Driving to Theodore Roosevelt National Park

July 18-19 Wednesday and Thursday:  Since the RV was already hooked up and travel ready we decided to go ahead and get a jump on our 500 plus miles to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  We stopped at Evergreen Campground in Havre that night and at an Army Core of Engineers park near Fort Peck Dam in Montana.  Both camps were pleasant but with hot weather and limited time we pretty much spent the evenings inside our RV out of the heat.  John did some painting and left a couple rocks behind for people to find.

Driving across Montana, we saw a lot of interesting rock formations and cattle feeding on really scrubby looking land.  There were sheep farms, horse ranches, wild horses and lots of those big round bales of hay and not very many houses or people.  Beautiful to my eyes but I imagine its pretty desolate come winter.

Drive to East Glacier National Park

July 17, Tuesday  We pulled out fairly early from dusty Emery Bay Campground, our destination: Chewing Black Bones Campground near the east entrance of Glacier National Park.  We traveled Highway 2 that curves around the south end of Glacier National Park.  It was a very pretty drive with some big ups and downs, but mostly the  road traveled in a valley, hugging the curves of a river on one side and railroad on the other.  One thing we have noticed about the west – they have TRAINS!  LOTS of of trains.

About 60 miles in to our 90 mile route we stopped for gas in Browning.  While John was pumping, I got out of the truck and walked around the back of the RV and low and behold – it was missing a wheel!!! Gone!!  No blow-out, no big bump, no anything, just no tire, NO HUB and it ripped the wheel well trim on its way off.  Imagine our shock! We have no idea how long we had traveled like that and we are so grateful that we wern’t 1) at the bottom of one of the many deep ravines we had passed. 2) Not marooned 50 miles from nowhere. 3) We had cell service – an of and on thing for us as we traveled.

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After fifty some phone calls we were able to connect with Cliffs Towing, who had the rare capability of towing our RV.  A few phone calls later we received a “maybe we can help you” from a service center in Cut Bank, Montana.   Cliff had to come from an hour away and had a call ahead of us but he showed up two hours later with his big semi truck and flatbed trailer. He dropped the back end of the trailer and had John drive truck and RV right up onto it.  Cliff attached a lot of big chains and then we all climbed aboard the semi and off we went thirty miles to Cut Bank.

 

At Cut Bank, Brian and his ten mechanics all marveled at our axle hanging out with no hub, no tire.  Lots of head scratching and “never seen this before.”  Brian made some phone calls and reported a three week wait for a new hub.  It was decided a whole new axle should be installed and that could arrive in just one day.  They also felt we were safe to drive to a RV park,that remarkably was only four blocks away.

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The next day before lunch the axles and parts had arrived.  John took the RV back up to the service center.  While the new axle was installed, I did laundry, John washed the truck, we bought groceries and refilled a prescription and by 3:30 it was fixed!   With many thanks to Brian and crew, we headed east towards Theodore Roosevelt National Park, letting go of our East Glacier plans.

I should note that we had been warned that Browning could be kind of dicey with people approaching looking for handouts.  Shortly after our arrival four men approached John and were very insistent that they could do the repairs.  They wouldn’t take “no thanks- we are calling AAA” for an answer.  While John dealt with them I slipped away and called 911 for help as it was really uncomfortable. Within minutes a bevy of tribal police cars arrived including an officer that was the son of one of the persistent mechanics.  The “mechanics” moved on and they were replaced by a steady stream of curious inspecting mechanics, or relatives of mechanics who all claimed they could fix or their uncle could – until our tow truck angel arrived.  I really don’t know if our persistent mechanics truly meant to help or were looking for a hustle but we a really grateful it ended well.

Glacier National Park

July 15-17, 2018  Sat – Tues WOW and WOW again! Glacier National Park and it famous Going to the Sun Road is a jaw dropper!  On day one we drove from East Glacier partway up the Going to the Sun Road about 15-20 miles of the the full 60 miles of the scenic highway that bisects the park and crosses the Continental Divide.

We began with beautiful views of glacier fed Lake McDonald’s blue waters surrounded by rising snow capped mountain peaks.  Further along we stopped to hike the John’s Lake Loop Trail.  The trail wound through mountain forest, and along a cascading mountain river, rewarding us with a bridge over the river view of McDonald Falls.

We continued on the road stopping at pullouts and then had our picnic lunch siting on the stones along a much tamer stretch of the river.  We could see a long waterfall cascading down the side of one of the mountains.

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After lunch we turned back to the south end of McDonald lunch to hike the Rocky Point Nature Trail.  At the trail head we teamed up with Tony and Kenny from Louisiana.  Being as neither of us had the recommended bear spray we opted for the “you are are safer in numbers plan” and  hiked together as a foursome.

Tony and Kenny travel in the summer to escape Louisiana’s heat much as Michigan Snowbirds escape the winter cold.  It was enjoyable to hear their story and and chat companionably while hiking and taking in the beautiful views of Lake McDonald.

Once our afternoon hike was over, we stopped in Apgar Village for huckleberry ice-cream.  Boy did that go down good!   It was still blazing hot and we had no power for AC back at camp so we stopped again for dinner at a restaurant, leaving our signed dollar bill stapled to the wall above the bar.

Our short hikes in the National Parks continue to be my favorite part of “seeing” a park.  I read somewhere that 75-90 percent of National Park visitors never leave their cars or only get out at the viewing pullouts.  The bulk of Glacier’s 3 million visitors are squeezed into a very short summer season. The Road to the Sun doesn’t open due to snow cover until mid June or early July.  Driving on the park roads is extremely crowded and parking can be very difficult to find but once you are parked, grab your trek sticks, a water bottle or two and stretch your legs on the marked trails.  Even on the short trails that we do, population disappears. The trails take you to amazing lookouts, water features and into the forests where one can not only see, but hear and smell the beauty around them.

Our second day at West Glacier was set aside for our Red Bus Tour.  At 9:30am we boarded a vintage 1930 open top tour bus at the Apgar Visitor Center.  Ed, our driver piloted the bus along the Going to the Sun Road, up and over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass ( elevation 6,647 feet.) Ed shared park information, jokes and stories as he expertly navigated the crowded, twisty engineering marvel of a road, and it treated us to stunning, spectacular views of mountains, gorges, valleys and glaciers.

Once past Logan Pass the bus descended to a stop called Rising Sun where we had lunch at the Rising Sun Grill.  We went a little further to Goose Island Lake and then the bus turned back west and we got a second chance to enjoy the sights.  The bus stopped periodically for “pop-ups” where we all stood up for a better look and other times Ed parked and we all climbed out for a stop and look.  Ed was particularly pleased to nab a parking spot to show us a cool very narrow slot canyon that the water raged through. He said we were the first group this summer that he was able to make this stop due to no open parking spots.  The bus returned to Apgar around 4:30.  I am grateful to the park ranger that way back in February warned me of the parks crowded conditions and long waits for the free shuttles.  The Red Bus was definitely the better way to go.

It was a very hot 90 degrees once the bus tour ended so we had dinner at a little deli style cafe and then finished the day with a nice swim in the cold lake back at camp.  Glacier National Park has been on my bucket list for a long time and it did not disappoint.  Our pictures hardly do justice to its beauty.  We say the same thing at every National Park. ” A few days is not long enough.”  I hope we can return sometime.

Seattle to Glacier National Park

July 12-13 Thur- Friday  It’s 540 miles from Kanaskat-Palmer State Park near Seattle to Emery Bay Campground on the East side of Glacier National Park.  For us that made two stops.  Unlike the majority of our trip I did not make reservations for this part. Once we had a general idea where we might be wanting to stop, I started looking up campgrounds on my phone apps.  I use Allstays most of the time, but RVpark and Campendium are handy too.  Boon-docking at Walmart or elsewhere was not an option due to: 1) There were no Walmart’s.  2) It was 90 degrees out and we need a 30 amp electric hookup to run our AC.  Calling ahead I encountered “nope- we are full” and no answer on the camp office phones.  A state park said they “might” have a walk-in open but no guarantees.  We ended up at two very nice private parks but they were expensive. $45 and $63 per night. OUCH!  I sure wouldn’t want to travel like that all the time.  The $63 site had a nice golf course view and lovely pool and the other had loads of playground equipment and bike, kayak and tube rentals.

Beautiful drive though across Washington, Northern Idaho and into Montana through mountain passes and along winding rivers.  Lots of high points overlooking rolling hills, mountains and streams.

So we arrived at Emery Bay National Forest Service Campground near the East entrance of Glacier National Park.  But first we had to travel on six miles of gravel road, the first three miles were treated and not too bad but the last three – HOLY COW- DUSTY!!!!!  Clouds of dust so thick that sometimes you couldn’t see in front of you.  Then it settled in, on and around our RV and truck. Once at the campground the dust continued with every vehicle that drove past our site.  There is a boat launch at the camp – so besides the campers we had boat trailer traffic.  Our camp site was a no service site – no electric, no water.  We had to rely on our water tank and RV battery for power.  Of course- no AC, no TV and all of the glamping luxuries I am accustomed to.  Oh and the camp host stopped to greet us and to warn us of bear activity around the campground!  Each camp site had a bear box for the tent campers to store any foods, toothpaste and clothes worn while eating. So glad we have a hard sided camper!

The campground is one of several on the Hungry Horse Reservoir.  We drove over to see the dam,  at 564 feet, one of the ten highest in the United States.   It had a (cool to us) over flow drain – like a giant bathtub drain to drain off surplus water.  It was still flowing, per the locals snow melt was late this year and waters are still running from the mountains.

Despite all my complaints – it was a lovely campground, very much a wilderness retreat surrounded by mountains and if it wasn’t for the dust it would have been one of my favorites.  It was very hot during the day, but we left early for Glacier and returned in the evening when the temps dropped.   Lows during the night were into the 50’s so sleeping was not an issue.  We did go for a nice cold swim on our last evening there and we never did see a bear.

 

 

 

Seattle, Washington

July 8-10, Sun – Tues  Kanaskat-Palmer State Park SE of Seattle, Washington.  Kanaskat-Palmer was recommended to me by a ranger back in March when I was mapping our trip.  He said it would have large treed sites near the river.  All true- but he didn’t warn me that there would be no cell service at all.  If we drive up to the park entrance, we can sometimes pick up a signal but not always.  It is a gorgeous campground though, and we had a nice stay there.

Our main plan for Seattle was to visit our niece, Sara and her boyfriend Aaron.  They are both Michigan transplants.  On Monday we drove through mad crazy big city traffic complete with criss-crossing freeways, tunnels under layers of freeways and multiple bridges to their apartment home in Northern Seattle.  After a tour of their new to them apartment, we settled in for a fun visit and good conversations. They recently downsized to a smaller apartment and are discovering that they enjoy the minimalist lifestyle more and more.  Sara and Aaron are adventurists and dream of hitting the roads in some kind of RV someday.  We encouraged them to take advantage of their youth and good health and travel now, even if its camping in a car or a $20 Craigslist tent.  America’s National Parks, monuments and adventures await.  Good healthy legs and knees provide the best way to see and experience them to the fullest.

After a yummy Seattle bistro meal (Thank-you again Aaron and Sara) Aaron drove us up to a look out spot for a fantastic view of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle and all the boats large and small  in Puget Sound.  We could see Mount Rainier’s snowy peaks rising up into the sky far away.  Aaron did a did a downtown drive-through tour for us, we were so glad that we weren’t the drivers as the traffic was crazy busy.  Aaron and Sara rely on public transit whenever they can, much easier than driving their cars.  A surprise to me was the steep ups and downs of Seattle’s streets.  In the residential area compact cars were squeezed into and along every inch of street front and drives.  A real parking challenge. Our truck was a beast among the little’s.   Mount Rainier blessed us with her face several times as we made our way back to camp.  So ghostly majestic, rising up almost like a sky painting way off in the distance.

Our second Seattle day we amused ourselves enjoying our campground and prepping for hosting Sara and Aaron for dinner.  We walked a wooded trail down to the river where there were lots of rocks and children playing in the shallow rapids.  I went for a little wade but the the rocks were slippery and my old legs were wobbly so I quit pretty quick. John settled into rock painting at the picnic table while I went for groceries.  Sadly, Seattle traffic delayed Aaron’s work commute so in the end they weren’t able to come for dinner after all.  We went ahead and cooked up the fresh salmon I had brought from Forks, plus grilled chicken and fresh veggies.  It was a lovely feast that provided us with leftovers for a no-cook day to follow.  With no cell, no TV, and no internet to distract us we enjoyed a nice fire after dinner.

The next morning we officially turned our rig and eyes East towards Glacier National Park and ultimately home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olympic National Park, Washington

Hoping to do a big catch up the blog over the next days.  No we didn’t drop off the face of the earth,  just no and very poor internet everywhere we go.

July 5-9 Thursday-Monday Our campsite at Three Rivers (privately owned park) near Forks, Washington is fairly new, immaculate and apparently by the presence of fish cleaning stations, fish stamped into the concrete and many fishing boats, popular with fisherman.  The park is owned by Gary and Leigh a very pleasant couple that built the park up from a “field filled with old stumps.”  When we arrived, Gary saw John struggling with backing the RV into our site.  Very unusual for John, he is usually pretty impressive with his slick backing skills, but due to a stiff neck (and maybe some less than stellar guidance from me) he had two unsuccessful attempts at backing into our spot just right.  Gary stopped and chatted a minute and the next thing I see is John relinquishing his truck for Gary to back in for us!  Gary must be one smooth salesman for John to let go of the wheel – but in minutes he had us parked and we finished setting up. Sweet!

We stayed four nights with gave us time to spend exploring the town of Forks,(famous for filming of the the Twilight movies) go to the museum (where John left a rock in good hands and we found a pay phone as in “exhibit of an old relic”) , take a nice circle hike behind the visitor center, have a pizza lunch and get haircuts.  All on the first day!  I asked for my hair to be cut short and HOLY COW! I am military ready!  Lucky for me, my hair grows super fast, so I’m not too obsessed with it. After hair cuts we checked out the many rocks at Rialto Beach.

The next day we drove Ho-Ho Rain Forest.  We took two circle hikes through the moss clad forest of trees. What a beautiful place! Very cathedral like with the tall, tall trees draped with moss way above our heads.  The pathway took us to a mountain stream and followed it a ways.   Again I say “truly awesome!”

 

Day three was our last day near the ocean, so we packed a picnic lunch and spent the day at First Beach.  One of my favorite days so far I think.  The upper shoreline is populated with massive driftwood trees.  Many with their root structure still attached.  Imagine the power of the winter storms that ripped them from their land homes and then sailed them on the seas to be tossed onto this beach.  According to a frequent visitor that we chatted with, each winter the storms and high waters toss them around and then they settle into new spots on the beach.

We used one of the giant root masses for a windbreak and settled our chairs beside it.  While we were there the morning fog lifted giving us great views of the the giant sea stacks and the rocky masses rising at the bay edges.  It felt so good to watch/listen to the waves roll in and walk along the waters edge.  The beach was popular with surfers and kayakers all wearing wet suits as the water was very cold.  Another absolutely terrific and beautiful day among the many we have experienced so far on this trip.  OH! Another fun thing – John found a rock!  Bee Kind – with a bee on it. He posted it on the Face Book Montana Rocks site.  He re-hid in the big tree trunk where we had our lunch. Fun!

On Sunday morning it was time to hook up and head out towards Seattle Washington.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

June 30 – July 4th, Saturday – Wednesday:  Mounthaven Resort, Ashford, Washington.  On Saturday we arrived at Mounthaven Resort in Ashford, Washington, near the southern entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.  Sunday we joined a traffic jam of cars entering the park, but once past the entrance gate traffic spread out while navigating the eighteen miles of winding, twisting roadway up to Paradise and the Henry M Jackson Visitor Center.   Mount Rainier’s peaks are 14,410 feet high.  The Henry M Jackson Visitor Center elevation is 5,400 feet.  There was lots of snow drifts around with children lobbing snowballs and sliding on their bums.  I downed a jacket over my sweatshirt as the air was definitely chilly.  The views were fantastic, although the peaks were sometimes covered with clouds.

On the way there and back we stopped at several pull-offs, waterfalls and at the Historic Longmire District.  We looked around the museum then took a one mile loop walk under massive fir and cedar trees.  The loop circles a mineral spring area that was once a homestead and mountain resort.  One of the park rangers had suggested a two mile hike from Cougar Rock Campground but we decided to save it for another day.  ( A day’s work for these hikers!)

 

Mondays weather forecast was for clouds and rain so we postponed our hike and visited Northwest Trek Wildlife Park instead.  There we rode a tram through a free roaming area, spotting caribou, bison, elk, and big mountain sheep.  Sure missed our grandchildren as the tram was full of families with young children.  The park had more animals housed in a walk through zoo; bears, foxes and other animals of the northwest.  We treated ourselves to a lunch in town.  I over did with a huge chocolate malted milk.  Gotta do it sometimes, right?

 

So five nights, our longest campground stay flew by – much like the one week vacations we used to take when that was all work allowed.  We spent the 4th of July, at home in camp, being very quiet, perhaps a bit wistful as we missed our family celebrations back in Michigan.  The combination of grey skies and the deep shade of our campsite made a gloomy contrast to my favorite sun soaked East Tawas Beach 4th of July memories.  We will be so happy to reunite with family and GRAND CHILDREN!!! upon our return.

 

John left a some rocks here at the resort and at the animal park.  It was nice to hear from a couple that found one of his rocks in Oregon, coincidentally taking a long trip in the northwest leaving their Florida home in May, like we did.  Wishing everyone a Happy Fourth of July and thank you for following along on our journey.  Even though there is homesickness for our families we are savoring the luxury of being able to travel together and see our wonderful USA.

Tomorrow we head to Olympic National Park, stopping at the post office here first, with hopes that John’s new phone will be there.  So much for over night delivery!  Didn’t happen…..