Archive for June, 2016

Goathead Encounter

June 25, 2016

A few nights ago David, Megan and I took a long walk after dinner. Whereas, on my walks I’ll typically circle the same route on neighborhood streets, David likes to explore. With him in the lead we’ll charge off through a field toward train tracks or some distant warehouse, hey let’s check it out! On this particular walk the warehouse turned out to be the Pepsi Distribution Center. The delivery trucks were all parked and abandoned for the day. The doors to the warehouse were open, and it was stacked to the ceiling with Pepsi products. Man that’s a lot of pop!

When we returned home I shed my shoes right inside the front door. Pooped, I just left them there.

Don't leave your shoes in the front entry

Don’t leave your shoes in the front entry

Then about 5am the next morning the dog wanted out. I dragged myself up zombie-like to follow him down the stairs to the back door. (David and I take turns with the dog. It’s my turn.) I stumbled down the stairs behind the dog and then bumped into my shoes in the front entry. OW! OW! Hop. What the heck! I swear, one of my shoes bit me! I stood there in the dark while the dog was doing his business, rubbing an itchy wound on the inside of my foot by my ankle.

When I got up later to start my day, my first order of business was to pick up those shoes and put them by the back door where they belonged. I had an appointment I needed to race off to. Quick, get in the shower! I come racing downstairs wet and barefoot and suddenly – OUCH! Something impales my foot! I reach down and jerk out a large thorn lodged in the ball of my right foot. I leave a splotchy trial of blood on my way to the bathroom where I wash the wound, rub it with neosporin and slap a band-aid on it to stop the bleeding. Then I limp into a pair of flip-flops. Ow! That puncture wound really hurts. It throbs for the next hour.

So what the heck is it? I’d obviously picked that thorn up on our walk – through the field. It was still lodged in my shoe when it bit me at 5am. Then it fell out when I picked up my shoes to move them. And sat there in the front entry just waiting to impale its first victim …

Here I took a couple pictures of it:

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'goat's head'

‘goat’s head’

Then I did an internet search on plants with thorns. … and found it. It’s this weed that grows in rough patches of grass ‘Tribulus terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris

Looks innocent enough. Yeah, well within five days of blooming its dainty yellow 5-petal blossoms morph into a ‘fruit’ that easily falls apart into five nutlets. Nutlets? How about, burrs with 2-4 razor-sharp spines. These nutlets strikingly resemble goat’s heads. Thus, the name ‘goathead’. Other common names for this weed are devil’s thorn, devil’s weed, devil’s eyelashes, or ‘puncturevine’ (no kidding).

These devil’s horns are sharp enough to puncture bicycle and lawnmower tires. ‘Nature’s miniature version of a tire spike,’ is how one caption describes it. Why would such a vile creation of Nature exist? This is such a mystery that the Bible attempts to explain it. The Book of Genesis claims the creation of thorns as one of the punishments for the original sin of Adam and Eve, you know, alongside pain in childbirth.

Maybe give God credit for more noble intentions: The Scottish thistle became the national emblem of Scotland founded on the story of an invading Norse Army that was thwarted by an encounter with a thistle in the dark.

Obviously thorny plants and bushes strategically planted below your windows would be a good defense against burglars. This could help explain the knee to waist-high weeds sprouting up along houses in your neighborhood. These neighbors aren’t derelict, they’re smart! All the more reason for would-be burglars to target your house, with your pest-free, manicured, greenhouse gardens and lawns.

If, perchance, you have patches of goatheads or puncturevine sprouting in your lawn, not planted intentionally to keep wayward kids, cats, dogs, skunks, rabbits, marmots, and burglars off your property, don’t worry. For ways to cope with and/or eradicate this noxious punctureweed go to this website: Goatheads.com

If, for example, you have patches of devil’s eyelashes sprouting in your fenced yard where you keep your dog, then purchase their ‘Ouchless Faux-Paws dog shoes” to keep your pets’ paws safe from those loathed stickers. Though, since these thorns can puncture bike tires, you might want to get a written guarantee on those shoes … just sayin’.

Goathead gloves protect your hands when pulling puncturevine, but again, you might rather opt for extermination plans ‘b’ and ‘c’ offered on the same website: puncturevine-eating weevils, or … propane torch. Or maybe just sell your house and move … in the winter, when the goatheads are covered in snow, to hide the surprise for the new owner.

And you know, instead of building a wall along our southern border to staunch the flow of illegal immigrants (yeah, right, Frump-head), how about we just propagate puncturevine, goatheads, devils weed, Tribulus Terrestris, say, for the first 200 yards of terrain all along our southern border. That oughta do it. Yea.

And stop using Round-up! Although I suspect goatheads are resistant to it anyway.

Pocatello, Idaho

June 15, 2016

My car has been getting crappy gas mileage lately, at least five miles to the gallon less in town than it used to. Since I do all town driving, I thought maybe a trip on the freeway would blow some carbon out of the engine…

So one day recently, when we had a few free hours, David suggested we drive to Pocatello, a town 45 miles south of Idaho Falls on I-15. ‘Poky’ is about the same size as Idaho Falls, about 58,000 people. It’s a college town, home of Idaho State University. In fact, I attended ISU my freshman and sophomore years of college back in …. 1971-1973. Lived in an apartment in Pocatello just a few blocks from campus. I haven’t visited Poky in years. Yeah, Let’s go!

Poky here we come!

Poky here we come!

Our plan is to first visit Ross Park. David heard it has a climbing wall, and it’s large. Let’s get a good walk in at Ross Park before lunch. Yes! And then visit my old stompin’ grounds 40-plus years ago. See if we can find my old apartment …

I remembered walking to Ross Park back in college (since I didn’t own a car) but it doesn’t look the least bit familiar now. We step out of the car into a grassy area and immediately spot two marmots. Marmots. Rock chucks.

Now I know marmots are supposed to be common large rodents, but I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a marmot (if you discount road kill). So I’m pretty excited. Get a photo! Dang, these critters are fast …

Fleeing marmot

Fleeing marmot

No problem. We scare up two more marmots. “Get a photo David!” (He’s closer) One marmot ducks into a ledge of rocks and thinks he’s outwitted us, but, nope, not my hubby. David follows that marmot right to his hole:

Jeez, can't a marmot have some privacy?

Jeez, can’t a marmot have some privacy?

We must have seen six, maybe eight marmots at Ross Park. So, yeah, if anyone asks, you can tell them, Ross Park has marmots.

Now we’re walking toward the swimming pool/ water park with a huge snaking water slide. Wow. The pool’s stacked with families and people of all ages. “Check out this car.” David says. “Cop magnet.”

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Party on! No, wait. Panty on. I say.

Yeah. David says. It’s Panty on, party off or Panty off, party on!

Yes, I see. Thanks for enlightening us, honey. The car is confusing. So, for them I guess it’s ‘party off’…

(We have such intellectual conversations)

We’re alongside a parked train now, on the tracks that border one end of the park.

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Huh, this is interesting… “Do not hammer on car” Now, who would do that, exactly how … and, why?

Do not arouse car

Do not arouse car

‘Do not apply vibrators to any part of car body.’

Uh, let me guess. The car has a G-spot? If you had thought to bring your vibrator with you to Ross Park, just remember to get the car loaded first. If you do everything right, you might see the car explode.

Well then, now look at these adorable little ducklings. Oh how cute! The mom is up on top quacking furiously, while several new-born chicks are making a run for…

See mother duck top left

See mother duck top left

Oh no!! ROAR! GROWWWWWL” I SCREAM at them and scare them back up to mommy.

Find mommy!

Find mommy!

To keep them out of that disgusting pond:

What's green and looks like antifreeze?

What’s green and looks like anti-freeze?

Okay, time for lunch. Which brings me to my next topic: ‘Space burgers’. Now, I have to tell you, I may know of the only spot on planet Earth, and likely the whole Universe, that sells

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Space burgers. They are to die for. Or at least, that’s how I remembered them from my college days. I would set aside a special Saturday to walk the several miles (3?) from my apartment to ‘Tastee Treat’ near Ross Park after cramming for an exam or something,

Space zombie after so much studying

Space zombie after so much studying

Fortify myself with a couple of incredibly edible Space burgers.

David you must try a Space burger. Yes! There it is, Tastee Treat – Home of the Space Burger. It’s still there! Look! Aren’t you hungry? Pull IN!

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We’re inside now. Check out the walls:

Dig that space border

Dig that space border

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70's retro!

70’s retro!

Check out the menu:

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Uh, check out that girl in front of us

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She can’t make up her mind. (Simple. Space burgers!) Gives us plenty of time to intellectualize about her outfit. Like, where does her body end and dress begin? How do you plan for such an outfit? Do you buy the dress and tattoo the body to match the dress; do you tattoo and then shop endlessly for the perfect dress, do you do both at once? Is she even wearing a dress??? i.e.:

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At this point we’re just irritated after waiting so anxiously in line to order our Space burgers:

The counter at Tastee Treat

The counter at Tastee Treat

“Two Space burgers please.” Wow. Good price @ $2.39 each.

We head outdoors to a picnic table with our Space burgers.

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But of course, you have to fly them first.

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With ‘Star Wars’ sound effects.

Then, as a precaution, pray over them:

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Take a first big bite:

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Hmmmm. Not as spicy as I remember.

Gut bomb:

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Let’s take it home as leftovers. You know, if we’re desperately hungry later…

Oh how convenient. A massive graveyard right across the street…

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Drop dead of cardiac arrest eating your Space burger and they transport you directly across the street to the Mausoleum

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Warning to Meredith from the Universe:

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Do not eat at Tastee Treat!

Okay, well we drive past the University … and my old favorite breakfast place, Elmer’s

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Hey, is that a vulture?

We drive around the various side streets near the University where I thought I might spot my old apartment. Nope. None of it looks the least bit familiar…

Let’s keep driving, maybe we’ll run into old town…

Well, we don’t.

We talked to my brother, Eric, a few days later. “Hey, we made a trip to Pocatello.”

“Oh! Did you visit my Antique Store? It’s in old town, which is really quite charming.”

“No, we didn’t Eric. We drove around, but we didn’t find old town.”

“How could you not? It’s easy – just off of Clark Street exit!”

“Yeah but we took 5th Street exit. We tried to find it, Eric. Drove all the way across Pocatello back to the first exit ‘Pocatello Creek Road’ to get back on the freeway home.

“And you didn’t find old town?”

“Nope.”

Though we did pass another point of interest:

'Mad ink, Sojourn, Twisted'

‘PCP’ Mad ink, Sojourn, Twisted’

PCP. Yep. That sure resonates. Remember Angel Dust, a recreational drug of the 70’s? Psychedelic. Far Out! Helps explain why the 60’s and 70’s were so … Groovy. (This hallucinogenic drug laced in the 70’s with tobacco and marijuana has long since been banned and fizzled out.)

Well that about puts a wrap on our trip to Pocatello. Hmmm. Might need a do-over, you know, to visit Old Town, the University, Eric’s Antique Shop …

Check out those marmots again! Plus, my car still gets crappy gas mileage.

Quake Lake, West Yellowstone, and ‘Snaggletooth’ – Part 3

June 11, 2016

On our way to Virginia City from Idaho Falls this past Memorial Day weekend, we stopped at the Quake Lake Visitors Center. It’s on Highway 287 about 44 miles south of Ennis, in southwestern Montana. The center sits at the site where, near midnight on August 17th, 1959, an earthquake near the Madison River triggered a massive landslide. The slide moved at 100 mph and in less than 1 minute, over 80 million tons of rock crashed into the narrow canyon, blocking the Madison River and forming Earthquake Lake.

This earth-changing event, known as the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. At the time it was the second largest earthquake to occur in the lower 48 states in the 20th century. Twenty-eight people were killed, mostly campers along Hebgen Lake. In the Visitors Center you can read personal accounts of the event from survivors. Children who lost siblings and parents, wives or husbands who lost their spouses and children. A large boulder fell on a tent, killing a whole family, but their car parked next to the tent was untouched. Here is an arial photo of the landslide I found on the internet:

Hebgen_Lake_Landslide

According to this wikipedia link, Hebgen Dam, built in 1917, sustained severe damage but continued to hold. The landslide, which occurred downstream from the dam, blocked almost all the flow of the Madison River. In less than a month, the waters had created what is now known as Quake Lake. Before the new landslide was breached by the quickly rising waters, a spillway was constructed to ensure erosion and minimize potential failure of the natural dam.

Eric led us on a detour off of 287 to visit two other Lakes, Cliff and Wade lakes, and coming back I shot my own distant photo of the landslide in the Madison River Canyon:

Landslide in Madison River Canyon

Landslide in Madison River Canyon

I captured these photos of Quake Lake:

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Quake Lake

Quake Lake

Today, Quake Lake is 190 feet deep and 6 miles long.

Continuing on 287 toward West Yellowstone, we’re now driving past Hebgen Lake:

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The town of West Yellowstone, at the west entrance to Yellowstone Park, has a Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The Center houses a Grizzly Bear Habitat and three wolf habitats. The Grizzlies have been rescued from the wild or otherwise might have been put down due to their encounters with people. Kabuki and Nakina were out in the Habitat for us to see. (They have 8 bears they bring out at different times.) Here’s my photo of Nakina, who was the more active of the two:

Nakina, the Grizzly

Nakina, the Grizzly

Kabul and Nakina, brother and sister, were orphaned as cubs in 1998 after a landowner killed their mother and brother in Delta Junction, Alaska.

An IMAX theater is adjacent to the the Bear and Wolf Discovery Center, and across the street is another museum Eric made sure we didn’t miss, the Yellowstone Historical Center. (Here’s a link with a photo of the Historical Center and to learn more about the town of West Yellowstone, population < 1200 people.)

Inside the museum now, looking at freight wagons. Prior to 1915, almost all goods that reached the West were bounced across a trail or dirt road via freight wagons, piled high with goods such as food, building materials, feed for horses, and an infinite variety of other necessities, to stagecoach companies, camping companies and hotels in Yellowstone.

Freight Wagons

Freight Wagons

These wagons were used all over the American West.

Then you have the Sinter, an 8-passenger coach early travelers rode through Yellowstone Park:

The Sinter

The Sinter

A typical trip took five days over the grand loop. Transportation through the park in the summer evolved to the coach preferable to modern man, on display out in front of the museum:

Modern coaches through Yellowstone, okay, now we're talkin'

Modern coaches through Yellowstone, okay, now we’re talkin’

But the real reason Eric dragged us all across the street to the Historical Museum was to see ‘Snaggletooth’. Standing nearly 8 feet tall and weighing 800-1000 pounds, this giant grizzly ‘reigned as monarch’ in Yellowstone Park. His name came from a tooth which protruded from his lower jaw. Except, his favorite hangout happened to be the West Yellowstone city dump. Two poachers from Idaho shot and killed him there in May, 1970. Here’s a link to the newspaper article about Snaggletooth’s death.

Meet Snaggletooth! Megan posed first:

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Then Ben and Rhonda:

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Lastly, Eric:

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Yeah. Be doubly afraid, Eric.

Whereas Snaggletooth is poised, in one stroke, to rip off the top of your head, are you also aware of that razor-sharp-clawed beast on your chest about to tear your left hand to shreds?

Well, that about wraps up our Memorial Day Weekend trip to Virginia City.

Uh, unless I think of something …

Don’t feed or otherwise, leave garbage accessible to bears!

Virginia City, Nevada City and Crystal Park (Part 2)

June 6, 2016

To continue the story of our trip to Virginia City, MT, Eric ran into an old friend, Roger, at the Bale of Hay Saloon Sunday evening. David snapped a photo of them:

Roger and Eric reconnecting at the Bale of Hay Saloon

Roger and Eric reconnecting at the Bale of Hay Saloon

Eric has known Roger for over 20 years, through his travels and antique dealings. They met up again the next morning on the front porch of the Fairweather Inn.

Roger and Eric chewing the fat on the front porch of Fairweather Inn

Roger and Eric chewing the fat at the Fairweather Inn

Roger is a very interesting fellow, a local. His family’s roots in Virgina City hail back to his great-grandfather who came over the hill into Virginia City back in 1862. Roger’s mother was born in the building that is now the Bale of Hay Saloon.

Roger worked in mining. He had also worked for Charles Bovey restoring the buildings in Virginia City. He now works for the state which bought the town buildings from the Bovey’s.

According to Roger, many music and other old machines were ruined by water damage in a major fire in 1983. However, a preserved fortune teller machine sits in the Gypsy Arcade, one of three in existence and the only one on public display. Roger states that David Copperfield offered to buy this machine for 2 million dollars, but the town turned him down. Here is a photo of it:

Your Fortune Told by the Human Voice!

Your Fortune Told by the Human Voice!

So of course, you have to step into the the Gypsy Arcade, across the street from Fairweather Inn to check it out! (along with the other machines mentioned in my previous blog).

About a mile west of Virginia City is another ghost town, Nevada City.

Nevada City got its start the same time as Virginia City, when gold was discovered in Alder Gulch in 1863. Numerous other mining camps sprouted out along the gulch, becoming what became known as ‘Fourteen-mile City.’

You can stay at the Nevada City Hotel/cabins:

There's Eric sleuthing it out

There’s Eric sleuthing it out

Star Bakery next door dishes up a fabulous breakfast.

Star Bakery

Star Bakery

We ate there both mornings. Behind these buildings is an open-air mining town museum. Old miners’ cabins have been moved here and preserved.

A train runs between Virginia City and Nevada City.

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Okay, not the original train. Eric found out from Roger that the original Steam Engine is stored in Nevada City. To get it up and running to specs would cost 150,000. Eric spots the building:

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We peeked in at the magnificent shiny-as-new train steam engine. And a steam engine tractor and other old equipment. Maybe one day these items will be on display. Anyone want to donate 150K to get the real steam engine train running this year for summer tourists?

Eric’s inner gopher (yes, Eric, you’re the only one with an inner gopher) has us itching to dig for crystals, so on Sunday we pile into two vehicles for the 100-mile drive west to Crystal Park. We stop in Bannack, the first Territorial Capital of Montana, where gold was first discovered (as mentioned in my previous blog.) Bannack is a well-preserved ghost town now. The last people left in the 1970’s. We wandered up the winding staircase of the Meade Hotel:

Bannock's Meade Hotel and neighboring saloon

Bannock’s Meade Hotel and neighboring saloon

And posed out front:

Megan, Jody and David

Megan, Jody and David

Ben and Rhonda get thrown in the town jail

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Earthen roof and floor, open bars on windows, a ghastly place. Would they throw you in there in the winter?

Pulling into Crystal Park now, about 1:00 pm.

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My vision at the get-go of this activity was of our whole group digging together like one big happy gopher family, in a big hole, or maybe two or three adjacent holes, chiseling crystalline treasures out of the dirt, sharing our finds, “Look at this one!” “Fantastic!” One digging, one sifting, passing our crystal finds hand to hand… great family bonding activity. And that’s how I thought we started out. With Eric heading up the trail in the lead, followed by Ben and Rhonda, then Scott, David, Megan and me. Maybe we were a little slow bringing up the rear with a gopher in the lead. I dunno. All I remember is going along happily, meanwhile coming upon a wiry middle-aged man emerging from a deep hole just six feet from the path, “Hey, find anything?” Scott, David, Megan and I pause to inquire…

He reaches into his pocket pulls out his find. “Look at this!”

Wow. That’s really gorgeous! “Can I take a photo of it???” I ask. “Sure….”

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A Yuuuuge chunk of amethyst. Holy shit, you’re kidding.

We chat with him a bit. ‘Jack.” He lived 100 miles away to the west. Had risen at 3:30 am to get here and had been digging since 6:30 am. Hadn’t found much in his first two holes but had been lucky in this hole in the past so decided to dig here again. He comes about twice a year – late spring and early fall, and digs from sunrise to sunset. His wife makes and sells jewelry, and she will be thrilled with his find!

“Nice visiting with you, Jack! Thanks for sharing!” Hey, where’s the rest of the group? Eric, Ben and Rhonda have disappeared. No worry we’ll find them, just follow the path up and around and keep an eye out for them. We hike up, and with no sign of them we literally start yelling for Eric. We’ve made it to the top now. Oh well, I’ll capture the view:

Crystal Park Summit view

Crystal Park Summit view

Megan and I park ourselves on a bench, while David and Scott wander further, calling for the others. Finally David comes back. “Scott’s going to keep looking …” Megan protests. “I don’t want to dig! I want to go back to the car!”

So the three of us wander back down the trail – there are lots of folks digging in holes, but none that we recognize. We make it back to the truck. David says he’ll stay with Megan. “I’ll just dig next to Jack!” I say.

So, I find a hole sandwiched between Jack and another boisterous family, doing exactly what I had pictured for our family. Dad, mom, mom’s sister, with two kids, all digging in a big hole, sharing the duties, and the joy, “Found another one!” “Oh, here, I’ll rinse it off!” “Wow, look at this large smokey crystal!” I started hopping out of my hole to witness their finds. After a half hour, I do find a little quartz crystal, about 3/4 inch long, the width of a colored pencil. Keep digging! Jack is digging like a maniac just below me, conspicuously quiet. I’m thinking that at least I’m digging just a few feet from the hiking path, surely the others will miss me and come looking for me!

Not. I’ll show them! I’ll find a big hunk like Jack’s and then they’ll wish they had found me! I dig by myself for the next 2 HOURS, finding little bits to keep me hopeful, listening to the exuberant yelps of the family in their big hole just feet away. Maybe they hear my groans, because at some point the dad comes over to me and drops a nice quartz crystal in my hand. “You can have this.” “Are you sure? Thanks!!” No problem, they have plenty. I check out their spoils … a large amethyst cluster, and about 20 other clusters and large crystals.

Eventually I hear Scott coming down the trail, whistling. “Scott! Did you find the others?” No. Scott ended up in his own hole digging by himself. Then Eric wanders out. “Is it time to go?” What the heck, Eric? Where were you?

Eric had started out digging with Ben and Rhonda, but then they had wandered off and Eric too had been digging by himself the past two hours. We had all dug alone, and none of us had found much. We were still waiting on Ben and Rhonda, so Eric finds a hole about 10 feet away from where I’m digging. His inner gopher gets to work. “Here’s a nice one!” The first crystal he finds is bigger than any of mine. “Oh, found another one!” A good-sized amethyst cluster. Jeez, Eric! Ben and Rhonda show up – they hadn’t found much but isn’t it time to go? It’s going on 6 PM. Yes. Megan and David show up – time to go!

Meanwhile Eric keeps uncovering crystals. We gotta go Eric! We’re all standing over him watching every scoop of dirt he lifts out of the inner crevices of his hole. Dump, sift … there, another one! You’re kidding! Over the last fifteen minutes Eric found about 10 crystals. Crystal whisperer, where were you?

In the parking lot Eric gives his amethyst crystal to Scott. Gives another crystal to Ben and Rhonda. Later I found out, he gave all his crystals away.

Here’s my spoils after my 2-plus hours of solitary digging, notice the fattest one at the bottom:

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Thats the crystal gifted to me from the family digging in the hole next to me. Here you see a closeup:

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Scott sent me a photo of his spoils, with the large amethyst cluster Eric dug up as his centerpiece:

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Driving back to Virginia City all dirty and exhausted. I snap photos of the back seat:

Rhonda and Ben

Rhonda and Ben

Megan, you were so patient waiting for us all those hours, letting us discover our inner gophers.

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Thank you, Megan! You’re tired too.

Thank you, David, for driving!

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I caught this weird abstract photo of the front driver’s side seat where I was sitting.

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Put a wrap on it, Jody. You don’t have to post every photo!

Okay. Crap! And I haven’t told you about Quake Lake and the Grizzly Bear … one more blog???

Oh, and when we got back Eric shared a photo of his crystal collection:

Eric's crystal collection

Eric’s crystal collection

That rascal. No wonder he gave all his crystals away.

Next time we go I’m digging with Eric, and whoever else goes along – in one big happy group. I want that gopher family digging bonding experience.

Yeah, with the crystal whisperer.

Virginia City, Territorial Capital of Montana

June 2, 2016

This past Memorial Day weekend we traveled to Virginia City, Montana. It’s 168 miles from Idaho Falls, about a three hour drive. We hit the the road late Saturday morning, May 28, on Highway 20 north toward Island Park. But hey, we have to check out Mesa Falls on the way! So an hour into our drive, at Ashton, we hang a right onto Highway 32. Here we are now at Upper Mesa Falls. Beautiful!

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls

Especially with the spring run-off.

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We pose for a family photo:

Jody, Eric, Megan, David, Ben, Rhonda

Jody, Eric, Megan, David, Ben, Rhonda

Our son, Ben, and girlfriend Rhonda flew up from Boulder, CO, to be with us (David, Megan and I). Plus my brother Eric, a.k.a. ‘Cuddles Cutes,’ and his friend Scott came along too. (Scott took the family photo…)

We just can’t do a trip without inviting Eric along. He plans the itinerary and knows every lake, fishing hole, historical site, ghost town, mountain peak, hike, hot springs, dirt road, campground, monument, and antique store within every 250-mile radius of Idaho Falls.

Plus his t-shirts are great conversation starters …

Lunch at the Trout Slayer in Island Park.

Lunch at the Trout Slayer in Island Park.

As in, “Where in the freak did you get that shirt, Eric?” or “So, uh, exactly what’s the scene with that cat on your shirt?”

Grey tabby cat riding a Bengal tiger with  x-ray vision handling a two-headed axe leaping away from a raging forest fire under snow covered peaks .... Wuh?

Grey tabby cat riding a Bengal tiger with x-ray vision handling a two-headed axe leaping away from a raging forest fire under snow covered peaks …. Wuh?

We have arrived in Virginia City. Checked into five rooms at the Fairweather Inn.

David's truck adds so much charm and authenticity to the photo

David’s truck adds so much charm and authenticity to the photo

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That’s us hanging out on the front porch.

Check out this link for some history of Virginia City. Also this wikipedia link on Virginia City.

Perched high in the Rocky Mountains in a bowl along Alder Gulch, Virginia City got its start when gold was discovered in Alder Gulch in 1863.

We drove to the spot where gold was initially discovered – about 1/4 mile from Virginia City Center:

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On May 26, 1863, Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar discovered gold near Alder Creek.

They wanted to keep their discovery secret. However, when they traveled 60 miles southwest to Bannack to purchase supplies, sharp-eyed prospectors spotted their bags of gold. 200 prospectors followed them back to Alder Gulch. News spread quickly and before long the area was flooded with prospectors living in makeshift shacks, tents, caves, or simply sleeping beneath the trees. Within a year, some 10,000 people were living in a number of mining camps lining the gulch.

In 1864 Congress created the new territory of Montana, separating it from Idaho Territory. Bannack, the site of the first gold strike in the area, became the territory’s first capital. However, just a year later, because of its bustling prosperity, the territorial capital was moved to Virginia City. Virginia City remained the capital for about ten years, until April 19, 1875, when it moved to Helena, Montana (Montana’s current capital). Virginia City was home to Montana’s first public school, newspaper, and telegraph.

The Montana gold mining days lasted from 1863 to 1935. The buildings were abandoned and people were dismantling them for firewood. In the 1940s, Charles and Sue Bovey began buying the town, putting much needed maintenance into failing structures. The ghost town of Virginia City began to be restored for tourism in the 1950s.

The population of Virginia City today is about 200 people, by definition, a ghost town. Most of the city is now owned by the state government and is a National Historic Landmark operated as an open-air museum. Of the nearly three hundred structures in town, almost half were built prior to 1900.

We ate dinner across the street from the Fairweather Inn at the Wells Fargo Restaurant.

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The food was delicious. Great atmosphere. Eric appreciated the ceiling tin:

Ceiling and crown moulding made of tin

Ceiling and crown moulding made of tin

While Scott (in light blue shirt) hammed it up with a complete stranger on the piano:

Scott plays the blues

Scott plays the blues

Virginia City is hoppin’ with afternoon and evening entertainment. Check out the live music at the Bale of Hay Saloon! The Opera House, with the Virginia City Players, offers the longest continuously operating live summer theater company in the western United States. Also, all summer long the Brewery Follies offer 2 hilarious adult live comedy shows a day. (We attended the 8PM show Saturday night.) We also heard during our visit that the Rock musician Dave Walker (a singer and guitarist for a number of bands; notably Savoy Brown and Fleetwood Mac) will be playing at the Wells Fargo Restaurant on Friday nights through this summer.

Here are my photos of town, which consists of about 2 blocks:

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We explored the Gypsy Arcade across the street from our motel.

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The Gypsy Arcade contains all kinds of crazy old machines – fortune teller machines, music machines, adult flip movie machines…

For a quarter you can find out your fortune by the color of your eyes!

For a quarter you can find out your fortune by the color of your eyes!

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Get a palm reading!

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Watch a movie for 5 cents! A double row of flip movie machines were stationed in the center of the arcade:

Adult entertainment at its best!

Adult entertainment at its best!

I put my nickel in to watch an adult flip movie, OMG! The women exposed their petticoats, calves and ANKLES!

Music: The other Non-addictive, Mood-altering Non-substance … (sign hanging by the music machines)

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Ask your Doctor if music is right for you.

I inserted a quarter into this music machine:

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Took a video of the musical performance from beginning to end. Almost 2 minutes! You can watch the whole thing for free! Are you ready??? Here goes: (you’ve just put your quarter in…)

Waltz, anyone?

And to think you have to pay i-tunes a full 99 cents to download a song!

Well, crap. I still have lots more to tell you about our trip this past weekend. We also visited Bannack, the first territorial capital of Montana. We dug for crystals at Crystal Park. Then there’s Quake Lake … and the Grizzly Bear…

Uh, Part 2? ….