Mountainbiking up and down the mountain
As we did our laundry and got to know the ‘locals’ of the RV park, we bid our farewells and drove out to the Brundage Mountain Resort. It is a one hill ski resort that turns into a bike and hike park in the summer. Some fantastic trails are set at the base of the skilift, especially for kids, so we went out to discover these single tracks full of sharp corners and pump tracks. Sven did the cool guy’s thing and rode up the mountain on a single track and then downhill again. The scenery is amazing (watch out for crossing chipmunks!) and as we were early in the day after a night of rain, the tracks were not as dusty and filled with animal tracks to check out!
We had a long drive planned in the afternoon all the way down to the state capital area of Boise, right along the Payette River. This river is very popular with rafters and kayakers, so we saw a lot of action while we drove past. In Nampa, we found a Harvest Host that had a spot for us – Idaho Pioneer Farm. A chicken farm with many free range chickens, but also a goat (Ron), dogs (Ruby & a pup) and cats with kittens. Of course this was again a treat for the boys who enjoyed going around the property, while listening to the crackling sound of gunfire. You read that right; gunfire – there was an outdoor shooting range next door.
Some more US history out in Idaho
Next day we made use if being in an urban area and did some more shopping around for a bike rack and we decided to look out for an inflatable kayak (inspired by the Payette River no doubt!). After this, we made the drive further southeast, where we visited Minidoka National Historic Site. Another place with a Junior Ranger program for the boys, and a very interesting visitor center for us. See, there were actual concentration camps on US soil, filled with 110.000 Japanese who were simply put there because… they were Japanese!
Right after the Pearl Harbor attack, every single Japanese from the west got put on a train and sent inland to go and live in barracks out in camps. Interestingly enough, a few years later it became clear that these families (from infant to grandma) had no ties with Japan nor were they a threat to the US. In fact, later in the WWII they were put together in a regiment of their own to fight in Europe and became the most decorated of units of the entire US… go figure. The place is quite daunting, and the exhibit lays out again very clearly how we are not learning from the past and still are at risk of judging entire populations on their race, religion or other unique characteristic…
As we drove down to a recreation area (a federal one, meaning we could again take a 50% discount on the camping cost) we needed a dip in the lake to cool of both our bodies and our heads. It is still very hot here, but hopefully the temperatures will go down as we move towards the mountains!
City of Rocks National Reserve
A day out to another NPS site in Idaho. Leaving the recreation area was not that straight forward (there was a rail bridge of 11ft high that we could not go under so we had to go back around to get out), but once out we made our way down to the City of Rocks National Reserve. It is an outdoor area at the south of Idaho that is covered in big boulders and a fantastic climbing area. After scoring our Junior Ranger activity books, we took the main road in to head out to a hike in the park. The paths were going up and down but of course the main attraction is all those boulders to climb along the way!
After this, we thought the only right place to have lunch was at a rock formation called ‘bread loaves’! This was also the starting point of a 5-mile, mostly downhill mountain bike track we were going to take in the afternoon. Of course you can not do a downhill without going uphill, so Sven gracefully volunteered to drive all the way back up via the road to pick up the RV again. Along the way we saw rocks in the shape of an elephant, monkey, anteater, but of course every rock is what you see in it so the boys had some very creative options as well (one being the poop-emoji).
While we have some very cool pictures, Bo did not enjoy the first part of the track as much as it was quite challenging. He was a trooper though (we say in hindsight after grinding our teeth while he wailed) and managed to go on the entire way. Luc is doing fantastic on his bike, but had a nasty fall at the end as well which he found quite cool (again, in hindsight 😉). The sky is turning grey, but not from rain, it seems to be either dust or the effect of wildfires further away.
Craters of the Moon
After a nice drive up in Idaho, we arrive at the Craters of the Moon National Reserve well before lunchtime, which gives us a broad choice at the park’s first-come-first-serve campsite. We pick up the info at the visitor center including a new Junior Ranger activity book (Bo got one for very small kids) and returned to our RV for lunch. Again a good place to explore by bike, we head out for a short ride to the start of the cave-exploring hike. There are several caves to get into of varying size and difficulty, the favorite of Luc being the Boy-Scout Cave that left mom almost stuck to get through a 1ft high hole in the ground… yikes! Riding back was a breeze and we enjoyed an early dinner from the grill as the boys climbed the rocks and played with our next campspot neighbor Lucien.
The next day, mom needs to redeem herself and strikes out alone on the North Crater Trail, joining the rest of the family up high to climb the Inferno Cone together. The views are quite bizarre as you are surrounded by lava and volcanic soil as far as the eye can see (which is far from this top), while the mountain you climb feels like you climb a pile of sand (cinder to be precise). After the climb we head out to a bigger walk called the ‘Broken Top Loop’ which gives more insight on everything volcanic through the interpretation leaflet you can pull out of the box at the start. Lunch is had by the Devils Orchard, after which we drive the 3-hour drive up north to the border of what should be an immense highlight of our journey: Yellowstone National Park. Sleeping is along the highway, to be able to make an early start in the morning!
Yellowstone National Park – Part I
To beat the crowds (and the heat) we leave West Yellowstone early and make a beeline for the highlight of the park: Old Faithful Geyser. It is a geyser with a massive eruption that can be predicted the most accurate around (+/- 10 minutes). While we wait for it, we get to talking to a woman our age who happens to have lived in the Netherlands when she was a teenager – in Noordwijk! What are the odds…
The Old Faithful area is filled with volcanic activity and to make life easier it actually has some of the very scarce bicycle paths in the park, so we saddle up and ride between its sites. We are lucky with the eruption of Daisy (perfect timing) and see some other impressive eruptions before putting the bikes back onto the RV and driving along the Firehole River back towards Madison where we booked our first campground. There are still many sights along the way so our afternoon is spent there. Realizing we did not have a proper shower in a while (not telling how long) we took the example of many and had a proper swim in the surprisingly warm Firehole River – or should the name have given that away already?
The next morning we have a relaxing start up, and then make our way north to one of the ‘first-come-first-serve’-campgrounds of Yellowstone to claim a spot for 2 nights. Indian Creek is a basic campground (pit toilets and some water spigots but that’s it for facilities) run by the National Park, but at 20 dollars per night it is a good deal. We have a snack and then make our way to the north eastern edge of the park: Lamar Valley. On the way, we take the Lost Lake Loop trail, a 4-mile hike through bear-country (which freaks Bo out, so we decided not to tell him anymore) with some good climbs in them and a gorgeous lake valley. Funnily we see no animals on the trail, but arriving there is a pronghorn next to our parking lot, and leaving a coyote bids us farewell…
The Lamar Valley is known for its wildlife, and does not disappoint. We see tons of bison, including the much coveted “there is a bison on the road next to my car”-moment, and take the RV to the far end of the valley to cook dinner and see if we can catch some wolves around dusk. Instead of wolves, we run into a badger (quite literally as it poked it’s head out of a hole close to Luc and then decided to cross the bridge besides him) and tons of little squirrel and chipmunk. On our way back, there is again bison and a herd of Pronghorn, and yes, far in the distance a pack of wolves. Now to be fair, we saw them as black dots through the binocular… but they were there! Further back we see a moose in the field and Mammoth Springs is apparently covered in elk at night… but still no sight of the animal high on our list: the BEAR!
Next week: More Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP – will we see a bear?