Wandering Wyoming at 5 bucks a Gallon-1

It’s true – we never budgeted for  $5 a gallon gas

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!

Buckboard Marina at Flaming Gorge, WY

RV & Boat

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.

Snowy Range Scenic Byway, WY

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.

View from Snowy Range Scenic Byway, WY

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!

Ice Cream from Farson's Mercantile, WY
That’s a SINGLE SCOOP on the left!

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.

Camping at Boysen State Park, WY

Wind River at Upper Campground, Boysen State Park WY

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).

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, WY

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.

Wedding of the Waters, Thermopolis, WY

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.

Hell's Half Acre, WY

“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.
Hell's Half Acre, WY
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.
Hell's Half Acre, WY
Thermopolis
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.
Star Plunge, Thermopolis, WY
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.
Wyoming Dinosaur Museum, Thermopolis

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.

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.

Petroglyph at Castle Gardens WY

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.”

Castle Gardens, Wy

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!!

 

Northward Bound Once More

An interesting conundrum

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.

Map of Colorado River Basin

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.

Ogden Nature Center

And a birdhouse competition was going on. These are not the winners, just a couple of my favorites.

Apple Birdhouse

 

 

 

 

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.

Golden Spike NHP

 

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 Earthwork

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.
Great Salt Lake Shoreline near Spiral Jetty

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.

RV Campgrounds – Summer 2021

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.

Arizona

Havasu Falls RV Resort, 928-764-0050, 877-843-3255, 3493 Highway 95 North, Lake Havasu City AZ 86404

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.

Would I recommend? Yes, absolutely.

Utah

Temple View RV Resort, 435-673-6400, 800-776-6410, 975 S. Main, St. George UT 84770

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.

Idaho

Oregon Trail RV Park & Campground, 208-733-0853, 2733 Kimberly Road, Twin Falls ID 83301 – Rate was $35/night

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.

Would I recommend? Absolutely!

Boise Riverside RV Park, 208-375-7432, 6000 N. Glenwood, Garden City, ID 83714

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.

Wyoming

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.

Would I recommend? Absolutely!

 

 

Joseph and the Wallowas 2021

Joseph is a tiny town in northeast Oregon named for Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. Originally named Silver Lake and Lake City, the city formally named itself in 1880 for Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce people. When faced with settlement by whites of tribal lands in Oregon, Chief Joseph led his followers in a dramatic effort to escape to Canada.

At least 700 men, women, and children led by Joseph and other Nez Perce chiefs were pursued by the U.S. Army in a 1,170-mile (1,900 km) fighting retreat known as the Nez Perce War. The skill with which the Nez Perce fought and the manner in which they conducted themselves in the face of incredible adversity earned them widespread admiration from their military opponents and the American public, and coverage of the war in U.S. newspapers led to popular recognition of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce.

The Wallowas are majestic mountains (known as the American Alps or Little Switzerland) located above Joseph. From traveloregon.com: “In the Wallowas, you can look down from an alpine summit and see the high desert of Indian country roll out in front of you in one direction, and then turn around and see past Hells Canyon into the next state, and some say all the way past it to the next one after that.”

A dream deferred.

A few years ago, I was volunteering in the Visitor Center at the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, which happens to be located next door to our winter home, Havasu Springs Resort (half way between Parker and Lake Havasu City, AZ).

We were going to spend summer in Oregon that year, and I always asked refuge visitors where they were from. If they said Oregon, I’d say, “Good, we are going there this summer. Can you tell me just one thing I must see or do while I’m in Oregon?” And so when we left, we had a list of 15 attractions that those visitors rated number one.

Over the summer, we visited all but one: Joseph and the Wallowas. It was just far enough out of the way that we never got there. But it stayed on my bucket list.

During the winter of 2020, I was out filling up our bird feeders one day when a woman came toward me walking her dog. I said, “I remember you,” and she said she remembered me too. As we visited, we recalled we had walked together with a group a few times a couple of years earlier. I recalled the wonderful stories she told of her childhood.

We chatted and Karen asked where we were going this summer and I told her Flaming Gorge, Wyoming, but we would visit Idaho on the way. She asked where in Idaho and I started explaining, but then added – not really having a clue why I was doing so – “Where I really want to go is in Oregon. I think it may be easier to get there from Idaho than from Oregon.”

She asked where specifically just as I remembered she was from Oregon! I said, “Wait! Where do you live,” and we both said, “Joseph” together!!! She added, “And if you come, I’ll show you around.”

Quite a coincidence, wouldn’t you say? But there’s more.

A friend from California sent me a note saying, “Aren’t you planning to go to Joseph, OR, this summer? There’s an article about it this month in Smithsonian Magazine.” We were near Salt Lake City at the time, so I jumped in the truck, went to Barnes & Noble and bought a copy. I mean, really, what are the chances?

 

 

The Road is Where We Like to Be

While it’s not much fun packing up to leave each season, being on the road is our favorite place!

It goes without saying that we seek natural places wherever we go.

We left Lake Havasu City last Tuesday for St. George. After driving all day, the last thing I would have expected D.A. to say was, “Let’s go to Zion tomorrow.” If I had really thought about it I would have gone right online for any news about visiting Zion NP, but no, it did not occur.

Zion National Park

Zion is one of the most-visited national parks in the U.S., was Utah’s first national park and is definitely the most popular of the five national parks in Utah.

The next morning, nearing the park, we saw a sign that said, “Visitor Parking Full – Take Shuttle.” Oh-oh!

They waived us right through the main gate, like we knew what we were doing, but alas, the parking lot was full. Thinking we’d just drive up the road until we found someone to talk to, we only went a short distance when we saw a sign for the museum. We stopped and were happy to see a Ranger standing outside answering questions. She told us the main “Scenic Drive” was closed to all traffic except the shuttles. However, there were a couple of other drives we could take.

She also told us 16,000 people visit the park each weekday, 17,000 to 20,000 on the weekends. At 2PM each day, you can go to the Visitor Center to buy any remaining shuttle tickets for the day. The alternative is to buy in advance. 50% of the daily amount of tickets go on sale online each day at 3PM. They are sold out in 3 to 5 minutes!

We first took the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to the east entrance. It was a gorgeous drive (and quite crowded) but very much worth the effort and we found a nice spot for a picnic lunch.

Canyon Overlook in Zion N.P.
View from Canyon Overlook on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

View from Tunnel on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

As we drove through the Park and happened to pass several shuttle busses, we couldn’t help but notice they were nearly empty – one or two passengers max. Ha ha and Oh Well!

Later, we went back the way we came to the park originally to the town of Virgin and took Kolob Terrace Road to the Lava Point Overlook (almost 8,000 feet elevation) and no traffic to speak of. It too was a gorgeous ride and even more geologically diverse, ending in tall pines and snow.

Ranch on Kolob Terrace Road, Zion N.P.
Ranch on Kolob Terrace Road
Kolob Terrace Road, Zion N.P.
Geologic diversity on Kolob Terrace Road
View from Lava Point Overlook, Zion N.P.
The view from Lava Point Overlook

On the way back to Virgin, we talked about how the day did not turn out at all as expected, yet it was one of our best days on the road ever!

“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” -Paul Coelho

The next morning we continued to Salt Lake City. We dropped our boat at Fred’s Marine in Layton for a floor replacement and headed to our reserved “camp” at Circle L Mobile Home and RV Community. It’s a tiny park with lots of grass and huge trees, only a few RV spots and, seemingly, a lot of long-term residents. A little different experience than what we usually have in an “RV Resort” but pleasant enough, at least until we passed two police cars as we were leaving to go touring the next morning. Makes one wonder but at least they didn’t tell us to leave the area immediately or get back to the safety of our RV…

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Visitor Center Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Visitor Center – rear view that faces marsh and boardwalk

Our destination was the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge near Brigham City. This was our third visit and we couldn’t wait to get back on the 12-mile auto tour. I am re-reading (for the third time also) Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams, a poet and naturalist. The memoir takes place in 1983 as Terry was losing her Mother to cancer while, at the same time, she was losing the place she most loved in her home state of Utah – the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – to flooding. Just as the first and second times I read it, I often think, “I cannot bear to read this,” because it brings up such strong emotion, but then I realize I cannot bear not to read it equally because I love this book so dearly.

I gave D.A. a lightweight scope and tripod for Christmas. I thought we would use it for the Christmas Bird Count at the “Bill Will,” but we ended up doing our share by boat so the scope and tripod didn’t seem accompany us. Now we were going to do some serious (for us) birding and we came to the refuge with the scope, tripod and my eBird app loaded for Utah.

The Refuge and other wetlands associated with the Great Salt Lake provide critical habitat for migrating birds from both the Pacific and Central Flyway of North America. This area contains abundant food for birds, including very important brine shrimp and other macroinvertebrates as well as necessary plants like sago pondweed.  Birds come to the Refuge by the millions to eat and rest during migration, and many other species stay to breed, nest and raise their young across the Refuge wetlands. Several of the Refuge’s priority species are American Avocet, White-faced Ibis, American Pelican, Snowy Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Cinnamon Teal, Tundra Swan.

We were fortunate enough to see all but the Snowy Plover and Tundra Swan. We saw 29 “Taxa” (unit species) and counted 1,509 individuals but I’m happy to admit I stopped counting individual Franklin’s or Ring-billed Gull, Violet-green Swallow, Brewer’s Blackbird when the count went over 200 each!

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve

The gate at GSL Shorelands Preserve
Entrance to GSL Shorelands Preserve

Today, we discovered a new destination near us in Layton: the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, the first Nature Conservancy preserve in Utah.

This Preserve spans 4,400 acres of wetlands and uplands habitat along the eastern edge of the Great Salt Lake. As the largest saline lake in the Western Hemisphere, the Great Salt Lake is crucial to both people and nature. The lake is a rich feeding ground for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, supporting between four and six million migratory birds as they journey from as far north as the Arctic to southern points in Central and South America.

Some of the largest gatherings of wildlife ever recorded on the Great Salt Lake have been observed from the preserve’s visitor center, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise as well as the perfect place for visitors to appreciate the importance of the Great Salt Lake.

Visitor Center at GSL Shorelands Preserve
Visitor Center
Observation Tower at GSL Shorelands Preserve
Observation Tower

Here we saw a total of 12 Taxa and 70 individuals but the highlight came at the top of the observation tower. D.A. thought he heard a Sora, but the eBird app said they were not common in the area. We waited and listened and waited some more and sure enough, we SAW the Sora. Sora’s are mysterious marsh birds. Here’s the description from Cornell Lab:

“A descending whinny emanates from the depths of cattails and rushes, but the source of this sound rarely shows itself. This secretive brown-and-gray marsh bird is a Sora, but drab it is not. When it finally pokes its head out of the reeds its bright yellow bill might have you thinking about Halloween candy corns. The Sora walks slowly through shallow wetlands a bit like a chicken that has had too much coffee, nervously flicking its tail and exposing the white feathers below.”

D.A. has great photos (unfortunately not quite fast enough to get the Sora) that he will share on Facebook.

See what I mean? The road is the place we like to be!

Hualapais … Camping … Nomadland … Kudos

Hualapai Mountain Park

Hualapai Mountain Park – We finally got around to visiting after so many winters in the Havasu area. This is a Mohave County Park high above Kingman with 11 miles of trails and elevations ranging from 6,200 to 8,400. Absolutely gorgeous – Ponderosa and Pinon pines and huge granite rock formations – though we certainly felt the elevation since we have spent the last six months at 400! We normally acclimatize at a couple thousand feet per day – not six.

The name ‘Hualapai’ is derived from the word for “People of the Tall Pines” for the Native American tribe that once called these mountains home until they were relocated by the military in the 1870s.

Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s, it today offers 20 cabins, 70 campsites, picnic areas, a playground and 35 RV camping sites are just across the street from the main entrance.

Hualapai Mountain Park is home to elk, mule deer, fox, raccoon, squirrels, chipmunks and skunks. There are also a variety of songbirds and birds of prey including hawks, owls and an occasional Golden Eagle.

Now that we’ve finally visited, this will be a great place to escape the heat that often happens in October when we return from our travels.

New campershell for our Silverado

Camping – we bought a camper shell!

And some would say, why do you want to go camping when that’s all you do? But it’s not really like that.

Our RV is our home and we travel from one gorgeous campground with full hookups to the next. In eight years, we have spent exactly one week and one day without hookups. That was plenty; we don’t need to ever do it again.

There are places we love to go and would love to spend a few days, but there is no way we are driving our home down a 30-mile washboard!

A camper shell gives us the flexibility to visit and stay at some of our favorite places just like “back in the day!” (And then we’ll be happy to return to our rolling home.)

Can’t wait!

Nomadland

At dinner the other night, our friend asked if we had seen Nomadland and what we, as full-time RVers, thought. We hadn’t seen it, but it was not that I didn’t want to. The only movie we’ve seen in a theater this year was “News of the World,” which we very much enjoyed. Between Covid restrictions and always trying to contain our wi-fi usage (a problem we can talk about another time), we seldom stream.

Since we are currently using Havasu Falls’ wi-fi instead of our own hotspot through Verizon, I took the opportunity to see it.

In a word or two: “Heartbreaking yet inspirational.”

We are not naïve to this… We winter in AZ, about 50 miles from Quartzsite. I have visited a couple of those “boondocking” communities to see friends. One I visited travels with a group of Escapees (a club). Some have homes in cold regions and travel winters and some are full-timers, but these folks have assets and are traveling in a way they love. One day my friend was talking about going dancing every night and I said, “I didn’t know you were a dancer,” and he said, “Neither did I!” His statement made me so happy for him. Our lives expand exponentially when given the opportunity. We don’t always know what an “opportunity” looks like.

There but for the grace of God

The flipside to that seems to be Fern’s situation and you really saw how difficult it all looked: a 5-gallon bucket for a toilet (and how the heck do they dispose of the contents anyway) is probably the most obvious, having to travel from one grueling job to another, never being able to get to a point where a needed vehicle repair wasn’t a disaster. But who wouldn’t be inspired by the sweet connections she made with people and the incredible natural sights she/we saw while traveling the country?

Fern was very brave. Imagine how desperate you would have to be to leave your former life with only what you could carry in your van. She became an – the only suitable word I can find – “immigrant” in her own country. I related completely to her return where she noted she no longer wanted or needed those items she had carefully placed in storage.

Remember, Fern had options. People offered her other living arrangements and she turned them down. Who are we to judge what is right or wrong for another person? Fern had her happy and sad moments – don’t we all?

The point to me is – a recurring theme of our times – we cannot judge another’s life, values or decisions. We can help, assist, aid, but we cannot judge until we – as they say – “walk a mile in my moccasins.” There are people who would never want that experience. There are people who would give anything to “go on the road,” whatever that means to them.

Nomadland gave us the opportunity to see that in such an up-close-and-personal way. I am touched and grateful.

Kudos to my Sidekick

Don (D.A.) Allen is that Sidekick. We are starting our 15th year together, 8 of which have been full-time RVing. I could not have made a better choice. I once stated I loved him because he was happy to eat leftovers and could fix anything, but it’s grown a lot from there. I simply could not have picked a better partner for this stage in my life. I am touched and I am grateful.

Jude & D.A. at Hualapai Mountain Park

See ‘ya down the road…

 

Some Birds Fly South, Some Birds Fly North

It’s time for our semi-annual migration. North.

Looking at the harbor tonight, do you see something missing? Our boat! It’s on the trailer in the parking lot waiting while we do all the things we do on our final day anywhere. Involves lots of rinse, wipe, rub, brush, scrub, sweep, clear-out, dust, clear-up, a lick and a promise, clean, dab, declutter. Endless declutter. Daily trips to donate and storage. Rinse again.

Full-time RVers do not have the luxury of finding a tiny stash space for their recent acquisitions. They’re all taken. If you bring something in, you have to take something out. But it doesn’t always happen at the same time. Mainly it’s bring it in for six months, then purge for three days. It’s shocking how you can detach from your stuff rather than fight with where to keep it one more minute!

This is gonna be fun. Stay tuned…

Summer Travels Around Wyoming

Revisiting a few sites and finding  new ones

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

One of our first excursions had to be a return to Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. As we pulled into the parking lot at the boat launch, we saw a moose in the marsh, then a trumpeter swan – even before we could get out of the truck and focus our cameras. This place holds a special place in our hearts and we were jazzed to return. Seedskadee is a 27,000 acre refuge that protects a variety of habitats for over 350 species of wildlife.

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

Sheep Creek Geologic Loop

New friends at Buckboard told us about the Sheep Creek Geologic Loop. It is a 13-mile loop off Highway 44 on the way to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Center Visitor Center. It follows the visually dramatic Uinta Fault. Mind-blowing rock formations can be seen along the fault: towering monoliths along with rock that has been fractured, jumbled, discombobulated. Give yourself plenty of time because if you are sightseers like us, at the end you will turn right around and drive it the other way!

Sheep Creek Geological Loop

Sheep Creek Geological Loop 2

Grand Teton and Yellowstone

In July we had a great family visit when Mia, Haley and Mandy arrived. None had been to the Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks before, so we planned a whirlwind trip. For me, the only way to see these parks is escorted by D.A. because he lived in the area for more than 30 years, and was a trail crew foreman at Grand Teton. He definitely knows where to go and what to see. We stayed at one of those darling cabins at the Cowboy Village and had great meals at Snake River Brewing and Mangy Moose Steakhouse. The parks were as crowded and smoky as we expected, but why would anyone miss the opportunity to see these outstanding areas of natural beauty? Not this troop!

Family at Lake in Grand Teton NP
The Troop: Jude, Mandy, Haley, Mia, D.A.
Mt. Moran, Grand Teton NP
Mt. Moran, Grand Teton NP

Artist Point, Yellowstone NP

Fishing at Flaming Gorge

Did somebody say, “How’s the fishing?” I thought so. We fished for kokanee primarily and a variety of trout. Kokanee salmon are landlocked sockeye salmon (live their entire lives in fresh water). I think we ate our combined weight in kokanee. Of all the fish we catch and eat, kokanee is our favorite.

D.A.'s Kokanee

Flaming Gorge

The pic at the top of this post is a view from the Flaming Gorge NRA Visitor Center taken last year. This year, we saw the view from the water. We trailered the boat to Lucerne, just north of Manila, UT and traveled through the gorge. Awesome! And it goes right to the top of the list for future visitors. Debbie & Bruce and Lynette & Ben summer in Centennial and came for a visit – and this was a great excursion with them.

Green River Through the Gorge
Green River Through the Gorge
Bighorn Sheep at Flaming Gorge
Bighorn Sheep at Flaming Gorge
Boat Ride Through the Gorge
Lynette, Ben, Bruce, D.A., Jude

The next day, the “Girls” traveled south through Manila and up the mountain to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area Visitor Center.

Jude Lynette Debbie at Flaming Gorge Visitor Center
Jude, Lynette, Debbie

Green River Lake

On one of our early trips to Wyoming, we camped a few nights at Green River Lake. This was long before our RVing days. We were living in Tucson – at the end of the spigot – and I was curious to see where Arizona’s water came from. We traveled north on US 191 through the magical Apache National Forest, and visited Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Crossing into Utah, in Canyonlands National Park, we saw the confluence of the Colorado River and the Green River, Moab, and Arches National Park. We continued on 191 north into Wyoming, the Flaming Gorge area, then far north into the Bridger Teton National Forest near Cora. After 30 miles of unpaved road, we arrived at Green River Lake – the origin of the Green River. It was an astonishingly beautiful journey and the destination left me in breathless wonder. To this day, and after criss-crossing the country several times, that trip remains my favorite.

This year, however, conditions were quite different with all the fires raging on the West Coast and Colorado. As in other places we visited, there was a lot of smoke, though nothing could really ruin the grandeur of the sight or the joy I felt in returning.

On the road to Green River Lake WY Jude & Don at Green River Lake Green River Lake, WY

(Stepping on soapbox.) The point of all this is that in this Covid summer, people flocked to and overran our national parks. Yet there are county and state parks, national forests, monuments and wildlife refuges, equally dramatic, equally  awe-inspiring, where you won’t have the crowds and can still truly enjoy the glory of nature. (Stepping off soapbox.)

Farson

Farson Mercantile ice cream was calling to us on our way home. I think you can see why…

A double and a baby cone from Farson's
“A double and a baby cone, please…”

Fossil Butte National Monument

Another fascinating journey took us to the Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer. The unusual number, variety, and detail of freshwater fish fossils provide a window into life at Fossil Lake 52 million years ago! You have to wonder why the conditions were so perfect there, and the answer is equally surprising: An essential ingredient for preservation, calcium carbonate, precipitated out of the water and fell, like gentle rain, to the bottom of the lake – for thousands of years. It formed a protective blanket that covered whatever sank to the bottom – dead fish, fallen leaves. Not being a science geek by any stretch of the imagination, I had to ask about this precipitation process. In chemistry, it means to separate a substance in solid form from a solution. Aha! Got it.

Fossil Butte National Monument Visitor Center
Fossil Butte National Monument Visitor Center
Fossil Butte National Monument
Fossil Butte National Monument

Intermittent Spring

We returned to Jackson again Labor Day weekend, but this time stayed at Mountain Inn Condos about an hour and a half away in Afton. Excellent choice. We were visiting Intermittent (or Periodic or Rhythmic) Spring – also known as the spring that breathes. Located within the Bridger Teton National Forest, a few minutes outside Afton. You drive about a 4-mile unpaved road, then walk a 3/4 mile slight uphill path that turns more strenuous as you reach the source of the spring.

This is a cold water geyser (the largest and one of only three in the world) that comes forth from the mountain. This time of year, it lasts about 18 minutes, then stops for about 18 minutes! I thought I would find a good YouTube showing the walk and the water running, but no luck, so we’ve accepted the challenge to go back and make one next year. Life is good in Wyoming (in spite of the fact that snow and gusting winds to 60 mph are expected tonight at Flaming Gorge)!

sign at intermittent spring, afton, wy Intermittent Spring, Afton WY

 

We awoke – only two days later – to this:

Truck covered in snow Snowed Boat

 

Very good clue that it may be time to pack up the Mothership for the trip south.

But not without one final sunset –

Antelope at Sunset Wyoming
Photo by Mariann Major – Last Wyoming Sunset for 2020 Season

Thank you, Wyoming! We managed a Covid-free summer!! And Buckboard Marina feels even more like home (thanks especially to the very special friends we found there). We’ll be back in May!

Escape from Arizona

Escape from Arizona

With the advent of Covid in Arizona, it was an easy decision to end our fish guiding season early and spend the whole summer at Flaming Gorge. We spent a month there last summer and – at 25 miles from the nearest services of any kind – it seemed quite a safe and prudent option.

We planned to spend our first month at a new-to-us resort in Bullhead City, but it was so darn hot, we only spent about a week before moving north. Sunrise Adventures Ridgeview Resort turned out to be a great stopover and we know we’ll enjoy it in future during times of cooler weather. It is part of our Colorado River Adventure membership.

On to Utah…

We usually stay at KOA in Salt Lake City. But this year checked out Mountain Shadows located almost next door to Camping World. We were having work done there on our coach. The Draper location is excellent – all the stores we hoped to visit were close by and we discovered Scheels! We got haircuts (which was a very big deal since all the shops had been closed for months)!! Best of all, we had a couple of visits with D.A.’s sister and nephew.

Ferris Wheel in Scheels, Draper, UT
Now this is how I like to shop!

…and Wyoming

Soon it was time to continue north, but little did we know the adventure that awaited us. Coming north on Highway 80 out of Salt Lake City, the RV engine overheated. We pulled over, discovered no water in the radiator.  This was concerning because D.A. always checks fluid levels. From where we were parked on the side of the highway, we could see a small pond a little ways back, so off we set over very tough terrain with two empty water gallon jugs. Down where the Gadwalls were swimming, we filled our bottles with Wyoming snow melt water. You may ask why we had empty water bottles, rather than full water bottles, but I would change the subject.

Pond along Hwy 80 Utah
What do you mean we don’t have water?

Satisfied to have that be our entire adventure, we only traveled another couple of miles before the light came on again. We were close to the Wyoming Port of Entry, so we limped in, called our tow service and they sent a mobile mechanic.

Though we had a wait for his arrival, the mechanic quickly found a coolant leak and set about fixing it. Soon we were back on the road.

Going east on Highway 80, the first town is Evanston at Exit 6. As we approached Exit 10, the engine line came on AGAIN! We called the tow service and they said they would send a driver to tow us to their shop in Ogden, UT. No, we were less than a hundred miles from our destination, and Ogden was 105 miles in the opposite direction. We asked them to refer us to an RV service shop in Evanston and they gave us a number. We called and learned, “We don’t work on RVs.” We asked for another referral and the same thing happened. Fortunately though at the end of that call, he mentioned there was a Pilot Flying J Truck Care service back at Exit 6. Back in limping mode, we returned to Evanston.

The service at Pilot Flying J couldn’t have been better BUT they couldn’t fix our problem. They spent lots of time, determined we were losing pressure and came up with a laundry list of what might be wrong, but didn’t have the diagnostic equipment to identify the problem with certainty. They suggested we continue east to Rock Springs to the Cummins dealer (only ten miles past our exit in Green River) or return to Salt Lake City. It was an easy choice. Gratefully, Pilot Flying J did not charge us one dime for the hours their crew spent trying to find our problem.  By then it was getting late, so they offered a parking place in their lot for the night.

We arranged a tow that night so we would be in Rock Springs first thing the next morning.

RV under tow
Mothership Under Tow (almost)

This will seem unbelievable. The tow truck arrived, took great care getting our rig hoisted – and then discovered their truck had a hydraulic leak. We would be spending the night in the Evanston parking lot.

We were instructed to call our tow service at 6AM the next morning. The truck arrived about noon, after many more calls.

 

RV under tow
Mothership Under Tow (Really)

Nonetheless, we made it to Cummins late in the afternoon. They were going to diagnose the problem first thing the next morning, so we went to a motel for the night. And that’s when we discovered the restaurant called Old Chicago – which in one meal moved right up our list to number one.

The problem was an R&R EGR Cooler and R&R Crank Case Filter. We were back on the road to our summer home by early afternoon.

Headed south on WY 530

There’s something so sweet returning to a place you’ve visited before. It was good to reconnect with other summer residents. It was good to walk around the beautiful grounds. But the best surprise was the new management! Everything was spruced up and the store/registration area had a complete  transformation. “Cabins” to rent for our guests! They even have a food truck!

Buckboard Marina at Flaming Gorge WY

“Summer, we’re home!”

Antelope at Flaming Gorge

Home Sweet Home… Almost!

We needed to be back in the area in mid-September for a number of reasons. Due to restrictions in our Colorado River Adventures (CRA) membership, we can only stay six months at our favorite resort, Havasu Springs. We booked a month’s stay at CRA’s Lake Havasu location.

This “resort” is a place to park your RV with full hookups and, really, little else. It’s quite a large park, with parking facilities on both sides of London Bridge Road, though the east side is currently closed. It will get crowded this time next month and they will offer winter activities, but right now it’s a ghost town. No matter to us. It was a great location for all we need to do in the next month.

A new venture

Last summer, D.A. decided to start business as a fishing guide from our “home” at Havasu Springs. “Havasu Net Em” was born. D.A. has been fishing his whole life, and was once a  professional fisherman. He even traveled the world for Orvis for a while, catching fish for their videos. D.A. loves to fish and he also loves to share his knowledge. A match made in heaven.

While preparing for the AZ Game & Fish Guide Test, he learned the Coast Guard has jurisdiction for Lake Havasu too. This meant he would have to take and pass the Coast Guard Captain’s Test! This news changed our plans dramatically. A lot of studying has been taking place since. The test is on October 9th.

At the beginning of September, Joey, the Wildlife Refuge Specialist at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, started weekly nature tours at the “Bill Will.” He hoped this activity would eventually be taken over by our Friends Group. Then it turned out he was going to be away on the 26th, so he asked me to conduct the tour.

Great opportunity! I asked one other Board member, Sue, to join me since she, too, is interested in leading tours, and then I asked D.A. to join us for his “birding” skills.

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but D.A. is also an excellent photographer. He knows the birds and waterfowl on our end of the lake, and could add much to our tour.

Are you kidding? Is it really going to rain in September in Arizona??

On the day of our tour, it rained and no one showed up for the tour!! We hatched a new plan within a few minutes, because the sun came out and our boat was already moored practically next door at Havasu Springs… “Let’s go fishin’!”

We were on the water only a few minutes when we had our first “Striper.” It was nice size but we let it go… later we regretted that decision. We caught a couple of smaller Stripers, and then found ourselves in Smallmouthland. Look at this beauty –

Smallmouth Bass

We kept this one and another a little smaller.

The clouds in the mountains above Bill Williams River were growing dark and we could hear thunder, so we started back. I took this picture to show the relationship of the communities on this end of the lake.

Havasu Springs, Bill Williams River NWR, Hillcrest Bay

On the right is the Havasu Springs Resort. On the left, going up the hill, is the Hillcrest Bay Community. In the middle is the Bill Williams River NWR. The bridge on Highway 95 and the actual river are to the left of Hillcrest.