Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter has been hard on more than our plein air painting.  We found this dead barn owl under a tree down in Rock Creek.  It's hard for an owl to find food under six inches of snow.  Lots of barn owls suffer from car collisions during this time of year trying to catch mice at night as they try to cross the open roads.
The area around Twin Falls is called Magic Valley mainly because this desert has been changed by irrigation.  Engineers damned the snake river and run water all across the valley to allow for crops that would never grow here in this high desert.  The reliability of snow run off (which has been a little less reliable as of late) allows for nearly guaranteed crops and consequently:magic. Other magical things happen in the area.  The image above is of some of the natural springs that poor out of the walls of the Snake River down in the Hagerman Valley.  Millions of gallons of clean spring water poor out of the walls of the canyon, fed by run off that travels for years through the basalt layers.  The water is perfect temperature for raising trout, which why this area is also called the trout capital of the world.
Yes you can fish in some of the springs. This one's for you Andy.
Other magical natural wonders found in the area include alligators.  Yes, alligators can be found at Miracle Hot Springs.  Many thermal springs are available here.  We stopped and enjoyed a private hot springs bath.  The water runs out of a well at 140 degrees,  it is cooled down and piped into a swimming pool and private baths.  The Idaho gators bask in the warm water in their own private pool.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another Oregon Trail history trip.  Visited the Rock Creek Store Stricker Home.  Rock Creek is one of the few streams that cross the Magic Valley, a high desert.  Rock Creek has been utilized by all humans beginning with Native Americans then trappers, explorers and emigrants.  A camping destination for the covered wagons and a stage coach stop.  I really didn't pay much attention to the local history growing up in the area.  I now like to imagine the thousands of people and livestock that crossed this area during the middle of the 1800's.  Rock Creek Store could be thought of as similar to a truck stop along the freeway. It was snowy and cold when Annie and I made our visit.  It is only about ten miles from where I grew up. Again the parking lot was ours to use and our foot prints were the only ones to be seen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Here it is the day after christmas already.  We are glad to have been off the road during these last storms. This photo sums it up pretty well.  I took this picture during a morning walk in the fields across from my parents house.  
Merry Christmas to Everyone!  We had a festive feast at brother Roger's and Jan's.  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Last two days have been more snow.  We drove from Montpelier to Twin Falls, Idaho yesterday. Stayed ahead of the storm and arrived at my parents in time for lunch. Snow started falling in the afternoon and continued off and on most of the night.  Today it warmed up enough to start melting the snow and now is turning into a frozen solid mess.  Annie and I are connected here in a Barnes and Noble, she's knitting and I, well that's apparent.  The images today are from the two bridges here in Twin. The core ten arch bridge is the Perrine Bridge and the concrete column bridge is the Hansen Bridge and was built when I was a young kid.  The cement trucks roared by our house for months.  My beloved dog King, the black lab crossed the highway in front of one of the trucks and was knocked into the ditch by a tire.  He learned his lesson and was able to stay alive for many years after even though he managed to sneek off to town on a regular basis.  It's a pleasure being with family. Annie and I had a wonderful dinner at brother Roger's house last night.  Mom and Dad are in incredible shape considering the 88 years.  

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The last two days have been guided by the weather.  Each route is planned the night before using the internet to make informed decisions, and so far we have been on dry pavement most of the time.  Today we had about 30 miles of snow covered roads but no problems.  Yesterday we drove south from Lander to Rock Springs Wyoming.  Today over to Montpelier Idaho.  Antelope herds both days and today we saw elk. Bald eagles were hanging out near food right along with golden eagles and of course the ravens.  Annie has convinced me to stop and sketch almost every day. We are still having to work sitting in the car looking out the wind shield.  Tomorrow we will get an early start and race the storm coming in from the pacific to Twin Falls.  I don't know what the internet situation will be in Twin so we may be disconnected for awhile. We are truly having a memorable wonderful adventure!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lots of animals between Casper and Lander.  Hadn't seen a magpie for a couple of years and they always stand out in the snow.  The antelope were frequent including some herds in the hundreds.  Mule deer, golden eagles and furry golden eagle targets rounded out the 
desert fauna. Lots of mountains today and some incredible red rock canyons. The west spreads out for miles.
Traveling from Casper to Lander Wyoming we started the day driving in light snow.  Out of the haze suddenly this large mound of rock appeared, known as Independence Rock.  Oregon Trail travelers camped here and left rock carved signatures.  Annie and I were delighted to find a trail all the way around.  It was probably about a mile but well worth the time.  Unbelievably beautiful and the snow began to clear.  
Nearly a half million settlers traveled the Oregon Trail route from the 1840's to the 1860's. Wagons were approximately 4' wide and this track worn in solid rock will be visible for many more years. These ruts are near Guernsey Wyoming on our way to Casper.  I forgot how wide open the West is. Everyday the land seems to widen out and the sky gets bigger.  We saw a huge prairie dog city that must have covered more than a quarter of a mile. I spotted my first rough-legged hawk in more years than I can remember and called Matt to share.  Our first pronghorns were today.  Still driving on dry roads. Saw our first real mountain today. Lucky us.

Traveling from Scottsbluff Nebraska to Casper Wyoming we found numerous historical areas to explore. The bridge was built in the 1870's as a military bridge to support Fort Laramie.  The barracks at Fort Laramie were rather bleak in the new snow both inside and out.  Military life for the enlisted men looks harsh even in recreated splendor. The officer's quarters were considerably more inviting. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Before stopping for the night in Scottsbluff we visited the Scottsbluff National Monument.  Incredibly they have paved a road to the top.(including three tunnels to cross from side to side during the ascent.  The setting sun and elevation made for spectacular views.  Shadows and subtle colors of winter created abstract designs every where you looked.  This image is looking down on the North Platte River.  
These two monoliths are called Courthouse and Jail House Rock.  These massive piles of sandstone have stood as landmarks of the eastern edge of the West.  Annie and I made sketches from the comfort of our car even though it had actually warmed up to 24 degrees. 
Back to civilization we gassed up in the tiny town of Lewellen and found this charming christmas display. Merry Christmas to All!
More traveling on 12/16 and we discovered this recreated sod house at the bottom of windlass hill, a steep incline that required good brakes on the wagons as the travelers dropped down onto the flats of the north platte river.
Fourth day out and we found some empty western Nebraska west of North Platte.
Three days on the road and we stopped at this pony express station near Marysville Kansas to see if we had received any mail.  No one was there to help us. Must have been winter hours.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

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