Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chugga-Chugga-Choo-Choo!

We just made it back from a long over due trip to LaGrande Oregon where we visited with our dear friends, the Wildmans! We were spoiled with wonderful food, wine, deserts and fun! We had a great time chatting, playing games and watching our cute kiddos play together. They also took us on a group adventure to ride on the Sumpter Valley steam train!
The suspense was killing us as we waited at the station for the train to arrive!

Annyka and Aspyn spotted the train coming from a half mile down the track!
 
Ben was mesmerized as the bell was clanged, the steam billowed, and the train ch-ch-chugged toward the station!

It was an impressive entrance!
 
The friendly conductor waved to the patrons waiting on the station platform! We had a great chat with him during our ride. He also "clipped up" the ticket Benjamin held out to him so proudly. All the way home to Montana, Ben made sure we still had a hold of his ticket for him.
It was a fun coincidence that the number 3 steam train was the train Benjamin got to ride as a new 3-year old. It was almost like it had his name on it. As an added piece of #3 trivia, it turns out that these narrow gauge rails are only 3 feet across.


The men working on the train are all volunteers who love trains. The original narrow gauge Sumpter Valley Railway operated from 1890 - 1947. According to Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration (SVRR Inc.), "Passenger Service brought the biggest gold boom of all." and "Just north of Sumpter, the longest continuous gold ore vein in the world was mined.". When the railroad came to Sumpter, the population was 200 people. In less than one year there were over 9,000. However, that population rapidly dwindled as soon the gold mines began to lose their yield just over a decade later. The railway, then, supported extensive mechanized placer mining along the river until the war. Since 1971 a volunteer organization has worked together to make the Sumpter Valley Railroad operable again and to share their nostalgic rides with the public.

Once the train had stopped at our station, they unhooked the engine, switched rails and drove it around back to be loaded with wood and water for departure. It holds 1375 gallons of water and 1.5 cords of wood.
 
During our ride, our conductor told us all about the train we were on. It runs on the original railroad right of way. It had been purchased in 1915 as a logging engine used in support gold dredge operations which began in 1912. Between logging and gold mining, all of the natural resources for miles to either side of the track were spent. The view from our passenger car was that of miles of discarded dredgings from a gold-hungry time gone by. The only sparse vegetation, we were told, all resulted from seeding done by animal and bird droppings over the many years.
We visited The Sumpter Valley Dredge too. It was a fascinating contraption-of-a-ship created to scoop and sift the Powder River to claim discarded gold mine remnants from the muddy gravel.
 
It was a chilly rainy weekend, but we warmed our hearts watching our kiddos play together!

Now that we are home, and getting unpacked, Benjamin is reminiscing his epic journey! Thank you, Dave and DeAnna, for such a fun and memorable visit!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our Little Raccoon!

We have a raccoon! It is terrorizing our house and is impossible to catch!
It got into the drawers in the bathroom, used these plastic pliers to open chap stick, and then sonicated the contents with David's electric toothbrush.

It is always trouble when a raccoon gets into your tent.

This one can opened up our refrigerator! It helped itself to this cube of butter. Yum?
 
Raccoons are very busy, industrious, little creatures.  Although they are famous for their secretive nocturnal escapades, they can be quite active during the day.
Trying to wake a napping raccoon can be a hazardous activity. We recommend you exercise extreme caution. They should be considered to be armed and dangerous.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hooray for the Ravalli County Fair!

This weekend was the Ravalli County Fair. It was well attended, even though the air was thick with smoke from area wildfires. My parents braved the smoke to come visit their cute grand-kiddos.

Here is the proud Papa.

Here is the happy Grammie.

Dylan came by the house to hang out with us before heading out for a college student road trip. The air quality may have been lowered but we all enjoyed an amazing sunset!

The fair was really fun! We got the full experience; animals, exhibits, food, tractors, dancing, and rides! In the Poultry Barn, there were amazing roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing all over the place. Some of the beautiful hens had layed eggs.

The goats were doing... you know... really cute goat stuff. They would have eaten Ben's socks if he had let them.

They had a lot of kid activities set up; like this produce stand.

This bean bag toss game made different noises, depending on which door the bag went through. Ben is pretty strong, but those doors didn't open very easily. He is close, only because it was effective, not because his aim was poor. He was a pretty good shot, really!

Ben LOVED the Cloggers! He was dancing and clapping along with their ticker-tap shoes. He was pretty sure he could do that if he just had the right shoes.

The rodeo was really fun. Ben told me, as he clapped for the "cowboy chasing the cow", "That's a really good cowboy!". He was pretty impressed by the fast horses too. I am not sure who won the barrel racing competition, but I am pretty sure this cowgirl won "Tallest Cowgirl" at the fair.

Ben made some of the biggest bubbles I have ever seen, thanks to this magic elixir. I think they must have loaded the suds tubs with gallons of glycerin.

The rides were just as fun as we remembered them! We all enjoyed seeing Ben gallop around on the carousel.

Ben had a wrist band so he could ride as many rides as he wanted. He was only interested in wearing a path between the carousel, helicopters, and cars.

We came back, after Ben's nap, so we could really get our money's worth out of that wrist band (and because we can't get enough of that grin).

The red car was very popular. Ben made some friends while sharing his ride.

On their way out of town, we took Grammie and Papa to visit Traveler's Rest interpretive center. It is the only archaeologically-proven campsite of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition. Happy Trails, Grammie and Papa! We love you! Thanks so much for the fun visit and for helping Benjamin celebrate turning three!