a couple unexpected bills such as truck insurance, some of those camper repairs and such that came along this month that I spent close to $1,000 on those misc. extras.  Rare but it does happen.  Hopefully next month will be back to normal.

The following day I drove west instead of east and headed on over the Togwotee Pass at 9,658 feet.  Doesn’t seem that high up since the campground is already at 8,000 ft. Would have been an easy drive except for the 25 miles of road construction on the pass.  They’re probably over half way completed with about a good 10 mile stretch still being dirt roadway.  Lots of work goes into re-grading the roadway, the hillsides and seeding all that new bare ground before they can even begin to lay the final asphalt road.

The pass is actually beautifully graded with no steep inclines or declines to speak of.  The slow pace following a lead car though all that construction was ok since it gave me more time to ogle at all that pristine alpine mountain meadow scenery.  Then it was on into the Moran Junction and the valley of the Grand Tetons.  Even though I’ve been here before, I’m always impressed by the beauty of the Teton mountains and abundant wildlife.

After stopping to take numerous pictures and gaze out at a small herd of elk (yes, elk this time not pronghorn) and yes I do occasionally make a boo boo describing either or.  But thanks to some great friends they keep me on the straight and narrow.  Then it was onto the Jackson Lake Lodge for it’s wonderful views and great lunch in their fine dining room overlooking it all.  The lodge is packed to the rafters with foreign tourists this time of year adding a wonderful mix of European and Asian culture to it all.  Almost a bit too crowded in the lodge and on the scenic roads and overview sights for my taste and that’s why I’m camping in the mountains 45 minutes to an hour away.

Tonight, over at my neighbors campsite, John and Velda, a fire was roaring and I along with the camp hosts
shared dinner with them.  Chili and sausage and corn chips with home made apple pie.  Life is good.  Here’s the simple receipt to making a simple and good Chili.  I think I would use turkey myself since I don’t eat much red meat, though the hamburger worked just fine.

One can of Bushes Chili magic.
One can of chili beans.
One can of chopped tomatoes.
Add cooked hamburger meat.
Chopped onion.
Simmer for 45 minutes.

The next day I did one of my adventures into a wilderness site outside of Dubois.  The road off the highway immediately became a dirt road through private property as well as Government wildlife preserve land.  A major winter grazing area for elk.  The road was well maintained for the first couple of miles through the private property then became very bumpy with rocks and rough gravel.  The landscape becoming more rugged as well.  Far off on the side of a dry sun bleached grass hillside that seemed to go on for ever was a lone bison high up on the sloping hill.  I was in search of petroglyphs which are supposed to be opposite three lakes.  So odd to see glacier fed lakes surrounded by all this dry high desert scenery.  Opposite the lakes the rock outcroppings became more pronounced.  Spotting a small area to park my truck, which at this point has taken on the gritty tan tint of all the dust and dirt clinging to it’s sides with thick determination, I park the truck.  

Grabbing my camera, a broad brimmed hat with a strap around my neck to keep it from flying off in the gusty wind that has picked up, I begin my ascent up the side of the hill.  Following a small path that eventually leads in many directions, I take the one that looks the most trod on.  Over liken covered rocks and boulders, around scrub and sage, to my delight I find the first and most impressive of petroglyphs.
What perfect specimens of rock art.  Very well defined lines and humanoid figures are mesmerizing to me.  I trudge up and along more paths but believe I’m seen the best already.  Probably less than 1,000 years old since they are in such good condition.

Back at the truck, I continue along the lake front, stopping occasionally to explore other sites and just take in this rugged landscape so unlike anything I’d ever seen on the east coast.  Thinking how difficult it must have been to survive in this harsh environment.  After nine miles of roadway that keeps getting rougher, I give up and turn around and return the same way I came in.  A smile on my face having taken another journey down a road I hadn’t even known about until a couple of days ago.  Exploring the back country and loving every minute of it.

On one of my last days in the area, I drove over to Brooks Lake in the Shoshone National Forest.  The road leading to the lake is almost across the street from the Falls Campground.  Being at 8,000 feet I didn’t think I could go much higher, but as the washboard road led higher and higher, I realized the lake was going to be in Alpine country.  A steep gorge filled with dead Spruce trees was on the left as ATV’s passed me going down hill.  Each with at least one small kid on board between the driver and steering handles, waving as they went by.  After 5 miles of twisting and bumpy roadway I arrived at the lake.  There’s a beautiful lodge available up here with additional cabins and horse stalls, but no one was using it and the gate to it was closed with a sign indicating it was for registered guests only.  I would have loved to gone into the lodge and had breakfast.  Seeing wisps of smoke coming up from the lodges main fireplace chimney and lounge chairs out on the covered deck.  Instead I drove down to the lakes edge and walked around a bit and got some pretty awesome photos of the area.  About a dozen folks were getting ready to head out on a trail ride on horseback.  Seasoned and city slicker alike ready for a ride on this crisp 54 degree sunny morning.  The fireweed wildflowers are more profuse around here and the mountain peaks surrounding the lake are just awesome.  They have two small campgrounds overlooking the lake and would be a great spot to camp especially with a smaller camper.  I wouldn’t want to attempt bringing in a big rig camper.

Brooks Lake Lodge, but not open to public

This evening it’s off to the Lava Lodge for a haddock dinner and old country music by Mr. Callaway.  I couldn't think of a better way to end the week before sending off my Roving Report.

more photos on Picasa