Friday, September 30, 2011

Saratoga, Wyoming

We love hot springs!  So when we are traveling, we always try to include at least one hot spring stop.  On our trip across the U.S.A. this fall, we have been fortunate enough to have two such stops.  The first we enjoyed while we were staying at a VRBO loft in Missoula (171639)

Tonight, we are at Saratoga WY at the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort and Spa.  (370861).  We have stopped at Saratoga Hot Springs hobo pool several times.  It is about 20 miles off I-80 and well worth the slight detour.  The hobo pool was donated to the town of Saratoga with the proviso that no fee ever be charged to people using the pool.  Located on the banks of the North Platte River, the pool is very hot - last time we stopped, we couldn't even get in the pool.  There were a few hardy souls who were lobster red anywhere the water had touched their bodies.  We did find a place in the river where the hot water flows from the pools that was comfortably warm, so it wasn't a wasted trip.  

This year, Saratoga fell on a spot where we wanted to stop for the night, so I clicked on the Wyoming map on, and found this resort listed.  We planned to stay two days, but the second day was booked solid, so we settled for one day.

This place is absolutely beautiful.  The main pool is about 95 degrees, with the teepees in the background each over a smaller pool. The smaller pools average 105 degrees.
The room is modest, but there are so many interesting lounge areas and places to spread out that even with a fully booked resort, we never felt crowded.
The entire resort is western themed, with some very interesting furniture, lamps, shelves, and even coat racks.  There are at least 4 different rooms with huge stone fireplaces and comfortable lounge chairs.
Chess anyone?  This cowboy and Indian chess set has huge hand- carved pieces.
We can recommend all of the places we have stayed so far:
McCall Idaho - Listing 149397
Missoula, MT - Listing 171639
Idaho Falls, ID- Listing 304070
Saratoga, WY - Listing 370861
To access any VRBO listing, go to 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Idaho Falls

Our poor little car is really looking piggy.  We are going to try to find a car wash tomorrow!  It is definitely still bug season everywhere we have been traveling.  Today our journey took us another 400 miles to Idaho Falls, ID where we had a condo reserved.
The scenery was mostly open prairie, with lots of antelope along the edges.  
We did pass Clark Reservoir about midway through the prairie.
Then we came to Idaho Falls, a really pretty town that mixes historical with progressive new buildings and old statues 

with new sculptures in roundabouts.
The white building in the background is the Mormon Temple.
One of the many benches in the riverfront park in Idaho Falls.
Our condo is a single story triplex, with a full kitchen, dining room, 

living room, 

three bedrooms, a laundry room, and a jacuzzi on the patio.  Nicely located on the edge of town where it is quiet, but close to everything.
Three or four couples could be very comfortable here!  This VRBO thing is really working well!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lolling at Lolo

With a whole day to spend in Missoula, we first walked to the park outside the door of our condo building.
This is a very historic area as Lewis and Clark came through on their exploration of the western half of the country.
They were confused about which river they were following and ended up naming it several times.
Interpretive signs throughout the park by the river tell the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
After an excellent cup of espresso and a yummy orange crescent scone at Cafe Dolce we headed south from Missoula to Lolo Hot Springs.
Water in the main pool is around 85 degrees, which felt warm and nice even with the morning air temp at 58 degrees.  Inside the building in the hot pool, we checked the thermometer to find a temp of 105 degrees.
Perfect for lounging!
The lodge at Lolo - there are also cabins and campgrounds for both RV's and tents.  The hot spring is about 35 miles outside Missoula on Hwy 12.
Back in Missoula for the afternoon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

On To Missoula

Our adventure with our trip across the country began in earnest today.  After two days with family in Tonasket, WA, we headed to our first vrbo booking - a condo in downtown Missoula.

The clouds began to roll in on Sunday night, and Monday started out with clouds.  However, most of our drive across Washington, Idaho and into Montana today was sunny and warm.

There are many options for a route from Tonasket to Missoula.  Our GPS has one opinion, we had another.  After a futile attempt to turn us around and get us to I-90 asap, it finally gave up and started figuring out turns to Republic.
The drive is scenic whether we chose the highest mountain pass in the state (Sherman Pass - Highway 20) or took Highway 21to the Keller Ferry where we could connect to Highway 2.  We chose Highway 21, which really bothered Ms. GPS.  She tried for the entire drive from Republic to Keller to turn us around.  
Highway 21 is lightly traveled so we saw wild turkeys on the road, deer right next to the road, and beautiful views of the river for the entire trip.
By 9 a.m., we were at the ferry dock, where we could see the ferry on the other side of the lake.
On the other side, the GPS finally sorted out where we were and shaved 60 miles off our estimated route to Missoula.
Lake Roosevelt that we had just crossed on the free ferry in the distance.  We gained about 2000 feet in elevation as we drove the winding road from the lake to Wilbur, on Highway 2.
On I-90 out of Spokane, the views of Lake Couer d'Alene stayed with us for many miles.  Then we came to the Clark Fork river and crossed it at least a dozen times as it winds along between Idaho and Missoula.
We arrived at our condo for the next two days around 4 p.m.  Ross, the owner, met us and gave us a tour and all the keys we needed.  The condo is on the top floor of the Wilma Theater building and overlooks the Clark Fork river and park.  
There is an elevator as well as stairs to the 8th floor.  We took the elevator.
The condo is tiny - 400 square feet - but is clean and nicely equipped.  Since it is in the middle of the historic district, many shops and restaurants are within walking distance.

The view from the condo windows is really fantastic.  Wireless internet, full cable TV, and a small washer/dryer all make it very convenient.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day One - North Cascades Highway

We got a late start because of a plumbing problem with our well.  In the middle of the night, we realized we had no water.  We stumbled in the dark under a beautiful starry sky down to the well house, where we discovered a lake!  The pump was still running so we turned that off and went back to bed to let the water recede.  Fortunately, this happened while we were still here, and we were able to replace the broken valve in the morning and still be on the road by about 11 a.m.
First stop, Henry Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport.
Nice clean restrooms, interesting artifacts.  It is a great place to rest for a minute in the middle of a long road trip.
At Rockport, we turned onto the North Cascade highway.  We followed the beautiful green Skagit River up into the mountains.
If you take the N Cascade Highway, be sure to stop at the Gorge Creek Falls.  There is a parking lot and a walkway next to the road and the views are spectacular.  We have been this way many times without stopping, but it is worth the stop.
The waters are a beautiful emerald green in all the waters across the mountains.
The overlook of Diablo Lake shows geology and development of the lake system.
We had a late lunch at Duck Brand in Winthrop.  The food was delicious, service slow, and yellow jackets plentiful, so kind of a mixed bag.
 My amazing hunter of a sister-in-law with her trophy buck from last years' hunt.
My brother David, and sister-in-law Barb
We ended our first day with our son and his family in the Aeneas Valley just outside Tonasket.  275 miles so far

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Annual Halloween Hunt in the Maze

When the grandkids come to visit, we usually spend a lot of time outside - mostly in or around the lake.  However, our brief summer has left us and we had the whole crew coming for a visit on Saturday. We wondered how to entertain 15 children for an entire cloudy cool day in September.  

Ron came up with the idea of doing a treasure hunt in the woods.  Since we won't be here for Halloween, we used Halloween candy for part of the loot we hid.  We have 25 acres of woods where we have a natural maze on about 15 acres and a stand of overgrown Christmas trees on the rest.
The kids range in age from 1 to 14
Ron and I spent the morning wrapping candy, coins, a few dollar bills, and assorted trinkets in tin foil and hiding them in the woods.
We split up into several groups and headed into the woods at different spots, and everyone found treasures.
Back at the house, we counted our loot and compared findings and did some horse trading.
Everyone had a great time and we decided we would have to do this every year before we head out in the fall.
For the rest of the day, we ate, celebrated Lily's 3rd birthday, played games and made forts.

Cousins under the table in their improvised fort.
So a good time can be had even on a bad weather day!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Great Grandfather's Grave

My great grandfather, James Polk Rains, was possibly the last settler killed by Indians during the Indian wars in Idaho in the late 1800's.
He is buried in a small private graveyard in the small mining town of Warren Idaho.  My brother visited the grave a couple of years ago and mentioned at a family reunion this summer that the graveyard was in disrepair, and his grave was in danger of becoming unmarked.  
This is one of the old graves in the graveyard that can no longer be identified.

Three of my cousins and I decided that we should replace the grave marker and arranged a trip to Idaho for right after Labor Day.  Two cousins came from Seattle, and one from Oregon, and Ron and I came from Granite Falls, WA.  

My son and his family decided to join us on our adventure, and we all met in the closest big town, McCall, Idaho where we rented a big house where we could all stay together.  Everyone brought old family photos and documents they had inherited that pertained to the family history.

Tuesday evening, we sat around the campfire and plotted our trip.  Ron and I had carved a new headstone from a beautiful piece of black cherry wood that my brother, David, supplied.

After a nice breakfast, we stopped by the Ranger Station and picked up 3 CD's with a tour from McCall to Warren narrated to match mile markers and stops along the 50 mile trip.  With 4 people in 3 different cars, we began our journey.
The drive begins in McCall, and winds along Payette Lake for many miles.
The headwaters of the Payette River, which feeds into Payette Lake.
Over 300,000 acres burned in the lightning sparked fire of 1994.  New trees and undergrowth are just now beginning to return.
Sara and Jesse looking for the legendary Loch Ness monster in Lake Payette.
We stopped often to look at the amazing scenery and listen to the CD explaining the history of the area.
As we neared Warren, we began to see the mounds of rocks that had been dredged in the search for gold.  At the height of the gold rush in the area, a 3 story high dredge was brought to the river and many millions of dollars of gold was extracted.  The community at that time consisted of Chinese laborers and gold miners from both sides of the civil war.  The settlers established two communities - one made largely of secessionists, named for the southern capital, Richmond.  The other community named Washington, consisted of union sympathizers.  Eventually, Richmond was demolished when a strong gold vein was discovered beneath the city.  Washington was eventually renamed Warren.
While a lot of the buildings make the town look like a ghost town, the full time residents assured us that Warren is still a working mining town.
This picture no way illustrates the steepness of the trail to the graveyard in Warren.  Somewhat daunted, we all headed up the hill to see if this was indeed the right trail. 
Oh, dear, this is the trail.  We bravely headed up wondering how on earth we could ever take the new headstone up that steep cliff.  We had pretty much decided it couldn't be done, but Tony and Jesse insisted they would haul it up the hill.
Had we known how steep the hill was and how far the graveyard, we would never have encased the headstone in 4" of concrete.  It must have weighed 150 pounds.
The new stone is in place, honoring our ancestor. Dates and facts verified by several sources, correct errors in the old marker.
On the way back, we stopped by Burdorf
For a rejuvenating dip in the natural hot springs.
Spotting a bear
and a pet bobcat(?!?!) on our way home was a fitting close to a truly remarkable day.