Things I’ve Learned


December 31, 2022– As another Gregorian calendar year heads to the history books and memory n, what is most important, for an individual, are the lessons brought forward over the twelve months now past.

So, here are twelve things I’ve learned, some cogent, others banal-but all useful.

January- The border between the United States and Mexico is neither as chaotic as politicians away the border claim it is nor as smoothly functioning as it might be. I saw many content, focused people at the station in Douglas, AZ and no evidence of hordes of people sneaking through, at Coronado National Monument, a rural station, south of Sierra Vista.

February- Human beings, regardless of how they come to identify themselves, deserve the respect of those around them-and a keen listening ear. Losing someone who has not been completely understood by some of those around her was both unsettling and cautionary. Rest in Peace, Salem Hand.

March- Most of Man’s inhumanity to Man stems from insecurity. Andersonville showed the historical proof of that, both through its physical remnants and through the exhibits on Prisoners-of-War, both within this country and around the world. A more benign case occurred, in Miami Beach, stemming from a middle-aged man, having designs upon much younger women and threatening violence when I cautioned them about one aspect of his proposal.

April- There is no foolproof means of transport. Taking a train, when the route is secure, is a marvelous way to both see the countryside and to make good friends. The system is not without flaws, though, and a fire at a remote bridge resulted in my taking a Greyhound bus, between San Antonio and Tucson.

May- It is never too late in life for people to connect. An odd proposition was made to me, by someone much younger-and was quickly, if politely, deferred. On the other hand, two people who had been alone for several years, found each other and had a lovely garden wedding, making for several years of a solid bond.

June- There are still places where even brief inattention to surroundings can lead to discomfort, even momentarily. I found one briefly “wet” situation, checking out the depth of a bog. Fortunately, it was an “oops” moment, and caused no difficulty to me or anyone else.

July- You can go home again, but family is often going to be swamped with schedules, plans made at the last minute by spouses and friends, or just the crush of dealing with one of the greatest of American holidays.

August- No matter how well a car is maintained, the aftermath of a chain-reaction accident can lead to a total loss being declared, even 1.5 months after it occurs. So it was, for the vehicle that took me across seemingly ridiculous distances, with nary a squeak. Another person’s health issues led to Saturn Vue’s demise.

September- Not all Baha’i school events need include a heavy dose of scholarly presentations. Just being with children and youth, in crafting, dancing and fellowship, is as much a tonic for the soul as any engagement with intellectuals.

October- New friends, made in the wake of a bureaucratic flub, and clear across the continent, to boot, are as fine a result of a mistake as I can imagine. Three Bears Inn will be a place where I could definitely stay for several days, especially en route to the great mountain parks of the northern Rockies. It is all the sweeter when followed by a visit with dearly beloved friends, themselves so much like family.

November- Speaking of family, it is never necessary for my biological family to expend energy on my entertainment. They do so anyway, but just reveling in their presence and celebrating their achievements, is the finest way to spend any time-especially a holiday.

December- As an Old Guard increasingly passes from the scene, among my cohort of veterans, younger people are arising, in service to those who served our nation. I am also re-learning the rewards of patience, with those around me, as we all face increasing uncertainty. They need me, as much as I need them. I also need to be patient with myself.

The Carson Loop, Day 5: Swimming through Chaos


October 19, 2022, Garden City, ID- I bid farewell to the wonderful family at Three Bears Inn, around 10 a.m., after hearing of their evening at an indoor water park, followed by star gazing. Being with a large and well-grounded family is always a delight. I look forward to the same experience in Carson City, with a longtime extended clan, in a few days. This, more than scenery and interesting buildings, is the bedrock of travel.

Three Bears Inn, St. Anthony, ID

Several years ago, an unfortunate incident took place, in Rexburg, just down the road. I decided that, one day, I was going to stop in Rexburg and give love from my heart, to the people who acted out, because they felt forgotten by the country at large.

It was a quieter visit than I had intended, but I did get a view of foliage, near the city’s hospital, before moving along, towards the towns along Idaho’s southern tier. Me

Douglas firs, in Rexburg city park
Red oaks, downtown Rexburg, ID

That, as it turned out, was about the extent of the camera’s work for the day. I dealt largely with chaos, both a momentary internal state- trying to make sense of the route westward, with my phone’s internet being on the blink, most of the day, and of that which stems from a region faced with growing pains, as Idaho’s southern tier is now experiencing.

Idaho Falls is the home of Melaleuca Corporation, the original purveyor of essential oils, in modern times. It’s entrance is right next to the on-ramp to I-15 south, so I was momentarily off-track. Then, in Blackfoot, 20 miles south, there is a rather large Sonic-type mom and pop drive-in burger shop, at which half of the ordering speakers happen to be on the passenger side of the parking space. A Shoshone woman, parked next to me, looked at me, then at the speaker, and shook her head. I think the idea was to have two speakers on the same stand, but it just doesn’t work, at least for a solo traveler. I left without ordering, which was okay, as breakfast at Three Bears was enough to get me through the day.

I located the westward route in Pocatello, home of Idaho State University, going through more heavy traffic which, once I was out of town, almost completely dissipated. On along I-86/84 I continued, stopping for a stretch and photograph at Oregon Trail Rest Area.

Oregon Trail Rest Stop, near Massacre Rock, ID

I drove into Massacre Rocks State Park, only to find it closed at 3:30. The site of one of Idaho’s more unfortunate events, a battle between westward-bound emigrants and a band of Shoshone people, resulting in the deaths of 8 emigrants and 20 First Nations people, Massacre Rocks also tells the story of Lake Bonneville and its feeder rivers, one of which had four times the flow of the Amazon River.

Twin Falls, an hour further west, brought dinner at Sizzler, an old standby. A personable and attentive server, named Jessica, took good care of me, and of a large group of hearing-impaired people, who were on a group outing. TF is reached by crossing a wide gorge of the Snake River, which would be a fine place to investigate further, should I come this way again.

As it was, the time had come to get to Boise for the night. I happened upon 7 K Motel, in this suburb called Garden City, around 8 p.m., too late for another Zoom meeting, but safely nonetheless.

The Carson Loop, Day 3: Sea of Lava


October 17, 2022, St. Anthony, ID- The boys noted a white ball cap, at the bottom of the small crater. One of them asked if he might shimmy down and retrieve it-which of course brought his father’s gentle but firm negative response. The presence of the family of five was a delightful addition to one of the most impressive flows of lava rock in the continental United States: Craters of the Moon.

This was my main draw to eastern Idaho, with Three Bears Inn, a cozy family home here in St. Anthony, a very close second. Three Bears is a serendipitous find, coming about when someone at misinterpreted my request for a room in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, last June. I was offered a room here, as compensation, for the charge that was incurred then.

The day started, somewhat chilly, in Jordan Valley, with a convenience store breakfast sandwich the only morning meal option. After a fashion, I headed off towards Idaho’s Owyhee Region. The name is a corruption of “Hawai’i”, coming from fur trappers having brought a crew of Native Hawaiians to the area, in 1819. Three of the Hawaiians embarked on an exploration of the Owyhee River’s canyonlands, but never returned to the base camp. The name Owyhee has been bestowed on the area, spanning parts of Oregon, Idaho and Nevada, in their honour.

Owyhee Overlook, Idaho
Owyhee Overlook, Idaho
Owyhee Overlook, Idaho

I continued past Boise, which will be a stop on the way back to Carson City, and found Little Camas Valley, where some of Idaho’s fall foliage was on view.

Oaks of the Little Camas, south central Idaho
Basalt outcropping, Little Camas
Basalt promontory, Little Camas

The presence of so much basalt, all along Highway 20, interrupts the constant presence of sage brush, as does the large presence of agriculture-both corporate and small scale. The Snake River Plain, from Fairfield in the west to Ashton in the east, is a prime potato growing region. Just shy of Arco, however, Craters of the Moon’s lava fields interrupts the farmlands, as much as the soil itself was created and enriched by the flow. This is the bounty of the Great Idaho Rift.

Here are some scenes, north of the actual monument grounds, and along Idaho Route 20.

Lava beds, north and west of North Crater, which is the central point of the Monument.
Lava bed, along Rte. 20

Pioneer Mountains, above the lava beds

Entering the Monument, which focuses on North Crater and its nearby flows, I encountered a family of four, joyfully coming back from a short walk in the lava field across from the Visitor Center. Here is what they saw.

A determined and lonely pine rises above sage and stone.
Older lava flow, at base of North Crater
Dwarf buckwheat is one of the more prolific flowering plants that has adapted to the lava beds.
Inferno Peak, a hikeable cinder cone.

I made the hike to the top of Inferno Peak in ten minutes. There, to greet me, was the Leaning Juniper of the Craters.

Lone juniper, atop Inferno Peak
Resilient sage and mature buckwheat, Inferno Peak summit
Big Craters, from the summit of Inferno Peak

Red cinder, Inferno Peak summit

The last focus of this visit was on the Spatter Cones, small volcanoes-or as one of the little girls present called, “Baby Volcanoes”.

Here was the place where I encountered the family mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Lastly, I stopped at Devil’s Orchard, an otherworldly group of standing lava rock. The place was so named by a visiting Christian preacher, in the early twentieth century.

Basalt standing in Devil’s Orchard

The scope of Craters of the Moon surpasses Arizona’s Sunset Crater, and rivals Lassen. It will be a stop along the way to future visits to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. For now, I settle in for a day or so, with new friends at Three Bears Inn: A strong couple, three sons and a daughter, two cats and two ducklings. Everything is just right.