Finding Enchantment…in Encampment, Wyoming!

August 2022 – When we rolled into Encampment, Wyoming, just north of the Colorado border, we’d been driving through miles and miles of wide open land. So, when we passed a sign that said, “Population 452,” we figured we’d stay for a quickie overnight and move on.

Finding Enchantment in Encampment Wyoming! Grand Encampment Museum

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After all, how much is there to do in such a little place?

Moments later, we passed an old fellow whiling away the hours and watching the world go by from a chair in front of a small log cabin with a sign that said, “Visitors Center.” He waved at us as we drove by.

Wow! When does that ever happen?

And then we passed a building with a huge, colorful mural on one end:

Greetings from Wyoming in the town of Encampment

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We were smiling at each other by now and commenting about receiving this surprisingly warm welcome when we spotted some tall, conical metal buildings, one of which was covered with decorations. The town’s High School logo was emblazoned in bright red on one side.

Teepee burner with high school logo at Encampment Wyoming

Home of the Tigers (in flames!)…but what is this building??

On the back of this odd metal building there were a whole bunch of numbers similar to the high school graduation years we’d found painted on rocky hillsides in Arco, Idaho, and Entiat, Washington.

We got out of the truck to take a closer look, and we discovered the numbers were for the years the local high school teams had won their championships. How fun!! Cross-country was blazing…but the football team was still in the hunt for a win.

Yet we still had no idea what the building had been used for.

Encampment Wyoming high school sports championship years on teepee burner

What a clever way to honor the high school sports teams!

As we got back in the truck, we noticed a deer crossing the street in front of us. Our smiles grew wide as we whipped around to catch him on camera.

Buck crosses the street in Encampment Wyoming

The buck stops here…well, over there!

The buck was joining some friends across the street, and we suddenly noticed there was a group of 5 or 6 deer hanging around and sampling the grass!

Young buck crosses the street in Encampment Wyoming

There were bunches of deer!

A young buck peeks out from behind some election signs in Encampment Wyoming

A political stunt?

Young buck in Encampment Wyoming

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Not long after that we saw a small group of pronghorn antelope milling about. This was unbelievable!

Pronghorn antelope in Encampment Wyoming

The pronghorn antelope thought they owned the place too…

Pronghorn antelope at Encampment Wyoming

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As we drove down the main drag, the only paved road in town, we noticed the liquor store was called White Dog Liquors. Now, ya gotta love that — and we realized we were beginning to love this town!

White Dog Liquors Encampment Wyoming

Good name…!

As we cruised down some of the dirt back streets, we discovered someone had a row of antique trailers lined up. Whether they were carefully selected collectibles or just a collection of old cast-offs, we weren’t sure, but there was a fun and funky spirit to this place that was quickly growing on us.

Old travel trailer RV collection in Encampment Wyoming

An interesting collection of travel trailers from long ago!

We decided to head back to the Visitors Center to meet the guy that had waved to us when we pulled into town. He was still sitting out in front of the Visitors Center, and he introduced himself as Cowboy Wadsworth.

A warm welcome from the Encampment Wyoming Visitors Center

We received a warm welcome from Cowboy Wadsworth who volunteers at the Visitors Center.

He regaled us with fascinating tales of the history of the town. Originally called Grand Encampment by fur trappers who settled here, it later became home to “tie-hacks” who logged the surrounding forests into carefully cut railroad ties for the burgeoning railroad industry.

Who knew that making railroad ties was an entire industry unto itself?! But if you consider how many ties were needed to create the vast network of railroads that spread across this country, it must have been a big business in many forests!

Then copper mining took over the area, and a 16 mile long tramway was built to move buckets of copper ore out from the mine. The town grew quickly and became something of a company town, although unlike conventional company towns, deeded lots were sold, giving residents a tangible stake in their community. In no time, 15,000 people called Grand Encampment home.

Around the edges of this bustling town, cattle ranchers and sheep herders soon filled the valley and hillsides with their herds.

Learning the history of Encampment Wyoming

Cowboy gives me the low down on Encampment’s history.

But what about those weird metal conical buildings we’d seen? Cowboy explained that those were “teepee burners” that were used to burn the bark that came off the logs during the railroad tie making process. In the olden days there was no use for the bark — fancy landscaping hadn’t taken off yet — so it was burned.

“Go to the Grand Encampment Museum,” Cowboy urged us. “You’ll learn even more about this town over there!”

Now, we’re not really big on museums, in part because they aren’t typically dog friendly. But we wandered over in the direction he was pointing to see what was we’d see.

This way to the Grand Encampment Museum in Wyoming

“Can I go to the museum too?”

First, we noticed a replica of a stagecoach.

My, oh my. It is startling to see just how small those things were inside. I can’t imagine traveling for any length of time over rutted and dusty dirt trails, wearing a long skirt and hat and squeezed into tight quarters alongside my hubby and nose to nose with people I’d probably just met.

The people who lived in the west in the late 1800s and the turn of the last century were not only outdoorsy and rugged but were very determined!

Grand Encampment Museum Stage Coach replica in Wyoming

Pretty as it is, this would be a rough ride!

Then we rounded the bend, and before us stood the buildings of Grand Encampment, Wyoming, just as they were back in those days.

Wow!

Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

Grand Encampment Museum – Gem of Wyoming!

This isn’t just a “go inside a building and see historic relics and read signs” kind of museum. This is a fully reconstructed town that has been lovingly preserved with family memorabilia from the locals. It is an outdoor museum with a few special indoor spots, and dogs are allowed in the outdoor parts.

What’s astonishing is that the population of the town that hosts this museum is just 452. The streets of modern day Encampment are still all dirt roads. The neighboring town of Riverside located a few hundred yards down the one paved road has a population of 66 people. And there is nothing else around for 18 miles except wide open land.

Talk about a strong community spirit — what an achievement to create this fabulous museum!

It turns out that back in the 1960s two women who loved the town decided the old buildings and relics of Encampment’s earliest inhabitants deserved to be preserved for generations to come.

They set about raising the funds and raising the interest among their friends and neighbors that was necessary to set aside a large parcel of land right in town and move the town’s oldest buildings from where they originally stood to where they now stand on the museum grounds.

Buildings from downtown Encampment at Grand Encampment Museum in Wyoming

These two stores were owned and operated by Encampment residents at the turn of the last century.

The main museum building was erected in 1969, but all the other homes, cabins and stores on site (except the very large Livery building) were moved from elsewhere in the area. There is even an old US Forest Service ranger station log cabin that is painted in the familiar US Forest Service brown. It sports a very cool door knocker.

US Forest Service Door Knocker

What a cool door knocker!

We were enchanted!

Not all the buildings were open, but we peeked in all the windows, and each room of each building had been set up as it would have been back in the day using artifacts that had been carefully stored and passed down through the generations by local families.

Inside a cabin at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

There are many buildings, and each one has been lovingly set up inside with antiques donated by locals.

Back in the early 1900s, an enterprising merchant opened a mercantile store along with some other businesses. The house he built in 1908 to persuade his wife to stay in Encampment rather than return to Denver is just charming. It is a simple house with small rooms by today’s standards, but it boasted all the modern conveniences of that time, including electricity, heat (via steam piped in from his store), running water and indoor plumbing!

It remained in the family from 1908 until it was donated to the museum in 1996.

Historic buildings at Grand Encampment Museum, Encampment Wyoming

The building on the right was built in 1908 to persuade the mercantile owner’s wife to stay in town!

One building at the museum used to be a stagecoach stop, and the front room is set up the way a boarding room for travelers would have been. Imagine riding in a stagecoach for hours and hours, seeing a lonely cabin in a vast prairie, and being told, “This is where you’ll spend the night!”

In a way, that little cabin must have been so cozy and inviting and such a relief. And yet it must have also seemed so isolated, remote and perhaps even a bit forlorn at the same time!

Out in a field we found a bunch of old farming equipment, and Mark was floored that the tractor had a crank start!

An old tractor at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

It’s got a crank!

Our greeter at the Visitors Center, Cowboy, told us winter temperatures in this area have hit 75 below zero. Chatting with the Chief of Police a few days later (no, we weren’t hauled in, and yes, it’s super easy to meet people in this town and talk to them for a few hours!), we discovered he’d seen temperatures around 40 below zero. The town clerk we chatted with who’d lived in town for just a few years said she’d seen temps in the negative 30s.

Wow, that is COLD!

The snow piles up in this area too. It’s not uncommon to see 10 or more feet of snow in the dead of winter.

So, back in the day, a ground level outhouse just didn’t do the trick in the wintertime. Grand Encampment Museum has a replica of a two story outhouse on display. Once the lower level got completely snowed in and couldn’t be used any more, the second level became “ground level” and they simply used that level of the outhouse instead!

However, no one explained to us how things worked out drainage-wise when the snow melted in the springtime…!

Double outhouse at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

A two story outhouse so you can still use the loo when the snow is 13′ deep!

Inside the immense Livery building we found all kinds of vehicles from days gone by. There was a covered wagon, a basque sheep herder’s wagon, and early motor cars.

There was also a one horse open sleigh adorned with Jingle Bells!!

One horse open sleigh at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

What we all sing about at Christmas!

A horse drawn hearse was on display, reminiscent of the funeral procession and the horse drawn hearse we’d seen in Utah earlier this year (blog post here).

Horse drawn hearse in Grand Encampment Museum Livery building

A horse drawn hearse.

One resident of Encampment kept all of his license plates through the years. It was fascinating to see that the year wasn’t imprinted on license plates prior to 1918, and the familiar Wyoming logo of the bucking bronco first appeared on the license plate in 1936.

Wyoming license plates through history at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

Wyoming license plates dating back to 1915.

There were all kinds of other intriguing things from beautiful and intricately hand sewn clothing to fascinating antique photos. The photo of a group of women lined up to ski was a hoot!

Skiing in a long dress…with a single ski pole!

Back outside on the Grand Encampment Museum grounds we found a replica of the copper ore tramway. The buckets and all the gear were original but the scaffoldings had been recreated. The original tram went for 16 miles and each scaffolding was a different height because the terrain was hilly!

We first saw an ore tramway like this in Pioche, Nevada, where the original tramway and buckets still stand, frozen in time (blog post here).

Copper ore bucket on tramway display at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

A copper ore bucket on what was once a 16 mile long tramway!

We went behind some buildings and were surprised to come across two large open boats. These were tie-drive boats that were used to float the newly cut railroad ties from Encampment downriver.

Tie-drive boat at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

Tie-drive boats were used to push the specially cut railroad ties downstream.

The size, scale and scope of the railroad industry in the late 1800s has never hit us as hard as when we stood in Bovill, Idaho, two months ago and stared at the remains of a railroad crossing (blog post here).

Touching the immense, rusted railroad spikes and imagining what it took to nail millions of them into the thick wooden ties (with the rails precisely spaced so the train wheels would track properly) all across the country suddenly brought the whole creation of the railroad system to life for us. We sang “I’ve been working on the railroad” for a few days after that!

A photo in Grand Encampment Museum shows one of these tie-drive boats with two tie-hacks in action guiding the boat and the newly hewn ties down the river.

Historic photo of tie hacks using tie-drive boat to push railroad ties down river in Encampment Wyoming

In action…

Encampment (and neighboring Riverside) had lots of other things to offer besides the museum. We shopped at the thrift store that’s open two days a week and we had a fabulous lunch at the Bear Trap Cafe in neighboring Riverside.

While we were savoring our meal, we noticed Cowboy Wadsworth coming into the restaurant. He was all dressed up in a freshly pressed cowboy shirt, kerchief around his neck and a cowboy hat, big belt buckle and cowboy boots.

Lots of other people began to arrive, and they were all dressed up as well.

It turned out Cowboy had just turned 95 and all his friends in town were celebrating his birthday with him in style at the Bear Trap Cafe! How cool is that?!

If your RV travels take you to southern Wyoming some day, we hope you too will find enchantment in Encampment!

Deer and dog in Encampment Wyoming

Buddy stalks the deer…and they teased him until the last second when they bounded away effortlessly.

Deer in Encampment Wyoming

Encampment is a very special place!

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Brooks Lake, Split Rock, Adventure Travelers and Other Wyoming Highlights!

August 2022 – There are several routes in and out of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, and this year we exited on the eastern side of the Park on a road we’ve never taken before: US-287. This goes up and over a mountain pass and swings by beautiful Brooks Lake.

Brooks Lake Wyoming

Brooks Lake, Wyoming

Brooks Lake Wyoming 2

Mountains and cliffs surround pretty Brooks Lake

Brooks Lake is a very scenic spot, and it was a great place to wander around with a camera! Long ago, one of our readers had recommended that we visit Brooks Lake, and we are so glad we were finally able to take him up on his recommendation. It’s lovely!

Boat at Brooks Lake Wyoming

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Truck at Brooks Lake Campground Wyoming

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There are two USFS dry camping campgrounds in the area, Brooks Lake Campground and Pinnacles Campground. Each one is very nice and can fit small to medium sized rigs fairly easily. Unfortunately, there’s a five mile long dirt road to get there. But if you’re up for some back country driving, it’s a wonderful spot.

Truck Camper at Brooks Lake Campground in Wyoming

A truck camper in Brooks Lake Campground

Pinnacles at Brooks Lake Wyoming

The sun and clouds came in waves across the pinnacles.

Brooks Lake, like many lakes in the western states, has a tendency to get toxic blue-green algae blooms in late summer when the temperatures rise, and this algae is lethal to dogs. There were Forest Service signs everywhere warning people not to eat the fish they caught too. But it is a gorgeous spot nonetheless. In springtime the algae wouldn’t be a problem — and there would be snow on the peaks!

Fishing at Brooks Lake Wyoming

Fishing is popular here, but toxic algae blooms in late summer are something to watch out for.

Creek at Brooks Lake Wyoming

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30 miles south of Brooks Lake, a few miles south of the town of Dubois (more about that town in a later post), we came across a fabulous petroglyph. This one is really intricate. It has three fingers and three toes on each hand/foot, and it has a tail. There’s lots of detail on its skin or clothing. I’m not sure if this was a doodle gone wild, or if it has some hidden meaning or if, perhaps, the artist drank some toxic blue-green algae water and had a crazy vision… But whatever it is, it’s cool!

Petroglyph in Wyoming

An elaborate petroglyph pecked into the rocks a few miles south of the town of Dubois.

175 miles southeast of Brooks Lake, also on Wyoming’s US-287 highway, we found another wonderful spot for photography: Split Rock Overlook. It’s just a pullout on the highway with bathrooms and picnic tables, but we loved it. This place was super dog friendly and Buddy had all kinds of fun there.

Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

Buddy checks out the Split Rock Overlook.

The boulders were a blast to jump around on and were reminiscent of the Redstone Rest Area in Nevada. Kids would love playing on these rocks and they sure brought out the kid in all of us!

Dog playing at Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

“This is my kind of place!!”

Dog poses at Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

Buddy takes a breather from running and jumping all over the boulders.

Happy dog at Split Rock Wyoming

In the spotlight.

We had stopped just to get a bite to eat, but we ended up spending the better part of a day there!

Happy Camper at Split Rock Wyoming

The boulders at Split Rock Overlook are just plain fun!

Photographer at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Boulders at Split Rock Wyoming

Cool rocks.

Buddy loves all of our adventures, whether it’s hiking or taking photos. He takes his job as Trail Scout very seriously and always runs in front of us on the trail to scope out what’s ahead.

Fortunately, he waits for us or runs back to check on us if we’re lagging too far behind, and if there’s a fork in the trail, he waits for us to decide which way to go.

Sometimes he runs a little ways down one leg of the fork or the other and then stands there expectantly, letting us know his recommendation for our route. But he always leaves the final decision up to us.

Dog on the hiking trail

“Are you coming?”

He also knows the tell-tale sounds and signs when we get our camera gear out to go take photos. He gets super excited and leaps down off of wherever he’s perched to sit by the door until we’ve got all our gear loaded up and are ready to go out.

Once we’re out taking photos, he goes back and forth between us, checking on how we’re doing, checking how the photos are turning out, and generally keeping an eye on our whereabouts as we move around.

Sunrise photography with a dog

Buddy watches me for a moment before running back to check on Mark.

Several places where we camped in this part of Wyoming were near the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the longest off-pavement route in the world, and we watched a steady stream of die-hard long distance mountain bikers making their way down this trail.

The trail starts in Jasper, up in Alberta, Canada, it ends at the US/Mexico border in New Mexico, and it takes a full summer for most cyclists to complete. Most of the cyclists we met had started in Jasper or Banff in late May or early June and were headed all the way to the border. Many were European. We met them on the trail, at our campsites and at the various grocery stores and post offices in the small towns that were near their route.

We chatted with Jenny and Romain from Switzerland for a while one day and were impressed with their bikes, their gear and their nonchalant attitude towards the full day of high altitude climbing that lay ahead of them.

They’d taken a year off to do some traveling as Covid waned, and they’d already camped all around Portugal and Spain for several months before they hauled their bikes to the American West to do the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

They’re keeping a blog of their American adventures at this link.

Jenny’s native tongue is German and Romain’s is French, so they alternate the two languages with each other, speaking German together for three days and then switching to French for the next three! How cool is that?! Of course, their English was excellent too…

Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail cycilsts

Long distance mountain bike adventurers Jenny and Romain.

We also met several hikers walking this same trail, and a few were doing the full distance as well. One hiker was on his fourth pair of hiking shoes so far and the other was on his third.

We are always amazed by long distance hikers and walkers and have now met quite a few people who have hiked the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail or simply walked across the entire United States from coast to coast (one gal we met had done it twice!).

One time we met a Lady Long Rider who was riding her horse (and towing a second horse to carry her gear) on a long distance adventure (more about her adventures at this link).

Bikers on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in Wyoming

So long!!

While grabbing lunch at Split Rock Overlook, we met a solo road cyclist who was riding his bike from New York to California. That is not the typical direction, since the prevailing wind goes from west to east, but he was having a ball and was very fit. He hailed from England, and his 3-month visa had run out mid-ride in late July. So he flew home, visited family and friends for a week, renewed his visa and returned to finish riding his bike across America. His favorite places so far had been Niagra Falls and Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is open to motorized vehicles as well as non-motorized, and our new Swiss friends said they had seen lots of side-by-sides like our Polaris RZR. At another campsite we met up with a pair of long distance dirt bike riders who were doing a cross-Wyoming dirt bike ride on a new Backcountry Discovery Route that had just opened up.

Dirt bike adventure travelers in Wyoming

Off to ride the new Backcountry Discovery Route in Wyoming

Sometimes it’s these little discoveries — the backwoods lakes and campgrounds and unique highway rest areas and unusual fellow travelers we meet — are the most memorable highlights of our travels. The big name places like Sun Valley and Grand Teton National Park are stunning but the lesser known places can be just as fulfilling to visit.

Dusk at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Sunset at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Wyoming sunset

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Moon at sunset at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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RV under Milky Way in Wyoming

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Grand Teton National Park – An American Treasure!

August 2022 – Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of our favorite National Parks because of its absolutely breathtaking mountain views. Since we’d been camping in Sun Valley, Idaho, we were more or less in the neighborhood, so we couldn’t resist stopping by the Tetons once again!

We’d gone to Sun Valley in an effort to escape the summer heat, but temps had been hitting the low 90s every afternoon and there wasn’t even a hint of rain. In contrast, the Tetons had been getting wonderful summer afternoon thunderstorms, so we hightailed it over there with hopes for spectacular vistas and cooler air. We got both!

Oxbow Bend Overlook Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Snake River

A full moon sets right before sunrise at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park and the greater Jackson Hole Valley area are located just below Yellowstone National Park, and they encompass a long skinny region that extends for about 50 miles from the north entrance of the Park to Teton Village in the south. Both the highway on the eastern edge of the Park (US-26) and the Teton Park Road, which runs parallel to the highway down the middle of the Park, have numerous named pullouts and overlooks where you can stop for a while to take in the extraordinary scenery.

The Snake River Overlook was made famous by Ansel Adams when he parked his station wagon in that spot in 1942, set up his tripod on the roof of his car, and took a photo of a bend in the Snake River backed by the mountains, an image that he called “The Tetons and the Snake River.” His photo sold for $988,000 in 2020! (Mark says he’d take half as much for any of his, and they’re in color!).

Unfortunately, the National Park Service has allowed lots of tall trees to grow to great heights at that overlook, totally obscuring the view that Ansel Adams captured. However, a similar view can be found nearby at the Oxbow Bend Overlook, and this pullout is a favorite among Park visitors today.

Oxbow Bend Overlook in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Day dawns at the Oxbow Bend overlook.

Grand Teton National Park is beloved by photographers, and as we drove to different stunning overlooks before dawn each morning in hopes of catching a glorious sunrise, we saw lots of headlights zooming here and there on the roads. We also had plenty of company as we stood shivering near other crazy photography buffs that had climbed out of their warm beds in the dark so they could stand outside in the cold and wait for the sun to do its magic.

900 Grand Teton National Park Wyoming sunrise

Crazy photographers climb out of their warm beds and drive all over Grand Teton National Park to catch the mountains waking up!

Bobtail Ponds Grand Teton National Park Wyoming 2

The pink hue slowly creeps down from the mountain peaks at Bobtail Ponds overlook.

Teton Point sunrise Grand Teton National Park Wyoming pink mountain peaks

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Schwabacker Landing is a popular gathering place for photographers before dawn because it offers not only a majestic view of the mountains as their tips turn pink, but a glimpse of their reflections in the glassy water below.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Schwabacker Landing is twice as much (mirrored) fun as all the other overlooks!

After sunrise, the sun and clouds played shadow games along the face of the mountains, creating wonderful stripes.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Sun and Shadow

Sun and shadow games at Schwabacker Landing.

This is a great spot to take selfies, and we saw a young couple taking photos of themselves in romantic poses before the exquisite mountain backdrop.

Lovers at Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Romance in the Tetons!

We couldn’t resist getting some selfies ourselves during our stay either, and we found some fun spots to say “cheese” and memorialize our visit.

Happy Campers Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Trying to look our best at 6:30 in the morning!

Happy Campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Everyone gets Christmas card photos at these overlooks…what a perfect spot for it!

Grand Teton National Park is very spread out, and lots of people wander from one overlook to another all day long, enjoying a picnic lunch by the side of the road here and a late afternoon snack in a pullout over there. Most overlooks have parking spaces large enough for a few RVs to pull in along with the cars.

We met a German family enjoying a breakfast of meats and cheeses next to their rental RV. Suddenly, the son ran inside and hung out the RV window giving a thumbs up with a huge grin while the dad took a photo of him and the RV in front of the spectacular mountains.

On another morning, as we returned to our truck from where we’d been taking photos, we could swear we smelled a yummy egg breakfast cooking. Sure enough, a young couple had set up a camp stove kitchen on the trunk of their Honda, and they were making a tasty breakfast right there in the parking lot!

Breakfast cooking on the back of a car atGrand Teton National Park Wyoming

We smelled breakfast cooking on the trunk of this car long before we saw it!

Every pre-dawn outing was an adventure, but one adventure went slightly awry…

At the Cunningham Cabin historical site, Mark chose a spot with a great view of the very simple log cabin that had been owned by the homesteading rancher J. Pierce Cunningham in the 1880s while I looked for a spot that would incorporate the wonderful log fence with the mountains rising out of the morning mist.

Unsatisfied with my first composition near where Mark was standing, I decided to take the narrow dirt trail along the fence line a little further. Gawking at the mountains and carrying my tripod over my shoulder, camera attached, my foot suddenly sank into water up to my knees! I toppled over and crashed to the ground, camera first.

In shock, I realized my favorite “go to” lens, the Nikon 28-300, was now broken. It could no longer zoom in and out, and it was covered in mud.

Wiping myself off as best I could, tears stinging my eyes, I gathered my shattered wits together and noticed that the entire field alongside the trail I’d been following was full of irrigation ditches that were about a foot wide and knee deep, and they criss-crossed the trail every few yards.

Fortunately, Mark was happily shooting away, far from shouting distance, so his morning was still intact! After feeling very sorry for myself for a few minutes, I remembered that I’d brought another lens, the Nikon 18-35. Luckily, it was wrapped in a clean microfiber towel, so I was able to wipe down my muddy camera and replace the big broken lens with the smaller wide angle lens.

Throughout all this, the sky was silently turning pink in the distance. With a tear or two still staining my cheek, I reminded myself that even if I couldn’t get the variety of close-in and faraway images I’d wanted, I was still here in this incredible spot witnessing the magnificent awakening of the mountains. Muddy pants, broken lens and all, I was fortunate to be here, and this was a moment to remember for its beauty as much as for my mishap!

Sunrise at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

I thought the beautiful pink show would go on without me but a second lens in my bag let me participate!

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As a side note, a young newlywed couple in our extended family nearly lost their lives in a horrific house fire three weeks ago. I thought of them as I stood there. No amount of mud or broken gear could have taken away my gratitude for the blessing of witnessing this sunrise in this sensational setting.

The young woman has been fighting for her life in an induced coma since her husband courageously carried her unconscious body out of the house through the flames. She was just awoken the other day and she managed a smile. She will be in the ICU for another 6 or 7 weeks undergoing many skin graft surgeries. They lost everything in the fire, including their pets.

I know how much it meant to us when readers of this blog reached out to help us after Buddy’s extraordinary ordeal. This young couple has set up a GoFundMe to cover medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance and to try to piece their lives back together again.

* * * * *

Dirty Little Orphan Annie finally came up off the muddy trail to where Mark was standing by the cabin. He was still nice and clean and dry

“Oh my, what happened to you?!” He asked as he rubbed a muddy smudge off my cheek and stared at my sodden shoes.

What could I say? My bedraggled looks were worth more than a thousand words. And so it goes in the wild world of outdoor photography!

Before dawn in the mountains

This was the pre-sunrise composition I didn’t like… But it probably would have been the better choice once the sky lit up and definitely would have saved me a bunch of dirty clothes and a beloved lens!

A while later, our friend and phenomenal wildlife photographer Steve Perry consoled me with stories of dunking his Sony A1 camera in the ocean while photographing baby turtles and dropping his Nikon 300 f/2.8 lens on the pavement at the airport. If you haven’t seen Steve’s channel or read his books or read his web page, they are all truly outstanding and inspiring. He has all the secrets! His latest video enumerates the skills, talents and techniques that the best photographers share.

It’s funny that I don’t recall him mentioning anything about accidents!!

Cunningham Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming3

This tiny “double” cabin is the first building Mr. Cunningham erected on his 160 acres of Homestead land and is what Mark was busy photographing while I stumbled around in the irrigation ditches.

A while later we got another pic of a historic building when we stopped by the old barns and cabins that make up Mormon Row, yet another treasured spot for visitors to Grand Teton National Park.

Mormon Row Barn at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The barns and cabins on Mormon Row make classic pics!

One of the most astonishing things about Grand Teton National Park is the dramatic juxtaposition of the towering mountains and the many ponds, lakes and streams that dot the landscape. In a way, this National Park is as much a place of waterways as it is a place of mountains. Boating is a surprisingly popular activity and there are mooring fields and a marina available for people to keep their boats on Jackson Lake!

Jackscon Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

Ponds, lakes and rivers are a huge part of Grand Teton National Park, and boating is a popular activity!

Powerboat on Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Not a bad spot for an outing on the water!

Boats on Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

There were lots of boats waiting to be taken out.

There are a few places where you can swim, or at least enjoy a pebbly beach setting, and we found one of these on Jackson Lake one morning. The lake was perfectly still and puffy clouds made a pretty pattern in the sky.

Jackson Lake mirror reflections Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a beautiful little rocky beach!

When I got to the water’s edge, I noticed that the rounded beach stones were submerged just below the surface of the water, and the glassy water was bringing out their vibrant colors.

Submerged rocks Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The vivid colors of the beach stones came to life under the placid water.

Mark threw a large stone in the water, and we watched the ripples fan out across the lake.

Ripples at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Making waves.

A group of people came down to the water with a slew of kayaks, and it appeared they were getting a lesson on how to paddle around. In no time they were all on the water in their kayaks and then, after paddling off across the lake, they landed on a distant shore. What a thrilling way to immerse yourself in the Tetons!

Kayak at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

A group of people got a lesson in kayaking while we were there!

A power boat suddenly appeared, zooming across the lake at top speed, and we noticed there was someone water skiing behind it. What a blast!

Waterskier at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a place to waterski!!

Glancing at the map one evening, we noticed there was a mountain summit you could reach by car, so the next day up we went. It is called Signal Mountain, although it’s not named for the huge cell tower that blasts a powerful signal at the top!

Wifi tower at Signal Mountain Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Cell tower at Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain was actually the site where a special smoke signal was sent out long ago by a search-and-rescue person to notify his team that he’d found the body of a man who’d fallen into the Snake River.

The view at the summit goes out across a valley, but the view just before the top looks back at the mountains across various inlets of Jackson Lake.

View from Signal Mountain Summit Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

View from just below the summit at Signal Mountain.

There are a million things to do in the Tetons, and one the best is cycling.

The paved bike path which had been only partially completed when we last visited now runs for miles and miles all through the Park, down to the town of Jackson and over the mountains from there to the town of Victor. Some of it is a rails-to-trails route and some has been purpose-built as a walking/biking trail. All of it is an outstanding way to see the Tetons.

Lots of people ride their bikes on the roads too.

RV and bicycle at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The Tetons are beloved by cyclists and hikers as well as photographers and boaters!

One theme in our summer travels this year has been the discovery of free outdoor summer concerts, and when we arrived in Grand Teton National Park we saw a notice for an upcoming free chamber music concert at the Murie Ranch in the Park. Score!

Back in the day, Olauf and Maddy Murie hosted many a long summer afternoon “conversation” with various illustrious visitors on the front porch of their cabin, and it had been the site of several concerts this summer already. All of the concerts were part of the Grand Teton Music Festival which presents performances by small groups and a big orchestra all around the town of Jackson and the Jackson Hole Resort and Grand Teton National Park all summer long!

Like Sun Valley, Jackson is a land of the ultra-wealthy, and like the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, the Grand Teton Music Festival is extremely well funded. After all, rumor has it that the billionaires pushed the millionaires out of Jackson a few decades ago! As something of a playground-while-working for the 0.2 percenters, the Federal Reserve holds an annual summer meeting in Jackson Hole, and it was about to get underway during our stay!

When we arrived at the surprisingly packed lawn in front of the Murie Cabin, it was no surprise to discover that the free concert included free wine and snacks! And this wasn’t just “Everything tastes better on a Ritz” types of snacks. This was stuffed grape leaves, a tray of exotic cheeses, and grapes served inside a pineapple!! The French couple sitting next to me was impressed by the Chardonnay too.

Free snacks at Grand Teton Music Festival in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

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The quartet played Dvorak’s “American Quartet” beautifully, but the highlight of the afternoon was the Q&A afterward.

The Music Festival hostess took questions from the audience that ranged from, “How did you learn to play so fast?” (by practicing syncopated rhythms) to “Where was your instrument made, and when?” (several were French and some dated to the 1800s) to “How many hours a day do you practice?” (8 to 10 when they were studying but less now that they are professionals and perform so much) to “How do you take your instrument on an airplane?” (the cello gets its own seat!) and more.

The musicians were delightful, and it gave the whole experience a very intimate feeling as the audience, hostess and musicians bantered back and forth.

Definitely check out the Grand Teton Music Festival schedule for a performance that suits your fancy when you visit the Park!

Grand Teton Music Festival Quartet Q&A Muries Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The musicians in the quartet fielded all kinds of questions from the audience after their performance.

As with our previous visits to Grand Teton National Park, we absolutely loved our stay.

Happy campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

We have a blast here every time we visit.

And we know we’ll be back again because, in truth, we’ve barely scratched the surface!!

Teton Road Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Teton Park Road at dawn.

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Sun Valley, Idaho – A Joyful Return to a Favorite RV Destination!

As an escape from the searing summer heat in Washington, we took our RV towards the Rocky Mountains in Idaho. We stopped in McCall, a lakeside town we loved when we visited years ago. However, the heat was crazy there too, so we hustled down the road to one of our all time favorite destinations, Sun Valley, Idaho.

RV trip to Ketchum - Sun Valley Idaho

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Sun Valley is a resort town that literally grew up around Sun Valley Resort. This resort is a skier’s paradise that was built to lure tourists to take the train to the end of a railway line back in the 1930s, a common marketing gimmick among American and Canadian railroad barons of that era. The next door town of Ketchum has a history all its own with roots in silver mining and sheep herding.

For us, Sun Valley / Ketchum has always offered a fabulous mixture of outdoor pursuits in absolutely stunning mountain scenery plus artsy events, some of which are world class, topped off with small town intimacy. We keep coming back and we keep finding new things to savor each time.

Sunset in Sawtooth National Forest Idaho

Sunset in the Sawtooth Mountains.

Sunset in Sawtooth National Forest Idaho 2

Love this!

On our first foray into town, we were shocked by the extraordinary traffic. Every street was jam packed and there was gridlock at some intersections.

Later on, we discovered that a jazz band from New Orleans was in town and they had kicked off an afternoon and evening of music by playing in the town square. Then they walked through the downtown streets while they played until they came to another city park where they set up for the evening show. No wonder traffic was insane!

There was also a lot of construction. Several downtown roads were being resurfaced and a bunch of very fancy looking condo complexes were going up.

Sun Valley Resort itself was as peaceful as always, however, and we walked around taking in the beautiful architecture and landscaping of this iconic place.

Outdoor dining Sun Valley Resort in Idaho

Dining on a flowery patio at Sun Valley Resort.

Flower boxes at Sun Valley Inn in Idaho

Bountiful flower boxes adorn the Sun Valley Inn.

There are paved bike paths everywhere, not just in the resort but all over Sun Valley, Ketchum and even down to the town of Hailey ten miles away. We’ve ridden and loved these bike paths in the past. On this RV trip we noticed that the paths were a lot busier with bikes than in the past because of ease of riding up and down the hills on an e-bike. We saw e-bike rental outfits in several places!

Bike path Sun Valley Idaho

Walkers, joggers and bicyclists love the paved paths in and around Ketchum and Sun Valley, and in a few places the paths go under and over interesting things!

But it was the luscious gardens at every turn and the abundant colorful flowers throughout the resort property that really took our breath away.

Store front flower boxes Sun Valley Idaho

Colorful flower boxes dress up a Sun Valley store window.

Flower beds in Sun Valley Resort in Idaho

Flowers fill every nook and cranny of Sun Valley Resort’s landscaping!

Ketchum and Sun Valley are a special hideaway for the rich and famous, and plenty of A-list celebrities have palatial homes in the area. A quick Zillow search revealed 24 homes for sale for over $5 million in August 2022. Sun Valley and Ketchum have about 5,000 residents. There were two listings for under $400k, but they were under 400 square feet too.

Fortunately, the town is open to visitors of all stripes and the grounds of the resort are too. Families love vacationing here, and we saw some little girls feeding a pair of swans.

Swans and kids at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho

Two swans swim over to say, “Hi.”

The heat we’d been escaping had pursued us all the way to the Sawtooth Mountain Range that surrounds Sun Valley, so we spent the hottest part of one day watching the figure skaters over at the outdoor Sun Valley Ice Rink.

Every weekend during the summertime there is an evening figure skating show at the outdoor skating rink. You can get tickets for regular bleacher seats or enjoy a meal rinkside under a shade canopy. 2022 Olympic Champion Nathan Chen had performed in the show just a few weeks prior. Darn — we just missed it!

Rinkside dining at Sun Valley Ice Skating Rink in Idaho

You can take in a figure skating show while enjoying a tasty meal overlooking the ice!

If you don’t want to spring for show tickets, we were told that if you wander by the outdoor rink around noon when the rinkside restaurant serves lunch, you can catch the pros and coaches practicing (everyday but Sunday). So wander by we did — and there they were.

Skater at Sun Valley Ice Skating Rink in Idaho

We watched some skaters practicing on the outdoor rink.

As we hung out watching the skaters, we started chatting with a woman standing next to us. It turned out that she was a personal assistant for a very wealthy person in town and she was taking a break between errands to watch some skating. She’d been in this line of work since she’d immigrated from eastern Europe several decades ago. I was all ears as I listened to her describe some of her jobs over the years.

“I worked for Calvin Klein for 14 years,” she said at one point.

“You mean the family?”

“No, the man!”

Wow! That’s the kind of thing that pops up in casual conversation in Sun Valley. It’s a rare and rarified place. She loved her work and loved her various bosses over the years. But in how many places can you strike up a conversation with someone standing next to you and discover they’ve been a personal assistant to a big name celebrity?!

On another day, out on a hiking trail, we heard a snippet of conversation where one person was eagerly telling another, “They need a caretaker!” Caretaking of property and wealthy people’s day-to-day living and chores is a common occupation in these parts.

Skater at Sun Valley Resort Ice Skating Rink in Idaho

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As our conversation with Mr. Klein’s former assistant drew to a close, I noticed we weren’t the only ones watching the skaters practice. A group of kids watched intently as a pair team glided by doing a beautiful overhead lift.

Kids watch pairs skaters practice at Sun Valley Ice Rink in Sun Valley Resort Idaho

A pair teams cruised by doing a big overhead lift while a group of kids watched in awe.

Not only does Sun Valley have classy outdoor figure skating shows in July and August, they also have a world class orchestra that performs in a gorgeous indoor/outdoor concert hall — for free — a few nights a week from late July to mid-August.

You can sit in the theater seats inside the Sun Valley Pavillion (which was built from the same marble used to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) or you can sit on the lawn and have a picnic. Huge loudspeakers bring the music from the Pavillion out onto the lawn and a large screen shows video closeups of the musicians as they play!

Sun Valley Symphony Lawn Party at Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

The Sun Valley Symphony performs free concerts several nights a week throughout the month of August
A popular place to enjoy the music is on the big grassy lawn next to the Pavilion.

As we wandered through the crowd on the lawn, we saw all kinds of enticing foods being shared among friends and family. This isn’t just a cold chicken and potato salad kind of affair. Fancy dips and crackers and bottles of wine were being passed around on one family blanket after another.

Some folks kept it simple, though, and brought their favorite pizza!

Dinner to go

A different kind of picnic basket!

The theater seating is first-come-first-serve (except for one section that’s reserved for donors), and the Pavillion cash bar and seating opens an hour before the concert begins. On our first concert night, we were surprised that not only the parking but the lawn and theater seats were nearly filled to capacity half an hour before the concert began! Thank goodness for the little Polaris RZR that can tuck into a small parking space!

Flowers at entrance to Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

A cascade of flowers pours down the Pavilion’s main entrance stairs.

I have loved Beethoven’s symphonies for all of my life, but after listening to this special concert, his Pastoral Symphony (the 6th) will be forever elevated to the ethereal realm for me.

Sitting in a seat near the top and back of the Pavillion, I had a perfect view of the aspen trees peeking under the canopy rooftop across the way. As the melody soared, the aspen trees began to shimmer and dance, and Beethoven’s vivid depiction of the beautiful sounds he heard on his beloved walks in the woods came to life. The orchestra sounded like one instrument as they played this truly angelic music, and a reverent hush came over the entire crowd both inside the Pavilion and out on the lawn. It was pure magic.

Sun Valley Symphony performs at Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

The distant aspens danced as Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony took flight around us.

Brahms is my favorite composer, though, and this summer the Sun Valley Symphony brought in one of the worlds finest pianists, Russian superstar Danil Trifanov. to play Brahms’ first concerto. Just gorgeous!

Danil Trifanov performs with Sun Valley Symphony performs at Sun Valley Pavillion in Idaho

Russian pianist Danil Trifanov gave a passionate performance of the 1st Piano Concerto by Brahms.

Sun Valley is a really musically oriented town, but classical music isn’t their only gig. Besides the jazz band from New Orleans that had brought traffic to a standstill, we also bumped into a fantastic free jazz festival in Forest Service Park. The place was going wild with people dancing to the tunes, kids jumping around, food vendors selling all kinds of goodies, and again, lots of people enjoying a picnic on a blanket in the grass!

It’s also a dog oriented place, and we were astonished at how many trails allowed dogs to be off leash. One of our favorites was the hilly and shady Corral Creek Trail, a perfect spot for a hike on a hot summer afternoon.

Mountain biking Corral Creek Trail Sun Valley Idaho

A mountain biker passed us on the Corral Creek trail.

Happy hikers in Sun Valley Idaho

This shady hike was a favorite for all three of us.

Buddy liked the shade and the soft crushed pine needle trail so much he just quit hiking and laid down for a little breather right in the in the middle of the trail. Another hiker caught him in the act on her cell phone.

Dog friendly Corral Creek Trail Sun Valley Idaho-2

Buddy was caught in the act resting in the middle of the trail!

Another shady trail we loved runs alongside Trail Creek. We did this hike a bunch of times and Buddy made a ton of new friends.

The creek has some nice big gravel beaches where dogs can play in the water or get a drink (this stream comes down from the mountains, so it’s safe). Lots of dogs we met were soaked through, and one dog owner was wet and muddy too!

Dog friendly Trail Creek Trail in Sun Valley Idaho

Hiking alongside Trail Creek is a favorite for both dogs and people.

Pretty wildflowers were blooming here and there.

Summer flowers in Idaho

Lavender smiles.

In many ways, though, just as Sun Valley is an outdoor lover’s and music lover’s and art lover’s paradise, it is a dog’s paradise too.

People we met kept asking us if we’d been to the Dog Park. No, of course we hadn’t been to the Dog Park. Why do that when you have all these wonderful off-leash trails you can hike on together?

Well, we finally went to the Dog Park and we found out WHY all these people had been asking us if we’d been yet.

Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho 2

The 65 acre Ketchum Dog Park is like no other!

The whole Sun Valley area is swimming in money, and the residents love to give back to the community. Sun Valley Symphony is but one example of the wealthy folks funding something astronomically expensive and giving it to the residents and visitors for free.

The Ketchum Dog Park is another.

A former golf course, this 65 acre property has an intriguing history that we learned from a real estate appraiser who had lived in Sun Valley since 1969. While his dog played with Buddy, he told me the tale.

Ketchum Dog Park Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho

Wide grassy fields at the Dog Park are beloved by local dogs and lucky visiting dogs too.

Purchased for $13 million way back when, the owner at one time had the parcel up for sale for $50 million. He sold off a few lots at one end for a few mil apiece, but he wanted to do something special for the town since he’d already made more than enough money for himself during his life.

He offered the land to the town for $9 million with the idea that it would be a nature preserve for people, families and their dogs. Unsurprising for a very wealthy town that is full of dog and nature lovers, the $9 million was raised in just two months!

The property was set aside as the Warm Springs Preserve and is now a place where dogs can run free and people can play frisbee golf, have picnics, host family outings and generally relax in the outdoors.

Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho 3

Residents of Ketchum / Sun Valley quickly raised the necessary $9 million to create the Warm Springs Preserve (aka Ketchum Dog Park).

There are vast open fields, towering pine trees, several trails, a stream, and lots of really happy dogs.

One thing that we noticed in Ketchum / Sun Valley is that because there are so many places for dogs to be off leash, there are tons of dogs that are very accustomed to being off leash. They behave well with other dogs and, for the most part, they come back to their owners when called.

The friendliness between the dogs and dog owners on the trails and in this park were very heartwarming. We really enjoyed the people we met, and Buddy was in seventh heaven and made all kinds of friends too.

A stream runs through the Ketchum Dog Park, and one day a group we’d joined up with went down to a sandy beach so the dogs could play in the water. These guys knew the territory well. In no time the dogs were lining up to jump into the water from a log! They were just like kids!

Dogs jumping off log at Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho 3

The locals know how it’s done — run and leap off the log into the water!

Dogs jumping off log at Ketchum Dog Park or Warm Springs Preserve in Idaho

The dogs went round and round, leaping into the water, swimming to the beach, shaking vigorously, and getting back in line at the log!

Buddy watched all this with wonder in his eyes – as did we! He’s not a swimmer. He loves the water and eagerly wades in up to his armpits, but he doesn’t venture in beyond that!

The Shady Side Trail at Adam’s Gulch was another great spot for a cool stroll in hot weather, as was the Draper Wood River Preserve in nearby Hailey, Idaho. This is the town where Bruce Willis and Demi Moore raised their children and bought all the downtown buildings in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Rather than walking in the shade of tall pines like at Corral Creek Trail, we found ourselves under the delicate leaves of deciduous trees.

Hiking Draper Preserve Trail in Hailey Idaho

The Draper Wood River Preserve in Hailey is another lovely and shady hike.

Again, there were lots of friendly dogs and people. At one point we heard voices and then noticed a group of people floating down the river!

Cooling off at Draper Preserve in Hailey Idaho

When temperatures rise in Sun Valley, this is the best way to cool off!

One of the highlights of this trail is the unusual Bow Bridge that spans the Wood River. Definitely unique and photo-worthy!

Bow Bridge in Draper Preserve Hailey Idaho

The unusual Bow Bridge on the Draper Wood River Preserve trail offers an elegant way to cross the river!

This was our fourth RV trip to Ketchum / Sun Valley, and the area captivated us once again. We not only had a chance to enjoy some of our favorite Sun Valley activities from the past but we discovered a bunch of new ones too!

Sunset over RV in Sawtooth National Forest

Sun Valley is a fabulous destination.

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Bovill, Idaho – An Early 20th Century Classic

Bovill Idaho - An early 20th century classic

This building was a hub of activity and hospitality in its day.

July 2022 – The temperatures in central Washington near Chelan and Entiat had been climbing throughout our visit, and when the highs topped 100, it was time for us to leave! Our choices for cooler temps were to head either to the coast or to the mountains. We decided to scoot across Washington’s farmlands and aim for the tall mountains of Idaho. On our way, we made a brief stop in Coulee City Community Park in Washington.

Marsh at Coulee City Park

Washington’s Coulee City Community Park.

Coulee City Community Park sits on the edge of Banks Lake and is a welcome oasis in an otherwise dry (though irrigated) land.

Coulee City Community Park

The park has lovely views of the Lake.

Kids were playing on a raft in the lake, and the haunting cry of seagulls filled the air. This was such a delight after driving through endless wheat fields!

Raft at Coulee City Park

Cooling off on a hot summer day.

Seagull at Coulee City Park Washington

What a surprise to hear and see seagulls in the middle of wheat field country!

We enjoyed a cool breeze as the sun sank lower in the sky, and we found a campsite on “the island,” a peninsula at one end of the park where we had a wonderful view of the lake under the protective shade of a row of tall trees.

Picnic tables at Coulee City Park Washington

This was a nice place to unwind and cool down at the end of the day.

RV at Coulee City Park Washington

Home for a night.

Over the next few days, we took secondary roads across Washington, jumped on I-90 for a few minutes and then dropped south towards Idaho’s tallest mountains on US-95.

We turned east on the super crazy squirrely Route 5 that goes across the bottom of Chatcolet Lake, and then we suddenly remembered we’d made the same exact mistake of taking this road towing a big fifth wheel trailer 15 years prior, oops! From there, we continued south on Route 3.

These were narrow and winding roads, and although it looked like they might be scenic on the map, they proved not to be particularly so. However, we did come across a small waterfall labeled “PB Waterfall” on Google Maps.

Waterfall in Idaho

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As I’ve mentioned before, we travel very slowly, stopping every 30 to 40 miles to stretch our legs, let Buddy run around a bit, and have a look around.

Starting before breakfast one morning, twisty Route 3 brought us to some interesting looking buildings, and we decided to stop for a bite to eat and check them out.

It turned out to be the town of Bovill, Idaho, home to 256 people, and the first thing that caught our eye was the inviting brick Elk Saloon building that had a pretty corner entrance with hanging flower baskets out front.

Elk Salon Bovill Idaho

The Elk Saloon in Bovill, Idaho.

Next to the Elk Saloon was a row of buildings. It was too early for them to be open, but we were intrigued by the old style of the buildings. The blue-gray one on the left was another tavern and the red one on the right had a sign saying, “E.K. Parker 1914.”

Store fronts in Bovill Idaho

Storefronts dating to 1914 in Bovill, Idaho.

There was a big grassy park with a really nice RV dump station that had separate spigots for drinking water and non-potable water. On the opposite side of the lawn we saw the City Hall building.

City Hall in Bovill Idaho

City Hall

Taped to the City Hall door was a small, unsigned, hand-written note: “Not feeling well. At home today.” So any pressing business we might have had with City Hall would have to wait til tomorrow or the next day. We had to smile!

At the edge of the park — which was the edge of town with large fields beyond — there were the remains of a train track switching station. The rest of the tracks had been removed and there was now a gravel path instead. There was something very nostalgic about the tracks and the weeds poking through.

Train tracks in Bovill Idaho

The train tracks had become a gravel trail but this switching station remained.

Train signal Bovill Idaho

Sign of another time.

We were really liking this town. We were the only people out and about at that early hour, so we didn’t have a chance to chat with anyone. But there was something very authentic and homey about the place. We wondered what the history was.

We hadn’t had any internet access for two days, and there appeared to be none for us here, so the mystery of Bovill’s origins would have to wait for later research.

One of the buildings that first made us pull over was across the street from the Elk Saloon: an old Conoco gas station.

Bovill Idaho Elk Tavern and Conoco Inn

The Elk Tavern and the Conoco service station.

As we walked over to it, we marveled at the tiny size of the gas station.

A hand painted sign in the window said, “Welcome to Conoco Inn…Nightly, Weekly, Monthly.” How fun!

Old Conoco Gas Station Bovill Idaho

This is now the Conoco Inn! How did a car ever fit under that awning?

There were flower pots out in front of the gas station, and each one had a homemade fountain made from a beer tap handle!

Tap handle flower pot

What a creative use of old tap handles!

Behind the gas station was an old building with a Conoco sign on it too. The front of the building had huge doors for large vehicles while the back of the building had a smaller man door with another antique sign advertising Conoco products.

This was the real deal.

Old Conoco Service Station Bovill Idaho

Behind the gas station was this Conoco building.

Back of Conoco Service Station in Bovill Idaho

The rear entrance to the Conoco building — friendly service.

We were having a blast taking photos, so we circled around to the brick building again. The sign near the front door said, “Elk Saloon” while the sign on the side door said, “Elk Tavern.” Hmm. Either way, this looked like a really fun place to spend a few late afternoon hours.

Elk Tavern Bovill Idaho

The Elk Tavern has a very inviting front entry!

Elk Tavern Bovill Idaho

The side door called it the “Elk Tavern” and had a painting of an elk!

A sign in the window explained what the Elk Tavern (or Saloon) was all about.

Sign in Elk Tavern Bovill Idaho

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High on one wall there was an old Pepsi sign.

Pepsi sign on Elk Tavern building in Bovill Idaho

From another era…

We felt like we were stepping back in time to the 1950s and 60s. An old truck that sported body panels of different colors (from a variety of other trucks, no doubt) caught Mark’s eye.

Old truck

Shades of the Johnny Cash song, One Piece at a Time! (listen here)

Back at the grassy park, we noticed a memorial plaque that honored the Bovill men of the Potlatch Forests who had served in the military and the National Guard.

Honor plaque for veterans from Potlatch Forests Bovill Idaho

A plaque honoring all the military and National Guard members of the community.

Up on a hill, set back from the park, we saw an immense house that was in a serious state of disrepair. It looked like it had been quite a building in its heyday.

Later on, we discovered that Bovill was settled in the early 1900s by Hugh and Charlotte Bovill, English immigrants of aristocratic ancestry who were intrigued by the American West and came to this area to become ranchers.

They were successful in their ranching quest, and their town of Bovill began to attract homesteaders as well as loggers and sportsmen. To serve them, they built and operated the Bovill Hotel which is the oldest building in Bovill today.

And that building turned out to be the huge “house” we had seen on the hill!

Bovill Hotel the oldest building in Bovill Idaho

The Bovill Hotel is the oldest building in town.

Just beyond the Conoco Inn we came across the post office. It dated back to 1914 and still serves Bovill today. We learned that the railroad came to Bovill right around that time too, opening the door to ranching and logging commerce.

Bovill Idaho Post Office built in 1914

The post office building was built in 1914

A little further on, we came across Camas Prairie Winery which is housed in an old historic building. It was still too early for the winery to be open, sigh, so we contented ourselves with looking at it from the outside.

Camas Prairie Wine in Bovill Idaho

Camas Prairie Winery

Happy campers

Mark got all three of us together in this pic!

We couldn’t resist peering in the windows of the winery. And what a delightful interior it was, fully decorated in an antique style. What a great place to savor a glass of wine and ponder the lives and lifestyles of the old American West!

Interior of the Wine Bar in Bovill Idaho

The Wine Bar inside Camas Prairie Winery was a wonderful homage to earlier times.

A little further down the road we came across the old Opera House. Wow! Bovill had an Opera House back in the day! It was built in 1911.

Bovill Opera House built in 1911

In 1911 this building was the new Opera House in Bovill. Imagine the excitement in town!

As we wandered back towards the town park, we couldn’t help but marvel at how completely intact the town remained. So many towns have demolished their historic buildings and quite a bit of their own history along with them.

Later on, we discovered we had just missed Bovill’s annual “Old Timer’s Picnic” by a few days. We also found out that the old original jail house stands next to the City Hall and that the old Catholic Church and old Schoolhouse are worth a peek too. We sure wished we had seen those buildings as well. Oh well, next time!

These few hours of meandering about in a village-sized town that we’d never heard of before were utterly fulfilling. Little glimpses of American history like this (even when we don’t know the full story until later) often give us the most satisfying and memorable highlights in our travels.

Eventually, we got off of twisty Route 3 and onto US-95 which is a major north-south thoroughfare in Idaho. What Route 3 had lacked in scenery was totally made up for in jaw-dropping landscapes on US-95 as we descended from White Bird Summit down fabulous sweeping turns. Fantastically patterned hillsides filled our view and kept our mouths agape the whole way down.

Just before this descent, we stopped at White Bird Summit to take a photo of what proved to be the beginning of these incredible views, and we were joined by a group of motorcyclists. There were many more pullouts on the descent but they aren’t well signed and it’s hard to stop a large toy hauler flying downhill! We breezed past one pullout we didn’t notice until the it was too late that seemed to offer the most dramatic patterns of the whole drive. It was just a few miles south of the summit. I believe that pullout is the White Bird Battlefield Historical Landmark.

White Bird Summit Rest Area Idaho

White Bird Hill Summit. The views got a whole lot better after this!

If you find yourself in this remote part of Idaho, be sure to stop in Bovill. Have a pint of beer for us at the Elk Tavern (Saloon) and sample a little wine for us over at Camas Prairie Winery!

Hmmm… Maybe you should spread those particular pleasures out over a few hours, and/or stay at the Bovill City RV park for the night (ask about it at the City Hall…if they’re open!)!

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Entiat, Washington – An RV Friendly Town That’s On the Move!

July 2022 – In the heart of Washington’s apple orchard country, where the Entiat River joins the Columbia River (about a half-hour from Chelan), there is a fabulous waterfront village called Entiat.

Sunset on the river path in Entiat Washington

A vivid sunset reflects in the glassy waters of the Columbia River in Entiat, Washington.

When we arrived with our RV, the salmon fishing season had just opened. We took an early morning walk on a path along the Columbia River and saw fishing boats trolling all over the place.

Salmon fishing in Entiat Washington

Boats were out trolling for salmon.

The mountains alongside the Columbia River are tall and barren. At their base, lush vegetation and fruit orchards grow easily, thanks to irrigation from the river.

Salmon fishing in Entiat Washington

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Salmon fishing in Entiat Washington

Fishing just steps from the apple orchards!

Our favorite part of Entiat was Entiat City Park, an expansive grassy waterfront park full of towering shade trees and thin strips of sandy beach that are just big enough to provide soft footing for launching a kayak or wading in for a swim.

Entiat City Park on Lake Entiat in Washington

Entiat City Park is a delightful place to while away hot summer days.

Entiat City Park is nestled on the banks of Lake Entiat which is a dammed up portion of the Columbia River. This park is a hub of activity in the summertime.

During our stay, temps got into the 90s and even hit 100 one day, but a cooling breeze blew off the water in the afternoons. (Yes, the lower elevations in Washington like Entiat, which sits at 800 feet, can hit 100 degrees or more!).

Entiat City Park views in Washington

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Entiat City Park Washington boat dock in

The City Park is on Entiat Lake which was created when a dam was built downstream on the Columbia River.

Lots of families brought blankets and beach chairs down to the water’s edge for the day, hung out under the trees and played in the water. One fellow brought four golden retrievers with him to run around in the huge grassy field and then chase a ball into the water. He took each dog for a ride on his paddleboard too. The dogs loved it, and one even insisted on repeat rides!

Paddleboard with a dog in Entiat City Park Washington_

This happy pup is king of the world as he hitches a ride on his dad’s paddleboard.

Paved paths meandered through the park and people rolled by slowly on their bikes, taking in the views as they pedaled.

Bike path in Entiat City Park Washington_

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Well, not everyone rode slowly. There were some speed demons out there!

Young bike rider Entiat City Park Washington_

A kid chases his mom down the path.

The speediest folks were zooming around on the water in jetskis and high performance power boats.

Jetski on Lake Entiat

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Entiat City Park (website here) boasts not only beautiful picnic areas but a wonderful RV and tent campground as well. Happy campers were set up in tents surrounded by soft green grass with great views of the lake.

Entiat City Park tent camping

Each grassy campsite is just a few steps from Lake Entiat.

Life slows way down here, and it’s a great place for a midday snooze.

Entiat City Park tent camping

Snore!

We met lots of extended family groups who come back here year after year to vacation all together. It’s pricey, but you get water and electricity (dump station on the way out) and for a little more money some sites have sewer hookups too. Best of all, you’re surrounded by beauty and are in the middle of a super family friendly place to play and relax.

As I mentioned in the last article about nearby Chelan, Washington, there are several waterfront city RV parks like this in the area, including Lakeshore RV Park in Chelan and Beebe Bridge Park just outside Chelan on the Columbia River.

The only caveat is that you must book way in advance. I talked to one woman whose husband was on the computer at 12:01 a.m. on January 1st when online reservations opened so he could snag the exact campsite they wanted plus two adjacent campsites for their extended family for three days in July.

Entiat City Park RV camping in Washington

Lots of families brought multiple RVs and tents for a fun reunion vacation.

At the confluence of the Columbia River and the Entiat River, there’s a bridge for the highway that runs along the river (US-97A). It has a walkway underneath leading to the banks of the Entiat River. We found a troll living down there!

Troll under bridge in Entiat Washington

There’s a troll living under the bridge!

As we walked alongside the mouth of the Entiat River we found some beautiful berries that were just beginning to ripen. A week later all the berries were blue. I’m not sure if they were edible, though! There were pretty pink flowers as well.

Colorful berries in Entiat Washington

These berries were ripening all over the place.

Pink flower in Entiat Washington

Pretty in pink!

The Entiat River Road goes for 31 miles down the Entiat River Valley, and one day we drove most of its length, passing homes and a few small businesses along the way.

There are several campgrounds at the end of the road, and we visited Forest Creek Campground. The woodsy scenery and rushing Entiat River were gorgeous.

Fox Creek Campground on Entiat RIver in Washington

Fox Creek Campground was completely different than Entiat City Park!

Fox Creek Campground on Entiat RIver in Washington

Turquoise water on the Entiat River.

Fox Creek Campground on Entiat RIver in Washington

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We had hoped we’d be able to camp in this dry camping Forest Service campground, but it looked a little tight for our 33′ toy hauler fifth wheel. The loops and sites are paved and a few folks were camping right on the river’s edge. What a spot!

Trailer in Fox Creek Campground on Entiat RIver in Washington

Camping at Fox Creek Campground on the Entiat River.

Whitewater on Entiat RIver in Washington

The Entiat River moves fast at this point in its journey.

Back at the mouth of the Entiat River, where it meets up with the Columbia River at the south end of Entiat City Park, we came across a towering rock hillside that was covered with numbers. Could this be the high school graduation years like we’d seen on a similar rock wall in Arco, Idaho, years ago?

High School graduation years painted on rock in Entiat Washington

We spotted a unique rock face with numbers painted on it.

A closer look revealed that it absolutely must be. We could see all kinds of high school years — 56, 71, 31, 32, 53, 40, 29… and 02 and 09!

Entiat Washington High School graduation years painted on rockEntiat Washington High School graduation years painted on rock

These seemed to be high school graduation years.

A few days later we dropped in at the little white building at the far north end of Entiat City Park that had a huge “Museum” sign out front. It is open only on the weekends, and when we walked in it was quite busy. The hosts were chatting with some visitors about “old times” in Entiat, mentioning names and families that the visitors seemed to know well.

Museum at Entiat City Park in Washington

I just had to check out this museum!

We returned a while later and the museum was quiet. One of the hosts, Al Shannon, introduced himself as a lifelong resident of Entiat and said he was helping out his granddaughter, Mandy, with her volunteer hosting duties that day.

I asked about the rock hill with the numbers on it and he said, “Yes, those were all painted by the graduating classes. I was class of 1956. Our number is off to the side.” Sure enough, when I looked at the photo later I saw the “56” in the upper left corner.

He said that he and two classmates had climbed up there to paint the number. There was a narrow shelf just big enough to stand a ladder on, and they managed to get the number painted without falling off the ladder. “I grew up working in the apple orchards, so I was used to being on a ladder!” He said with a grin.

Apple picking in Washington apple orchards

Modern day apple picking method with moveable scaffolding rather than ladders.

The number painting tradition began with the class of 1923 right before graduation. Not to be outdone, within a few weeks the classes of 1921 and 1922 sent brave boys scampering up the sheer rock face to find places to paint their class numbers too.

The class of 1919 had only one graduate, a girl, and even though she celebrated her graduation with the class of 1920, someone painted a 19 up there for her.

Now, of course, the numbers are starting to overlap a century later! Al’s granddaughter, Mandy, was class of 2012. She said her class had only five boys and they haven’t yet taken the dare to go rock climbing with a can of paint and paintbrush. “We’ll get our number eventually!” she said.

Entiat City Park Washington museum

Our hosts at the Entiat Museum, Al and Mandy.

The museum is a former house that another of the museum’s volunteer hosts grew up in. I believe her name is Lynn. So, if you don’t catch Mandy or her grandpa when you visit, you might learn some special things about the house itself from Lynn.

The apple orchard business goes way back in Entiat, and there’s a wonderful photo on the wall of a horse drawn apple cart from J. Ellis Slater Company, Distributors. The cart bears a sign announcing “National Apple Day.” Below it is the still popular slogan, “Eat an apple a day and keep the doctor away.”

Photo of apple cart in Entiat City Park Museum Washington

Don’t upset the apple cart!

There’s also a large painting of loggers and logging trucks in 1923. The black and white photo the painting was made from hangs on the wall next to it. The trucks are quite unusual looking. Al said it took quite a bit of maneuvering to get the huge logs onto those trucks.

Painting of logging in 1923 Entiat City Park Museum Washington

A painting of logging trucks in 1923.

Logging was a major industry in the early and middle 1900s, and there’s a photo in the museum of the mill camp that was at the far end of the Entiat River Road where the US Forest Service campgrounds are now. It was a bustling place in those days.

There were wildfire lookouts on the mountaintops, and if smoke ever appeared in the woods, word was quickly sent out and the mill workers would rush to trucks that were parked at the mill and go find the fire and put it out.

Fortunately, back in those days, there were many logging roads that went all through the woods, so the mill workers could get to the fires and put them out efficiently.

The mill camp workers’ lives and livelihoods depended on the forests and trees being healthy, so they removed diseased and fallen trees to prevent the forests from being full of kindling as many of our National Forests are today, now that the logging industry has been shut down.

Photo of 1923 log truck Entiat City Park Museum Washington

Photo of a massive log on a truck in 1923.

We were fascinated as Al began to tell us Entiat’s unusual history. It has been a town on the move, in many ways, since its founding.

Entiat was settled by the Chinook Indians who named the area “Enteatqua,” meaing “rapid water.” By the late 1800s they had cattle pens and a few structures that served as a gathering and trading place. Ferries operated by settlers in Orondo and Wenatchee made it possible for people to cross the wide Columbia River and get to this spot.

In 1896 the tribe’s chief sold the site to settlers who then built the town of Entiat along with two sawmills and eventually brought in electricity by building a dam on the Entiat River.

In 1913 disaster struck when a fire destroyed the town. The resilient townsfolk relocated the town, however, and built three blocks of new business buildings, including warehouses to support the growing orchard industry. Train tracks and a depot came to town the following year in 1914.

Entiat thrived for several decades until the early 1960s when the Rocky Reach Dam was completed downstream on the Columbia River. This created Lake Entiat and flooded the town!

Rocky Reach Dam as seen from US-97A highway

We’d caught a glimpse of the Rocky Reach Dam from the highway.

Most buildings in Entiat were razed before the water rose, however, and a new townsite was platted. But the business owners disagreed about where the new Main Street and center of town should be, and two separate areas were loosely developed. The intimate hometown Main Street feeling was lost and many business owners left Entiat all together.

Yet the remaining residents were resolute, and today the beautiful Entiat City Park is a fantastic recreational hub. Even though there isn’t a quaint historic Main Street district as there is in many other small towns, the City Park is where it’s at in Entiat and we loved hanging out in the shade of the trees by the water’s edge every afternoon!

Entiat City Park picnic area in Washington

Entiat City Park is a great place to unwind.

If it weren’t for our friends, Sue and Roger, who live in the Chelan / Entiat area with their adorable pooch Annie (who has quite a crush on Buddy!), we never would have known about these two delightful waterfront towns or about the ferry to Stehekin in the North Cascades. We are very grateful to them for hosting us, showing us around and giving us the idea to make the trek to visit!

RV at sunset

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Chelan, Washington – Summertime Fun and Great Music!

July 2022 – Our first foray into the Lake Chelan area was our delightful ferry ride from the lake’s southern end to the hidden jewel of Stehekin at the northern tip. Where Stehekin is picturesque and intimate in the remote northern end, the town of Chelan on the lake’s southern shore spills over with a happy summertime beach vibe as locals and vacationing visitors play on the water and relax in the sun.

Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington - Summer fun!

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Lake Chelan is a huge lake, and when the sun is at the right angle it is a rich blue. Pretty homes line the shores.

Lake Chelan in Washington

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This is the heart of Washington’s fruit country. Apple and cherry orchards and beautiful vineyards dot the hillsides in every direction.

Orchards on the hillsides on Lake Chelan in Washington

There are fruit orchards and vineyards in the hillsides!

Lake Chelan with vineyard backdrop in Chelan Washington

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The historic district of Chelan was all dressed up with a summertime flare when we arrived. Flower baskets hung from the lamp posts, and popular restaurants offered outside dining.

Chelan Washington has many pretty buildings

The town of Chelan has a small historic district with pretty buildings.

Breakfast eatery in 00 481 Harpist Ellen Foster performs at Bach Fest 2022 in Chelan Washington

A breakfast bar on the patio – Nice!

Gorgeous hydrangeas were in full bloom, and we spotted the large bushes covered with enormous blue and lavender blossoms all around town.

Hydrangeas

These flowers are hug!

Down at the town beach we watched young girls doing cartwheels in the sand. But it was the Chelan Riverwalk Park that drew us back and back again.

Similar to the Idaho Falls River Walk, both sides of the Lake Chelan have been tamed with lovely landscaping in between two bridges, so you can walk a full loop on paved paths next to the water.

Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington

The Riverwalk meanders along the banks of Lake Chelan right above the dam.

River Walk and Riverwalk Pavilion Chelan Washington

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We came across lots of animals along Chelan’s Riverwalk. This is a great place to walk a dog or meet someone else’s a dog if you are dogless. A golden retriever was showered with love and pets from a group of kids he’d just met.

Kids pet a golden retriever Chelan Washington

Dog love.

There are Wild Animals on Chelan’s Riverwalk too. When I turned a corner I noticed a duck watching me closely. A few other ducks were lazing away the morning next to her. The water is so clear in this lake that I could easily see the rocks below the surface behind her.

Ducks on the edge of Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington

A duck checks me out.

Suddenly, an adorable duckling swam past. No wonder mom was keeping an eye on me!

Duckling on Lake Chelan in Chelan Washington

So that’s why mama duck was worried about me!

There’s another kind of animal that lurks on Lake Chelan — the Party Animal! These scantily clad animals were out in droves, cruising around on speedboats, jetskis, kayaks and paddle boards.

Hot bods on fast boat on Lake Chelan in Washington

Party Animals!

Paddleboards and dogs on Lake Chelan in Washington

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Chelan is a music lover’s town, and Mark soon found an electric guitar that was just begging to be played.

Chelan Washington is a musical town

Chelan has a musical streak.

As I was thumbing through the internet one day, wondering what kinds of organized activities might be going on in Chelan, I saw the words, “Bach Fest.”

Really? There was Bach music festival in a small rural lakeside town in Washington?!! As a total classical music junkie, this was right up my alley!

I dove in deeper and discovered that Bach Fest is a ten day long music festival that has been a beloved tradition in Chelan for 41 years, and we’d arrived in town right in the middle of it!

Throughout this ten day festival, musicians perform classical music (from baroque to modern) in all kinds of venues, all for free! Churches and courtyards host various chamber music groups during the mornings and noontime hour and vineyards showcase chamber music performances every evening.

The first event we saw was a noontime concert in a church that featured a chamber group and four vocalists performing a wonderful Bach Cantata.

Bachfest Bach Cantate Chelan Washington

Bach Fest is a 10 day classical music celebration that takes place in Chelan, Washington.

Another morning we took part in an unusual “Riverwalk Sip and Stroll” where music lovers wandered along the river paths and town streets, sipping their morning coffee and encountering lovely music being played in various spots along the way.

As we walked along the river banks, we heard a violin soloist playing with great passion in the Riverwalk Pavillion…

Chelan Washington Bach Fest violinist the Riverwalk Pavilion

During the Bach Fest “Riverwalk Sip and Stroll” a solo violinist chose a spot to play in the pavilion.

When we wandered up into the streets of town, we heard the melodic strains of a harp! We turned a corner and there was a harpist playing in a church courtyard.

How often do you walk around town with your morning coffee and come across a person playing the harp?

Harpist Ellen Foster performs at Bach Fest 2022 in Chelan Washington

We heard the sweet tones of the harp before we saw the harpist.
She was playing gorgeous melodies in the Episcopal Church courtyard.

The following evening we bumped into the harpist, Ellen Foster, at a picnic table. Chelan is that kind of place — friendly and easy going. She was having dinner with her husband, Melvin, who I immediately recognized as the tenor who had sung in the noontime church concert the day before. Fortunately, he had recognized me first — the crazy lady with the camera — and called me over to their table to chat.

This was their fourth year of participating in Bach Fest. Their home is in Georgia but she has family near Chelan, so it makes an ideal summer trip filled with musical fun and some income on the side!

Harpist Ellen Foster performs at Bach Fest 2022 in Chelan Washington

Bach Fest is so intimate that I ended up meeting the harpist, Ellen Foster, and her husband, Melvin, who I’d heard singing the day before.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how important it is to pursue your passions in life. Even if your passion isn’t something that typically produces a big money-making career, many delightful and fulfilling experiences will fill your life if you love what you are doing.

Strolling back to the Riverwalk, we heard a brass group playing in the distance.

Bach Fest in Chelan Washington Sip and Stroll on the River Walk

In the middle of the Riverwalk Park we found a brass group playing in a circle.

This whole “Sip and Stroll” experience reminded us of the spontaneous music scene we’d witnessed at the city square in Guanajuato, Mexico, where groups of musicians had taken turns entertaining the folks who were eating and relaxing around the square.

In the center of the square, an orchestra had played pops music in a bandstand. At the dozen or two cafes that surrounded the bandstand, as many Mariachi bands had played traditional Mexican folk tunes.

Without any apparent organization, one band would begin playing a song or two as soon as another band finished, and it went on like that for several mesmerizing hours with lively songs and tunes suddenly popping up all around us and none of the bands ever stepping on each other’s toes!

As much as we were loving the stroll, the music, and the memories in Chelan’s Riverwalk Park, our furry friend, Buddy, had other interests. He had eyes and ears only for the squirrels in the trees. The squirrels were making their own music, which really got Buddy’s attention, and he was transfixed.

Pup has eyes for rabbits while brass quintet plays in Chelan Washington

While we took in the sights and sounds of Bach Fest all around us, Buddy noticed only the squirrels in the trees..

Sweet pup eyes a squirel in a tree

Buddy is all eyes and ears for Bach Fest’s squirrel music!

He wasn’t the only one grooving to the tunes of the chattering squirrels. A beautiful miniature Australian Shepherd was just as enchanted by their performance.

Austrailian Shepherd dog looks at squirrel in a tree.jpg

This mini Aussie was equally enthralled by the squirrels performing at Bach Fest.

On another day when we returned to the park, Buddy took us straight to that same tree so he could listen to the squirrels a little more!

The festival’s highlight, a big gala outdoor concert at the Riverwalk Pavilion, is held on the last day. The stage backs up to the water’s edge and a grassy hillside serves as the perfect theater seating for camp chairs and blankets and picnics. We found a nice spot in the shade.

The grassy hill in front of the Riverwalk Pavilion makes natural theater seating

As the sun dropped low in the sky, people began to arrive and stake out their claims to a piece of the lawn too. We discovered that the shade from the towering trees slowly creeps down this hillside and everyone wants to be in the shade. So the seating fills up from the back to the front!

Here’s a tip for you if you ever go to a concert at the Riverwalk Pavillion: be sure to arrive fairly late so you can snag a shady front row seat!

Before long, the hills were alive with the sound of music!

Gala concert at the Riverwalk Pavilion in Chelan Washington

As the concert began the sun was just beginning to fall from the sky.

Buddy put his head in my hand and fell asleep.

Pup asleep in my hand

When the concert began, Buddy fell asleep with his head in my hand.

The concert was full of beautiful music and the conductor gave us a brief explanation of each piece before it was played. We loved learning the context of what we were hearing.

In no time it was dark, and the orchestra began playing a rousing rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic followed by Stars and Stripes, and we all cheered them on with a standing ovation. What a great concert!

BachFest concert at the Riverwalk Pavillion in Chelan Washington

The concert ended with stirring performances of Battle Hymn of the Repuglic and Stars and Stripes.

As we made our way back to our truck, the streets of Chelan came alive with concert-goers carrying picnic baskets and camp chairs back to their cars as and chatting excitedly about the concert. Some went looking for some post-concert refreshments too.

We came away agreeing that Chelan is a really fun town, especially in the summertime. We’d never heard of it before we got here, and we’re so glad it wound up on our itinerary!

Downtown Chelan Washington at night

Chelan Washington – A vibrant town beloved by summer vacationers!

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Stehekin Ferry – Cruise to a Hidden Gem in the North Cascades!

July 2022 – When we told our friends who are lifelong Washington residents that we were coming to their state with our RV, their instant response was, “You have to take the Stehekin Ferry up Lake Chelan and stay in one of the cabins there. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.”

They were right!

Stehekin Ferry on Lake Chelan in North Cascades Washington

Ticket to the North Cascades!

When we arrived in Washington, our friends went on to explain that the ferry ride offers spectacular views of the 51 mile long lake, and it takes you to one of Washington’s most unique hidden gems: a cabin retreat in the woods run by a family whose ancestors homesteaded the area in 1889. They have hosted visitors to their piece of paradise in the North Cascades for the past century.

Wow! A boat ride, some stunning scenery, a whiff of American history and a cabin retreat were all right up our alley, and we promptly dove into making reservations.

Luck was on our side, and we discovered there were two open seats on the Stehekin Ferry as well as a log cabin available at the Stehekin Valley Ranch later that very day, so we quickly drove the trailer up to the Fields Point ferry dock and left it there while we took off on the boat for a really fun adventure.

(btw: “Stehekin” is pronounced “Ste-HEE-kin”)

Stehekin Ferry Fields Point Landing Washington

We said goodbye to our trailer as we got on the Stehekin Ferry for a North Cascades adventure!

The Stehekin Ferry is a sleek catamaran that makes the trip up the lake in an hour and forty five minutes, and the Stehekin Valley Ranch offers a free bus ride to shuttle guests from the ferry landing dock up to their property 9 miles further north in the North Cascades. The ranch also provides dinners and breakfasts that our friends told us were out of this world. They were right about that too!

The ferry dock at Fields Point has lovely picnic areas overlooking the lake and plaques describing the history of the area. Indians used to travel up and down the lake by canoe. Fur trappers and gold prospectors followed, rowing for four days to get from one end to the other! As homesteaders started to arrive in 1889, the Belle of Chelan steamer ferry began operations which made the journey much shorter and far easier.

Stehekin Ferry Fields Point Landing Washington

This is a popular ferry boat — and rightfully so!

With these thoughts swimming in our heads, the ferry pulled into the dock and we climbed aboard and found two seats near the back so we could go on and off the back deck easily.

Stehekin Ferry Spacious Airplane Seats to cruise Lake Chelan

The airplane seats were very comfy. Most folks got up and spent a little time outside on the back deck too!

We had no idea what to expect once we got to Stehekin, but we knew you could rent electric mountain bikes. Some folks opt to bring their own bikes, and they brought them on the ferry just fine!

Stehekin Ferry Luggage with bikes

All the luggage was geared for outdoor fun.

Our much bigger concern was taking our sweet pup, Buddy, on the boat. The Stehekin Ferry allows dogs to come along, but they request that you have a carrier so your dog can be contained and controlled if necessary.

We were absolutely delighted that as long as your dog is well behaved, is leashed, and doesn’t bother the other passengers, it can ride with you out on the back deck. Buddy isn’t fond of noisy and bumpy travel, and we were concerned he’d be unnerved on the boat. But it was quiet and glided through the water very smoothly. He loved the views!

Stehekin Ferry Enjoying the view of Lake Chelan

Buddy really enjoyed the ride!

There was one other dog on the ferry, a small Italian greyhound, Julia, and she found the breezes were a little chilly at times. She preferred to be wrapped in a blanket on her owner’s lap!

Stehekin Ferry dog keeps warm on board on Lake Chelan

Italian greyhound Julia snuggled in her blanket when a cool breeze blew.

As our friends had told us, the views were magnificent. The day had blustery overtones for a while, but the dark clouds made for interesting skies.

Lake Chelan view from Stehekin Ferry North Cascades Washington

We were surrounded by stunning views.

Stehekin Ferry enjoying the view of Lake Chelan North Cascades Washingtonjpg

Cabins and waterfalls dotted the shoreline.
We all kept a sharp eye out for wildlife too!

In early July, there was still a little snow on the mountain peaks, and we spotted several waterfalls.

Waterfall view on Lake Chelan seen from Stehekin Ferry

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I joked with our captain, Jim, that he had an enviable job, cruising up and down this lake on a cool ferry boat every day!

Captain driving the Stehekin Ferry Lake Chelan Washington

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it!

As steeply as the mountains rose up on either side of the lake, their bases plunged below the water in a very deep trough. Lake Chelan, the largest lake in Washington, is 1,486 feet deep and the bottom is 386′ below sea level!

The ferry makes a few stops along the way, and at one of them the water was not only shockingly clear but it was a deep shade of turquoise!

Turqoise water Lake Chelan North Cascades Washington view from Stehekin Ferry

The water was turquoise in some spots!

A little ways further on, we arrived at Stehekin Landing. There were a few boats suspended in their own reflections at the dock, and the distant snowcapped mountains rounded out a picture postcard perfect image.

Stehekin Ferry Landing Washington North Cascades

Stehekin Landing !

We got off the ferry and took a look around.

A sign in front of the North Cascade Lodge welcomed visitors to Stehekin. There were a few people milling about, eating lunch and riding bikes.

Welcome to Stehekin North Cascades Lodge Lake Chelan Washington

Welcome to Stehekin!

The mood was one of total relaxation and contentment. This is a place people come to get away from it all, to disconnect from their hectic day-to-day lives and reconnect with nature and their own souls.

As promised, the Stehekin Valley Ranch bus was right there waiting for us, so we hopped on along with most of the other people from the ferry.

Stehekin Valley Ranch bus for the Stehekin Ferry

Our bus was right there waiting for us and the other passengers.

We’d been told that “The Bakery” in Stehekin is one of the top destinations because their treats are so delicious, but I wasn’t sure how we’d get to it since we were being whisked away to the ranch in this bus.

As it turns out, the Stehekin Valley Ranch bus ride is as much a guided tour of Stehekin as it is transportation to the ranch! We’d been on the bus only a few minutes when we stopped at “The Bakery” which is officially called the Stehekin Pastry Shop. Mark got some yummy chocolate chip cookies and I bought a key lime bar that was a little slice of heaven!

Stehekin Pastry Company Stehekin Bakery North Cascades Washington

Stehekin Pastry Company, home of mouthwatering delights!

Jumping back on the bus, we soon arrived at the ranch where we were greeted by laid back guests who were lounging in lawn chairs and hammocks outside their cabins. They’d left their cares so far behind they no longer remembered where they’d left them!

Stehekin Valley Ranch views of North Cascades Washington

Stehekin Valley Ranch is a place where you can disconnect from your stress and reconnect with your own soul!

Stehekin Valley Ranch cabin for rent North Cascades Washington

The laid back life!

The majestic North Cascade mountains rose in the distance.

Mountain views of North Cascades Stehekin Valley Ranch

The view out back!

We made our way to our cabin and were utterly charmed by its rustic simplicity. Even though Stehekin Valley Ranch provides complimentary dinners and breakfasts for all guests at their large cookhouse lodge, we had a cute kitchenette in our cabin too.

Stehekin Valley Ranch rustic cabin retreat

Home for a spell!

Stehekin Valley Ranch cabin kitchenette

This was a well stocked kitchenette, but the gourmet meals in the cookhouse were not to be missed!

Once we dropped off our bags, we went exploring. We could feel any tensions we had falling away with each passing minute. We’d had some wild days of driving in busy traffic with the toy hauler, and before that we’d had several long days of driving across southeast Washington’s farmlands. This was the perfect antidote!

Stehekin Valley Ranch relaxing walk in the woods

Serenity

Stehekin Valley Ranch road at sunset

Peace

Suddenly, the dinner bell rang. A dinner bell! It’s actually a music triangle hanging on the outside of the cookhouse.

We joined the other guests making their way to the dining area and were floored by the dinner menu which featured a steelhead trout special, grilled NY strip steaks and grilled chicken as entrees (with burgers for the kids).

Even though by the end of our meals we were both happily stuffed, we couldn’t resist having a slice of their homemade bread too. Bread doesn’t usually do this, but it melted in our mouths!

What we loved most about this communal dining, though, was that everyone was seated at long tables so we could all eat and chat together. Everyone we met was from Washington or a neighboring state!

Stehekin Valley Ranch cook cabin long tables dining room

Eating with other guests at the long tables made the delicious meals even more memorable!

The folks sitting next to us were an Idaho couple that had been to Stehekin Valley Ranch many times. They usually ride to the ranch through the North Cascade mountains with pack mules! They’ve ridden their mules all over the western states, and the ride to Stehekin is one of their favorites. Today had been a rare occasion for them where they’d driven their car to the ferry dock and taken the ferry to the ranch instead.

All conversation came to a halt when the pies came out, though. There were so many delicious flavors we all agreed that the best way to handle the decision making process was to get two small pieces from two pies instead of one big piece of one pie. So we all marched back to the dining tables with our plates heaped up with pie and ice cream. Blackberry and strawberry-rhubarb for me and blueberry and apple for Mark. Was this living or what?!

Stehekin Valley Ranch dessert pies

The pies were spectacular!
And Ashley, the young woman serving the pie and ice cream, was also the First Mate on the ferry!

All of this incredible hospitality, from the ferry to the bus tour to the ranch, comes courtesy of one large extended family that has been living in Stehekin since 1889. Their ancestors arrived as homesteaders, and during our visit, one of their descendants, Cliff Courtney, mingled with us guests and shared tidbits of ranch history.

There are photos on the walls of the earliest settlers in Stehekin. The Moores arrived from Trenton Falls, New York, to homestead in the area in 1889 and the Courtneys arrived in 1917.

Their descendants, Mamie Moore and Hugh Courtney got married, and Cliff, who was telling us these personal historic tidbits at the ranch, and his brother Jim, who had been our captain on the ferry, were their grandsons!

I can’t imagine what life was like in such a remote spot back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is still very remote today, in 2022, but the ranch boasts all the modern conveniences, of course.

In a way, I felt like we guests brought our modern experiences and worldview with us to the ranch but were able, at the same time, to shed some of burden those things carry and get a taste of a simpler life from a century ago.

Hugh and Mamie Courtney of Stehekin Washington

Mamie and Hugh Courtney, circa 1941, are the great-grandparents of our host, Cliff, and ferry boat captain, Jim.

Cliff told us that the very first log cabin for guests was built by his dad in 1935 when he was 15. It is still available today for guests to stay in! It just contains a bed and has no bathroom, but it’s still cute as a button and offers an overnight embraced by living history.

Stehekin Valley Ranch original 1935 cabin

A 15 year old boy built this first guest cabin in 1935 — and you can stay in it today!

From that first simple cabin to the new Wagon Cabins that were introduced this year, the theme everywhere is creativity and fun.

All but one of the new Wagons are mounted on wagon frames. Just recently, a Wagon was mounted on an antique truck, creating a Truck Wagon! I really wanted to peak inside, but each of the Wagons were in use by other guests. Next time!

Stehekin Valley Ranch wagon cabin on an old truck North Cascades Washington

In keeping with the whimsical and fun-loving nature of Stehekin Valley Ranch, you can stay in a Truck Wagon!

Breakfast was another incredible gourmet meal that included custom cooked omelets, blueberry pancakes and french toast as well as a variety of top quality breakfast meats. To one side was a sandwich station where we were encouraged to make our own sandwiches (on that yummy homemade bread!) to take with us for lunch out on the trail or on the ferry.

As promised, the bus ride back to the ferry stopped at Rainbow Falls, and Cliff was our driver and guide. This is a towering waterfall that falls with such force it sprays a good long ways. There are two viewing areas, and the lower one gave us a great view of the full waterfall while the upper one was so loud and dramatic it lured me in too close and I got soaked! Fortunately, Mark was a little more cautious and he got a great pic from a little further back.

Rainbow Falls Stehekin Washington North Cascades

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls Stehekin North Cascades Washington

The upper view of the falls was cool, but my image came out all white and my camera was drenched from water spray!

The next stop was at the little schoolhouse that Cliff’s grandfather helped build in 1921. Cliff told us his father went to school there and he also went there for 8 years.

Stehekin School one room schoolhouse built in 1921

The original Stehekin School was built in 1921 and was where all the kids went to school until 1980 when the new school log cabin was built.

One room schooling fascinates me, and I asked him how a single teacher could manage a group of kids in all grades. He said there’s certain techniques, including having the older kids help the younger kids.

That must make for a strong sense of community among the kids, never mind surviving the deep snow together in the wintertime and living a long boat ride away from the rest of the world!

Stehekin School classroom built in 1921

Shades of yesteryear.

Our last stop was at The Garden, a goat and organic vegetable farm where they sold tasty goat cheese and grow gorgeous veggies.

Organic garden and goat farm Stehekin North Cascades Washington

The Garden…where organic veggies and goats thrive.

Down at Stehekin Landing the ferry boat was waiting for us at the dock.

Stehekin Ferry Dock Lake Chelan North Cascades Washington

Back at the dock…what a spot!

Stehekin Ferry Lake Chelan North Cascades Washington

Ready to take us back to Fields Point.

Before long we were gliding down Lake Chelan with the beautiful mountains in our wake.

Stehekin Ferry View of North Cascades on Lake Chelan in Washington

Stehekin disappears in our wake.

Stehekin Ferry View of North Cascades on Lake Chelan in Washington

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Our stay in one of America’s most remote spots gave us much to think about and talk about on our ride back as we savored the sandwiches and delicious cookies we’d brought from the ranch.

Stehekin is one of the few communities in America that is not accessible by car (Michigan’s Mackinac Island and Maine’s Cranberry Islands are two others). We’d seen cars and trucks and big equipment in various places around Stehekin, however. How did those things — and their fuel — get out there?

Our answer suddenly cruised by when we saw a barge loaded down with a trailer from Sysco, some big oil drums and a few large trucks and construction equipment!

Barge carrying goods to Stehekin Washington on Lake Chelan in the North Cascades

Aha! This is how everything other than people gets to Stehekin.

At last we disembarked from the ferry, took in the beautiful view of the lake one final time, and made our way back to our trailer to resume our RV travels.

Disembarking from the Stehekin Ferry on Lake Chelan in Washington North Cascades

Back to reality…

Fortunately, before we’d left the dock in Stehekin, I’d asked Jim and Cliff if they’d let me get a photo of them next to the ferry.

That’s when Cliff told me Jim was his brother! They’d grown up on the ranch and attended the little schoolhouse together, and now they provide a glimpse of that life to guests like us who are lucky enough to catch the Stehekin Ferry to one of Washington’s most unique hidden jewels tucked into the North Cascades.

Stehekin Ferry Captain Jim and brother Cliff

Our captain and host, Jim and Cliff Courtney.

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An Exuberant 4th of July in Othello, Washington!

July 2022 – We celebrated the 4th of July in the small farming town of Othello, Washington. And what a spirited celebration it was!

Crowd in Othello Washington watches the 4th of July parade

People line the main drag in Othello, Washington, to see the 4th of July parade!

Othello is in the heart of farming country in eastern Washington, tucked into a vast checkerboard of crop circles as seen from the sky.

Othello Washington Satellite Image Map

Othello is a lively community in a sea of crop circles.

There are around 8,000 residents, and much of the population is farm workers from Mexico or of Mexican descent.

We fell in love with Mexican culture while sailing Mexico’s Pacific coast for almost four years, and if there’s a group of people on this planet who know how to celebrate any holiday with gusto, it is Mexicans!

Even though a big storm was threatening and the sky was turning black, there was no way anyone was going to rain on this 4th of July parade!

4th of July Celebration

Party!

As we waited for the parade to begin, Buddy got a little extra loving from the kids around us.

Pup gets some extra loving

Buddy gets special ear rubs.

And then a group of four police cars turned on their sirens and slowly crept by us, leading out a really fun and unusual parade.

One of the first things to go by was an old car labeled “Bonnie and Clyde” followed by some kids riding bicycles. The woman standing next to me said her family had lived in this town since 1953 and that she had ridden her bike in the parade as a little girl. The roots in Othello, Washington, go deep!

Bonnie and Clyde plus bicycles

Bonnie and Clyde were pursued by kids on bikes!

Soon a beautiful Rodeo Queen, Miss Rodeo Othello, rode her horse past us.

Rodeo queen in 4th of July parade

Miss Rodeo Othello!

A crazy shark or fish was dancing around waving. The kids next to us waved back enthusiastically.

4th of July parade

A dancing and waving fish!

Kids watch the 4th of July parade

Note the little boy’s bag:
“One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” from Dr. Seuss!

This 4th of July parade was really all about the kids. And the kids were all about the candy being thrown into the crowd. A lot of kids came prepared with bags to hold their loot!

Kids run for candy in 4th of July parade

So much candy…and so little time!

Kid runs for candy in 4th of July parade

Score!!

There were discussions between the kids about who got what, and how to snag the particular candies you wanted before the next kid got ’em.

Kids at 4th of July parade

“…so you run from behind and grab it..!”

Kids run for candy in 4th of July Parade

“I did it!”

The farms in this area are huge, and it takes huge equipment to work the land. The little tractors of yesteryear are long gone, and several gargantuan pieces of farming equipment were shown off in the parade with great pride.

Big farm equipment in Othello Washington 4th of July parade

Massive farms require massive equipment.

Big farm equipment in Othello Washington 4th of July parade

The little ol’ 1950s era John Deere tractors we see at antique tractor shows have grown up…these monsters have air conditioning, GPS-based autopilot, stereo, etc. You name it, it’s got it!

Many families have farmed here for generations and some had floats in the parade. One family was so large they had two floats!

Family float at 4th of July parade

A longstanding farm family in this community has their own float (or two!).

I asked the gal next to me if her family was a farming family, and she said no, they had all been in various services to support the community of farmers: fire fighting, sheriff’s office, and construction were a few of their occupations.

Soon another massive piece of equipment native to Othello, Washington, rolled past. This time it was one used for construction rather than farming.

Construction equipment at 4th of July parade

Farm equipment isn’t the only massive gear in Othello…construction equipment is too!

Of course, lots of politicians floated by, hoping to secure a vote or two, and then the Adams County Sheriff’s team made an appearance. These guys have the normal cop cars we’re used to seeing, but they also get to ride around in a very cool side-by-side!

Adams County Sheriff side-by-side in Washington 4th of July parade

A slick ride for the county Sheriff!

I’m not sure what kinds of search-and-rescue operations this particular sheriff’s office has to perform, but they’ve got the gear to get you out of a terrible bind if you’re in one!

Adams County Sheriff Search and Rescue equipment 4th of July parade Washington

Imagine a search and rescue team arriving to help you in this!

We were loving this unusual display of things that are a part of day-to-day living in this small town in eastern Washington. 4th of July parades happen all across America, of course, but each one gives the town a chance to celebrate, honor and display the things that are unique to their communities.

We were also loving the antics of the kids and the crowd. This was not a shy crowd, and as the ground grew thick with candy, everyone ventured out into the street to grab a few pieces until the parade participants and the parade watchers all got mixed up together. Watching the kids with their bags getting fuller and fuller, I said to Mark, “This is better for them than Halloween!”

Kids and flags at 4th of July parade

All that impressive gear aside, the parade was really about the kids.

Kids get candy at 4th of July parade

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Overhead, a drone flew by, taking it all in.

Drone flies over 4th of July parade

Candid camera.

Next up were the cars.

Mark had caught sight of a few flashy cars before the parade when they were strutting their stuff and revving their engines all in a line heading to the parade start. Most of the cars were lovingly souped-up later model cars. A Nissan GT-R caught his eye, though. And a Plymouth Roadrunner, the only muscle car in the parade, brought a huge grin to his face. For me, I liked the Chevy Impala low rider that could raise and lower its front end.

Low rider in Othello Washington 4th of July parade

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Even better was the toddler in the crowd who had his own set of very cool wheels.

Toddler in toy car at 4th of July parade

The best set of wheels in the parade.

The parade ended with another round of sirens from a fleet of fire trucks and then we all wandered over to Lion’s Park. The sun began to come out, and with it the entire town came out to the park.

Lion’s Park is very large, and it was filled to the brim with food tents, various competitive events and kids swinging their hearts out on the swingsets at the big playground.

Buddy relished the lush green grass and rolled over and over with glee.

Puppy rolls in the grass

“The parade was cool, but this grass is cooler!”

A band was setting up and some teenagers were having a 3-on-3 basketball tournament where the two small teams played at a single hoop.

Suddenly, the lovely voice of a young woman singing the Star Spangled Banner came over the loudspeaker, and everyone stopped what they were doing to listen.

After she finished, we noticed that there were all kinds of yummy things for sale over in the very long line of food tents. The BBQ wagon looked tempting.

BBQ truck at 4th of July fair

Yum!

But it was the wonderful Mexican fare that got our mouths watering. We hadn’t seen these things since we were in Mexico nine years ago, and it was all so familiar and heartwarming to see it again.

First was the Mexican drinks. Mexicans make all kinds of delicious cold drinks that are really refreshing on a hot day. From “horchata,” a sweet rice based drink, to “Agua de Jamaica” (pronounced “A-wah day Ha-my-ka”) made from hibiscus flowers, they have endless tasty and unique cold drinks. And here they all were in a colorful row!

Mexican drinks for sale at 4th of July celebration

Delicious ice cold Mexican drinks!

Another booth was selling piña coladas in pineapples just as we saw on the beach in Mexico. Yum! I suspect they were virgin piña coladas at this family park, though, which of course they weren’t on the beach in Mexico!

Mexican pineapple drinks at 4th of July festival

Piña coladas served in pineapples.

And then there were mango slices in a plastic cup sold with a stick for stabbing them and popping them in your mouth. Again, we saw these refreshing snacks in many towns and on many beaches in Mexico, and it was a total hoot to see them here in a small farming town in rural Washington!

Sliced mangos mexican style at 4th of July fair

Sliced mangos…so much easier and cleaner to eat this way!

The city park was abuzz with activity by now. The music was going, people were picnicking, kids were playing and running in the playground area, and the basketball tourney was in full swing.

Over in the skate park there was a skateboard competition getting underway. We were really impressed watching the kids warm up. It was incredible they could do all kinds of tricks on the crazy concrete curvy walls of the skate park and not break their necks.

All of a sudden a kid came flying through the air right at me. And then another did a wild trick in mid-air. How fun!

Skateboard contest 4th of July celebration

Weeee!

A couple sitting next to me were the parents of one of the senior competitors. They’d driven from a town 90 miles away so their son could compete in this tournament. He was 17 now but he started skateboarding at age 8. The dad had tried it when he was a kid too, but he didn’t take to it. His son, however, took to it right away, riding his skateboard everywhere, even around the house, and now he was one of the guys doing wild tricks and jumps.

Skateboard contest 4th of July festival

We’d never seen a skateboarding event before…very fun!

The 4th of July is a unique event in this world, honoring the birth of our nation as an independent and free state. For many, the meaning behind those words has intensified lately, and with that in mind, we found it particularly moving to be a part of such a colorful birthday celebration in a small western town!

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Nature’s Capriciousness in Idaho – Streams, Mountains and Storms!

June 2022 – Our western states RV trip delivered us to Idaho right in the heart of the bustling city of Idaho Falls, and even though we had plans for quieter adventures further north in the state, we hung around the city for a while enjoying the River Walk.

Idaho RV trip - Meandering at a slow pace

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We savored the scenery each time we strolled the paths, but the only thing our pup, Buddy, ever noticed was the big population of squirrels that scampered up and down the tree trunks.

Puppy looking up into a tree

“Hey! Come back down here!”

The squirrels taunted him mercilessly, chirping at him from safety high up in the branches.

Idaho Falls Squirrel

“You’ll never catch me!”

He wanted to catch a squirrel so badly, but they were just out of reach!

Puppy jumps up tree trunk chasing squirrel

Almost…but not quite!

From Idaho Falls, we wandered northwards towards Salmon for a while, keeping an eye out for an easy-in / easy-out gas station where we could fill the gas tank on the toy hauler (which gives us gas for both the RZR and the generator while we’re camping).

Filling up the toy hauler with gas requires pulling the trailer very far forward at the pumps because the gas cap is at the far back end of the trailer. End-to-end, our truck and trailer combo is about 50 feet long, and not that many gas stations have sufficient open space at the end of the pumps for a vehicle to stick out 50 feet!

Mark looked at a few city gas stations in Idaho Falls and decided they were all a bit too busy and too tight. We’d end up blocking traffic in the whole gas station while we filled up!

Luckily, as we traveled through the countryside, we found a gas station with no other customers, no overhangs to hit with our tall rig, endless room in front of the rig to pull forward, and a cute store to boot.

Fueling up the RV in rural Idaho

Plenty of room to fuel up the toy hauler!

Puppy by the store door in rural Idaho

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Inside the store were the usual gas station goodies, but they also had lots of small animal pelts like foxes and an antique sewing machine!

Small animal pelts and an antique sewing machine

Inside the store: Interesting small mammal pelts and an old sewing machine too!

We strolled the back streets of town for a while and spotted a pretty church framed by snow covered mountain peaks. Classic!

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in eastern Idaho

Right out of a picture book!

Later, we played with some of our images of that church and made one look like the photo was taken a long time ago.

Old time church in Idaho

Perhaps this church looked like this way back when…

That was pretty cool, so we did it to another photo of the long defunct “Bit & Spur Grocery Store.”

This is just a matter of applying Sepia tones to the image but the effect is great… Perhaps a little crinkling across the image from the photo being folded and maybe a handwritten note with a date like 1885 would help cement it as an authentic antiquity, although Buddy would have to ditch his harness and I’d need to don a long dress and a hat!

Old time look at a store in rural Idaho

Bit & Spur Groceries!

We carried on with our journey, and as we rolled slowly down the road, we just loved the views. This was ATV / UTV country and we rode around on the RZR looking for photo ops. There were plenty!

ATV riders with mountain backdrop in Idaho

Open country backed by snowcapped mountains – ideal for an ATV / UTV ride!

A rocky creek sparkled in the sunlight.

Rushing water in an Idaho creek with mountains

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This was the perfect spot to play with smoothing out the rushing whitewater by keeping the camera shutter open extra long on a tripod (about 1/6 to 1/15 of a second). With moving water like this, you could take a dozen photos of each scene and every one would be different because flowing water makes constantly changing patterns!

Babbling brook with snocapped mountain Idaho

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Water rushing in a stream in Idaho mountains

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White water stream with mountains in Idaho

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When I wrote an article about Idaho for Highways Magazine many years ago, the editor titled it “America’s Alps,” which was very apt because the snowy peaks are certainly reminiscent of their European counterparts! Mark grabbed a plastic stool and his guitar, and as he played for Buddy and me, the scene was right out of the Sound of Music!

Singing sweet songs in America’s Alps.

A crown of soft clouds began to form around a mountain peak, and we fully expected to see Julie Andrews come pirouetting down the hillside, arms flung wide with radiant joy as she sang her heart out.

Snowcapped mountain in Idaho

A mountain peak was suddenly wrapped in a veil of clouds.

Instead of suddenly seeing an ebullient Julie Andrews dancing down the mountainside, we noticed that storm clouds were beginning to fill the sky.

The weather forecast had called for a big storm to come sweeping through with a 70% to 90% chance of rain for two days and a night. We’d already experienced mornings in the 30s and afternoons in the 90s in our short time in Idaho, and one of the locals we met had jokingly told us that Idaho is bipolar when it comes to weather.

Were these clouds the beginning of the expected tempest?

Gathering storm in Idaho

A gathering storm!

We decided to go for a walk, kind of storm chasing in a way, but on foot. Suddenly, Mark said, “Look at that cloud over there!” A huge black cloud was bearing down on the valley and traveling at a good clip. The odd (and beautiful) thing was that the sun was still out in patches here and there.

Storm clouds over river in Idaho

Yikes! Check that out!

We ran for cover, collecting a few shots of the wild skies (and fast puppies) on the way.

Puppy runs at top speed

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The wind was whipping like crazy, but there was no rain yet, and the menacing skies changed minute by minute as the clouds unleashed a thick veil of rain and snow on the mountains.

Summer rainstorm in Idaho

A distant tempest.

Storm clouds in the Idaho mountains

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The big black cloud began to rumble. Despite its threatening noises, however, there were bits of blue sky and sunshine here and there. Suddenly, a rainbow appeared.

Puppy sees rainbow from RV window

A rainbow!

We ran out again, cameras in hand. All around, the billowing clouds seethed and frothed, from low down on the ground to high up in the sky. It was spectacular — and there wasn’t a drop of rain in the sunny spot where we stood!

Sun lights up storm clouds in Idaho

Wow!

Storm clouds sweep through Idaho valley

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And then, as quickly as this summer storm came, it disappeared down the valley, leaving blue sky and receding clouds in its wake.

Bipolar, indeed!

Sunburst in Idaho storm over river

The storm passes and leaves sunshine and blue skies behind.

Later, as the sun set, memories of the afternoon drama were still visible in the sky. We were treated to shades of orange and black followed by soft tones of peach and gray.

Sunset begins after a storm in Idaho

Vestiges of the afternoon squall.

Idaho sunset seen from an RV

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This was one of those beautiful occasions where the adventure came to us. We weren’t out sightseeing or looking to discover new things. Instead, Nature dropped in on us and treated us to a thrilling show of roiling clouds battling with rays of sunshine.

This big “two day” storm blew through in an hour or two and eventually misted us with a fine spray that lasted all of 90 seconds! But the spectacle left us totally wide-eyed with wonder!.

Tail end of summer storm and sunset in Idaho

A faint pink flame crosses the sky.

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