Monday, June 23, 2014

Camping Mud Lake - Part 1

We had planned on leaving on Monday to go camping, but after clicking onto NOAA and realizing that the next three days were scheduled to bring only cool temperatures during the day and cold at night, we delayed our trip for a few days.
Thursday morning brought sunshine and warmth, and LC and I quickly packed the camper, gathered up the dog and headed towards Mud Lake.
So OK........the morning wasn't as smooth as it sounds.
I rushed to Blackfoot Thursday morning to send Chris some money while LC started the packing.  After returning from my rushed trip to town I continued with packing.  Unexpected conversations that were time-consuming with neighbors and a turn-around 10 miles from the house when we realized that we had forgotten something we needed and FINALLY we broke the Atomic City vortex that had been sucking us back to the house all morning.
This time we really WERE heading to Mud Lake.
Information on the wild life management area here:

The first time we visited Mud Lake was in early April of this year.
When we moved to Atomic City one of the first things I did was research on where some of the nearest bodies of water were located.
When you love water and trees but live in the desert you do those sorts of things, and in my cyber travels I found Mud Lake.
The more I read about it, the more curious I became.
Wild Life Management Area, bird sanctuary, hunting, it was all very interesting to me.
And then in early April we picked up a log headboard just outside of Idaho Falls and decided to drive a route home that would take us right by the mysterious and intriguing Mud Lake.
I was prepared to be disappointed, and wondered just what a place with the unassuming and off-putting name of "Mud Lake" would actually be like.
I am very glad that my initial pre-conceived notions were wrong.
We resolved on that cold and very quiet and very wonderful walk along the beach at Mud Lake that we would come back to this place again in the summer.
We talked (as we had so many times) of finding some little camper that we could afford, and of coming back to camp and kayak and fish.
Over the years LC and I have resolved to do this, or do that, or go here or there.  
Sometimes we made it and sometimes we didn't, but as we drove towards Mud Lake the other day I found myself being acutely aware of the fact that we had promised to find a camper and promised to go back to this place, and we had kept that promise to ourselves.
A link to our first trip at this place:

In April we had explored portions of the north section of Mud Lake, had found the lake, had found the cove (that was dry back in April) and found the small camp ground that held only five sites.
A little over an hour after we left the house, we pulled into the south entrance of the park and slowly drove narrow gravel road, curious what the south side camp ground was like.
With the wide irrigation canal on our left, and private farm land on our right, we slowly drove a mile until we reached the tiny campground.  Three sites maybe?  I don't remember exactly, but immediately LC and I discounted camping here.
It was a pretty place, but too exposed, to open, too close to the highway.  The north campground it would be.
After checking out the map of the entire wildlife management area that I had grabbed at the south end camp ground, LC and I got the bright idea to travel the roads on the map that appeared to travel the perimeter of the lake.
We had plenty of time, we could get views of the lake that we had not seen before, we would weave our way around the lake and eventually pick up the road that led to the north side camp ground.
At least that was the plan, but very quickly we found that our bright idea wasn't so bright after all.............

Turning around in the circle parking area of the south end campground we picked up a narrow gravel road heading east and almost immediately saw her.
A moose standing and happily grazing in the middle of a large, boggy, wetland area.
LC stopped the truck and I quietly climbed out the truck, propping the door shut but not slamming it because I didn't want to alarm this beautiful creature.
I hadn't seen a moose since we were in Wyoming on a trip over the Big Horn Mountains.
That was way back in 2011, so this totally unexpected sighting was both wonderful and extraordinary...............
We were at least a football field distance away from her, LC and Kory were sitting quietly in the truck, and I was standing quietly next to the hood of the truck, but we managed to spook her anyway.
I watched as she trotted out of the reeds, wandered across the road heading towards a huge piece of irrigation equipment, and then crossed over one more road before finally disappearing into the trees.
As with so many nature sightings, they are wonderful when they happen, and then they are gone too soon............
Well............we very quickly came to the conclusion that the map of the area that we had in our hands was completely useless.
The roads looked straightforward and easy to navigate on the map.   
In actuality they were very narrow in places with sharp turns and soft banks and no places to turn around (which was disconcerting while pulling an 18 foot camper, and I could only wonder how many people pulling even bigger rigs had gotten themselves into a real mess on these pseudo-roads-pseudo-trails).
Lots of beautiful marsh land, farm views and mountain views, but no lake views.
Roads that didn't turn the way they looked on the map so we literally had no idea how to get from where we WERE to where we wanted to BE.
Confusing road numbers like E 1660 N that crossed with road numbers like N 1660 E.
After spending 45 minutes aimlessly wandering in what could only be described as the right general direction to where we wanted to go (and on a winding and very tight tree lined trail) we finally finally and thankfully thankfully came across a posted sign.
"No motorized vehicles beyond this point".
LC and I looked at each other, feeling a little stunned for a moment.
Even if we had wanted to, there was no place to turn around.
After one brief moment of first looking at the sign and then looking at each other, we both almost-in-unison said "Screw the sign".
30 minutes later we finally came to a two-lane gravel road that led to the two-lane paved road that was the highway we had started on well over an hour before.
So OK.........we had taken a little detour to nowhere.........upwards and onwards, and let's get the hell to the campground already.
10 minutes later we pulled into the north end campground, smiled at each other when we realized that we were the only ones there, and picked a shady campsite underneath the trees and alongside a long green natural fence of wild roses.
As soon as I climbed out the truck I could smell the pink flowers.
It had been a long and tedious morning and by this time it was already early afternoon.
But as soon as we arrived I knew that it had all been worth it.............
Our intuitive pup instantly knew that we had arrived at our destination, and began eagerly clamoring to get out of the truck.
While LC unhooked the camper from the truck, I followed Kory down a short paved trail that I already knew from our previous trip in April led down to a fishing pier.............
As we came around the bend on the little trail I raised my head to look at the pier, and for a moment the sight in front of me was a little stunning.
In April all the huge, old olive thorn trees that lay on each side of the trail were leafless, and the cove had been completely dry.
That day in April had been overcast, grey, still and silent but beautiful in that way that only late winter in the west can be.
On this day, only two and a half months later, the day was warm and green, with trees filled with leaves, a cove filled with water, and a watery blue sky filled with birds.
Such a stunning difference in such a short period of time.
As I stood on the pier with my dog, I was very glad that we had chosen to camp at Mud Lake...........
We wandered back up to the camp site, and I stood for a moment trying to decide what to do next.
Get the camper organized maybe?
No........Kory and I decided that walking some more and doing recon on the area was a much better use of our time than messing around getting pans and sleeping bags and coolers into the right place.
That junk could all wait for a while.............
As we were facing the camp site, there was a boat dock and ramp behind us, a fishing pier to the right of us, and a large field that bordered the lake proper in front of us.
We headed down to the boat dock for a few moments and Kory drank some more water.
While she waded and drank I looked deeply into the water in the cove, wondering for the second time in the past 15 minutes why I was looking at red algae.
I had never seen red before, and I watched it moving slowly under the water, momentarily enthralled with the seeming weightlessness of it, and the ease of its underwater gliding.............
A look back towards the camp ground from the boat ramp...........
Content to keep walking I let Kory take the lead, and we quickly found ourselves in the field just beyond the camp ground.
I could see brief views of the huge lake,.
On this warm and partially sunny day the lake was blue instead of the cold and grey that it was in April.
It was also much much deeper than it had been in April.
On that cold day earlier in the year we had parked along the side of the gravel road, climbed down a steep embankment and walked along a sandy beach complete with shells.
I don't have answers as to why there was a tide, or sandy beach or shells at a lake in Idaho, but we spent a lot of time that particular day walking and letting Kory play in the water, and collecting shells that I now have sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter.
Months later the embankment was gone.  So was the beach.  So were the shells.
I had read that this lake was only five feet deep, but after our walk in April, I now know that there is no way that can be correct................
A huge private farm right across the road from the field where we were standing while looking out over the lake..............
By the time my pup and I wandered our way back to the camp ground again LC was sitting at the picnic table and his fishing tackle box was open.
We walked down to the pier, tied Kory off to one of the metal posts we found by the pier and for the next hour we sat and talked and watched the birds and occasionally my Mountain Boy threw his line over the wobbly rail.
After a crazy busy morning, our stop and start attempts to break free from the invisible barriers that apparently conspire to keep Atomic City residents safely tucked away inside the city limits, and our extended explorations on tight winding wetland trails while pulling a camper, by the time LC was sitting on a tree stump on the pier ready to fish, we both realized that we had not stopped for worms.
Worms were located at a gas station in the town of Mud Lake and we were not going back on this day to buy them.
And so I smiled while I watched LC cut a piece of bologna into squiggly shapes and then semi-seriously ask me "if YOU were a fish would you bite on that?"
I was laying on my back on the wooden fishing pier looking up at LC when I snapped this picture.
Yes LC.........sure......if I were a fish I'd bite on that...........
The boat ramp and one more fishing pier.
I loved this little cove.
The cove that was bone dry when we first visited in April, and the cove that I promised myself that I would kayak the next day.............
Kory had thrown up and had very very loose bowel movements the morning that we left for Mud Lake.
Nose was still cool and wet, and she was still drinking, but she also slept a good deal that first day and had zero interest in eating.
When we were not walking in and around the campground she slept curled up on the ground beside the camper.
She had already made a couple of serious attempts at reaching scurrying bunnies, so we hoped that she would be OK...............
We spent most of our first afternoon and evening doing nothing more than wandering, picture taking, laying around on piers, and enjoying the sight of birds, trees and water.
On a very calm, warm and beautiful evening, we continued doing those same simple things as the sun began to set.................
Pictures of the last of the sun as it was setting in one corner of the cove.
The day began with a puking dog, a quick trip to Blackfoot, a frantic packing job, a return trip to the house part way to Mud Lake to retrieve that which we had forgotten, and an extended and dicey drive on very narrow gravel trails that seemed to go nowhere.
Our day ended with...............this.............
A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature...........Henry David Thoreau

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