Welcome to our BLOG. We are on our second trip west. We hope that you enjoy following us on our journey.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 32: Coastal Oregon

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 Fog early, then sunny and 68 degrees

Our destination today was Bandon on Oregon's southwestern coast. We picked up some helpful information at the Visitor Center and then decided to travel the area from north to south.

We headed out in search of cranberry bogs. We found the fields, but we didn't see any cranberries. After driving around side roads, we eventually braved a drive down a one-way dirt farm path. We still couldn't see any cranberries, so frustrated, we stopped the car and walked to the edge of the bog. Finally, laying on the ground, attached to their vines were the red, round berries. Once we spied one, it was easy to see how many there really were. From what we could see and from what we learned at the Visitor Center, harvesting will begin soon. Then the bogs will be flooded to the top of the dikes, and a water reel will agitate the berries from their vines. Next long wooden booms will skim the berries into a submerged hopper and the berries lifted by conveyor to waiting trucks. Now I've seen cranberries, but I'd still like to see the actual harvesting process.

Our second stop, Coquille (koh-kwell) Lighthouse is located in Bullard's Beach State Park. It guided ships past the dangerous shoals at the mouth of the Coquille River into the harbor at Bandon when in the late 1800's, it was the only port between the Columbia River and San Fransisco. Although it is a small lighthouse, its Fourth-Order Fresnal Lens and its DaBoll Trumpet warned ships approaching from the Pacific. By 1939 improved technical navigational apparatus made it obsolete, and today an automated beacon located at the end of the south jetty has assumed lighthouse duties. Damaged by neglect and vandalism, it was repaired in 1979 and reopened for tours. Today the extremely strong onshore winds, piling the surf up on the jetties and creating heavy sea spray, made it evident that those sailing into that harbor needed the guidance the lighthouse provided.

Next we returned to Bandon which reminds us of Beaufort (Boh-fert), NC, on a smaller scale. Boats are moored in the harbor, and a wooden boardwalk follows the harbor. Numerous restaurants, candy stores, tourists traps line both the waterfront and the side streets. A quick tour was all we needed, and then we took the Beach Loop out of town.

For most of the trip from Bandon to Brookings, the highway follows the coast, and I'm at a loss for words to describe what we saw along the way. All along the coast are rocks of all sizes and shapes: massive monoliths, small rocks barely peeking out of the surf, rounded ones, and peaked ones, jagged ones and smooth ones. Some have been named: Table Rock, Cat and Kittens Rocks, Elephant Rock, Haystack Rock, and Devil's Kitchen. One, looking like a woman rising out of the roiling surf, is called Face Rock. And there are so many more that are unnamed. But it is the play of the ocean on those rocks that is so spectacular. The rolling waves run into the rocks and somersault back into the sea, sending sea spray high into the air. It is mesmerizing. We stopped at numerous overlooks in the ninety mile trip to see the next "show." It's a place where I could sit for hours and just watch the tide ebb and flow. We're glad we made the effort to return to the coast before heading to California.

When we were planning this trip, we expected to spend 2-3 days in Oregon. As of today, we have been here eleven days, and we're rather sad to leave. I think we've enjoyed it so much because we had such low expectations, and it was so much more than we ever imagined.

OREGON TRIVIA: Although the state route signs are almost nonexistent, they have plenty of others: lots of elk crossing signs, but we've seen no elk; tsunami warning signs at every beach; $97 fine for not wearing a seat belt.

Construction is going on everywhere, especially bridges. The signs say "Putting Oregon Back to Work." Does every unemployed person work construction? By the way, rivers here wind and twist so much that we found ourselves traveling over them again and again.

On our trip today we saw an oceanfront cow pasture and an oceanfront high school. I can't see that happening on the East Coast.

All of Oregon's coast is state owned. Looking at a road atlas, there are countless FREE state parks strung along the coast, providing almost unlimited beach access. What a hullabaloo that would cause in NC!

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Medford, I 5N to Exit 112, through Dillard to WA 42 and then WA 42S. Finally US 101 from Bandon to Brookings, OR

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 31: Ashland, OR

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 Sunny and 85 degrees

Today was an off-the-road day. It felt good. Phil took the Enclave to the Buick dealer for an oil change and tire rotation. They threw in a car wash which was badly needed. Meanwhile I stayed in the room and iced my ankle while I balanced checkbooks and wrote checks. Good job done.

Late this morning we drove to Ashland to visit my cousin, Patty. She hasn't made it to NY for a few years so it was nice to see her. She lives in a quiet neighborhood that seems to be near everything. We went downtown to walk around. The city is home to South Oregon University. It is very clean and prosperous with lots of restaurants and upscale shops. It is home to a Shakespeare Theater that draws people from far and wide to its performances. According to posters on display, ten plays were presented this summer, only four of which were not Shakespearean.

We ate lunch at an organic food restaurant with seating along a babbling creek. It was a beautiful day to be sitting there, getting caught up with each other while we enjoyed our sandwiches. Then we walked to Lithia Park. It is a long, narrow park with the same creek running through it. It is very well kept. The lawns are lush, it is densely shaded, and from all the bushes there, it must be gorgeous in the spring when everything is in bloom. Also various facilities are available to make it family friendly. We drove around the park and past some beautiful homes along it on our way back to Patty's. We enjoyed the time we had together.

I'm getting used to all the mountains, some tree-covered and some with dry grasses, and to the low humidity in the mid and eastern parts of Oregon. With the temps in the 80's, it was very comfortable walking around. I don't know if I could afford to live here, but I sure wouldn't mind vacationing here.

Tomorrow we are headed to the Oregon coast. Everyone tells us that Oregon's coast is the best. We're anxious to see it. We hope to start in Bandon, but we don't know how far south we will get.

TODAY'S ROUTE: From Medford, I 5S to Ashland and back

Day 30: Crater Lake National Park

Monday, September 27, 2010 Sunny and 72 in the park, 95 in Medford, OR

"Five miles wide and ringed by cliffs almost 2,000 feet high, Crater Lake rests in the shattered remnants of a volcano called Mount Mazama, which erupted and collapsed into itself 7,700 years ago. Later eruptions formed Wizard Island and other volcanic features, now hidden under the lake. Crater Lake filled with rain and melted snow. At 1,943 feet deep, it is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest in the world."

All the facts may explain how Crater Lake was formed, but it does nothing to prepare you for what you see when you first look over the rim and see the blue, blue water, a blue bluer than any other I've ever seen. The explanation is that the red band of light is absorbed in the water first, then the yellow with only the blue band making it to the depths of the lake. It is truly breath-taking.

We entered the park from the north, driving past an expansive mountain slope strewn with pumice Its barrenness was eerie as if something had wiped its surface completely clean.

Entering at that point, we were halfway around the rim drive. The ranger suggested that we travel clockwise to access the overlooks without crossing traffic. To accomplish this we drove counter clockwise to the Visitor Center which was---do you what to guess?---closed. But the nearby Sinnott Memorial Overlook building was open. Inside the park's geologic history is explained through videos and interpretative panels. The outside deck is the most popular place to view the lake. This morning six middle school groups were taking ranger walks so the competition for space at the overlook was stiff. The kids were very polite and seemed as awed as we.

Next we began the rim drive, and at the first overlook we saw Wizard Island. It is a cinder-cone volcano named for its resemblance to a sorcerer's pointed hat located in the western portion of the lake. It erupted out of the lake 7,300 years ago, and has a 90 foot deep crater in its summit. At its foot is a small pool of very greenish turquoise water.

Across the lake is Pumice Castle. A layer of orange pumice rock has been eroded into the shape of a medieval castle. Nestled in a cove nearby is the Phantom Ship. From above it resembles a small pirate ship, yet it really is as tall as a 16-story building. Its erosion-resistant rock is the oldest exposed rock in the caldera. At our next stop, the Sun Notch Trail, we had the closest and best view of that rocky ship.

Lastly we stopped in a densely forested area of the park away from the lake and gazed up at Videa Falls. It is a spring-fed creek that tumbles over a glacier-carved cliff and drops 100+ feet over a series of ledges. It was a beautiful spot, but with so much open space and rock, it almost seemed out of place.

My ankle, though still badly swollen, held up to what walking we did. We had planned to hike several trails, but we only walked the Sun Notch Trail since none of the others had a lake view.

Tonight we are in Medford, OR. Phil made an appointment to have the oil changed and the tires rotated on the Enclave since we are over 6,000 miles into our trip. After that we will be visiting with my cousin, Patty, in Ashland. It's been quite a few years since we've seen each other so it'll be good to get caught up on what's been happening.

TODAY'S ROUTE: From La Pine, OR, US 97S to OR 138 to, around and through Crater Lake NP to OR 62S to I 5S to Medford, OR

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 29: Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Sunday, September 26, 2010 Cloudy in the morning, partial clearing in the afternoon, 72 degrees

Newberry National Volcanic Monument: This monument stretches along US 97 roughly from Bend to La Pine, OR. Sections of the park must be accessed from three different entry points.

Lava Butte: The Visitor Center is located in this area. Displays and films include information mainly on geology and volcanology. Different types of volcanoes are discussed, types of and common indicators of eruptions, types of lava (pahoehoe [pa-hoy-hoy] which is rock-like and rough) and a'a([ah-ah] which is rope-like and smooth), cinders, and also the Pacific Ring of Fire. Outside we hiked the Lava Flow Trail which took us through an a'a lava field. It looks like a huge pile of rocks spread over several square miles around the foot of the Lava Butte volcano. As we continued along, we saw gutters and tubes through which the lava flowed. Later we drove to the top of the butte (beaut) where we could see Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Bachelor, and Broken Top Mountains among others to our west and numerous buttes in every direction. Walking the crater trail, we were able to look down into the caldera and out over the entire lava field. Informative panels along the way describe features of the lava field and also identified plants and animals that live there.

Lava Cast Forest: When lava flowed down the mountainside, it encased standing and fallen trees. Eventually the trees burned out, and an imprint of its bark remained in the solidified lava. We hiked the 1 mile trail where we walked by many casts. Some casts surrounded holes in the ground where the trees had been standing. Others laid prone on the ground, looking like giant tubes. While the casts are located in a large a'a lava field, evergreen trees are beginning to take root and grow where the lava is breaking down into fertile soil.

Paulina and East Lakes Area: Several different features are located in this section of the national monument.

Paulina Peak: First we drove to the summit of Paulina Peak. The road is very narrow, very twisty, and rough like a washboard. The tires vibrated so badly that the rear end of the car moved sideways toward the edge of the mountainside. I was terrified; however, the 360 degree views from the top were amazing. We could see mountains in every direction and, off to the northeast, we could see the high prairie where we drove from yesterday. Only a slight haze kept the view from being pristine.

Obsidian Trail: A condensed definition of obsidian: a naturally occurring volcanic glass, formed as an extrusive igneous rock, when lava cools rapidly without crystal growth; with a high content of silica, sunlight reflects from its surface as if it were smooth, black glass, unlike the previous lava field. Pumice, light in weight and color and rough in contrast to the obsidian, is also located in this lava field. Another example of diversity in nature.

Paulina and East Lakes: These lakes lay in the sunken Newberry caldera. It is believed that they used to be one lake, but a subsequent lava flow separated them. Since it was getting late, we drove to their shores, and then we went in search of the Hot Springs. As is happening more frequently, we found that area closed. Since expected snowfall is still a month away, we are beginning to think the early closing of park facilities is more cost-driven than weather-driven.

Paulina Falls: A short hike leads to the falls overlook which is so close that it is hard to see the double waterfall. We decided to walk to the bottom so we could get a better perspective. Unfortunately, on the way there was a third fall---mine. Stepping on a rock buried in the trail, with a twist and a pop of my ankle, I was flat on my face. So far it is only swollen. I'm am RICE-ing it. Our plans will really be affected if it becomes painful and/or needs medical attention. Bummer.

OREGON TRIVIA: Oregon State Highways are largely unmarked. Catch a sign when you turn on to the road, or else you may never know where you are. Also, you are not allowed to pump your own gasoline in Oregon. When it is pumped, the dollar amount is never taken to the next logical number of cents. For example it is left at 19 or 44 cents. Annoying. Whether it is to avoid spills or overflows, we have no clue.

TODAY'S ROUTE: US 97S from Bend to La Pine, OR, with three entries in to Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 28: Oregon Trail Interpretive Center; Thomas Condon Paleontologist Center for the John Day Fossil Beds

Saturday, September 25, 2010 Sunny and 95 degrees

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center: America's Oregon Trail heritage is told here through the lives of the pioneers themselves. Life-size replicas of prairie schooners, yokes of oxen, men, women, and children, buffalo, wolves, cows, and animal dung are arranged in dioramas throughout the building. One section of the floor is uneven with wagon wheel ruts, footprints, and hoof prints to give visitors a sense of what it would have been like to walk behind a wagon on the trail.

Dioramas are arranged chronologically both in time---generally late April to late October---and from point of departure to point of arrival---generally from the Missouri River to the Willamette (wil-LAM-it) Valley. Actual recorded diary entries narrate what is being portrayed: the excitement of the venture, the boredom of the daily routine, the agony of pain, death, and loss. Additionally films, interpretive panels, and quotes from diaries painted on the walls explain elements of the history, geography, weather, terrain, and politics that affected life on the trail.

The economic downturn of 1836, burgeoning population growth of the states east of the Mississippi, and by 1843, the enticement of free land encouraged these emigrants to move west. After obtaining a wagon, a team to pull it, and acquiring provisions for six months on the trail, wagon trains were formed and a trail master hired. The journey began when the prairie grass was tall enough for the animals to graze (4"), and the spring mud had dried.

Early on the travel was easy and spirits high, but once rivers had to be forded, mountains climbed, and dwindling provisions resupplied, the challenges took their physical and emotional toll. Also, accidents, cholera, and the stress of the journey claimed many lives. By the time the migration ended in 1869, there was one grave for every 80 yards of the trail.

From the Center looking out the large window across Virtue Flat and Baker Valley at land covered with sagebrush and with mountains on every side, it's hard to imagine that anyone would venture into an uncertain future in such an unfamiliar, forbidding land. Yet over a half million people made that trip, leaving ruts from thousands of wagon wheels and animal hooves that are still visible today.

We couldn't help but wonder if we faced the problems and concerns those pioneer did, would we be that courageous and determined.

THOMAS CONDON PALEONTOLOGY CENTER: This is a research facility dedicated to the study of the John Day Fossil Beds. The lobby has exhibits on paleontology, and the museum gallery walks through 40,000,000 years of the Age of Mammals. Hundred of fossil specimens are displayed, along with eight large murals depicting plants and animals of that time.

Since we are not particularly interested in paleontology, this stop was a case of passing by, so why not? This is a wonderful place for those with an interest in this topic, and the ranger on duty exuded passion for his science. We, however, were much more interested in the geology of the area. The variations of the land---mesas, rounded and pointed mountains, sloughed off areas, and various other rock formations, their colors and layers---would be easily identifiable by a geologist. So we were back on the road in awe, but with lots of questions, too.

TODAY'S ROUTE: WA 7S to US 26 W to US 97 S

MILEAGE TO DATE: 5,953 miles

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 27: Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area

Friday, September 24, 2010 Sunny and 78 degrees

Today is our forty-fifth wedding anniversary, and after all these year's we've finally gone to Hell---Hell's Canyon, that is. It is a long 95 mile, three hour trip. The topography on the way to the canyon is such that it could be described very easily: rugged and barren. But that fails to capture its diversity, and its unique beauty.

To the east and the west lay vast mountains with undulating mounds laying at their feet looking like giant hassocks. As we drove, we climbed up, down, and around mountains and along small twisting rivers. But we never knew what we would find when we came down the other side. Sometimes narrow valleys with small tree-lined streams tried to wend their way between rocky cliffs. Other times the view opened to wide valleys with small ranches where cattle graze in irrigated pastures, and their fences are supported by tripod posts or wire baskets filled with rocks.

Small towns are also scattered through the valleys; otherwise the valleys are sparsely populated. Almost symbolically, on the hills outside of town, a lone cowboy with two dogs as his only companions rode his horse across the range.

"There is no recognized geographic place called Hell's Canyon" yet we eventually found towering craggy basalt cliffs soaring above or hanging precariously overhead. We were driving through the canyon, not looking down at it. Entrapped by the walls of the canyon is the Snake River. Upstream rapids have been tamed by the Hell's Canyon Dam which provides hydroelectric power to Idaho and Oregon. But downstream the rapids provide recreation to those riding in rubber rafts, kayaks, and power boats or fishing along its banks. Arriving at the dam, which is the terminus of the road, we took a short hike above the Snake River. Looking down we saw those enjoying the river, and looking up we found several pictographs painted on the boulders many years ago.

As we returned to Baker City, and the road crested for the last time, before us laid a vast, wide expanse stretching almost endlessly to the mountain range in the south. This was the view that the emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail saw 130-180 years ago. But more about that tomorrow.

HELL'S CANYON FACTS: The canyon plunges 7,913 ft. from its summit to the mouth of Granite Creek , six miles away, at 1,480 ft. above sea level. It is deeper than the Grand Canyon.
The Snake River originates in Yellowstone NP at 9,500 ft. elevation and joins the Columbia River at 340 ft., 1,036 miles from its source. It ranks 6th in volume of all the U.S. rivers.

TODAY'S ROUTE: WA 86E and beyond to Hell's Canyon and back to Baker City

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 26: Pendleton Historic Underground; Tamastslikt Cultural Institute

Thursday, September 23, 2010 Sunny and 72 degrees

Pendleton, OR, just hosted its 100th annual Round Up and Rodeo. It is one of the largest events of its kind in the country with 85,000 attending in a city of 16,500. A parade opens the four days of festivities. Native people in their traditional clothing lead the parade, accompanied by cowboys and cowgirls on horseback, and a float with the rodeo princess and her court. Many events are held including bull riding, calf roping, and barrel racing. According to locals it is either an event to be embraced or one to be avoided. In other words it can be rowdy. Tonight we are in Baker City, OR, 95 miles away, and fans of the sport were traveling between here and there all four days of the event. Real fanaticism.

This morning we took an underground tour of Pendleton for a look at its infamous and entertaining past. The underground extends under the old parts of the city. Constructed as a means of protecting merchants' goods from thieves, it extended from the railway station to their stores. During this time Chinese came to the US to earn money so they could return home as rich men and purchase land of their own. They worked in gold mines, fish canneries, and in railroad construction. Because of their appearance, language, and customs, they faced severe discrimination. To escape daily harassment, they moved into the underground, digging out cellars and reinforcing the store floors, streets, and sidewalks, to create a city of their own.

The Chinese lived underground and operated laundries and baths, an opium room, etc. They governed themselves including operating their own jail. But eventually other businesses also moved underground: a meat market, ice house, ice cream parlor, a bar, a duck pin bowling alley, and a card room. When Prohibition came to Pendleton, secret passageways were created so that those imbibing at the card games could escape the law.

Pendleton's "entertainment" occurred above ground as well. Our tour took us upstairs to one of the city's 18 bordellos, the famous "Cozy Rooms." Stella Darby operated a flourishing establishment, providing employment for young women who were sent to the city to earn money to help their families during the Depression and World War II. While Stella took 50% of their earnings, she taught her girls skills, such as accounting and operating a telephone, so some day they could be employed legitimately. She taught them social skills and graces as well so they would be accepted into society. She even provided a chapel where the girls were ministered to spiritually. Prostitution continued until 1957 when an ambitious preacher patrolled the streets, writing down the names of the men frequenting the brothels. When he threatened to read the list in church, the city council finally---and reluctantly---agreed to close them down. Except for Stella's. In addition to being a madam, she also was a skilled accountant for many prominent businessmen in the city, and to keep her services, they allowed her to continue her operation until 1967. So the Wild, Wild West lived up to its reputation in Pendleton.

In the afternoon we visited the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute just outside of Pendleton. It houses exhibits that present the story of the Westward Expansion from the perspective of the Native People who live in eastern Oregon. Their story is told in a compelling manner through exhibits, informational panels, artifacts, photo displays, sound and video. They tempered what must be very strong feelings of resentment and sorrow at the loss of their homelands and the near extinction of their language, and customs.

Afterwards we were back on the road, continuing eastward to Baker City. We immediately began to climb into the Blue Mountains, and trees began to reappear. But not for long. Soon we were headed back down into the prairie, and now we are in a valley, encircled by mountains off in the distance.

Tomorrow we expect to be at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center or in Hell's Canyon.

TODAY'S ROUTE: I 84 E from Exit 209 to Exit 304

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 25: Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum, The Dalles, OR to Pendleton,, OR

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 sunny and 68 degrees

Armed with a bundle of information from the Chamber of Commerce, we headed toward the Columbia River where The Dalles is situated. The riverfront is immaculate, and a paved trail follows along its banks. We walked to the Rock Fort where Lewis and Clark stayed briefly before heading eastward. Several interpretive panels explained that for hundreds of years The Dallas was the center of trade for the Indian Tribes of the Northwest. But it also was an obstacle to transportation up and down the river because of the large series of rapids in this portion of the river. Now that the river has been tamed by numerous dams, it's difficult to appreciate the threat the rapids posed to those who attempted to negotiate them: the Indians, the Corps of Discovery and, later, travelers on the Oregon Trail.

Next we went to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum. The Discovery Center contains displays of the gorge's prehistoric geology, its ecology, native peoples, and the impact of western influence via fur trappers and traders, and the Oregon Trail. The Historical Museum portrays the people and the industry that have affected change and growth in The Dalles. Transition areas between the two depict the cargo Lewis and Clark brought with them on the expedition: clothing, food items, weapons and ammunition, medicines, scientific equipment, items for trade with the Indians, etc. Finally, the National Geographic film, "Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West" reenacted the entire expedition from beginning to end.

We read that The Dalles is "the meeting of the Columbia Plateau and Pacific Ocean, and of the arid steppe and wet western forest." Yesterday we had a hint of the accuracy of this definition, and today, as we headed further east, we saw it in full. Yesterday we drove through dense forests with clinging mosses, a multitude of ferns, and numerous waterfalls. Today the green gave way to folded hillsides covered with short grasses and sagebrush. Then those hillsides stretched out into undulating prairies where irrigation is needed to grow corn, wheat, vineyards, orchards, and hay fields. Here wind generators line the ridges of the hills by the hundreds, first on the Washington side of the river, and then on the Oregon side, too. Because of the vastness and barrenness of the prairie, somehow their presence doesn't seem as offensive as it does at home where their intrusiveness mars the landscape.

We arrived in Pendleton midafternoon. This is the home of the Pendleton brand of clothing. We were too late to take a tour of the mill, but we browsed through the outlet store. We are also too late to see any of the rodeos that are held here, but according to a local, that may be a good thing. Apparently a rowdy time is had by all. We also tried to make reservations with Pendleton Underground Tours for tomorrow, but we found out that we arrived after office hours. Since this is the reason we stopped here, we're hoping that because we left a message, we will be able to walk in and join a tour.

TODAY'S ROUTE: I 84E, Exit 87 to Exit 210

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 24: Columbia River Gorge Trail; Bonneville Fish Hatchery

Tuesday, September 21, 2010; SUNNY!!! and 64 degrees

Last night we wanted to see a Pacific Ocean beach, so we made a brief stop in Seaside. We drove down a narrow street of pavers to an oceanfront circle where we could see a great expanse of sandy beach. We found a place to park and walked back. Motels and condos, with unobstructed views, line the wide promenade. Shops are packed tightly together and snuggle against the street. Seaside is a little of Hollywood, FL, mixed with a smidgen of Tarpon Springs, and a dash of Myrtle Beach. People were milling around, popping in and out of shops and others perusing dinner menus. Although it is a typical resort town, it has its own charm, too.

Today we planned to complete a circuit of the Columbia River Gorge via the Historic Highway. Our first stop was the Vista House atop Crown Point where there are expansive views up, down, and across the river. "Built between 1916-1918, it has 360 degree views of the river below and features inspiring artistic designs in the stonework, marble flooring and walls, stained glass windows, carved plaques and skylights." It is a very grand structure for what was intended to be a "comfort station" for those traveling the gorge.

From there the Historic Highway weaves its way past a series of waterfalls; Latourell, Shepperds Dell, Bridal Veil, Wahkeena, Multnomah, and Horsetail Falls. We walked short trails to the first four to see the beauty of each in its own setting. All were well worth taking the time to visit. But of the six falls, Multnomah is the highest, plummeting 543' to the upper plunge pool, descending another 69', plus an additional 8' in between for a total of 620'. It is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the US.

Our next stop along the Columbia River Gorge was the Bonneville Dam. We headed to the lower level of the Visitor Center to watch salmon approaching a fish ladder through windows. Nearby someone was on duty counting the fish by species, monitoring the health of the river by the fish population. We also went outside to watch salmon which were actually climbing the ladder. The current is so strong that it is surprising any make it.

We also took a self-guided tour of the Fish Hatchery. Beginning in October, salmon eggs are incubated after they are fertilized during spawning. The eggs develop into small fry and are placed in the outdoor rearing ponds the following February. Once the fry become fingerlings (1"+), they are released into Tanner Creek, and they swim down the Columbia River into the Pacific Ocean, returning to the hatchery in 2-4 years to spawn.

However, we were most interested in the spawning room. We arrived in time to watch workers collect and sort the returning salmon. The wild fish are returned to the river above the dam, and the tagged salmon are retained in holding ponds to be spawned. Once the fish are "ripe," the workers collect the eggs of the female salmon and the sperm of the male salmon to fertilize the eggs and start a new life cycle. Up to 30,000 Chinook and 50,000 Coho salmon are handled each year, and up to 5,000,000 fingerlings are released.

Located behind the spawning room is a second fish ladder. It is there that the salmon are returning to spawn. But they are contained within a channel before being sorted by species, Chinook or Coho. As we watched, the salmon jumped higher and higher against the walls. It was fascinating to watch their determination to complete their journey against the force of the current.

As we were about to leave, we met one woman and one couple who were anxious to share with us the sights we need to see and the places we need to visit while we are in Oregon. Their suggestions take us from the Pacific coast to the Idaho state line. Tonight we are in The Dalles (Dals), without having completed the river gorge loop. We are now torn as to which way to go, east to Pendleton, south to Baker City, or back west for the Mt. Hood loop tour. As of this moment we will stay here to see the site of the terminus of the Oregon Trail and a spring camp of Lewis and Clark on their return trip. So much to see!

TODAY'S ROUTE: US 30E to Bonneville, then I 84E to The Dalles

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 23: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Clatsop

Monday, September 20, 2010 MORE rain, 61 degrees

We left Longview on WA 4 through an industrial part of the city. We had seen trees clear-cut, huge trucks hauling logs, and now we saw where they were taken, a huge Weyhaeuser facility that grades, planes, and dries lumber. It stretched a half-mile along the highway. When the road left the city, we found that we were following the Columbia River 86 miles to its mouth. The river is wide and gray in today's gloomy weather. Along its banks there is evidence of its past as well as its present: old dock pilings rotting away and newer piers capable of mooring very large container ships, barges, and even the NCL cruise ship, Norwegian Pearl. Further down the road, we pulled into two overlooks, one a wide beach with mighty surf rolling in from the Pacific and the other a short walk to the North Head Lighthouse, long in use to warn ships of the shoals at the mouth of the Columbia.

Our destination was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center located at the mouth of the Columbia River. This was the terminus of the 1804-1806 expedition. In North Dakota we visited Fort Mandan where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1804-05 before continuing to the Pacific. Now we learned about the hardships the Corps of Discovery endured crossing the Rocky and Bitteroot Mountains. They were in uncharted territory, not knowing what they would encounter next. Sometimes they were trekking over rugged mountains, and other times they were riding rapids in their dugout canoes. One especially tense moment occurred when Lewis and Clark tried to convince the Shoshone Indians to provide them with horses. Then Sacagawea, who had been kidnapped years before, realized that the chief was her brother. Following an emotional reunion, the chief was more than willing give them what they needed.

The expedition finally reached the Pacific in November 1805. The Corps was trapped in a torrential rain storm for six days in what they called the Dismal Nitch. Once the storm abated, Lewis and Clark polled everyone to determine where they should winter. They voted to cross the Columbia to build their encampment away from the prevailing winds and to be closer to elk herds. The Corps remained at Fort Clatsop from December 1805-March 1806. During that time the captains updated their journals while others hunted, fished, and boiled sea water for salt to preserve their food supply, repaired equipment, and made new clothing. But it was a miserable winter as it rained 94 of the 106 days they were in the fort. Finally in March they began their way east. This time they knew what to expect and where to go. They arrived in St. Louis on September 20th, 204 years ago today, completing all the tasks assigned to them.

We spent over three hours at the interpretive center, reading large panels with text and pictures depicting the 4,000 miles of their journey. We also watched a film, viewed artifacts, and used interactive displays. Then we were at Fort Clatsop for an hour and a half, walking around the reconstructed fort, very similar to Fort Mandan, watching two more movies, and viewing more displays. We have a new appreciation for how what Lewis and Clark accomplished changed our country for all time.

TODAY'S ROUTE: WA 432-WA 4-US101-WA 401-retrace to US 101S-US 26E- I 84E, Portland, Oregon, finally after 11 days in Washington

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 22: Mt. St. Helen's National Monument

Sunday, September 19, 2010 Period of rain and fog all day; 45 on the mountain, otherwise 62

We drove to the Johnston Observatory to see Mt.St. Helen and to learn about the May 18, 1980 eruption. But she was being very flirtatious today. One moment she would lift her veil of fog almost to crater height, and then she'd lower it again. We never did see the summit, but we learned a lot about the eruption from films, three ranger talks, murals, an electric map, and other displays.

Geologists had been studying Mt.St. Helen since March of 1980 when frequent earthquakes became stronger. They only had a Japanese volcano to compare to this mountain, so they were expecting a smaller, less explosive event. But on May 18th the dome that had been bulging by five feet a day finally blew, following a 5.1 magnitude earthquake. Thirteen hundred feet of the mountain's top launched outward and crumbled down the hillside in the largest landslide in recorded history. The Toutle Valley below was instantly scoured by heat, wind, ash, and rock. Winds reached speeds of 300 mph, the landslide reached a speed of 155 mph, and temperatures reached 660 degrees Fahrenheit.

The landscape within twenty miles of the volcano was drastically altered. The landslide splashed all of the water out of Spirit Lake, filled its bed with debris, and when the water flowed back, the lake was 600 feet higher and its surface twice as large as before. Meanwhile lahar (a mudflow composed of pyroclastic material, rocky debris, and melted glacial water) rushed down Toutle Valley wending its way around hummocks (mounds of dense volcanic rock) and rerouted the flow of the river. Nearby Coldwater and Castle Creeks became lakes. Trees closer to the blast were flattened like giant toothpicks, and the fiery winds burned the branches and leaves off those farther away, leaving a ghostly forest of barren, dead trees.

The human side of the story is also documented at the Observatory. Four loggers were working when the blast occurred. Two tried to find their way out and died. Two were rescued, but one later died of his burns. One couple, camping downriver, was swept away. The husband pulled his wife out of the lahar by her hair, and together they clung to floating logs until they were rescued. A young family was also camping near the river. When a helicopter was sent to rescue them, those aboard insisted the mother drop her "backpack" before being drawn up. What they did not know was that the "backpack" was actually her four-month-old baby. When she refused, she was boarded anyway. Imagine the surprise of that crew.

David A. Johnston, a thirty-one-year-old geologist, was monitoring the volcano from a ridge five miles away that fateful morning. He sensed that it was about to blow, yet he remained on duty. His last words were the warning, "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!" He was never found, and the observatory is named in his honor.

But a lot has changed in thirty years. Silver firs, which were bent in half under the weight of the ash, straighened themselves and fathered new saplings. Alpine lupines, making their own food from the soil, soon began to reappear. Pocket gophers survived, sheltered in their burrows. Their digging around the entrances to their homes loosened the soil, preparing it to receive new, wind-blown seeds. Elk migrated around the mountain, their dung also introducing more seeds to this barren region. Although evidence of this catastrophic day is everywhere, nature is busily healing and restoring her land.

Maybe what we have learned from our visits to all of these national parks is that we live in an amazing, varied country with natural resources of unimaginable beauty capable of rebounding from the sometimes destructive intrusion of man.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Elma, US 12S to I 5S to exit 63; then WA 505 to WA 504 to its end in MT.St. Helen's National Monument; retrace WA 504 to I 5S at exit 49 to Longview, WA

Day 21: Hoh and Quinault Rain Forests, Ruby Beach and Beach Four

Saturday, September 18, 2010 Rain early and late; sunny midday; 65 degrees

The best explanation of the Hoh and Quinault Rain Forests comes directly from a trail map:
"Mild winters, cool summers, and up to 12 feet of annual precipitation produce the giant conifers that dominate this rain forest, one of the most spectacular examples of temperate rain forest in the world.

Bigleaf maple and vine maple host an abundance of epiphytes (plants growing upon other plants) that give the rain forest its characteristic look and ethereal quality. A plethora of mosses, ferns and plants compete for space on the forest floor; grazing elk keep the understory open. Dead and downed trees decay slowly and support new life as "nurselogs." The eternal cycle of life and death is strikingly apparent in this magnificent forest community."

This morning the rain forest was drenched in sunshine. Its rays sparkled off the drops of water and lit up the trees, ferns, and mosses. The Spruce Nature Trail we took wound its way through the forest. Walking where everything is carpeted in mosses, super-sized trees hover overhead, and ferns are as tall as our shoulders was an eerie experience indeed. We followed the path to the Hoh River which is birthed by the glaciers, high on the side of Mt. Olympus. Its bed is very wide, but the milky blue water meanders and splits, leaving gravel bars in the middle while fallen conifers create logjams. With mountains, forests, and coastal beaches all in the same park, we think Olympic NP must be one-of-a-kind.

Leaving the rain forest behind, we headed to the Kalaloch (Klay-lock) beaches. We reached Ruby Beach first which is identical to Rialto Beach: a rocky shoreline with multiple seastacks offshore. When we stopped at Beach Four to eat lunch, we observed from an overlook that it is sandy like Second Beach. We never found out how or why rocky and sandy beaches alternate up and down the coast.

Our last stop in Olympic NP was the Quinault Rain Forest. Doing so was redundant as it is a smaller version of the Hoh. We walked Kestner Trail which led to the old homestead of the Kestners who were some of the first settlers in the area. It is in disrepair, and renovations have only recently begun.

When we first planned our trip, we expected to spend two days in Olympic NP, but its great diversity required four in order to begin to experience it. Our only regret is that we never saw Mt. Olympus. It stayed hidden in its cloudy shroud.

Today's trivia: Washington is the home of Starbucks coffee, but they have their competition. Where we have ice cream stands at home, here they have what we're calling coffee stands, some in towns, but others out in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. But someone must be drinking their coffee or they wouldn't be there, right?

TODAY'S ROUTE: US 101S, entering the Hoh Rain Forest, returning to US 101S to The Quinault Rain Forest, returning to US 101S to Aberdeen, then US 12 to Elma

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 20: Rialto and Second Beaches

Friday, September 17, 2010 Skies clearing until early afternoon, then clouds and rain, 63 degrees

Fog rising from among the trees looked like steam rolling off a boiling cauldron as we headed to the Storm King Ranger Station, located on the shore of Lake Crescent. We walked to the shore and looked into the crystal clear, turquoise waters. No one was on or near the water this cool, damp September morning, but it was easy to imagine boats motoring fishermen out into the lake and children splashing and playing along the shore. This was not our destination, so we moved on to the coastal region of Olympic NP.

Rialto Beach is a very rocky beach with its red, green, black, and speckled stones polished smooth by the tumbling of the sand and the waves. It was a very rigorous walk as we were pushed up against huge tree trunks piled on the beach by the high tide. Those trees had been undercut by heavy rains roaring down the creeks and rivers, then carried out into the Pacific and returned to the shore where they will be tossed seaward and back for many years.

Offshore, jutting up above the waves, are large and small boulders called seastacks which have been eroded from the mainland. They are an amazing sight. They are jagged and rough, yet some have trees sprouting from their tops. Further down the beach is one of the larger seastacks called the Hole in the Wall which, as you would guess, has a hole eroded through its middle. When the surf rolls in, it splashes through the hole and sprays into the air. After sitting and enjoying this special oceanside vista for awhile, our return walk was much easier as the ebbing tide freed up room for us on the beach.

From there we moved on to Second Beach where we walked a mile long trail through a thick, damp forest to reach the shore. Once there we had to climb over multiple huge tree trunks to reach the beach which, although only a couple of miles from Rialto, is sandy. More seastacks of many different sizes and shapes are offshore. By now it was low tide, and tidal pools had formed around the bases of smaller boulders. Gazing into the water we could see green, purple, and pink anemones, some as small as a button and some as large as the top of a coffee mug. Clinging to the sides of those same boulders were spiny, red starfish. We walked on down the beach and perched ourselves on one of the huge tree trunks and soaked up some of the sun's rays which we hadn't see in days. We decided that the Great Northwest is no place for anyone who experiences SAD, seasonal affective disorder. While New York has its share of cloudy days, somehow the daily fog makes gray days even more dismal.

We chose the coast today to enjoy the sunshine since the forecast for tomorrow is for rain, and since we're headed to the rain forest, will we know the difference?

Miscellanea: We are in Twilight Heaven. The author of this popular series was born here, in Forks, WA, and apparently, this is the setting for her novels. All over this small town are stores featuring Twilight paraphernalia, motel signs welcoming fans to last weekend's festival, and tour buses ready to transport fans to all of the sites relevant to the story line. Almost makes me wish I'd read one of those books.

TODAY'S ROUTE: US 101W to WA 110W, retrace to US 101W to Forks

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 19: Olympic NP, Elwha and Hurricane Ridge

Thursday, September 16, 2010 Peeks of sun early a.m., fog and rain by late morning, 55 degrees

With the promise of some sun today, we headed out to see the Elwha Valley section of the park. When we spoke with the park ranger, he told us that most of the roads there are closed. Preparations are being made to remove the dam on the Elwha River in the spring. This will return the river to its original course and allow coho salmon to swim upstream to spawn. Then the ranger accessed the web cam on Hurricane Ridge where the sun was shining on the mountain peaks, so we decided to return there to hike the trails we missed yesterday.

You might have guessed that by the time we made it to the ridge, clouds had begun to lower. No sunshine, but at least it was dry. The trails we hiked retraced much of what we walked yesterday. We continued on to an overlook where we could see across a valley to an area that had been destroyed by fire seven years ago. From our prospective all we could see were burned tree trunks although the display stated that small plants are beginning to take hold. Further on we reached Sunrise Point. Views from there were into valleys and beyond to mountains and their glaciers. If the skies had been clear, we would have been able to see Puget Sound and Juan De Fuca.

When we returned to the Visitor Center for lunch, the clouds continued to lower, and soon everything was shrouded in thick fog, and light rain had begun to fall. Having hiked all that we could, we inched our way down the mountainside. As we went along, we tossed out ideas of what we could do in and around Port Angeles, but the fog followed us and reduced visibility in every direction. We cried "Uncle," and now the mountain we are tackling is laundry.

Rain is forecast again tomorrow. We hope to reach the beaches before the it becomes too heavy and then head to---what could be more appropriate?---the rain forest. Stay tuned for further updates.

GENERAL PARK INFORMATION: Olympic NP contains three distinct ecosystems: coastal, forest, and mountain. The forest is the largest old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest with trees 200-1,000 years old. Differences in rainfall create a rain forest along the coast, and lowland, montane and subalpine forests in other park areas. Mountain landscapes include glacier chiseled U-shaped valleys, subalpine meadows, and glaciers carving their way down volcanic mountainsides. Both sandy and rocky beaches are found along the coast which is home to a variety of birds and sea life.

TODAY'S ROUTE: US 101W to Elwha, back to Port Angeles and to Hurricane Ridge and back.

Day 18: Olympic NP---Hurricane Ridge

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 Partly sunny in the morning, 58 degrees; at Hurricane Ridge, blowing rain and 43 degrees

As we drove west on US 101, fog hovered eerily over Hood Canal and Dabob Bay. Houses, motels, and restaurants sandwiched between the road and the waterfront are reminiscent of Woodville on the south end of Canandaigua Lake. A quaint setting.

After viewing a film about Olympic NP at the Visitor Center in Port Angeles, we began the 17 mile drive to Hurricane Ridge. As we looked to the northeast at the first overlook, we could see Mt. Baker (at 10,781') poking through a cloud bank, brightly illuminated by the sun. A stunning sight, one we had hoped to witness on Sunday.

Continuing on, light sprinkles began striking the windshield and soon turned into a rainshower. In the Visitor Center we were trying to decide what hikes would be appropriate in the rain when a ranger-guided walk was announced. Seven of us joined Janis as she described how the plants and animals adapt to the severe environment of the Olympic mountains. All assume the same strategy: store up food, lay as low as possible, and be frugal with food and water. For example, the marmot fattens up over the four months of summer before he curls up tightly with his family in their burrow. Their heart rate drops from 120 to four beats per minute, and their body temperature drops from 102 degrees to the ambient temperature of their burrow or about 40 degrees. As we were standing in a 16 mph wind with blowing the rain in our faces, we recognized just how remarkable this adaptation is.

With fog wafting in and out obscuring views in every direction, and being chilled to the bone, we headed back to Port Angeles. On the way we saw a small herd of black-tailed deer feeding in a meadow, and at one pull-out we saw a sign that read "Beware of Aggressive Goat." Apparently he isn't too fond of strangers invading his territory.

While we were disappointed not to have seen and done more today, we recognize that is to be expected any time anyone ventures into the mountains.

TODAY'S ROUTE: From Lacey, I 5S to US 101W to Port Angeles, and then into Olympic NP as far as Hurricane Ridge

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 17: Mount Rainier National Park, Day II

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 Sunny and 63 degrees

Just inside the Stevens Canyon Entrance is the Grove of the Patriarchs. This is an old growth forest of enormous cedars and Douglas firs. These trees tower to a height of 300 feet, and some are 1,000 years old. They create a thick canopy that darkens the forest floor. Yet there is vibrant life below. Ferns, lichens, and mosses are growing on fallen tree stumps, creating a rich environment for the next generation of trees. This was a short loop hike that included a suspension bridge over the Ohanapechosh River. It vibrates and sways so much that only one person can cross at a time. But I bet kids make it into quite a ride.

Mount Rainier was reigning over the park again today. Driving into the park from the Stevens Canyon Entrance, we rounded a corner to see it glistening in the morning sun. As we climbed into the park, we stopped at many pull-outs. One was Box Canyon. Glaciers had cut a very deep, narrow gash in the rocks, and a small river was racing through it. Looking to the southeast beyond the canyon, we saw another glacier-covered mountain. Later we learned it is Mt. Adams, rising to a height of 12,276 feet. We also stopped at Reflection Lake, and with the clear skies, Mt. Rainier was perfectly reflected, just as we've seen in so many pictures.

We climbed on to the Paradise Visitor Center where we watched two films about the park and viewed the exhibits about indigenous plants and animals. Then we headed out on the Deadhorse Creek Trail. It wound through a lushly flowered sub-alpine meadow, another brook tumbling over rocks. Near the trail a marmot held flower stems between his paws and munched on its blooms, fattening himself for winter. This trail merged with the Skyline Trail, and we followed it to the Glacier Vista overlook. Nisqually Glacier is dusty colored on its flat surface, but in its deep crevasses, blue, typical of all glaciers, was visible. Below the glacier, Nisqually River was littered with boulders and trees, the evidence of a massive flood six years ago. Twenty-seven inches of rain had fallen over five days on top of five feet of snow, causing the watery disaster.

Clouds began moving in from the west, wrapping themselves around the mountain, obscuring the summit. As we descended Alta Vista Trail, the clouds followed us down the sides of the mountain. Also coming down from the mountain was a group of men who were returning from climbing to the summit of Mt. Rainier. Even after five days, they were still exuding a lot of energy. Accomplishing this feat must be quite a high.

We have now seen two of North America's highest peaks, Denali and Mt. Rainer. Many people travel miles to view these mountains and most leave never having seen them because of clouds or other weather phenomenon. We feel very blessed.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS: While the Visitor Centers are closing, a frenzy of work is going on in other places. Roads are being resurfaced, creating traffic back-ups. All afternoon a helicopter ferried supplies and materials into the camps and transported trash and waste out. Along the sides of the roads, Park Rangers collected flowers and seeds which they take to the park greenhouse to germinate. As part of the park's ongoing restoration project, after three years these new plants are reintroduced to the park.

TODAY'S ROUTE: From Packwood, US 12N to WA 123 through the park to WA 706 to WA 702 to WA 510 to Lacey, WA.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 16: Mount Rainier National Park

Monday, September 13, 2010 Sunny all day!!!! 65 degrees

Mount Rainier is one of the highest mountains in the Lower 48 at 14,441 feet. It has more glaciers than any other single mountain in the Lower 48, and today it was showing off. It was not creating its own weather which means no clouds, no fog, and no snow or rain which is very unusual for a mountain of this height. Rainer's white-capped summit sparkled all day in the bright sunshine. It was mesmerizing. It may have seemed all that more impressive because the mountains around its base are heavily forested so the contrast is that much greater.

We drove to the Sunrise Visitor Center (which closed today) located at the highest point in the park that is accessible by car. We spent the entire morning hiking. The Sunrise Trail led us to a point where we could see the Cascade Mountains to the north and Mt. Rainier filling the horizon to the south. That trail connected to the Sourdough Ridge Trail which looked down into a valley with glacial streams meandering through it.

We decided to continue along that trail to Frozen Lake. It seemed much further than indicated on the map, and when we finally reached the lake, we were unimpressed. It looked like a farm pond. But that didn't diminish the value of the hike since along the way, we could look down on Shadow Lake which was reflecting trees and sky on its surface, and we were face-to-face with Mt. Rainier. It can't get any more impressive than that.

In the afternoon we went south to the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center. The contrast between these two sections of the park is phenomenal. While the Sunrise section is alpine-meadow, this section is a very damp and forested area. This center was open, and we studied a relief map that identified all the glaciers on Mt. Rainier. There were also displays of the animals and trees that are indigenous to that part of the park.

We grabbed another trail map and headed out. The Hot Springs Nature Trail was an interpretive trail, identifying plants along the path, and as it name suggests, it led to warm springs that bubbled up out of nowhere. We decided---not too wisely---to continue on to the Silver Falls Trail. This wound along a stream and on through the forest. By this time it was late afternoon, and we were very tired. We plugged along and were rewarded with a waterfall that fell multiple times, tumbling over rocks and flowing around fallen logs. A nice reward for the effort.

Tomorrow we plan to visit the Paradise and Longmire sections of the park.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Buckley, WA 410 to WA 123 to US 12 in Packwood

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 15: Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

Sunday, September 12, 2010 Morning: rainy, 45 degrees; afternoon, clearing, 73 degrees

Clouds hovering over the mountain tops, fog settling in the valleys, and last night's rain still hanging in the air meant that our plans to take a scenic drive to Mt. Baker were a wash-out. Institute Plan B.

The first part of plan B included a visit to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum. Ever since our trip to Alaska, we've never really understood the mania that possessed those who were smitten with gold fever, so we thought it would be interesting to see how those men prepared for their ill-advised adventure. We were directly in front of the museum when we began our search for parking. Many lots and garages were in the area, but they said "Event Parking Only" or "Event Parking, $35." People were milling around the streets, and some were standing on the street corner with signs that read "I need tickets" as we drove in circles looking for that elusive parking space. After a half hour we decided to go with the second part of Plan B: the Museum of Flight."

The Museum of Flight is a gem. While we have not visited the Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport, this certainly rivals the one on the Mall in D.C. Exhibits represent all eras of flight from the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss through World Wars I and II, and into the Space Era. Aircraft were everywhere.

We first crossed to the outdoor exhibits and boarded the SST Concorde and the Air Force One that carried presidents Eisenhower through Reagen around the nation and the world. Back in the main building we spent a long time in the World War II area that displayed aircraft, uniforms, videos of the Battle of Britain, for example, recordings of historic radio broadcasts, films, and many placards that gave in-depth information about all three Theaters of War. It is the most thorough history lesson of this war that we've ever had.

In the Space Age section were the same types of displays from the beginnings of the Space Race to the current International Space Station. The evolution of space exploration from the theories of scientists as early as the 1920's to today is a wonder. And how men agreed to be sandwiched into those earliest modules and catapulted into space is beyond me. It's clear, though, that exploration further into space will require another giant leap of scientific and engineering knowledge.

Before we left, we wandered through the section that showed the workings of a control tower, around various military and civilian aircraft, and through the Red Barn which was the original Boeing Factory. We were there over five hours, and if we had the stamina, there was still more to be seen. Although we missed the opportunity enjoy another mountain vista, we felt that our day was well spent.

Tomorrow the weather will again affect the success of our plans, this time to Mt. Rainier. We know the chances of seeing its peak are small, but we're hoping to hike trails that will lead us to some beautiful views.

And the event that hogged all the parking? The Seattle Seahawks were playing the Oakland Raiders, and they won.

TODAY'S ROUTE: WA 20 to I 5S, to Auburn, and then WA 164 to Buckley

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 14: North Cascades National Park

September 11, 2010 Mostly sunny, 54 degrees

The value of water in the west is not to be underestimated. Apple, peach, and cherry orchards are flourishing in areas normally covered with sagebrush all because of irrigation made possible because of Grand Coulee Dam. All along the route we took from Omak to North Cascades National Park, fields were being irrigated, even hay fields.

We were totally unprepared for the beauty of North Cascades NP. Our national parks book failed to describe it accurately. Unsurprisingly, some of the almost vertical mountainsides are covered with trees, and others are barren. The surprise, however, was the glaciers. We learned that Northern Cascades NP has more glaciers than anywhere else in the Lower 48---over 300---and many more than Glacier NP. They are almost everywhere we looked, and many were large as well. They also are the source of numerous waterfalls cascading from high on the mountainsides, their presence revealed as their spray glints in the sunlight.

Except for the serious backpacker, NCNP can only be enjoyed from the road. The steep mountains and narrow valleys limit access to its rugged beauty, so much of the park is undeveloped. Few trails are appropriate for the average hiker, so we viewed the park from the many overlooks. And there is much to be seen from the overlooks. In addition to the mountains, glaciers and waterfalls, three dams, Ross, Diablo, and Gorge, have been constructed in the park. Behind each is a lake with glacial silt tinting the water green. Some have islands in them, and these waters are obviously very popular adventurous individuals as evidenced by the number of canoes and kayaks plying their waters.

During our time in the park, we found two short trails to hike before we arrived at the Visitors Center, located on the opposite side of the park from where we entered. There we found out that there were other trails we could have tried if we had only known about them. Bummer. We suggested that maps be made available at both entrances.

Another great feature of the park is the road. It is a state highway which is wide and well-maintained, unlike the roads we slogged through in Theodore Roosevelt and Glacier NPs.

Our plans for tomorrow are up in the air since rain is in the forecast again. We'd hoped to take a scenic drive to MT. Baker, but it will be futile if everything is shrouded in clouds and fog.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Omak, WA 155 to WA 20 through the park to Sedro Woolley


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 13: Coeur d'Alene, ID to Omak, WA

Friday, September, 10, 2010 Mostly sunny, 71 degrees

FORT SPOKANE: In anticipation of hostilities, Fort Spokane was built in 1880 to protect the settlers moving into the area and to protect the rights of the Colville and Spokane Indians who lived there. But peace "broke out," and soldiers never saw any action, resulting in a boring tour of duty. In 1898 the entire garrison was withdrawn, and most of the troops were sent to serve in the Spanish-American War. The fort then became a school for native children. Its purpose was to strip them of their native culture and to assimilate them into the culture of whites. That school, too, closed, and its final use was as a hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis. Forty-five buildings were constructed, four of which still remain. A trail guide explained the site and purpose of each building.

What made this stop interesting was not so much the fort itself, but the dedication ceremony the Spokane Indians were conducting when we arrived. The ceremony continued for four hours. As we were leaving, an elder was speaking to the assembly, stressing the importance of preserving their culture and language. Following his speech, he began to chant. Soon others began singing and ringing small bells. One man was wearing elaborate native dress: bright colors in his clothing, bead work, and feathers. It was an impressive ceremony, and one that will be repeated for the public next week.

GRAND COULEE DAM: Built during the Depression to harness the Columbia River, Grand Coulee Dam is the largest hydropower producer in the US with a total generating capacity of 6,809 megawatts. It is the fourth largest dam in the world. Hoover Dam, though higher, would easily fit at the foot of the spillway. The dam was built, obviously, to supply power, but also to irrigate 600,000 semi-arid acres with the capability of irrigating 1,000,000 acres. Once unproductive land now produces bushels of grain and many kinds of fruit.

On our tour of the third power plant, we saw penstocks large enough to drive three Greyhound buses side-by-side through with room to spare. These penstocks bring water from Lake Roosevelt into the turbines. Inside the plant are six generators, three producing 600 megawatts each, and three producing 805 megawatts each. Large bridge and gantry cranes are used to service the generators. Everything is massive in size. Power produced by the dam supplies the entire Pacific Coast. Next we were driven through town and onto the top of the dam. The dam is impressive just driving by it, but looking down from the top down the face of the dam is truly awesome.

Eastern Washington is mostly flat with untold acres of golden wheat, stretching from one horizon to the other. The wheat is being harvested and the straw baled, and the fields sprayed---with what, we don't know---in preparation for tilling and replanting. Considering the vast acreage, it must be ongoing year round.

TODAY'S ROUTE: From Couer d'Alene, ID, I 90W to US 2W to WA 25N, to WA 174 to WA 155 to Omak, WA

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 12: Browning, MT to Coeur d'Alene, ID

Thursday, September 9, 2010 Steady rain all morning, 43 degrees; intermittent rain all afternoon, 55-65-55
Pacific Time Zone

The road from East Glacier to West Glacier is in a deep, narrow valley with more evergreens towering overhead. Rain followed us into the park. The western side Glacier is very different from the eastern side. The park is lower in altitude and very lush. McDonald Lake reigns supreme. It is very large and has a lodge, falls, creek, rapids, and drive named after it. The setting is very like the Adirondack Mountains with fir and cedar trees being dominate. In fact, further up the road we hiked the Trail of Cedars which has some of the largest trees we've seen to this point, and some of which are 500 years old. The trail led to Avalanche Falls. Its course was very fast as it twisted and fell over the huge rocks that lay in its way. Across the road the McDonald Rapids also were running full because of the recent rains.

Leaving the park we headed west again on what has become our favorite route, US 2. We've enjoyed all of the amazing scenery that we would have missed driving the interstates. As we continued through Montana and into Idaho, we passed numerous alpine-like lakes, laying at the foot of mountains and, of course, surrounded by trees. Today fog filled the valleys between the mountains, wrapping them in what looked like cotton candy. Both states are remarkably beautiful, but the long, cold winters would test the hardiest of souls. And there must be many of them because, unlike lodging in many areas of the country, rates are higher here in winter than in summer.

LAST MINUTE OBSERVATIONS: Services are already being curtailed in Glacier NP. Visitor Center hours have been shortened, the shuttle service has ended, and tour boats are being removed from the lakes.

Montana has no sales tax! I can't remember the last time I paid exactly what the list price was.

North Dakota receives $2 in Federal aid for every tax dollar collected. What's with that?

In Montana and Idaho we've seen pull-out areas for chaining up and chain removal, and even one for cell phone service. Some of the people who have a cell phone permanently attached to their head would probably have withdrawal out here with now-you-have-it-now-you-don't cell service.

In Glacier NP this morning we had a lengthy conversation with a couple from Oregon. They confirmed the observations our friends Bill and Lin have made on their recent visit there. We also learned the Oregon is pronounced Ore-gin. Now we know.

With the change in time zones, we arrived early enough in Coeur d'Alene to make a laundry run. It should have been short and sweet, but we went through at least two dryer cycles before we realized it wasn't heating. To reward ourselves for the aggravation we endured, we rewarded ourselves with a visit to Dairy Queen.

Tomorrow we plan to repack and reorganize our luggage for the next leg of our trip. Then we plan to make stops in Spokane and at Grand Coulee Dam prior to our visit to the Northern Cascades NP on Saturday.

TODAY'S ROUTE: From Browning, MT, US 2W to Glacier NP, US 2W to US 95S in Coeur d'Alene, ID.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 11: Glacier National Park

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Cloudy and 43 in the morning; partly sunny and 55 in the afternoon

On the spur of the moment we decided to make the Two Medicine area of Glacier our first stop, and it was the highlight of our day. Just inside the entrance was a short trail through dense woods to a large, noisy waterfall called Running Eagle Falls. What made it unique was that it tumbled directly out of an enormous rock and spilled down into a small creek bed. Its source was never visible. Magic!

Next we drove to Two Medicine Lake. We could have stayed there all day. The surface of the lake was smooth, and the water was clear and calm, like the proverbial glass. The mountains and the trees lining its shores reflected perfectly into the water, and for awhile we were the only ones there. The silence was wonderful, so serene. "Medicine" for the soul.

From there we traveled on to St. Mary Visitor Center and arrived just in time to see adult osprey feeding their very large, very noisy, very demanding fledglings. The male had snagged a fish in his talons and delivered it to his brood. That quieted them for as long as it took for them to devour it. From their size, they should be feeding themselves soon.

As we drove up the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the main road transiting the park, we noticed that green, red, beige, and orange color the mountains in this park. Some mountains are rounded, some pointed, and some saw-toothed. Confectioner's sugar is sprinkled on some, and on others eroded areas make them look like bundt cakes with icing dribbling downs its sides.

Not surprisingly Glacier National Park has glaciers! They are strewn everywhere you look. Most are small, but a few like Jackson Glacier are larger, covering great portions of the mountainside. Many are darker than expected because soil has been blown on them. There also are many waterfalls. Bird Woman Falls drops high from the side of a mountain, under the road and on into the valley below. Sundrift Gorge's falls is smaller, and it tumbles over rocks through a narrow, wooded, water-carved gorge. Very picturesque. Water even falls right from the rocks. On our drive we passed Weeping Wall which does in fact weep. In the spring it must rain down on the vehicles passing by.

Lastly, we returned to Logan Pass and hiked to Hidden Lake. It was only a 3 mile round trip, but it was challenging because of all of the wooden steps on the first half of the hike. Once the trail went to dirt, it was easier to negotiate. The trail wound up and around the side of a mountain and finally ended at an overlook. The lake was beautiful in its own right, but the views of the mountains soaring over it and the lush valleys below it were spectacular.

When we drove into the park in the morning, the clouds were so thick and low that we were sure it would rain soon. Also, fog obscured our views of the mountains. So when the sun appeared in the afternoon, we really appreciated how it revealed everything, the mountains, the glaciers, and water, in all of their beauty.

Rain is predicted for tomorrow. We plan to drive to go into the park from the west side and visit the areas we missed today. Then it'll be on to Spokane, WA. We have friends who have been on the road for six weeks, and we will now be following the trail they have blazed for us.
They are seeing everything everywhere they go. We can only hope to match their stamina.

TODAY'S ROUTE: MT 49 to MT 89 to St. Mary. Then the park road from St. Mary about 2/3 of the way through the park. Finally, MT 89 to Browning.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 10: Wolf Point to East Glacier Park, MT

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 Beautiful sunshine, no wind (!!!!), 66 degrees

Our day got off to an intense start. Just as we were preparing to leave the motel, Phil broke part of the bridge on his glasses. They are Silhouettes which have both the bows and the bridge attached directly to the lenses. He's had problems in the past getting them repaired because only independent optical offices sell them. After a search on the internet, we set out for Glasgow. No luck. Fortunately in Havre we quickly found an optician who did not have spare parts, but disassembled a pair so Phil's could be repaired Whew! It would not have been good if all of the driving were left to me. Lesson learned: Phil needs to have a spare pair of glasses.

I love US 2. Although much of it is two lane, the traffic is extremely light and the speed limit is 70 mph, so making good time is no problem. Today we noticed that the wheat had not harvested and hay bales were left in the fields. While Phil was at the optician, he chatted with a local man and one from Saskatchewan. They said that they've had an unusually wet, cool, late spring and growing season, just the opposite of what we had in NY. The hay is the first cutting, and they are still waiting for the wheat to ripen. And this is a region that gets winter early.

The railroad is never far from US 2, and the many trains we saw were very long and traveling both east and west. We passed a grain elevators that were loading box cars. I think I saw more trains today than I have in the last five years.

I never cease to be amazed at the wide open spaces: miles between towns and miles between houses, vistas that extend to the horizon. When I think of the overcrowding in some areas, I think people really need to discover this beautiful part of the country. That's not reasonable, I know, because only the hardiest of individuals can deal with climate here.

I've decided that after seven full years, we are finally retired. In the past we were always "hurry up and move on," but this trip we are being much more laid back. Most of the time we travel after the morning rush hour (which really isn't a problem here anyway) and stopping before the afternoon rush. Much better way to go.

The forecast for tomorrow is sun until late afternoon and then rain through Wednesday and possibly into Thursday. We are very disappointed since this is the one park that was at the top of our "must see" list. We'll try to accomplish as much as we can and then hope for the best the two days after that.

I am writing this Tuesday evening, but I'm fairly certain it won't be posted until later. Internet service here is very spotty and cell phone service is nonexistent, and that may be true for two more days.

TODAY'S ROUTE: US 2W from Wolf Point to East Glacier Park, MT---a nice straight shot

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 9: Theodore Roosevelt NP, Fort Union Trading Post

Monday, September 6, 2010 Light to moderate rain with strong winds,
48 degrees, morning; clearing, windy, 58 afternoon MOUNTAIN TIME ZONE

As we drove north on US 85, we finally saw the oil wells we've been hearing about. The oil wells, dotting fields here and there, are unobtrusive. It's what it takes to put them there that's ugly. Piles of pipe and other unidentifiable staging equipment lays in piles near the roads. Enormous drill rigs and tank farms occupy large tracts of land while huge double tractor-trailers whiz by one after the other. RV's and FEMA-like trailers are everywhere, temporary housing for the workers. Fortunately for North Dakota, all of this activity is benefiting their economy. There is no unemployment here. In fact, employers are searching for people to fill jobs all because of the drilling and the ancillary services it takes to sustain its operation.

Whether the roads here were in bad condition before all of this work began or not, in places they are a disaster. Two sections of US 85 are unpaved. Because of the heavy rains, these sections were muddy, greasy and nearly impassable. Our vehicle slipped and slid through the mire, becoming covered with a thick coat of red gunk. Thankfully, our all-wheel drive got us through. (I have no idea how long we would have had to wait for AAA if we'd been stuck out in that remote area.)

THEODORE ROOSEVELT NP, NORTH UNIT: At this Visitors Center, we learned from a short film that this is a land of extremes. It is semi-arid, receiving only 14" of rain and 30" of snow per year. The temperatures fluctuate between -40 and 100 degrees, and the predominately west wind is relentless.

Entering the park, meadows are filled with silver sage, and stands of cottonwoods line the banks of the Little Missouri River. Further on
the awe-inspiring Badlands come into view. They are more rugged here than in the South Unit due to more rapid erosion over the years. Canyons, buttes, coulees, and draws work together to shed water into the Little Missouri River. But not only is the terrain more rugged, it is more colorful, and the rock formations more varied: some round, some pebbly, some collapsed at the bottom of a steep butte.

Our ability to get out and enjoy the park was limited because of the steady rain and strong winds. We stopped to read the informational boards and take pictures from the car. At three points we ventured down short trails to snap shots of the river, an oxbow, and an unusual rock formation---name forgotten for the moment. We were fortunate to see two herds of bison, tucking themselves close to a hill in an attempt to escape the rain.

FORT UNION TRADING POST: To avoid creating extra laundry, we took the car through a car wash on the way to the Fort Union Trading Post. Originally the fort was built on the Little Missouri River, but the river, continually meandering, has left it about a half mile away now. Fort Union was the place where the fur traders and the Indians came to do their trading. A certain protocol had to be followed: first a meal, then a time of pipe-smoking, casual conversation to catch up on happenings since their last meeting, and then the presentation of gifts to the chiefs who did the trading for their entire tribes. Negotiations could then begin, and they often continued over a period of several days. Furs of all kinds (beaver, buffalo, ermine, otter, deer, and even mice) were traded for knives, fabric, cooking utensils, dishes, and tools among many other items. Once furs were no longer fashionable, however, the fort fell into disrepair and was eventually torn down. The accurate reconstruction we visited was possible because of detailed paintings and drawings made at the time the fort was in use.

We left the fort and traveled another unpaved road, dry this time. Very few homes are along this 16 mile route. There are no towns nearby, so people must have to travel many miles to shop.

Once we reached US2W, we were traveling through the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. As we've seen in the past, the towns and the homes on the reservation are ill-kept and in need of repair. Moreover, many of the homes are identical in style, shape, and color while the ubiquitous casino is just down the road. Speaking of US2, we were disturbed to see the number of crosses lining the road, marking where people had been killed. Not only were the crosses numerous, but many were in groups of two. Since the road is so straight, we were left to wonder what caused all of the accidents.

Tonight we are in Wolf Point, MT. On our trip here we noticed that train tracks follow the road---or more likely the other way around---and both follow the Missouri River. Numerous trains, both freight and Amtrak, whizz by on a regular basis.

Tonight Phil has been on the internet and on the phone searching for motel rooms for the next two nights. After lots of calling back and forth, we hopefully have one night each in sister motels, the first in East Glacier and the second in Browning. (We would have loved to stay put two nights in a row.) We had hoped that after Labor Day finding a room would no longer be such a challenge. Tomorrow we expect to have a full day of traveling, arriving in Glacier NP just in time for the next round of rain.

TODAY'S ROUTE: US85N to US2W to ND1804 to MT327 to US2W

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 8: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, South Unit

Sunday, September 5, 2010 Rain, sun, rain, sun, rain, sun, 70 degrees

We were driving the rolling hills of western North Dakota this morning when the Badlands suddenly appeared on the horizon. They are a natural wonder in their own right, but they seem less rugged and the colors more muted than those in South Dakota.

The views from Painted Canyon Visitors Center was spectacular. Colorful in hues of reds, browns, and yellow buttes are separated from each other by valleys. Off in the distance we saw our first bison. A ranger told us that he had separated himself from the herd because he was old and would no longer mate. Yet his great size was evident even through the binoculars.

At the main visitors center in Medora, we watched a short film about Theodore Roosevelt's life in the Badlands. He came west to hunt. Over the years he realized that the land and its wildlife were being destroyed. Conservation became on his major concerns, and when he became president he set aside 18 national monuments, 5 national parks, 51 wildlife refuges, and millions of acres as national forests. It is because of his zeal that we have so many parks to enjoy now.

At his restored Maltese Cross cabin, a ranger gave a detailed talk about T.R.'s life: his illnesses, the deaths of family members, the loss of his ranch, political ups and downs, all of which he overcame. He was an extremely intelligent, charismatic man who has greatly and positively impacted our country. I am psyched to read his biography.

A scenic 36 mile loop drive with interpretive signs explains the park's historical and natural features. We stopped at every overlook. My favorite was at the trail head for the Ridgeline Trail. Veins of coal had burned, creating colorful bands in the rocks: blues, blacks, and tans. Along the trail were signposts that gave information about various plants growing in the park. We took our second hike on the Wind Canyon Trail. By then it had rained, and it was a slippery climb. But at the top we overlooked the Little Missouri River and some of the wildest parts of the park, a magnificent view. With the off and on rains we were glad we were able to see and do as much as we did, but we know the colors were not what they would have been, and we missed parts of the park we would have liked to hike.

After we left the park, we strolled the streets of Medora. Its buildings are constructed to look like the Old West, but the stores are filled with the typical fares found in touristy areas.

The forecast for tomorrow is for heavy winds and rain. If it holds, that will greatly impact our visit to the North Unit.

TODAY'S MISCELLANEA: At the Painted Canyon Visitors Center we met a couple from Durban, South Africa. Living in SA they have been robbed, held at gunpoint, had a car riddled with bullets, and had friends murdered. They came here because they feared for their lives. In the three years they've been here, they had started and operated a business. They want to stay, but their visas have expired, and they are being denied green cards. As the wife said, "It's easier to get into the USA under the fence than over it." It's a sad commentary that people who can and do contribute to our country can't become citizens, yet those who come illegally are given welfare, housing, health care, etc., endlessly draining our country. (Interestingly during the conversation we learned that they have been to Penn Yan. Small world.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 7 Jamestown to Bismarck, ND

Saturday, September 4,2010 Sunny, breezy, 74 degrees

Continuing westward from Jamestown, we passed acres of rolled hay and straw bales, sunflowers bowing their heads low, and combines dwarfing the tractor-trailers they were loading. As we neared Bismarck, the land which had been flat, began to roll, and almost magically the city blossomed over the prairie. Once we headed north on US 83, before us, as far as the eye could see, were towering wind generators stretching from west to east. My opinion: they are ugly scars on the landscape.

LOUIS AND CLARK INTERPRETIVE CENTER, our first stop, is a condensed version of the exhibits at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Yet the pictures, maps, displays, and artifacts more than adequately depicted long, arduous, odyssey to the West Coast.

President Thomas Jefferson charged Captain Lewis with a monumental task when he sent him out to explore the new Louisiana Purchase. Lewis was to 1.) find the Northwest Passage, 2.) draw maps of the new territory, 3.) establish latitude and longitude for major landmarks, 4.) identify indigenous flora and fauna, 5.) make peaceful contact with the various Indian tribes, and additionally, 6.) record the names of the tribes---as many as 52---describe their physical appearance, clothing, customs, and their social and political structures. All of the above was to be detailed in logs and presented to the president upon his return. Amazingly, Lewis successfully fulfilled his mission.

A mile further down the road is reconstructed FORT MANDAN which Lewis and his Corps of Discovery built and stayed in during the winter of 1804-05. It was here that Captain Clark formed 44 undisciplined, rowdy men into a cohesive team. Also, Sakakawea gave birth to her son here just six weeks before the westward expedition began in March. Through long, cold winters, fording rivers, riding rapids, crossing mountains, and defending against Indian attacks, only one man died, and he apparently from a ruptured appendix. Yet, even today the data gathered by Lewis is considered remarkably accurate and definitive.

KNIFE RIVER INDIAN VILLAGE is across the Missouri River from Fort Mandan. This was the birthplace of Sakakawea, and home of the tribe that supplied the food and buffalo robes that made it possible for the Corps of Discovery to survive their first winter at the fort. Today all that remains are mounds of dirt where the Indians lived with their clan members in earthen lodges. The men hunted and fished, and the women grew corn, beans, squash, (CBS), and sunflowers as well as making clothing from buffalo hides, cooking, etc. The village was decimated in 1837 by small pox, introduced by white traders.


This morning a native North Dakotan explained that North and South Dakota should really have been East and West Dakota. His reasoning is that both states are flat in the east and the western portions are more rugged, especially the Badlands. Sounds reasonable to me.

Three new motels are under construction in Watford City to accommodate the influx of oil workers, many of whom are currently sleeping in their cars. When the motels are completed, they are fully booked for three years.

TODAY'S ROUTE: I94W from Jamestown to Bismarck; US83N to Washburn; west on ND200A to Stanton; then retrace to Bismarck

WEEK ONE: 2,197 miles traveled

We DID get motel rooms for tonight and the next two nights as well. Whew! No sleeping in the car! Hopefully, from now on getting rooms won't be such a challenge.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 6: Superior, WI to Jamestown, ND

Friday, September 3, 2010 Rain with very strong winds in the morning and 50 degrees; sunny and 65 degrees in the afternoon

For the past four days much of our travels through MI,WI, and MN has been on state or county roads. We've been amazed that we encountered so little traffic on these roads. Sometimes we drove several miles without meeting another vehicle or seeing one in our rear view mirror. We've made good time without the stress of crazy interstate automobile roulette. So refreshing.

This morning we crossed the Mississippi River just as we left US 2 for MN 200. Having seen it when we were in St. Louis, it was a surprise to see it so narrow---less than 50 yards---and so shallow. Sure isn't Old Man River there.

The Minnesota we saw today is mostly flat. Trees, usually evergreens, grow along the roads. The land seems to be very marshy, and we did see lakes of all sizes, some larger than Canandaigua Lake and some the size of a large farm pond (or Lake Mitchell). Wide expanses of fields planted to corn, short-stemmed sunflowers, and soy beans appeared as we approached North Dakota. Nearby the inevitable grain elevators rise up, towering over the prairie. This is reminscent of Kansas.

This afternoon we visited the Frontier Village in Jamestown, ND. Twenty-four buildings, moved in from small prairie towns around ND, house historical displays. Town life is represented by a post office, dentist, print shop, jail, saloon, bank, fire department, school, church, law and insurance offices, and many more, each furnished with artifacts and antiques appropriate to its use. Louis L'Armour grew up in Jamestown, and one building honors his legacy and displays many of the books he authored.

On the same grounds is a celebration of the bison's importance to the prairie, the World's Largest Buffalo Monument which is 26' high, 14' wide, 46' long and weighs 60 tons. He's one intimidating dude. Just beyond the monument is a herd of 30 bison. Included in the herd is White Cloud, the only female albino bison in North America, and five of her calves one of which is also white.

Tonight we met our Waterloo, as we expected. Phil spent almost two hours locating rooms for us for the next two nights. Labor Day combined with the oil workers, who have moved into the area to work in the newly discovered oil fields, have made lodging scarce. Since Plans A and B have been sabotaged, tomorrow will be working from Plan C which may also affect our plans for Sunday and Monday as well. Trips like this necessitate flexibility.

For our grandchildren who are using our travels to study geography, these are the routes we took today: from Duluth, MN, I35S-US2N-MN 200W-MN34W-US10W-I94W as far as Exit 258.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 5: Quincy Mine; Apostle Islands---almost

Thursday, September 2,2010 Morning rain and afternoon clouds and showers. 72, eventually Central Time

In 1843, six years before the California Gold Rush, one of the nation's first mineral rushes occurred on the Keweenaw Peninsula. Miners came for copper instead of gold. The Industrial Revolution and, soon the Civil War, increased the demand for copper. The Quincy Mine was opened in 1848 and became the second largest mine in the Lake Superior region. Immigrants from across the world came for the jobs that copper mining provided.

We were at the mine in time for the first tour of the day. We began with a cursory self-guided tour of the mine shaft where 30 man-lift carts, ore carts, and water/bilge carts were on display. The tour continued in the Hoist House. A double steam hoist, the largest in the world, powered cables lowered and lifted the workers into and out of the mine shafts and brought ore to the surface from depths of as much as 9,260 feet. The winding/unwinding drum was enormous. It held enough cable to lower and raise carts in the shaft at the same time to all 92 levels. One engineer, working a 12 hour shift, was responsible for operating those cables. The lives of the miners, the amount of ore removed, basically the whole operation depended on him. He could not leave his post at any time.

From the hoist house we took a cog-wheeled tram down the equivalent of seven levels. We took a wet, dark, 43 degree ride into that level. Inside we learned that the process of drilling was laborious. Hammer and chisels were used to make holes into the walls where the explosives were loaded. Once the ore was loosened, it was then hand-loaded into the ore carts and raised to ground level to be loaded onto rail cars. Off site the ore was stamped, concentrated, sorted, smelted, and formed into ingots before they were shipped (once the ice cleared from the lake).

Miners suffered deafness, blindness, and lung diseases from working in the mine. Two hundred fifty-two men died in the 99 years the mine was in operation. Tragic as this was, it was a remarkable safety record considering the working conditions. The mine prospered until a labor strike and the rise in strip mining caused its decline. In all we were glad that we took this two day Harley-biker-induced detour.

Shortly after noon we were on our way to Apostle Islands. Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we viewed a film of the 22 islands, an archipelago spread along the northeast coast of Wisconsin. Each island is very distinct and, obviously, only accessible by boat. Gale force winds are predicted for tomorrow so no boats will be running. Rather than wait for the weather to improve, we observed many of the islands as we drove US 13 to Superior, Wisconsin. (But even as we are avoiding winds in WI, Hurricane Earl is bearing down on North Carolina. Obviously we are concerned about our many friends there and about how our condo may fair during this storm.)


Copper Harbor is the northern most point in Michigan.

US 41 originates in Copper Harbor and finds it terminus 1,990 miles away in Miami, Florida. It would be very interesting to make this trip.

Michigan has rumble strips both in the center and on the edges of their roads. In many places the painted center line is not centered on rumble strip. When this happens, it makes for a very narrow, very annoying driving experience.

Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes (which we will be driving through tomorrow), but we were surrounded by water much of the time we were in Michigan. It was a very pleasant, beautiful surprise.

We always thought that Georgia had the monopoly on red clay soil. To our amazement, both Michigan and Wisconsin are close behind. We've been driving and walking through red clay for three days.

In New York and North Carolina every bit of waterfront property is overbuilt. Only the steepest, swampiest plots are undeveloped. It has been very refreshing to drive where there are long expanses of open shoreline, especially on Lake Superior. Gorgeous.

Since we are operating off our original schedule, we don't where we will be or what we will be doing tomorrow, other than we should make it to North Dakota.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 4: Copper Harbor

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 Sunny, windy---again---69
Copper Harbor, Michigan

This morning we made our way up the Keweenaw (key-wuh-gnaw)Peninsula to Copper Harbor. The trip was very Adirondack-like with trees bending low over narrow, twisting roads. The difference today was that there were stands of white birch in contrast to the dark green of the evergreens. The French and Ojibwa Indian influence remains mostly in the names of the villages, lakes, and rivers up and down the peninsula.

We originally thought we would spend half a day in Copper Harbor, but at the information center we came up with a list of six sites to visit. Our first stop was Fort Wilkins State Park. This wooden fort was built in 1844 as a constabulary with the intent of maintaining the peace between the Indians, the local residents, and the miners who were pouring into the area for the copper rush. But everyone lived harmoniously so the fort was soon closed, and most of the soldiers were reassigned to protect the southern border of the US in anticipation of the war with Mexico. Nineteen buildings survive and twelve of them are original structures. The buildings are furnished, each to reflect its use: officers' quarters, kitchen and mess, powder magazine, guardhouse, blacksmith's shop, carpenter's shop, etc. Interpretive signs and videos further illustrated the difficulty of life in such a remote area. A man in period costume portrayed a sutler (store keeper). He explained that supplies had to be shipped via the lakes from either Detroit or Wisconsin which was possible only six months of the year. Also, because of the length of time it took for the goods to arrive, many of them arrived spoiled or damaged. We were greatly enjoyed this stop and were impressed with the thorough restoration of the fort. Well worth the out-of-state fee.

Next our intent was to take a boat from the marina to the Copper Harbor Lighthouse. While we were eating our lunch there, we learned that trips for the remainder of the day had been canceled due to rough water. So plan B. We drove up Brockway Mountain for views of our surroundings. From any vantage point Lake Superior is intimidating in its size, but especially from above. Many islands are sprinkled across its surface, and numerous freighters cruise her waters. From the top of the mountain we could see the whole village of Copper Harbor, the numerous smaller lakes scattered here and there, the golf course, and the roads coming in from the east and the west. I'm sure it is a gorgeous view when the already yellowing and reddening leaves reach their peak colors.

Coming down from the mountain we headed back into town. We drove through a forest of white pines, some of which are 200-500 years old. Nearby we also viewed Manganese Falls and the ruins of the Clark Mine. Since we misunderstood where the Quincey Mine was, we will be touring it tomorrow.

So tonight we are back in Houghton. By tomorrow our schedule will be two days behind, and our visit to Apostle Island National Lakeshore is now is jeopardy because rain is forecast for the next two days. Also, the temps are predicted to be in the upper 50's to low 60's which would make for a nippy ride on Gitchie Goommie. Such is traveling when you're "flying by the seat of your pants."