So I pursued that path, but then it degenerated into overgrowth and a unsanctioned scramble, and as I pursued this path then tried to go back up to Mom, I really struggled with the loose terrain.
In hindsight, I probably should have backtracked and then rejoined Mom on the “trail”.
But the end result of my efforts (besides finally making it back to Mom via this “shortcut”) was that a sharp tree protrusion gashed my left index finger, and it seemed to be bleeding pretty non-stop…
- Day 1 (June 13, 2021 – Las Vegas, Nevada): “High Traffic Volume”
- Day 2 (June 14, 2021 – Baker, Nevada): “Testing The Limits”
- Day 3 (June 15, 2021 – Baker, Nevada): “Chasing Luck – Bad and Good”
- Day 4 (June 16, 2021 – Stanley, Idaho): “History Almost Repeating Itself”
- Day 5 (June 17, 2021 – Stanley, Idaho): “Testing The Limits Even More”
- Day 6 (June 18, 2021 – Twin Falls, Idaho): “Educational Experiences”
- Day 7 (June 19, 2021 – Ephrata, Washington): “Off And On”
Day 1 (June 13, 2021 – Las Vegas, Nevada): “High Traffic Volume”
It was about 7am when I awoke though Julie was already up well before I was.
We were discussing what to do about this Berkey Water Filter that this company reached out to us and wanted us to try out before our trip.
It was something quite different from what we had been used to prior to this trip, but we figured that maybe we can make use of this filter to try to not have to buy more bottled water in plastic containers.
I wasn’t sure how good this thing would perform against the heavily chlorinated tap water, but we did test it out in our home and it did pretty well for a non-RO system (the latter of which actually spends nearly three times as much water as the drinkable volume it would otherwise output).
In any case, we also procrastinated on the packing because we figured that the check-in time for the Desert Paradise Resort in Vegas (where we were staying tonight) was 4pm so we were really in no hurry.
The main goal was to let the kids play in the huge swimming pool with a waterfall, and it would be cool to see Tahia, Joshua, and Sophia play together in there (since it was just Tahia and I the last time we were here a year ago).
So with all the last minute packing and chores, Tahia and I also helped Julie with moving the potted plants towards the planters with the sprinklers since we knew that Southern California was about to experience a heat wave and was afraid the plants would die.
And so it wouldn’t be until about 10am when we finally got the car loaded up, and by about 10:20am when we finally left the house.
The first order of business was to meet up with my parents at their place, and we got there at about 10:45am.
However, it had a dual slot to keep the lower ends of the folded pole from flaying away from the main shaft, which the Distance FLZ lacked, and so I told Mom that I could try using the Alpine FLZ while she could use my lighter Distance FLZ pole.
Anyways, by about 11:05am, we finally left the parents’ place together, and we then headed on the long drive out to Las Vegas.
As expected, there was quite a bit of volume on the freeways, especially on the I-15. So there was not much chance of a smooth drive as we could see people clogging the left lane and causing congestion on both lanes as people were trying to pass on the right before running into a truck or trailer.
Since my parents were driving with both Josh and Soph, my Mom texted us about desiring to pull over for a quick lunch stop, and knowing that Baker would be too busy, I decided against my instincts and gave in to stopping at an In N Out in Barstow.
We ultimately got there at 12:35pm, but I could see that the traffic here was pretty tense as the traffic lights were not well synchronized so there was a lot of backup going back towards the I-15 while people were even blocking the intersections (probably because they couldn’t move if they did what they were supposed to do).
As Julie got out of the car to order inside and bring the food out to the cars, just watching the snarling traffic on the surface streets was tense.
I knew that it would take a bit of time before we could get out of here, and sure enough, we started driving again at about 1:05pm though we probably didn’t get back on the I-15 until maybe around 1:25pm.
They didn’t get a chance to use the facilities in Barstow, and so we had to make the pit stop out here.
But once we got going again, aside from a few pockets of congestion from clueless (or stubbornly inconsiderate) drivers refusing to keep right except to pass, we ultimately made it to the Desert Paradise Resort a bit away from the Las Vegas Strip at 3:45pm.
It was just in time for checking in and we managed to get suites next to each other (though I don’t think they have connecting rooms).
It was about 110F out here, but after sanitizing our rooms, the parents let the kids play in the big swimming pool so they could finally get to play with each other.
Tahia and I played in this pool a year ago, but trying rasslin’ moves on Tahia in the pool I’m sure wasn’t the same as her horsing around with her cousins.
And so while they were enjoying the big pool with the waterfall, Julie and I drove out to fill up on gas and to go to the Whole Foods so we could cook a spaghetti dinner tonight as well as some stuff while were out and about in Great Basin tomorrow and the day after.
After spending about $133 worth of groceries (I was worried we might have a lot of trouble trying to fit stuff into our cooler since I doubt we’ll have a fridge in Baker), we were back in the room at 5:45pm.
Julie thought that the filter was doing its job because we could smell the chlorine in the water running out of the tap of the kitchen sink, but we didn’t smell the same thing from the water coming out of the filter.
I didn’t realize that the charcoal filters could actually get rid of chlorine, but whatever it was doing, it seemed like it was doing the job in a comparable manner to our usual RO scheme that we got going at home.
In any case, I could immediately see that we didn’t need to buy more bottled water in big jugs that were prone to getting chemicals from the leaching in the intense desert heat, and so I was definitely glad that Berkey reached out to us and had us consider using this product (for a review of course).
Unfortunately, as we were about to get going with the dinner preparations, we realized that we had forgotten to get eggs.
So I had this idea to get Dad to drive his car so he could fill up on gas while we’d make another Whole Paycheck run to get the missing stuff while Julie would be preparing dinner.
Mom would be watching the kids since she knew that Dad would pay more attention to his phone instead of the kids at the pool so it was a good thing we had this excuse for Dad and I to do this last errand.
By 6:20pm, we accomplished what we set out to do.
Then, after loading the last stuff in the fridge, I then went back to the swimming pool to join Mom and the kids. Dad must have been back at the room playing on his phone again.
Eventually, as the sun was sinking lower on the horizon and the lingering families at the pool were busy BBQ’ing in the many grills on the premises, we coerced the kids to get out of the pool so they can get the chlorine off and ultimately have dinner as a family.
Indeed, we all enjoyed Julie’s healthy gluten-free spaghetti dinner, and we topped it off with some organic cookies ‘n cream ice cream that we got from the Whole Foods.
I’m sure as far as the kids were concerned, it must have been a perfect day for them because they got to play in the pool, they then got a spaghetti dinner, followed up by a cookies ‘n cream dessert, and they got to play video games afterwards.
I always say that a trip doesn’t truly begin for us until we experience a waterfall, but as far as the kids were concerned, that fake waterfall at the swimming pool was probably that start of their trip in their minds.
Anyways, we relaxed at our room together, but tomorrow, we intend to get an early start.
It was necessary to both beat the traffic but also to get to Great Basin National Park as soon as possible so we can avoid traffic on the dangerous two-lane roads (shared with big rigs mind you), and hopefully get a parking spot at Wheeler Peak.
But we had to warn the parents and the cousins about the accommodations we were about to go into because it was going to be basic compared to what we were getting here at the Desert Paradise Resort (a nice family-friendly accommodation that Mom really appreciated).
Yet that comes with the territory when we’re going to the least-visited national park in the lower 48 states…
Day 2 (June 14, 2021 – Baker, Nevada): “Testing The Limits”
It was about 4:30am when I awoke as I knew the priority for the early morning was to leave Vegas by 6am so we could get to Baker at a reasonable hour either hoping to check in early or to experience the Great Basin National Park before checking in.
My parents along with Josh and Soph were game to getting up early while Julie and I were busy making breakfast.
Even Tahia surprisingly got up and ready to pack, and so after a quick waffle and eggs breakfast (while I was busy having my usual kefir), we then loaded up the car, double-checked our rooms, and were on the road by 6:15am.
It’s amazing how efficient we can be with more helping hands, and now I hoped that our early start would pay off with fewer cars on the road.
That said, when we got towards the I-15, there were already quite a few cars on the road, and when we got to the US93 en route to Pioche, there were even a handful of big rigs to pass.
As we headed north on this long expansive desert stretch between Las Vegas and the Great Basin, this time we stuck to this 93 instead of taking the shortest distance to get to Ely.
While there were some cars in front of us that we were about to pass, we ultimately got to the car leading the small pack.
Once I finally saw the letters, I sheepishly returned to get behind the black SUV in front of us and really reduced the cruise control down to about 75mph, which was what the Highway Patrol was going at.
This persisted throughout that stretch between Caliente and Pioche, and it wasn’t until we were about to leave Pioche did the patrol officer make a left.
The whole time, I thought he was waiting for us to pass him or he was going to pull us over anyways, but perhaps nothing came of it because he never came back to cite us after making his left.
And so right around 8:40am (not even a few minutes after the patrol officer made his left turn), we found a large pullout area where we then decided to take a bucket break where both families took turns (except Dad) using the bucket.
By 8:55am, we were back on the road again, where we resumed the normal 80mph speed once we knew that we were well beyond any civilization again.
Eventually, by 10:25am, we made it to the Border Inn, which was basically a Phillips 66 Gas Station with quite a few rooms for rent.
By the time we got up to the end of the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, we made it to the parking lot for the Alpine Lakes Loop and the Bristlecone Pine Trail as well as the Glacier Trail.
However, the parking lot was pretty much full so we had to make a couple circles before we ended up stopping the car in front of the walkway to the amphitheater while Dad had to wait for another spot to open up.
There was one person struggling with a flat tire and fixing that, but eventually, there was a truck that pulled out that Dad claimed.
Indeed, it was about 11:20am when we finally stopped our cars, but it wasn’t until about 12pm when we finally started moving.
The plan was for us to be walking together until Mom and I would split off and pursue the Wheeler Glacier while the rest of the crew would head towards Teresa Lake, which was one of the lakes on the Alpine Lakes Loop (though they wouldn’t be doing the whole loop).
It was merely 10 minutes later when we split off as the sign on the right pointed towards the Alpine Lakes Loop.
And so as Mom and I were going at a deliberate pace to better handle the high elevation and try to stave off altitude sickness, we were suddenly startled by a similarly startled big deer that dashed by us as it went downhill.
We wondered if the rest of the crew was going to see it, or if they had already seen it before we did.
Anyways, we then proceeded up the trail as there were many families going uphill and downhill.
Upon talking to some of the parties on the trail, we learned that one family did the Alpine Lakes Loop, and when I computed in my mind that they must have completed that loop, I then realized that the rest of the crew must have done the loop going in the wrong direction!
Luckily, we still had cell phone reception so I texted Julie about the mistake along with a Gaia GPS screenshot that I gave her of where we were at.
Good thing Julie responded and so we knew that they were back in control of their route as Mom and I speculated whether they would give up and return to the picnic area or backtrack and get up to Teresa Lake, which was their target before heading back to the picnic area.
After passing the well-signed trail junction for the other end of the Alpine Lakes Loop, we continued to veer away from that and towards the Bristlecone Pine Interpretive Loop.
When we got up to the signed junction of that interpretive part of the trail at 1:35pm, we then continued onwards to the Wheeler Glacier and Rock Glacier.
By this time, it was just Mom and I and no one else was around as it seemed like everyone else were content to go as far as the interpretive loop.
Still, we were sucking quite a bit of air though the temperatures were definitely much cooler and more comfortable up here than back down at the basin at Baker.
It wasn’t until about 2pm when it made it up to the sign for the Wheeler and Rock Glaciers, and even though Nevada’s only glacier was nowhere near the other more impressive glaciers that we’ve seen, it was really the cirque beneath the jagged Wheeler Peak that made the scenery here.
We decided to continue on the trail towards the top of the moraine, which did involve going across one patch of snow before making it to a spot where we were satisfied with the view and decided it wasn’t worth going any further (even though it looked like the trail went all the way to the glacier itself).
But with it getting late in the day and we were worried about checking in late (and the offices closing) that we ultimately headed back down by about 2:30pm.
We were looking forward to this part of the hike because it was pretty much all downhill on the way back to the parking lot, but now we could afford to take some of the short detours like the Bristlecone Pine Interpretive Loop and the short spur to Teresa Lake.
Even though the Bristlecone Pine section was not as extensive as the ones we saw near Lone Pine and Bishop in California, it was still a nice bonus to experience this as part of the glacier experience.
Then, by 3:20pm, we then arrived at the shore of the colorful Teresa Lake, which was backed by more parts of the rocky peaks neighboring Wheeler Peak.
There were two other parties that were here, but it was a big enough lake for us to be maintaining social distance during our brief time here.
Speaking of social distancing, even though I had brought a mask, I didn’t actually use it on this hike though in the back of my mind I might have been taking a chance.
But with all the adults being vaccinated, I guess even if any of the other people we would have happened to have encountered might have been carrying the coronavirus, I guess our risk posture was a little more aggressive.
Whether that might bode ill for the kids who couldn’t be vaccinated at this time, I wasn’t sure, but at least this wasn’t a heavily-used trail even though we encountered a handful of families along the way.
Were we on Mountain Time or on Pacific Standard Time? Our phones seemed to have a different time than my GPS watch, and the guy that overheard us told us that it was still about 3:35pm instead of 4:35pm.
While punting that to tomorrow AFTER doing what might be a brutal hike to Lexington Arch might be pushing it, I figured that we still wanted to do some stargazing tonight after dinner, and even that might be in jeopardy if we tried to squeeze in the waterfalling excursion.
By about 4:40pm, we finally made it back to the Whispering Elms Motel and RV Park, where we promptly got our keys, and then unloaded our luggage so Julie could start cooking after sanitizing our unit.
Compared to the Desert Paradise Resort in Vegas, this was pretty basic, but at least it wasn’t as bad of a sleepeazy as we had anticipated.
Julie, Tahia, and I also took advantage of the shower where we were afraid that there might not be any more hot water if we waited to do this.
Eventually, we’d get there by about 8:15pm, but I was concerned about the high clouds as well as the crescent moon already making a presence in the direction of Wheeler Peak.
It was also quite windy up here so the temperatures sunk pretty fast as there was a bit of a wind chill, which kept most of the family in the car after they were done checking out the telescopes at the overlook, which was pointed at the moon.
And so for the next couple of hours, we pretty much stared at the skies looking for that elusive Milky Way Galaxy cloud against the backdrop of stars all over the sky, but it wasn’t as impressive as we had hoped due to some high clouds blowing in.
While it made the crescent moon a bit fuzzy and dimmed its lighting influence, it was nowhere near as vibrant and impressive as that time when we went to Joshua Tree on a New Moon in August.
We were joined by one other car that was at the Mather Overlook but they were perhaps waiting for us to vacate so they could have this place to themselves.
In the mean time, we waited patiently until about 9:45pm when it seemed like the cloud cover was intensifying and it was hard to tell if we were seeing the Milky Way or if it was just high clouds getting in the way.
So I guess as far as the kids getting to experience the stars, that’s going to have to wait until perhaps Joshua Tree or Anza Borrego on a weekend when there’s a New Moon closer to when the nights are longer and not this close to the Summer Solstice.
Besides, if it was so easy to have these kinds of experiences, it wouldn’t be special, and Nature kind of does her own thing anyways regardless of whether it aligns with our schedules and our whims or not.
Nevertheless, Mom and I were thinking that perhaps we could pursue going to the Baker Archaeological Site early in the morning before sunrise just to see if the stargazing would be any better at that time when the moon would have sunk from the horizon.
By about 10:25pm, we finally made it back to the Whispering Elms Motel, where the parents and the cousins drove back to the Border Inn, while Julie, Tahia, and I promptly got back into the motel room, got cleaned up a bit more, and just crashed.
I was anxious about tomorrow considering we’ve got our Lehman Caves tour at 8:30am, but Mom and I also have the Lexington Arch hike, which is making me nervous considering how hot it got here yesterday, and now we’re considering doing a 7-mile hike in this heat!
We’ll see whether it’s in the cards for us or not, or we should just wave the white flag and retreat to doing the Lehman Creek Trail and call it a day instead…
Day 3 (June 15, 2021 – Baker, Nevada): “Chasing Luck – Bad and Good”
It was 3:30am when I awoke, and given the dud in trying to see the Milky Way Galaxy yesterday, I thought I might try to do it again today before the sun came up.
So I quickly got into the car and drove out to the Baker Archaeological Site, where I got there at about 3:45am.
While it was mostly dark at the Baker Archaeological Site, I could already see out on the horizon to the east that daylight was starting to come and I didn’t have much time left to take pictures.
So I pointed the camera mounted on the tripod towards the western sky in the direction of Great Basin National Park and proceeded to take 30 second exposure shots with the ISO at 128k and the aperture swung all the way open at f/4.
Although the skies were clear at this time (unlike yesterday where some clouds were rolling in and out), I suspected that there was still some haze or dust or something unlike the Mather Overlook yesterday where we were high enough elevation to be even closer to the stars.
One thing I learned (or got reacquainted with) during this brief photography session was that the Manfrotto BeFree 3-Way Live tripod head wasn’t able to let me tilt the camera to point upwards in portrait mode.
Instead, I had to mess with one of the tripod legs and try to adjust it for a shorter stance while the remaining legs remained in default position to attempt that maneuver.
I guess given how seldom I’ve been trying to film myself, I now wondered if I would have been better off getting the 494 Ball Head instead.
So given this observation, I realized that if we really wanted to see stars, we probably should have waited until about 11pm last night or I should have been out here earlier than 3am this morning.
Either way, I guess getting the kids and the parents to see the Milky Way wasn’t in the cards on this trip, but I’m sure we could try again in our deserts at Joshua Tree or Anza Borrego (or maybe even Death Valley) if we happen to be out there on a New Moon on a camping trip.
Who knows? Maybe one day, we’ll be back in the Great Basin on a future road trip where we would have timed a visit for a New Moon and clear skies so we could try again.
Anyways, by about 4:20am, I returned to the car as the daylight was getting too bright even though it was still mostly dark, but by this point, there was too much light pollution.
Ten minutes later, I was back at the Whispering Elms Motel where I got caught up on yesterday’s happenings while Julie and Tahia were still asleep.
Eventually, my parents came by at around 6am and they came with bought breakfast from the Border Inn’s cafe.
Perhaps they were already craving something more substantial or less healthier than the stuff that Julie had been preparing for us, but I guess with the basic accommodations here, maybe that was in order anyways.
After we were done with breakfast, it was still about 7am and we had some time to kill because our Lehman Caves Tour wasn’t until 8:30am.
So we chilled out in the room as the kids were busy playing video games while Julie was watching some Chinese soaps, and Mom and Dad were outside enjoying the shade and just being out in the serenity of the countryside.
Eventually at 7:50am, we got into the car as the day was quickly getting warmer, and then we headed out towards the Lehman Caves.
One thing that was interesting about this place was that it seemed like the mask mandate was seemingly voluntary, which was foreign to us considering we still had the mask mandate until June 15.
I thought the guidance on the masks by the CDC was confusing because you don’t know who has been vaccinated or not, but it just gave the go ahead for certain segments of the population to put others at risk by being dishonest about their vaccination status.
Regardless, we stayed masked up and did our check in proceedings, but then we were taken out towards the back so Julie and I could put the soles of our hiking shoes into some kind of solution to prevent White Nose Syndrome from getting into the Lehman Caves.
I guess our visit to any cave system over the last 10 years was enough to warrant this step though I wasn’t sure if our footwear was being used back then since we had been using new footwear over the past year.
Regardless, we got to the alcove and waiting area and then we were greeted by the park ranger giving the tour, who happened to be a young intern from the University of Southern Utah.
From there, she then proceeded to do the cave tour as she pointed out various formations as well as the importance of water to the existence of the cave as well as the delicate cave ecosystem.
The kids were already enjoying the cave because they hadn’t really experienced something like this before (even though it wasn’t Tahia’s first cave but it was definitely Joshua and Sophia’s first).
We pretty much went from room to room as we started with the Lodge Room, and then went to the Inscription Room, the Grand Palace, and the so-called Sunken Garden.
In my mind, what made this cave experience stand out compared to the other caves we checked out in the past was that it had these weird pedestal-like formations (which I guess were called parachutes) as well as some interesting jellyfish-like formations.
There were also some interesting formations that seemed to hold onto the light when the flashlight was shining on it and then turned off, and there was even a bat that some people managed to notice during our visit.
Our tour concluded with a moment of blackout where the ranger guide turned off the lights so we could experience the pitch blackness of being inside the cave as it would have naturally been.
After the tour, the family checked out the exhibits in the Lehman Caves Visitor Center where they got to look a little more at the cave wildlife (namely insects) blown up so we could better see them (as they would have been too small to notice at scale).
We also checked out some of the night sky pictures though the vast majority of them were professional and mostly through super powerful telescopes and not the kind of scenery we would have experienced at night.
By 9:40am, we got back into the car and proceeded to drive back to the Whispering Elms Motel getting there at 9:55am.
After making some last-minute restroom runs and some gearing up while grabbing refrigerated stuff from the tiny fridge in our room, the family was about to split off.
Mom and I were about to pursue the Lexington Arch while the rest of the family would stay at the motel where I’m sure the kids would love to be playing video games while Dad and Julie got to relax.
It was already in the low 90s as today was going to be another scorcher, and it made me a bit nervous about the Lexington Arch hike that Mom and I were about to do.
Nevertheless, by about 10:10am, we left for Lexington Arch, where we drove south of Baker on more lonely two-lane highways as we drove towards the town of Garrison, and then continued past Brown Lake, which was seemingly a natural salt lake that really did have a brownish green color.
Ignoring my Garmin DriveSmart 50 which kept insisting on taking some sketchy-looking 4wd roads, we eventually got to the signed turnoff just past the southern end of the Brown Lake, and then proceeded onto the not-to-bad unpaved road.
Then, just as I was thinking that the drive out to at least the junction for the Lexington Creek Road towards Lexington Arch was going to be a breeze, when we crossed back over into the Nevada border, the road became noticeably rougher.
Eventually, we reached a noticeable junction where a sign pointed to the left towards Lexington Arch, and there was a white pickup truck that was parked there.
As I continued to drive further down the increasingly bumpier and more rutted road, I encountered two ranger trucks headed in the opposite direction.
He told me that the road was pretty much like what I had been experiencing to this point, but there were some cars parked further up the road, which would be where I’d not want to go any further.
In this instance, I had to back up and try to scoot over to the side to let the guy pass, but he told me that there were two more cars headed back in the opposite direction.
But then Mom and I waited for the next car, but after waiting for a couple of minutes, he never showed up.
But as we continued further down the road, we went past more severely burned areas.
As I kept left (thinking that the Lexington Arch Trailhead remained further up the creekbed), we went past a fairly dicey-looking obstacle where someone stuck branches in the deep rut so I guess vehicles wouldn’t get stuck.
While it wasn’t that bad going down past this obstacle, I was concerned about how deep it would be on the way back.
Nevertheless, shortly past that obstacle, there was a grassy clearing, where I ultimately decided to stop the car. The path forward looked even more rockier and rutted, and I figured this was as good a place as any to get started on the hike.
It was about 11:05am when we stopped the car, and according to the car’s thermometer, the temperatures were in the high 80s, which was at least better than the mid- to high 90s that we had been experiencing when we were driving past Garrison and Brown Lake.
Once we geared up with our water, trekking poles, hat, plenty of sunscreen, and hiking boots, we then proceeded to walk along the increasingly rutted and rocky road in the direction of Lexington Arch’s Trailhead according to both my Garmin Fenix 6X Pro as well as my Gaia GPS maps.
The hiking was definitely over rocky terrain where I’d imagine only souped up Jeeps should even bother attempting this drive though it was becoming harder to tell whether the “road” was more like a foot trail (which itself was becoming less defined in spots) as the path coincided with the creek.
It was kind of slow going as we were hiking a combination of creekbed and foot trail paralleling the creek, and there was even one junction where a trail seemed to have prematurely veered to the right.
ventually at about 11:50am after brutally enduring this sun-exposed stretch, we finally made it to the weather-worn sign at the Lexington Arch Trailhead.
The sign was far gone as you couldn’t read anything from it anymore, but we knew that now the actual trail began at this point.
So after traversing the dry, rocky creek past the sign and onto a more conventional foot trail, it then made what turned out to be a relentless series of switchbacks on yet more sun-exposed slopes.
It was really slow going on this ascent, and even though it felt like forever, we had only hiked about 30 minutes before we reached our first opportunity for shade at one of the switchbacks (at 12:20pm).
From this point forward, we were seeing a few more trees flanking the trail, but they only provided limited opportunities for shade, which we would take advantage of before continuing on.
The relentless climb must have gone up at least a dozen switchbacks with the sections getting increasingly longer as we were going further up Arch Canyon, which was an offshoot of the creek we had been walking on or next to until the trailhead sign.
It wouldn’t be until about 12:55pm when we finally started to see Lexington Arch and ultimately made it to the bench at the end of the official trail.
From here, we could see that we were across a deep ravine from the impressive Lexington Arch, which was starting to get some sidelighting from the midday sun.
Clearly, it was more of a morning arch, but we couldn’t get the early start due to the pre-booked cave tour that we did earlier this morning.
It was pretty obvious that attempting to get to the base of Lexington Arch wasn’t a wise move given how steep the ravine was.
So we were content to use the rest bench (even though there really wasn’t any shade here), and we enjoyed some packaged salmon along with an apple and an orange, which never tasted so sweet after the hard work it took to get here.
Mom and I also took some people shots as we just stared at the high cloud patches moving above Lexington Arch as well as some bees or wasps shimmying on the ground doing who knows what?
Just as we were about to leave the place, we encountered a couple who had just made it.
We were surprised to see people since we had been pretty much alone the whole time.
But I guess with our surprise, it also made for some nice banter as we talked about our adventures on this hike (and how brutally hot and unshaded let alone relentless the climb to get here was).
We also learned that this couple was from North Carolina who made a flight to get out to Salt Lake City and then come to visit the Great Basin National Park doing the hikes here (including the Wheeler Glacier, which we had done yesterday).
Ultimately, we left the couple to enjoy this place alone for a bit as Mom and I looked forward to the descent back to the trailhead and then the last leg of the day pursuing any waterfalls or cascades on Lehman Creek between the campgrounds there.
Indeed, we left Lexington Arch at 1:30pm, and after passing one couple that were on their way up, we ultimately made it back down to the trailhead sign at 2:05pm.
Yep, it only took us 35 minutes to make it down the 1.5-mile stretch, but it took us a little over an hour to get up this same stretch.
Anyways, we eventually made it back to our parked car at 2:35pm though not long thereafter, we were caught up by the last pair of hikers that we saw when we started the descent.
In any case, we proceeded to drive the bumpy road back towards the pavement just south of Browns Lake, and then we headed back towards Garrison and eventually Baker.
The straight shot portions of this stretch of highway seemed to expose to me that our SUV’s alignment was either jacked or there might be a flat or something, because the car kept veering towards the right.
Anyways, we were passing through 100F temperatures in the basin, but the temperatures were gradually dropping as we returned towards Great Basin National Park again.
Eventually, we turned into the Lower Lehman Campground where we looked for day use parking, but it turned out that there really wasn’t a formal one for it.
Mom was a bit skittish about where we were parking, but we went ahead and followed the trail anyways while making a handful of detours towards Lehman Creek, especially where there were some rapids or smaller cascades that just so happened to be visible with our scrambles.
After about the second or third detour towards Lehman Creek that I took, Mom eventually wanted to go back to the car so she could drive up to the Upper Lehman Campground, where we knew there was more legitimate day use parking.
So I handed her the car keys and I was pretty much on my own for a brief period of time as I continued to pursue a few detours as I looked for places to view Lehman Creek’s cascading waters.
On one of the detours, I managed to inadvertently shoulder block a protruding branch, which put a huge rip on shirt as well as a minor cut on my left shoulder.
I guess that was it for this Les Stroud shirt, which had served me well for well over 10 years or so, which was kind of a bummer.
Anyways, it wasn’t much longer before I saw Mom pull into the Upper Lehman Campground, where she found some day use parking near some impressive redwood-looking trees.
I continued to pursue more cascades on Lehman Creek when I encountered the camp host, whom I inquired about whether there were waterfalls on Lehman Creek.
He shook his head and said “nope” as far as the stretch of Lehman Creek between the Upper and Lower campgrounds, but he also mentioned that he didn’t hike further up Lehman Creek so he did speculate that there could be more significant cascades further up that way.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much energy left and I don’t think Mom wanted to do any more hard hiking either.
Who knows? Perhaps on that future trip, I might be able to combine the Milky Way experience with a shuttle hike where someone can drive down to the Upper Lehman Campground after dropping me off at the Wheeler Peak Trailheads.
That way, I’d be doing a one-way downhill hike alongside Lehman Creek so I could see for myself whether there would be any cascades of note since the Topo contour lines seemed to suggest significant elevation loss that Lehman Creek would be experiencing.
Anyways, after exploring a little more of the day use picnic areas at the Upper Lehman Campground, I then finally returned to the parked car with Mom at 4:30pm.
And after another 15 minutes, we returned to the Whispering Elms Motel, where it was still 98F, but we’d rejoin the rest of the family chilling out in 76F air conditioning.
Most of us had pretty much flat-iron steak, while the kids had quesadillas.
Joshua got chips and salsa as well as some kind of battered shrimp dinner.
While it seemed like we had over ordered there, the food was pretty decent, and we were sated from yet another adventurous day in the Great Basin.
With some cover of what appeared to be thunderclouds, it didn’t seem realistic to try to witness stars and the Milky Way in the evening once again.
And so by 6:35pm, the parents and the cousins retreated to their tiny room at the Border Inn, while we returned to the Whispering Elms Motel to finally crash for the night after the very busy (and hot day)…
Day 4 (June 16, 2021 – Stanley, Idaho): “History Almost Repeating Itself”
It was about 4:10am when I awoke without my alarm.
The plan was to meet up with the parents at the Border Inn so we could have a breakfast before making the long drive up to Stanley.
Because we were losing an hour as we were heading into Idaho, I was bracing myself for the lost hour.
Anyways, it was a rather hectic morning as I was busy packing and loading up the car.
When we showed up at 6:05am, the diner was just starting to open up so the breakfast hadn’t been ordered yet.
Regardless, we did pick up a pack of ice so we could keep the fruit and veggies bag along with the cooler box cold.
And when the food was finally ready, we ate at one of the picnic tables outside so we could have various things like French Toast, bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy (which Josh got), and other things.
Eventually by about 7am, we finally headed out and was on the long drive for the remainder of the day.
In a brief moment of deja vu (when I managed to total my dad’s MPV after striking a deer in Utah back in 2003), I guess I was fortunate that I wasn’t speeding and I had time to react fast enough to let the elk run across the road without me ramming into it.
Aside from that brief tense moment, the drive pretty much went smooth as we made one gas stop in Ely at 7:50am.
Once again, we made one more pit stop, but we also made sure we had plenty of gas so we filled up again.
Then, we headed north directly up towards Twin Falls as it was pretty smooth going as we headed up towards Humboldt Wells before continuing north as the traffic seemed to have increased noticeably north of the I-80.
As we went past Jackpot, Nevada and entered the Idaho state border, I had to have seen at least four or five sheriffs looking to nab speeders in a short stretch.
Since I was following a pick-up truck pretty much sticking with the speed limit, I didn’t have much to worry about in terms of getting caught speeding here.
Ultimately, after making another gas stop within Twin Falls, we then stopped at Naz’s Kitchen for lunch.
It turned out that we had gotten there at about 12:55pm, but that was because we had lost an hour when we entered the Mountain Time Zone.
We pretty much took over the outside tables as we ate as a family there, and we certainly ordered a lot of food that consisted of three full meals of Mantus, kebabs of chicken, lamb, and tandoori chicken.
Sophia was picky but she seemed to appreciate the Mantus.
And as we were eating, we were accompanied by the restauranteur’s kid Isaac (while the other two kids were older and helping out with the restaurant).
Eventually, we returned to the car at 1:55pm, and then we resumed the long drive further north towards Stanley.
Moreover, the drive was further slowed down as it was mostly 55mph speed limits, but there were also slower trucks hauling trailers that appeared to refuse to use the pullouts while there were limited passing opportunities.
In any case, by 4:50pm we would finally enter Stanley and check in at the Mountain Village Resort where we got the keys and were told to drive a short distance towards the Outpost, where our dedicated cabin would be.
And finally by 5pm, we arrived at the Stanley Outpost Center, where we arrived in front of the cabin and immediately started unloading as well as sanitizing the place.
That said, everyone was excited by the spaciousness and amenities that this place offered, and I knew this was hands down the best place we’ve stayed at so far (and likely to be for the remainder of our trip).
Indeed, everyone was excited this place as the kids discovered a rather precarious “big kids” loft while we drew numbers to determine who would get the upstairs master bedroom which had an open jacuzzi there along with an ensuite bathroom.
The scenery around the property was very scenic as there were people floating on the river or creek behind us.
Even though the floors were dusty (since I bet most of the guests wear shoes inside the cabin), we were content to remain in this cabin for the rest of the day (instead of going back out).
It wouldn’t be until about 6:15pm when we were finally settled in the cabin.
Meanwhile, Julie and I went back to the local store in town to pick up some firewood as well as hot dogs as well as smores ingredients and tools since we saw a fire pit just outside our cabin.
Next, the kids were playing in the river chucking rocks as long as people were floating by in a scene that totally reminded me of “AO River!” on Portlandia.
Once the kids were done playing in the river, they then decided to go into the jacuzzi, where I joined them just so I could unwind and enjoy some of the included amenities here.
After the satisfying dinner, we then went outside to have some smores over a campfire.
Just as the sun was setting and the skies were becoming twilight, we indeed had ourselves some smores where I joined the kids in pigging out on the stuff.
It wouldn’t be until about 10:10pm when we were finally done with the smores just as Dad was chilling outside staring at the campfire.
It was well past midnight when I was finally caught up on what I needed to do, and I’m hoping that tomorrow, I can still get sufficient sleep as Mom and I were looking forward to a long 8-mile round-trip hike towards both Goat Falls and Goat Lake.
As I looked outside and noticed that it was nearly pitch black, I knew that if I shut off all the lights in the cabin that there’s a good chance I might see stars.
Playing around with the aperture, the ISO (making it generously high at the expense of noise), and setting the exposure to 30 seconds, I took shots towards the attractive mountain across the river from our cabin.
While it was difficult to see with the naked eye (it’s really like a nearly imperceptible high cloud), the camera with its super long exposure seemed to make it out, and sure enough, it looked indeed like the Milky Way cloud!
I found it rather ironic that I had expected to get the dark skies experience at Great Basin National Park or even at Baker, but I ended up getting this experience in Stanley right from the backside of our cabin no less!
In any case, as much as I wanted to spend even more time out here taking more Milky Way shots, I had to be content with the shots I got, and at least I got to share the photos with Julie who was the only person besides me that was still up.
Day 5 (June 17, 2021 – Stanley, Idaho): “Testing The Limits Even More”
It was about 5am when I awoke to the alarm, and when I went downstairs to turn off that alarm, I was surprised to see Mom already up and cooking breakfast.
I was groggy from barely getting a little over 3 hours of sleep, but I could see the sun starting to rise over the back porch since it faced east (right where I saw the Milky Way Galaxy’s cloud diagonally across the night sky after midnight last night).
Anyways, we then drove west on the main drag with some attractive panoramas of the Sawtooth Mountains fronted by cow pastures and ranches in a scene that reminded me of what we would have seen in the Grand Tetons.
I didn’t have the presence of mind to stop and take pictures of the early morning scenery, but I figured that perhaps we can try this again first thing in the morning tomorrow while everyone would still be just getting up.
And so we embarked on the trail headed towards Goat Falls and Goat Lake, which were the goals of today’s hike.
Shortly after the trailhead signage, we had to fill out some kind of wilderness permit, which I guess was to let people know our intentions or in case we’re lost or injured and required rescuing.
By about 7:40am, we made it to the first trail junction, where we went left.
I thought it was interesting that I didn’t see any signage for Goat Falls and Goat Lake, and instead, I was seeing nothing but signs for Sawtooth Lake or some other lakes that we’re not headed to.
Finally, we got across without needing to take off our shoes and traversing the icy Iron Creek before putting the shoes back on, and then we proceeded with the hike.
Next, the hike went up what seemed like a long series of switchbacks and ascents as parts of the Sawtooth Range were revealing more of its snow-clinging self.
Because this part of the hike was mostly uphill, we eventually got up to a point where we were starting to get out of the morning shade when we started to remove our jackets.
This stretch of the trail went for a long time, and Mom even started to play Chinese music on her iPhone though I talked her out of doing that so we could get a higher likelihood of sighting wildlife.
Speaking of which, we happened to see a fox with a kill in its mouth as it approached us and didn’t seem to be afraid of us at all.
I took what photos I could of it though I didn’t have the presence of mind to properly pick the Auto mode so the fox could be photographed sharper than the landscape mode that I was in.
This long stretch persisted for another while before we finally arrived at what appeared to be a signed trail junction where the sign said something about “Alpine Trail” and pointed left, but we saw an unsigned trail point to the right.
We knew that this was where Gaia GPS told us to keep to the right to ascent towards Goat Falls, and that’s what we did.
I still found it strange that there wasn’t any signage for Goat Lake nor Goat Falls, and I really started to wonder why.
Anyways, the trail started to ascend again as I knew we were now on the final stretch leading up to both Goat Falls and Goat Lake.
So far, the trail remained obvious to follow though the persistent elevation gain on this hike definitely took a toll on us.
By this time, Mom had layered down to just her long-sleeved shirt while I was already down to my Les Stroud shirt just as the morning sun was intensifying and providing excellent lighting to the Sawtooth Mountains that we could see across what I think was Goat Creek.
However, at around 9:40am, we encountered a point where the trail seemed to fork.
We were confused about why the trail on the left seemed to descent, and that prompted me to whip out my research notes printout, which mentioned that this was where we were supposed to do a steep scramble instead of going left.
As I pursued that scrambling path, I could see that it was doable, but it was rather steep and dicey, and Mom kept asking me if I was sure this was the right way to go.
Nevertheless, we pushed on, and the hike definitely degenerated into pretty much a “trail” scramble, but the steepness of the terrain along with the looseness of the soil made me very concerned about what dangers this hike would present on the way back down.
Indeed, the more we persisted, the more Mom kept asking me about whether we were still on the right track.
But the end result of my efforts (besides finally making it back to Mom via this “shortcut”) was that a sharp tree protrusion gashed my left index finger, and it seemed to be bleeding pretty non-stop.
Good thing Mom had brought her own first-aid kit, which after applying Neosporin and rubbing the wound with stinging alcohol wipes, managed to dress the wound (even though it was still bleeding).
As we continued on with the hike, the steep climb ultimately got us to an angled and profile view of the Goat Falls from a precarious rock outcrop.
Mom was looking for a slightly higher spot though I was pretty content with my viewing spot to really experience this elusive waterfall.
Given the difficulty in just getting to this point, I guess I don’t blame the authorities here to just not signpost or acknowledge Goat Falls and Goat Lake in their signage.
Indeed, perhaps putting signage acknowledging Goat Lake and Goat Falls would imply sanctioning this brutally hard and dangerous hike (and the inevitable rescues that’s sure to come of it).
While we were experiencing the waterfall, there was a father and daughter combo that caught up to us.
They, too, were struggling with the trail, and we were busy following our respective phone apps to make sure we were on the right track (he used AllTrails while I used GaiaGPS).
As we were busy following each other, we’d eventually pick up on the continuation of the sanctioned trail, and we were actually caught up to by another couple where the husband was carrying the child.
So now we had two couples (each using GPS apps which I’d say were definitely necessary to do this hike) that we could use as visual cues for where we should be heading to on the way to the Goat Lake.
That said, after following the dashed lines on Gaia GPS’ surveyed map, which got us towards the top of Goat Falls, apparently the two parties that were now ahead of us pretty much went for the loose rock scramble.
By this time, we didn’t look at the phone app anymore (though we probably should have) as it was easier to look ahead to see where the other parties went as they did the scramble and we kind of knew that Goat Lake was in this general direction anyways.
In any case, they were way ahead of Mom and I, but nevertheless, we finally made it up to Goat Lake by 11:30am.
I managed to take some additional time to scramble a little towards the somewhat southwestern shore of the lake from a slightly elevated position so I could try to see the end of Goat Lake.
It was difficult to properly photograph the entire context of the lake because there was always something making the composition uneven, but in any case, I made do with what photos I took as I tried out different compositions.
I also saw that the other couples were chilling out closer to the other side of Goat Creek where it looked like it might be possible to at least dip the feet into the lake, which I’m sure was icy thanks to the snow still licking the lake’s waters.
Way towards the back of the lake was a cascade still blending in with the lingering snow, which I guess we could say was yet another companion waterfall that we saw on this hike in addition to the incidental named Goat Falls.
So after having my fill of this spot, I scrambled carefully back down the loose rocks to rejoin Mom, and we decided to find a way across Goat Creek before finally getting to where the fast couple with the kid were chilling out at.
They happened to make it to part of Goat Lake that was both shaded and possible to dip the feet into the lake, and that was where we decided to chill out just as that couple was leaving.
But before they left, we engaged in pleasant conversation with them as they were apparently from Logan, Utah, which they said was scorching hot and they looked for an escape from the heat (that sounded much like what we had to endure out in Baker, Nevada).
The guy that carried their 18-month-old son said that he kind of winged it when it came to following GPS tracks to get here, but we both noticed a more obvious trail on the west side of Goat Creek, and we both had it in our minds to follow the trail there to see where it went on the return hike.
We spent time having a well-earned picnic lunch of another packaged salmon as well as oranges and apples, and Mom even had some reception on her phone, which she used to call cousin Jennifer and auntie Amy to FaceTime them and show them what this place was like.
The FaceTiming also continued with showing Julie and the rest of the crew what this place looked like, and it seemed like we caught them on a bus heading towards a legitimate whitewater rafting experience, which I’m sure they were about to enjoy.
I also managed to take my hiking boots and socks off and briefly dipped my feet in the icy could water, which was both painfully numbing yet at the same time feeling like taking an ice bucket bath on my swelling feet and ankles.
Eventually, Mom and I started to head back down at 12:45pm, and we were definitely not looking forward to the steep scramble back down, where I’m sure proper use of our hiking sticks were mandatory in order to avoid slipping and falling.
That said, we followed what looked like an obvious trail on the east side of Goat Creek that actually coincided with the dashed lines in my Gaia GPS app, and we wondered to ourselves how we managed to miss this path in the first place?
Nevertheless, we followed Gaia GPS’ dashed lines down close to a few more attractive cascades while at the same time showing that boulder and scree field that we had scrambled up on the way to the lake.
Eventually, the trail led us to towards the top of Goat Falls, and it was at that point that the trail briefly continued before disappearing by the steep slopes that still clung to some snow, but for all intents and purposes was the end of that path.
So at this point, we saw that there was a small logjam or a log crossing that someone had set up where we managed to cross with the loose logs with the benefit of our hiking sticks for balance, and then we were back on the familiar trail on the western side of Goat Creek.
Shortly after getting close to the view of Goat Falls where there were a pair of women who said we were badasses (Mom more so) for making it up here, we then had to embark on the steep and dicey descent that really tested the strength of our knees and thighs.
But it was at this point that Mom left me with one trekking pole so we each could extend the poles to the maximum height and use it to keep ourselves upright as the third leg.
During the steep descents, Mom gave into the temptation of descending backwards, which I thought didn’t really help her cause since she had her trekking poles to dig into the ground and stay upright, but at least she managed and didn’t take a spill on these precarious slopes.
By this time, we noticed more hikers going up towards Goat Lake (some of whom were carrying frame backpacks as they were probably camping here) while we were passed by a pair of guys who were going pretty quickly as they were going down from Goat Lake as well.
Indeed, we ultimately made it back down towards the steep scramble and fork in the trail that kind of started off this very difficult climbing (now descending) section towards Goat Falls and Goat Lake.
At the same time, the father and daughter duo that we encountered earlier just happened to catch up to us and make it down the same steep scramble part behind us.
Once back on the more “trail” part of the hike at 1:55pm (over an hour after we started to leave Goat Lake), there was a woman waiting there for her man to get back up from that false path that apparently might have gotten down closer to the bottom of Goat Falls.
We conversed with the guy who had just gotten back and said that it wasn’t worth going down there due to the presence of overgrowth and obstructed line of sight towards the waterfall.
So that was good to know, and I didn’t have to wonder if we had missed out on something regarding this difficult hike.
Anyways, all parties were moving quickly and were ahead of us as Mom and I were now back on the “trail” while there were still other people making their way up towards Goat Falls and Goat Lake (undoubtedly using AllTrails or something).
We noted that some of those people had trekking poles, while others were hiking alone, and still others were carrying heavy packs and not using trekking poles.
Mom and I did make a couple of quick stops to look back at that tall thin cascade that we could see beneath some of the Sawtooth peaks that we saw in the morning shadow earlier this morning.
Eventually by about 2:20pm, we made it back to the Alpine Trail, where Mom asked me whether we should go left or right at the fork.
Well, that was when I looked behind me and saw the Alpine Way sign and no Goat Lake sign that we had been at earlier, and I knew that now it was pretty much all conventional trail hiking though we still had a ways to go before making it back to the log crossing over Iron Creek.
So this 1.9-mile section (according to my surveyed Gaia GPS map) went on for what seemed like forever, but eventually by 3:20pm, we had made it back to that familiar crossing.
But this time, it seemed to be much easier to get back across that we had remembered on the way to Goat Lake, and that was because we took advantage of a taller log jam that we kind of used as a wall to lean on while on the somewhat loose log that we stood on.
Then, we were finally back at the signed trail junction where the rest of the way was 1.2 miles of the home stretch leading us back to the Iron Creek Trailhead.
We were really sore and tired at this point, and for much of the return hike, Mom and I didn’t say a whole lot to each other as we were pretty much concentrating on the hike itself.
That said, there was a massive group that was on this home stretch going in the opposite direction of us, and apparently we learned that they were part of some kind of class (I suspected they were going to Sawtooth Lake).
In any case, we finally got to the Iron Creek Trailhead at 4:05pm.
Indeed, we had earned our visit while the rest of the crew I’m sure had fun playing in the water and enjoying the spacious lodge that we had paid $1400+ for the two nights in Stanley.
Nevertheless, by 4:20pm, we finally made it back to said lodge where the rest of the family were enjoying, and thus Mom and I could finally rest our sore and aching joints (especially the knees) and muscles, and we really looked forward to relaxing in the jacuzzi on the back deck.
For the rest of the evening, we had a family dinner of chicken curry with brussel sprouts (instead of the anticipated steak dinner because of how expensive the steaks were at the local store here), and then we used up the rest of the chocolates and marshmallows as well as firewood for smores.
And so ended this eventful day though no one had the energy to stay up and look at the Milky Way like I did last night after midnight.
Tomorrow, we intended to return to Twin Falls, where hopefully the kids could get to play in the indoor pool of the Towneplace Suites before it gets crowded there (since we’re still worried aout COVID-19 even though things are opening up and people are jumping at the relaxing of mask “mandates”).
That said, was there ever really a mask mandate in the state of Idaho (especially outside of Boise)?
So we’re bracing ourselves for the potential hotspot, but first, we still have to pack up, load up the car, clean the place, and then take off for the 3-hour drive…
Day 6 (June 18, 2021 – Twin Falls, Idaho): “Educational Experiences”
It was 5am when I awoke to my alarm, which pretty much prompted me to get downstairs and finish off the blogging that I couldn’t finish last night since I just didn’t have the energy and dozed off on the couch until midnight.
So I then spent the next hour wrapping up what I had to do before Mom got up and I suggested to her that we should drive out to get some views of the Sawtooth Mountains in the morning before the rest of the family wakes up.
Unfortunately, it was already too late for us to photograph the Sawtooths in the pink alpenglow.
Nevertheless, it was about 6:20am when we drove out and spent a few minutes just pulling off on the shoulder next to some ranch entrances, and we ultimately took some shots of the mountain range bathed in early morning light with either cows or fencing in the foreground.
There was also Goat Creek running in the foreground, which was the very same creek that produced the waterfall we earned a sighting for yesterday as well as being sourced by the lake that was really hard to reach.
By 6:35am, we were back in the cabin, and for the next two hours or so, we took the time to quickly eat breakfast as well as wrapping up the packing of our belongings and loading up the car.
We then used the Manfrotto BeFree 3-Way Tripod to take family shots at our memorable house as it was finally time to say goodbye to this memory-making location.
After my DriveSmart 50 tried to take me through some dead-ends and private roads, Julie finally stopped watching her Chinese soaps on her phone before getting it more updated routing directions to get to where we needed to go.
Eventually by 12pm, we arrived at the familiar picnic area at Ritter Island.
Despite what the car’s thermometer was saying (suggesting that it was in the high 70s), outside was actually way hotter than that, and according to Julie’s phone, it was actually about 92F here!
Anyways at 12:10pm, the kids went for the man-modifed Ritter Island Waterfall, which was the one we did just two months ago.
At the same time, Mom and I pursued walking onto Ritter Island, where on the other side of the bridge was an employee or volunteer giving verbal tidbits about interesting facts of this place.
We then proceeded to walk along the dirt road before reaching some signage pointing the way towards the Minnie Miller Falls, which was a short distance beyond the barn and other small-time agricultural infrastructure on the island itself.
Even this flat walk was a bit uncomfortable thanks to the relentless and intense sun beating down on us as we explored this trail.
We ultimately got to the Minnie Miller Falls at 12:30pm, and after having our fill of photographing this attractively wide waterfall, we then backtracked to the dairy farm instead of continuing in the opposite direction on this trail.
Once at the dairy farm at 12:45pm, we went inside and read some of the interpretive signs here as well as checked out the apparati used when this area housed so many Guernsey milk.
That was when I learned that the man-modified waterfall that was near the picnic area was actually called Lemmon Falls.
Once we had our fill of the Guernsey barn, we then walked back towards the picnic area on the front side of the bridge where Julie, Dad, and the kids were busy picnicking in the grassy area by the car.
When Mom got back to the rest of the group first, she managed to convince at least Julie and Tahia to check out the Guernsey barn, and I noticed that Dad, Josh, and Soph also went along.
So I had a brief picnic lunch with Mom while we were waiting for the rest of the crew to check out the dairy farm on Ritter Island, but with the hot day, there was no way we were going to coplete the entire loop around said island.
Eventually by about 1:30pm, we were finally back at the scorching hot car, where we then left Ritter Island 10 minutes later, and thus we ought to be at the Towneplace Suites in Twin Falls with time to let the kids play in the indoor swimming pool there.
We ultimately made it back to the familiar Towneplace Suites by Marriott at 2:15pm, and after taking some minutes to sanitize, we ultimately got settled in the room at 2:50pm.
Unlike the other time that we had stayed here two months ago, we had gotten a pretty basic studio room with one bed and a pullout sofa bed, which touched the main bed so it was quite tight.
Anyways, with the indoor pool area pretty empty, Mom took the kids to go play in that pool area.
In the mean time, Julie made a call to see if we could make a reservation for Elevation 486 for a party of 7 and if we could sit outdoors given the last time we were here two months ago when it was packed and no one had masks on.
We’d eventually learn that they were all booked out but the person who had picked up the phone did say that there might be a chance that we could get seated if we walked in right when they started dinner.
So we communicated that to Mom, and that pretty much let the kids play in the pool until a little after 4pm before they had to go back up and shower off the chlorine.
Then, we all carpooled over to the familiar Elevation 486 restaurant and got there at 4:45pm so we could try to snag a walk-in spot before they’d get really busy here.
Fortunately, the host accommodated us closer to 5pm, while Mom and I were enjoying the canyon views, and we ultimately got seated right around the start of when dinner was served.
Moreover, the sitting location was in the shade of the building so it was bearable despite it being rather hot and a little muggy outside.
For the next couple of hours, we pretty much splurged as we tried a couple of appetizers (an ahi tuna as well as an artichoke dip with some crab meat in it), and we also got a bottle of wine along with Prime Rib, Rib-eye Steak, a King Salmon, and Quail.
The kids got to have what they wanted, which involved a cheeseburger though Josh actually got clams. Heck, they even got their flavored lemonade while Josh got some kind of grenadine drink (without alcohol of course).
And so for the first time on this trip, we all enjoyed a real dinner at a nice establishment (though we did have dinner at the Border Inn diner a few days ago), and the splurge was on.
Yet once again, we were making memories and we were discussing whether we can make family trips like these an annual thing – maybe even going to Colorado was being discussed since I had a cousin who was visiting his in-laws there.
Eventually by about 7:20pm, we were done with dinner, and it was just Mom and myself walking along the Canyon Crest walkway while the rest of the family returned to the accommodation.
We knew that it was a short walk, and that we didn’t really need to drive back to the accommodation.
So we did that just as the sun was still fairly high on the horizon and even obscured by some growing thunderclouds.
We’d eventually get to the familiar views of the Snake River Canyon where Mom was already looking for possibilities to come back here to play a round of golf on a future trip (after seeing that there’s a nice course down below).
The first viewpoint was of the Perrine Coulee Falls, which actually had much higher flow than when Julie, Tahia, and I saw it back in early April.
Anyways, after enjoying these views, we then walked over to the second lookout on the opposite side of the gorge, and we wound up getting there at 7:55pm.
Then, we decided to walk back towards Pole Line Rd (but not actually getting there), where we then cut across a parallel side street getting us towards the familiar car wash and ultimately the Towneplace Suites by 8:15pm.
During the walk, we decided to just take the parents’ car and go check out Shoshone Falls so Mom could get to see this place for the first time.
I had low expectations since I had learned that late April to early May were probably the best times to see it in its highest volume, but perhaps I could learn something about its state this late into June.
And so by about 8:30pm, we had arrived at Shoshone Falls, where it was a lot busier than expected.
So while the main overlook below was crowded, we decided to head back towards the Centennial Trail, which was the paved walkway that I suspected might have connected with the Canyon Crest Walkway that we had just been on for Perrine Coulee Falls.
We’d ultimately get up to the most distant satisfying overlook at 8:45pm, where Mom and I could clearly see the surprisingly decent flow though it was definitely past its prime.
This time, the main tier of Shoshone Falls was segmented, but the right side of the falls actually had a little better than expected flow and possibly a little better than the early April flow that we had witnessed a couple of months ago.
After having our fill of this viewpoint (which we had to ourselves), we then headed back down to the main lookout, where we got to check out the falls much more closely with just a handful of people this time.
Whilst we were there, we noticed downstream that there was another waterfall spilling into the canyon that I didn’t recall was there before (maybe it was because we looked against the sun?), but it looked pretty significant.
And then after having our fill of this spot, I showed Mom the natural arch before Shoshone Falls, where we checked that place out for a bit before finally making it back to the car at 9:15pm.
Finally at 9:35pm, we returned to the Towneplace Suites to rejoin the family, but before getting back to our respective rooms, Mom thanked me for accompanying her and showing her these places after dinner.
It must have been a mind-blowing experience to her since she normally doesn’t get to do these things, and she initially thought when we had passed by the town that there was nothing really special about the city of Twin Falls.
But now she sees a lot of potential in a return visit, but tomorrow, it was going to be our last day spent together as a family on this trip as we were planning to have lunch in Boise before going our separate ways.
Indeed, the parents with take Josh and Soph back home via Reno after lunch, while we’re going to make a similarly long drive (maybe even longer) as we headed out to Ephrata in Central Washington…
Day 7 (June 19, 2021 – Ephrata, Washington): “Off And On”
It was about 5am when I awoke to the alarm. Unfortunately, when I went down to the reception for the dolly, there was none available!
Apparently, someone was keeping these things overnight so I had to make several rounds of loading up the car.
I also took some time to get caught up on yesterday’s blogging in addition to getting packed.
In any case, we learned that breakfast wasn’t open until 7am, and this apparent late start was because it happened to be a weekend as it was Saturday today.
So in the mean time, as I was making several trips back and forth to the car and the room, Mom was also doing the same thing loading up her car.
She managed to get Joshua and Sophia to come get to our room as sort of an alarm for Tahia (who we knew always tended to wake up late), and ultimately we’d be done with loading up the car with still some time left to kill before breakfast.
After the included breakfast, it wouldn’t be until about 7:40am when we finally checked out and left the Towneplace Suites.
The first order of the day was to head down to the Perrine Coulee Falls since I knew it was an easy waterfall for the cousins to get to experience.
It was already getting sunny and somewhat muggy, but as we approached the falls, it was still in the shade though I knew it wouldn’t be for long.
As expected, the flow of this falls remained stronger than it was when Julie and Tahia were here with me a couple months ago during Spring Break.
Thus, there was quite a bit more spray and drips coming down from the rim of the overhanging cliff as well as from the crashing water wafting up towards the trail going around the base of the falls.
While the girls briefly came down and returned to the car because it was too wet behind the falls, Joshua joined me in getting to the other side before heading back.
By about 8:10am, we were done experiencing the Perrine Coulee Falls, and then we headed over to Shoshone Falls (was it “shoh-SHOHN” or “shoh-SHOH-nee”?) so the kids would also get to experience this waterfall.
When we got towards the entrance kiosk at about 8:30am, I saw that the kiosk was open and that they were actually collecting the $5 vehicle fee.
Both Julie and Mom volunteered to do that because they had already seen the falls, and so Tahia and I carpooled with Dad and the cousins, and with the $5 cash payment, we proceeded to go down to the main parking lot a few minutes later.
And when we got out of the car to check out the main lookout, we noticed that the falls wasn’t flowing at all! Indeed, it must have been turned off because it was flowing yesterday evening when Mom and I went here after dinner!
Some of the people who came here were pissed off because they paid their $5 only to see the falls turned off.
Anyways, I took advantage of the morning light to kill some time since we were already here, and I decided to walk back up towards some extended parking areas (probably for oversized vehicles or those pulling trailers), where I could take shots of another surprise waterfall downstream.
Once I did that, I walked back towards the car to rejoin Dad and the kids, and we promptly started to leave Shoshone Falls.
She also noticed Joshua was wearing a mask, and she told him that he didn’t have to wear a mask since he was outdoors.
She told me that she was from Pollock Pines, which at first didn’t ring a bell to me, until I realized that it was the spot where there was the Bridal Veil Falls roadside waterfall between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe.
She insisted that it was between Placer County as apparently she doesn’t recognize Sacramento.
We briefly talked about where we were headed next, and apparently they were about to camp at Yellowstone and then later in Montana (I’m presuming also going to Glacier).
They said they made reservations since October, which sounded about right since I knew those places would be hard to get to, and that I had already been to at least Yellowstone last year.
They suggested that we should also check out Montana (not knowing that I had already been there before the fires in the late Summer of 2017).
Regardless, we wished each other fun on our respective trips, and then I went down to join Dad and the kids.
Then, I briefly took the same sweep videos as a few minutes earlier as well as a few shots (which weren’t totally against the sun though the lighting definitely wasn’t ideal) just as even more people were making their way down.
I feel for those people who paid their $5 and then promptly left because that would have been a big waste of money.
Regardless, by 9:05am, we were leaving Shoshone Falls, and then we were finally heading towards Boise.
Unfortunately, Julie noticed that Tony’s PIzzeria Teatro changed their hours (at least after I had last checked when we started booking this road trip a month ago), and now it was a dinner only spot between 5-9.
That was a bummer, and I contemplated telling the parents to just head to Reno while we could skip Boise.
But instead, we opted to just have an earlier lunch when we realized that Guido’s was open at 11am so that meant that we could have lunch earlier than the anticipated time of 12pm (which was when Tony’s was supposed to be open during their normal hours).
And so we pretty much had an uneventful drive from Twin Falls to Boise as we left Blue Lakes Road and ultimately went west on the I-84.
Eventually by about 11:10am, we made it to Guido’s after fill up on gas.
Scarred by our experience a couple of months ago when we ate the pizza out of a box inside our parked car right before they closed for the night, this time, we found some outside seating where the kids got to sit in the shaded part of the umbrella seat table while the adults stood under a tree.
When the order of pizza came out, it was actually quite crispy and good (though they didn’t use buffala mozarella like we recalled Tony’s did), but it was still quite tasty.
Eventually by about 12:05pm, we finished our lunch under the rather dot downtown sun in Boise, and then we started to drive our separate ways.
Mom had her Waze app routed for Reno, but I told her that they could follow me out of Boise and then to the I-84 up to the exit near Nampa that they’d have to take to get to the US95 and then to the I-80.
Meanwhile, I’d continue on the I-84 on the very long drive across northeast Oregon and then north on the I-82 through Kennewick before getting up the familiar 395 and then the two-lane Washington state highway 17 towards Ephrata.
It was a marathon drive, where it wasn’t until about 2:55pm when we stopped by to fill up gas at Kennewick (actually, we got back an hour during that time since we’re back in the Pacific time zone), and then by 5pm, we finally made it to the Dry Falls Visitor Center.
Anyways, we promptly got out of the car and proceeded to check out the overlooks, which reminded us of the Grand Canyon in miniature though the reality of this place was that it was the site of a giant waterfall during the end of the last Ice Age.
It was said to be 3.5 miles long and easily taller than Niagara Falls, but I wouldn’t have called Dry Falls a legit waterfall (even if it was flowing) because Niagara was more of a permanent waterfall.
Dry Falls when say the glacial dam holding up ancient Lake Missoula would have burst was really more like an ephemeral flash-in-the-pan so to speak because it was merely a flash flood (albeit a rather torrent of biblical proportions at that).
So in my book, those don’t really count, but it was still an incredible place to get our heads wrapped around the cataclysmic scene here.
Since it was still in the low 90s out here in the Scablands of Central Washington, we decided to have ourselves some ice cream snack, and so Julie got a lemonade slushy, Tahia got some kind of huckleberry and vanilla ice cream sundae combo, and I got myself a vanilla bean milkshake.
It was an unexpected pleasant little treat after all the long driving that we had done, but with the visitor center closed, we didn’t linger for much longer and we were back in our car (parked in the shade fortunately) by 6pm.
Next, we drove out towards Summer Falls, where we drove further upstream from Dry Falls and then across the Dry Falls dam next to Coulee City.
Well, the presence of this dam kind of suggested that Dry Falls could have still had flow (though it would be nothing like the big multi-horseshoe-shaped waterfall that would have been here during the Ice Age dam break).
But that dam ensured that only lakes were left below the falls.
Anyways, after passing through Coulee City, which seemed like a bit of a sleepy town with all the businesses seemingly either closed or inactive at this time, we then drove south on a road through more apparent badlands (undoubtedly scoured by the Great Missoula Flood).
The GPS would eventually get us to the Summer Falls Power Plant turnoff, where we were greeted by a gate behind the signage.
There was one person who came here before us, but he turned around and headed back out, and so that was when I realized that this place was said to be somewhat hidden because I’d bet many people would see the signage and then get discouraged and leave.
But I knew that there was actually an unsealed road entrance to the Summer Falls Day Use Area, and so I whipped out Gaia GPS and looked at where we were relative to that Day Use area, and sure enough, we just had to get to the proper road.
And so we then continued on the two-lane paved road towards the turnoff for the day use area, but then I realized that I had zoomed past the rather easy-to-miss turnoff onto a dusty dirt road with an even smaller Summer Falls Day Use Area sign.
Thus, I turned around and then took the proper entrance road down the dusty washboarded dirt road until we finally arrived at the parking area for the Summer Falls Day Use area where we parked along the shaded area to our right (unsanctioned spots though) at 6:25pm.
There were a couple of large Latino families picnicking here at the Summer Falls Day Use Area and there was one guy in a dark red car taking telephoto shots without even bothering getting out of his car (which I thought was strange).
Anyways, we showed up just in time to see the Summer Falls gushing with very high flow though there were power lines in the background reminding us that indeed these falls were regulated and severely man-modified (but evidence of that was well hidden from here).
I was also surprised at how easy it was to access the large lake immediately downstream of the falls, which no one in their right mind would even attempt to get into the water because I knew there would be whirlpools and strong currents.
There was even a memorial sign driving home the point about how swimming here was a death wish.
And the sun was sinking low enough on the horizon to get a nice afternoon rainbow near the base of the loud and gushing Summer Falls.
By about 6:45pm, we finally had our fill of this spot and returned to the car, where we then made the final leg of the drive back towards Ephrata to check in.
During the drive back along some farm fields where huge sprinklers were spraying cars on the road, Julie’s observation that there were lots of Latinos here (probably because many of them live and work here) led us to believe that perhaps there ought to be good Mexican food.
And indeed, she found a couple of candidates that we ought to try out.
By about 7:25pm, we finally checked into the Best Western Rama Inn, where there was a huge family gathering having a BBQ and picnic in the parking lot.
Whether they knew it or not, they were actually doing the responsible thing by having this apparent Father’s Day gathering outdoors, and there were lots of people playing in the indoor swimming pool (which Julie and Tahia weren’t keen on doing even though this was why Julie booked this place).
Indeed, there were too many rowdy big kids and adults in there, and it was definitely not COVID safe.
In fact, practically everywhere we had gone so far on this trip (especially in Idaho), it seemed like we were the only people (besides staff) wearing masks, though in this town, no one was wearing them (even the staff).
Not wanting to leave valuables in the car even though we were here just for the night, we got a dolly and took the essentials and the foodstuffs into the room, where the smoke alarm was chirping.
Once we sanitized and were all settled, we then headed back out towards this place called El Agave in the main drag of Ephrata, and we got seated outside where everyone else was seated in the busy interior.
As we were chilling outside (and the guy taking our order said it was nice outside since he had been so busy on the inside) to some included chips and salsa, we ultimately indulged on a rather affordable Mexican dinner.
Tahia got herself a chicken quesadilla, and we also indulged in a sangria as well as a cadillac margarita.
It was a good call on Julie’s part to go for the Mexican dish since we were a little tired of the standard American dinner on a road trip like this, and this was pretty much the unexpected pleasant surprise when it came to the foodie part of the experience.
Julie spoke with some people sitting in the table next to us, who were actually part of the staff, and apparently one of them told her that he was from Central Mexico (so that explained the mole dish) though she wondered about the fish since that was really good too.
By 9:25pm, we were finally back in the room to wind down the day though I was tasked with taking the batteries out of the smoke detector so we could sleep without that thing chirping.
We better not have a fire or we’re toast, we thought.
Anyways, that pretty much ended this rather adventurous day as well as an adventuroud family trip.
From this point forward, we’re continuing with our long loop of a Summer Road Trip as we head further towards the west and the Cascade Range while the rest of the family heads home for Father’s Day tomorrow as well as the parents’ little golfing function booked months in advance starting Monday.
Indeed, we were all in good spirits, and it was this trip that reminded us that it was all about making memorable moments that you can’t get back by not doing anything, and I’m glad the kids got to get together like this for the first time in years.
We should definitely be doing this more often, and I anticipate that we’ll be finding more excuses to do more of such road trips (maybe with my brother and sister-in-law this time around)…
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