Our next weekend getaway consisted of driving about an hour north and west to Massacre Rocks State Park. We figured it would be a good plan to escape the heat of late June by camping in a campground that featured electrical power. This would allow us to bathe in air conditioning during the hottest parts of the day, especially since we have no such amenity at home. Yep, we have no a/c at the homestead.
Karren Chillin' with the view
The State Park had nice campsites with water and power, a two-way dump station, good views of the Snake River, and a visitor center with friendly staff. It also had a rather steep fee schedule -- it cost us around $95 for three nights! Lesson learned, huh? Anyway, the trip was pleasant and we learned more details about how our camper worked and were able to somewhat disguise the fact we were newbies.
Massacre Rocks is about 30 minutes west of Pocatello, ID right off Interstate 86. Very convenient for travelers who can afford the cost of around $30 per night with hookups.
It was about this time that I began to plan how to integrate the ATV into our camping trips, so I did a shakedown cruise with the camper and trailer combo into the next valley from our house. We took a wonderful ride up to the saddle of Scout Mountain (about 7000 ft) and successfully deployed and retrieved the four wheeler. Ready for the next trip!
By this time July 4th was approaching and we decided to cash in some of my hard earned comp time for a ten day vacation. Where? Anywhere to escape the 90 plus degree temperatures. That meant altitude, and what better place to try than Meadow Lake Campground near Leadore, ID. It must be cool there because it is at 9500 feet! Right?... RIGHT!!! That place had just been plowed open four days prior to our arrival and the first night was 36 degrees! Testing out our heater was not really on my agenda for mid July, but we gave it a go anyway!
We ended up trying our hand at fishing the frigid waters of the lake with our new pontoon boats. While we did catch some beautiful trout (brookies and rainbows) we also found out the wind tunnel characteristics of our boats. "Come back Toto!" Further injury was incurred when we happened to drag our boats past the feeder stream for the lake, where a young teen had discovered he could simply snatch 14 inch brook trout from the riffles with minimal effort. Kind of made us look like complete idiots for struggling all day with the wind machine!
for July) we decided to break camp for a trip to gold country, the Yankee Fork region near Stanley, ID. Unfortunately there are no photographs of this part of the trip.
Driving north from Leadore to Salmon, ID is a beautiful drive on well maintained two lane highways. We found Salmon to be a lovely small town with a bustling main street, perfect for a day or two of poking through the shops and restaurants. That would have to wait however, since it was our goal to get to Bayhorse Lakes Campground just past Challis.
Surprise! The steel bridge across the Salmon River was placarded with a warning sign that put the weight limit at 4500 lbs per axle. Being the rule followers that we are, we determined to bypass this bridge and find another locale. We succeeded in turning into the Yankee Fork area, where we proceeded all the way through Bonanza and Custer, old mining ghost towns, to Custer Campground Number 1. This was a fairly unused forest service CG with six sites and a perfectly modern and sanitary pit toilet. This place is a jewel -- rarely used, i.e. empty, and off the dirt road enough to avoid ATV dust, it is also far enough off the creek to harbor few bugs. And you can't beat $5 a night for a nice picnic table, fire ring, level wooded site and spotless toilet.
Anyway, the rest of the trip involves finding a club of friendly gold prospectors that invited us to camp with them. They took us to their dig, showed us how to pan effectively, and even let us eat their food! We were also just in time for "Custer Days!," a celebration of the ghost town's history that included a real live shootout. In this one the sheriff gets whacked! Super fun and nice folks. We spent the rest of the time running the mountain trails with the ATV. Love it!
July 30 After a brief hiatus at work our next trip found us running back to fish the trout at Mormon Bend. Again... Can't get enough of that place. Trout. Cool wading in gin clear current. I have video of Karren catching three fish on three successive casts. Pretty incredible. This is perhaps the nicest campground in the Stanley area. Quiet, paved road, water available, and killer fishing. What more could you want?
Aug 6 It was time to set our sights on somewhere completely different, but still mountains, so we headed out for Lake Cleveland CG about an hour south of Twin Falls, ID. Only two hours or so from our house I wanted to see if this could be a nearby retreat. Well it turns out it is... sort of.
Lake Cleveland is another high alpine campground that can take a night or two to adjust to if you are subject to high altitude problems like headaches or fatigue. Well that's me every time. Meadow Lake just about killed me the first night, but I only had mild symptoms at Cleveland. We were able to luck out and find a great site with only two left, so I was thankful. Turns out this place is a locals hangout and what a noisy bunch they are. No CG host means it is party central and the sites show some severe wear and tear. The scenery is breathtaking. The ATV took us to the fire tower observation area which is nicely paved to the top. There are numerous fire roads that run over the bald peaks but we spent our time trying to fish the lake. We didn't catch much, but what we caught were quality 'bows.
A flower found nowhere else, this is Chris' Paintbrush, just below the fire tower.The last night, Saturday, was so noisy we left the following morning like our ass was on fire. Never again! On the way down the mountain we discovered a HUGE CG only a mile away that had just been renovated, had tidy, forested sites with modern pit toilets, and outclassed the run down sites at Lake Cleveland by a country mile. That's the next place to try when we get over that way.
This is the more common Indian Paintbrush found almost everywhere else in Idaho
This is the more common Indian Paintbrush found almost everywhere else in Idaho
August 21 We took a trip to Boise to get my hand operated on to relieve "Viking's Disease", properly called Dupuytren's Contracture. This meant another ten days off. So...
Sept. 4 Off to the Craters of the Moon Star Party. We love Craters. I don't know exactly why. Perhaps it is just the remoteness and desolation. Well we got there and it began to rain. No problem, we are totally self contained in our new camper. The next morning it rained. Still not a problem. But it was for the National Park Service. They cancelled the event, even though the night before I had abused the few tourists that did show up with facts and trivia about the night sky. At the end I had them eating out of my hand -- er -- at least I think they were. It was dark after all.
So the Park Service told us we could stay the entire weekend even though there was no official camping on the property. After all, it was Labor Day and the pickings would be slim for us to find a good spot at that late date somewhere else. So we ended up totally alone. All the other folks left. It was sooooo peaceful there.
Lava for miles and miles. Imagine trying to drive an ox team and wagon over that stuff!
This brings me to the last adventure with the camper for the season. My sister Suzanne flew in from Maryland to visit and boy, were her arms... never mind. She had wanted to take a trip to Kalispell, Montana to visit a friend, and wanted me to drive us there. Sounded like a fun adventure to me as long as I get to take, wait for it..... THE CAMPER!!! So we set off for the Big Sky country and pulled a one day road trip to the outskirts of Glacier Nat'l Park. Judy and Jerry were gracious hosts but I mystified them by wanting to stay in the camper for the duration of the visit. Different strokes, right? Or just Truck Camper Love.
We did take a side trip to Glacier the last day we were there and drove the hair-raising "Going to the Sun Road." Glad I wasn't driving. Two hours up and two hours down of vertigo and terror. Add in a burgeoning snowstorm. Yuck! Very pretty though.
As far as western Montana being big sky, Idaho is bigger I think. MT has some impressive mountains, no doubt. But there is something about the ones that just seem to leap out of the desert, like Mt. Borah. A return trip included a side trip to the Daly Mansion in Hamilton, MT, a stay at a Darby, MT RV park, and a night at the MacKay BLM campground, which is one of the nicest full featured CG's around, for only $9 a night. We paid half that because Suzanne had some old person's special pass (teehee).
So, the camper is winterized and being put to bed as the snow begins falling on the mountains around our house. Soon I will be plowing the roads dreaming of where we will spend the next summer in Idaho. Or Utah. Or.... The only limit is our imagination!