Sunday, July 29, 2007

Traveling with friends 2007 - Day 1

The Utah Woodturning in Provo and AAW Symposia in Portland, Oregon were held on adjacent weekends in June. Since they were so close together time wise and in geographic distance, I decided it would be easier to give my friends from South Africa (Dennis and Gigi Laidler and John Wessels) the grand tour of the Pacific Northwest via the back roads.

So on June 24th we headed north from Provo with our first stop at the Salt Lake City Airport to drop off Paul Fennell and Don MacDougal, and to turn in John's rental car. From there we made a beeline to Ketchum, Idaho where I was scheduled to give the keynote address for the American Penstemon Society meeting. We made it there with about an half hour to spare and I was able to kluge together my computer slide shows to give talks about my work on Penstemon and to introduce them to my South African fieldwork on Hyobanche.

We stayed in Ketchum for two nights, which gave us Monday, June 25th to go for an explore. We drove a loop from Ketchum to Stanley, over to Challis, and then back to Ketchum via Craters of the Moon National Park.

The area north of Ketchum is Sun Valley - a beautiful glacial valley that transitions from sage brush steppe to coniferous forest, subalpine and then full alpine. We stopped to take in the beautiful scenery and were joined not long after by a wildlife biologist who thought we had stopped to see the wolves that roam this valley. Unfortunately, we didn't see any, but this is the spot where they've been seen recently because an elk had been killed by a car and the carcass attracted them.

Dennis took some panorama photos. I'm sure he'll post them on his blog soon.

Gigi and Dennis were amazed by our forests in Idaho. They had never before seen a biome like this.

L to R: Dennis and Gigi Laidler, John Wessels. These three friends made great traveling companions!

John, posing with his Sun Valley hat. He lost this on this leg of the trip, but we were able to stop the next day at the same store where he bought this so he could replace it.

We stopped at Billy Goat's bridge to take in the scenery and look for mountain goats up on the slope. Didn't see any, though.

It did make for a scenic Woodcentral pic, so that was a nice stop.

We saw a lot of different species of Penstemon on our loop, but I can't tell you what any of them were. I didn't have any field guides, identification keys, plant presses or any of my usual gear, so I didn't do any collecting.

We saw a lot of small mammals between Provo and Portland, too. This is one of about a gazillion prairie dogs we saw on our trip.

We stopped at Galena to take a coffee break and do some birding. On our way to the trail we came across one of the tourist stops up this way. Riding horses in this kind of terrain must be a lot of fun.

We saw a lot of yellow warblers and they were singing from their nesting territories. Pretty cool.

I saw a life bird, too - American Dipper.

Chipping sparrow.

Another species of Penstemon - wow, they're beautiful!

We spent about an hour walking the Harriman Trail from the Galena access point. It's a nice place to walk and see some interesting birds.

This is a view of Sun Valley from Galena Pass. It's the classic glacial valley and you can see where the glacier scooped out its track.

Dennis is taking a Woodcentral pic with John and Gigi looking on from the background.

John Wessels and Gigi Laidler.

Here's a look at the valley on the other side of the pass. When you look at the mountains on the other side you can see cirques and other glacial features. Pretty cool if you know what to look for. . .

Idaho sits atop the edge of a hotspot - the same one that formed Yellowstone National Park. The North American tectonic plate is moving to the west, so the hotspot that forms Yellowstone was once under Idaho and, before that, eastern Oregon. That means that there are a lot of hotsprings all over Idaho and eastern Oregon. The pipe you see in this picture is the outflow of Sunbeam Hotspring. The smell of sulfur is thick in the air and the water coming out of that pipe is near the boiling point.

The hot water is caught in this little rock dam and the mix of cold water coming from the river with the hotspring outflow makes for a nice hot tub ala' nature.

In case you're wondering, there are some common courtesies that people follow to make everyone's experience with the hotsprings pleasurable.

I lived in Idaho for five years back at the end of the 1970's and I remember soaking in several of the hotsprings around the region. Some of the hotsprings are pretty small, such as this one, but I recall one that was about the size of a olympic swimming pool with a temperature gradient from too hot to just a bit on the cool side.

Across the road from the main hotsprings outlet are several smaller outflows coming out of the mountain. Each of these has mineral deposits flanking the outflows. I was surprised to see a bunch of birds gathering mud, including this yellow-rumped warbler. It must be a good source of minerals for the birds and other animals in the area.

Here's another look at the yellow-rumped warbler. It was kind of weird to see familiar birds from back east out in this setting.

Can you spot the American Kestrel perching in this picture?

Wow - very scenic. I really like Idaho and it was a real pleasure driving the back roads to see it again.

Another species of Penstemon to enjoy.

Gigi took a lot of photos of everything - especially plants endemic to the states.

Now, this was really cool! We took a short side trip over to see the scar from an earthquake that happened in 1983 along Thousand Springs Valley. It resulted in a scarp that's about 10 feet tall and 21 miles long. It really shows you how mountains form - nearly in real time.

If you click on this image, you can read one of the information signs at the site.

This is a close-up view of the fault line.

You can see it all down the valley. Pretty cool, eh?

Last stop of the day, just as the sun was about to set, was Craters of the Moon National Park. This is my self-portrait of the day - my shadow while taking this picture.

It seems kind of weird to have this massive lava flow out in the middle of Idaho, but not at all strange when you consider the geology of that hotspot I mentioned previously in this post. What Yellowstone is today is what Idaho was millions of years ago and eastern Oregon before that time. The Pacific Northwest has a rich geological history of tectonic events, sheet flow lava eruptions, and much, much more.

Anyway, it makes for a good Woodcentral photo-op. The wind was blowing so hard that I was afraid to lose my cap, so it's scrunched down. Dennis was braver then me, so his cap is fluffed up.

All-in-all it was a great day spent with friends.

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