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.

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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 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!