Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
Fourth of July weekend went on and on and on at Huckleberry Campground. We had thought some of our folks might go home on the 4th since they’d have to go to work on the 5th. But noooooo. We were still full to the gunwales with cars, RV, tents and campers.

The evening of the 4th started out with a lovely sunset.

Sunset Lake Cascade

You can see there were a lot of toys parked along the beach for the weekend. It was warm and folks took advantage of the weather to do lots of playing in the water.

It was one of the multicolored affairs with pink to the southeast. My favorite kind of fireworks—Mother Nature’s quiet kind.  

Sunset Lake Cascade

It was noisy for the 4th night in a row as the town of Donnelly shot off fireworks up on our end of the lake along with lot of the houses across the lake. The fireworks show was nice but we were both so tired by that point we didn’t stay up to watch the big display that the wealthy neighbor across the lake shot off. In fact, we didn’t even realize it was happening—all the local booming and banging sounded the same. We just heard it about it the next day.

Tuesday the campground started to empty out but there were still lots of folks staying and we had a bunch more coming in. In fact, we never got less than 1/2 full the whole week. I was beyond tired at this point, having spent the weekend dealing with way too many extra cars (all of whom needed to pay parking fees and most of whom resisted it) and just plain too many people. Last year the holiday weekend was just 3 days long. Five days of lots of very full campsites full of celebrating people was a lot to deal with—at least we didn’t have any problems with dogs.

To escape the hub bub we drove north again along West Mountain Road. I stopped to take pictures of the Elk Thistle (Cirsium foliosum)—one of those weird plants in this part of the world. I suspect that Dr. Seus sat on the committee that designed this one.

Elk Thistle (Cirsium foliosum)

As the main flower head unfurls you get lots of smaller thistle flowers bunched in the middle. This is one weird plant.

Elk Thistle (Cirsium foliosum)

The fields here were full of Northern Bedstraw (Galium boreale).

Northern Bedstraw (Galium boreale)

We also got a nice view up the upper reaches of Lake Cascade. Just north of here it narrows down to the Payette River.

North end of Lake Cascade

We drove on up into McCall to Ponderosa State Park for a hike on the Meadow Marsh Loop. We managed to drive past the trailhead but on the way back we spied a very tame deer munching along the road. The blackbird in front of her spent a little while perched on her back.

Deer Ponderosa State Park

We found the parking lot for the trailhead okay and set out through a sunny meadow where I found White Gentian (Frasera montana).   

White Gentian (Frasera montana)

White Mariposa Lilies (Calochortus nuttallii)

White Mariposa Lilies (Calochortus nuttallii)

Silky-Lupine (Lupinusvsericeus)

Silky-Lupine (Lupinusvsericeus)

And a penstemon that might be Wilcox’s or might be something else.


The trail then goes into the woods where there are wonderful examples of Ponderosa Pine. Here’s Walter standing in front of one of the bigger ones.

Walter Cooke Ponderosa State Park

Along the forest floor there were lots of Queen’s Cup (Clintonia uniflora) in bloom. Remember that we saw these in the state parks in northern Idaho back in early May.   

Queen’s Cup (Clintonia uniflora)

And nearly all the Pink Wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia) were in bloom too.

 Pink Wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia)

This is a plant we’ve seen from Oregon all the way up into Alaska.

 Pink Wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia)

Nearby I saw this white moth resting with it’s wings in the sun.

White moth or butterfly

Further along there were big patches of Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) a flower I saw for the first time in Alaska.  

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis)

The huckleberries were just getting ripe. After the long weekend they were pretty picked out but I found a few that were on the sweet side of tart.


There was a bit of White Spirea (Spiraea betulifolia) in bloom here and there.

White Spirea (Spiraea betulifolia)

And the twin-berries (Lonicera involucrata) we’d seen in bloom earlier in the season now had bright red berries.

Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

We came through a patch of these strange tall stalks that I think are Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)—at least that’s the only thing they even look vaguely similar to in my Idaho flower book.

Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)

The trail continues its way through the woods until it arrives at the Meadow Marsh.

Meadow Marsh Ponderosa State Park

According to the sign here, the marsh was formed by a giant block of ice left by glaciers 16,000 years ago. The melting ice created a water-filled depression that has slowly filled with silt and meadow plants.

There were a few examples of Subalpine Spirea (Spiraea splendens) along the edges of the meadow.  

Subalpine Spirea (Spiraea splendens)

Near the end of the trail I found a few Canadian Milk-vetch (Astragalus canadensis).

Canadian Milk-vetch (Astragalus canadensis)

It was a cool day (in the 60’s) and we took our lunch over to sit by the beach. We found a bench in the shade and were both cold by the time we’d eaten our lunches. There weren’t a lot of folks out in the water but there was a jet ski that came by at just the right angle for a photo op.

Jetski Ponderosa State Park

Wednesday July 6th, the campground was actually only 1/2 full—whoo hoo. We did our rounds and then headed up to McCall to do our grocery shopping. Thursday the campground began to fill up again, this time with a HUGE family reunion that would take up about 2/3’s of the sites plus the usual other folks who come up from Boise to play. The forecast had a cold front coming through for the weekend and we’d thought perhaps we’d have some cancellations but every one of them filled up with new reservations so we never did have any empty spots.

In another attempt to simply get away, Thursday July 7th, we took a drive up West Mountain Rd and then up Middle Fork Weiser Road just to see where it went.  

Middle FOrk Weiser Road sign

While this sign says Middle Fork Weiser Road, the street sign said “No Business Road”. Who could resist exploring such a place? We drove up the dirt road (that many folks explore via ATV) which is lined with trees and shrubs so you really can’t see much until we reached the sign for No Business Saddle 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the lake where we started.

No Business Saddle sign

Along the way we spied a Tanager in a tree.


And eventually found a rough dispersed camping area overlooking Jungle Creek where we could have our picnic lunch.

Jungle Creek Idaho

On our way back we got a couple of brief glimpses of the Middle Fork of the Weiser River and I stopped to take photos of the flowers. There were huge swathes of White Mariposa Lily (Calochortus nuttallii) each one set apart from the others but covering whole areas along the road.    

White Mariposa Lily (Calochortus nuttallii)

I got out to photograph these Rocky Mountain dwarf sunflowers (Helianthella uniflora)

 Rocky Mountain dwarf sunflowers (Helianthella uniflora)

And found some Idaho Licorice-root (Ligusticum tenuifolium) while I was at it. It had really lovely fine foliage.

Idaho Licorice-root (Ligusticum tenuifolium)

We got a few glimpses of the Payette River as we came back down but you really can’t see it well until you’re back down on West Mountain Road where it’s starting to back up to form Lake Cascade.

North end Lake Cascade

Down here the Rocky Mountain Canada Goldenrod (Solidago lepida) was in full bloom.  

Rocky Mountain Canada Goldenrod (Solidago lepida)

That night we had clouds and that helped make a subtle sunset over Lake Cascade.

Sunset Lake Cascade

Friday July 8th, the campground was full—in fact fuller than it had been for 4th of July since nearly site with folks from the family reunion had multiple cars and LOTS of tents.

We had rain on Saturday morning but by afternoon it cleared and warmed up a bit. By this point I was so tired I could hardly see straight. Last year, we managed to always get a good break between weekends. This year we had several weeks with little or no break and the huge crowds of the previous 2 weekends added to the crowds of this weekend were really wearing me down. Doing rounds was a challenge every time. We had tons of tents and that means that the bathrooms needed toilet paper every time we went out to check them. People showed up to ask questions and make requests at all hours. And of course there were dogs and kids everywhere.

The best part of Saturday however was the sunset. To the north we had peach.  

Sunset Lake Cascade

And all around us to the south and west the sky lit up pink.

Sunset Lake Cascade

Sunday July 10th it was cold and wet pretty much all day. The family reunion was planning a big to do and they put out canopies on the central lawn that proceeded to tumble and collapse in the wind right away. There were tents collapsing in every direction and people running about in the cold rain trying to tie things down. We did our rounds (more TP all around) and set out to Donnelly to do the laundry. The parking lot at the laundry was flooded and that made it a bit of a challenge to get to the door but we managed. It was nice to be dry and warm for a couple of hours without having to listen to the rain on the roof.

When we got back to the campground it was quiet. The family reunion folks had taken off (to a friend’s cabin we later learned) and left the place pretty much empty. We had a few new folks coming in (yet another couple of small gatherings taking up 3 or 4 sites a piece) but it was wonderful just to have the place quiet for the afternoon. We only wished it would go on and on.

The rain stopped late in the afternoon and the family reunion returned. Temperatures dropped into the low 40’s (warmer than forecast because the clouds didn’t move out as quickly as they had thought) and that certainly drove folks into their tents early that night.

On Monday July 11th—our last full day at Huckleberry—we were still 3/4 full. Yet another family reunion was arriving and the number of cars was still through the roof. I had a really bad case of Senior-itis at this point and decided I just wouldn’t talk to the last few folks with extra cars. If the rangers didn’t care, why should I? Of course, when someone left their Mercedes parked so that it was blocking the drive and the trash truck was on it’s way there was nothing to do but ask them to move it. And of course someone had gone off with the keys. The trash truck made it around the car okay and boy were we grateful for that because our dumpsters were FULL.

I updated the reservation signs (a challenge because they were wet and the dry eraser stuff doesn’t work at all when it’s wet) and then we headed up to McCall one more time to do grocery shopping. The clouds were lifting and you could see that once again there was fresh snow on the mountains to the east.  

Fresh snow July 11th McCall ID

Snow on July 11th? Yes, it’s true. In fact, there have been years when there has been snow in McCall and Cascade for 4th of July. The weather this year sure was different than it was last year where it was HOT and in the 90s all of June and much of July.

On Tuesday July 12th, I updated the reservations signs one last time and we packed up and motored out of Huckleberry Campground. The two months we spent here is the longest we’ve stayed put in one place in the 2 years plus we’ve been on the road. We were both tired and glad to be going. It’s a beautiful place and the staff here is wonderful but Huckleberry was just too busy for us this year.