Monday, April 28, 2014

Farragut State Park, Idaho

A few folks have asked about our "summer place", so here's a little information.  We are at Farragut State Park in northern Idaho. In fact we are only 70 miles south of the Canada/US border.

Farragut State Park occupies the former site of the Farragut Naval Training Station. This relatively short-lived Naval Training Station was built during World War II and was the second largest training center in the world. Ground was broken in March 1942 and it was decommissioned in June 1946.  In spite of it's short life over 293,000 sailors received their basic training here.

Lake Pend Oreille
The park is located on the southern shore of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced pond-o-ray) which is the largest lake in northern Idaho. It is 43 miles long and 1150 feet deep. The water is gin clear and very cold, as the lake is fed by snow melt.  We are told it will warm up in mid-summer.
Much Too Cold for Swimming!!
We have our campsite on their "Volunteer Row" which is separated from the camping loops by quite a distance. The Campground Hosts stay in the campgrounds, but we are the Interpretive Hosts so we are in a different area of the park. There are six sites in this area, but we are the only volunteers here right now. We are told that others will begin arriving in a week or so, but some won't arrive until the peak season in early July.
Our Site
As the Interpretive Hosts, Teri and I will be doing evening programs on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening, and some nature walks during those days.  The park has a lot of programs set up already, but we've been given a free rein to develop whatever we'd like.  We even have our own office which is stuffed full of exhibits, slides, furs, skulls, etc.
Our Office
As Teri described in the last blog, we'll also be monitoring about 50 Bluebird boxes in the park.  We did our first "official" run today, opening each box to see if there was a nest, eggs, fledglings, or ??  Today we found nests in about a third of the boxes, eggs in 5 boxes (total of 10 eggs), and a momma Mountain Bluebird sitting in a box. She didn't flush when I opened the box (she looked a little annoyed though...) so I quickly closed it up and we moved on.  Biggest surprise was a squirrel in a box.  I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or the squirrel!!

The weather has been cold and drizzly here the past week, with periods of sleet and snow mixed in.  It is supposed to clear off and warm up this week, so we'll try to get more pictures of the park itself.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Our Job Before Our “Official” Job

Our “official” job here at Farragut State Park starts Memorial Day weekend.  We will be the only interpretive hosts.  We have started doing research and thinking about programs, but more of that later.

When we were contacted by Errin, the volunteer ranger, she asked if we would be interested in arriving early and helping with school groups and Bluebird box monitoring.  Yesterday we met with the “Bluebird” Ranger, Jim. 

We have been assigned 52 bluebird boxes to monitor!  In a month or so, another couple will arrive that will help us.  But for now, we will check every box once a week.

We headed out to make sure we could find all the boxes and open a few of them, just to get some idea of how long this task will take us. 

The Mountain Bluebird is the state bird of Utah.  We also have plenty of Western Bluebirds here.
Mountain Bluebird
Bluebirds aren’t the only birds checking out the houses.  Tree Swallows are also in the area, looking for a home.  This group of Tree Swallows and Western Bluebirds were busy trying to run each other off.
 Tree Swallow
Western Bluebird
We decided to open a few of the boxes and take a peek inside. 
Ranger Jim had told us the boxes had been cleaned out, repaired, and were ready for the coming season.  We weren’t expecting to find a nest this early.
We certainly weren’t expecting to see eggs!
Bluebird eggs
Our job will be to open every box, keep data on date of first egg, number of eggs, number of young, number fledged, hatch date, fledge date and cause of nest failure.

It’s going to be a lot of work but should also be a lot of fun.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wyoming to Montana

We want to be in Libby, Montana by next Monday so we have been steadily working our way north, moving every couple of days. 

Due to high winds we stayed in Casper, Wyoming an extra day.  By Wednesday, we really needed to hit the road again. 

We like to go with the 2-2-2 rule (drive no more than 200 miles, be off the road by 2:00 o’clock, and stay at least 2 nights).  With losing a day in Casper, we decided to drive through our next planned stop and go all the way to Billings, Montana.  Some days you have to be flexible.

Our drive through northern Wyoming was interesting.  It is beautiful country with wide open spaces.  We drove a couple of hours through snow and sleet.  And, of course, a head wind.
 Snowy fields
IH-90.  Not a lot of traffic!
IH-90 through the windshield
Even though the roads were clear we did pass a snowplow, just plowing away.  This is the first snowplow I have ever seen plowing the road.  It didn’t look like there was anything to plow but he was kicking up quite a bit of snow on the shoulder. 
Snowplow through the windshield
Once we hit Big Sky Country (Montana) there was a noticeable decrease of snow on the ground.
Mile marker 0
We’re staying at a really nice RV Park (Yellowstone River RV Park).  At $43 a night, it’s a little pricey but we are not surprised at the price.
Our site
There is a nice hiking trail that goes down to the Yellowstone River.  We have seen many Cedar Waxwings, Black-capped Chickadee, Mallard, Canada Goose, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch, Common Merganser, Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher (heard). 

Yellowstone River
Cedar Waxwings

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

It snowed all day yesterday in Casper, Wyoming, and got up to a whopping 25 degrees for the high.  This morning we awoke to 16 degrees, but it is bright and sunny, and the expected high is 40 degrees.

I went out to get a few fresh snow pictures before it all starts to melt.  It is beautiful, but I wouldn't want to stay here in the winter!
Truck is Extra White this Morning
The nearby mountains got a fresh coating of snow. 

We are planning to head up to Sheridan, Wyoming tomorrow.  They are showing a 40% chance of snow on Wednesday, so we may see more of the white stuff.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into??

We moved from Cheyenne to Casper, Wyoming yesterday, and got into our new campground around noon. We wanted to be off the road early as the weather forecast called for rain and snow beginning in the afternoon. As we approached Casper we saw the snow-covered Laramie Mountains and recognized that winter is not quite over in this area.
Laramie Mountains
Our first afternoon we visited the nearby Edness Wilkins State Park. This is a day use park that is alongside the North Platte River and has a 1.6 mile walking trail.  The trees haven't come out yet and there were few birds, but Teri did spot this unusually colored porcupine resting in a tree. We've not seen this yellow color on a porcupine before.
We returned to the trailer just as it started to sprinkle. Here is our trailer on Saturday afternoon.

As predicted, the rain turned into snow overnight, and here is a picture of the trailer on Sunday morning.

We have a 100% chance of snow forecast through this afternoon, with an accumulation of 4 - 6 inches. It has been snowing big, fluffy flakes all morning and shows no sign of letting up.  But we're snug and warm and the weather is supposed to be nice again by Monday afternoon. 
Stay warm out there...


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playing in the Snow

We have spent a few days at Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  It is a fairly new park with very nice campsites, each with 50 amp electrical, water and sewer. Not many trees here, but wonderful views out over the city.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park
I have taken the opportunity to try out several of the disc golf courses in the Colorado Springs area.  Many of them are in city parks, but I played one this morning that was built within a commercial RV park!  It cost $5.00 to play there, and it was a very nice course.  One of the high points was getting to play in a little snow, which I've never done before.
Disc on snow
I stopped into their visitor center on my way out to get a drink and thank them for the course.  I was amazed to see a workcamper at the counter who we'd volunteered with at Inks Lake.  We'd parted ways no more than 3 weeks ago, and there she was! She is a single lady who travels in her RV, and seems to like the same places that we do. We had a nice visit and promised to keep in touch.  Small world, volunteering. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

More Snow

Teri and I spent a second night at Lathrop State Park in Southern Colorado, and got to watch it snow/sleet off-and-on for most of the day yesterday.  While it wasn't sticking here in the campground, the surrounding mountains got a fresh coating.

We did get a chance to hike around some and saw a few birds.  There are two lakes here and quite a few ducks. This large rock seems to be just the spot for the Double-crested Cormorants to relax. 
Double-crested Cormorants
The most common birds seem to be the Black-billed Magpies.  There always seems to be one or two nearby, keeping an eye on things. 
Black-billed Magpie

Saturday, April 5, 2014

We're not in Texas Anymore!!

After waiting out the winds in Plainview for a couple of days, we moved up to Dalhart and spent one night there.

This morning we headed north and west out of the Texas panhandle, across the corner of New Mexico, and right on into Colorado.  We will be spending a couple of nights at Lathrop State Park near Walsenburg, Colorado.

As we drove up IH-25 we started getting views of snow-covered mountains. Tonight the forecast is for a low of 30 degrees, with a 40% chance of rain/snow.  We're sure not in Texas anymore!!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

45 MPH

No, that's not the speed we drove through Lubbock, Texas.
Any other guesses?

That is the predicted wind speed today!
We're hunkered down in Plainview for a couple of days.
This is the little County RV park in Plainview:
At only $15 per night ($10 for seniors), it's nothing fancy but it's level and we are the only folks here.  
I'm always very appreciative of the counties and cities we drive through that have these little RV parks available.  It's easy-in/easy-out and we didn't have to use any leveling blocks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lake Colorado City State Park

Our first stop for a couple of nights is at Lake Colorado City State Park.  It’s 11 miles southwest of Colorado City off of Interstate 20 (between Abilene and Big Spring). 

Lake Colorado City was built in 1949 on Morgan Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River, by Texas Electric Service Company to provide cooling water for the power plant. Morgan Creek Power Plant is the largest modern steam electric station in West Texas.

The State Park is a 500-acre park, leased for 99 years from a utility company in Mitchell County, located southwest of Colorado City. It was acquired in 1971 and was opened in 1972.

This is a very nice, big, park.  Unfortunately, this area is suffering from a severe drought.  The boat ramp is closed due to low lake water level.  Currently the lake is 25.9 percent full.  The fish population has been severely damaged by golden algae bloom.

Like several other Texas state parks, this park closes 2 days a week (Tuesday and Wednesday).  When we checked in yesterday we were given a code to the gate so we could let ourselves in and out.

There are 112 campsites and 11 cabins.  We are in a “premier” campsite (which means it’s a pull-through and costs more).  As far as we can tell, there is one other camper in the park.

Our camp site is very nice - we even have a tree!