Friday, May 20, 2016

Rain in John Day

Wednesday evening we stayed overnight at the Caldwell, Idaho Elks Lodge and Thursday made our way west and into Oregon to start our summer's travels.

green green Oregon

We arrived at the first come, first served Clyde Holliday State Recreation site (just west of John Day, Oregon)  in the early afternoon.    I was surprised to find it almost completely filled.   While Dave and Beluga used the dump station I walked around the camping loop looking for an empty site.    There were only two left, one of which was too short for Beluga.    I staked my claim on site 23 by plunking myself on the picnic table and waiting for Dave to realize I wasn't coming back and come looking for me.    I couldn't leave my spot or my claim would be jumped by the man pulling a trailer around the loop also looking for a suitable place.     Sheesh!    We've never tried first come, first served parks before and I have to say I don't really like the cutthroat atmosphere. 

That being said, this is a lovely, green park with water and electric for only $24 a night.   The blacktop driveways are beautifully level and the sitting areas are large and well spaced, teeming with birds.   We get great Verizon coverage but the PBS channels are the only ones we get over the air on our TVs.   Not so bad....

windshield view

our large grassy side sitting area

Sasha is loving the soft green grass and there is a nice nature path along the rushing John Day river just a few sites away.

We're still dealing with annoying details regarding the registration and licensing of our sweet little Jeep, so this morning was taken up with those tasks.    Rain was forecast for this afternoon and for the rest of our time here so after we'd done all we could by phone we packed lunch and headed west to try and see at least a bit of the wonderful John Day Fossil National Monument.   I had originally planned in more than a week to immerse ourselves in this interesting and unusual National Monument, but plans change and two days is all we have here.

entering Picture Gorge

We turned north off rt. 26, through the great cut that is Picture Gorge onto rt. 19 and into the Sheep Rock Unit of the National Monument.   After a brief stop at the Visitor's Center to view a movie about the formation and history of the area and pick up a map,  we set out to take a few short hikes.    Weather was closing in.

We found a lovely stop for lunch along the John Day river on our way to one of the trail heads

lunch view
The sky opened as we approached the Blue Basin area so we had to forgo the Island in Time Trail.    It was one I wanted to do, but not in a cold, driving rain.

Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, but we did manage to get out of the Jeep and explore the Foree area just a bit and had to be happy to be able to do that.   

These colorful landscapes showcase 40 million years of history.  Among the three units - Sheep Rock, Painted Hills and Clarno - we can see evidence of volcanic activity, dramatic environmental changes and an abundance of ancient plant and animal fossils.   We'll certainly return to experience all this area has to offer.            

work continues even in the rain

We took a longer route home and stopped a few times to admire and walk along the banks of the John Day River.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tuesday on the Moon!

You know what they say about "best laid plans"......we'd planned on spending a few days exploring the Crater's of the Moon National Monument and perhaps play a round of golf here at the Jerome Elks Lodge.    The Jeep purchase in Provo retarded our plans and a broken diamond ring caused our day at Crater's to start even later than scheduled.

Late last week I was getting ready to go (somewhere) and as I put my ring on I heard a snap and a tinkle.....the snap was the side setting breaking and the tinkle was the sound of three small pave diamonds hitting Beluga's floor.    Luckily I heard the tinkle and dropped to my knees to search for them.    I was able to pick them up and quickly called our jeweler.   He sent an insured FedEx label so I could return the ring and errant stones to him for repair.     So, before we packed up our lunch and headed north to Crater's of the Moon, we had to find an authorized FedEx shipper and get that ring on its way to Rochester, I feel absolutely naked without it!

The area around Twin Falls is pretty, I wish we had more time to check it out.  We did stop at a "scenic viewpoint" and were rewarded with a beautiful look at the Snake River below the I B Perinne bridge over route 93.

By the time we were done it was almost noon....not the way I'd planned our day.  Also, I didn't figure how far our destination actually was from Jerome.   I didn't think it was very far, but it turned out to be a distance of about 80 miles one way.

   We stopped at a Wildlife Refuge along our route to eat our lunch and watch the birds.   It was pleasant and on the way.

this yellow headed blackbird was showing off for the ladies

Once at Crater's of the Moon, we made a quick stop at the visitor's center, watched a short movie, decided what we could see within our allotted time and set off on the 7 mile scenic loop road thorough the park.

We had a wonderful time and were so sorry we couldn't spend more time.   We've been to Lava flows in Hawaii and scrambled around the lava fields near Sister's Oregon so we expected to have a similar experience.    While Hawaii's were, of course, still living and breathing this Monument's relatively recent lava beds were extremely interesting to us.   The most recent additions were only 2000 years old.   In the scheme of the earth, mere babes.
Here are some random pictures, it was a cloudy and gray day so I'm not happy with any of my pictures.   The reality was sooooo much more impressive.   You'll have to see for yourselves.

These tiny and perfectly spaced plants are dwarf buckwheat.   Their roots can spread out 4 feet to gather water in this harsh landscape and their white leaves reflect the sizzling summer sunshine.

aren't they pretty?

Clark's Nutcracker

Pretty much everything we saw was some variation of gray.   It was that kind of day.

Dave climbs side of the Inferno cinder cone

two nearby splatter cones

a look inside one of the snow and ice filled splatter cones
(it looked like a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream!)

Dave enters a huge lava tube called Indian Tunnel

Dave passes a rubble field inside Indian Tunnel
There are side tunnels leading in many directions.....

To enter any of the lava tubes or caves one has to have a permit.   They are free but necessary to try and stop the spread of white nose disease that is running rampant among bat populations.      In all caves but the Indian Tunnel, flashlights are required as they are pitch black, often with icy or wet floors.    This cave had two "sky lights" in its roof so extra light is not required for entry and exploration.
A good thing and a bad thing.   It was almost impossible for me to get a decent photo inside because of the very dark areas and the very very bright spots caused by the sky lights.    My little point and shoot couldn't decide where to focus so threw its hands up in frustration......

interesting details on ceilings and walls

Timing is everything.....

We had the National Monument to ourselves today.   Perhaps because it was a Monday, perhaps because it looked like rain all day.    For whatever reason, we enjoyed our solitude in this otherworldly landscape.    Only when we came up out of the Indian Tunnel lava tube, heading back to the Jeep,  did we see a huge group of school children approaching us.    Our experience there would have been entirely different if we had to share it with 30 or 40 other people.    Timing is everything!

Sasha and Lewis have enjoyed their time here.  Sasha's only challenge was getting over the landscape timbers to reach the grass for her walks.   She did a yeoman's job by the way.

Lewis enjoyed playing ball below the driving range when he could talk someone into throwing it for him. And in the evening he found a great seat to watch television and keep an eye on what was going on at the Lodge.

Tomorrow we pack up and continue our westward progress.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Jerome, Idaho

All went well on our new Jeep's maiden voyage.   Beluga was a bit skittish with an unfamiliar vehicle following so very closely all the way out of Utah, but she soon settled and we had an uneventful day.   A spit of rain and a lot of wind, but otherwise a fine drive of about 225 miles.

roadside wildflowers

We stopped for a quick lunch at one of the rest stops off I-84.   Because of our size we usually end up parking between large semi's with views of nothing but the truck or its trailer.   Today we had a pleasant surprise when a Kenworth pulled in next to us hauling a trailer with fantastic graphics on its side.    This day we had a beautiful view for lunch.....

We arrived at the Snake River Elks Lodge in Jerome, Idaho early in the afternoon.   Early enough for me to locate Robin's easy and delicious recipe for fresh rhubarb crisp and put one together for tonight's dinner.

We're the only rig here, have 50 amps of electric and views of the golf course and surrounding hay fields on the Snake River Plain for $10 a night.   Not a bad set up for the next day or so.   Lewis and Sasha love all the soft green grass everywhere.

 Tomorrow we'll drive up to the Crater's of the Moon for a quick visit.   We'd planned a longer exploration, but it hasn't worked out that way so we'll be happy with what we have.

Our view of the driving range from Beluga's windshield

fields of hay from my bedroom window

We look forward to a nice quiet evening here and a good day tomorrow.

Leaving Salt Lake City

We've extended our stay here in Salt Lake City and although we've had a grand time its finally time to hit the road.   We leave in the morning, finger's crossed!

Last week we were in Provo for a stopover night.   Our spot at the Provo Elks lodge was so pleasant that we figured we'd stay one extra day and do a bit of exploring.     We passed a Jeep dealer so we stopped in to see what options we may have if we decided to trade in our 2015 Grand Cherokee.   We've been thinking of changing to a Wrangler Sport but wanted leather seats with lumbar support and a navigation system and wondered if those things were available.    We found out that they are not options and to get them we'd have to move up to a much more expensive model.   Ah well.  

To make a very long story short, our Irish salesman John, offered to get us exactly what we wanted by selling us a stock Wrangler sport and then swapping out the seats and radio for leather/lumbar,  a navigation/radio system AND deliver it to us in the time we had available.

 So, we signed on the dotted line.

  Unfortunately, the base Jeep he found for us was in Tucson and had to be transported to Provo, then leather seats and nav. system installed.   After all that, it needed to be readied for flat towing behind Beluga.

We ended up staying in Salt Lake for 4 days more than originally planned while the "magic" was happening in Provo.  Not a hardship, it gave us a few more days to enjoy the company of our friends and perhaps see more of the area we've really just driven through.    Dave was able to get in a little more golf, we had a few more delicious dinners and had a chance to tour Red Butte Garden.

  We had a bit of a rough patch during the process, necessitating a few more hours spent back in Provo, but ultimately we have the exact vehicle we were looking for and we love it!

While waiting in  Provo we checked out Utah Lake State Park.   I've been wanting to see the lake so we turned the delay into an opportunity to explore.

Utah Lake

The lake was pretty with the snow capped mountains in the distance, but a annoying hatch of mayflies kept us in the car most of the time.   They don't sting, but my do they swarm!

Once the new Jeep was finally in our possession and at Beluga's side, Dave hooked up the newly installed lights and braking system to make sure they worked nicely together.     They didn't.

our uniformed tech. getting down to business

 Luckily Mr. David's A-1 Connection Consultants, LLC was in the area and we were able to persuade the owner to send his best man to the Pony Express RV Resort, site B-11, to lend his considerable experience to solving our problem.

He didn't let us down.   After a few hours of work and a serious personal meltdown, the deed was done and the cute little Jeep was winking its lights at us on request.   Phew.     Thanks again Mr. David, I don't know what I'd do without you.

We spent today taking care of the normal day before leaving details and got acquainted with our new vehicle.   Dave remounted the satellite radio antenna, cleaned up some rough edges that the other guy left  and we managed to pack all our "good stuff" into the back of the Jeep.  

We met Jack and Marilyn for one last dinner and a quick stop at Trader Joe's before heading to bed, happy with our visit and our purchase.

Dave and Jack admire our new baby

Tomorrow we're on the road again at last!