Wednesday, August 27, 2008

HIking, Rain, and Cold Nights--August 25-27, 2008

Monday was a cold morning, but the weather soon warmed. We chose two short hikes for our adventure. The first hike was John's Lake Loop Trail. It would take us past John's Lake, across Going to the Sun Road, past 2 waterfalls and back to the car. The trail started in a dense old growth forest.
We could see John's Lake, but there was no way to get close to it (too muddy) and the trees prevented a good picture.
Right after we crossed the road, we saw Sacred Dancing Cascade.
We crossed the bridge to continue to McDonald Falls.
Once we crossed the bridge, we were hiking on a multi-use trail. Horses were the other users so we had to watch our step! We stopped to explore McDonald Creek as we made our way toward the falls.
McDonald Falls were larger than Sacred Dancing Cascade! We enjoyed the tranquility of the area. Everyone else was stopping at the overlooks to see the falls. We were the only ones hiking.
Once we returned to the car, we headed to Trail of the Cedars. It was a nice boardwalk (wheelchair accessible) that wandered through the cedar forest for a .6 mile loop.
There were many benches for people to stop and take in the scenery and the sounds. As we neared the halfway point we crossed over Avalanche Gorge. The trailhead leading to Avalanche Lake was just beyond the gorge. We hope to hike that later in the week.
We returned to camp for lunch and some relaxation. The two hikes were about 3.5 miles. Early in the evening we hiked to the transportation center (1/4 mile) and then to Apgar for an ice cream treat. This would be the last nice day for a cool treat. The temperature again reached the low 80s, but that would be the last day that would happen until the weekend!
Rain and cooler weather was predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday. The weatherman was right! The temps at night dipped into the lower 40s and the heat came on before bedtime. We piled the blankets on and slept pretty good. Tuesday morning we turned on the generator as we didn't get enough solar to make up what we had used. With the generator on, we plugged in the electric heater and got toasty!
Tuesday was a good day to explore other places and keep warm. Whitefish was about 20 miles from Glacier so we took a drive. Whitefish had a nice downtown with interesting stores. We walked around, then sampled the offerings at Great Northern Brewing Company. The first sample was free! I tried Huckleberry while Bob sampled Buckin' Bronc. Bob ordered a pint of his sample and I sampled another--Highlander Ale. All was good then we heeded the bartender's advice and ate lunch at Downtown Pizzeria. We hadn't had pizza in a long time and the one we had was great.
It was still raining when we returned to the rv so we 'chilled' until later in the evening when the skies cleared. We walked along the path to Apgar and walked around the campground loops. Once the weekend crowd left, there were plenty of sites. About half of the sites taken are occupied by tenters--brrrrrrr!
Wednesday was cooler and just as rainy as Tuesday. Bob picked out some geocaches that were labeled 'park and grab' and off we went toward Columbia Falls. The rain continued and there was a definite chill in the air.
When we returned to the park early in the afternoon, a sign posted at the ranger station said the road to Logan Pass was closed. We inquired as to the reason and it was because the road had to be plowed! It snowed at the upper elevations Tuesday night! The ranger said as soon as the road was clear it would reopen.
We returned to the rv for a late lunch and bundled up to keep warm. We have been in a lot of cold this trip, but this is the dampest. I think it feels colder than when we were at Grand Teton National Park.
Thursday the weather is supposed to warm again. We'll let you know!

Our Journey into Glacier NP--August 22-24, 2008

We left the Silver $ Casino and headed toward Glacier NP. We took the scenic route--of course. We stopped at Polson, MT to view Flathead Lake.

We continued on our way after stopping at a Wal-Mart and not purchasing a thing--what a wonder! We were looking for bear spray, but they didn't stock that item.

We stopped again at a K-Mart in Kalispell and found the bear spray. We wanted to have it for the days we hiked in Glacier National Park. We also filled our propane tank as we didn't know if the weather would turn cool.

As we approached Columbia Falls, we decided that we were going to stay in Glacier for about a week and that we might need bread, milk and fruit before the end of that time. So, we stopped again--as had other campers since this is the last major grocery store before the park!

Once on the road we hoped there would be space available in Apgar Campground just inside the park from West Glacier. We were lucky enough to find a spot and set up camp. We weren't sure how our solar panels would work since we in an area of trees. We tried to find a spot with some sun. As it turned out, we didn't get much solar. All the campgrounds in Glacier NP are primitive--no hookups of any kind. We took the kayaks off the car since we knew we would be traveling Going to the Sun Road.

Even though we arrived late in the afternoon, we decided to go for a drive. We went to McDonald Lodge.

The lights in the lobby were interesting.
Each panel had a different painting.
After leaving McDonald Lodge we drove back to our campsite and walked to the village of Apgar. It was pretty much a tourist area though it had one of the many visitor centers in the park.

The weather was warm, even the first night didn't get too cool. We were able to enjoy our morning coffee outside for a change.
Since it was Joyce's birthday she wanted to go hiking. The plan was to drive Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass and hike to Hidden Lake. As usual, plans are no good. We had heard many stories (white knuckle) about driving Going to the Sun Road. We can tell you it was not the number one White Knuckle trip for us. The top 7 White Knuckle Roads for us were:

7. Going to the Sun Road

6. Montana 49 outside Two Medicine, Glacier NP

5. The road through Douglas Pass, Colorado

4. The road in Colorado National Monument

3. Rodeo NM to Chiricahua National Monument

2. Utah 12 (Hogs Back Ridge)

and the Number One White Knuckle Road

1. Kentucky 1427

Going to the Sun Road is narrow, but at least it has a concrete wall that the other roads didn't have between us and the drop-off! Right now construction crews are repairing the 75 year old road so it is dirt and gravel for part of the way. It was also one lane near the Loop just south of Logan Pass! Here we were stuck in the lane of traffic waiting for the green light to travel the one lane portion of the road.

This was the one lane section. All along the road, the views were breathtaking. This is the Weeping Wall where water flows out of the rocks. It flows so much in the spring that the entire road gets wet. It wasn't much on the day we drove past.The three arches that support the road were said to have been the most difficult part of the original construction in 1932. Workers were lowered by rope to place charges to blast the rock to form the arches.
Many waterfalls could be seen from the road.
Once we got to Logan Pass Visitor Center we were disappointed that there were not enough parking spaces. More than 20 cars were cruising the parking lot looking for an empty spot. We finally parked in a reserved spot so we could go in for a few minutes and get some brochures. We knew we couldn't park there to go on a 3 hour hike!

This is the trailhead for Hidden Lake. We would have to do it another day.
When we returned to the car, we had a warning from the park service saying we had to move the car. We did and as we left, there were 5 other cars in line to try to get our spot!

We continued to drive Going to the Sun Road. We decided to hike to St. Mary's Falls only there were no parking places at the trailhead--bummer. We drove just a little farther and found a parking place at Sundrift Gorge. From looking at the map we saw that the trail to Baring Falls from this parking area met the trail to St. Mary's Falls at about the one mile point, so off we went.

Baring Falls was a short hike downhill from the parking area. To get to the falls, you walked over a tree trunk bridge.
The falls were nice, but we had more falls to visit on this trail.

As we hiked to meet the trailhead for St. Mary's Falls, we had a great view of St. Mary's Lake. Little Chief came from St. Mary Lodge with hikers going to the falls.

The trail followed the lake...

until it neared the creek which is on the right in this picture.

Once again there was a bridge across the stream.
Several hikers coming down the trail said that a little over 1/2 mile was another falls which was even better. So we continued on beyond St. Mary's Falls.
Along the way we saw many thimbleberry bushes. Some of the berries were ripe. Yes, they are edible and very sweet. We have seen thimbleberry bushes most of the summer, but this is the first time any of them were ripe.
Along the trail we passed two other small waterfalls.We finally arrived at Virginia Falls and it was worth the walk. We were able to get near the base of the falls. We spent a bit of time exploring the area around the falls before heading back to the car. Unfortunately, as we passed Baring Falls on the return trip, we missed our turn leading to the parking area. We found ourselves saying that the sights didn't look familiar. We checked the GPS and saw that we missed the turn by about 1/2 a mile, so we turned back and found the trail. If we had continued on to the next area, we could have caught a shuttle back to the car. We walked a total of 6 miles!

We finished our drive to the east end of Going to the Sun Road. We drove out of the park and followed the road that led around the park back to West Glacier. That is when we drove on Montana 49. It was a white knuckle ride because there was no guard rail and the road had some vicious breaks from falling rocks, snow and ice!

We finally made it to US 2. We stopped at Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana for dinner. It was a cozy inn that is on the National Historic Register. Amtrak passenger trains still stop at the inn. We overheard the waitress tell a family who inquired about tv that there are no tvs anywhere at the inn and no telephones in any of the rooms. If necessary, one could use the phone at the front desk to make a collect call. After dinner I used my cell phone to return Bobby's call, but I couldn't get a signal in the parking lot.

Finally, after a long, exciting day we arrived at the rv. The signal on my phone was good so I returned Bobby's call and got to hear Christopher and DeAnna sing happy birthday!

We put plenty of blankets on the bed as the temperature was supposed to drop into the upper 40s. While we were hiking, the temperature rose to a warm 83 degrees!

Monday was supposed to be another good day. We hoped to hike some more trails, but not another 6 miles like Sunday!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Heat Wave Subsides--August 18-22, 2008

After arriving at Fairchild AFB near Spokane in the midst of a heat wave, we were glad to see it only lasted the first day! Then the weather quickly cooled due to rain and wind. We stayed at Fairchild until Friday, August 22. We geocached in the afternoons when the weather cleared. A couple of mornings we bowled for $1 a game at the base bowling center. Fairchild was a nice base for walking so we walked to the bowling alley, BX, and commissary when weather allowed. Our first day at Fairchild we ran the air conditioners--only the third place since we started last November! (We also ran them at Valley of the Rogue and McChord.)

We left Fairchild on Friday morning headed east toward Glacier National Park. We knew it was too far to go in one day, but as usual, we had no plan. Along the way we stopped in Idaho at the Old Mission. The mission is the oldest building in Idaho--completed in 1853.
The interior also has that old feeling. The paint has been refreshed, but everything else is old.
Behind the altar you can see the straw in the walls that was the original insulation!
The visitor center is housed in a house that was completed in 1864. It was used by priests and visitors to the mission. A new center is under construction closer to the interstate.
From Old Mission we continued on our way to Kellogg, Idaho and the Crystal Mining Company. There is an old gold mine and museum/store located there. We almost stopped there for the night as they had a free campground that was nice, but it was only lunchtime so we moved on.

We stopped at Silver $ Casino Restaurant Gift Shop in Haugan, Montana. They also had free camping, some with electric hookups. Once we crossed into Montana, we were back in Mountain Time. Saturday morning we headed to Glacier.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back to the Blog! August 10-17, 2008

After leaving the casino we headed to McChord AFB south of Tacoma, Washington. The weather was dreary--raining and windy. As we approached the southern end of Hood Canal, the skies cleared a bit and there was no more rain. We were lucky enough to get one of the last 2 sites with hook-ups (water and electric) when we arrived in the afternoon.
We used McChord AFB as our base to explore the area. One day we took a trip to Mt. Rainier. We did a few geocaches along the way.

Alder Dam was a geocache along the way.
Another place was Elbe Sculpture Garden. We would have missed it completely if we hadn't been geocaching! It reminded us of the place near Paula's that she took us to years ago.
The artist used wood and metal to create these creatures. The rocking horse is over six feet tall!
We finally got to Mt. Rainier National Park. It would be a great park if someone would re-engineer the parking areas!We drove to Longmire, the first ranger/visitor station and it was packed! No parking anywhere, so we continued on to Paradise. What a mess! They are constructing a new visitor center so most of the parking area is blocked. There was an area along a 2 mile loop road that was marked for parallel parking. Problem was if you parked there, it was quite a hike up the hill to the current visitor center. We saw signs for a shuttle, but never saw one!

We parked in the day use/picnic area and walked to the visitor center. It was a bit disappointing as the power was out! We heard a generator running, but that was for the cash register, not to run the movie or light the exhibits. As we stepped out of the center, we had a good view of Mt. Rainier.We found a map and walked Nisqually Vista Trail. It was a 1.2 mile loop trail that had views of the Mt. Rainier, waterfalls, glaciers, and wildflowers. There were also some signs we needed to read to claim a geocache. Mt. Rainier was behind us in this picture, but the clouds had already moved into the area.

If you look closely you may see a waterfall on the right and one on the left. Both feed the Nisqually River in the gorge below.Even though it was the second week of August, there was still snow on the trail. Many of the backcountry trails were still impassable due to snow.After hiking Nisqually, we drove back toward Longmire. We stopped at Narada Falls picnic area to eat our lunch and check out the falls.Our next stop was Carter Falls Trail. This was one of those trails that goes uphill until time to turn around and come back down--and a steep uphill it was!About 200 yards beyond Carter Falls was Madcap Falls, but it was not marked on the trail signs! We could see it much better than Carter Falls.
When we returned to Carter Falls, we found a short trail off the main trail that gave a better view of the falls. No, we didn't lean on the railing.
We rested a few minutes then headed back down to the car. This trail had an interesting bridge for us to cross to get from the parking area to the main trail. It was just a few feet over the water and bouncy!We returned to Elbe to get a cache that was crowded when we first went near it. Elbe also had an interesting motel---cabooses on the railroad tracks. The dining car was a pizza restaurant.

The rest of our time at McChord we spent geocaching the nearby area, defrosting the refrigerator, restocking the pantry, and enjoying the campground. We decided not to visit Seattle because of TRAFFIC! It was the worst we had seen since we lived outside of Washington D.C. Even in the middle of the day traffic crawled along bumper to bumper on the interstate. Side roads were just as bad. We made it to the Tacoma Dome to see an rv show, Fife to visit the Honda dealer (for touch-up paint to hide a rock chip on hood) and Camping World. Other than that we stayed close to Ft. Lewis and McChord AFB.

Most of our trip we have been following record breaking cold or snow. Now we are in a record breaking heat wave. It was in the mid 90s at McChord. Seattle broke several records.

After leaving McChord on Sunday, August 17, we headed toward Spokane. The drive was eerily similar to our drive through west Texas. Only the temperature was over 100 degrees during this drive!

And yes, we are now headed east, not west.

We checked into the fam-camp at Fairchild AFB and plan to stay until the heat subsides (Tuesday or Wednesday). Our plan (if we have one) is to head to Glacier National Park.