On November 2, 2019, we packed quickly and made a mad dash to a nearby BLM campground called Wedge Overlook. We wanted to get away for one night to do some astrophotography under relatively dark skies. The skies at this campground are rated at a Bortle Class 2. We were surprised by the number of other campers this time of year, but we found site #6 available. Unlike most campgrounds, this BLM campground has no amenities other than a plethora of rock fire rings built by previous campers. The best part of these sorts of campgrounds is that the sites are 1/4 of a mile apart. It’s just like camping in complete solitude.
We arrived at the campsite at about 3 pm, set up camp quickly, and got the telescope set up for a night of photography. The sunset was at about 6 pm, and by 7 pm, it was dark enough to begin polar alignment. The moon set about 11 pm, and I used the dark skies to perform some needed telescope maintenance and to get used to my new ASIAir device to control the telescope mount and cameras. At 2 am, I focused my attention on the Horsehead Nebula area in the Orion Constellation. I configured the system to take 200 60 second exposures and went to bed. The image shown here is the result.
At 6 am, I arose to finish up the photography tasks, dismantle the entire system, and pack it carefully away. We joined a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Huntington, Utah, for their worship services. After church, we raced home for other activities. This trip was a quick 24-hour adventure, but it was surprisingly relaxing and pleasant to be under the bright stars.
On August 14th, immediately after work, we traveled to one of our favorite campgrounds, Riverside in Idaho. We’ve been here several times, but this time was unusual. First, for the first time, we didn’t have work at Brigham Young University – Idaho. Second, we stayed in site number two that we’ve wanted to try for some time. Finally, we camped with three couples we consider to be great friends.
On one of the days, my wife and I escaped upstream to do a little fishing. The Henry’s Fork River always produces some fish and captures you with the hope for the occasional big one. On this particular day, we caught a few, and while no huge fish were landed, I caught a decent one early on. These early catches sustain you on the river for quite some time, but eventually, we gave it up and returned to our friends.
On Thursday, August 15th, we planned a potluck sort of dinner. I had volunteered to acquire and cook ribs for everyone, so I brought our Traeger smoker along. The ribs cooked for roughly six hours and I thought they turned out fantastic. Regardless of the quality of the ribs, the cooking location couldn’t be beaten, outdoors with a great view of the Henry’s Fork River. I want to acquire a more portable smoker and do this more often. During the cook, I used up my 33 Ah battery, then my 20 Ah battery, and finally connected the inverter to our trailer. Our solar panels kept the trailer batteries fully charged while smoking.
On Friday, many of us floated down the river downstream from Big Springs to the bridge over the highway. After arriving at the bridge, several of us stayed to eat Mexican food. The next day several of us floated down the Henry’s Fork River from the Osborne Bridge to Riverside Campground. Both floats were rather slow, but fortunately, we were in kayaks and paddling sped us along. The very last stretch of the second float was faster and a lot of fun.
On August 18th, most of us returned home. The weekend with friends was terrific. I hope we’re able to go camping together again soon. I love camping, and it is even better with friends and family!
On July 31st, 2019, we traveled from Porcupine Campground in Idaho, through Evanston, Wyoming, where we acquired supplies and arrived at Washington Lake Campground in Utah. Our family has been camping, backpacking, fishing, and even snowmobiling in the Uinta Mountains for more than 30 years, making it a fitting place to end our journey. If this wasn’t enough to draw us to this picturesque lake, we had our oldest son and his family joining us in their RV a few days later.
We arrived at Washington Lake at about 6 pm and found site 40 available. It’s right near the entrance to the campground and away from the lake. While we first thought it wasn’t great, we learned to like being away from others and out of the pedestrian traffic to and from the lake.
After being in this site a few days, we decided that while I had to go back to work on August 5th, my wife and young son would remain for the remainder of the week. I would rejoin them on the weekend of August 9th. In my absence, our daughter and her three sons joined my wife and stayed in our trailer. When I returned on the 9th, Washington Lake Campground was host to my wife and me, two of our sons, one daughter, a daughter-in-law, five grandchildren, and a friend of my youngest son. It was a great 11 nights of camping. Washington Lake Campground has a 7-day limit, so we had to leave the camp and return. While gone, we dumped the trailer and acquired freshwater. We, fortunately, retained site 40.
On August 1st, we were outside looking at the stars about 10:30 pm when I noticed an unusually bright and new star in the Big Dipper. Then I realized this star wasn’t a star at all, but a satellite. Looking up likely candidates in an astronomy application on my phone indicated that it was the International Space Station. It was amazingly bright.
The Uinta Mountains contain many lakes and streams, and decent fishing in most of them. On August 2nd, my wife and I and our youngest son fished the stream that flows out of Christmas Meadows on the north side of the Uinta Mountains. It was the first time our 13-year-old put together his nymphing rod, tied the line, and chose a nymph to use. We walked down to the river together, and I asked him to pick a fishy spot. He identified a slow run of water near a fast-moving piece of water and indicated he would fish it. It looked like an excellent seem and a sweet hole. On his first cast, he pulled out a beautiful fish and the largest I had seen in this river. He walked downstream a few dozen feet and after just a few more casts caught a 23-inch brown trout, the catch of the century on this little stream. I think he’s hooked!
While at Washington Lake, we enjoyed walks with our children, grandchildren, and of course, our favorite dog, Leo. Leo loves the water and goes nuts when someone catches a fish. He loves to wade and swim and doesn’t mind looking like a wet rat.
The grandchildren inevitably find a way into the water. Whether it is intentional or unintentional is sometimes hard to tell. On at least one occasion, I witnessed a young grandchild playing blissfully near the water’s edge when an older sibling snuck up behind them and, while parents were distracted, gave them just enough of a push to plunge them into the lake. Grandpa doesn’t tell!
On August 11th, 2019, our 31-night journey through three states came to an end. We hauled the trailer home and began to adjust to home life. It was hot, there were lots of errands to run, and work was relentless. It took us no time at all to wish we were back in the mountains. We’ll have more camping trips in 2019, but the big one is over until next year.
On July 29, 2019, we headed to Porcupine Campground west of Bear Lake in Idaho. We left Smith’s Trout Haven late in the afternoon and headed east and then south a mere 78 miles. Porcupine Campground will be our last stop in Idaho on this journey and the last two nights we’ll spend with this son and family. Idaho campgrounds have been exceptional, and I wish Utah would step it up. The one thing I won’t miss about Idaho is the boat checks every time and place you enter the state.
We arrived before dark and took site 15 that we reserved earlier in the week. It was a nice back-in site and quite private as long as you didn’t need to use the tent site that seemed to be adjacent to the neighboring campsite. Our son and family occupied a site a few places west of site 15. We spent most of our campground time at their site where the children had their stuff, could be in the trailer and didn’t have to walk down to our place.
On July 30, 2019, we went to the Minnetonka Cave ticket booth and reserved a spot on the morning tour for all nine of us. We then drove to the cave entrance and waited for our tour time. The cave tour was enjoyable, particularly the relief from the outside temperature. While this isn’t a Carlsbad Cavern or Lehman Cave, it is interesting. While there are a lot of stairs, the level of exertion did not exhaust the small children in our group.
After our cave tour, we went to the northeast corner of Bear Lake and swam and played at the beach. The water was relatively warm, and the beach is very gradual. To get waist deep, I had to walk about 500′ out into the water. This feature makes it great for small children and fun for the rest of us.
After swimming, we ate dinner out and then headed back to Porcupine Campground, had a fire with the grandchildren and their parents, and ate smores. An enjoyable and exhausting day!
On July 31, 2019, we bid farewell to Idaho for the last time on this journey. We headed south to Evanston, Wyoming to shop for food and propane, and then headed south to the Uinta Mountains of Utah. We were hoping to find a campsite in the Washington Lake Campground, but without reservations, we left with trepidations.
On July 28, 2019, we traveled for about five hours and arrived at Smith’s Trout Haven. Seems like kind of a funny name given that the stream that flows through it is tiny and the “fishing” pond is grown over, mossy, and uninviting. However, aside from the name, this place has a lot to offer, and the owners/operators are amazingly accommodating. Truth be told, the pond is likely filled with large trout, I just wasn’t willing to try.
Smith’s Trout Haven has many sites with 30 Amp hookups, and every site is covered in grass, unlike the typical campground fare of dirt or gravel. We had reserved a spot a day or two earlier, but upon arrival, we were invited to take any spot, so we chose site 58. Our site had a fire pit, a picnic table, and a small Pavillion. We paid $30 for the spot and use of electricity, and an additional $10 fee for a late checkout. The late departure enabled us to leave our trailer in place until 7 pm the following day instead of trying to find a parking spot while we enjoyed Lava Hot Springs. While we began the evening alone, a couple of other campers arrived late, but we were all well separated.
The RV park is quite large, and the views are pleasant. It is essentially a large parcel in farming country. The neighboring farms and ranches are a good distance away. There are few trees, but overall this is an excellent place to stay while enjoying Lava Hot Springs.
On July 29, 2019, we began our day at Lava Hot Springs Mineral Pools. There are four or five small pools with water that varies in temperature from pool to pool from about 102 degrees Ferenheight to about 112. I enjoyed the coldest of the batch, while others were far more adventurous. After an hour or so, we walked downstream along the river to the Olympic Swimming Complex. There we met our son, daughter-in-law, and some of our grandchildren. We played for several hours and ate some mediocre snack bar food.
On our walk down the river, we noticed that many people were riding tubes down the river. At the bottom, they paid a small fee to have a truck take them and their tube back to the top to repeat the float. We’ll have to return and give that a try.
In the late afternoon, we returned to fetch the trailer and head to the next destination of our adventure. Smith’s Trout Haven was a great place to stay near Lava Hot Springs. Town and activities were only about a mile away. That is just far enough to be out of the hustle and bustle and traffic, but close enough to zip in and play. Next up is Porcupine Campground west of Bear Lake in Idaho.
On July 23rd, 2019, we traveled from Lindbergh Lake in Montana to Luby Bay Campground near Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle. We only stayed at Luby Bay for three nights, but we would have loved to stay at least a week. It was a beautiful place with a lot of fun things to do. Unfortunately, our site was reserved by others for the weekend, and we had to move on. We will return to Luby Bay Campground and Priest Lake.
Rather than taking the direct route to Priest Lake, we traveled west on Highway 2 between Kila, Montana and the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 56. Along this path, we stopped at Kootenai Falls. The falls were spectacular, and the two short hikes are worth taking. One hike takes you across a swinging bridge, those are always fun, while the other takes you to the upper falls. The water is a spectacular glacier sort of color. The entire drive down Highway 2 and then south on Highway 56 were well worth the additional time it took.
We reserved our site at Luby Bay when we planned the remainder of our trip during our stay at West Mountain Campground. With such short notice, the only reservable sites were way in the back of the upper loop of Luby Bay Campground. We were disappointed not being right on the lake, but after arriving, we were thrilled.
Our site, campsite number 40, was terrific. It was well away from other campers, densely wooded, lots of flat terrain around our campsite, and the most beautiful light that trickled through the trees. In contrast, the sites in the lower loop are placed close together and not nearly as private. When we return, we will definitely choose a site in the upper loop.
That first night began routinely, we ate dinner, hung out at the campsite, and simply enjoyed soaking up the place. At about 11 pm we were sitting out under our trailer awning, probably the only people awake in the entire campground, watching another lightning storm blow in.
This one literally blew in. The wind whistled through the trees, the lightning flashed, and the thunder boomed. While watching, we heard a loud crack and a deep thud as a massive 30” diameter tree came crashing to earth just one campsite away from where we were sitting. Well, it didn’t quite make it to the ground because someone’s car attempted to stop its descent. The vehicle lost the brief battle. The trunk of the tree smashed through the car to the floorboards.
We ran over to their campsite to ensure that no one was injured. It’s a weird feeling being a first responder. You’re not sure what to expect. We yelled into the tent and received no response. Being afraid that they took refuge in their car, we peered through what was left of the vehicle in the hope that no one was there. Fortunately, the tent owner had temporarily returned to Spokane, and the car owner was camped across the road at another site. While no one was hurt, a few people were traumatized enough to leave camp. This experience certainly made for more sincere family and individual prayers that night.
The next morning, we inspected the damage and found that the wind had blown the top 40 feet off of a 90-foot tall tree, blew the top portion over a tent and canopy, and deposited it on top of that poor little car. Two other trees toppled during the night, and fortunately, no one was hurt.
After looking around the area and taking in the devastation, we left for Hill’s Marina to meet Rich Lindsey who we booked to take us fishing on Priest Lake. We had hoped to have our son catch some big lake trout or other large fish. However, the storm the night before messed up more than the trees. The lake was rough, the weather was unsettled, and Rich gave us little hope of catching fish. We tried for two hours and gave up. The lake is beautiful, and we’ll come back and give it another try. That evening, we licked our wounds from the fishing experience and ate dinner at Elkins Lodge. The food was fine, but frankly, I prefer the meals my wife and I make while camping.
On July 25th, 2019, we arose late and had brunch at Hill’s Lodge. Afterward, we rented a third kayak from Hill’s Lodge and headed north to Beaver Creek Campground where my wife, son, Leo, and I launched our kayaks and headed towards what is known as the Thoroughfare. We paddled across the northern shore of Priest Lake and then turned north up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake.
It was about 2.5 miles up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake. The two main ways to get to Upper Priest Lake are by boat or hiking. There are numerous campsites scattered around the upper lake for those willing to haul in their gear. The scenery is breathtaking. The color and clarity of the water in places is impressive.
Along the way, we saw many birds, some fish, and plenty of beautiful sights. The roundtrip was about 5 miles and took us about 4 hours with plenty of stops and easy paddling.
After our paddling experience, we chose to have dinner at Hill’s Lodge, yes we were getting lazy and finished the evening streaming a little TV. What a fantastic day!
The next day was a moving day. While pulling out of Luby Bay Campground, we dumped the trailer for an additional $8 and headed to Indian Tree Campground in Montana.
On July 21st, 2019, we left O’Hara Bar Campground and headed for Tin Can Flats Campground. However, during this approximately four-hour trip, we discovered we needed to do some laundry, dump the trailer, and acquire Montana fishing licenses. While doing laundry, we determined to head to Holland Lake Campground to save time and settle us in before dark.
After arriving at Holland Lake, we found both loops full. We tried a local boondocking site, but it was full as well. We finally found a spot at Lindbergh Lake. Our site was a hundred feet from the lake, in a wooded and secluded campsite, and it was free.
We took our kayaks and float tube out on the north bay of this large lake. We tried fishing in the morning and then again near dusk. We had several bites each but didn’t catch a single fish.
The shoreline is densely wooded and makes for a beautiful lake. However, there are many cabins on the eastern shore, making the lake rather busy. This lake is popular for wakeboarding, skiing, and wave runners. These activities lead to a lot of wakes and a noisy environment.
On our last night there we walked to the northern shore and sat on the small boat ramp and watched a lightning storm roll over the lake. It was quite spectacular and made for an enjoyable evening.
On the morning of July 23rd, 2019, we left Lindbergh Lake and headed to Luby Bay Campground in Idaho. We made reservations for a site at Luby Bay, so we traveled with less anxiety and a willingness to see a few things along the way.