Old Idaho State Pen.

On our last road trip in the first week of September, Devon & I decided to do something we’ve never done before… we stayed in hotels the whole trip… sort of our own version of “glamping’. With four hotels booked for our annual trek down to Moab UT, we now had a time line & goals for each leg of our journey. No pressure at all for us since Devon is a champ behind the wheel & we always make good time. I shouldn’t be surprised but seeing her drive for ten hours straight is still impressive.

These stops, chosen randomly, allowed us to see & visit new places. One such place is the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, said to be the most haunted place in all of U.S. The prison, decommissioned in 1973, has been featured on several occult & afterlife programs. This was on our list of places to visit and it’s been on Devon’s radar for at least a year.

Driving down Old Penitentiary Road the area surrounding the prison is Mayberry-esk. It’s shocking to see how close to civilians the prison actually is. We were expecting it to be way out in some field surrounded by nothing. The manicured acreage & well maintained foliage belies the horrors behind the 17 foot walls. There’s a spooky feeling just pulling up to a parking stall. After asking a nice lady in a kiosk about the entrance, she points us in the opposite direction & we walk our way up the end of the road to the front doors. The hand carved stone gutters and sidewalks are a physical reminder of the hard labour the convicts were subjected to. Their punishment left behind a rugged beauty for visitors to enjoy today. Stepping up to & passing through the main entrance, you are greeted by two employees who welcome you to the prison. After visiting a small room on the left with well laid out poster boards & stories about well and lesser known prisoners, you enter the prison theatre where they’re viewing a short movie about the origins of the pen. Stepping back into the room & once again out into the main building you’re then given a map & are left to begin the self guided walking tour.

Devon in cell house 2.
Devon in cell house 2.
This is arguably the coolest & creepiest tour we’ve ever taken. Walking down a long pathway through a tidy green space we enter the first building on our right, cell house 2. Build in 1899, this housed cons in two-man cells. Each containing a “honey bucket” as a toilet. Upon our first look inside we can see that this was run down with obvious signs of a fire. The inmates rioted over living conditions & burned down several buildings in 1973. This was one of the few you were able to enter. The other side of the building was still condemned & boarded up. Devon stepped into the first cell & immediately felt an overwhelming sense of foreboding apprehension. When I stepped inside the cell, I was struck by a sense of unbearable sadness. There was definitely a chill in the air. We walked to the far side of the building & took some pictures of the burnt out upper tier then we made our way back outside & on to the next building.

Devon's prison shower.
Devon’s prison shower.
This was possibly the eeriest building we entered. The only maximum security building on site, this was a place of great sorrow & a permanent place of solitary confinement. There was nothing out of the ordinary on the first level of the building. Considered to be one of the more modern buildings, it had running water. There was a shower built into one of the walls where prisoners were forced to shower out in the open, in full view of other convicts. It was only when we made our way upstairs that Devon & I both felt an incredible sense of intense creepiness. The hair on the back of our necks stood straight up. We both felt a temperature change when we ascended the stairs to the upper tier. To the left was the dreaded death row. Only seven cells, each one outfitted with the sole occupant’s worldly possessions: a pack of cigarettes, some chewing gum, a deck of playing cards, a small radio & a tv. This was all these poor individuals had. The stark contrast between their meager belongings & our seemingly opulent lives arrives like a hard smack to the face. Left of death row was the gallows, every bit as creepy as it sounds. Below that, the drop room. Although this building wasn’t in use very long & closed promptly after it’s first & only casualty of capital punishment met his end, a heavy sense of unending dread clung to the air as though it had stood the test of time ad infinitum.

Death row cell.
Death row cell.
Old Idaho State Penitentiary was in operation for 101 years and is home to more stories with sad endings than you or I could imagine. More lives ended in the famed rose garden (six in all) than in the gallows (just one). Building number one housed the two cruelest spaces on the pens soil, the Cooler & Siberia. These were solitary confinement. The cooler, meant for singular occupancy, had cells which held 4-6 men. Siberia, built in 1926 on the other end of the building, housed twelve 3′ x 8′ cells with one inmate per cell. I stepped inside one of these cells; cramped, damp, with crude drawings etched into the walls & no windows to speak of. These cells were so small I could touch both walls with my arms outstretched. They were pitch black when the doors were closed & offered no comfort. Siberia was the last place you wanted to do your time. An untimely death would have been met with open arms rather than time there. Although the penitentiary had walls just 17 feet high, very few prisoners attempted escape. One inmate made it over the walls & down the length of Old Penitentiary Road where he managed to remove his leg iron. Upon removal of his shackles, he promptly sat down & awaited his capture & return to the pen. His leg iron is now on display in the museum at the prison.

Devon & I enjoyed our visit to the penitentiary. It was worth the trip there with plenty of stories & sorrows. I can understand why photographers go there as each building offers a different take on prison life. Some colourful, some bleak. If given the opportunity, I would definitely visit the place again. Some sites deserve more time & in a prison, all you have is time.

– Jade

Advertisements

RV or Tiny House

To RV or to Tiny House.

That’s my question right now, Jade and I have had these dreams for 4 years to get an RV and travel. We’ve worked hard at eliminating our debt and saving our money, downsizing our belongings and getting things in order to hit the open road and be free.

A month ago I saw an article online about tiny houses built on trailers and you can tow them… WTH! Amazing right! I fell in love instantly, I could have all the comforts of a house and tow it behind me and travel. I started following a couple blogs about tiny houses and a few couples who travel the USA in them. It’s do-able. It makes sense.

Now I am at a cross road, RV or Tiny house. Each has its pros vs cons. I’ve made the list, it’s currently on my HUGE whiteboard beside my desk in the office. RV pro/con and Tiny house Pro/con, I add to it every day. I text myself things for the list when I get home.

My question to you is, have you experienced either? Do you live and travel in an RV or a tiny house?? I would LOVE to hear from you and hear your experiences. I would LOVE to ask a million stupid questions if you are open to it.

Please get in contact with me at:  frugaltrekker@gmail.com I want to hear from people out there living it, living the dream they have. 🙂

We are getting down to the wire on what we want and making the necessary purchases. It’s a VERY exciting time in our lives and I can’t wait. I’m not one to jump into a big life decision quickly, I pro and con the hell out of it.

-Devon.

Utah is BEAUTIFUL

Crows at sunset

Devon atop Double Arch

Windows section of Arches

Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Face-timing in Arches National Park :)
Face-timing in Arches National Park 🙂

Sandstone

Double Arch

dead wood

Trust your Journey

Overlook at Mesa arch
Overlook at Mesa arch

Arches national park

Big rocks :)

on the way to the LaSal mountains
on the way to the LaSal mountains

Oohwah Lake

trekker

Squirrel friend

lookout at Canyonlands National Park
lookout at Canyonlands National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park

Balanced Rock @ sunset

Antelope island
Antelope island
Hidden arches on 13 mile hike
Hidden arches on 13 mile hike
Storms over the Colorado River
Storms over the Colorado River

Mill Fork Cemetery.

We’ve zipped past this a dozen times on our annual drive down to Moab UT. Each time we both say, “Dang! We missed it again. Next time!” Well… next time finally happened. Ironically, we missed the entrance on our way down but we managed to take the time to stop and check out this semi-hidden jewel on our way back home.

Mill Fork is a ghost town, established in 1837 and abandoned by homesteaders in the 1930s. It’s located in the Spanish Fork Canyon. Based around and named for the sawmills, at its height the town boasted some 250 inhabitants. It was an important part of the railroad development through the canyon and upon completion the town & its resources dried up like the earth surrounding it. All that remains of the town is the cemetery offset from the busy highway camouflaged by the tall grass that is typical of the area. The arched entrance to the small, well-tended to cemetery is a landmark on U.S. Route 6 between Spanish Fork & Price UT.

The ancestors from three families, the Atwoods, Chadwicks & the Elliotts, are responsible for the maintenance of this tiny reminder of a long since forgotten town and its history. Without their tireless efforts, most of the 16 known residents of the cemetery would have been forever lost or unknown along with their tragic stories. Up until 2005, no one had known exactly how many souls where forever marked on the unforgiving terrain, their names a mystery shrouded in the dust and decay.

The Mill Fork Cemetery entrance.
The Mill Fork Cemetery entrance.

We pulled off of the highway and drove under the arched sign and parked in the small area levelled out for visitors. We grabbed our cameras and started our way on foot and I was surprised to feel an overwhelming sense of calm wash over me after crossing a run down bridge into the cemetery proper. Devon & I had thought being in such a place would have given us both the worst case of the heebs. The fenced in cemetery with its carefully planted trees had an eerily soothing feeling to it. Being mindful not to step on any of the residents we both walked about reading their headstones in sombre silence while taking pictures. I left a coin on the main marker bearing the cemetery’s name. This slab feels original. Legend has it that leaving coins helped the spirits pay the toll to have the gates of Heaven opened for them. This is especially important to do so in a place where most of the inhabitants are children. Leaving coins also lets others know that people have visited.

The original Mill Fork headstone.
The original Mill Fork headstone.

Devon wandered off on her own & I found the visitors book in a neat looking box with a pen. I thumbed through the pages and read some comments before flipping to a crisp page to leave a message of my own. I then returned the book to its rightful place and locked the door. We went through each section at a time. The family plots were distinctly marked with separate fencing and gates. I’m no stranger to cemeteries, I actually find them both beautiful & calming. I will say this… the markers for the children were the smallest I have ever seen.

The earliest inhabitants, the Finch children. Interred June of 1893.
The earliest inhabitants, the Finch children. Interred June of 1893.

I looked up a few facts about Mill Fork before we arrived and it turns out the cemetery is steeped in tragedy. Two such events stand out for me. The earliest inhabitants were three little girls, sisters, who perished due to scarlet fever in June of 1893. The youngest, Edna Vivian Finch, just 1 year old.

Even more shocking than that is the story of Paris & Voila Chadwick Ballard. The two met, fell in love and married. Years later, in 1919, Paris took a job as a range rider on Antelope Island (another of our favourite spots). The Ballards had to relocate to Salt Lake City for this job. As Paris was away for work, Voila spent more time with her first cousin, H.A. Hill. Paris grew paranoid & jealous of anyone who spent time with his wife. Voila’s cousin ate supper with her & her sister almost every night. When Paris came home, he grew increasingly jealous of Hill because of his constant presence. After one particularly bad argument where Paris had threatened to kill his comely wife, Voila & Hill went to the police station to report it. Voila was then accompanied home by the deputy sheriff, where they discovered that Paris was gone, so the deputy left. Paris had taken his clothes, making it appear that he had returned to Antelope Island… he had not. He purchased a gun & ammunition the next morning and returned to his apartment to confront his wife. After a heated exchange neighbours heard two quick shots followed by her screams. Seconds later, two more shots rang out. Then there was silence. When officers arrived they found two bodies. Paris lay on the bed, barely breathing… he died in hospital eight hours later. Voila lay dead between his feet. There is still speculation today among their ancestors whether his jealousy was merited.

The sad final chapter in the Ballard's lives.
The sad final chapter in the Ballard’s lives.

Mill Fork came about in the pioneer days, bringing much needed jobs with the expansion of the railroads and the industrial revolution brought the demise of the town altogether. The beautiful arched entrance, in its simplicity, stands as the constant sole reminder of this long gone town. Without the dedicated work of these three families this cemetery would have been but a faint mark in an obscure history book ignored on a dusty shelf in a tiny library in some forgotten small town. Due to their efforts, the cemetery, like its inhabitants buried within its sheltering fence, has undergone a resurrection.

I’m glad we took a few minutes to finally stop and visit. It was worth the wait.

– Jade

Big Love in a Small Town.

There’s something to be said about growing up in a small town. What might be better than that? Growing up in a village. During the May long weekend Devon & I were invited to and enjoyed an adventure in such a place. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s a place called Chase.

The scenic village of Chase, BC nestled near the base of the Shuswap is a vibrant community of lush green pastures mixed with unpredictable weather and warm locals who are quick to smile and chat about random topics at the drop of a hat. It’s a place where outdoorsy individuals either visit seasonally, move to upon retirement or for some lucky humans, grow up in.

Our good friends Ben & Rhonda sent an open invitation to come along with them to take advantage of her parents quite vacant and very charming character home. With only minor pondering and thoughtful pro & conning, we welcomed the opportunity to venture into Pleasantville.

I’ll just highlight some items from here on out.

McAllister Manor (as I dubbed Rhonda’s folks’ casa) felt like home the second I crossed the threshold. Equal parts country home to upscale cabin in the woods, I was quite surprised at how quickly we four fell asleep. It could have been our midnight adjacent arrival but I’m more certain that the house’s energy was warm, balanced and welcoming.

We spent the next three days poking our heads into very cool mom ’n’ pop shops with an amazing selection of arts, crafts, organic, homemade products and more locally grown produce that I can shake my fist at. The handcrafted First Nations items were of particular interest.

*editors’ note: The “Safety Mart” store does NOT have anything to do with safety. I had every intention of bubble wrapping Devon and “gently” shoving her down a hill for some redneck zorbing.

Three Sisters Falls.
Three Sisters Falls & the Thompson River.
The Three Sisters waterfalls (formerly called Chase Creek Falls) located in and around the Mt. Scatchard Switchback Trails (rated easy) near the south end of town were refreshingly misty. The Thompson River and its offshoot arms were raging and swollen (If you’re an avid angler, Chase is the place for you.) making the tiny trek up the banks mildly treacherous and at one point, completely impassable. The water’s power managed to drown out the Trans Canada Hwy we ducked under via the underpass.

Rhonda’s parents were amazing hosts. (I could explain further but this statement sums it up.)

Niskonlith Lake & the rebuilt pier.
Niskonlith Lake & the rebuilt pier.
We also took a scenic drive onto Niskonlith land with the destination of Niskonlith Lake Provincial Park. Along the way you observe wild horses, cows and if you’re really lucky, Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. With two vehicles, six adults & four dogs in our caravan and minor barking along the drive in, we enjoyed walking along the gravel road, snapping photos and running the dogs. The lake itself is beautiful which is an odd statement as I’ve yet to come across an ugly one. It was here that we observed a falcon eating a fish on a burnt tree leaning over the Niskonlith (sorry, no photo as we were too enthralled with the beauty of it all). It was also here that two of our handy capable dogs somersaulted down the embankment for a quick dip. Two of the most graceful bails I have ever witnessed.

To stave off some downpour boredom Devon thought it funny to use the DR-HO’s Dual Muscle Therapy System as a means of amusement. After placing the pads on her biceps, she literally almost punched herself in the face. Amazing. Ben put both pads on his right foot and with Rhonda at the controls he practically fell over the top of the barcalounger. Also amazing. It’s quite frightening to have your partner in control of essentially, a mini AED. *please use this equipment properly. I nixed Devon’s idea of her putting the pads on her chesticles as it is way to close to the heart. Know your limit and use safe words.* It sure sounds like I’m a bit of a kill joy, but she had me looking like Frankenstein’s monster with the pads placed on my triceps. Youch. Good times.

What I took home from this micro staycation… we live in an amazing province which I haven’t given myself the time to explore. Shame on me. Something else I took home with me? Just how lucky Rhonda is to have such a wonderful hometown.

Mt. Scatchard
Mt. Scatchard
Would I go back again? Definitely. Should you make a run up to Chase? It would be an injustice not to.

“Nothing is more expensive that a missed opportunity.” – H Jackson Browne Jr.

– Jade

Road Woes…

I had left SLC heading south to warmer weather and to a few other places AND surprises. At about 9:30am I hit a gas station for a fill up and was texting a friend about how warm it was outside. She was telling me it was raining back home so of course, being the douche that I am, I FB some photos of the sunny weather I was having and tagged her in them.

The photo that had karma catch up with me
The photo that had karma catch up with me

Not even one hour later karma was out for me. Driving down the highway from SLC to Vegas I noticed my car shake in a weird fashion then all of a sudden, BOOM, my back passenger tire explodes!! All over the highway is tire “guts” from my car. The car swerves left then right, I’m on the e-brake trying to get it under control. I manage to get the car off the NOT AT ALL busy highway. I flick on my hazards and start looking in my wallet for my AAA card… not there… I’m looking in my glove box when I hear a honk behind me. It’s a flatbed tow truck! YAY! I’ve been saved!

1 yr old rescued shop dog :)
1 yr old rescued shop dog 🙂

This little old man with an oxygen tank strapped to his back gets out of the truck and wanders over to me. “Seems you need some help, ma’am.” Uh, duh! ☺ I explain I don’t know where I am and DO need the help. It turns out Kevin, old dude’s name, has a shop in the next town over so we get Smelly car up and on the flatbed and off we go. 10 minutes down the road, we hit the town and his gas station/shop.

My car is put up on a lift and his shop hand, a lovely dude named Bruce, gets working. Bruce was an older guy, probably my dad’s age; he had 2 rescue dogs that I played with until the damn POM (with no teeth) bit me. The best part of this story is I had ordered a new credit card before I left for my trip that I had originally planned with a friend and of course it didn’t come in time. I ended up calling my friend Rhonda and she helped me out. I have kickass friends, yo!!! I found out when I got home my new credit card arrived that Wednesday afternoon… go figure!

My car Smelly Jr jr (don't judge her name) getting new "shoes"
My car Smelly Jr jr (don’t judge her name) getting new “shoes”

Bruce and I exchanged road stories while he was fixing my car up. Sometimes you hear of women getting taken advantage of in these situations but Kevin and Bruce were AMAZING! Not only did they fix my car, they fixed a couple other potential issues for free, filled up my gas and when I asked what town I was in, gave me 2 free t-shirts saying where… BEAVER, UTAH!

So if you’re ever in Beaver Utah, stop by the Conoco and say hi to Kevin and Bruce, tell them Devon, the tattooed Canadian, sent you.

And also… NEVER EVER tease your friends about the weather and your travels or you’ll end up with karma hitting you back, sorry Ashley.

– Devon

Salt Lake city and the mighty mighty Bison

The vegan buffalo sandwich!
The vegan buffalo sandwich!
Yes, I drove to Salt Lake city for a sandwich, don’t judge me. It wasn’t the only reason, I LOVE SLC. The town, the people, even the religion going on in the city. 🙂 I still didn’t really have a destination for my trip so I decided to spend a few days around the SLC area and go camping up at Antelope Island. It was so peaceful.

I got in around 2pm, got my sandwich(es) and made camp. I set off to explore the island some more and was met by these two very lovely students from BYU. We talked roadtrips. I told them the best places to see the bison on the island and soon we parted ways.

I took off to the other side of the island to catch the sunset. Having been to the island once before, I had a good idea where I was heading. I was told by the park ranger earlier that evening that only four other groups were camping on the island that night… that put the head count at about a dozen people on Antelope Island that night, CRAZY!

Wandering the streets of Antelope Island
Wandering the streets of Antelope Island

I must say watching the sunset from the roof of my car was a highlight of the trip. I pulled over to the side of the road, climbed up onto the roof of my Honda Fit and just laid there taking in everything around me. No phones, no cameras, no distractions.

Bison

Watching the sun setting off in the distance and as I lay there taking in the scene, three bison walked over to my car to sniff it. Remember, I am on the roof sans phone or camera, just watching the sunset. I’m laying flat on the roof of the car so as not to startle the bison, when all of a sudden the three of them move towards the trunk of my
car to give it a sniff (I’m sure they are smelling my dog). I flip over to my stomach ever so calmly so now I am laying the entire length of my car (on the roof). I could have reached out and touched the bison but no, instead I just laid there watching in awe as they sniffed around my car, grunted a few times then wandered off. My heart was RACING. A total Jurassic park moment for me… Cue the music 🙂

After the sun set over the hills, I hopped back into my car and took off for camp. When I ran into those same three bison again, I jumped out of the car and grabbed this photo of them, wished them a peaceful night and back to camp I went. I watched a movie in the car and fell asleep being sure to set my alarm for the sunrise that would be anything but lame. 🙂 Utah, you are one of my favourite states!! 🙂

Sunset on Antelope island
Sunset on Antelope island

– Devon