A River runs through it

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The Big Wood River is a 137 miles/220 km long river that originates in the Sawtooth Mountains close to Galena Pass. The valley named after the river stretches south-west and includes the lovely communities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey. The Big Wood River is a tributary of the Malad River, which is a tributary to the Snake River and the Snake River subsequently feeds into the Columbia River.

If I would ever stay for a longer period of time in this area, I would like to learn how to fly-fish. The Big Wood River has a very calming, almost meditative quality.

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Our two-week stay in Ketchum, ID has sadly come to an end. Sure, we could have extended by a week or two if we wanted to, but then we would not be able to do other things we planned to do. Such is life. Every time you say yes to something, you also say no to something else. We left on 19 Sep 2017 and rolled west again towards Bend, OR for a one-week stay. In order to manage the 480 miles/770 km trip from Ketchum to Bend we boondocked for one night in a lovely BLM area near Juntura on the Central Oregon Highway (Highway 20). While Highway 20 provides a narrow band of cell phone connectivity, just one or two miles off the highway there is no service. To be more exact, there is not only no cell phone service, there is nothing but wide-open space.

Oregon is a pretty big state and the center of the state is surprisingly remote. Most people know Oregon as a lush and green state with big forests and plenty of volcanoes stretching south to north along the pacific coast. Well, in the rain-shadow east of the Cascade Mountains Oregon is high and dry and the population density is extremely low.

It is interesting to experience the absence of the world-wide-web on once activities. How did we ever live without all these devices? It is clear to me that we are all hopelessly addicted to our cell-phones, tablets and computers.

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Being in Ketchum was great. We hiked everyday on different trails in the Big Wood River Valley. To name a few there was the Fox Creek Trail, the Adam Gulch Trail, the Oregon Gulch Trail, the Chocolate Gulch Trail, the Stanley Lake Trail, Proctor Mountain Trail and last but not least the Titus Lake Trail.

We re-evaluated the Sawtooth Brewery and successfully sampled their “False Summit Amber Ale” and their “Mustache Black Rye IPA”.

On the trails we met a number of elk/deer bow & arrow hunters. Hunting these big animals with such a weapon is an activity that is not only strenuous but also requires a great amount of skills. These folks carry a lot of equipment into high mountain regions and have to get really close to an animal before they can attempt a kill. After the kill, they have to dress the animal down and carry it out on their backs. Once an elk or deer is on the ground, there is a lot of competition for the easy food source, including wolves and bears.

The nighttime temperatures in Ketchum prior to our departure dropped as low as 22F/-6C and the higher elevations of the Big Wood River Valley had received a first dusting of snow. Let me remind you, these are the last days of summer.

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While in Ketchum we also spent time and money taking advantage of the excellent veterinary services provided by the Ketchum Animal Clinic. The clinic is known for it’s expertise in animal joint diseases and we asked them to diagnose Coopers limping (which manifested itself the last time in June 2017). The problem was determined to be CED (Canine Elbow Dysplasia). We were ready to submit Cooper to joint surgery, however, the clinic does not offer surgical solutions for CED. The disease, when active, must be managed with medication. The rest of the pets received vaccinations as needed.

After the visit to Bend we will move to the left coast. We have not seen our friend the Pacific ocean for almost one year.

Stay tuned.

Middle of Nowhere – Center of the Universe

Happy September y’all. It’s about time we enter fall and enjoy some cooler temperatures. With the official vacation season being over and kids are back in school the country belongs to the non-working people again.

housemouseIt is ironic that on one hand we are living with two cats and on the other hand we had mice living amongst us. Since the cats were unable to catch the intruders we declared total war on the little rodents and we were not taking any prisoners. Just kidding, we are sissies and bought a no-kill mouse trap. As of today we have caught and released four of these little buggers. At the moment there are no signs of additional rodents.

_BDS0963We observed the 21 Aug. 2017 solar eclipse right outside of the motorhome in Wallowa, OR on a meadow under a cloud-free sky. Using a very strong neutral density filter on a 400 mm lens we observed the moon as a black disk moving over the disk of the sun until there was only a slight slice of the sun’s disk uncovered. 97% of totality. The small amount of the sun’s disk peaking out provided enough light to illuminate the landscape, it was not entirely dark. The light was very dim, the temperature dropped instantly. The landscape appeared in bizarrely false and eerie colors.

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The Wallowa Mountains provide a beautiful playground in a very remote location. The dogs and I hiked the Eagle Cap Wilderness entering from several trailheads. We hiked the Bear Creek Trail and the Huckleberry Trail near Wallowa. After those trails we explored the Lostine Corridor and starting at the Two Pan Trailhead we explored the East & West Fork of the Lostine River Trails. Finally we hiked the West Fork of the Wallowa River Trail starting at the Wallowa Lake Trailhead. All of these trails are long distance trails that require in/out hiking. They all can be characterized by rather steep approaches to the higher regions of the Wallowa Mountains.

Unfortunately, during our stay there were no opportunities for landscape photography due to the persistent smoke from burns in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. The western USA is on fire.

The Mutiny Brewery in Joseph has been closed permanently. However, not all was lost since the Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise is still operational. They have a really nice and dog-friendly beer-garden attached to the brewery building that offers decent food and good beer. I liked their Apolitical Stout and the Eagle Cap IPA. The tastiest beer in my opinion however was the Tap-out, a American Strong Ale that carries a punch at 10% ABV.

In the meantime we moved back east a few hundred miles to Ketchum, ID into the Sawtooth National Forest. The constant change of time zones is getting annoying.

Stay tuned.

We are back on the West-Coast

…. and that is a good thing. We crossed the country from Bemidji, MN to Wallowa, OR.

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We took our sweet time for the 1500 miles/2400 km crossing but we also did not spend a lot of time in any of the locations we stopped along the way. The most time we spent in Dickinson, ND where we visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Enchanted Highway.

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While traveling on I94 the landscape changed dramatically once we passed Bismarck, ND. Forests and lakes slowly turned into the treeless prairie of the “Great Plaines”. The prairie did not give way until we reached the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Billings, MT. From there we rolled through Missoula, MT into Coeur d’Alene, ID and into Lewiston, WA. The short 80 miles/130 km trip after crossing the Snake River from Lewiston, WA to Enterprise, OR was some of the tightest and most curvy road I drove in a 20 ton vehicle. That kind of road separates the boys from the men.

At the moment we are located in Wallowa, OR surrounded by the stunning Wallowa Mountains, the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. We will stay here until 5 Sep 2017, the day after the Labor Day holiday and the official end of the US tourist season. There is plenty of excellent hiking around here and the dogs and I have started exploring the trails. There are also some local breweries nearby to be evaluated. Life is good.

Tomorrow is the day of the great 2017 American eclipse. Here in Wallowa the show will start at 9:10 AM, reach it’s maximum at 10:26 AM and finish at 11:30 AM. We will experience 97% of totality. I am very much looking forward to the spectacle.

I know it’s getting old, but I have to ask. Are you enjoying the Donald show yet? To quote Heather Heyer, the young lady that died in the Charlottesville nazi rally a week ago; “if you are not outraged, you are not paying attention”.

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

Moving on

We have been sitting still for more than three weeks amongst Minnesota’s 10000 lakes. Our stay here started slow and has now reached a glacial pace. For the first 3 weeks it was simply too warm for extended outdoors activities. We did short daily hikes and swimming with the dogs in one of the lakes. That was it. Now, that the temperatures have drop we are getting ready to leave.

It turned out that it’s almost impossible around here to find single-track trails as we know them from the western parts of the US. During the snow-free season Minnesotans seem to spend their free time either sunbathing on lakes, fishing or boating. Nobody hikes. The few single-track trails we found were badly overgrown and appear only to be used during the winter for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. What we found are lots of paved long distance trails, many of them are conversions of former railway lines to trails. It is telling that many of these long distance trails display “no motorized vehicles except snowmobiles” signs.

We spent our time hiking on the Migizi and North Star trails and went swimming with the dogs in Cass Lake and Pike Lake. On a side note, the amount of bald eagles soaring overhead is truly astounding. Life for large fish-consuming birds in northwestern Minnesota seems to be good.

One lesson learnt traveling the country is how difficult it is to find good bread. By “good bread” I mean bread of sustenance and taste that has not been baked in a distant manufacturing facility and has not been treated with food preservatives and put into a plastic bag. By “good bread” I mean artesian bread that manifests the skills of a talented and thoughtful baker. It seems like we spend a significant amount of time trying to find a decent baker in every new location. In many places we were unable to find such a source.

Our initial plan was to move from Bemidji, MN to Ketchum, ID. We changed the plan slightly and will instead travel from Bemidji, MN to Wallowa, OR (1400 miles/2250 km). After a few weeks in Wallowa we will eventually travel to Ketchum. While Ketchum will be in the path of 100% totality during the 21 August solar eclipse, Wallowa is approximately 50 miles/80 km north of the path and will consequently only observe 95% of totality.

Traveling west will be exciting, it feels almost like traveling home. To quote the Doors, the west is the best. Our next stop will be in Medora, ND for a visit to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Stay tuned.

10000 Lakes

After having traveled the entire east-west extension of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we transitioned through the northern part of Wisconsin and entered Minnesota, the land of 10000 lakes. A two-night stopover in Duluth gave us the opportunity to explore the city before we left Lake Superior in the rearview mirror and moved to Bemidji in northwest Minnesota. Bemidji claims to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan and proudly labels itself as the 1st city on the Mississippi river.

Marquette and Lake Superior were very enjoyable. Lake Superior is the worlds largest lake by surface and walking on its shores is just like being on an ocean. The following photo was taken one morning at 3AM when an impressive thunderstorm moved over the lake toward Marquette.

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Traveling along the northern border with Canada is so much more relaxing than traveling along the southern border with Mexico. I find it quite frankly upsetting that traveling near the southern border subjects me as a US citizen to repeated stops and inquiries by border control officers. Is their conduct compatible with the Fourth Amendment of the good old US Constitution? Why are none of these policies practiced along the northern border? What is the authority of boarder control officers away from the boarder? I am traveling in my country and it’s in my opinion not okay to be stopped as if I am entering the US from abroad.

We spent two nights in Duluth at the Canal Park marina next to downtown, where we visited a few attractions and took a walk along the downtown lake front.

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Y’all enjoy the Donald show yet? The politics of the current administration reminds me of the pealing of an onion? More layers, more tears, more lies and more ridiculous tweets. Thugs and amateurs are running this country.

Stay tuned.

Gitche Gumee*

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Happy Birthday America.

We are currently spending our 5th week in Michigan just east of Marquette along the shoreline of Lake Superior. The enormity of this lake is slowly sinking in as it changes its appearance on a day-by-day basis.

The city of Marquette turns out to be a very nice community. Downtown Marquette displays an interesting mix of old brick and stone buildings that tell the history of a once busy and wealthy town. Most dominant is the old Ore Dock located next to downtown in the harbor. It was here that trains dumped large amounts of Cooper, Nickel and Iron ores into silos that later filled the bellies of ships. These ships traveled from Lake Superior via the Sault Saint Marie locks into Lake Huron and further into Lake Erie where they delivered their loads to the steel mills of the rust belt.

We visited a number of picturesque lighthouses, the Sault Saint Marie locks, and a large
number of waterfalls including the famous Pictured Rocks National Seashore. A few days ago we drove down a country road and a black bear crossed the road right in front of us. Temperatures are moderate and hiking around here is fantastic. Our dogs enjoy almost daily beach walks and swimming. The median house price in Marquette is $140k and all together this is a Ore Dockbeautiful place to live; if one can handle the brutally cold and snowy winter. Last but not least, there is the Ore Dock Brewery in Marquette that provides an almost unlimited supply of their excellent Porter.

We will leave Marquette on 10 July 2017 and move with a short stop-over to Bemidji, Minnesota on the headwaters of the Mississippi River for a one-month stay. After that we will push west through North Dakota and Montana for an early September appointment in Idaho. As always, stay tuned and stay happy & healthy.

* The Ojibwe name for Lake Superior meaning “shining big sea water”

The Trees of Michigan

Happy Summer to all of you.

Almost five years ago, then presidential candidate Mitt Romney referred to the Michigan trees as having “the right height”. I don’t know what he meant by that, but I can confirm that there is nothing wrong with the trees in Michigan and there are a lot of them. Lots of bugs too.

Our two-week stay in Kalkaska, a small community approximately 20 miles east of Traverse City came to an end and we moved on to Lake Manistique on the Upper Peninsula. In Kalkaska we stayed on an almost empty campground, lived through a number of severe thunderstorms, did some lovely hikes in the Sand Lakes Quiet Area, visited Traverse City and had the dogs swim in Lake Skegemog where Cooper learned to dive off the pier. All was nice and quiet, people were friendly and there were not too many posted regulations and restrictions. Everything was clean and orderly and very Caucasian.

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After crossing the Mackinaw Bridge we turned west along the beautiful northern shore of Lake Michigan. We are currently located on a nice and quiet campground on Lake Manistique near the small community of Curtis. Only 10 miles north of here is the remote Seney National Wildlife Refuge where we did some marvelous hikes amongst lakes and trees of “the right height”.

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Stay tuned for the next blog from the shores of the mighty Lake Superior.