Summer Travels 2016 -Sun Valley/Ketchum Idaho,

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.


Summer Travels 2016 – Craters of the Moon, Idaho

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.