olmue: (me sketch)
It's been a while since I posted. Between colds and just it being cold, not a lot is going on. This is the part where winter gets old. I just wish there were breaks now and then! Then I'd be happy to get back to the business of winter. Our church congregation (ie neighborhood) is planning a pioneer trek reenactment this summer and they think it will be great fun and want everyone to be able to go, even the elderly, even if only for a little bit. Given that, I'm assuming we won't be crossing the Tetons or anything--but at this point, I don't care where it is, as long as it's OUTSIDE and WARM. Naturally, they're suggesting people start getting in shape now, by maybe walking 15 minutes a day. Uh. I tried that with my 12YO yesterday, who is also going stir crazy. (He's the one who hiked so many miles last summer.) It was 22 with a stiff wind, and the snowplows had covered all the sidewalks, and that snow has since fused into solid ice. Well, we tried...

Seriously. I need a change of scenery for a day. I need to throw everyone in the car and drive off to somewhere naturey and then get out and enjoy it for a day. But obviously not with the danger of hypothermia! So I will leave you with a picture of what I'd LIKE to be doing right now.

Batch Pict0011ORTON2

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olmue: (me sketch)

My grandma gave me this quilt the Christmas I turned four. I still use it! But I've noticed that some of the internal stitching is wearing away. So today I decided to resew some of it.

Well. I realize that "one does not simply walk in" and sew a quilt in a day. I think this is going to be a bit of a project. But it's nice doing it, since it makes me think of my grandma. Besides, she sewed this quilt in Idaho, and I am repairing it in Idaho, so it has sort of made a circle.

My grandma died when I was nine, and since I was born in New Jersey and lived there until shortly after my grandma died, I didn't get to see her very often. But we visited when we could, and she always sent "letters" to my sister and me--since we couldn't read for a long time, they usually were one-page drawings of life around the farm. She was a great artist/illustrator! She was also smart. She was born in 1902 but went to college--the same one I went to! She had a very fun time there, as well as learning a lot. She was very talented in art, music, academics, and sewing. Her mom was a professional seamstress, and Grandma often sewed us clothes and mailed them cross country, and they always fit. She played the violin her whole life, and performed at someone's funeral three weeks before she died. She had perfect pitch (something I don't have!). When she was 60, she decided it was time to learn the piano, so she did. You can see that she came from a family of book lovers: here is her father (my great-grandpa who died in church when he stood up to sing with the choir and keeled over dead in a heart attack--yes, I often think of him whenever I have to perform anything!) and her brother:

ezra-sm  ray_filtered

I love it that in the background you can see the bookshelves OVERFLOWING with books. Yes. It is in the DNA!

She had a piano and we didn't, and every time we went to visit, she didn't care if we banged around on it. I started learning to play on her piano. She was from Salt Lake and was a city girl, but she married a farmer from Idaho and moved to the wilds up here (which were VERY wild in 1920!) She put her foot down when they moved into a log cabin and she found a long black snake winding around the wedding gifts that were on the floor. My grandpa immediately built a real house after that!

Here she is when she was young: my cousin looks just like her:


And here she is with her book-loving family (she is the standing girl with the big bow):


It's funny how much we can be like relatives we've barely even been around, who may have even lived and died before we were born. We once met cousins in the Czech Republic who were so like my dad it was EERIE--even though they'd never met. I guess the things you do in your family get passed down a lot further than you realize. I'm glad for all the good things that got passed down to us!
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Even though my kids have gone back to school, it still feels like we're on vacation. (Well, to me. Maybe not to them!) My in-laws are in town to move my SIL up here, and another SIL drove over from Boise with her kids to help out and see people. The kids have been having a delightful time with their cousins. Today while my school-age kids were in class, we took everyone else to the flood museum, which they had never seen. In 1976, the Teton Dam broke, flooding a MASSIVE area of southern Idaho and destroying whole towns. You can still drive out and see the ruined dam. We live pretty close to the Teton River--I'm sure the place where our house is now was under deep water that day. They had a film about it--even though the footage is washed out and faded from long ago, watching that wall of water come in and lift whole brick houses off the ground and carry them off was eerily reminiscent of the Japanese tsunami of last year. We also looked around the museum itself, which is a slice of life from the history of SE Idaho. The funny thing was, there was an organ donated by my FIL's cousin (as in music, not as in liver), and a dentist chair that my MIL is pretty sure she once sat in (one that has made her recoil from dentists ever since...). I know other people live in the same place for generations, but we are simply not used to having any historical connections to places we live. It's different--and interesting!

We will likely get another visitor tonight, as my husband's cousin is coming in to start a new semester in college and due to a flight delay, will come in very, very late. And he doesn't have a key yet to his apartment. And it's supposed to get down to -8 degrees tonight. It's no problem, because we're here. But I think of kids coming in who find themselves in this situation and don't know anyone around to stay with, and I freak out just a bit. It's cold!!

Hoping it's warmer where you are... :)
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Driving up to Yellowstone from Flagg Ranch involves some terrifying cliffs on the side. I almost couldn't even take this picture. (And there were worse places where I couldn't even look.)


We saw tons of mosquitoes, as well as this lovely butterfly, who tried to hitch a ride with us:


Yellowstone Lake, which was frozen over last time we saw it.


There's a natural bridge up by the lake, which we wanted to hike out to earlier this year, but it was closed due to grizzly activity. (!) This time it was open, and well populated by tourists. It's an easy walk (a mile?). We also saw some marmots there, and a chipmunk.




Then we had to drive through the Hayden Valley, which everyone says is a good place to watch wildlife, only we have seen very, very little wildlife there ever. There were tons of cars off the road and people walking in front of oncoming traffic to take pictures of very, very faraway buffalo--but you can go just about anywhere else in the park and see huge herds, so I don't see what the point was. Shortly after we passed that area, we encountered three police cars and an ambulance headed that way, so maybe someone got hit there. That, or someone did find some wildlife to spar with. I don't see anything in the news yet, but I'll be checking the paper when it next comes out.


We saw the Brink of the Upper Falls, up by Canyon, but were careful not to get too close. (A few weeks ago, a brand-new employee from Russia fell to her death by bypassing the barriers and trying to take a picture at the Canyon. Maybe it doesn't matter in some places, but here, please, PLEASE stay behind the barriers and on the paths! We're not worried about you getting a fine--we're worried about you getting killed.)


Interestingly, the tourists yesterday were largely Chinese, as opposed to the Japanese ones from last week.

We are maybe getting to be buffalo snobs, but we still stop for baby buffalo.


On the way out, through Island Park, Idaho. Another lily marsh, one we always see blip by, but never stop to look at. This time, we did, and found another trumpeter:


The Tetons rising, ghostly, above Ashton.


I LOVE where I live!

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When it comes to mountains, you have to take advantage of days when there are no storms. Especially when it comes to dirt roads in the mountains. For a long time we've wanted to take the Ashton-Flagg Ranch road into Yellowstone, which is a 50ish mile dirt road between Ashton, ID and the northern border of Grand Teton National Park. It's definitely the most direct route from our house to either park--er, except for the fact that you have to drive so slow that you can almost walk it faster. But yesterday was clear and storm-free, so we tried it. And it was interesting!

At first it looks an awful lot like dirt roads in Arkansas. My mind kept telling me I was on a familiar road, one I surely must have driven a thousand times before:

Flagg Ranch Road from the Idaho side

But then we came to this lake off to the side--it had a sign about loons, but I'm not sure what it's really called. It was beautiful, though! Covered all over with lily pads. We saw no loons, but we did see a trumpeter swan, and also lots of electric-blue dragonflies.




Then it started to NOT look like Arkansas. We don't have these kinds of mountains there!


The only "traffic" we passed on the way. I don't know who this outfit is, but they are WAY off the beaten path!!


Also, if you spend too much time on line, you get sent to Camp LOL(L), which is about as far from any internet as you can get:


Another lily pond:


Grassy Lake Reservoir, almost on the Grand Teton border (and Yellowstone, too, actually), where my daughter paid no attention to the surroundings and instead read Sarah Williams's PALACE BEAUTIFUL quite obsessively. The reservoir was nice, but driving in to it, the water came within about two inches of the road, and we nearly didn't get over the large, eroded channel going out.


Combination of volcanic hill, marsh grass, and willow clumps.


A "creek" that feeds into the Snake River, rather close to Flagg Ranch at the north tip of Grand Teton National Park.


Apparently, my FIL drove it once with his dad. At some point he wondered if they'd have to just start homesteading on the Idaho-Wyoming border because the road was so bad. I imagine after a rain or snow, it would be pretty hard to get through, and there were some moments where we gritted out teeth, but we made it through. (OTOH, I think if I DID have to start homesteading on the ID-WY border, Grandpa Green the Mountain Man would be the guy to have along.)

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So I'm not sure what we're going to do next week because we've been doing something interesting and going somewhere every day so far. Today we were just going to go to the library and hang around because yesterday we went to Mesa Falls, and that's nice drive over scary dropoff mountain roads. Not to mention the altitude difference (of 4000+ feet for my parents). Mesa Falls, the best non-hiking destination in eastern Idaho (and a place where you can touch different animal furs and also buy huckleberry jam, which we did):


But it was *nice* today. So instead of the small things, we thought we'd drive over and check out the ruined site of the Teton Dam. In June of 1976, they had just filled the dam for the very first time. Only, it was built on porous lava rock, and the water sneaked up through the rocks under the dam, and it broke. And flooded towns downstream for MILES. Like, there was maybe 20 feet of water over where we currently live. Houses went downstream, farming equipment was tumbled to the point of non-recognition, and it cost a bazillion dollars to repair. Here it is, the broken dam site, and a view downriver:



But...it was so NICE today. So...we kept driving.



I mean, if you saw that ahead, you'd keep on going, right? We did. I have to say, I was impressed at my almost-89-year-old dad hiking up the south Teton trail.


The blue butterflies my 3YO who ONLY loves blue couldn't stop watching:


I wish I could post the smells from up there, too. Wonderful.


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Fun day today. Okay, so I'm actually getting a little burned out on Halloween, having been to one children's Halloween carnival at church and one at school and it's not even Halloween yet, but I'm always game for hiking, so today we went to the Harriman State Park, up near the town of Island Park. They do a haunted hay ride and trick or treating every time this year, and the weather wasn't too bad for hiking, so we went. We showed up early so we could actually see the park before it got dark, though. I'm thinking it's prettier when everything isn't dry and brown and dead, but it was still nice. Doesn't this look like quintessential Idaho?

Harriman State Park

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Full of candy, we drove home by the light of a cat-slit-eye moon, listening to cello music, which to me is the sound of trees groaning in the wind, and the vibrations of the human heart. All in all, a successful day.

Island Park

Oct. 3rd, 2011 05:57 pm
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Henry's Fork of the Snake River

This may be the last "trip" post for a while. We have the week off for potato harvest, but instead of the lovely weather we've been having (70s and low 80s), there is a huge storm front coming in that's supposed to plunge the temperatures to below normal. Uh, yay. So this weekend (when everyone was vomiting), it was 81. Today's high was around 70. And tomorrow is to be in the 60s, on down until Friday night, when there's a chance of rain and SNOW. My boys, BTW, are supposed to go camping that night. Fun, huh?

Anyway, this was the one day to go anywhere if we wanted to, so we went up to Island Park, which is on the way to Yellowstone. There are a couple of state parks up there that we haven't seen yet, and I hoped to do a little hiking at Harriman, but there was a large storm once we got there. I don't mind rain, but I'm sorry, there IS no appropriate clothing for lightning.* So the one thing we did get to do was check out the Johnny Sack cabin, which is a little cabin and water mill built by a little German immigrant who, for reasons unknown, decided to settle in this place that is serious winter 3/4 of the year. It's also on the site where an underground spring starts Henry's Fork of the Snake River, so that was interesting to see. Above is the river, where we were mobbed by ducks (below) and where we saw some seriously huge trout! (also below)

Duck at Big Springs, ID

trout at Big Springs, ID

Here's the house and mill Herr Sack built. I'm assuming he was good at surviving on his own, because this place is pretty remote, even when it's not covered in snow!

Johnny Sack cabin

Johnny Sack cabin

Johnny Sack cabin

We had a nice time, and went home via the loop by Mesa Falls (where we went Friday). Again, too much rain and lightning to stop, but we did outrun the storm long enough to get out at Warm River at the bottom and peer over the bridge. And, we saw a muskrat! I'd never seen one before.


Cute, isn't he? I wonder if people stop and feed him or something, because he was just as curious about us as we were about him.

Happy fall, everyone! I hope yours lasts longer than ours...

*The Germans have a saying that claims, "There is no such thing as inappropriate weather--only inappropriate clothing." But I notice that Germany is not prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, -20 F weather, and Santa Ana winds. I'm thinking that statement needs just a little modification when it comes to North America.
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Forget vacation--this is the weekend of the keyboard instrument! I was asked at last minute to play piano this morning for a baptism, and tomorrow I'm substituting for the regular organist. Ack. The thing about pianos is, they're all the same. The thing about organs is, they're all different. So this morning I also went in and checked out the organ. And--ack! There is no bass coupler* option on this one! When last I was an organist, I had started playing the pedals, but it's been over a year since I've touched an organ, and...yeah. One hour of practice isn't much. Hopefully most people will be out of town for the holiday...

After all that, we decided to explore somewhere close to home. There is supposed to be a ghost town out in the wheat and potato fields around here. So we drove there. Only--all that was left was a single house, and it was in the middle of the field where you couldn't really go up to it.

ghost "town"

We did see lots of this, though:

wheat harvest



So there was a lot of driving around in Nowhere, Idaho. Now we know what is off thataway--but next time, I think we'll explore somewhere else.

Then we came home and made eggrolls. My older daughter had this garden project from school, and hers was a cabbage.


So, you see--a lot of cabbage! And we don't really eat cabbage much. So I decided to make eggrolls out of it. They turned out not bad (although not as good as my sister's recipe, which I couldn't find).


I hope you all have a nice Labor Day weekend!

*The bass coupler takes whatever settings you already have for the manuals and copies them an octave lower. The upshot of it is, it sounds like you're playing the pedals when you really aren't.
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Idaho has these stunningly beautiful places, and then these...er, NOT so stunning places. If, in the words of so many nonnative English Eurovision songs, "Lava's all you need," we are set for LIFE. Today I drove out to find where the Civil Defense caves were. Firstly, they were a lot further away than I thought. Well, maybe not so far, but given the extremely bumpy road, it took a long time to get there. Second, wow, they were in the middle of NO. WHERE. You would not want to break down without anyone knowing where you were.

nowhere, Idaho

It's a really good thing they put up signs or we never would have found it.

middle of nowhere, Idaho

Civil Defense Cave

The sign explaining the cave is interesting. Basically, it explains the geology (fast-moving lava flowed here, cooled around the outside, the lava ran out, and you are left with a long, tubular cave). There are no stalactites or stalagmites in lava caves, just large, chunky rocks. There's ice in the cave year-round, and you can do a whole hike inside there. Also, the sign explains how back in the Cold War, the government went looking for natural caves to use as nuclear hideout spots. They never ended up using this one (maybe because it's RIDICULOUSLY FAR FROM ANY HUMAN SETTLEMENT, ahem), but it's a fun, out-of-the-way place to visit. As you can see, there are a lot of rocks:

Civil Defense Cave

And here, the mouth of the cave itself. Civil Defense Cave

In other Idaho news, bears are big this year. Last week there was ANOTHER hiker killed by a grizzly at Yellowstone. Apparently, earlier this summer, a mother bear chased someone on a bike in a subdivision near Driggs. Like, this woman was on her bike in a populated area, and suddenly she was face to face with a grizzly bear. She escaped because she was on her bike, but the news article says others have seen the mama bear and cubs wandering the area. Yikes. Also, a guy in northern Idaho was charged with a misdemeaner for shooting a grizzly--who was after his kids. I'm basically anti-gun, but hey, if a mother bear is allowed to defend her cubs, I think it's only self-defense for a dad to shoot a bear to protect HIS cubs.

Lava fields aren't bear areas, though, so that wasn't a concern today. Snakes and sudden sinkholes into the earth, yes--but no bears.


Aug. 21st, 2011 10:48 pm
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Okay, you can have the interstate between Pocatello and Boise, but I do like my end of Idaho. Today we went to wish my husband's grandfather happy birthday (95!), saw his grandmother on the other side (also 95!), and drove through some really beautiful areas. Basically, if there are mountains, it's going to be beautiful. We're hoping to use our national parks card one last time before it expires, and see some of Grand Teton/Yellowstone tomorrow. And hopefully sometime soon, we can find one of those secret spots for huckleberries around here, too (but probably not tomorrow). One of the food items tonight was I think my favorite fruit salad EVER--the cool whip kind, but with raspberries and huckleberries. Y.U.M.

Anyway, some photos for your enjoyment. Here's a wheat field. We drove over rolling hills covered in mostly wheat, some potatoes. You may not have heard of us here in Idaho, but we feed you, you realize that? Also, I think the clouds look a little NC Wyeth-ish.

SE Idaho wheat fields

I think the house on the hill under the Teton group would be nice--except, NOT in winter!!


Practically everyone has hollyhocks up there.


Can you imagine seeing this every day?


I feel like I've got to absorb as much of this as possible before winter comes and we can't drive anywhere. I could never be happy living in a huge metropolis where everything is steel and concrete. I have to have some green and some natural beauty, or something dies in my head. Even in winter here, whenever the roads are clear I make a  point to drive to the highest hill, where I can see Idaho, Montana, and Wymoning all at the same time.

What about you? What do you have to see/surround yourself with to make your brain healthy?

SE Idaho

May. 28th, 2011 09:30 pm
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Time off for my husband is pretty rare, and time off for him AND our kids AND tolerable weather is even rarer. We wanted to go to Yellowstone today, but they are still having trouble clearing roads of the 25 feet of snow from this winter, and those are naturally the areas we haven't seen yet. Plus, there's rain and snow and storms predicted for that end of the state for the whole holiday weekend. (They were even suggesting bringing extra blankets in your car if you're traveling, just to survive in case you break down in the middle of nowhere--which is pretty much anywhere in Idaho.)

Anyway. So we went to Craters of the Moon, instead. To get there we took the more direct but less traveled road and sort of skirted under the mountains that line the northern border of the Idaho...pan? The SE part, the not-panhandle part. It was pretty.

These are the Centennial Mountains that form the northern border with Montana. They're a bit more imposing than a lot of the mountains I've seen in Wyoming, which are all high elevation, but rather rolling. (Except for the Teton group--but they are different.)

Centennial Mountains, ID/MT

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And here I thought there'd be no aerobic exercise this winter with all the snow.


Winter exercise regimen:

1. Snow
2. Shovel
3. Repeat (daily)

Snow!! 2

Nov. 22nd, 2010 07:33 am
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Most Monday mornings I'm dragging kids kicking and screaming out of bed. Naturally, the morning the cell phone vibrates with the message that school is cancelled, everyone's up, sitting on me, and all reading aloud/playing/talking at once. Hopefully my husband at least can sleep in. They are renovating his office this week and he was rather frustrated to find that he wouldn't be able to hole up there during days off teaching to work on an article. Luckily he brought his stuff home last week and has set up in the spare room. Lucky, because we're getting a blizzard at the moment and nobody is going anywhere. The kids have told me for weeks that school is never, ever cancelled for snow here. Well. I guess there's always a first time! Since today is supposed to get briefly better before getting worse, and since tomorrow we're supposed to have near whiteout conditions, I have a feeling we'll be off for the rest of the week.

Too bad I can't go back to bed at this point...
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I think this weekend I'm taking a writing break. If I get a chance I'll add some words, but mostly I'm letting some ideas simmer. Which is good, since there are other things going on. Firstly, it's 65 degrees again!! Tomorrow night a storm system is coming in. Snow in the mountains, rain down here, and by the time it's all gone on Monday, we should have snow down here in the valley as well. These 30+ changes in one day are always a shock! But we've enjoyed being outside (um, well those of us who went outside...some people love the down time of never getting dressed or doing much of anything on the weekend).

Secondly, you may remember my previous post about my remarkable 94-year-old grandmother-in-law who raised ten kids in a log cabin up in the mountains, who's fantastically well read, and who only quit teaching piano a couple years ago? Well, her family had a family reunion today (so, the descendants of my husband's great-grandparents). It was in our town, so we went. There are quite a lot of these second cousins who live in the area and it was interesting to meet them. Apparently these great-grandparents were just as remarkable. I don't know as much about the great-grandfather, but the great-grandmother grew up bilingual ASL and English because her mother was deaf, moved up to Idaho and met her first husband and had a very short marriage and then he died of rheumatic fever complications, leaving her a very young widow with a small child. Not too much later she met her second husband (who had also been previously married), and together they had something like eight kids. Only, when she was pregnant with the last one, her husband died of pneumonia. So there she is in the wilds of Idaho with all these kids, and she's been widowed twice. And my grandmother-in-law still managed to grow up with a piano in her house and be the educated person that she is. I mean, these people have superhuman intellect and determination! So it was fun to meet all of these distant cousins. (Turns out one branch lives in South Carolina, somewhere between Charleston and Columbia. Too bad we didn't know when we lived there.)
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I mentioned how I can see Idaho/Wyoming/Montana from the top of the hill near me. I still think this is cool, so I drove up and took a few pictures this morning. The mountains are a couple hours' drive off, so they really are far, but since they stick up, they're visible from here. They're easier to see with snow on them, which we now have, so here you go. Mount Moran (named for the landscape painter Thomas Moran, in case you're wondering):

Mount Moran

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So, those of you sweltering in 70-degree New York weather, I hope you enjoyed your frosty tristate view of the intermountain west today. :)
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Last home game--and we started off so well! The other games we've seen, it's like the guys have wandered around on the field, only slowly conscious of the fact that a football game is going on. This time, oh, they started out so well! Every pass complete, every pass-off just beautiful. But the other team managed to score ahead of us, and every time we nearly caught up (we got the extra point but they got a two point conversion after our first respective goals, so they were always a point ahead), they scored again. The worst--after just a great, solid run down the field, getting a new set of downs every time, all the way to a lovely score--they scored a touchdown on the kick! (In lay terms: we scored, it was their turn to have the ball. Our kicker kicked as far down field as possible so they'd have to start as far from the goal as possible. But they caught it and while everyone was counting stars or something, they ran it all the way to their goalpost in one play.) We left after half time because the girls were freezing. (Son 2 was actually in the choir that sang the national anthem, but he hates football so he left immediately afterward.)

The highlights: the band played! They haven't played at the other games, so it was good to see them. (Even if the band I was in was better.)

Also, a winner was announced for the sssshhhhhotgun rrrrrrrraffle! Uh, yeah. Well, the PTA sold hot spiced wine in Germany as fundraisers (sold and consumed at elementary school events). So I guess in Idaho the thing to do for fundraisers is to raffle off shotguns. At least it wasn't intended to be used at the school event.
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St Anthony dunes

Today we went to the sand dunes at St. Anthony. If you have seen Napoleon Dynamite, you will recognize this as where Napoleon's grandmother breaks her leg fourwheeling, and where Uncle Rico films himself throwing a football and trying to relive the glory days of high school. And indeed, this is mostly what goes on here:

St Anthony sand dunes

It's quite a strange landscape. There are irrigated farms all around, and some low mountains/foothills, and in between, some serious dunes! This picture shows all kinds of landscapes: in the foreground there's volcanic basalt, then the really superfine sand of the dunes, then a completely random grove of aspens (seriously, these things grow in weird places!), then sagebrush growing on broken volcanic basalt, some juniper trees, and then a foothill covered with evergreens.

St Anthony dunes
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My sister is visiting with her kids, so we've been trying to find interesting things to see that don't involve driving too far (since she has a five hour drive on either end from here). Also, my kids have been in school. We took them to Mesa Falls the other day, which is some north of Ashton. If you drive to Yellowstone from Idaho Falls, you'll go up the 20 through Ashton, which is where the Snake River valley ends and the mountains and the national forest begin. So this is up there, halfway to Island Park.

Mesa Falls

These rocks make me think of that scene at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring (film) where they're boating on the river and meet the giant stone statues:

Mesa Falls

We also found tons of Knackbeeren bushes. I have no idea what they are called in English (though they are supposedly native to North America, NOT Germany, where I know them from). You pick off the white berries and step on them, and they pop with the same satisfaction as bubble wrap. (Don't eat them, though--they cause vomiting.)



Sep. 18th, 2010 06:07 pm
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Wow, busy weekend, but we did have a little time in the middle of today to check out Cress Creek trail. It's a trail along a creek feeding into the Snake River. It was a nice, short hike, even if it did take a while to get there. Great view, too. Side note: if you like geology, come to Idaho. Volcanoes R Us! See the gray rock below?

Ash-formed rock near Cress Creek

It's not concrete. It's rock formed from ash from a volcanic explosion.
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And that's your latest post in the Newbie-to-Idaho Welcomes You to Idaho! series.
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