Plans, What Plans (Part 2 of 3)

So we’re on the road heading to West Branch State Park in Ohio. We have driven through Ohio but never camped there. This stay will cross that state off the list and leave us with only 2 states in the lower 48 we have not stayed in (West Virginia and Connecticut). West Branch SP is a great park for exploring northeast Ohio and we’d come back here any time. We arrived in good weather but saw that would change so we headed to Cuyahoga National Park. This is one of the most urban of our National Parks. Maybe it’s because we were raised in very similar areas but we really didn’t see a whole lot that seemed special. The area does provide a green belt in an otherwise built up area and is heavily used by walkers and bikers so if for nothing else it is valuable. There is some important history about canal building as well. We used our visit to photograph some wildlife and enjoy a beautiful Spring day.

Blue Heron In The Rookery

Mallard Pair At Cuyahoga NP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuyahoga Waterfall

Some of the places we wanted to see (James Garfield NHS and Perry Victory and International Peace Monument)  either were not open or didn’t have their boat trips running for the season. We headed to Canton, OH to see the First Ladies NHS. A small Visitor Center has a few exhibits but the main reason for the site is a tour of President and Mrs. McKinley’s home. It was her family home as well. You access it only by guided tour.

McKinley Home At First Ladies NHS

McKinley Desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Staircase

On the way out, being the brochure collector that I am, I picked up a flyer for the Blue Water Majesty miniature ship museum. Steve had put up well with a morning of looking at women’s things so we decided to check this out. Even with the address and our GPS, when we got to the museum we weren’t sure it was the right place. No sign, no other cars and only a small handwritten sign on the door saying open. We went in and were greeted by the owner/model maker, Larry Pulka. We paid our $5 entry fee. That was $5 well spent! This turned out to be one of those hidden gems that we love to find!  He started building ships from kits over 40 years ago when his wife said “get a hobby!” Now he is an artist of the first magnitude crafting sailing ships from exotic woods and even bone. He uses no paint but scours the world looking for exotic colored wood. We never knew there was an exotic wood collectors society. He handcrafts every detail of the ships from original plans. Even the cannons have 51 separate parts!  The attention to detail is amazing. Each link of his chains are handcrafted. We can’t begin to tell you what a fantastic find this place is. Before you think maybe you’d like to take one home, they starting cost is $25,000 and up with a 2-3 year wait. We settled for a wonderful private tour and lots of photos. Rather than paraphrase information about the models we are posting the info cards on each ship shown. Click on the pictures for enlarged viewing and easier reading. This is but a small sampling of his work.

Tiny Cannons In My Hand

The Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark Info

Frigate Model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frigate Info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Info On The Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unicorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Shipyard Diorama

 

 

Shipyard Info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attention To Detail

Then the rain started.  Our newly repaired roof leaked worse than ever before! To say we were upset, distressed and just plain mad is an understatement. We checked to see how far away we were from the Prime Time factory in Elkhart, Indiana. Only 5 hours away. We called and told them we’d done everything we could to get this repaired without success. We wanted to come to the factory for repair. With our manufacturer’s warranty due to run out in 4 weeks we expected a run around. Much to our surprise they were very accommodating. The factory repair facility was booked but we were referred to John Klinge RV Repair who did their overflow work. He could take us the next week. So we lived with a bucket and towels and a leaky roof as best we could. Plans for visiting sights in southern Ohio were cancelled and we made plans to go to Indiana. Yes, we contacted the dealer in Pennsylvania and after working our way up the chain to the Service Manager, we eventually got reimbursement for everything spent on the roof “repair”.

By now we were in need of some fun and laughter. The Maier family never misses a Christmas without watching “A Christmas Story”. In Cleveland is the house used for part of the film. It has been turned into a very profitable tourist attraction. Even though it is very commercial, very kitchy and quite pricey, for real fans it is lots of fun. Everyone who goes immediately finds themselves acting out scenes such as sticking their tongue out at the flagpole, posing with the Red Rider BB Gun etc. We learned lots of little known info about the movie and had that well needed laugh.

A Christmas Story House

Triple Double Dare You!

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S FRA-GEE-LEE!

 

The Cast

On to Elkhart, Indiana, RV Capitol of the USA. We dropped the trailer off. John Klinge turned out to be our newest Guardian Angel when he immediately diagnosed the problem as an improperly installed air conditioner. Water damage was extensive and would require removing the roof, removal of sheathing and roof framing, removal of insulation etc. Repairs would take about a week. We hung out in Elkhart for a few days to make sure all was going smoothly.

While in town we visited the RV/MH Hall of Fame. If like us you think MH stands for motor home… wrong! It stands for manufactured housing. This place is huge. We spent all of one afternoon looking at campers and RVs from early 1900s to the 70s. They have so many more RVs to display that an addition is planned. Among our favorites were the oldest known camper, the one owned by Lindberg where he hosted Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and Mae West’s chauffeur driven model.

RV?MH Hall of Fame

Vintage RVs On Display

Chari Poses With Mae West’s RV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since we were here where Prime Time Manufacturing (makers of our Sanibel) is located, we scheduled a visit to the factory. Seeing the construction and quality control was enlightening. We talked at length with the sales rep and he made notes about our issues and suggestions. We viewed a 2019 Sanibel and they have made some good changes. However the separate wine fridge is a bit over the top for us. We followed this with a visit to Goshen, IN and dinner at a Triple D restaurant, South Side Soda Shop. The dinner was just OK but the pie was worth the visit.

South Side Diner

How Many Steve’s Do You See?

We also let our sweet tooth loose at the Wakarusa Dime Store known for their candy display. We had lots of fun doing interior photos of the “old time” candy. Ya, I know it’s what we ate as kids. The extra large jelly beans kept calling our names. So much for dieting!

A Selfie

Old Time Advertising

The Waukarusa Dime Store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Else Remembers These?

Thank Goodness for family when you truly find yourself “homeless”. Steve’s brother lives near Yipsalanti, MI so we spent the remaining time there. During our stay we visited River Raisin NHS and toured the old Hutchinson mansion. Anyone else remember sticking S&H green stamps into books as kids? Well Hutchinson was the H of S&H. The home is now the head office of an educational research group. Since our sister-in-law works there we had a tour. Normally this is not open to the public.

Hutchinson Mansion

Did Your Mother Save These?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We returned to Elkhart and picked up our 5er. John had identified some other issues that would be covered under warranty. Since we had a schedule to meet we arranged to return in the Fall. Lesson learned: unless you can’t move or the problem is a minor one, head to the factory for major repairs.

See you soon for the third and final segment.

An Interesting Mix In Year Six

Wow! Can we really be coming to the end of our sixth year on the road? We don’t feel we’ve even scratched the surface of things to do and see!

From May 2017-May 2018 we covered many miles as you can see in our route map below. We almost made a spoon shape route. We went from the Rockies to the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes while juggling health and RV repair issues. Challenges… yes. Adventure galore! Drop dead gorgeous scenery… you bet! Good eats … mmmmm.

We are starting a new composite map for years 6-10 as continuing to layer our routes would make it unreadable. However just for fun we’ll post a composite so you can see what 180,000 miles looks like.

Join us for Year Seven as we explore summer in northern Minnesota, head back to Indiana for (we hope) our last major repairs and on to a glorious winter in Arizona. See you on the road!

 

Our 6th Year On The Road

 

Composite Of Our First Six Years

Heading South To Tucson

Arizona, Tucson, Saguaro NP

Saguaro National Park Panorama

With the DreamChaser back in one piece we turned south toward Tucson and prime snowbird country. While at PEFO Steve had made contact with two visitors from the Tucson area who volunteer at Saguaro National Park. We’d followed up with them and had made plans to visit. They’d give us a personal tour of the park and had even agreed to let us use their address for a mail delivery. We chose Patagonia State Park which is a bit south as closer in parks were booked. OK. I hate it when people use a blog or other social media to expound their views but I do have a complaint about Reserve America. They aren’t accurate in describing campsites. So you arrive and find (as we did here) that the 60′ site you booked is halfway down a 30 degree hill! We got into the site but keeping us on the level portion meant our slides barely missed trees, the campfire ring and a wall. Even at that we we not level. Reluctantly we closed up and headed to the nearest Walmart as the park was booked. Exiting the site we scraped going downhill and knocked our spare tire out of it’s holder. So while Steve crawled under the trailer, I cranked the holder down so he could push the tire back into place. So we spent the night uneventfully in Nogales on the US/Mexican border.

The next day we felt lucky when we  located a private park about ten miles away that had open sites. As we drove in we had our doubts but beggars can’t be choosers. We paid and drove to our site only to find our neighbor partially blocking the entrance and not home to move his car. The only other open site might have worked if it weren’t for the corner of a building sticking out just where we would be swinging wide to get in. Back to the office for a refund. Now what? We finally located an upscale RV Resort park at more than twice our normal fee. This is the type of place where people come and park for months. All blacktop, ten feet or less between rigs and very poor facilities for anyone who needs to walk a pet. We reluctantly decided to stay. While it isn’t our cup of tea we had a few good days in the area and finally met up with our hosts. Later we learned about a lovely county campground that does not take reservations and would have been a better solution. Live and learn!

Saguaro National Park consists of two sections. The second section was added when the iconic saguaro cactus in the original park were failing and it was feared they’d disappear. Then scientists discovered that the cattle grazing being allowed was the cause. Turns out the cattle were eating and/or trampling the nurse trees that young saguaro need to protect them. After the saguaro get to near full size the nurse tree (usually mesquite) dies. Ungrateful kids! After grazing was prohibited in the 1970s, the saguaro have made a wonderful comeback. We took the scenic drive and had a picnic. Along the way we learned that saguaros live to age 150 but don’t develop their iconic “arms” until after age 60. With mountains ringing the city of Tucson and the lush Sonoran desert fresh after winter rains the park put on a glorious show. While we didn’t spend as much time as we’d have liked this is a park we’ll visit again and see in more detail.

Sonoran Desert, cactus. octillo

Sonoran Desert Beauty

An Iconic Saguaro

An Iconic Saguaro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With only three days remaining in the area we packed in a lot making visits to a Titan Missile museum, Tumacacori National Historic Site and the Sonoran Desert Museum. The Titan Missile Museum is the only remaining site of this type. For those of us who grew up during the Cold War era and did Duck and Cover Drills all through elementary school it brought back memories. Entrance to the site is via tour only. Our guide was excellent and we learned a lot.

Titan Missile, Cold War

In The Control Room

Looking Down The Silo

Looking Down The Silo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tumacacori, Spanish Mission, history

Tumacacori National Historic Site

Tumacacori National Historic Site is one of the early missions established by the Spanish as they explored and settled the southwest. Here we learned that in 1736 silver was discovered nearby. Juan Bautista de Anza was sent to investigate whether the silver was a natural vein or a buried treasure. If natural the King of Spain would get 20% and if a buried treasure the entire amount would go to the Spanish treasury. During the investigation de Anza stayed at a ranch called Arizona, a Basque word meaning the Good Oak Tree. After ten years he found the silver to be natural. Due to the numerous mining documents filed here the entire area became known as Arizona. When promoters needed a name indicating great mineral wealth for a new territory they chose Arizona. Lincoln established the Arizona Territory in 1863.

Tumacacori served as a mission, a fort and a pueblo for priests, soldiers and Native Americans. The Apache migrated into the area shortly after the silver strike. The region’s wealth attracted raiding parties until Geronimo was arrested about four miles away.

Tumacacori Chapel

Tumacacori Chapel

Tumacacori As Fort

Tumacacori As Fort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tumacacori As Pueblo

Tumacacori As Pueblo

Mission Cemetery

Mission Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our last day in the Tucson area we went to the Sonoran Desert Museum. It was Presidents Day and very crowded. This is a botanical garden, a zoo, an aviary, an art gallery and a wildlife performance venue all wrapped up in one. A day is not enough to take it all in. We will definitely be back when hopefully we can roam freely. They do a raptor flight show twice a day. Lesson learned… get there early or be stuck fighting to see. I felt like a five year old yelling “I can’t see, I can’t see!” Sure wish Steve could have put me on his shoulders. No Way! Here are a few pictures to give you an overview.

Butterfly On Verbena

Butterfly On Verbena

Color Contrast

Color Contrast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crested Saguaro

Crested Saguaro

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Desert In Bloom

The Desert In Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Name Is Boojum

My Name Is Boojum

 

 

 

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Hummingbird Aviary

In The Hummingbird Aviary

Cardinal Posing In Another Aviary

Cardinal Posing In Another Aviary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lizard Sunbathing

Lizard Sunbathing

Pipevine

Pipevine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raptor Flight Show

Raptor Flight Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owl During Flight Show

Owl During Flight Show

We’ll end with a bit of roadside humor from a bumper sticker we saw…………………..

bumper sticker humor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Jump Down To Boise

Our next stop on this quick tour through Idaho was the capital, Boise, about 6 hours from Lewiston. Once again we disregarded the suggested route from the GPS as it was over seven hours. We headed back through Spaulding and turned south on US 95. Very quickly we realized the GPS had been trying to keep us off steep grades. We were committed now (or maybe that should read we should be committed) to drive what is called White Bird Hill,. It was named after a Nez Pearce chief and a battle in 1877. The present road took ten years to build and opened in 1975 with an elevation change of 2700 feet and average grade of 7% in seven miles. The pass is the dividing line between the Salmon river and the Camas Prairie. An older road by the same name still exists as a National Backcountry Byway. there are a few You Tube videos showing the drive. While not particularly good clips they will give you an idea of the road. Now imagine you have a 16,000 pound trailer pushing you along so you are using your lowest gear to slow down, a heavily loaded truck is in front of you going 15 mph and you can’t pass, runaway truck ramp signs are all over the place and the GPS says the road has a 48 foot limit and you are 54 feet!  We made it down without incident. Now we know why all the other RVs we saw were going up, not down.  I was nervous and my hands were sweaty as I hoped our brakes or engine wouldn’t overheat.  Later I asked Steve if he was nervous. No. I knew we were fine. I married a man with nerves of steel!

Lucky Peak Lake, Idaho, Boise

Lucky Peak Lake

US 95 followed the Salmon River through the Sawtooth Mountains. We’d heard how beautiful this area was and it didn’t disappoint us. All along we made notes of where to stay and made plans to return taking a week or more to travel this route. We arrived in late afternoon to Lucky Peak Reservoir CG just northeast of Boise. This is a COE park but with no facilities. When they say a 35 foot limit they mean it. We just fit. We had to park the truck elsewhere.  It is a pack in-pack out park for trash but we did find a dumpster at a day use state park just down the road.

Our time in Boise would be three nights and split between errands and sightseeing. We had to return to a Chevy dealer due to a containing problem caused by the side mirror repair. The dealer in Montana had to remove the plastic panel on the door and didn’t get it back in place properly. It would catch when you tried to open or close the door. With brute force you could force the door to work but we were afraid either the door wouldn’t work in an emergency or the plastic panel would break. The dealer in Montana agreed to pay for repairs and we located a dealer in Boise. Once the repair was made we needed to do shopping, laundry and haircuts. Right next to the Chevy dealer we found a fresh fruit stand, beauty shop, butcher and bakery. We decided to have lunch at the bakery. During lunch Steve said Your hair is getting lighter.” I replied “No. It’s turning gray.” Remember this when you read the end of this post. With all of our chores done we had a day to play.

Peregrine Fund Logo

Peregrine Fund Logo

Looking at area points of interest we noted The Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. This turned out to be the World Headquarters for The Peregrine Fund. They have birds from all over the world who cannot be released into the wild on display for educational use. It was very hard to photograph the birds through double wire cages but a few photos are worth posting here. The Center is a primary breeding location for the California Condor Release program. In fact, the birds we saw in the wild in 2010 at Navajo Bridge in Arizona most likely came from this facility. A volunteer gave a short talk after a film and brought out Wilbur the western screech owl. Then you could go with here for a tour of the archives. I’m glad we went as this was the best part of the visit. We learned that falconry used for hunting came from the middle east and is still popular there. Beautiful wildlife art and photography is on display. The star of the visit though is a display of desert Arab life with falconry, a gift from the family of Sheikh Zayed a lifelong falconer and conservationist. To read more about the archives go to http://www.peregrinefund.org/heritage-wing.

bald eagle

American Bald Eagle

Batelur Eagle, birds of prey, Peregrine Fund

Batelur Eagle

Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Aplomado Falcon

Northern Aplomado Falcon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orange Breasted Falcon

Orange Breasted Falcon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ornate Hawk Eagle

Ornate Hawk Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

owl

Wilbur, The Western Screech Owl

tour, birds

Displays At The Peregrine Fund Archives

falconry

Falconry In The Middle East

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basque Restaurant In Boise

Basque Restaurant In Boise

We didn’t have time to explore Boise but learned that this area has a strong Basque heritage. So we dined at a Basque restaurant called Bar Gernika which was a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives establishment too. Gernika was immortalized by the Picasso painting of the massacre during the Spanish Civil War. Neither of us had ever had Basque food. We started out with a cheese and sausage plate. There was enough for six people so we took home the extra and made two more appetizers from it. Our main dishes were equally good and filling. This is a very small place with about eight tables and bar seating inside supplemented with patio dining in good weather.

Basque culture

Mural Depicting Basque Culture

Now I’ll turn the blog over to Steve.

“If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you have to do it too?” What mother hasn’t said that to her kids? In my case, it was a very specific bridge in the question, the Brooklyn Bridge, my mother had in mind, but I’m sure any bridge would do. I must have heard it hundreds of times between the ages of eight and eighteen!

Twice in the past week that question came to mind, and the answer was a big fat YES! 

While out for a ride in the Boise area, we decided to check out camping facilities for future reference at Centennial Park. There is an old bridge there, probably originally a railroad bridge, now used by pedestrians. It’s at least fifty feet over the Snake River. There were two guys with ropes and other paraphernalia out in the middle of the bridge, a third was on the shore looking up at them. I was walking out there to take a few pictures while Chari was taking a few shots from the shoreline.

“What are you guys doing?” Are you going to bungee jump?”

“No, we’re setting up a swing.” 

One fellow explained the procedure… tying one end of the rope to the bridge, setting it to just short of the drop to the water, attaching the other end to a harness worn around his waist, walking out along the edge until the rope is taut, and jumping off. What you have is a swing, except unlike a playground swing that starts from ground level and you swing up, this starts from the top! 

“Have you done this often?”

“Just heard about it yesterday.”

“But you have to be careful the rope isn’t too long, or all you do is splash into the water, as I just found out!” the other one, the one preparing the rope, commented. (Apparently, this one had some experience!)

“Do you mind if I take a few pictures?” I said, wondering if I was about to record a suicide jump.

“Not at all… go ahead.”

bridge swing

Swinging From The Bridge

“WOWEEEEE!!!”

A friend on shore was taking pictures with his telephone. 

Chari didn’t know what was going on until she saw this guy swinging over the water.

Is This A Good Idea?

Is This A Good Idea?

I had walked down to the river’s edge with Opal to take pictures and to look at some of the boulders deposited when ancient Bonneville Lake caused a massive flood. I heard this whoop, turned and saw someone dangling above the water. Not to miss out, I left to join Steve on the bridge.

Snake River Near Centennial Park

Snake River Near Centennial Park

As the second jumper was getting ready we talked. He was from Florida visiting his brother. He had never done anything like this before. He made his way across the bride framework until the rope grew taut. I was positioned to take pictures through the fence. I could feel his tension, his indecision and his fear. then he stepped off….

That's A Hell Of A Step!

That’s A Hell Of A Step!

YOW!!!!!

YOW!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOW!!!! echoed off the banks.

We watched the third jumper from shore then exchanged e-mail addresses promising to send photos which we did.

A couple of days later, we were driving through Twin Falls, Idaho and stopped at the bridge over the Snake River Canyon, not far from the spot where Evel Knievil made his motorcycle jump. We had been told it was an impressive sight, and not to miss stopping at the scenic overlook. The bridge was about four-hundred feet over the water. While we were there, first one, then another, a third, and finally a fourth jumped off the bridge! No ropes! But, they were wearing parachutes, and we managed to get a few shots of them gliding down to the far shore. 

“Yeah, Mom. Maybe I would!”

On the morning we were to leave I was walking Opal near the tent sites. A mother and her daughter who I’m guessing was about three were walking to the latrine. In that clear voice child’s voice that carries a long way I heard “Oh look, it’s a grandma.” Well, sometimes there is no denying the truth. I was the only other person around. I couldn’t help but laugh much to the mother’s relief. Kids, you’ve got to love them for their honesty!

Tidbits #1

While we’ve been spending time at our first volunteer job at Red Rock Lakes NWR, we’ve been collecting interesting stories and information that in and of themselves don’t make up a post. However we thought by lumping them together you might find it interesting.

While at the refuge we were asked to compile a list of the historical documents and photos on file here. That meant going back through the annual reports from 1935-present and several other files. We really enjoyed reading about the early years of the refuge.

stagecoach, Yellowstone, Red Rock Lakes NWR, history

Shambow Stage Stop Map

Prior to the refuge the Centennial Valley was settled under the Homestead Act. When we get around to catching up on our time in Nebraska and our visit to Homestead National Monument, you’ll hear more about it. When Yellowstone became our first National Park it was very difficult to get there. Monida, MT (28 miles west of Lakeview where the refuge is located) had a railroad station. The Shambow Stage Stop for the M&Y stage line (Monida-Yellowstone Stage) was established across from present day Shambow Pond in the valley. Travelers would spent the night at the Shambow Pond Stage Stop and continue to Yellowstone (45 miles east) the next day. A long hard trip to be sure. In 1898 the business consisted of 12 Concord coaches that could carry 11 passengers, 4 smaller coaches carrying 3 passengers, 80 horses and 40 employees. By 1915 the business had expanded and carried 40% of the 20,000 people who visited Yellowstone NP. The M&Y Stage offered three different travel packages. While the stage stop is long gone, the Shambow homestead still exists. Plans are for the Centennial Valley Historical Society to restore the run down site  and use it for their Visitor Center and library.

mountain bike, race, Great Divide

Great Divide Trail

Visitors from all over the USA and several foreign countries have visited this summer. We’ve met people from France, Germany, Italy, England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China and Japan. Many were visiting Yellowstone while several others were mountain biking the Great Divide Trail. The trail runs along the Continental Divide for 2745 miles from Banff in Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Some bikers devote the entire summer to riding the whole trail. Others have only a week or two to ride a segment. Steve and the refuge manager responded to an emergency signal from a monitoring company one Saturday. Fortunately it turned out to be a false alarm. However the refuge did assist one unfortunate biker who arrived with a torn Achilles tendon and other ills by driving him to the nearest medical facility about an hour away.  Each June there is a race along the entire trail. This year’s winner completed the race in a bit over 16 days and 2 hours to average 170 miles a day!

Another adventurous duo we met the first day we were here. Two young men arrived at the refuge pulling kayaks along. They had been on the trail for three days and expected their trip to take 5 months. They were doing the Source to Sea Route. This runs from Brower’s Spring (the most distant tributary of the Missouri River) on Sawtelle Mountain to the mouth of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico. They had to hike from the spring until they reached navigable water. Then they would paddle the rest of the way. One young man just graduated from film school and hopes to make an independent film about their trip.

Red Rock Lakes NWR is the setting for E. B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan, a well known children’s book. When a teacher from Arkansas called asking for any material we had that she could use as her class would be reading the book this year, we made a DVD from our photos showing where Louis, the swan with a trumpet, lived. It is short, only 7 minutes so we are including it here.

We have made new friends not only among the staff here but visitors as well. One couple from New Mexico shared our interest in photography. We sat and visited for over an hour one Saturday and have established e-mail contact. We certainly hope our paths will cross again. Another full time RV couple visited the refuge and shared a touching story. They began their RV life after losing their previous home about three years prior to a Texas wildfire. Having decided they could not rebuild and live happily in the charred land that was once so beautiful, they bought a RV and set out in search of a new home town. After six weeks of being on the road they decided they loved the lifestyle and were already “home”.

flamingo, Pink Floyd, children's books

Pink Floyd In Flight

However, our most memorable visitors were a couple who came in and asked “what do you know about a flamingo that used to live here?” I thought to myself, sure, a flamingo in Montana! I asked the Office Manager who had been here for 25 years. Surprisingly she said “You mean Pink Floyd?” Yes, there really was a flamingo here! The story goes like this. A flamingo escaped from an aviary in Salt Lake City, Utah and set up a new home on an island in the Great Salt Lake. In the summer his mixed flock of gulls and snow geese would migrate to Lima Reservoir about 25 miles west of the refuge. Occasionally the flock would come over to the Red Rock Lakes. Pink Floyd summered in southwestern Montana from 1988-2005. The wife of this couple, Sheila Parr Taylor, has written a children’s book called Pink Floyd, the Flyaway Flamingo.  It’s a beautifully illustrated book by J. Kenneth Allein. For more information write the author at P.O.Box 1455, East Lansing, MI 48826-1455 or email her at pfpubs@gmail.com.

duck banding, Montana

Chari Waiting For The Duck Drive

Driving A Brood

Driving A Brood

As a farewell activity we participated in the initial week of Lesser Scaup (duck) banding on Lower Red Rock Lake. This lake is very shallow with numerous grassy islands making it prime habitat for water birds. While waiting for the roundup to begin Steve captured a trumpeter swan family out for a swim (see blog header). He also took a pic of me, as he says, waiting to head them off at the pass. A net trap is set up and several canoes/kayaks and a rowboat are used to gather small groups of ducklings into a large group and guide them into the mouth of the trap where they are scooped up and placed in boxes. The day we went we gathered two groups for a total of close to one hundred birds. They are transported to shore and we split into two groups. The ducklings were separated by sex and whether they had been previously marked. Data on all birds is recorded such as length of the tarsus, back of head to tip of beak and weight. The smallest birds are placed in a cone to weigh while larger birds are hooked by the leg band. Smaller ducklings were web tagged with a staple like numbered clip. Larger ducklings were given a leg band. The largest females also were nasal tagged with plastic markers making it easier to track them without having to recapture them. Of course the ducks had their own way of letting us know what they thought of all this! At the end of the day we set them free and watched them swim happily away.

Working At The Trap

Working At The Trap

Recording Data Onshore

Recording Data Onshore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring The Tarsus

Measuring The Tarsus

Donald Or Daisy?

Donald Or Daisy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scenery and wildlife have been spectacular but the history and interesting people we’ve met have been an added bonus. This is our last post from the refuge  It’s been a wonderful Summer at Red Rock Lakes NWR.

Freedom!

Freedom!

Out And About Red Rock Lakes NWR

Centennial Valley Panorama

Centennial Valley Panorama

What would it be like after two years of being on the move to “settle down” for two months? That’s what we wondered. Would we get itchy feet and want to move on or fall in love with the area and wish we could stay? We’d been in the general area before and knew we liked it. The verdict is in and we love it here! Yes, we are a long way from stores and other activities. What keeps us active and interested? Here’s a sampling of being out and about at Red Rock Lakes NWR.

Centennial Valley At Sunset

Centennial Valley At Sunset

On A Refuge Road

On A Refuge Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Centennial Valley

North Valley Scene

 

Hiking In The Sandhills Of The North Valley

Hiking In The Sandhills Of The North Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We work four days a week but the evenings are long here and sunset isn’t until after 9pm. This gives us time to have dinner and then go fishing, go for a drive or take a bike ride. We’ve had good luck at being out when wildlife is on the move. Even when we don’t spot anything the scenery is amazing. Then there are new wildflowers replacing the early bloomers. Having visited several refuges for a few hours or even a day we now see how different it is when you can observe over a longer period. The Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes are scenic but Widgeon Pond is one of our favorite spots. Sometimes we drive beyond the refuge borders which offer great scenery too of ranches or the Continental Divide.

Lower Red Rock Lake Is A Birder's Dream

Lower Red Rock Lake Is A Birder’s Dream

Upper Red Rock Lake and Campground Is Very Popular

Upper Red Rock Lake and Campground Is Very Popular

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View From Widgeon Pond

View From Widgeon Pond

A Nearby Montana Barn

A Nearby Montana Barn

The Continental Divide Runs Along The Centennial Mountains

The Continental Divide Runs Along The Centennial Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Scottish Highland Bull At A Local Ranch

A Scottish Highland Bull At A Local Ranch

We have both had a chance to observe and assist with refuge projects such as tracking Arctic Grayling fry or monitoring mountain bluebird boxes. This has given us some fantastic photographic opportunities.

Naked As A Mountain Bluebird (5 days old)

Naked As A Mountain Bluebird (5 days old)

A Tree Swallow Sets Up Housekeeping In A Bluebird Box

A Tree Swallow Sets Up Housekeeping In A Bluebird Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arctic Grayling

Assisting With The Arctic Grayling Project On Elk Springs Creek

A Female Wilson's Phalarope On Elk Springs Creek

A Female Wilson’s Phalarope On Elk Springs Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An American Avocet

An American Avocet

Here are some of our recent wildlife encounters. Unfortunately the trumpeter swans are keeping the young cygnets well out of range for our lenses.

A Photogenic Beaver At Widgeon Pond

A Photogenic Beaver At Widgeon Pond

Sandhill Cranes In The Tall Grass

Sandhill Cranes In The Tall Grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pair Of Curlews At Lower  Red Rock Lake

A Pair Of Curlews At Lower Red Rock Lake

A Mother Coot And Her Red Headed Offspring

A Mother Coot And Her Red Headed Offspring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mule Deer

A Mule Deer

Pronghorn Are Plentiful In The Valley

Pronghorn Are Plentiful In The Valley

Meeting A Moose Family

Meeting A Moose Family

Oh yes, there are new wildflowers popping out every week.

Pincushion Buckwheat In The North Valley

Pincushion Buckwheat In The North Valley

Stonecrop Is A Type Of Sedum

Stonecrop Is A Type Of Sedum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elk Thistle

Elk Thistle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Gentian aka Monument Plant

Green Gentian aka Monument Plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thought we’d have time to include some history and other stories in this post but it is getting too long so we’ll end now with this beautiful sunset. Don’t miss this hidden gem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunset, Red Rock Lakes NWR, Montana

Sunset On Elk Lake Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paddling Elk Lake

Elk Lake, Montana

Panorama Overlooking Elk Lake

The first weeks here in Montana were cold, windy and definitely not kayaking weather. The first day we had off when the weather held a promise of summer we headed to Elk Lake. This lake is in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest just beyond the Red Rock Lakes NWR border. It isn’t a large lake but as you will see, a lake for a leisurely paddle, scenery and viewing wildlife. Fellow volunteer Marilyn came along and used our single person canoe. Elk Lake is most frequented by fishermen. There is a small boondock campground there as well.

kayaking

Marilyn and Steve At Elk Lake

Upper Red Rock Lake on the refuge will open July 1 when the trumpeter swans have finished nesting. T At the far end of Elk Lake we saw a trumpeter swan nesting so we kept well back from it. Swans can be forced to abandon their nests if they feel threatened. A distance of at least 400 yards is recommended.

After paddling we drove further up Elk Lake Road (the word “road” is used loosely – 4 wheel drive only) to Hidden Lake. Hopefully we’ll have time to paddle there as well. Our time here is going very quickly. If you enjoy nature related activities there is a lot to do in the area.

goldeneye

Female Goldeneye With 5 Ducklings

 

 

 

white pelican

White Pelican On Elk Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wildflowers

Wildflowers Above Elk Lake

 

 

 

We thought that Red Rock Creek and the refuge might have been named for the rusty colored lichen that covers many of the rocks in the area. The shore along Elk Lake is very colorful. I used a post processing filter from Topaz to convert the original photo to a supersaturated cartoon version. Later we learned the name came from a huge red rock formation seen off I-15 near Dell, Montana.

Shoreline Of Elk Lake

Shoreline Of Elk Lake

Cartoon Version Of Shoreline

Cartoon Version Of Shoreline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bitteroot

Montana State Flower

We have driven up to the Elk Lake area several evenings since our paddling visit. On one recent visit we found the hillside overlooking the lake full of bitterroot, Montana’s state flower. These low growing plants prefer gravelly soil and cling to rocky hillsides. Opal loves coming here too since she can run free and chase the ground squirrels.

Opal At Elk Lake

Opal At Elk Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is Why We Don’t Need Prozac