My Summer Travels in the High Desert

31 August, 2023 6 comments Leave a comment

Flaming Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

I grew up in northern Ontario near Algonquin Park, and my formative years were spent on the Canadian Shield, a land of rocks and pristine blue lakes and rivers. As an adult, my art now centers on the wild scenery I learned to love in my youth.

When my husband and I spent several weeks exploring high desert regions of the USA earlier this summer, I was surprised to discover the most beautiful places we visited also featured rock and blue water.

Over the course of three weeks, we sampled the scenic delights of Wyoming, northern Utah, Idaho, and eastern Washington. In this post I am sharing my favourite photos of the dramatically beautiful landscape we discovered there.

Richardson rig, photo by Karen Richardson

Our mode of travel is a pickup truck towing our 2021 Airstream Classic 30-foot travel trailer.

I think of our recreational vehicle as a moveable condo, with all the comforts of home including full kitchen, 3-piece bathroom, bedroom, dining area, lounge, art studio, and internet access to support all our entertainment and communication needs.

We began our trip in early June, crossing from Ontario into the USA at Niagara Falls, and headed straight west to Wyoming.

Airstream rally, photo by Karen Richardson

Our main reason for going there was to spend an exciting, informative week at the 2023 Airstream Club International Rally, held at a huge outdoor events complex in Rock Springs.

Ours was one of 1,200 Airstream trailers and motor homes hosted at the site, each provided with full utility connections. In this photo, taken by a drone flown by one of the 2,300 attendees, you can see about a quarter of the Airstreams camped there.

Flaming Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

At the rally, we met tons of friendly, interesting people, got to see inside vintage trailers, and attended a variety of camping-related seminars.

For example, I went to two Instant Pot cooking demonstration sessions and my husband learned about optimizing solar power on trailers, and tire maintenance.

One day, we went on a sight-seeing bus trip to tour around the 91-mile long Flaming Gorge reservoir, pictured here and at the top of this article.

We both enjoyed the rally trade show offering travel accessories and equipment for sale, and I volunteered at a fund-raising art show to benefit a local charity.

Wyoming storm clouds, photo by Karen Richardson

In the evenings, there were themed dances and concerts, and star gazing with telescopes.

One of the aspects I loved about the high desert was the dramatic and huge skies we saw there.

With no large trees to block the view, one could appreciate the vastness of the weather patterns in all directions.

I took this photo of an approaching rain storm from our trailer at the rally one evening.

Indian Bathtub rocks, photo by Karen Richardson

Elsewhere in Wyoming, we hiked on Indian Bathtubs Trail to see some interesting granite rock formations, shown here. The rocks have unusual depressions caused by natural erosion.

According to legend, when the Great Spirit decided to give rain, Native Americans played in these 'tubs'.

As we journeyed on through southern Idaho, we were very keen to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to see the lava fields there.

Craters of the Moon lava cave, photo by Karen Richardson

The most interesting feature was the lava tubes. These are natural conduits formed by lava flowing from volcanic vents.

The surface lava cools and hardens, forming tubes that later become empty underground caves after the hot lava drains away.

Over millions of years, the roof of the caves collapses here and there, creating access openings to the underground tunnels.

In this photo, my husband is pictured inside one of the huge caves. The rock debris in front of him is from a collapsed roof.

Snake River at Twin Falls Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

Elsewhere in Idaho, we learned the Snake River aquifer is an important resource, providing sustainable irrigation for farming a wide variety of crops in the desert, including the famed Idaho potato.

When we approached the city of Twin Falls, suddenly this huge Snake River gorge appeared below us. As we stopped to take photos, we were thrilled to see base jumpers leaping off the bridge to parachute into the river.

Shoshone Falls Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

On the other side of town, we stopped by another section of the Snake River to view Shoshone Falls, which is often called 'Niagara of the West'.

It is 212 feet (65 meters) in height, 45 feet (14 meters) higher than Niagara Falls. Shoshone Falls flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide. It was a wondrous sight to behold.

Columbia River, photo by Karen Richardson

The Snake River originates in Wyoming, crosses southern Idaho, and flows west into Washington where it empties into the Columbia River, which is pictured here.

Having spent several weeks in the high desert, I understand how important these large river systems are to the region.

It is uniquely awe-inspiring to drive through an arid desert landscape, full of dusty brown and grey rock, and suddenly come upon a vast ribbon of deep blue life-giving water.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post, where I will share photos from the next leg of our summer journey, as we explored the Pacific Northwest.

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  1. Diane September 30, 2023

    Hi Karen thank you for taking me along your written journey. It’s awe inspiring this part of the states I’ve yet to visit. I can’t wait to see your paintings develop from your photos.

  2. Janet Love September 05, 2023

    Thank you so much for these photos and the story of your travels. I look forward to the next part of your journey. I wanted to let you know Karen, I live vicariously through your artwork, stories, and photos.
    Best wishes

  3. Michael Sloboda September 05, 2023

    Thank you for sharing your experiences on your amazing holiday Karen! That’s my idea of a dream holiday! Myrna and I were out there in 2015 and absolutely loved it! The western culture, breathtaking scenery and big sky still beckon us. It brings back fond memories. There is so much to see and do! Oh and love airstream trailers! My parents had a small one in the 1960’s. 🥰

  4. Norma Crowther September 05, 2023

    Thanks for sharing your travel pics and summary! There are so many glorious places to visit and I’m sure there will be some amazing paintings emerging from your experience!

  5. Susan Drach September 05, 2023

    The High Desert is amazing. I have travelled these areas many times, always more to see. I am enjoying your trip blog.❤️😊🌹

  6. diane skuce/ Ken Skuce September 05, 2023

    beautiful Karen. Thank you for sharing!