Friday, June 17, 2016

June 15-16

June 15, 2016 

Roger decided not to stay at Craters of the Moon another night.  We packed up and left at about 1p.m., because we could not get cell phone coverage.  Just as we pulled onto the main highway, a coyote crossed the road in front of us.  It is just so exciting to see wildlife that does not live in the eastern part of the country.  We have seen several more marmots, which have made me wonder if they cause the farmers any problems.    

It is overcast today, which actually makes it easier to see, as there is less glare.  We were able to spot another prairie falcon perched on top of a small outcropping of rocks.  Just a few feet away, Roger saw another animal we haven’t yet identifies.  It was about 18” tall and was standing on two feet.  He reminded us of a beaver, in appearance, but there was no water anywhere around.  I thought he might be a large marmot, but I’m not sure they grow that big.  We’ll have to check the internet, whenever we can get the internet again. 

We past one farm that had sheep and goats, which seemed a strange combination, or at least unusual.  I can understand the sheep.  They probably take less care than cattle.  But I’m not sure if the price of goat’s milk would be sufficient to warrant raising them.  That is another interesting question for internet search, later on. 

Having been driving along a relatively flat prairie, we were surprised, yet again, when we came over a small rise and saw a huge deep valley off to our right.  There were two large signs explaining that this valley is where Hagerman Fossil Beds are located.  This was Roger’s next destination, because it is a National Monument.  The sign stated that the fossils found here were left from a 3,400,000 year old pond on the bluff across from the Snake River, which you can see from this overlook.  It further explains that the climate during this prehistoric period was much wetter than it is now.  Some of the fossils revealed a zebra-like animal, beaver, otter, pelicans and other water birds.  The second sign notes that the highway we are traveling on now is the home to a “Thousand Springs”.  They flow underground then “converge from a basalt bluff into the Snake River”.    

After Roger made his minimum contacts on the radio, we headed for Minidoka National Historic Site, only about 40 miles away.  (We saw two more of those beaver-looking animals on the side of the interstate, next to their burrows.)  Minidoka is the site where “10,000 Japanese Americans were victims of wartime hysteria”.  Between 8/16/42 and 10/26/45, this 950 acre camp housed Japanese people in barracks, behind barbed wire fences, watched by guards armed with machine guns.   
They lived a “bleak, humiliating life” for 2 ½ to 3 years.  Most were “US born citizens, loyal to the principles and values of the country” but were “denied civil, constitutional and human rights”.  They were torn from their homes and their property was confiscated.  One audio station at the Historic Site is a Japanese man remembering how he and his fellow Japanese were “loaded onto coaches” (trains) like cattle.  They were required to close the shades so they could not even see where they were.  When they arrived at a railroad spur, they were unloaded and “corralled into old trucks” to travel the last few miles to the camp, where they were held in “mandatory confinement”.  All of this pain and sorrow was inflicted on them because of unfounded fear.  Today, all that is left of the site is the guard tower and part of a stone building, with signs and audio to describe this very frightening period in our countries history. 

We left about 5p.m. and headed for our third National Site of the day.  All the land we see as we are driving along Interstate 84 is devoted to farming.  Some of the crops are unfamiliar to us.  Though there are a few fields of corm, there are many growing wheat and hay.  At Minidoka some of the literature spoke of raising beets, so perhaps that is one of the unknown crops.  Large irrigation systems are still present in almost all of the fields of crops, indicating the summers must be hot and dry. 

Once we exited the interstate, we both happened to recall what state we are in:  Idaho, and feel embarrassed that we forgot about it being a major producer of potatoes.  One of the crops we didn’t recognize is undoubtedly potatoes.  Since we only see the root section in the grocery store, we never even gave a thought to what the top leafy portion looks like.   
We soon returned to the rolling hills and prairie land, slowly climbing in elevation.  For the first time in ages we are seeing some red wild flowers along the road.  I think they may be called paintbrush.  They have a single stem almost 12 inches tall with blossoms up, down and around the stalk.  The individual red flowers are shaped similar to the salvia plant, back home in Florida.  There was a picture of one in the Craters of the Moon brochure, though I never actually saw any there. 

June 16, 2016

Today we drove to a place called the City of Rocks National Reserve.  In the parking lot of the visitor's center there were two old covered wagons.  Roger told Mary Jo to "drive" one, for a photo op.  

Then we drove to the actual site.  It is located almost at the southern border of Idaho and comprises over 14,000 acres of land.  It was discovered in the mid to late 1800 as people traveled west along the California Trail.  The “complex geology” of huge sculptured boulders still “attracts professors and students alike”.    It also attracts current day rock climbers, whom we saw straining up the side of several monoliths.   

While we drove slowly through the reserve, we saw two cliff chipmunks playing along the side of the road, without a care in the world.  Watching a couple of youngsters climbing over some smaller rocks, we thought how much all of our grandchildren would have enjoyed climbing and playing in the City of Rocks.  If I were younger and had more stamina, it would have been exciting to spend time exploring over and under rocks of such unique and varied shapes and sizes.  One of the signs in the park noted that the rocks are from 30 to 600 ft. tall. 

We had to make a big circle around the countryside to get back on the highway.  The road was gravel, so it took quite a bit of time.  However, as you might expect by now, we stopped to watch some more birds and sighted the red tailed hawk.  Yea!!. I do so love to add a new bird to our list.  But I have to admit I was glad to get back on a paved road again.   It was almost noon by them, so we stopped to eat at a rest area.  We finally crossed the border into Utah about 3:15p.m.   

In this northern section of the state there are a series of mountains and valleys.  The dirt is actually a much lighter color: light beige and quite different from Montana and Idaho.  But the valleys are still a combination of farm land and prairie.  The mountains are still treeless, with low growing shrubs.   
The first place we visited in Utah was The Golden Spike National History Site. It is north of Great Salt Lake.  Along the drive to the site, we saw many areas where white salt deposits covered the ground in low lying areas.  We made it just in time to see the last trip of the steam engine leaving the site to return to its barn for the night.  We got a couple of pictures of the location where the golden spike had ceremoniously been placed, on May 10, 1869.

Here at Promontory Summit, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads were joined.  This event began “the end of the frontier”.  Travel across the country had taken months by wagon train.  Now it could be accomplished in weeks or even days.  The transcontinental railroad allowed the nation to develop much more quickly, bringing thousands of settlers to the West.  Roger transmitted from the parking lot for about an hour, then we left. 

Right after we pulled out onto the road, we spotted a bird that I thought was an owl, but wasn’t sure which one.  Roger disagreed with me, thinking it might be a different type of bird.  He took a great picture of him that we sent to our bird watching buddy, Joe Knapp. Joe responded to our e-mail and confirmed that the bird was a short eared owl.

We drove a few miles away to see an outdoor display of NASA’s older propulsion rockets.  We were so glad one of the park rangers had mentioned it to Roger.  The exhibit is quite impressive.  Again, we wished our grandkids could see it.  Who knows, it might inspire one of them to take an interest in some scientific pursuit.

I was most impressed by the size of the space shuttle’s reusable solid rocket motor.  The plaque that was in front of it states it “is the largest man-rated solid rocket motor ever flown and the only booster capable of recovery and reuse”.   After taking photos, we drove on to Ogden, Utah for the night.

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