July 31, 2004

Glacier to Couer D’Alene

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:23 pm by diandy2004

Driving from Glacier NP to Couer D’Alene, ID

It was hard leaving Glacier because there was so much more to do…if only our bodies could take more. We decided on long driving days to get to Couer d’Alene quickly – we have to be in Seattle by 8/12. We took a slightly different route back, to minimize back-tracking on the same roads. It was a very scenic, 245-mile, 6-hour drive.  We spent one night in a National Forest campground outside Troy, MT. At this point we’ve been boondocking again for over one week. We’re starting to get good at this style of camping. But this also explains why we can’t update the blog as often as other people we know (heh, heh Jim and Chris).

The “loop” from Moscow, ID to Couer D’Alene, ID
We’re back in civilization! And we had to practically do a full loop to get back to a city with phone service, internet access, etc. Since we left Moscow two weeks ago, we’ve gone to Glacier Nat’l Park and back. To understand our “loop”, Moscow is only 81 miles due south of Couer D’Alene. And when we left Moscow, we had to drive north before cutting East, just 21 miles south of Couer D’Alene. I now have a map on our website so you can take a look at our crazy driving pattern – look for the new “map” page.

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July 30, 2004

Glacier National Park

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:22 pm by diandy2004

Our first view of Glacier National Park, coming in from the west, was not dramatic. We expected lots of “ooohhs” and “aaaahs” upon our first sighting of the park. We saw lots of trees and a lake and in the distance a haze-shrouded mountain range. Don’t let first impressions shadow your last impression, however. Our final impression of Glacier?  Awesome.  This rare haze we saw on entering the park was not from air-pollution as we first suspected, but was smoke from fires somewhere in Canada.

The color of the water from these glacial lakes is an incredible blue-green and its clarity is crystal clear.

Cool Blues of Glacier

Cool Blues of Glacier

The mountains, most reaching 8,000-10,000 feet, are artistically painted with green forests, colorful rocks and white snow fields and are so tightly knitted that you don’t know where one stops and another peak starts.

Sun Rays on the Drive

Sun Rays on Going to the Sun Road

One rim which caught our attention is called the Garden Wall. It has windows carved into its narrow glacier-carved ridgeline. One of our first long hikes was along this Wall on a trail called the Highline Trail. Then we took the Grinnell Glacier Overlook spur trail that put us literally on top of the Garden Wall so we could look down both sides of the ridge. On one side we could see not just the Grinnell Glacier, but Salamander Glacier as well. (One thing we learned here in Glacier is that they have projected that all of the glaciers will have melted away by 2030 – so you better go soon!) Even though this spur trail was only 1.5 miles round-trip, it was a killer. 800’ elevation change in .75 miles on shale. Going down is no easier. The views were worth it, though.

Garden Wall

Garden Wall

At the Top

At the Top

Glaciers

Glaciers

Unfortunately we were minutes away from seeing three wolverines – hikers right in front of us got to see them, but they were gone by the time we reached the summit. What a rare sighting – good for them! Apparently if you are going to see wolverines in the US, it will probably only be in Glacier. We did get to see mountain goats, with some kids who had half-inch long stubs as horns.

Hiking with Mountain Goats

Hiking with Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats on Trail

Mountain Goats on Trail

After passing by the Hikers Chalet (a backcountry lodge), we entered a burnt-out area of the forest from a 2003 fire. What’s interesting in a burn is the patterns fire creates in the trees. You could see distinct lines where the fire burnt black, charred trees then a brief line of red damaged pines, and then green life. In other areas, when looking down from above, you can see swirling patterns of black burned into the green. When close-up, you see how the bark becomes charred into an alligator-skin pattern. Life is slowly coming back. The ferns and wildflowers were starting to come up.

Fire Patterns

Fire Patterns

At the end of this one-way hike, Diane had to hitchhike back to our car at the other end (this was her penalty for picking this hike). Luckily, 5 other hikers were able to fit in the bed of the pick-up truck with her – so no fear of disappearing forever 😉

After two nights on the west side we drove to St Mary on the east side. Now, Glacier is a Wilderness Area, so there is only one road that bisects the park – Going to the Sun Road – which cannot accommodate RVs. Heck, with the construction zones it was hard enough to squeeze the Element through some of these barricades. The Going to the Sun Road is a beautiful drive, but if you’re afraid of heights, be warned. The road is narrow (a Suburban touches both yellow and white lines), it is a drop-off on one side and rocks stick out of the wall on the other which made me nervous our kayaks were going to get a chunk removed while driving the inside lane. The road was crumbling in spots and the low 2’ high guard-wall was missing in sections.  With all of the snow they get in the winter, they have to use dynamite to move snow and re-survey before plowing. No wonder their roads are in the shape they are in.

Going to the Sun Road

Going to the Sun Road

So, for us to get to the east-side, we had to drive Hwy 2 around the southern end of the park. This was a 99-mile drive versus the 52-mile long Going to the Sun Road. But it was worth it. Driving in from the east side had us ooohing and aaahing. The mountains are much closer and at the base are the rolling, open pastures you might picture when thinking “Montana”. East of Glacier is all Blackfeet Reservation, which is probably why it is still so open and natural.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier

Glacier

Glacier

Glacier

Our initial plan was to spend a couple of nights touring the St Mary and Many Glacier areas, and then spending a few nights at Two Medicine before heading out. But the challenge with Glacier is that to really see it, you must hoof it. So we decided to leave Two Medicine for another trip in order to better see St Mary and Many Glacier.

Many Glacier Hotel

Many Glacier Hotel

Many of the recommended hikes were 10+ miles long, and our bodies aren’t used to back-to-back hiking like this. We were still recovering from the 13-mile Highline Trail when we did the 10-mile Iceberg Lake trail. This hike, obviously, takes you to a lake studded with icebergs of varying sizes – from hand-size to car-size. We ate lunch lake-side and watched the icebergs slowly move around the lake. The amphitheater shaped mountain wrapping around the lake cast its reflections onto the water. We had to feel the water which was, of course, ice cold. Even the air temperature had dropped over 10 degrees just being on the edge of the lake. The rest of the trail was just as memorable though for its wildflowers. The wildflowers blooming in Glacier are a mix of three regions: the northwest, the plains, and Canada – each reaching their most extended ranges. They were as varied as they were abundant.

Hiking Glacier

Hike to Iceberg Lake

Icebergs

Icebergs

After a Ranger Talk that evening we walked back to the campground (only ¼ mile from the Visitor’s Center) only to see a Grizzly bear walk out of 12’ high shrubs onto the path about 25’ in front of us. He took one look at us and ran down the path, thankfully away from us. Here we’ve been looking for bears on hikes, clapping our hands, making noises and doing all the right things – and one pops up on us near buildings and people. Well, we started making lots of noise after that. We stayed on the bridge near camp talking with people and had another exciting sighting – a beaver swam under the bridge where we were standing. We were so close and the water so clear that we could see his hind feet pushing off the rocks to propel himself forward – walking more than swimming along the bottom. Our first beaver, and a close-up at that.

Our legs are beat, so we decide to take a day off from “hiking”. So we walked four miles and took a 2 ½ hour horse-back ride. Ok, so that wasn’t much of a day-off for our legs. The horse-back ride was out on Blackfeet land with the Montana Ranch Adventures. We chose them because their motto is “Real Cowboys Don’t Ride Nose-to-Tail”, and of course we are real cowboys (or want to be). What fun! It was Andy, Diane, and Brian our Blackfeet guide. We got to trot and lope (maybe not so gracefully for Diane, but Andy looked great). The backdrop along most of our vistas was Glacier’s mountain range. We rode through Aspen forests and cattle pastures, disturbing a few along the way. Brian talked to us about the trees, plants, cattle, mountains, Blackfeet lore and current issues. We’d highly recommend them.

Horseback Riding Glacier

Horseback Riding Glacier

Horseback Riding Glacier

Horseback Riding Glacier

Andy's Horse Happy to be Home

Andy's Horse Happy to be Home

Our last big hike was up and over Siyeh Pass. About 10 ½ miles starting at Siyeh Creek, up to the Pass, and down to Sunrift Gorge. Elevation change on way up was 2240’, and on the way down it was 3440’. Another beautiful hike. I’m starting to doubt there are any bad ones here in Glacier. We did this one with a park ranger – there were seven of us total on this hike. We ate lunch at the Pass, which made you feel like you were on top of the world – so many mountain peaks at eye level – just awesome. We saw two glaciers, several snow-fields, threw a few snow balls, too many waterfalls to count, glacial lakes and glacier-carved valleys. Learned about the rocks in Glacier, wildflowers, how to identify bear scratchings and diggings, about other animals, and whatever other questions we peppered Ranger Richard with during this seven-hour hike.

Ranger-led Tour

Ranger-led Tour

Hiking Pass

Hiking Siyeh Pass

Reaching the Summit

Reaching the Summit

Glacier is now ranking high on our list of National Parks. We’ll place it on our list of parks to re-visit.

July 24, 2004

St Regis, MT – Biking Hiawatha Trail

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 3:51 pm by diandy2004

We took the scenic route from Chatcolet to reach I-90.  Our final destination was St Regis, MT. We drove via Hwy 3 through white pine forests along a narrow, winding road. Surprisingly enough Diane saw a moose and calf drinking from a pond along the road – but not on Hwy 3, they were alongside I-90.

On this drive we left Pacific Time and went back to Mountain Time.  Just around 4:30 on our watches we started to wonder why we were both so hungry so early.  Then we realized that we turned our clocks *back* and not *ahead* – it was really 6:30!  That explained it.  Something tells me this won’t be the first time we make a time-change mistake…

While in St Regis we took our mountain bikes out for the day along the Hiawatha Trail. This Rails-to-Trails ($8 rider fee) is another famous one in the area. The portion we did is the most intriguing  – from East Portal to tunnel #28 – because you bike through 8 tunnels and over 7 wooden and iron trestles. The longest trestle was 850′; the tallest was 230′.  We could’ve done the 15-mile one-way, with a shuttle back up the mountain ($9), but nooooo, we wanted a work-out. So after 10 miles, we turned around and went back up the 1.8% grade, with a 900’ elevation change. It wasn’t too bad.

Riding the Hiawatha Trail

Riding the Hiawatha Trail

The Trestles of Hiawatha

The Trestles of Hiawatha

Crossing a Trestle

Crossing a Trestle

The most challenging aspect of the ride was biking through the pitch-black tunnels. One tunnel is 1.7 miles long. Try to picture it: pitch-black, your headlight doesn’t help much because your eyes haven’t adjusted from the bright sun for the first mile, you hear water dripping from the walls and running down the gutters on both sides, you feel cold water dripping from above and mud splashing up from below, and it’s probably 50 degrees inside. Now imagine it without a headlight – ha! Andy’s batteries were dead, but we didn’t know until we started the ride. He had to follow my rear red light to stay away from the walls of the tunnel. It was so damp and cold inside this long tunnel it felt more like 5 miles. Our fingers went numb and our teeth were chattering. In another smaller tunnel we came across a deer inside. The poor thing got so scared she tried to climb the rock walls to get away.

A Tunnel on Hiawatha

A Tunnel on Hiawatha

Diane at a Tunnel Entrance

Diane at a Tunnel Entrance

Inside a Dark Tunnel

Inside a Dark Tunnel

Along the trail they had interpretive signs posted about the railway and how it went from steam to electric to diesel, about the different types of trains, construction of the rail line, about a big fire in 1909 that the train had to outrun to save everyone on board, and some other interesting facts. A great ride that anyone can do – especially if you do it one-way down hill.

Continuing on our way to Glacier, we spent one night in Kalispell, MT. The main thing we did here was wash a very dirty Spirit. Our RV looks brand new again (well, for the moment). It’s amazing how dirty these vehicles get!!

July 21, 2004

Chatcolet, ID – Heyburn State Park

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:21 pm by diandy2004

It was an interesting drive from Moscow to Heyburn State Park.  There was a 7% grade downhill to contend with, then a single-lane bridge on a blind curve, and even a left-hand turn on another switchback.  Not easy driving for a 49′ vehicle!  There was also a moment when we were near the state park and saw a sign stating “Heyburn” – if we took the turn we would’ve ended up on a fire road going up a vertical hill!

But we arrived at the state park safely.  Our goal was to “get back into nature”. It was a great stepping stone for us. We hiked a couple of miles on the Indian Cliffs Trail through ponderosa pines, firs, hemlock & 800-yr old western red cedars to an overlook where we could see the lake and valley below. On the trails we got to see deer, with spotted-fawns, and wild turkeys (such tall birds).

Hiking Heyburn State Park

Hiking Heyburn State Park

Overlooking Couer D'Alene Lake

Overlooking Couer D'Alene Lake

The second day we rode our road-bikes on the Couer D’Alene Trail, a 73 mile Rails-to-Trails pathway (bisecting the Idaho panhandle from Plummer, ID to Mullan, ID). We started at the Indian Cliffs Trailhead and rode to the Medimont Trailhead for a 43-mile roundtrip ride.  It was beautiful since we were along lakes, creeks, or ponds almost the entire way. And, as it is with most Rails-to-Trails, the trail was wonderfully flat and easy.

Riding The Trail of the Coeur D'Alenes

Riding The Trail of the Coeur D'Alenes

Boat Houses on the Trail

Boat Houses on the Trail

The history behind this rail-to-trail is very interesting. This rail line was used during the mining days to carry silver. The rail bed itself was built on mining waste and tailings containing heavy metals. It was further contaminated by accidental spillage of ore. To contain this “superfund” site, they capped it with stones and asphalt to create the trail. It is supposedly a win-win situation. Right? Some local ranchers and farmers dispute this plan, I guess, from several signs posted on private property referring to it as “The Love Canal of Idaho”. Even the city acknowledges that leakage is still occurring – recommendations for being on the trail include: do not step off of the trail or stones; wash your hands before eating; do not drink any of the water in the area; no fishing; etc. Ironically, there were cows drinking water from this Love Canal and fields of wheat being farmed next to this toxic water. Makes you wonder where your beef is coming from…and what our farm animals are consuming…hhhmmm.

Idaho's Superfund Trail

Idaho's Superfund Trail

This ride, at 43 miles, is the longest we’ve ridden since our once-a-year Mt. Dora’s bike festival in October. A great ride, but our butts wouldn’t agree with that.

July 19, 2004

Moscow, ID – Post-Conference Events

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:53 pm by diandy2004

Yep, we’re still here. We’ve been saying we were going to leave Moscow since Saturday…but the furthest we got was moving from the blacktop parking lot to a grassy field with a better view.

View from our Grassy Lot

View from our Grassy Lot

We have the Same Neighbors

We have the Same Neighbors

Our plans are to leave today, it’s just taken us the two days to map out our plans. Part of our dilemma was that our original plan was to leave Glacier National Park and go north into Canada to see Banff and Jasper. We just learned, however, that you now need a passport or birth certificate to cross the border. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Ours are safely tucked away in our safe deposit box at home. So, for now we’ll have to postpone our trip into Alberta. We will go to Glacier, then cut across to Seattle (most likely via I-90, but who really knows).

We’ve made flight arrangements to go to Philly and Boca Raton. We’ll be in Philly on Aug 12th, then fly to Boca Aug 18th to 24th. Hopefully our luck will continue with Winnebago dealers and we can leave our Spirit in Sequim (“skwim”), WA for repairs while we are flying across the country.

It’ll be weird leaving Jim and Chris. We’ve gotten so comfortable knowing that we could go next door and chat with friends. They are continuing along the Lewis and Clark trail to the Columbia River Gorge. Who knows where or when we’ll cross paths again, but I’m sure we will. You can keep up with them by checking their weblog at www.geeksontour.com if you want to see what other RVers are up to.

July 17, 2004

Moscow, ID – Life on Wheels Conference

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:50 pm by diandy2004

It’s been an interesting week here at the Life On Wheels conference – for several reasons. The conference is at the University of Idaho. We are parked on the campus blacktop parking area and were fortunate to get into the section with electric hookups. Since we’re not skilled at “boondocking”, we figured this was one less thing to worry about. Remember, we’re here for a week living off of a 36 gallon water tank and 56 gallon holding tanks (black and gray combined). As Andy just said – “you guys try that!” Ha! You learn quickly just how much water is wasted in everything you do – showers, hand washing, brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc. This make-shift campground is also tight quarters, so you have to consider your neighbors. Each RV is given a space 2-parking spaces wide. Thankfully Jim and Chris are on one side so we don’t have to worry about annoying them – we love doing that! We open our front door, Chris opens her window by her desk and we talk. Our awning is used to shade the side of their RV and our slide-outs touch the yellow lines on the other side. It’s that close.

Close Quarters on Campus

Close Quarters on Campus

The other interesting thing about this past week is the atmosphere. We have 4 classes a day, 1 ½ hours long each. We ride our bikes around campus to get to our classes. We get lost finding our classes. We can get showered in the gym locker room. We carry around notebooks and basically look and act like college students. After school, we are all usually so tired we don’t want to do anything else. I think most of us had forgotten how tired you get sitting and listening for 6 hours a day.

Here is a list of some classes we’ve attended:

Andy: Ford Gas Engines, All About Batteries, Radial Tire Safety, RV Electrical Systems, Suspension & Handling, RV Exterior Care, Back Clinic, Boondocking, and he may have taken more but he did skip two sessions…

Diane: Basic RV Maintenance, All About Batteries, There’s More to Writing Than Words (4 parts), Inverters/Chargers, Generators, RV Awnings Care, Digital Photography, Taking Great Pictures, Solar Power (2 sessions), Hosting in NW State Parks…

Granted, maybe Andy’s classes were more technical, but at least I’ve attended a class in each session!

The negative about all this wonderful information we are receiving is the expense. Now we are considering upgrading some of our parts to increase performance, safety, etc. We never considered this outcome when we came here.

We’ve also been wowed by the city of Moscow. The local businesses and Chamber of Commerce have really enticed the RVers to come into town. They’ve offered discounts at most restaurants and stores, a free barbecue, and even free tickets to the theatre. It’s been really wonderful how excited they are by this conference. Last numbers I’ve heard is there are 666 RVers (about 300+ RVs) in attendance. We were happy to contribute some money to the local microbrewery and winery.

We graduated! We wrapped up our classes Friday and went to the closing seminar, but didn’t win any of the door prizes. There were some big ones too – a 24-day trip to Baja Mexico; 6 tires from Goodyear; and much more. Oh well, we usually aren’t very lucky with raffles anyway. This morning we got up early to go get the rig weighed. We’ve weighed it several times on our trip at truck stops, but those scales generally can’t weigh the left and right sides separately – only each axle. The good news is that we are good on the side-to-side weighing. The bad news is that we are still a little heavy on the rear axle, but we’ve known this and have tried to make adjustments. We can’t control it all though since all of our tanks (holding, fresh-water, gas, propane) affect the rear axle.

Most everyone has left the campus by now. We’ve decided to hang out another night here. They’ve taken away the electricity and water hoses, but we just weren’t ready to leave yet…we haven’t even decided where we are going next! Today we went to the Farmer’s Market to get produce, we’ll decide our plans for tomorrow, and we’ve been looking at our new “projects” since learning all of this new stuff this past week.

Here are some more pictures from campus that were taken throughout the week:

Our Campus Campground

Our Campus Campground

University of Idaho

University of Idaho

Football Gargoyles

Football Gargoyles

Movie Night at the Guld's

Movie Night at the Guld's

And pictures from the area:

Pastural Scenes

Pastural Scenes

A Big Red Barn

A Big Red Barn

The Surrounding Sights

The Surrounding Sights

Sidenote:  Here is a picture of our route to get here compared to Jim and Chris’ route. They went North, then West whereas we went West, then North.
Andy                                              and Diane Jim and Chris

July 11, 2004

Moscow, ID – Biking the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 7:23 pm by diandy2004

We wanted to sneak in a bike ride before school starts for the week.  Classes start tomorrow, so today was the day.  We hopped on our bikes and rode the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail.  We rode *all the way* to Washington state.  Ok, it was only several miles, but it definitely sounds more impressive when you say that you rode to another state.  It was a nice trail with rolling hills and wildflowers.  There was a buffer between the path and the highway and interpretive signs along the way to teach you about agriculture, the two universities, and the history of the area.  We also rode around the town of Pullman, WA before returning to Moscow.

Bill Chipman Palouse Trail

Bill Chipman Palouse Trail

Later that night Life on Wheels asked RVers to hold an Open House inviting attendees to come by and visit with you and tour your rig.  It was a nice way to meet other students and check out other RVs.

July 10, 2004

From Missoula to Moscow – Our First Caravan

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 2:49 pm by diandy2004

Yesterday, Friday, we left Missoula to start heading towards Moscow, ID for the Life on Wheels RVing Conference. This week-long conference offers classes on living in an RV, maintenance, and even writing and photography classes, etc. This will be our first caravan…(even if just a 2-RV caravan!).

We chose the southern route, Highway 12, for the scenic route. It is part of the Lewis and Clark Trail and runs through Clearwater National Forest. It is also referred to as the Long and Winding Road. And that is was. Long and winding all along the Lochsa River and Clearwater River. Andy and I believe it is the longest stretch of road we’ve ever been on that never left the side of a river. We stayed in the Nat’l Forest on Friday night at Wilderness Gateway campground. There was a nice creek running right behind Jim and Chris’ site, forests, mountains, deer, and unique wildflowers.

Caravanning

Caravanning

Wilderness Gateway

Wilderness Gateway

Organ Pipe Wildflower

Organ Pipe Wildflower


At an Overlook

At an Overlook

The rest of the drive from Wilderness Gateway to Moscow was just as beautiful. After turning north onto 95 near Lewiston, the scenery changed, but was just as beautiful. The Moscow area is referred to as the Palouse – which is the rolling hills and fields of lentils, garbanzo peas, and other agriculture.  All of these pictures were taken on Hwy 12, with Jim and Chris leading the way!

At an Overlook

On Hwy 12

On Hwy 12

On Hwy 12

On Hwy 12

On Hwy 12

Farm Fields of Idaho

Farm Fields of Idaho

Missoula, MT – Biking, Rafting, and trying to Relax

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:46 pm by diandy2004

July 2, 2004

When we left Yellowstone, we weren’t really sure where we were going to stop. Missoula, MT was 355 miles away, which we figured was too far to drive in one day so we were thinking of spending a night in Butte, MT. But we got up early and pushed through. Plus, I think Andy was trying to punish me for the last long trip when I drove, so he made this one longer. Eight hours in a car…a 49-foot long vehicle…made for a *long* day. We’ve gotten a little tired of the pace we’ve kept up recently, so we’ve been thinking about taking some time to settle down and unwind. We figured Missoula was a big enough town to let us take care of some things, but also be close enough to mountains, rivers, etc to still have some fun. But our plans may be changing again, since we recently heard from our friends Jim and Chris who will be in the area as well. We’ll update you when we know more about our plans. The RV Park we’re at now has WIFI so hopefully updates should be easy.  We started off our stay in fashion – trying the local Huckleberry ice cream!

Fourth of July in Missoula:

We took our bikes downtown to ride on several bike paths.  We enjoyed the Kim Williams Nature Area Trail.  It is a Rail-to-Trail and runs along Clark Fork River and Mt Sentinel.  Then we rode the Commuter Pathway – this is a great trail for riders to get from point A to point B, but it is not a scenic ride.

We did see fireworks here in Missoula on the Fourth. Here are a few pictures from that night. We do have to say that we were very pleased with the fireworks display – they had some nice large ones with good boomers, too.

Andy Enjoys the Fireworks

Andy Enjoys the Fireworks

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, July 8, 2004

It’s been hard, but I think we’ve accomplished some relaxation while here in Missoula. Diane has gone to Yoga twice and has gone running twice this week. Andy joined her in a run once (but kicked her butt). We went to the local Smokejumpers Center for a tour, visited the Farmer’s Market, walked around town, and have done some other touristy stuff without that go-go-go pressure we’ve put on ourselves more recently.  We hiked the “M” Trail, which takes you 628′ above the University of Montana.  Nice views of “Glacial Lake Missoula” – the town and valley used to be under water.

Our friends Jim and Chris made it into town yesterday and it was wonderful to sit and chat with them. We had lots to catch up on: our trip, their trip, and RVing in general. We’re really looking forward to spending this upcoming week with friends. Today we have an outing scheduled – we’ve planned a white-water rafting trip down the Alberton Gorge. Wish us luck! We’re still debating whether we should ask for wetsuits…water temp is about 60 degrees, current air temp is 60 degrees (but it may go up to high-70’s).

Can you tell we're friends?

Can you tell we're friends?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

We had a blast on our white-water rafting trip! Chris was the experienced one in our group, the rest of us were newbies. It was the four of us, the guide, and two ladies from El Paso, TX. We were worried about the Texans initially, because they had make-up and jewelry on and their hair was done up nicely…oh, and they didn’t want to get wet! Yikes! After just a few minutes with us hootin’ and hollerin’, they were having a blast too. As you can see in the pictures below, we all got wet. And very wet at that. You’d be proud of all of us since we opted NOT to get the wetsuits and just go with fleece jackets and nylon water-resistant jackets on top. Yes, our guide is in a bathing suit and nothing else – he thought we were wimps. Chris and I started out in the front row (we were the brave ones), but we switched with Jim and Andy half way through so they could experience the fun (and soaking) that we had. It was a great day.
(To help identify the paddlers in the pics: Jim is in his yellow Kayuba slicker, Andy is in the front also, Chris is behind Andy with a teal hat on, and I have my navy Temple Owls hat on, behind Jim.)

missoula100

missoula101

missoula102

Jim, Diane, Chris, Andy

Jim, Diane, Chris, Andy

Jim and Andy, In the Front

Jim and Andy, In the Front

The Survivors!

The Survivors!

July 2, 2004

Yellowstone National Park

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 2:44 pm by diandy2004

Comparing Grand Teton to Yellowstone… I would have to say that Grand Teton’s primary highlight is the mountain ranges.  Because from almost every point in the valley, you can see the mountains. And Yellowstone is more about animal close-ups, the rivers, the lakes, and (of course) geysers. Even though they are so close geographically, the two parks are very different. Yellowstone is much larger at 2.2 million acres (GT has just under 310,000), therefore requiring a lot of driving to see the different sections of the park. We tackled several areas within the 6 days we were there even with one road being closed for construction and another had delays for repairs.

We saw several geysers spout: Echinus was early; Castle was about 5 hours late (no we weren’t waiting for five hours, we just got lucky); and Old Faithful was right on time. Castle was our favorite though with water spouting and a good steam show lasting over 40 minutes.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Castle Geyser

Castle Geyser

The steamy fumaroles and steam vents made belching, hissing, groaning, or crackling sounds.

Doublet Pool

Doublet Pool

Riverside Geyser

Riverside Geyser

Several of the springs were so colorful with different bacteria or minerals they looked like emerald pools surrounded by green, orange, or bright-white rivers.

Imperial Geyser's Bacteria Adds Color

Imperial Geyser's Bacteria Adds Color

One of the rangers who has been there for 33 summers, explained some of the changes that he has seen over the years. Because of tectonic plates shifting, earthquakes, human intervention, etc these geysers and other thermal features die off, are born anew, or move several feet over time. He even joked that someday Yellowstone will be in South Dakota because of how things are shifting.

Another attraction at Yellowstone is the Canyon in the northeast section of the park. We took a hike in the area south of the Canyon. We started through meadows, then woods, then past some thermal features, before we came upon the Canyon just east of Artist Point. Wow. At that moment, I wished I could paint. Pinks, oranges, and a variety of other colors all splashed on yellow stone. Then I got it – “Yellowstone”. Never thought about why they called this park “Yellowstone” until I saw this yellow canyon. Ah, you learn something new everyday. Finishing the hike along the South Rim Trail we passed by both waterfalls along the way. Andy had thought we could kayak Yellowstone River until he saw these powerful falls. Lower Falls is 308 ft high, and Upper Falls is 109 ft high.

Yellstone Canyon

Yellowstone Canyon

Canyon

Yellowstone Canyon

Lower Falls

Lower Falls of Yellowstone

Over the week, we visited several different geyser basins; Tower/Roosevelt area for a hike; Canyon for the hike described above; and then we got sick of driving. The day before we left, we agreed to stay local to our campground at Fishing Bridge and do some different hikes in that area. One trail was closed for dangerous bear activity (we later found out that there was a carcass on the trail that a bear was feeding on) and another trail nearby had a bear warning. We’ve been practicing the bear-country hiking tactics: talking loudly, clapping, snapping fingers, and carrying bear-spray, so we’ve felt rather comfortable during our hikes, but it is still unnerving. We’ve only seen two bears so far – one in Teton, one in Yellowstone – both from the car. We love seeing wildlife – but a bear is best when seen at a distance! The wildlife viewing was exceptional here in Yellowstone – more bison and bison babies than you can count; elks of all shapes and sizes, two bald eagles, many White American Pelicans, marmots, one badger with a kill, and more. Bison and elk had a tendency to come close to the road, so they were easy photo-ops. No moose though. The fires from 1988 destroyed most of their habitat, so the moose have moved out of Yellowstone. Only about 800 of them are left there.

Bison by the Boardwalk

Bison by the Boardwalk

Bison Grazing Roadside

Bison Grazing Roadside

Elk Grazing

Elk Grazing

Effects of 1988 Fire - Nature's Pick-Up Stix

Effects of 1988 Fire - Nature's Pick-Up Stix

I would like to try and re-visit Yellowstone someday when there is snow on the ground.  What a contrast that would be to see the geysers with snow.  Also, it was pretty crowded during this trip (not unexpected), which caused us to miss many overlooks on the scenic drive along the north rim of the canyon and other areas because the parking lots were full.  Some areas supposedly had you hiking on the roads, too, but we wouldn’t dare do that with the amount of traffic.  Too dangerous since most tourists are too busy looking around then at the road.

Side notes:    On any future visits, I’d consider moving our campsite periodically instead of doing so many long distance daytrips.  It was the driving back and forth that wore us out after a week.  FYI:  it rained almost every day during our week-long visit.