Total Eclipse 2017

Never To Old To Be A Junior Ranger

Our Facebook friends have already seen our eclipse photos but we wanted to add a post to the blog about our Nat Geo experience of seeing the total eclipse while camping on BLM land in Idaho this summer. We experienced the event with millions of others in total solitude!

We had worked at our volunteer job at the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho all day on the 20th of August. We were scheduled to work on Monday the 21st but our supervisor was able to get coverage for us. So we headed about an hour and a half south to BLM land. We arrived with just enough time to set up our tent and eat dinner. The valley was filled with smoke from numerous forest fires in Idaho and Montana. Oh, please don’t let it ruin the Eclipse!

Hazy Skies On August 21, 2017

This was one of our Once in a Lifetime events. We’d bought new cameras and a 100-400mm zoom lens just to photograph the eclipse. We’d read an e-book on shooting an eclipse. We’d bought special filter material and with a bit of ingenuity we made our own filters. We were READY!

Eclipse Morning Sunrise

After a night of sliding downhill in our sleeping bags due to poor siting of the tent, we awoke to a glorious sunrise peeking over the mountains. We were in place with a tarp strung out from the truck to act as a sun shield by 10AM. Shortly thereafter the magic began. Ever so slowly at first the moon nibbled away at the upper right corner of the sun. As it progressed the world grew dimmer. Then the temperature started to drop. A breeze started. We reached for our jackets and guessed the air was twenty degrees cooler. We tried to remember to look up and just enjoy the event as well as take the long anticipated diamond ring and totality shots.

Eclipse Day Camp

Our Photo Shelter

Losing The Light

It’s Starting!

Diamond Ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totality!

Going..Going..Gone

Composite Of The Eclipse

And then the world began to lighten and warm as the moon moved on to the left. The eclipse was over but would be replayed in our hearts and memories for years. We may have a chance to experience another one but we will always remember this, our first total eclipse.

Summer 2017 And The River Of No Return

Our four months in central Idaho are coming to a close so it is time to get a post up on our wonderful summer. We’d been in most other areas of Idaho but never the center of the state. When we saw a volunteer position for the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho we applied and were accepted for Summer 2017. Not only was this a gorgeous area but a stop along the Lewis and Clark Trail, a favorite subject of ours. If you like mountains, small western towns and free running rivers then the Lemhi Valley is for you. The town of Salmon has a population of about 3,000. Community pride and a high percentage of resident involvement is reflected by volunteerism and community participation. The major businesses are cattle ranching and ecotourism. Salmon is located at the confluence of the Lemhi and Salmon Rivers. In the past it was an area of mining and timber harvesting so it is rich in history as well. Today a large percentage of the valley is either land managed by BLM or the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The valley is surrounded to the east by the Beaverhead Mountains, to the south by the Lost River Range, to the north and west by the Bitterroot Mountains. Also to the west is the the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.

The Sacajawea Center was built through the cooperation of federal, state and local groups for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration in 2004-2006. Then it was turned over to the City of Salmon and is run by the city today. The Lemhi Valley is the traditional homeland of the Agaidika (Lemhi Shoshone), Sacajawea’s people. Agaidika, in the Shoshone language, means “salmon eaters” and refers to one of their main food sources. The Interpretive Center where we worked tells the story of Sacajawea from living in the valley to her capture by the Hidatsa,  her role with the Corps of Discovery, after the expedition and the removal of the Shoshone to the Fort Hall Reservation. The valley is referred to by the Lemhi Shoshone as Agai Pah. We researched and developed Discovery Center talks: (Steve) Mapping the West and The Language Chain, (Chari) Medicine Along The Lewis and Clark Trail and a Trivia Quiz. We erected a traditional tipi, worked in the native plant and community garden and did light maintenance. One of our projects was a slideshow for the Interpretive Center. It runs about 26 minutes but you can forward through the sections for a shorter time. This captured the feel of the area and many of the sights we enjoyed so we are posting it here for you to view in lieu of still photos. As with most videos it is a good idea to let it load at least 3/4 of the film before viewing so you will have a smooth playback. That may take some time so please be patient (or it may just be our wifi connection).

We were asked by the Sacajawea manager to film our Discovery Center talks as tutorials for future volunteers. We include them here so that if you have interest in the topics you can watch. Chari’s talk runs about 30 minutes. Steve’s talk involved more technical material about using navigational equipment and required more detail. His talk runs about an hour and is split into two parts.

We haven’t had time to do a video for our out of Lemhi County trips so it is back to still photos. The star of our days off trips was the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. We packed up our tent and what seemed a ridiculous amount of other stuff for two wonderful trips there. After all, we are at the age where comfort is primary! The mountains, lakes/rivers and wildflowers were breathtaking! We took the Custer Motorway on the way back home locating both tent and RV camping spots and seeing the Custer and Bonanza ghost towns.

A Favorite Sawtooth Scene

Along The Custer Motorway

Reflection of The Sawtooths

For our wedding anniversary this year (that’s number 8), we took a rafting trip with Rawhide Outfitters. This was a 3 hour trip with a short gold mine stop and BBQ lunch. The day use stretch of the Salmon River has up to Class 3 rapids. We had a wonderful guide and enjoyed ourselves. I don’t know if I can work up courage to do the multi-day trip with level 4 and 5 rapids through the Frank Church Wilderness on the Middle Fork of the river. I’m ready to go. What are you waiting for? That’s why the Salmon River is called The River of No Return. Until the invention of jet boats and powerful gasoline engines the Salmon River current was too strong for men to paddle or row back upstream. Traffic could only go downstream. 

Floating On The Salmon River

Steve “Riding The Bull”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anniversary Rafting Trip

Another favorite area was the Spar Canyon Road south of Challis, Idaho, nearby Herd Lake and oddly named Road Creek Road. On our first trip here we found a new to us plant. It took me a long time to identify it. Now we know it is called Sobol, a member of the agave group and in the asparagus family. This is BLM land and great for rockhounding. We returned here for the Eclipse 2017 and had no crowds. Steve has written an account of this which we’ll post separately. To say it was a National Geographic moment is an understatement! Also in the area and worth a mention is Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. The park is devoted to mining history of the area and a visit to the Bayhorse Ghost Town in the park is a must.

Driving Spar Canyon Road

The Many Colors Found In Spar Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sobol Growing In Spar Canyon

We attended two festivals: Bannack Days at Bannack State Park (old mining ghost town) and Logger Days in Darby, MT. We’d been to Bannack in 2014 but it was fun to see the town “come alive” through living history. They had everything from pack mules to an old mining stamp machine and a “shoot out”.  Steve spent a long time talking to a surveyor about historical instruments and was able to use this information in his talk.

Bannack Scene

Living History Brings Town To Life

The Dentist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shoot Out

The Darby, Montana Logger Festival was the first of its type that we had attended. Just as a rodeo is a competition based on skills a cowboy uses, the Logger Festival uses a chainsaw and skills loggers need. There were several events but our three favorites were the Cookie Stack, the Obstacle Pole and one we call the Climb and Cut.

In the Cookie Stack a beer mug of water is placed on an upright log. Then the logger cuts several slices aka cookies. The stack is then picked up on the chainsaw blade and moved to an adjacent log. Lastly the chainsaw is removed. All of this without spilling the mug! The gal who won was amazing. She placed in every event.

After Cutting The Cookies

Moving The Stack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Removing The Saw

 

 

Success!

The Obstacle Pole starts when the logger picks up the saw and runs around the obstacle. Then he/she runs up an angled log to the end. They balance on the end, start the saw and then lean over the end and cut off a section. Lastly they turn and run down the log to the ground.

Off And Running

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start Your Saw

 

 

 

 

 

Starting To Cut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Fall Now!

 

Turn And Run!

We don’t know the official name of this event but it involves making an axe cut about 4′ off the ground and inserting a board. Then the logger jumps up on the board and repeats the process. Standing on the second board and bouncing a lot the logger chops thru the top log. The man shown here was a former World Champion Logger. While he didn’t win, he did place well… at age 75! No more excuses! You rest… you rust.

 

Strong At 75

 

Up On The First Board

 

Now On The Second Board

 

Chopping Away At The Top

 

Lest we forget to mention our visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument. We’d made a quick visit in 2011 but always wanted to spend more time and see wildflowers growing in the lava. A great photo opportunity. The plants are all low growing so some shots required us to sprawl on our tummies. Bet that was a curious sight to other visitors!

June Wildflowers At Craters of the Moon

Nature As Sculptor

 

Time as usual has gone all too fast. We will miss the wonderful staff at the Sacajawea Center and the local volunteers who devote so much time year after year. We explored only some of the backroads. Of course, it is our stomachs that will miss 80 mile bread from Odd Fellows Bakery, free range eggs bought roadside on the honor system, Sacajawea Stout from Bertram’s Brewery and the huge ice cream cones at the Baker Country Store.

Now on to new adventures!

Evening Blues On The Salmon River

 

 

 

Roadside Humor #7

It has been a while since we posted a Roadside Humor item. Not that we haven’t seen a few good ones but just didn’t think to publish them. Last week as we were traveling from Salmon, ID to Idaho Falls, ID we spotted this windmill and water tower. Anyone else willing to say they remember this show? Now we know where the real Petticoat Junction is.

The REAL Petticoat Junction

Where Is Datil And Why Go There?

Very Large Array, Datil, New Mexico, El Morro NM, elk

Panorama Of The Very Large Array

Just a quick entry before we get too far behind and fall off the blog wagon again. Datil, NM isn’t near anything you’d know. It is 60-70 miles west of Albuquerque on US 60. We came here to stay at the Datil Wells BLM CG for the amazing price (senior rate) of $2.50/night. Even full price is only $5. Now it is dry camping but most of the sites are large and private. There is water available and vault toilets. Because of the volume of RV use the stay limit is 7 days in 28 rather than the usual 14 days. There are no reservations. We used our generators early AM and in the evening but kept the residential refrigerator going with the new solar panel during the day.

vla-4

Our reason for coming was to see The Very Large Array nearby and visit El Morro NM which was more of a drive than we expected. We would come back here again just to relax as there are some great trails to explore. The area was a major cattle drive route with wells placed every 10-15 miles to keep the animals watered, hence the name Datil Wells. The Spaniards were the first to call it Datil as they thought the fruit of the local yucca looked like dates. The second ocean to ocean highway came through here during the early days of auto touring. Interesting history kiosks and a small visitor center describe local history. This is ranch country however when the locals need to quench their thirst the local gas station also sells “white lightening” (apparently legal here) as Steve overheard a customer ask openly. Never know what you’ll find on the road!

vla-5

Backside Of Telescope Dish

The Very Large Array is a set of 27 huge radio telescopes used for researching the galaxy and far beyond. The dishes are 92′ across (think 2 school buses wide) and dwarf a person standing alongside. Most pictures you see are of the dishes arranged close together in what is called the A position but they can be spread up to 13 miles apart in the D configuration. The closer they are the more general the information gathered and the further they are, the more detailed the information. When we visited the dishes were in a mid point formation. There are films in the visitor center detailing the array and the discoveries made, how the dishes are moved on rails and maintenance required. After our visit we put the movie “Contact” with Jodie Foster on our Netflix list as it was filmed here

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes

 

el-morro-1-hdr

El Morro As A Landmark

Another day we drove a backroads route to El Morro NM. This rock formation seems to arise out of no where and served as a landmark for travelers from native Americans, Spanish conquistadors and priests to pioneers. It also was a known source of safe water in this dry land. Many left their mark and the rock is covered with petroglyphs, drawings and names. We’d hoped to also visit El Malpais NM but time got away from us. On the way back we had a National Geographic moment as we came upon a herd of elk. To our left were about 20 elk and one bull. To our right were about 50 cows and one very handsome bull with a huge rack. He knew he was in his prime. He bugled and pranced. It was too dark for photos so we just parked by the side of the road and enjoyed the scene. Now that’s one busy guy!

Time to move along. Next stop Durango.

Cool Cool Water

Cool Cool Water

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

El Morro Petroglyph

El Morro Petroglyph

Military and Religious Carvings

Military and Religious Carvings

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

Backroad Beauty in Northern Utah

We love to drive backroads and always find the most beautiful spots. Here are a few of our favorites within the general area of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. We’ll identify the general areas but let the photos speak for themselves. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Just outside of the National Recreation Area but still within the Ashley National Forest is The Red Cloud Scenic Backway. This is a 65 mile loop that can be accessed from US 191 or from the town of Vernal. We drove sections of it many times and even camped there. We loved the area so much that we returned to our roots and bought tent camping gear to enjoy the free dispersed camping in at Oak Park Reservoir. Elevation ranged from entry at 7600′ to over 10,000′ at the trailhead for the High Unitas Wilderness. While not part of the Red Cloud Loop, the Little Brushy Cave is nearby and worth a stop. During high volume Spring runoff the creek pours through the cave. Steve was game to climb down while I stayed safely high and dry. Toward the Vernal end was Remember The Maine Park with paintings high on the sandstone cliff for the Maine and Pearl Harbor. Nearby were the fascinating Fremont petroglyphs of McConkie Ranch (privately owned but public invited).

Scenery Along Red Cloud Loop

Scenery Along Red Cloud Loop

The Power Of Water During Spring Runoff

The Power Of Water During Spring Runoff

Wildflowers Along Red Cloud Loop

Wildflowers Along Red Cloud Loop

Huge Columbine

Huge Columbine

Dry Fork Canyon

Dry Fork Canyon

Oak Park Reservoir

Oak Park Reservoir

Inside Little Brushy Cave

Inside Little Brushy Cave

 

 

View from Remember The Maine Park

View from Remember The Maine Park

Another of our favorite areas was Dinosaur National Monument about 40 miles east of Vernal. While most people visit the fossil quarry very few venture into the interior of the park. Now don’t get us wrong, the quarry is fascinating. We visited twice. Don’t stop there. Some roads do require 4 wheel drive. Others are paved. Below you will see Steamboat Rock. We were told that this is the site where John Wesley Powell was dangling by his left (and only) arm when a crew member dangled pants over the edge to pull him back up. He had to let go and grab the pants! Fortunately he did.

All Alone In Dinosaur NM

All Alone In Dinosaur NM

Exquisite Scenery At Dinosaur NM

Exquisite Scenery At Dinosaur NM

An Old Shepherd's Wagon At The Clew Ranch

An Old Shepherd’s Wagon At The Clew Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overlooking The Yampa River

Overlooking The Yampa River

Steamboat Rock Where The Yampa And Green Rivers Meet

Steamboat Rock Where The Yampa And Green Rivers Meet

Dinosaur Logjam

Dinosaur Logjam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our favorite drive took place close to the end of our time in Utah. We set out for Indian Canyon Scenic Byway then turned onto Antelope Canyon (not the famous one near Page, AZ) Mother Nature cooperated by giving us a dry rain over the canyon for drama while not getting us wet. Then we found some great old ranch houses and abandoned farm equipment. At one old ranch there was so much rusty equipment strewn about that Steve named it El Rancho Rusto.

Indian Canyon Panorama

Indian Canyon Panorama

Rain Over Indian Canyon

Rain Over Indian Canyon

Old Indian Canyon Ranch In HDR

Old Indian Canyon Ranch In HDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Farm Truck

Red Farm Truck

 

 

 

El Rancho Rusto

El Rancho Rusto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rusty Green Truck

Rusty Green Truck

Still Too Long

Still Too Long

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Lined Pyramid

Tree Lined Pyramid

 

 

End Of Trip

End Of Trip

You Can’t Brand A Wet Calf

ranch, cattle

Waiting For The Cattle

Shortly after starting work at Flaming Gorge NRA a brochure circulated announcing the 6th annual calf branding exhibition at historic Swett Ranch. Sweet Ranch is located in the Ashley National Forest and is open for both self guided and docent tours. The Swett family homesteaded in the Uinta Basin from 1909-1970. Many of their descendants still live in the Vernal, Utah area. Three generations graze cattle on National Forest land each summer. In order to graze cattle in Ashley NF they must be branded and the brand registered with the state of Utah. The flyer said in case of rain the event would be cancelled as “The cowboys won’t melt but you can’t brand a wet calf.”

roundup, cattle,

Round ‘Em Up

We were working that day but two of the other volunteers who had been here before took a few extra hours so we could attend the branding. Thanks Judy and Fred! The branding took about 2 hours. Teams of two first roped the calf, a third got it on the side and tied the feet and the fourth did the branding. Two women gave injections. If the calf was a bull, he became a steer.  The only part that bothered me was the smell of hair burning and yes, skin too. The smell stayed in my nostrils for a couple of hours. We noted some cows could have cared less when they were separated from their calves while others followed closely and checked their offspring thoroughly upon release.

roping calf, cowboy, branding

Roping The Calf

Teamwork

Teamwork

This Won't Hurt

This Won’t Hurt

Branding Time

Branding Time

cow, calf, ranch

A Concerned Mother

 

Our favorite part was watching the youngsters “help” while dressed in their best western wear. One four year old had a swagger and strut that made us laugh.

The Next Generation

The Next Generation

child, Utah, ranch

Cowboy With Attitude

Another day we hiked the 2.5 miles from Greendale Overlook to Swett Ranch enjoying scenery and wildflowers along the way. Fellow volunteers George and Diane gave us an in depth tour. Oscar Swett built the first one room cabin in 1909. He married Emma and they raised 16 children here. A two room cabin and the ranch home were built to accommodate  their growing family. Oscar farmed and ranched here. He was very thrifty and repurposed many things such as the 1917 Hudson windshield used as a workshop window. Here are a few pictures from the historic homestead.

Three Swett Homes

Three Swett Homes

Horse Barn

Cow Barn

Laundry On The Porch

Laundry On The Porch

 

Starting Our Summer At Flaming Gorge NRA

Canyon, Flaming Gorge

Firehole Canyon On Wyoming Side Of Flaming Gorge

We drove from Fuita, Colorado to the Ashley National Forest in northeastern Utah where we will be volunteering at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The drive through the mountains just north of Fruita was beautiful as was the drive from Moab through Vernal. Much of this route is part of the Dinasaur Diamond National Scenic Byway. We reached a maximum height of 8500 feet. We are planning a third trip to Fruita as there is still much to explore.

In Vernal we headed north on US 191 also known as the Uintas-Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway. If we hadn’t been pulling the trailer we’d have pulled over at the many overlooks and interpretive signs detailing the geology of the area. The area is known for its geology and paleontology. Dinosaur National Monument is only an hour and a half away and Vernal has a museum that’s part of University of Utah’s paleontology collection. As you drive north you pass from the youngest geological layers to the oldest ones at a billion years old. There are 10 switchbacks and several 5-8% grades but we had no trouble even with the new 40’ rig.

Red Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Ashley National Forest

Red Canyon From The Rim Trail

We arrived at the Red Canyon Complex where 15 RV volunteers will be housed in RVs and a duplex. We settled in. The volunteers work in different areas of the forest from fee collection/boat ramp management, the historic Swett Ranch and the Red Canyon Visitor Center. The USFS provides us with an RV site and full hookups, uniforms including pants and reimbursement for propane and mileage. We are even being given 350 miles to explore the area so we can talk knowledgeably to visitors.

Steve At Dowd Mountain Overlook

Steve At Dowd Mountain Overlook

Uinta mountains, landscape

Snow Capped High Uintas Wildness

As if that’s not enough they provide a day on the river at Volunteer Appreciation Day. Our days off will be spent driving scenic back roads, hiking, paddling/rafting and fishing. Besides the reservoir there are some 600 lakes in the Uintas (pronounced U – win – taz) although only a few are accessible by car. There are numerous campgrounds and lots of dispersed camping in these, Utah’s highest and oldest mountains. Last winter was the snowiest one on record in 25 years so the High Uinta Wilderness with peaks to 13,000 feet still have four feet of snow. In anticipation of the melting snow the dam began releasing water from the reservoir to the Green River at 6600-8600 cu. ft./sec. for 24 hours a day for at least two weeks. A float trip on section A of the river that normally takes 2.5 hours now takes just 45 minutes. Quite a show.

Flaming Gorge Dam Releasing Water

Flaming Gorge Dam Releasing Water

Green River Below The Dam

Green River Below The Dam

 

 

 

So far we have walked a portion of the Canyon Rim Trail, climbed the historic Ute Fire Tower (just reopened after being closed for 8 years), visited Dowd Mountain Overlook, driven Sheep Creek Geological Loop and the Red Cloud Scenic Backway, toured Flaming Gorge Dam, visited the Utah Natural History Field House, observed a cattle branding at Swett Ranch and put the kayaks in the water once. Is it any wonder we’re behind in posting? Weather for our first 2 weeks was cool and rainy. Now temperatures have warmed up with sunny days but pleasantly cool nights. This is going to be a fabulous summer.

wildlife, pronghorn

Pronghorn In Aptly Named Antelope Canyon

Bighorn sheep

Rams Rest Under A Tree At The Volunteer village