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










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




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




On Our Way To Salmon, Idaho

No wonder it took so long to get this post written! We did a lot of sightseeing along the way. We had six weeks to reach Salmon, Idaho by May 12, 2017. So why did we head east instead of west?

 Stop #1: Nashville, TN. We are both self taught when it comes to Photoshop and have been wandering around the land of Youtube tutorials. Now it was time to take a course. We had given each other Jim Zuckerman’s Photoshop Workshop for Christmas. It would be a two day course held in his home in Nashville. We located a place to stay at Henry Horton State Park. A definite return to park for us. The course was excellent and we hope you will see improvement in our technique on the blog. Below is my first attempt at a composite photo where the eagle was taken from one photo, changed to B+W, resized and moved onto the winter treescape. We also learned how to take a previously edited photo and improve on it with blending modes.  Jim’s wife, Dina, dazzled us with 2 gourmet lunches and a dinner fit for royalty.

Chari Learning Photoshop

During our free time in the area we visited the Civil War site for the Battle of Stones River. Like at Gettysburg, this battle saw 1/3 of all troops killed during fighting (18,000 men). They have just added a RV site for volunteers too! We drove into Nashville to visit the Tennessee state capitol building. That makes number 5 so we have a ways to go to see all 50. The tour is free and very informative with a docent from the Tennessee State Museum. This is the only capitol building with human remains inside the walls as the architect died just before completion and is entombed there. It is the only capitol with the remains of a former president on the grounds, James K. Polk. In the picture of famous Tennesseans below how many can you name? Later we took in the Tennessee State Museum with three floors of exhibits. My favorite was the Les Paul “Old Hickory” guitar made from wood from a state record tulip poplar tree at the Hermitage which was brought down by a tornado in 1997. The finishing touch was dinner at a Nashville icon restaurant called the Loveless Cafe.

Steve has several relatives in the area and it was great to see all of them doing so well.

Andy Jackson Rides Again At The Tennessee Capitol


Famous Tennesseans


Main Floor Of The Capitol


Gibson “Old Hickory” Guitar

Eating At A Nashville Icon

Stop #2: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Big South Fork Panorama

This large National Park Service site sprawls across the Cumberland Plateau in southeastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee. We stayed at the Blue Heron CG on the Kentucky side. As we drove in, the GPS wasn’t clear where we needed to turn and given a 50/50 chance we chose the wrong way. When you are towing a 40′ trailer you can’t just hang a U-turn. We had to go a ways down the road before finding a gravel parking lot to turn around. Steve did his usual great job. No problem. There was plenty of room. (Read that as he had 6″ before hitting anything.) I tried to sit there looking composed while my toes were curling in my shoes.

Appalachian Miners

Life In Appalachia









The area is named for the South Fork of the Cumberland River and begins just below Lake Cumberland. The views of the valley are stunning.There are 500 miles of hiking trails as well as scenic drives and both whitewater and calm water river paddling. Add to that two Visitor Centers, a mining museum and a scenic railroad and you have everything you need for a great nature based vacation. Did I mention the wildflowers were starting to bloom. We hiked to a waterfall and walked behind it. A few more weeks and it will be peak for them. We’d love to come back sometime for in the autumn for some spectacular foliage.

Spring Wildflowers

Butterfly Colony

A Strange Rock Formation


Many Steps Down To See The Waterfall


Waterfall at Big South Fork

Stop #3: Vincennes, Indiana

Located an hour south of Terre Haute on Indiana’s western border along the Ouabache (aka Wabash) River lies the historic town of Vincennes. Founded by the French this was a hub of the fur trading era. Following the French and Indian War it became a British fort. During the American Revolution George Rogers Clark with a much smaller force overtook Fort Sackville thus making the Northwest Territory American land. Their story is one of daring and sacrifice. Had they not claimed this victory, England might still have claimed this area and the USA may not have expanded beyond the original thirteen colonies. George Rogers Clark has been eclipsed in history by his younger brother William of Lewis and Clark fame. He never received in life the money owed to him for mounting this campaign or the recognition he deserved. Today the George Rogers Clark National Historic site honors him and keeps his story alive. Be sure to read From Sea To Shining Sea that covers the lives of both Clark brothers.

George Rogers Clark, Vincennes, American Revolution

George Rogers Clark Statue at NHS

Right next door was Grouseland.  This was the home of William Henry Harrison when he was governor of Indiana Territory from 1800-1812. Vincennes was the territorial capitol. Harrison ran for President in 1840 on the slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too”. The home is now owned by the DAR and our guide was very knowledgeable. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside. We learned that his presidential campaign was the first “modern” campaign with music, slogans and gifts for donors. Too bad he died after only a short time in office. This made his vice president, Tyler the first VP to become President by succession. Later, his grandson, Benjamin Harrison would also sit in the Oval Office.

Vincennes other favorite son, comedian Red Skelton, has a museum adjacent to the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center on the campus of Vincennes University. I know I am dating myself when I say I remember sitting with my parents in our living room watching the one TV we had and laughing together over the characters Red Skelton played. Clem Kadiddlehopper was my favorite.I know some of you out there remember this too. Who was your favorite character?

Red Skelton’s Characters

We stayed at a beautifully maintained county park called Ouabache Trails. It is tucked away and we weren’t sure if our GPS (nicknamed Josie Fiend) was leading us into small roads where we couldn’t turn around. Then we saw signs for the park. Whew!

We made a quick run up to Terre Haute to see Chari’s cousin and her husband. Unfortunately he is suffering from Parkinson’s and recovering from a mild stroke. They are handling the challenges of “in sickness and in health” together. Hopefully as we write this he is back home.

Red Skelton Was Also An Artist

Stop #4: North Central Missouri

A six hour drive from Indiana brought us to the USACE Ray Behrens CG at Mark Twain Lake. We are about two hours west of St. Louis near the small town of Florida, Missouri where Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was born in 1835. On arrival we learned the site we’d reserved was an electric only site. We’d need to be on tank water. This seems to be a common set up in Missouri at both federal and state parks. As luck would have it there was a cancellation for a full hookup site. With our senior pass it cost us only $12/night. Hooray!

Twain Birthplace State Park

A state park preserving Mark Twain’s birthplace home offers a very well done museum of his first years as well as some artifacts from his adult life. It was interesting to find out that U. S. Grant’s first army post was in Florida. Later in life both of these men would use their literary skills to earn money to overcome financial ruin, both would write their memoirs and Twain would publish Grant’s autobiography. Steve had a book signed by Mark Twain that he donated to the Birthplace Museum before we left. About twenty miles away is the town of Hannibal where Samuel Clemens grew up and where people he knew would become characters we love such as Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher and Jim. We toured his boyhood home and a museum about his life. In town is another museum dedicated to his literary works and the original Norman Rockwell illustrations for an edition of Tom Sawyer. We bought a CD called Mark Twain in Words and Music that was created to raise funds for establishing this museum. It features celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffet and many others. We’ll be listening to it right after this entry is written. We say this is a do not miss museum.

Inside Twin’s Birthplace

Twain’s Boyhood Home In Hannibal, MO


She Was The Inspiration For Becky Thacther

The Mississippi River and Hannibal Are One

One place we had planned to visit was Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville, MO and home to the Budweiser Clydesdales. The ranch opened in 2008 as a breeding, recovery and retirement ranch for the horses. They started giving tours in 2009. The tours are very popular so if you have specific dates for a visit get your tickets online at least two months in advance. There is no access to the ranch other than via tour. The gates are locked until a half hour before the tour. When the horses see the cars driving in they know it is showtime and come running over to the fence to be petted. April is a great time to come as it is in the middle of foaling season. We were lucky enough to see several young Clydesdales, from one month to four months. Gestation is slightly over eleven months. At birth the foal is three and a half feet tall and weighs 125 pounds. There’s a lot of growing to do before they reach the average adult size of 2000 pounds. The tour begins at the breeding area, then on to the foaling stalls, the exercise area, the transportation trucks and finally more photo ops. All that touring can make you thirsty so yes there is free beer at the end. The horses are selected for temperment, white blaze on the face, black mane and tail, four white feet and standing six feet at the withers (shoulder). Horses that don’t meet this criteria are sold to other breeders. There are three hitches (teams) to handle all of the appearances. They are in Colorado, Missouri and New Hampshire. Each team on the road consists of ten horses, eight primary and two alternates. There are four positions a horse can be trained for; wheel (strongest), body (constant pulling), steering (holds position in turns) and lead (first to receive driver’s commands). Horses train for two years before joining a hitch. The driver’s train for six months and have to be able to handle a sustained pull of 75 pounds on their hands. The video below runs about two minutes and shows you our tour which while cool and cloudy was very enjoyable.

On the way home from Warm Springs Ranch we spotted a sign for the National Churchill Museum. Neither of us had ever heard of it. We had no plans for the next day so back south we went to Westminster, Missouri. The town is home to Westminster College and from the looks of the campus, not an inexpensive one. We were there on a Sunday and found street parking easily. That may not be the case when school is in session. The museum is housed on the ground floor of the college chapel. It was here in 1946 that Winston Churchill gave a speech and coined the phase “Iron Curtain” to describe Soviet domination of eastern Europe. For those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, this phrase became a household word. The museum details Churchill’s life and well worth a visit. That’s not all! The real hidden gem was the chapel itself. Originally built in the mid 15th century it was severely damaged by the Great London fire of 1646. Architect Christopher Wren designed and rebuilt much of London following the fire including this church. Design elements such as using clear glass vs stained glass were his trademark. The church stood until destroyed by the Blitz in 1942. It lay in ruins for 20 years and was almost hauled to the scrap pile. Westminster College needed a chapel and bought the ruins. Block by block it was shipped to the USA. Skilled stone masons reassembled the ruins and restored missing sections. The only structural change was steel reinforcement for tornados. Not only do you get to visit a wonderful museum but visit a Christopher Wren church without flying to England. Put this on your “must see” list as well.

Churchill Museum Exterior

Churchill Statue










Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Aldermanbury Looking Toward The Pulpit

Wren Church Looking Toward The Organ

Our last stop was to drive to St. Charles, MO and have lunch with Lois and Steve, fellow volunteers at Hot Springs NP, who live nearby. Since we were so close to St. Louis we stopped at the Ulysses S. Grant Farm NHS. We’ve all read about Grant the Civil War general and Grant the President but here we learned of his later life and civil rights activism. We’d hoped to see the Jefferson Expansion Memorial too but the renovation and reopening of the arch was not complete. Perhaps it will be by this Fall.

Grant’s Farm

Stop #5: Iowa City, Iowa

We are still working on the long term goal of seeing every national park site. This brings us to Iowa City, the home of President Herbert Hoover and the Hoover Birthplace NHS. Before we tell you about our travels we want to warn anyone traveling in a big RV (over 30′) not to use Lake McBride State Park. The fact that they offer full hookup sites and the pad sizes are adequate would make you think it is suitable. There is nothing on Reserve America warning you of problems. We arrived and as we entered our camping loop we see a sign stating Limited Turn Around Ahead. We are able to get into the site as it is angled the right direction. Getting out, that’s another story! We couldn’t make the tight turn around and so had to go back and forth a dozen or more times to get headed the right way. We used the vacant site across from us. Had it been occupied we would have had to back down the road to where we could turn. Our experience with this and one other Iowa State Park says no more. They have not been upgraded for big rigs. OK, rant over.

Right next to the Hoover Birthplace is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. This is not part of the NHS but well worth the time to visit. We didn’t know that much about Hoover or his accomplishments. He is forever linked to being in office in October 1929 when the stock market crashed signaling the beginning of the Great Depression. He was a very bright and capable mining engineer and diplomat. We learned a lot and felt we had much better insight into the man and his time. By the time we left the museum to visit the Birthplace it was raining hard. Our visit was short.

Hoover As mining Engineer In China

Hoover Was The First President To Give A Speech On Radio

Hoover Served As Secretary of Commerce











Known For His Fight Against Hunger In Europe











Just north of Iowa City are the Amana Colonies, several small communities founded by German immigrants as communal neighborhoods in the 1880s. There’s Amana, Middle Amana, North Amana etc. Now days they are regular towns with strong German ties and great food. Tourism is their main business and homes have been converted to shops. We certainly did our share of eating and buying wurst and pickled vegetables! The highlight for me was climbing up on the largest walnut rocker in Iowa for a photo op. Oh honey, I shrank myself!

This One’s Too Big

The other highlight in the area was eating at the Hamburg Inn #2 and trying their famous pie shake. Yup, a whole piece of pie, ice cream and milk whipped together. Steve had raspberry while I tried the chocolate bourbon pecan variety. They even have pie shake happy hour in the afternoons where you can get them at half off! Just found a website that lists the best dessert in every state. Sounds like a new goal for us is to eat one in every state!

Pie Shake At Hamburg Inn 2

Stop #6: Omaha, Nebraska

We moved on to Two Rivers State Recreation Area about 20 miles west of Omaha where we had a lovely pull through site. We came here to visit friends and fellow volunteers from Laguna Atascosa NWR, Janis and Lee. We had a great visit and got to talking so much we forgot to take a picture!

We had heard of a great museum about the Lewis and Clark Expedition during their time on the Missouri in Nebraska City. It was a bit more than an hour south but well worth the time. If you are a following the Lewis and Clark Trail or just passing through be sure to stop. It emphasizes the scientific aspects of the journey. My favorite exhibit was the keelboat with an interactive screen giving you an idea of how hard they had to work to head upstream on the river. I crashed on some rocks! So did I! My favorite exhibit was the one talking about how the native Americans caught fish. Originally this museum was built in partnership with the National Park Service but now is privately owned.

Fullsize Keelboat Replica

Chari Pacing Distance On The L&C Trail Map










Taking Notes For Our Summer Job










We took a day to visit the Henry Dorey Zoo. Lots of photo ops and great areas for the animals. We also watched two Imax movies and took the aerial skyway above the zoo. Lee drives the tram at the zoo but he was off today.

Aerial Ride

Rhino From Above

Henry Doorly Aquarium

Butterfly House

Dwarf Mongoose

Giant Plated Lizard

Jellyfish Glow


Penguin Curtain Call



Winking Owl









Stop #7: Grand Island and North Loup, Nebraska

We didn’t move too far only about 3 hours down I 80.  We came here for two reasons: first we have friends  Gayle and Bob, from North Carolina who are visiting family in the area. Nothing like a reunion with good friends when you are on the road. Secondly my cousins from Milwaukee, WI and another from NYC are coming out. None of us have ever been to the Manchester family home town of North Loup. Our first choice of places stay, Sherman Reservoir SRA, did not work out. The back in to the site dropped almost 3′ off the road. I could envision us cracking a storage tank or ripping off something. We moved on to Windmill State Recreation Area on the Platte River. The park has lovely pull -through sites. Parks along this area are in great demand during the sandhill crane migration. If I can get myself in the mood to handle the cold, I’d love to see it.

The DreamChaser 2 At Windmill SRA

We visited the Hastings Museum in Hastings, NE. This town’s claim to fame is being the home of Kool-Aid. Once again we find things from our past in a museum! Kool-Aid was first made here and marketed as Kool-Ade in 1927. By 1929 it was being sold nationwide. Then came the Great Depression. Realizing the country would be in recovery for years the price was lowered to 5 cents and remained so for 20 years. In 1934 the FDA ruled that only drinks containing fruit juice could use Ade in their name and others had to use Aid.. So Kool-Ade became Kool-Aid. We also attended a planetarium show here and viewed other exhibits. Dinner that night was at a great Italian restaurant in Grand Island.

Birthplace of Kool-Aid












Kool-Aid Ad







Walkway To Hastings Museum

We met up with Chari’s cousins and drove out to North Loup. It is a small farming community with about 300 people. Popcorn is the local cash crop and the Popcorn Days Festival in August is still a major event. My grandfather was one of the founders of the festival. The family farm house no longer stands but we found where it used to be. We also located family graves in the cemetery and saw the church where my grandparents were married. Naturally, I had to buy some North Loup popocorn to take with us. For the last day in the area we visited the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island which has an extensive collection of pioneer and early settler housing from the area. On weekends they have living history volunteers in the homes to tell you about the occupants or demonstrate skills. We’d worked up a thirst and headed off to a microbrewery. They even gave us a behind the scenes tour. My cousin Kathy and her daughter Emily have done a lot of genealogical research. It is good to have a sense of where you came from and fun to see resemblances from generation to generation.

Welcome To North Loup

Church Where My Grandparents Were Married







Chari’s Grandparents

Chari’s Great Grandparents






Chari’s Great Grandfather

The Stuhr Museum

The Manchester Cousins In Nebraska

Stops 8 and 9: Quick Overnights in Nebraska and Wyoming

Our time was getting short so we put the pedal down and covered a lot of miles on Interstate 80 with overnights at the original Cabela’s store in Sidney, NE. They have a very moderately priced campground with full services and laundry. We needed both. We also bought a new tent and managed to spend all of our Cabela’s points. We look forward to using the tent at USFS and BLM campgrounds this summer.

Our overnight in Green River, WY brought us close to where we worked last summer at Flaming Gorge, UT. We had an uneventful night at the Walmart.

Stop #10: Massacre Rocks SP, Idaho

Our last two nights were spent at this state park in southeastern Idaho overlooking the Snake River. In preparation for our job at the Sacajawea Center we visited the Sho-Ban Museum of the Shoshone-Bannock nation. We were the only visitors there and the docent on duty spent a lot of time with us and was most knowledgeable. Then we did shopping, got haircuts and other get ready errands.

Massacre Rocks SP

So now we have only a four to five hour drive up to Salmon, Idaho and our home for the next four months. See you again when we are out and about in central Idaho.





Do You Believe In Ghosts? (Part One)

old Bannock 1

Steve just found a movie we made last summer (2014) of some very photogenic barns, old buildings and other abandoned places in the midwest and west. We were on the move and perhaps out of wifi range. Just another case of out of sight, out of mind. Many of the buildings are from Bannack State Park in Montana. The state has restored this ghost town into a reflection of the once thriving village. If you ever travel through southwestern Montana, be sure to visit.

We have other ghost towns we’ve visited and on our way to Texas we’ll stop by another one. Guess we’ll need a part 2.

Our Top Ten Campgrounds For July 2014- July 2015

Now that we are spending about 50% of our time volunteering we didn’t know if we’d have enough great places to recommend for another Top Ten post. Fortunately that was no problem. So here are our choices as we moved from Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. Again, this list in no particular rating order and is for folks like ourselves who travel via large RV. If dry camping was involved it is noted. Otherwise there was at least water and electric hookups. Some of the other campgrounds we used would be suitable for smaller units but proved challenging for us. We started with a list of 16 campgrounds we really enjoyed. After listing our 10 favorites we mention the runners up.


 1) Bullards Beach State Park near Bandon-by-the-Sea, OR

 2) Le Page USCAE Park on the John Day River/ Columbia River, near Rufus, Oregon

 3) Lake Havasu State Park, Lake Havasu, AZ

 4) Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ

 5) Farragut State Park, north of Coeur d’Alene, ID

 6) Hells Gate State Park, Lewiston, ID

 7) Riana USACE Campground, Abiquiu, New Mexico

 8) Curecanti National Recreation Area, Elk Creek CG Loop D, near Gunnison, CO

 9) McDowell Mountain Regional Park, near Fort McDowell, AZ

10) Angostura Lake State Recreation Area, Hat Creek CG,  near Hot Springs, SD

Sometimes it was very difficult to choose so here are the wonderful runners up:

Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA

Lake Cochiti USACE, Cochiti Lake, NM

East Canyon State Park, Morgan, UT

Big Creek Flathead National Forest CG, Columbia Falls, MT *** dry camping***

Langhor CG in Hyalite Canyon, Gallatin USNF, Bozeman, MT *** dry camping ***

Boulder Beach, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Boulder City, NV *** dry camping ***

Furnace Creek CG, Death Valley NP, CA *** dry camping ***

Codorniz USACE Recreation Area, east of Merced, CA




What Else Can They Do With Rock #1? City of Rocks National Reserve

City of Rocks National Reserve, rock climbing, scenery, hiking

One Of The Less Well Known NPS Sites

When we took our retirement trip in 2010 to Utah we were amazed at how many varieties and shapes of rock we saw. The phrase “what else can they do with rock?” became a common question. We are continuing to find ourselves saying this as we travel through other parts of the west. Our last stop in Idaho for this year is just one example.

We left Boise and headed south and east to the small town of Almo, Idaho and Castle Rock State Park which is adjacent to City of Rocks National Reserve. We’ve been to a national preserve but didn’t know the definition of a reserve. It was explained to us that the National Park Service oversees the area administratively and participates in decisions but the Idaho State Parks supply manpower and management.

A Panorama Of The Area

A Panorama Of The Area

When we arrived at Castle Rock SP we headed for our reserved site but ran into a new glitch. The site was still occupied. Steve checked and there was no car and no occupants. So we pulled off the road and went in search of the Camp Host. She offered us another site in the equestrian portion of the campground but if we really wanted the reserved site the park would arrange to tow the other trailer away. The alternative site was lovely so we took that one. We never did find out why the people hadn’t vacated on time. Our Camp Host, Dottie, was a very interesting woman. She is a solo RVer and rock climber who was one of the first woman blackjack dealers in Las Vegas. Each winter she goes to Mexico where she and two other woman (a retired professor from Columbia University and a native New Zealander)  have built an animal rescue and spay facility called Fiona Animal Rescue of Hidalgo to deal with the severe overpopulation and mistreatment of domestic animals in the area. To read more about this worthy effort go to

fall color

Fall Color At City Of Rocks

City of Rocks National Reserve is one of the newer National Park sites offering stunning granite formations, overlapping biological regions for 750 plants and animals, world class rock climbing, 22 miles of hiking trails, photography sites and one of the best preserved locations on the California Trail. The park offers training in basic rock climbing with their Rock Climbing Ranger. Nearby is the Sawtooth National Forest with more beautiful scenery, lakes and campgrounds. We spent the first two days driving and walking among the spires and formations. Dogs are allowed on the trails so Opal enjoyed seeking out trails of pioneer dogs.

Replicas Of Pioneer Wagons

Replicas Of Pioneer Wagons



A "Cityscape" In Granite

A “Cityscape” In Granite







architecture, homestead

1890s Homestead Ruins




rock climbing

Rock Climbers Love This Park








Old Man In The Rock

Old Man In The Rock








rock formations

Steve Standing By Rock Formation











Latter in the week we had an opportunity to go on a two hour tour with the park archeologist, Kristin. The tour is listed in the park brochure but must be scheduled ahead. She is an excellent guide and provided many stories about the history of the California Trail and people who had left their signatures on Camp Rock and Register Rock. The park is working on a booklet about these people. Hopefully it will be available next year. Most of the signatures were written in axle grease but a few were carved into the rock. We learned that axle grease had come in many colors; red, green and even yellow so that at one time these rocks were very colorful. Now time and weather has made them uniform and in some cases difficult to read. Some 200,000 settlers passed through City of Rocks along the California Trail making this the largest emigrant movement in the world. One of the best known formations is The Twin Sisters because it could be easily spotted by the pioneers at a distance.

A Homesteader's Signature

A Homesteader’s Signature

One Of The Women Who Passed This Way

One Of The Women Who Passed This Way










A Traveler's Sketch

A Traveler’s Sketch

The Twin Sisters

The Twin Sisters

Today the town of Almo remains a very small ranching community where the general store still serves as the post office just as it has since the 1890s. If you come here, plan on bringing all your groceries with you as the nearest large grocery is an hour plus away. For non-campers there is a resort and motel and a few local restaurants.

Idaho, old photo, general store

Old Photo Of Almo General Store

Our drive into the Sawtooth National Forest turned up a few more interesting rock formations and great Fall scenery. We found two NFS campgrounds with good accessibility and suitable for our trailer so we added them to our GPS database. Even though they are dry camp areas we would enjoy a few days of fishing and hiking here. There is a wonderful scenic overlook at the top of Cache Peak. The Raft River below and the peak were named by Peter Skeen Ogden, a fur trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1826. The river was so named because beavers had it dammed and it could only be crossed by raft. Cache Peak got it’s name because it served as a landmark for trappers as to where they had cached their pelts. There is one overlook where you can see the location of a WWII aircraft training flight wreck. If you look closely you can still see a tire lying there.

fall foliage, Sawtooth NF

Sawtooth NF Early Fall Foliage


Painted With Lichen














A Landscape That Looks Like A Painting










rainbow in rock

A Rainbow Of Color In Rock



Can You See The Elephant?

Can You See The Elephant?


View From Cache Peak

View From Cache Peak

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever












Two other National Park sites were within an hour’s drive; Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Minidoka National Historic Site. When we put them into the GPS we didn’t realize they shared the same Visitor Center. so when we looked at the directions from one location to the other the GPS said “Drive six feet”. Who says machines don’t have a sense of humor. The Hagerman Fossil Beds are an extensive area of fossils along the Snake River Plain near Twin Falls, Idaho. The most famous are those of a herd of the earliest known horses called the Hagerman horse (Equus Simpicidens). They are more closely related to the Grevy’s zebra of Kenya and Ethiopia than the modern horse. Other fossils found here include mastodon and saber-toothed tigers. The small visitor center has good displays however the actual fossil sites are closed to the public. You can also see original wagon ruts of the California Trail passing close to the fossil beds.


Meet The Hagerman Horse



Snake River Canyon From Twin Falls Bridge

Snake River Canyon From Twin Falls Bridge












The Minidoka NHS was established in 2001 and tells the story about internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. I found the story and site to be moving, disturbing and educational. To realize that an entire segment of our population could be rounded up, deprived of their Civil Rights and freedom and imprisoned is shocking. It just shows what fear can do. Racial prejustice was already known to the immigrant Japanese (Issei) because as resident aliens they were prevented from owning land or obtaining citizenship. Their American born children (Nisei) were citizens. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor hostility increased and all people of Japanese ancestry were treated as spies and saboteurs. The impetus for internment was Executive Order 9066  in February 1942 which gave military commanders the power to exclude any persons from designated areas to secure national defense objectives. While the order could have been applied to anyone it was primarily used to remove 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coast. Within five months ten relocation centers were built with 7,100 people being relocated to Minidoka. Here they faced barbed wire fences, armed guards and restricted movement. Faced with poorly constructed barracks and sanitation they had to endure temperatures from -21 to 104. However this was a resourceful group who went on to create gardens, publish a newspaper and create musical groups. Minidoka became almost a self sustaining community. By the time the camp closed in 1945 the residents had cleared and cultivated 950 acres of land. A questionnaire was used to determine loyal internees from dissenters. If they answered No to willingness to serve in the US Armed Forces in combat and to foreswear allegiance to Japan they were shipped to Tule Lake Camp in California. Minidoka became the camp for loyal internees. Minidoka had the largest number of men volunteering for military service. The 442nd combat unit served in France and Italy and had two Medal of Honor recipients. When the camp closed the newly reclaimed land was sold by lottery. Most of the former camp land remains privately owned today. A few structures from the original camp remain hopefully to keep this from ever happening again.

One Of The Remaining Structures At Minidoka NHS

One Of The Remaining Structures At Minidoka NHS

Minidoka Camp 1942-1945

Minidoka Camp 1942-1945












Replica Of Guard Tower

Replica Of Guard Tower

Turning The Desert Into A Garden

Turning The Desert Into A Garden












The 442nd In Europe

The 442nd In Europe










With this we leave Idaho for this trip and head for Utah. There is so much more to see we will definitely be back!


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

bald eagle

American Bald Eagle

Batelur Eagle, birds of prey, Peregrine Fund

Batelur Eagle



















Northern Aplomado Falcon

Northern Aplomado Falcon












Orange Breasted Falcon

Orange Breasted Falcon

















Ornate Hawk Eagle

Ornate Hawk Eagle











Wilbur, The Western Screech Owl

tour, birds

Displays At The Peregrine Fund Archives


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


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!!!! 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!