Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rain over Missoula

When I left Dillon, MT this morning, I knew the forecast was for rain as I traveled west and closer to home. My plan was to spend some time in Missoula, then continue driving to my pit stop in Spokane for the night. About an hour outside of town, it started raining on and off. My first destination once I reached town was Drum Coffee. No, I don't drink coffee, but I did want to visit the establishment owned by Fitz and the Tantrums drummer John Wicks. I guess we know where the shop's name came from!

I stopped by last year and was lucky to meet John and get a pic with him. Unfortunately, I was told that John was currently in Los Angeles this time doubt doing some sort of music stuff. But, I did buy a couple of baked goodies and a Drum Coffee T-shirt.  After lunch, I took advantage of my last chance to get Freddy's frozen custard...we don't have it back in Washington.  SO GOOD!

Before leaving town, I visited the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation visitor center. This facility is a great way to learn about elk conservation and preservation, not only for hunters, but for everyone. Do YOU know the difference between elk and deer droppings? I think it's pretty obvious.

Well, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And, tomorrow is the last leg of my road trip...the homestretch drive to home sweet home. It's been fun, and I'm looking forward to my next trip in the spring.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Zoo Day, Part 2: Tautphaus Park

After two weeks on the road, my beloved Outback was a mess. Covered with dust, mud, grime and dead insects, it desperately needed a bath. I found a car wash in Idaho Falls, and it's clean and shiny now! My fun destination of the morning was the Tautphaus Park Zoo in Idaho Falls. Like yesterday's Hogle Zoo, it's a small facility but the biggest of its kind in Idaho. They have many nice animals, and they breed rare and endangered species. Because of the colder weather, some animals were moved inside, or had the option of being indoors. I checked out the primate house first, and was impressed by their large group of ring-tailed lemurs.

In the South American section. they had a couple of guanaco...they are related to llamas...and Patagonian mara or cavy. And, the snow leopard representing Asia was beautiful!

In the Africa section, there was a wonderful lion family, which included two playful cubs. It was a joy watching them frolic with each other...and with Mom!

After lunch, I drove north for two and a half hours, crossing into Montana. I visited Bannack State Park just west of Dillon. This park preserves the old mining town, which in 1862 was Montana's first territorial capital.

It's also considered a ghost town and there have been paranormal investigators looking for spirits, including the Ghost Adventures TV show. Of course, I was thinking ghosts as I walked through some of the buildings. It was a bit creepy, and after hearing creaking in the hotel, I was pretty much done going inside the structures.

As I was getting ready to walk back to the parking lot, I spotted a female deer looking at me. She was all by herself, and after eyeballing each other, she bound across the main street and up the hill overlooking the town.

Tomorrow, I continue driving back to my home state. It's supposed to rain for part of the day, so I might have to look for something to do indoors.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Zoo Day at the Hogle

I had a nice, relaxing day today. No hiking, just walking. I drove from Orem, UT about an hour north to Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. I got caught in a little rush hour traffic, but it only delayed my trip a few minutes. Hogle Zoo is not very big, but they do have a good collection of animals from around the world. The first exhibit I visited was the lions. It was a bit chilly, but they were sleeping and soaking up the morning sun.

There were just a couple of elephants, a female and her half-grown calf. It was interesting to see the calf still nursing from its mother. Next door, there were two white rhinoceros, and I was amazed to see two black-billed magpies sitting on the back of one. It reminded me of the African tickbirds who perch on animals looking for insects and such to eat. 

They had animals and birds housed indoors for the year, as it was getting too chilly for them to be outside. Even though I was quiet, they were all looking at me. Or, maybe it was the light on my camera? Here are a burrowing owl and a roseate spoonbill, and the Arabian sand cat was really enjoying its nice, soft bed.

Back outside, the snow leopard and Siberian lynx didn't seem to mind the cool temperatures. The same could be said of the grizzly bear, which looked like it was ready to hibernate for the winter. 

I was just as interested in the non-zoo animals...the native wildlife taking advantage of what food the zoo had to offer. There was the previously mentioned magpies, American goldfinches eating the blossoms of landscaped plants and even a rat scavenging what the birds dropped on the ground!         

After a very tasty lunch at Freddie's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, I drove to Blackfoot, ID to visit the Idaho Potato Museum. This small museum explains how the lowly potato became important food for people throughout history, and how the potato is used in the present day. I was amazed by the wall of potato mashers, and the Guinness World Record potato crisp.

My pit stop for the night is a hotel I had stayed at in the past. I was so impressed by their free dinner, that I decided to stay there again on this trip. And, I wasn't disappointed. Cream of potato soup with bacon, salad, roll and cookies! They also had chili and onion soup, too! 

Tomorrow, I'm looking forward to another relaxing day. I will be driving even less than I did today, which is always welcome!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Caves and peaks: Great Basin National Park

It rained a little overnight, which resulted in turning the layer of dust on my car to mud. Normally, that would bother me...well, it bothers me a little...but, I'm road tripping! There are more important things to think about, like my plan for the day...visiting Great Basin National Park. I purchased a ticket for the morning Grand Palace Tour at Lehman Caves, located at the park. The one and a half hour tour was nice, but nothing that I haven't already seen at other caves. One thing that was different was the "graffiti" left by early cave explorers who used their candle soot to write on the cave ceiling.

Afterward, I decided to drive the 12 mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive that takes you all the way up to 10,000 foot elevation. I noted the traffic sign said No Passing for the length of the road, but there was no slow vehicles ahead of me. What I DID encounter was a slow ANIMAL. At first, I wasn't sure what it was...I was thinking a marmot. I slowed almost to a crawl and just followed the animal as it waddled ahead of me. Then, it turned to look at me and I realized it was a badger! I've never seen a wild badger before! I tried snapping a photo, but this was the best I could manage before it finally left the road.

The episode reminded me of something that happened yesterday after I left Cathedral Gorge State Park. I was driving on a straight part of the highway when I saw an animal slowly crossing the road ahead of me. I slowed down and it was off the road by the time I got to it. As I passed it, I found myself looking...and it looking a gray fox! Too bad I didn't get a pic of that!

Anyway, I stopped at the Mather and Wheeler Peak Overlooks and got some really nice photos of the scenery. Like the other parks I've visited on the trip, the fall colors were in full swing.

When I left the park enroute for my pit stop for the night, I traveled along US Hwy 50. On one stretch of the road, I was amazed by how long and straight it went across the Great Basin of Nevada. I just happened to look at my car's digital map, and at the bottom of the screen it said, "Loneliest Road in America."

Hmm...I had never heard that before. So, I Googled the highway, and sure enough, it's true! That one stretch of road did kind of make me feel lonely! Well, that pretty much ends my park visits on this road trip. I'll be relaxing in the city tomorrow looking at animals...the less wild type.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Playing the slots at Cathedral Gorge

It was another chilly day as I left Cedar City, UT this morning. I drove about a half hour north to Parowan Gap Petroglyphs and Dinosaur Tracks sites. There was absolutely no one around. Okay, maybe 8:30 am is a bit early for people to sightsee, but not for me! There were some nice petroglyphs, but the dinosaur tracks were somewhat disappointing. But, they were the first dinosaur tracks I've seen outside of a museum, supposedly made by hadrosaurs. The petroglyphs were drawn by the ancestors of the modern day Southern Paiute tribe.

The rest of my day was spent at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada. There was almost no one there, not surprising since it's off season and in the middle of nowhere. I had initially planned to hike the four mile Juniper Draw loop trail. But, when the nice lady in the visitor center mentioned the slot canyons, I changed my mind. The official literature calls them caves, but they are really a series of short slot canyons. After a quick lunch, I spent almost two hours exploring. I felt like a kid was fun discovering how far a trail would take me.

Before leaving the park, I drove north a couple of miles and stopped at the park's Miller Point Overlook. I didn't get a chance to do my long hike, but I still got some of the views that I would have seen from this overlook. Beautiful!

Tomorrow, it will be yet another park just never gets old...then onward to the big city again. After the quiet and solitude of the parks, it will probably seem very annoyingly noisy!