Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mount Rainier National Park

The summit of Mt Rainier is at 14, 416 feet. The place nearest the top that can be reached by car is Paradise, which is the snowiest place on earth where snowfall is measured regularly. Paradise once held the world record for measured snowfall in single year: 1,122 inches, or 93.5 feet. Paradise also receives about 87 inches of precipitation per year, and Longmire, which is at a lower elevation receives about 126 inches per year. There have been some serious floods, landslides, avalanches and mudslides in the park which remind us of the power of Mother Nature.

There are 25 glaciers that cover 35 square miles on Mt Rainier. It's a popular place for hikers - one quote we read was that it has everything that Mt Everest has except for the thin air. It's dangerous, though, because of the fierce and sometimes unexpected storms that roll off the Pacific and envelop Rainier in blinding fog and snow. More than 90 mountaineers have slipped or frozen trying to reach the summit, and 294 fatalities have happened on the mountain.
Our hikes were a bit milder to say the least. Some photos from our hikes..

And our last glimpse of the mountain as we drove the Bus over Cayuse Pass.

Some links for further information

Saturday, June 18, 2016



This is the second time we've stopped in Arco which is a pretty interesting little town. As the sign above says it was the first city in the world to be lit by atomic (nuclear) power.
The area south of Arco is a giant, flat desert. There's not much there, which I guess is why it's been used for nuclear reactor experimentation and development. We were told that it's also the area where they store nuclear waste from submarines. It's sealed in lead and buried. Most of the 900-square mile area belongs to the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INL) and is closed to the public. Not that I'd want to go there. The Arco reactor suffered a partial meltdown -- another World's First - in 1961 and three people were killed. A historical marker at a pull-off posted that "Since 1949, more nuclear reactors -- over 50 of them -- have been built on this plain than anywhere else in the world." No marker about the meltdown, though.

We had a conversation with an interesting man whom we met at the cafe in our RV park. He told us that he's a nuclear engineer in the Navy and he's stationed in Arco. This was pretty surprising until he explained why he was stationed there. The Navy trains its nuclear engineers at  INL because it's where the nuclear reactors for atomic subs and also aircraft carriers are built.  Since the cold war years, some 40,000 sailors have been trained in nuclear operations there. He also told us that the reactor for the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the Enterprise, was built there.

There's a bluff overlooking Arco called Number Hill. Every year the graduating class goes up and paints their class number on one of the rocks, and during class reunions the paint is refreshed. The earliest number we could identify was 20, which I assume means the tradition was started in 1920.

Craters of the Moon National Monument

The largest lava field in the contiguous United States is found in and around Craters of the Moon National Monument. The whole lava field spreads across 618 square miles, not all of which are in the monument. There's only one road that goes through a small portion of the monument, but there are a couple of hiking trails. We started our hike early, before the sun got to work and started reflecting off the lava.

Most of it looks pretty inhospitable and it's hard to imagine much of anything surviving. We visited at a good time since the wildflowers were blooming, adding color to the dark lava fields.

There were several areas that had carpets of tiny little flowers growing among the lava.

Some of the rocks were unusual shapes and colors. There were signs explaining why the rocks look the way they do. Interesting to read but not surprisingly I don't remember a lot of it.

This little rock weighed almost nothing, possibly because of gases trapped in the rock, and was almost iridescent. We read about some rocks that were referred to as blue glass - this looks like what they may have been referring to.

This was our second visit to Craters of the Moon and we're glad we came back. The last time we were there it was pretty hot, and unlike this time, there weren't too many signs of life. We probably wouldn't have gone back except for the advice of our friends Cheryl and Kay. We had a pretty unique visit with them - they were heading back to Colorado from Glacier NP and Craters of the Moon as we were heading west. Through the magic of email we were able to figure out how to meet at an exit on I-80. We found a nice little cafe and visited for a while, and took their suggestion to see Craters again. Glad we did and what a fun visit!


We spent a week near Boise, exploring the area and relaxing a bit. We went to back to the Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area with hopes of seeing more birds than we saw the last time.

We hiked along the banks of the Snake River and across an historic bridge to try to get a closer view of an eagles' nest located on a bluff overlooking the river.

We could see the eagles' nest, then saw an eaglet on the ground below the nest. It was pretty far away and tough to zoom in on with the camera (easier to see with binoculars) so I put an arrow in the photo pointing to the eaglet.

The conservator for the area told us that the eaglet had tried to fly but was unsuccessful. We could see the parent eagle hunting and bringing it food.

We hope the youngster makes it. It doesn't seem like the parents would be feeding it unless they expected it to survive.

Maps -

Boulder, WY to Arco, ID

Arco,ID to Caldwell (Boise) ID

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Roaming through Wyoming

We had some spectacular scenery as we traveled from Boulder County, Colorado to Boulder, Wyoming. 
Once we started to head north from Rock Springs, Wyoming there were some great views of the mountain ranges rising above the plains. We were south of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone, so I'm assuming we were looking at some of the same mountain ranges. Still lots of snow on the mountain tops.

Image result for wild horses images
Photo from the internet of wild horses near Pilot Butte, where we saw them.

Just north of Rock Springs near Pilot Butte we saw several large herds of wild horses. Awesome! After a little research I learned that most wild horses in Wyoming are located in the the southwest corner of the state. The Rock Springs district has the most - approximately 2,500. Concerns over the impact of the horses on the environment because of their rapidly growing population (20% to 40% a year) have led to removal of some of the horses from the range by the Bureau of Land Management. As a result, the BLM states that there are fewer cases of injury or death from starvation, dehydration, and susceptibility to the elements. The horses that are removed are held in Rock Springs at the only federal short-term and preparation facility in Wyoming. They house around 700 horses at any given time. The horses are available for adoption, so if you're looking for a horse this could be a good place to find one.

We had planned to spend one night in Boulder before moving on, but as so often happens we thought it was a pretty interesting area and decided to stay a little longer. Just north of Boulder is the town of Pinedale (town motto 'Pinedale - All the Civilization You Need'). From Pinedale we explored parts of the Bridger National Forest and Wilderness Area. The photo below is Half Moon Lake. There's a beaver lodge in the smaller lake on the right.

The water in Fremont Lake is incredibly blue, and surrounded by groves of aspen and pine trees.

We took a route called Skyline Drive with hopes of doing some hiking. Unfortunately there was too much snow to get very far out of the parking lot so we had to scrub that idea, but we had some great views of the Wind River Range. The peaks are close to 14,000 feet with Mount Fremont being the tallest at 13,743 feet.

Pinedale has another claim to fame. It's called the Path of the Pronghorn Wildlife Corridor. Each spring and fall, hundreds of pronghorn migrate 170 miles to and from their summer range in Grand Teton National Park to the Pinedale area. By tracking the pronghorn biologists found that one bottleneck for pronghorn moving along the migration path was at Trapper’s Point. The path there is constricted to a narrow intersection where thousands of animals were forced to cross U.S. Highway 191. The highway crossing created a dangerous situation for humans and wildlife alike.

In 2010, the Wyoming Department of Transportation used the information from the biologists to develop the wildlife corridor. They invested $9.7 million along US 191 to install fencing and crossing structures to protect both wildlife and highway travelers. In the fall of 2012, 8 wildlife crossing structures and 23 kilometers of fencing were completed. They now successfully guide pronghorn and other wildlife safely under and over US 191, avoiding the risk of collisions with vehicles. We had seen overpasses for wildlife while we were in Canada several years ago but this is the first time we encountered any in the States.

Pinedale also has the Museum of the Mountain Man. The museum has visual and interpretive exhibits about the era of the mountain man, the Plains Indian, the Oregon Trail and the development of this region. Green River Rendezvous Days, an event patterned after the old time rendezvous of the mountain men, are held there in July. It's an interesting museum - more about it can be found at

We enjoyed our time in the area and I'm sure there's a lot more to see and do. We really love it when we stumble across places like this in our travels.

Map time - our route from Lyons (Boulder County) Colorado to Boulder, Wyoming.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Baby Golden Eagles in Lyons, Colorado

Every year a pair of golden eagles return to the same spot on the cliffs above Meadow Park in Lyons where we are fortunate to park the Bus. This nest has been here for years and the parents show up like clockwork each year to raise a couple more eaglets. Their nest gets bigger and bigger as time goes by which makes it a bit easier to spot. We can see pretty well with good binoculars, but have to zoom in on the computer to get the really close shots. The photo below shows the nest on the cliffs with the camera zoomed in all the way.

These photos were doctored and zoomed and cropped in our computer – no special program to do any amazing things. The best long distance lens we have is 300mm and the camera is Nikon 5300. The photo below is of one of the parents checking on the kids. If you look closely there are 3 little heads in the nest. We understand 3 is unusual.  We also understand in many cases the stronger of the youngsters will kill the weaker. We have no idea what the survival rate of the young ones hatched out in this nest over the years has been.

This shot is of a youngster stretching its wings.

We've enjoyed following the evolution of the eagles' nest over the years that we've stayed in Meadow Park.