Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Read Up on Wolf Re-Introduction

This book is written by a biologist intimately involved in the wolf re-introduction program in Yellowstone, and provides a very interesting discussion of the Yellowstone ecosystem before and after the return of the wolves. The chapters alternate between providing statistics and discussion on a variety of subjects, including wolf behavior, wolf kill rates, pack formation, etc. and portraits of individual wolves involved in the project.

While the author clearly loves and respects wolves, he is also realistic and scientific in his approach rather than appealing to emotion. To my surprise, he also appears to conclude that at this juncture delisting is to occur and that some hunting will be necessary. He gives credit to the Defenders of Wildlife for taking a realistic approach to livestock loss issues during the reintroduction effort, which I was pleased to see as I donate to them and support their efforts on behalf of wolves. (Incidentally, they are asking constituents of Rep. Mike Simpson to call his office at 208-334-1953 as he hasn’t yet signed on to cosponsor H.R. 3663, the Protect America’s Wildlife Act. This bill would prevent the needless deaths of hundreds of wolves in Alaska by clarifying the longstanding federal law against aerial hunting of wolves.)

I thought the book was an easy and interesting read, particularly the portions which discuss the ripple down effect of having wolves present; how trees, beavers, birds, bears, etc. are affected. I think there can be little doubt that returning wolves to the ecosystem is good for the environment and the system. Too bad man wiped them out to vigorously and violently.

You can order or read more about the book on, specifically here.

I am going to Yellowstone in December to try and catch a glimpse of some wolves, and whatever other wildlife the Park might have to offer in the dead of winter. The trip is with the National Wildlife Federation and will be my first trip with them. I am looking forward to seeing some of the places discussed in this book.

A No-Kill Shelter for Boise?

Northwest Animal Companions is trying to raise funds for a no-kill shelter in Boise, having received a donation of 200 acres of land to use. You can read about their plan and see a floorplan for the sanctuary here.

A local radio station, The River, is donating proceeds from "Concert for a Cause" to a charity, and Northwest Animal Companions is in the running. Please go here and take a moment to vote for Northwest Animal Companions before December 3rd. In things like this, even small numbers of voters can make a difference so please take a second to click and vote! Thanks in advance.

Boise currently has no sanctuary which is no-kill. The Idaho Humane Society policies require euthanization under certain conditions or at certain population levels and it is not realistic given their burdens and volumes to expect that to change anytime soon.

If you want to learn about no-kill facilities, the shining example of one is Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. They have outreach programs nationwide trying to teach people how to run no-kill shelters with success. I once tried to pay to send an Idaho Humane Society employee to the Best Friends seminars to get this information, but the offer was not accepted as they don't feel they are in a position to go no-kill. While I support the Humane Society and foster for them, and underrstand where they are coming from, I do believe this community can support a no-kill facility and I would love to help Northwest Animal Companions succeed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The "No Mail" Campaign

About two years ago I was appalled at the amount of mail I was getting. I must have gotten at least three catalogs a day, sometimes as many as ten, and all kinds of credit card offers, junk mail, campaign mail, solicitations, etc. It was just ridiculous! Especially after going to Africa the first time, I wanted to be more committed to saving trees and not wasting paper, so I decided to try and take some small steps to change things in my life for the better, one of which was a "no more mail" campaign.

I wrote to or called every single catalog sender and asked to be removed from their mailing list. I noted my favorite stores and bookmarked their websites or signed up for email notices of their offerings. I also asked everyone to not share my name and address with other companies. For every non-profit I donate to, I made sure they promised not to share my name - as I was getting two to five solicitations for money from various organizations per day, many of which I'd never heard of so I knew they must have bought my name from elsewhere.

I contacted all my financial institutions and credit cards and asked them not to share my info or send unsolicited credit offers. I found out there are some national clearinghouses where you can register not to receive direct mail, for example here, here, here, here, or here. I also started paying attention to all the "Privacy Notices" in the mail and opting out when possible. I asked the magazines I subscribe to not to share my information.

While this was a pain, I did notice a sharp decrease in mail within eight weeks. I kept a list of companies I had notified, and I was annoyed to note that some companies I contacted two or three times were still sending me things - so I called them, sent their labels back, and eventually was able to get rid of most of them. I noticed after a year there was a resurgence and I had to contact a lot of the same companies again. But, overall, it has definitely helped reduce the junk mail.

Now I routinely write to all companies I did not ask to send me mail and try to get removed from their list. The initial step was the hardest and most time consuming and now the maintenance, just contacting a few new companies here and there, is not so bad. If you want to do something for the environment and to reduce your carbon footprint, this is a free and easy step to your house stays cleaner without so much clutter.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Adorable Teeny, Tiny Car Review

Although I don't usually post a lot of videos, this one really made me laugh. There was, in the 1960's, a teeny, tiny car that got 100 miles to the gallon. Check it out!!! If we all had these....

Montana Sunset

I'm not a good enough photographer to get both the trees and the moon in focus, which is too bad, as this was, in person, a really great scene of the sun setting over mid-Montana. It was too cold to experiment more with the camera.

Across Montana there were gorgeous mountains and lots of deer, as well as a handful of antelope visable from the road. Interstate travel doesn't allow for photos, but there were some nice views of large hawks on fenceposts, Canadian geese in fields, grazing groups of deer, and even an elk here and there. It was a land of snow and cold and beauty.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Chance to Run!

The dogs needed to run after a long, long trip in the car. When we were on the outskirts of Parshall, ND, a small town in a sea of flat, cold, yellow crop stubble, we let them run. Here is the scene they stood overlooking, and a shot of them running off energy. Oddly, their legs were yellow after running in the stubble, and we never did figure out why.

Later the same trip we had a small disaster when we let the dogs run off leash through some trees and brush. They came back covered in extra teeny little burrs, smaller than I've ever seen before. They took literally over an hour to remove, and were a massive pain both for the dogs and for us. Running off leash in fields and parks was fine, but brush in ND is to be avoided at all costs!

Along the way we looked for other safe places for them to run off leash. In Billings, MT we found only one "dog park" and it was still marked for on leash pets only. People seemed to be observing that as well. Overall Billings didn't seem to be a dog town, though we finally found a place to let ours stretch their legs a little bit along a cold lake.

Bozeman, MT had a couple of dog parks and appeared to be a fairly dog friendly town overall. The dogs had a good time in the snow there, but did NOT want to get back in the car for another long and boring day of driving.

Once again I was glad for Holiday Inn's pet policies so we had options all along the road for where to stay. Kudos to all hotel owners willing to let pets participate in journeys rather than stay home.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lawn Art in Plaza, ND

We are back from a long road trip from Boise to Plaza, ND. Plaza is a very small town, and one in which you should not drink the water. (The smell of it alone lets you know that; the taste is indescribable). There is one main street with one flashing traffic light. On that main street there's a house with a lawn art display that I could not help laughing about every time we passed by. It has two wolves, along with two wolf pups, and they are apparently scaring a small raccoon, who has flung his arms in the air in surrender and/or fear. At least, that's what I got out of it. The expression on the faces of all of the statues are quite amusing, but my favorite is the raccoon. I'm not sure if they intend it to be serious or tacky or amusing...but I was definitely amused. Click on the scene to enlarge the photo for yourself, and I had to give you a raccoon close up as well. Naturally, I doubt you will make it to Plaza to see it in person but of course I know you would not want to miss this!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Road Tripping with Dogs

Turns out that there is free wi-fi at the Billings, MT Holiday Inn, so I can get at least one more post in. Today we packed up the car and drove with the dogs about 10 hours from Boise to Billings. We saw a number of deer on the way, but at interstate speeds so we didn't get any photos. Montana was pretty, but darkness covered it too early.

The dogs are great travelers. Simon likes the back of the Subaru and never makes a peep. Callie likes the back seat and once in awhile tries for the front. They like rest stops and always seem curious to see where we end up at each stop. They love hotel rooms too. Right now Simon is sprawled across his very own double bed, in doggie heaven. They enjoyed dinner scraps and stretching their legs before settling into their new digs for the night.

There is something great about traveling with dogs, like packing up home and taking it with you, offering both comfort and adventure. I do miss the cats terribly, and the horses, but I know they are in good hands and I try not to worry.

The one disturbing aspect of the trip so far was in Dillon, MT at a convenience store where "Tom Turkey" was in a small wooden cage and there was a guess his weight contest. I'm guessing "Tom" is destined for a Thanksgiving table. In the meantime, he is confined in an unclean wooden crate that is too small for him. In fact, the boards on top cut into his tail so if he moves back and forth he breaks his tail feathers off. He breathes exhaust and gas fumes and people come stare and point at him. He has great difficulty turning around and I did not see food or water in his crate. "Tom" is definitely not in good hands. Peta would be pissed. I was revolted, especially that people seemed to be bringing their kids over to see Tom as though nothing was wrong with the situation. However, I could not see a legal way to free him. Hopefully he will not suffer much longer. Hopefully, at least a few parents pointed out the animal cruelty involved and used this as an opportunity to educate, not to perpetuate the idea that treating animals this way is okay.

In Billings I saw a bumper sticker under a Stop sign that said "Eating Animals." "Stop eating animals" was not a slogan I expected to encounter in Billings and I was pleased that there was or is at least one vegetarian or vegan here trying to spread the word and counteract all the "I love animals, they're delicious" bumper stickers on beat up pickups. Yuk.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Off to North Dakota

I will probably be offline for about a week, as we are heading off to North Dakota to visit relatives. I am looking forward to seeing Montana and to spending a week road tripping with the dogs. I looked up some good restaurants in Billings, MT, where we'll be staying a few nights. I love Tripadvisor, and if you aren't already using it, you should check it out. You can find user reviews of hotels, restaurants, and even cities. It's great for both international and domestic travel, and between the reviews and the chats you can usually get a sense of what places locals like.

I review hotels and places I stay when I travel on Tripadvisor as DAEsmae. Whenever I've stayed somewhere I didn't research on TripAdvisor that turned out to be a dive, I've later laughed at how accurate the reviews were and all the trouble I could have saved myself had I just looked! It's my favorite travel review site, and I can usually get input even about such remote locations as Gabon. You can contact other users for more information and I have gotten some great feedback in response to questions I have asked other users.

So, off we go, and I shall miss my internet access *terribly.* Hopefully when I get back I'll have at least a few decent photos to share with you - though I'm not sure how the dislocated shoulder will affect my ability to use the camera yet.

I'm pleased to report that Callie seems to have made a full recovery. One of the best things about road trips is taking her and Simon to hotels. Callie guards the door and barks if someone passes by, unless we create a barricade in front of it - then she guards the barricade and people can be outside the door just not in the barricade area. Smart little dog.

MUST Watch "Heart of a Lioness"

In Samburu, Kenya there is a legend about a lioness who adopted an oryx calf. On the wall of the park gate there is a painting of this lioness and calf. When I was there the first time, my guide told me the story - a lioness who could not have cubs adopted oryx calves due to her mothering instinct. Supposedly it was absolutely true, witnessed by many people. Of course, it was quite hard to believe.

There's an elephant research camp in Samburu called "Save the Elephants," and when I got back from Samburu I contacted them about an elephant birth I'd seen there, to see if they wanted the photos. They did, and I corresponded with researcher and author Ian Douglas-Hamilton about them. As I looked at the Save the Elephants website I saw that they had a link to photos of this lioness with oryx. (I don't see them there currently). Later, I learned that a documentary was made by the daughter of Ian Douglas-Hamilton, who runs the research camp and also, with his wife, a lovely lodge called Elephant Watch Camp. I had the privilege to stay there in May when I went back to visit Albert, the baby elephant.

I couldn't find the documentary on DVD; it's called "Heart of a Lioness." I searched for it on animal Planet in vain. Then, last night, IT WAS ON. I was so excited when I saw it come on the kitchen television that I raced into the bedroom to Tivo it, somehow (unexplainably) dislocating my right shoulder in the process. Before I lost consciousness and then was raced (by my devoted and ever patient boyfriend) to St. Luke's ER, I fortunately had the presence of mind to get to the Tivo remote and hit record.

Lucky for you, Animal Planet is showing the program again Nov 24 and 25. YOU HAVE TO SEE IT!!! It is a fantastic and suspense filled true life drama about the adoption of calves by this lioness, and what happens. I have never enjoyed a documentary so much, nor been in such suspense. I can't imagine ANYONE not being wowed by this program!! In all truth, despite the fact shoulder dislocations are EXTREMELY painful, it was actually worth it....though I sure wish it hadn't happened and I'd caught one of the later showings! I've been trying to find this program since May when I last returned from Samburu, and I am so glad I finally did.

Samburu is my favorite place in Africa so far, and seeing the land, the animals and the people I have been lucky enough to come to know there was wonderful. But seeing through film the remarkable story of what happened there is so incredible, it's only slightly heightened by my personal experience. See for yourself! Don't miss it!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Organic Food Bars

For Madagascar I packed a variety of "power bars" to try and survive - and good thing I did. One of them was a clear standout above the others - the Organic Food Bar "Vegan" Bar. These bars are surprisingly good, and pretty healthy too. Several of the flavors they offer are actually vegan, and are labeled as such. If you haven't tried them yet, check them out! So far I've found them at the Co-Op in Boise and at the Vitamin Shoppe on Emerald. While they do cost a bit more, at least you aren't getting a bar packed with sugars. They make a nice breakfast when you get up late, a good snack for hiking, or a good post-workout pick me up. Check out their website by clicking above.

I'd love to get back to posting about wildlife, but I've been stuck in the City and haven't seen any lately!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How About a Personal Chef?

If you eat out four times a week or more, you probably spend a decent amount of money and don't eat the healthiest food. For about the same money, or less, you could actually hire a personal chef who comes to your house once a week and makes meals that you can then re-heat. Typically they do the shopping also, so all you have to do is give them some idea of what you want to eat. This is great if you are on a special diet, trying to lose weight, or struggling with a new way of eating or cooking. For example, you can request low fat meals or vegetarian or vegan meals, then leave it to the chef to figure out what you should eat and make you some (hopefully) tasty meals.

I have looked into this service in Boise in the past and had a hard time finding anyone. Recently, however, I have noticed there are several personal chefs advertising services here, including:

Food Infatuation

Cuisine by Gary

Joy of Not Cooking

Dine by Design

A Table in Thyme

You can also hire a personal chef to make a special dinner, whether a romantic anniversary dinner or a dinner party for several people. What a great idea!

I suppose that my interest in America's Top Chef got me thinking more about the personal chef option. That's a fun show to watch because of the creativity the chefs demonstrate in approaching their challenges. Also, having literally been starving in Madagascar, I would say I have a new appreciation - and desire - for good food these days!

One of the problems I have with cooking vegetarian or vegan is that I run out of ideas and when I get busy I don't have time to research recipes and experiment with new ingredients. All my fallback positions and comfort foods involve meat, and most of them dairy as well. As I develop more versatility, I enjoy doing so, but when I get busy we fall off the wagon and resort to old habits. Hopefully a personal chef can help by being there in busy times to provide healthy eating options, and to expose us to new options.

So far we've tried it for two weeks, and I don't know if we will stick with it long term or not, but it is kind of nice not to have to worry what's for dinner, and to know that you're eating something good for you made with fresh, organic ingredients for less than you'd be paying to eat out. Granted, it is hard to cook for a vegetable hating vegan, but so far I have been impressed that I have truly liked some of the dishes - and they are things I never would have tried making on my own because, in theory, they are unappealing. In practice, they are quite good!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Movie Reviews...But Not Here

Someone asked me about putting my movie reviews on the blog. That's not the focus of this particular blog so I won't post them here, but if you want to join my Netflix Friends Network you can see my ratings and reviews there. If you aren't using Netflix and you like movies, you really ought to try it. Great selection, and couldn't be easier. I *love* it....almost as much as Tivo, but not quite. Click on this or paste it into your browser to get an invitation if you are interested:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stunningly Good Guacamole

Barbacoa is one of Boise's newest restaurants, located on Parkcenter Blvd. where Jaker's used to be. We've been there twice now, one for a full meal, appetizers through dessert, and once to sort of sample a variety of appetizers and sides. Both trips, the standout was the guacamole, prepared table side. While it was good the first time, the second time is was stunningly good. We asked the name of the "guac preparer" and were told he was "Enrique" and he usually works Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We will definitely be asking for him again, as he prepared bar none the best guacamole either of us has ever had. We are still talking about it a week later and longing to eat it again.

When you place your guacamole order, you wait for the preparer and his cart to come to your table after processing the other orders ahead of you. When the cart arrives, there is a coarse brown mixing bowl and various bowls and bottles of ingredients. We didn't turn down any ingredients offered and asked for a medium heat, not too spicy. The avocados were in excellent condition and I wondered where they obtained them, as I can't find that quality in the local grocery stores this time of year. Added to the mix are cilantro, jalapenos, onion, tomato, and some other things I can't recall. The chips that come with the guacamole are very good, but frankly that stuff is so good that if you had to, you'd eat it with a spoon!

Oddly enough, the rest of the menu is only so-so. The entrees are overpriced as far as I'm concerned and were nothing spectacular. While the restaurant decor is nice, the service is good, and the food is decent, the accompanying price tag ($120 for two with appetizers, entree and dessert, no alcohol) is excessive for what you get. (You could eat at Mortimer's, top of the line, for less). The menu is also sort of a strange mix of options, as though the chef couldn't decide whether to go with Southwest, South American, or Mexican. We did like the herb fries and the zucchini chips, particularly the latter. The other appetizers we tried were also good, better than the entrees.

Bring some cash so you can tip the guacamole person individually, as opposed to your waiter or waitress. I am happy that we found another vegan dish in Boise that is mouth-wateringly good. Five stars to the guacamole - take or leave the rest.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mortimer's: Boise's Best Dining Experience

This weekend we ate at Mortimer's, a lovely restaurant in the lower level of the Belgravia building at 5th & Main in downtown Boise. We only go there about once a year, and every time we do I am impressed. It's the only truly fine dining experience I've found in Boise. While there are many other nice "white tablecloth" restaurants, when you really want to celebrate a special occasion, there is nothing quite like Mortimer's. The setting and decor are excellent, the service is always good, and the dining experience is one you simply can't get elsewhere in Boise.

I highly recommend the Chef's Tasting Menu. It is quite frustrating that they never seem to update this online so that you can see their current offerings. The last few times I considered going there it appeared the tasting menu hadn't changed, so I went somewhere else. This weekend I learned that it actually changes several times a week, they just don't update the website. Bummer.

The Tasting Menu offers just a few small bites of a variety of different things, in a lovely progression, complete with palate cleansers, bread and dessert. We don't drink, but it is possible to get wine paired with the menu offerings as well. This weekend the menu included a shitake cappuccino, a beet salad, swordfish, bread, strawberry sorbet, beef tenderloin, blue cheese with spiced carrots and candied cabbage, and chocolate soup. Although it sounds like a tremendous amount of food, since you only have a few bites of each thing, you leave feeling full but not overstuffed, and having had the chance to sample a lot of wonderful cuisine. It's a lot more fun than getting a traditional entree, though they do offer that option as well. The tasting menu gives you the chance to try some things you wouldn't ordinarily want to order a large portion of. Also, there are some lovely fine touches on every dish, whether shaved and crisped leeks, or Norweigan smoked sea salt (my favorite little finesse of this particular meal).

At the moment, while I am trying to get back to eating primarily vegan, we are not there yet, so we could enjoy the meat and dairy involved in this meal. I do wish that the chef would provide more information on where the meat comes from and some additional information about the other ingredients. My impression is that he aims for local and organic, but I don't think he does grass fed beef, which is a shame. (I can't believe local chef's aren't scrambling to get Alderspring Ranch beef, available at the co-op or online, or Home On the Range Beef, available online or seasonally at Farmer's Market. Aside from the fact that it is humane raised and grass fed, it tastes fantastic. Alderspring is the best, 100% grass fed, while Home on the Range is a close second with mostly grass fed but grain finished.) At least the waiter did know where all the meats I inquired about came from, and they were local.

Too expensive to be a regular dining option for most people, Mortimer's can still be affordable for the special occasion if you plan ahead. If you do the tasting menu and no wine, expect to pay about $100 for two people for dinner. I don't think that's out of line for this market, particularly given the quality of the dining experience. When you want to get dressed up and have a night out, this is a great choice. I've never seen kids there, which to me is a huge plus when you are out for a high class dining experience. You also don't have to contend with "live music" or other entertainment options; the focus is on the food. (In fact, the only slight detractor from the experience this weekend was a bad background music soundtrack and I was sitting under the speaker).

While I would love for a local chef to put some time and thought into some vegetarian and/or vegan offerings, I can understand that the market just isn't really there yet. However, I think more people would be open to trying to go vegetarian or vegan a few meals a week if they had some exposure to tasty dishes in those categories. It seems that chefs sort of scorn rather than embrace vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, and I suppose if you're in love with food and dedicating your life to it, it would be hard to give up the taste options of meat and dairy. I suppose we are decades away from a vegan tasting menu in downtown Boise...but it sure would be nice.

Until then, once in awhile we will have to succumb to Mortimer's.

Capturing Cats

A friend sent me a link to this and I can't resist posting it. This is a great little animated cartoon which perfectly captures all the rituals a cat goes through trying to wake you up in the morning! In addition, mine like to rattle the blinds a lot, letting me know they want to go out and be fed. I once had a foster cat (a mother manx, Oscar and Lizzie's mom) who would wake me up by placing her claws under my eyes and literally pulling my eyes open. It was a scary way to wake up and I was never motivated to try and go back to sleep. I got up and fed her immediately!

It's short and well worth a minute of your time to see. Great cartoonist!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brunch in Boise??

For some reason I don't understand, it seems there is no decent Sunday brunch to be had here. I've lived in much smaller towns with good brunch selections, and it puzzles me why a city the size of Boise doesn't seem to have decent offerings. Is it because most people are in church Sundays? I don't get it. If Kearney, Nebraska can have a good Sunday brunch then Boise, Idaho certainly ought to have one.

Today I researched online as much as possible and called around to see if I could run down brunch options. A few places which said they had brunch turned out to be closed on Sundays, so they must have discontinued it. Which made me wonder: have places tried and failed to establish brunch? If so, why on earth did it fail?? Doesn't everyone love a good Sunday brunch?!? Disappointing offerings.

Here's all I was able to come up with for brunch options - if you know of others, please comment!!

1. Plaza Grill at the Owyhee Plaza downtown
2. Marie Callendar's on Fairview
3. Cottonwood Grill,

There's a new restaurant downtown at 8th & Main, City Grill, and they supposedly were going to offer brunch, but as they did not answer their phone or have a recording I couldn't find out for sure.

Decent breakfast options (though not a brunch buffet) include Boise Bungalow, which has a nice menu, and the old standby, Elmer's. I can't bring myself to wait in the Goldy's line downtown.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Everyone Got Homes!

All the kittens got adopted! The last two left today. Letting Cameron go was really hard - he was the cutest kitten!!! Hopefully all the homes are good ones and the kittens will be happy. Fostering is hard, but rewarding at the same time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Foster Kittens Are Ready, Part II

Although it is late in the season for kittens, there have been several litters at the Humane Society. I am fostering two litters for a total of six kittens. They have been with me a little over two weeks and they are ready to get spayed or neutered and adopted. They are listed on the Idaho Humane Society website if you want to read about them or call about adopting. My favorite is Cameron, the most outgoing, who gets into everything all the time and likes to talk a lot. He is adorable, I can't believe anyone can resist him. He's the one with white paws, an intense look at the camera, and white on his face - the rest of him is tabby.

It is always fun to have kittens. Though they make a mess, they are a joy to raise. I love watching their personalities develop. It's just a shame people don't spay and neuter and we end up with so many unwanted animals. Hopefully these little guys can all find good homes before winter.

The current batch of fosters is pictured here and in the previous post.

Foster Kittens Are Ready, Part I

Friday, November 2, 2007

Trailing of the Sheep

"Trailing of the Sheep" is an a annual festival in Ketchum, Idaho which is part of the annual sheep movement from summer to winter pasture. This year, since we were already in Stanley, we decided to make the trip to Ketchum to catch it. We had to wait awhile, and while there was frost that morning they day ended up quite warm. Eventually the parade started, and there were alot of peruvian dancers and various groups in costume, plus several trailers pulled by very large draft horses, mules, or a cross between the two. Paso Fino horses pranced by, and then some people with polish sheepdogs on leashes, and it seemed that the sheep would never arrive. The Boise Highlanders were there playing bagpipe music, which was excellent, and as a nice touch they had their bagpipes covered in sheep costumes.

When the sheep finally came, I was surprised that they were being herded mainly by people and not much at all by the dogs. The sheep were frightened, and several were jumping and trying to escape those chasing them. There were a few black sheep, but mostly white. It was over in just a minute or two.

I was a bit grossed out to see that the local paper was advertising restaurants who serve lamb and mutton in context with the festival. It seems odd to me that you would bring your children to enjoy seeing live sheep go buy and then want to take them to eat a dead one to top off the experience. I guess our culture is so used to killing that doesn't seem incongruous to most, but it did to me. I felt bad for the sheep, who were clearly scared, and I certainly didn't feel like dining on them.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Stanley, Idaho in October

October is a nice time to visit Stanley, Idaho. This year I went in mid-October, and the town was closing down for winter. It was the last night several hotels and restaurants were open. It was nice and cool, with even a tiny bit of frost in the morning, but it wasn't too cold to be pleasant. Stanley is about three hours from Boise, and it is a reasonably pretty drive. It's a great weekend getaway. It's hard to be stressed when you can look up at the Sawtooth Mountains or out across Redfish Lake (both pictured above).

I like to stay at Meadow Creek Inn and Day Spa unless I have the dogs with me, in which case I stay at Mountain Creek Resort. You can get an incredible black and bleu prime rib and the Kasino Klub downtown, a good breakfast at The Bakery, and breakfast, lunch or dinner at Elk Mountain RV Park & Restaurant on the way into town (four miles outside Stanley). Like most small towns, the staff and local people are nice, and generally pleasant to interact with. Everyone knows you aren't from there, but in Stanley, unlike some places, they don't seem to mind.

There is an information for tourists building where you can pick up fliers on local day hikes and other activities, and maps to visit the various lakes. There is a plethora of camping, rafting, hiking, and snowmobiling in Stanley.

The only drawback to Stanley is that it's not a very dog-friendly town. While it's great there is at least one hotel that will let you bring dogs, in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area you generally can't have dogs or you have to have them on leash, which is not very feasible on a long hike. While I didn't see any wildlife in or near Stanley, the scenery was nice and it was a great and relaxing weekend and a good way to recover from Madagascar.