Sunday, June 15, 2008

Uncharted Retreat a Success

Since I haven't done any shilling for here as of late, now is probably a good time. Uncharted, for the uninitiated, is a place where people can go to share their experiences with the places they love with other people across the world who are doing the same. Share stories, photos, videos and sounds of your favorite camping site, your favorite museum, your favorite out-of-the-way nook, but not your absolute favorite place, lest it become discovered and you get crowded out.

For example, here's a story going up on Uncharted soon, with pix:

Whistlers’ Campsite

Meadow Lake denizens willing to entertain, be entertained

In the shady patches behind boulders and thick stands of conifers, snow still lays piled at least a yard high. The calendar tells us this is the Fourth of July weekend, but it appears snow at 9,300 feet likes to stick around for the fireworks.

Where the sun shines through the trees to the ground, lithe wildflowers, yellow and white, blossom over a carpet of short grass and flowers that will turn into mountain strawberries.

To the south of this tiny alpine meadow, grey mountains loom, streaked with the white of snow and the tumbled black of avalanches bare of trees.

At their feet, Meadow Lake mirrors the blue sky, cirrus clouds, mountaintops – where the surface is free of winter’s ice.


The drip of water off our canoe paddles, the hollow bonk of wood against the aluminum boat.

Rushing water, tumbling down rocks; water white as snow still on the banks.

Reverent breath of air through the conifer boughs.

If we are quiet, Mother Nature returns the favor.

But near the rocks on the west side of the lake, whistling.

Near the rocks, where a stream careens into the lake, a whistling. We anchor the canoe and watch the rocks. No wind causes the whistling.

Between the rock and snowbank, brown faces peer out at us. Further up the scree, more brown faces peer. A whistle. The brown faces disappear. For a half hour, the rock chucks entertain us, exchanging whistles from their crannies in the rock, watching these two weird creatures bob on the surface of a frosty lake. When we paddle off, a dozen at least clamber to their perches, watching us depart. The wary watch, the others exchange glances, sniffs if they’re close enough. If we return, they dart into the rocks, watching from the shadows. We leave. They emerge. We return. They hide. But they always come out to watch as soon as we’ve turned our backs.

They’re camera-shy, of course. We can see them clearly enough through binoculars if we’re far enough away from their hideouts, but when we approach with the camera, they dart off. So we divide and conquer. My wife stays on the shore near the canoe as I climb up the rocks to the side of their colony. She makes a racket. They pop out to watch. I take their portraits.

They keep us busy the good part of a day. We don’t need any fireworks.

Tip: Meadow Lake is tucked in a secluded cirque in Idaho’s Lemhi mountain range, about 2 ½ hours north of Idaho Falls. Plan on snow if you arrive early in the season – and early appears to be anything before mid- to late July. The site is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service as an official campground, so plan on paying if you stay there. The lake is popular with fishermen and, as we discovered on a trip later in the year, moose.

Getting There: To get there from Idaho Falls, travel north on Interstate 15 to Sage Junction, where State Highway 33 crosses the interstate. Head west on the state highway, then turn northwest on Idaho Highway 28 just past the communities of Terreton and Mud Lake. About halfway between Mud Lake and Leadore, you’ll see a state historical marker labeled “Gilmore Townsite.” Turn off the highway to the west there and travel about five miles through thick forests, gently uphill, to the campsite. Winter is hard on the road, so take a rugged vehicle and be prepared to have a passenger move brush from the road when necessary. Finding brush and branches in the road is a good thing, because that means the campsite is likely not crowded.

Nearby: The gravel road will take you through Gilmore, a turn of the century mining town that went bust in the late 1920s (more on the town here: Many of the town’s original buildings still stand and are open to the curious, but be aware some of them are on private property and have been restored as vacation homes, so don’t wander indiscriminently.

What's upcoming at is really exciting. Right now, we're just running our beta site. What we plan is a full-blown adventurers' community, where people can share photos, stories, video, exchange e-mails, make friends and do just about everything you'd want to do as you interact with people from around the globe. It's exciting. Each adventurer will have his or her own page, kind of a springboard into the world. They can explore the worlds others have created, and exchange ideas. It's the idea that though the world is discovered via Google Maps and folks like Vasco da Gama, it's fairly undiscovered by the rest of us. Here's our chance to discover.

So watch for updates to to occur later this summer -- Our goal is to launch the new product before the leaves fall and the snow flies.

No comments: