Our last post was over a month ago and we have been on many adventures and through several states and times zones since then! So with a good data signal, an electric hook up, and the World Series playing in the background, I will try to get the blog up to date.
We last left our readers on our way out of Oregon, crossing into Idaho heading towards Yellowstone National Park. Idaho ended up being much more than just a pass through state, it was a state with plenty of adventure activities, scenery, and wildlife viewing to keep even the most avid outdoorsman happy for a long time.
Our first destination was the Birds of Prey Conservation Area. Being bird watchers this was a natural choice on our route. We stopped here to lookout over the Snake River and saw many species of birds flying overhead. Thanks to my excellent navigation skills and some shoddy assistance from Google Maps we ended up seeing a lot more of the area then originally intended,but hey it’s a road trip right? After a scenic drive we decided to camp for the night at Bruneau Dunes State Park, it ended up being an excellent choice! Bruneau Dunes is located in a high desert climate in Southern Idaho and is home to a 470 foot sand dune. Upon arriving we were super excited to see they also housed an observatory with a massive telescope for stargazing. They highly encouraged visitors to keep their lights off at night so everyone could enjoy the fantastic stargazing in the park. We arrived on a Thursday and once we discovered they had a Friday night Astronomy program at the observatory we knew we had to stay an extra night. By staying another night we had a full day to explore the park and decided to conquer the giant sand dune. We set out on a hike to the top and discovered about half way up that the “trail” disappears in the sand due to wind and it’s just a free for all climb to the crest. It was so steep I had to channel my inner Spiderman and basically climb straight up through the sand. When I reached the top I pulled myself up to sit on the crest and realized it was a sheer drop into a huge crater on the other side. Being perched on top of a crest with a sheer drop on one side and a pretty steep drop on the other was not ideal for someone who does not really enjoy heights a lot, but I sucked it up and waited for Ryan to join me at the top (apparently I have the better Spiderman skills). Once at the top we followed coyote tracks across the dune and finally down to finish out the strenuous desert hike. Later that evening we rode our bikes from our camp to the observatory for their Friday night astronomy program. The program was run by a volunteer student from Idaho State University who is studying astronomy and happens to be an intern for Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is best known for abolishing Pluto as a planet in our solar system. Neil also has an excellent show on Netflix called “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Anyway it was a great program about how big the universe is and then we got to go outside and look through several telescopes at cool things in the sky, like Saturn, and we each got to take a turn looking through the giant telescope in the observatory. Then we pedaled our bikes through the crisp ,starry evening back to our campsite where we got out our own telescope to finish our day in the high desert.
After we left Bruneau Dunes we decided to foray into the world of Boondocking. Boondocking is a term used for camping for free off the grid (often on government/public lands) and usually with no amenities. It is also called dispersed camping or wild camping. There is a fantastic website called Campendium that has GPS coordinates for free campsites and also pictures and reviews by people who have stayed there, similar to TripAdvisor, but for camping. We wanted to camp near Craters of the Moon National Monument so I typed that into the search and found that we could camp for free at Hayspur Fish Hatchery near Hailey, Idaho. We were super impressed with our first boondocking experience and ended up staying almost a week exploring the area. We had our choice of two huge fields to camp in and each site had a make shift fire ring and even a picnic table. We set up camp next to a babbling brook with a stunning view of the Sawtooth Mountains. From our site we went hiking in the Sawtooth National Forest where the aspen trees were fully changed over for fall, looking like balls of orange and yellow fire. We took a drive down a back country road and set up the our giant binoculars to try and see a bear at dusk but unfortunately all we saw were deer. This area is also home to Sun Valley Ski Resort and the cute ski towns of Hailey and Ketchum. When skiing is not in season mountain biking is, or bikers can opt for a spin on the paved Wood River path that runs from Bellvue to Ketchum. We put down some miles on the path enjoying the mountain scenery and the quaint ski towns. Feeling thirsty after a day of activities we popped into Powerhouse, a trendy bar/restaurant that doubles as a bike shop, and enjoyed a couple local brews. No road trip is complete without stopping in at a few roadside attractions so we had to hit up the Shoshone Ice Caves near our campsite. For $10 a guide takes visitors down into a cold cave with ice in it and gives a history lesson on the discovery of the cave and also some of the geological activity in the area, but if you really want to see some cool caves and get a lesson in geology, Craters of the Moon is the place to go.
When driving towards Craters the landscape shifts to endless fields of black rock as far as the eye can see. It is fields of lava that were deposited thousands of years ago. According to the park literature these lava fields were created by the Great Rift, a series of fissures that began erupting 15,000 years ago with the most recent eruption occurring around 2,000 years ago. The visitor center is full of testimonies from long ago settlers and explorers reaching this barren area and trying to traverse it. It was really interesting reading their stories and impressions of the landscape. Along with the fields of lava there are giant cinder cones to hike up and deep colorful craters to marvel at. There are also really cool caves to explore, but be warned you must have a flashlight, a sense of adventure, not mind bats, or small spaces. We enjoyed touring Beauty and Indian Caves, but Dewdrop and Boy Scout Caves were too tight, dark, and batty for my liking. Indian cave was huge and had enough light coming in that flashlights were not needed. Adventure seekers can hike all the way through the cave and then scramble over huge boulders and climb out a hole and hike back across the lava field to the cave opening. This was our favortie activity at the park. This park is a must see if you have any interest in volcanoes.
Well that’s it for our Idaho adventures, birds, boondocking, volcanoes, and caves, it’s so much more than just potatoes!