Part 1 - Adventuring with Don 2018 

Part 1

For several weeks prior to this year’s vacation to Montana and Alberta, Canada, I was feeling some trepidation about the trip. Then, as well as now, I still cannot explain or understand what that nagging doubt was about. Was it fear of a bear attack? Was it fear of going out on my own, again? Was it fear that I would not be able to complete the 6-day hike into Glacier National Park, carrying a heavy backpack? Perhaps it was a combination of all the above – and more.

 Despite the misgivings or anxiety, I slowly prepared over the course of several weeks so as to not add any further and undue pressure upon myself. By the time it was ready to head out, I felt about as prepared as possible with suggested packing items for the long hikes and for all that I could anticipate needing over the course of my full August get-away and escape from the desert heat.

 By 7 a.m., August 1, I hit the road early and avoided the usual rush hour traffic around Phoenix. Having planned a full 4 days to reach Glacier National Park, I had also investigated some interesting sites along the way that looked like they would be fun and educational. The route I chose was almost entirely on US 93, beginning in Wickenburg, AZ on northward into Montana. 

 All went well all morning with light traffic until hitting Las Vegas. No surprise that traffic was a bit heavier there. After Las Vegas the route was long and a bit tiresome with long, long stretches of straight highway heading north. Caliente, Nevada was my planned stop for day one and all had gone without incident – until I drove into that little town. 

I planned to spend the night at Caliente Hot Springs Motel, which did have hot spring waters in which to soak. There was a railroad museum there also that I hoped to visit. Upon entering this unfamiliar little town, I began scouting out where my motel and the museum were located. That became a mistake for me. As soon as I drove into town I was stopped by the police. I saw him turn on his lights and I pulled over immediately. I was caught speeding, 44 in a 25 mph zone. Being too preoccupied with looking for the motel and museum, I had missed the speed limit sign. (Hummph! I don’t really believe there was any signage).

And it cost me. 

The policeman was nice enough, but not so nice as to let me off with a warning. Presented with a $95 fine did not put me in a very cheerful mood, but did dredge up those feelings of doubt that I thought I had left back in Phoenix. Is this an omen that I was not intended to take this trip? Is the universe trying to get my attention and to reconsider my plans? A foul mood can be hard to shake, but I did my best to overcome it and just accept the consequences.

After settling in my motel room (a very quaint place with a kitchenette and separate hot tub soaking rooms), I found the railroad museum was closed, which was disappointing too. This little town just had it in for me.

So, although not much of a hot tub kind of guy, I took advantage of that perk and soaked for a time in perfectly hot spring water. Tiring of that, I felt more relaxed and was releasing the tension that had beset me in Caliente, NV. 

On day two I headed out early en route to Twin Falls, Idaho. Once on the road again I felt more in control and would deal with the traffic citation when I returned home in September. A sign along the highway for Cathedral Gorge caught my attention and drew me in to investigate. If anyone has been to Bryce Canyon in Utah, this is somewhat similar to that geologic phenomenon, Rock spires and columns in shades of red, like 

steeples and spires, were part of the rock formations in this canyon. While I had not planned on this stop, I was enticed by the formations deeper and deeper into the gorge. After more than an hour of exploration, I knew I had to get back the road to complete the 385-mile drive. 








    



                                                                                                                                                            But two other places were planned stops, so I was next on the search for them. 

At one time in the past, silver ore was mined in the Mountains and hills. 

Part of processing the ore required heating the ore to extract the silver. In order to do that charcoal was needed to heat the smelters, the charcoal being made nearby in charcoal ovens by burning tons of juniper and pinion pine wood until the wood was reduced to the efficient burning charcoal. Two sites, miles off the paved road, were places where charcoal ovens still stood, Bristol Wells ghost town and Ward Charcoal ovens. I found both places, way back on dirt roads, with Bristol Wells being more run down and the Ward Charcoal ovens being very well built and standing strong and steady like huge stone tipis.


Completing my investigating the charcoal ovens, I drove steadily on to Twin Falls.

I had noticed an odd sound from my GMC’s engine that day, that resembled the sound of valves or tappets chattering, but no warning lights had lit up to give me an indication of engine trouble. Once at a motel, I checked the oil and was shocked to find the dipstick was nearly dry. A truck stop next to the motel luckily had the oil I needed and I quickly purchased a quart and refilled the crankcase. Checking the oil level again, showed only a slight rise on the dipstick. By this time I was kicking myself for not being more diligent in checking the oil along the way. But, having driven very little over the past few months when the oil was last changed, I would never have expected a newer vehicle to have lost so much oil in less that 2000 miles. Another run to the truck stop and a few more quarts of oil had the level back up on the dipstick.

The little chattering noise also ceased upon starting the engine again. The oil used is synthetic, which I am guessing has a viscosity that adheres to and coats the cylinder walls most efficiently and provides better, longer lasting lubrication. Seeing no oil leakage, I have been left with the thought that the correct amount of oil was not added when the car was last serviced. That near mishap again brought up the uneasiness that had been plaguing me prior to starting this vacation.

Was this yet another sign that I should abort my plans and return home? While the thought wormed into my mind, I was not going to be deterred. Already I had learned two (pretty obvious) lessons, 1, watch the speed limits, particularly when entering these small burgs and 2, check under the hood more frequently.


The next, (3rd) day would bring me into Missoula, Montana after a 387-mile drive. Taking a leisurely pace I passed through beautiful farmlands where wheat harvest was underway in many places. And, more, steeper mountains became a part of the landscape.

An unexpected, unplanned stop near Carey, Idaho was the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Although I had seen it on a map I had not planned to visit this spot, until my drive on Rt. 93 brought me through huge old lava flows along the highway. 



Intrigued, I followed the signs into the park and spent several hours exploring and learning more about the geologic creation of the whole area. In addition to walking paths through the ancient lava fields, I completed the visit with a hike to the top of a volcanic cinder cone. (Crumbly small lava stones are not so pleasant when they slip into your sandals). It was a very windy day, but the hike to the top of the cone was not especially difficult, and it helped give me a little pre-hike leg workout.






















Continuing on my way, taller mountains lie ahead of me, then a long winding segment that followed the Salmon River and then a winding climb up to higher elevations. Late in the afternoon I arrived in Missoula, Montana – no other speeding tickets nor engine issues having presented themselves.



kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012