Monday, April 25, 2016

Friendly Characters and Amazing Sweets at Aria

It's so much fun in Las Vegas to meet friendly characters and sample amazing sweets.  We managed to do both at Aria.  We actually visited the Jean Philippe French Pastry Shop twice.  Once to soak in all the splendor of the chocolate shop and the second visit was to sample the delicacies in the pastry case.  It was so hard to decide on the sweets we both wanted to sample.  I finally picked a Key Lime Tart with Mango Filling and Anthony selected a Chocolate Eclair.  Neither dessert disappointed and we learned that you can visit the Pastry Shop until very late at night.  On Friday and Saturday nights they are open until 2:00 a.m.  One just never knows when your sweet tooth might strike.  Especially after spending time with the Mario Brothers gang.  It would be fun to revisit the Pastry Shop each season to see the new displays and confections being offered.  And of course to sample the new offerings in the pastry case.  Las Vegas definitely caters to every indulgence you can dream up including mouth watering sweets!    

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wilson Creek Hike to Soldier Cap Peak

 Look carefully Anthony is waving from the peak at Soldier Cap!

An overcast and cool day in Boise made it the perfect day to return to Wilson Creek (outside of Melba) for another hiking adventure.  Just like last month we had the entire trail to ourselves.  We started our hike early around 9:00 a.m. when it was in the low 50 degree range.  Originally we had hoped to hike to both Soldier Cap and Wilson Peak but Mother Nature had different plans for our day.

Our first destination was Soldier Cap which we made it to without any issues.  As Anthony had never hiked to this peak before and it looked extremely rocky I let him scale the last 200 feet up while Jay and I enjoyed lunch below.  Upon his return from the summit he did say that I probably could have made it to the top although it was a bit rocky and steep (two of my least favorite things when combined).  I decided to save the summit for another day as the wind was really picking up and storm clouds were rolling in on top of us.  Sure enough as soon as we started to make our way towards Wilson Peak the rain drops began falling.  We decided to ditch our plans of hitting to both peaks as we were uncomfortable with the muddy condition of the road we had driven up due to the rain from Saturday.  Although the truck has 4 wheel drive we have heard stories of trucks and cars really getting stuck on dirt roads (int he middle of nowhere) and did not want to end up being the latest causality of overconfident driving conditions.

We hit it in overdrive to try to out hike the rain but it caught up with us quickly on our way back to the truck.  We ended up pretty muddy and soggy by the time we were back at the truck removing our hiking boots but as luck would have it the roads were not an issue driving back to civilization and we still managed to hike 7.3 miles with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain.  Although we did not see any snakes on this hike I did see some freshly shed snake skin so I know they are on the move this spring.

If you are not familiar with the two peaks Wilson Peak has a rounded summit with several communication towers standing tall.  Soldier Cap is more rugged with a pointy summit that makes it distinctive when viewed from a distance.  Both peaks can easily be seen from the Snake River Valley from below.  This area is classic desert hiking which takes you across canyons and plateaus. 

Wilson Creek Trails and Information

Monday, April 18, 2016

Exploring Snowy Trails Crooked River and Lamar

On Sunday we decided to drive to cooler climate for our hike.  Sometimes you just have to go and check out the snow conditions in person to see how your spring hiking options are shaping up.  We drove to Edna Creek Campground for the starting point of our hike.  Edna Creek Campground is located 56 miles northeast of Boise and is located in a Ponderosa pine forest along Highway 21.  As the actual road into the campground is closed we hiked down to the Crooked River Trail that runs parallel to Crooked River which is about a mile from the campground turnoff.  I actually also have letterboxes planted on this trail although they are still under snow at this juncture. 

Our morning did start quite crisp at around 30 degrees.   However, by the time we returned to the truck it had reached about 66 degrees.  You warm up so quickly on the trail that Anthony and I were shedding layers within the first mile of our hike.  There really is something to moving and staying warm.  When I use to watch survival shows I would always think the folks were insane for wearing such thin layers in cold temperatures but now that I have tested the theory myself there is really something to dressing light, working hard physically and staying warm.  Any time I think otherwise I start perspiring almost immediately and then regret overdressing.  I am still learning the art of layering properly but I am making huge strides in this area.

Crooked River Trail is a 6.6-mile out-and-back that meanders along the Crooked River and boasts abundant fishing holes and a sandy beach.  Directions to the actual trail head:   From Idaho City, head east on ID 21/Ponderosa Pine Scenic Rte. for 17.7 miles. Turn right onto Crooked River Rd./National Forest Develop Rd. 384. Follow 1.1 miles to the trail-head on the right. 

We were able to navigate a mile or two of the actual Crooked River Trail until we came upon the narrow rocky inclined section of the trail that was completely covered in avalanche style snow.  Without additional equipment like ropes and our ice/snow grippers we were not about to continue in the direction we were headed.  It was just not worth the risk of falling into the river.  We turned around and located the starting point of Lamar Trail and hiked until we found ourselves at the Whoop-Um-Up Park N\' Ski Area.  The Lamar Trail was in excellent condition with the exception of a few trees crossing the path.  Very little snow remains on the trail and it was not muddy at all.  However, it was a bit confusing once we reached what we thought was the top as the trail just sort of seemed to end without any clear indication of which direction to head in.  Fortunately Anthony did manage to maneuver us to the snowshoe/cross country skiing trails and we hiked through the snow to Whoop-Um-Up.  In all we hiked almost 8 miles total with an elevation gain of about 800 feet.  It was a beautiful day for hiking!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Return to Swan Falls Petroglyph's

In January 2014 we hiked from the Swan Falls Dam to the Petroglyphs and we just repeated the hike on Saturday.  Although Anthony had been on this hike several times with the Meet Up - Milestone Hiking Club (doing a key exchange at the Petroglyphs) this was my first time back.  Swan Falls Dam is 19 miles south of Kuna on Swan Falls Road. The hike to and from the Petroglyphs is 11.4 miles round trip (from the dam) with approximately 500 feet of gain.  One reason we picked this relatively flat hike was to save my toes from additional abuse while my right one heals.  My right toenail is currently a lovely shade of purple from last weekends hiking exploits.  Too much downhill hiking caused me to have some serious big toe issues and we were trying to lessen the stress on my toes this weekend.  My left large toe is doing great again but the right one is still not so good.  Anthony said that my purple toenail is a sign that I am a real hiker now.   

It was interesting visiting this area in April vs. January as wild flowers are now in bloom, temperatures were much warmer (upper 30 degrees when we hit the trail vs. 11 degrees in 2014), the abandoned orchard had green leaves sprouting on the trees and we saw our first snake of the year (fortunately not a rattlesnake).  We also saw quite a few rabbits, lots of lizards, beetles and of course birds galore.  The desert environment seemed to be much more active and alive than during my first visit.  Also with the warmer weather the east side of the river was very populated with families camping and fishing.  Fortunately on our hike we only encountered a couple of folks on the return hike towards the beginning of the trail and we also talked to some campers (the only ones camping on the west side of the river who used a boat to cross the river and set up camp).

I find it fascinating that you can see new things and learn a little more during each visit to this area.  The Swan Falls Dam Museum was open when we returned to the truck and we had a few minutes to visit.  Swan Falls Dam was built in 1901 to supply electricity to nearby mining towns. The dam is the oldest hydroelectric project on the Snake River. Swan Falls is one of the first hydroelectric plants to generate three phase power, the same electricity standard used today. During the mid 1990's a new power plant was built. The old plant was decommissioned, and now serves as a museum. Idaho Power maintains the museum at the dam.

The area with the petroglyphs has many boulders covered in symbols that vary from bird and animal shapes to complex geometric forms.  It has been widely believed that animal depictions serve as sign markers of game trails and/or presence of particular resources.  However, it is believed that many of the more complex geometric designs are simply artistic.  There is also speculation that some of the images are associated with shamanistic activity or rituals.  Anyway you sum it up they are wonderful to visit in person without knowing their exact purpose or reason.  I hope to make it back to Celebration Park eventually to learn more from the self guided tour at the Visitor Center.

We also found some rock cabin remnants across from the petroglyphs that we had not seen before.  It is said that the cabins were originally built by miners in the late 1890's  to early 1900's as they searched for the very fine "flour gold" of the Snake River Canyon.  We have also heard that they were built by Chinese laborers.  Either way it was pretty neat to stumble upon during our visit.  Again I need to stop by the Visitors Center to see about getting my facts straight.  We did have a funny moment while visiting the petroglyphs.  We sat and ate lunch on a large, mostly flat boulder.  Anthony laid back and it looked so comfortable that I joined him.  Before long we both fell asleep in the sun.  I am not sure how long we snoozed but it was so nice out that we just could not resist.

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