My kind of town

I have often said that it’s too bad Moab is in the middle of the desert. If I thought I could handle the summers, I would have pushed Michael to move here years ago.

But the summers here are awful – weeks of 100 degrees. Not my idea of a good time. So spring and fall visits here are it.

We’re making the most of our time, since we have all the time in the world.

Yeah, it rained on our first day here, September 22nd . But ever since it’s been sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s. A little windy (30-40mph gusts), but who can complain about that?

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Charging up the Revel Gear lights

Sunday morning we packed up – leaving some stuff behind like the table, chairs, and the annex to mark our spot – and headed into town. Our first stop was a favorite of ours, Eklecticafé. They don’t have a website or I’d share the link. First, it’s a funky little coffee shop that’s always busy. Second, they’re always busy because their coffee is awesome. I got myself an Americano and Michael got his favorite, the Cafe Cubano, and I worked on the blog and watched people and enjoyed my coffee.

Second stop: Poison Spider Bike shop for showers. $5 for 5 minutes is a pretty good deal, and their bathrooms are clean and really quite nice. After we were all clean we stopped by the grocery store to restock.

I went by the rack of magazines on my way to the bathroom (they have the cleanest bathrooms at the Moab City Market), and stopped to see if I wanted to pick up anything. I was really struck by one thing:

I don’t need to buy any magazines. All the covers shouted things like “How to live your best life NOW!” and “Ten ways to survive the week.”

I don’t mean to gloat, but I am living my best life right now. I don’t need help to get through my week. Every day I wake up excited for a new adventure. My life is awesome.

This doesn’t mean my life is perfect, of course. The reality is that most mornings I wake up to the sound of the dogs whining, and my first thought is about how much more time I can spend snuggled up in my sleeping bag before I have to get up and go outside and let them out. Once the coffee is made and the sun is shining, then I think about how awesome my life is.

And remember that night we camped at the Wal-Mart in the pouring rain? Yeah, all I did that morning was look on with envy at the people in their RVs.

So. Not perfect. Pretty damn close, though.

So – Moab. We rode at KlonZo, since it’s only about a mile from our camp site on Willow Springs Road. That trail is such a blast! We even tried a new section (on accident, but still), called VertiGo. Super sweet – I rode over a narrow rock ledge and then under a low-hanging cliff, and it was awesome.

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*Not the VertigGo trail*

The very next day we packed up and drove out to Fisher Towers. I wanted to run this trail, completely forgetting that it’s actually pretty steep. Michael actually ran the whole thing, but for me it was more like a power hike on the way out, punctuated with bouts of running. The downhill was a ton of fun, though. I passed a lot of hikers along the way and the most common word I heard muttered as I passed was “crazy.”

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Ha! That trail was awesome and I had a blast. I even ran up those stone steps at the very end like Rocky Balboa.

 

 

Getting to Moab

After riding Grand Targhee we made tracks for Park City, UT. We spent a night at a lovely site outside of Swan Valley, ID, and then pressed on.

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We did stop briefly in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, for a shower and soak at their public hot springs. $6 per person. I almost fell over at that price. I mean, Steamboat Springs is really starting to look like a tourist trap: they charged us $18 each for the use of their showers and pools. Although the showers/locker rooms at Lava Hot Springs were sparse, their floors were heated. The pools were spotless and there was even shade.

Too bad it was a beautiful, sunny, and warm day. But then, that would have made it even harder to leave, like we learned way back in Idaho City.

We made it to Park City long before dark – early enough for us to stop at their dog park, which Bailey and Elvis thoroughly enjoyed. Bailey even found a tennis ball. We stopped in yet another local bike shop (are you seeing a pattern here?) and the nice guys there helped us come up with a plan. See, all the free places to camp near Park City were actually above the resort. At around 9,000 feet.

Now, we’ve been sleeping fabulously in our sleeping bags ever since Driggs, but that doesn’t mean I want to push it. So, the bike shop guys suggested we go to an area of Park City Resort called the Canyons. Right under the lift is a paved parking lot, and right next to that is the dirt lot. The suggestion was that we go and park in the dirt lot and make dinner, like we were just hanging out. Then, right at dusk – pop up the tent. Most likely nobody would see us. And even if they did – Park City was officially closed, so it was unlikely anyone would care. Besides, we planned to be gone in the morning.

It worked fabulously. We even took the dogs for a walk after dark, so they could go potty, and from fifty feet away you couldn’t even see the tent. Or the truck. The next morning we were up at 7 and on the road to town straightaway. I had two goals for the day: work on the blog from a coffee shop called Atticus Coffee & Books, and ride Park City.

Atticus is a cool little coffee shop. It helps that their Americano was delicious, and that there were power outlets everywhere so I could charge ALL my electronics. Even the Kindle. (I’ve been reading Game of Thrones, and am not looking forward to the day when I can’t travel to Westeros anymore.)

Once the blog work was done and we were both fully caffeinated, it was off to the Armstrong Trail. It was a solid climb – so beautiful! – with the trees just past peak colors, and fallen leaves all over the trail. The only thing I didn’t like I that a local bike shop put up a challenge: if you can ride the Armstrong Trail in under and hour (and prove it with an app like Strava), you get prizes. The faster your time the better your prize. I am not a very fast uphill rider. Actually I’m not fast on the downhills either, but nobody asked about that. So – I’m used to getting passed. But the Strava people – I tell you, they don’t even say on your left or can I get past you or even something simple, like hello. I’m grinding away and all of the sudden I hear something behind me, turn to look and see this girl absolutely on my wheel. Scared me so badly I almost bit it, and she almost bit it in her haste to get around me since I couldn’t get off the trail fast enough for her.

Lest you think she was just some random anomaly, two other guys (wearing full road kits) passed me in much the same manner. We were just in a section of switchbacks so I saw them sooner.

Whatever. It was still a fabulous ride. (I didn’t finish the Armstrong Trail in less than an hour, in case you were actually wondering). We enjoyed the gloriously earned downhill and packed up, heading for Salt Lake City.

It’s so crazy that this major metropolitan area is only 30 minutes away. And SLC itself was lovely. Such views! Even the view from the REI parking lot was amazing.

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Ok, so we were actually in front of Savers when I took this picture, but it’s all the same strip mall.

We knew the weather would be turning, so we pushed on south, aiming for Price, UT as a place to stop for the night. From SLC, Moab is about 4 hours away, and arriving there after dark wouldn’t be a big deal. We know where most of the dispersed camping areas are. But we left SLC at 4pm, and that was after the early start and a killer ride. It had already been a big day. So we settled on Price, a 2-hour drive south.

Along the way we were (obsessively) checking the weather apps. Price is surrounded by BLM land and since we planned on getting there before dark, it shouldn’t have been hard to find a spot. But the skies turned ominous the further south we traveled. Also, we didn’t plan the food situation very well, so when we got to Price were were both starving and it was already raining out.

We settled on a Mexican joint for dinner. The food was marginal but hot, and filling. It was during dinner that we saw the flood warning for the San Rafael Swell and surrounding areas. This Mexican joint happened to be two doors down… from the Wal-Mart.

For weeks now we’ve been saying “we can always camp at the Wal-Mart” as a jest. But it was dark and raining with flood warnings and we were right there. We camped at the Wal-Mart.

And it’s not something I feel the need to do again. Ever. I mean, nobody bothered us or anything. But the flourescent lights were on all night. It wasn’t quiet. And it rained all night. I didn’t sleep well. But we made it through the night. After packing up the tent in the rain, I went inside one last time to brush my teeth in the Wal-Mart bathroom. Got some great looks from two different ladies, which I found oddly hilarious.

It turned out to be a very good thing that we camped in that parking lot: Price was flooded. For a minute there I was afraid we wouldn’t even be able to make it out of the city. But the water on the road wasn’t fast-moving and there were cops directing traffic. The little Pontiac ahead of us didn’t have any problems, and neither did Taco Negro.

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Finally! On our way. The clouds lifted before we even reached Green River. We made it to Moab in under two hours and our first stop was the Moab Diner for a real breakfast. On our way in, we passed a few RV parks that claimed they were full, so we were pleasantly surprised to find the dispersed camping area at the end of Willow Springs Road practically empty.

Of course it rained that afternoon, although by the time it began in earnest we already had the tent and the annex set up. (I wonder how much of a PITA it would be to set up that annex in the rain.) We hung out in the annex for a while, then went up to the tent. I never stay awake for long up there, snuggled up in my sleeping bag and all.

It was kind of a long night – I don’t think it rained all that hard, but the wind. Gusty, loud, tent-flappy wind. It kept waking me up, although Michael slept right through it. How do I know? At some point in the night, I hear the wind howling, the tent flapping. And underneath it, so faint I could barely hear it… was the sound of Michael snoring.

At least the sun came out the next day.

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Yep, that’s me in my new Uggs. Love them! Sunshine and coffee is a fabulous combination (of course, a snuggly dog doesn’t hurt!) Can’t wait to take advantage of everything Moab has to offer…

The Lava Fields of Idaho

What, you didn’t know Idaho had lava fields? Well, join the club. Until a few days ago, neither did I.

Driving along Highway 26, just a few miles from Craters Of The Moon National Monument, I saw what looked like recently turned earth. I mean, it was black. But like big chunks of black earth. Car-sized chunks. Then I saw that it didn’t look like fresh dirt. It almost looked like asphalt – 3-4 foot thick sections of asphalt, broken up with a bulldozer. And then I realized it wasn’t any of those things.

“It’s a lava field!” I said to Michael.

“A what?”

When I first saw the words lava field on the map the day before, while plotting our route towards Driggs, I really didn’t know what to make of it. I’d read about Mammoth Cave, which is an old lava tube, but nowhere had I read anything about a lava field. I figured I’d know it when I saw it.

And here it was.

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I don’t think my pictures do it justice, but if you’re ever in southern Idaho, you totally need to check this place out. It’s so cool! Who knew there was an ancient lava field here?

My only complaint is that all the trails inside the National Monument are too short. We did go on a trail run, a trail called the Tree Molds, which parallels a lava field. Check that one off the bucket list, I guess. I mean, this trip is a bucket list, and it’s turning out to be full of cool stuff I never realized I wanted to do. Running across an ancient lava field is one of those things.

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We debated about paying to camp inside the National Monument. We’d arrived too late for the cave tour (which was at 10am and 1pm daily), and if we camped, then we could go the next morning. That meant we’d miss our Saturday window for the Driggs post office. And the dogs wouldn’t be able to run free – we’d have to keep them tied up.

At this point it was 4pm and the campground didn’t open until 4:30, and for some reason that was the deciding factor. We pressed on, stopping for the night at a BLM trailhead called Twentymile. There was nobody there so we just camped at the trailhead. BLM rules, right? The area reminded me a little bit of Valley of the Gods, down in Utah. It’s a BLM site that’s the free version of Monument Valley.

This is what the trailhead looked like:

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Totally free. It was a great place to watch the full moon come up. Although I’d love to be in this area with a new moon, too. There’s nothing around here – not for miles, unless you count the Idaho National Laboratory. I think all their stuff is underground anyway, since we drove across it after leaving Craters of the Moon and didn’t see a damn thing. I bet these are super-dark skies.

We got an early start to Saturday. The Driggs post office is open on Saturdays from 10am to noon, and we did not want to miss that window. It was such a pretty drive, and I can finally say we saw the part of the state where they grow potatoes. I’ve been looking! We’ve been in the state for nearly three weeks and I’d yet to see a potato field, or any evidence of where Idaho’s famous potatoes come from. Saturday morning we drove past acres and acres of fields, punctuated with the occasional long, silver sheds that hold the spuds. We even passed a potato truck, which was exciting for me, at least.

I’m happy to report our success: we arrived at the Driggs Post Office at 10:30am, and left with our sleeping bags at 10:35 am.

We ended up hanging out in Driggs for a few days. I mean, with this view, how could you not?

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And yeah, those are big clouds overhead. The sun just doesn’t want to shine for us up here. Really bad weather was supposed to arrive by Thursday the 22nd, in the form of rain and snow. So we decided to ride Grand Targhee and then head down to Utah. Ride Park City, and then head down to Moab.

You might have seen Michael’s post on Instagram – you do follow GoGoTacoNegro on Instragram, right? – but here’s a nice picture he took of me:

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Grand Targhee was a blast! Unfortunately for us, though, the resort decided its mountain bike season had ended on Sunday the 18th. They pulled all the trail markers and maps. We arrived to ride on the 19th. Luckily we had our own map, and after a few turn-arounds and shrugs and “I don’t know, let’s just keep riding uphill” we got our bearings. Personally I think we were there at the perfect time. We had it to ourselves! And I’ve never seen orange aspen leaves before.

If you ever find yourself in Driggs, Idaho, I highly recommend heading over to Grand Targhee. I also highly recommend going to the local grocery store in Driggs, Braulim’s. That place is HUGE and it puts Whole Foods to shame. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a grocery store so much before.

As much as I like this corner of Idaho, I’m excited to move on to Utah. I’m ready for warmer (read: drier) weather. Plus, we can spend as much time as we want in Moab. In all our years of vacationing there (we’d go about every other year), we’ve never had that luxury before. I’m already dreaming of riding the Magnificent Seven, Klonzo, Navajo Rocks, Slickrock, and Sovereign trails… and running the Fisher Towers trail… so many possibilities!

 

Dammit, Idaho!

Idaho, you are making it so very hard for me to like you.

STOP RAINING ON ME!

Well, at least I can now calculate the odds of me living in a place like the Pacific Northwest. And those odds are zero.

Ever since we left Riggins, it’s been cloudy, super-cold at night, with daily rain showers. I gotta tell ya, it’s getting old. But I can’t give up on Idaho now: we called our friend Cory, keeper of the storage unit key. And we asked him for the sleeping bags, sent General Delivery to the post office in Driggs, Idaho. (I’ve always wanted to go there – a friend gave me this T-shirt from Spuds Drive In in Driggs, and so I’ve always wondered what Driggs looked like.)

Cory gave us a big ol’ ration of shit about our lack of sleeping bags (and, I suppose, rightfully so). But he also went that day to the storage unit, and had the sleeping bags in the mail to us on the very next day. They were scheduled to arrive in Driggs on Saturday the 17th.

We have such awesome friends.

Anyway. We left Riggins on September 12, taking a short tour up that canyon to check it out. None of the campsites compelled us to stay (unfortunately), although we found a place to run the dogs. Bailey really loves the water.

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I also took this photo on the drive back.

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I don’t know how recent the fire was in this canyon, but I’m absolutely certain that the red line in the photo is the flame retardant known as slurry. Cool in its own way, you know? I don’t ever want to act like fires are great or anything, but I love those firefighting airplanes. I would have loved to have seen this drop.

We did make it down to Boise, after a couple of nondescript campsites. We were cold and we got rained on, let’s just say that. So after stocking up on the necessities in Boise (gas/water/groceries), we made the fateful decision: to go to Nordstrom Rack.

We wanted Uggs.

Michael told me that Uggs were invented by an Australian surfer, and that their original purpose was to keep surfer’s feet warm after a session. That’s why they’re lined with real sheepskin. (And that real sheepskin is why they’re so expensive).

I refused to pay full price. But I wanted warm feet. And we each found a pair, and declared it Christmas in September instead of admitting that the purchase of these two items absolutely destroyed our budget for the entire week. And it was only Tuesday.

We camped up above Boise, in a wide open spot underneath power lines. It was cold and windy. It rained on us at some point overnight. But right before the sun set, we were lucky enough to witness this:

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I mean, damn. Boise sure knows how to stage a sunset.

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I wore my new Uggs and my feet did not complain.

We moved on north and east the next day. I wanted to drive up through Lowman and Stanley, around the Sawtooth Range, then come south through Ketchum and Hailey. I heard Hailey was a cool town. And it promised to be a beautiful drive.

The skies got darker as we pressed north. We stopped outside of Idaho City at a hot springs called The Springs.

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If you’re ever in the Boise area – this place is only 45 minutes away. And it’s amazing. $16 per person, and that includes a locker (with key), a towel, and shampoo, conditioner, and soap. There was even a bottle of detangler and a hairdryer in the locker room.

Poolside they offer free water and coffee, and they have a nice menu, complete with booze. (Not that I had any – I’m torturing myself with another round of Whole30.)

Because it was cold and misty, it was the perfect day for a soak. Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the shower – it was my first in over a week. (Wait, was that TMI? Really? Well, never ask me about our campsite toilet, then.)

So we soaked for a long time. I got prune hands and everything. But around 4pm, we finally had to call it. Time to dry off and go find a campsite.

The thing I haven’t been able to figure out in Idaho is that some of the established NFS campsites are free (like French Gulch Campground, up in the Red River Valley), and some aren’t. All the ones we passed outside of Idaho City were not free. But I did spy something that looked like a campsite as we zipped past. I made Michael turn around. And there, in the rain, we set up camp.

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I wore my Uggs. And my feet were warm and toasty. That night Michael slept in his. And he said it was the first night his feet were warm since we left Riggins.

So – money well spent on the Uggs.

When we got up the next morning, we had to pack up everything still wet. But there were blue skies overhead, and the forecast was for sunny and warmer, so we went for it and headed north.

I don’t know how recent the fire in this area was. But we drove through some scorched-earth-motherfucker landscapes on the way north, to paraphrase Les Grossman.* I mean, the earth was just black. Desolate. Michael took all of this in and said, “Wait. So there’s a time here when it doesn’t rain?”

But eventually we got out from the fire. We stopped briefly at Kirkham Hot Springs, which is a campsite and public hot spring just outside of Lowman. If we ever come back this way, this is where I want to camp. It looked perfect.

Eventually we turned south at Stanley and headed towards Ketchum. It was beautiful there, and I’m kind of glad we gambled on this drive.

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Eventually we headed though Ketchum, staying long enough to find a coffee shop so I could work on the blog. It was okay, I guess. Kind of your typical mountain town. You see a lot of the same stores in mountain towns, so Ketchum looked a lot like Crested Butte or Steamboat Springs or Jackson Hole. We moved to Hailey.

Hailey had an Albertson’s (big grocery store chain), and that’s about all I can say about Hailey. And the 20-mile drive from Ketchum to Bellevue was like one long suburb.

We decided to camp at a BLM site, a place called Magic Reservoir. For a BLM site, this one was pretty nice. And quiet. I saw only three or four other vehicles in the entire area. We picked a site that looked all designated (there was a picnic table and a fire ring nearby), but the general rule with BLM land is… that there are no rules. Camp wherever you want. This spot worked for us.

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It wasn’t quite a full moon that night (Friday), but the picture still turned out okay.

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One small update for you, on the dogs. Bailey is doing just fine, chasing sticks (although I wish he would stop eating them) and keeping close by whenever I pee. Elvis is mostly fine too. I picked up a trick from our friend Julie, back in Missoula. She added hot water to her dogs’ dry food, then added a little bit of canned food and mixed it all up. I tried it and Elvis has actually been putting weight back on. So that part’s good.

But I think he’s getting pretty senile. I’m not sure how that even works in dogs, but I’m telling you, he’s just not the same dog he was, even a year ago. We tend to leave him leashed a lot of the time now. Because he likes to wander. And sometimes when I call to him, it’s like he doesn’t recognize me. Or maybe he doesn’t realize I’m talking to him? But he looks at me and then looks away and keeps right on walking. It happened at Magic Reservoir, and he got pretty far away before I could catch up to him. It’s scary. Worse, he’s not like that all the time. Some mornings he gets up and plays with Bailey after they eat breakfast. Most of the time he comes when called.

But sometimes he just looks kinda lost. I feel bad, knowing that we’re the cause of his stress. But I am also even more certain that we can’t just leave him with friends. We made a promise when we adopted this dog – to take care of him for the rest of his life. I’m doing everything I can to make his life as easy as possible.

 

*Les Grossman, of Tropic Thunder fame

The Idaho adventure continues

I left off the last post as we were setting up camp along the Red River, at a site called French Gulch. And we’d heard that the temps were supposed to drop that night. Maybe as low as 30.

Well.

There is a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.

When we set out on this trip we planned on essentially chasing summer. So we didn’t bring the 15 degree down sleeping bags, just the blankets (well, mine is down, but still).

So it’s pretty safe to say we froze our asses off that night.

I had on all my wool clothes, plus a primaloft (synthetic down) vest and my down jacket. I wore a Buff balaclava-style under my hat. I was wrapped up like a little burrito in my down blanket. And I was still cold.

Not freezing, mind you. Just not comfortable. It was Michael that froze. His blanket is synthetic down, and not rated. He was basically wearing three layers, plus two pairs of wool socks. It wasn’t enough.

We did finally snuggle up together around 5am… which was great until one of us wanted to sleep in a different position.

But the sun came out around 7am, and it really did warm up fast. We’re still debating about asking one of our friends to dig through the storage unit and find Michael’s sleeping bag. We’re still debating about spending the money on Uggs for both of us. Or at least down booties. Has REI made the floor change yet?

But after a hot breakfast and coffee, we loaded up and headed east. Determined to get to Red River Hot Springs that day.

It turned out to be just 15 miles away.

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We talked with a few hunters hanging out there. They were very interested in the roof top tent. Then we talked with the owner – well, the owner’s cousin, AJ. It seemed to be a long story, but AJ was giving his cousin a break over the weekend.

We didn’t end up staying for a soak, but AJ was a super nice guy who gave us some great information and tips. One of those tips was for a pick-your-own vegetable garden just outside of Lucile, ID.

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I might sound like a rube, but I’ve never picked my own vegetables before. So it was Michael who actually picked our fabulous tomatoes, as well as the corn, zucchini, peppers, and even a cantaloupe!

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After loading up on veggies, we continued on south. It was starting to get dark as we passed though Riggins. We were headed down Salmon River Road, towards the Riggins Hot Springs. But we were hungry. It’s easier to set up camp in the dark on a full belly. So we pulled into the first place we saw: the Shorts Bar Recreation Site. It’s a put-in area for rafters. There were picnic tables and pit toilets.

I made an appetizer for us out of sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. Seriously – this was the best tomato I’ve had in a long time.

As dinner cooked, Michael took a little look-see around the place. He came back and said the sign at the entrance said the camping limit was 14 days. And that there was no fee.

That’s right: we’d accidentally parked at the perfect campsite. Here’s what dinner looked like:

GoGoTacoNegroChicken thighs with mushrooms, corn, tomatoes, and peppers. It tasted even better than it looks.

It was so warm after the sun set that I didn’t even need my down jacket to sit and watch the stars. And it was the first time in a long time that I slept under my blanket in just shorts and a t-shirt.

Our friend Rob asked me for a pic of the inside of the tent a while back. Sorry this took so long to put up!

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Yes, it’s always this messy, smartypants.

Oddly enough, one of the most perfect days of the trip happened on September 11. When I got up the sun hadn’t hit the tent yet, but it wasn’t too cold. After breakfast we went down to the beach for a CrossFit workout.

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It involved running through the sand, which is much harder than I remember it, and sandbag back squats. But a good workout deserves a good meal, I think, so it’s handy to travel with a chef. And the chef wanted to fire up the grill.

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That’s right, food lovers. We have a grill.

 

 

 

 

It’s by a company called Camp-Maid, and it works with our dutch oven. Michael loves this thing.

 

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And it’s hard to argue with the result.

 

 

 

 

After that, we sat in the shade and read. I worked on editing pictures, too.

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Eventually, though, we heard a group of rafters stop at the beach. They sounded like they were having an absolute blast, so I grabbed my camera and headed to a better vantage point.

Sometimes I’m even more glad that I have a blog. Because this story requires the visuals.

It was an organized trip – Salmon River Experience – and they’d stopped at Shorts Bar for a little break. They had one of the rafts flipped over and were using it like a giant slip-n-slide. Except…

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See all those people standing around the raft? They weren’t just wetting it down. When the runner hit the raft, they would lift, and send them flying.

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Tell me that doesn’t look like a fabulous time!

After some more relaxing, we were treated to a fabulous sunset.

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I was glad I’d set up our Revel Gear lights – it had been a while since I’d been able to use them. They string up perfectly around the guylines for the roof top tent. I’m sure the other campers at Shorts Bar (all two of them) were jealous.

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I was sad to leave Riggins. But the rest of Idaho is calling.

Are you sure this is Idaho?!?

When we left Flathead Lake the day after Labor Day, the skies were dark and threatening. Kyle reminded us that all this weather was coming over from Idaho. Nonetheless, Idaho was the next state for us to explore. We set off towards Kalispell, and then took Highway 2 all the way to the State Line.

Along the way, we crossed over Moyie Canyon Bridge.

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There was a pulloff for this area, complete with its own hydroelectric dam. (I guess that should have been my first clue about the weather here… but then, sometimes I’m just not the brightest bulb.) There was also a little trail that went down closer to the bridge itself. At this point, to ward off the rain, I was wearing Danskos. Not the best trail shoes, in case you were wondering. But my feet did stay dry.

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I even got all artsy with Photoshop:

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Moving on, through Bonner’s Ferry, south through Sandpoint, and even in to Coeur D’Alene, it never really stopped raining. Clouds hung so low in the sky I couldn’t even tell you if the view was great or not. I thought it was pretty, though.

I was kind of surprised to see that we also crossed over into Pacific Standard Time. But then, I’d never been to Idaho before.

We arrived at the Coeur D’Alene NFS Ranger Station at about 4:25. Only to find that they closed at 4pm. I tell you, if you can actually get into a ranger station, they’re super helpful. But their hours are worse than the post office.

At least there was a map outside the building, so we were able to plan from that. We found our campsite up a winding road above Coeur D’Alene, up in the clouds. The forecast for the city was rain overnight, but then just cloudy the next day. And sunny and 70 after that. And that whole 70-and-sunny thing went on for days. Just one more night of rain? Winner!

As we climbed up towards our campsite, I looked around at the rain and the mist and the moss on the trees and said to Michael, “are you sure we’re in Idaho?” I mean, like I said, I’ve never been here before. But I kind of expected Idaho to look a lot like western Montana. We’d barely crossed the state line, for Chrissakes. But it was so dark and rainy I was expecting Mulder and Scully to jump out of the trees at any moment. Seriously, it was like Vancouver up there. (For those of you who are not geeks, The X-Files was initially filmed in the Vancouver area.)

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Well, the rain did let up the next day, and the sun peeked out here and there. Michael got in a CrossFit workout, I went for a run with Bailey. A couple of hunters walked past our little camp, and let us know that it was open season with guns for bear and grouse, and bowhunting season for deer and elk. I put the bear bells on Bailey and took him with on my run. And we stuck to the main road.

We packed up the next day and headed south. One of the things we’ve learned after a month on the road is to set our goals low when it comes to driving days. A five-hour drive may sound like cake to you, but for us, it’s more like to be a 10-hour day. We have to include breaking down camp, as well as the search for a suitable campsite before dark. So generally we try to keep our next destination no more than three hours out.

Our next destination was actually so far out we knew it would take several days to get there: Red River Hot Springs. This was Michael’s idea, but who doesn’t love a good soak? We haven’t been to a hot spring since Steamboat. Let’s do it!

So our stopping point for the day was Emida, Idaho. Or, I should say, the St. Joe National Forest, which sits just outside of Emida.

We found a lovely campsite, wide open for the early morning sun. (Tired of all that shade outside of Coeur D’Alene!) It even had a giant fire ring. We saw a lot of signs about logging in this area, so firewood was not going to be a problem. Perfect!

And then it rained. What the hell, Idaho? You are making it so hard for me to like you. Good thing our bonfire was already going strong when the first drops fell. I put the chairs underneath the truck, made sure everything was closed up, and hung out in the tent with my Kindle. After about 15 minutes the rain stopped.

I made the hugest bonfire I could. Take that, rain!

Apparently the weather in Idaho likes a challenge. Because we woke up to a cold, shaded, and completely socked-in campsite. I had planned on a run that morning, but I was so cold that we just packed up camp fast and got on our way. The sun came out around 10:30, and we were halfway to Moscow by then. It was a beautiful drive – once again, I was surprised by the amount of water in Idaho. This time it was in the form of lakes and rivers. Water is everywhere here.

We decided to refuel in Moscow, mostly because we saw a giant grocery store as we came into town. Moscow turned out to be a neat little college town with a really cool downtown area. With the gas tank, water containers (we had to pay for water this time, but even at $.45/gallon, it wasn’t that bad), pantry, and cooler full, we continued on south, confident we could make it to Red River Hot Springs that day. Here’s the view just south of Moscow:

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I turned to Michael. “Are you sure this in Idaho?” I asked. Seriously, it was just like the song – amber waves of grain. A sea of brown, inexplicable after so much green in the panhandle.

We passed through Grangeville and eventually headed east on Highway 14, along the Red River, towards Elk City.

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We thought Elk City, being called a city and all, would have an outdoor store where we could get some information.

Here’s a tip for you: Elk City is not a city. They do have a NFS Ranger Station, which of course closed an hour before we got there. We did get some information on the area from a nice lady at the General Store, though.

Unfortunately we had a hard time finding a campsite in the Red River Valley. We went up a few Forest Service roads, but couldn’t find a single site. Time was getting short. Now that we were in Pacific Standard Time, it was starting to get dark at just 7:30.

Eventually we found the oddest site. It was clearly marked as a Forest Service campsite. It had a pit toilet and everything, and an established fire ring. But it looked like a big parking lot, right next to the road. And it was free. (I have NEVER seen a free NFS campsite before. Is this just an Idaho thing?)

As we were cleaning up from dinner and preparing for another bonfire, I was already wearing my down jacket and wool hat. A group of ATVers stopped by, waiting for laggers in their group, and one of the group mentioned that it would be getting cold down by the water tonight.

He heard 30 degrees.

Oh boy…

**This adventure will conclude on Thursday** Stay tuned!

Let’s Go To Idaho

I can’t believe we’re saying goodbye to Montana. I have loved it here! And I’m really glad I took so many pictures. I don’t want to forget all the fabulous things I’ve seen.

We spent Labor Day Weekend at our friends Steve and Melissa’s cabin on Flathead Lake, as I mentioned before. We also got to know Kyle, Melissa’s brother. He’s been living in an Airstream trailer for the past seven years, all over the country, and this summer he parked the Airstream right next to the cabin.

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He’s also a web developer, which is how he’s managed to live almost everywhere (well, everywhere with a strong internet connection). We talked a lot about living small, downsizing, and eating well.

He and Michael even fired up the smoker and cooked up some amazing ribs on Sunday night. I think it was fun for him to talk food with the Chef.

Michael and I went for a trail run, checked out Big Fork and Kalispell, and Michael even threw down with a CrossFit workout.

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We had more than a couple bonfires, too. It wasn’t always possible – some nights it rained, and sometimes the wind would blow out of the east, which caused waves to crash on the shore (and on top of the fire pit). But we haven’t had a campfire since Steamboat Springs. It’s been too dry! And I sure as hell don’t ever want to make the news as the idiot who burned down a forest.

So those bonfires at the cabin were fabulous. I even put up the Revel Gear lights to help show the way to the extra firewood.

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I’m actually looking forward to sleeping in the tent again… although I’m going to miss that 1960’s stove.

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I mean, it was kinda weird to push a button instead of turn a dial, but that stove worked like a champ. I could heat up water for coffee, and then, do it again an hour later for Michael’s coffee. If only Vera were so cooperative.

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Both of our pots are scorched and black on the bottom, from all the times Vera gave us a wall of flames instead of that nice blue ring. We’ve talked about replacing Vera… but that would give us 3 stoves (our other propane stove is in the storage unit) and I don’t want to spend money on gear I already own. We made our choice with Vera, the World’s Most Temperamental Stove. All I can do now… is complain about her.

One other update: we replaced the carpet in the back of the truck. Elvis had another accident back there (that’s three total now), and as we threw away another set of Goodwill sleeping bags, we had a come-to-Jesus talk with each other. We most likely never got the smell out of the carpet from the last accident. So to the dogs, it smells like a bathroom.

We put the carpet in there for us – back when we used to sleep there. But the dogs don’t actually need it. I mean, they need something, or else they will slip around on the plywood. Or get splinters. What is that something that’s easy to clean? A rubber utility mat.

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This wasn’t cheap – total cost was about $100, including the $20 staple gun. But if either dog poops back there again, well – we can just go to a car wash and hose everything off.

We did buy more bedding for them, in case you’re wondering. $4.50 for two fleece-type blankets. Gotta love Goodwill.

More of Montana

Let’s just get this photo out of the way first:

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This is the Highline Trail, which runs above Going To The Sun Road. More on that later – but I stitched this together from 3 separate photos using the magic of Photoshop. That’s how big the views are here!

But first: the cabin.

Our friends Steve and Melissa own a cabin on Flathead Lake, and they offered to let us stay there. I thought it would be the perfect place to hang out over Labor Day weekend. It’s everyone’s last grasp at summer, and most campgrounds and outdoor-type places tend to be crowded. So a cabin sounded perfect. We arrived on August 30th.

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It’s a summer cabin, and small, and perfect. Steve told us we wouldn’t want to leave, and he was right. I love being so close to the water. I love the small space. I love the views from the deck and the fire pit… Steve and Melissa, you are a lucky couple.

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Michael went for a swim almost immediately. After taking this picture I joined him, and let me tell you, that water was cold. Do-able, but definitely cold.

 

 

 

 

The mountains on the east side of the lake were hazy from fires further south, but it still made for great sunrise pictures the next morning.

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We spent a (very long) day at Glacier National Park. The cabin is about an hour from the West Glacier entrance, and lucky for us we got a pretty early start, arriving around 9am.

I really didn’t know what to expect here. I’ve seen a few pictures, but we entered the Park at a low elevation, alongside McDonald Lake, and I was happily surprised at views even here.

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The water is so clear, and so blue/green. It’s amazing. I could have taken pictures here all day.

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But the climb awaited. We did see a black bear along the way, mostly because we were behind a tour bus and they stopped in the middle of the road.

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There are no pictures of the climb, because I was driving. But let me tell you this is one narrow flipping road. A few spots seemed like maybe a car-and-a-half wide. And everyone, it seemed, wanted to drive right on the center line. Also, not every cyclist heeded the “No bikes between 11am and 4pm” rule, which made the drive even more interesting.

We planned on stopping at the Logan Pass Visitor Center… but the parking lot was full. So we continued on to Saint Mary Lake on the east side of the Park. And this photo opportunity:

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It’s funny but I’ve seen this image before, and for some reason I always thought this was from Banff. Also, the images (like on Pinterest) were a LOT better than this picture, and I knew it. But this is a morning picture. Meaning, we were facing almost due west and this point, and it was 2pm so the light was terrible. Best light here would be first thing in the morning. If I were a better photographer, I’d plan to get up at something like 4am to get over to this spot on time for the best light.

But I’m not a better photographer. I’m a lazy photographer. So I went to the Visitor Center and bought a postcard instead.

By the time we got back to Logan Pass, it was after 4pm and the parking lot was finally starting to empty out. I took this awesome picture, looking east from the parking lot:

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After a shameless picture, we headed out on the Highline Trail.

 

 

 

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Yeah, that’s a handrail set into the rock. This trail is narrow and the dropoff looks lethal.

I thought this trail was awesome.

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That’s Going To The Sun Road below us. We hiked for a bit on this trail – I can’t say how far exactly, but I’d guess at not very far. How can you make any distance with me stopping every 30 seconds to take a photo?

This may be our only visit to Glacier, which makes me sad. But what a visit!

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An Evening at the Arch, plus Missoula

After spending a chilly night outside of Cooke City, we were pretty happy to head back into Yellowstone for a beautiful day. We got caught in another bison traffic jam – this time caused by some dipshit in a big rental RV, sitting smack-dab in the middle of the road. Once I figured out what he was doing, my inner Chicago driver emerged and I went around him.

In case you’re wondering how that shows my “inner Chicago driver,” well… I flipped him off as I passed.

Anyway.

We arrived in Gardiner, MT late in the afternoon. I don’t think I mentioned this before – but two of Michael’s friends from his restaurant days, Julie and Taylor, live in nearby Missoula and had two extra (FREE!) tickets for “An Evening at the Arch: NPS Centennial 2016.” Emmy Lou Harris and John Prine were the headliners, which sounded awesome, and it was free, and we wanted to hang out with Julie and Taylor. So we took the extra time and checked out Red Lodge and Beartooth Pass before coming back to Gardiner.

Upon our arrival, I learned that there was actually a system in place to handle the 6,000 or so people expected to attend this concert. We parked at the Gardiner airport, right on the runway. There were plenty of people directing traffic and the whole thing seemed really organized. Once Julie and Taylor showed up (with Taylor’s sister Laura and Laura’s friend Mark), we all walked over to where the shuttle buses were lined up. It took about five minutes to get to the venue.

That’s where the adventure began. First, the venue was actually divided into two areas – one right next to the stage, with chairs and everything. The other was on the Gardiner high school’s football field. You couldn’t even see the stage from the football field – two large viewing screens had been set up for that.

Turns out the closer in seating was actually for people who’d paid money for their tickets. The football field was for those of us who got free tickets.

Whatever. A free show is a free show. And John Prine! Emmy Lou Harris!

The first person to take the stage? Actor Bill Pullman. He talked for quite a while. Confused, I got my hands on a program. Turns out that the first hour and a half of this “concert” was set aside for speeches. From people like Bill Pullman, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, and Sally Jewel. (You can see a copy of the program here.)

The six of us all kind of looked at each other for a minute. I think it was Laura who suggested that we all walk back into town and find the nearest bar. (We were all wearing wristbands, so getting back in wouldn’t be a problem).

We came back a couple of hours later. I’m not going to knock any of the musicians I saw/heard that night. They were all super-talented. Besides, after 7 years of RockyGrass festivals, I’ve learned to look forward to bands I’ve never heard of before. I especially enjoyed Leyla McCalla and her cello and her Haitian songs. But where was John Prine? Where was Emmy Lou?

Eventually John Prine did take the stage. For exactly three songs. Emmy Lou was on stage for about 20 minutes. The show was closed out by gospel singer Dorothy Morrison.

Call my crazy, but when you claim your headliner is John Prine….

At least the shuttle bus back to the airport was painless. We drove back to Bozeman and Laura was gracious enough to let us stay (with our dogs and everything) at her place. Laura, you rock.

Then it was on to Missoula.

I’ve been wanting to check this place out for a long time. Like, since I was a teenager, when I got my first road bike, fell in love and wanted to go work for Adventure Cycling Association (they’re based in Missoula).

After a nice, relaxing Friday at Julie and Taylor’s adorable house (seriously, it’s a 1940’s bungalow, and I am in love with it), we got up Saturday with one goal: the Clark Fork River Farmer’s Market. 

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I love farmer’s markets, and I was absolutely blown away by the size and attendance at this one. Keep in mind that this is just one of three farmer’s markets in town.

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The growing season is in full swing. I saw just about everything – and it all looked amazing!

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Julie and Taylor got in line for a breakfast burrito – even minus the tortilla, it was still huge.

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Michael decided to check out the meat offerings. There were several to choose from.

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The Cloven Hoof locally sources all their meat…

 

 

 

 

…and I can tell you those rib chops were delicious.

 

 

 

There are crafts available at this farmer’s market – soap, beads, sunscreen, stuff like that. What did we find that wasn’t food? Pillows From the Sugar Loaf Wool Carding Mill. This was a total splurge, and we pretty much gave the nice lady my credit card before we could change our minds (or come to our senses…) No ordinary pillows, these are for side sleepers, so they are extra firm. Yeah, I know, that’s not what makes them special. (Or worth $50 each, but I suppose that’s a debate for another time.) No, what makes them special is what’s inside: 100% wool.

When I had a job, I used to write the company blog for Icelandic Design. I wrote an article about the wonders of wool that ended up in the 2015 catalog (if you’re so inclined, you can download the catalog – the article is on page 24). But I haven’t forgotten what I learned about wool. Wool garments wick away moisture, they don’t retain odors, and they are exceptionally durable as well as hypoallergenic. They offer better temperature control and are mold/mildew resistant. Wool is amazing.

I keep reminding myself of all this when I think of the price of each pillow. But honestly, our old pillows were old and desperately needed to be replaced. Still, I’ll let you know if sleeping with a wool-stuffed pillow is life altering or anything.