Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Western Wander - California to Nevada

When we began to plan a trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta a year ago it seemed a long way off.  I had yet to finish my final, and seemingly longest year of teaching. It's hard to believe the time had finally arrived!  I decided to call this trip is a wander because, except for a night in a hotel in Santa Fe and reservations at the balloon festival on October 3, we had no set plans or reservations.

September 8, 2016

We began wandering by uniting with Joan and Ted at the park and ride lot on 116 in Cotati.  From there we caravanned to Bab's Delta Cafe in Suisun City where we met Terri for Brunch.  We continued on I 80 to Donner Memorial State Park near Truckee, Ca.  Arriving around 2 p.m.

The afternoon was beautiful.  We walked to Donner Lake soaked in its beauty. The evening was just as gorgeous with very comfortable temperatures.  After a hectic day yesterday getting everything ready to take off we were pretty tired and called it an early night knowing we'd have a longer day of driving tomorrow.

September 9, 2016

When I awoke at about 1:30 a.m. to use the restroom the sky was filled with stars, too bad it was also filled with the roar of trucks on I 80, the sound reverberating through the valley where the campground is. It's too bad because this is a lovely campsite.

We left Donner Lake around 8 and headed to the east on I 80.  Lots of trucks were also traveling east. Because the speed limit was 75 mph, the 450 miles of nothingness happened a bit more quickly.  We stopped for lunch at a nice city park in Winnemucka.  The drive continued pretty much the same until we got close to Elko.  The mountains became a little more interesting and the town of Elko had a lot of character. 

As we approached the Ruby Mountains the scenery changed dramatically.  We entered a valley that was carved by a glacier, a mini Yosemite.  The campground, Lamoile Campground, was in the valley along a stream with stands of Aspen, a lovely place to stay for a couple of days.  The evening was a bit cool, but we were toasty inside our camper during the night.

September 10, 2016

We explored the surrounding area, driving to the end of the Lamoile Canyon, where backpackers were taking off up the glacial valley. While there we hiked the nature trail.  It was a short hike of 1/2 mile through the Aspens and past a recent beaver cut.  To provide building materials for their dams and lodges as well as food for their families, American beaver harvested the Aspen forest, tooth -carved stumps abound.  Beavers use their Iron-coated incisors to efficiently cut the stumps. These beaver pounds provide some of the last standing water in periods of summer drought and some of the only unfrozen water in winter.

Early afternoon we hiked up the campground trail, and I do mean up, about a quarter a mile to a beautiful little waterfall sliding over granite.  Bushes with red berries were growing in the canyon.  The water was flowing from glacier melt up the mountain.  The trail continued on another mile and a half to a meadow that is a pond in the spring.

We visited the California Trails Interpretive Center.  It was a beautiful visitor center, chronicaling the westward movement to California.
The streets of Elko were filled with people with maps and wine glasses.  It seems on the 2nd Saturday from 4 - 6 downtown business host a wine walk.  Guests paid 25.00 for a wristband to walk around and taste wine.  It was strange to see people walking the streets and drinking. In October there will be a beer walk.

We celebrated Joan's birthday at an Italian Restaurant.  Dinner was tasty and the service excellent.

September 11, 2016

We were early risers, leaving the campground at 7.  Joan, Ted and Terri were headed to Angel Lake and then over the mountains to Ruby Marshes.  We set out for Bonneville Salt Flats and Great Salt Lake.Before leaving Nevada we stopped in the town of West Wendover, very much a Nevada border down, filled with huge casinos to attracted the poor souls in Utah.  

 Upon entering town, we were welcomed by Wendover Will.  Wendover Will was originally erected in 1952  by the Stateline Casino and  named after the owner, William Smith and the town of Wendover.  At 63 feet tall, he was intended to draw travelers from Highways 40 and 50, now Interstate 80.  When driving east a caption reads, "this is the place"  and to the west. "Where the West begins".  Wendover Will was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the "World's Largest Mechanical Cowboy."

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 12, 2015 Banff, 111 miles

After enjoying a  shower and dumping our grey water tank we were on the road to Banff by 8:10.

Banff National Park Administration Office

We meandered around Banff a bit, having breakfast and driving up to the old stone Administration Building and discovering Cascade Gardens there.  

Cascade Gardens, Banff National Park

 We ended up here while trying to find the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.  The gardens were spectacular even though the water features were all fenced and empty while being upgraded.  It was fun to watch as two brides and grooms were being photographed at the park and in front of the grand building.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Parking on the street at the bottom of the hill, we climbed up to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.   Along with all the other Lookie Loos we explored the lobby and the stores on the lower floors, an impressive hotel!  I just checked the prices through Trip Advisor, mid week in September over $500.00 a night, I hope that's US dollars!

Leaving Banff we drove up the Bow Valley Park Way,

Bow River, Banff National Park

along side the Bow River,  watching Castle Mountain go in and out of the clouds.  

Castle Mountain, Banff National Park

Alberta is wild rose country and they were growing along side the road!

Roadside wild rose

We stopped briefly in Lake Louise to find some sort of literature on the spots we would be passing. It was frustrating to drive along the parkway and not know what you were passing, the literature when we entered the park was not as informative as what we receive in our National Parks.  Without being able to Google information we were lost!   A tourist info person we talked to in Banff had suggested finding a campsite as soon as possible, we agreed and took her suggestion for the campground, and headed straight there.

#88 Waterfowl Campground

Waterfowl Lakes Campground was about 38 miles north on the Ice Fields Parkway.  How sad it was to see all the free firewood available and a ban on fires.  After we'd made arrangements for our campsite we headed back down the Icefields Parkway to explore what we'd missed.

Bow Lake and Falls, Banff National Park
 I think this section of Banff is probably the most beautiful road I've driven.  The glacier fed lakes and glacier covered mountains are magnificient.  The Bow Summit overlook is the most magnificent of all.  

Peyto Lake from Bow Summit, Banff National Park

In the picture above our campsite is near the fourth little spot of blue after the lake.

10 years ago we were here with Kaci, stopping at a trail to hike to a lake or glacier only to find out she hadn't put on her hiking boots.  We gave her a hard time.  I can't believe I did the same thing, maybe at the same place!  I had my flip flops on and we start climbing and climbing and climbing to the most beautiful view.  The hike was 1.9 miles.  For the rest of the trip I wore my hiking boots as we walked to all sites!  

We drove back through Lake Louise to Lake Moraine, arrived at 5:00 and it was mobbed, took a look and headed back to our campsite at Waterfowl Lakes Campground.

Black Bear along roadside

This black bear ran across the road right in front of us as we were driving back to our camp!  It pays to be out and about in the evening.

Mistaya River at Waterfowl Lake Campground

The river that ran beside the campground was quite wide and rushing.  We spent our evening  down enjoying the river. 

Our neighbors at this campsite had an interesting pop up tent they used as a changing room next to their tear drop trailer.  I was talking to them about it, and as travelers do, we asked where each other were from.  They were from Marin, I don't say I'm from Sonoma, why do people from Marin say, "Marin"?  Small World.

This campground was one of my favorites.  Hope to return one day and spend more time.

July 11, 2015, Glacier National Park to Seebe, Alberta, 303 miles

By 7:00 we had left Fish Creek and were on our way over Logan Pass for the second time.  After the stalled trip over Logan Pass the day before we were happy that we only had to wait 5 minutes at the road construction and made no other stops.  We were in Saint Mary by 8:15 and continued north on Highways 2 and 5 into Waterton Lakes National Park.
Entering Waterton Lakes National Park

By 9:50, after entering Canada, we had surrendered our fire wood to the customs agent, they were afraid of wood transporting Dutch Elm Disease.

Bye, bye firewood

The cities within the National Parks in Canada are surprising, considering I don't know of any National Park in the United States with a city within it. The lake was beautiful, but lacked the splendor of Glacier.  
Waterton Lakes Mountains

After looking around the town I inquired about the drive up towards Banff from a young ranger, who's roommate attended Sonoma State!  She suggested a "unserviced campsite" about 25 minutes down a gravel road.  Knowing  the distance we were trying to cover, we decided to continue on the highway. 

Fields north of Waterton Lakes

As we traveled north we passed through farm country.  Lots of hay.  Alberta must produce a lot of yellow mustard, judging by all the gorgeous fields of it we passed.

We continued north on Highway 6 through Pincher Creek where we stopped to buy groceries, it's always an experience grocery shopping in a foreign country.  There was a huge display of Cheez Whiz near the door, a local specialty?  

We turned west on Highway 3 continuing to Highway 22. On Highway 22 we had a downpour and then it continued to rain on and off for 15 minutes. The drive was beautiful with rolling hills covered with firs and aspens.
Chain of Lakes Provencial Park, Kakanskis Country, Alberta

We stopped for lunch at Chain of Lakes Provencial Park. The drive continued to be pastoral, passing through some small towns until we met up with Canada 1, west of Calgary. We tried to find a campsite in Canmore, but the town was full, no vacancy at any type of lodging, hotel, motel, hostel or campground. Being closer to Banff might have been part of the problem.  It turns out that that's the way it is on Saturday nights in that area, plus it was the last weekend of the Calgary Stampede.  We ended up at Willow Rock Campground in Kananaskis Country, I believe the closest town was Seebe.  Before heading to Canmore we had looked at this park because Bow Valley Provincial Park, across the street was full.  

Camper at Willow Rock Campground

I wasn't crazy about this campground, but it turned out to be fine.  We had hook ups to charge with, clean showers and a quiet night.  It was rainy and windy during the night and the view from our campsite in the morning was fantastic.   Reading about the campground, now that I'm home, it turns out that a flood had gone through recently doing quite a lot of damage.

July 9 and 10, 2015 Around Glacier National Park, 463 miles

July 9, 2015

Of course, as usual, we were up and out of the campground early, arriving in Glacier National Park long before our check in time at Fish Creek Campground.  After stopping at the Visitor Center, a hub with free shuttles running up and down the Going-to-the-Sun Road, we decided to use our morning to head up the only unpaved road available to Bowman Lake.  I think the ranger didn't realize how rutted our Sonoma County roads are when she suggested that the road was really bumpy.  By 4 wheel drive roads it was probably a 1 1/2, narrow in some spots, but not too rough.  It was only about 6 miles of slow driving, but well worth the trek.  The campground probably would have had space last night, but I bet they have some feisty mosquitoes in that area.  

Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park
After watching a young fisherman, who is visiable as a spot in the center of the lake in the photo, catch fish and lose them one after another we decided that it would be after one by the time we got to our campground, so we headed back.  Once set up in our campsite on a hillside, we drove up to Lake McDonald Lodge to see what it was like.  After exploring the shoreline around the lodge we headed to Apgar for ice cream.  The man in front of us said the huckleberry ice cream was so good,  after having had it yesterday, he was back for again for another.  What is a huckleberry anyway?  I thought it was a hound!  

Looks like a Huckleberry is related to a blueberry

We thought the ice cream  was just alright.  I didn't feel it was as flavorful as blackberry, we didn't feel a need to return a second day.

Later in the afternoon, after things were nice and overly warm, we hiked to Rocky Point, about a mile and a half round trip from our site.  It was nice to have the lake just across the road and down the hill from our campsite.  We chatted briefly, and awkwardly, with our neighbors from Sweden, who had shipped an RV over and were touring the United States, New York to San Francisco and Alaska too!

July 10, 2015

Logan Pass

Around 7:00, we left our campsite for the east side of the park, traveling over the famous and beautiful Going to the Sun Highway, stopping at the top at the Logan Pass Visitor Center at 8:45. At that early hour the parking lot was already half full.  The Park Newspaper said that the lot fill up by 10:30.
Logan Pass Visitor Center View

After we admired the area around the Visitor Center we continued on to  Saint Mary arriving in the town at 11:00.  On the east side of Logan Pass the blacktop was being re-done, causing us to sit for about 30 minutes waiting for a pilot car and closing all the east bound view areas.  There was no stopping to photograph Lake Saint Mary. 

Logan Pass Waterfall
Many Glacier Hotel reminded us of the Ahwahnee, with it's huge pillars, large dining room and beautiful views. Many Glacier Hotel is celebrating its hundredth birthday this year.  While in the market in Forks, Washington the clerk told us that the pillars in Many Glacier Lodge came from the area near Forks, along with giving us tips to ward off the mosquitoes that didn't work so well.
Many Glacier Hotel

We arrived just as they were beginning to seat people for lunch and shared a bison burger with grilled mushrooms and onions, a mixed vegetable salad, and two Arnold Palmers.  Not bad to enjoy a great lunch and fabulous view for $28.50. 

View from our table in Many Glacier Lodge at lunch
After lunch we continued south to Two Medicine Lake.  The road coming in from the north is narrow and windy, with no large rigs allowed, they could easily get in to this location from the south road.  

Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park
Just as we arrived, so did the thunder and lightening.  We watched as boaters returned to the shore. 

Running Eagle Falls
Running Eagles Falls was a short trail on the road to Two Medicine Lake.  Pictures I had seen showed water also spilling over the very top of the rocks, not this year!

Our one day drive around Glacier National Park, the pink line!

Returning through East Glacier and Essex to West Glacier on Highway 49 to Highway 2 made this a loop.  As we were leaving Essex the storm really let loose and poured.  Arriving in West Glacier the rain had cleared the smoke from the skies.  We stopped in the small town of West Glacier and walked through a farmers market before asking at the Alberta Visitor Center if they knew of a place where we could pay to take a shower.  The young girls said she believed at one of the motels in town.  We asked the proprietor of the motel and he sent us to an outfitter, sporting goods store about a mile out of the park where they sold showers in a private bathroom with towels and all for $8.00.  We arrived just in time, a line was forming as we were finishing up!  We choose not to try the 1 set of showers for 178 campsites in our campground when the ranger told us the water was never hot. 
Rain cleared out the smoke on the west side and the temperature at the campsite was a steamy 96 when we arrived back at camp.  During the evening we packed things up because of the rain drops that were falling and so we could get away early heading to Waterton Lakes, Banff and Jasper.  Neither of us were any longer excited about the prospect of the heat in Eastern Washington and Oregon on the way back to California.  Why not head north and stay cool?  We had quite a rainstorm all during the night, cooling things off and lulling us to sleep.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 8, 2015 Hope, Idaho to Kalispel, Montana, 191 miles

After a beautiful evening and morning we are on the road towards Glacier at 8:00. We hope to find an RV park with hookups somewhere for tonight so we can charge up before our four nights in Glacier.  Along highway 200, Mark found a place to stop and shoot the gradated mountains before we turned north and drove along the Flat Head River.

We decided to drive in to Whitefish now, rather than back track once we're in the national park. As we approached Whitefish, driving through Kalispell we were surprised by the number of huge RV lots selling and repairing huge RVs.  Do people fly to Glacier and then decide to purchase an RV?  The town seemed spread out.  The old town area reminded us of a smaller Jackson Hole, Wyoming with restaurants, western art and upscale clothing shops, Mark says it lacked the "cool" factor of Jackson Hole.

There were two KOA's in the area, one in Whitefish and one in West Glacier 1 mile from the entrance to Glacier National Park.  We choose the one in West Glacier because it was closest to Glacier and had the best reviews.  One said it was as good as state and Provencal Parks and another said the best KOA.  It did look great, if you looked at where they put the giant buses.  Us in our little pop-up?  We were sandwiched in with the trailers, having the campfire next door right outside our bedroom window as we were trying to read.  I do have to say the amenities were very nice, nice showers with so-so water pressure, a laundry room, restaurant open for breakfast and dinner and an ice cream shop.  Will we stay in another KOA on purpose?  Probably not, unless we can stay in one of the bus sites.

July 7, 2015 Grand Coulee, Washington to Idaho, 191 miles

Columbia River Inn, Grand Coulee, Washington

We said good-bye to the Columbia River Inn a little after 8. Driving through miles and miles and miles of wheat fields on Highway 174.   We passed through the dying town of Wilbur, where we turned onto Highway 2.

Washington wheat field
 Stopping outside of Clayton, Washington,  Mark found a shot of a wheat field and grain elevator. The farm lady drove her truck out to see what we were up to on her private farm road. We were on a county road, but all the property is private. When she was done chatting with Mark, I was in the truck out of the wind and away from his usual escapades to get shots, she backed her truck all the way  back to the ranch. The wind was  rustling through the wheat.

We continued to Interstate 60 through Spokane. Just as we were entering Couer D'Alene we turned North onto Highway 95. We planned to stop for lunch at Farrgut State Park, but the smoke was thick from a forest fire that was burning right next to it. We continued on to Sandpoint where we picnicked at the city beach, a lovely park right on Lake Pend Oreille.  Sandpoint was a fun resort town. We finally found the Visitor Center on the north edge of town after doing a couple of revolutions of the town. A couple of options for the night were on our minds as we entered the Visitor Info Center to find out their opinion, one being continuing on to Canada and staying in a Provential Park right across the boarder or continue up through Bonner's Ferry and south east into Montana. The woman in the visitors center suggested what she said was the best idea; Continue along the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway and camp at Sam Owens Deer Preserve, a National Forest Campground the Lake Pend Oreille, pronounced Pond O'ray. 

Lake Pend Orieille, Sam Owens Federal Reserve, Idaho

What great advice! The temperature was very pleasant and the lake beautiful.

Great camp site at Sam Owens Deer Preserve

We found a campsite about a hundred yards from the lake and plopped our chairs under some fir trees near the waters edge. The lake was so clear I almost decided to go for a swim.  When we first arrive a mama and baby white bottom deer were in our campsite.

Lake Pend Oreille sunset

The sunset down by the lake was beautiful with all the smoke in the air.

July 6, 2015 Whidbey Island Washington to Grand Coulee, Wasington, 282 miles

You bet we were out of our room and to the ferry terminal by 6:00.  No way were we going to be late for the 6:30 ferry to Fort Casey, a pre-WWII fort (listed as to Coupeville, the only stop on this ferry).  

Fort Townsend sunrise

The sunrise  from the Port Townsend Ferry Terminal at 6:15 was beautiful.

Back to camp, we packed up and were on the road at 7:50.

The sky was hazy due to forest fires.  We heard they were burning near Walla Walla.  We followed the Skagitt River on Highway 2, the North Cascades Highway. Blueberry farms grew along the road way.  

Gorge Creek Falls, North Cascades National Park

I remembered lots of waterfalls along the roadway when I traveled in 1972 with my  sisiter-in-law Mary and Catherine and James.  They didn't amaze me as much this time, perhaps because of the dry winter, but there were some, along with glacier fed lake.

Colonial Peak and Pyramid Peak, Diablo Lake, North Cascades National Park

For 72 miles there were no decided to drive all the way to Grand Coulee.  The close to 100 degree temperatures once we began to leave the mountains inspired our decision.

Road descending Washington Pass, North Cascades National Park

The ranger had said that Washington Pass was famous, it was a beautiful drive.  Patches of Snow were on the north side of the mountain and thunderheads were moving in.

Camper at Columbia River Inn with Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center in background

Because the temperature when we arrived in Grand Coulee at 6:00 was 97 degrees, we spent the night across the street from the Grand Coulee Dam at the Columbia River Inn. Our room was very comfortable room for $108.00 including tax.   We caught up on the news of the past week on TV and enjoyed a private shower!

Fusion Restaurant in Electric City was one of the recommendations the girl at the motel desk had given for dinner. It seemed like it belonged in West Sonoma County, what I would consider upscale for this town.  We shared a garden salad and a lamb gyro with two Arnold Palmer for about $20.00.  

We managed to stake out spots across the street at the dam for the laser show at 10, not hard since no one else was around.  The show was very dated, but we stuck it out.  Out and about until almost 11:00, a late night for us!