Sunday, August 29, 2010

A City of Rocks?

City of Rocks Natural Reserve is a curious geologic feature located in central southern Idaho and was a key landmark on the California Trail where passing emigrants would leave their names written in axle grease.

We had been here before with Burt and Carol's crew, and had climbed some of the iconic features like Bathtub Rock, but this time we were looking for a series EarthCaches that lead us down trails we didn't know existed.

This is a world-class climbing area, and we saw a group ascending a rock face using ropes. We stayed a little closer to the ground.

I was reading Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" at the time, which is about his time as a Park Rangers at Arches National Monument in Utah during the 1950s. I can see how you could grow to love the high desert.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Traveling at a Different Pace - Baker City, Oregon

Our recent road trip was an experiment in traveling at a different pace. Instead of bearing down and driving straight through, we decided to pace our selves and take in some sights along the way. In addition to the geocaching I reported on earlier, we chose Baker City, Oregon, as a mid-point stop and left early enough to arrive in town with time to take in some sights.

First we visited the Alder House, which was the home of local publishing tycoon Leo Adler for most of his life. It was built in 1889 and contained most of it original furniture. The upstairs even had the original wall paper.

We also had time to visit the Baker Heritage Museum, the building which was originally a natatorium in the 1920s. There were exhibits on local history and a large collection of rocks and minerals.

We had dinner at the Sumpter Junction Restaurant, which I reported on earlier, and stayed at the local Motel 8, which had an excellent swimming pool and continental breakfast. We also spent some time at the city park, which is traversed by the Powder River and next to the city's library.

Before leaving the area the next day, we stopped at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center which is precariously perched on a hill overlooking the city and the Oregon Trail which passes near by.

This, incidentally is a can crusher. Or, at least that was what I used it for when I found one as a kid at Rockport when the water level was historically low. Apparently you could also use it to take a wagon wheel on or off. I wish I had kept it.

We got a personal tour of the local flora from a ranger/OSU biology student. We will never look at sage brush in the same way. Next up, Burley, Idaho, and the City of Rocks!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Geocaching, Now and Then

We started geocaching in 2002, when the sport was just two years old. We hadn't done much in the last couple of years, but decided to hit a few on our recent trip to Utah to break up the monotony.
I was surprised to see it has changed a bit in the intervening span. Where there used to be only a couple within a mile or so of our house, now there are more than two dozen. 
Instead of large ammo boxes loaded with interesting nick-knacks that the kids loved to sift through, now they are mostly "micros", just large enough to contain a log but no pencil. People are able to hit 100 caches in a day! It has gone from a treasure hunt to a ticket-punching commodity.
We hit a couple along the freeway, but even those large enough to contain the type of treasure the kids love were sparsely stocked. It was a way to stretch our legs, but it was on the whole pretty disappointing.
There was one bright spot, however. There is a new type of cache called an "EarthCache". Instead of a physical stash of goodies, you have to go to the coordinates, take a picture, and find clues about the natural features. We learned about geology in Idaho's City of Rock and Oregon's John Day Fossil Beds. I always enjoyed the fact that geocaching took us to areas we would have never visited otherwise. With EarthCaches, we not only get see nature at its best, we get to learn about it as well. I guess that is the true treasure.

Oh, and for those going for 100 in one day, it took us eight years to get our 100!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sumpter Junction Resturant

We stumbled across the neatest restaurant on a recent trip. It is called Sumpter Junction, and is located in Baker City, Oregon.
They have a G-scale train which loops through the entire restaurant every four minutes.

It even passes above the server area.

It makes several loops through the lobby and some nicely detailed structures.

Definitely a "must-see" for any train buff. Reasonable prices, good food, and trains!

Here is the report on the rest of our stay in Baker City, Oregon.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

New Member of the Family

A 1985 VW Westfalia camper van. We hope to use it to get out in nature a bit more. It has 194k miles, but is very clean and well maintained. It came with all its service records and manuals.
It has the very basic necessities compared with dad's van. Water, stove, fridge, and beds for four. We slept in it last night, and are still exploring all the nooks and crannies. We are debating names, with "Tan Van", "The Happy Camper", and "Ken's Folly" all in the running.

Let's hope this works out better than my last German vehicle, a.k.a. Rosie, the car we don't speak of.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Five Stars

Netflix makes movie suggestions and ratings based on your past preferences. I came across one they though was "five stars" for me, the first I think I've seen with that top rating. Saint Ralph was an inspirational movie about faith and perseverance.

Other recommendable movies I've seen lately:
The Snow Walker, an interesting tale about a bush pilot who crashes in the Arctic and is saved by an Inuit girl. 
The Visitor is a movie about an aging college professor who is thrown off course by an energetic drum playing immigrant.
And finally, The Time Traveler's Wife, a rather interesting if confusing tail that makes you realize you need to enjoy what ever life brings.

Let's hear some one-sentence reviews of good movies you've watched recently.