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Out of the Woods for a Birthday Dinner; Back to the Woods; Beavers; Wildflowers; Sporting Clays; Astro-Photography; A Really Big Truck!

After my most enjoyable Sawtooths backpacking trip, I needed a shower. Well, at least that’s what My Lovely Bride told me, but Rudy and Gretchen didn’t complain one bit about my smell. After using a couple of hundred gallons of water and two bars of soap, I got cleaned up and dressed for our date… we were celebrating Suzanne’s birthday a few days early, and we dined at The Ram, one of the best restaurants in Sun Valley (and also the oldest, operating since 1937). The food was amazing! Suzanne had the tuna stack appetizer and Alaskan halibut; I had the artichoke tart and Idaho ruby trout. As you can see, she got all dolled up for our special dinner!

Here are some photos and comments from two hikes we made in the Pioneer Mountains near Hailey, Idaho… this aspen (Populus tremuloides) along Hyndman Creek has been felled by a North American beaver (Castor canadensis), for food and dam-building. Since my years as a Boy Scout, I have admired beavers, both for their industriousness and engineering skills. They work only at night, and can rebuild a damaged/destroyed dam overnight. Ponds created by their dams help isolate their lodges, which they cover with mud so that the mud freezes as hard as stone in winter, keeping the beavers safe from attack by wolves and wolverines. Lodges typically will hold a max of four adults and six to eight youngsters.

Hyndman Peak (12,009 ft) was a bit too far to reach, but the trail to its base along Hyndman Creek was beautiful. As for wildlife, I saw a few mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) but nothing larger.

The creek itself was running strongly, but upstream we found a small bridge that allowed us to keep our boots dry.

Suzanne made one of these hikes with me; the other was solo. It’s certainly nicer hiking together, but her work schedule was quite busy, so what’s a guy to do but go for a hike?

My turning point on the solo hike was this ledge with a pleasantly noisy cascade to lull me to sleep, had I had been so inclined. 

Wildflowers were both beautiful and abundant, mostly in meadows along the trail, but also scattered on the mountainsides; here are just a few…

This modest memorial in Sun Valley is to Ernest Hemingway, another of my favorite authors. He spent his last years in Ketchum, Idaho, close to Sun Valley. In visiting his memorial and researching his life, I found that a genetic disease, hemochromitosis, which causes an inability to metabolize iron, results in mental and physical deterioration. It was evidently the cause of his 1961 suicide, as well as the suicides of his father, sister and brother. He had been treated at the Mayo Clinic before his death, and received 15 electroconvulsive treatments six months before his death. Better treatments exist today, but the disease was not well understood 50-60 years ago.

This plaque reflects Hemingway’s love of the outdoors, and I would be hard pressed to improve on it were I looking for words for a similar purpose…

Speaking of the outdoors, while in Idaho our 42 ft motor coach needed two new steer tires; in the shop at the same time was a truck from the Sacramento Hotshots, elite wilderness firefighters who are supremely fit, brave and well-trained. They are assigned to the most dangerous wildfires. I immediately thought of our good friends Brad Bernardy and Leslie Morgan, who are senior level firefighters with the US Forest Service. In fact, Leslie had just spent a month in Alaska coordinating firefighting efforts in that state, and only recently returned to North Carolina. Brad is heading to West Texas to oversee aviation fire fighting assets there. (Sounds like the Navy as far as conflicting schedules making it hard to have dinner together…) 

While on the subject of maintenance, I must commend the guy in a nearby RV who convinced his wife/girlfriend to climb onto the roof and scrub down the topsides… “Suzanne, look at this wonderful woman on the roof of that RV! She must be very special!” SMACK!!!

From Idaho, we traveled to Montana to visit our friends Dick and Alis Arrowood. Wine aficionados may recognize Dick as the long-time winemaker at Chateau St Jean who put that vineyard on the map, so to speak. He then started Arrowood Vineyards, ran it for years, and sold it. Now he and Alis own Amapola Creek Vineyard (see my blog post from July 8th 2019). We drove to the Arrowood’s ranch and had a fabulous 3 day visit. Dick is a top-level competitive sporting clays shooter, and tried to teach me to shoot sporting clays, like trap and skeet but for serious upland bird shotgunners. 

Alis is by far the prettiest clay puller I’ve ever met! Alis is holding a transmitter that “pulls” the clay thrower and fires the target clay into the air at speeds and angles mimicking quail, pheasant, partridge and grouse, but PETA would be happy that only clay targets are fired upon. 
(And then if I’m shooting, the bird population is pretty safe…)

Alis is also a gourmet cook, and Dick personally selected some old vintages (that he personally made!!!) for our dinners. It was like going to a five star resort and being treated like royalty… thank you, Dick and Alis, for an unforgettable experience!

I almost forgot to mention the Arrowoods’ dogs, two adorable Brittanies… they are self-trained to open doors! Rudy and Gretchen were a bit too old to run with these much younger retrievers. 

From Condon, we headed north to Polson, Montana, where we kayaked on Flathead Lake. The largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River, this beautiful lake has many vacation homes on its shores, but we enjoyed this rocky scenery and crystal clear water. 

Here we have a very tenacious tree with its roots gripping these rocks with amazing strength.

We recently heard from Christine and Randy Smith, formerly of The Villages, FL. Christine was the Flute Choir Director, and Randy was a professional oboist. Now they live in Arizona, and Randy has become an astro-photographer. In his own words, Randy provides some background for his amazing photos:  “During the summer of 2018, I decided to add a new retirement activity and astronomy was the choice despite it involving two things I like to avoid – staying up late and being cold.  Tucson is a mecca for astronomy and astrophotography with its generally clear skies and designation as a “dark skies” community.  Fortunately, the Starizona astronomy store is nearby and I’ve spent many hours there absorbing their help and training. I quickly decided that while looking through a telescope is good, making photographic images is better.  I took my first pictures in December 2018 and have spent many a night in my backyard pointing to my eastern dark sky view. My telescope is an 8” Celestron  Schmidt Cassegrain on an equatorial mount, specialized color imaging cameras along with some special lenses and filters.”

“This image is the Andromeda galaxy, the closest neighbor galaxy to our own Milky Way –  a mere 2.5 million light years away from us.  It can be seen with binoculars and even the naked eye on a clear, dark night rising in the east starting in late summer and until fall.”

“The second image is the Orion nebula (visible from early winter until spring) located in the constellation of Orion.   The nebula is found near the bottom of Orion’s sword hanging from his three star belt.  The brightest center part can be seen with binoculars.   The object also includes the “Running Man” reflection nebula with its blue gas cloud.  With visual viewing through binoculars or telescope, most objects appear in grey scale because our eyes do not see color in the dark but the camera with its ability to keep its “eye” wide open for many seconds or minutes, can detect and record the color.  The colors are real and indicate the gases and dust left over from star explosions with color indicating the type of gas with hydrogen being the most abundant.  These two images are the result of keeping the camera eye open for about 30 minutes.  With so many celestial objects to be seen and photographed, this is a hobby without out end particularly when you start at my age.  Now, if I can just stay up late enough and stay warm!”  Randy, thanks for your amazing photos and description of your new hobby!

Speaking of keeping warm, while the rest of the country suffered through heat waves, we headed into a much cooler climate – here we are in Sparwood, British Columbia, on the west slope of the Canadian Rockies. Our campsite was on the edge of the woods where bears forage for berries this time of year. My Lovely Bride is snugged up with down jacket, tights, hot tea and a warm blanket, and of course a nice toasty campfire built in Boy Scout tradition by Your Faithful Correspondent! (Yes, Brad, when we went to bed, I made sure the fire was DEAD OUT!)

In closing, I would like all my male readers to see me standing by my new truck, the Titan 33-19. This was on display in Sparwood, and I am negotiating to get it delivered to our new house in South Carolina. Our builders are still trying to figure out how to adjust the garage door to fit it in….. okay, it is really huge, with a 350 ton capacity. Built for Kaiser Steel, it operated at the Eagle Mountain Mine in Southern California until being moved to Sparwood for coal mining in 1978. The bed of this truck will hold two buses and two pickup trucks!

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    Posted November 22, 2020 at 1:05 am

    Thanks for the shout out Ty! Glad you didn’t start a Forest Fire on your camping trip. I’m still in Texas and may be here for awhile unless a tropical storm helps lower the fire danger. Brad


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