Monday, October 30, 2023

Valley of Fire State Park - A Visual Journey

 If you've never taken the time to visit Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, do it. It is so gorgeous. In fact most of this post will be pictures because I couldn't pick just a few.

Valley of Fire is Nevada's largest and oldest State Park and formally opened in 1934. The park gets its name from the way the red sandstone formations seem to glow as if they are on fire in the hour just before sunset. 

Adding another thing to my do list is plan my journey so I can be there at sunset.



Can you see him?

On my way back out of the park, here he is surveying his kingdom.

I did not want to go back through Las Vegas and all the traffic, so I took the road that leads to Lake Mead. This was a beautiful drive with very little traffic.

The End


Saturday, October 28, 2023

Mountain Meadow Massacre

 After leaving West Yellowstone I headed to southern Utah. Not stopping to visit with anyone. I do have a couple more blog posts about a couple of places I really wanted to see. This first one is a very hard post to do because it was so senseless.  This is a long post about a very complicated massacre.

In order to begin to comprehend the events of September 11, 1857, you need to understand the conditions of what was happening at that time in history.  I am taking this history from the website

There was a thunderstorm all around me when I was there. Lots of noise and lightning but not much rain. So several pictures of those clouds I love.

"In 1857 an army of roughly 1,500 United States troops was marching toward Utah Territory, with more expected to follow. Over the preceding years, disagreements, miscommunication, prejudices, and political wrangling on both sides had created a growing divide between the territory and the federal government. In retrospect it is easy to see that both groups overreacted—the government sent an army to put down perceived treason in Utah, and the Latter-day Saints believed the army was coming to oppress, drive, or even destroy them." 

Many emigrants headed for California brought wagon companies to Utah just as Latter-day Saints were preparing for what they believed would be a hostile military invasion. The Saints had been violently driven from Missouri and Illinois in the prior two decades, and they feared history might repeat itself. Church President and Territorial Governor, Brigham Young, told the Saints to prepare for battle and to arm themselves. Emigrants became frustrated when they were unable to resupply in the territory as they had expected to do. They had a difficult time purchasing grain and ammunition because the Saints were keeping the supplies for themselves. 

 As you can imagine, the disagreements between the Saints and the emigrants became heated and caused the tension to boil over. This was especially true in Cedar City, UT.  Heated insults were thrown from both sides and it got worse when the wagon train could not get supplies for their journey. They left Cedar City but the Cedar City leaders could not let it go. They tried to get permission to send the militia after the emigrants and that request was denied. Then they decided they would persuade local Paiute Indians to give the Arkansas company “a brush,” killing some or all of the men and stealing their cattle.

 The generally peaceful Paiutes were reluctant when first told of the plan. Although Paiutes occasionally picked off emigrants’ stock for food, they did not have a tradition of large-scale attacks. But Cedar City’s leaders promised them plunder and convinced them that the emigrants were aligned with “enemy” troops who would kill Indians along with Mormon settlers.  What followed was a five day siege during which the emigrants discovered that it wasn't just Indians but also white men who were killing them. 


In trying to cover up the disgrace of what they had done, the Cedar City leaders made the situation worse by calling out the militia to destroy the emigrants. Those who had deplored vigilante violence against their own people in Missouri and Illinois were now about to follow virtually the same pattern of violence against others, but on a deadlier scale.  

On Friday, September 11, Lee (the militia leader) entered the emigrant wagon fort under a white flag and somehow convinced the besieged emigrants to accept desperate terms. He said the militia would safely escort them past the Indians and back to Cedar City, but they must leave their possessions behind and give up their weapons, signaling their peaceful intentions to the Indians. The suspicious emigrants debated what to do but in the end accepted the terms, seeing no better alternative. They had been pinned down for days with little water, the wounded in their midst were dying, and they did not have enough ammunition to fend off even one more attack.

 As directed, the youngest children and wounded left the wagon corral first, driven in two wagons, followed by women and children on foot. The men and older boys filed out last, each escorted by an armed militiaman. The procession marched for a mile or so until, at a prearranged signal, each militiaman turned and shot the emigrant next to him, while Indians rushed from their hiding place to attack the terrified women and children. Militiamen with the two front-running wagons murdered the wounded.

The 17 spared children, considered “too young to tell tales,” were adopted by local families. Government officials retrieved the children in 1859 and returned them to family members in Arkansas. The massacre snuffed out some 120 lives and immeasurably affected the lives of the surviving children and other relatives of the victims.  

It took 17 years before the law finally indicted nine men for their role in the massacre. Most of them were eventually arrested, though only Lee was tried, convicted, and executed for the crime. Another indicted man turned state’s evidence, and others spent many years running from the law.  A horrible time in Utah's history.

I could not walk the path down to the monument so I am using the one from the website.

 Monument at Mountain Meadows.


 I really wish we could learn from history but hatred and fear continues everywhere.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Time To Head Home

As sad as it is, it is now time for me to head south, back to Arizona. I wanted to find a some different roads to take and I also turned this trip into another journey down memory lane. I headed south out of Helena on Highway 287. This road takes me past the campground Jim and I always stayed at on Canyon Lake. I thought about driving through the campground, but I couldn't do it. So I just kept going. 

My destination for this part of the journey was West Yellowstone. But along the way I had a fun encounter with the true spirit of the West.


The road runs along the Madison River in some places and it was so beautiful, I needed to just stop and enjoy. I found a dirt road down to the river and saw the River Ranch as I turned onto the road. I drove a little bit further down and stopped to just experience the peace and quiet. A pick up truck passed me and I didn't think anything of it. I went a little further and then turned around and headed back. But I just didn't want to leave so I stopped again and was just sitting there.

I saw the pick up (with his dogs in the bed) pull up behind me (he must have turned around) and this young guy gets out of the truck and puts his cowboy hat on. He approaches my car and I can tell he is trying not to scare me. I had my window down and as he approached, he said "ma'am, are you okay?" 

I explained I was just enjoying life and I'm sure he probably thought I was a little weird, but he made sure I didn't need anything before he and his cowboy boots climbed back into his truck and drove off into the sunlight. 

One of those life moments that just kind of makes you proud of the human race.

After that encounter, I headed down memory lane. First stop is Quake Lake Visitor Center. The following is a quote from their brochure.

It was a beautiful moonlit night, August 17, 1959, when one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in the Rocky Mountains struck the Madison River Canyon. The earthquake which measured 7.5 triggered a massive landslide, which sent over 80 millions tons of rock crashing down into the canyon blocking the Madison River. The water backed up behind the slide forming the new Earthquake Lake. In a matter of seconds the earth's crust had dropped 19 feet. 28 people lost their lives, most of them camping in the area.

 I've been through this area several times and it's amazing the trees are still standing in the lake. They have moved the road away from the lake and you do not get to see some of the other areas where the cabins were in the lake unless you drive down to them. 


From there it is a gorgeous drive to West Yellowstone. It's been many, many years since I have been in West. 

During the summer of 1968 I worked at the bank in West Yellowstone. The town recruited workers from Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho in Rexburg) to work as servers, checkers, stockers, retail sales, and hotel maids, etc. I got a job in the bank counting money. 

This was 55 years ago and we didn't have any fancy machines to do our counting for us. So I counted and double and triple checked to make sure each till cashed out correctly. Do you know how dirty money is?  This has to be the dirtiest job I've ever had. I tried using some gloves but they just slowed me down.

But what a wonderful way to spend the summer. I lived in a cabin with three other girls that I knew from college. We all had different schedules and it worked out really good. 

This was also before all the development happened (a totally different time) so we always had bears and elk and deer and raccoons roaming through town. We'd often hear bear banging around outside trying to get into our garbage cans. We learned how to get home safely after dark and to take the long way around if you spotted a bear. We never had a bear attack in West that entire summer. 

For entertainment, one of my roommates was an extra at the Playmill Theater. They were doing the Pirates of Penzance and she could get us into see the show for free. We also would go to Fishing Bridge for the parties and dances they held for the staff in the park who worked at all the tourist spots. None of us had a car, so we would just hitchhike through the park. Like I said, a totally different time. We never had any trouble getting rides from families which is who we looked for. 

We also used to go to the dump with somebody we knew who had a car. Once again, a long time ago in a different world. The dump was an open landfill. They didn't cover the garbage up. The bears loved it. So we would line up all the cars and wait until we could hear all the grunts and growls. Then everybody would turn on their headlights and we could watch the bears chowing down. One grizzly was always recognizable because he had this huge tooth that was all twisted. He was called Snaggle Tooth. 

Those were the days. I'm not sure what I expected when I got to West because after so many years, nothing has remained where it was back then. I did find a couple of banks but I have no idea if either of them were the original bank. The grocery store where I was a checker when they were shorthanded, was not where it used to be and I'm sure it's changed hands many times. But oh what the memories I enjoyed.

A bank in West Yellowstone

Didn't stay long in West - way too many people. They were everywhere and traffic was a mess. I was sure glad I wasn't trying to go through the park. Time to press on.  


Monday, October 23, 2023

Elkhorn - A Montana Ghost Town

 Back in Helena with my sister and her hubby, Don.  I'm spending a few days with them before I start my trek back to the desert. (I'm already back home in the desert, just way behind on the blog.)

 Don owns a cabin in a ghost town. A real ghost town called Elkhorn which is Montana's smallest state park. It consists of two buildings on less than 1 acre of land. The rest of Elkhorn is privately owned.

Don's cabin

 One day we decided to take a ride up to the cabin and just enjoy the beauty of Montana. Don was born and raised in this area and it's really fun to hear the stories he can tell about his life - at least the ones he's willing to share.

Beautiful skies


 Elkhorn is located about 18 miles northeast of Boulder, MT and part of the road is not paved. You could also run into a Montana traffic jam like we did.

Finally made it through the jam (the cowboys/girls were not inclined to help us out at all) but Don did a great job. Car needed a bath afterwards, especially the tires.

Lots of pictures

They have put up signs explaining what buildings used to be in each spot. Not much left of a lot of those buildings.

Elkhorn was founded in 1872 as a silver mining camp. Elkhorn was different than most camps because it was a family town. At its height it had around 2500 residents. As silver prices dropped and a diphtheria epidemic killed many of the children, the town was abandoned in the 1970s.

 The owners of the property have a really nice fire hall which is essential. Montana has a large amount of fires and if they had a dry winter without much snowfall, all the trees and buildings become tinder. 

 Currently there are about 6 or 7 people who actually spend all year in Elkhorn. Most of the cabins are summer people. Don's neighbors have lots of animals at their place, including these cute little pigs.

Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall = the state park


We also took some time out to enjoy a Music and Arts Festival in Boulder. Small town fun. Good music and lots of craft booths. A relaxing way to enjoy the sunshine and the gorgeous clouds.

Boulder's Main Street


And you know I have to include this next picture.