Visiting Family; Wenatchee & Leavenworth, WA — August 22-25, 2018

On our first night in Wenatchee Roberta & Michael and Barb & I met at Visconti’s Italian Restaurant for a spectacular dinner hosted by Barb’s brother Dan Carr & Candy Meecham, owners. What a special evening. Candy ordered several types of anti-pasta boards for the table, after which Dan & Candy described, in loving detail, the possible choices for the main course. When we had each given our individual choices, Candy suggested that we be served family style. Brilliant!  What  platters and dishes of delights we had. We all enjoyed it immensely; I thought Roberta was going to swoon and pass out!

We also spent a number of visits to another of Barb’s brothers: George and his wife Anne and their three children, Nancy and twins Josey & Maggie.  On one such occasion, Dan & Candy also joined us, so we were able to take some family pictures.  (See below.)

In addition to the Visconti’s in Wenatchee, Dan & Candy also have a number of other businesses.  They include ‘Fire’, at the Pybus Public Market, featuring wood oven pizza and wine, brats and beer, plus a full menu of salads and small plates. Right next to ‘Fire’ is ‘Ice’, also owned by Dan & Candy and also in the Market, featuring authentic Italian style gelato and crêpes and locally roasted Caffè Mela espresso.  And that is not all.  They are perhaps best known for their businesses in Leavenworth, where there is a bigger version of Visconti’s.

Although Leavenworth is a Bavarian Village, Visconti’s is not to be missed.  The first floor of the building has a Deli and a Gelato shop. The second and third floors have dinning rooms and also an outdoor dining space on the third floor.   In the basement, Dan creates the cured meats that are featured in the Deli and in the adjacent Leavenworth Sausage Garten and in Wenatchee’s Fire.

From promotional literature:

The Leavenworth Sausage Garten is the best place to enjoy two of the most important staples of Germany…Good “Wurst’ and “Bier”! WE MAKE OUR BRATS! Right in our own facilities located next door. We use only the finest ingredients to produce great sausages, such as Bratwurst, Bockwurst, and Currywurst and our signature Italian sausage. To compliment those wonderful sausages have some great regional micro brews and German imported biers on tap.

Just up the road from George & Anne’s home is an interesting Park called The Ohme Garden. We made a return visit; this time to show Roberta and Michael.

From the Park’s web page:

In 1929 Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Included was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the shimmering Columbia River valley. Herman and his new bride, Ruth, loved to stand on the bluff and dream of flourishing alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways where the hot, relentless summer sun allowed only sage and scrub desert growth. They set their minds on achieving that dream.

Small evergreens were transplanted from the nearby Cascade Mountains, native stone was hauled to form paths and borders, desert sage gave way to low-growing ground cover, and pools took shape adjacent to massive natural rock formations. It was hard work, done mostly by hand, and truly a labor of love. In the beginning, sustaining the Gardens meant hauling water in five gallon buckets from the river valley below, but eventually the Ohmes constructed an elaborate irrigation system that pumped water to the site.

Initially intended as a private family retreat, the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the Gardens to the public. The Ohmes continued to perfect the Gardens for 42 years, until 1971 when Herman died at the age of 80. The couple’s son Gordon and his family then assumed responsibility for the Gardens, and in 1991 Washington State Parks and Recreation purchased the Gardens and surrounding property. The Gardens are currently owned and managed by Chelan County.

Earlier in our RV wanderings, we had all realized that the fronts of our toads were getting chewed up from stones being thrown back by the RVs. So we ordered three “Protect-a-Tow”s and had them shipped to Dan. Michael and I installed ours while we were in Wenatchee on the eve of our separate departures. I am quite pleased with ours; the screen is stretched under the tow and reaches from the back of the RV to under the front of the toad, and appears to offer near-total protection from rocks thrown up by the RV.

Footnote: Only yesterday, 9/26/18, did X-ray reveal that Barb’s toe has finally healed enough that she can stop wearing the boot. Yippee!

Ocean Shores, Washington — August 18-21, 2018

Enough already! Enough!  Cough!  Hack!

We needed to get out of the smoke that blanketed most of Washington and Oregon. Our eyes were burning, and our noses were running.  Bill and Colleen were getting sick.

So we fled to the coast of southern Washington. Our first night we stayed at the low-cost RV park at the Quinault Beach Resort & Casino. No services, really just a glorified parking lot.  It was windy and cool, so we had minimal experience at the shore, but Bill, Roberta and Barb did take Bill’s toad for a long drive down the busy Sunday beach, and I think Mike & Roberta also did some beach walking.

By unanimous consent we moved about three miles to the Ocean City State Park, where we enjoyed the usual hookups in pleasant surroundings. We went to the Coastal Interpretive Center, a youth-oriented small museum featuring hands-on learning experiences, focusing on the natural and cultural history of the area.

We knew that our next destination would be Wenatchee and Leavenworth, Washington, back in the thick of the smoke. Bill & Colleen were not up for that, and so they broke from our group and headed back toward their home near Flagstaff, AZ.

The Hilbruners left the campground early in order to stop for fuel.  As I left a bit later, something bizarre happened. There was a large Dixie Dumpster parked just inside a tight 90 degree turn on a narrow exit road. As I negotiated the turn, the Dumpster suddenly, with no provocation, viciously attacked, leaving a horrible set of scratches on the side of the bus.  I am at a total loss to explain this behavior; Dumpsters are usually so passive.

Barbara, following me in our toad to a more commodious spot for joining the vehicles, has a somewhat different interpretation of the event, but lack of space prevents me from including it here.

Mount Rainier; August 16, 2018

On August 16 we three couples took two of our CR-Vs north up to Mount Rainier. Our destination was the area around Paradise Inn and the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.  Barb was still hobbled, but we took a short hike up through a gently rising meadow laden with flowers.  

On our way back toward our campground at Tower Rock U-fish RV Park, we stopped at the base of Mt. Rainier (still in the Mt. Rainier National Park) to walk the trail under the massive trees of the Grove of the Patriarchs.  It is an easy 1.5 mile nature trail through huge thousand-year-old growth Red Cedar, and Douglas fir trees that have been protected from fire by virtue of being on an island surrounded by the Ohanapecosh River.  Many of the trees are more than 25 ft in circumference, with at least one approaching 50 ft.  Barb wisely and belatedly sat this one out.

From Wikipedia:

Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington. It is a large active stratovolcano located 59 miles south-southeast of Seattle, in the Mount Rainier National Park. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of 14,411 ft..

Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could produce massive lahars that could threaten the entire Puyallup River valley, and poses a grave threat to the southern sections of the 3.7-million-resident Seattle metropolitan area.

With 26 major glaciers and 36 sq mi of permanent snowfields and glaciers, Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. Two volcanic craters top the summit, each more than 1,000 ft in diameter, with the larger east crater overlapping the west crater. Geothermal heat from the volcano keeps areas of both crater rims free of snow and ice, and has formed the world’s largest volcanic glacier cave network within the ice-filled craters, with nearly 2 mi of passages.  A small crater lake about 130 by 30 ft in size and 16 ft deep, the highest in North America with a surface elevation of 14,203 ft, occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than 100 ft of ice and is accessible only via the caves.

If Mt. Rainier were to erupt as powerfully as Mount St. Helens did in its May 18, 1980 eruption, the effect would be cumulatively greater, because of the far more massive amounts of glacial ice locked on the volcano compared to Mount St. Helens, the vastly more heavily populated areas surrounding Rainier, and the simple fact that Mt Rainier is a much bigger volcano, almost twice the size of St. Helens. Lahars from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property. Not only is there much ice atop the volcano, the volcano is also slowly being weakened by hydrothermal activity.



Mount St. Helens; August 14-15, 2018

Our next destination after the Columbia River was an RV park in the vicinity of Mount St. Helens.  There are oodles in the area, but most were already booked.  We were fortunate to be able to get in to the Tower Rock U-Fish RV Park, about 13 miles south of the town of Randle.  The downside was that it was a little out of the way down paved but narrow roads into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Portions of the road had partially fallen away and had then been overpaved without complete leveling.  The consequence was a number of significant dips that I evidently took too fast.  When we arrived at the campground and disembarked, we could hear a loud hiss in the vicinity of the right rear wheels.  After settling into our spot, Bill peeked under and announced that he saw the problem.  The left right air bag that provides cushioning for the bus was punctured and leaking air.  Furthermore, the shock absorber at that location had failed.  

We ordered parts from Tiffin, and then combined our sightseeing with removing the bad parts:  no small task since the relevant bolts were big and stubborn.  We originally considered contracting a mobil mechanic to come with a compressed-air impact wrench, but when the campground proprietor, Peter, learned of our plans, he offered his wrench and compressor and large sockets.  It turned out his compressor wasn’t strong enough, but that the compressor on the bus was JUST barely enough.  When we got the shock and airbag off, we revised our theory as to what had gone wrong.  Originally, we assumed that the bag had failed and the shock had not been able to handle the load.  But the condition of the shock suggested that it had failed first (since its interior was wet with rusty water) and that in failing it had disintegrated and when the bottom fell off the top half punctured the airbag.

We knew we should replace both rear shocks, but were surprised when the parts arrived to see that we had also been sent two airbags.  So we used Peter’s tools and replaced both shocks and both airbags, retaining the one good airbag as a spare.  

None of this would have been possible without the efforts of my favorite gearhead: Bill Bouchard.  And the friendly generosity of Peter.

We spent two smoky days visiting Mount St. Helens.  The first day we approached from the northeast, terminating at Windy Ridge and stopping at Miner’s Car on the way back.  Here is a description of the Miner’s Car, found on a Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument web site:

Three days before the eruption, Donald and Natalie Parker and their nephew Rick parked their green 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix about 8-1/2 miles from the volcano and hiked to a nearby cabin to inspect their mining claim.  They were in the designated “blue zone,” which was open to businesspeople who signed liability wavers with the state, which the Parkers did.  Volcano scientists were not as worried about people in the blue zone because they were expected to survive a typical vertical eruption.  But the initial eruption of Mt. St. Helens was lateral (sideways) not vertical.  The blast killed the Parkers and flattened and seared their car, which remains as a stark reminder to the 57 people who perished that day.

On the second day we approached from the west, where we also went to the visitor center at Silver Lake, viewing impressive videos of the eruption.  Pity that the visibility was so poor outdoors.

Excerpts from Wikipedia:

On May 18, 1980, a major volcanic eruption occurred at Mount St. Helens. It has often been declared as the most disastrous volcanic eruption in U.S. history. The eruption was preceded by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes, caused by an injection of magma at shallow depth below the volcano that created a large bulge and a fracture system on the mountain’s north slope.

An earthquake at 8:32:17 a.m. PDT on Sunday, May 18, 1980, caused the entire weakened north face to slide away, creating the largest landslide ever recorded. This allowed the partly molten, high-pressure gas- and steam-rich rock in the volcano to suddenly explode northwards toward Spirit Lake in a hot mix of lava and pulverized older rock, overtaking the avalanching face.

An eruption column rose 80,000 feet into the atmosphere and deposited ash in 11 U.S. states. At the same time, snow, ice and several entire glaciers on the volcano melted, forming a series of large lahars (volcanic mudslides) that reached as far as the Columbia River, nearly 50 miles to the southwest. Less severe outbursts continued into the next day, only to be followed by other large, but not as destructive, eruptions later that year.

Approximately 57 people were killed directly. Hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland, causing over $1 billion in damage (equivalent to over $3 billion as of 2018), thousands of animals were killed, and Mount St. Helens was left with a crater on its north side. At the time of the eruption, the summit of the volcano was owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad, but afterward the land passed to the United States Forest Service. The area was later preserved, as it was, in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Columbia River, Maryhill, WA & Peach Beach Campground — August 10-12, 2018

On August 10 we drove up to the Peach Beach Campground on the north bank of the Columbia River, near the community of Maryhill, population 98.

Liz Kinney visited us there, as did Hilbruner’s daughter Anna & her husband Craig & their little one Axel.

After Liz and the younger Hilbruners returned to their respective homes, the elder Hilbruners went off to visit friends, and Barb, Colleen, Bill and I went to see the Maryhill  Museum of Art and the Maryhill Stonehenge.

Culled from a variety of articles in Wikipedia:

Maryhill is named after the wife and daughter of regional icon Samuel Hill (13 May 1857 – 26 February 1931), who purchased land and envisioned a community there shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

Sam Hill was a businessman, lawyer, railroad executive, and advocate of good roads. He used his Maryhill property to build the first paved roads in the Pacific Northwest, the Maryhill Museum of Art (originally intended as a grand residence for the Hills), Maryhill Stonehenge, a monument to the World War I dead of Klickitat County in the form of a Stonehenge replica, and a planned community. Hill intended the Stonehenge replica to express that modern warfare (like Druid sacrifices as he understood them) was a form of needless human sacrifice.

He substantially influenced the Pacific Northwest region’s economic development in the early 20th century. He devoted much attention to advocating construction of modern roads in Washington and Oregon. In September 1899 Hill created the Washington State Good Roads Association which persuaded the Washington State Legislature to create the Washington State Department of Transportation in 1905. Hill’s land around Maryhill proved useful for his advocacy. From 1909–1913 he laid 10 miles of asphalt-paved Macadam road at his own expense (US$100,000). It was the first such road in the Pacific Northwest and Hill experimented over its length with seven different paving techniques.

In 1907, Hill persuaded the University of Washington to establish the United States’ first chair in highway engineering. He could not persuade the State of Washington to build a highway on the north bank of the Columbia River, but in 1913 Oregon governor Oswald West and the Oregon Legislative Assembly visited Maryhill to inspect his experimental prototype road. Subsequently, the State of Oregon built the scenic Columbia River Highway, which linked coastal Astoria, Oregon and The Dalles, Oregon.

Although his promotion of paved modern roads is possibly his greatest legacy, he is now best remembered for building the Stonehenge replica.

Maryhill Museum of Art is a small museum with an extremely eclectic collection. Construction was halted upon America’s entry into World War I. The unfinished museum building was dedicated on November 3, 1926 by Queen Marie of Romania, and was opened to the public on Hill’s birthday (May 13) in 1940. Notable in the Maryhill Museum collection are:

• Plaster and bronze sculptures and watercolors by Auguste Rodin
• European and American paintings
• American Indian art, including baskets and beadwork from the Columbia Plateau region
• Mannequins and replica stage sets from the Théâtre de la Mode
• More than 300 chess sets from around the world,
• Eastern Orthodox icons
• Palace furnishings and personal items that once belonged to Queen Marie
• Memorabilia associated with the dancer Loïe Fuller
• Art Nouveau-era glass
• A permanent exhibit about Samuel Hill’s life and projects
• An outdoor sculpture park containing more than a dozen works by Pacific Northwest artists,

We later met the Hilbruners and their friends at the Maryhill Winery, where we had wine and snacks and then played some bocci on their complementary professional bocci courts.  Quite an upgrade from the semi-improvised games we’ve played in the Caribbean.


McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway — August 7-8, 2018

On Aug. 7, we three intrepid RVers moved to the Cold Springs Campground, for a bit of dry camping.  The campground was a quiet and pleasant place deep in the woods, with widely separated but relatively tight sites.  From there we took our cars to a number of interesting places, including driving a portion of the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway.  We visited the headwaters of the Metolius River, where the river appears as a spring flowing out of the base of Black Butte.  The site is visually unimpressive, because the Forest Service platform was erected on private land too far from the spring outflow.  Afterwards we stopped for lunch at the Camp Sherman Country Store.

The McKenzie River contains Sahalie Falls (100′) and Koosah Falls (70′), two beautiful cascades that can be seen by hiking an easy 2.6-mile loop trail. These falls mark the terminus of two thick flows of basaltic andesite lava that dammed Clear Lake and moved into the McKenzie River 3,000 years ago. The results are two breathtaking waterfalls with foaming white water cascades in between.  The trail from Sahalie to Koosah Falls is less than a mile and well worth walking.  In addition to the powerful whitewater, the trail passes through an old-growth corridor densely packed with mosses, ferns, Douglas firs, hemlocks, and cedars.  

Just shy of McKenzie Pass the dense forest is replaced by an expanse of dark and broken lava that stretches for 65 square miles. It’s one of the most recent and most remarkable examples of volcanic activity in North America, the result of eruptions from Belknap Crater about 2,000 years ago. We stopped at the trailhead of the Lava River National Recreation Trail, a ½ mile paved path through lava gutters and ridges. It begins with the Dee Wright Observatory— constructed of lava rock by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 — which has viewing ports to see many surrounding Cascade peaks. 

La Pine State Park — July 24-August 6, 2018

On July 24 our threesome (TT2, Celilo, and (nee) Dolce Vita) moved up to La Pine State Park, near Bend, OR. There we would be joined in the 2018 version of the “Caribbean cruiser reunion” by Tom & Leslie (Farhaven) and Dave & Belinda and Tom & Amy and eventually Frank & Mary Grace ( nee Let It Be).

The selection of the site was a wise one; the area abounded with interesting things to do and see.

  • On consecutive days various subsets of our group kayaked down a gentle and scenic section of the Deschutes River, renting kayaks from Tumelo Creek Kayak & Canoe in Sunriver.
  • Near the campground, on the bank of the river, the ‘Big Tree’, the largest ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) in the world is located. The tree is over 500 years old, 162 feet tall, and 28.9 feet in circumference.  This Oregon Heritage Tree would be the tallest of its species, except that its crown snapped off in a storm.
  • Some of us visited the High Desert Museum near Bend, whose outdoor exhibits feature river otters, a porcupine, sheep, gray fox, and birds of prey. There is also a Native American encampment, a start-of-the-20th-century sawmill, logging equipment, homesteaders cabin, and a forestry pavilion.  Indoor exhibits included an extensive treatment on Native Americans.  I spent a long time there.  We also attended a birds of prey program, during which I photographed some of the performers.  I had trouble subsequently identifying one of the birds, and after much searching finally learned it was a bird native to Peru:  an Aplomado Falcon.  Why a bird from Peru here in Oregon?  Turns out  the Peruvian Aplomado Falcon is the perfect falcon species to use by contractors protecting fruit crops like grapes, cherries, blueberries, and apples because it likes to chase small- to medium-sized birds—the same sizes that give growers the most problems.
  • Newberry National Volcanic Monument, including
    • Lava Butte
    • Newberry Caldera
    • Big Osidian Flow
  • We took a ski lift up Mount Bachelor,  a stratovolcano atop a shield volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.  Named Mount Bachelor because it “stands apart” from the nearby Three Sisters.

Crater Lake National Park — July 13-July 23, 2018

On July 13 we (Tusen Takk & Dolce Vita) moved on to the Boise Riverside RV Park, where we spent a pleasant several days enjoying the surroundings.  The Park is adjacent to the Boise River and the 26-mile trail along its shore.  We crashed a baseball game featuring the minor league home team of the Hawks.

On the 16th we went on to the home, in McCall, ID, of Tom & Leslie Arnold, site of the Caribbean cruiser reunion the previous year.  There we helped Tom install solar panels on his fifth wheel camper and enjoyed once again the hospitality of the friendly couple.  Alas, Barb stubbed her toe on a piece of furniture in our RV; the resulting injury (later confirmed as a break) was destined to plague her for weeks and weeks and weeks into the future.

We departed on the 19th, overnighted in the Harney County Fairgrounds in Burns, OR, and arrived at the Diamond Lake RV Park on the 20th.  Roberta & Michael (Celilo) joined us the next day, turning our twosome into a threesome that would persist for over a month.

We had stopped at Diamond Lake not for its attractions, which were minimal, but because it was as close as we could get to RV lodging near Crater Lake.  We visited Crater Lake National Park on two consecutive days.  The first was quite smokey due to forest fires in the general area.  Indeed, we could see from a high point in the Park one fire raging in the not-very distance.  The second day was not better, but we continued our traversal around to the various overlooks on the Rim Drive.  We also  drove down the six mile Pinnacles Road that forks to the southeast off the Rim Drive and descends through thickly forested terrain, past a trailhead for Vidae Falls (to which we hiked, with Barb waiting in the car), ending at a parking area on the rim of Wheeler Creek canyon, known as Pinnacle Valley. The formations rise up in the ravine below, formed of conglomerate-type rocks – compressed pumice and ash from long ago volcanic eruptions. Originally, when this material formed a thick, unbroken not-yet-hard layer, hot gases escaping from below created long, narrow holes (called fumaroles) which,  surrounded by a heat-hardened lining, are now left exposed as the softer deposits have eroded away.

from Wikipedia: 

Crater Lake is a caldera lake in south-central Oregon in the western United States. It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park and is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The lake partly fills a nearly 2,148-foot-deep caldera that was formed around 7,700 (± 150) years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. There are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake; the evaporation is compensated for by rain and snowfall at a rate such that the total amount of water is replaced every 250 years. With a depth of 1,949 feet the lake is the deepest in the United States. Crater Lake features two small islands. Wizard Island, located near the western shore of the lake, is a cinder cone approximately 316 acres in size. Phantom Ship, a natural rock pillar, is located near the southern shore.

Mount Mazama, part of the Cascade Range volcanic arc, was built up over a period of at least 400,000 years. The caldera was created in a massive volcanic eruption between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago that led to the subsidence of Mount Mazama. Since that time, all eruptions on Mazama have been confined to the caldera. Sediments and landslide debris also covered the caldera floor. Eventually, the caldera cooled, allowing rain and snow to accumulate and form a lake. Landslides from the caldera rim thereafter formed debris fans and turbidite sediments on the lake bed. Fumaroles and hot springs remained common and active during this period. Also after some time, the slopes of the lake’s caldera rim more or less stabilized, streams restored a radial drainage pattern on the mountain, and dense forests began to revegetate the barren landscape. It is estimated that about 720 years was required to fill the lake to its present depth of 594 metres. Much of this occurred during a period when the prevailing climate was less moist than at present.  Some hydrothermal activity remains along the lake floor, suggesting that at some time in the future, Mazama may erupt once again.


Parks Galore; July 7-12, 2018

Golden Spike National Historic Site

The construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the railway network of the Eastern United States with California on the Pacific coast began in 1863 at the terminal points of Omaha, Nebraska and Sacramento, California, and the two sections were merged and ceremonially completed on May 10, 1869, at the famous “golden spike” event at Promontory Summit, Utah.

We visited the Golden Spike National Historic Site on July 7, 2018, where we found an instructive visitor center and re-creations of the original steam engines that met at the summit.

The merger in 1869 created a nationwide mechanized transportation network that revolutionized the population and economy of the American West. This network caused the wagon trains of previous decades to become obsolete, exchanging it for a modern transportation system. The building of the railway required enormous labor in the crossing of plains and high mountains by the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad, the two privately chartered federally backed enterprises that built the line westward and eastward respectively. There was an acute labor shortage when the railroads were begun, due to the Civil War and to the gold rush.

In the East, the effort started in Omaha, Nebraska by the Union Pacific Railroad initially proceeded very quickly because of the open terrain of the Great Plains. This changed, however, as the work entered Indian-held lands. The Native Americans saw the railroad as a violation of their treaties with the United States. War parties began to raid the moving labor camps that followed the progress of the line. Union Pacific responded by increasing security and hiring marksmen to kill American Bison, which were both a physical threat to trains and the primary food source for many of the Plains Indians. The Native Americans then began killing laborers when they realized that the so-called “Iron Horse” threatened their existence. Security measures were further strengthened, and progress on the railroad continued.

In the west, the Central Pacific Railroad made great initial progress along the Sacramento Valley. However, construction then slowed, first by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, then by cutting a railroad bed up the mountains themselves. As they progressed higher in the mountains, winter snowstorms and a shortage of reliable labor compounded the problems. Consequently, after a trial crew of Chinese workers was hired and found to work successfully, the Central Pacific expanded its efforts to hire more emigrant laborers—mostly Chinese. Emigrants from poverty stricken regions of China, many of which suffered from the strife of the Taiping Rebellion, seemed to be more willing to tolerate the living and working conditions on the railroad construction, and progress on the railroad continued. The increasing necessity for tunneling as they proceeded up the mountains then began to slow progress of the line yet again. The first step of construction was to survey the route and determine the locations where large excavations, tunnels and bridges would be needed. Crews could then start work in advance of the railroad reaching these locations. Supplies and workers were brought up to the work locations by wagon teams and work on several different sections proceeded simultaneously. To carve a tunnel, one worker held a rock drill on the granite face while one to two other workers swung eighteen-pound sledgehammers to sequentially hit the drill which slowly advanced into the rock. Once the hole was about 10 inches deep, it would be filled with black powder, a fuse set and then ignited from a safe distance. Nitroglycerin, which had been invented less than two decades before the construction of the first transcontinental railroad, was used in relatively large quantities during its construction. This was especially true on the Central Pacific Railroad, which owned its own nitroglycerin plant to ensure it had a steady supply of the volatile explosive. This plant was operated by Chinese laborers as they were willing workers even under the most trying and dangerous of conditions.

Several miles from the historic site, we stopped briefly to look at a small “rocket garden” outside the buildings for the company ATK Thiokol. This is the company that used to make the rocket boosters for the space shuttle. There are many different displays of rockets including a shuttle booster and a Patriot missile. Each has an interpretive sign that explains what one is seeing and what it was used for. One won’t spend a lot of time here, but it is definitely worth the stop on the way in/out to/from the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

The Thiokol Chemical Company was founded in 1929. In the mid-1950s the company bought extensive lands in Utah for its rocket test range. In 1986 it was found at fault for the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the deaths of its astronauts.

City of Rocks National Reserve

City of Rocks National Reserve, also known as the Silent City of Rocks, is a United States National Reserve and state park lying 2 miles north of the south central Idaho border with Utah. It is widely known for its excellent rock climbing and rock formations.

The rock spires in the City of Rocks and adjacent Castle Rocks State Park are largely composed of granitic rock. We visited the area on July 9, hiking some of the winding trails at the base of the rocks, and also seeking out a shaded table for picnic lunch.

The City of Rocks is a popular rock climbing area, with over 1,000 traditional and bolt-protected routes. In the 1980s, it was home to some of the most difficult routes in the USA. Climbers in the region refer to the area as simply ‘The City’.

California Trail wagon trains of the 1840s and 1850s left the Raft River valley and traveled through the area and over Granite Pass into Nevada. Names or initials of emigrants written in axle grease are still visible on Register Rock. Ruts from wagon wheels also can be seen in some of the rocks.

City of Rocks was designated a National Reserve, a unit of the National Park Service, in recognition of the nationally significant geological and scenic values of its rock formations and the historical significance of the California Trail. Rock formations in the reserve developed through an erosion process called exfoliation, during which thin rock plates and scales sloughed off along joints in the rocks. The joints, or fractures, resulted from the contraction of the granite as it cooled, from an upward expansion of the granite as overlying materials were eroded away, and from regional tectonic stresses. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes as high as 600 feet.

Twin Falls/Shoshone Falls

On July 12, we drove to the Snyder Winery, near Buhl, ID. Bill & Colleen had been there before, and had contacted her to see if we could park there overnight.  Even though she would be gone when we arrived, she gave her permission.  We picked up a rock to the bus windshield on the way.  After calling to Boise to arrange for a repair the next day, we went to Twin Falls for dinner to celebrate Bill’s birthday.  

Shoshone Falls is a waterfall on the Snake River in southern Idaho, approximately 3 miles northeast of the city of Twin Falls. Sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high—45 feet higher than Niagara Falls—and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide.

Formed by catastrophic outburst flooding during the Pleistocene ice age about 14,000 years ago, Shoshone Falls marks the historical upper limit of fish migration (including salmon) in the Snake River, and was an important fishing and trading place for Native Americans. The falls became a tourist attraction starting in the 1860s. The City of Twin Falls now owns and operates a park overlooking the waterfall.

Due to its great height, Shoshone Falls is a total barrier to the upstream movement of fish. Anadromous fish (which live in the ocean as adults, but return to fresh water to lay eggs) such as salmon and steelhead/rainbow trout, and other migratory fish such as sturgeon, cannot pass the falls. Prior to the construction of many dams on the Snake River below Shoshone Falls, spawning fish would congregate in great numbers at the base of the falls, where they were a major food source for local Native Americans.

Currently, the Falls are subject to periodic drying. And that brings up the name of I.B. Perrine, who moved to Idaho Territory in 1884 and established a farm and ranch operation in the Snake River Canyon near present-day Jerome.

Although Perrine’s operation in the canyon received plenty of water, the surrounding area could not be easily irrigated and was therefore largely unproductive. Beginning in 1893, Perrine worked to convince private financiers to build a dam on the Snake River, along with a corresponding canal system to irrigate the area. This work culminated in the 1900 founding of the Twin Falls Land and Water Company and the subsequent completion of Milner Dam in 1905.

In 1900 the Twin Falls Land and Water Company was incorporated and filed claim for 3,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Snake River. Perrine’s ultimate goal was to irrigate 500,000 acres of land. Although this would have been impermissible in other parts of the western US, due to regulations, Perrine’s project fell under the boundaries of the 1894 Carey Act, which allowed private companies to construct large-scale irrigation systems in desert regions where the task would be far too great for individual settlers.

The reclamation of vast tracts of desert into productive farmland practically overnight led to the regional moniker of “Magic Valley”. Powered entirely by gravity, it was “a rare successful example” of private irrigation development under the Carey Act.

Twin Falls is near the site where Evel Knievel attempted to jump across the Snake River Canyon on September 8, 1974 on a rocket-powered motorcycle, after unsuccessfully petitioning the U.S. Government to let him attempt a jump over the Grand Canyon. Knievel and his team purchased land on both sides of the Snake River and built a large earthen ramp and launch structure. A crowd of 30,000 gathered to watch Knievel’s jump, which failed because his parachute opened too early, causing him to float down towards the river. Knievel likely would have drowned were it not for canyon winds that blew him to the river bank; he ultimately survived with a broken nose. In September 2016, professional stuntman Eddie Braun successfully jumped the Snake River Canyon in a replica of Knievel’s rocket.

On the Road with Norwegian Friends; Part Two — June 25 – July 6, 2018

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

On our way up to Lake Powell from Parks, we stopped north of Flagstaff at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where we spent some time walking paths through volcanic flow fields.

Glen Canyon

When we arrived at Lake Powell, we checked in to Wahweap Campground. We stayed in the Page area for two nights, visiting (by car) Horse Shoe Bend on the Colorado River to the south, and renting a small motorboat one morning to explore some of Lake Powell near the Glen Canyon Dam. Kari and Rasmus did some swimming from the shore near the campground, and they and Bill and Barb swam from the boat. The Norwegians alleged that the water was “warm”, but no one stayed in for very long.


Bryce is spectacular.  We went to a number of overlooks, including those on the far north.  But perhaps the best experience was the Navajo Loop Trail down from Sunset Point through the slot canyon of Wall Street, through the Queen’s Garden Trail and up to Sunset Point, down into the amphitheaters and labyrinths, among the hoodoos and spires, and through deep, stone canyons of pink, white, and tan, where 500 to 700-year-old Douglas Firs reach upward toward the sunlight at the top of the canyon. 

Panguitch/Brian Head/Cedar Breaks

We wanted to visit Barb’s brother Mike as we proceeded north, but his mountain cabin was up high near Brian Head, and his residence was on the other side of the mountain, in Parowan. So we chose to stay near the village of Panguitch [Southern Paiute for “big fish”], UT, on the east side of the mountain. Our base camp was the run-down private Panguitch Paradise RV Park. “Run-down” as in no attendant, but with a scribbled sign with instructions to leave the [minimal] fee under the door, using the [non-existent] pay envelopes to be found on the [non-existent] clipboard attached to the door. But the price was right: $15 for full hookups.

Mike came down to join us for dinner, and the next day we took a toad up to see his cabin, the little village of Brian Head, and the colorful cliffs of Cedar Breaks.

Capitol Reef

We love Capitol Reef National Park. But on our way we learned they had only one vacancy, so on 6/30 we stopped at Wonderland RV in Torrey, UT. Colleen and Bill took the opening at Capitol Reef, and we drove over to visit them. The Staff at Capital Reef advised that several sites would probably open up the next morning, and that if we appeared sufficiently early we would probably get one. However, we had to appear in person; Colleen could not sign us in. So Barb got up early and galloped ahead while I broke camp. The strategy worked; we were rewarded with adjoining sites and juicy apricots freshly picked from the long-ago Mormon-planted trees in the Park.

Rivers Edge

And then it was time to get close to Salt Lake City, so that Rasmus & Kari could fly back to Norway. We chose Rivers Edge RV near Heber City. We attended a Fourth of July pancake breakfast at nearby Midway and later went to Park City to join the massive crowd gathered for the fireworks. While waiting for dark, Rasmus & Bill rode up a ski lift in order to come barreling down a luge run.

Salt Lake City

On July 5 we went in to Salt Lake City, where we visited the State Capital Building and the Mormon campus. Afterwards, we were reminded of the Mormon influence in the city when we sought a cup of coffee in a downtown mall. None of the many establishments in a huge food court offered coffee. We were directed to a coffee and pastry shop on another floor. There, we were told that they had run out of coffee!!!

It felt strange to drop off Rasmus & Kari at the airport. They had been ideal guests, and we all, Barb & I and Bill & Colleen, were sad to have them leave.