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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today is mostly a day of inside activities, being too chilly to be outside with the heavy overcast and wind.
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.
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.
the afternoon, the rain lets up and the sun comes out, so we drive
the loop again and I take more photos.
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.
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.
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.
The valley widens, the road is flat and straight, some of our easiest traveling ever.
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.
After we get set up, we drive the scenic loop, stopping at a couple pull-outs to hike a bit.
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.
are happy to have arrived and to have found a nice spot where we can
hole up if the storm catches up to us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
it is already near dark when we gather, no photos are taken except
for attempts at catching the beauty of the rising full 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.