Friday, October 9, 2020

Homeward Bound; Pinedale, Wyoming; Casper, Wyoming; Nellie the Wonderful

Leaving Coeur d'Alene marked the turning point in our summer tour, literally; from there we headed east into Montana... with brief stops in Missoula, Butte, Bozeman and West Yellowstone. We would have liked to have spent more time in Montana, but this summer's trip was much abbreviated from previous summers. This photo taken along a stretch of white water on the Gallatin River typifies southeast Montana - the scenery is spectacular.

Our next stop was Pinedale, Wyoming, to visit our friends Gina and Bob. Gina is an old friend of Suzanne's mom, Ruthie. Bob has been a cowboy since leaving the Army and family in Boston about 60 years ago. He is now 81, and still rides his horse every day. He and Gina help in the annual roundup in Pinedale and drive cattle to their summer pasture in the mountains. That "help" pays for their horses' hay for the year. They also volunteer to bring hay up daily in the winter to herds of elk; imagine moving tons of hay with snowmobiles and trailers in 30 below zero weather... 

Pinedale is another one of our "Favorite Places". The town of Pinedale is "located at the base of the Wind River Mountains with unspoiled rivers, wildlife, and all the civilization you need", according to the Chamber of Commerce. The people are very friendly, the scenery unsurpassed, and life moves along at a gentle pace. An example of the scenery is seen here - we hiked along the Sacred Rim Trail, with the "Winds" in the background... 

Part of the backdrop here, two days hike in, is Titcomb Basin, where I backpacked on a 4 day trip a couple of years ago. 16 miles from the trailhead, it is my most favorite place on earth.... you don't see many people here, do you?

Another day was spent on tranquil Half Moon Lake near Pinedale. Unlike our paddle on the Great Salt Lake, there were no brine flies here!

Pinedale sits at 7,100 feet, but the mountains in the background rise to 13,810 feet (including Gannet Peak, Wyoming's tallest). They are popular among serious rock climbers and mountaineers, as well as backpackers. Grizzly bears are common there, as are wolves, elk and moose. 

Speaking of moose, this was the view from Suzanne's car when driving back from Gina and Bob's home after a webinar... right at dusk, the cow was leading her calf from the river up across the road into higher ground. The cow crossed, but sensing that her calf was trailing too far behind, she recrossed the road and got her youngster moving.

Next stop was Casper, Wyoming. While on a bike ride along the North Platte River, I stopped to view the Sun Up Ridge Memorial Wall, a tribute to all those Montanans killed on active duty in the service of our nation. It is a very long list. Two quotations accompany the memorial. The first: "These endured all and gave all that honor and justice might prevail and that the world might enjoy freedom and inherit peace." The second, by General George S. Patton, US Army: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

While Suzanne was doing a webinar, I visited the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, run by the National park Service. It is a splendid museum/interpretive center. Imagine being one of the the pioneers who mostly walked alongside the covered wagons for five months from St Louis to Oregon or who pulled hand carts across the prairie and mountains to Salt Lake. The second photo is an interactive hand cart... you stand on a treadmill and "pull" the cart behind you... even lightly loaded, it was very hard work pulling the cart at a very slow speed! It gave me a new appreciation for those tough, brave pioneers - men, women and children alike.

There were also exhibits honoring the Pony Express riders; the advertisement "Wanted: young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week."

On the home front, our little Nellie is now almost 10 months old. She is finally housebroken, and actually starting to mature so that she isn't always nipping at Rudy's nose and hip thrusting him... but she's still saucy. Here she is in a quiet moment grabbing twenty winks while resting up against Dog Dad's leg... I had jokingly referred to her as Nellie the Naughty, but MLB chastised me, saying that using that moniker would guarantee that behavior... so we now refer to her as "Nellie the Wonderful". 

Rudy continues to do well. Almost 16 years old, grey around the muzzle, Rudy takes 8 meds a day, sleeps a lot, and walks stiffly because of arthritis. But Nellie is keeping him active... poor Rudy... or is it "Lucky Rudy???"

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

IDAHO Rocks! Twin Falls; Boise; Basques; Nellie and Rudy; McCall; Rockslide! Coeur d'Alene; Bear!!!

WE LOVE IDAHO!!! Our first stop in the Gem State was Twin Falls. MLB and I got out for one of the best bike rides ever, along the Snake River. The rim-level trail is relatively easy, until you get to the hills... back in 1974, Evel Knievel attempted to jump the 1,600 ft wide canyon in his steam-powered X-2 skycycle from this ramp. Unfortunately, the skycycle's parachute opened much too early, and the attempt failed. Suzanne recalls that event and imagines/wishes she could make the jump on her mountain bike.....

The twin falls are Shoshone (shown here, our photo from the bike trail) and Perrine Coulee. Shoshone is taller than Niagara, 212 ft high and 900 ft wide. The Snake River tumbles through the beautiful basalt canyon on its way to meet the Columbia River far downstream.


Downstream of the falls is a beautiful, serene area where kayakers can enjoy a mellow paddle. MLB is dwarfed by the basalt rocks towering overhead. Falcons soared above, hunting prey like pigeons nesting in crevices and on ledges.

From Twin Falls, we motored on to Boise, another favorite stop in Idaho. We had dinner at a Basque restaurant with Teresa Stella, who had migrated here from California with her dog Sparky. 

"Basque", you might ask? In Idaho? In fact, there is a community of between 10,000-15,000 Basques here. Many are descendants of sheepherds who came to Idaho in the 1800s. One of the neat places we discovered was a Basque cultural area with an old sheepherd's wagon. Imagine living in one of these for months at a time in remote mountain and sagebrush areas, tending your sheep and protecting them against wolves and grizzly bears. (English teachers, please note: they do call themselves sheepherds, not "shepherds"... nor "Sherpas"...)

Our puppies are still enjoying the trip out west, and our 8 month old puppy Nellie is growing like a weed; she is almost as big as Rudy, who at 15 1/2 years is starting to slow down, just like his dog-dad... Look at that innocent face... We call her "Nellie the Wonderful", because most of the time she is really sweet... especially to us. I heard Rudy say one day, after Nellie was nipping at his ears and hip thrusting him, "Dog-dad, she is really Nellie the Naughty!", but we won't let that moniker take hold... sorry, Rudy.... suck it up!

After Boise, we moved on to another favorite, McCall, Idaho. The allure in McCall is the hiking in Payette National Forest and paddling on Payette Lake and the river of the same name. We splashed our kayaks twice on the lovely upper Payette River, paddling both sections from the lake upstream to the head of navigation. For our kayaks, that meant water about 2 inches deep. Only fish and stream walkers might get higher up the river. 

This photo shows how crystal clear the river was - you can see the shadow of Suzanne's kayak on the river bottom, probably 3 or 4 feet below!

I mentioned hiking... here is MLB at Louie Lake (7,040 ft) ; it was a moderately strenuous 5 mile round trip, and worth every bit of sweat and exertion! By the way, the trail is on the flanks of Twin Peaks. (I did not make this up!)

So, after the kayaking and hiking, I had to take Suzanne out to dinner. She found a great restaurant (Rupert's) at the Hotel McCall, and the food, wine and service were terrific. What a view I had, and the scenery was nice, too.

While Suzanne was doing a Zoom session, I went for a hike around the town of McCall. This young buck, his antlers still in velvet, was quietly munching away on grass in a residential yard... he was one of five deer I walked to within 6 feet of that evening.

From McCall it was on to Coeur d'Alene, but there was a problem. My pre-departure planning showed the drive to be about 275 miles, so imagine my chagrin when but a few days before leaving McCall, MLB said, "Ty, the iPhone is saying it's over 375 miles, and requires a detour into Oregon..." Nothing stirs me up worse than being wrong about trip planning, but "WAIT! WAIT!" There was a huge rockslide on US 95 near Riggins, Idaho, which resulted in large house-sized boulders covering the roadway. 

The detour would take us into Oregon, but finally, after 17 days, on the day before we were to depart McCall, the Idaho Transportation Department contractors had dynamited enough of the largest boulders to open one lane of the road during daylight hours. Be happy that you weren't on that section of road when the mountainside came crashing down...

Next stop: Coeur d'Alene. The name comes from a phrase (meaning "the heart of an awl", or hard steel, that the French voyageurs used to describe the trading practices of the local Indians of the same name, although they call themselves the Skitswish, which means "The Discovered People"). We were visiting some good friends, Dick and Alis Arrowood, who had sold their Sonoma vineyard and winery, Amapola Creek, last year and bought a lovely lake view home in CDA.

We had been to Coeur d'Alene before, but really fell in love with it this trip. We even looked at some small cabins with Elda Asinelli, a delightful real estate agent and friend of Alis. But the prices are outrageous... seems like thousands of Californians are bailing out of the People's Republic and flocking to Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado in search of personal liberty, freedom from riots and crime, and reasonable taxes.... Gee, which would you prefer, the streets of San Fran or this lovely lake sunset? I am not making a political statement, mind you... "just sayin' what they're sayin'".......

Suzanne's birthday came during our stay, and I had made reservations at Domino's Pizza, not realizing that because of the Chinese flu, their two picnic tables were out of commission. Sigh... So I asked Dick to recommend an alternative, and we wound up at Anthony's. No pizza, but Suzanne's halibut and my walleye were spectacular, and the service and ambiance were perfect. 

We also met some of Dick and Alis' friends and neighbors, Gary and Lynda Summers, and had dinner with the four of them at The Cedars, a famous landmark and floating restaurant in CDA. (From L-R, Lynda, Gary, Alis, Dick, MLB and your humble correspondent). Dick and Gary are both world class sporting clay shooters, and have amazing collections of shotguns, mostly over and under and side-by-side models. They shoot up to 25,000 shells a year to stay at highly competitive levels. ( I feel sorry for those clay pigeons, though...)

Wrapping up our visit to Coeur d'Alene, I had a run-in with some wildlife... a big grizzly bear. I spotted him on our walk around a lake after dinner one night. I wasn't about to let some brassy bruin intimidate us, though...

Monday, July 20, 2020

Zion; SLC; New Friends; Hikes in the Wasatch Mountains; Gross Brine Flies!!! A Big Copper Mine; Pool Party!

Zion National Park is a jewel, but this virus nonsense is making even visiting national parks problematic. Visitor controls meant that shuttle buses requiring advance reservations were almost empty, so we didn't get to the hiking trails we would have liked to hike again. But we found a great mountain biking trail along the Virgin River, where My Lovely Bride is pictured here... it's over a 100 foot drop to the rocks below, and Suzanne was making me a bit nervous riding close to the edge... "Hey, I am not 22 any more!"

A drive through the park did allow us to refresh ourselves with the spectacular scenery Zion offers... 

MLB is famous for her "enSuzyasm"!!!

This is Checkerboard Mesa,  where unusual cross-hatching of the White Cliffs formation have formed in the mesa's sandstone.

Zion is such a humbling place for mere mortals such as myself.... 

Next, on to Salt Lake City, where we met new friends Wally and Colette Lloyd; we met for a great Mexican dinner at the Red Iguana, and went hiking up above the Alta ski resort, around 9,500 feet; the air is a bit thin that high, but we had a ball. It was 68 degrees up high, and in the 90s down in the city.

The meadows were covered in beautiful wildflowers - lupine, blue bells, Indian paintbrush, and more...


Another hike found Wally and me at Big Cottonwood Canyon for a triple (3 short hikes totalling 5 miles). The first was to Donut Falls, the second to Silver Lake, and the third up a steep trail to Twin Lakes. Having grown up in Salt Lake, Wally has done all of these trails multiple times, and was a totally knowledgeable guide.

Suzanne and I have fallen in love with the Wasatch Mountains - all of these hikes are within one hour's drive of SLC. I could live here!

We did have one misadventure while kayaking on the Great Salt Lake. As we drove into the state park of the same name, we noticed that there were no other boats on the lake... how cool, we'll have it all to ourselves! We launched our kayaks, noticing a lot of fly-like insects near the shore. "No sweat, Suzanne, once we get out in the lake, they should disappear..." WRONG!!!! Here is MLB paddling hard, with Antelope Island in the background, trying to outrun swarms of what we later found were billions of "brine flies". You can actually see them on the surface of the water; thankfully, they did not bite, but they were totally GROSS!

Near the shore of the Great Salt Lake as you are headed west from SLC, you will see an enormous stack - the smelter stack for Kennecott Copper, a facility that produces about 25% of all the copper used in the USA. The open pit Bingham Copper Mine in the Oquirrh Mountains is the largest man-made excavation in the world, and the deepest open-pit mine in the world. 

While in SLC, we also had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant with Irene Bozich and Mike Muir, spiritual leader of the SLC Unity Church.  Irene graciously provided her home and good Internet signal for two of Suzanne's online events.

Contrary to the photos above, we were not always hiking, kayaking and eating out in SLC... for example, two of our neighbors at the KOA campground had a pool party... in the bed of their pickup truck! (For a moment I thought that we might have been transported back to my home state of Louisiana...). I was about to accept their invitation when MLB said, "That young blonde isn't wearing many clothes.." (I was about to respond, "What's your point?" when the Husband's Survival Instinct set in). Sigh...

We also got out on several bike rides on the Jordan River Trail, a 40 mile bike and walking trail that passed right behind our campground. Here is MLB perusing the selections at a private mini-library behind a riverside home (perhaps created by a generous English teacher???).

Our time in Utah at an end, we reluctantly struck camp and headed north to Idaho... please join us next week for more Summer Tour adventures!