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We're in South Dakota [Jun. 30th, 2009|06:49 pm]
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And I'm behind on posts.  Yellowstone was amazing and very busy, but before there was Yellowstone there was

When last we left our saga, we were in Arco, ID.  We spent a week there, visiting Craters of the Moon National Park and EBR-1.  Both were fascinating.  Craters of the Moon was stark and beautiful; the spring wildflowers, most of them all of three inches high, were flourishing on the dark cinder slopes.  They almost look planted, sprouting at regular intervals over the black ground.  If you’ve ever seen those tapestries with flowers evenly spaced across the background, it looked very like that.  This apparently is water-related; root competition determines the layout.  Not that water was a problem when we were there; it rained almost every afternoon.  Our campground hostess told us that it was the first time in three years that there’d been water in the riverbed of the Big Lost River that runs through town.

I got to see (and walk through) a lava tube for the first time, and see the impressions left in the lava of trees when they were engulfed; the steam of their burning cools the lava enough to solidify it and retain the impression of a charring trunk.  Some of the rocks were a beautiful iridescent blue.  We walked a fair bit, in between storms.  We went up to the Mackay reservoir and saw the water arcing out from the spillway, considered going to the Mackay Rodeo and elected to hang out at home when the rain didn’t let up.  We went to see EBR-1, the world's first electricity-generating nuclear power plant; its primary purpose was to test the hypothesis that it would be possible to ‘breed’ nuclear fuel (hence Experimental Breeder Reactor 1.)  There are signs for a self-guided tour but we went with one of the guides, and got to hear the story about how operators would occasionally kick a panel near the piping, causing problem readouts in order to scram the reactor and get off work an hour early (if the reactor was shut down late in the day they just left it for the next day and everyone got to go home early.)  They had the lab notebook on display in the control room, open to the page showing the first time the reactor came online.  It took me back to working as a lab tech, in a good way.

We spent a lot of time in the fiver; J worked in the mornings and in the afternoons there were the aforementioned thunderstorms.  J said he wasn’t going out on possibly ferrous rock in thunderstorms and I had to agree.  It will shock my friends in PA to learn that I actually quilted some.  I made a cushion with a one-block quilted front for the Yellowstone Rally gift exchange, and worked on a queen-sized bed quilt that was half-done (it still needs borders but that’s it.)  It was nice to have a peaceful week; we got a lot of tidying done too.

J went to a nearby city to go grocery shopping while I worked on the quilt, and we stocked up on groceries for the following week in West Yellowstone.  We drove up there on Sunday, and it was non-stop between doing as much in the National Park as possible and the events of the rally itself.  More on that later, I think.

At the moment it’s early evening, the sun is shining, the sky is cloudless, and the fire is dying down; I moved the laptop outside to work on this post.  It has been a lovely breezy day in Lake Herman State Park, near Madison in eastern South Dakota.  We got into the campground yesterday after a hard two days driving (952 miles from West Yellowstone.)  The cats, accustomed to the past few weeks’ shorter drives, are just beginning to consider forgiving us.  Sunday night was spent Wally-docking; they were Not Amused.