Sunday, July 14
Not many people get to wake up on their birthday at Glacier National Park! To welcome me on this 67th year of my birth was a glorious sunny day . . . and a trip on the famous “Going-to-the-Sun Road.” (I declined when Tom asked me if I wanted to drive the road this time!)
Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the world’s most spectacular highways. It bisects the heart of Glacier and follows the shores of Lake McDonald on the east, and St. Mary Lake on the west. There are lots of scenic turnouts with jaw-dropping views, and at times the road itself is rather stomach-churning. Vehicles over 21’ long/8’ wide are not allowed. In addition, the rock overhangs interfere with anything over 10’ high!
It starts out as a pretty normal, tame road in the mountains.
As it progresses uphill, around tight curves, and past deep valley views and jagged mountain vistas, it earns its reputation as a white-knuckle roadway!
The road was congested with cars, bicyclists, and sometimes even foot traffic. Many of the overlook pull-offs were crowded, and the famed Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot was full . . . with a waiting list! We drove right on past.
Here are some pictures of our eastbound trip. Tom did a brave, steady driving job. I developed a crick in my neck from sharply tilting my head away from the cliff side. Maybe I’ll stretch it out on our westbound trip!
We went out of the park at St. Mary, drove 8 miles, and went back in at the Many Glacier entrance and drove 12 miles back to see the glacier. The big surprise was the historic hotel, situated along Lake Sherburne. Only pictures of this location can even begin to explain why it is my new-favorite!
We had been warned that the traffic has hit the summer high mark on the Going-to-the-Sun road and at times cars would be stopped; then one car out and one car in. We had not encountered that on or west-to-east trip, and we were hoping it would not be the case on our return trip. We breezed right on through, this time on the inside lane, but with a good view of the drop-offs!
We were back at the campsite by 3:00 for a rest and a shower. At 4:30 we left for McDonald Lodge, just 8 miles down the road. We remembered our meal there 4 years ago, and were ready for a repeat – a birthday dinner for me! Tom had the Pork Shank, and I had the Rockfish, both with Brussels Sprouts, potatoes and . . . drinks.
Saturday, July 13
What could make me bounce out of bed at 6:00 a.m. this morning? We’re heading for Glacier National Park . . . one of our favorites! All we had to do was follow US Route 2 for a little over 300 miles – out of Washington, through the panhandle of Idaho, and into Montana. In the process we crossed a time zone and on the way east, it takes an hour from us.
We found our campsite – D151. It was a pull-through. Simple. Except that it wasn’t! We love the pro-pride hitch, but the one limitation is that the truck needs to be in a fairly straight line with the trailer when hitching or unhitching. This pull-through required Tom to pull in and keep curving around until the trailer was off the main road. He maneuvered as much as possible, putting the trailer right up next to the hill on one side . . . and hemmed in by a cluster of three trees on the other. It took the height of three boards to level it out side-to-side.
All would have been well, except that the alignment wasn’t quite straight enough. He unhitched the trailer from the truck and pulled forward to pull the stinger out. Disaster struck as the stinger got hung up and pulled the trailer with it – off the level boards and off the tongue blocks.
Tom spent time working his mind around what had happened. He couldn’t raise the coupler on the trailer high enough to slide the stinger on the track back in. He had to approach it differently by retracting the tongue all the way up and putting three thick boards under it. But, before he could do that he had to get leveling boards under the hitch so there would be room to put to lift the tongue jack post high enough to get boards under it. Then he had enough height to raise the coupler.
But, the hitch and coupler were still at an odd angle to be able to slide that singer straight back in. It took about 6 tries, and he had to push and pull the coupler while I held it in place to change the angle while he backed in. Got it! Except now the angle of the whole rig was changed and as he pulled forward the back window and awning bracket snugged right up to those trees! Tom again spent a few quiet moments checking it out, and then removed the arm of the awning and swung it up and out of the way. This left the window and aluminum siding slightly touching the tree, but Tom managed to slide forward without scratching anything. Some of the window hardware-buttons that stick out from the glass had tree bark on them!
The campground is full, so it was this site or nothing. We noticed that if we pulled the trailer in the wrong way through the pull-thru, there would be more room to straighten out.
BINGO. So, were here at Glacier!
Just a few pictures: the tree we lightly rubbed, the campground and our campsite!
Friday, July 12
What a difference the other side of the mountain range makes! We slept with every window in the camper open – not because it was hot, but just because we enjoyed the dry air after weeks in high humidity/rain forest environment. We stepped out of the Silvermine in the morning to a sunny 65 degrees prompting Tom to fix eggs and sausage for breakfast.
We only had 125 miles to travel today, but at the midway point we had to stop for the Grand Coulee Dam. When it was built, the Coulee dam was the largest concrete structure built in the WORLD! Still is today! The facts about the height, thickness, cubic feet of concrete and comparison to Egyptian pyramids (it dwarfs them!) go on and on.
When the dam was finished in 1942 four cities sprang up around it: Grand Coulee, Coulee Dam, Electric City, and Elmer City. We stopped at several overlooks and the visitor center for pictures.
From there it was thirty-five miles to Riverside State Park/9-mile Recreation Area – it took us 2 hours! Everything combined (maps, ranger directions, GPS, Tom’s usual inborn sense of direction) to give us bad advice to end up at our campground. That’s all I’m going to say about that!
Because of the awful time getting here we were prepared to hate everything about the campground. Surprisingly it was a very nice small, water-based (Spokane River) campground. We were on the second row/tie overlooking the riverr, and backed into a nice site with grass, a shade tree and a nice sit-out view of the water. We sat out (with drinks) to recover from the trauma of getting there! Later – rib-eyes and scallops.
Wednesday, July 11
We repeated a 50-mile portion of our drive from yesterday – through the North Cascades National Park on Route 20 – this time with the Silvermine. At 7:30 a.m. we pretty much had the road, and the views, to ourselves!
At Washington Pass (5477 feet) we stopped to walk the overlook path and had a good view of the North Cascade Mountains. Ragged and jagged, they have a different look than previous mountain ranges we have seen.
At Washington Pass we also had a good view of the road that we would be taking! As we drove the road, we could look back up at the overlook!
As we left the National Park we kept our eyes open for a Laundromat; first two (small) towns were a wash-out (pun intended), but the third town of Okanagan had one. Then, it was just 30 miles into Bridgeport State Park. All along the way were groves of apple trees. It must be about picking season because large crates were stacked along the road, and it appeared that migrant workers/pickers were in the small migrant homes.
Our campsite had no services, but it was our first time on gorgeous grass in a long time. The dogs seemed to especially enjoy laying in the shade of the big trees and enjoying the cool grass. The only drawback is that we were warned by the park ranger to watch for rattlesnakes.
There is an unusual form of rocks called “haystacks” littering the park; they are gigantic volcanic formations that were spewed from a volcano in Idaho millions of years ago and traveling several hundred miles to get here! Some are the size of a house, and many the size of our trailer and some smaller.
Right by the park is the Chief Joseph Dam and we drove down to view the spillway lookout and the dam overview. The visitor center was closed so we did not hear the story of the dam and why it was named after Chief Joseph, but we do know the story of Chief Joseph who led the last hold-out Indians in the great Indian wars.
Dinner was grilled hamburgers. During the evening we sat out and enjoyed books.
Wednesday, July 10
Everything was dripping this morning; the treetops give so much protection that it could be pouring and only a few drips would find their way to the ground!
Our first stop was at the visitor’s center where Tom talked to the ranger about hikes. North Cascades offers one road – Route 20 – going through the park with stops about every 5-10 miles.
Starting out was the Seattle Lights Electric Company that furnishes electricity to Seattle. The electric company/power plant itself maintained a nice trail along the Skagit River, and Ladder Falls, and maintained wildflower gardens.
Two miles down the road was the Gorge Dam, with another wooded walkway that went up the mountain to several overlooks.
On the way to our next viewing point we saw a car stopped in the middle of the road. This could only mean one thing . . . . BEAR!
Another eight miles down the road was Diablo Lake and Dam Overlook. Ross Lake was another overlook but, we didn’t stop. All of these lakes are a result of a series of Dams on the Skagit River.
The drive today was one that we will take with the trailer when we hook up and leave tomorrow, and it was nice to scope it out before towing through the gorge!
All of this took place on an overcast day, sometimes spiting rain, with temperatures in the mid 60s. Not wanting to grill out in the drippy campsite, we headed into the little town of Marblemount, 12 miles away, to the Buffalo Run Restaurant. I should have taken a picture of the menu – Camel, Yak, Elk, Emu, lamb, and beef burgers. We settled for the Buffalo!
Tuesday, July 9,
From now on, most of our travels will be steadily EAST! Not enough that we feel we are on the final trek yet . . . we still have several significant stops . . . but we are preparing for the inevitable homeward bound trip in the next two weeks.
Today we veered off our route just a little bit to see my first Cousin Marianne Kintner Everett, daughter and husband Karen and Greg, and their daughter, Zoey. The Kintner Cousins are liberally sprinkled across the USA, and it is not often that we are afforded the opportunity to meet. We could/should have put more effort into arranging meet-ups, but our daily schedule of driving, reservations, and sight-seeing doesn’t leave much wiggle room.
Our lunch, at Arnies in the town of Edmonds along the Puget Sound, was very meaningful for me. Afterwards, I vowed that the next time we come out to this area we will make more advance plans to spend more time with more cousins! We only got this one picture!
We had another 3 hours to drive to the North Cascades National Park, Newhalem Campground. By 5:30 we set up and by 6:00 we had a supper of hamburgers.
We then went on our little customary scouting trip to check out the area. The visitor center and the General Store were both closed – but we found the Trail of the Cedars that we though would be nice for an evening walk for the dogs. It began by crossing the Skagit River and then was a wide, level, well-narrated loop path around a forest grove.
We heard the patter of light sprinkles on the roof of the Silvermine . . . all night long.
Saturday, July 6
We made an attempt to go into the Olympic National Park today and drive the Elwha Road up to the Glines Canyon Spillway Overlook. Sign: NO VEHICLES.
New Plan: Lower Elwha Klallam Indian Reservation on the coast at Angeles Point. GOT LOST.
We settled for going back to the Silvermine, having lunch, and being lazy all afternoon at the campsite! Heaven! For supper we went out-to-eat for Italian Calzones! RESTFUL DAY! (Just for the record: the clouds hung low over every hill and mountain and once again it would not been a good day to see the Olympic range.)
Sunday, July 7
We had a slow schedule to follow today: it was only 39 miles to the ferry at Port Townsend, and it didn’t leave until 1:00. The 7-mile ferry ride was the shortest way to cross Puget Sound!
A mile from the ferry we stopped for groceries and across the street was a sea food market tempting us to buy two more live crabs. The guy told us they were the feistiest crab they have had -- so lively that they couldn’t even get bands around the claws! I think this was his form of a disclaimer in the event of injury!!
At the dock we were able to get on an earlier ferry. I quickly fixed us a snack lunch to eat in route. I stayed in the van for the crossing, and Tom went up on deck and took pictures.
Behind us in the ferry line-up was a cute little Bambi Airstream with this license plate!
On the other side (30 minutes, 7 miles) we just had a 25 mile drive thru Oak Harbor and on to Deception Pass State Park and Cranberry Lake Campground. It is forested with large, old forest, and our campsite is amazingly open on the ground level – and tightly closed in the far upper reaches of the canopy. The whole forrest floor is just soft sponge and pine needles, with little trails and hills that connect the sites at the far back. Kids have discovered that it is a wonderful little bike play area and they are zipping around and flying high in the air. If they crash -- the ground is almost like a gym mat!
The campground roads are very narrow as seen in the first picture. In the second picture you can see where RVs scraped the side of the tree!
We headed out on a quick trip to scout out the area and had time to do a short hike through the forest and up to the Deception Pass Bridge. Until the bridge was built in the late 1980’s the only way onto the island was by ferry. We found it to be a stomach-dropping bridge, and we opted out of walking the people sidewalk over it – mostly because of the dogs. Maybe we will go back tomorrow.
Tonight we are cooking our two crabs, and this will probably be the last that we get to enjoy this treat – live out of the ocean!
Monday, July 8
Tom went to bed with, and woke up with, a swollen ear that was red, throbbing, and hurting down into the neck. Our first order of business was to find a Redi-Med. He came out two hours later with diagnosis of an infection that needed treatment. There was another wait to get the prescription filled at WalMart, and a bit of a hassle over the insurance.
All in all, it is amazing how fast we can get a doctor and treatment when we are traveling before things get out of hand! We ate lunch at a Burgermiester Drive-Inn, found a fish market to pick up some scallops and shrimp for supper, and headed back to the Silvermine by mid-afternoon.
We did decide to walk the bridge today. We left the dogs in the camper, and drove to the top of the bridge where there were some parking spots. We swallowed and shuffled and breathed deeply, and managed to make it halfway out on the larger bridge (there are actually two bridges) for pictures. On our side of the bridge the sun was shining directly at us making it hard to get good pictures. Later, we drove over the bridge and got pictures of the other side from the car.
From there we drove down to the beach below the bridge for more pictures. The beach had lots of drift-wood (protected from scavenging), rocks, some sand close to the water, and great views of the bridge. The water was in turmoil as it went under the bridge . . . for no reason apparent to us.
With that we went back to the Silvermine to confront the shrimp that we had brought earlier in the afternoon. They were different than “east coast” shrimp that we were used to – smaller, and brightly colored . . . we couldn’t wait to try them. We have had fresh/raw shrimp before, but never have had shrimp that were still moving! Tom cut the heads off and prepared the water to boil – 4 minutes! They were wonderful!
Tomorrow we move on along . . . and have a very special lunch in the works!
Friday, July 5
Olympic National Park is a very limited access park; US Route 101 encircles the park and there are a few access roads that lead a short way into the interior. No roads go through the park!
Our destination today was Hurricane Ridge, and our access road left directly from Port Angeles. The morning was gray, light fog and mist, and 55 degrees . . . very typical weather for this area! At the entrance station to the park there was a line-up of cars!
The road was 17 miles of twists and turns, thick fog . . . and views we could not see. At the top the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center sat perched on a mountainside – with fog banks moving in and out. We could catch quick glimpses of distant valleys and mountain ranges just to have it disappear in a total whiteout.
The visitor center had some nice exhibits, a “gotcha” gift shop and a snack bar. We bought lunch and dined on the patio overlooking . . . the valley of fog! As we sat there, I listened to the many different musical languages all around us. The National Parks are always a great place for diversity, but the Pacific Northwest best represents the multiplicity and presence of international travelers.
The fog did not let up, and Tom was not exactly anxious about heading back down the mountain . . . this time on the cliff side of the road! This is getting to be the norm for our daily drives!
We had time to explore another couple areas in the park: Lake Crescent and the beautiful lodge, and Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.
Lake Crescent borders Route 101 on the southern side. The Lodge and surroundings had the same feeling as the Adirondack scenes from our trip last summer! There was a picturesque lodge, a beautiful open lawn by the lake, and a pier.
Down the road was the Ancient Groves Nature Trail . . . another showcase of old-growth grandeur. The upper canopy is itself a habitat, as is the forest floor. Large downed trees are nurse logs to new seedlings and growth. The whole thing is painted in 50 shades of green! It was another beautiful hike!
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort was interesting. It was a large, very nice lodge that had a gift shop, dining room, and entrance to the large hot mineral bath, swimming pool, and changing rooms. Outside were individual cabins for overnight guests – they didn’t seem to be very special from the outside. All in all, it was a “resort” a little on the downhill side of what it may have once been. Nearby was a campground aligned with the resort – truly just a gravel parking lot with hookups. There was also a full-fledged National Park campground, and those sites were beautiful. Tom had tried six months in advance to get a site, and they were all taken!
Sol Duc was our turn-around point, and we had 47 miles to drive back to our campground . . . and a king salmon filet to cook and eat!
Wednesday, July 3
It was sad to be leaving Mt. Rainier . . . but exciting to be heading for Mt. Olympus and Olympic National Park! We drove south and west over to Interstate 5 and turned north. After only 10 miles traffic backed up in the town of Chehalis. It was lunchtime, and we figured traffic would clear out if we stopped to eat. Inside the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant we heard there was an overturned tanker on the Interstate, and it would be blocked all day! REROUTE! The problem was that there was not a lot of route alternatives. And, everyone else was clogging up the ones there were!
We drove WAY out of our way west on Route 12 (all the way to the coast) and then cut back east before getting, more or less, back on track. This little detour added 3 hours to our trip! Still, we arrived in Port Angeles at our KOA by 5:00.
We were glad to have full hook-ups and all the other KOA amenities . . . but missed the deep-woods setting. We made the best of the situation by dumping the tanks, cleaning the trailer, taking showers, and even washing the dogs! Everyone went to bed clean, content and tired! Tomorrow we start exploring!
Thursday, July 4th
Today – July 4th– starts our 5th week of vacation!
We started out in the morning to visit a fish market and got sidetracked when we saw a sign for Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center. It was only 9:30, but a lot of people (over 50) were lined up out the door and down the sidewalk. . . to get hiking and backpacking permits! We ran in and grabbed some park maps to orient ourselves, and decided we would come back later to see the exhibits and view the movie.
On to the fish market! We went right for the King Salmon; at $20/pound it was more than twice as . . . “good” . . . as the Coho at $8/pound! We also bought two large Dungeness Crabs – considerably cheaper than what we have been paying at $10/each! We ran our catch back to the Silvermine, and set out again following the Strait of Juan de Fuca up to Cape Flattery . . . about 60 miles.
Route 112 (The Strait of Juan De Fuca Highway) along the coast is wooded and only offers an occasional view of the water. Later, we read that the area is logged which accounts for all the different growth levels of the trees we saw, and some large sections where trees had not been replanted yet. The sky was overcast and the temperature hovered at 60 degrees. We stopped at several scenic viewpoints along the way.
In the little town of Clallam Bay we stopped to eat at the Breakwater Restaurant. Tom had the Senior Fish dinner, and I had the Toasted Crab sandwich.
During the last 12 miles of the drive, the trees thinned out a bit giving us nice views of the Straight of Juan De Fuca. The end of the trail was Neah Bay and the Makah Indian Reservation. The main street was blocked off for 4th of July celebration, and we skirted our way along secondary streets, and continued up to our final destination . . . Cape Flattery.
We did the Cape Flattery Trail with the dogs! The sign said it was a half-mile long, but I think it was more than twice that. The sign also said it was "moderate exertion" and that was the truth. Some of the trail was a wide forest path ranging from smooth and easy to uneven with lots of root-ruts. Other parts were a boardwalk of planks -- with spaces between the boards that played mind-tricks on me, and caused the dogs to fall through! There were a few level places, but mostly the trail headed downward to the coast. It was a beautiful forest walk!
That little walk took quite a bit more time than we thought it would . . . carrying the dogs on the boardwalks . . . stepping carefully on the downhill . . . resting on the uphill . . . and drinking in and capturing the beauty on the camera! We raced the Juan De Fuca Highway back towards Port Angeles and arrived at 6:00. It was a coolish evening, and the water in the big crab pot took forever to boil. Finally, at 7:30, we sat down for a delish crab meal. Nothing else! Just the crab . . . and plenty of butter.
We went to bed at dark, with the pop, pop, pop, of fireworks in the distance and two scared-to-death doggies in our beds.
Tuesday, July 2
As we went to bed last night we saw flashes of lighting, heard thunder, and finally listened to a steady tap of rain on the Silvermine. It was not heavy, but it was very constant most of the night.
Our plan for the day was to go back to Paradise . . . and beyond to the Longmire area of the park in the Southwest corner. The rain had stopped for the trip up the mountain, but the fog was dense. It was hard to tell whether not being able to see the cliffs-side drop-offs due to fog was a good thing or a bad thing! Just keep it between the yellow centerline and the white sideline and follow that big camper in front of you, Tom.
Along the way we crossed over the Nisqually River which was a large and direct drain from the Nisqually Glacier high on the mountain. It was a massive chasm with a fast-flowing stream, although at this time it was not as full of water as it could have been.
Longmire was down in a valley -- smaller trees and a denser forest. There were a lot of buildings: an old gas station, library, museum, general store, ranger station, Inn, an annex, and a lot of cabin/residences for the workers. We visited them all! The day was still overcast and we had no idea where the mountain was! We ate lunch in the Inn dining room – chili and cheese curds!
We had a choice to go back to the campground: up past Paradise and over the mountains – or drive outside of the park and take a more southern, lower elevation route. We opted for the mountain road in the National Park! The mountain was still encased in fog!
We passed by our campground for our daily run into the town of Packwood for an internet fix. I cranked out yesterday’s blog and we checked mail, made phone calls, and filled the truck with fuel. We left town rather abruptly when Tom developed a very distressed stomach . . . the chili? That continued throughout the late afternoon and evening, and we were convinced it was a case of food poisoning.
Tomorrow morning we will be leaving Rainier and heading for Olympia National Park.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2018 25' Airstream Serenity with Salsa interior and front twin beds., and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown