Intriguing Antelope Island. An Amazing Detour from a Cyclone Bomb
antelope island

Antelope Island is the largest of 10 islands in the Great Salt Lake

After our great three-day visit to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we are watching the weather very closely. A cyclone bomb is forming in the Pacific.

Our plan is to head down the Oregon Coast  & then hit the redwood forests in Northern California for a few days. We shall see…

The rugged Oregon coast

oregon coast

Cannon Beach on the Oregon Cost is spectacular. And they have sea stacks!

Lunch in Astoria, Oregon is pretty nondescript. Time to head down to Cannon Beach, our first stop on the coast.

Our campsite at Cannon Reach RV Resort is ok, but very muddy. True to our history of never accepting the first spot, we have already moved once. After getting settled in, it is a 20-minute walk to the beach through town.

We are completely gobsmacked (one of Dale’s favorite words). What a magical place.

And Haystack Rock, the big sea stack, you see in the ocean, turns out to be one of the spring seasonal spots for tufted puffins. If they were only here right now!

The cyclone bomb is coming

Cyclone bamb

A cyclone bomb is forming right where we are camping. Yikes!

Day 2. We check the weather & realize we need to get moving. Fast. And not down the Oregon coast as planned.

Winds are predicted to be 70-90 mph with waves as high as 20 feet along the coast over the next 24 hours. Very similar to a category I Hurricane. Yikes!

So just what is a bomb cyclone? A new term for me. If you remember the Storm of the Century (and who doesn’t?), it was a bomb cyclone.

Turns out they are rapidly intensifying storms dropping at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. The lower the atmospheric pressure, the more violent the storm. And this storm is merging with a Category 5 atmospheric river. Way too many weather terms, but they all sound ominous.

Abandoning any idea of continuing down the coast, we start looking at lots of weather maps to see where the winds will be the worst. And of course, all the warnings say “traveling in a high profile vehicle (our Atlas) will be very hazardous”.

Heading toward Salt Lake City seems the best bet. Maybe we can outrun the worst part. Ah, the flexibility of having your own house on wheels! And no reservations.

 

A very windy campsite

antelop island

Gibbs about gets blown away in La Grande, Oregon

Stopping at La Grande Resort in La Grande, Oregon sounds like a good idea. It has been a long driving day with Dale battling the wind.

At check-in, the owner gives us passes to the hot springs which sounds delightful. However, the hot spring is a small swimming pool filled with hot water and you can only go from 9-11 pm. We haven’t been up past 9 pm yet! Plus with Covid…

And it turns out to be our worst night of the trip. The wind howls all night long, rattling & shaking the Underdog for hours. I am convinced there will be a million pieces of Atlas metal strewn all over the RV camp in the morning.

As we get up, the sun is shining and the Atlas is in one piece. Absolutely amazing. But we want to stay ahead of this monster storm so time to hit the road again.

 

The Peregrine Fund

As I look at the map while Dale is battling the wind trying to keep the Underdog on the road, I realize we are going through Boise. Isn’t the World Center for Birds of Prey (also called the Peregrine Fund)  in Boise?

Oh, this is cool. Never in a million years, did I think we would be near this amazing organization. We call their Membership Director & explain this is short notice but can we come in the morning for a tour?

Several of Dale’s sculptures highlighted on our website have the proceeds donated 100% to The Peregrine Fund. A cute burrowing owl called Hallowed Ground and a mantling Harris’s hawk titled The Secret.

antelope island

We get to learn all about the American kestrel in a demonstration.

We arrive for our tour & meet yet again, a passionate group of folks dedicated to conserving birds of prey. Watching their two California condors on exhibit is a treat as these birds are critically endangered. And these birds are huge!

Off exhibit, there are 60 condors being bred to be released into the wild. With the largest captive breeding facility in the world, the Peregrine Fund has raised over 250 condors. From a population in the wild of just 22 birds in the 1980s to over 500 now flying freely in the wild, this is one of conservation’s biggest successes.  

To keep them from becoming too used to humans, they even use goats to mow the lawn!  You can learn more about their program at California Condor on their website.

Antelope Island

antelope island

An aerial view of the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. Photo: Famartin/Wikipedia

We finally make it to the 7-mile causeway leading to Antelope Island just outside Salt Lake City, Utah. Hopefully, there are camping spots.

Luck is with us! They have just opened a new campground, Bridger Bay, with hookups and there are plenty of spots available.

This is one of those places that looks intriguing on the Internet, but until 2 days ago, we had never heard of it. Surrounded by the Great Salt Lake which is five times saltier than the ocean, the island is a mere 15 miles long.

And the wildlife is supposed to be spectacular. Pronghorns, mule deer, bighorn sheep and bison reside on the island. Plus it is a birder’s paradise with millions of gulls & shorebirds (in season) flocking to the lake. Not to mention the owls, migrant songbirds & falcons.

 

 

Bison or Buffalo?

antelope island

Bison or buffalo?

As we set up, bison are grazing just off to the side of us. Very cool. Of course, dumb me opens the door to get a better photo & they all run off. I should know better.

So what is the difference between bison & buffalo? It turns out a lot. No buffalo roam the US as the old song “Home on the Range” wants you to believe. There are 2 kinds of buffalo, water buffalo & cape, both of which live in Africa & Asia.

In the US, we have bison. Almost 500,000, up from less than 1,000 in the early 1900s. Another great conservation success story.  On Antelope Island, about 500-700 roam free.

As to seeing other wildlife? Not so much. Most of the island is inaccessible by car and it is way too windy & cold for a long hike. Almost all the birds have left for the winter, so we are content to watch the bison from about 20 feet in front of our RV. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

 

 

Gibbs & Antelope Island

 

antelope island

Gibbs doesn’t think much of the bison.

Gibbs takes one look at the bison and starts barking. Man, these guys are much bigger than the squirrels back home!

But after about a minute, he loses interest and snuggles up to his favorite stuffed animal, Mrs. Beaver. Time for a nap, plus it is cold outside.

And what about the cyclone bomb? It turns out to have been the most powerful cyclone ever recorded for the Pacific Northwest. So glad we changed course. And just look at all the cool things we discovered, like Antelope Island.

Next up; Arches, Mesa Verde & Bandolier National Monument. Plus a surprise visit to see sister Cindy in Sante Fe. And another chance meeting with an Atlas owner!

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Weiler Woods for Wildlife Inc is a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization. EIN #87-4584220

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