Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Trip to The Green River and the Green River Lakes

The summer here is rapidly ending. One only has to look at the flowers of the Wyoming Fireweed to see that the blossoms are near the top, (the flowers start at the bottom and move up to the top when the summer ends). One of the places we try to go each summer is the Green River Lakes, which are the headwaters of the Green River.
Val and George also wanted to see the headwaters, and more importantly fish the Green River itself and so we loaded up our slide in camper, and they hooked up their new camper as we headed for the Green.
Its only one hundred and twenty miles from us but the trip took four hours. The first hundred miles are easy, drive to Hoback Junction and then up Hoback Canyon until you cross the Green at Warren Bridge. From there the route turns up minor paved roads before reaching a rough gravel road that dead ends at the Green River Lakes. The last eighteen miles took over an hour.
Rocks butt out of the road and washboard ridges threaten to bounce you off the sides. Slow is the way to go but still Val lost her glass dishes as they bounced out of her cabinets and onto the floor, (we have never had any luck rving with glass, ceramic or stone ware dishes, they always break.
Reaching the Green River Campground, a lightly used Forest Service Campground, we found lots of empty spaces. Taking a hike, we looked through a haze of smoke from distant fires in Oregon, disappointed with the spectacular view.
That night it cleared and the temperature dropped to forty degrees. The campsite is at 8400 feet in elevation and because of the lack of oxygen our catalytic heater refused to work. However, cuddling, always works, and again we told each other that we should invest in better sleeping bags!
The next morning, we drove in seach of fishable waters, finally finding a place where small rapids provided just the right place to fish. Putting our rods together we headed down and quickly found fish after fish. Many were small rainbows and even a couple of browns but I did manage to make a perfect cast.
As my fly floated along the seam, a line between rapids and calm water, a large fish slammed it, before returning to its lair. I set the hook and fought the fish as it wrapped my line around a boulder but moving upstream, I could free the line and the fight was on!
Of course, I didn’t have a net, and so I had to fight the fish across several rapids before landing it downstream. It was a nineteen-inch brown, the largest fish I have caught/landed in quite a while.
Carefully measuring the fish, I unhooked it and watched it swim away. We caught more fish and George caught two small Colorado cut throats but I didn’t have any luck. The Colorado cut throat is one of the four species I need to complete my Cut Slam Award and so I had to console myself with the large brown trout.
We decided to move downstream to campsites near the Warren Bridge and we found a perfect spot with no other campers! The fly rods quickly came out and we were all catching fish, more small rainbows and a couple of browns. We caught and released eighteen fish before lunch and after quickly chowing down we headed back to the water.
More fish were caught in the afternoon before lightening moved in and fishing was done for the day Renita had a huge fish hit her fly but it got away. It was the largest fish of the day and she had more tough luck as a little later she tripped on a rock and fell face first onto the dirt and rock trail!
Thank God, she avoided any broken bones and we returned to camp to ice her bruises! I did check to make sure her rod was ok and gently joked that she had fallen trying to break her fly rod. That way she could get the new Sage Rod she had seen in a local Fly fishing shop, (it’s a pink sage rod, with a matching reel and fly line).
The next morning, it was windy and cold and so we decided to return to our place at Star Valley. It was Georges birthday and his neighbors were hosting a birthday party! Eighty-two years young and still fishing hard! Happy birthday George, and of course clear skies.

Ps In two days of fishing we caught and released forty five fish, only two of which were the native Colorado Cut throat. Guess we will have to return to the Green next year!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Whitewater Rafting the Snake River Canyon, from West Table to Sheep Gulch

The raft dropped into the first hole’s wave and I glanced forward to see a wall of green water. It seemed useless to paddle, as we entered the deep trough, and yet as we hit the top of the wave the raft broke through showering us with water. We were upright and all in the raft!
Its only fifty miles from our summer place to Jackson, and every time we travel the canyon we pass places named for the rapids below. The Big Kahuna and the Lunch Counter are just two of the famous spots, both class three white water. Val and I had wanted to float the Canyon but Renita and George had no such desire.
Val had booked a trip though one of the largest guide services and we both anxiously awaited the day of our rafting adventure. George decided to go fish the Snake River and Renita agreed to follow us down the river taking images as we passed far below.
The bus arrived at our launching site and after donning a splash coat, putting on our life jackets, and getting our oars, we loaded aboard and met our guide. Wayne, the guide, explained the rowing commands, and we practiced a bit as the raft sped down the canyon.
As the first rapids approached, he explained how we would enter the trough and that our goal was to hit it straight on, which was the reason for our paddling. Of course, we had to be on the right line and it was impressive, watching him maneuver the raft for each rapids line.
We busted through the first line of class two rapids and barely got wet. I was nervous at first but quickly gained confidence in our guides ability. Before we entered each set of rapids, Wayne told its history and characteristics and explained how the different water levels affected the waves/rapids wave height and line.
A hooded merganser swam near the raft, obviously bored with another group of humans. A littlle further a funeral of turkey vultures soared on a thermal, and as we watched them soar an osprey winged by, peering the water’s surface looking for a tasty fish dinner.
The water was sixty-two degrees and between rapids we could out a foot into the river. I was pleased to find out the water felt cool but not cold. Rapids after rapids passed and I thought of John Wesley Powel’s and his trip of discovery down the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.
Finally, the Big Kahuna neared and we plunged into the first and then the second hole, before successfully bursting through both crests. Water cascaded over us and we all took on the appearance of drowned rats, or at least our hair did.
The next was named the Lunch Counter, and we easily passed through the rapids as a film crew snapped images. Renita appeared, camera in hand and Wayne turned the raft so she could take pictures of our smiling faces! He also took a group photo and as he was a tall man, he could lean back and get us all in the same image!
The last long set of rapids approached and we easily glided through the troughs and crests. It was only a class two, easy stuff for such an experienced guide and crew! Rounding a bend, we paddled hard to reach the take-out point. The other two rafts had already landed and their crews had disembarked.
The roadside signs now took on new meanings and every time we travel the Snake River Canyon, we can look down and remember the day we rafted through the Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter! It was an enjoyable day on the water, a day filled with personal discovery, and a fresh look at a familiar canyon. Clear skies

I don’t normally mention companies as I don’t accept any advertising, but this time I feel I must give mention to the Mad River Company of Jackson, Wyoming, its guide, Wayne, and others provided us with an exciting, memorable, and safe rafting adventure. I highly recommend them if you decide to take a whitewater float of the Snake River Canyon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Watching the Solar Eclipse at Boysen State Park, 2017

I didn’t need to set the alarm as I was too excited to sleep. Awake at 2:48 am, I returning to bed and tossed and turned until six when I got up. Waking Renita, we loaded up the truck and were on the road at 6:48. Pulling into Jackson we stopped at the grocery store for some last-minute supplies. It was a little after seven am and most people were still asleep.
Leaving Jackson, we headed north to Moran Junction and then headed over Togeete Pass. Descending the pass, we drove past our spring mushroom hunting location and arrived in Dubois. Talking it over we decided to drive further. There was a temporary campsite but it didn’t look inviting and after topping off our tank we pressed on to Riverton.
We did stop at Crow Heart Butte, a spot we had considered for the eclipse, but the lot was too small and we stuck to our original plan. The traffic at Riverton was ok and there was a festival with native dancing going on in the city park. However, we couldn’t find an easy spot to park and continued on to Boysen State Park.
A park ranger told us that there were still dispersed parking spots along Bass Lake Road, (Lake Camewhaet), and after a while we located a good spot just off the road. Setting up, we had a panoramic view of the surrounding desert. To the north we could see the Owl Creek and Copper Mountains, east was the town of Shoshone, and south toward Riverton was a butte. The Wind River Mountains, normally visible, were hidden by the smoke from fires in Idaho, Montana, and Oregon.

That night I again couldn’t sleep and got up at three am. The skies were beautiful with the Milky Way splashed across the zenith of the nighttime sky. Going back to bed I awoke to find that clouds had moved in, oh no!
Getting on the internet I found the eclipse cloud forecast from NOAA, and it said that the sun would burn off the alto cirrus clouds and that a meso-cloud layer would not pass through until after the eclipse was over. As the morning progressed the high-level clouds passed to the east and the meso-cumulus clouds arrived early. Luckily, they had just moved past the sun when we noticed the eclipse had started.
We both had phone problems and so our attempts to take images with the solar glasses failed. I suggested to Renita that she not take any images as this was her first total eclipse and she should simply enjoy it.
Time seemed to stop as the moon slowly coved the sun’s photosphere. As it neared totality the air became still, it got noticeably colder, and some dogs started to bark. Molly decided it was time to take a nap and she laid down and fell asleep.
As the diamond ring formed I told Renita she could take off her solar glasses. We both stood side by side in awe of the event. First the diamond ring effect, captured our hearts and then the chromosphere, and corona appeared.
The sky had gotten dark and several bright planets appeared. All along the horizon we could see the colors of a sunset, as we were sitting in the middle of the shadow of the moon, (I never noticed this in 1979, when I saw my first solar eclipse). I tried to take a few images with our good camera but the haze from the forest fires diffused the sun’s corona and my images were rough. Renita ‘s camera clicked and I knew she had taken a few eclipse images herself.
The two plus minutes of totality passed quickly and the diamond ring signaled the end of our brief time in the umbra. I turned to Renita and saw she was wiping a tear from her eyes and I told her that I had also teared up with the joyful sight. Around us everything was silent as the other campers were still moved from a sight of a lifetime.
Cars started to drive by as people left but we stayed until fourth contact, which s when the last limb of the cleared the sun’s surface. After lunch, we decided to return home. Perhaps we would get caught in a traffic jam in Jackson!
Now traffic jams are rare here in Wyoming and usually signify that a herd of cows or a flock of sheep are being moved to a new pasture. The traffic was light until we drove past the Jackson Airport, (where a car turned in front of us and Renita had to step on the brakes. A car from California passed us in a no passing zone and then had to break as we had found the traffic jam.
My phones google earth map lit and the traffic jam appeared in red. It took us an hour to reach Jackson and make the turn on Broadway Street. City police were directing traffic and the traffic thinned as we left town. Google map also showed a traffic jam at South Park and Alpine but as we drove they both turned from red to green.
Reaching Alpine, we turned south and another car from California passed us in a no passing zone, but the fool survived his stupidity and the rest of our drive was uneventful. It had taken us five hours to return home, not bad when you factor in the traffic jam.

We are now both awaiting the next solar eclipse in 2024! Hmmm, we have neighbors here in our park, who live in Cape Giradeau Missouri, right on the center path. Do you suppose it’s too early to ask them if we can park in their front yard? Clear skies

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fishing the Salt in a Pontoon Boat

Several years ago, I purchased a pontoon fishing boat, with the intention of floating the Salt River. I fish the Salt each year but can’t afford to hire a guide, (475 a day). Now there are some public access spots, where you can cast a fly but they are often busy places with swimmers, floaters, and fisherman who hit the fish hard.
So, I floated the Salt that day, but I was trying to keep up with my non-fishing friends and it really wasn’t a day of fishing verses a day of staying with the group. Talking with my friend Dave we decided to get the pontoons out of storage and float a small section of the Salt, from the Narrows to the first bridge.
Launching the boats went well but I soon found myself spinning like a top. Narrowly avoiding some steel girders under the bridge, I finally figured out how to steer, (kind of). Dave meanwhile was an old pro at this and quickly maneuvered his boat to a nice-looking spot.
I finally stopped at a likely looking cut bank and cast into the willows. It was my first stop and just as quick I broke off my flies. Tying on two more, I was using a fly called a parachute with a nymph on a dropper, I made several casts and felt a small cut throat take the nymph.
Fighting the fish in I felt pretty good and when he passed, I told Dave I had caught a fish. He mentioned that he had lost one and it seemed an auspicious beginning to the day. We passed an anchored drift boat, and were passed by two women in a drift boat who looked like professional fly fisherwomen.
I watched as one cast a large streamer/grasshopper/whatever as the other expertly rowed the boat with perfection. I continued to fish the two-fly combination and continued to get hits but they were small fish. Meanwhile Dave was starting to catch fish as we leap frogged each other from hole to hole.
I decided to put on a large stimulator and I missed several large fish that rose, slapped the water, but didn’t take my fly. Dave had also switched to a larger dry and had a huge cut on which pulled the hook.

Before we knew it four hours had passed and Renita was waiting for us at the take-out point. It had been a fun four hours and I had gotten somewhat used to the pontoon. I hope to float again but next time I will try another stretch that isn’t as pressured. Notice how I can always come up with an excuse?  Clear skies

Friday, August 11, 2017

I am an Umbraphile, Anxiously Awaiting this years Total Eclipse

I am an umbraphile, I finally found the word that describes me, or at least one aspect of me. The first time I saw the word was when I read an article describing other umbraphiles experiences during a total eclipse of the sun.
My first total eclipse was in March of 1979. I was a high school teacher at the time and read of the eclipse in Star and Telescope. As I read the article I learned that the umbra’s shadow, the path of totality, would pass just one hundred and fifty miles north of where we lived.
So, I looked at my atlas and noticed that the central part of the shadow passed near the town of Jordan, Montana. I asked my brother in law Phil, who was living with us at the time, if he would like to join me as I drove up north and attempted to take images of the event.
Now if I could just get the school to give me a couple of days off, which of course they didn’t. I ended up taking the days off by using my precious convenience days, (we could take two days off per year, for any reason).
Driving to Jordon was a real eye opener. North of Miles City, wheat fields stretched across the horizon, and there was only one tree that dotted the landscape. Some wag had put up a sign declaring it a national forest, but at least we wouldn’t have to worry about trees blocking the eclipse.
Checking into a motel we spent an anxious night. We were the only ones there but the weather forecast came on and they were predicting cloudy skies for Billings. The next morning the motel was packed! There were some clouds in the west and so after talking with some other umbraphiles we took off chasing after a patch of blue sky, (we later heard that the clouds passed and Jordan had great skies for the eclipse).
Setting up our cameras on a remote and snow-covered hillside, we sat down and waited for the eclipse to start. I had purchased an optical solar filter for the two cameras and sure enough the sun started to be eclipsed by the moon.
I really didn’t know what exactly to expect and for the first hour very little happened. It finally got dusky and then we saw shadows racing across the snow. They were shadows of the mountains of the moon!
 In the distance coyotes started to howl, as the total eclipse started. As the moon eclipsed the sun the first sight was called the diamond ring effect. A small part of the sun’s surface showed, the photosphere hence the diamond, and the solar chromosphere burst into a ring of fire, the gold band.
I almost forgot to take a picture and so I almost missed it. I became busy, switching cameras, as the solar corona appeared and the starts came out. It was night time in the middle of the day. Glancing north and south we could see that it was still daytime. Anyone who thinks that ninety-eight or ninety-nine percent is enough is wrong. You must be in the path of Totality!
The eclipse lasted for nearly nine minutes. In that time, I took nearly two rolls of film and almost missed the diamond ring effect when the suns photosphere started to reappear. We sat there as the moon finally passed from view and without saying much tore down our equipment.  As we drove away we saw a lone tree filled with roosting sage grouse.
Seeing a total eclipse certainly changed me. While it was happening, several cars passed by and I was amazed that people were so busy that they wouldn’t pull over and view the eclipse. I vowed that I would spend my life taking the time to stop and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.
Now I am anxiously awaiting this year’s t total eclipse. We are only twenty miles from the edge of the umbra, but we plan on driving further. Fifty thousand people will descend near us but we know a place where a rocky road will take us to a special place where we often rock hound.

However, we are ready to chase a patch of clear skies. Forest fire smoke threatens to cloud the view, so if we must we will fight the crowded roadway. I haven’t decided if I will take a few images or just simply sit and watch, mesmerized by the events. Clear skies, oh please let there be clear skies!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mining for Opals at the Spencer, Idaho Opal Mine

Last year Renita and I started to work opal rough, some of which were opals from Spenser, Idaho. We needed to make a trip to Idaho Falls to pick up my new prescriptions and so we decided we would also drive a little further and hunt opals at the Spenser Opal Mine.
Looking up the tools we needed, we found that we already had our boots, rocks hammers, safety goggles, and water spray bottles. We also needed good gardening hand rakes for sorting thought the opal scree. This tool turned out to be the one tool we needed the most and luckily, we found good ones at the Fred Meyer Store, (if you have ever been to Alaska you know how great the Fred Meyer Stores are).
It was about sixty miles to the small town of Spenser, and pulling off at the exit, we easily found the signs leading us to the mine. Now it’s not really the actual mine, (they don’t let you in there anymore), but it’s a huge pile of opal bearing rock hauled and dumped behind the one cafe in town.
Going inside the cafe/rock shop we went through the safety talk and signed the liability waiver form, before heading out to the scree pile. There were already people working through the material, including an expert mine employee who showed us what the opal looked like.
Finding a spot, we started to rake the loose scree, looking for the fiery gems. After moving about a hundred pounds of rock I found my first good opal! Renita also found lots of opal, but it took her a bit to find any with fire. After a while of digging and more digging the guide showed her an opal he had found by scanning the surface. He gave her the rough piece and after a bit walked over and handed me another piece he had just found.
A young man, the son of the rock shop owner came by and gave us both further advice on finding the precious stones.  It was quite easy to find common opal material but finding some good workable rough is a skill that it takes a while to acquire.
He told me I was working in the old scree pile and that the actual mine owner brought a new pile of material every two to three days. As it had been three days since the last truck load, the material had been pretty picked over, but we still ended up with quite a few opal specimens, (an opal specimen is a piece of fiery opal that is too small to work but can be submerged in a water filled glass vial and admired).
After three hours of raking material, we had both created quite a few small shallow pits and piles of rock. It reminded me of the movie about blood diamonds in which prisoners were being guarded at gunpoint as they hunted for gems.
The difference of course was that we had paid for the pleasure and that we got to keep what we found! We learned several things that would be helpful when we return. These were to bring a foam pad to sit on, knee pads, or perhaps a small low folding chair as the opal scree was sharp and painful.

It was almost comical as we left when I slipped on the scree slope and nearly dumped my opal finds. However, I was just able to keep my bucket upright, and saved what I had found. Renita and I both had fun and we do plan on returning to the mine this summer. After all, how often can you go someplace nearby and find fire opals? Clear skies

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Caribou City, Visiting a Ghost Town

Not far from us lies an old ghost town named Caribou City. It was named for Caribou Jack, the prospector that discovered gold in 1897 on the mountain top. At one time, it boasted a population of about two thousand people and had thirty-two brothels, gambling dens and saloons.
We have wanted to visit it, but we were hesitant to drive our tuck as we didn’t know the condition of the roads. George and Val have a ford Bronco that has been customized for rock crawling and so they offered to drive us up there.
It turned out that it was an easy drive. The road we took wound along the south side of Palisades Reservoir, (McCoy Creek Road), and then followed McCoy Creek. All along the way mining claim signs dotted the trees and white pvc stakes marked the boundaries of current claim holders.
The road next followed Iowa Creek, another area still mined, before turning up a good gravel road that ended at Cariboo City. WE stopped and read the information signs but you really can’t see much. Much of the city burned down and many left soon after.
Today you must walk around to find a few caved in log buildings. Piles of talus and rusted out pipes is about all you can find as the forest has reclaimed the land. There are still claim stakes and signs so there must be some gold left but at one time there were seven hundred Chinese miners and their ability to recover almost all the gold mean there is little easy gold left.
We collected some dirt from several areas and panned it in a small stream but as usual we didn’t find any gold. We have collected samples in the past from many different areas and except for panning in Alaska. Have never even found any color, (gold dust).

On the way, back we passed two prospectors staking a new claim. To us, the challenging work of mining must be a labor of love and making and selling our jewelry is a heck of an easier way to make money. Still it was a fun day and perhaps someday we will return. Clear skies