Oregon Coast

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More good weather as we headed back west to the coastline.  I really like the Oregon coast – pretty towns with pretty beaches.  We entered Oregon via the Lewis and Clark bridge over the Columbia River at Astoria.  Astoria is the oldest permanent community and US Post Office west of the Rockies, founded by John Jacob Astor’s fur company in 1811.  This area is also where Lewis and Clark ended their journey.  They spent the winter of 1805-1806 at Fort Clatsop where they reported that it rained 94 of the 106 days they were there and that their clothes rotted from the dampness.  We, on the other hand, were blessed with sunshine.

We spent two nights on the coast in two different state parks – Oregon has well-maintained and managed state parks.  Good website too – easy to reserve exact spaces.     Our first stay was in a yurt in Fort Stevens State Park, in Hammond near Astoria.  Fort Stevens is the only military fort in the US mainland to have been fired on since the War of 1812.  It was attacked by a Japanese sub in 1942.  There’s also the shell of a ship, the Peter Ireland, that ran ashore at this site.  Our second night, our first actually tent camping (finally warm enough!), was in Cape Lookout State Park near Tillamook (home of the famous cheese).  We stopped at the store and got everything we needed to cook hotdogs and make s’mores.  Except matches.  Oops!  We had to borrow fire from the nice family next door so that we could have dinner.  Our site was facing a sand dune and we fell asleep to the surf.  We woke up to the pitter patter of a light rain and it was sooooo pleasant until I realized we had to break camp and put the tent back into the car-top carrier.

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We spent a couple of days just exploring the coast.  Cannon Beach was our favorite.  They call this Haystack Rock but I think it looks like a whale out of kid’s book.  DSC_1711

We were there during low tide and were able to walk out to the rock and look in the tide pools at these interesting things.

We spent a little time in a coffee shop making reservations for the next week of our trip and met an interesting guy.  He was finishing up his east coast-to-west coast bike ride – Astoria would be his last stop before heading back.  He said that in the past he has hiked the full length of each of the three continental trails – Appalachian, Pacific Crest and ????.  His trip from east to west was on the bike trail that took him through Houston and Hartville (Transcontinental?).  He said he climbed his highest fire tower in Missouri and was surprised to find that Missouri is not flat.  He’s heading back via Highway 2.  I thought he and Ralph Rognstad would have a lot in common!

Mount Rainier National Park

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Finally, the sun!!!!!  Now I see the attraction of living here!  The sky was a clear blue and all of a sudden, we could see Mount Rainier from Tacoma.   WOW!  We entered the park from the north entrance after stopping at a wide spot in the road to don our winter clothes.  The temp dropped below 40.  Mount Rainier is a gorgeous park and I’m so glad we entered from the north so that we had time to appreciate it before encountering incredible crowds at Paradise.  We cruised into one of the campgrounds to see what it was like and saw this scene.  Hikers were strapping cross country skis and snowshoes onto their backpacks and trekking up the mountain to catch the mountaintop snow.

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We took a couple of quick viewpoint hikes and came across justification for why some of the trails are still closed.  This tree took out the trail when it fell.  Winters are harsh here.

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Colors are incredible here.  Who knew that moss could be so many different colors.  Isn’t this beautiful?

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Unfortunately, Paradise was anything but.  Note to self:  beautiful clear day + National Park a day trip from 3+ million people + Father’s Day = crowds too big to really enjoy nature’s grandeur.  There appeared to be lots of day-trippers but they had come prepared.  One family had hauled their charcoal grill up to the Nisqually Glacier trailhead.  Another was chilling a watermelon in the snow (okay, that was a pretty good idea).  We bailed on the Nisqually Glacier hike as well as the hike to Narada Falls because the crowds were just too much.   We were rewarded, however, with this site as we walked back to our car at Paradise.  What causes upside down rainbows in the sky?

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Seattle

Spent some Marriott points to stay a night in downtown Seattle.  Kind of a free night – it was $45 to park!  We did some touristy things – found the original Starbucks, watched the fish throwers at Pike Place Market, toured the market, rode the monorail.  I would have fresh flowers every day if I lived near the market.  Beautiful big bouquets for $10 – $20!  Even though the forecast said 10% chance of rain – it rained so we didn’t go up in the Space Needle or access the observatory on the 73rd floor of a downtown building (of which the top 10 or so floors had disappeared into the clouds).  We did engage in some retail therapy.  Oh, Ann Taylor, how I’ve missed you!

We walked and walked and walked throughout downtown, Pike Place and Pioneer Square.  We also watched some of the Rock and Roll Marathon runners from our hotel window.

Our hotel was on the edge of Pioneer Square and we walked into that area the morning we left.  Our hotel had warned us that there was a homeless mission there and the panhandlers could be aggressive.  Even though there were four bicycle cops at what appeared to be the Main and Main of Pioneer Square, it looks like the City of Seattle has ceded that area over and are not enforcing any kind of behavior rules.  We were panhandled by a man as he peed against a building.  People were just laying on the sidewalk.  Most of these folks were obviously homeless and probably mentally ill.   Very sad.  We actually saw a lot of homeless in Washington and Oregon – camps were set up in busy areas.  In Portland we saw one on a sidewalk leading up to an interstate ramp.  It looked like it had been there a while.  Our problems seem very small in Springfield compared to what we saw in the northwest.

 

Olympic National Park

DSC_1563Cold, overcast and rainy.  I guess that was to be expected but we weren’t prepared for it!  After dropping to 37 degrees and snowing at Hurricane Ridge, we decided we need to resupply with warmer clothes!  Why did I bring all those shorts and sleeveless tops?  So now our photos look like we’re Michelin tire men because we have on leggings and those awful (at least mine are) hiking zip-off pants.  As much as I have previously disliked them, I greatly appreciate them now.

Despite the snow on our first day and cold rain every subsequent day, we did explore the park and even found a couple of sunny interludes to explore the beach.  Unfortunately, they were at high tide so we didn’t get to experience the famous tide pools.  In case you haven’t guessed it by now, we are fair weather hikers.  Don’t mind a light rain or mist if it’s at least 65 or so but in the 40s or low 50s – um, no.

We stayed at Crescent Lake (more about our lodging choices in a subsequent post) in what they call the Storm King building.  Two story, 10 units total tucked away in the woods with a wall of windows looking out at Crescent Lake.  Lake Crescent was a good choice because it’s somewhat centrally located, however, I foolishly thought we’d kayak on the lake when I booked this!   When/if we go back, I would opt for a Singer Cabin room because they receive some sun and have awesome dutch doors looking out at the lake.

Olympic is huge and there is no road that bisects it so everything is accessed off of the highway which is clogged with huge two-trailer logging trucks.  They are used to the curvy road and, I suspect, oblivious to the beautiful surroundings so they go FAST.   Pretty unnerving at times.  The Park is also so diverse – snow on Hurricane Ridge, a rainforest (really no surprise), and then the beach.  You can really see the power of Mother Nature here.  Just accessing Second Beach was a climbing challenge – over a hundred feet or so of huge driftwood trees pushed back to the beach access by the surf.  Trees here are huge, by the way.  Incredibly tall and incredibly big around.  It’s no wonder the logging industry is also so big here.

Getting to Olympic involved taking the ferry from Port Townsend to Port Angeles.  About a thirty-minute voyage over calm waters.  So calm in fact, that there were several tables set up with puzzles.  I can imagine working on a puzzle if I had to use the ferry to commute.  We enjoyed a couple of really good meals in Port Angeles, the closest town of any size to Lake Crescent (although we “coffeed” at a great little espresso hut in Forks of Twilight fame).  Wonderful Thai food at Sabai Thai and seafood at Kokopelli.  We also warmed up briefly at a coffee shop in downtown Port Angeles – really an internet stop for us – but the shop was only open 10-5.  WHAT???  We had to find the library to finish uploading pictures.

North Cascades National Park

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We spent a night in Leavenworth, a town that has remade itself as a Bavarian village.  They’ve really embraced the concept.  All of the buildings are decorated with murals and gingerbread, there was a German band playing in the park gazebo, and waiters in lederhosen and dirndled waitresses.  Lots of German restaurants.  So – Sarah and I ate at a really good Indian restaurant.

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Our next day took us to North Cascades National Park where our plans were thwarted by the weather.  We had planned to do an easy hike that was supposed to take us to a lake, a waterfall and views of a glacier.  The parking lot entrance was blocked by a snowbank and then, true to its name, it started raining on Rainy Pass.  We made a few quick stops on the highway but it was cold, rainy and windy so we didn’t spend a lot of time outside.  At one stop we were surprised to run into Debbie and Bill Hart from Springfield!  How weird is that?  They were on the return trip from Olympic National Park and we both just happened to stop at the same waterfall at the same time in North Cascades!

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Dropping out of North Cascades, it was obvious that it rains there A LOT.  It seemed that everything that hadn’t moved in the last 48 hours was covered in moss.  Trees were covered by moss as were roofs and even vehicles.

We were in North Cascades Monday, June 13.  Early the day before, 49 people were killed at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.  We were in the car almost all day Monday and listened to CNN and MSNBC as the story of the tragedy unfolded.  We listened to the live, unedited FBI briefings and speeches by President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  It was a sober day. As we drove out of North Cascades in the rain, we encountered a guy walking along the highway with a giant sign simply saying PEACE.

Highway 2

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We traveled Highway 2 from Williston, North Dakota to Leavenworth, Washington, through all of Montana and skirting the southern horn of Glacier National Park.  It’s known as the High-Line (Hi-Line) and was initially designed as Theodore Roosevelt International Highway, intended to connect Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon via a short detour into Canada.  In Springfield, we’re justifiably proud of our connection to Route 66 but, having traveled a significant portion of Route 66, I have to admit that Highway 2 is a much more authentic and original route.  It’s primarily a two lane road and it traverses the northern states through mostly rural scenes.  It’s a long way between towns and most of the towns it bisects are just wide spots in the road.  Unlike 66, it hasn’t been subsumed by the interstate system and continues uninterrupted for hundreds (thousands?) of miles.

Leaving Glacier, we made a quick stop at Kootenai Falls where The River Wild and part of The Revenant were filmed.  We couldn’t really get the full impact from the trail.

Highway 2 west of Spokane is fairly non-descript, mostly cropland with few cows and fewer houses.  Then the landscape starts to roll and it becomes very arid with sagebrush and tumbleweeds and even some areas that look like badlands.  This is not what I expected to find in Washington!  I later learned that even more of the area had been desert-like until the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam and other dams in the area that provide irrigation for crop production.  I had already expended my daily allotment of side trips so Sarah refused to take me to Grand Coulee Dam.  Her reasoning was that I am “a planner, not an engineer.”

Road naming convention in this area of Washington state is very practical.  The roads emanating off of Highway 2 are named sequentially by the alphabet and are either Northwest or Southwest depending on which side of the highway they are (i.e. Farm Road A Southwest).  It seems like a very no-nonsense way of handling road naming in a rural area and probably speaks to the practical nature of the folks who live around there.  On the other hand, elsewhere on 2 we saw some pretty good Americana.   I particularly like how creative some folks are with their espresso huts.

Later in the day Highway 2 took another climb and then dropped down into the Wenatchee River valley and we were suddenly surrounded by orchards.  This area claims to produce over half of the nation’s apples.  They also produce cherries and apricots.  The mountains surrounding the valley are pretty much treeless and look like the desert but the valley is filled with orchards.  It’s a strange site.  Some of the orchards had large sections completely covered with white mesh which added to the strangeness.

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You know how sometimes you are driving along and see something that registers in your mind but you aren’t quick enough to capture it with a camera?  As we entered the Wenatchee valley, we dropped down a hill and started round a curve with a farm in the inside of the curve.  In the curve of the field there were four tractors lined up.  They’d been haying and square hay bales dotted the field.  It was unintentional artwork.

If you get a chance, ditch I-90 and take a cruise on Highway 2.  Well worth the detour!

 

Glacier National Park

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We knew we were going to be in Glacier before Going to the Sun Road opened for the season so we knew we wouldn’t get the entire Glacier experience.  The road was open on the east side from St. Mary to Jackson Glacier and on the west side from Apgar to Avalanche Lake.  The marquee sites of Logan Pass and the weeping wall and all those crazy, scary drop-offs were still being plowed.  The “big drift”   was over 40 feet deep this year.

We were in Glacier in August 2002.  Coincidentally, I noted in my travel journal that on June 8-10, 2002 they had 4 feet of snow at Many Glacier and 2 feet at St. Mary.  Those were the same dates we visited this year and we had much better weather.  Although, as we traveled from the east side of the park to the west one afternoon, the temperature dropped 30 degrees in about 20 minutes and then this happened.

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The good news is it was only for a couple of miles and then the temperature shot back up.

We got to do a couple of good hikes (Avalanche Lake and Red Rock Falls) and enjoyed the fact that there weren’t huge crowds.

One of the reasons I wanted to go back to Glacier (besides the fact that it’s gorgeous) is that I keep reading that the glaciers are shrinking and will all be gone by 2030.  Since all of the roads weren’t open, the closest glacier we could view was Jackson Glacier.  I am anxious to compare this picture to one from 2002.  When you look at this, note that the center peak is snow – the left (small amount) is actual glacier.  It doesn’t look promising.  So – if you haven’t been to Glacier National Park – you should go now!

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North Dakota Take Two

We spent a night in Watford City, which has seen extraordinary growth since the discovery of the Bakken oil and gas formation.  Their population was 1,744 in 2010 and by 2015 it had exploded to 6,708.  The roads leading into Watford City are lined with fields of manufactured homes and FEMA trailers.  The planner in me wonders how or if water and sewer have been extended out to these areas.  There are also multiple new apartment buildings in town and both the high school and elementary schools were being expanded.  A crew cab pickup is the preferred mode of transportation and it looks like a predominately male community.  Sarah and I were the only women in the filled-to-capacity bar/restaurant where we had dinner.   Even our hotel catered to the workers – they had “parade of homes” booties at each door so the guys wouldn’t track dirt in.  Not everyone’s a roughneck.  The guys at the bar next to us were talking about EPA’s nonpoint source pollution regulations.  The roads around Watford City and up through Williston were clogged with semis hauling sand and water and periodically there would be a mysterious water “disposal station”.

We visited the Fort Union Trading Post, a national historic site that’s on the North Dakota/Montana border.  We were there in 2002 and in my travel journal I wrote about how isolated it was and how you could understand what it must have felt like back when the closest supply depot was 1800 river miles away in St. Louis.  The increased Bakken activity hasn’t resulted in a lot of additional Fort Union visitors.  The Park Ranger told us they average 60/day.  We were the only ones there when we visited (see our lonely car in the parking lot).  But while it’s still a lonely spot, the journey there is now defined by rows of semis on narrow two-lane roads.  It reminded me of the important efforts to acquire more buffer land around Wilson’s Creek, Gettysburg and other battlefields so that the experience isn’t overpowered by development.

The Park Ranger also told us that the Bakken frenzy has subsided somewhat since the price of oil has decreased.  We did notice that most of the developments had available units.  What will happen to these developments if oil prices remain depressed?  How will a community that grew so fast deal with vacant and/or abandoned properties?  Did the building outpace the infrastructure?  If families relocated for oil field work, will they stay?  Are there work opportunities for spouses?  Do you think they even have a city administrator, much less a planner?

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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It was a perfect day in TR National Park – clear blue sky, 70ish, no wind and practically no one else in the park.  In fact, the only traffic problem we encountered was an unpredictable herd of feral horses who delayed our South Unit loop by 15 minutes or so.  Nevertheless, they were fun to watch.

Teddy Roosevelt was such an interesting man.  His courage and character are a contrast to today’s politicians.  Not that he wasn’t without faults, but he was a true hero and he was responsible for a good part of our conservation and national parks heritage.  Did you know that he is the only president to have a national park named for him?  His love affair with North Dakota was borne out of tragedy – both his wife and his mother died on the same day (Valentine’s Day!), just two days after his daughter was born.  He sought solace in the North Dakota badlands along the Little Missouri River.  Later in life, after losing a third party bid for president (he served one term after McKinley was assassinated and then was elected to a second term), he took a crazy exploratory journey on a South American river.  There’s an amazing book named River of Doubt about his adventure.  Plus, he was shot in the chest while running for president and went ahead and gave a 90-minute speech.  Now, there’s a real man!

I think part of what I admire about Roosevelt was his acknowledgement that sometimes you have to step away and give yourself time to process and think.  He did that with physical challenges and solitude.  It seems like there’s a lot of talk about the need to “unplug” and set aside phones and computers (here’s looking at ME).  Easier said than done.  I realize now that my Dad found his recharge in the Manitou, his old aluminum canoe, on the Big Piney.  I’m pushing my reset button on this road trip.

Roosevelt’s best known quote is probably “Speak softly and carry a big stick” (which is actually completed with “you will go far”.  I think my favorite is: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing at all.”  To which, my friend and mentor Fred May would say “Do the right thing, dammit!”

(Irony of irony – I have been unable to post this because we have no wi-fi and the cell service is too weak to use as a hotspot!)

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