August 26 Bonners Ferry to the Continental Divide

  …  Just a little side note here…Recently there has been some conversation about travel blogs and the do’s and don’ts for writing a good blog.  One of the comments discussed eliminating long paragraphs and rambling conversation so people don’t get lost and bored.  So I tried, I really did.  I thought I could put some photos up and add some captions, and then continue my personal journal down below somewhere.  Well, THAT just doesn’t work at all here since I have spent way too much time tonight trying to figure out how to edit and move photos around in LiveWriter (most unsuccessfully) and make my blog more “readable”.  The previous couple of posts show my efforts.  However, since I am writing this blog for me more than anyone else, I have decided to continue to ramble on with my thoughts and put the photos where they happen to fit.  Anyone else who happens to drop in can read or not, right?

The rest of the photos for the day of travel are linked here.

Bonners_to_DivideWe slept wonderfully last night in the quiet of the North Idaho forest, untroubled by any worries of intruders, lights, or noise.  It cooled off to a pleasant 45 degrees overnight and sleeping with the down comforter and no fans was perfect. Chet stopped in around 7 on his way to his morning meeting just in time to catch us almost completely buttoned up, with the baby car attached.  He said Georgette, (not a morning person) was already awake and waiting for us to come up to the house for breakfast.  Once up there, we were treated to fresh eggs from her hens, some of the yummy roasted potatoes from last night sautéed with chicken basil apple sausages, homemade granola with honey and yogurt and fresh blueberries.  I enjoyed having tea the way Georgette does it, strong and black with honey and milk. 

I enjoyed so much being in this part of the world.  The plants are familiar, the geology and shapes of the mountains are so familiar to me.  I first knew Boundary county as a student trainee soil scientist, and the western rim of the Selkirk mountains in my breakfast view this morning was my first survey area.  I described one of my very first soils in something similar to what is on Georgette’s land and made a soil monolith that now hangs at the University of Idaho in this Port Hill soil. 

After breakfast, after entreaties to visit again, we hugged and laughed and waved goodbye as we drove off toward Bonners Ferry and Highway 2.  Traveling beyond Moyie Springs, we crossed into Montana, crossed over the wild Yaak River, and paralleled the dramatic Kootenai River.  This river drops 90 feet every mile west of Libby, over ledges of pre-Cambrian rock so old the only fossils are of blue-green algae, the only thing living on the planet at the time that these rocks were sediments under a great inland sea.

Bonners_to_Divide (23)Not far from Troy, the road passed the Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge Park, and we decided that it might be worth a turnaround.  It was worth every bit of the effort, which actually wasn’t much since traffic on this road is almost nonexistent and the turnarounds are wide and long.  The park is lovely, with clear paths leading to the river in two directions, one to the bridge and the other to the falls.  Midway there is a span of stairs that crosses the railroad tracks, an excellent plan for the safety of all the people hiking to the falls, but a little bit tough for Abby in her bare feet and her fear of walking on something with holes in it that looked far down to the ground below!

The swinging bridge crossed the canyon over the river, was sturdy and well built, but swung just enough to feel a bit exciting over the rapids.  The falls were wild and free, with many pools on the ledges and several runs between rocky cliffs.  It was warm and a bit humid, but a perfectly lovely morning walk.  Bonners_to_Divide (8)Once back in the rig, we headed east again along the river, crossing over from time to time.  We are on our way to Kalispell, and as we continue east the air is getting more smoky from forest fires.  I have a vague memory of something mentioned in the news recently of Montana fires and smoke predictions.  Here I have no cell reception at all, so will have to wait for Kalispell to find out any more information other than what I can see looking out the windshield

About 35 miles west of Kalispell, we passed a lake district which appeared to created by dams on the river, but they looked like natural lakes, not reservoirs.  We passed Thompson Lake State Park, and Mo said, “Gee, can we stop yet?” Tonight we are planning to go to the Williamson Park Campground near Shelby, but don’t have a reservation for this first-come first-served park.  We can stop anywhere we want!  Although 200 miles east of our destination might be a bit premature!  Again we passed another lovely lake, called Macgregor, long, narrow and blue, without much sign of habitation on the perimeter.  There are lots of fishing signs, and some cabins.  The smoke thinned a bit as we traveled east. 

Bonners_to_Divide (37)Sometime this morning, we had a brainstorm, although I am not sure just what started it.  Our original plan was to travel north from Grand Forks and go into Canada through International Falls.  However, reviewing the maps, and talking with Chet last night, we realized that Highway 2 extends as far east as Maine, and is a dotted, scenic route almost the entire distance.  On the map, I saw the road leading to Duluth, then through Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to Sault St Marie.  Recently some RV blogging friends have been  traveling the area extensively and singing the praises of the UP.  Once we get to Kalispell, I am going to cancel the two provincial parks we have reserved in Ontario and we are going to travel Highway 2 much farther east than we originally planned.  During the planning process I was excited about seeing Thunder Bay and Northern Lake Superior, but now I am excited about the change in plans, and we can go to Pictured Rocks National Seashore.  More importantly, however, we can add Wisconsin and Michigan to our state decal on the back of the MoHo!  Yes, Laurie, I will watch the ships in the locks, even more meaningful for us since we just transited the Panama Canal last January!

Highway 2 follows the southern boundary of Glacier National Park, but there weren’t many places to pull over for photos of the peaks.  Near West Glacier, the peaks appeared snow free and rocky, with fire smoke dulling the view somewhat.  Once in the distance, I saw a patch of white that appeared to be a glacier, but that was all.  The road, however, was lovely, with forest and rock, river and mountains all around us, I remembered that I found two forest service campgrounds along this road while internet searching a few months ago, but didn’t choose them because I Bonners_to_Divide (41)thought they weren’t far enough along our route.  It was so beautiful, however, that we decided to try to check them out to see if they might work for our evening stop.  At the Continental Divide, stopping for photos of the monument there, was a campground entrance, with reasonably wide paved roads and only one other camper in sight.  Driving through it didn’t take us long to agree to drive the extra 85 miles tomorrow to reach Fort Peck Dam where we had pre paid reservations. It was worth it to take advantage of this delightful campground.

After several days of hookups and plenty of driving, we had plenty of power for a dry camp night.  After parking and settling in, we walked the campground roads, took photos of the mountains and plants, and Mo found firewood at a vacated campsite for our evening fire.  We didn’t bring wood on this trip, but Mo really loves to build campfires, so any opportunity is a good thing.  I made tacos dressed with the tomatillo salsa that Georgette and I made with Laura’s tomatillos and we Bonners_to_Divide (59)had supper at the picnic table by the fire. Mo got out the comfy chairs and shortly after we settled in to enjoy the fire, big drops of rain started falling.  We weren’t about to give up the fire, however, so Mo got out the umbrellas and we sat in the windy storm and used the umbrellas for protection from the smoke more than the rain, which wasn’t much at all.

It was a perfect evening, and I really felt at last as though we were on a real vacation.  The skies were dramatic, with a front coming over the divide, and the sound of the wind in the lodgepole pines was soothing rather than scary.

August 25 Spokane to Bonners Ferry

Morning was clear and warm, with predictions for a day in the 90’s in Spokane and possibly just as warm in Northern Idaho.  We hooked up without a hitch…oops…not a good pun.  Hookup was uneventful and easy and the hitch was fine. Garmin Girl silently led us north to Highway 2 and the cheapest gas around at Fred Meyer.  Freddie’s stores are only in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska, and we will miss the ten cent  discount we get when we buy enough groceries to qualify.

Spokane_to_Bonners (43)It wasn’t far at all to the town of Newport on the Washington-Idaho border.  I had traveled through Newport many times in the late seventies and early eighties when doing soil mapping north of there at Priest Lake. This appeared to be a different Newport, with cute shops, and nice looking streets.  Twenty years ago Newport was a small, somewhat depressed town that was considered a bit backward.  The bridge across the Pend Oreille River appeared new as well, and on the Idaho side was a Rotary Club  visitor center still in development stage.  We pulled into the easy wide lot and checked out the interpretive signs with stories of the historic river passages in this part of Idaho.  The river from this route is truly magnificent, flowing wide, clear, and green through forests and open river terraces dotted with well placed homes.  These homes aren’t cheap, and even in the early 80’s, living along this river was an unaffordable dream.  I can imagine that the flood insurance isn’t cheap either, since I remember the river flooding often.

Spokane_to_Bonners (35) A bit farther east we stopped at Albeni Falls Dam for photos and more interpretive signs.  In all the years that I traveled this road, I never actually stopped here, so was glad for the opportunity to view the dam, the river, and the stories.  Again, we pulled out for views and photos of the river, with Garmin Girl giving us plenty of time before our planned 1pm arrival in Bonners Ferry.  She even routed us through Sandpoint without taking us through the narrow winding downtown portion with ease. North of Sandpoint we found a small picturesque lake with a roomy parking lot and a bit of shade for the MoHo.  Mo took Abby for a swim while I made tuna sandwiches for a relaxed lunch before we continued north to our destination.

Georgette has been Mo’s friend since she boarded her horses at the ranch in Montera in the 70’s.  She Spokane_to_Bonners (5)since married Chet and five years ago moved with her horses, chickens, sheep, and dogs to Northern Idaho.  Chet’s dream was to build a cabin in the mountains, and what a cabin it is!  Georgette is involved in animal rescue and her special love is training and showing Australian cattle dogs.  Her dogs have won best of breed and other awards she is very proud of them. Georgette, however, lived in California most of her life, loves the fog of the Pacific coast, and the life there.  North Idaho is a completely different world, with long cold dark winters, icy roads, and isolation.  I loved hearing her story about discovering that she didn’t need anti-depressants, just a Subaru!  After that discovery, she has become more involved with friends and community nearby and is accepting her new home.

Spokane_to_Bonners (19) What a home it is!  The “cabin” is log, designed by Chet, built elsewhere, and then erected on the property.  Originally a simple cabin, it evolved into 2.5 floors and 4,000 square feet.  The windows have a magnificent view to the west of the Selkirk range, and the barns below.

Chet met us at the lower driveway, where unexpectedly we needed to unhook the baby car to get around the curve.  This is a bit of a challenge on a bumpy, hilly, gravel road, but with Chet’s help we managed, and soon settled into our own private level campsite with power.  It was just a short walk up the hill to the house, but the road was steep and narrow and would have been a stretch for the MoHo even with the baby car unhooked.  It was still incredibly hot for this part of the country, so we left the air conditioner on for Jeremy and walked up to the house to catch up on old times with good friends.

Spokane_to_Bonners (16) Chet showed Mo around while Georgette and I chatted and figured out how to use the beautiful eggplant and tomatillos that Laura gave me last night.  Her dinner plan included oven roasted veggies, with olive oil, and lots of garlic and the eggplant was a perfect addition. We talked and laughed and told stories as the afternoon turned to evening, then enjoyed a truly fabulous dinner of the roasted veggies, and grilled pork tenderloins.  Georgette loves to cook and we were the lucky recipients.

Day 1 Visiting old friends

With Sue busy finishing her work in California, I (Mo) decided to travel to Eastern Oregon and Idaho to visit old time friends from my pre-college days living in Columbia City, Oregon.  Abby is a great travel companion, and at 6am we left home and headed east via HWY 140 to 395N at Lakeview.  Lake Abert is a saline lake on the west side of the highway and it was surprisingly full for this time of year.  I found a side road off 395 that took off toward Christmas Valley to the west near milepost 36, and thought that it might be an interesting way to go back home on my return trip.  Although the weather was pleasant when I left home, by the time I was east of Drinkwater Pass on highway 20 things started to heat up.  It was 102 degrees when I reached Fruitdale, ID in the afternoon.

As I mentioned previously, Abby is a great travel companion, but her ability to follow the maps and read directions while I drive isn’t all that great.  Usually when Sue and I are together, one of us can navigate while the other one drives.  This time, going through Ontario, I got lost since I was having trouble reading the directions that I received from my friends while driving the motorhome.  When I left home, gas was 2.65 and I filled up in Fruitdale at 2.76 per gallon.  Certainly not anywhere as bad as things were a year ago for gas prices.
The late afternoon visit with my friends was delightful, catching up on old times and laughing.  I had a reservation for the evening at Farewell Bend State Park, about 25 miles north on I-84.  The campground wasn’t full, however, possibly because of the 102 degree weather!  I set up camp and turned on the AC and all was fine.  Abby went for a swim in the Snake River so she was happy.  One more time, she was like a kid in the water, refusing to come out because she was having so much fun.  I had to actually pretend to leave and get completely out of sight before she would reluctantly follow.
After her swim, we walked around the campground and I spent some time reading, had a simple sandwich for supper, with fresh lettuce from my friend’s garden, and built a campfire as the sun went down.  Of course, in the heat I really didn’t need it to keep warm, but I love the ambience of the fire when I am out camping.  I set the AC for 77 degrees and it went on and off repeatedly as the rig would heat up even during the night. All in all a good day, especially with the convenience of air conditioning and available electricity.

Traveling through Idaho

Here is the Picasa web link for photos for today:

Mo and I are watching the morning news, which of course is focused on the summer Olympics in Bejing. The brilliant morning sun is flowing in through the open screen door facing east. We are in the Hellsgate State Park on the Snake River on the western edge of Lewiston, Idaho. I used to camp at this park often when I was working in this area 30 years ago, and when I did craft shows here, the lovely Dogwood Festival, held every April. Sometimes the dogwoods were in full bloom, and other times it would snow, but this area is usually much warmer than the surrounding parts of Washington and Idaho, and Lewiston is known as the “Banana Belt”. We are just south of the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, and the Clearwater is an amazing river coming from the Bitterroot Mountains, and much of this area is part of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Here at the park, there is a lovely Discovery Center that highlights the story of the famous pair as they traveled through this country. We will be heading east and south along HWY 95, traveling through Nez Perce country, passing the Nez Perce visitor center and perhaps a casino or two that wasn’t here in the days when I did the soil survey for these areas. The Nez Perce National Historic Park has several sites in this vicinity, and it is a great history lesson to view these areas with the stories that go with them.
The photo is taken at the top of White Bird Hill, site of a famous battle involving the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph.

Its fun being here, recognizing all the landscapes and landforms, knowing the plants, the geology, the natural history. Sometimes when I am working in California I miss that intimate knowledge of an area that I developed over so many years working in the Idaho Panhandle. Technically we are out of the panhandle now that we came down the Lewiston Hill, once a winding steep road with many switchbacks, now a very long down grade of 7 percent that makes me very happy with the MoHo’s tow-haul feature that downshifts with just a slight touch of the brake. I lived here when the hill opened and the first weekend a semi hit one of the runaway truck ramps, and because it was unexpectedly frozen, the trucker was launched out over the 1000 foot hill to an unhappy end. Here is a great photo from the 1920’s of the original road which had 64 turns in less than 10 miles.

Our goal was this lovely park, full of big old maples that have been planted long enough ago to provide lovely shade, the Snake River out our window, electric and water, with a dump station and television reception with an antenna from Spokane. This is a place worth returning to, with so much around the area to explore, including a long lovely river walkway that goes for several miles along the Snake and the Clearwater. In a little while we will head south and plan to go through John Day in Oregon and then on to somewhere unknown for the night tonight before we head home tomorrow via Mo’s brother’s home in La Pine. We couldn’t ask for a better day to travel through this part of Idaho.

the Hiawatha Bike Trail

Here are the rest of the photos for today:

The reason for this trip is a gathering of the clan, with relatives coming from several places to gather with Mo’s brother here in his town. Several of us are camped here at Riverside State Park, sites 1,2, and 3, right along the river. Others are staying at her brother’s home, some in a motel, but we are planning several get together’s. One of these was to ride the famous Hiawatha Trail. The Hiawatha is a great example of what can be done with a rail to trail plan to use abandoned rail road right of ways for bike trails. The Hiawatha is especially interesting because it has such a great history for this area, and is in such magnificent country as well. Here’s a link that tells a bit about the trail.

You can take the fun relaxing easy ride, starting at the top of Lookout Pass, ride downhill for 15 miles on a 1.7 percent grade, and get shuttled back to the top by the trusty shuttle bus when you are finished. However, for us, the timing was a bit off, so we decided to ride up the 15 miles first, leaving from the Pearson trailhead on the North Fork of the St Joe River, meet the rest of the family at the top, then bike down together and drive home while the rest of them did the shuttle.

Mo and I left early, drove 2 hours via I-90 to Wallace, then up the Moon Pass Road and arrived at the trailhead around 10 or so. The ride itself is wonderful, and I had forgotten how beautiful the Idaho Panhandle forests are, with such lush vegetation and thick stands of Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western larch, western redcedar and all sorts of wonderful understory plants that tell the story of the moist volcanic ash soils that support these kinds of forests.

We took it slow, enjoying the views of the mountains, the rides through the tunnels, and the high wooden trestles. The story of the Hiawatha Line itself if fascinating and worth a look. There are several tunnels along the route, the longest one at the top with a length of 1.8 miles. It’s a bit disconcerting riding through them because they have ditches on either side with running water and of course, there isn’t any light. Bike lights or head lamps are needed to see at all, and ours weren’t that bright, but we did fine. The ride up seems long, and the tunnel is fun and just scary enough to be a bit exciting. We waited for the family, who didn’t show up, and decided to start back down around 3pm. The ride down is blissful, a perfect descent with nothing steep enough to require hard braking and gorgeous views. We had the trail almost to ourselves. Between the 2 of us, I am the klutz, but Mo was fiddling with her headlamp while we were in one of the dark tunnels on and smashed head first into the craggy hard rock wall of the tunnel. It was an incredibly scary moment, when I heard her slight oomph, a quick epithet, and then a whack followed by the crunching sound of bikes and bones crashing. The whack was her helmet hitting the wall, hard. We are both incredibly grateful it wasn’t her head, but her body and shoulder took the rest of the impact and she is all banged up with that inner pain that indicates broken or cracked ribs.
Nothing much to do about that in the long run so after some debating she decided that the hospital would be a waste of time to get xrays and a prescription for something and admonitions to rest and not over exert. Don’t need an expensive and long emergency room visit to figure that one out! Mo was in a bit of shock I think, with pale face and green lips but she made it out the rest of the way, more than 9 miles on her bike. Good thing it was downhill! We encountered a couple of really nice women on the trail, and one was an RN so she checked Mo for a concussion, and they helped us out a bit. Nice. Once down, I drove the 3 hours back to Spokane and we settled in to camp, skipping the family get together up at Don’s. Mo slept on the sofa propped up with pillows and helped out by an emergency supply of pain pills supplied by her brothers. It wasn’t a fun ending to what started out as a really great day, but we both felt incredibly blessed and lucky that nothing was any worse than it was.