<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Postcards Library 3
Little Log



Stephanie is one of those persons who is always mailing postcards back to family and friends. Somehow, by writing in very small scribble, and filling not only the intended message area, but with sideways writing, arrows, and otherwise using virtually every available area on the postcard, she can get an awful lot of information onto a very small space. She'll be reporting in here from time to time on our travels, experiences, impressions and general state of mind.

Postcard: From Borrego to Boise

November 25, 1996

We have spent the last two days in Palm Canyon Campground, Borrego Springs, CA. This gem of a town is located completely inside the Anza [the explorer who found this area] Borrego [spanish for the elusive desert bighorn sheep] Desert State Park. Borrego Springs has several golf courses, all types of stores, and is the source of the most delicious grapefruit! Those "in the know" go to Seeley Ranch, about 3 miles from the town center. We played some golf, bought our grapefruit, and did a little hiking.

What a change we are about to make in our travels! This morning we will unplug and slide in, hook up our 5th wheel and start north. Yesterday we golfed in shorts and sunglasses; in a few days we will be wearing jeans and heavy jackets. Our next stop will be the Bay Area for a large family Thanksgiving. Then our travels (sans 5th wheel) will take us to Boise, Idaho, to pick up our venison, and back to San Juan Island.

We are looking forward to being home for the holidays, but I'm sure that once we've endured a wintry December we'll be ready to resume our southwest travels. More postcards then, but for now I wish all our readers the Happiest of Holiday Seasons.

See you in 1997!

PS As we pulled out this morning, I noticed that our satellite dish was still mounted on the top of the rig. A frantic wave stopped Tom, and it was soon safely stored away. I waited for Tom's compliment for my spotting this potential problem. Instead, he explained it in his usual philosopical way: "This shows that we really do have a workable fail safe system -- if something is forgotten, it's your responsibility".

Next time I just may not tell him...

Postcard: Madera Canyon...

or,... Four Miles Before Breakfast

This morning we were up at 6:30, had the coffee made and "thermos-ed" and were off for Madera Canyon and a morning birdwatching hike.

Madera Canyon is located 11 miles east of Green Valley, AZ, and about 35 miles southeast of Tucson. Continental Road winds toward the canyon through desert flatlands for about 6 of these miles, then climbs steeply. In these last miles the road climbs nearly 2,000 feet, and the changes in climate encountered are comparable to driving from Arizona to Canada. From the scrub desert through grassland to evergreens and oaks it is a birdwatcher's paradise, and its possible to spot deer or even coatimundi -- a weasel-like desert critter.

We hiked the Nature Trail, a 2.7 mile wander across Madera Creek which climbs up and across the flank of the hill overlooking it. We were early enough to see the sun dust the rocks and trees at higher elevations with a golden light, and in several spots the view down into Green Valley was spectacular. Every few hundred feet, I would pause to let Tom and the dog get ahead on the trail, and then listen to the silence.

The silence lasted just until the sun found me. Then the bird sounds began. Some trees came alive with sparrows and finches. One was decorated with Mexican Jays. As we walked along, I spotted some birds I have rarely seen, including yellow bellied sapsuckers, acorn woodpeckers "by the bushel", nuthatches and several bridled titmouses (titmice?).

At one spot on the trail, I happened to look back across a small ravine and caught a glimpse of something long and gray scurrying out of view beneath a log. A coatimundi? I didn't go back to look as I was convinced that it would have disappeared by the time I found the spot.

The trail circles the mountainside and ends well over a mile above the spot where we had parked, so the last section was downhill on the road. We passed some idyllic cabins, artfully set into the rocks and wooded areas, with bird feeders set around them. The bird watching here included two Evening Grosbeaks!

About 1 1/2 hours after we started our hike, we were back at the truck, and off to Green Valley and a well deserved breakfast. Next trip to Madera Canyon will include another jaunt on the many beautiful trails in this area -- to see what we can see!

Postcard: Boyce Thompson Southwest Arboretum -- Revisited

November 16, 1996

Last year I sent a card from this lighlty visited State Park. At that point I had to explore this out of the way place by myself, since Tom was only slightly past a minor orthoscopic procedure with his knee. This year we've had no such limitations, and it was fun to have him join me. He even admitted he liked it! Not as well as football maybe, but....

Located 2 miles west of the old (and still very authentic) mining town of Superior, this arboretum is a showcase for plants of arid regions worldwide. We found ourselves walking under Australian eucalyptus, red gum and myrtle trees, and viewed various plants from that part of the world. Succulents and cacti from various South American and African countries are here as well. Elsewhere trees and plants from China, Tailand, and a variety of Eastern and Medditeranean countries are in abundance. This year we noticed a "Boojum" tree. Called the "candle tree" by the Spanish explorers, this tree is difficult to describe: imagine a 30 foot tree with a thick, straight trunk and uniform, stubby brances about 12" long symetrically arranged from bottom to top. Sort of like a telephone pole with real, live (but short, stubby) branches....

The arboretum is criss-crossed with trails. In addition to the main trail, there are a variety of offshoot trails which explore the flora of various of the world's arid regions. The main loop trail, 1 1/2 miles long, wanders through a garden of Arizona cacti, past native herb gardens, and passes Ayer Lake. This small man-made lake is completely ringed with rushes. There are birds here in profusion. From the small viewing platforms we saw cardinals, curved bill thrashers, white crowned sparrows; and on the lake, a pied-billed grebe and several American coots.

From the lake the trail climbs near (but not to) "Picketpost House", the original homestead of Col Boyce Thompson, the Arboretum's original founder and benefactor. The main trail begins its loop back by descending to Queen Creek, in the valley immediately below. The proximity of a year-round water resource attracts all sorts of wildlife. This year we were on the lookout for a family of gray foxes which come in the afternoon to eat the leftover fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Unfortunately, they were late for dinner today.

No doubt because of its distance from Phoenix, this arboretum is only comparatively uncrowded. Today we were almost alone here. I've marked this as a great place for birding. This spot, like the Desert Museum near Tucson, has become one of our "must returns" each year. If you happen by here in your travels, set aside a minimum of three hours to enjoy this lovely State Park.

Postcard: The Apache Trail

November 13, 1996

What a road we took today! Returning from a morning golf game in Payson, AZ, we opted for a different way home. We chose Arizona 88. also known as The Apache Trail. We should have realized that a road named "trail" would not necessarily be straight. And it is not. This road snakes down 40 some miles from the Roosevelt Lake Dam enroute to Apache Junction. Although it was not the fastest route, it was the most scenic.

Within a mile of making the turn onto the Trail, we were on a washboard, dirt road with a hairpin turn seemingly every few feet. There must be hundreds of them. We were both reminded of a song by C.W.McCall a few years ago, when the road was described as "a whole lot of Z's and W's all strung together". The road is of varying widths -- when you reach a section of straight and wide road, you can be sure that the next section will be wide enough for no more than a car and a half. And we've yet to see a half car. While hardly crowded, there are just enough cars on this road to make one cautious. On one extremely tight "bobbypin" turn, we met a truck towing a houseboat!

About 25-30 miles into this road we found ourselves seemingly at a dead end in an enormous box canyon. We made a turn right against a canyon wall. Here we found a vehicle resembling a "stretch" dune buggy. The passengers were all up the canyon exploring some most interesting looking caves. The motto on the side of the car read, "Arizona Tours, Not a drive but an Adventure". Well said, for the road next continued right up the side of the canyon -- somehow. Here it was less than a car and a half, it was more like 3/4 car wide, with cliff overhangs making us happy we were no taller or longer . Definitely no place to tow...

What you get along this road is the sense of being out in the Arizona wilderness. The scenery is spectacular --canyons of beige, purple and green; golden sycamore trees; cactus of all descriptions; and even lakes. This is the reason for the popularity of the area -- there are two lakes of substantial size, Apache and Canyon. Canyon is closer to civilization and has several campgrounds, picnic areas and multiple boat launches. Apache Lake has one quite large camping area for RVs (probably more the pickup camper type), a store and restaurant. Here an "adopt-a-highway" sign was sponsored by the "Apache Lake Hill People". Both are lovely lakes, with rocks and greenery at water in the many inlets and beaches. They also have fish - as we saw some jumping and at least one caught.

All too soon you arrive in the small community of Tortilla Flat. The 6 inhabitants have a general store, a restaurant and a pretend gold mine to add to the flavor of "old west". The restaurant was emitting the most delicious smells -- reminding us we had gone without lunch. There is a nice (Tonto National) Forest Service campground across the street; and there was a motel at one time. It is a ruin now, so instead of changing the sign, the management merely crossed out the word "motel" on the sign which says "restaurant" and "general store".

The road, once again paved, continues winding toward Apache Junction and Mesa. It is only a few miles from Tortilla Flat to the cities. To travel this road is to find the "outback" of Arizona, where the scenery overwhelms.

Postcard: Besh-Ba- Gowah

November 12, 1996

If our travels in Arizona have had a theme recently, it is learning more of the "ancient" history of the southwest. We have visited famous ruins at Casa Grande and Mesa Verde. We've seen evidence of ancient civilizations at Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. Today we explored one of the lesser known areas, Besh-Ba-Gowah. This small but fascinating site is located in Globe, a small mining town about 100 miles east of Phoenix. The name "Besh-Ba-Gowah" is from the Apache meaning "metal house".

Here you can walk through the various partially restored rooms of a 700 year old pueblo; climb ladders into the upper floors; and see the utensils, pottery and furnishings that have been found here. Many of the buildings have been stabilized to prevent futher crumbling, but the buildings have been maintained or partially restored to represent their original design as much as possible. As we wandered through the ruins, we could almost imagine this complex filled with the activities of a community of more than 300 persons, all living and working "under the same roof". As with the Anasazi ruins we'd seen earlier, some of the largest rooms are recessed, and are thought to be ceremonial rooms -- much like the "kivas" we had seen in the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Since there is no written record of these ancient people, we can only speculate about exactly what went on here. But being there really stirs the imagination!

As a part of this display, there are botannical gardens, showing the crops (corn, beans, cotton, etc.) that the Salado Indians grew, as well as samples of the native plants of the area. The city has recently completed a beautiful arboretum on the grounds adjacent to Besh, complete with palapas, tables, and barbeques. Next time we'll definitely bring lunch and enjoy this scenic picnic area.

When we entered the museum next to the ruins, Luis Aguirre, one of the volunteers, suggested we view the 15 minute movie of the area. It was very well done, showing what was known of the Salado Indians. They were contemporaries of the Anasazi, who also mysteriously vanished about 1300. Some speculate that the pressures of drought and the resultant shortage of food combined to turn a peaceful people into combative folks. It struck us that Luis seemed to know a great deal about the Salado, as well as about the ruins. And as we viewed the show we learned why -- he was the moving force behind it! He has explored this part of Arizona extensively on horseback, and has found other pueblos, some even bigger than Besh-Ba-Gowah, but far from any existing roadway. Apparently they are just waiting to be "found".

Luis is working with the city to open another part of the pueblo ruins in the next 18 months. They will be different from these. Excavation will only be to find the outlines of the rooms and buildings. I am told that from this new area there is be a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. We'll look forward to seeing it next year.

Postcard : Patagonia Lake State Park

November 4, 1996

We had not visited this "hide-a-way" spot for a couple of years, and with fond memories we drove the 75 miles from Tucson this morning. It's good to be back.

Arizona highway 83 from the freeway is marked on the map with those little dots which symbolize "scenic". While I sometimes disagree with this designation, this highway certainly deserves it. The road climbs a to a bit over 5000', winding through the Coronado National Forest to the small towns of Sonoita and Patagonia. In only a few miles, you leave the desert of creosote brush and cactus, exchanging these for juniper, acacia and oak trees. Twelve miles before Nogales, AZ, is the turnnoff for Patagonia Lake State Park.

The people of Southern Arizona really love their lakes! They don't have very many, and so the lakes don't have to be too big to be thoroughly enjoyed. For this reason, camping on the water on a weekend can be a crowded experience. Today, however the area is largely deserted and quiet.

Patagonia, the largest lake by far in this area, is only 2.5 miles long and 90 feet deep. It is "squeezed" in the middle so that it almost forms two lakes. The western section, in the off season, is reserved for jet skis and water skiers, and even then these must travel in a counter-clockwise direction. The eastern part is for fishermen. Currently fishermen are catching bass and crappie while they wait for the trout to be stocked -- in about 2 weeks. It is a beautiful lake, ringed with low hills, lined with rushes and desert rocks at water's edge. There are even some campsites for the adventurous tent campers located across the lake -- accessed by water only.

The area is full of birds -- grackles, cowbirds, kingbirds and sparrows of all descriptions. Each evening, the oddest thing happens... When the sun starts sinking behind the hills, all the birds, en masse, and within a 5 minute period, leave the lake and fly off to their nightly perches along the nearby Sonoita Creek. Every bird goes due east. First the small finches, then the larger birds, ending with the grackles. They fly with a single purpose, low and noisily, straight "home". One minute, the trees are full of birds, the next, they are gone. They will all return within a five minute period in the morning, this time westbound.

I feel like the birds must every morning -- it's nice to be back! We won't wait so long to return again.

Postcard: Organ Pipe Cactus NM -- Off season

November 2, 1996

This is one of our favorite winter stop spots. When it is cool, blowing or just plain nasty in other places, this area usually gives us warm sun. When we have visited in January and February of each year, we have enjoyed the many nature walks, and the many ranger talks, covering topics from snakes and scorpions of the southwest, to the plants of the desert -- and the many uses the Native Americans made of them.

We have never been here in November before, and there are some striking differences. Perhaps the most striking difference is how uncrowded it is. Instead of having to plan an early morning arrival to ensure getting a site, we were able to breeze in on a late Friday afternoon and have our choice of any one of a number of our favorite sites -- even though only about half of the park was "open". And the significant cadre of volunteers who help with the operation and maintenance of the park are no where to be seen -- they simply haven't arrived yet.

There are birds everywhere, more than I have ever seen "in season". Quail, doves and the ever present cactus wrens scuttle under the picnic tables and patter across the roof of our 5th wheel. Verdins, gnatcatchers, curve-billed thrashers and gila woodpeckers add to the "birdy" atmosphere. Rabbits bound through the cactus, teasing our Brittany unmercifully. And though most of the desert in other areas of Arizona still appears brown and dry from the heat of the past summer, somehow Organ Pipe manages to keep its green, garden-like appearance.

Parts of the park are not yet open. One of our favorite places to visit is Quitobaquito, a small oasis accessible by a remote gravel road. However, it's not accessible now for two reasons. First, the summer monsoons did their usual trick and washed out many of the secondary roads -- and the park personnel haven't gotten around to re-opening them yet. But second, and a reason I wouldn't be to excited about going there at the moment, they've recently discovered a colony of Africanized bees nearby, and they haven't been "removed" yet! We've seen a number of warnings this year about the encroachment of "killer bees" in the southwestern states. There are a number of precautions which can be taken to avoid getting tangled up with a bunch of angry killer bees, with the last resort reportedly being to run faster than the pursuing bees. Apparently if one can outrun them for a quarter mile, they'll be content to declare a victory and return to their home base.

Postcard: El Dia de los Muertos

October 26, 1996

The ads in the Phoenix papers were too good to resist: "El Dia de los Muertos: a Celebration of Life Festival". The celebration was held at the Heard Museum in central Phoenix. This museum showcases the traditions of the southwestern people, and was a perfect place for this fiesta. While the timing and trimmings reminded me of Halloween, this was truly a different type of celebration. It was a reflection of the light-hearted but meaningful interpretation of death as seen through the eyes of another culture.

The 1st and 2nd of November are the actual days of this Hispanic celebration. The 1st, All Saints' Day, is dedicated to the children who died -- the "little angels". November 2nd, All Souls' Day, is dedicated to those who died as adults. These are the days when the departed souls return to enjoy the pleasures of life and to be with their families.

As I entered the lawn area where the celebration was being held, I passed an altar ringed with votive candles, flowers, and bowls of food -- beans, rice, tamales. Next to this was another altar where a full suit of clothes was lying, again ringed with candles, flowers and food. Statues and holy pictures were placed around along with photographs of the deceased relatives. From this point on, however, all was fun and games

The area was full of children participating in the "hands on" activities. From toddlers to teenagers, all were enjoying the various attractions. They could paint a plate or paint a tile. They could create their own pinata, or make paper flowers. They could weave. There were pictures to color, and glitter to be applied to them. Cascarones, which resembled ice cream cones, were paper mache cones with multi colored crepe paper wound around the cone, topped with a confetti stuffed egg shell with glitter applied to the egg. They were being happily carried about by fully half of the kids present.

Skeletons were everywhere! A 7 foot skeleton, dressed in a formal gown with a fanciful flowered bonnet grinned at me as I approached a booth where all things skeletal were being sold. There were skulls on-a-stick, both short and staff sized. There were skeletons on-a-stick made of paper and rubber. There were statuettes -- among them, a skeleton bride and groom, a secretary and her boss, and even musicians. There was even one skeleton reading a newspaper in an outhouse!. Jewelry included skull earrings, barrettes and belts.

There was non-stop entertainment, musical groups and dancers. One group, which attracted almost everyone, was the Fiesta Mexicana, a children's Aztec Dance group. 20 kids, aged 5 to 15, danced an Aztec circle dance. Gorgeously costumed, the girls wore black and white ankle length skirts with a red emblem on the front and peacock feather headdresses. The boys had shorts and capes. Each had anklets of dried nuts which rattled as they danced. The dance involved intricate footwork, and even the youngest knew all the steps flawlessly.

A beautiful, happy occasion. I overheard one father telling another that while they had brought nothing with them, they were taking a lot of "stuff" home.

So did I!

A Walk with Patrick Joshevama

October 19, 1996

During our travels, we have explored several National Parks and Monuments and taken many guided Ranger walks. Today we had a special treat - a walk through Mesa Verde's Cliff Palace with Patrick Joshevama.

Patrick is a Hopi Indian, is a member of a kiva, and has a 76 year old grandfather who still participates in yearly planting ceremonies somewhere on the Hopi Reservation. There could not have been a better guide for Cliff Palace.

When you explore Cliff Palace, your trip starts with a descent to a point about 1/4 way down what looks like an inaccessible rock wall. Here, in a large natural cave, is one dwelling with 217 rooms, 23 kivas, and which had a population of 250 people. Patrick drew on his Hopi heritage to enhance our tour.

Cliff Palace is probably the best known dwelling of the San Juan Anasazi Indians, who lived in this area from approximately 1 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Then they mysteriously disappeared. How they lived, what happened to them, why they left and where they went, are questions which are still being asked by archeologists today. While no one knows the answers, Patrick told us something of his background; many people believe that the Anasazi lived in much the same way as the Hopi do today.

Patrick and his grandfather particate each year in a corn planting ceremony. The Hopi use a dry land farming method which has not changed in generations. As Patrick told us " In May or early June we plant. We make even rows, we don't want crooked ones. Then we take a stick with a sharpened end and each man starts at the end of a row. We take three steps, brush the loose soil away with a foot, and then kneel and dig down to where the soil is moist. This can be up to a foot, depending on the amount of moisture that the land got over the winter. Then you dig a hole, put some seed corn in and cover it up. Then you take three more steps and do it again." He explained that he spent a lot of summers weeding and applying a pesticide made with dog or cat manure and mixed with mashed "stink bugs".

Although he was somewhat reticent to give details, he described a kiva as sort of an extended family group, and since the tribe is growing, there are now some 60 members in his kiva. Here he learned Hopi traditions, weaving, sewing, wood carving and the oral history. "I learned a lot of stuff in the kiva."

As we walked through Cliff Palace, listening to these stories, we could almost see the long gone inhabitants of this dwelling as they went about their daily chores. This would have been a fascinating trek under almost any circumstances -- but on a walk with Patrick Joshevama it was an especially memorable experience.

Postcard from Island in the Sky

October 17, 1996

Island in the Sky is the perfectly named northern section of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. In the early morning or later evening hours, the tops of the mesas which may be viewed here seem to "float" in the sky. And this part of the park is almost completely surrounded by the Colorado and Green Rivers, making it a virtual island. Spectacular vistas!

When we visited Capitol Reef, we walked through gorges and down arroyos and looked up at the colorful walls and rock formations. Canyonlands National Park is just the reverse -- at least in this section of the park, you are constantly looking down - down at the Green or Colorado Rivers, down, thousands of feet down to grass and sagebrush plateaus, down to the extent that my sense of vertigo returned with a vengeance. We took a hike to Dead Horse Point on arrival, and each time our dog (leashed, of course) leapt up on a rock overlooking hundreds of feet of nothing, I was sure we would lose her. Of course, her sense of balance far exceeds mine.

Over the past couple of hundred million years, this vast expanse of colors, shadows and textures has taken shape. First the surface was built up by the deposit of sediments; and more recently (say in the last few millenia), erosion has selectively carried away a good portion of the landscape, leaving spectacular canyons which plunge vertically in places over a thousand feet into the canyons below. The most recent artistry has been primarily the work of the Colorado and the Green, which meander through the bottom of the steepest canyons.

While there are limited dirt roads into the canyons (it appears that four wheel drive would be a must), the primary access to the National Park is on the high, flat terrain which surrounds the canyons. Many of the roads to the river overlooks are paved, while other points of interest are found at the end of dirt or gravel roads. And there are many hiking trails. Some of these are short and easy, while others...

One of the most impressive rock formations, which is at the end of a short half mile loop trail, is Mesa Arch. This rock formation is an incredible arch which is somehow suspended just beyond the top of a precipice on a concave wall. With any other supporting wall one could easily walk to the edge of the cliff, lean out a foot or so and rest your arms on the arch. But if you do it here, you look down past your hiking boots into empty space. We noted that few visitors wanted to do so!

Canyonlands, like Capitol Reef, seems in many respects even more spectatular than its much better "advertised" counterparts, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Yet there are comparatively few people here. No crowds. No traffic jams. No t-shirt shops. Just the "real thing", undiluted by the commercial encroachments of the "other" places.

Dead Horse State Park, located nearby, has its share of spectacular overlooks. While not part of the Park itself, it is the perfect place to camp while you are here. There are about 30 sites with 20 amp power,"modern" restrooms and a dump station. However, water up here is at an absolute premium (it's all trucked in), so each camper must bring an adequate supply of on board water. In the Visitor Center in Moab, some 30 miles away, there is a daily posting indicating the time when the park filled the previous day. Yesterday it was full by 3:30, so we arranged to arrive well before that.

There are other sections of this park, named "Needles" and "The Maze", and a much smaller unit, "Horeshoe Canyon". We will have to explore these on another trip. But adventure calls, and we're off for Southeastern Colorado.

Postcard from Capitol Reef National Park

October 15, 1996

It was all the fault of that Chamber of Commerce guy on the radio. If he hadn't been extolling the beauty of Utah Highway 72 which we should take to Highway 24 and thence to this Park, we would have been in Green River or the Moab area tonight. As it was, from a rest stop at 8000', we listened to him and decided to try a new route. It surely wouldn't be any, or much, higher?

The road twisted up through Aspen and sagebrush, climbing 8% grades, and the summit came at 9400 feet. Then we wound down. There were a couple of mercifully short 9% grades, but eventually we arrived on the other side at the small towns of Fremont and Loa, Bricknell and Torrey. Now the road became much more civilized and shortly we arrived at Capitol Reef. We are camped tonight in the Park campground and have the most spectacular vistas of towering pink and beige rock cliffs. We are close to the Fremont river, and right on the edge of several orchards. These orchards are the "you pick" honor system type, and during the season have cherries, apples pears, peaches and several varities of nut -- all compliments of the Mormon pioneers. There are several well maintained pioneer sites, including the original Fruita Valley one room schoolhouse and smokehouse. There is a resident deer herd of about 15 animals, one buck, several does and many small yearlings.

Capitol Reef was formed about 60 million years ago when a subsurface fault shifted, bending the rock layers above. It exposed rock layers from 270 million to 65 million years old. The landscape has been eroded into cliffs and slopes, natural arches and bridges. As you drive the area, you will see "castles", Egyptian "temples" and "thrones", as signed by the Park Service. I enjoyed inventing my own titles for some of the formations; one was the "family", a father, mother and child -- and in the background, the grandmother.

We took a couple of short hikes, down Capitol Gorge and Grand Wash, admiring the tapestry of pinks, creams, browns and greens of the steep canyon walls, as well as the myriad of small junipers precariously perched wherever they are able to find enough soil to hold their roots. This Park is more than just a series of postcard views, it is a touchable park, where you can really feel a part of the history of the area.

We will be off tomorrow, I think, toward Southwest Colorado. I definitely will look forward to revisiting Capitol Reef, taking more and longer hikes and revisiting the spectacular scenery.

Postcard from Salmon, Idaho

October 11, 1996

This great little town is located close to the Montana border in Northeastern Idaho and is always a fall destination for Tom and me. We spent the first night in Challis, some 60 miles southwest of Salmon. The following morning we took the long way 'round, down highway 93 away from our goal, and across the face of Mount Borah, the highest peak in Idaho. This sagebrush country has virtually no traffic -- in 35 miles we saw only one car.

Here is found a modest viewing area for a very major event; this was the epicenter of the 1985 earthquake, measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale and felt as far away as Seattle. There are several small signs pointing out the location of the fault, and what damage was done to the sides of Mt. Borah.

About half way across the flank of the mountain, a distant blur evolved into a cow elk. We stopped and she came on towards us, slowly at first, as if she were not sure just what we were, and then faster as she approached. She trotted with her nose so high in the air, it seemed impossible that she could see the ground. But then perhaps she didn't need to see it, for she had the most marvelous stride. Her legs were moving smoothly, with her head and body motionless -- just along for the ride.

October weather here has been unseasonably warm. Even at the highest elevations, we were comfortable in shorts. And we did go high -- up the Lemhi Pass, a 20 mile climb to 8600 feet, squarely on the border of Montana and Idaho. Here a boundary split-rail fence bears a "Welcome to Montana" sign. In a few hundred yards the road disappears steeply down into a Montana pine forest. A next time drive?

There is something magic about the high country, whether you visit in beautiful warm weather or a threatening storm. It is a necessary part of each of my visits to Idaho.

Now back to Boise to pick up the 5th wheel, and then off to the Southwest. Who knows where we will be tomorrow?

Postcard from Idaho

October 7, 1996

While I have never seen Idaho listed in the newspaper columns which describe the areas of peak and almost peak colors, this state should be a candidate. Recent nights in the 30's have produced the wonderful colors, yet days in the 70's are warm enough to walk out and enjoy them. And they are spectacular this year. The huckleberry bushes form a carpet of every shade of red and orange. The manzanita bushes show off a warm yellow. A bush resembling a thornless pyracantha displays orange leaves to match its orange berries. And the stars of the show are the Aspens. Their leaves have turned to gold. Even when the sun is not shining on them they appear florescent, and when the sun does find them their beauty is breathtaking. The slightest breeze makes the leaves fairly shimmer. They are not massed together as are the trees in the Northeast; these stand apart from their fellows, awaiting admiration.

Our cabin is located in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho. This area is woven with old logging roads, most closed to all but foot or horse travel. A hike in these mountains is always a delight -- with the colors this particular year a special, spectacular experience.

Tomorrow we are off to the Stanley Basin, in the heart of the rugged Sawtooth Mountains, and then down the Salmon River through Challis and Salmon, Idaho. The colors there should be equally brilliant.

More later...