Visiting my greats–history on a personal level

We came through Pennsylvania so that I could explore family history.  All the branches of my father’s family originally settled in Eastern Pennsylvania, yet I visited here only once when I was a child.  Thanks to extensive research by my cousin (of some degree) Arlene, I knew exactly where I wanted to go this time.

We first drove the back roads of Berks County to see the house and mill that my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Johann (John) Conrad Bobb, bought in 1744, which his son and grandson, both named Daniel, (also my great grandfathers, however many times) continued to run after his death.  Here’s more:

We found them easily, in a rural, wooded, hilly area—house and barn right on the road, which seems to be common in Pennsylvania—with the mill set back on a creek.

The mill

The mill

The property was heavily posted with “No Trespassing” signs—too many curious Bobbs?  Even though I couldn’t explore as I would have liked, it was extraordinary to stand there and try to absorb the fact that, for over a hundred years, generations of my family had carried on all the good and bad of their lives in this particular place.

Bobb homestead

Bobb homestead

It wasn’t just a lovely old stone house and historical mill building—it was our family’s house and mill.  Hard to digest, really.


The barns

View of the mill at the back of the property

View of the mill at the back of the property

As a fortuitous follow-up, we visited the Hopewell Furnace Historical Site the next day and were able to see the inner workings of a preserved building with a functioning water wheel.  The wheel powered a mill furnace, not grist wheels, but it gave a sense of what the Bobb mill must have been like.  I hope so, because it was efficient, rhythmic, and visually beautiful at the same time.

Hopewell furnace waterwheel

Hopewell furnace waterwheel

The Hopewell Furnace site is an open-air museum of a 1700’s iron forge.  It has farm, home, and furnace buildings, and you are free to wander around at your leisure.  As an added bonus, it was dog-friendly and Zoe was able to accompany us.

Hopewell furnace workers' houses

Hopewell furnace workers’ houses

Hopewell furnace

Hopewell furnace

As a counterpoint to the iron forge–an early pre-industrial energy source—the plumes from the nearby Limerick nuclear power plant rise over the fields where the sheep are grazing at Hopewell Furnace.

Limerick plumes

Limerick plumes

I tried to come up with a power plant limerick, but couldn’t get any farther than, “There was an old lady from Hopewell, Whose furnace was hopelessly unwell …”

One of the most intriguing branches of my Dad’s family tree is the Schwenkfelder contingent.  They are the descendants of followers of Caspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig, a German Reformer and contemporary of Martin Luther.  After severe persecution in Silesia (now in Poland), eventually they were given refuge in Saxony and then emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania in the 1730s.  They valued education highly, and—unlike other Anabaptist sects such as the Amish—the Schwenkfelder communities did not remain insular, but became integrated into mainstream society during the 1800s.

I believe that my great grandmother, Emma Kriebel, was in the first generation to marry outside of the sect.  She married Abraham Bobb, great-grandson of Daniel Bobb, Sr., the mill owner mentioned above.

The Schwenkfelders have a beautiful museum and library in Pennsburg.  When I entered, the first thing I saw was a full-wall photo of a 1912 family reunion.  I looked at it with mild interest and then … whoa … I recognized a face, then another.

Kriebel family reunion 1912

Kriebel family reunion 1912

Amazingly, it was a Kriebel family reunion, our branch of the Schwenkfelders, and I found my grandparents, great grandparents, grand uncles and aunts, and, most amazingly, my father, at the age of one—a blur in his father’s arms.  My grandmother, who died well before I was born, was there, looking beautiful.  What an unexpected treat.

Grandmother in center, Dad is the blur

Grandmother in center, Dad is the blur

The museum display had a whole section on how the Schwenkfelders were well-known as spinners and weavers, in Silesia and in Pennsylvania.  The Bobbs also were weavers.  Creeped me out a little.  I don’t know if weaving has a genetic component, but I bought a loom and started weaving and spinning when I was high school.  Maybe we don’t have as much free will as we think.

We visited two cemeteries, full of family names and family members.  History made very personal.

Old hill cemetery, lots of ancestors here, many headstones in German

Old hill cemetery, lots of ancestors here, many headstones in German

Old Towamencin Schwenkfelder cemetary

Old Towamencin Schwenkfelder cemetery

Visiting with the greats

Time travel


Morning farmland

We are in a time warp in the Lancaster farmlands of Pennsylvania. Every day, except Sunday, we have watched the local Amish and Mennonite farmers working the fields (spreading manure, haying, and tilling) with teams of anywhere from two to six draft horses.  At our campsite in the evening, we hear the clop, clop, clop of hoof beats as the local buggies pass by.  It is eerily as if we have been transported to the 1800s.

Evening walk with buggy traffic

Evening walk with buggy traffic

Of course, we drove to the 1800s by interstate, how else?  With continued unsettled weather licking at our heels, we decided to take the fastest route across the Midwest, which meant the interstate.  Ugh.  The highways were in terrible shape and totally inadequate for the amount of traffic—especially truck traffic—that clogged every highway, even at midday.

Construction and trucks--not fun

Construction and trucks–not fun

The drive across Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania presented a never-ending and varied assortment of rough roads, potholes, narrow lanes, construction zones without actual visible work, and trucks, trucks, and more trucks.  Pennsylvania added to the pain by charging over $36.00 to use its turnpike, which was an absolute mess.

Pennsylvania, it turns out, it not the most RV-friendly place around.  We spent one night at a KOA in the western part of the state, tucked in an Appalachian-style hollow, inhabited primarily by oil and gas workers living in their RVs—presumably working on the Marcellus Shale development.  When we arrived, we were given two free jugs of drinking water, because their well had “just been chlorinated.”  We later found that it had been chlorinated because it was contaminated with E. coli. Fortunately, we hadn’t hooked up to their water.  We woke early to the sound of large pickups (plates mostly from Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma) starting up as the RV park residents headed out to work.  Good riddance to that campground.

View of the gourd farm from the campground

View of the neighboring gourd (and dairy) farm from the campground

Our current campground could not be more different.  It is perched on a hill overlooking Amish and Mennonite farms, in a relatively non-touristy area of the county.  The farms are worked with traditional methods from the 1700 and 1800s, with horse (or mule) power for farm work and transportation, off-the-grid electrical power (if any), and families in traditional Amish dress.

Six horsepower.  Some pictures are taken from the car, so the quality is not great

Six horsepower. Some pictures are taken from the car, so the quality is not great

There are some interesting and illogical concessions to modern times, but the opportunity we have here to live among these farms is the closest we will ever come to time travel.  It is one thing to see old farm machinery and implements in museums—it is quite another to see farmers and horses actually maneuvering corn fields with harrows for weeding between the rows, spreading manure, and haying with horsepower rather than modern tractors.

Closed in buggy, many have headlights and turn signals

Closed in buggy, many have headlights and turn signals

Actually, the Amish do make some concessions for haying—an important part of dairy farming—which we found as we heard the rhythmic chuck and clatter of a hay baler with an internal combustion engine being pulled by three horses and periodically spitting out newly-baled hay.  Fascinating to watch.

We are getting to see, touch, smell, and hear what this country’s rural land was like in pre-industrial times, except I would be willing to bet that the Amish farms are far more immaculate than most were then.  I have never seen such well-cared for and prosperous looking farms, with immaculate barns, gorgeous, weed-free flower and vegetable gardens, and long ever-present lines of wash—mostly somber colors, but punctuated by some blue, teal, and purple.

Laundry line seen on every farm

Laundry line seen on every farm

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No weeds, and they don’t use herbicides.

The buggies and carriages come out in full force in the evenings, with high-stepping buggy horses at full trot, and a wave from the driver as they pass by.  The local stores, including Costco, have buggy sheds for parking.  The nearest grocery store, Yoder’s, has Amish romance novels.  I would love to know the target audience.

Hitching post at the feed store

Hitching post at the feed store

We have been eating like royalty.  We visit a nearby farm stand every day for fresh vegetables—peas, green onions, beans, tomatoes, new potatoes, zucchini, and beets—fresh eggs, and homemade root beer.  We caught the end of strawberry season, and I ate them with yeasty fresh donuts baked on the farm across the street.

The experience we have enjoyed the most, however, was our quest for some local meat.  We asked the young woman at the farm stand if she knew of any place we could get local chickens.  She appraised us—checking for undercover health inspectors or just general obnoxiousness, perhaps.  Apparently we passed the test, because she said, “I have a friend.”  We followed her directions and drove into the farm yard a little hesitantly, not sure what kind of reception we would receive from what was obviously a traditional Amish family.

We needn’t have worried.  As is often the case, our Alaskan license plates made us a source of curiosity, especially to the two children who came running outside.  We discussed grizzly bears, black bears, moose in the garden, farm animals, and bought several frozen chickens.  The farmer urged us to return on Tuesday if we wanted fresh chickens and the kids ran behind us as we drove out, calling: “See you on Tuesday!”

Team of horses are in the lower right

How could we resist a Tuesday visit?  We couldn’t.  When we returned, the farmer said his wife wanted to meet us, because the kids had been excited to meet Alaskans.  We also met their brother-in-law (related to the woman at the farm stand) who was there to get his buggy repaired and we bought some more chickens and eggs.  I wondered what the kids thought of us—the five-year old girl with a sweet face alight with curiousity, hair pulled tightly back into a coiled braid bound by net, running to meet us in delight at our reappearance, so eager to please—me with my Mexican embroidered blouse, leather flip-flops, Hawaiian shell earrings, and our stories of Alaska and trailer traveling? I don’t know, but we were clearly a diversion and one that the parents did not discourage.

We really liked this family.  They were welcoming and kind.  It was refreshing to talk to people who were curious about Alaska for reasons other than the recent spate of increasingly bizarre reality shows (or Sarah Palin).  I do not have a romantic view of the Amish—I wouldn’t last five minutes in their culture—but there is a certain calm way and deliberateness about those we met that is noticeable and appealing.  And, it is wonderful to see viable family farms.

Wheat field

Wheat field

It feels as though our time here has been punctuated by glimpses of other times, including our childhood: young teenage girls riding on bike handlebars, shrieking on the downhill; a group of small children totally absorbed in ring-around-the rosy (or something similar); whole families sitting out on the front steps in the evening; and talking over the fence.  I experienced the fence talk on an evening walk over a back road when I was lovingly assaulted by five chocolate labs.  Their owner—an Amish farmer—came down to the fence for a leisurely conversation about the dogs.  It was hot and he bemoaned the fact that they had no place to swim but a jury-rigged water trough that he had provided.  No car transport to a sweet swimming lake for Amish labs.  They seemed pretty happy, though, and delighted with my attentions.  My hands smelled of manure afterwards, the ever-present perfume of dairy farms.

Evening sky over campground hill

Evening sky over campground hill

Badlands and bad weather

Badlands-15_edited-1On Monday night, I was sitting in a campground on an Iowa interstate, swatting flies, monitoring the radio for tornadoes, and wishing we were back in the Badlands.  It had been a stressful day and the Badlands already seemed like a sweet, distant dream.

We took the back route (Route 44) from the Black Hills, through ranch land, prairie, and the southern reaches of the Badlands.  Our campground was our first KOA experience–in years anyway–and it was a good one.  It was laid out in a loop of the White River, surrounded by an earthen dike and filled with birds.  Swallows had mud nests under the overhang of the river bridge and swarmed up every time we drove the bridge. Thunderstorms moved in that night but they weren’t severe and made the trailer seem cozy with the rain on the roof.

Early the next morning, we set out to drive the Badlands loop but got hit with some gusty winds and rain. It was actually quite lovely for a time, but when the lightning got closer and we climbed up to the prairie, we had to pull over and wait it out. I pulled up next to a tall van so that we wouldn’t be the highest thing around for a lightning strike. I know, ridiculous, but it made me feel better.

Overcast when we set out

Lowering skies when we set out

The weather continued to deteriorate that morning

The weather continued to deteriorate that morning.  But the cloud patterns were a pleasure to watch.

When the rain let up a bit, we turned around and headed back to the campground. In the hour or so we had been out, more than an inch of rain had fallen and the previously dry draws and creeks were rushing with water. It was an in-your-face demonstration of how quickly a flash flood can develop, and fascinating to watch the transformation from arid, rocky gullies to gushing waterways in such a short time.

This small creek turned into a milk white torrent after the rain

This formerly small creek turned into a milk white (or more cafe-au-lait?) water highway after the rain

By noon, the rain had passed and we set out again. The weather became exquisite, with the fresh-washed quality of air and light that you only get after a storm. The main loop road was filled with weekend tourists and we decided to take the Sage Creek Rim Road, a dirt road that was in excellent shape despite the recent downpour.

Lots of people on the main loop road

People everywhere on the main loop road


badlands in every direction

People are allowed to walk among the rocks and cliffs.  No dogs allowed, though, even on the trails.

The vivid yellow-green color is from the yellow clover that covered everything.  It's a pest species, but was gorgeous.

The vivid yellow-green color is from the clover that covered everything. It’s an invasive species, but a gorgeous one.

Sage Creek Rim road

Sage Creek Rim Road

There were several groups of bison right next to the road, grazing and lying around. Startling to see them up so close.


It was one of the nicest drives of our trip so far.


We left the Badlands on Sunday and had a beautiful drive across South Dakota, with a brilliant blue sky and small puffy clouds all along the way.  We camped that night at Lake Vermillion State Park near Sioux Falls and enjoyed a warm, clear evening, oblivious as to what Monday would bring.

Peaceful Lake Vermillion near Sioux Falls, SD

Peaceful Lake Vermillion

We planned to get an early start because thunderstorms were forecast for Iowa (where we were headed) on Monday afternoon and we wanted to avoid hitting the bad weather. Ha.

When we woke up, there was a low overcast, which progressed to a very low deep gray schmutz hanging over everything as we drove further south.  It just looked odd.  The Sioux Falls radio stations continued to give the same chirpy forecast of increasing clouds with a possibility of thunder showers in the afternoon.  Nothing to give us pause.

We stopped at the post office in Onawa, Iowa (right across the border from Nebraska) at about 9:30 to pick up our forwarded mail and the first weather alert came across the radio.  A severe thunderstorm cell had hit Nebraska, southwest of Onawa, with reported 60 mph winds and–I kid you not–baseball-sized hail.  It was headed in our direction.

What to do?  We are living in a tin can and extremely vulnerable to high winds and enormous hail.  On the other hand, we can move.  And that is what we did.  After consulting with some locals at the gas pump, we hightailed it out of there and headed east and then south to avoid the storm front.  It was a little dicey but we outran it and arrived at a campground near Iowa City in mid-afternoon when it looked like we would be safely out of the worst of it.  About half an hour after we set up, a massive wind came out of nowhere and slammed into the park.  From a minor breeze to a 50 mph gale in about a minute.  It did not last long but, to use my mother’s expression, it scared the living daylights out of me.

That rogue wind hit us at about the same time the two tornadoes hit Nebraska, just west of Onawa, in the same general area as the morning hail and wind storms.  All of this mess arose out of one ugly storm front (deep red on the radar), which had hung around eastern Nebraska and western Iowa all day,slowly working its way northeast.

As the evening progressed, more and more Iowa counties came under tornado watch.  We had moved far enough southeast to avoid the tornado danger (we hoped) but were smack in the middle of the severe thunderstorm area.  We had one storm cell move through at about 11 pm, which wasn’t too bad.  But we went to bed with everything prepared to take shelter in the campground bathroom if necessary.  Another storm hit at about 2:30 am and it was really frightening.  I generally enjoy thunderstorms.  This one was not fun.  And the speed with which the wind arose was unbelievable.  There was no time to do anything.  We watched the red headlights of one, then two, vehicles drove over to the bathrooms, but I didn’t want to even run to the truck, the wind was blowing so hard.  It blew down branches all over the park, and kept us awake for quite a while, but there was no damage to the truck or trailer, fortunately.

We got out of there as quickly as we could in the morning and continued to head southeast, out of the worst of the storm zone.  We were buffeted by strong winds all day driving, but finally arrived at a peaceful Indiana campground next to a cornfield.  It was very hot—in the 90’s—“good corn-growing weather,” as they said on the radio, and sunny.  A nice respite.

Indiana cornfield, our neighbor for the evening

Indiana cornfield, our neighbor for the evening

The Mottled Hills

Years ago, on a trip with the kids, we traveled through the Black Hills.  We did not have a burning urge to return on this trip.  But there they sat, between Devil’s Tower and the Badlands–two new places we wanted to visit–so we decided to explore a bit more.

The hills are not so black now.  Years of pine beetle infestations have left large swaths of dead reddish-brown trees, or the infested trees have been taken down, leaving clear cuts alternating with the dark forest.  As a result, the hills have a mottled, mangy look.

We left the trailer at the RV park in Custer and drove the Needles Highway, a narrow, twisting road carved through an area of rocky pinnacles, with one-lane tunnels hacked out of the rock face.

Along the Needles Highway.

Along the Needles Highway.  Some of the rocks resembled people or animals.


I guess it's stating the obvious to say that the rock formations were unmistakably phallic.

I guess it’s stating the obvious, however, to say that most of the rock formations were unmistakably phallic.  Hard to avoid that perception.

Black Hills-25

Blind curves and narrow tunnels through rock spires.

Black Hills-26

Notice the trees growing out the side of the rock face.

Pull in the side mirrors.

Pull in the side mirrors.

No scrapes.

Halfway through. A car is waiting on the other side.

We wanted to do some hiking and chose the Sylvan Lake area so that Zoe could swim. The hike provided more rock pinnacle Rorschach tests.

To me this one looks like a salmon pointing to the sky next to a dog.

To me this one looks like a salmon pointing to the sky next to a dog sitting on its haunches.

Black Hills-34

Zoe’s in her element–a swim and a hike.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Fishing and a wedding on the shore.

Fishing and a wedding on the shore.

Our favorite activity in the Black Hills was deer watching from our campsite.  We stayed at a tiny private RV park, the Roost Resort, which overlooked a large field with a herd of whitetail deer, including a young fawn.

Our camping spot at the Roost.

Our camping spot at the Roost.

The deer were active all day, jumping and running, with their white tails flying high at the sign of any danger.   George caught some nice shots of the mother and baby.





Black Hills-44


Black Hills-46

Black Hills-48

The bushes at our campsite were inundated with bumble bees and a few honey bees.


We also enjoyed a pair of mountain bluebirds that were unusually social.

Nothing lovelier to find on the dump station water hose than a bluebird.

Nothing lovelier to find on the dump station water hose than a bluebird.

Off to the Badlands.


Devil’s Dream

IMG_1848I popped into the IGA in Buffalo, Wyoming for a few groceries.  I paused in the produce section to let an elderly man pass with his cart.  He gently laid his hand on my arm and looked at me.  “Isn’t the weather beautiful today? So nice after all that rain, but you know it slowed the lilacs, they are just blooming and usually they are way past their prime by now.”

When I checked out, a talkative, middle-aged cashier asked, “Do you like country music?”  She tucked two copies of her band’s CDs in my grocery bag, “I play the fiddle and share lead vocals, hope you enjoy, they’re free.”  What wonders lurk in the IGA.  I will remember those encounters.

Buffalo was full of friendly people.  And, like Dubois and so many other western towns, it has a beautiful setting.  Flanked by the Bighorn Mountains on one side, it rolls into grasslands on the other, and the downtown is full of historic buildings and classic bungalow-lined streets.  We stayed at Deer Park, a sweet little oasis of an RV park, staffed by funny, charming people. There must be some real jerks in Buffalo, but we didn’t meet any.

After a nice interlude in Buffalo, we continued on to the Devil’s Tower, the unreal-looking monolith featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It's not all gorgeous mountains.  Flatlands on the way to Devil's Tower.

It’s not all gorgeous mountains. Flat land on the way to Devil’s Tower.

The entrance to the Devil’s Tower Monument was filled with the usual stores and crowded private campgrounds that proliferate near national parks and monuments.   We bypassed them and stayed at an amazing public campground, Belle Fourche, within the park.  It did not have hookups, which isn’t a problem for us because, with a little sunshine, our solar panels provide enough electricity for days.  At $12 a night, we had an almost unbelievable campsite, with a private lawn looking out on a stream, mountain meadow, red cliffs, and the Devil’s Tower looming as a dramatic backdrop.


Zoe always finds a stick to play with at every new campsite.  She went nuts at this one.

Zoe always finds a stick at every new campsite. She went nuts at this one.

There are a wide variety of campground types, each with their own distinct flavor.  Campgrounds without hookups tend to attract people with tents, pop-ups, or small trailers, rather than those with behemoth RVs. As a result, the crowd is generally a bit more quirky and interesting and this place was no different.  There were people from several different countries, climbers, and young (very polite) families.  It reminded us of a backpacking crowd—independent and diverse.

The serene campground was a nice escape from the crowds at the Tower parking lot–it was a madhouse.  I can’t imagine what it is like on weekends in full summer. But it was worth enduring the crowds for the up-close view because the rock formation is so striking and unusual.

View from the visitor's parking lot.

View from the visitors’ parking lot.

Looking at the backside.

From the backside

The tower looked like a tree trunk to me.

The tower looked like a tree trunk to me.  View from the campground.  It looks photoshopped.

We had a warm, sunny afternoon, a period of thunderstorms—which we miss in Alaska—followed by rainbows, and an almost full moon that night.  I am running out of superlatives, but it was quite a show.

Our campsite during the rainstorm. Our fire went out.

Our campsite when the sun came out during the thunderstorm.


After the storm.  Amazing light.

After the storm–amazing light.





Never Sweat

It was hard to leave Redfish Lake.  But we want to get to the East Coast by early July and have lots more to see.  We needed to get an oil change for the truck and decided to have it done in Idaho Falls and spend the night there.

On the way to Idaho Falls, we stopped at Craters of the Moon, an enormous lava field in the middle of the desert that stretches as far as you can see (over 600 acres).

Black layer of lava with little or no vegetation after thousands of years

Black layer of lava with little or no vegetation after thousands of years

Surprisingly, it doesn’t look all that different from the recent Kalapana lava flow on the Big Island, even though it’s more than 2000 years old.

The campground in Idaho Falls was quite a contrast from the jaw-dropping beauty and solitude of Redfish Lake.   It initially seemed nice enough for a small city campground–it had trees, decent sized lots, and the owners seemed pleasant.  But it grew increasingly ugly.  The site was strewn with popsicle sticks and other questionable litter–not unusual for busy campgrounds, but still kind of gross.  The wifi was “limited,” meaning unusable, and my wifi shut down completely (I was sure they were punishing me for using too much band width).  While George was diagnosing the problem, I went out to sit on the trailer steps and read.  I brushed away something from my bare foot, which turned out to be a squirrel–on my foot.  Shades of marmots.

The next morning, early, a man was sitting on a picnic table by the bathrooms, wearing sunglasses and chain-smoking cigarettes while he watched the kids at the next campsite play while the family was taking down their tent.  Very creepy.  We packed up and left as soon as we could and headed back to the mountains.

It was another flawless day weather-wise, with enough wind to make the driving lively.  We drove into Wyoming and through Jackson, a moneyed, high-end tourist enclave set in the amazing Tetons.



George and the Tetons reflected off the front of the trailer

George and the Tetons reflected off the front of the trailer

Jackson was crowded with people spending money and we kept going, over Togwatee Pass, to a destination more suited to us—Dubois.

Heading up to Togwatee Pass

Heading up to Togwatee Pass

Dubois originally was called “Never Sweat” because of the dry winds, but the post office rejected the name and it was renamed Dubois for a then-Senator.  In protest of the name change, the residents pronounced the name “Dewboyz” rather than the French pronunciation.  How can you not like this town?

There are amazing views in every direction, and they are all different.  Snow covered peaks to the west,

IMG_1824sculpted red cliffs to the north,

Across the river from our campground

Across the river from our campground

rolling grassy hills hiding a string of lakes to the south, and the Wind River running throughout.

Dubois-45Our campground, the Longhorn Ranch and RV Resort, was set in a horseshoe bend of the river and filled with towering cottonwoods.  It was beautiful.

Campground cottonwoods

Campground cottonwoods

The town was at least as dog-friendly as Bend and Zoe frequented several more restaurants.

Zoe petroglyph hunting

Zoe petroglyph hunting

We went petroglyph hunting in the hills one afternoon and found these beauties on the boulders.DB4









IMG_1811_edited-1Our kind of town, Never Sweat.

Downtown Dubois

Downtown Dubois



Driving toward Stanley


We continue to luck out with campgrounds and weather.  On a recommendation from a couple we met in Oregon, we headed to Stanley, Idaho–specifically, Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Range.

The fences were works of art

The fences were works of art

Once again, even though it’s now June, the campgrounds there were almost empty.  They will be filling up over the weekend, but during the week, we owned the place.  We had a huge space with a panoramic view of the Sawtooth Mountains and Redfish Lake.

Pristine Redfish Lake

Pristine Redfish Lake

Redfish is a natural lake, not a reservoir (making it extra beautiful, in my opinion), and was named for its salmon spawns.

Zoe had her own private beachThere is a designated dog beach right down the hill from our campsite and Zoe swam three times a day.  She was so stiff and sore from all the exercise that she was hobbling around on our second evening there. The intense blue and green lake colors were like the Caribbean and the dog beach was so beautiful most humans have never had the opportunity to swim in such surroundings.  Lucky dog.  I went swimming too, very briefly.  It was extremely cold.

Spectacular water colors

Spectacular water colors and the trees almost look like palms in the way they lean.

It was so deserted, I was able to play the fiddle outside on the hillside near our campsite and took an outside solar shower (with bathing suit).  Lovely.  As our last evening was winding down, we heard a very loud repeated eek, eek, eek, call and an osprey flew over the campsite toward the lake carrying a fish in its talons.  There were butterflies and birds everywhere—and no people.  The place was magical.



Zoe is done posing for this staged shot, but it was a good end to a good day


Painted hills

We finally left Route 97 on Sunday and turned east toward Idaho on Route 26.  The terrain grew more interesting and varied, with lush pastures covered with cattle (and lots of calves) against a backdrop of different kinds of mountains as we moved along.  There were tabletops, cut banks, rolling hills—you name it, we saw it.

Eastern Oregon and Idaho-24

A geological wonderland, with all kinds of bizarre hill formations.

The highlight of the day, however, were the Painted Hills near Mitchell.  We followed the signs from Route 26 to the John Day Fossil Beds, and after several miles turned into a valley with a surreal landscape.  The Painted Hills resemble an open pit mine, if you were mining for colors.  They don’t really need a description, I will let the pictures do the talking.

Looks like a mine to me.

Looks like the most beautiful mine ever.

IMG_1632IMG_1643IMG_1642We were only able to take a very short hike because the temperature was 86 degrees, which is just too hot for Zoe to hike very far.  She’s acclimating faster than we expected to the hot temperatures, but 86 was a bit much for a ten-year-old Alaskan dog.

After soaking in the colors at the Painted Hills, we passed through rocky canyons and interesting hills with upended fossil beds in muted colors.


Sheep mountain.  Looks like smoke signals.

Sheep Rock, filled with fossils. Looks like smoke signals.

The John Day River runs through the massive fossil bed area, but the river itself looks so unassuming we would call it a creek in Alaska.  There was beautiful farmland too, and haying was in full swing all along the route.


On Monday, we continued east into Idaho, which means I have now been in all fifty states (George reached that milestone some time ago).  We stayed at the Bonneville Hot Springs campground, anticipating a nice soak in a wilderness setting.  Unfortunately, the hot springs turned out to be too low for anything more than ankle-wading, but the drive there on the road between Banks and Lowman was amazing, following a whitewater river through steep canyons. So far, I love Idaho.  I guess I should have visited years ago.  But it’s nice to keep a good state for last.

Bonneville Hot Springs.  Very hot and very shallow.

Bonneville Hot Springs. Very hot and very shallow.