For the sake of our own Corps of Discovery, we've each taken on a character. E read aloud information about each and every member of the original Corps (we've had a lot of car time, you know) and we each selected a part. E is, of course, Sacagawea. V is Seaman, Lewis's dog. I'm Capt. Patrick Gass, the carpenter.
Today I enjoyed a hot shower at the incredibly well priced and family friendly Sacagawea Park in Stanton, ND (what a find!) before we headed out for the day. First stop: Fort Mandan, the first winter home of the Corps of Discovery. The girls greatly enjoyed the kids' area, the first we've seen at any L & C Interpretive site. We all dressed up, worked together in the canoe and roughed it in the hide tent. The girls were quick to point out lots of design differences between Fort Clatsop and Fort Mandan. V was particularly enamored with the statue of Seaman, her own character, at the Seaman Overlook of the Missouri River.
From there we headed in to Bismarck for a bit of civilization. We found a room mid-afternoon, and opted to make the best of it, including laundry (inexpensive washer and dryer on our floor), swimming and HOT showers of our VERY OWN! I'm charging up all our various batteries.
On the recommendation of three out of three hotel employees, we had dinner at nearby Space Aliens - think Chuck E. Cheese with an alien theme, and better food plus full bar. The girls and I all had a heyday, and the ribs were delish (as were the girls free pizzas, from the looks of it). To round out the evening, and stick to theme, we walked across the NEXT block to take in a showing of "Wall-E." Yes, we've seen it before. But it's just so darned CUTE! Plus...it fit the theme of the evening, and gave us all a greatly needed break from anything educational or historic. :)
Tomorrow we'll kick around town before heading back into the woods! :)
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
August 25, 2008
I'm sorry, but I think this is just wrong on so many levels! Kum & Go? These have been all over the place since we entered eastern Montana and into North Dakota. I refused to buy gas there just on principal, but today it was our only choice (and the price is a dime cheaper than we see most other places). I asked the clerk and she assured me the name selection was based on the owners names, which begin with K & G.
OTHERWISE - woke up to the beautiful sound of easterly winds blowing through the cottonwoods and tall grasses, clear sunny morning, wonderful! Still managed to pull ourselves away from camp in favor of heading for Lake Sakagawea (Garrison Dam on Missouri River) and Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (one of the villages is where Lewis & Clark picked up Sakakawea and Charboneau on their journey west). This was a particularly exciting fact for E who's big on the journey, and particularly Sacagawea.
It's hot here in North Dakota, but there is a constant wind that provides some relief. There are long straight roads that dip along the hills...I included photos for my friend, Kevin, who particularly enjoys these scenes. We now know where sunflower seeds and oil come from...we've never seen such enormous sunflower fields. And it's harvest time for wheat. We're coming into corn country, but haven't yet come across a corn stand.
We're in a funny tiny little cafe in Stanton, ND - Cafe Lamond. Good local food. Friendly people and internet access! WOO HOO!
On to the capital - Bismarck!
We did...a LOT today! Two forts and a confluence, a few miles and a great free campground. Good day.
We started out SUPER early today. I woke up just before dawn due to too much water before bedtime, but it worked out well. I asked the girls if they wanted to get up early and beat the mosquitos. V jumped at the opportunity. E was close behind. We drove about 15 miles before we stopped to use a rest stop, change into daytime clothes and eat breakfast.
Good thing about a 5:30 a.m. start is the jump on the rest of the day. We were able to visit Fort Peck Dam (the largest earthen dam), saw lots of early morning wildlife (including our first HERD of deer, also there near the dam), and made it to Fort Union Trading Post well before lunchtime. We toured the post (docents there particularly enjoyed E's choice of period clothing for the day), parlayed with the trader in the trade office, the girls earned their Junior Trader badges and we had lunch with the cottonwoods.
Then it was on to the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence. It was sort of confusing because the Yellowstone comes in from the south and seems to run a bit westerly. It's difficult to remember just how far north we are (though the days are QUICKLY getting shorter - last week sunset was at 9:19 in western Montana. Last night: 8:15 in western North Dakota), and I just don't think of rivers running north, for whatever reason.
We toured neighboring Fort Buford which has an impressive collection of original stoves (wood stoves and cook stoves) and other artifacts, then spent some time dipping our toes in the Missouri before settling in the free campground at Fort Buford. The water was fairly swift and murky due to the storms we experienced in the west. It seems that, with the dams, turns and other river obstacles, it took the water about the same amount of time to get here as it had taken us to drive. V and E caught several river toads, two of which V played with until shortly before sunset when we finally headed up to camp.
The camp was marvelous! Maybe it's because we've had rain or bugs or other challenges the past several nights, but the evening was warm and breezy (keeping away most of the flying insects), the camp is little used so was spotless and situated in shin-high green grass under cottonwood trees. I cooked our store-bought salmon on the BBQ and we enjoyed it with fresh vegies and applesauce before relaxing for an evening of journal writing, reading, map reading, planning and grasshopper catching. We took out our glow-in-the-dark star map and checked out the constellations in the HUGE, dark sky here. The only problem: there were SO many stars it was tough to pick out some of the constellations we don't know as well.
August 23, 2008
So, in my rush yesterday, I failed to mention this part of our stay in Cardston, Alberta, Canada - we were aced out of the last camping spot in town (three hotels in town all booked, too) due to the World Championship Miniature Chuck Wagon Championships which were just about to kick off. What really burned my britches, though, was that the guy who snagged the spot swooped into the parking lot before us, and while I was unloading the girls, he took the last spot. Grr.
Today was a driving day...lots of driving. We started our morning with breakfast in the park before heading back to the U.S. and driving, driving, driving east in hopes of getting somewhat back "on schedule" since we managed to dilly dally pretty well this past week. After a trucker's dinner in a tiny Eastern Montana roadside town (if there's not a grain elevator, there's not a town) we found our way to Nelson Reservoir - mosquito capital of the world! I've seen a lot of mosquitos in my day, but they SWARMED the van before we'd even pulled in. The windows were (thankfully) rolled up.
Still, we opted to stay. It had been a long day in the car and sunset was approaching. We got out, sprayed ourselves down with the good stuff, and headed to the bathrooms and the lake where, I'm told, they catch monstrous Walleyes. (No wonder! Plenty of food here for THEIR food.) Though the spray kept them off of us, they still swarmed and we inhaled a few. No way a runner would make it around here!
Finally we gave up and piled into the trailer where we murdered every mosquito that had followed us in. Journal writing, reading and viewing stars (BIG SKY) through the window. We hope for stars tomorrow night in a more friendly spot.
Friday, August 22, 2008
August 22, 2008
Warmer this morning than last evening, but still much colder than any other morning we’ve experienced this trip. Our campground is clean and quiet, though pricey at $21.50 per night. The campground features a neat facility - a 3 ½ sided cook “house” available for anyone staying in the campground. There’s a large woodburning “stove,” a steel barrel cut in half and laid on its side with a flat top sheet of steel and a chimney as well as cooling rails/safety rails along both sides. We warmed our hands there last night on our way to and from the bathrooms.
Today we explored the park, paddled across Cameron Lake and back, and enjoyed Cardston, Alberta, home of The Smashed Tomato – fantastic pizza, friendly people (they even let us use their internet…thanks Smashed Tomato). We toured North America’s largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles at the Remington Carriage Museum, and splashed off a lot of dirt at the city pool.
August 21, 2008
Unfortunately, we didn’t have 2 weeks or more to spend here in Glacier. The park is vast, with virtually unlimited backcountry potential, particularly for those keen on lakes and mountains, streams and waterfalls.
All of our clothes were soaked. We’ve been hand-laundering our clothes as we go along ala Steinbeck (see Travels with Charlie), and hanging them out to dry in camp. SOME of our very light clothes managed to dry before the rain set in, but all of our warm clothes are wet. So, this morning we headed to West Glacier for laundry and breakfast before driving AROUND the park; with the trailer we weren’t allowed to drive the Going to the Sun Road through the park.
It took a LOT longer to drive around than we’d been told. So we found some stops along the way including the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning, MT. featuring wonderful displays of regalia and goods. Uncle Jerry in particular would have enjoyed it.
We finally found our way across the Canadian border (good-bye pepper spray, potatoes and firewood if you have any left) and into Waterton National Park. It’s incredibly cold and windy here. I wouldn’t be surprised if it snowed tonight, though we’d never know it since the snow probably wouldn’t land until Lethbridge!
August 20, 2008
So much for the lake! It’s POURING down rain today and has been, off and on, since we woke up this morning. The trailer has a minor leak near the vent that I removed to install bug mesh before we took off. When it’s dry again, I’ll remove it again and put silicone in the screw holes as well as around the entire vent cover. Otherwise, we stayed remarkably dry.
During a break in the rain, we opted to head up the Avalanche Lake trail for a hike. We packed our lunches, Camelbaks and donned our rain gear, then headed out. Good thing we brought rain coats! It only drizzled a bit the first mile, as far as we could tell from the protection of the cedar grove. And once up at the lake (2.5 miles or so) there was a break in the rain and the clouds lifted so we could see the entire cirque and four waterfalls feeding the lake. We opted to hike another half-mile or so to the lake inlet, built a dam bridge across one of the creeks, generally enjoyed ourselves for about an hour. Then the heavens opened! It DUMPED for our entire hike back. The girls did remarkably well on the hike down, trying to race the rivulets that ran down the trail, poking puddles with their walking sticks, singing “99 bottles of milk on the wall” ad nauseum. Good times.
We holed up in the trailer for the evening, enjoying various noodles, hot spiced cider, books, dry clothes and sleeping bags. When the rain subsided, we ventured out of the trailer again to enjoy a campfire with our neighbors, Canadians Jason & Shannon. We’d given them some of our firewood last night when we found out our plentiful supply would NOT be allowed to join us through Canada later this week. We’ve been spreading the cedar & pine love ever since – we’re well liked here in camp!
August 19, 2008
Here’s where the rain comes in. So, we opted to take the park shuttle rather than the van today for a change of pace. We headed up to Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Road – talk about a nailbiter! This road, certainly dreamed up by drunken men, was built in the 1920s-30s for narrower vehicles. For much of the route, we were on the cliff side of a narrow road where they’re currently doing construction. Our driver liked to talk with one hand – I would like him to have held the wheel with both hands and focus, but this was just a daily drive for him.
The views from the top were spectacular despite a quickly moving storm blowing our way. We managed to meander outside for 20 minutes before the heavens opened and, not prepared for the rain, were forced inside the visitors center. We had our picnic lunch there and listened to a ranger’s talk in hopes that the storm would pass. An hour later, we were standing in the rain awaiting the next shuttle.
The drive down was no less stressful, particularly as I sat in the front passenger seat helping the driver learn to use the defroster and manually clear the front windshield until the defroster caught up. How he got UP the mountain with a window that foggy I’ll never know. Fortunately the construction hung us up long enough for the windshield to clear before we headed down.
When we reached the bottom, the skies cleared above camp (though not much at the peaks as far as we could tell), so we headed back down to Lake McDonald to play on a sandy promontory until dinnertime. The water at Lake McDonald is surprisingly warm, and the rocks here are so colorful! We all enjoyed the dip and hope to return tomorrow.
August 18, 2008
We wouldn’t have minded staying here and playing on the river for another day, or month, but we have other plans, don’t we? I confess we all envied the families who live at the ranches along the river just a short drive, really, from Missoula.
At the recommendation of a few locals, we opted to head toward Glacier via the Seeley/Swan valley rather than the more western route through Kalispell. I’ve heard great things about the towns along the lake near Kalispell, but we opted for the forested route and weren’t disappointed. The girls especially enjoyed our lunchtime stop and swim at Swan Lake; E tried dancing her version of the ballet of same name while in the water – very entertaining.
Then we found our way to camp in Glacier National Park at Avalanche Creek – just in time for dinner, then sunset (much earlier here at 8:15) back at McDonald Lake.
August 17, 2008
When we last wrote, we were hoping for some relief from the heat. Well, we got it! More on that later. First, let me catch up.
Today (Aug. 17) we were at a random campground I selected merely because we stayed in Missoula so late playing on the carousel that it was getting pretty darn dark. After passing the second freshly killed deer along the side of the road in this forested area, I decided we’d be better off pulling off and making a temporary home than continuing on in deer/elk/bear country in the dark. There’s a plethora of fishing access sites along the rivers here, and I finally just picked one. Of course, no camping was allowed, but signs directed us to a campground 4 miles up a graded dirt road. It was PITCH black when we arrived, but I could hear the gentle river nearby.
In the morning, we found ourselves about 30 yards from the water down a fairly steep embankment with a good trail. There were only two other campsites here, both occupied, one with a family.
At the grocery store yesterday I discovered the source of the odd smell in the van: the water cooler had been leaking its water for a week, apparently – plug open! So, with high temperatures forecast, I figured we might as well empty the van, pull out the carpets, then enjoy a day on the Blackfoot River.
The girls had a great time with McCoy (7) and his dogs, Dozer and Keisha, on the sandy shore, digging for rocks, building sand castles and playing in the cool water. Mid-morning, a family walked through with their canoe. While their mom, Laurie, waited onshore, their dad, Bob, took all the kids for a canoe ride along shore in the eddies of several rocks that protected our side of the river from the current. Then Laurie, Bob, Ben and Max climbed in their canoe and disappeared downstream.
Two hours later, Bob showed up again. He asked if any of us wanted to take the 2½-mile float down to the next campground where Laurie and the kids were napping. Initially I balked, but I thought about it and the float would take a lot of effort on Bob’s behalf. He portaged that boat down the trail once, and wouldn’t take any help. It also meant somehow getting back up and down the road to get his truck back. I’d met his family and learned a bit about them, and locals had already assured us that this section of the river was a pleasure cruise. (Seeing the folks float by in party rafts and innertubes all morning also helped assure me this was a safe float.) Plus, when would we get such a chance again?! So, an hour later with lifejackets on the girls we were enjoying a pleasant cruise down the Blackfoot. We stopped along shore where Bob caught a water snake (non poisonous and only about 8” long) which E really enjoyed (she wants one for a pet now), and V caught a sizeable frog.
Everything was dry by the time we returned to camp at sunset. Of course, sunset around here is at 9:15!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
August 16, 2008
I almost cried when we left the Bitterroots today. What a fantastic place, and we only scratched the surface. I could easily spend an entire summer there exploring the many roads and trails. It’d certainly be a place to explore on horseback!
We headed out fairly early this morning and visited Lolo Pass Visitors Center. Rather than moving on, we took a short hike into the woods with a quart-size plastic container which we filled with Huckleberries. MMMmmm!
Enjoyed great docents at Traveler’s Rest on the western edge of Montana – one on dining with Lewis & Clark, one on hunting methods and firepower including demonstrations with the trade rifle.
Now in Missoula (thanks to Holiday Inn for allowing us internet access!) where it’s incredibly hot (in the 90s) and slated to get even hotter tomorrow (over 100). The carousel here was, indeed, fantastic! The girls rode for about an hour (at 50 cents a ride for kids, how can you go wrong?) and I managed to take a ride, too. LOTS faster than any carousel I’ve ever ridden, PLUS it had the brass ring game. Neighboring Dragon Hollow was a fantastic inducement to exercise, even in the heat.
We hope to escape a BIT of the heat by heading into the mountains again, this time northeast, leaving the Lewis & Clark Trail in favor of a visit to Glacier National Park while we’re in the area (more or less). We’ll be in Glacier, then into Canada to Waterton National Park before we’re in touch again.
Thanks to all our supporters! Be well!
August 15, 2008
Today was the best day yet. Perhaps it’s because we’ve stayed in camp longer so we’re more rested, or perhaps it’s because this truly is a fantastic place. The temperatures have been much higher than I expected for a mountain forest (in the 90s every day), but the rivers are welcoming – not too cold, not too swift, not too deep.
Today we slept in a little bit, then unhooked Tawny from Junior and headed out to explore. We found our way to the Powell Ranger Station where the girls picked up their Junior Ranger booklets. We tried fishing at the kids’ fishing pond near White Sands Campground. No dice on the fishing (V’s spinner broke after half a dozen casts so now it spins freely in either direction – it’s tough to keep it from tying in knots), but we watched an osprey circle for awhile before it swooped down and snatched a fish from the pond about 15 feet from us!
We opted for lunch at Powell Lodge (the Lochsa Lodge burned down in 2001) merely because we’d left most of our lunch makings in the trailer. (We’ve gotten used to having it with us, I suppose.) It was nothing to write home about, but it was nice to be served, not have to worry about cleanup in a tiny sink, to enjoy the air conditioning and relax while the girls did their junior ranger paperwork wrap-up.
After picking up their Junior Ranger badges back at the ranger station, we headed out for a late afternoon hike up Warm Springs Creek toward storied hot springs. Well, we should have left earlier, should have brought books, should have brought towels and maybe even a washcloth or two. This was the most spectacular part of our trip so far! We didn’t even make it to the big springs at the end (where we heard there were already half a dozen people soaking). We found a beautiful spring boiling out of the side of the hill just below the trail and running into the river into some pools people had spent quite a bit of time establishing. There were three dammed pools, one with a fantastically flat rock I’d call “bathtub rock.” We enjoyed soaking for more than an hour before we opted to hit the trail rather than face an after-dark hike with no good flashlight between us.
The girls would like to spend a whole day at the springs, but tomorrow is Saturday, so I know it’ll be busy, and while I’m sure I could stay here another two weeks (easy) exploring the area, we have a long way to go still. Tomorrow – toward Glacier!
August 14, 2008
With all of us suffering from the shared cooties, we opted to stay put today. We slept in, had a late breakfast, rinse and hung the laundry, unpacked, set up our fishing gear and had lunch. Then we set out for the island in the middle of the river upstream about ¼ mile. Well, turns out walking on these round river rocks is even TOUGHER in the water than out! My river shoes were useless as were the girls water socks. When we tried to cross the shallow river, we found it shallow for ME, but a bit too deep for V or E to pass with the combination of depth and current. If I’d had my boots on, I think we’d have done fine, but it was all I could do not to moan and complain and gripe about slipping and sliding on the stones (slightly slimey) below. I don’t think Lewis & Clark would have accepted me into the Corps of Discovery!
We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the river shore nearer to camp. I decided to just practice my fly casting, and on the third cast came up with a Steelhead! It wasn’t very big (no more than 7”) but it was beautiful, and a fighter, and fun to catch. What a surprise! Particularly given that it was midday, shallow, basically a terrible time and spot for fishing! Continued practicing. Improved my cast, but no further bites.
Traded peach cobbler for split wood Gail and ?Scott? had in abundance. (They’re planning to leave tomorrow morning and will leave it all behind.) We had JUST burned the last of the wood we’d brought from home, so this was a fantastic turn of events for us! The girls also enjoyed taking the dogs for walks around the campground loop.
OH! And we saw a moose cow! It walked right through the campground shortly before dark! The moose is the ONE animal I’d really wanted to see in the wild while we were in Yellowstone last year. No dice there, but they’re apparently relatively plentiful around here. She was fantastic!
August 13, 2008
Since the lake didn’t welcome swimmers, and it was quite hot, we opted to move on into the forest. The drive took much longer than we’d expected, largely due to our many stops along the way to take in sites: Canoe Camp, Ant & Yellowjacket, Heart of the Monster (the center of the Nez Perce universe), Coyote’s Fishing Net, and countless interpretive spots along the Nez Perce Trail.
Highway 12 runs along the Lochsa River through the Bitterroot Mountains. We stopped initially at a camp called Knife Edge. It was inviting in that the best campsite was shaded and large and literally a stone’s throw from the river edge. But the girls wanted to see what was ahead, so we pressed on after a picnic lunch there (and a short repair to the trailer door which was acting up since the previous owner stripped the screws that hold the striker plate in place on the door – silicone: the OTHER necessary tool).
We stopped in at historic Lochsa Ranger Station where the volunteer hosts were friendly, but not very knowledgeable about points upriver. I would like to have stayed longer to visit the entire facility, but the girls and I were all pretty tired, sniffling and coughing and hoping for camp sooner rather than later.
An hour later we found our way to Wendover Camp. This place is terrific. Our spot is about 100 yards from the Lochsa River. We can hear the river (a gently flowing, wide stream) flowing, but we can’t see it through the dense forest. A clear trail leads us to a wildflower-covered bank, then on to the river.
We met MORE friendly neighbors here. Gail and ?Scott? from Pasco, WA. She’s been coming here for half a century, and says this is the best of the campgrounds offered. (She didn’t mention any backcountry camping and there’s a LOT here.) The girls particularly enjoyed their Boxer dogs: Lucy and Miss Kitty.
August 12, 2008
OK, I confess, I sent our last set of blogs from, of all places, McDonalds! Turns out Starbucks (right across the street) only provides the WiFi Hotspot for subscribers. The whole point of hitting hot spots at a commercial venue, to me, is to pick up free wi-fi while I partake of their goods or services. Ah well. MickeyD’s doesn’t require subscription – yet.
I’m writing this from our camp in the Bitterroot Mountains on August 15. Here’s the lo-down on how we got here.
At the recommendation of a Lewiston, ID resident, we headed up to Dworchak Reservoir out of Orofino, ID. “The water’s warmer, clear and green. It’s beautiful. That’s the place to be.” We HAD considered Hell’s Gate State Park on the Snake River, but the girls didn’t particularly care for the name, and the local said the water was too swift and too cold there for kids (and some adults) to enjoy.
Well, our handy-dandy (ahem!) GPSr said it was only 27 miles to Dworchak, so that sounded like a great alternative. Turns out, the GPSr couldn’t map the whole route for whatever reason and failed to note the 24 miles of windy, climbing two-lane road that then drops down to the lake through hairpin turns with travelling speeds no faster than 15 mph. So, it took us an extra hour or more to get into camp where we found…the dam was releasing HUGE amounts of water for the salmon run, so the lakeshore was muddy, FAR from camp, nearly impassible. And the water, while green, was anything but clear. We couldn’t tell if the lake dropped off or gradually deepenend, and with a slippery, clay bottom, I was afraid to get in for fear of not being able to get out. We walked out to the end of one of the several boat docks, all posted “no swimming, no diving,” and dunked our lower halves in the lake. I’ll give the local one thing: it was warm water.
Another nice neighbor in camp – a guy from Riverside, CA who sold his business and LA area home to purchase a beautiful Airstream trailer and travel the country “for a year or two” before settling at his second home in Borrego Springs “unless I find somewhere I like better.”
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
August 11, 2008
We came to the three tribes’ lands to visit their Tamastlikt Cultural Institute. The state-of-the art facility includes an interactive museum that tells history from the Native American’s point of view. It covers the circle of seasons the Native people based their lives upon, lodging, the introduction of horses to their way of life and the changes horses brought, wars, treaties, boarding schools and the change trains brought to the area. A fantastic presentation of another perspective on American history.
Only 30 miles away or so is Whitman Mission National Memorial. The site memorializes the massacre of missionaries by Cayuse tribesmen. Information presented there show the Whitmans knew they were in hostile territory – the Native people had seen such an influx of Euro-Americans, the taking of their lands, the introduction of diseases that were decimating their people that they feared for their nation’s future. But the Whitmans stayed to continue their missionary work and continue providing a resting spot and repair station for those traveling the trail. In 1847, the last year the Oregon Trail passed this mission, some 5,000 people traveled through the Cayuse territory leaving their detritus and disease behind.
I think it’s been great for all of us to be able to see multiple perspectives on American history throughout this trip. It’s certainly been educational for me.
Tonight’s stop – a wildlife refuge camp south of Pomeroy, WA. We headed for Lewis & Clark State Park, but the host there warned of rampant ticks falling from trees, bushes and the grasses there. And while there was a river (we could hear it) there was no access. The only other service this camp provided for $17 a night were showers – at an additional fee. Instead, we found our way toward the National Forest, but stopped short here at Blue Lake Campground. The lake is a hike from here. We’ll take it when the girls get up. Very peaceful, in the trees, saw wild turkeys last night, on the lookout for Bighorn Sheep this morning.
August 10, 2008
Got a fairly early start (out of camp by 8:30) to get to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles by opening at 9 a.m. The center was even better than I remembered it. They’ve added new exhibits and expanded upon old ones. There’s a Lewis & Clark exhibit, and a wing that covers a brief history of the gorge from the ice age to present, and there’s a theater that plays various Gorge-related films throughout the day. We, of course, caught the National Geographic Lewis & Clark film. There’s a very small area dedicated to hands-on experiences for kids, but it lacked the energy and creativity of the rest of the museum. Even a bit of music or other sound effects (this would be a great place to play Native American lore) would have added quite a bit to the room.
From here we traveled to Maryhill State Park for a picnic lunch at American Stonehenge. The concrete replica of England’s landmark was built as a war memorial. It stands among the arid hills that extend east of the Gorge to the Columbia Plateau. As I looked over the river at this very rural area, I wondered what Mr. Hill so enjoyed about this place that he built an art museum, experimental road, and war memorial below which he had himself entombed. The view of the river is wonderful, but there’s little shelter from the burning sun, not much color (perhaps in spring the wildflowers are remarkable). Still, we enjoyed our view as we picnicked and wondered.
Camp was at Wildhorse Resort on the Umatilla, Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes’ reservation near Pendleton, OR. Our first RV park – nice for a shower and a swim, and not too crowded since it wasn’t sold out. Very nice people operating the park.
We’re on the road again. After a hearty breakfast at Laurie’s, we headed south to the Columbia, then east past Portland and into the Columbia River Gorge. Our first stop was intended to be Multnomah Falls, but we’d hopped onto historic Highway 17 and came to Latourell Falls first. We hopped out for a picnic lunch overlooking the falls, but when we got to the overlook, we realized there were PEOPLE down there! So, we headed up the obvious trail. Hmmm…up to go down. Something’s wrong here. We backtracked to the parking lot and found our way to the downward trail, then enjoyed our picnic along the creek below the falls after experiencing the breeze and mist available immediately next to the falls pond.
Latourell had everything over Multnomah – beauty, accessibility and no crowds. In our 90 minutes or so at the falls we saw perhaps 30 or 40 people pass by at most. When we drove by Multnomah (which we’ve visited before) it took us 10 minutes just to get through the crowd to drive past the falls. There was no parking available within a mile. Tour buses were loading and unloading. Multomah’s nice, but the girls asked to skip it after their peaceful, nearly private falls experience only a few minutes earlier.
We also enjoyed this, our second visit, to Bonneville Dam Fish Hatchery, the oldest in the nation at 99 years. V decided she'd like to work here feeding and catching fish. (She's had several jobs this trip that she'd like to do someday.)
We continued east and enjoyed pizza at Spooky’s in The Dalles. This was a spot we’d discovered in our Washington tour in 2005, so we knew we had to revisit it. Lo and behold, Olympic swimming was on the big screen, so we enjoyed Olympics, good pizza and a clean restroom with hot and cold running water before heading to camp at Celilo Park.
Like trains? This is the campground for you, then. We’ve camped in the gorge twice now and I have one descriptor that pretty much covers both spots – NOISY. Trains and freeways on both sides of the river, ships and barges in the river (though those aren’t nearly as loud as the land travelers). We opted for Celilo Park because it wasn’t far from our next morning’s destination, it was the site of the falls Native Americans used before the dam flooded it (now it’s a nice windsurfing lake), and it was free. Good thing! With trains honking at the nearby crossing throughout the night (about every 20-30 minutes or so), free was a much better deal than the state park fee we paid for the same service during our last trip through.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Thursday we traveled across the bridge to Oregon to visit Fort Clatsop, the winter fort of the Corps of Discovery in 1805. They arrived in December by dugout canoes/pirogues, found a flat spot in the woods off a tributary to the Columbia, felled trees and built a fort all while facing unceasing rains. Wearing skins for clothes probably didn't help matters much.
We had much better weather and a much warmer welcome as we arrived at the visitors center. Before we could get inside to pay our fee ($3/adult) a ranger pulled us aside and asked the girls if they wanted to take part in storytime! We sat on a bison skin while the ranger read a picture book about Sacagawea.
THEN we headed into the visitors center where we were able to view samples of a variety of native plants before we were whisked away to a quilling demonstration just outside the fort. The fort is actually a replica of the original, but provided a great taste of what life must have been like that winter. The small fort included six rooms, three on each of two outer walls, no rooms against the gate ends of the stronghold. One room housed Sacagawea, Charboneau and the baby, Pomp. Two served as bunkhouses with eight bunks each, one with four bunks, one room shared by Lewis and Clark, and another was used as a store room. There were some really neat aspects of this shelter, including a loft or shelf that ran the length of the housing sides of the fort. Inside every room was a room-length hefty shelf for storage. Another neat design was the mud or clay fireplace that protected the floor and the back wall of the fireplace through the top of the chimney. There was, to be sure, little privacy here. No one, not even the captains, had their own rooms. And not every room appeared to have a fireplace.
We took a walk down to the tributary, then returned for a muzzle-loaded rifle demonstration. Larry, the ranger who gave the demonstration, was among the best educational rangers we've experienced on this or any other family trip in the past decade. He was engaging, entertaining and informative.
After the educational midday lessons, it was time for random wanderings in Astoria. Grandma and Grandpa directed us to the trolley. I must confess that while I was somewhat interested, I figured it'd be "just another trolley ride." THAT was a mistake! Thanks to our drivers and tour guides, particularly Bob Westerberg, we learned quite a bit about Astoria's colorful past and saw a lot more of town that we typically do cruising through by car. The waterfront had several spots I look forward to revisiting when we come up next time, or the time after that. :)
We topped off the evening with the melodrama at the Astor Street Opry House, a community theater company that was playing "Shanghaied in Astoria," a 24-year tradition. The girls had a great time, particularly once the popcorn started to fly. I like our Great American Melodrama in Oceano, but it's clearly a more professional establishment that frowns upon anything beyond simply boos and hisses for the villain. NOT IN ASTORIA! OH no! Here they sell the popcorn relatively cheaply to encourage the crowd to throw at will. The scenes are written to incorporate a broom shortly after the villain departs, and the aisle are wide enough to allow even those seated in the back a clear path to popcorn the villain.
Today, clean, pack and review the maps for tomorrow we shall hit the Lewis & Clark Trail. Oh...and of course it started to rain (drizzle) this evening!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
We had a laid-back day on the Long Beach peninsula today, venturing into downtown Long Beach to take advantage of the kiddie entertainment. We picked up 18 holes of miniature golf at Boo Boo's Putt-Putt Golf, rode the carousel and had a great time on the old-school bumper cars next door to the carousel. The girls asked to stay home this afternoon to play in the playroom. They know we'll be out and about tomorrow visiting more Lewis & Clark sites and the Melodrama (now there's a combination).
The peninsula is an interesting spot about which plenty of Washingtonians seem completely unaware. It's located in the furthest southwest corner of Washington.
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When we're traveling to and from here on the train, we have plenty of people ask us to explain where we're going. They've either never heard of it, or heard very little about it. But it's a great place for anyone who's easily entertained, or enjoys truly LONG walks on the beach.
The peninsula offers 21 miles of Pacific shore on the west, and similar mileage of more rugged shoreline along Willapa Bay. The further north you go, the quieter it gets once you pass the city of Long Beach. Oysterville near the northern tip is a very quiet, scenic, historic town of tiny old homes, many of which have been well maintained or restored over the years. Long Beach is the peninsula's tourist hub with shopping, studios, horseback riding and other attractions. Further south is Seaview, a quiet community and home of one of the largest grocery stores on the peninsula.
There's a load of dining opportunities on the peninsula. The Depot is the tastiest spot we've visited, with nightly specials and gourmet foods cooked by a chef whose more than comfortable moving well beyond traditional restaurant fare. Last weekend we enjoyed their Clam Bake (fish, clams, potatoes, shrimp and sea beans in a light bullion. Grandmom went with the rib eye steak with parmesan mashed potatoes "and a lovely bleu cheese butter," by her account. The decor is warm and inviting, as is the service.
For a hearty, hot breakfast, head to Laurie's Homestead Breakfast House in Seaview. It's a busy place year round, so don't expect a peaceful dining experience, but the service is relatively fast and the food is always served hot and tasty.
For pizza, head to Chico's next door. Not the best pizza I've ever had, but it doest the trick, has plenty of space for larger gatherings and is very family friendly.
Grandma says the best coffee on the peninsula is Chinook Coffee Company owned by Kathy Colvin. The drive-through coffeehouse is great for true coffee drinkers. Since I'm not a true coffee drinker (I tend more toward hot chocolate with a shot of decaf for flavor), I find Chinook's coffee too strong. I've tried tailoring my order, but I've yet to explain it in a way that she can understand - give me the Coffee Nip flavor without overwhelming me with coffee. I know...I'm weird.
Colonial Bakery offers traditional deli and bakery items. The girls particularly enjoy the princess cupcakes, complete with half dolls sunken in 3 inches of frosting atop a typical cupcake. The coffee here is strong, but otherwise not great.
Bailey's, a bakery in Nahcotta, offers all fresh goods baked by owner Jane Bailey. Head in Sunday mornings for Thunderbuns, cinamon buns with a different take. I was a bit skeptical of the scones. I've had more than my share of dry scones, but Grandmom talked me into taking a taste. MMMM! Spectacular. By far the best scones I've ever had: slightly sweet, moist and flavorful.
Grandmom reports Castaways in downtown Long Beach has "wonderful fish and chips, good chowder, coconut shrimp that's excellent plus it has a full bar." Imperial Schooner in Ilwaco and Ole/Bob across from the marina. The pub at the Shelburne Inn also has excellent (if pricey) food. She would also revisit the Pilot House on the beach approach (good fish and chips and pizza "that was not bad").
There are plenty of other restaurants to try here. Give us time...
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Today's message is brought to you by E. If you are receiving this message by e-mail, click on the hotlink to view today's photos on our blog.
Today we went to the Lewis & Clark interpretive center,really fun.
Then we went to Canby Fort, it was dark in there! When we got back Grandma had made oatmeal raisin cookies. Then we went to the beach ,built a fort, V,s new nickname is Fairy Legs.we got very dirty.
I'm still wrestling with the GPSr, and suspect that by week's end I'll be moving almost entirely to paper, with the GPSr for nitty gritty once we're in the neighborhood (if we can't find it from our paper maps).
Meanwhile, I've been looking for an easy interactive map to upload here so you can see where we've been. I'll put it on the bottom of the blog's main page, so all you need to do to see where we've been is scroll down to the map. Once there, you can zoom in to see details, even take an aerial tour ala Google Maps.
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Monday, August 4, 2008
We arrived in Seaview, WA without incident after a lovely drive up the Oregon coast and across the scenic Astoria-Megler Bridge. The bridge is certainly an engineering feat, spanning 4.1 miles at the mouth of the Columbia River. My mom and aunt both remember taking this same route by ferry in their childhood, years before the bridge was completed. It would have been a great thing to see under construction.
Seaview is on the Long Beach Peninsula, a jut of land on the furthest southwest corner of Washington. The nearest "big city" is not in Washington at all, but back across the bridge - Astoria, OR. Long Beach is the only stretch of Pacific beach in the U.S. (besides Pismo Beach near where we live) that provides vehicle access. The coastline is also known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific" for its long history of eating boats of all descriptions. The weather here can be relatively severe as it takes the brunt of coastal storms, but we've been here in sunny weeks and snow. As Californians used to sun day in and day out, the changing weather here is always a welcome departure from our norm.
Today, after helping me reorganize the van, the girls and I went horseback riding on the beach. E still vividly recalls her first ride, also here, three years ago. Now V is old enough, so she, too, joined in the fun.
There are two stables from which to choose at one of the beach entrances. One looks spiffier, the other (Skipper's) looks like it's been around perhaps too long. The horses at the spiffy one look more active and sharp, the ones at the old stable clearly have been around the block a time or two. I opted for the old school horses chiefly because we rode with them three years ago and they were great (and safe) with E. It was a great choice!
Our 11:30 a.m. ride included just the girls, me, and our outrider who led V onto the beach, then let us all go. We kept it down to a walk for the most part, and the girls did very well keeping their horses going in the direction the RIDER wanted, even when the horses knew it was time to turn around and head from home. (Our outrider wasn't ready to cut us off yet, so let us go on a bit longer.) At one point some of the horses spooked at a log on the beach. Both girls held their horses in without a hitch. Sure, it helped that these horses were very well versed at strange riders, and life on the beach. But after seeing the other stables' rides running rampant on the beach, I felt even better about our decision. Sure, I'd love to ride a spirited horse for a run up the beach, but this ride was really about the girls, their safety, and great memories for them. I have loads of fantastic horseback memories of my own, and when the time and place is more appropriate, I hope to make more.
E & V have been working alongside Grandma in the garden, weeding and trimming. The yard here looks really nice since the addition of a small fruit tree orchard which should be in full fruit by next summer. The flowers that the deer haven't eaten are coming along nicely, too.
I got to use my mechanical skills again today repairing V's favorite Red Truck. The back axle broke and released the rear wheels last summer while we were on the Dusy-Ershim Trail with Grandpa Randy. I replaced it with a threaded rod which finally failed after nearly a year of heavy use. Today I purchased a solid rod and a die so I could thread just the bits that needed to be threaded. V was super happy to have her favorite ride back on the trail. The neighbor from across the street came out to see if I needed help on whatever project I was working on. When I explained what I was doing, he raised his eyebrows and put his hands back in his pockets. Then he hung around for a bit to visit. It's nice to be able to fix things, and I enjoy the reaction from people when they discover what I'm up to! :)
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Our forest service campsite last night was little more than a pullout alongside the highway, but the creek was fabulous, and since we’d grabbed dinner at one of our Pacific Northwest favorites, I didn’t have to cook dinner (or cleanup). The beds were already set up, so all that remained was to play in the creek with the girls, journal with the girls and otherwise enjoy the evening.
Today we met Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Doug in Tillamook, OR where we fed the ponies at Blue Heron French Cheese Company, a glorified cheese store with animals for kids to pet, then toured the Tillamook Creamery. The packing half of the building was closed for the weekend, but cheese is always in production, and there were interactive displays, videos about production and views of it all in action all while eating our own scoops of ice cream.
On to Washington…
We toured the Monaco RV factory in Coburg, OR today, then moved on to Mission Mill Village in Salem, OR.
While the RV factory was interesting, it would have helped to have the crew working. We saw empty shops with projects partially completed, empty paint booths, and a guy cleaning windows. Apparently Fridays are off days, a nice perk for the employees! It didn’t help that our guide took us on a roundabout tour that led from point Z to D to A to P. After 60 minutes of that, he finally went to point A (this is where we start with the frames) and ran us down the line to see how these amazing (and incredibly expensive) RVs are built. When he finally started putting thing in order the tourists’ interest was revived. And I kept thinking about how Grandpa Randy would enjoy these spacious, clean shops.
Mission Mill is a historic mill in Oregon’s state capitol. When we arrived at 1, the hostess at the entry gate asked if we wanted a tour. Without a tour, she said, we wouldn’t be able to go inside any of the buildings. So, of course we signed up, and shelled out. The tour, however, included only the homes of the missionaries, and after an hour of that, I asked the guide about seeing the mill before the looms stopped working (at 3). Her response, “Oh, we don’t go into the mill. We don’t have a docent for that today.” WHAT!? To top that off, the guide essentially read signs posted inside the homes to tell us about the time and place. You can imagine I was more than a little antsy, but E was happy talking about these mid-19th century people and artifacts. V and I played out on the lawn for awhile, until the tour finally wrapped up at 2:30. Then we found our way into the mill building (turns out you don’t need a guide) and up the glass elevator to the fourth floor where the weavers were at work.
Pat Eckherdt was a wonderfully friendly weaver who first said she was sorry the girls wouldn’t be able to help her out because her loom was too heavy. But after we hung around in the room for awhile watching other weavers, she invited the girls to help her rip fabric for a rag rug she was making. Once they helped her with that (and with huge smiles), she invited them to see how she ran the big loom. One thing led to another, and within minutes they were weaving and beating the loom and working the treddles. They learned some tricks they can use in their weaving at home, and now E has added to her “wish list” a loom of her own (in addition to the spinning wheel that’s been on her list for a couple of years now). Next she’ll be asking for a sheep and shears so she can work a project from animal to outfit!
It was a quick drive to the rim from Mazama Camp (an enormous campground that was nearly filled to capacity). The view was nice, but smoke from fires throughout the west certainly marred the view. The girls wanted to go to Wizard Island, but we hadn’t done our research the night before, so failed to get to the boat launch by 9:30 a.m. – the only departure for the island. I suspect that, at only 48 tickets per day, reservations may also be required.
Still, none of us was happy just looking down at the lake. The girls knew the statistics before we headed down the trail with our lunches in our packs – 700-foot elevation drop in the 1.1 mile hike down to the lake (and gain on the return trip). But they were still keen on going, much to MY excitement! They walked down hand in hand, and played wonderfully on shore for nearly 2 hours before we headed back up. We stopped at nearly every bench on the way up (V would RUN for them so she could get more rest than E or me), and made good use of our Camelbaks. So glad we have those!
Stopped in at Diamond Junction Café for a bit of ice cream. If that hike without a whine didn’t earn the girls ice cream, I really don’t know what would!
Will wonders never cease? On our way in to Lava Beds yesterday afternoon, a Monarch Butterfly found itself straddling our antenna. Given we were traveling somewhere around 50 mph when it hit, and that it wasn’t moving, I figured it was dead. I planned to give it to V, our junior entomologist, when we arrived at camp. The butterfly slowly slid up the antenna until it was trapped against the antenna topper (a mummified rubber duckie left over from Halloween – antenna balls are so passé ;) ). Imagine our surprise when we stopped to take a picture of the park sign only to watch the butterfly flutter away!
This morning while we were packing up to leave camp and explore the lava tubes, I heard a bird in the van. All the doors were closed except the back hatch, and a hummingbird was battling the interior of the front windshield. V to the rescue! She caught the bird, then held it while it recuperated in her open palm. E picked a penstemon and put the birds beak in it, then we all watched as it blinked at us, recovered and finally flew away.
The lava tubes were really neat, though I think the girls and I felt equally uncomfortable in the deep, dark tubes well below the earth’s surface. Some of them were wonderfully smooth, gigantic tubes while others were much smaller, had rougher walls, even looked crumbled (very unsettling). Just a few feet down, they’re so dark that when we stood still to turn off our flashlights we couldn’t see our own hands directly in front of our noses. And with the flashlights on, the caves are so big and dark that the light doesn’t have anything from which to reflect, so there’s no extra light. You see what you point your flashlight at, nothing more. And you can easily step into holes, or endless lava tubes, if you’re not aiming the flashlight at the path in front of you. Wonderfully eery. Gutsy adventurers could easily spend a week in this park exploring the published tubes (and certainly finding plenty others).
We got off to a great start with wonderful neighbors last night. They invited us over for s'mores. With Evie's peaches in hand, we took their s'mores and raised them one peach cobbler. First night out and we were able to make dutch oven peach cobbler. Learned our dutch oven is WAY too big (8 quarts). MMMMmm!
Yep, today Junior reported its first problem of the trip – the license plate vanished. Was it taken? Did it blow off on I-5? We’ll never know. We DO know that when we arrived this evening in Lava Beds, the plate had disappeared and left behind only an exposed rectangle of gelcoat. Apparently the previous owner hadn’t bothered to remove the plate when he painted the trailer.
Got off a little later than we expected today, particularly since we forgot the peaches at Evie’s! Had to turn back for those! (We were only a few blocks away having just fueled up at $4.28 – imagine my disappointment when we found fuel $4.05-$4.09 in the next town, a blip on a map but with cheaper gas!)
Had a nice picnic lunch break at Grass Lake off Highway 97. The map showed a waterway here. Uh…no. The water from the ENTIRE LAKE was drained after an accidental dynamite explosion when the bottom of the lake was compromised and a lava tube of unknown depth was exposed. Today, that “glory hole” keeps this retention basin from overflowing on the nearby highway. V particularly enjoyed playing with a cat that another family had brought on its travels. The leashed kitty, Milo, seemed quite comfortable at the picnic area, though rather intent on those cattle over the fence.
Discovered that the GPSr which I’d set up for this trip wouldn’t work because it only allowed 50 waypoints. Clearly, there are more than 50 points of interest along our stop. So…unless I break down the trip by day, we’re not using the GPSr! (I tried to set it up by day initially, but Garmin’s MapSource isn’t exactly user friendly, and Streets & Trips doesn’t translate – too bad the software companies can’t cooperate.) I did, however, discover that the new GPSr (Garmin 60csx) that Mr. B so kindly purchased for me as a gift last Christmas WILL map a route if you just give it the name of your next stop. It doesn’t recognize a lot of the minor highways we’d like to travel, but it does work for major highways and interstates. The girls like the feature that gives you up-to-the-minute estimated times of arrival. Now, our car sounds like this:
“How much longer, Mom?”
Me reaching for GPSr that’s at my side and glancing down.
“38 minutes if we continue at this speed.”
This discovery reared its head as I headed north on Highway 97 headed for Klamath Falls, from which I planned to turn southeast toward Lava Beds. However, at the OR/CA state line, I spotted a sign directing us to follow Highway 161 “Stateline Highway” directly east to Lava Beds. The GPSr maps wouldn’t be rerouted that way, so I set it aside and let it beep to itself to oblivion while we cut ½ hour off our drive time by following road signs rather than electronic doohickeys. Referred back to paper maps once at camp and THERE was the route. Someday, electronic mapping may take over, but for now, paper is king.
Day one was without incident. WE got up at 4:30 a.m. to take Mr. B to work after dropping off his truck for service. It ensured an early start for us. We made Sacramento by noon after a couple of stops along the way for breakfast (great to be able to pull the bowls, spoons and food out of the trailer and relax outside with breakfast) and stretches.
The trailer towed incredibly well, and at 55 mph the van didn’t seem at all taxed. I noticed other travelers pointing at our trailer and talking as they passed, some with smiles. I don’t know if they thought it was cool or funky, curious or junky, and I really don’t care what they thought. I’m just pleased it provided THEM a distraction along their journey.
In Sacramento we ran through Fairytale Town, a play place from my parents’ youth, mine and now my own children. The girls really enjoyed this place with its Old Woman in the Shoe Slide, giant Mother Goose “slide” and various other climbing, sliding and exploring structures.
Our early start afforded us the long break, plus early arrival at Evie’s in Yuba City. We had a really nice visit, dinner at a nearby diner, evening visit with Charlene, Sharon and Rodney and a good night’s rest.