The Old Man And The Sea (Of Trees) - A Snake, A Heart, And An Earring - CycleBlaze

The Old Man And The Sea (Of Trees)

Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve

Yesterday I made the bold prediction of a cold night.  This morning I can legitimately claim to be the Nostradamus of the holy land.  Holy bejeezus it was cold.  Fluffy Warmerson was barely up to the task of keeping me warm, even though she is rated as a 15-degree sleeping bag.

Long ago, I figured out the sleeping bag ratings formula.  A manufacturer's rating of "15-degrees" means it will probably keep you alive at that temperature, but it won't necessarily keep you comfortable.

My big mistake was going to bed before sundown.  It was still warm and I felt no need to put on extra clothing.  As an experienced backpacker, I should have known better.  When I woke up somewhere around 2:00 a.m., my left arm was hanging out of my sleeping bag.  It felt cold.  I reached over with my right hand to confirm the coldness.  It felt like I was grabbing a northern pike fresh out of the ice hole.

I dug out all the warm clothing I had, but none of it kept my nose warm.  The rest of the night I felt like I was constantly pulling my sleeping bag over my face, only to have it slip off.

Five hours later, I got up for good and fired up the stove with gloves on.  I knew a couple cups of coffee would warm me up, especially if I put my cold nose right into the cup.   The rising sun helped too.

I packed up quickly and pretty much raced back to Ketchum where I left my car at the hotel, without asking permission.  Happy that it hadn't been towed away, I threw The Reckless Mr. Bing Bong, Mike the Tent, G-2, Fluffy Warmerson and the panniers (yet to be named) inside and began the 70-mile drive to the moon.

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That was pretty much the end of those damn trees for a few days, unless you count desert shrubs and the occasional withered pine.  I don't count them because they don't block the view. 

"DON'T BLOCK MY VIEW," yelled the old curmudgeon!

As soon as I reached the outer fringes of Craters of the Moon, I knew I was in for something special.  I had never seen anything like it.  It was so stark, so black, so barren, so BEAUTIFUL.  I couldn't imagine the volcanic activity that created it. 

In a land so wonderful and so unique, I was worried about getting one of the first-come-first-served campsites.  There were only 48 of them.  I shouldn't have been worried though; none of the campsites have water or electrical hookups.

Indeed, when I arrived at about 2:00 p.m., I had my choice of many campsites.  After two loops through the campground, with a couple of stops to have a closer look at a few sites, I grabbed the best one available.  It had a semi-circle of lava rocks and a couple of weathered pine trees to provide beauty, privacy, and protection from the gusting winds.

Check out this cool campsite. I can't believe this was my first picture of the day.
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I climbed some rocks to take this photo from the other direction. That's the GregCar backed up to the site.
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It's been a few years since I've pulled into a campground in my car.  It felt kind of weird and kind of decadent, but I quickly got used to it.   Today I realized car camping has three big advantages over backpack & bicycle camping:  Ice cold beverages, a meal grilled over charcoal, and best of all, a couple of real pillows sure beats a pillow made of clothing packed into a stuff sack.

FOOD PICTURE ALERT: A delicious, but out of focus, onion-burger.
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Cold, locally brewed beverages.
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Blue corn chips & salsa on the picnic table with a comfy pillow.
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After my snack on the picnic table I was getting pretty tired.  But 6:00 was to early to retire for the evening, so I went for a short bike ride around the campground.   Preoccupied with grilling and writing about my day in my notebook, I hadn't noticed that it was filling up.

Despite the lack of utility hook-ups, the great majority of sites were being filled by big RVs in this campground that was obviously designed for tents and small campers.  And the RVs kept coming.  Like these:

A few minutes after filming that video I saw those vehicles going back to the highway the same way they came in.  Perhaps they'll find what they were looking for at the KOA Kampground in the town of Arco.  Then I followed them to the highway on my bike.  No, not to make sure they didn't come back, but to get a picture at the entrance to the park.

A nice photo-op for The Reckless Mr. Bing Bong.
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Once again I was unable to stay awake until sunset.  And once again I made the mistake of diving into my tent when it was still something like 70-degrees.  Here in Idaho, the high desert gets just as cold as the mountains.  I woke up in the middle of the night, cold and with a full bladder.

At least on this night I had my warm clothing at my side.  I put it on and exited the tent for a pee.  A bright half-moon lit up the earth such that I didn't even need a flashlight.  The sky was full of stars.  I urinated on volcanic rock.  I could feel some of it backsplash on my legs.  I didn't care.

While I was up I took a couple of pictures with only half of a hope they'd turn out.  To my delight, they both turned out splendidly.

This one was subtle.
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Scott AndersonAnd beautiful. Great shot!
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1 year ago
This one was delightfully ostentatious. I turned on the flash and could not believe how the reflective tape on my Continental tires transformed this into a work of art.
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I am DEFINITELY staying here on the moon for another day and night.  I've got a lot of exploring to do tomorrow, and I'll do it entirely by way of bike and foot.

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Bill StoneGreat photos. Looks like an interesting place.
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1 year ago
Scott AndersonSorry you were so cold, but glad you came through - this time. Please let the Feeshko know to get in touch with me so she can mail the Cariboo Coffee jersey my way if you succumb next time though. I’ll wear it proudly in your honor.
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1 year ago
Gregory GarceauTo Scott AndersonShe'll have to pry that jersey off of my cold, dead torso.
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1 year ago
Emily SharpI agree with you that those big-arse campers are not camping - they are simply parking somewhere. It is very sad that that is what people now consider 'camping'. I do remember that in MT and ID you had to remember that they a big arse vehicle like that would be likely towing something behind the main trailer and so you had to not move back to the lane too quickly.

The sleeping bag people noted your concerns about comfort vs survival ratings. The bag I bought in 2017 shows a temp range from t-comfort to t-limit. It's a 15F bag and says comfort is down to 28F, transition is 27 to 16F and limit is 15F with "risk" below 15F. I'm a cold sleeper and a 15F bag on its own keeps me warm to about 37F - if I add various layers, I'm comfy to about 30F. I am too wimpy these days to camp when the low forecast is below about 25F (and we don't generally get anything below that here anyway).

And I love the pic of the reflective bike tyres by the tent. I ride Continental tyres too, after a very disappointing experience with the supposedly great Schwalbe Marathons, and your pic is why I lay my bike down when I'm wild camping :-) Don't really want to advertise my presence and that is like saying LOOK RIGHT HERE!!!!

Hope you, the Feeshko and Diggity had a safe trip home and the pasties in Butte (?) were fantastic on the way.
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1 year ago