November 11, 2017


“Roughing It”— Mark Twain’s first book that chronicles his experiences as a newspaper writer while living in Virginia City

Carol writes:  At this time of year each campground selection moves ever further south, and so autumn tends to persist over several months.  As we pulled into our campground site at the Sparks Marina RV Park, we couldn’t help but notice that fall colors were on full display.

During our stay in the Reno area, we were looking forward to a nice long visit with our daughter.  We were anxious to hear all about her recent stay at an ashram in Rishikesh, India, where she participated in a monthlong school on how to teach yoga.

We were eager to hear what she had learned and to experience some introductory lessons, and now we had our very own yoga teacher staying with us! 

Over the next several mornings we resisted firing up the coffeepot first thing out of bed; instead we grabbed a quick drink of water and quietly moved to our yoga mats.  Under Megan’s instruction, Al and I actually found gentle yoga movements strangely kind to our bodies.  Even the most problematic area in my neck definitely benefitted from the motion and breathing that is an essential part of yoga.

Suffice it to say that Megan’s pictures on the yoga mat were far easier on the eye than ours, so I have stuck to images of the expert… 


The Galus Family has always bonded well on the hiking trail, so it was a unanimous decision that a family hike would be a fun thing to do together.  The fact that the 10-mile roundtrip to the top of Mount Rose was touted as a local gem made our decision easy.

With refreshingly cool mountain air at the trailhead and a magnificent view of Lake Tahoe in the distance, this hike was certainly off to a good start.  

Unlike my husband and daughter, the 2300-ft elevation gain was a bit intimidating to me, but I still felt good with only a mile remaining to the summit.

It helped that the views up high were outstanding.

The climb was a breeze for father and daughter.  Not so much so for me…

It took me a few minutes to soak in the fact I had made it to the summit.  Then I was game for some summit hijinks, and yoga poses were irresistible…

It was no contest who could pose the best!

Due to short October days, this 10-mile hike created a slight time crunch to get back by dark, which in turn meant a bit of a struggle for me on the way down.  I sustained a few ”stumbles” in my effort to get back to the car by sunset; however, in the end, I was quite happy with my Fitbit personal best in terms of steps and miles.

But the best part was doing it as a family…


After Meg’s whirlwind visit, the remainder of our Sparks/Reno stay was low-key and undemanding.  One day we took a drive down to nearby Virginia City, forever enshrined in television history with a blazing Ponderosa Ranch map during the opening theme song of the TV show “Bonanza.”  

The tilted wooden boardwalks fronting saloons and tourist shops gave a Virginia City a credible western ambience.

Inside, massive wooden bars enhanced the feeling of western authenticity.

In 1859 Virginia City achieved world fame with the discovery of the Comstock Lode, one of the richest mining strikes in the world.  Virginia City was named in honor of a one of the early placer miners in Gold Canyon, a Virginian by the name of James “Old Virginny” Finney.

Soon churches,



and what is now a most photographic cemetery were a part of Virginia City frontier life.

Interesting factoid:  

At the age of 27, Samuel Clemens came to Virginia City to begin a writing apprenticeship on the staff of a local newspaper.  Within a year he had adopted the pen name of Mark Twain, and thus an unforgettable giant in American literature was born.


One of Al’s clearest memories from his early years was traveling through Donner Pass in 1964 as his family was moving to a new duty station in California.  Today, Donner Pass is a breeze on Interstate 80, but back in 1846 this unproven shortcut over the Sierra Nevada Mountains created a daunting barrier for the Donner Party.  The infamous Donner-Reed Party spent the winter of 1846-47 snowbound at Donner Pass.  Half of them died and many of the survivors had to resort to cannibalism when food and supplies ran out.

Today, now a part of the historic Lincoln Highway and the Pacific Crest Trail, Donner Lake and Donner Summit reflected a peaceful view

that seemed in such contrast to winter's fierce conditions in 1846 when the Donner Party was trying to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Donner Memorial State Park has done a tasteful job of memorializing the emigrant struggle and the tragic events in Donner Pass during the winter of 1846. 


Back in February 1978, while Al and I were on our honeymoon at Lake Tahoe, we had a very memorable visit to Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics.      

At Squaw Valley I jumped at the opportunity to ice skate on the Olympic skating rink.  As this old pic below from the Internet shows, this skating venue was open to the air on the sides, one of which had a view of the picturesque  Squaw Valley mountains.  

For some reason, skating beneath the Olympic rings as a new bride at Squaw Valley, while looking out on an incredible snowy mountain view, was quite memorable to me.

Fast forward to 2017 for another side trip to Squaw Valley to check out the Olympic venue as we remembered it.  Sadly, once again, we discovered that memory lane had been redesigned—now the typical trappings of a modern ski resort with its pricey condos and tourist shops.  With the exception of 3 historic buildings, all the Olympic venues had been torn down, including the skating rink that held such meaning for me.  An elderly resident of Squaw Valley told me the rink was torn down to make room for a much needed parking lot.  Hmmmm, just goes to show that sometimes memory lanes are precisely that… only memories. 


Our campground was only a short drive from Nevada’s state capital, Carson City, which takes its name from the Carson River which in turn was named in honor of American explorer Kit Carson.  Kit Carson’s spirit and love of the West is honored with his statue on the Nevada Capitol grounds.

However, the show-stopper of the Capitol grounds was the impressive Capitol building itself, constructed out of local sandstone and Alaskan marble.

A grove of stunning fall-colored, over one-hundred-year-old trees enhanced the Victorian beauty that the Capitol exhibited even in its early days.

Inside there were photos contrasting the old historic Supreme Court chamber
with its present-day restoration.

The newer section of the Capitol grounds was likewise  astounding as seen in this pic of the “new” State Supreme Court building.

Such a brilliant fall day was also a good day for a small group of protesters who just wanted to promote “PEACE ON EARTH” so I took a few moments to chat with one woman and to share her sentiment.  I considered this message a good closing meme, so that is how I will close my Nevada blog post.


October 21, 2017


Carol writes:  Southern Idaho was a hotbed of volcanic activity for millions of years, resulting in a hotspot track of ancient volcanic calderas that dot the “smiley face” of the Snake River Plain.

Arco, Idaho was our home for the next week in this very remote part of the country.  We wanted to linger a while as we revisited Craters of the Moon National Monument where we enjoyed a memorable one-night stay during our family year on the road in 1989.

Family Journal Entry from October 1, 1989:

”Wow, what a neat day!  We had a wonderful day exploring Craters of the Moon National Monument… Sometimes the small National Monuments can be as rewarding as the large National Parks and this was one of them.”

A 60-mile-long series of deep fissures known as the Great Rift flows vertically through Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Periodically, over millions of years, this fault zone has served as a pathway for magma deep within the earth to reach the surface.  The most recent eruption 2000 years ago has created a harsh basalt rock landscape destitute of vegetation.

Older lava flows had more diverse vegetation consisting of rabbitbrush in full fall bloom,

and unusual dwarf buckwheat plants spaced precisely according to their water needs.

A hike through the lava fields on a cold, cloudy day along the “Tree Molds Trail” truly felt like a walk on another planet.

On this visit we wanted to spend time inside the lava tubes at Craters of the Moon, so we jumped at the chance to catch one of the ranger-led hikes into these unique formations formed millions of years ago when liquid lava flowed through a tube which had hardened on the outside.  While we waited for the ranger to arrive, we spotted a large gopher snake quite at home in the nooks and crannies of the warm basaltic rock landscape on this cloudless sunny day.

Our ranger-led hike was into Indian Tunnel, named for the mysterious ancient stone circles near the opening of this large lava tube.

The ranger talk in the light-filled 30-ft high opening to the tube was quite informative.  

For me, the boulder-strewn scramble through the tube 

to a small exit hole was a “bit of a challenge.”

Once back up on the trail, we ventured a few hundred feet into another nearby lava tube named Beauty Cave.

Amazingly, we had the lava tube completely to ourselves.

Wow!  Craters of the Moon was certainly a unique representation of the Earth’s geologic diversity.  The  opportunity to explore the lava tubes at a leisurely pace was exactly the experience we had hoped for at Craters of the Moon.


We cut our stay in Arco short by a day.  Snow seemed to be hitting the surrounding mountains with greater regularity, so we were anxious to move south to our next stop in Elko, Nevada.

We imagined that there wouldn’t be a lot to do in a small town like Elko, known more for its gambling than anything else.  It turned out that even in a tiny town situated along Interstate 80 in the middle of northern Nevada there was a lot to investigate.

Interstate 80 across the state of Nevada follows the Humboldt River along a section of the famous 2000-mile “California Trail" emigrant route from Missouri to California. 

The amazing story of the greatest mass migration in American history was nicely told at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko.

Following the discovery of gold in California in 1848, gold seekers from all over the world swarmed the California Trail.  For these hopeful travelers, parts of the journey were brutal through ceaseless prairies of Native American lands, waterless deserts, and unforgiving mountains.  However, despite stories of the infamous 1846 Donner Party, which had to resort to cannibalism to survive when they got stranded for the winter in the pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains, nothing could stem the tide westward.

Manifest Destiny! was the outcry of the age.  Once the secret of the richness and sweetness of California life had been publicized, western expansion was inevitable.

When we asked locals one morning what else there was to do in the Elko area, we were told to be sure and visit Lamoille Canyon, the so-called “Grand Canyon” of Nevada.  We were told its beauty would astound us.  

Just 30 miles from the flatlands around Elko we came to the entrance to Lamoille Canyon, the largest valley in the Ruby Mountains.  At first glance, we were taken aback to see how green the canyon was, 

until we read that the Ruby Mountains are Nevada’s wettest mountain range.  Helpful informational signs along the canyon road pointed out that this canyon was heavily carved by glacial activity in previous ice ages, resulting in the classic U-shaped cross section.  

A picnic along the banks of a snow-fed stream at the end of the canyon was the perfect lunch spot    

in a magnificent canyon with snow covered canyon walls that towered above fall-colored grasses and blooming rabbitbrush.

Lamoille Canyon was just another example that recommendations from locals rarely disappoint us.