Remember the saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men?” The gist of it is that things tend to go awry or happen outside the confines of our carefully laid plans. Turns out our carefully laid plans skipped entire destinations, took a detour and were modified to meet changing circumstances. First, let’s write about how our plans came to be…updated.
Our wonderings aren’t random. We decide travel routes and book campsites months and sometimes up to a year ahead of time. Why? Because with the number of people rving, and camping in general, it is difficult to find a place to park Beau. Especially if we wait until the last minute. In other words, the joy of being “spontaneous,” as touted on many RV websites, can lead to grief and best left unspoken words. It doesn’t matter if it’s private, such as a Kampground of America (KOA), or public, as in state parks, national forests and parks, or even boondocking locations on BLM land. RVs and tents are in every nook-n-cranny. Sufficient folks, in sufficient numbers with lots of tents and campers in tow. Make reservations or be prepared to boondock in Walmart, Lowe’s, Cracker Barrell, a roadside rest area or other such destination where we prefer not to stop our wheels for too long.
Now when we book a site it needs to be a short travel distance, by car, to a destination we want to visit. Why? Because most places we visit are not necessarily pet friendly which means we have to leave our furry children behind. However, we don’t want to leave them behind for hours on end. Which leads to…
Our first campsite in Idaho was near several destinations we wanted to visit but some were closer than others. City of Rocks National Reserve (written about later in this article) and Minidoka National Historic Site (already published) were close. But not EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor #1 National Historic Landmark) or Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The drive to either EBR-1 or Craters would be two hours, one way. Our calculations said we would be spending a minimum of six hours either visiting the nuclear site or touring the lava beds and landscape. Too long, in our minds, to leave the kids with crossed legs wondering when their mommies would return to let them out. In addition, it has been hot, hot, hot out West. Mid-nineties to low one-hundred degrees days. That hot, every day, for weeks. At places like Craters of the Moon, a geological volcanic site (picture vast expanses of black rock), the heat is “I’ve melted into the rock,” hot. The decision was made to skip both destinations and return at some future date. While we were disappointed there was still a silver lining. We discovered a nearby state attraction called, “Shoshone Falls.”
Shoshone Falls is located near the city of Twin Falls, Idaho and is part of the Snake River waterflow through the Snake River Canyon. It is known as the Niagara of the West as it plunges down over 212 feet (45 feet deeper than Niagara Falls) and has a horseshoe shape width of around 925 feet. This makes Shoshone Falls one of the largest in the United States.
The Falls and canyon were created during the end of the Pleistocene age by a cataclysmic event known as the Bonneville Flood (Honestly folks, did you really think Rhonda would let me write an article without addressing geologic history?). Lake Bonneville was an enormous lake in an area known as the Great Basin. (Basically, a contiguous watershed area covering parts of California, Wyoming, Idaho, and practically all of Nevada, Oregon and Utah or almost 20,000 square miles and 1,000 feet deep). The lake overflowed and released the equivalent of 1,100 cubic miles (not feet) of water that carved out the soft basalt rock from the stronger rhyolite lava flow rock of the surrounding plain area. Today, most of the Snake River water flow comes from the Rocky Mountains’ snowmelt in Idaho and Wyoming. Peak waterflow over Shoshone Falls occurs in late spring to early summer and can reach 20,000 cubic feet per second.
The Snake River is the largest tributary to the Columbia River. The Shoshone Falls were once a major spawning area for salmon, trout and sturgeon as they migrated up the Columbia and Snake Rivers only to be stopped at the impassable falls. However, with the building of dams on both rivers for hydroelectricity and irrigation, the mass spawning ceased.
The Planned but Modified for Changing Circumstances
A visit to the City of Rocks National Reserve was on our schedule. We thought a two-day visit would allow time to truly explore the granite rock sculptures while hiking a few trails with the dogs. However, the hot weather shortened our trip to one day and made it a drive through at that. Both Kellie and Kip were panting like crazy trying to stay cool even in the air-conditioned car. Kellie drank water but Kip went on a drinking strike. What are doggie moms to do??? “Point the car towards home and take us back to the RV, of course,” said Kellie and Kip. But not before we took some pics that we share below.
City of Rocks was the name given by James F. Wilkins, an emigrant and artist, to an area composed of weather worn and sculpted granite rocks. He was only one of the more than 200,000 emigrants who would pass through as they traveled the California Trail seeking riches, from the discovery of gold, or a new stake in life out west. It was both a landmark and a rest area for emigrants who grazed livestock, took the opportunity to lighten their loads, left their names written in axle grease on rocks and all the while marveling and exploring the granite wonders that surrounded them. The granite features were often described as taking the shape of cathedrals, windows, pyramids, steeples and animals. The Reserve, totaling slightly more than 14,400 acres, is considered the most intact authentic part of the California Trail today. Today it is also a mecca for rock climbers from all over the world. It receives over 100,000 visitors practicing their skills among the crags and cliffs.
Hagerman Fossil Beds
Next was a stop called the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Mostly it consists of a short auto tour and visitor center. The auto tour takes you along the edge of the monument. There is only one trail and you aren’t really able to get to where the actual fossils were found. It is an active archeological site and visitors are not allowed. That said, it was still an interesting visit.
The fossil beds claim to fame is the Hagerman Horse. They have uncovered 120 horse skulls and 20 complete skeletons. The horse was similar to zebras found in modern day Africa and was the first modern horse. Mastodons, saber tooth cats, camels, ground sloths, hyena-like dogs, beavers, and more were also found. The horses and camels migrated to Eurasia when conditions became too difficult for them to exist here.
The Nez Perce National Historic Park was the final stop on our Idaho itinerary. The Visitor Center is located inside the Nez Perce Reservation but the park itself encompasses large tracts of land, including the reservation, in the states of Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana. Therefore, when visiting the park, first stop at the Visitor Center, located seven miles east of Lewiston, Idaho and pick-up a map. Yep. A map. Okay, here’s another “Why?” Because the park is setup to be a driving tour. There are 38 separate sites to visit and the entire drive is over 1,000 miles long. Whew! Suffice it to say, we didn’t visit all 38 sites. But, there are films, exhibits and programs to enjoy and learn from at the center. And the map? It shows the routes and explains details of 26 of the closest sites, all located in Idaho, near or in the Nez Perce Reservation. According to the National Park Service, this is “A park about a people, for all people. It is not one place but many. It is not one story, but a multitude of them.” And, “As you travel from site to site you will come to sense the rich and diverse cultural history they represent.” So true. We were only able to visit/see six of the sites but they still touched our imagination and had us discussing our nation’s past for hours.
This area was home to the Nez Perce, who call themselves the Nimiipuu, long before the “new world” was discovered. They lived in the high plateaus and on the prairies hunting, fishing and gathering plants for food. In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived in Nez Perce country. It was then only a matter of time before the same sad impact of westward emigration played out. From explorers, to fur trappers, to traders, to missionaries, to settlers, to farmers, to gold miners. With the arrival of white settlers, the Nez Perce, not wanting conflict, signed a treaty in 1855. The treaty created a reservation large enough to encompass their original homelands. However, gold was discovered and we all know how the story goes. To appease the settlers and miners a new treaty was created and signed in 1863. It gave the Nez Perce only a tenth of the land agreed upon in the original treaty. Some of the Nez Pearce agreed to the treaty while others did not. Thus in 1877, those who could not abide by the new treaty went to war with the US government. The Nez Perce won their first battle but lost subsequent battles that included the killing of unarmed women and children as the US Army pursued and fought them all the way to the Canadian border. The Nez Perce were settled on several different reservations, including those of other tribes, and as far away as Oklahoma. Also, as with so many Indian tribes, after being moved onto reservations, their children were forced to adopt the language and culture of the conquerors.
However, there is a bright spot. Today, many of the Nez Perce meet to celebrate their heritage as a people. They are also teaching their children the old ways in hunting, fishing, food gathering, and yes, their language before it is lost.
So that is a wrap for now. We continue our journey to visit, discover and learn as much as we can of our National Parks, Monuments, Historic Sites, Recreation Areas, Preserves, Reserves, Trails and Scenic areas. We’ll be writing again soon…
Oh yes, if you visit the Nez Perce National Historic Park there is no internet, no phone and not even text messaging while on the Reservation from the big three: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. A virtual dead zone for mile upon mile in all directions. We know because we refused to drive 45 – 60 minutes just to get a signal. Now say to yourself, “So that’s why they didn’t blog….”