Headed South for the Winter

We had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends in Spokane, but it was seriously time to head south and get to warmer climes!

Our plan was to head south and catch all the National Parks we could along the way. We headed pretty much south, and ended up in La Grande, Oregon. We were out of the snow, and had some nice walks in pretty country.

Next stop was in Hagerman, Idaho. Just a short stop, because we were told worse weather was approaching. We did catch a nice sunset over a hydroelectric dam.

While in the Hagerman area we’d thought to see a couple of parks – the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and the Minidoka National Historic Site. It turns out the Fossil Beds don’t have even a visitor center open in the winter, so we decided to just do Minidoka. Guess what – It’s closed in the winter too. We decided to go anyway.

We left our campground, and drove what seemed like forever in snowy conditions, and finally decided to unhook and leave the motorhome, venturing on in the Suburban. We finally made it to Minidoka… and the weather somehow enhanced the sadness of the place. This was one of the camps where Japanese Americans were interred during WWII. These were American citizens, packed up and moved into holding camps. Most of them lost property, farms, and businesses. They were fenced in the camp, and there were a few guard towers like pictured below. It turns out the towers were never manned, but they served as a silent reminder that these citizens were now imprisoned. When the war ended they were allowed “home,” to whatever remained for them. The buildings at the camp were pretty much dismantled, but there are a few foundations left to be seen. The guard tower pictured is a replica; the originals were all destroyed. The Visitor Center (closed) is, fittingly, a rather bleak looking building.

We planned on getting to Ely, Nevada the next day, but the roads were nasty and snow was predicted to move in even more dramatically… so we stopped in Wells, Nevada.

Stopping for fuel let us get a view of our filthy motorhome… Ice built up everywhere, forming interesting radial icicles on the wheels, covering the car, and even making a curvy icicle from a water faucet.

In the morning everything looked much better, and we moved on pretty clear roads.

We had reservations for a cave tour in the Great Basin National Park, outside of Ely, Nevada. We dropped the motorhome in a campground, and took the car to the cave. The Lehman Cave tour was really great. I love cave tours – even when in some sense they all are similar, they are still fascinating and have their own unique features. Even before we went in the cave, we saw the cool curved icicle on a bush. Fun to picture how the branch moved to allow the curve to form… somewhat like an introduction to the stalactites and stalagmites formed inside.

I’m sure many of the interesting formations had clever names, but you’ll have to go yourself to hear them.

Some of the formations can glow in the dark. The ranger shut the lights off, then put her light only on certain areas, and when she turned that off, the rocks had an eerie glow for a few seconds.

Most of the colors in these pictures were from colored lighting, but the Cave Bacon below is just backlit with white light; it really is that color.

Our motorhome was so filthy we couldn’t stand it… so we took it through a truck wash. We’ve never done that before, and it was quite interesting. Probably 12 guys with high pressure hoses and (hopefully) soft brushes worked like crazy to clean it up. Below are pictures of what it looked like from inside. (As if you haven’t been through a car wash…) It looked SO MUCH better after that… but still some streaky dirty spots. I will wash it properly when we get settled someplace WARM.

Next was Lake Mead. My family went to Lake Mead, or Lake Mojave, on the Colorado River often when I was a kid. It was fun to be back, and look at the interesting geologic features. The evening we arrived, the lake had a mist rising from the water right in front of us, and the setting sun turned it into a rather etherial phenomenon.

A walk near the lake revealed a few birds, but also a surprise Coyote.

There is a very scenic walk along the old railroad bed that was created to bring supplies for the construction of Boulder Dam. The dam was an engineering marvel, built starting in 1931. It opened in 1936, and was renamed Hoover Dam in 1947. The walk today is an easy one, with nice views of the lake and beautifully colored hills. There are five tunnels along the way, each made extra wide and tall to facilitate moving large turbines and other pieces to the dam.

We left our motorhome at the Visitor’s Center while hiking… can you find it in the picture below?

The last stop before our planned winter location of Tucson was outside Kingman, Arizona. This is the same park, and even the same exact site where we hid from the world when Covid panic first took over. Kind of fun to see it again!

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