We arrived in Idaho Falls, Idaho on July 2nd as I had an appointment to drop my motorhome off on July 5th to have some work done as well as visit and spend time with friends who live here. I grew up and went to high school with Joann. She lives here in Idaho Falls with her husband, Scott. Another friend who lives here is a young man, Brady, who I know through my youngest son when they became friends at the age of 12 and are now 25 years old. We had taken a trip to the dunes and met this young man, his uncle, and friends who were also camping and dune riding. The boys hit it off, became friends, and have kept in touch all these years.
4th of July we spent with Joann, Scott and their extended families. We attended the Idaho Falls 4th of July Parade which was really awesome, and afterward, we were went to Scott’s sister’s house where we visited, had a BBQ and my grandkids were introduced to “Corn Snakes.” I do not care for snakes, I will look at a distance but will not hold or be to close. Corn Snakes are generally docile and make a good snake pet, very colorful and the kids were very intrigued with them. That evening we went to a location near the river to watch the fireworks. It was a really great 4th of July.
On July 3rd, Joann let me use her car so the grandkids and I could go and spend the day at Lava Hot Springs, which was about an hour and a half drive from Idaho Falls. Lava Hot Springs is located in the Portneuf Mountain range in Southeastern Idaho and is one of America’s most unique resort towns. It is a charming town mixed with hot spring pools, river tubing, and an Olympic size swimming pool with diving platforms up to 10 meters high and twisting water slides. The kids and I spent the majority of our time in the pool and the kids did a couple of the water slides and just had a blast. Since it was the middle of summer and a warm July day we did not indulge in the hot springs because it was just too warm, but I would love to come back when the weather is a bit cooler and soak in these amazing pools that are covered with canopies to block the sun and the rain during the winter months.
After swimming in the pool for most of the day we decided to wander around town, have some ice cream and check out the raft tubing. The Portneuf River flows through the town of Lava Hot Springs and raft tubing is hopping with people walking or riding in the back of pickup trucks through town with their tubes, and trailers hitched up behind trucks stacked sky-high with tubes that have been picked up and are being hauled back to the rental locations. There is one place in town where a bridge crosses over the river and it was a lot of fun to stand on that bridge and watch the rafters coming down the river.
Our travels after leaving Oregon took us to Idaho and our first destination we were heading to was Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho. I and my family had moved to Ketchum Idaho in 1983 for a job with ACI campgrounds. We were to be running the North Fork Store and Campground outside of Ketchum before heading up into the Sawtooth Mountains. At the time of our move from Washington state, my husband and I had two children, our 5-year-old daughter, and a 4-month-old son. Our home was attached to the back of the store with the kitchen and dining room area downstairs and the living room and bedrooms all upstairs. The grandchildren that were traveling with me on this trip were the children of my daughter, so this was a place where their mother had lived for a year. I may have to share this story on another blog as this blog is about my return visit and my grandchildren’s first visit. One of the unique things about this particular place was that it was famous for the filming in 1956 of the movie “Bus Stop” which Marilyn Monroe starred in. And just a few miles down the road was Steve McQueen’s Idaho home in which his sister-in-law was living at for a time. It has been so many years I have forgotten her name but we met her and became acquaintances during our time there and I was able to visit the home which had on display the motorcycle Steve McQueen rode in the movie “The Great Escape.”
Driving into Sunvalley it had changed so much in the 30 plus years since I had been back that I was wondering if I was in the right town. There is no distinction between Sunvalley and Ketchum, the area has grown so much that it just all blends into one now. As I drove out of town many things had changed there as well, more homes had been built, trees and bushes had grown. I tried looking for the small log cabin driveway of Steven McQueen’s home, but nothing looked familiar……..I read later when I searched the internet that it had been sold a few times, remodeled, and additional square footage added to the point that the original small log cabin home it once was, was gone and had become this huge home that was unrecognizable. As we drove up to the North Fork Store and Trailer Park my mind went back to many memories here. I was saddened by how run down it was and no longer in operation as a place of business. The gas pumps had been taken out at some point. I took a few pictures and shared some stories and memories with my grandchildren.
Here are a few pictures from we lived here in 1983-1984. The first picture is downtown Ketchum, a view of Bald Mountain and the North Fork Store.
Since it was late in the day I drove down the road a short distance to the North Fork Campground where we stayed for the night. The next morning I fixed us all some breakfast and we went on a little walk around the campground and to the river.
EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor 1) Atomic Museum
Our next stop was to visit the EBR-1 located 18 miles southeast of the town Arco, and 50 miles from Idaho Falls. Looking out over the flat landscape that is mostly sagebrush it is pretty to see why this place would be picked to be used for nuclear reactor experimentation and development. EBR-1 is a decommissioned research reactor and became a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1965. It was the world’s first breeder reactor and on December 20, 1951, it became one of the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plants when it produced enough electricity to light four 200-watt light bulbs. EBR-I was able to generate enough electricity to power it’s building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964. EBR-1 was not only the world’s first breeder reactor, it was also the first to use plutonium fuel to generate electricity.
We took a self-guided tour which is “Free” and found EBR-1 to be an interesting and educational visit that we really enjoyed. When you first enter the building there is an area where you can sit, like a waiting room. The decor is definitely straight out of the ’50s.
Uranium was the first nuclear fuel that is mined from the earth. Less than 1% of naturally-occurring uranium ore can be used as fuel. Well after World War II, uranium was thought to be a rare element. There did not seem to be enough for both military and civilian needs, and certainly, not for all the reactors, the U.S. government planned to build. The military controlled the uranium supply and planned to use it for weapons. A man named Enrico Fermi developed an idea for a reactor that would “breed” plutonium, another nuclear fuel while consuming uranium by creating more fuel than it used. EBR-1 was built to test Fermi’s concept.
When the fuel rods were removed from the reactor, some radioactive NaK remained on them. The rods were lowered into the basement through holes in the floor covered by the metal plates. the NaK was washed off with acetone and alcohol. When clean and dry, the rods were then stored in the rod farm in evenly spaced storage locations in concrete with individually numbered holes. The chalkboard was used to keep track of the inventory. Past the rod farm is the hot cell, this was used to visually inspect the used fuel rods. Each window consists of 34 layers of lead glass totally 39 inches thick, with mineral oil filling the space between each layer of glass to provide clarity. The walls are also 39 inches thick for radiation protection. The manipulators are some of the first-ever devised for handling radioactive materials. Mechanical “fingers” inside the hot cell duplicated the operator’s motions.
This was the control room where operators started, controlled, and shut down the reactor.
I and the grandkids stopped off at Craters of the Moon National Monument and stayed one night at the campground that is located in the park!
What a unique and interesting place this was………A seven-mile loop road leads you to all the trailheads and the kids had a lot of fun walking the many paved paths and exploring the crooks and crannies. Craters of the Moon is located between the small towns of Arco and Carey, Idaho. The landscape here was created by a handful of lava flows over time. The lava here didn’t erupt out of volcanoes, but rather oozed out of fissures in the earth and occasionally spewed out of vents. Sometimes a flow would partially cover a previous lava bed, other times it would create new ones. The result is 618 square miles of cinder cones, lava tubes, tree molds, lava rivers, spatter cones, and lava beds as far as you can see. Craters of the Moon represents one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the United States.
Inferno Cone View Point is a cinder cone that appears to be a volcanoe but is really just accumulations of volcanic cinders from nearby explosions. The hike up Inferno Cone is straightforward, covering 160 feet in elevation gain over the course of 2/10 mile. Hikers will crest an initial hump about halfway up, followed by a brief pause and then another steep incline. The time to reach the summit is only about 10-15 and offers excellent views of various volcanic features.
One of the coolest things to do anywhere there are lava flows is hike through lava tubes. This makes “Caves Trail” an exciting hike in Craters of the Moon National Monument. The 1.6-mile paved trail has four caves that were created by lava tubes that guided molten magma up to the surface, where it bubbled and formed this amazing landscape. When the lava flow stopped, deep tubes were left behind, reaching to the source of the magma. Over the millennia, many of the tubes sealed up and collapsed, but some still remain, extending hundreds of feet below the surface of the park.
Pahoehoe (a native hawaiian word) lava tubes that covers about half the area of the Monument, is a billowy, ropy type of lava that is filled with caverns. Its shiny blue glassy crusts make some of the flows very beautiful in the sunlight. The ropy and wrinkled surfaces are due to the hardening from a thin crust or scum on the lava flow while the crust was being pushed forward by the flowing lava below. This motion caused the thin crust or scum to wrinkle and fold like molasses.
Next up was a spatter cone…….. these “miniature” volcanoes form during the final stages of a fissure type eruption. As gases escape and pressure is released, the lava becomes thick and pasty. When these sticky globs of lava plop to the surface, they pile up to form spatter cones.
As we drove along we saw “lava bombs” which are masses of molten rock formed when a vent ejected viscous fragments of lava during an eruption. The lava cooled into a solid mass before it reached the ground.
Lava flows that once destroyed everything in its path has now over time formed a spectacular landscape that protects the sagebrush, plant and animal life that has adapted to the harsh environment that exists in Craters of the Moon.
After heading out for my RV travels on January 1, 2016, I returned home to Washington State after 6 months to spend some time with my family and pick up my two older grandchildren before heading out for a month-long RV trip with them. We left Washington on June 27, 2016, and our first stop was The Dalles Dam, Oregon.
The United States Army Corp of Engineers constructed The Dalles Dam between 1952 and 1957. The dam was a significant part of the federal government’s effort during the twentieth century to develop the hydropower and navigation potential of the Columbia River. Located 192 miles upstream from the mouth of the Columbia, the dam is two miles east of the City of The Dalles. We visited the Vistors Center which had some fun things for the kids to do and they were able to dress up like park rangers. The center had a lot of interesting history and information about the dam http://historicthedalles.org/history/
Our travels then took us up to Pendleton, Oregon where we decided to drive to Wallow Lake and the town of Joseph, Oregon. It was a hot summer day and Wallow Lake sounded so beautiful and the perfect place to relax and go swimming.
The drive from Pendleton to Joseph was a two-hour and a half-hour drive and so beautiful! Of course, it took us a bit longer as we made a few stops for pictures. The road followed the river through beautiful scenery filled with farms, farmland, and woods.
The town of Joseph, Oregon is located at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains. It is an awesome, beautiful little town with a population of about 1,081 and was incorporated in 1887. Joseph was originally named Silver Lake and Lake City, but in 1880 the name was formally changed to Joseph for Chief Joseph (1840-1904) of the Nez Perce people. Joseph’s economy was originally based around agriculture, especially grain and stock. In 1908 after a railroad line was completed a lumber mill opened. When the timber industry collapsed in the 1980s and the unemployment rate went up a new industry sprang up in 1982 when three bronze foundries opened in the area. We did not make any stops in town as our objective was to go to the lake to swim and get cooled off.
Wallowa Lake and the Wallowa Mountains were just beautiful. The most gorgeous blue, clear water of Wallowa Lake reminded me so much of where I grew up in Truckee, CA, swimming in Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe. The grandkids just loved this lake and it was a welcome relief from the heat. It was a great day of swimming, drying off in the sun, and eating lunch on the lawn.
At an elevation of 4,372 ft and surrounded by high moraines, Wallowa Lake was formed by a series of Pleistocene Glaciers.