Thursday, February 16, 2017

Boise, Idaho and Four States In One Day


I spent a few days seeking fish holes along the Fly Highway, then I realized that I was running out of time. I needed to make some mileage.
I needed to travel from Idaho to California and cover about 1000 miles within two days. 
Cutting across Idaho, I passed by farm after farm. I believe that the majority of the farms were devoted to the production of potatoes. While the potato may have originated in Peru and Bolivia, the mass production of the potato, and specifically the russet potato, was probably perfected in Idaho. 

Potatoes were first introduced into Idaho not by a farmer but by a missionary named Henry Spalding. He established a mission in 1836 at Lapwai, in the state's northern panhandle, to bring Christianity to the Nez Perce people. He wanted to show the Nez Perce how to provide food for themselves through agriculture rather than hunting and gathering.

Later, when settlers moved into the area, potatoes were some of the first crops that they planted.  In the river valleys, where water was easily diverted, and with the rich volcanic-ash soil, the settlers raised a few more potatoes than they needed and found that the extra potatoes resulted in a good cash crop. From this small beginning, Idaho's farmers set out on the conquest of the potato markets of the United States.

Prior to traveling through Idaho, I did not know much about the state. I knew that the state was famous for growing potatoes, fly fishing and this...
Or more specifically this... Bronco Stadium at Boise State University. 

While most football fields are green, Albertsons Stadium is widely known for its unusual blue playing surface. Installed in 1986, it was the first non-green playing surface in football history and remained the only one among NCAA schools for over 20 years. 

Chris Berman of ESPN famously called the turf "The Blue Plastic Tundra," a joking reference to "the frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Another nickname for the surface is "Smurf Turf." Players refer to it simply as "The Blue." 
I did not have much time to spend in Boise, but I thought that that it might be worthwhile to drive around a bit and see some of the sites. I passed by the Idaho Sate Capitol Building.
Stood by the statue titled Hospitality of the Nez Perce.
Saw Saint John's Cathedral
Just passed by the Jefferson Place Building formally known as the Elks Lodge building.
I spotted this odd grouping of motorcycles - a Vespa scooter and sidecar, a Harley Davidson cruiser and a Suzuki GXSR sport bike.
I had a sandwich and clam chowder at a cafe called The High Note.
And then, I stumbled upon this place.
Freak Alley Gallery is a space for public art in the form of graffiti and murals located in an alley and parking lot in the middle of downtown Boise. 
It began with a painting of a single alley doorway and now extends from the alley itself to a car parking lot. 
An artist named Colby Akers was drawing on an establishment's door. He was approached by one of the employees and simply asked to sign his work when he was done for the day. The artist then asked if he could come back and continue his work. Every since that day the space has been open to artists and their creativity.  
Extant murals are painted over and replaced by new murals every two years.
It is the largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest, and a Boise institution. 
As I was walking back to my car, I happened upon a food and wine street fair. I didn't have time to enjoy it. I had to get back on the road.  
On the next day, I drove from Boise to the Bay Area.
I passed through the eastern part of Oregon.
It appeared to me to be a high altitude desert.
I drove through some really small towns in Nevada.
The desert and sky were just a blur.
After I passed through the city of Reno, Nevada I called my old friend Bee who was currently living in Fulsom, California. Bee previously lived in Austin. I wanted to see if he had time to meet. 

When I got him on the phone, I shared with him that I would be passing by Fulsom in a few hours and asked if he had time to meet up. He said that he was actually in Reno. I turned my car around. 

The last time that I saw Bee was a couple years prior when we were traveling through South East Asia. We traveled through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos together. We went our separate ways in the town of Luang Prabang. I made my way home through Thailand. He ventured back into Vietnam and was planning to travel the world. He never really made it out of Vietnam. He met a beautiful girl named Linh. They started dating, got engaged and eventually got married. They eventually moved back to the US and settled in the town of Fulsom, California. 

We met at a restaurant in one of casinos. We talked about the good old days, our trip through SEA, his wedding and his new marriage. This was actually the first time that I had the opportunity to meet Linh. I thought that they made a great couple.
Shortly after our lunch, I was back on the road. I crossed into California.
And in a few hours, I arrived at my sister's house.

The End.

Go back to the beginning.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fishy Stories in Idaho


I exited Yellowstone Park on the western side and crossed into Montana. Just outside the boundary of the park is the small town of West Yellowstone. As I was driving through the town I saw a fly fishing shop and thought that it might be a good idea to stop and inquire about possible camping locations and local fishing holes. The store owner was nice and pointed me in the direction of the Upper Coffee Campground. I stopped at a Subway sandwich shop and ate lunch. Then I located a gas station to fill up the tank of my car. I entered the Upper Coffee Campground into my GPS and was provided the directions.
Not being familiar with the city of West Yellowstone, I was relying on my GPS to help me navigate the area. My GPS instructed me to exit the parking lot of the gas service station, turn left onto Electric Street, then turn left onto Highway 20. While at the stop sign at the intersection of Electric Street and Highway 20 I waited for various vehicles to pass. When there was an opening in the traffic, I turned left and began to accelerate. 

After passing two streets I reached the speed of 35mph. It was at this time that I saw a police car sitting on the side of the road. The police officer turned on his lights and signaled me to pull over. It had been years since I've been pulled over for speeding, but I knew the procedure. When the police officer approached my window he asked for my license and registration. I had already turned off my car, put my keys on the dashboard and pulled out my license and registration. I handed over my documents.

After spending some time in his car, the police officer reappeared outside my car window. He asked me if I realized that I was speeding. I said that I was not aware that I was speeding. I explained that I was accelerating to get up to the speed of the existing highway traffic, but that I did not think that I was speeding. He stated that the speed limit was 25 and that I had passed three speed limit signs, two official signs and one hand made signs. I thought to myself... a handwritten sign... why is there a handwritten sign!?!?

Realizing that I was in a small town with a consistent flow of tourists/targets passing through, that I had been caught in a speed trap. I realized that I was probably not going to get out of this predicament, so I just mentioned that I had just turned left onto the highway and I may have missed the three speed signs.

By this time a second patrol car had pulled up. The second police officer walked over to the passenger side of my car and was attempting to talk to me through my window. I could not hear what he was saying clearly, so I asked the first office if I could lower my window. He said that I could. I lowered my window. The second officer then said that he saw me speeding further down the street and flashed his lights at me to warn me to slow down. He asked if I saw him flash his lights at me. I was puzzled. I said, no. I asked him when and where did he flash his lights at me. He said that it was back a few streets. I asked him if he was behind me. He said, no. He said that he was on the side road. At this point the first officer signaled the second officer to meet him at the back of my car. They walked around to the back of my car and began to talk. I could not hear clearly what they were saying, but I could make out that the first officer told the second officer that I had turned left onto the highway just two blocks back. They were corroborating their story. Fishy!

The two officers returned to talk to me. The first officer said that he was going to issue me a ticket. He asked if I would like to pay $50 now or he could issue the ticket and I would need to pay $55 by mail or online. Like I mentioned before, it had been a while since I had been stopped for speeding. I wasn't aware that police had the ability or authorization to collect fines on the spot. I was puzzled. I asked the officer if he knew, in this county, if I could take defensive driving to remove the ticket. This seemed to upset him. He said, he did not know. I said, then I would prefer to be issued the ticket because I may contest the ticket. This seemed to upset him more. He reminded me that it would cost $5 extra if I paid the ticket by mail or online. I said that it would be okay.

I was issued a citation by Trooper Marcus N. Cook of the Montana Highway Patrol for traveling 35mph in a 25mph zone.

After I was issued the ticket I circled back in the direction from which I had driven. Sure enough, there was a posted speed sign and there was a hand written speed sign. I suppose that sometimes you have to just pay the man.

Definitely a tourist/speed trap.

I continued on my way.
After exiting West Yellowstone, I crossed over into the state of Idaho. 

Prior to this trip, I had heard of a stretch of highway in Idaho called the Fly Highway. 

The real name of the road was Highway 20, but it was nicknamed the Fly Highway because the road paralleled a number of rivers, streams and tributaries that were excellent for fly fishing. I first learned of this mythical place from a movie called The Rocky Mountain Fly Highway. There is a movie, website and app dedicated to this road that passes by some of the best fly fishing waters in the world. I had to check it out.
I eventually found the Upper Coffee Campground. I drove around the small campground twice, but it appeared that all the camping spots were occupied. This is one of my techniques for securing a camping spot almost anywhere. 

I noticed one camping spot where there was a single man, a single tent and a single car. I approached the man and greeted him. I explained that I just arrived and that it appeared that all the camping spots were occupied. I inquired if he would be willing to share his campground with me and I would be happy to pay the fee for the both of us. He would get a free camping spot for the night. I would get a camping spot for the night. I mentioned that I had a couple of beers that I'd be willing to share as well. He said that he was camping by himself and that he would not mind sharing the spot. He said that he had already paid the fee, so it was not necessary to pay any additional money. I accepted his generosity and we celebrated our new friendship by breaking open a couple of beers that I had stored in my cooler.  
The sun was getting lower in the sky, but the river looked so tempting that I had to try my luck at fly fishing. I fished for maybe an hour, but didn't catch a thing.
The next morning I woke up early in the morning to try my luck at fly fishing again. I waded into the water and fished up and down the river, but did not have any luck. I didn't know if I was using the wrong flies or technique. I struck up a conversation with another fisherman. He said that he fished this river all the time. It just so happens that we were between the seasons. He said that two weeks ago people were pulling out huge trout from this very location. He said that in another two more weeks people would be pulling out huge fish. He said that there was always a lull in the fishing during this particular time. I was disheartened.

I didn't bother wading and fishing my way back to my car. I simply walked along the shore. There was a young lady walking through the woods with a basket in her arms. She was gathering something from the forrest. I stopped and asked her what she was collecting. She said that she was collecting huckleberries. I had never seen real huckleberries before. I'm not sure if they even grow in Texas.

A Huckleberry is a small berry. However, it is also a vintage slang term in the US. A huckleberry could be used to connote something small. Also, "I'm your huckleberry" is a way of saying "I'm just the man you're looking for".

Anyways, the young lady showed me her collection of huckleberries. I walked away thinking that at least I learned what a huckleberry looks like.
I still wanted to catch some fish. So, I sought help from google maps. I located a river, then I followed a road that ran along the river, then I found an access point to the river. It looked pretty remote, so I thought that maybe there would be more fish.
I drove down a gravel road bordered by a forrest of conifers.
Outside the box. I eventually found this spot to park at an area called Henry's Fork.
I walked down a dirt road that eventually turned into a dirt trail. The trail descended into a canyon.
From above the river, it looked like an ideal place to fish. There were bends, ripples, boulders, fallen trees, grass and other great habitat for fish. 
So I spent the rest of the day on this section of the river fishing.
I caught a number of medium sized rainbow trout. Nothing huge, nothing in abundance, but I was satisfied.
Towards the end of the day I found my way to another area under the management of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This area was on the South Fork of the Boise River. On BLM land there is no fee to camp, you just have to find an available spot.
Outside the Box. I found this spot. The scenery in back of me wasn't too grand.
But the scenery in front was pretty impressive.
And down a small path there was a river. I fished along this small waterway for an evening and morning.
Twenty feet away and under the overhanging tree I hooked into a big trout. As I pulled it close to the shore it shook off my hook and escaped. 
Further down the river I saw a big splash. I went to investigate. I happened upon two otters playing near some fallen brush, perhaps it was their home. When they saw me they took off swimming up river. I was amazed at how fast they could swim. Within 2 to 3 seconds they covered at least 100 feet. They popped their heads out of the water to check on my whereabouts, then calmly swam away on their backs. Playful.

I continued to fish for a couple more days. Then time escaped me. I had to move on.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Yellowstone National Park


I continued westward. The road wrapped around the mountains.
And, the mountains wrapped around the valleys.
I ended up in the town of Cody, Wyoming. 

The town of Cody was named after William Frederick Cody - better known as Buffalo Bill. In the center of town there was a cultural center called the Buffalo Bill Center of the West which was dedicated to the history and lifestyle of cowboys. Unfortunately, there was a special event happening inside the center, so I was not able to see the museum and displays. However, I remember learning about Buffalo Bill when I was a kid. 
William Frederick Cody "Buffalo Bill" was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman. 

He started working at the age of eleven, after his father's death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars. He received the Medal of Honor in 1872.

One of the most well known figures of the Wild West, he started performing in shows with themes from the frontier, Indian Wars and cowboy lifestyle. He founded Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and Europe.
Down the street from the Buffalo Bill Center there was this store - Sierra Trading Post. For years I've bought outdoor and sport equipment from their online store. They offer great deals on both new and overstocked items. I could not resist the temptation to check out what they had in stock. I ended up walking away with some Leki trekking poles for about $50.
I was planning to stay in Yellowstone for a few days, so I picked up some food supplies and stayed overnight in Cody. Not every place that I stayed at during my trip had a great view. Outside the box.
The next morning I got an early start because I wanted to make the most of my time in Yellowstone National Park.
Upon entering the park, I was given a map that highlighted various points of interest. I decided that on my first day in the park I would try to drive around the two loops to see as many of the points of interest as possible.
There were a number of rivers that cut through the park
One big lake called Yellowstone Lake.
One of the points of interest was a bridge called Fishing Bridge. When I stopped to take a look, there were a number of signs posted that read "No Fishing". Evidently, at one time this was a very popular bridge from which to fish. But it was also a breeding area for the natural cutthroat trout. When the populations of cutthroat trout started to decline due to overfishing, the park outlawed fishing in this area. I peered over the bridge and spotted a fair number of two foot long trout. 
I continued driving around the park and came upon the West Thumb Geyser Basin.
There were some amazingly beautiful hot springs.
The water looked so clear and clean, but due to the high temperatures it was not safe to swim in nor walk near these hot springs. Earlier in the summer a tourist tried to take a selfie near one of these hot springs, feel in and died. 
The minerals that the water transported to the surface painted the ground in hues of pastel earth tones.
While driving across Yellowstone Park, I crossed over the Continental Divide. The Continental Divide is the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas. It extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean. 
One of the most famous and popular attractions in Yellowstone is of course the geyser called Old Faithful. I had to check it out.
There was a center built near the geyser with plenty of informational signs about the history, geology and plumbing of Old Faithful.
Old Faithful is a cone geyser.
It was named in 1870 during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition and was the first geyser in the park to receive a name.
It is a highly predictable geothermal feature; since 2000, it has erupted every 44 to 125 minutes. More than 1,000,000 eruptions have been recorded. Harry Woodward first described a mathematical relationship between the duration and intervals of the eruptions in 1938. The reliability of Old Faithful can be attributed to the fact that it is not connected to any other thermal features of the Upper Geyser Basin.
Eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 US gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet lasting from  1 1⁄2 to 5 minutes. The average height of an eruption is 145 feet. Intervals between eruptions can range from 35 to 120 minutes, averaging 66.5 minutes in 1939, slowly increasing to an average of 90 minutes apart today, which may be the result of earthquakes affecting subterranean water levels. The disruptions have made earlier mathematical relationships inaccurate, but have actually made Old Faithful more predictable in terms of its next eruption.
The time between eruptions has a bimodal distribution, with the mean interval being either 65 or 91 minutes, and is dependent on the length of the prior eruption. Within a margin of error of ±10 minutes, Old Faithful will erupt either 65 minutes after an eruption lasting less than  2 1⁄2 minutes, or 91 minutes after an eruption lasting more than  2 1⁄2 minutes.
I went inside one of the visitor centers and was amazed at the educational and informational displays. They certainly covered every geographical and geological formation thoroughly. 
Water
Earth
Air
Fire
The Mammoth Hot Springs are a surface expression of the deep volcanic forces at work in Yellowstone. Although these springs lie outside the caldera boundary, scientists believe that the heat from the hot springs comes from the same magmatic system that fuels other Yellowstone thermal areas. Travertine terraces are formed from limestone. Thermal water rises through the limestone, carrying high amounts of the dissolved limestone (calcium carbonate). At the surface, carbon dioxide is released and calcium carbonate is deposited, forming travertine, the chalky white mineral forming the rock of travertine terraces. The formations resemble a cave turned inside out. Colorful stripes are formed by thermophiles, or heat-loving organisms.
At the Mammoth Hot Spring Visitor Center there were ample opportunities to see wild elk walking lounging around the grounds. 
I was fortunate to find a campsite at the Norris Campgrounds. After setting up camp, I attended a talk given by one of the Rangers about the local flora and fauna. The talk was okay, but there was some excitement during the talk when a small feline passed through the forrest directly behind the Ranger. It was probably a bobcat or lynx. Nobody really got a good look at the cat because it appeared then disappeared within a blink of an eye.
When visiting national parks without a camping reservation, I either show up early in the morning before 8am or late in the evening after to 5pm. In the morning, the camp host reallocates camping spots and any open spots are offered on a first come first served basis. In the evening, if any guests do not claim their camping spot the camp hosts will sometimes allow others campers to take over the vacant spots. I was able to take over the last remaining backpacker campsite.
I must say that it was probably the best campsite in the entire campground, as it was located at the end of the a walkway and next to a beautiful stream. It was a long day. I took a soothing bath in the stream under the cover of night with just a twinkle of light from the stars.
Camping in a hammock in the wilderness is one of life's most precious experiences.
The next day I drove around the park in search of rivers. I located one river called the Virginia Cascade. To get to the river I had to traverse a number of fallen and stacked trees. 
I wanted to test out my Keiryu fishing tackle. Keiryu fishing is a style of fishing similar to Tenkara fishing. The tackle consists of a simple carbon fiber telescoping pole, level monofilament fishing line, tippet and a single reverse hackle fly.
I found the Keiyru setup worked great for the small streams with heavy brush and tree cover.
I caught a number of these small brown trout over the two days that I spent fishing around Yellowstone. I think that the largest trout that I caught was maybe 12 inches and less than 1 pound. Still I had a great time seeking out and catching these little trout. Life is good.