Gambling on the Weather in Northern Utah

We’re nearing the end of our two weeks at Flaming Gorge, and we decided to stay put to let a storm pass through the area. At 6500 feet elevation, we knew it might snow but we’re gambling that whatever we get will be gone within a day once the weather clears. Our “gamble” is based on local knowledge.

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Nevertheless, we went from this…

 

 

 

To this…………………………………………………      in a matter of hours during the night. The forecast is for the storm to pass late this evening. Then, with clearing skies, it will get colder. Our hope is that the coming sunny sky will melt everything, including any ice on the road south which will be at a much lower elevation.

In the meantime, the slides are out with all of the window shades up. The furnace is on, and with a warm cup of hot chocolate, all is well with our world. We are truly blessed.

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Flaming Gorge, Utah

One of the great things about being on the road full-time is that you have no agenda. You can go where you want, when you want. With this in mind, we set our sights on somewhere we had never been. Although our near-term destination is Moab, Utah and the National Parks of southern Utah, there was one stop we wanted to make along the way…Flaming Gorge. This National Recreation Area is actually in two states, Wyoming and Utah, due to the fact that Flaming Gorge Reservoir is 90 miles long running north from Wyoming, south to Utah. We decided to see the Utah portion, described as the most scenic. Not having been here before, we did not know what to expect. Suffice it to say that we are now in our tenth day here and we are awe struck by the beauty of this area. And that’s saying something since we are here between Fall and Winter, probably the least colorful time of the year. But the weather has been spectacular. Clear blue skies every day with typical Fall temperatures…about 63 degrees during the day. Forest covered mountains as a back drop. Sometimes, words are not enough, So Here are a few pictures…

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Imagine the Grand Canyon filled with water. Maybe not as big, or as deep as the Grand Canyon, but spectacular nonetheless. Your looking at 1700 feet straight down.

 

 

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Just another view, but of a different canyon. This is Red Canyon. We were camped at Canyon Rim Campground for 6 days. This was our view. Boondocking at its finest.

 

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Big horn sheep came into camp for a visit. There were a total of 16 of these magnificent animals, seven of which were rams. They ultimately decided to rest for awhile and all layed down within 50 feet of us for about 2 hours. Unbelievable. Click to enlarge.

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After awhile, some of the rams wandered off for a meeting, leaving two rams to keep an eye on the females.

 

 

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Our plan after six days of boondocking was to move down the road about 5 miles to Flaming Gorge Resort which includes Pine Forest RV Park. We were going to stay only one day to dump our tanks, fill up with water, gas up and fill our propane tank, all of which we did. But we hit it off with the camp hosts who offered that if we might help them rake leaves, we could stay as long as we like for free. With full hook-ups, wifi and a strong cellular signal, our decision was easy.

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This was the view we had as we sat in our chairs outside our coach having our morning coffee. This RV park really IS a park-like setting, with 45 sites and some of the best facilities we have experienced. Deer camp out here everyday. And the price is right. 🙂

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We just had to take this photo of a shed outside the Red Canyon Lodge which was down the road from our boondocking spot at Canyon Rim Campground.

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The vistas in the high country above Flaming Gorge are just spectacular. Originally thinking we were a bit late in the year to be here, we felt truly blessed to see the beauty here, knowing that it gets even better at other times of the year.

 

This tree is not at Flaming Gorge. It actually was against a wall in the McDonald’s parking lot in Vernal, Utah, about 35 miles south of Flaming Gorge. We made a quick trip to Vernal one day to re-supply at the local Walmart. Since we were late in capturing fall color in the high country above Flaming Gorge, I couldn’t resist grabbing this “color” at McDonalds.

 

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Moab or Bust

Another late post due to not being in an area with Internet access. We’ve been boondocking lately and loving it, even though our postings have been delayed.

After six weeks, we finally gave up on the rain in  the Pacific Northwest. We enjoyed our time on Whidbey Island and the San Juans area. And we had a good time in Oregon, particularly Winchester Bay and Newport on the Coast. But, except for a few sunny days here and there, it was incessant rain. We made it as far as Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, but it was a drive-thru as we headed east to Longview, Washington and then down Interstate 5 to the Columbia River Gorge (I84) and eastward.

About 10 days ago, we pulled out of Baker City, Oregon after three wonderful days there at Mt. View RV Park. This photo shows the office and store reflective of the Oregon Trail. baker-city_mt-view-rv-parkThe other out buildings, including the indoor spa as well as the laundry, showers and bathrooms were decorated with Oregon pioneer facades as well.

This is a beautiful area of eastern Oregon known for at least two things. One is the fact that the Oregon Trail passed through this valley, a portion of which is still visible adjacent to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center which is built high above on Flagstaff Hill just to the east of town.baker-city

The other thing that Baker City is known for is gold. In 1861, gold was discovered about 8 miles southwest of town. Some pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail to Oregon City, “the promised land”, near what is now Portland, found themselves retracing their steps back to the Baker City area due to the lure of gold. As a result, many residents of Baker City and Baker County are descendants of the Oregon Trail pioneers.

Prior to arriving in Baker City, we made an overnight Walmart stop in Pendleton, Oregon. Pendleton is the site of the Pendleton Roundup, one of America’s oldest Rodeos. What makes the “Roundup” unique is that from its very  beginning, it brought American cowboys and bronco busters together with local native American tribal members in a form of competition and celebration.

pendleton-woolen-mills_20161101_104250While in Pendleton, we visited the Pendleton Woolen Mills, taking the tour. Pendleton Woolen Mills has existed since the 1800s, and although they have moved their famous wool shirt manufacturing overseas, their beautiful blankets are still made in Pendleton.

 

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Even though this building was built in 1909, after the original factory burned down, Pendleton Woolen Mills has existed for about 120 years

 

 

pendleton-woolen-mills_interiorOne cannot appreciate the patterns and colors used in the production of Pendleton products without actually seeing them in person. During our tour the Pendleton tour guide emphasized how proud Pendleton was of it close relationship over many decades with Native Americans and the company’s inspiration from native patterns.

 

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Actually seeing the different machines used to produce a single blanket, you cannot help but think how far we have come since the days of weaving wool on looms by hand. Even looms, in their day, were considered to be a marvel. Although this particular machine will produce an actual blanket in a day, the entire process from sheep to finished good takes about 3 months.

 

After leaving Pendleton, we continued on our journey that will eventually take us to Moab, Utah. We stayed on Interstate 84 heading south and east. As is typical of a lot of our modern roadways that have literally become paved versions of historic and significant trails, at least parts of I84 generally follow the Oregon Trail. After leaving Baker City, Oregon, we were essentially back tracking where the early pioneers had come from.

The three-island-crossingInterstate crossed places like Burnt River and Three Island Crossing, significant elements of the trail. The latter is significant because after attempting crossings elsewhere along the Snake River with disasterous results, a place was eventually found where the river was somewhat tamed due to three islands located in the otherwise wide channel. This made for a much easier crossing in shallower and slower moving water. Today, Three Island Crossing is a state park.

We spent two nights “camping” in Walmart parking lots; one in Mountain Home, Idaho, and another in Ogden, Utah. We don’t always get the best sleep at Walmarts, but they are free and are good for re-supply missions.

From Ogden, we headed east over and through a couple of mountain ranges, and then climbing up onto the vast plateau that includes on its western edge, Evanston, Wyoming, We finally jumped off the interstate at Ft. Bridger, ft-bridgerwhich has been restored and is now a Wyoming State Park. Ft. Bridger was an important crossing point of the Oregon Trail, the Morman Trail, the California Trail and the famed Pony Express.ft-bridger-ii

 

 

 

 

 

Heading south from Ft. Bridger on Highway 43 is a challenge for a 36 foot motorhome pulling a 4,000 lb. Jeep. Our destination for the day was Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Not having been there previously, we really did not know what to expect, but we soon found out that to see the “gorge”, one has to climb…and climb…and climb. Had we done a little research beforehand, we would have known to unhook the Jeep and drive the two vehicles separately. But we didn’t. We’re still learning.

We also didn’t know what to expect regarding campgrounds. We HAD researched knowing that we would be at Flaming Gorge’s southern end and had identified two possibilities for camping there. One was Lucerne Valley Marina down on the water just outside of Manila, Utah. The other, more desirable location was up on top of Flaming Gorge at Canyon Rim Campground.

Even though we were traveling late in the year, we were not sure whether there would be space in this small campground, AND it was getting very late in the day, violating one of our rules about trying to stop early in the day when traveling. And even though Flaming Gorge itself is open year-round, not all the campgrounds remain open. We passed a couple as we entered the “park”, and they were closed.

We need not have worried. With about 30 minutes of daylight remaining, we pulled into Canyon Rim Campground and found that we were the only ones there…and it was open. Having the pick of any of the sites, we chose #16 because it was located next to a clearing in the forest with wide open views of the distant ridge line. Within a short walking distance from our site, we could walk to the rim in several spots overlooking a significant portion of Flaming Gorge. Imagine a slightly smaller version of the Grand Canyon except this one is somewhat filled with water as a result of the damming of the Green River. That is Flaming Gorge. And even though there is a lake, it is still several thousand feet below the rim. Pretty spectacular. And we had it all to ourselves with perfect clear blue sky weather. Our next post will focus on our time spent in the area of Flaming Gorge.

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Newport Oregon and Wall Art

We had three primary reasons for stopping for awhile in Newport, Oregon after leaving Winchester Bay. First, our fairly new friends Mike and Denise were camp hosting at South Beach State Park there. Second, Newport has been featured on a reality television show recently, depicting the lives of crab fisherman there. And third, somewhat related to the television show, the “bar” at the opening of the jetty leading into Newport Harbor is considered treacherous most of the time, and quite deadly at other times. We had to see it for ourselves.

We spent three days at South Beach State Park, parked right next to our friends. deniseIn between hosting duties, we were able to get together for dinners, deserts and just chats. They have been on the road for four years and have been a good resource for us since we first met them this past July at Jojoba Hills Escapees Park in Southern California. Doesn’t she look cute?

Newport is the commercial crabbing capital of the Oregon Coast. At the time of our visit, the fleet was mostly in port providing an opportunity to see many boats at the same time “up close and personal”.

 

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One boat in particular, the Wanda J, has been featured in Deadliest Catch-Dungeoness Cove, the reality TV show we previously mentioned. Imagine our surprise to actually see it tied up to the dock. We’re nothing but a couple of groupies.

The “bar” outside Newport Harbor, although still dangerous looking this time of year, was referred to by locals as fairly mild. As  it turns out, the commercial crabbing season, December/January, is generally during the worst time of the year of ingress and egress of the Newport Jetty.

During our time in Newport, we spent time down in the historical Bay Front District, an area of shops, seafood restuarants and, to our surprise…wall art.

Here is a sampling of some art that we found. wall-art-2 wall-art-3 wall-art-4 wall-art-5 wall-art-6 wall-art-9 wall-art-7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimately, we had to head north, leaving Newport in our rear camera. But not before getting two more ‘Oregon Coast” photos…

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Heading to Newport

Eventually, we had to put Winchester Bay in our rearview mirror (camera) and continue heading north, but not before a few parting photos…

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This one is of a carved bench in the RV park that overlooks the marina. Somebody went to a lot of artful work for which we are appreciative…

 

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Bogie wanted to say goodbye to a friend he made.

 

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And, as we were hooking up the toad (tow’d), we looked out on the river and there were Mary, Jerry and Larry in their boat starting yet another day of crabbing.

 

Next stop, Newport, Oregon. We would be staying at South Beach State Park. Our friends, Denise and Mike are camp hosting there. Along the way, we took a few photos.

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Here’s one of the coast on the way between Winchester Bay and Newport…

 

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and another view that includes some chick that keeps following us…

 

 

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And, although this photo was shot in the rain and is not very good, it is of Heceta Lighthouse. Click to enlarge.

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Winchester Bay, Oregon

When we had decided that our initial full-time travels would include touring the Oregon Coast, we knew we would spend some time at Winchester Bay. Several blogs that we have been following made mention of the location, and in particular, the Winchester Bay RV Resort. This park is located entirely on a peninsula that juts out to the point (no pun intended) where the Umpqua River meets the Pacific Ocean just  inside the treacherous Windy Cove jetty. And on its east side, the park also overlooks the Winchester Bay Marina. This is where our site was located, site #8, overlooking the marina. Here’s our view out the windshield…windshield-view_20161021_150520

Winchester Bay is adjacent to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area which stretches along the Oregon Coast to the south for about 25 miles all the way to Coos Bay. The dunes are an amazing sight to see, more like mountains of forest-covered sand in many places than what one would expect as a “dune”. dunes_20161021_173836Equally amazing, are the motor coaches and mega buck trailers that show up filled with “toys” to run the dunes. We saw more than one coach, trailer, all terrain vehicles set-up that easily exceeded 1 million dollars. Obviously, members of the “He who dies with the most toys wins” club.

But, as beautiful as the dunes are, we came to Winchester Bay to learn about crabbing. And the first thing we learned was that this area is a favorite for those that want to catch delectable and sought after Dungeness Crab. The second thing we learned is that catching crab is not particularly difficult…with a little patience and the right equipment. And, you don’t even need a boat.

We met Larry and Jerry, two close friends who, along with there wives Jan and Mary have been coming to Winchester Bay for years from Virginia City, Nevada. They became our crabbing mentors. new-best-friends_20161025_080429They explained that you don’t need a nearly 100 lb. commercial type crab pot to go crabbing. There are several inexpensive types of alternative traps and snares for the occasional crabber. Maybe one of the more popular traps is the “book” type, which comes in different sizes. Basically, it is baited and lowered using a fishing rod and reel. When it is on the bottom, it lays flat like an open book. When it is raised, it closes like a closed book. The crab, or crabs, become the bookmarks. 🙂

This place is also great for bicycling, whether in the RV Resort, or over to the village, marina and coast guard station, down the road to the Umpqua Lighthouse, or to the beach. With a couple of good weather days while here, we finally got to ride our bikes.umpqua-lighthouse_20161022_124920

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We spent three days here and, except for the rain, we loved it. Having spent the last six weeks in the Pacific Northwest, with rain a lot of the time, we are ready for sunny weather. And although you expect rain here, even the locals are telling us this has been unusual. Nevertheless, we must be gluttons for punishment since we will be heading further NORTH from here before finally turning toward the east.

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Sutherlin, Oregon – Playing in the Rain

This gallery contains 7 photos.

I’m still finishing up a post regarding our last two weeks on Whidbey Island up near the San Juan Islands in Washington. In an area so scenic, it is easy to take lots of photos, and we certainly did. So … Continue reading

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Our First Two Weeks in the San Juans and Whidbey Island

The San Juan Islands of Washington is one of our favorite areas, and has been since we first visited here on motorcycles back in 1984. We have been here again since then in our previous motorhome, but both trips were while on vacation, and while still working. This time, as retired full-time RVers, we have parked ourselves for a month at North Whidbey RV Park. Although there are other camping options in the area, we chose this park because of its central location to things we want to see and do, AND they have a good monthly rate starting in September. It is almost literally at the south end of the Deception Pass Bridge and State Park, a beautiful area. After boondocks for the past several days which included two truck stops, a Walmart parking lot, and an Indian Casino, we were ready for getting off the road for awhile and the amenities that a RV park offers. And, being parked for a month in a place we love seems priceless.first-sunset_whidbey_20160914_193037_lls

 

Our first sunset————————–>

Our first several days here were a combination of relaxing, exploring the area and doing a little work around the “house”. Four towns in particular are in fairly close proximity to our campground. In no particular order, they are Anacortes, Oak Harbor, Coupeville and La Conner. When we have visited the area in the past, the town of Anacortes was our launching point for taking a ferry to the San Juan Islands and Canada’s Vancouver Island. Now that we are “locals”, we decided that we will actually spend some time getting to know the town.

One of our “must visit” destinations is the town of La Conner. Although we took a quick drive there the one day, it was late and, other than dinner, most of the shops were closed by the time we finished eating. So, we planned to go back during the day.

And speaking of dinner, we may have found the best mexican restaurant we have ever eaten at. It is called COA. Interestingly, coa is a tool uniquely designed to harvest the Agave plant for the production of tequila. The family that operates this restaurant comes from the particular region in Mexico that is well-known for producing the very best tequilas. The recipes used in the restaurant are derived from this same region.coa-burrito_20160916_175403

Believe it or not, this photo is a roasted pork filled burrito, one of the restaurant’s specialties. Muy delicio!

 

One of the things we love doing when visiting areas that are new to us, is to simply drive back roads without any destination in mind. Whidbey Island and the surrounding area is perfect for such explorations with forests, endless country lanes, farms, and coastal access. One evening before dark, we stumbled onto Ala Spit. A “spit” is a bar land form found off of coasts. Kind of like a finger or peninsula that juts out into the water. As is the case with Ala Spit, currents will often deposit debris on these spits, particularly during stormy weather. whidbey_ala-spit_tree-trunk_20160919_180729It is not unusual to see thousands of pieces of driftwood on a spit, including entire tree trunks complete with roots.

This picture is of the root system, what’s left of it, of an entire tree. At first, we thought the rocks were “grabbed” by the roots as the tree grew. But on close inspection, it is evident that these rocks were decoratively placed. Click to enlarge.

After having been on Whidbey Island now for about two weeks, we have discover a few things. First and foremost is that there is SO much to see here. The island is about 50 miles long and varies in width from, say, less than a mile to maybe 5 miles. At almost every turn of the endless number of roads, views are ever-changing.

Mt. Baker is a prominent feature here. As you travel throughout the area, it always seems to be watching over you. anacortes-bay_mt-baker_20160928_140945This photo of the Anacortes bay and large ship docks was taken on a clear day, a rarity in this neck of the woods.

On another of our day trips, we drove further south on Whidbey Island, beyond Oak Harbor, to the town of Coupeville. We enjoyed the seaport atmosphere of Coupeville’s old town. Not as many shops and historic buildings as other towns, but nice for strolling. coupeville-shop_20160921_140442

 

This photo is of one of the typical shops backing up to the bay and landing.

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The area around North Whidbey includes the Swinomish Indian Tribe and Reservation. In fact, when first arriving in this area, prior to settling in for a month at North Whidbey RV Park, we spent a couple of nights at the Swinomish Casino RV Park just southeast of Anacortes. The actual Reservation and “Community”is across the river from La Conner.

 

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This is a view of downtown La Conner taken from the Rainbow Bridge. La Conner is fast becoming one of our favorite day trip destinations.

 

 

 

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Everything is SO green in this area that ANY signs of autumn jump out at you. We caught these trees on fire in the residential and farming area of La Conner.

 

 

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At the south end of downtown La Conner is the “famous” Rainbow Bridge, which is named for its design resembling a rainbow.

 

 

 

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One of the things we really enjoy about La Conner are the shops. Lots of eclectic things that you might not typically run across. And some of the funky items in some shops actually spill out into courtyards and alleys, as if to say “see me”.

 

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Fishing and food from the sea is king in the Puget Sound area of Washington. This art object was one of several along the boardwalk in La Conner. The message seems clear.

 

 

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Ah, the buildings. We love historic downtowns and buildings, which are abundant here. All of the towns in this area have existed for a longtime and it is nice to see the pride exhibited in the preservation of their respective buildings. This particular one is in La Conner.

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Just imagine a perfect weather day, temperature around 70 degrees. And you are strolling along the docks in La Conner with a latte or hot cocoa in hand. Priceless.

 

 

So, that’s about it for now. It’s now almost October. We have another two weeks here. Among other things, we’re hoping to go whale watching out of Anacortes and also, we want to take the ferry from the south end of Whidbey Island over to Port Townsend. Stay tuned for my next post.

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Glacier National Park

A month and a half ago, we left Jojoba Hills Escapees RV community in Southern California. To the question we were asked many times while there, “where will you be headed as new full-timers?”, we finally came up with an answer…Glacier National Park. On Friday, the three of us arrived.

entrance-signThey say that the good weather window in the park can be as short as two and a half months. As you can see by our attire, we got lucky. But it didn’t last long. As I write this a couple of days later, it has been raining and snowing in the park. But on the otherhand, it is to be mid-70s by the middle of next week. Even so, Fall is definitely in the air.

The current rate for park admission for one car is $30. Yikes! So, it was with great pleasure that I presented our Geezer Pass to the ranger, and he waived us right through…for free. Woohoo!

After stopping by the Visitor’s Center, we checked out the adjacent Apgar Campground. This is the largest campground in Glacier N.P. with 192 spaces, 25 of which are large enough for a 40 ft. motorhome. And the beauty is that the sites are FIRST COME-FIRST SERVE.

There are loops A,B,C and D. Loop E is reserved for Groups. We drove all of the loops and found several that our 36 footer would have fit in. And because it was late in the season, there were sites available. But we WERE concerned about the tightness of the loop roads and trees quite close to the roads. We probably would have been okay but, ultimately, the weather made our decision for us. As is typical, the campground is heavily forested with glimpses of sun throughout the day when the sky is fairly clear. When it is raining or close to snowing, that would not be fun. So, we decided to camp outside the park.

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Our first glimpse of the beauty of Glacier was almost immediate. The southern end of Lake McDonald is just inside the west entrance and connected to West Glacier Village and Apgar Campground.

 

 

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At the other end of Lake McDonald, is the Lake McDonald Lodge. This is a view looking northward from the dock behind the lodge.

lake-mcdonald-lodgeAnd speaking of Lake McDonald Lodge, we had to take a look at this cozy little lodge.

 

 

Built in 1913, this historic chalet-style lodge has a  location on the eastern shore of beautiful Lake McDonald that is quite picturesque. There are 82 guest rooms split between the three-story main lodge, a row of  cabins, Snyder Hall and Cobb House.

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Main lodge rooms are located on the second and third floors. Large/small cabin rooms are located along a tree-lined pathway adjacent to the lodge.

 

 

 

As we drove throughout Glacier National Park, we saw plenty of these tour cars. We found out later that they are actually known as Red Jammers, manufactured back in the ’30s by the White Motor Company. carWhile the buses are called reds, the bus drivers are called jammers because of the sound the gears made when shifting on the steep roads of the park. The “jamming” sound came from the unsynchronized transmissions, where double-clutching was a must.

The buses were modified between 2000-2002 by Ford Motor Company to run on propane or gas to lessen their environmental impact. The bodies were removed from their original chassis and built upon modern Ford chassis. The original standard transmissions were also replaced with newer automatics, removing the trademark “jamming” sound. Reportedly, there are 33 of these buses used throughout the park.

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Just another stunning view of what glacier carved mountains and valleys look like. We were just a bit early for Fall colors, but as we traveled through the Park, we got glimpses of color that was on its way.

 

One of the most popular hiking trails in Glacier National Park is the Highline Trail. This photo is at the start of the trail which begins at Logan Pass, the highest point of the Going to the Sun Road within the park. The trail looks innocent enough here, but just around the corner I found out why it is called the Highline Trail.

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Because it was quite cold and windy at Logan Pass, Sharon chose not to hike the Highline Trail with me. But one of the things she was REALLY hoping to see while in Glacier was a Big Horn Sheep or a Goat.big-horn_20160910_133740

No sooner was I on the trail, like within minutes, and there in a meadow grazing was this Ram. And then, he started approaching us so that he could cross the trail. We were NOT going to stand in his way.

 

This is what I encountered once I hiked for about 10 minutes. Click to enlarge this photo and you will see that this “trail” is little more than a catwalk as it traverses the face of what is known as the Garden Wall, well above the automobile traffic directly below. highline-trail_20160910_134400I wanted to be able to say I had at least experienced “The Highline”, but unfortunately, my “hike” was cut short by the severe wind on the “wall” and I was forced to turn back. I’m such a sissy.

When visiting Glacier, you have to pick your weather days. Things can change rapidly it seems. We looked at the weather forcast and decided that this day was going to be perfect for a drive on Going to the Sun Road from West Glacier over to East Glacier. And it was.

heading-back-from-st-mary_20160910_151104This photo is a glimpse of St. Mary Lake as we were on the east side of the Park and were heading back west. Trees and shrubs were just starting to change color with Fall being just around the corner.

I’m including this photo because it is relevant to Glacier, which was certainly occupied by many different Native American tribes at one time or another. blackfeet-at-st-mary-1914When traveling through western Montana, Idaho, Washington or Oregon, it is impossible not to become appreciative of the influence tribes and bands had on the various areas. Amazingly, this “modern” photo was taken in 1914 at a time when the Blackfoot were still gathering on the east side of Glacier in the Two Medicine Valley.

Although we totally enjoyed this, our first visit to Glacier. ultimately the weather caught up with us, including rain and snow in the park. The forecast called for more on the way and so we decided to move on, heading in a westerly direction toward the San Juan Islands of Washington. But we’ll be back. Next time approaching from the east side.

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McKay’s Bend Campground – Lewiston, Idaho

After 7 glorious fun-filled days in Wallowa, Oregon, it was time to raise the levelers and continue our onward push toward Glacier National Park. Lewiston is 88 miles from Enterprise, Oregon, and we were about 22 miles north of Enterprise. So, we had about a 110 mile drive.

When we left Wallowa River RV Park, we were not sure where we would be staying next. We knew we would be heading north to Lewiston, Idaho. And we thought we would head even further north up Highway 95 through Moscow and then on to Couer D’Alene. But we didn’t want to make that entire drive all in one day. We also were in the mood for some boondocking, or at least inexpensive camping. So, I did some research while in Wallowa, and while we still had internet.

One place I found was a campground known as McKay’s Bend. It was located about 17 miles east of Lewiston on Highway 12, right on the Clearwater River. This campground is a partnership of Idaho Fish & Game and BLM. It has 15 sites on a first-come-first-serve basis only. No reservations. All sites are full hook-up at $18 per day. With a Federal Senior Pass, it’s $9 per day. 14 day limit.

McKay's Bend

Because this campground seemed like a sweet deal, we were concerned whether any sites would be available. We would be arriving in mid-to-late afternoon on a Monday before the Labor Day weekend. Because of this, we actually had considered not driving the 17 miles in a direction we would not be going otherwise, only to possibly have to return the same 17 miles if the campground was full.

We had had a strenuous day in that, although Highway 3 took us due north over terrain that could be described as high plains and forest, mostly farms and ranches, everything changed once we reached Rattlesnake Canyon. We had heard about this canyon beforehand. Even so, we were not prepared for the extreme grades, curves and depths that the road took into the canyon, and then once at the bottom, the unbelievable climb back up and out. Putting the transmission in 2nd gear still allowed too much speed to be built up while descending. So, I slowed everything down and left the transmission in 1st gear with my flashers on. I’m not one to over use the brakes so we just let the transmission do the work. It was a slow go, but nothing was abused or overheated.

Once we reached the bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon, we could see that the road was switchbacking up the other side all the way back up as far as we had just come down. We immediately started looking for a turnout before the climb so that we could unhitch the Jeep. It’s tough enough asking a 36 foot motorhome to make such a climb. We don’t need to add an additional 4,000 pound Jeep. So, Sharon drove the Jeep and I motored up and out of the canyon in the Pace Arrow Vision. Frankly, I was impressed. The motorhome was like a billy goat the way it made the climb. Not a fast billy goat, mind you, but it was no slug either.

Once we got to Lewiston, it was decision time. Ultimately, we decided to take a chance on McKay’s Bend Campground. And as it turned out, we need not have worried about sites being available. Half the campground was empty.Our site 4 at McKay's Bend

The entire campground is along the Clearwater River and is beautifully tree covered with spacious lawn between sites, with asphalt pads with concrete patios. And throughout the campground the healthy lawn continues except for pads, roads and parking areas. It is absolutely park like.

Unfortunately, there is no internet and no cell service. At least not for ATT users, which we are. But even Verizon customers were having some issues. And, in trying to use our DISH Tailgater, there were just too many trees and steep hillsides to get a signal. So, no TV. But, as it turned out, we were fine without TV. And internet and phone were available when we went to Lewiston.

So now as I write this, it is hard to believe we will have stayed here for 8 days. That’s how much we like it. We originally had reservations for another Forest Service campsite at Hayden Lake, north of Couer D’Alene for the Labor Day weekend. The plan had been to stay at Mckay’s Bend for 4 days, and stay at the other campground for the holiday weekend. But on Friday it rained here. We want to try and avoid driving in rain as we travel so we made the decision to cancel the other reservation and stay here for the holiday weekend since we already had a great campsite.

As we have been traveling, we try to get out and get the lay of the land, so to speak, in those areas we are staying. Such was the case while staying at McKay’s Bend. Aside from the requisite resupply trips to Costco and Walmart, we had new brakes put on the front of the Jeep at one of the local Les Schwab’s in town and even caught a movie (Jason Bourne). On another trip, we took a long walk along the levee that overlooks the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. Did you know that Lewiston, Idaho is a seaport? Through a series of dams and locks, some ocean-going vessels are capable of reaching Lewiston from the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon some 465 miles away. Here is a photo of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. They would probably be one town except for the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, and the resultant drawing of state boundaries. Lewiston is on the left, Clarkston on the right. The Snake River is in the center of the photo. Lewiston_Clarkston from Above

Since visiting the Wallowas of northeastern Oregon, the home of the Joseph Band of Nez Perce and the burial site of Chief Joseph the Elder, and now traveling through north central Idaho and eventually to Montana, we have been under the influence of important elements of American History, that pertaining to Nez Perce native Americans, and also to the explorations of Lewis and Clark, both histories of which have crossed paths in the Lewiston area.Nez Perce Museum So, it was fitting that we should visit the Nez Perce National Historic Park and Museum while here. It is located just east of Lewiston along the Clearwater River, one of the ancestral homes of the Nez Perce.

At the precise location of the museum and park, a particular band of the Nez Perce lived, fished, hunted, farmed and raised and trained stock for a thousand years. The Clearwater River is below the bench just beyond the treeline. Spaulding Site

Horse Regalia

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures will not do the museum justice. It is a treasure trove of items that serve to show how the Nez Perce lived, fought and died for there land and their culture.

Nez Perce Women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, although we have really enjoyed our stay here, and have even developed some new friendships among fellow campers,  moving day is upon us once again. We’ll be retracting our levelers and getting back on the road.  Next stop Missoula, Montana and then on to Kalispell. Glacier National Park is calling.

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