October 25, 2004

The Drive from Oregon to New Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:25 pm by diandy2004

You’re reading it right…we’re in New Mexico. We’ve spent the last 5 of 6 days driving 1400 miles from Oregon to get past mountain ranges and snow. Don’t get us wrong, we love playing in the white stuff, just not driving in it – especially in an RV.

Some of the highlights (g00d and bad) of our road trip included:

* Mt Shasta:  while driving south through northern California we came around a bend and saw a “mountain in the road”.  I assumed it was Mt Shasta, but we could only see the base under the clouds.  Then we realized it was “Black Butte”… after seeing all 14,162′ of Mt Shasta further down the road.

Black Butte

Black Butte

Mt Shasta

Mt Shasta

* Diane went for a run in Bakersfield after driving 305 miles.  It was necessary for me to get out after driving for that long, but running along pesticide-tainted cotton fields was not good for the lungs.  I don’t recommend it!

* After three days of towing Ele, we started to worry about her batteries.  So we purposefully detached before reaching our destination in hopes of recharging her batteries.

* Park Moabi in Needles, CA:  Getting charged a fee just for having kayaks on the roof of our car.  This was a one-night stopover arriving just before sunset with no time for fun…what a rip!

It probably would've been a pretty paddle, though...

It probably would've been a pretty paddle, though...

* Wind Farms – awesome.  This one was near Needles, CA:

Wind Farms

Wind Farms

* Gas prices finally dropped below $2 after leaving the state of California.  We’re almost back to our budgeted gas prices!

* We got to see one of the most unique home-made hippie mobiles – – a combination bus & VW van.  And, it’s name was “Spirit”!

Hippie Mobile

Hippie Mobile

* More snow in Flagstaff:

Near Flagstaff

Near Flagstaff

We also got to see signs of the bad weather in the different areas and states: snow, standing water in the desert, and flowing muddy water in the desert.

In Holbrook, AZ we took one day off from driving (the RV, that is) and played in the Petrified Forest Nat’l Park. Spent most of the day driving through the park and taking short walks to check out the stone trees and painted desert. It was quite amazing to see the colors that iron and manganese creates in the petrified wood and the clay dunes. I still love the purples and blues the most. Erosion continues to alter the landscape and bring more and more petrified logs to the surface. It’s a good thing more wood is being exposed considering a lot of the petrified wood has been stolen over the years.

* Our final highlight was to talk with Jim and Chris (Geeks On Tour) and learned they were driving from Santa Fe to Roswell.  They’ll detour to Albuquerque to visit with us.  What fun!

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October 15, 2004

Redwoods National Park, CA

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:18 pm by diandy2004

It was only 26 miles from Brookings to reach our next destination.  The BIG trees started on Route 197.  I was driving the RV and thought on some turns, where the trees were almost on the road, that I might lose a side mirror.  Our initial plan was to stay in a private RV park with hook-ups, but after driving through we decided to check out Jedediah State Park instead.  We lost our hook-ups, but got the big trees we were looking for.  We found the perfect campsite – nestled between 6 tall trees.

The Perfect Campsite

The Redwoods are actually protected by a combination of State Parks and National Park. Its a long skinny grouping of parks that encompasses the remaining 4% of old-growth redwood forest (of the original 2 million acres as of 1850) and runs along the coast. We stayed in Jedediah State Park which is in the most northern section. One day we traveled throughout the park driving the scenic Coastal Drive and Newton Drury Road, stopped to watch the elk cooling off in a pond near Davison Road, and hiked a trail through Lady Bird Grove.  We attempted a hike to Big Tree Wayside, but a “widowmaker” blocked our path.  A widowmaker is a fallen branch.  Considering the size of these branches, and the distance they fall, I wouldn’t question that they are lethal.

Redwood Bark can be 12" Thick

Ele vs. Redwoods

It’s rutting season for the elk so we had hoped to hear the males “bugling” and to see some territorial displays but it must’ve been too hot for them to fight over their women.

Elk Cooling Off in Pond

After putting 130 miles on the car that day-trip we realized that Jedediah offered some of the most beautiful old-growth anyhow, so the rest of the days were spent hiking and biking in the State Park. The redwoods are incredible – the can grow to 367′ tall and have bark 12″ thick. Andy measured one with a 67′ circumference. Our necks ached after days of looking straight up. But it was The Quiet in the forest that was so powerful. At times when you stopped hiking and just stood still the only sounds you could hear would be the ringing in your ears or an occasional “tweep” from a small bird. And if you met other hikers, there was a tendency to whisper your greetings. It was unnatural to hear voices or sounds of man when standing amongst trees ranging 200 – 1500 years old.

Andy Inside "Goose Pen"

A “goose pen” is a hallowed out tree (either from fire or disease). Farmers used to pen in their livestock in these trees. The fascinating thing, though, is that these trees are still alive.

We took a bike ride on Howland Hills Road.  It’s a packed gravel surface.  We rode about 12 miles on the road, and an extra 2 miles on Bald Hills Trail.  This was the perfect way to tour Howland Hills Road.  We think we would’ve missed too much if we drove it.

A Triple-Trunked Tree

Diane Inside a Downed Tree

Unfortunately we didn’t get much sleep our first two nights in Redwoods. The first night our LP alarm kept going off – we never figured out why but the only way we got it to stop was to shut off the propane at the valve. Knock on wood, it hasn’t happened again since. The second night we thought we had gotten used to the sounds of thumb-sized redwood cones falling on the roof of our RV (imagine rocks pounding on a fiberglass/plastic roof), but when branches started to fall we started to have visions of what damages could occur. Apparently the wind picked up during the night and knocked some dead branches loose. No damages occurred, but it was a fitful sleep.  So much for our “perfect campsite”.

Thankfully, these were the largest

Tiny Redwood Cones

We drove to Crescent City to run errands and tour Battery Point Lighthouse. Tours are available only at low tide because you have to walk across rocks to reach the island. This was the first lighthouse we’ve seen furnished. The couple touring it are living in it for 2 months as volunteer lightkeepers. That’s cool.

Battery Point Lighthouse

Another day we took a hike along Boy Scout Trail to Fern Falls.  The falls were small, but the hike was gorgeous.  Big trees, with the sunbeams breaking through, tons of mushrooms of all varieties, and the sounds of birds all added to the beauty of the trail.

Hiking Boy Scout Trail

What a beautiful place – Redwoods.

September 27, 2004

Portland, OR – The City, Mt Hood, and Marine Drive

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:38 pm by diandy2004

We’ve been having a wonderful time in Portland. Visiting with friends and seeing the sights. There’s a lot to see and do in this area. More than we can handle in a few days. On Friday the girls got a day out together. Jen, Rene, and Diane went into the city and walked around the Vietnam Memorial, arboretum, Rose Garden, and Japanese Garden. The Japanese Garden was a very peaceful and serene place to be. A perfect place to meditate.

The Japanese Gardens

The Japanese Gardens

That evening we met up with all the boys at Edgefields – a poor house turned into a microbrewery and winery. It was a campus of buildings with several bars and restaurants. Guitarists played in the wine cellar and workers were mashing grapes in a courtyard. There were indoor bars and outdoor bars. Our first beers were purchased in the old morgue. A very funky place indeed. The McMeneminns brothers converted the poor house and the old Kennedy school (another location in Portland) into these very hip and successful microbreweries.

Saturday we spent near Mt Hood. Unfortunately Rene’s husband, Todd, wasn’t able to join us but this gave Aquiles and Andy a day to play “dada” to little Michael. We hiked about 7-8 miles round-trip to Ramona Falls. Aquiles carried Michael in the “kids backpack” on the way out (Michael slept most of the way), then Andy carried Michael on the way back (Michael was wide awake, swaying, and smacking Andy upside the head). The hike was through forest, with periodic views of Mt Hood, and the falls were a wonderful destination.

Hiking to Ramona Falls

Hiking to Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls

After the hike we were all starving as we headed to Timberline Lodge for a late lunch at 5:00pm. The clouds came in while we ate dinner so when we went back outside we found that we were on top of the world. Thick blankets of clouds laid on the hills below us with the sun setting into the clouds to the west, the almost-full moon high above us to the east, and Mt Adams the only other landmark in sight. A magical moment.

Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge

Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge

Cloud Shrouded World

Cloud Shrouded World

Chairlifts Rise Above Clouds

Chairlifts Rise Above Clouds

Moonrise over Clouds

Moonrise over Clouds

Sunday we went for a bike ride along Marine Drive. It’s great to be with friends relaxing and chatting. I loved the boathouses. You can see in the picture below that they have regular garage doors, but they pull their boats in not cars. We biked back to Rene and Todd’s house and relaxed in the backyard having a barbecue.

Biking Marine Drive

Biking Marine Drive

Boathouses

Boathouses with Boatgarages

Surprisingly enough we are experiencing some sunny days here in Portland. It’s usually cloudy in the morning but burns off around lunch time. The sun has been tremendously hot, but the breezes keep you cool. We were supposed to leave today for the Portland Coast, but we started to experience some funny noises with our converter fan so we have an appointment at Camping World for tomorrow. We don’t want to end up in a remote area with no power. Just playing it safe.

September 15, 2004

Mt Rainier National Park

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:35 pm by diandy2004

We could see her from Seattle. We could see her from Victoria. We could see her from most of the Olympic peninsula. But she hid herself under blankets of clouds when we got up alongside her and reached Mt. Rainier National Park. She’d periodically play peek-a-boo and show a little of herself through holes in the clouds, but mostly the mountain stayed hidden. For three solid days we saw mostly clouds, and the forecast wasn’t going to get any better. So much for the mountain views and hiking to Camp Muir, the 10,000 foot high base camp for climbers continuing to the summit. We decided that it just wasn’t our time to experience Mt. Rainier.

Our timing was great regarding the crowds (the park empties out after Labor Day), but poor regarding the weather gods. We did have some nice hikes through the inland rainforest, and this time it was raining. We also got to see great waterfalls – some were gentle trickles over moss-covered rocks, some were long narrow falls falling hundreds of feet, some were powerful falls cascading over rocks. We took a short hike to the foot bridge at Cougar Rock.  We had heard that the creek was flooded, and we just wanted to check it out.  The water was flowing over the bridge.  The poor rangers were desperately trying to rebuild a bridge nearby so that hikers wouldn’t get trapped on the other side.  We also enjoyed the effects the clouds themselves created – swirling up from the valleys below, racing across the sky in the game of peek-a-boo with the mountain (now you see her, now you don’t), and clouds laying on the road in front of you, creating a very mystical place.

peek-a-boo!

peek-a-boo!

Narada Falls

Narada Falls

Christine Falls

Christine Falls

This was one destination where we were very happy to have waterproof pants – and not just our waterproof coats.  Any hikes had us in our full gear for protection from the elements.

One morning we toured Spirits of Iron. Dan Klennert, the artist, displays his sculptures around his property for people to come and enjoy. He asks for donations to help continue his dream, but he will sell his pieces if the price is right. This was worth the detour to drive back into Elbe. We spent about 45 minutes wandering around and speaking with Dan. He even took us into his workshop to show us the current projects he was working on. For someone self-trained in art and welding, his pieces were very detailed and well put-together. The textures he created intrigued me the most. We had fun just trying to identify the ‘parts’ he used to create his pieces. We found: large wrenches, saw blades, horseshoes, wire brush bristles, shovels, and even fishing line to name just a few. But he also creates pieces from driftwood, too. As he says, he doesn’t shape his pieces, he creates them from the shapes he finds. Most of his supplies are found in ravines in eastern Washington, so he is also helping to clean up America as well. If you find yourself in Elbe, do stop and spend time with his work. Slowing down and viewing from your car is not enough to appreciate his creations.

DanKlennert

Dan Klennert

Iron Horse by Dan Klennert

Iron Horse by Dan Klennert

Sea Horse by Dan Klennert

Sea Horse by Dan Klennert

We stayed on both sides of Mt. Rainier. Near Nisqually we stayed at a great little campground (Mounthaven Cabins and RV Resort) which was just a half-mile from the park entrance. The owners were so friendly and eager to please and the setting was wooded and homey.

Mounthaven Resort

Mounthaven Resort

On the east side we spent one night in the Ohanapecosh Campground within the park. Our site was right on the river and beautiful as well. We could imagine ourselves enjoying a campfire and the view…but we chose to stay warm and dry inside instead. We’d highly recommend both of these campgrounds.  The east side is supposed to be in the rain shadow of Mt Rainier, but we found it almost as rainy as the west side.

We did a six-mile hike on the Silver Falls Trail and through the Grove of Patriarchs.  More big trees and forest mushrooms, and I was able to check off more birds on my birding list.  That always makes me happy.  Most times I see a new bird but can’t absolutely identify it!

Grove of the Patriarchs

Grove of the Patriarchs

The cloud-shrouded park was beautiful in its own way, but we started to crave some sunshine since we couldn’t do the bigger hikes (like Skyline Trail or Camp Muir). We’ll just have to come back to tackle Rainier another time. So, off we go to Yakima and Washington’s sunny wine country…

September 10, 2004

Olympic National Park – Kalaloch

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:34 pm by diandy2004

We spent two nights on the pacific coast at the Kalaloch (“clay-lock”) Campground. The campground sits on a bluff just above the beach.  Wonderful.  Our site was just across the driveway from the oceanside sites. We could hear the ocean, but only see it through the windows of the RV in front of us.

Kalaloch Campground

Kalaloch Campground

The sunsets were beautiful and we walked the beaches to enjoy the colors. The beaches here were wide and sandy, unlike the others we’ve seen so far.  We enjoyed climbing on the driftwood, exploring the creeks that flow across the beach to their final destination, and looking for crabs and seashells.  There was one tree we came across that was trying to survive suspended over a great big hole that was formed from erosion in the bluff.

Andy Stands Under a Suspended Tree

Andy Stands Under a Suspended Tree

Strolling the Beaches at Sunset

Strolling the Beaches at Sunset

We hiked several trails in the Hoh Rain Forest. We first did the Spruce Trail and the Hall of Mosses.  The moss, ferns, lichens, and funghi were so beautiful carpeting the trees, rocks and the ground.  Everything stays wet here, I presume, considering how the moss and ferns grew on absolutely everything….

Moss and Fern Roof Outhouse

Moss and Fern Roof Outhouse

Then we hiked only a short distance on the Hoh River Trail.  This trail is actually 18.1 miles long.  We’ll have to tackle the entire distance another trip.  Several trees were estimated at 200 feet long and others with diameters over 6 feet.  One downed tree was so long we couldn’t see the tip when standing at the roots.

It was interesting to learn that young trees have such a hard time taking root on the crowded forest floor that they tend to grow on top of downed trees. This also creates interesting root designs when the new tree grows large and the old tree disintegrates over time. You’ll find that many of the trees are in lines because of this.  It stays so wet in the forest (do note it was sunny the day we visited the rainforest) that dew stays on the mushrooms throughout the day.

Trees Grow on a Nurse Log

Trees Grow on a Nurse Log

Big Trees grow on a Nurse Log

Big Trees grow on a Nurse Log

Diane in Hoh Rain Forest

Diane in Hoh Rain Forest

Andy Inside a Tree

Andy Inside a Tree


Everything seems so much bigger here….including the leaves:
A Big Maple Leaf

A Big Maple Leaf


On our drive back to camp we stopped at Ruby Beach to try and find garnet-colored stones. We were forewarned that there aren’t many left. What we found instead were sea stacks, caves, and other beautiful things.

September 8, 2004

Olympic National Park – Clallam Bay

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:41 pm by diandy2004

Our next campground wasn’t quite as nice (Coho RV Resort & Marina).  It was a grass and gravel parking lot with spaces so small you couldn’t open your slide-outs and awnings at the same time.  But the view of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca was stunning. We ended up moving our RV to another location of the RV Resort in order to have some elbow space. We waited to after check-out and got a space in the front row.  This meant no sewer hook-ups, but it was worth it to not have neighbors on both sides.

From this new base camp we drove to Cape Flattery to see puffins. We’ve been trying to see puffins for years (in Alaska and in Maine), but the puffins weren’t there when we were. Foiled again! Cape Flattery is the most north-western point in the contiguous states. Beautiful views from a bluff overlooking sea caves, sea stacks, and arches. But no puffins…

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery

On the drive home we decided to stop at one of the beaches and accidentally came across a sign for Shi Shi Beach.  Hhmmm.  It’s 3:30 pm, it’s a 1.5 mile hike each way….decided to do it so we could see this world-famous beach even though we wouldn’t have too much time to hang out.  From the beach we saw sea stacks, 2 arches, birds, and a handful of surfers and campers.  We looked for agates on the beach and also the glass floats from Japanese fishermen nets, but no luck.

The next day we went to Lake Ozette to do a 9.1 mile loop hike. The hike starts in a forest and goes out to the beach.  It’s a 3.1 mile boardwalk hike to Cape Alava.  Then you hike 3 miles on the rocky beach to another trailhead (Sandpoint) that takes you back to your starting point. A great day. The sections in the forest were easy boardwalk trails. The section along the beach was a little more challenging terrain: soft sand or rocks, slippery moss rocks in the intertidal zone, and stinky kelp and seaweed washed up on shore. We thought the beach hike felt more like 6 miles than just the three.  But we saw gulls, pelicans, harlequin ducks, black oystercatchers, sea lions, black-tailed deer and more. Unfortunately no whales (had hoped to see from our lunch spot on top of a sea stack), black bears (thought we’d see them in the berry patches) or Roosevelt elk (hoped to see in the meadows) were seen on the trip though. And, no puffins…

Exploring Tide Pools

Exploring Tide Pools

Indian Carvings

Indian Carvings

Low Tide - Pacific Style

Low Tide - Pacific Style

Now we’re on our way to Kalaloch. Stopped in Forks for lunch and found the library to update the blog and check/send emails. Keep an eye on Ivan for us!

September 6, 2004

Olympic National Park – Lake Crescent

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:33 pm by diandy2004

We found out recently that our house in Boca is fine. Special thanks to Gail and Merle for securing the place and reporting to us as soon as they could. We’d also like to thank all of those (Mom and Ace, Melissa, Rick H) who helped keep us informed regarding the storm conditions until we could hear from Gail and Merle.

Over Labor Day weekend, we camped at Lake Crescent which is on the north side of the Olympic peninsula.  The Fairholm Campground and nearby trails are in a temperate rainforest.  Large firs, cedars, and hemlocks towered above us.

Hiking in the Forest

Hiking in the Forest

I found that many mushrooms can be as colorful and ornate as wildflowers.

Orange Shelf Funghi

Orange Shelf Funghi

Petite Mushrooms

Petite Mushrooms

And the forest creatures, here, were unique to us – like this large Banana Slug.

Banana Slug

Banana Slug

From there we spent one day in the Sol Duc area walking through rain forests, looking at waterfalls, and soaking in the hot springs.  The waterfalls were only a 1.8 mile roundtrip hike, but we wandered about and enjoyed the earthy smells and hushed surroundings.  The hot springs was a man-made pool of hot mineral water.  The hot pools ranged from 100 – 104 degrees, whereas the large lap swimming pool was kept at a freezing (for us!) 75 degrees.  While in the Sol Duc area we explored an old cabin, Ancient Groves Trail, and the Salmon Cascades.

Sol-Duc Falls

Sol-Duc Falls

After Sol Duc, we went to the Storm King Information Center and then walked to Marymere Falls.  This required several creek crossings with bridges tht were made from trees laid across the creek.  The falls themselves reminded me of Ribbon Falls in the Grand Canyon.  Along the trail we saw several large Douglas Firs, with the biggest aged at 700 yrs old.

Another day we took a great bike ride on the Spruce Railroad Trail along the north shore of Lake Crescent. The official trail is only 4 miles long (one-way), but we rode from our campsite so that tacked on another 5 miles to reach the trailhead.  Normally railroad trails are level and as wide as a railroad track, so we were surprised to find this trail more technical. Most of the trail was a naturally mulched trail high above the lake with some areas that washed out creating narrow crossings. Several rock slides created some challenging hills to bike over. And a couple inclines were steep with rock steps that were best to walk over. The trail wasn’t what we expected…it was better.

Biking Lake Crescent Trail

Biking Spruce Railroad Trail on Lake Crescent

Biking Lake Crescent Trail

Biking Spruce Railroad Trail

On our third day, Andy went kayaking on Lake Crescent as Diane did some yoga on shore. Amazingly, the weather on shore was about 30 degrees warmer than at our site which was under a thick canopy of trees.

Fairholm campground is probably one of the prettiest campgrounds we have been in. It’s like living in a rainforest.

Our Site in Fairholm Campground

Our Site in Fairholm Campground

Just Hanging Around

Just Hanging Around

Added note: there was a thirteen mile loop trail we considered doing (but too late of a start).  It is USFS near the Klahowya Campground.   Also, we checked into kayaking on the Sol Duc River in that area as well, but the water level was too low at that time.  Perhaps next visit?

August 14, 2004

Seattle and Sequim

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:27 pm by diandy2004

Driving through eastern Washington I was surprised to learn it was desert-like.  I guess I just never thought of it being on the ‘other side’ of the mountain range and that it wouldn’t be wet like we’re expecting Seattle to be.  We had one overnight stop along the way to Seattle.

Seattle
Our first impressions of the northwest coast were some of the simple things: large starfish, cold waters, and city streets like San Francisco. Seattle is a pretty city, but I had to quit my job as navigator – there were just too many one-way streets, and no left turns allowed, that had us constantly going the wrong way. It’s more fun to walk the city than try and drive it.

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

Flowers at Pike's Place

Flowers at Pike's Place

Shopping Pike's Place

Shopping Pike's Place

We rode 21 miles on our road bikes on the Burke-Gilman Trail.  Outside of the fact that there were a lot of driveway crossings and the path was cracked and raised from tree roots, it was a pretty ride.  Our views were of the houses that are on the edge of Lake Washington and the boats and docks in the lake.  There were trees and berry bushes lining the path.  The berries were ripe and people were out picking them, but we didn’t know what kind.

Burke Gilman Trail

Burke Gilman Trail

Biking around Lake Washington

Biking around Lake Washington

On the only rainy day we had in Seattle, we visited the Boeing factory. The largest building in the world by volume. I wasn’t sure if seeing the factory where airplanes were made was a wise thing to do days before taking a flight…but it was fascinating, and I didn’t see anything too scary. Regarding its size, it is almost too big to fathom. But they gave us a comparison to consider: you can put Disneyland inside the space, and still have 12 acres extra.  The doors are as large as a football field.

The Boeing Factory

The Boeing Factory

Sequim (“skwim”)
The ferry to Sequim was great (the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry). They are efficient, fast, and its a beautiful ride across the waterways. It was cheaper for us to take both vehicles on separately, versus towing, so Andy drove the RV and I took the Element. Andy had to park within inches of the wall on one side, and other vehicles inches away on the other side.

We took our RV to Eric’s RV performance shop in Sequim.  After attending Life On Wheels, we decided to upgrade to the Bilstein shocks and to a larger sway bar.  While we waited for him to do the work on the RV, we walked along the Dungeness Spit – a 5.5 mile long sandbar.  It was a great place to see birds, seals, and otters.  And the sound of the water was different – it popped and fizzed as it rolled over the rocky beach.  I also enjoyed the sounds of the small rocks as they clinked when they rolled with the gentle waves.  Much different than the sounds on our sandy beaches.

Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit

We haven’t seen much of Olympic National Park yet. Plan to do it upon our return, but we did spend a day at the Hurricane Ridge section of the park. Beautiful views of the mountains…we could see Blue Glacier on top of Mt Olympus and Carrie Glacier on Mt Carrie. Went for a hike, but some “killer bees” took the enjoyment away and we turned around sooner than we would’ve liked.

Hurricane Ridge - Mt Olympus

Hurricane Ridge - Mt Olympus

We’ve read about some great scuba diving sites in the vicinity – with seals, otters, large octopus, shipwrecks, etc – but with water temperatures averaging a “warm” 45-55 degrees, we think we’ll have to pass (we don’t think a dry suit would be enough for Andy).

Here are two other pictures I took in the area that I wanted to share:

LadyBug

LadyBug

Solar Circle

Solar Circle

Can’t wait to see many of you soon during our travels back East.

Philadelphia
Well we made it safely from WA to PA. It only took several car rides, one ferry, two planes, and a train but 24 hours later, we finally made it! Two days later, and our bodies are still trying to recover. We have more sympathy now for our west-coast friends & family who travel east frequently. The fun part of the trip was seeing meteors Wednesday night from the plane.

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.

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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