As we drove into the park, I had the thought that this was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful parks we’ve ever stayed in. That’s quite a statement considering we’ve been full-timing for over 10 years.
All the RV spots are along the Columbia River – a very short walk from the sites. The photos below were taken as I walked south on the park path. The first is a view turned right towards our RV, the second is turned left towards the dock that we could have used to moor our boat! It couldn’t have been more convenient and we have never had the ability to do this before. The park path runs about five miles along the shores of the Columbia and Entiat Rivers.
A Day in Chelan
Lake Chelan extends 50 miles and adjoins North Cascades National Park. It is relatively narrow (less than two miles) but the nation’s third deepest lake after Crater and Tahoe, about 1,500 feet.
At the North Cascades NP end of the lake is a small unincorporated community of Stehenkin. The waters there are described as “fjord-like.” There are no roads to Stehenkin, so if you want to see it, you hike or go by boat. We chose the latter but unfortunately, the wind came up that day and we only made it about two-thirds of the way. (A new entry on the bucket list.)
Washington State’s Ultimate Road Trip
There are nine regions on this 440 mile adventure. We drove the portion from Chelan to Mazama, about 75 miles each way, following the path of the Methow River. The whole trip was gorgeous. The high point was definitely the town of Twisp. Twisp is an official Creative District in Washington and boasts the work of hundreds of local artists and makers, including a thriving music and theatrical arts scene. We were there mid-week and it was very quiet, but we enjoyed the native garden, our East Indian lunch from the “Fork” food truck on site, and our visit with the tree artisan – a former carpenter who followed his bliss into furniture-making.
Driving back along the Methow River, suddenly a deer collided with our truck! It was 3PM and this deer came flying across the highway into the driver-side door. I looked up and saw it through the driver window. D.A. took quick evasive action pulling to the right, and the deer slid along the truck. D.A. came to a stop and the deer was long gone. The only evidence was some hair stuck on the mud flap. We took a moment for our hearts to come back to rhythm while we counted our blessings!
Another day I was on the search for cherries. There were none at the local produce shop, so I went south to Wenatchee and west to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth. The timber community, incorporated in 1096, had struggled over the years to revitalize itself. It was the regional office of the Great Northern Railway and housed the second largest sawmill in Washington state.
The railroad operations relocated to Wenatchee and over the years the population declined as lumber mills and stores relocated.
The city turned to tourism and recreation and even opened a ski jump in 1929. 1929! Eventually, in 1962, an improvement committee was formed in partnership with the University of Washington to investigate ways to revitalize the town. The theme town idea was created by two Seattle businessmen.
Leavenworth is now seen as one of Washington state’s best attractions and an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise: hiking, skiing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, floating on SUP, backcountry camping. Did I mention shopping?
The Mothership, the Blue Spruce Goose and the Meal Ticket set off from Boise. One of the best benefits of full-time RVing is finally seeing those places you’ve been thinking about for months or years.
The flip side is this visit to Walla Walla was unplanned. It was simply half way between Boise and Entiat – our destination near the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area on the eastern side of the Cascades. We were talking about visiting Washington and our friend, Ben Parkhurst, told us it was a favorite of his.
We stayed at Blue Valley RV Park which is a little out of town. Our first impressions of the city seemed a little rough around the edges, but we later learned that we were wrong in that assessment.
On our second day, I went to the Visitor Center to decide our best options for sightseeing. The Center was closed but there was a kiosk outside with lots of local info. The downtown area was very much alive and thriving and I parked a couple of blocks away, so I could walk and get a feel for the area. There are 11 colleges within 80 miles of Walla Walla, so that adds to the vibe, and I was totally enchanted.
I gathered up info that interested me and started back to the truck, but walked a couple of blocks further just because it was a lovely day. And then I saw (drum roll in background) Earthlight Books. Used bookstores and ice cream shops are always at the top of my list of “find-these.”
Chatting with the owner, I told him we were full-time RVers who spend winters at Lake Havasu and summers anywhere else. This summer we planned to see as much of Washington state that we could. His response, “That is about as opposite a life from mine that I’ve ever heard!” I said, “Okay, tell me about your life,” and he put his arms out, turning around, and said, “…This…” The family-operated store opened on April 1, 1973, and he’s been there ever since. But what a great place it was to visit (and of course I bought a stack of books to read and leave at RV parks along our tour route). I didn’t mention I have always wanted to own a bookstore.
(My two favorite books so far this season are Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver — just won the 2023 Nobel Prize for fiction and is about addiction in Appalachia, and Regeneration – Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation by Paul Hawken — unlikely, but so very inspiring.)
The Walla Walla Valley has the highest concentration of wineries and tasting rooms in Washington. It has more than 120, including many of Washington’s founding wineries. So this surely adds to the upscale ambiance of the City.
The next morning, D.A. was finishing up a few things to ready the boat for the water so I thought I would take a walk around the park. The RV park is very clean with nice landscaping. We would stay there again. The park is divided into two sections and what I didn’t realize when we pulled in was those sections were separated by the Blue Mountain Humane Society building and grounds. One side of the park is for short-term stays (numbered 1-35) and the other for long-term stays (numbered 36-60) and though you would expect a lot of barking noise with a dog pound so close, that was not the case.
As I was walking, I started visiting with another walker, Priscilla, who turned out to be a fount of information. She and her family have lived on the eastern side of the Cascades all their lives. When I asked her the question I always ask locals – “What is the one attraction I must see here today” – she replied, “Palouse Falls,” a site not on my list. Bingo!! I love when that happens.
Our first stop usually involves birding
Shortly afterward we were on our way to the Pioneer Park Aviary. Administered and owned by the city of Walla Walla, the Pioneer Park Aviary provides an exhibit of over 170 species of waterfowl and land-dwelling birds. (This is also where I found the Blue Spruce tree above.) There were really exotic birds like the Golden Pheasant and various peafowl and quite a huge variety of ducks.
The Ice Cream Tour Continues
No day touring is complete for us without an ice cream stop. Since our other destinations were some distance from town, we had an early stop at the Pine Cone Creamery.
The owners have a lovely story of opening a breakfast spot in Walla Walla but always wanting an ice cream shop. Finally, in 2020, they did it and in spite of Covid, their hand-crafted, small batch creamery has become a big success.
You see the name “Whitman” on lots of things in Walla Walla, so our first afternoon stop was the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. D.A. helped build a tipi and then we learned the dark history of this place.
From time immemorial, the Cayuse have lived in the valley and considered each plant and animal family. They managed the forest and grassland to provide their foods. They roamed the region gathering berries and balsamroot, fishing for salmon, and hunting for elk and deer.
Inspired by the religious zeal of the time, called The Second Great Awakening, it was not enough to be “saved.” You must also “save” others. So inspired, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman left their New York home in 1936. They traveled with another couple to open a Christian mission among the Cayuse. The Whitman’s introduced the idea of staying in one place and tending fields and livestock. Over time, this undermined Cayuse spiritual beliefs and began to destabilize their society. Interest in the new lifestyle and religion waxed and waned. Only a few converted to Christianity.
As waves of immigrants came, the Cayuse were alarmed and feared for the sovereignty of their lands. A measles epidemic ensued in 1847, killing 30 of the 50 Cayuse within six weeks. It seemed Marcus, a doctor, could heal the whites (who had natural immunity) but not the Cayuse. They wondered if his failure to cure them was so the missionaries could acquire their land. Survivors questioned if Whitman was poisoning them. They started to believe he had intentionally introduced the disease.
Later that year, a small group of Cayuse met near the mission to discuss options to halt the spread of death. They determined Whitman was responsible. The next day, Whitman was warned a small group of Cayuse intended to kill him, but he took no action. By the end of the day, Marcus and Narcissa were dead. Within days, eleven others were killed and 47 other people, including children, were held hostage for almost a month.
In 1848, immigrant settlers organized a militia to seek revenge. The Cayuse tried to defend themselves, but the militia cut them off from their way of life and caused them to face famine. To preserve a future for their people, the Cayuse surrendered five of their men. They were tried, hanged, and buried in an unmarked grave.
A treaty was negotiated in 1855, ensuring the Cayuse could keep some of their most sacred lands. Their homeland became part of the United States. The Cayuse today are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Marcus Whitman wrote, in a letter to Narcissa’s parents in 1844: “It does not concern me so much what is to become of any particular set of Indians… I have no doubt our greatest work is to aid the white settlement of this country and help to found its religious institutions. The Indians have in no case obeyed the command to multiply and replenish the earth, and they cannot stay in the way of others.”
It was about an hour’s drive to the Falls through rolling hills of wheat – honestly, wheat-as-far-as-you-could-see-in-every-direction. And then the wheat was gone and we were driving deep into a ravine that crossed the Snake River at Lions Ferry State Park. Up the equally steep mountains on the other side, we arrived at Palouse Falls State Park.
Who knew there was an Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail – a driving route that leads you 3,380 miles through Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon? Palouse Falls is stop 9 of 13.
About 18,000 years ago an advancing glacial lobe blocked the Clark Fork River in current-day northern Idaho. We visited last year (post entitled “We Made It To the Beartooth Highway”). Behind this giant ice dam, water rose 2,000 feet, filling the valleys to the east, creating Glacial Lake Missoula. As the ice lobe retreated, pressure from the lake caused the ice dam to fail, releasing up to 600 cubic miles of water (the volume of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie combined), in as little as two days. This wall of water, ice, and debris hundreds of feet tall raced westward over 16,000 square miles through present-day Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Over the course of the next 3,000 years, the glacial lobe continued the cycle of advancing, blocking the Clark For River, filling Glacial Lake Missoula, and then failing, releasing the water across the landscape. Over time, dozens of floods left a lasting change on the natural environment and human habitation in the region.
This flood path showcases an active waterfall. Palouse Falls was created when floodwaters rerouted the ancestral Palouse River from flowing into the Columbia River and into its current course towards the Snake River. The Palouse River drops 200 feet over a sheer cliff into a roiling bowl, then zigzags six miles through the 300-foot coulee cliffs of the Palouse River Canyon before flowing into the Snake River.
Now, here’s my favorite part of the story: It took a high school teacher turned geology professor, J. Harlen Bretz, 1882-1981, to determine how it all happened. During the 1920s-40s, geologists debated the origin of eastern Washington’s Channeled Scabland (interconnected relict -primitive form- and dry flood channels) was made by slow erosion by glaciers and streams. Geologic evidence didn’t fit with this idea, so Bretz hypothesized that it was formed by a catastrophic flood. He was ridiculed at first but validated in the 1970s when new technologies like satellite photography provided supporting evidence!
Thus ends a remarkable day we never intended to have. The places you think about may be calling, but there are many others you may stumble upon on your way, equally beneficial, maybe even humbling like this one.
I was catching up on filing today when I noticed our RV policy premium with Progressive had increased – not a lot, but an increase. It started me thinking about insuring depreciating assets.
I called Progressive and asked what the insured value of our RV was. The number they were using was our purchase price from December 2019. They do not increase or decrease that value when they renew the policy (which means there may be a large variance between that number and your actual cash value less depreciation that would be paid in case of total loss). They agreed to reduce our insured value by about $12,000 to the current NADA value. It reduced our premiums by more than $50 a month (or $600 per year)!
I wondered if others might be overlooking this issue.
Later and still thinking about it, I called back and asked about values for our truck. I learned autos and trucks have a different rating platform. It takes into account purchase price, but also many other issues such as number of drivers, age of drivers, driving history, zip code, credit scores, parts availability and pricing, etc. So, no discount on our auto policy. Nice try!
Not so much for D.A. His memories of Alaska during his Orvis years involved black bears and swarms of mosquitoes.
I didn’t expect it would be by cruise however because of my previous experience cruising. A lifetime ago, I took a Western Mediterranean cruise; a Greek ship with about 500 passengers. It set the bar for me at a very high level. Later, I took a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. It was not a carnival. It was living in a giant ashtray for a week with 2,500 passengers! The itinerary took us to many ports where Cuban cigars were sold. Those cigars could be purchased but not brought back to the U.S.
I always said an ideal trip for me would be a cruise to Alaska on a small ship…
And then, one day in May, our dear Boise friends, Athena & Bob, called to say they had just booked an Alaska cruise and wanted us to go with them. I looked at D.A. and said, “Wanna go?” and he said YES! We booked. It wasn’t until afterwards that we realized the Norwegian Bliss carries 4,000 passengers and 1,700 crew. Oh my. How could it be that in Covid times we’d be traveling for a week with 6,000 strangers? How could it be we’d also paid for that?!!
We arrived in Seattle for our transfer to the ship. After walking what seemed like many miles (thank goodness we are not those folks with huge bags packed to the gills), we were given a bus number, 21. At that moment, number 18 was boarding, so we thought it was no big deal and soon we would board our bus and be on our way. No. Not even close. It was cold in the boarding area. We had already surrendered our bags. We waited. We shivered. And we realized that while 4,000 people were embarking that day, 4,000 other people were also disembarking the same vessel.
Finally, our bus arrived and we were off to our adventure. Well, not quite. We left the bus only to join a very long line of people trying to check in for their cruise. It’s not that it was an inefficient process, there were just so many people!
Everything had to be checked and rechecked then checked again, I.D. photos taken for card keys, but eventually we ended up in our stateroom – a balcony room on the 9th floor – our little oasis – with a sliding glass door to magical views. Our friends arrived! Our luggage arrived! We sailed out of Seattle Saturday evening.
Sunday was a sea day, so we wandered the ship and found what would be our two favorite places. (1) The spa. We bought a pass for the week to the spa area that included use of a huge hydro pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, salt room, snow room, heated tiled lounges. It was money well spent, especially on rainy days. They sold a limited number of passes, so it was never crowded. (2) The Observation Lounge took up the entire 15th deck and was a lovely and restful place to spend time with its intimate lounge areas and floor to ceiling windows.
Early Monday we arrived in Sitka for the day. Unfortunately, another cruise ship arrived about the same time, so getting into town meant another l-o-n-g line. We hadn’t booked a tour there, which gave us time to explore the downtown area. We went to the museum and took a nice walk along the waterfront to Sitka National Historic Park to see the totem poles displayed there.
We didn’t book many tours in advance because the weather predictions included a lot of rain, but it turned out the weather was mostly perfect. The one tour we did book in advance was a Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari in Juneau.
I kept backing up and backing up to try to get the whole ship into a photo! It almost worked. Seeing those busses parked nearby kind of puts it in perspective.
This tour was a great experience. The bus delivered us near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center where we took the “Trail of Time” capturing the natural history of the glacier with our naturalist guide and photographer, ending with magnificent views of the glacier. Back on the bus we had snacks, “They tell us we must feed and water you every two hours!”
The action started practically as soon as we boarded the whale watching vessel and continued throughout. We were in the area known as Stephens Passage and there were so many whales even our guide and captain were awestruck!
The vessels in the Gastineau fleet are specially designed and built to get you up close with the environment. The cabin has large panel windows that open from within to give unrestricted views (while keeping you dry). They are the only crafts of their kind in Southeast Alaska, custom built specifically for marine wildlife photography. We will never forget this experience.
We had a short visit on Day 5 to Icy Strait Point, a privately owned tourist destination just outside the small village of Hoonah. It had been raining and when it finally cleared, we took a walk to see the sights near the dock. Later we learned Icy Strait Point has the highest concentration of wild bears anywhere in the world!
Its history is fascinating because Icy Strait Point did not even exist 50 years ago! In 1912, the Hoonah Packing Co. built a large salmon cannery. The cannery operated on and off under different ownership until the early 1950s, then it sat shuttered for decades until the local Alaska Native corporation, Huna Totem Corp., purchased and rehabilitated the facility which now houses a museum, local arts and crafts shops, restaurants and a mid-1930s cannery line display. Outside and easily seen on our walk from the ship to the cannery is the world’s largest and highest zip line – 5,330 feet long featuring a 1,300-foot vertical drop! If we had more time in port and a little better weather, we surely would have given that a try.
Day 6 was Ketchikan, the salmon capital of the world, and it was time for salmon fishing! And it was raining. Nonetheless, we went out with a captain and four other passengers trolling with downriggers. There were three or four downriggers, so as a fish hit, we took turns reeling it in. I lost mine right at the boat, but D.A. brought his in. Five were caught in total – which were donated to the guy who was willing to pay $240 to have them processed and shipped home! Knowing D.A. was a “6-pack” captain too, our captain had him take the wheel several times while he was busy with other tasks. It won’t surprise you to hear D.A. would love to go back and spend a summer guiding in Alaska. Stay tuned.
Our last full day was mostly at sea, but included an evening stop in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Not quite long enough (or early enough) for a visit to Butchart Gardens, or much else. I had to wonder why NCL would have an arrival at 8PM and departure at midnight. I learned that all cruises sailing from the U.S. must stop in Canada or another foreign port due to the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) of 1886. Foreign-flagged ships must visit at least one foreign country during the cruise. A cruise line would face significant penalties for not complying. That didn’t make much sense to me since NCL is a U.S. company, but it doesn’t matter where the company is domiciled, it matters where the ship is “flagged.” Most of the NCL ships are flagged in the Bahamas. Mystery solved!
Athena and I decided to take a walk to the historical harbor and a DIY tour of the Empress Hotel. It was the perfect choice to walk off the most decadent dinner of our voyage at Ocean Blue.
I haven’t talked much about eating or entertainment. Suffice to say the options were generous. Eating-wise, there was a huge buffet on the 16th floor which offered breakfast, lunch and dinner. We avoided it because there were so many other choices where you could be seated and served. The food and service were excellent. The desserts were out of this world and we tried them all. There was entertainment all day in an area called the Atrium, and many shows to choose from at night, plus a wild assortment of opportunities, i.e., solo travelers, trivia, karaoke, wine and chocolate pairing, beer and whisky tasting, game show themes. And did I mention the casino? Huge.
I personally would have loved talks by naturalists, but we got that kind of info on the tours. Had the weather predictions been better, we would have taken more tours.
It was a huge pain and inconvenience embarking. It was a huge pain and inconvenience debarking, but the time between couldn’t have been better. It was a level of luxury, alright decadence, we had not previously experienced, but thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.
Would we go again? No. It’s really not our gig. We want to connect with people, spend time in places and get to know them.
Are we happy we went? Yes. It was an experience of a lifetime we will never forget or regret!
That being said, I personally would love to spend a summer touring around Alaska. There are a couple of considerations, the main one being road conditions of the 3,500 to 5,000 mile one-way drive. Only other RVers can understand this. You arrive at your destination, then wander around with your little baggie picking up screws that have become detached. Next step is trying to determine where they belong. Maybe we’ll hitchhike!
Up until that trip, we had spent the whole summer planning our next summer. We thought we would go to a couple of lakes in Oregon and Washington to fish for Kokanee, then follow the Missouri River – the longest river in the U.S. – from southwest Montana through North Dakota and South Dakota (where I will renew my driver’s license and we will meet our Casper friends for the 4th of July weekend).
But who knows? There’s more to this story and it literally could take us anywhere!
We are very interested in what is happening on the Colorado River since we have been spending summers on the north end and always spend winters on the south end. We decided a visit to Fontenelle Dam was in order to wrap up our third summer in Wyoming.
The Green River is the major tributary to the Colorado River. Fontenelle Dam is at the northern end of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Flaming Gorge Dam is at the southern end. From there it continues through eastern Utah, with a loop into northwestern Colorado, and back into Utah where it joins the Colorado River south of Moab, in Canyonlands National Park.
Fontenelle Reservoir acts primarily as a storage reservoir for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Storage Project, retaining Wyoming water in the state as a means of asserting Wyoming’s water rights, with a secondary purpose of power generation.
Interestingly, the land used for the Fontenelle Reservoir and dam was previously the Stepp Ranch, owned by one of the few black ranching families in Wyoming in the 1960s. The Stepps fought for their land in court, but ultimately lost. The land had been in the Stepp family since the turn of the 19th century. More of the story here .
Eminent Domain. No further comment. I was happy to learn there are still many Stepp family members in the area.
We had our picnic lunch in the Weeping Rock campground where the chipmunks amused us. We tossed a saltine cracker to one, and then there were two chipmunks, then there were three. You know this story. It was such a lovely, serene spot with drift boats passing by, a cloudless sky – I see why people love it so.
And we learned a couple of things. There was a sign that told us the water weeps through the rock formations on the east side of the dam until it “weeps” at this site. Unbeknownst to us, seepage and “weeping” are common occurrences at dam and reservoir facilities.
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge (link) – has been a “must stop” for every visit to Wyoming. Just on the entry road we saw many redtails, a falcon, eagle, osprey. This Refuge was created to offset the loss of wildlife habitat that resulted when the Flaming Gorge and Fontenelle Dams were built so the Green River runs through it. The many aspects of the Refuge are fascinating. The Oregon, Mormon, California, and Pony Express trails all cross the Refuge. One of the original goals of the Refuge was to provide suitable nesting and rearing habitat for waterfowl. There is riparian habitat, wetland habitat, upland habitat – which can all be explored on the Auto Tour.
From there we took Hwy 28 over to Farson – not because it was the most direct route home. It was simply to enforce our belief that all roads in Wyoming lead to Farson Mercantile. Did I tell you about the world famous ice cream?
On our way out of Wyoming in mid-September, we decided to stop for a visit at Bear River State Park (add link) in Evanston. Somehow, in all our trips, we had overlooked this stop. There are small herds of bison and elk and more than four miles of paved and packed gravel trails along the beautiful Bear River. It connects to Evanston’s historic downtown district via the city’s Bear River Greenway trail system.
The visitor center sits above the park and has numerous interpretive wildlife displays that display Wyoming’s wildlife (more than 40 full-body taxidermy mounts including a grizzly bear boar, black-footed ferrets, golden eagles, black bears).
Bear River State Park is a day use only park so we needed to find a spot to spend the night. The only game in town is Phillips RV Park – which has a very interesting history. A family owned business for over 80 years, it started in 1936 as a gas station (gas was $.19/gal.), with trailer spaces, tent camping and some cabins, then morphed and morphed into the current facility.
Returning to Salt Lake City for a couple of nights, we stayed at Sun Outdoors – off the 215 and near the airport. This was our first visit. It’s a full service resort and our space was large enough to fit the RV, truck and boat. The back-in sites are about $60/night, the pull-throughs about $70. Lots of sites and some rental cabins. We would stay again without hesitation.
It’s located along the North Segment of the Jordan River Parkway– a system I have really enjoyed exploring on previous visits.
The drive from Salt Lake City was harrowing. Rain, wind and traffic at various intervals throughout the day made it exhausting for both of us. I drive the truck towing the boat and am the navigator. D.A. drives the RV.
We spent our last night on the road at Beaver Dam Lodge– it’s located off Hwy 15 south of Littlefield AZ and north of Mesquite NV. This was our second visit. 29 Sites so far (the number will double in November 2022), the central sites (5 of them) are huge pull throughs. All have full hookups. While I was waiting at the desk to register, their phone never stopped ringing with people calling for winter reservations. The resort’s response? “Nope. Nothing. Call in November to reserve for next year!” Gives you an idea how popular this lifestyle has gotten. The charge for one night was $52.75.
As we prepared to set up, the first thing we always check is that there is plenty of room for our slides to open on the utility side, then we walked around to the entry side. There we found a panel missing from the coach! The missing panel protects the fresh water tank…
We hadn’t noticed a problem with the panel. We assume it became detached when we were in the slow lane because it could have caused a horrific accident if we had been traveling in the left lane! Was it loose and if so, why? Of course we’ll never know, but that cover had been removed just before we left Havasu for the summer when we had maintenance done on the Aqua Hot system.
So you check to be sure all your bays are closed properly before you hit the road, but would you ever think to check panels? We never did.
Back safely to home base but only briefly. We have a date with the Norwegian Bliss in Seattle in a couple of days!
My most “mind-blowing” day of the summer was one enroute to Casper. We stopped at “Devil’s Gate,” a gorgeous setting near Independence Rock. We had no idea what we were about to learn. We’d been on this road before, but somehow missed this stop, a historic Oregon-California Trail landmark.
The Visitor Center tells the story of the Edward Martin Handcart Company, a horrible disaster of 1856 that resulted in the greatest loss of life from any single event during the entire Westward migration period.
While many U.S. Mormons had already relocated to Salt Lake City by the 1850’s, the ones traveling with this company were mostly converts from Europe. Many emigrants’ passage was supported by the church, but by the mid-1850’s, drought and famine struck Utah, and suddenly there was not as much wealth in church coffers to support the travels. To save money and time, church leaders in 1856 urged emigrants to use handcarts.
The handcarts consisted almost entirely of green lumber and had been built in Iowa by the emigrants themselves. They were shallow, three feet wide and five feet long, and held skimpy supplies of food, plus 17 pounds of luggage—clothes, blankets, and personal possessions—for each person. A few ox-drawn wagons accompanied the party to carry tents, more food, and sick people. Rations were one pound of flour per person daily, plus any meat shot on the way. The carts were pulled by one or two people while other family members pushed behind or walked alongside.
So, five companies set out from Iowa City traveling to Salt Lake City that summer. Three made the journey without incident. The Martin Company set off from Iowa City traveling to Salt Lake City at the end of July 1856 with 600 emigrants. They did okay until they got into Wyoming in early October, but started suffering from shortened rations and fatigue. They discarded clothing and personal effects in order to lighten the handcarts. They were aware rescue wagons were coming for them and they didn’t want to run out of food or get stalled by winter storms.
On October 19th, while trying to cross the North Platte River near Casper, a winter storm struck
The water was shallow, but the river was wide and freezing cold, so their clothing was frozen on them as they got to camp. It was too late to go for wood and water – the wood was far away. The ground was frozen hard and they were unable to drive tent pins, so they just laid on the ground and waited for morning.
Meanwhile, the rescue company from Salt Lake City was in search of the company, but it took another 10 days to find them. The Martin Company stalled because of the horrible conditions, which sadly resulted in the death of more than 50 handcart pioneers.
Heart-wrenching to see it as presented in this remote spot.
We were having dinner with friends in Casper, but we were actually on our way to Rapid City, South Dakota, so D.A. could renew his driver’s license. We are residents of Wyoming because they are one of a few states that make such a choice a good one. It turns out, though, that if your birthdays are less than six months apart, they let you renew at the same time. Ours, however, are not, so every five years, we make one trip to renew D.A.’s license, then go again the following year to renew mine. If these are the kinds of problems we have, nobody is going to feel very sorry for us! We always try to make it an adventure.
The plan was that we would stop in Spearfish, S.D., to visit the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery, a living fisheries museum which also houses the national fish hatchery archives. Heading east on Hwy. 90, it started to rain. By the time we’re close to Spearfish, it was pouring. We decided to pass on the visit. Only a few miles further east, the rain had let up somewhat and there was a road sign for the “Geographic Center of the Nation,” about nine miles off Hwy. 90. Sure, let’s go!
Now, this is a little more complicated than it may seem. The Geographic Center of the Contiguous United States is located about two miles northwest of Lebanon, Kansas. But, in 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted statehood, the geographic center of the overall United States moved approximately 550 miles! And if that’s not confusing enough, the site we were visiting near Belle Fourche is not the real geographic center, it’s a “public commemoration” site, because the actual center – about 22 miles north – is in private pastureland!!
By the time we left, though, the rain was completely over and we headed back to the fish hatchery. Really impressive grounds (and volunteers); it feels more like a museum than a working fish hatchery.
A very interesting aspect was the Fisheries Railcar which tells the story of when fish were transported by rail across the country. Crews actually lived and worked on the cars, delivering fish and stocking lakes and streams.
There were wonderful bronze sculptures by Jim Maher and nature trails throughout the grounds. At the Booth House, living quarters for hatchery superintendents and their families, a docent was waiting and gave us a personal tour through the residence built in 1905.
Absolutely a “must see” if you are visiting the Black Hills. Speaking of the “Black Hills,” do you know how they got that name? I consulted my personal Living History Museum, D.A.: “A Lakota word, Paha Sapa, which means hills that are black.” Seen from a distance, these pine-covered hills appear black.
We were in and out of the licensing office in 10 minutes, then we were on our way back to Casper to spend the weekend with those same friends. We wanted to return by a different route, so Marilyn suggested two meaningful stops: Mammoth Site and Ayers Natural Bridge.
The Mammoth Site
The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, S.D. – In 1974, when ground was being leveled for a new housing development n Hot Springs, equipment operator George Hanson’s blade struck something that shone white in the sunlight. It looked like a tusk about seven feet long, sliced in half lengthwise along with other bones.
The property was owned by Phil Anderson. He contacted universities and colleges in South Dakota and Nebraska and could find no interest in this discovery!
Mr. Hanson’s son, Dan, had taken classes in geology and archaeology, so Dan contacted a former professor Dr. Larry Angenbroad, who was then on the faculty of Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.
Dr. Angenbroad’s first assessment of the number of bones exposed suggested four to six mammoths. But he felt there had to be more. He involved some of his professional colleagues and they spent 10 days salvaging and stabilizing the bones that were exposed.
Phil Anderson agreed to suspend his project until there was a better idea of what was there.
In 1975, Dr. Angenbroad led a team of volunteer students to begin excavating the site. A complete skull with tusks intact was unearthed. They dug in the summer and then reburied in the winter to preserve them. By the end of 1975, Phil Anderson realized his 14 acres of land would be more valuable as a resource for scientific study than a housing development. Soon, a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization, the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, S.D., was born.
Today, the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, a National National Landmark, is an active paleontological dig site, which boasts the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world! The current mammoth count is 61, with 58 Columbian and 3 wooly mammoths.
Fossils of other Ice Age animals have also been discovered: camel, llama, giant short-faced bear, wolf, coyote and prairie dog to name a few. Imprint fossils of bird feathers, complete fish skeletons, and thousands of mollusk shells have also been recovered from this now-dry 26,000 year old sinkhole.
Knowing they would NEVER fully excavate the site, they enclosed and protected it with a climate controlled building. The bones are displayed as they were discovered, in the now dry pond sediments for an “in-situ” exhibit. Walkways allow visitors a close-up view of the fossils.
Another “must see”? Absolutely!
Ayers Natural Bridge
Just west of Douglas, a little south of the Oregon Trail and a few minutes off I-25, Ayers is one of only three natural bridges with water beneath. It is considered one of Wyoming’s first tourist attractions. In 1843, a pioneer described it as “A natural bridge of solid rock, over a rapid torrent, the arch being regular as tho’ shaped by art”. Located in a red rock canyon, the site includes a picnic area, playground, hiking paths, a volleyball court and horseshoe pits. A perfect rest stop on our return to Casper.
It was our long-held intention to drive the Beartooth Highway. For some reason during our summers in Wyoming, we never made it happen. But this year we weren’t leaving without the experience.
Heading for Cody, we found ourselves on the same road (yes, ice cream at Farson) as the one we recently traveled to Boysen State Park – Farson to Lander, Riverton, Thermopolis. But then on to Meeteetse (don’t blink) and Cody. This time we opted to camp in another state park, Buffalo Bill (of course) and we had a great campsite on the North Fork that came with a bonus – birdsong at breakfast!
This park has an interesting history. It was completed in 1910 and was then the highest dam in the country at 325 feet. Buffalo Bill State Park was established in 1957 and provided recreational areas along the shoreline. But then it was determined that the crest of the dam needed to be raised by 25 feet for increased reservoir storage. The reservoir inundated the former recreation area, so the park had to be redeveloped in the 1990’s!
The Day of Endless Majesty
First thing the next morning, we headed for the Beartooth Highway via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The 46-mile road follows the path taken by the Nez Perce as they fled the U.S. Calvary in 1977. Wyoming 296 links the town of Cody with the Beartooth Highway and the Northeast Gate of Yellowstone National Park. The route crosses the Shoshone National Forest through the Absaroka Mountains to the Clarks Fork Valley.
Ascending to Chief Scenic Byway
At Dead Indian Pass, the highest elevation (8,000 ft.) on the route, a sign reads:
“The ridge you are standing on was the last significant barrier for more than 600 Nez Perce Indians and their 2,000 horses as they fled the pursuing U.S. Cavalry. After the battle of the Big Hole a month earlier, they knew the Army did not intend to leave any survivors. This became a flight for their lives.
Now on the run for more than 60 days, they had hoped that by crossing this pass and reaching the plains they could join their old allies, the Crows, or hasten on to join Sitting Bull in Canada. They began climbing to this point from the valley below. By this time, all were exhausted and heartbroken from the long journey and aiding their sick and wounded. But they also knew that winter was closing in. If they could make it over this mountain fast enough, they just might escape the Army and regain their freedom.
Accounts tell us that the Nez Perce left a wounded warrior on this mountain. He was discovered and killed by the Army scouts. Thus this site became known as ‘Dead Indian Pass.’”
Impossible not to relate to the history, but my memories here will be 1) Aromatherapy. As I stepped from the truck, there was a waft of perfumed scents: wildflowers, sage and pine to greet me. And then, (2), when we stopped at the view of the Clark’s Fork from high above, we found a large area of wild clover with countless pollinators, bees and tiny butterflies.
Another “must see” stop along the 46-mile road is where the byway crosses the Clark Fork Yellowstone River. The bridge is far above the river since the river flows through a deep canyon. There’s a scenic pullout, restrooms and sidewalk that leads across the bridge.
Then, and finally(!), onto the Beartooth “All-American Road” which is often referred to as “the most beautiful drive in the U.S.” It is a 68-mile route from that Yellowstone entrance mentioned above (7,500 ft.) to Red Lodge, Montana (6,400 ft). In between those elevations, the road rises to 10,947 at Beartooth Pass. There are many spectacular stops you can make along the way to enjoy lofty peaks, emerald valleys and 950 sparkling lakes. Even in August it was quite cool at high elevation, so don’t forget your windbreaker!
At the summit, I discovered a Marmot community. They were running everywhere in all directions with such purpose!
This will forever be “The Day of Endless Majesty.” If we were not completely in love with the natural world before that day, we would have been walking around Red Lodge with “Sold” stamped on our foreheads!
We had a fantastic lunch at Red Lodge Pizza Co. and visited with our server about the flood that occurred in mid-June. Rock Creek, which flows right through downtown Red Lodge, a town of 2,100 residents, swelled over its banks and flooded the downtown area – numerous homes and businesses were damaged or ruined.
The damage was very evident in the downtown area and our server told us the community banded together to help each other in such an admirable way at the time, and were only just then (60 days later) beginning to deal with the enormity of their own individual losses. They were already dealing with a housing crisis. Homes are expensive and hard to find.
Of course our desire to spend a day on the Beartooth could never have anticipated what we would see in Red Lodge. It makes us appreciate our lifestyle even more. It makes us want to get out there and see and fall in love even more. We could not be more grateful for the opportunities granted by this lifestyle!
Sinks Canyon State Park, Lander, WY
The highlight of our return trip was our first visit to Sinks Canyon State Park, about six miles southwest of Lander and a popular climbing destination. It had started to rain, so instead of truck camping, we rented Yurt #1 in the Popo Agie Campground. Little did we know that was probably the noisiest yurt location because of its close proximity to the parking area, but it made for a great alternative. The rain cleared and we walked around the visitor center and on the gorgeous nature trail.
The “Sinks” got its name because of the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie, a rushing mountain river that flows out of the Wind River Mountains and through the canyon. Halfway down, the river abruptly turns into a large limestone cavern, and the crashing water “sinks” into fissures and cracks at the back of the cave. The river is underground for a quarter mile until it emerges down the canyon in a large calm pool called “The Rise,” which is filled with huge trout.
But there’s such an interesting mystery! A dye test proved the connection between the Sinks and the Rise, but it takes the water from the Sinks two hours to reappear at the Rise – only a quarter of a mile away. It should only take a few minutes flowing downhill… It was also determined that more water comes into the Rise than left the Sinks AND the water is warmer!!
Next stop on our summer travel agenda? The Black Hills.
Soaring gas prices never raised the question of “go” or “not go,” if the alternative was staying in record heat in Arizona. We committed to reallocating our expenses up to but not including less ice cream. Ice Cream Diary should have been the name of our site.
Anxious to get back to catching and eating Kokanee from Flaming Gorge and planning some fun trips truck-camping, we set off. As for camping, knowing next summer we will resume our summer travels elsewhere, we decided to explore scenic byways.
Back to Buckboard
We came to Buckboard Marina three years ago as a great place to hang out and wait for Covid to pass. Little did we know that Covid will be part of our lives forevermore. There were new owners that year, Jen & Tony, and they have worked ceaselessly since they arrived. The improvements are significant and appreciated!
Driving the Beartooth Highway in Montana has been on our agenda for the last three summers, so that was easily our first choice. Charles Kuralt, long ago roving correspondent for CBS, named it “Americas Most Beautiful Drive.” It runs 68 miles from the town of Red Lodge over a scenic pass that towers 11,000 feet, then across the Wyoming state line to Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, even before the highway opened for summer travel this year, it sustained intense rainfall and flooding which damaged at least many part of the roadway. As we were making plans to see it, the road was closed for extensive repairs.
Snowy Range Scenic Byway, “The Great Sky Road”
Returning from Denver in early June after the graduation of a grandchild, we visited our friends, Lynette and Ben, in Centennial, WY, about 30 miles west of Laramie. The live in an amazing community called North Fork. Most of the properties have private fishing ponds and access to the North Fork of the Platte River.
Centennial is the gateway to the Snowy Range and is home to 300 residents. The town was born in 1875 when gold was discovered.
The scenic byway runs about 30 miles on Highway 130 through the Medicine Bow National Forest between Centennial and Ryan Park. Originally a wagon road built in the 1870’s, paved in the 1930’s, then designated the nation’s second Scenic Byway in 1988. At 10,000 feet above sea level, Libby Flats is the highest point on the Byway. From there, you can see mountain ranges in most directions.
All along the Byway there are numerous opportunities for outdoor adventures. It’s a land of many lakes, carpets of wildflowers, and deer and birds, oh my! There are numerous places to stop and enjoy the scenery. The Byway is closed in winter. We saw a lot of snow, but none on the roadway.
Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway
We have admired the Wind River Range many times on various trips, but at the end of June we headed off to see the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, which begins in the town of Shoshoni at milepost 100. Following U.S. 20 north through Wind River Canyon and the Wind River Indian Reservation, the route ends just north of the city of Thermopolis at milepost 134.
While we had traveled the road to Riverton in a past summer, it is very scenic and historic, so we were happy to do it again – especially as it would give us the opportunity to eat ice cream at Farson Mercantile!
Setting off east on Highway 28 from Farson, we crossed the Oregon Trail and the Continental Divide. This is gorgeous country with rock snow fences that provide an idea of what it must be like in winter.
There are ghost towns of South Pass City and Atlantic City to explore and then you come to Red Canyon, with its breathtaking vistas, and start your descent into the heart of Wind River Country. At Lander, we took Highway 789 towards Riverton and Shoshoni.
Boysen State Park
When we planned this trip, D.A. remembered that Bob, a friend from Minnesota, loved the area and should be able to recommend a campground. Sure enough, he suggested Upper Wind River Campground in Boysen State Park, not far north of Shoshoni. The park is named for Asmus Boysen who built the original dam and power plant in 1908.
After setting up camp, we hopped back in the truck for the scenic drive. By then it was late afternoon and we couldn’t have chosen a more perfect time to see this canyon with rock walls that rise 2,500 vertical feet on either side. These are some of the oldest rock formations in the world, dating back to the Precambrian period (more than 2.9 billion years ago).
Amazingly, the Wind River flows north through the canyon. Before it leaves the canyon, the river changes names. At the “Wedding of the Waters,” the Wind River becomes the Rocky Mountain Bighorn River. The Bighorn River is the largest tributary of the Yellowstone River.
We had a quick drive through Thermopolis locating attractions since we planned to return the next day.
Hell’s Half Acre
Next morning we were up and out early to see something D.A. remembered from his youth on a school athletic trip. Returning to Shoshoni, we went about 50 miles east toward Casper. Hell’s Half Acre is barely off the highway, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. D.A.’s group arrived at a reception area and a guide took them by elevator down into the ravine and showed them around.
When we arrived, there was a parking area and a high chain link fence to prevent you from falling into the abyss.
Wikipedia describes it as a large “scarp.” A scarp is a a steep slope or cliff found at the margin of a flat or gently sloping area, usually against the dip of the rocks. Knowing that description did not do justice to what we were seeing, we excerpted the following info from the Geology Wyoming website. There simply were no words we knew to explain what we were seeing.
“Forty miles northwest of Casper lies an other worldly badland landscape so eerie it was used for the 1997 movie “Starship Troopers” as the set for planet Klendathu, the home of a species of hostile Arachnids. These fictional aliens were colonizing new worlds and were at war with humans for survival. The location set was at a place called “Hells Half Acre” on the south side of U.S. Highways 20/26.
The badlands encompass an area of 320 acres along the western toe of the Casper Arch. The land was donated by the Federal Government to Natrona County as part of a 960-acre grant in 1924. [It was privately-run when D.A. visited.] The Casper Arch is one of the major structures elevated during the Laramide Orogeny (70-55 million years ago). The name Hells Half Acre came from an advertising campaign by boosters in Casper wanting to bring more tourists to the area with a roadside attraction. They ordered thousands of picture postcards with the name “Devil’s Kitchen,” but they arrived with the name Hells Half Acre. Not wanting to lose money, the cards were used, and the name changed.
Native Americans often used local topography in their hunting strategy. The fall of 180 feet off the rim of Hells Half Acre was a good spot for herding bison over and they used the area as a bison kill site. Bison falling over the rim or trapped in the ravines could be easily slaughtered. A 2006 archaeological investigation by John Albanese found bison bones and spear points dated as 3,000 to 1,200-years-old.
Geology – The badlands at Hells Half Acre are developed in the Lysite Member of the Wind River Formation. The 150-foot-deep gorge, and the badland features were created through differential erosion by wind, gravity and intermittent streams flowing south into South Fork of Powder River. Lithologies of Lysite Member strata are red, purple, gray, greenish-gray, and white siltstone and claystone interbedded with white, gray, and buff lenticular sandstones. These beds have a pronounced angular unconformity with the underlying Paleocene Fort Union Formation and Cretaceous Lance Formations. An angular unconformity is an erosion surface where the underlying older beds dip at a different angle than the overlying younger beds. This contact relationship and the presence of Precambrian clasts in the Wind River Formation shows the relative timing of major movement on the Casper Arch thrust fault.”
See what I mean? But it’s true, “angular unconformity” is a perfect descriptor.
Driving back, we saw a small green sign on the side of the highway, “Castle Gardens” 28 miles. We made a note to look it up. Once back at camp, we grabbed our swimming gear and headed to the Star Plunge at Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis. Good choice!
Over a hundred years ago, the first Star Plunge was a canvas-topped hole in the formation. It was sometimes drained for boxing matches, speeches, and church services. Currently there are pools, water slides and a vapor cave. As promised, our visit soothed us beautifully, body and soul.
We rounded out the day with a visit to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center which houses one of the largest and unique fossil collections in the world. Unbelievably, most of the fossils were found within a ten minute drive of the Center.
165 million years ago, Thermopolis, Wyoming was covered in a shallow ocean called the Sundance Sea. This was a shallow, inland sea that extended across parts of the North American Continent during the Middle to Late Jurassic Period. Evidence suggests that this deposit was created by a series of events that caused the ocean to progress and regress repeatedly across the continent.
Above the Sundance Formation lies the Morrison Formation, deposited roughly 150 million years ago. This distinctive sequence of sedimentary rocks has been among the most fertile sources of dinosaur fossils in the entire world. It is within this formation that the Wyoming Dinosaur Center staff focuses their search for fossils. Finding new places to dig is the first step in the paleontological process and it takes both keen observational skills and patience. One thing out there to help them is erosion which exposes new material every year. Over the past 24 years, WDC field technicians have found and identified over 130 dig sites on the Warm Spring Ranch.
Leaving Thermopolis, we looked up Castle Gardens while we had cell and Wi-Fi. It looked great, so we made a plan to see it if possible.
The wind had picked up by the time we returned to camp, and we were grateful to have our stuff stowed in our Decathlon shelter. We sleep comfortably on a mountain of memory foam in the back of the truck, but we got the tent so we could stow our stuff in case of inclement weather – and isn’t there always inclement weather when you camp?
Eventually the wind calmed, so after dinner we built a fire and talked to neighbors (there were only three including the camp host!) as they walked their dogs. No sooner had we slipped into our sleeping bags when the wind picked up again and never let up all night.
We didn’t sleep well that night and decided when the wind was still howling as we got up and started our day, that we would pack up, head for Shoshoni where we would have Wi-Fi to get a weather check. Sure enough, it was going to be very windy all day, so we decided to head home – via Castle Gardens.
We followed the small green signs on unpaved roads for many miles through the most typical Wyoming high prairie – rolling hills, red dirt, sage, antelope and cattle, then there was a turn to the left that led about six miles to a parking area, a gate and signage. This is a petroglyph site. The name of the area comes from the outcropping of sandstone which the wind has eroded into fanciful shapes resembling the turrets and towers of castle. This unusual formation has been luring visitors for thousands of years, and many of them left their mark in the soft sandstone–the area holds a treasure of Native American rock art, or petroglyphs.
As strange and other-worldly as Hells Half Acre was, here we found the exact opposite. It felt sacred, it felt like home. We were awestruck and humbled as we walked the one-mile path. We were the only visitors at the time we were there.
A consensus of researchers is that the figures were carved by Athabaskans related to the Navajo and Apache, some time between 1000 AD and 1250 AD.
From Historic Wyoming: “The most famous petroglyphs were done in the Castle Gardens Shield Style, the oldest recognizable example of the shield-bearing warrior figure type. It is described as “elaborate and carefully made figures,” and it “combines several different manufacturing techniques that serve to distinguish the type as unique in the Bighorn and Wind River Basins. The style is also unique in that it depicts shields alone as well as shield-bearing warriors.”
The BLM site explains: “Improvements to the site have been made over the past several years to enhance the experience and to better protect the petroglyphs. A fine crushed gravel walking trail exists throughout the site, with foot bridges to ease the crossing of deep drainages and a new parking area.”
Even though it remained windy, we were completely enchanted and grateful for the opportunity to spend time there. If you find yourself in the area, this is a “must see.”
We returned to the main road, turned left, and in a few miles came to Highway 136. Forty minutes later we were back in Riverton.
This needs a few tweaks and there are more pics to load, but gotta run! A couple of days ago we learned the Beartooth Highway has reopened and we just decided we’re going – first thing in the morning!!
Spending most of our time on each end of the Colorado River these days keeps us entrenched in a well-publicized and dire predicament for seven Western states. Drought.
I spent a lot of time last summer trying to organize a public event for my Friends Group – Friends of Bill Williams River & Havasu National Wildlife Refuges – along with Lake Havasu State Park, AZ Game & Fish, Corps of Engineers, to try to help local residents better understand the situation. In Lake Havasu, year after year you look out at the lake and it always looks the same. It’s easy to be lulled into belief that for some reason, we are not subject to what has already happened at Lake Powell and Lake Mead. And the truth is complicated:
More water is released from Lake Mead and Lake Powell to supply demand, and
California has the largest entitlements to these lakes, and
Lake Havasu serves as a balancing reservoir.
A balancing reservoir in a water supply distribution system is to address the frequent fluctuations in the rate of consumption. To supply this, Lake Havasu does not vary more than five feet.
After many months of work, we shelved the project. It’s not that people don’t know, but, as I said, the truth is complicated. It’s complicated because if there is no water, there is no water, and Lake Havasu will be affected.
The Colorado River provides drinking water for more than 40 million people, hydroelectric power to meet the needs of over 7 million people, and water for 30 Native American Tribes. It irrigates around 5 million acres of fields that supply vegetables to the entire world and supports a thriving $26-billion recreation and tourism economy, as well as a wide variety of wildlife.
In August 2021, due to the low levels of water at Lake Mead, the federal government declared a Tier 1 water shortage in the Colorado River for the first time ever. These Arizona reductions will be borne by Central Arizona Project (CAP) water users. The result will be less available Colorado River water for central Arizona agriculture.
Computer models predict Lake Mead could drop below 1,050 feet by November 2022, triggering a Tier 2 shortage, under which Arizona would lose another 80,000 acre-feet and Nevada an additional 4,000. By July 2023, the furthest forecast in a 24-month study, the lake could drop to 1,038 feet, at which point California would take its first cut of 200,000 acre-feet.
See what I mean? It’s difficult to get a grasp on the enormity of this.
Meanwhile, back at Havasu Springs…
Our 2021-22 guided fishing season at HavasuNetEm.com was a huge success and is already just a blur in our memories. D.A. worked 190 days! He worked seven days a week, holidays and his birthday included. The only way he got time off was when the wind created unsafe conditions – and the customers did not like getting those calls. So if the Captain worked 190 days, his Chief Sidekick and Windshield Washer was working too. All I can say is bless my kayak and line-dancing communities for providing much needed respite.
On the road again
We moved from Havasu Springs to Lake Havasu City at the end of April for maintenance on the RV and boat – anxious to get on the road headed north as daily temps were nearing 100 degrees. Headed for Salt Lake City (on our way back to Buckboard), but we hadn’t made reservations in advance because we didn’t know what day our maintenance would be completed.
Thinking we would spend one night near St. George, we couldn’t find reservations for the coming days in the Salt Lake City area, so we spent a second night at Southern Utah RV Resort. This is a fairly new park, quite nice except it is located next to the I-15, so the road noise is constant. It’s definitely an upgrade from Temple View RV Park in St. George that I mentioned in a previous post.
While there however, we discovered a brand new park only about a mile away (a mile away from I-15!) which we will try when we are next in the area. It is Settler’s Point Luxury RV Resort.
We were scheduled to take the boat to Fred’s Marine in Layton (north of Salt Lake) for some wiring issues and installation of new electronics. We figured we would be in the Salt Lake area for a week or two, but we could not find accommodations. The Salt Lake area is really limited in parks. A couple of existing ones are affiliated with theme parks, which might be great for families, but not really interesting to us. We’d much prefer accessibility to the natural areas we always visit on our trips to the area: Antelope Island State Park (near Layton) and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (near Brigham City).
We ended up at Century RV Park & Campground in Ogden – a spot also previously mentioned in an earlier post, but this time our report is not quite as glowing as our last visit. This is because, since we were staying more than a week, they put us in one of the long-term sections. It had quite a different feel – not bad, just not as nice… and the low water pressure took some getting used to.
I scouted other possibilities here for future too and found a gorgeous spot just a few miles away in South Weber. Riverside RV Resort is also brand new and near Highway 84 (much less busy than I-15), and there’s a beautiful multi-use path adjacent to the property along the Weber River. Bingo! We’ll be back!!
While in Ogden, we discovered some new attractions
Ogden Nature Center – A 152-acre nature preserve and education center that offers a wide variety of activities from walking trails to educational programs for all ages.
And a birdhouse competition was going on. These are not the winners, just a couple of my favorites.
Ogden Botanical Gardens – The mission of the Ogden Botanical Gardens is to promote inner-city beauty and educational opportunities for everyone in a diverse and sustainable garden setting. There are numerous gardens: Accessibility, Collections, Conifer, Cottage, Edible, Asian, Pollinator, Rose, Water Conservation, and Water-Wise Perennial! And it’s adjacent to the Ogden River Parkway Trail, so you can easily spend hours seeing all the sights.
Another day, D.A.’s sister (Irene) and nephew (Chad) joined us for a field trip to Golden Spike National Historic Park about 30 miles east of Brigham City. The park commemorates the completion of the first transcontinental railroad across the United States. Visitor can see the location of the Last Spike Site, 1869 railroad construction features, walk or drive on the original railroad grade, and get an up close view of Victorian era replica locomotives.
As we arrived, Chad said the Spiral Jetty – a site he had learned about in an Art History class in high school, was only about 15 miles away. He had never been there, nor had we, so when we finished up at the Park, we continued to the jetty.
Spiral Jetty (1970) is located at Rozel Point peninsula on the northeastern shore of Great Salt Lake. Using over six thousand tons of black basalt rocks and earth from the site, Smithson formed a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that winds counterclockwise off the shore into the water. Or at least it was intended to wind to the shore. “Mind-blowing” is an understatement for this project. Incredible undertaking. After walking the spiral, we wandered down to the shore of the Great Salt Lake.The lake is ringed by extensive wetlands, making Great Salt Lake (which has no outlet) one of the most important resources for migrating and nesting birds.
Back to Wyoming
About May 20th, we arrived at Buckboard Marina – our summer home base again this year. Located on Flaming Gorge Reservoir of the Green River (major tributary to the Colorado River), I’ll give you one guess about the issue concerning our neighbors. And you’re correct: dwindling water reserves!
Flaming Gorge is the only reservoir in the Colorado system that has ample water resources. People here are upset – because they have water – that it is being drained. They don’t remember that Flaming Gorge was built (completed in 1964) to supply water to Lake Powell. Flaming Gorge has sent 25 feet to Lake Powell over the past two years and is scheduled to send another 10 feet this water year. (A water year on the Colorado River is May through April of the following year.)
Lake Powell is experiencing Tier 2 conditions and is already cutting back 480,000 acre feet. Estimates to the water level rise in Lake Powell (because of these efforts by both Flaming Gorge and Lake Powell) is 12 to 16 feet.
Wyoming’s Wind River Basin which feeds Flaming Gorge is at 91% of the median snowpack – snow water equivalent. So Flaming Gorge can expect what is called “unregulated flow” from this snowpack. Because nobody knows when it all melts and when it all arrives at the reservoir, Flaming Gorge can experience some increase in inflows that exceed outflows.
Crossing fingers and sending up prayers; we’ll see how it all works out.
First off, I think I should tell you what we look for in a RV campground when we are traveling. Our RV is our home (40′, 4 slides), so we don’t boondock or rough it. We look for the best spots we can find with full hookups (and overflow parking for our boat if it won’t fit in our spot). We avoid spots near major highways and train tracks when possible.
We’ve stayed here before. About 80 Pull-thru and 50 Back-ins, all 30/50 AMP combos. Good location for all our errands as we kick-off or wrap-up our seasonal guided fishing at Havasu Springs Resort. This resort overlooks the lake, is not located on it. Nice pool and clubhouse and facilities are well maintained.
This park was highly recommended by friends and we were only there a couple of nights. An older park, it is well-maintained, with a lot of long-term sites. The sites were small and all back-ins. I didn’t have a real complaint here, just the thought we could do better on a return trip.
Would I recommend? No, unless the other parks I want to try are unavailable. At a minimum, it is clean and safe.
Circle L Manufactured Home Community, 801-544-8945, 231 North Main Street, Layton UT 84041 – Rate was $260/week
We chose this park because it was close to where we were having work done on our boat. We have family in Salt Lake City, so we always plan a stop to have time with them. The parks near Salt Lake City are far and few between. Last year we found one to the north, near Ogden, which was very nice. A note about that one follows this.
Circle L is about 40 years old. One area is for short term and one is for long-term. The long-term is on the seedy side. (I’m always looking for good places to walk nearby our stays.) We were there a week and though we don’t know why, there was police activity in the park every day!
Would I recommend? No. (Next time I will try Pony Express, which is closer to Salt Lake City.)
A note on Century Mobile Home & RV Park, 801-731-3800, 1483 West 2100 S, West Haven, UT 84401. We stayed about a week in the summer of 2020 and it was an excellent choice. It’s closer to Ogden, which means further from Salt Lake City. We would definitely stay again.
Friends who stay here in summer recommended this location. We were visiting other friends in Twin Falls and decided to stay here so we could easily see both sets of friends. Most of the sites are pull-through and they are good size. The managers are a young couple who could not be more pleasant or more helpful.
A friend who we were going to visit in Boise recommended this one. I called some time ahead of our arrival for a two-week reservation and learned they only had one spot, which happened to be a back-in site with no sewer connection. They told me they had a weekly service to dump the tanks, so I reserved the site. They also told me they had overflow parking for our boat.
On arrival, the manager looked out the window at our pick-up towing the boat and said, “What are you going to do with that?” I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. Fortunately, our friends were with us and said they could store the boat at their house.
We planned on being in the park for the first week, and then traveling around the state for the second week. When I finally got around to visiting the office to clarify arrangements about dumping the water tanks, the manager said you did not have to be present if you would vent the tank before you left. I wasn’t sure about this term, but she meant to prop the toilet in the open position when we left. She added casually, “It may stink when you return!” Ha ha. I don’t think so. By then I had learned there were 100 pull-through sites with sewer connections – but they didn’t have one available on such short notice. We checked out after one week.
Would I recommend? Absolutely! And here’s why. This park is located on the Boise River Greenbelt which runs four miles to the north and five miles to the south. It is GORGEOUS. (The park has bike rentals, and the walking was awesome.) I would love to have more time to explore that greenbelt. Next time though, I’d make sure I had a pull-through spot and I would make a reservation for boat-parking at the same time.
All this traveling was taking us to our summer destination, Buckboard Marina, on Flaming Gorge, which would be our home base for the next four months. The first year we visited, it was more of a fish camp than an RV resort, but that’s the year I discovered Kokanee (landlocked Sockeye Salmon), and my life has never been the same!
Turns out, new owners were taking over as we left that season, so we had a big surprise on arrival at the end of May 2021. Improvements were significant and included a bar and restaurant. It was sliding nicely to the RV resort side of the equation.
Buckboard is halfway between Green River, WY, and Manila, UT. A short drive through Manila puts you further into Ashley National Forest, Sheep Creek Geological Loop, and Flaming Gorge Visitor Center – some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve ever seen.