Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Family Reunion - Part 7

On their last day in Idaho, Lisa and Mick were scheduled to get on a bus in Idaho Falls at 10:30 that evening.
Lisa spent a short while that morning doing laundry and organizing their three suitcases.
I smiled inwardly as I watched her as she knelt in front of three crammed cases, frustrated and wondering why they were all so full already, and where they were going to put whatever else they would buy throughout the rest of their epic vacation.
I heard a saying once about vacations - bring half the clothes and twice the money that you think you'll need.
That always seemed like good advice to me.
Regardless, my sister spent some more time tweaking and then re-tweaking the suitcases, trying to fit it all in.
And what the hell do you need FIVE pairs of shoes for??  I asked in bemusement.
 A pair for walking around the cruise ship.  A dressy pair for dinners on board.  The pair of hiking boots she had gotten from me.  
I looked at her and smiled.  That was three.
She smiled back.  Yeah, she knew that.
I let it go.
Somehow, with persistence and creativity, my undeterred sister eventually found a way to get all three suitcases closed..................

With that function completed Mick eagerly asked about the mining remnants that I had told him about, that were located in back of Mackay.
We'd have to make it quick, but we had some time.
Enough to make a quick trip to the mines, the mining museum, and then back for rest and dinner before heading to Idaho Falls.......................

I had not even thought about Arco as we headed towards the Lost River Valley, but as we hit the outskirts of town I impulsively turned into the small parking area close to the submarine tower, that stands majestically and surprisingly in this dying, dusty, small desert town.
it was interesting and I thought I would make a quick stop so my visitors could check out the sub tower, and snap a couple of quick pictures of Number Hill.
In truth (although I have found out enough about Arco to be glad we did not end up buying a house there), I love the tower and love Number Hill...................
As it had been for the past few days, the early afternoon was cool, damp, overcast and colorless.
We had not had sunshine since Mud Lake........................
Over a year ago I became aware of a very small building close to the sub tower.
Outside the building was a sign announcing that it was a museum.
And each and every time I stopped there the building was locked.
While Lisa and Mick were taking pictures of the hill and the tower I walked over to the small structure and pulled (without much hope) on the door handle.
The door was locked.  As it always is.
As I turned back towards my sister and brother-in-law I was surprised to find myself face-to-face with an elderly man wearing a veterans ball cap.
He lived just up the road.  He had seen us wandering around the small submarine park.  He thought he would come down and open up the building if we were interested.
YES!  Eagerly I thanked him, and I saw Micks' eyes light up as he approached.
For such a small building, it was packed full of interesting pieces of information and paraphernalia related to Arco and INL....................
A brief stop in Arco and we were back on the road to Mackay...................
One quick stop to take one quick picture, and we drove to the back of town and immediately began to climb...................
I love this little town.
As Mick and Lisa wandered the grounds snapping pictures and checking out interesting rocks they found laying on the ground, I stood on this high perch looking out over both the river and the mountains.
The Mountains Are Calling And...........
Part of me would truly love to live in this tiny town that is surrounded by mountains, and that is only 50 miles from where we live now.
Another part of me knows that below Mackay over-irrigation and an over-abundance of well digging has dried up the Lost River.
The Lost River is truly lost, and it has been a major contributing factor in the decimation of Arco.
So far there is enough water in Mackay but will that continue??
I don't know.  Neither does anyone else.
Beyond Challis (an hour up the road) is the Salmon River.
Another hour north beyond Challis is the town of Salmon.
The Salmon River splits in Challis and also heads west towards the tiny community of Clayton and then the bigger town of Stanley.
Stanley will always be too expensive for us.
For Clayton, Challis and Salmon may be doable in the future.
Regardless, the Salmon River is here to stay.
But in these few moments I looked out over the Lost River Range and was again, as always, enamored with some of the tallest mountains in the state.....................
Climbing higher into the mountains we found more mining remnants...............
And higher still.
We stopped here and walked a short ways.
The road continued even higher, and as Lisa, Mick and I wandered (enjoying the trip but aware of the passage of time) I resolved to truly explore this place in earnest with LC and Kory this summer...................
It was a whirlwind trip, but as we drove home I was pleased that my family had had the chance to see some of the mountains that LC and I talked about so often during their visit.....................

After final packing, rest and dinner, we left the house with plenty of time to spare that evening.
Mick wanted to go to Walmart one more time.  
To take pictures of guns for sale.
It's funny - we take certain things for granted here in the US.
Guns that can be purchased at department stores.
Big trucks.  
Mick took many pictures of random trucks during his stay with us. 
Lisa must have spent 30 minutes reading the labels of a hundred different coffee choices at the store earlier in the week.
Neither LC nor I had ever been to the bus station in Idaho Falls before and by the time we arrived it was 9:30.
Both of us had expected a full-on bus terminal, but instead it was a small addition to a gas station, and when we arrived there were already some questionable looking people milling around.
Mick had told us beforehand that he did not expect us to stay until the bus arrived, but we had already decided that we WOULD stay until they were both safely loaded onto the bus.
Of course.
Seeing the part of town where the bus terminal was located, and looking at the weirdos hanging out, only served to confirm that our decision to stay was well founded. 
With more time to kill we all wandered into the gas station, found a number of food and drink options, and then found stools and a counter top where we could talk in this last hour before my sister and her husband were to continue on with their adventure.
LC and I were both concerned about their safety and we talked some more about that.
I hoped that we did not overdo, but the US was not Australia.
Some of the cities they were going to stop in were not Millaa Millaa, Queensland.
I smile when I think about it now.
All through their visit I kept calling Millaa Milla, Walla Walla.
At first it was just a brain fart on my part.
And then it just became a running joke.
Lisa gave me a bumper sticker while she was here that says "Where the #$%^& is Millaa Millaa?"
I'm going to try and get a bumper sticker made for her that says "Where the #$%^& is Atomic City?"...............

And then it was time to go.
Instead of a handshake I gave Mick a hug.
I liked this man very much.................

Instead of giving my sister a hug that said "Welcome Sister - it's good to see you and I hope this goes well"  I gave her a different kind of hug.
Goodbye Sister.   
It was very good to see you.   
I didn't know if I would like you, but I do.  
Like you.  
I don't know if I will ever see you again, but I was glad to see you now.  
And I miss you already.........................

Safe travels you two.................

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Family Reunion - Part 6

While Mick and Lisa continued to wander higher along the boardwalks I looked around me, contentedly waiting while enjoying the solitude of this moment and snapping occasional pictures.
I was in no rush to move on and I knew that LC and Kory would be fine for a while longer.
The weather continued to alternate between mild and cold, but there would be little sunshine on this day.
When you are in a place like Yellowstone National Park though, the weather means nothing.
 It is magical no matter the time of year and no matter the weather.................
And then finally I caught site of them.
They were having a good time.....................
Bison were everywhere in this section of the park.
Throughout our trip we encountered multiple big and small herds (containing both the huge behemoth-adults and the cute light browned calves).
We saw no bears on this trip, and the only elk we ran into were those in Mammoth Hots Springs proper...............
At one of our many stops we were greeted with the sign above, warning of a recent bear sighting.
A group of three visitors walked right by the sign without a glance, and continued down the trail seemingly unperturbed.
Mick and Lisa wandered past the sign as well, and then quickly split up - Lisa headed down the trail while Mick veered along a trail to the left.
Stunned, I turned to look at LC and we shared an unspoken communication.  We did not have time for extended stays at any one place, so my sister and her husband had a few hundred feet.
Beyond that we'd caution them to come back towards us.
Neither of them were armed, and LC and I had lived in the west long enough to be bear-aware.
Bear aware at all times of year, but especially in the spring when adults were hungry and had young.
LC watched Mick.
I watched Lisa.
My puppy happily waded out into the freezing cold pond that was still surrounded by a foot of compacted snow......................
Thankfully my sister and Mick did return to us quickly.
The other three tourists disappeared around a bend in the trail....................
In all the times that LC and I have been to Yellowstone, we had never been to Old Faithful.
We drove by it during one trip, looked over, saw the huge and commercial-looking compound of structures, saw the huge and packed parking lot, and decided that we didn't really need to see Old Faithful THAT badly.
Especially with so many other unexplored places inside the park.
But with Old Faithful being such an international favorite, we knew that we had to stop on this trip.
As LC, Lisa and Mick continued to wander down the wooden boardwalk headed for the geyser, I stayed back to snap a few quick pictures.
As I wandered from sign to sign, I looked down the boardwalk and saw water spraying from the geyser.
In my mind Old Faithful sprayed water hundreds of feet into the air, and so the spray I was seeing was obviously some kind of precursor to the main show.
Or so I thought.
Quickly I snapped my sign pictures and then rushed down the boardwalk to meet up with the others, not wanting to miss the big show.
By the time I found the others they were already turning away from the geyser.
The hundreds of other people who had been standing at the edge of the boardwalk, also turned.
I had MISSED it??
 That was IT??
I had seen it from a distance and had expected so much more...................         
Inside one of the information centers...................
Picture taken of me and Lisa at the YNP West Gate entrance.....................
Once back in the community of West Yellowstone, we all wandered a couple of gift stores, and I absently snapped random pictures of random things.
Like garbage cans painted with rustic and rugged western themes, western themed restaurant decor while waiting for our buffalo burgers, and a sign inviting tourists to participate in "Big Gun Fun".
It had been a very long day and we were still about 2 1/2 hours from home.
We only saw one small portion of the park on this day.
There was so much more that we wished we had time to explore with these Australian tourists.
But it was a quick one-day-trip and that would have to be good enough.
The next night they would be heading for the west coast on a bus.................
Maybe you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to the 635 million acres of public lands.  That's right.  Even if you don't own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golder Gate National Recreation Area and many other national treasures...............John Garamendi.
Maybe you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands. That's right. Even if you don't own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures. John Garamendi
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/yellowstone.html
Maybe you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands. That's right. Even if you don't own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures. John Garamendi
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johngarame512694.html?src=t_yellowstone