Thursday, December 5, 2013

Craters of the Moon National Monument

A few weeks ago we decided to wake up early and take a trip to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. If you remember, we actually stopped here on our way into Mountain Home. Just for a few minutes at a scenic overlook, it's right off of Highway 20, which is the way we drove in. Seeing the lava formations from the road was enough to encourage us to go back and spend a little more time there.
The weather forcast for the day we'd be there changed throughout the week and we decided we'd go no matter what - we longed to explore something new!

When we got there we discovered it had snowed and was still snowing! The fresh snow on the lava rocks made everything quiet and peaceful, if not a bit slick.
Through the main section of Craters by the visitor's center there is an auto loop that drives you to the "main" attractions and some hikes. We drove the loop and stopped at all the sights. The first was a small nature trail loop called Devil's Orchard Trail. 

Everything looked so pretty, the landscape is very open and sparse...I'm not sure I'd want to visit in the summer. The parking lots for the different stops were huge! I think they might get quite a crowd during the peak season. But on this snowy day there were only 2 cars we saw in the whole place!

In the formations they call cones, there were really cool impressions in the rock. Doesn't this one kind of look like a paw print?

And yes, the whole time we were there we couldn't help but make comparisons to Mordor - if Mordor ever got snow.

We wanted to go into the caves around the park and Caves Trail is a great way to do it since there are three caves on this trail alone (there are others in different parts of Craters). 
You do have to stop at the visitor's center to get a permit for caving. They ask you a few questions about your activities in caves over the past 8 years. This is, of course, to help prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome. Since, nothing we were wearing had been in a cave previously we were safe to go in.

Yeah, they aren't joking about unstable, the giant rock sectioned off fell from the ceiling of the cave. Can you see Andrew's headlamp behind the rock?
The caves are explore at your own risk and are freaking dark!
We both had headlamps and flashlights, plus gloves because some of the rocks down there were sharp. I didn't take my camera down into the caves just in case I dropped it, so I left it behind near the entrance.
When we got a ways into the cave we turned our lights out to see how dark it was and it was incredible. You could see nothing! There was a pinprick of light back near the entrance, but it would only serve as a guide to follow - it wasn't enough to light anything.

After exploring the caves we were pretty tired and hungry! So we put up our chairs next to a picnic table and made macaroni and cheese for lunch. 
The fact that is was 30 degrees outside and we were the only people there made it all the more special!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Weekend Things

Weekend may not be the best term to describe the times Andrew has off from work. He now works 12 hour shifts several days in a row and then has 2-3 days off. This past week, he did actually have the entire weekend off plus Thursday and Friday to make up for a holiday that he's working.
It's definitely different from his 7:00-4:30 Monday through Friday he worked in Ohio. It is nice having blocks of time off at varying parts of the month. Since, sometimes camping and visiting parks are best done on weekdays if you want to avoid a crowd. : )
We definitely took advantage of Andrew's four-day weekend. We toyed with the idea of going a little bit farther out and camping in a national park...but it was too last minute and decided to stick around the local area.
Pictures from top to bottom, left to right.
1. Craters of the Moon National Monument (to be blogged about later)
2. Same place, see the lava rock?
3. Sunsets over Mountain Home, ID. The view of the mountains where we live.
4. The Snake River in Boise National Forest. We live very close to National Forest land, and more often than not we find ourselves driving into the mountains. Around every corner is something breathtaking.
5. Sawtooth National Forest; one of our fishing stops. We both bought day liscenses and decided to go fishing Saturday. Neither of us caught any fish, but man was the scenery amazing.
6. Same area different spot.
7. Lightfoot Hot Springs, Sawtooth National Forest. This small hot spring was right next to the road, and very hot. We were too busy fishing but it would have been a nice quiet spot to dip your toes in.
8. Lily Marsh Trail, Ponderosa State Park in McCall, ID. Spent Sunday hiking around this beautiful state park.
9. Sawtooth NF, out of order  : )  Another spot on the river.
We had an excellent weekend, full of scenic views and new adventures. Of course, I have more pictures that I'll be putting up later.
Have a great Monday!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Day Trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone

We arrived in Mountain Home on a Monday evening, and that Saturday we decided to take a drive to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. It's really only a five hour drive, so not that bad at all. In Ohio, we lived six hours from the Smoky Mountains and we drove down there all the time! We just had to go see this beautfil place again, the last time we were there was 2009.
So, we woke up bright and early (5am), packed up the Dakota since we'd be gone all day and set out on our way. The plan was to drive to Jackson and into the Tetons and come back home. Well, on the way we decided we would be so close to Yellowstone, we should go there too! We are incredibly spontaneous.
Just before Jackson there was this beautiful put-in for kayakers. We got out to stretch all of our legs and take some pictures.
I can see why it's popular with the kayakers - we're definitately not up for rapids like that yet. : )

We got into Teton and stopped at the first visitor's center and spent some money. Bought a few things, including a Teton ornament. We've started collecting Christmas ornaments from the National Parks we visit together as another way to commemorate our travels. Plus, I love spending money in parks, any way to give back!
Just a little ways north of the visitor's center we saw a few cars along the side of the road. We thought  it might be an elk-jam considering the area...but it was just for magpies!

Just kidding! It was for this gorgeous grizzly right by the road. Within minutes of our arrival a ranger showed up to usher people away, the bear was really close to the road. Digging for grubs and paying us no mind. It's my best grizzly shot to date. 

We wound our way further north and reached Yellowstone. We drove slow, and stopped a lot, just taking in the scenery and trying to find all the birds we could!

I was seeing these large gray birds flying in the trees and whenever we would stop to try and ID them, they were gone. I was starting to think they were Clark's Nutcrakers. But, finally there was a pair eating some roadkill. Pleasantly posing for photos before we drove on and we found out they were Gray Jays. Still, a new species for me!

We stopped at the Old Faithful area and checked out their new visitor's center. This building was under construction when we were here last. It's quite beautiful. We didn't buy anything, the larger gift shop was closed for the season. We'll have to go back next summer, shucks!

We left through West Yellowstone around 5pm. After seeing the standard bison and large bull elk. The rivers along here were super busy with flyfisher people. And I can see why, fish and beautiful scenery, what could be better?
As we left the park I called my mom to tell her about our awesome day. I told her about all we'd seen and we lamented that I had not seen a moose. I'd never seen a moose in the wild, despite them being one of my favorite animals from a very young age. Andrew and I took a scenic road as a last minute decision and down the road a ways I saw something large crossing the road. Andrew started speeding forward to reach it. I was frantically reaching for my binoculars thinking maybe it was a large cow and saw it was a...

As soon as I realized what it was my eyes started to tear up and I was telling Andrew I was going to cry! I managed to stay calm enough to take some pictures and enjoy this awesome, gangly, young bull moose wander into the woods.
It was all kinds of magical.
What a wonderful Saturday it was, we even made it home by midnight! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Adventures in Bruneau Dunes State Park

We are lucky enough to live just a few short miles from a very nice state park: Bruneau Dunes. And, like the title suggests, there are some lovely sand dunes in this park, two rather larges ones by a lake. They make for pretty pictures. We've found ourselves there a few times since we've been here since it's about a 15 minute drive from base.
The first night we got there rather late, we went on a whim and got there as the sun was heading down over the dunes. We just spent a little while walking around and taking some pictures.

We had an awesome encounter with a great horned owl, that seemed to be rather mad than we were in its space! It probably didn't help that I was crawling in the sand towards where the owl was making sounds...

The second time we went, we purposely headed out just before sunset so we could set up the telescope and get a good look at Venus in the southwestern sky. 
Bruneau is a great place for stargazing, there are very few (dim) lights in the campgrounds which are far enough away from the dunes that it gets very dark right after sundown. The silence is something, too! It's so quiet you can feel the silence pressing in on your ears, amazing considering you are only 15 miles from town!
We kipped out on the sand and waited for the stars...and they delivered.

There was a fire in the agricultural valley near Bruneau, that's what's lighting up this shot. See the Big Dipper?  And the streak of light is what we think was the International Space Station. It was moving so fast, and was much lower than a standard satellite. Which lead us to think it was the ISS. 

On another day we found ourselves back in the Bruneau a more remote section looking for a trail that was supposed to lead to Indian Hot Springs. The guide we were using was giving horrible directions and failed to mention the road back there might require technical 4x4. 
Because within minutes we found a giant sand pit covering the road. About 12-14" of fine, powdery sand and no way around it. Andrew barreled through in our Subaru while I took pictures. (Horrible pictures because it was on manual focus from star pictures)
It was bad, the car could very easily gotten stuck and we are very lucky. About 20 miles from anywhere, in a desert with no service.  Adventure, right?

 We were indeed dusty. The trail didn't even pan out, because down the road it turned into a techincal rock climb and we had to turn around and drive through the dreaded sand pit again.
It is quite beautiful out there.
We went along the road to Bruneau Canyon, and saw this sign.  Ok, then. : )

Bruneau is awesome, and we've only seen a small portion of it. We look forward to hiking some more trails, and hopefully avoiding anymore dangerous roads.
Oh, and a cow.