Friday, May 26, 2017

To The Moon and Back

62 years in Idaho and I have never ventured into this volcanic region of southeastern Idaho.  It is the perfect trip for anyone who has a devotion to dressing like the “Goth” culture does. The entire panorama of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is made up of blacks and grays punctuated with muted sage green.  Someone dressed as a Goth would blend in so well they would probably disappear.  There is a stark beauty in this landscape, and yes it does live up to its name.

We were so ready for this adventure. Our scheduled dentist appointments and other commitments behind us, we were chomping at the bit to get on the road.
First camp spot on Lolo Creek.

Leaving Post Falls at about 10:00 AM, we drove down Highway 95 through Moscow to Lewiston where we turned up the Clearwater River and wound our way along the rushing water. We passed through the Three Rivers area and made time up the Lochsa. It was a bit late in the day, but we still saw rafts and catarafts braving the whitewater and having a blast!  Seeing this stretch of the river brought back many memories of our runs down this challenging stretch. Each turn on the highway provided glimpses of rapids that we have run many times. The whitewater, sun, and the beautiful vistas kept us entertained as we wound our way to our first night’s camp.

Leave it to Linda to point out a misspelling!
We stopped at a big pull-out about ¼ mile up river from Desvoto Grove on the North Fork of Lolo Creek. The 270 miles we covered was plenty and this seemed to be our best option due to all the Forest Service Campgrounds being closed.  Traffic had been light all day so staying that close to the highway was not a problem; in fact, the rush of the river covered most vehicle noises. We slept well.

A cold morning brought ice on the mud puddles. Breakfast consisted of coffee, tea, and cereal. We were on the road by 8:00 AM.  Up over Lolo Pass and then down into the town of Lolo where we filled the truck. We headed south which lead us over Lost Trail Pass, out of Montana and back into Idaho.

Salmon River selfie.
We stopped for some quick photos before we resumed our journey. The stupid Break Buddy on the Jeep signaled that we had a battery problem once again. I disconnected the system and we drove on.

The road follows the foothills of the Lost River Range of mountains through Antelope Flats and into the Thousand Springs Valley. All told the drive provides spectacular vistas. We entered Arco, Idaho and turned right. Leaving town, you look out to the west at a vast flat land. Up ahead it looked a bit like one of those scenes from an animated movie where you look upon thousands of soldiers dressed in black swarming into battle; as far as you can see, the lava flows of the Great Rift stretch out before us and we know that we have reached the monument area.

 Lost River Range 
At the Visitor Center, Linda went in and inquired about how the camping system worked and I unhooked the Jeep, hoping it would start. Naturally, it didn’t, but since we were parked on a slope I felt that if I rolled down the hill I could pop the clutch and start it. It didn’t. We met the maintenance staff and a ranger when they assisted me in jumpstarting our Jeep. Welcome to Craters of the Moon!

With the Jeep running, we found a spot in the campground and parked the truck. Then we paid for the site and took a long drive to get the lay of the park and to charge the Jeep.

Welcome to the Moon!
Our weather was near perfect; temperatures were in the mid 80’s with no clouds in the sky. Our drive gave us a great introduction to the park and teased us enough to get us excited for our upcoming explorations.

Back at the camper, we finished our set-up and fixed dinner. We ended our long day with a walk around camp and then watched the sunset
Linda rose early and got her six mile run completed. I drank my coffee and fixed us a couple of breakfast burritos for our morning meal.  The day was spectacular! We loaded the Jeep with our water bottles and drove to the Visitors Center. Brochures and cave permits were collected and as we exited the building, five school buses pulled in.

As quickly as possible, we drove out into the park. We figured if we hurried, we could get to the caves and explore before the masses of kids got to them.  We parked in the lot at The Caves Trail and hustled onto the path. Of the four caves in this area, two of them were open to exploring and two were closed due to snow. We walked to Dewdrop Cave, looked about and moved on.  The information brochure explained how the caves were formed and gave us maps of the places we could climb.

Indian Tunnel
On the trail to the Indian Tunnel, we spotted circles of rocks that are believed to have been placed by Indians long ago. At Indian Tunnel, the trail dropped into the rocks and we climbed down into the lava tube.  The cave is about 800’ long with four areas where the ceiling has collapsed. The holes in the ceiling provide light throughout the cave, so it was never too dark as to cause us to use Linda’s phone as a flashlight. (Yes, we had forgotten to bring our flashlight… yes, it was on the list of required items. Fortunately, we did not need the light during our hike.) We exited the cave through a tube hole and followed the markers back across the rock to the entrance. In the distance, we could see the parking lot and there were two of the school buses. Scattered along the trail were the kids, their voices carried across the barren rock. We hurried back along the trail and met the leaders guiding the line of ants. We were told that there were 180 sixth graders visiting the monument today. We greeted them and let them pass. Linda looked to the sky and smiled.

On this day we also visited and hiked the Tree Molds Trail where, because of my haste, we did not read the informational sign at the start. When we found the tree molds, we were surprised to see that the molds had nothing to do with mold, but were lava formations left by trees after the rock hardened and the tree rotted away. They were molds, not mold. We laughed about that all the way back to the Jeep.

Extending our hiking, we walked the Broken Top Trail. We looked out over the Blue Dragon, a massive lava flow that has a spiny surface that when the sun was right showed a bluish hue.  We hiked and read the information signs that talked about lava bombs, lava tubes, and pahoehoe lava flows. We ended our exploration at the Buffalo Cave where off in the distance we could hear the calls of sixth graders invading our quiet walk.

Back at the camper we relaxed awhile and rested our legs. We figured we hiked about six miles during our day and we were dirty and tired. There was one other thing I wanted to do and that was to visit the Visitors Center and buy a sticker for the camper. Linda liked the idea, so we walked the sidewalk to the entrance of the park and entered the center.
Linda existing Indian Tunnel.

I pushed the door open for Linda and she walked into the gift shop and immediately screamed in pain. I turned to her just in time to see a huge yellow jacket flying off toward the gift shops front window. The damage was done! Linda had been stung and everyone saw it happen. The gift shop/visitor center staff was immediately at her side. They called in a ranger who had first aid training and he just happened to be with a young woman who was a paramedic for the City of Arco.
Popping out of the tube, as they call it.
They moved Linda into the back room and started monitoring her vital signs after questioning and finding out that she’d had some bad reactions to bee stings. A woman gathered some ice and they put that on the sting. The paramedic said that Linda’s oxygen levels were very low so she insisted that Linda have oxygen much to Linda’s chagrin. Everyone was very nice and exceptionally helpful. They explained that Linda was about 4000 feet higher than back at home, as well as the possible concern of the sting and this could be the reason her oxygen levels were so low. They attended to her and within 30 minutes everything was back to normal. I kept checking in on everyone as this all took place. I did, however, have a chance to buy a couple items for our memorabilia collection, including that sticker I was looking for.

Circles of rocks placed by ancient Native Americans.
Back at the camper, I threw together a spectacular Chicken Garlic Pizza from scratch as Linda tried not to scratch her bee sting. She was a bit sleepy from the Benadryl, but I think the pizza made her feel a lot better.

We slept well and in the morning we awoke to a wind storm of biblical proportions. The morning brought gusty winds and by noon they had cranked up to the next word used beyond gusty (I couldn’t come up with a word that covered this type of wind.)

We drove to the Devil’s Orchard Nature Trail in the park and hiked the short loop. This trail sat in the lee of the Inferno Cone so the winds were blocked and we had a pleasant hike. We then drove to the parking lot for the Inferno Cone and hiked up the 618-foot trail to the top. The wind was howling up on there!  Linda kept grabbing hold of me as we hiked. I kept hoping she wouldn’t blow away. Our stay on top was short lived and we were more than glad to bet back to the Jeep.

Inferno Cone hike going up.
Just as we left the parking lot, Linda got a cinder dust particle in her eye. She spent the next several minutes trying to get so she could see. I continued on and checked out Snow Cone, one of the several volcanic cones in that area.  The cones were heavily fenced in.  There was an information board telling about how people have climbed around the cones to the point of destruction and that the park personnel had to fence them to protect them.  As we explored this park, it became apparent that people damaging these areas were a continual theme. At one point there was a sign telling of all the damage caused by tourists and that no one should go beyond the sign, only to have tracks in the cinders just past the KEEP OUT sign. A very sad sight, but it looked like this happened all the time.

The wind kept growing stronger so we loaded up and drove into Arco to get a few needed items.  We did our shopping and then went into an auto parts store so that I could get a couple of items to fix the Brake Buddy.  We chatted with the owner about the solar eclipse that will take place in August.  He was a bit concerned about all the hype and all the crowds that it might bring into the area.  It was fun talking to him and we wished him well.

Galena Pass
Back at the camper I worked on the Brake Buddy and tested all the wiring to make sure that power from the truck was getting to Stinky Jeep. It all tested properly and so we will once again journey out on the road with the stupid Brake Buddy connected and not sucking power. 

The sun was out and we had our breakfast and everything secured in the camper by 8:00 AM on Thursday, the morning we headed back north. With Stinky Jeep and the stupid Brake Buddy following us, we turned left onto Highway 20 and drove to the junction of 20 and 75 where we headed north. This path would lead us through Hailey, Ketchum, and Stanley. Neither Linda nor I had ever been this route and we were hoping that everything that we had heard about the beautiful vistas was true.

Antelope at play.
This highway took us up over Galena Pass and along the base of the Boulder Mountains and the Sawtooth Range. At the summit, we talked for a bit to a couple who were visiting from Holland. They were nice enough to take our picture. They were very excited to be visiting this part of our country. We wished them safe travels and headed downwards. Spectacular is the word I would use to describe this drive. Both Linda and I loved the entire trip. There was not a cloud in the sky as we drove this entire stretch. After we climbed the pass and descended following the Salmon River, we found ourselves once again talking about the river trips we had taken down the Middle Fork of this beautiful river.

Headwaters of the Salmon below Galena Pass.
At Challis, we connected with highway 93 again and drove to just a ways past Salmon, Idaho, where we camped on the Salmon River in a campground named Tower Rock.  The campground came at a good time; clouds had moved in and the rain came down. The river was high and muddy, but we enjoyed the evening of walks between rain showers.

We were on the road early, it was Friday before the big holiday weekend and we wanted to get home before the huge camping invasion. Like a horse to the barn, we drove straight home and ended our trip. 
Our camp site at Craters of the Moon.
In search of Tree Molds.

Pahoehoe lava flows.
Chicken garlic pizza, to die for!

Inferno Cone, 618-foot trail to the top.

Reading about Witches Broom. 

Most spectacular RV dump we have ever used!


Monday, May 15, 2017

Wow, the Weather

The body.
Gray skies, filled with dark clouds have been the norm around here. It rains and then the sun comes out for a second. Then it hails and follows up with a good rain.

With all this happening, I have been able to get all the camper repair jobs complete. I resealed the silicone around the sink in the kitchen yesterday. I replaced a couple broken light fixtures and we put a battery shut off switch in the main battery compartment. The camper is all set to go and all we have to do is find a break in the weather during a time when we don't have appointments scheduled. I believe our final appointment was last week.
The legs look really good!

To while away the hours of rain, I have started tying flies again. It has been a bit hard to get back into trying shape, my fingers are still stubby and clumsy, my eye site has gotten way worse. Those tiny flys will just have to take a back seat to the big #2's.

I took a few photos of my last fly. It is a strike indicator fly and you use it when you are nymph fishing. We have discovered that if there is no hatch coming off the water and you go to a nymph, fish will sometimes strike at the indicator. This fly acts as the strike indicator but it also has a hook in it that can catch a fish if it strikes. Gives me a better chance of catching something.

Head tied back, legs cut.

I just looked outside and it is raining again. I better close.
Wing/indicator added.
Finish fly next to the pattern.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Way Back

Waking up at Tumalo State Park, just outside of Bend Oregon, we fixed a quick breakfast and took off to find our friends house in Redmond.  Shawna E. had been in contact with us during our trip down to Eugene. She was home and recovering from having a couple wisdom teeth removed.  Things went well for her and so we decided to make a quick stop to visit. I also wanted to tease her about her chipmunk cheeks. We all know how good folks look the first few days after they have oral surgery.
We had a great talk and I didn’t tease her too much.  She is such a great friend. She makes us laugh a lot.

Leaving Redmond we drove to Prineville, Mitchell, Dayville Mount Vernon, John Day, Prairie City, Bates, Unity, Mountain Time Zone, and Ironsides. Wait a minute did we just switch time zones? That will push our arrival an hour later! A quick TXT to the Lisk’s  and on to Brogan, Vale, and then finally Adrian, where we located our friends, Mark and Geri Lisk’s house and staked out camp. Yes, we were a bit late, but that just allowed the sun to sink a bit lower into the skies over the Snake River.
We sat next to the Snake and talked until almost dusk. What a relaxing way to end our drive. Linda and I fixed dinner and we ate in the cooling night breezes.  By 9:00 PM we were all ready for bed and so we retired.

Selfie at our stop in McCall.
In the morning Geri and Linda went for a run together and I watched Mark futz with his camera equipment. When the ladies returned we had a community breakfast of granola and yogurt. It was getting on to 10:00 AM and Linda and I needed to hit the road. We hugged and said our goodbyes. Linda got directions and we promised to get together again as soon as we could.

We followed Roswell Road to Parma and then continued on road 20/26 to New Plymouth, then Highway 52 to Emmett and on to Horseshoe Bend, Idaho.  That entire route was new to us so we really enjoyed the exploration.

From Horseshoe Bend, we scampered North on Highway 55 past Cascade, Donnelly and into McCall. Our plans called for a slow restful drive up to a campsite between Riggins and New Meadows, spend a night and then on to the Salmon River where we would spend another night somewhere near Slate Creek or Twin Bridges.

Payette Lake in McCall.
In McCall, we received a TXT that informed us that there was a big Cinco de Mayo party at Holly and Ryan’s house Friday. BOOM! We changed gears and changed our plans. Instead of stopping early, we drove to the campground at Twin Bridges on the Lower Salmon and set up for the night. How can you pass up Mexican food and margaritas on cinco de mayo!

It was 92 degrees in camp on the Lower Salmon. Our spot was in the shade and we enjoyed sitting in the cooler areas around our camper. Linda beat me in cribbage and we are dinner. We went to bed by 9:00 PM listening to an owl hooting along the river’s edge.

Morning brought a change. Rain! Can you believe that we are having more rain? We quickly packed up and were on the road. The drive was uneventful. We were home and unpacked by 1:15 PM.

It was hard to stay focused on our jobs as we uncluttered the camper. Our thoughts were on Kobi and once again we choked back a few tears. Our solace is that we know that he has been relaxed and enjoying all the attention from his new family. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Hearts Hurting, But it is the Right Thing

Kobi is a home dog. For years we have tried to fool ourselves that he is an adventurer, an explorer, a travel dog. But he is not! We thought he would learn that going places always resulted in a fun and relaxing stay; that he would enjoy the end even though the travel part terrified him. This has never happened
Our first photo of Kobi.
It’s hard but in life, all your dreams don’t come true and you can’t explain why. When we lost Sebaca, our other dog, to cancer we vowed that he was our last. Then we started talking about another dog. One of the strong underlying items we talked about as we convinced ourselves that we needed another companion was that of a buddy to travel with. A pet that would ride in the Jeep, go fishing with me and be with us on our travel adventures. Our hopes led us to find a pup and that guy was Kobi.
We did everything we could do to introduce our pet to the travel bug. For a time when he was a pup, he was good to go and was always eager to jump into the Jeep for a ride. But something that we cannot figure out slowly changed in our friend. As years went by he became more insecure about moving objects, the sounds associated with traffic, fireworks, gunfire, strong winds and thunder and lightning.  We have tried everything to make him comfortable around these sounds, but Kobi is Kobi and nothing really helps.

Kobi in the field this week.
Kobi does not like getting into the truck or Jeep. When we load him up, we call it “Dead Dog Walking!” He hangs his head, tries everything he can to avoid the door and then when he gets into the vehicle he shakes uncontrollably. Once in his crate, he will eventually stop shaking, but he sits stoically like the Sphinx, unmoving and tense.  We observed this behavior thinking that the truck was making him sick and that is why he does not like it, but he never shows signs of being physically sick. No vomiting, no change in his poop. He just hates to travel.

We have learned that if we take him out of the crate for a bathroom break, he has to stay on lead so that he won’t go and hide. This we learned the hard way. We cannot count the times we had to crawl under trucks or cars to pull him out. Bushes are his favorite hiding place. At first, we used his toys to draw him out where we could get him on lead. Now even that doesn’t work. Our only proven way to draw him out is to get our chairs out, sit down, and act like we are there to stay. This can take a while, but eventually, it works and he comes out to sit by our side.

To complicate things more, he is not comfortable going to the bathroom with the lead on.  It takes forever for him to relieve himself while tethered. Heaven forbid that we would try to get him to poo while attached to the rope. While traveling, if we let him off lead, he will do his duty and then head for a picnic table, car, truck or bushes to hide. Timing is everything and we have learned how to accomplish these bathroom breaks without incident, most of the time, but we still find ourselves pulling Kobi out from under things on occasion.

Our travels are important to us and now that we are retired, and have worked hard to give us the resources and abilities to accomplish these explorations, they become more and more numerous.

Each time we go somewhere we make all our plans with Kobi as our number one concern. We have to consider where we are going, how long it will take, where can we rest and walk the dog, the list goes on.  National Parks and many areas we want to visit have strict policies on dogs on trails and in campgrounds. We are continually thinking about how we can visit these areas with Kobi and have him safe while staying within the regulations posted for those areas. Many times we have ruled out an area because we are unable to provide Kobi a safe, shady place to stay while we toured a national monument area. This has always been ok because it is what it is and Kobi is family.

When we retired one of our dream trips was to drive down to Melaque, Mexico and stay the winter in our camper. We accomplished this, and we did it with our little friend along. It was so hard on him that we now would never even consider a journey like that.  Mexico is a wonderful place, but part of that mystique is their love of fireworks and loud celebrations. Poor Kobi was a mess. He spent weeks wearing a long sleeve shirt protecting areas on his legs that he rubbed raw trying to climb under our bed or the truck when he heard fireworks. Kobi’s fears and his inability to get comfortable made us feel so bad about this adventure that when we returned we said we would never put him through something like that again.

This lead us to our past couple years and the discovery of Kobi’s amazing second family.

Diane, Al Dee and their two children, Kenyon and Alayna, knew Kobi from visits to our house and several trips down to their house in Eugene, Oregon. The kids loved to play with Kobi and Kobi really loved them, too. We got the idea that when we went to Mexico for the winter we would have Kobi stay with them and when we returned we would take him back home to be with us.

After two successful years of this dog sharing success, everything was great, but Linda and I noticed something and Linda started calling it the Perfect Storm.

Linda’s sister and the family had had pets before. They had adopted a couple dogs; the first one was a great friend that passed away too young. Their second dog turned out to be a nightmare. After that dog, Diane said that they would never have a pet dog again.

Enter Kobi. He is such a great dog that the kids automatically fell in love with him. Al Dee was captured after the first year. It took Diane a while longer, but by the end of last year, she had fallen for Kobi as hard, if not harder, than the rest of them. It was hard for everyone when we picked up Kobi this spring and that, honestly, was very hard on us.

Last year the family also saw a big change in Kobi and how he acted. Kobi made the kids his job. He woke each one of them up in the mornings and kept an eye on them constantly. He was happy being in the family and you could tell that. We noticed this when we were staying there the days before we brought him home.

When we left with Kobi and we traveled up and down the Oregon Coast, he was more subdued than usual during a trip. We arrived home and it took a couple weeks for Kobi to get back to his normal self.

Now here is the Perfect Storm part. Diane, AL Dee, and the kids really missed Kobi. Kenyon and Alayna started asking for a dog more often and with a greater urgency. Diane and Al Dee started thinking hard about getting them their pet.  They even started looking into pet adoptions again. Because of Kobi, their choice of dog breeds became a Golden Retriever. It was looking more and more like they would be getting a dog sooner than later.

We were watching Kobi adjusting to being home. Plans were in the works for several big adventures that could not include Kobi. We knew we needed his second family to be able to take him and this might not be an option if they had their own dog. Linda and I had several heart-wrenching talks about Kobi and how we could fulfill our desire to travel without hurting him.

Kobi needs a home where his family will always be home; a place where a weeklong trip comes once a year, not every other week, a place where his family is there after school and work, a place where he is comfortable 24/7, 365 days a year.

We called Diane and asked if she and Al Dee would consider maybe taking Kobi on a permanent basis. We wanted them to talk about this possibility without alerting the kids and getting their hopes up. Diane said “yes” right then but thought they should take some time and talk this out. They let us know the next day that Kobi would be a welcome and much-loved addition to their family. He would be loved and cared for just as we have loved and cared for him.

The next two weeks were the hardest two weeks Linda and I have ever had, even worse than when Sebaca had to be put down because of cancer.  His passing was so quick we had little time to think about it. We listed the pros and cons dealing with Kobi’s possible new home. We discussed options and looked at our future schedule. We cried a lot. We talked to Diane and made our decision, for Kobi, to let him go to his new home. We cried some more as our hearts broke and we second-guessed ourselves.  Several times I backed out of the idea and said it would not work. I was being selfish.

The decision has been made and we will be traveling to deliver Kobi to his new home and family. We are still crying every time we think or talk about this, but we know it is the best for him. We will see him two or three times a year during our family visits. The kids will keep us posted on his family adventures and they will definitely be sending pictures and stories.  They will love him as we have. Doing the right thing shouldn’t be so hard…

Tuesday Afternoon:

Last night we stayed on the Columbia River. Kobi hated the ride down but loved playing ball till sundown. We both took turns, losing it, crying and then pulling it together. We got on the road by 9:00 AM and arrived in Eugene at about noon. Kobi hardly moved on the ride down.
Al Dee met us at the house and Kobi immediately jumped out of the truck and ran into the house, made an inspection, looking for the kids and then grabbed his ball and started playing. There was no hesitation, he knew where he was, he was happy and relaxed. Linda held it together while speaking with Al Dee. I unloaded the truck and lost it about three times.  We wanted to stay, but without communicating with each other, we hugged Kobi and got into the truck. We drove off; found our way out of town and headed to the Sisters Oregon area.

Right now we have found a spot for the night at Tumalo State Park. We have cried a couple times more. We talked about what was right and have fully agreed that this is the best for our Kobi. We will call tonight and I am sure the kids will be over the moon excited.  We know we will see him this summer and again in the fall. Tomorrow we move on to visit friends and life will continue. We were so fortunate to have been able to have raised the best dog ever.