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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