Thursday, January 9, 2020

Travelers find a warm welcome and hot showers

[Sept-Oct 2019 Travelogue]

Leaving Craters of the Moon we head generally south and west towards Bruneau, Idaho with the intention of eventually finding our way south to warm sunshine.  We drive the length of the gulch created by the Bruneau River stopping to peer over the edge.

Bruneau Plateau
We consider camping here on the edge, but the lure of hot springs a mere 60 miles down the road keeps us going.

The road across the plateau is smooth dirt and the sky provides changing views of cloudiness.

Both the map and a Hot Springs website provide motivation to keep going.  We turn west to head down the gulch to the springs.

The small town is very quiet.  We drive on through looking for directions to the hot springs. The main road takes us away from town and begins a turn back up the other side of the gulch.
We discover a lovely campground here.

Campground Road

Wait - what about the hot springs?
We turn around and head back to a smallish road that appears to go towards the river.
And there is a human.  One human.  She says that the hot springs tub is just refilling now, but if we want to return in the morning, it should be ready.

Alas, in the morning there is no one around.  We test the water and find it still filling the swimming pool-sized hot tub with water much too hot to touch.

Our view leaving Hot Springs - Brrrr

And so we drive south.  Nevada we have misunderstood you. You are not border-to-Sierras flat desert.

We climb the western side of the gulch into the mountains on a narrow dirt road.

The sign warns us of a steep climb.  The angle on the sign makes it look treacherous but we guess correctly that the sign is a borrowed rotated steep downhill warning.

And it is more beautiful than scary.  It is curvaceous and single lane, but beauty is the prize that makes extreme alertness worthwhile.

At the top of the climb we come into the inviting town of Jarbridge, Nevada

The telephone photo caption is linked to a YouTube video of a drive through Jarbridge when it must be summertime.

Phone outside Jarbridge campground
The clean, hot showers in the bar at the Outdoor Inn more than make up for missing the soak in the hot spring.

The road out of Jarbridge heading south continues to deliver gorgeous views.

Stalled cow

Coming down out of the mountains, we run into traffic again.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hot Lava - thoughts to warm us

[Sept-Oct 2019 Travelogue]

It is raining.   We select our stop for the night because it will be easy.  It is Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho.  Astronauts train here, but the park was established in 1924, so that is not likely the origin of its name.  It is huge, this national monument of lava, covering about 110,000 sq miles.  When we are within range, Alex begins singing Hot Lava.  He is the best DJ in the land. Hot lava!  

Snow-topped cone in the distance

At the visitors center we discover that this is a young lava bed - at only 2,000 years old.  Seems like a good place to be in rain/snow.

Because it is raining  (scattered showers), Alex puts up our tarp. Once the tarp is up, we don’t want to undo it to take Q around the park, so we ride the 8 mile loop on our bikes, stopping to hike the trails and explore lava tubes.

Our site is #42 seen in first photo.
Elevation changes make every site private.
 The campground fills up while we are out.  Campers seem to tour the campground looking for their favorite site before settling in.  It is the Lava Flow Campground by name.  Keep it chill.  Park your RV and get outside to explore.  Now.

I recommend the strategy of taking bikes around the loop and allowing the day for hiking all over cinder cones.  The views are astounding.

Peaceful sight at the site of once violent volcanic activity

And the downhill ride back to the campground is exhilarating.  On fat tire bikes riding with arms extended like wings it feels like flying.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Campers seeking warmth

(Sept - Oct 2019 Travelogue)

It is sweet that technology allows me to watch and listen as grand-daughter, Olivia Ruby, sings from her Ruby book - singing the narration while accompanying herself on the piano.  It carries me through (a bit of fear and) the surprise and disappointment of missing a hike along Bear Creek to its source.

As we set out to hike, making plenty of noise, we see fresh bear tracks crossing the trail.  It has been raining so the impression is clear and clearly very fresh.  We carry bear spray and don't really feel threatened, but it doesn't seem quite fair to inflict bear spray on a little bear.  The tracks are smallish...and what if Mamma Bear is also nearby?

So we will leave the Bear Creek camp and continue on to seek some warmth further south.  The most direct route south is through Yellowstone National Park. We’ve both explored the park a lot over the years, so we are just using the roads, and really enjoying the beauty.  We drive along the Yellowstone River to Norris and then head west towards west along the Madison River.

We stop briefly outside the park to appreciate Quake Lake and the big water that created it during the 1959 earthquake

Our plan is to evade the snow storm and head south, but we drive only so far on the Johnny Ridge Road - and find ourselves on top of the Gravely Range where the views invite staying awhile.  We fall asleep to the sound of thunder in the distance and ice pellets on Q's roof.

In the morning we awaken to a frozen world way up in the clouds. It is slow going along the crest of the range until we descend into the really lovely Ruby Valley. We continue driving south on dirt roads, not minding a bit that it is slow going – the views are just so beautiful.
Ruby River

What makes progress so satisfyingly slow?

These roads are unpaved and there has been some rain recently, but there isn't much car traffic to slow us down.

Traffic in the Ruby Valley 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Weather Changes Plans

(Travelog Sept-Oct 2019)

Our drive across Wisconsin and Minnesota takes only a day, but arriving at our planned stop in North Dakota we discover a tornado warning. The park ranger asks us to move into the bathroom if the siren sounds. The warning includes baseball-sized hail. 

Icelandic State Park ND
The thought balloon seems to hatch simultaneously over both our heads as we imagine hail shattering the solar panels on top of the van. 

 We decide to drive west away from the storm until the tornado warning expires. On the way back to the campground a quick Internet search reveals that solar panels can withstand a lot more than a little hail.

The storm clouds make dramatic scenery in the sky.

Our first exploring destination was to have been the Missouri Breaks in Montana. Was to have been changes because eastern Montana has been getting lots of rain. The roads in the breaks are one-lane dirt roads. Even as we attempt to camp on the edge of the breaks, we are slipping around as if the steering wheel is disconnected. 

 Alex positions us on a scrap of prairie grass that provides some grippiness for the night. The first exit from the van reveals…that we are parked more-or-less parallel under he huge arc of the Milky Way. There are no city lights out here to dim its brilliance.

Yellowstone River

On our way to explore a couple of lovely canyons in the Beartooth-Absaroka Wilderness, we are able to confirm that grasshoppers are still hopping.

We spend a week Q-camping, hiking, fishing and just breathing the gorgeous mountain air.

Rosebud Lake

View from the campground (where we are the only campers).

From our camp near Rosebud Lake, we hike to Elk Lake and see one of my favorite birds, the Water Ouzel.
Photo credit: Big Sky Journal

Water Ouzel (Follow the link to see this delightful bird in action.)

Photo credit to Alex for mountain goating to get this amazing photo a waterfall on Rosebud Creek. We laugh remembering one comment we read about Michigan’s 200 waterfalls, “…some are no more than rapids.”

Q-camp on the Boulder River (MT)
Elk Creek near Independence

Here we are again the only campers in sight - and grasshoppers all around!  This canyon is a little west of the one from which Rosebud Creek flows.  The top of this canyon (Boulder River) is Independence, once a mining site.  The canyon was once devastated by mining.  It is now gorgeous.

Weather warnings encourage us to change plans to find our way further south.  

After a soak at Chico Hot Springs we head to camp at Bear Creek Campground where the elevation of 6350 feet is enough reason for it to be chilly.  Not visible in the photo is the drizzling rain.  

As a crow flies we aren't very far from Redbud and Boulder Creeks to the east and right over there (south) is Yellowstone National Park!

Monday, December 9, 2019

In the Land of Manabozho

Our goal is to be in Montana and Idaho while the grasshoppers are still teasing the trout. We head north to our cabin in the northern peninsula of Michigan. It isn't far from the eastern edge of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The cabin is a little one-room without electricity or water. It is a wonderful place for a peaceful stay – if you stay long enough to make the clean-up of mousie messes worth while.
Since we are staying just overnight and planning to sleep in Q and skip the major cleaning effort, staying at the beach is an option. The shore of Lake Superior is a mere 5 miles from the cabin. The views are amazing.

We drive west across the UP stopping to see waterfalls that neither of us have visited. There are 200 waterfalls in Michigan, most in the upper peninsula.  We camp, hike and appreciate the beauty of the Black River Falls: Rainbow, Sandstone, Gorge, Potawatomi, and Great Conglomerate.

Potawatomi Falls

The land has beautiful contours that provide us with a good work out...and an opportunity to be silly.  

Honey, I shrunk you into a selfie-sized spouse.