After hiking in Arches National Monument we camped at Green Rivers State Park in Green River, Utah. This was a quiet park, or at least it was for us, and shaded by native cottonwood trees as well as Russian Olive and Tamarisk, both invasive species. We parked not far from the entrance and had no one in any campsites near us. Most seemed to prefer the far end of the campground where there was a larger, more modern restroom. But we had a restroom with showers so were content and enjoyed the lack of nearby neighbors. This park also contained a 9-hole golf course but Tom hadn’t brought clubs on this trip.
We started dinner with a highball (we rarely drink hard liquor but were determined to use the gift we’d received clear back in Southern California). Then salad and chicken “nuggets”, plus potatoes that I “baked” in the microwave. We ate dinner outside at the camp table and had breakfast there in the morning.
Before dark I walked across the campground to the far side where there were a coule of campers with tents. We thought they were probably river rafters. A bog with cattails was on that side and a trail went across to a large group campsite although it appeared to be empty. Always during the daylight hours there was the sound of doves. And we saw nighthawks swooping through the gathering darkness.
We could see lightning in the distance but after we went to bed it got much closer and the rain poured down. It was nice to hear it tapping on the trailer. Before the rain started we ran the air conditioner for a while to cool the interior of the trailer.
From here on it seemed as if the trip was beginning to end even though we had miles to go, and people to see. From Green River we went over a pass and down into Wellington on Highway 191. Chalky cliffs looked bright against the dark grey clouds. We began noticing many small cars, some with an insignia, coming toward us.
Wellington, with a population of about 2,000, was settled in 1896 by a band of 13 Mormons and here we saw a large Mormon church—although I think I’ve never seen a small one. We stopped for lunch at the Outlaw Café. And it was here that we discovered the story of the many small cars that we kept seeing. A couple driving a Mini-Cooper were meeting friends there for lunch and they told us they were part of a group that was traveling from San Francisco to Boston in a rally. They said everyone stayed in the same town at night and left together in the morning but the rest of the day was up to the individual drivers. They wore T-shirts with the list of days and locations on the back. They were going 5,000 miles and through 18 states. This restaurant had a swimming pool accessed from the back of the restaurant as well as from the adjacent motel. While typing this I just noticed on a map that Highway 191/U.S.6 is also called The Grand Army of the Republic after a Union Civil War organization.
As we began to leave the valley we noticed oil tankers on a train that was parked along a siding and a coal powered power plant on a turn of the highway, with massive amounts of steam rising. The railroad tracks were double tracks leading into double tunnels near the Price River whose headwaters are in the Jim Bridger Teton National Forest of Wyoming. The Price eventually empties into the Green River. Up on the slopes aspen were mixed with conifers and I saw a beaver dam to our right. We were in Wasatch County now and crossing Soldier Summit, elevation 7, 477 feet. In the fall that left slope of aspen would be solid yellow. A group of soldiers stationed at the summit in 1861 was caught in a July snowstorm. Two of them died. Hence the name. This is the highest point in the Denver and Rio Grande railway.
Near Snowville we stopped at a rest stop. Snowville, elevation 4, 455 feet has a population of less than 200. It was settled in 1878 under the direction of Brigham Young. In the restroom I spoke to a young woman who was also washing her hands. She was from Corvallis, Oregon, a 45-minute drive from Eugene! What a surprise that was for both of us—we felt as if we were neighbors. She and her husband were also on their way home. I’d noticed him outside looking through binoculars at the junipers. There was a sign at the edge of the parking lot with information about Ferruginous Hawks (our largest hawk) nesting in the area. As they left the parking lot we were waving to each other. Funny….
Our next notable inhabited area was Salt Lake City—heavy traffic, lots of churches with tall spires, beautiful mountains in the background.
Our last “camp” site was in Rupert, Idaho and called the Village of Trees RV Park. Rupert has a population of about 5,500. Rupert was founded in 1906 and, because of the construction of Minidoka Dam on the Snake River, was one of the first towns in the U.S. to light its streets using electricity. Rupert is home to a large cheese company (making Swiss cheese) as well as a potato processing plant. It was about 7:30 when we arrived and 9:00 by the time we ate dinner—and dark. It was very windy and a bit chilly and depressing. The Village of Trees was a valid name for this RV park as there were a lot of trees. We were close to restrooms and no one was in the two sites between us and the facilities. I used water from a tall pump near one of the other sites rather than our little short one. I’m always uncomfortable using a short faucet that seems too close to the sewage hookup.
I liked the place better in the morning. It was quiet and we could see horses in a field between the RV site and the river. I thought I saw a white pelican cruise by. I walked the short distance to the office (grill, convenience store) and bought a cup of coffee for each of us and a small sweet roll to share. We had hard-boiled eggs, left over hash- browns, and orange juice.
Then we were on the road again. We drove past Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and fields of corn and wheat. Our next stop was in Boise, the capital of Idaho, where we maneuvered the trailer downtown to park near the Cottonwood Grill (http://www.cottonwoodgrille.com) and had lunch with my brother Richard and his wife Charlotte, sitting at tables outside. We ate with them here on a previous visit a couple of years ago when cottonwood seeds drifted down like snow. Can’t say enough good things about this restaurant! All of us had a cold soup and a great salmon salad along with glass after glass of iced tea and good conversation, sprinkled with laughter. We were a bit late because our campsite had been further from Boise than we’d thought.
A number of years ago when we visited my brother and sister-in-law here, all of us rode bicycles along part of the 22-mile bike path that follows the Boise River. The path is adjacent to the river and the Cottonwood Grill is next to the trail. From our table we could see walkers, bikers and roller-bladers enjoying the path.
Boise is the third largest city in the Pacific Northwest after Seattle and Portland. Several major companies are headquartered here including Boise Cascade, Albertsons, Idaho Timber, WinCo Foods, Bodybulding.com and Clearwater Analytics. The state is also a large employer. There is a large Basque population (about 15,000), most tracing their ancestry to Spain, who came to America first for mining and then to herd sheep.
Later we drove across town to be with Dick and Elvia, a very special couple. Tom and Dick were high school classmates in Sacramento and they have stayed in touch. We stayed two nights at their house and had a wonderful visit with them that included a trip to a new shopping area in Boise (lots of fountains) and a baseball game—good seats right behind home plate– between the Hawks and Vancouver. Our time with them was filled with laughter and relaxation. It really helped us recuperate some from our lengthy driving trip. Elvia and I thought the sunset at the game the best part of it since the game itself was a bit slow—a lovely sunset!
Leaving Boise on a Friday we erroneously took Hwy 84 instead of Hwy 20 out of Ontario, just across the Oregon line. In Baker City we stopped for gas and also went into The Little Bagel Shop where we could smell REAL COFFEE—very unusual for our trip. Ahhh, we were back in the Pacific Northwest. Instead of coffee we had iced tea though and toasted bagels with cream cheese. The shop was in an old brick building which had been divided with a dining area on one side and the shop on the other. Baker City has a population of about 10,000 and has a large historic district. A sign said the bagel shop was closing at 2:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday because of the heat.
My notes show that at 12:35 we were on Hwy 26 and in the Malheur National Forest. We drove through Prairie City where there were big green fields and views of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. We stopped in John Day to get snacks. And we passed a lot of bicycles spread over many miles as well as their support vehicle. Going over Ochaco Pass we could see the remains of a very large forest fire with smoke still rising in a few places. Finally we were passing through the town of Sisters, driving over Santiam Pass, down winding Highway 126 and home to Eugene.
A few things I learned from this trip.
1. We live in a very large country, much of which is either uninhabitable or very rural. I can see why these rural dwellers may have disdain for urban dwellers. Many of the huge farms must be owned by large companies.
2. Changes in time zones can mean you may or may not find a vacancy in a motel or campground.
3. Doves live and coo in most of the Southwest although their calls may differ a bit from place to place.
4. Invasive species such as Tamarisk and Russian Olives can use a lot of water and in some places people are trying to eliminate them. Junipers also use a lot of water and in some places people are trying to eliminate them as well, or at least reduce their numbers.
5. Fireflies are magical!
6. Cicadas are very loud.
7. Deserts are lands of contrasts, which, in the summer, can range from dust storms to cloudbursts with lightning and thunder and flash floods, nearly always accompanied by heat and humidity.
8. Cactus and desert landscapes have their own awesome beauty.
9. I don’t like most RV parks—they are too crowded and there is little privacy (I’ve known this for years!).
10. When a couple is traveling long distances in confined quarters they should factor in alone time to prevent murder.
11. When I’m in a place where the plants, trees and birds are unfamiliar I feel as if I’m in a foreign country and really want to learn their names.
12. Many people go out of their way to be kind at the times when we need kindness.
13. Nearly every town (from the Southwest to the Pacific Ocean) that I’ve seen has the same kinds of businesses on the outskirts of town—fast food places, auto shops, big box stores. Trade places with another town and you wouldn’t know the difference.
14. Don’t rely totally on your GPS, particularly on Los Angeles freeways.
15. Nearly every place has its charms, although I’m not totally sure about Branson, Missouri.
16. What you get out of a trip is what you put into it.
17. It’s good for the ego to be the minority race once in a while.
18. Seeing other places makes one truly appreciate the Pacific Northwest.
Would I do it again? Yes, but not in July. It would have to be in the spring or fall. And I would stay longer in places so that I could get a better feel for each place— see the way the slanting light changes the landscape during sunrises and sunsets. I would stay in more parks and fewer RV places. It was a good trip.