Sunday, June 24, 2007

Camping: Boise National Forest

We tried a new camping spot this weekend. We went past Lucky Peak, past Arrowrock Dam, past all the boat launches, and up to road 377. You pass a ranger station and get to a Cotoonwood trailhead. The trail is actually a very pleasant hike, though it is a lot of uphill and it was hot, so I sort of got tired of it sooner than I would have liked. If you hike awhile you get to a bridge though, and the dogs can play in the river, get a drink, and cool off. There are also some shady rest spots.

Just past the trailhead is a nice picnic spot next to the river. It is very near the road so I wouldn't recommend it for camping, but it has been used as such. We drove further down the road to find camping. There are not a lot of spots since there has been forest fire recently in this area. We reached the summit and turned left, headed towards Thorn Creek. We eventually found a very nice campsite, secluded, with flat spots, a fire pit, and even firewood and some water for the dogs to play in.

On the way home we thought we'd try continuing on the road, as it shows on the map a connection to Highway 21. Don't do this. The road is completely washed out and unless you have 4WD, great clearance, guts, and a willingness to tackle driving on the rocks in the river for a period of time and taking a MAJOR downhill, you can't make it. We did tackle some very, very tricky technical spots and one river crossing in the Subaru Outback. We punctured a tire though, couldn't make the wash out anyway, and had to turn back. There were no road closed signs and nothing on the map.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Camping Season


I've been so busy this summer we haven't gone camping yet. Idaho is a great place to live, in large part because of great outdoor activities. I still want to get whitewater rafting in this season, and camping, camping, camping...and hiking and biking and hiking and swimming in a lake and floating the Boise River. Time is short.

Last year about this time we took our dogs and a foster dog camping, and this is a shot of Callie looking around, taking a break from monitoring wildlife in the trees. Tomorrow we are taking the dogs camping in the mountains to escape the oppressive heat that has come down upon Boise.

Today is the longest day of the year. I hope to make the most of the rest of the summer, despite having too much work and too little time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Creatures of Fiji


Last Christmas we went to Fiji for a week, due to a great travel special in Budget Travel. We went to a small island in the Manamuca island chain called Monololo Lailai and stayed at the Musket Cove Resort. About a week before we traveled there, Fiji had a coup and overthrew the government. We went anyway, as I was pretty confident Fiji would do nothing to harm tourism, and it had been an entirely non-violent coup. Coups are not that unusual in Fiji based on the history I had read before going, and besides, we'd be on an outer island, not the mainland, so it was unlikely anything would happen. In fact, there was no issue at all and had I not known about the coup before going I certainly would have had no idea it had happened. Only one person mentioned it, a shopkeeper who thanked us for being Americans willing to come despite the coup, when many would not travel.

It was the off season and therefore a lovely time to be there - not too crowded, not too hot, and gorgeous weather. A few small rainstorms here and there, but they just cooled the island off. We had a great week of snorkeling and exploring the island. Along the beach we encountered swarms of small fish, pictures above. They had tan stripes and hung out very near the shore in the sand. If you walk in the water they swarm around your legs. We called them tiger fish, but I haven't been able to find out their real name. (If you know, please tell me!)

There were also a lot of crabs - land and sea. Above is a land crab. They live in holes in the sand and come out in early evening. As you walk they sense the vibration and tuck into their holes. It's creepy at first because you can only see retracting legs and it looked like tarantulas. But, if you wait awhile, you can see them emerge and see they are crabs.

The snorkeling was really fun, with lots of very interesting and brightly colored fish. Sadly, the coral is bleached and dying in many places due to global warming. It was my first trip to the South Pacific and I loved the blue waters and the sunshine, and the variety of undersea life. Fiji is a bit on my mind as I am planning a trip to Australia for next Spring.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Baby Hawks in the Nest


Last year about this time I went with a friend to her family's ranch in southeastern Idaho. At the edge of a grassy field in a small tree was a hawk's nest. We could stand on a pickup track and peek into the nest - and when we did, we found three young hawks. While two slept, the third made this nice defensive pose. After a few minutes of looking big and brave, he settled down for some baby hawk portraits...but this was one of my favorite moments. I wonder if this year those babies are still alive, and if they have baby hawks of their own. I'm not sure what kind of hawks they were, but the parents circled above us the whole time we were at the nest, and we didn't stay long or touch anything.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Carpet of Butterflies


On the road from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Bwindi in Uganda in April we had hours of travel on deserted muddy roads. The road ahead was covered in a literal blanket of butterflies, and as we drove they rose up, then settled back down, so that there was a constant surge of butterflies around the car. Primarily yellow, but there were blue, red, brown and white ones also.

The butterflies literally covered every car track and every pile of elephant dung. Whatever minerals or food source they found, they were dedicated to it. Once in awhile we stopped the car and just gazed at the literally millions of butterflies ahead.

Riding slowly through clouds of butterflies on a beautiful, sunny morning was memorable.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Stanley Fox


The last week of May we headed over to Stanley, Idaho for a night. Walking behind our hotel we saw this fox. She appeared to be guarding a den, as she stayed in one spot the whole time we passed by. She kept a close eye on our dogs, but they didn't see her, or notice her, being downwind.

We ran into Canadian geese and saw evidence of deer. The dogs played in the river, which was high. It was a short, but pleasant, walk and the dogs got to run around, get wet, race each other and then sleep in a hotel room on their very own bed. Callie of course had to "make" the bed, arranging the covers and pillows just so.

Stanley is about 2 hours from Boise and in the Sawtooth Recreation Area. It can be chilly, but it's a beautiful place to visit. This trip was quick, but if you are interested in going there are hotels, a day spa, campsites, and lots of rafting opportunities, most of which can be found online.

One interesting thing this trip was that there was a helicopter on the road lifting logs. We gave it a wide berth in passing. The helicopter parked behind our hotel, stayed there, and took off in the morning. (That will wake you up!).

Friday, June 15, 2007

Surfacing


Well, I am surfacing after an extremely stressful but ultimately very rewarding work assignment. It's great not to be living out of a hotel anymore, as I have the last two weeks, and great to be back home with the pets. It will take a few days to wind down.

I find myself thinking of Africa and the wide open spaces, the calm, the adventure, and the expanse. Above is a picture of a hippo I saw on a morning like this morning. This hippo was in Lake Mburu National Park in Uganda, about two months ago.