Sunday, April 12, 2015

Attempted Travel

Bald Eagle at Warm River

Second Failed Attempt at Mesa Falls This Year
We had a little time last weekend, and decided to make a quick trip up to Mesa Falls, Idaho.  I wanted to see the falls with snow around them.  I dunno, I think it would be pretty.  We attempted to see it on Valentines Day and got as far as Bear Gulch and had to turn back because of snow pack on the road.  I figured a month and a half would be enough time to get the snow off the road to at least get to Lower Mesa Falls.  It was unseasonably warm during the month of March.

We turned East at Ashton, Idaho and headed out along highway 47, which becomes the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.  The road dips down into Warm River Canyon and just before the road climbs up the side of the Island Park Caldera (the largest volcano in the world) there is a small section of river that is closed to fishing.  The fish know this.  There is a platform built out above the water where people can go feed the fish.  The trout right at that spot get very big.  Some of them are upwards of two feet long.

We no sooner got to the fish platform when two bald eagles began flying overhead.  One was a mature bald eagle and the other was an immature bald eagle.  It was very cool.  I always like to see the eagles.

Mature bald eagle

Mature and immature bald eagles

Learning to fly

When the eagles' display was over, we then proceeded to feed the fish.  I brought along a loaf of bread for this purpose.  The Hot Chick threw the bread in the water and I took pictures of some really big fish.  When you throw the bread in, it becomes a feeding frenzy.  It's a great place to take visiting family members, especially when they have young kids.

Big fish

Reel Big Fish

Feeding frenzy


Like a whale
We proceeded up the side of the volcano and descended into Bear Gulch.  On Valentines Day this was as far as we got.  From Bear Gulch to Lower Mesa Falls is three miles.  The road was clear and dry.  We thought we were good.  About a mile later, though there was a lot of snow on the road.  There were deep wheel grooves in it which meant it was somewhat passable, but I thought only if I had a four wheel drive would I attempt that.  My front wheel drive Chrysler Town and Country minivan was not built for those conditions.  Discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to turn around and go back.  It wasn't a total loss, however because we saw eagles and really big fish.

As we headed for home, I saw a sign that looked like a pair of binoculars.  That usually means birds.  We took that road to the Fun Farm Bridge near St. Anthony, Idaho and drove around through the countryside along the Nez Perce Historic Byway.  The Hot Chick pointed out a large nest with two big birds on it.  They were osprey.  This failed trip was looking up!



Since we were near the world famous St. Anthony Sand Dunes, we decided to drive out to see them.  I wasn't really going to get out and play, I just wanted to check them out in case I wanted to bring the kids and maybe grandkids out later this summer.  I remember going to the sand dunes when I was a boy.

According to the magazines that care about dune buggying or four wheeling in the sand, the St. Anthony Sand Dunes right here in southeastern Idaho are the only place on earth that boasts every type of sand feature that enthusiasts like to ride on.  That's kind of cool, I think.

So, when the wind erodes the basalt out in the valley, and the wind is omnipresent here in southeast Idaho, the basalt breaks down into two major components.  First there is the loess, which gets deposited all over the valley.  That is what makes the great potatoes grow here in Idaho.  The other component is sand which blows and gathers at the sand dunes in St. Anthony.

The story goes that when the early Mormon Pioneers entered the valley here, the wind was so bad that they camped to wait it out.  After one night, some of the men went to Thomas E. Ricks, the leader and said, "Let's pack up and go."  He is reported to say, "Why don't we wait until the wind dies down."  And that is how Rexburg, Idaho was settled.

One of the dunes

...and another
  We'll spend some quality time on the dunes this year, I think.  I need to see them again.  They cover hundreds of acres, maybe thousands here in the sagebrush steppe that is southeastern Idaho.

So, for not getting to see what we set out to see, it wasn't a bad day.  There is really so much to see here in southeast Idaho.  I've spent a lifetime here and haven't scratched the surface.  This is truly an idyllic place.

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