Visiting with Friends

Pam and I made a couple of stops to visit with some friends on our way to Montana. First, was a stop to see Bert and Leigh and their place along the Wind River in Wyoming.

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They are retired cattle folks from Wisconsin that have a beautiful place along the Wind River, with some large pets.

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We rubber-rafted the river once we arrived there, which was fun, but an upstream neighbor had strung a barbed-wire fence across the river. Our raft encountered the wires first, and with Pam in the front. She ended up with a pretty good scratch as we attempted to deflect and duck under the wire. My scratch was not nearly as colorful. Luckily her wound was not deep, she had a recent tetanus shot and the beer was cold at the campfire that night, so all is good. They raft the river frequently with visitors so I think Bert may have a talk with his neighbor about his recent fencing change.

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Bert gave us a great tour around their place, and into the adjacent hills that included an amazing mountain view.

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He also took us to a nearby Petroglyph wall in the area.

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Biscuit, their heeler puppy, was sad to see us go, and is closing the gap on running down one of the many rabbits that live around their place.

We then took off west, heading towards a forest fire near Dubois, WY. Bark beetles had killed many of the trees already, and a recent lightning strike sparked the fire that is helping to clear the mountainside. Hopefully, no folks or buildings will be lost before they get it under control.

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You could barely make out the Teton range to the west through the smoke haze once we jumped over the Togwotee Pass.

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We made our way through Teton National Park, Jackson, WY and then over Teton Pass to visit with some other friends on the west side of the Tetons in Idaho. Allan and Laurie also had a beautiful place in the basin on the west side of the Tetons. We did a relaxing canoe trip with them on the Teton River – no barbed-wire this time. We had a great hike up into Teton Canyon.

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We also went up to the Grand Targhee ski area where you had an unbelievable view of the grand Tetons from the west side.

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Heading north again, we stopped at Big Springs CG after leaving Allan and Laurie. Big Springs is the headwaters of the Henry’s Fork River, where over a million gallons of crystal clear water comes out of the ground per day to start the river.

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There was an old homestead house there that has been preserved due to its unique construction. Johnny Sack built the place starting in 1929 using just hand tools, and using bark as the finishing trim like I’ve never seen before.

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He even built a small waterwheel house to run the electrical generator and water pump for the cabin.

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We then hit the Madison River outside West Yellowstone and followed it west into Montana. I now have my Montana fishing license so we’ll be heading back there during this trip. Again, we cut across some dirt roads that ran through some beautiful country.

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We also drove through some small towns that we’ll have to stop in when we have more time. We were heading to Pam’s sister’s place in Missoula so we had something of a schedule to keep for once.

We did stop at the Big Hole National Battlefield to see and read up on the history of the place. The battlefield was one of several battles between the US 7th Calvary and the Nez-Pearce Indians prior to their surrender later that year in central Montana. What started as a morning attack on the Nez-Pearce village did not end so well for the 7th Calvary.

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We’re now in Missoula, getting reading for a three-day river trip. Hopefully there is no barbed-wire across the Missouri River down through the Missouri Breaks. We’ll see.

Into Wyoming

We left SLC heading east towards Park City, but turned further east into the Uinta National Forest along route 150. We camped in the mountains along this road with Allan and the kids a couple of years ago when we found River, the lost Great White Pyrenees. This time we picked a campsite a little further north in the forest along the Hayden Fork River.

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The next day we crossed into Wyoming and traveled along the back roads in the southwestern corner of the state. You can see the dirt road we crossed through this beautiful country. Why travel on pavement when there is so much better stuff to see in the back-country?

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We passed the ghost town of Piedmont, WY along the dirt road, where the 30-foot stone ovens that turned 30 cords of wood into charcoal still stand today. The charcoal was used to power ore smelting to the south in SLC and blacksmithing to the north in Wyoming over 100 years ago. When the railroad line was re-routed, Piedmont slowly died until there were only the unused ovens left.

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We continued east to Flaming Gorge, where the Green River was damned in the 1960s to provide farming water, recreation, and power to the local Wyoming-Utah border area.

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There were a lot of dispersed camping sites in the woods around the gorge so we found a nice spot for the night next to an interesting layered 20-foot rock formation.

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Heading north trough Rock Springs, WY we made our way to Farson, WY and had to stop for ice cream once we saw the sign. We both had maple walnut cones that were huge and delicious.

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We made our way to FR 300 through the Shoshone National Forest and to the Fiddler Lake CG. There were a couple of beaver dams visible from out campsite, but the beavers were gone. The camp host told of the duel they had last year where he would break open their dams in the morning only to find then fixed the next morning. He thinks the Forest Service trapped them to work another area that needed some dams in another part of the state.

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The full moon came up over the lake that night.

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On the way out of the forest we drove through Sinks Canyon State Park, where the Popo Agie River runs into a rock cave and reappears ½ mile away out of the ground further down the canyon.

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The fish swim upstream and get to where the river reappears, but can’t continue. There were some nice fish in there, but no fishing is allowed in the pool next to the opening because it would not be fair. It would be like fishing at a hatchery.

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We then continued north to visit some friends in Wyoming and Idaho.

Our Own Oregon Trail

Originally, the plan was to get to Salt Lake City from the lava beds in northern California. We thought we would drive across the northern part of Nevada, but in looking at the map noticed very few roads and even fewer interesting places to stop along the way. Instead, we headed north to Bend, OR. While we have visited many national parks and monuments so far on this trip, we have not been to a single brewery. Since Bend boasts the largest number of breweries per capita, it seemed like a good place to correct this issue.

There is a Bend Ale Trail that includes 16 of the local breweries in Bend and the surrounding area. We ended up visiting 8 of the 16 during our time around Bend. For the Ale Trail all you need to do is show up at the brewery and get your ale trail passport stamp, but what’s the fun in that? We sampled their beer flights and food in the breweries we visited over the weekend to appreciate their craft.

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All the breweries had a different vibe and distinct tasting beers. Luckily, Pam and I have opposite tastes in beer so splitting the flights always works for us. She likes the lighter and fruitier beers. I like the darker porters and stouts. We typically have to share the ales, unless it’s a Scottish Ale like Four Peaks’ Kiltlifter, then she gets those since that is her favorite.

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Bend itself was a nice town with a Summer Festival going in the downtown section that made parking challenging with the Roamer, but doable if you didn’t mind walking.

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As with many nice, small western towns, rich Californians descended, drove up the prices and increased the traffic so that all of the original locals that helped to make it a great place now want to leave. There are a lot of outdoors activities around Bend, and with national forests to the north and south of Bend, we camped one night to the north in the woods outside of Sisters, OR….

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… and camped the next night to the south of Bend near the Newberry Volcanic National Monument.

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We visited the nearby High Desert Museum and the National Monument. The museum had some interesting exhibits, many sculptures around the grounds and live animals and birds. This was one of the sculptures made of barbed-wire.

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We drove up to Paulina Peak, just south of Bend, which is now part of the Newberry National Monument. The area had two beautiful lakes in the caldera of the old volcano, and an obsidian mountain, which was a result of the most recent volcanic flow a few thousand years ago.

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Obsidian and pumice are nearly the same rock differing in the amount of silica. The mountain was a mixture of both where silica rich veins created beautiful obsidian rock, or volcanic glass formations for hundreds of yards.

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Obsidian rock can be sharpened to a single atom thickness, much sharper than steel, so it’s no wonder early knives and arrow heads were made of the rock.

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You all should now realize that Pam and I will be unbeatable in trivia contests from now on – lol.

On our way out of Bend we hit the best Ale Trail brewery (in my opinion), located just north of Bend in Redmond, OR. Wild Ride Brewery had the best assortment of really good beers.

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We ended up two brewery passport stamps short of getting a commemorative Ale Trail glass so we’ll have to head back to Bend sometime in the future. We also need to return for Atlas Cider, which is also in Bend. While not on the Ale Trail I had one of Atlas’ blackberry ciders at one of our stops that put a lot of the beers we tasted to shame, especially the weak pilsners, pale ales and saisons.

We then headed towards eastern Oregon on a two-lane rural road, Route 26, through some beautiful country. We ran into the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument along the way and had to stop. It had a little of everything to see: colorful landscapes in the painted hills…

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… along with fossils uncovered in the local area.

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Since it was closing time when we were done hiking and looking around, we asked the rangers for camping spots nearby. There was one close, but it was explained to us as being “five miles up a nasty dirt road into the mountains”, to which Pam and I both replied – “Perfect”.

The place is called Lands End and it’s a family owned homestead with its own hangar and grass runway situated on a beautiful mountain meadow. Being there mid-week we were the only guests, but it’s typically packed on the weekends. They are already booked with 50-some campers during the Aug 2017 solar eclipse. It would be a great place to see the eclipse.

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The couple who now own and run the place moved back to the family homestead from Seattle about 30 years ago. He brought the old wood and sheet metal hangar from the Seattle area. He said he was going for the rustic look. Pam jokingly told him he nailed it. The hangar housed three planes, fifties style diner seating and much more. As the sun rose and set the sheet metal hangar creaked and groaned as if trying to move across the field.

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The next day we took off for the Snake River and the Idaho border. We drove through more beautiful farm country and camped along the Snake River for the night.

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We followed the Snake River through Idaho farm country along route 30. At one Snake River overlook was the path of the old Oregon Trail. The seven month wagon train trail ran from Kansas City, Missouri, through Salt Lake City to Oregon. We wondered how many folks became Mormons along the trail and stopped at SLC just to end the trip.

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Just east of the overlook was Thousand Springs, where amazing amounts a water come gushing out of the rock wall of the Snake River in waterfall cascades. It is not what someone would expect for such a dry area (away from the river), but really beautiful. We should have taken a picture of the area, but we didn’t. So you’ll have to see it for yourselves.

We finally made it Pam’s brother’s place in SLC. We had our tires rotated, completed a Ford recall software upgrade for the truck and just relaxed for a few days with Nali and Maizy (Allan’s two dogs).

The North American blacksmith convention was in SLC so we went there to check out some of the pieces. A couple of the Phoenix area blacksmiths that I’ve worked with were there and I introduced them to Pam and Allan. Their forge is where I’ve been known to disappear for a weekend or two.

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We also checked out the Red Butte gardens at the University of Utah, where Allan’s girlfriend works. The grounds were beautiful and we could have stayed in the herb garden forever it smelled so good.

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We’ll be leaving SLC and heading into Wyoming on the next leg of our trip.

Mt Whitney and the High Sierras

We traveled down to Mammoth Lakes on the Friday before the 4th. It was packed and all the campgrounds full (thankfully). We ended up doing laundry and having some pizza and beer before heading over to the ranger station. They gave us a map of the forest roads on the east side of HWY 395. We found a beautiful spot and had the valley to ourselves for the evening.

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We made our way south and stopped at Manzanar National Monument. It was one of the camps used during WWII to relocate Japanese immigrants and first and second generation Japanese-Americans away from the west coast. It was a very sobering experience to think what these 120,000 people were put through, many of them US citizens.

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They built beautiful parks within the barbed-wire camps that have now become barren.

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We arrived at Lone Pine CG and our two sons, Tom and Taylor arrived a little later with Tom’s friend Nick. The three were going to climb the 22-mile route to the top of Mt Whitney (14,500 ft) in a single day. From left to right in the picture are Nick, Tom and Taylor.

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We visited the town of Lone Pine and learned of its Hollywood significance. Hundreds of western movies were shot outside of Lone Pine, and some of classics as in Tremors.

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We fed them well and they left the night before for the trailhead to get used to the altitude. This was Tom’s version of an EarthRoamer as they headed up to the trailhead with the tent.

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From our camp the mountain looks very majestic.

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This is a picture from the top by Taylor looking towards the west and into the Sequoia National Park region below. They were all beat from the hike, but were fine the next day. Oh to be in your 20s again. It looked like a breath-taking hike, but I think a two or three day trip would be more enjoyable than 22 miles in a single day.

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The three headed off for their respective homes while Pam and I headed north. We stopped at the ancient bristlecone forest in the hills above Big Pine. The forest was used to understand weather patterns from the growth rings over the last few thousand years. The oldest known tree is located in this forest.

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The view to the west of the Sierra range from the forest was amazing.

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We made our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park and the Summit Lake North CG. We had a spot next to the lake and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

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Looking across the lake was Lassen Peak, a volcano that blew several times between 1914 and 1915. The largest eruption in 1915 destroyed an area that was 100 times smaller than the Mount Saint Helen’s eruption. Lassen, Shasta and Hood all look very similar as plug-dome volcanoes go, where Lassen is the largest in the world.

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Near the top of Lassen Peak, the lakes were still frozen and there was several feet of snow still to melt.

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The hike we wanted to do to Bumpass Hell was closed due to snow. The trail is one you need to stay on or you’ll break through the crust and into the boiling mud below. This boiling pot was from an area called Sulfur Works, a similar geothermal area as Bumpass only smaller.

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Needing a hike, we took off to the other side of the park to climb the cinder cone volcano. This was the site of the original national monument, but after Lassen’s 1915 eruption the area was expanded and made into a national park since it contains all four of the different types of volcanoes.

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The cone hike looked simple until you got there and realized it was nearly straight up on a bed of cinders that makes hiking in sand seem easy.

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The view from the top was worth it and the trip down was very easy.

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We continued north looking for Glass Mountain, a lava flow obsidian mountain just south of Lava Beds National Monument near the Oregon border. We never found the mountain, but drove through a beautiful section of forest just south of the mountain and camped there for the night.

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We headed into Lava Beds NM the next day and after a discussion with the rangers we realized our error the day before with respect to Glass Mountain (turned one forest road too early). Lava Beds NM is a huge lava field with many lava tubes to explore. Some are as big as a subway tube and others you need to crawl into. We skipped the latter. We did explore enough to earn a cool “Lava Bed Explorer” sticker for the truck.

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The native Modoc indians used the caves for many purposes. Some had pictographs as shown below and some of the caves had year-around ice for food storage.

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We left the NM and crossed into Oregon. The south-central area was covered in beautiful farmland. We jumped into the forest south the Bend, OR and camped for the night.

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