We're heading East, homeward-bound, eventually. We left Oregon and are now almost all the way across Idaho, getting ready to make our way to Yellowstone for a rally, then South Dakota, then down to Chanute, KS again for rig repair, and that's the extent of the pre-planned travel for now.
Our travels through Idaho, in the course of which I am sadly dis-illusioned. We left the Columbia River and drove across Oregon to the Snake River and camped for what was supposed to be a week at Farewell Bend State Park. Alas, despite checking the Verizon website for coverage and being assured that it was good, it was in fact crappy. We stayed a couple of days so that I could visit the Oregon Trail center in Baker City and then moved on. A cell booster is definitely in our future plans; there have just been too many great places where cell coverage is almost good enough. From there we went to a very nice campground in Meridian, ID, just outside of Boise. We took advantage of the suburbs to do some shopping and go see Up, which was lovely and touching and especially apt to us.
In our time in Oregon, I’ve had a chance to visit two BLM-managed areas, both with interpretive centers. The first, Yaquina Head near Newport, OR, is operated by the BLM as an Outstanding Natural Area (a specific class of BLM lands) and there is a lighthouse with costumed docents doing tours; an interpretive center with kids activities, a video about the lighthouse, a display on sea-life, and an extensive gift-shop; and an interpretive trail down to a superb tide pool area. Uniformed staffers (probably USFWS but I was not sure) give group tours of the tide pools and are happy to answer questions from passersby. The second was the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, OR. Here there’s a fairly large museum with interactive displays, videos about the trail, many helpful volunteers, etc. A path leads down to some of the remaining trail ruts; it’s a fascinating place. I was able to buy a couple of books on the Oregon Trail migrations which have been very interesting reading.
So naturally I was expecting great things from the BLM interpretive center near Meridian, a place called Dedication Point. We headed out in the late afternoon so J could go too, the first of these jaunts he’s been on. We saw the sign and pulled off into a dusty roadside parking area. I looked in vain for the interpretive center. All I saw was a couple of restroom facilities, and a sign. J, more experienced with BLM lands than I, exclaimed over the amenities: “Wow, they even have pit toilets here!” The sign pointed out a short loop trail to an overlook, with native plantings on one leg and sagebrush on the other. J and I both laughed a little over the idea that sage was somehow ‘non-native’ but the concept was interesting; they’d burned out an area and treated it with herbicides designed to suppress the truly non-native and invasive cheatgrass, then planted native species as a test bed for habitat conservation, very interesting. Once I had gotten over the disappointment of having my false expectations dashed, I really enjoyed this. The trail led past a shelter with seating down to an overlook bounded by low rock walls. Extensive signage described the raptors that visit the area, and the view of the Snake River winding far below was gorgeous.
Further along, the road switchbacked down the bluffs to a hydroelectric plant, built in 1901. (There was a sign showing delivery of the first turbines, by mule train.) We were able to walk around the outside but tours are only given on certain days. We drove the gravel road along the Snake River as far as it was passable. I was very glad we’d come, the views were spectacular and it was a fun trip.
While we were in Meridian we also went to the World Center for Birds of Prey. This started out in the era of DDT as a peregrine breeding center; they’d found a population of peregrines untainted by DDT and started a captive breeding program that eventually released thousands of peregrines into the wild. Now it’s a small museum and facility where they keep a number of unreleasable raptors and maintain a raptor breeding program (the condor wasn’t on display as it’s off, er, having fun as it were.) They do live bird demonstrations, we saw the end of one with a well trained crow and another with a red-tailed hawk. The entry is through the shop, then into a courtyard which just teems with small birds. Crowds of them tussling at the bird feeder, ground squirrels and quail and chukars running around merrily. Granted it’s almost perfect habitat, with a small stream and plenty of food and cover but I was surprised at the great numbers of birds. Cages around the courtyard hold larger raptors, and it turns out that’s the real reason for the exuberant small fry. According to the docent, wild raptors notice the hawks and eagles in the area cages and stay away. The facility also holds a falconry center which wasn’t open while we were there; we’ll have to come back.
On Saturday we drove from Meridian to Arco, ID, which is close to Craters of the Moon National Park and EBR-1, the first US breeder reactor. Arco is the first town electrified by nuclear energy, and has the USS Hawkbill (SSN 666) sail on a pedestal in the town park, along with a submariner’s memorial. I drove most of the way, keeping my promise to drive on most if not all driving days. We got into the campground just before the first storm of the afternoon arrived, always a plus. We’re at the very pleasant Mountain View RV Park, with nice grassy well spaced sites, great cell coverage (I checked when I called to make the reservation) and a large and shady site in the back of the campground. There’s a lilac bush just outside the trailer window and a spruce tree sheltering the picnic table. We’ve been to a couple of places now where they’ve put us in the back for a week-long stay, which is great because we prefer the quieter section of the campground.
From here we’ll travel to West Yellowstone for a Hitchhiker rally all next week; it’s a short drive (167 miles.) Arco is about a thousand feet lower in elevation than West Yellowstone, 5325 to 6667. It’s getting colder as we climb, and I am glad of the extra week at high altitude; I was puffing like a grampus just walking around today.