Sunday, September 30, 2012

Walking on the Moon and a Birthday Hike

On Friday we decided a change of scenery was in order and headed for Craters of the Moon National Monument. Craters is a 750,000 acre wonderland of lava flows. These flows started about 15,000 years ago and the last eruption was about 2,100 years ago...since it's averaged an eruption about every 2,000 years, it is now overdue to blow.

The monument boasts a lovely campground (no hookups) among the lava, a visitor center and a seven mile loop road with stops to access several miles of trails. Here are some pics of the day:

Crazy, intricate lava formations adorned by fresh life struggling to survive
in this harsh environment.
Lava tree molds
Hiking through Indian Tunnel, a partially collapsed lava tube
Hans inside Beauty Cave
Saturday was Hans' birthday. We celebrated his 52 years with a hike to Prairie Lake, just North of Ketchum. With 1600 feet of elevation gain in 4.75 miles, it's a gentle ascent to an alpine lake through forest and meadows, along streams dividing soaring mountains.

The drive up highway 75 North of Ketchum was spectacular, with the mountains growing taller and more jagged, the aspens more colorful and we even spotted a few boondocking spots along Hwy 75.

Then we turned onto Prairie Creek Road, a dirt forest service road, for a couple of miles. We were excited to see more private and scenic and easy access boondocking spots. The next time we make it up here we should be ready for dispersed camping.

We saw many deer prints and even moose prints, but did not see any in the flesh.

Fabulous views from Hwy 75, just North of Ketchum
The happy hikers after reaching Prairie Lake
The mountains looming over us as we hiked; we searched hard to see
the mountain goats that live on those crags, with no luck.
The trail opened often into hillside meadows with year round springs tumbling down the hill.
One of many streams we crossed
Fall colors along Hwy 75, North of Ketchum, ID
There are many, many hiking and biking trails around here, and if it weren't getting so late in the season we would probably head North, further into the Sawtooth National Forest. For now though, we've had a little taste and whetted our appetites for the next time we're in the area. Early next week we'll head a bit South...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bellevue, ID, Gateway to Ketchum & Sun Valley

We've relocated about 150 miles SE of Boise to Bellevue, ID. Because we are still newbies at this full time RVing we want simplicity; a bit of time to get to know the RV lifestyle without undue stress.

With that in mind, we chose a very simple RV park in Bellevue called Riverside RV Park (practically the same name as the last place) because it was low cost ($27/night), had full hook ups, pull-through sites, easy access to the Wood River Trail (a 33 mile paved trail that connects Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley), plus walking distance to a sweet little nature trail and a couple of restaurants. We also figured by staying slightly South of the mountain ranges there was a little less chance of a freeze if the weather changes.

The Wood River flows outside our campground...seen here from the Wood River Trail at Boxcar Bend

Our first day we drove up to Ketchum/Sun Valley to get a feel for the area. There is a lot less smoke here than we experienced in Boise. That is partly due to the winds lately and a little bit of rain that washed away some of the smoke (and hopefully helped the fire situation).

We did a short hike on the edge of Sun Valley to soak in the views and fall colors.

The ravines between hills are filled with colorful aspen

Only the North side of the hills have conifers, most hillsides around here are covered 
in low, brown chapparal (foreground where Hans is walking)

Taken from a ravine, here you can see the rolling chapparal covered hills in the background.

Today we rode about 25 miles of the Wood River Trail.

It's clear and sunny and 75 degrees, with night time temps in the 40's, absolutely perfect! I would love to see the area in early summer when the hills must be green and loaded with flowers...guess we'll have to come back some time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Campground Review: Boise Riverside RV Park

This is a review of our very first RV Park, so we are starting from scratch with open minds and no past experience to compare it to.

We purchased our Montana 5th wheel in Meridian, ID and drove to Boise Riverside RV Park to start our full time RV adventure. We initially paid for one week for our "shake down" of the new RV and then added a second week so we'd have time to explore Boise.

Boise Riverside RV Park is actually in Garden City, ID, about 3 miles NW of downtown Boise. It sits right alongside the Boise River Greenbelt, a gorgeous 27 mile bike/walk trail system along the Boise River, and is also adjacent to the Boise fairgrounds. They have 101 sites, most are pull throughs and most are full hook ups, with both 30 & 50amp at each site. We paid $174 per week.

Although the park's address is Glenwood St., you must turn right on Marigold St. to enter. Though Glenwood is a busy main artery, the park sits well off the road and is very quiet at night. There is a library right across the street and multiple shopping and dining options very close by.

When I made reservations I mentioned that we were brand new at this and would appreciate a pull through site. The staff was very friendly, helpful and accomodating during our entire stay.

The pictures on the website are a little deceiving, showing lots of trees and green. While all of the common areas of the RV park are pretty and green and well maintained, and the sites along the river perimeter have some grass, the majority of sites are dirt/gravel with a cement patio, and the roads are gravel. Very few sites have picnic tables.

The park changed ownership about a year ago and they switched from single lane sites (with a shared, two-sided electrical pedestal) to double lane, meaning you park your rig to the right of the utilities and park your truck or towed in the space immediately to the left of the utilities and your patio is on the right of your rig. This affords much more privacy from your neighbors than in the past.

RV's are allowed to stay up to 6 months, which can be extended based on circumstances. There is a mixture of very old and very new RV's here, with the longer stays towards the back and the short stays near the front.

There is a tree at the front of each patio which can make it difficult to position to open your awning. We were only able to open our awning about 3 feet. All sites are oriented so the unshaded side of the rig takes the full afternoon sun. It was in the high 80's early in our stay (luckily it had cooled down from 100 in previous weeks) and we had to use the A/C all afternoon and evening on the hottest days to be comfortable.

The laundry/shower facility was excellent. There are 8 washers and 8 dryers ($1.50 per load) and several showers (free) in a very clean building.

The park's wifi worked well as did our Verizon signal for cell and Millenicom for internet. We did receive several local TV stations before we got satellite service.

When we first arrived I was a little disappointed in the quality of the site, with the dirt parking area and the small tree in the way of the awning, and plain cement pad for a patio. But I was won over by the wonderful Boise River Greenbelt accessed right from the RV park, how quiet it was at night, the friendly and helpful staff, and clean facilities. The proximity to shopping, dining and Boise sights was perfect for our needs. We would stay here again.

Our site, B22

Laundry/Shower Facility with picnic area
Boise Greenbelt access adjacent to the RV park
Office (in the trees), propane and dump station on the left
View down the rows of RV sites, from in front of the office

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Touristy Boise, Scenic Boise and a Recipe

We're nearing the end of our stay in Boise. It's been the perfect place to start our life on wheels: a friendly, well situated RV park, great neighborhoods to explore via the awesome Greenbelt Trail system, every kind of shopping we could possibly want to outfit the rig, plus some beautiful scenic byways for exploration of the surrounding area.

The only thing that has marred our stay here has been the smoke from nearby forest fires. We are in the Treasure Valley and it has held smoke from various fires across Idaho for the past couple of months. Some days, the temperature was 10 degrees cooler than forecasted due to the smoke keeping the sun from beating down upon us. We happen to prefer cooler temps, but the smoke was not the best trade-off! On a couple of days we could actually smell smoke, but usually it was just a heavy haze across the valley.

Since my last post we've seen a variety  of interesting sites...

We did our own personal walking tour of downtown which included a visit to the state capitol building. Originally started in 1905, the building underwent major restoration for 2.5 years and reopened in 2010. It is full of marble from all over the world. A beautiful building, with a good display of state historical information.

Interior of the Capitol dome

Floor of the Capitol dome room

Capitol of Idaho
We visited Zoo Boise on Thursday, discount day. It's a small zoo but it had some pretty good displays including an excellent bat enclosure and the red panda's were adorable.

We walked a good portion of the North End neighborhood, which boasts some lovely old houses on tree-lined streets.

A cute house in Boise's North End
We've been eating healthier than ever in our new home. One of our lighter meals turned out to be quite tasty; a Quinoa-Chickpea Pilaf with grilled veggies. The combination of smoked paprika, fresh garlic and citrus juices in the pilaf made for a delicious vegan meal!

Quinoa-Chickpea Pilaf
We took a drive that was a combination of three Scenic Byways: the Payette River, Ponderosa Pine and Wildlife Canyon. At about 160 miles, it was a long days outing, taking us up into the mountains through canyons cut by several rivers. Since we drove on Saturday, we happened upon the local farmers market in the cute little town of Crouch, and we were able to check out a few state campgrounds along the way.

We've been told Idaho is full of natural geothermal hot springs. We checked out the one at Pine Flats campground during our Scenic Byway tour. It was a perfect setting for a soak and a picnic on the South fork of the Payette River.

Soaking in Pine Flats Hot Springs
South fork of the Payette River at Pine Flats Hot Springs

During this drive we saw little pockets of the leaves turning; fall is here!

We also took a dirt Nordic ski trail and tried out 4-wheel drive on our truck; it worked like a champ!

Early next week we'll head a little South and East, closer to the mountains for a little more nature and a little less big city.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Boise!

We've had more time to explore, now that most of the initial set up of the RV is done. Here's a sampling of Boise so far...

On Sunday we hiked Table Rock, a small mountain (3,652 ft) adjacent to downtown, affording expansive views of the entire valley. (San Diegans would consider this the Cowles Mountain of Boise; an excellent, close-by way to get some good exercise.) Smoke from local fires was inundating the valley so the views were not the greatest but we enjoyed the hike and views nonetheless.

Atop Table Rock with smokey Boise in the background
Part of the hike passes the Table Rock Quarry which was originally started at the turn of the 20th century and looks as though it is still active today, harvesting some beautiful sandstone.

Table Rock Quarry
Directly below Table Rock sits the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Active from 1872 - 1973, it is now a historical site and some of the buildings are open to visitors.

Old Idaho Penitentiary, active 1872 - 1973
Hans is such a bad boy!
On Monday we played disc golf at Ann Morrison park, a large, lovely, multi-use park adjacent to BSU. Unfortunately I forgot the camera, because the setting was gorgeous. Expansive grassy areas, dozens of huge trees, pretty little canals and streams and small ponds and lakes, geese everywhere...a very beautiful course with lots of water hazards.

I've got a long ways to go before I could be considered anywhere near proficient at disc golf, but with settings like we've experienced lately, and very few people during the week, and free, I am really enjoying this game.

Last Saturday we biked the Greenbelt South from our campground. Today, we decided to bike it North. It was 18 miles of more wonderful Greenbelt trail.

The West path ran between the river and lovely neighborhoods with beautiful gardens backing right up to the path and later a quarry with its reservoirs full of birds, including some swans. The West side dead ended and we backtracked to the start and over to the East side. Here, we rode through pretty neighborhoods and then onto singletrack through dense river foliage, opening here and there to views of the river.

An interesting thing about many of the neighborhoods we've driven or rode through: they incorporate water. Not only does the Boise River run right through the middle of the city, but there are canals and streams all over the city, and many communities are built with the canals as landscape focal points that often open into small ponds or lakes. Manmade, yes, but surprisingly scenic and soothing...especially in such a hot, dry climate.

This afternoon we are having Dish TV installed and doing laundry. Life is grand!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Biking the Boise River Greenbelt

The city of Boise and its surrounding communities along the river have created one of the most lovely urban parks I have ever seen, the Boise River Greenbelt. The link says it is 22 miles long, but I have also read 27 and 30 miles, so it has probably grown over time through offshoots into neighborhoods and County growth along the river.

Trail maps are posted regularly
This morning we biked 24 miles of the Greenbelt, and what a beautiful ride it was! Gourmet urban paved trail at its very best! The trail is open to bikes, walkers and runners (and skate boards and roller blades, but we didn't see any) and meanders along the river, through multiple city parks and natural areas.

All along the trail are secluded seating areas nestled into the bushes overlooking the river, or in serene grassy coves, and among gorgeous trees. Bridges cross the river and small tributaries occasionally. Houses and condos back up to the path at intervals, and the trail passes through downtown as well as Boise State University, making it a well used commuting path during the work week.

There was plenty of shade through the Northern portion of the trail, making it popular on this sunny, summer Saturday morning.

Giant willow tree along the Boise River Greenbelt
Crossing the river at one of the many bridges along the Greenbelt trail
The trail opened into a more natural setting at the Southern end, with views of the surrounding foothills and further to the Boise National Forest.

At the Southern end we crossed the river at Barber Park and made our way into the Bown Crossing neighborhood, where we had been told were several excellent options for lunch. We chose to eat at Boise Fry Company, where they specialize in preparing different types of local potatoes in several styles of fries. We had a delicious bison burger, quinoa salad, and some delicious fries with 3 of their many house-made dipping sauces.

Boise Fry Company was delicious!
We then made our way back to camp...which is right on the Greenbelt Trail. The location of this RV park could not be better for access to everything we need, including the lovely Boise River Greenbelt!

Totally enjoying the Boise River Greenbelt!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Settling In

The busy days continue and our home is really coming together into a very cozy, efficient, comfortable living space.

We've been really fortunate to meet our neighbors, Bill and Marilyn Theis, who caught our attention when they arrived in a NuWa of our favorite choices during the research period. We had fun giving and getting tours and talking to seasoned RVers.

Having purged most of our belongings when we left San Diego anticipating a completely fresh start, we have been shopping for the many little bits and pieces that make this minimal, mobile lifestyle comfortable. After each shopping foray we spend several hours installing and tweaking and's awesome!!

Thursday we finally hooked up our sewer and learned that necessary job, with excellent supervision and advice from neighbor Bill who has been a perfect mentor for us newbies.

Friday we got practice towing the trailer once again. We had to take it to a hitch shop to get a real bumper and receiver hitch installed on the back to carry our mountain bikes instead of the rinky dink bumper/hitch assembly that came with the Montana.

We successfully navigated the departure/hitching up process, and driving and unhitching again and left the trailer at the hitch shop. We made another trip to our RV dealer to pick up DMV paperwork and purchase more supplies (of course). Then off to the DMV just over the border in Ontario, OR where we were able to collect our new trailer license plate.

A little more shopping (thank goodness that's pretty much done with, neither of us is big on shopping) then we picked up the trailer and made it back to the campground and got set up with no problems at all!!!!!! (Knock on wood.)

We had dinner with Bill and Marilyn at Pizzalchik, a restaurant that was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, just down the street from our campground, and wished them safe travels as they head off tomorrow.

Dinner with Bill and Marilyn
Tomorrow we actually get to relax and play! We've paid for another week at this RV park so we can now start exploring Boise. One of our intentions with this lifestyle is to take it slow and dig in to each area we stay in when the situation allows.

We are very happy with our cozy home, life is very, very good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We are Full Time RVers!

It's been a whirlwind few days. On Saturday we left Portland and headed for Myrtle Creek to pick up our belongings from Chantal and James house (our home address). It took a couple of hours to pack the truck, making sure everything was secure and protected from the elements for the 500 mile drive ahead of us.

On Sunday we drove from Myrtle Creek, OR to Meridian, ID (just West of Boise) in 10 hours. Upon arrival at our hotel we had to unload the truck completely because our stuff would not have been safe left in the bed overnight. We then drove the half mile to the RV dealer, who was closed, and saw our home sitting in the parking lot. That generated a lot of excitement and nervous energy!

After a night of so-so sleep we reloaded the truck with less attention to detail because we only had to drive a short distance. Thus started an 8 hour day at the dealer.

A lot of stuff had to happen before we could hit the road: we unloaded the truck contents into the RV's storage bays, we had the fifth wheel hitch installed in the bed of our truck, we had an inspection and instruction session (the instructor was not as thorough and knowledgeable about our rig as I would have liked, being a newbie), we had them fix a few minor items that showed up during inspection, we had to shop for various items we needed immediately in order to live in the RV, we had to take care of the financial transaction, and we had a lesson in hitching up.

We finally departed the dealership at about 5pm. We were really thankful it is summer so we had a lot of daylight left. It was slightly nerve racking to drive across town during rush hour, our destination was about 12 miles away.

We are staying at  Boise Riverside RV Park, which is right on the Boise River and the 27 mile long Boise Greenbelt trail system.

Even though we had a pull-through site reserved, it still took two trys to get parked properly! One definitely has to turn wide with a long rig. There are a lot of things you need to be aware of when getting situated in a campsite, and as newbies we were a bit flustered! We had to watch for trees, space for the awning, where the steps/door would open up, placement adjacent to the utility hookups (water, electric and sewer), room for the two slides to open, and ability to access the storage bays if the utilities were in the way. And that was just at this camp site, others will have additional nuances.

Then we started unpacking...overwhelmed fairly describes what we were feeling at this point! ALL of the stuff we had packed in our big truck was now piled inside our new home; we could hardly move inside. We got the basics taken care of like the bed made and clothes available, and some kitchen stuff situated before crashing from exhaustion. It had been a long day with a big lifestyle transition and the place felt pretty darn small with all our belongings piled around.

On Tuesday morning we discovered the water heater had been turned off at the dealer and that we were supposed to turn it back on when we arrived at camp...Hans had a cold shower before we discovered that! We had to go out for breakfast so we also did some grocery and miscellaneous shopping before heading back and tackling the unpacking. It took all day long, but by the end of the day we were probably 95% done. Here's our cozy new home  (these are pictures of our rig from the dealers website):

2013 Keystone Montana 3000RK floorplan

Main living area w/kitchen, dining and living room

Bedroom w/king bed

Shower and sink in bedroom, toilet is in it's own small room behind the sink
We are feeling much more comfortable with all our stuff put away and will shop for a number of items that will make life in our new home as comfy as possible. As we have read on others blogs: this is a lifestyle, not a vacation! The last few days have been full of "work", now we need to add some play!