We had a very busy weekend. Saturday we went to the Sagebrush Arts Fest at ISU. We saw lots of cool arts and crafts–a glassblower made a tiny horse right before our eyes, the knifemaker told us all about the shed antlers and obsidian he uses to make his wares, and lots of paintings, photographs, and jewelry. The kids got to make a paper print at a printmaker’s booth, and at the Children’s Art Yard they got to make bead necklaces and paint t-shirts. We also had bratwurst and funnel cake, and listened to a Sweet Adelines group and a Celtic band.
We had brought the kids’ bikes with us so they could ride around the campus. What a wonderful thing to be able to leave their bikes and helmets under a tree and go off for a few hours to enjoy ourselves. There’s something to be said for small towns!
Sunday Anthropapa decided it would be fun to take a long drive into the country. So after gearing up with binoculars, water bottles, sandwiches, and the camera, we made our way south to Mink Creek and Scout Mountain in the Caribou National Forest. We will be going back to this area many times, I’m sure, as there are tons of nature trails and campgrounds to explore. Unfortunately the campgrounds are closing for the season this weekend, so we’ll have to make plans in the spring.
After a few miles on a paved road, we turned off onto the dirt Scout Mountain Top Road. It all started peaceably enough. The road was flat and only a bit washboarded. We passed a few people on horseback, and admired the scenery. At one point there were these amazing outcrops:
Since it’s the end of the summer, everything was extremely dry. The hills are all brown, and many of the wild plants have gone dormant already. Here’s what passes for fall color around here:
See the little tinges of orange? A bit later I’m sure the stands of aspens here and there will be turning lovely color, but for now it’s just these little areas of bushes that are showing anything. Otherwise it’s just brown.
In one relatively open area, we came upon a pickup truck coming down the mountain. As we passed, we asked if this was the road to the top. Around a lipful of chew, the driver said, “Yep”.
So then the road started heading up, and the road quality went down. The “road” narrowed and started to get very rocky in places, and despite Anthropapa’s careful driving, I despaired for our undercarriage. We moved in and out of forested areas and around too many switchbacks to count, going very slowly indeed.
Finally, we made it to a good open place to stop. Not the exact summit, but close enough. We got out, stretched, and examined our poor, dusty and scratched car:
We ate some sandwiches, and thus refreshed we decided to take a look around. Turns out, we were at the top of the world after all:
After enjoying the scenery and doing a little rockhounding, we decided to make our way back down the mountain. (Yes, it was a long drive for a short time on top. Next time we’ll plan a bit better.)
On our way down, I noticed two of these along a little creek following the road:
There are moose, elk, and mule deer all through these mountains, but it was a little odd to see these deer in the middle of the day. Anthropapa thought that perhaps they were just being silly teenage deer, as they were quite young and small. One bounded across the road in front of the car as we watched!
The kids and I noticed lots of fruits: wild rose hips, manzanita, elder, and some incredibly red berries that I haven’t identified yet. I also saw some yarrow, and a few other late wildflowers that I can’t name. And oh how that bugs me! There were tons of butterflies and grasshoppers too. Luckily it was too hot for any rattlesnakes to be out and about.
The signs for national forests include the motto “Land of Many Uses”. You’re not kidding. We saw dirt bikes, ATVs, people on horseback, cattle grazing, and hunters (the men in the pickup). You can also camp and hike, mountain bike, snowmobile, cross-country ski, and fish here. There are also mines, Christmas tree harvests, and firewood collection. Scott Mountain is a high-use area, being so easily accessible from Pocatello. Still, it was a little odd to go for a mountain drive and have to stop for one of these to cross the road: