Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
It’s been unusually hot here in Cascade, Idaho just as it’s been unusually hot all across the northwest portion of the US. The weather sites say that average high here is 70 degrees but Saturday June 27th, it hit 102 (or so my weather station said) and we spent most of the day hiding in the trailer. I had to spend some time outside checking in campers because we had 20 of our 29 spots empty out and then fill back up again. Check out time is 1 pm and there were folks waiting for people to leave so they could check in. I got hot and cranky. Walter’s solution was perfect. We put on our swim suits and went down and got wet in the lake. One thing led to another and we had a water fight which assured that we both got good and wet and cooled off. Ahhh.

Sunday June 28th, it was even hotter. It hit 106 in the late afternoon and the trailer hit 96. At that point I began to feel sick—I never have dealt real well with the heat. So we surrendered and turned on the air conditioning. Blessed cool. It cranked along all afternoon and managed to maintain a temperature of 88 in the trailer. You know it’s hot when you think 88 is cool! We haven’t been running the air conditioning because it’s noisy. If I’m standing by the refrigerator or stove I can’t hear a word Walter says just 10 feet away. But noise is a small price to pay to feel human! So we’ve run it nearly every afternoon since. And we’ve both managed to even take a nap or two with the thing running.

Saturday evening we had two family reunions move in for a few days. Between them they had 17 kids below the age of 15—most of them under 10. They made friends and we seemed to always have little blond blue-eyed kids trotting past. Sunday the campground emptied out quite a bit which is a blessing after it was so full for so many days. We got out our instruments and played some music and some of the kids hung out nearby to listen. The parents of one of the groups invited us to play the next night. Most of the kids were off catching catfish--and watching the fox who came out in the early evening and put on a great show--when we played but it was still fun. And the little girl who had requested that we play did show up so all was good. She’d heard us doing Summertime with Walter on the harmonica and me singing and asked us to do that one again.

With the campground emptier than it had been in nearly a week, we set about watering everything in sight while we could since it was hot and the holiday weekend was coming up. At one point I was sitting in the shade at a picnic table in one of the loops watching the sprinklers and I spied a tree swallow flying in and out of a bird house.

Bird house with baby swallows

I zoomed in and sure enough there were babies peeping away.

Birdhouse with baby tree swallows

I don’t know how many little flying bugs a swallow has to catch to feed these little guys. But it sure was fun to be able to photograph them.

Tree swallow babies

Monday we did our watering in the morning and then headed out with our picnic lunch to take the drive up to East Mountain (elevation 7748 feet) to see if we could get out of the heat. The road follows the winding course of Clear Creek south of the town of Cascade.

Clear Creek Cascade ID

And then heads up a pretty steep badly rutted Forest Service Road. After about 6 miles of bumping along we arrived at the top of East Mountain where you can see the foundation from an old fire tower (built in 1914 and burned down in 2002).

East Mountain Firetower foundation

There is nearly a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains from here –which is why of course they built the fire tower here. Here’s the view looking east.

East Mountain view eastward Cascade ID

The view looking west is equally fabulous but it was pretty hazy both from moisture and some smoke blowing in from fires to the north.

The meadow here was in bloom with a nice mix of flowers.    

Wildflower meadow East Mountain Cascade ID

And there were large examples of Poke Knotweed (Polygonum phytolaccifolim) which stood a good 4 feet tall.

Poke Knotweed (Polygonum phytolaccifolim)

There were big expanses of Ball-head Gilia (Ipomopsis congesta) too.

Ball-head Gilia (Ipomopsis congesta)

And there were a few patches of Cusick's Indian Paintbush (Castilleja cusickii) mixed in with the regular scarlet paintbrush.

Cusick's Indian Paintbush (Castilleja cusickii)

We had our lunch and then drove back down the one-lane Forest Service Road. I stopped along the way to get pictures of a meadow full of White Gentian (Frasera montana).

White Gentian (Frasera montana) in meadow

It looks a lot like death camas but is in an entirely different family. And no I wouldn’t sample some just to make sure my ID was correct!

White Gentian (Frasera montana)

Further down the hill we came to a little stream next to the road with a ton of Lewis’ Monkey Flower (Mimulus lewisii) in bloom.

Lewis’ Monkey Flower (Mimulus lewisii)

And some Sitka Columbine (Aquilegia formosa). Note in Washington we call this Western Columbine but when in Idaho do as the locals do and call it Sitka Columbine.

Sitka Columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

Further down the hill the road was lined with White Spirea (Spiraea betulifolia).

White Spirea (Spiraea betulifolia)

And here and there were patches of Payette Penstemon (Penstemon payettensis).

Payette Penstemon (Penstemon payettensis)

And when we got nearly back down to Clear Creek there were big patches of Wormleaf Stonecrop (Sedum stenopetalum) dotting the rocky verge.

Wormleaf Stonecrop (Sedum stenopetalum)

When we got back to the campground, we discovered that the trailer was 2 degrees hotter inside than it was outside (in the 90’s--a first for us when we’ve left all the windows open) and we turned on AC on to cool off. This was the first evening when it really didn’t cool off until after dark. It was still in the mid seventies at midnight when it had usually hit 68 by 11. It did however cool off in the night and was 68 in the morning.

Tuesday June 30th was supposed to be our cool day for the week. And it didn’t reach 90 which was a real relief. It was errand day so after watering for a few hours we headed up to McCall to do laundry and grocery shopping. We took a break while the laundry was in the dryer to have a picnic lunch at Ponderosa State Park which is only 1 1/2 miles south of McCall—practically in town. As camp hosts we get a free Annual Pass which covers the Day Use parking costs at all the State Parks. Our pass finally came this past week so we took advantage of it to visit our favorite park in the area. Ponderosa is the reason we’re here in Idaho this summer. We applied to camp host there but they only have two campgrounds so they don’t need the number of hosts that Lake Cascade does (with 12 campgrounds and 2 day use areas).

We had our lunch at the picnic shelter near the Visitor’s Center. Not a bad view, don’t you think? Ponderosa gets it’s name from the wonderful stand of old growth Ponderosas that they preserved here.

Ponderosa State Park ID

Payette Lake surrounds the park on three sides since it’s on a peninsula that sticks out into the lake. There were all sorts of watercraft out on the lake, including this nice sail boat.

Sailboat on Lake Payette Ponderosa State Park ID

After lunch I hiked down to take a photo from the sandy beach in the Day Use area.

Day Use beach Ponderosa State Park ID

And then I wandered down along the shore a ways to shoot a photo looking southward across the lake.

Lake Payette Ponderosa State Park

Once again the trailer was hotter inside than outside when we returned. That just goes to show how important having the door open is to full cross ventilation. Blessings on the air conditioning. And while it didn’t cool off until late, it did get down into the high 50’s in the early morning. It sure is nice to start the day with a cool trailer!

We finally dragged the boat out of the pickup and pumped it up on Wednesday morning while we were doing the last of the watering before the thundering hordes arrived. Bad news. It appears to have reached end of life (we bought it in 1998). It has three sets of long inflatable tubes and two sets have slow leaks. On Thursday we pumped it up again and got it all wet on the outside and could find no leaks. So we filled it up with water and sure enough it looks like it’s very slowly leaking along the seams on the top. We’ve gotten a lot of use out of it over the years and it’s sad to let go of it but it’s time. We’ve ordered a pair of single person inflatable recreation kayaks (best for lakes and flat water) to replace it. That way I can go out by myself when I feel like it without dragging Walter along when he’s not up for it. I’m the water baby in this family after all. They’re coming from REI with great reviews and are due here on Wednesday July 8th. Pretty fancy for a rubber ducky don’t you think?    

New Kayaks from REI

The good news is that Wednesday night it cooled off early—68 by 10:30 pm—but Thursday morning it began to heat up fast. And then the campground began to fill up for the holiday weekend. There were large groups of people who had reserved whole sections of the campground. And there were several couples with kids sharing numerous sites so there were plenty of boats and kids but most folks left their dogs home which is a blessing.

It was hot again on Thursday and reached 99 degrees by late afternoon. I came back from being outside at some point and found that Walter had evaporated...

Idaho State Parks vest Walter Cooke

No wait, he’d just shed his camp host vest and gone inside!

The hearty partiers who had arrived early on Thursday out in force on Thursday night. The good news is that they stayed out on the lake in their boats to party rather than staying in the campground. The bad news is that at about 12:30 (quiet hours start at 10 pm) they staggered in loud and overly happy and then started all their trucks up and drove off. Even worse, they returned drunker still at about 2:00 am. The process of saying good night and finding their way into their rigs was pretty loud and noisy. But I had no complaints from the campers around them and the little kids next door didn’t all wake up crying so it was all good. Whew.

We did our rounds on Friday morning, put up our campground full sign and settled in outdoors to enjoy the breeze. Two women walked up with 12-packs of beer and set them down on our picnic table. It turned out the boyfriend of one of them had made the decision that morning to give up alcohol and they were clearing out their rig to help support him in it. We ended up with 30 bottles of premium beer and a large bottle of blush wine. Walter turned down the vodka they offered. They said with a grin that if there was anyone who deserved to get it, it was us as camp hosts. Besides we were going to be here all summer and we might just drink it all by then—unlike anyone else who might have to haul it home at the end of the weekend. We said we were happy to help out and stowed the beer in the back of the pickup. Never a dull moment in this job.

In the early afternoon, I heard the roar of a plane overhead and ran outside in time to get a shot of our local float plane as it landed.

Float Plane landing on Lake Cascade ID

We’d heard this plane land two weeks ago but didn’t get to see it. It belongs to the owner of a very large home directly across the lake from Buttercup. Its an unusually large float plane and it takes a lot of space to land and take off. So this year they’ve required the owner to have folks on watercraft clear a lane for him when he comes in. You can see some of his escort in this shot.

Float plane and escort Lake Cascade ID

He got the plane turned around and taxied on back towards the dock at his house.

Float Plane Lake Cascade ID

While I was out with the camera I took a shot of the general traffic on the lake. It was WAY busy for the holiday weekend.

Boat traffic on Lake Cascade ID

Jet skis, ski boats, surf boats, sail boats and pontoon party boats EVERYWHERE. The jet skis are fun to photograph.

Jet skis on Lake Cascade ID

After dinner there was a lot traffic on the park radio system. It turns out there were cattle loose at the Sugarloaf boat ramp. As time wore on, it turned out there were 35 head of cattle heading right into people’s campsites. Rangers to the rescue! Oh goodie. We’re going to be hosting at Sugarloaf the second half of the summer. I joking told the ranger that night that cattle wrangling wasn’t part of our skill set and he laughed and said, “That’s right, we didn’t ask that in the interview did we?” The cattle are supposed to be gone by now. Clearly the rancher missed a few. On Saturday morning the Sugarloaf host was requesting a flat ended shovel and trash can so he could ‘clean up’ the boat launch parking lot. You never know what you’ll get to do as a camp host.

The last of our late arrivals came in by about 8 pm and the campground settled a bit as folks rested from playing on and in the lake all day. We did our final rounds of the night and I caught a nice shot of the lake in twilight. The sunsets have been cloudless and rosy of late because of a bit of smoke in the air—nothing serious.

Dusk at Lake Cascade ID

We were just starting to close the trailer up for the evening at about 10:30 when we heard a big bang out on the lake. We went out to discover that our rich neighbor (the one with the float plane) was putting on a huge fireworks show over the lake. It was as big a show as they put on in Monroe or Carnation and it lasted over 1/2 an hour—complete with music. We couldn’t watch it from our front door because of the trees but we could see the whole thing by standing next to our truck. I didn’t bother to try to take photos since I didn’t have the tripod out. We’re supposed to be able to see more fireworks from the campground on the 4th. Cascade does a show on the south end of the lake. Donnelly does a show on the north end of the lake. And McCall does a show over Payette Lake 20 miles north. Folks who have stayed here previous years say they’ve watched all three from here.

There’ll be no quiet hours tonight since the fireworks starts well after 10 and folks go to town to watch them and then don’t get back until midnight or so. So we get to sit back and enjoy the show—just don’t forget the bug spray. I’m getting the tripod out and I’ll see what I can capture with the camera for my next report.

Our time at Buttercup is winding down. We change campgrounds on July 15th—just 11 days away. Time sure flies when you’re having fun.