Western trip, 2006

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

I’ve kind of made a name for myself by doing what I call “wild man trips.”  These are usually short-term personal retreats during which I explore the country, try newly learned skills, test equipment, and enjoy the outdoors.  My longest adventure was in 2006.  To give you an idea of the things I go through, here is my journal for that trip (in part as I left out many details that would bore you to death), with photographs I captured along the way:

Sunday, July 9 – Left at 1 PM. Traveled north on I-29 to North Dakota and got on I-94 west at Fargo.  Stayed at rest area west of Fargo.  En route, in South Dakota, a cock pheasant flew into my windshield while I was going 75 mph.  Windshield fine.  Pheasant not so fine.

American bison, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

American bison, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

A few minutes after the pheasant tried to clean my windshield with his tail feathers, a truck passed me going exceedingly fast (him, not me, going fast).  A large stone was thrown into my windshield and caused a through-nick under the wiper blade on passenger side.

Monday, July 10 – Traveled west on I-94 into Missouri River valley.  Visited Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Site.  Video at visitor’s center was poorly done – biased in my opinion against white settlers.  Continued on Route 200 to US 85 and south to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  It was spectacular, mostly hill and canyon country.

Crossed border into Montana and stopped in Glendive, MT, at a city pool to cool off and shower.  It’s hot, very hot.  Any place to swim is a blessing.

Continued on I-94 west to Route 47 south to Little Bighorn National Monument.  Interesting.  Met a large youth group from St. Joseph, MO.  Talked to leader – it’s an ecumenical (all –denomination) group, mostly Catholic, going to work missions in Indian reservations nearby.

Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park

I went on to US 14 and crossed the Bighorn Mountains at dusk.  Interestingly, a park ranger at Little Bighorn told me I’d never make it before dark.  It was quite the experience crossing it at dusk.  Saw several mule deer bucks (big ones) in velvet right in front of my truck.  Thankfully, I was not going fast (couldn’t on those mountain curves) and the bucks had no desire to imitate the aforementioned pheasant’s taste for instant windshield.  But they were beautiful; so were the mountains in that fading light.

Stopped at a rest area in Greybull, WY – on the OTHER side of the Bighorn Mountains – for the night, just as darkness fell, thank you very much Mr. Park Ranger Sir (or, as my kids would say when they were young:  nanna-nanna-boo-boo).

Tuesday, July 11 – Traveled on US 14/20/16 to Cody, WY.  Visited Buffalo Bill Museum, mostly the firearms area.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Late morning headed to Yellowstone.  Original plans called for staying at Buffalo Bill State Park east of Yellowstone.  I passed on that when I saw that there were very few trees to camp under or around – and it was hot.  When I got to Yellowstone’s east entrance, I was glad I passed.   It was under construction and was scheduled to close from 8 PM – 8 AM…  I would not have been able to get back.

Toured Yellowstone.  Got sand at Fishing Bridge (yes, I collect sand, somebody’s got to do it).  Saw Inspiration Point, Norris Geyser Basin, mud pots, and Old Faithful.  All in one day.

Mosquito cartoon

Stopped at Lewis Lake for primitive camping and a spirited battle with mosquitoes.  Scouted lake before dark for good site to bathe, I mean, take a swim.  Went back after dark and skinny dipped in the 49 degree 8000 feet high mountain lake.  I didn’t bathe, I mean swim, long as mosquitoes attempted to abscond with my clothes.  Stayed in the water long enough to turn a nice shade of cobalt blue when I suddenly realized that in addition to man-eating mosquitoes there were several plus-sized carnivores scavenging the lake shore looking for an easy meal, and I might be it.  They wouldn’t even have to worry with tearing off my clothes.  Gathering what clothing I could find from the mosquito bazaar, I left.  Spent night in the back of my truck terrorized by the mosquito horde (I think they wanted my clothes back).

Wednesday, July 12 – Off to the Grand Tetons.  Ho hum.  Nice views though.  Jackson, WY, was the pits – too touristy.  Crossed the mountains into Idaho on US 26, to I-15 north.  Kept on the interstate to Spokane, WA.  Stayed overnight at an RV park behind a motel (part of the motel actually) for $5.  Got a shower and rest.  It was a long day.

Waterfalls Oregon, 4

Waterfalls, Oregon

Thursday, July 13 – Traveled I-15 in Washington to I-84 west to Oregon.  Continued to exit 35 and staked out a camping site at Ainsworth State Park.  Very nice actually.  Nice accommodations (showers and site), cool, good company.  Park was full by nightfall.  Glad I stopped early.

Earlier that afternoon, while trying to get sand on the Columbia River at Rooster Rock State Park, I managed to cut my foot, splitting the web between my right big toe and next toe in an attempt to walk through reeds.  Pretty bad but doctored myself up by cleaning it and treating it, taping toes together.  This puts a damper on my hiking plans.

Friday, July 14 – With foot hurting, I went to Ft. Clatsop National Park near Astoria, OR.  It was okay – I got a feel for the area and how Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery might have found the land, but the video at the visitor’s center was, again, poorly done, with obvious bias against white settlers and explorers.  I don’t know what the National Park Service is trying to prove.  Actually, now that I think about it, the information was awful.

Fort Clatsop National Memorial

Fort Clatsop National Memorial

Tried another foray at Rooster Rock State Park, found a place in the Columbia River to swim and cool off (skinny dipped), then returned to Camp Ainsworth and had a great meal.  Met Daniel from next site, who biked in (on a bicycle).  We ate together.  He’s big into hiking, biking, camping, and triathlons, for which he is currently training.  We talked about bike equipment, outdoor gear, traveling, and camp meals.

Saturday, July 15 – Visited the several waterfalls in the area, supposed to be the largest number of high waterfalls in one place in the world.  Took short hikes.  West to Columbia River gorge and got sand without further injury.  Returned to Camp Ainsworth and met two women camping in next site.  I assisted them with firing up their new camp stove.  Daniel gone.  Big bikers in his place (on Hondas).  Not very friendly even though I tried to strike up a conversation.

Had another good meal and hot shower.  Met camp hosts, volunteer RVers.  He is from New Jersey, wife is from Boone County, Kentucky.  I told her my family is from Harlan County.  She said I needed to carry a gun.  Little did she know.  Small talked my way into making them think I was harmless.  Maybe she did know something.

Pacific Ocean, coast of Washington

Pacific Ocean, coast of Washington

Got a friend’s cell phone number and called them in Portland (where they were visiting his mother) to arrange to worship with them in the morning.

Sunday, July 16 – Left Camp Ainsworth for Portland, OR, and met up with my friends for worship at his home church, Milwaukie Community Covenant Church, where he grew up.  Their pastor used to pastor Community Covenant Church in Kearney, MO, and knew people I know.  Small world.

On the road after worship service:  I-84 east to LaGrande, OR.  Stopped at First Baptist Church there to ask for information.  Gave them my card and received warm welcome, but they didn’t have church service that evening.  Ladies were there getting ready for VBS the next morning.

Found an RV park for $5.  Visited Walmart for supplies (chap stick).  Ate at city park on tailgate, in the shade.  It’s really hot.

Living out of the back of my truck!

Living out of the back of my truck!

While there, an older couple with young adult son and older mom stopped to snack at next table over.  As I got ready to leave, he introduced himself – Wayne, wife, mother, and adult son Matthew.  Wayne is pastor of the church I just visited earlier.  They just got back from a trip to Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.  We chatted for a while and I shared about my trip.  He prayed with me.

As I write these last lines, it’s about dark enough to play the opening cartoon at a cheap drive-in theater.  I’ll go to bed, or try to in this heat, in about a half an hour.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Monday, July 17 – Left LaGrande, OR, and headed to Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area and a scenic byway.  Somewhere along the road, the byway became just a way up into the mountains, and not much of a way at that.  Got turned around at Joseph, OR, at Walhalla State Park.  It was actually very nice but the town was very touristy.

Upon arrival at Hell’s Canyon, the scene was nothing like the brochure.  In fact, I’ve seen prettier scenery in the Appalachians Mountains of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Made it to Baker City, OR, where I had late lunch at city park, then checked e-mail at the local library for first time this trip.  Nothing new.  On I go on I-84 east.

Arrived in Ontario, OR/Fruitland, ID area.  Found RV site in Fruitland.  Can honestly say that I’m glad to be out of Oregon.  Planning trip for next few days.  I’m ahead of schedule.

Tuesday, July 18 – Had a better night’s rest – no loud traffic or trains or mosquitoes.  Drove to Hagerman, ID to visit Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, and a portion of the Oregon Trail.  Pretty cool actually, the stuff I saw not the weather – it’s still hot!

Twin Falls, Idaho

Twin Falls, Idaho

Drove to Twin Falls, ID, and saw the Shoshone Falls, a locally owned park apparently.  It was nice.  Then drove to Shoshone, ID, and found a city pool.  Cooled off and took shower.  Did not skinny dip as I’m sure parents, kids, and lifeguards would have had a problem with that.  Ate at park.  Earlier in day, I had placed a potato wrapped in foil on top of my truck’s engine where it wouldn’t roll off.  After 7 hours, it actually baked well enough to eat.  Therefore, no more jokes – IT CAN BE DONE.  Ate with spam sandwich and canned tangerines.

It was about 97 degrees today.  I’m sitting in a Walmart parking lot in Jerome, ID, tailgating a tub of ice cream and drinking a big raspberry ice tea.  Will camp here for the night and head to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve tomorrow, about an hour away.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Wednesday, July 19 – Went to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  It was very good, worth the trip.  Explored lava tube ice caves, climbed cinder cones, other short hikes.  This is one of the highlights of my trip.

Returned to Twin Falls, ID, and got a room at a Motel 6.  Totaled gas so far: $668.  Will R&R the rest of today and tonight, and study for speaking engagements.

Thursday, July 20 – Ate lunch at Idaho Joe’s, a burger and fries platter.  First store bought meal since I left July 9 (have been buying cold milk and ice cream along the way since I don’t have an ice chest).

Met up with pastor/missionary friends early afternoon.  Spent time catching up.  Bed and shower this night felt good.

Friday, July 21 – Visited the area with my friends.  Saw most beautiful mountain meadow of wild flowers.  Ate at really good Mexican restaurant in Burley, ID.  Visited a local museum, one of the better small museum’s I’ve seen.  Most everything was hands on.

Campfire Worship in the Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Saturday, July 22 – Spoke at sportsmen’s breakfast at my friend’s church this morning, First Southern Baptist Church of Gooding, ID.  Then spoke at the campfire worship of a family camp of a church in the Sawtooth Mountains National Recreation Area.  It was a very beautiful setting.

Saturday, July 23 – Spoke at my friend’s church this Sunday morning, then left for the long trip home.  Went through southern Idaho, northern Utah, saw the Great Salt Lake.  Spent night in rest area in south central Wyoming near Medicine Bow Mountains.

Sunday, July 24 – Ate a steak lunch in a restaurant in Ogallala, NE.  Have eaten here before with Jody last year.  Steaks are great, especially for just being a storefront spot on the road.  Continued long journey home and arrived about 8:30 PM.

Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho


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