Water Water Everywhere

2017 was an historic water year in Idaho. The snowpack throughout southern Idaho was well above average. That means there is a lot of runoff from snow melt.

Much of the snow melt finds it’s way into the Snake River, one of the longest rivers in the United States. The Snake has it’s headwaters in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. It courses across the entire southern section of Idaho, through Hell’s Canyon along the Oregon Idaho border before emptying into the mighty Columbia River in Washington state. The Snake is the largest tributary of the Columbia River.

One of the natural wonders along the Snake River is Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls. In many months and years, little or no water flows over the falls, having been diverted up river for irrigation use during the hot dry summer months. However, in years like 2017, Shoshone Falls puts on a spectacular show.

At 212 feet tall and almost 1000 feet wide, Shoshone Falls are actually higher than Niagara Falls. One can easily get drenched by the mist and rainbows are a frequent phenomenon.

Spring is the best time to visit Shoshone Falls. If you ever get the chance, plan a visit to see this wonder.

Ghost Towns

I love ghost towns. They are so intertwined with the history of the west. They helped define the character of the western states and fuel the entire national economy. Rough places to be sure. But they also speak to a time of rugged individualism that seems to be lost in the 21st century.

Silver City, ID is one of those ghost towns. Ghost town may be a misnomer, since Silver City actually has habitable buildings and residents. However, it is remote and onIMG_2077Ely reachable in the summer by a long narrow twisty dirt mountain road. 4WD advised. It sits at 6,200′ in the Owyhee Mountains of southwest Idaho and winter access is by snowmobile. You really have to want to visit this place similar to getting to Bodie, CA.

The town was founded in 1864, shortly after the discover of silver on nearby War Eagle Mountain. Silver City quickly grew to over 2,500 residents and had it’s shore of general stores, hotels, saloons and brothels. The town served as the county seat of Owyhee County until 1934. Millions of dollars of silver and gold were pulled from the mines which operated as recently as 2000.

IMG_2049There are currently about 75 remaining buildings, all privately owned and in various states of restoration. One of the buildings is Our Lady of Tears Catholic Church where Mass is still said. How would you like to be the priest that has that duty each week? There is no easy access to the church. One must climb the hill pictured to the right. There are no stairs, just series of rock outcroppings. They have added a safety rail, however.


June 2014 was a once in a lifetime excursion to China to visit and travel with Maguire. We met up in Beijing where Maguire lives and works, but quickly hopped an airplane to Kunming in Yunnan Province in southwest China. A four hour bus ride brought us to our first destination in Dali. Maguire has worked very hard to learn Chinese and it showed on this trip. She seemed to have no trouble communicating with anyone or arguing with taxi drivers who were always trying to rip us off. I really appreciated having her as an interpreter, tour guide and companion.

Dali, Yunnan, China

The old walled city of Dali was built during Ming Dynasty (late 1300’s) and is separate from the new city. Although situated at 6500 feet elevation, the city has a very mild climate. Our base of operations was Jim’s Tibetan Hotel which was within easy walking distance of the old city and about 2 miles from the 3 Pagodas.

We spent a couple of days exploring the city and surrounding area including a trip by cable car up the nearby Cangshan Range mountains for a great view of Erhai Lake. Unfortunately, the food was disappointing as we couldn’t find a place that served authentic Yunnan cuisine.

Our next stop was Lijiang, a 2 hour train ride north of Dali. Lijiang is located at 8500 feet elevation and sits at the base of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (elevation 18,360 feet). We viewed the mountain from the famous Black Dragon Pool which is considered one of China’s finest picturesque views. Despite being in a temperate zone, the mountain peak remains snow covered year round.

Lijiang has three ancient cities including Baisha, Shuhe and Lijiang. Lijiang Old Town is 4 square km of shops and restaurants and is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

While in Lijiang we stayed at a wonderful small inn, Bruce’s Chalet. It was difficult to find. Our taxi driver dumped us at the main gate of Shuhe Old Town, not knowing where it really was. We stopped numerous people and even asked at the police station. No one could seem to help us and there was no answer when we called the inn. Using Apple Maps and Google Maps on my iPhone finally got us to the correct location. Bruce and his wife were charming hosts who always had tea and biscuits for us as soon as we returned from our daily excursions.

The back side of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain forms one side of Tiger Leaping Gorge. It is one of the deepest gorges in the world, measuring 12,434 feet from river to mountain top. Our all day trip to the gorge included an exhausting loop hike straight down the mountainside to the river for approximately 3,000 feet and then back up. The trail up was so steep that we had to climb ladders at a couple of points.

Lijiang, Yunnan, China

Culinary highlights of Lijiang included eating hot pot as well as fried Yak cheese dipped in sugar crystals. Very good.

Leaving Lijiang, we caught an 8 hour bus back to Kunming for our return flight to Beijing. The next day we were off to see the Great Wall.

We visited the Mutianyu section of the wall which is 70 km northeast of Beijing. The scope of the wall can only be appreciated in person. It took millions of workers to build and rebuild the wall over centuries. Hundreds of thousand probably died and many were just buried in the wall as part of the construction. The most surprising discovery about the wall is that it is definitely not flat. Everything is either a stair step up or down. The occasional 3 point climb was not unusual.

Back in Beijing we couldn’t miss a trip to the night market. This is where one finds all of the strange foods being served from street vendors. Delicacies include crickets, grasshoppers, scorpions, centipedes, snake, turtle and who knows what else. It’s something you should definitely see. Whether you choose to sample is us to you.

Alas, all good trips must come to an end. After a tearful goodbye, I caught my flight back to Seattle and eventually Boise taking nothing but good memories of my time in China.

The Damn Dam

Several years ago our family visited Hoover Dam which sits astride the Colorado river near Las Vegas. It was summertime and hot. Probably around 114 degrees. After parking, we ventured inside to the visitor’s center to take the tour. The waiting room wasn’t much better than being outside, hot and uncomfortable. Once the tour started and we entered the bowels of the massive structure, the temperature fell to the chilly side. Nevertheless, my wife had had enough and renamed the place “The Damn Dam!”

The Damn Dam was built during the Great Depression years of 1931-1936 in Black Canyon which sits on the border of Arizona and Nevada. It was a massive undertaking and an engineering marvel. We often forget the human toll the project extracted with over 100 workers loosing their lives. You have to wonder what would have happened if OSHA had existed at the time?

The Damn Dam and the other dams along the Colorado River including Glen Canyon, Davis and Parker are controversial to some, but make modern life possible in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles. The lakes behind the dams provide drinking and irrigation water, flood control and recreation. So, thanks to the hardy individuals that conceived, built, maintain and run the Hoover Dam.

Return to Yellowstone

The post about Ediza Lake got me thinking about another one of my favorite places – Yellowstone National Park. I live about 300 miles from Yellowstone and visit as often as I can.
Most of the millions of visitors only see a tiny portion of this park. Old Faithful and the other geysers, Yellowstone Lake, Monmouth Hot Springs are well known features. However, there are other sections of the park that almost no one visits. Tucked into the southwest corner of the park is one of those areas.

Cave Falls is reached by Hwy. 47 and Cave Falls Rd. which is a paved/gravel route from Ashton, ID. The falls are about 25 miles from Ashton. There is a small campground nearby. The falls can also be reached by snowmobile in the winter.

There are plenty of hiking trails in the area that lead into the backcountry of Yellowstone. Once you leave the trail head, the only life you are likely to see is the abundant wildlife. Please be prepared for bears.

The actual falls pictured below are only about 20 feet high, but extend over 250 feet across the Falls River.

Photo of Cave Falls

Geocaching Day

Today is International Geocaching Day. I celebrated by getting out of the house and finding a few caches in and around Boise including my 100th.

Geocaching is a fun family activity. Learn more at www.geocaching.com.

Ediza Lake

The Eastern Sierra is chock full of great hiking and backpacking trails. One of my favorites is the trail to Ediza Lake.