Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teton Canyon & City of Rocks National Monument, Idaho

For our trip this year we added an element of leisure that we didn't have last year. Rather than race across the country we took our time, stopping at state parks in Ohio, and Nebraska, as well as with friends and relatives in Vermont, New York and Illinois.

However, when we left Nebraska, the pull of grandchildren took over and we then flew across Wyoming and into Idaho. We spent 2 weeks with Kristin, Scott, Jack and Autumn, skiing, hiking, and playing in the sun or snow as the Idaho weather saw fit. It was a fun time and we love being with them while still having our own little house to get away in when we need to.
Each grandchild camped out with us one night in the TC (Truck Camper). The skiing at Grand Targhee was, well... Grand.
We had a wonderful two weeks with the family and it has truly been one of the best things about retirement that we can now see our grandkids more often. They are a joy to us.
Pierre's Hole
The Teton Valley of Idaho is a beautiful place and we are lucky to visit it often. Leaving the Teton Valley, (or as it is known locally-Pierre's Hole), we went south to the Curlew National Grasslands, near the Utah border.
01 pheasant
We had hopes of catching the mating dances of the Sage Grouse but it was not to be. But we did find this guy strutting his stuff.

The grasslands were wonderful and you haven't lived until you've experienced a full on prairie thunderstorm at night. Scary and amazing. Wind, hail, rain, and lightning all around. And, as you can see, we were one of the tallest things there.
2 Curlew sageland
3 camping  curlew

From the grasslands a quick trip west along the border (on 28 miles of gravel road...make that mud after a night of thunderstorms) and we were in City of Rocks National Reserve.

The "City of Rocks" National Reserve in southern Idaho is our first major destination of 2010.
02 city of rocks sign

The reserve is located on the southern border of Idaho, just a little bit northeast of the junction of Utah, Nevada, and Idaho. The reserve, historically a stop on the old California Trail westward, was set aside as a national land by congress in 1988. One rock, called "Register Rock" bears the names of many pioneers from the 1800s etched in axle grease and still visible today. City of Rocks gets its name from the fantastic granite spires, massifs, and towers that fill the small basin known as Circle Creek Basin.
03 Nestled Inn
We knew as soon as we arrived that we had discovered a real gem in the National Park system, and booked ourselves for 5 nights in the best campsite in the place. It helped that we were almost the only ones there.
06 view from campsite

One of the great things about this compact little park is the hiking trails. The park is world renown by rock climbers and the trails wind their way through the rock features to reach the various climbs, with names like "Incisor", "Lady J", "Box top", "Terminator", and "Striped Rock". Most of the trails are less than a mile, with a few being 2 or 3, but you can spend several hours in the maze of granite canyons and hike for as far as you are able. 

We would often hike deep into the canyons and still be able to see the camper perched on it's granite foundation a mile or so away.  Many of the features can be climbed by mere mortals like us and we visited all sorts of fantastic granite peculiarities on our wanderings.
07 kitty in the city
This looks just like our cat Digit. I guess he's put on a little weight.

C window to the wild
04 window arch
 There are windows and arches all over the place in City of Rocks. Some right in the campground, some miles out in the valley.
05 flurries
For weather we had Wind, Sun, Rain, Wind, Snow, Wind, and did I mention Wind. We are hardy travelers and while a sunny day is certainly very nice, we don't mind hiking in some of the more inclement conditions that Mother Nature throws at us so we make the best of every day.
08 toasting 2 buck Bob
We also found time to raise a special glass of fine wine to the memory of our dear friend Bob Ligon. We will miss you.

City of Rocks National Monument is jointly managed by the National Park Service and Idaho State Parks.  Castle Rock State Park is also nearby and has a larger campground than City of Rocks.

After 5 days of wonders we are now headed for the Ruby Mountains of Nevada to camp at Ruby Marsh in the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge.