Nevada Here We Come – October 2019

Wednesday October 2: Clifford and I are leaving Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho this morning. We have been camped here for the last several days as we waited out the storm that descended on the northwest, but today looks like a good day to travel.

It is 26 degrees as I hike up the trail to the lava knoll and take a few photos at sunrise.

Lava knoll
Trail to Lava Knoll
Craters of the Moon at sunrise
Good-bye to campsite blossoms

Then we pack up and are on the road by 11:30, traveling US highway 93 through miles and miles of lava fields, which give way to farmland. After stopping for supplies and gas in Twin Falls, Idaho, we continue south into the more rugged Nevada landscape.

Our destination is Great Basin National Park, but today we are planning on stopping in Nevada at a wayside stop that we see on the map near Jackpot, Nevada. However, when we get there, we don’t see it, so we continue on, not knowing where we are going to spend the night. Eventually snow-clad mountains make an appearance in the distance.

Rugged Nevada landscape
Mountains in the distance

We watch for other wayside pull-outs and find a good one just before Wells, Nevada. We park and level Cougar, with a small stand of junipers making a buffer between us and the highway. We are pleased to find this relatively quiet and scenic place to spend the night. We even have cell service!

Wayside pull-out near Wells, Nevada
Scenic landscape

One More Day at Craters – October 2019

Tuesday October 1: It is 27 degrees this morning at Craters of the Moon National Monument where Clifford and I are camped. We had planned to leave this morning, but due to a forecast of possible snow flurries or freezing fog, our plans are changed. At first we consider leaving this afternoon, but with snow off and on this morning, we decide to stay.

Since we are here today, we take advantage of the opportunity for another outing. We drive to the spatter cones and take the short hike to look down into the gaping holes left by these eruptions.

Viewing platform at the spatter cones (did I mention it was chilly out?)

From there, we hike the trail that leads to the North Crater, but only go as far as Big Crater. One can only imagine the cataclysmic event that caused this caldera.

Trail to Big Crater and North Crater
Trail to Big Crater and North Crater
Looking down into Big Crater caldera
Expansive views of lava fields and cones

Then we stop at Inferno Cone, where I hike to the top while Clifford waits in the car. This turns out to be the best hike of all, as the top of the cone is flat with trees and shrubs and great long scenic views in all directions.

View from the top of Inferno Cone
Views from Inferno Cone
Old Grandmother of a tree alone on the top of Inferno Crater

Back at camp, we have chili for dinner and work on our projects: editing and journal writing for me, and Clifford is designing a program to model ionospheric propagation and ham radio communications. Snow flurries off and on remind us that we made a good decision to stay another day.

Chilly Day at Craters of the Moon – September 2019

Monday September 30: It is a chilly day at Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho where Clifford and I are camped. The storm we were staying ahead of caught up to us here yesterday with a skiff of snow and today the chilly temperatures remain: 26 degrees this morning, even though it is still September.

Views from the trail to the lava knoll

I go up to the lava knoll, but it must be too cold for my cell to work and no texts are sent. But I do take photos of the snow on the surrounding hills.

Snowy hills

We had planned to drive up to Stanley to explore the countryside, but after cleaning up mouse droppings (ugh!) and scouring pans and counters, we don’t have enough time for a drive. Instead, we walk over to the Visitors Center to watch a movie on Craters of the Moon. We see that this area does get a lot of snow in the winter.

Walk to the Visitors Center

We work on inside projects, and since Clifford was able to get his hotspot to work, we even get on the net for awhile to check email. I make another trip to the lava knoll just before sunset. Chilly, but the light is pretty.

Late afternoon hike to lava knoll
View from lava knoll

After dinner, I pack up the kitchen as much as possible, as we plan to leave in the morning. It has been fun here, but we want to get to Great Basin National Park before the weekend crowd arrives.

Skiff at Craters of the Moon – September 2019

Sunday September 29: Not only can I smell snow, I can see the snow this morning at Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho, where Clifford and I are camped. It is only a skiff, but foggy, which seems strange as there are no streams or rivers nearby. I dress warmly before walking to the restroom and then hiking up to the lava knoll where I can get cell service to send a text or two. Mostly I am excited to take a few photos in the misty ambiance.

Trail to the lava knoll
Trail to the lava knoll
Views from the trail to the lava knoll
Views from the trail to the lava knoll
Lone tree on the lava knoll
The wind picks up…
…and the fog deepens
Nearing the campsite

Today is mostly a day of inside activities, being too chilly to be outside with the heavy overcast and wind.

A good day for inside activities

A Day at Craters of the Moon – September 2019

Saturday September 28: When I open the door this morning, I smell snow. I don’t see snow, but I know it is not far away. I hike to the top of a knoll on the trail that goes past the amphitheater to the North Crater Flow Trail where we hiked yesterday. From that knoll, one can get enough cell signal to send a text, or even a photo now and then.

Heading to the knoll

Rain starts at midday, so activities are mostly indoors. For me: journaling, blog writing, and editing Regent’s Way, the next book in a great epic fantasy series by an author whom I know. Clifford gets his ham radio set up. His phone has better cell reception than mine, so his hotspot works intermittently and he is able to take care of some of his projects using the net.

Raining at Craters of the Moon

In the afternoon, the rain lets up and the sun comes out, so we drive the loop again and I take more photos.

Scenic Loop
Scenic Loop
Scenic Loop
Scenic Loop

Back at camp, before starting dinner, I hike up to the top of the knoll again as the light is really looking good to me. As I walk back to the campsite, the daylight ends with a striking sunset.

Hiking to the knoll
Sunset at Craters of the Moon

In the evening, Clifford starts the generator and we have power for lights and for charging our devices, which allows us to carry on with our projects. We are very fortunate, as we see neighbors in tents who turn in early to escape the dark and the chill of the night.

Craters of the Moon – September 2019

Friday September 27: It is 35 degrees this morning at the McFarland BLM Campground where Clifford and I spent the night on our way to Craters of the Moon National Monument in south central Idaho. Since we didn’t unhitch last night, it doesn’t take long for us to be packed up and ready to go this morning.

Dawn color at McFarland BLM Campground

The valley widens, the road is flat and straight, some of our easiest traveling ever.

Highway 28 southern Idaho landscape
Highway 28 southern Idaho landscape
Highway 28 southern Idaho landscape

We arrive at Craters of the Moon about noon and find that the sites are small, very close together, and most are designed for tents or small rigs. In spite of this, we find a nice pull-through spot with our own little ravine and lava piles that will provide a little privacy from nearby neighbors.

A pull-thru site with our own little ravine

After we get set up, we drive the scenic loop, stopping at a couple pull-outs to hike a bit.

North Crater Flow Trail
Rugged landscape
Devil’s Orchard Trail

We plan to explore a bit more another day, but for now, Clifford needs to nap after the drive, and I settle in to do some editing until the laptop battery runs out. After dinner I have time to write in the journal before starting the bedtime routine.

We are happy to have arrived and to have found a nice spot where we can hole up if the storm catches up to us.

Lost Trail Pass – September 2019

Thursday September 26: Today we are leaving our campsite at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana and heading south on highway 93, down the valley and over Lost Trail Pass. The time in Montana has been great and I am sorry to be leaving, but climate and weather are dictators, so we are heading south.

Last morning at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana

The Bitterroot Mountains are beautiful and rugged, with a dusting of snow. It is hard to get photos from a moving vehicle with a dirty windshield and tinted side windows. Oh, the frustrations of a photographer/documentarian – me.

Bitterroot Mountains
Dusting of snow

Once past Darby, the highway narrows, becoming more winding and there is no shoulder. It is pretty, but not a great place to be towing.

Rugged mountains as we approach Lost Trail Pass

Fortunately, as we draw closer to Lost Trail Pass, which will take us into southern Idaho, the highway is much improved with shoulders and passing lanes. It is very slow going up, over, and down the pass, steep and winding, but it is a good highway and not scary like the previous shoulderless section.

The mountains open up into rugged foothills and we soon see the Salmon River and autumn colors. We stop in the town of Salmon, Idaho, for gas, and then take highway 28 southeast, which on the map appears to be a straight stretch and the closest intersection with I-15, our intended route home. This is new territory for us and, indeed, the highway is straight and the landscape scenic.

Salmon River
Landscape near Salmon, Idaho

About 30 miles south of Salmon, we turn in at the BLM McFarland Recreation Area. This campground is small without much privacy, but it is clean, with water available and vault toilets. We are grateful for the convenience of this campground and our peaceful night.

McFarland BLM Campground
Lemhi River

Clifford checks the weather, as we are trying to keep ahead of a big storm descending on the northwest US. It looks like our plan to get to I-15 will put us going through Salt Lake City during the thick of the storm, so a route adjustment is made. We will head, instead, to Craters of the Moon National Park to the southwest of us where we can camp until the storm passes. I’m doing a little secret happy-dance, as I have wanted to go to Craters of the Moon for several years.

Good-bye Montana – September 2019

Sunday September 22 to Wednesday September 25: These are our last days camping at Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. I do my usual morning walkabouts to the creek or around the campground, but the focus is on seeing my siblings and daughters one last time, as well as meeting a friend.

Bass Creek

One day Clifford and I make a trip to Missoula, the nearest “big” town, to see my daughter Merri and my granddaughter, Ali, and have lunch with them. Another day I make a trip to see my sister Lillian who lives outside nearby Stevensville, not far from where my dad grew up and where we used to visit our grandparents.

Crossing the Bitterroot River to visit my sister

Another day, I drive over the mountain to visit my daughter Ang. I had intentions of spending the night, but due to a possible big storm with an early snowfall, our travel plans have changed again. I won’t be spending the night with her, but I am glad for the time we do have.

Crossing the Clarkfork River to visit Ang

We cancel the get together with our friend, and I also cancel a planned hike with my sister Nancy, but see her briefly when I drop off my car for safekeeping until next summer.

Good-bye to Bass Creek

We will be leaving in the morning, heading south through the Bitterroot Valley and into southern Idaho. Camping in Montana has been great this summer, seeing my kids, grandkids, siblings, and friends has been great, but now it is time to move on. Good-bye Montana, and I plan to see you next summer!

Family and Friends at Bass Creek – September 2019

Friday September 13: My siblings and I and our significant others are getting together here at the Charles Water Campground in the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. Clifford and I arrived yesterday afternoon, and my brother Rollie arrived soon after. Even though Clifford and I had to run into Missoula for errands today, we are back in time to join in the potluck at Rollie’s campsite, where we all gather around a big campfire for conversation and good food. It is such a joy to spend time together with these people!

Because it is already near dark when we gather, no photos are taken except for attempts at catching the beauty of the rising full moon.

An attempt to catch the rising moon

Saturday September 14: The high point of today is getting together with Rollie and friends of his to play bluegrass music and share dinner around another campfire. The low point is finding that mice have gotten into Cougar, which means scouring stove, pans, counters, and so on, and setting traps in the evening.

Sunday September 15: My siblings, by good luck and some finagling manage to get together again for photos, since we didn’t get group photos on Friday. We take photos of each other as couples and the sibling group, but enlist the help of a neighbor camper to take photos of the whole group of us. Quite the deal with the sun casting bright lights and shadows, as well as the humans being their sometimes goofy selves! We have a good time and lots of photos to sort through.

Clifford and Carol
The bunch of us

Shortly after that, dear friends of mine come out to visit. We hike up the Bass Creek Trail and chat about all our projects and the meaning of our lives. It is great to see them and I manage a few photos of the creek as we walk and talk.

Bass Creek
Bass Creek
Getting my photo taken at Bass Creek

Wednesday is a day of more bluegrass music with Rollie and his bluegrass friends, as well as the usual activities around camping.

Thursday morning is rainy and I enjoy the opportunity of taking photos of the creek before my sister Lillian arrives.

She and I are going to drive over the mountain to visit my daughter Ang. As always, Ang has huge projects going on, and she is waiting for our arrival with a fire in the firepit, steaks and wine ready, as well as fresh veggies from her greenhouse.

I have learned that there is an app called Snapseed that a cell phone users like for editing photos. Since I have largely switched to using my cell phone as my main camera, Ang downloads Snapseed for me, and then we have fun trying out some of the tools that it offers.

Daughter Merri arrives and we have a great meal and a good time talking. Since I have to drive, wine is exchanged for tea, and the lively conversation carries on. Lillian takes photos of my girls and me before we reluctantly pull ourselves away from the campfire and head on back to Bass Creek.

Me with two of my girls

What a great fun day!

Seeley Lake to Bass Creek – September 2019

Thursday September 12 is our last morning at Seeley Lake Campground in the Seeley-Swan Valley of western Montana. I am awake and up before Clifford, and there isn’t any more packing I can do until he is up and showered. A heavy mist is rising from the meadow and the lake, so it is a great time for a last lake walk. I take photos of trees in the mist, and as I return to camp, the mist is lifting above the meadow and the sun is coming through, bringing bright color to the land.

Mist over the meadow
Mist rising from the lake
The mist is lifting and color returns to the land

Once Clifford is up, we have a light breakfast and finish packing and are on our way by 10:00 a.m. Our destination today is the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula, Montana. We arrive there in the mid-afternoon and are really pleased to find that the site where we camped in July is available.

Happy to have this site at Bass Creek Recreation Area

We get set up and shortly afterward, my brother Rollie arrives in his class A and finds a spot on the opposite side of the loop. After he gets set up, I make a late lunch for all of us. Later, Rollie and I play bluegrass music with Clifford as our appreciative audience. I miss the lake, but this is a good spot and it is especially good to have a few more days to see family before we head back to Utah.