Zoe is ready

The motorhome is washed the windows are sparkling, the travel info is stored in the breakfast nook, the brownies are safely stored in the oven, the pantry and fridge are full, Zoe is in her place, so I guess we are ready to roll.   This is where Monty says, “You ready ski-cat? I reply “Hit it, Jackson”. Off we go.

First stop, Flagstaff and the cool pines, wow is this nice.  A bit chilly even, did we pack a sweatshirt?  Oh yeah, I found one at the bottom of the drawer under the shorts and t-shirts.   Bonita Campground is a good first day destination for us, not quite a full day and we can get back in the swing of travel mode. Remember where everything is stored, etc.

Next  stop  Red  Canyon  Campground  outside  Bryce National Park in the beautiful red rocks of Utah.     We’ve stayed     here before and it continues to be one of our favorite stopping places. It was a little breezy with a slight chill in the air.  Great sleeping weather, a light blanket, open window and it was perfect.

In our goal to stay on the smaller red roads as opposed to the big blue interstates, we drove thru beautiful Provo, Utah and head for Jordanelle State Park.  We stopped for gas on the way and realize the ‘bit breezy’ has changed to windy/cold.   We jumped out and quickly back in, where is that sweatshirt?     Starting to sprinkle, damn the motorhome was all clean, oh well, nothing like road grime to mess everything up.  We arrive at Jordanelle  in a down pour and kick back for happy hour in a SNOW storm. Can you believe it! SNOW.  We spent the next morning digging out the winter parkas and luckily our next stop has electricity so we can fire up the space heater.   So far this year our two coldest days have been June 18 and 19 in Utah, I hope summer isn’t over in this part of the world!

We head out of the Provo area with some snowflakes still mixed with rain and fog.  Good grief!  We head into Wyoming, and up into Idaho on the way to West Yellowstone.  We found a nice campground below a large dam, holding back a twenty mile long lake, here’s hoping the Corps of Engineers did as good a job on the dam as they did on the campground. I have to admit both Monty and I were awake in the night thinking about that dam!

We met a lady from Green Valley working for the summer in the West Yellowstone Mercantile.  She was glad to be out of the summer heat but loves the winter in GV.  We have been to Yellowstone several times and since it appears to be pretty crowded we decide to simply enjoy the peace and quiet of the Buffalo River Campground, the trees are huge, the grass is tall and the Buffalo River runs right outside our front door.

Home on the Buffalo River

After a couple of days of solitude we head up to Bozeman to see the Gibson Guitar factory. Unfortunately they are embarking on a renovation project and are not giving tours this summer. Guess this will be a good excuse to come back this way.   Bozeman is pretty with green rolling hills.  We talked to some young men from Bozeman who attend the University of Montana in Missoula, one of our favorite places.

We take a right at Three Forks and head up to Helena to see the Montana Capital.  We find a Corps of Engineer project on a reservoir. Pretty setting with nice walking paths.  The camp host spends the summer here and winter down in Quartzite.  She told us you can stay down in Quartzite for the winter for about $200.  I can see the cost appeal but staying in Quartzite for several months, just doesn’t do it for us.  They do have a thriving community in the winter though with bluegrass pickers, rock hounds and lots of explorers with ATVs.

The Capitol building in Helena is beautiful and our tour guide is a delightful retired school teacher.  He has a good sense of humor and knew, not only the history, but some of the   secrets of the building.   Hard to believe but in the 1980’s there was still only a men’s room on the floor used by the legislature.  Since there were now three women legislators  (who  would  have  thought!)  they  requested  a ladies room.   Sure, they’d put it in the budget for next session.  Next session,  no restroom  for them,  the women made the request again, this time the gents would remember to include a budget item marked ‘potty’ .  When next session started without a bathroom the women didn’t say anything, until they were ready to close the session and the women refused to close until the governor signed a new budget including the potty.  The Governor had to fly back from vacation to sign it! Yep, there is door marked Women on that floor now.

The building has several large bronze sculptures by local artists and a magnificent mural done by C. M. Russell.  The mural is 12’x25’ and depicts the Native Americans trading with Lewis and Clark.  One interesting feature in the center of the mural is a snarling dog.  This seemed insignificant until our guide explained that Russell did not like the Speaker of the House and included the dog there so it would be a constant reminder to the Speaker.  Later they became good friends, Russell apologized for the dog, and the speaker even gave the eulogy at Russell’s funeral.

Some of the other art work in the building is a little strange.  The paintings don’t look like Montana, at all, more like Arizona actually. In fact one looks like outlaws at the Grand Canyon.  Apparently the artist, from Cincinnati, had never been out west and used pictures of the Grand Canyon as a guide.

We walked through the Last Chance Gulch area and had lunch at Windbags, the local lunch spot for the politicians.    Who says Montanans don’t have a sense of humor!  In fact this restaurant was a former brothel, Big Dorothy’s.   You can even purchase wine called Whore House Red .  Oh the irony!

Great Falls, is next on our trek, we are looking forward to seeing the falls, as well as, the C. M. Russell Museum.    The drive from Helena to Great Falls is beautiful, the usual rolling green hills we’ve become accustomed to seeing in Montana, but here there are steep rugged cliffs forming canyons as the Missouri River makes its way down to join the Mississippi.    This is a fly fisherman’s paradise, they are standing in the shallows of the river or floating along with the current in drift boats.

We found a place to stay and this is another one of those places where mostly locals live and they have a few spots out in the back for the people traveling through.   Not our favorite kind of place.   This   was interesting because when we first drove in it looked pretty nice, big trees and lots of grass.   Our first indication it wasn’t what we expected was at the office.  There were two gals there that Hollywood would have cast as hard core inmates in a women’s prison.   Honest, one had cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth and the other one was covered with strange tattoo’s.  They were scary and when they said take spot 73 in the back we just snapped to and said, ‘Yes, ma’am.”

Having  read  all  the  story  boards  on Lewis and Clark, we are aware that when they discovered the falls they had to portage their boats for eighteen miles to get around them. One of the big factors that made the ordeal so difficult was the prickly pear cactus.   Most of our Arizona prickly pear is made up of large paddles and appears to be easy to walk around. The cactus in Montana is much smaller and apparently was growing like a ground cover, almost impossible to avoid.   The stories about spines puncturing their shoes and creating welts on their feet sounds horrible.

Montana Prickly Pear

Montana is Lewis and Clark country, everywhere you go there is some display, monument, or statue dedicated to the Corps of Discovery.   I wondered out loud how many boys were named Lewis or Clark, surely no one name their kid Merriweather!!  The next day we saw a sign on a flower shop advertising a free rose if your name was Clark!!

There are three sets of falls on the Missouri and although they are no Niagara Falls by any stretch of the imagination, they are pretty.  Montana put the mighty river to good use and hydroelectric plants are part of each falls.  Certainly a good power source but it doesn’t add much scenic value to the falls.  Two of the falls are on the main road along the river, the other one is reached after driving through farm land, with acres and acres  of  wheat,  apparently  they  aren’t  worried  about whole gluten free deal.  This was an interesting little side trip because the best photographs of the falls were taken from a small island out in the river.  A suspension bridge connects the mainland to a picturesque grassy island with trees, picnic tables, ramadas and a winding  pathway way to see the falls.  It was by far the most interesting and prettiest of the falls and we enjoyed it there.

One of the three Great Falls

We met a couple from Arizona who were looking at the falls.    They had two sons, one graduated from Engineering just before I got there and another one that worked for the UA in Admissions.    Our friend Susie, knows the young man. Small world.

We  spent  hours  in  the  C.  M.  Russell  Museum, including the home he lived in and the log cabin studio where he painted.  Russell came to Montana in the late 1800’s, he painted in both water colors and oil, and created bronze sculptures.  Apparently he was quite a character with a good sense of humor; the museum has included many of his letters to friends.   He created his own personal stationery, complete with illustrations, for every piece of correspondence.   He loved the West and his art depicts the essence of Montana.

Included with the art was a firearm display, and a room dedicated to the buffalo.  I can’t leave the museum without telling you about two of my favorite things.  In the buffalo display there was a short narrow hallway, a large screen TV on one side and a motion detector on the entrance.  As you entered the hall the TV displayed a heard of buffalo running, they grunted as their hooves churned up dust, the floor actually rumbled and shook and it was really a thrill, almost like being there with them.  So short sighted of the white man to slaughter them all.  That’s a story for another time. No pictures allowed inside so we just have memories of this incredible experience.

Here we are looking at this magnificent art and I’m totally enthralled by a new process called PIXoils.  If you Google PIXoils you can see the painting that is shown at the museum.   The scene is a meadow with trees at the edge and a tipi.   You can watch this picture as the seasons change, the fire in the tipi produced sparks, the trees change from summer, to fall, winter, and back, snow falls and the ground is covered.  It is a beautiful painting and watching it change is absolutely mesmerizing.  I loved this display and could have stayed until the seasons just kept changing forever.  This is a new process and I’m sure very expensive BUT if I win the lottery I’d love to have a painting like this. For the last few days, we have experienced ‘unsettled’ weather,  another way of saying it has rained almost every day. Not like it has rained all day but we have seen rain every day since the snow in Provo.

Our next stop was a small National Forrest campground,  we found ourselves there with only the camp host.   He said everyone else had headed for home, they were tired of the cold and rain.   I can certainly understand it when a lot of people up here tent camp.  We selected the primo site right on the river and loved the solitude for two days.  Our first neighbor was  a  young gal with  lots of  fly  fishing gear. She was familiar with Tucson, since she spent a summer working on Gabby Giffords campaign. The world is indeed a small place.

Checking out the creek

We arrived in Missoula and much to our delight it was everything we remembered. The ‘unsettled’ weather turned into a warm spell and it was great. This is our first experience with putting down roots for a couple of weeks. After a day or two we drove around town like natives. Monty got a haircut at an old  traditional  barber  shop  down  town.           When he  walked  in  and  started  to  tell  the  barber  how he wanted it cut and the old guy says, ‘never mind I know just what you want’,  since he’d never laid eyes on Monty before we were skeptical, but Monty enjoyed the chat and was happy with the result. Speaking of happy, when Monty asked Siri, the I Phone goddess, where to get a haircut she purred that she liked his hair just the way it was!   That’s it, no more keeping the phone in his pocket!

Missoula is a delightful community of about 70,000 people.   It is a University town so there are a lot of young college students but in addition, the general population is much younger than Tucson.  Montana folks are outdoor families, strolling in the park, picking up produce at the farmers markets and pushing state of the art strollers about the size of smart cars.   I swear these things have air bags and roll bars!    On- going  summer  events  include  Out  to  Lunch  on Wednesdays  and  Dinner Night Out on Thursday evening in Caras park on the river.   There are probably twenty food vendors set up and a different band in the band shell every event.  The terraced seating is full and all the little kids and brave adults dance on the grass.   There must be 1,200 people out for the evening and during the noon event moms bring the kids down to have lunch with dad in the park.  There are bankers, lawyers, secretaries, moms and construction workers all enjoying lunch. It is really refreshing.

I remember last year I mentioned the carousel in the park but we are so impressed with the workmanship, beautiful horses and community spirit it bears mentioning again.     It is hard to believe one man had thousands of parts to a carousel and donated it to the town if the community would volunteer their time to assemble it, carve and paint the   horses and establish a permanent place in the park.  Thousands of people helped, men  carved  horses,  gals  designed  and  painted  them, school children held raffles and bake sales to help raise funds. To complete the area the community built a play yard  with  climbing  walls,  jungle  gym,  wood  fort,  tire swings and a giant xylophone.    Dragon Alley, the play yard, was built in nine days by 4,000 volunteers.   It is amazing to us.

Carousel horses in Caras Park

We delighted in watching young men take turns wake boarding or kayaking in the rapids on the Clark Fork River.  The river walk follows the river through town and there is an observation deck at Caras park so the crowd can cheer on their favorite sons

Saturday morning for  the locals includes cutting the grass with the push mower if you live in the downtown area or the riding mower if you live out on acreage.  You still have plenty of time to get to the Farmers Market.  The community has two markets, about eight blocks apart.  Not much in the way of fruit this early in the year but the veggies are gorgeous.  They grow stuff we couldn’t identify, some suspicious looking ‘shrooms but that’s another story.   The handmade crafts were a treat to browse through and the bakery goodies were soooo good.  People start at the market on Higgins Street and walk the eight blocks down to the market at the bridge.  It amazed us to see a couple of hundred  people strolling through town,  eating ice cream from the Big Dipper or drinking coffee from Foam on the Range.

We made a return trip to the Elk Foundation, a beautiful log and glass building housing everything you want to know about the preservation of elk.  The sculptures brought us back for pictures we didn’t get last trip. A nature walk through the area completes a nice morning.  We met a young lady who graduated from ASU, met a guy from Missoula there, married  and  settled  down  here  to  raise  a family. We think it would be a great place for young families.

One of the highlights of our stay in Missoula was a day trip to the National Bison Range about sixty miles out of town.  We love vis ito r  c e nte rs ,  th e y  us ua lly  h a ve great  photography  on  display  along  with information and, if you’re lucky, a video about the  area.  The visitor  center  had  all  of  these things and a friendly staff. The park consists of a 19 mile drive thru the hill country, some of the area is

Momma bear and cubs

fenced and some is open range.  There are 350 to 500 bison  on  the  range,  some  were  standing  near  the road, they are massive animals.  Driving on we spotted a momma bear and two cubs.  Mom was browsing in the under brush in a forested area, the cubs were racing around annoying her.   One cub kept scurrying up and down a tree while the other one stayed under moms feet. We got out of the car to take pictures, probably not the best plan, but mom seemed really busy and ignored us.    Reluctantly, we moved down the road and there was a beautiful antelope.   Apparently she was looking for the sweet grass by the road.   Monty got some nice pictures and we moved along, in the next few miles we saw several small groups of antelope and up on the side of a hill were three big horn sheep. Is this  as  great  place  or  what!!!      We  are  busy congratulating ourselves for picking the right day for this trip, when we stop by the river, in Montana there is always a river, and the most magnificent elk we’ve ever seen raises his head and looks right at us.  I swear I heard him say, ‘what do you think of this rack, baby?’  OMG I don’t know how he held his head up, those antlers must have been four feet across. He was browsing on leaves and working his way into the heavier trees. We watched until he disappeared into the brush.  We kept clicking pictures,  but they don’t do him justice.

By this time we have gone way past lunch and asked at the visitors center for a near by lunch place. Luckily there was a hamburger stand not far from the entrance to the Park.   They had the usual hamburgers and hot dogs but they also had bison burgers on the menu.   Hummm, eating bison burgers at the entrance to the bison range, isn’t that like eating fish sticks at Sea World? (buffalo is delicious!!!)

There was an interesting conglomerate of people at this road side stand.  Some ranching families stopped for  a  quick  burger  on  the way  to  town,  of course a few tourists, and rafting groups just finishing up on the river. This was a perfect day for us.

We’ve taken several day trips in the area, one to Phillipsburg, a 19th century mining town. The drive was nice but the town didn’t live up to its’ press release.  The best part was the bald eagle we saw on the way home.  We made a quick U turn and watched for about ten minutes until he spotted something that looked like lunch and took off. He was worth the trip.

We had to see a town named Lolo just for the name and although the town wasn’t special the nearby Lolo Mountain pass was glorious.  The road went right up the canyon and the houses or small farms along the road were charming.  At one place there was a recent forest fire that left a scar on the landscape. There was a blowdown of trees, that looked like a huge pile of match sticks. At the top of the pass was a pretty visitor center, the entrance driveway was in Montana and the exit driveway was in Idaho.

Thanks to encouragement from our friends Sandy and Karl we stopped at the St. Ignatius Mission on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  The 1854 log cabin home of the Jesuits, who established this mission among the Salish, Kootenai and Flathead Indians, sits on this site along with a 1891 red brick Victorian Gothic style mission. The building is unassuming and easy to pass up but the interior is filled with the most beautiful murals.  Brother Joseph Carignano, an Italian Jesuit, who spent many years as the mission school’s cook and handyman, painted fifty-eight murals for the mission.  The artwork is absolutely marvelous. Stepping in the door is an OMG moment.

Welcome to this treasure

In 2007 we went to Glacier National Park, and continued up into Calgary, Canada and traveled thru British Columbia to Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper Park before dropping back in to the States near Whitefish, Montana.  The area of Whitefish and Glacier has been on our ‘must return’ list.       There were no campsites available in the National Park  so  we  headed to  an  RV  Park  in  Evergreen, outside Kalisbell. Last time we were through here we didn’t have a chance to check out Whitefish, so after getting settled we headed over there. We enjoyed wandering up and down the main street looking over the bars for a burger and beer. We finally selected The Great Northern Bar and Grill, established in 1919, it had an outside patio and live music. It was an enjoyable evening and a good start to the next leg of the trip.

In Evergreen, there were posters/billboards everywhere with the Ten Commandants.   We couldn’t decide if the town was full  of religious zealots or independent people making a political statement.    That’s just not the thing you want to ask, do you want the sermon or the political lecture?  We decided the best plan was just to move on. So I guess we’ll never know.

We love Glacier Park and have looked forward to  returning. This trip was somewhat dampened by the haze.   It wasn’t until late that evening we heard about he fires in Western Washington and Oregon. The wind that made firefighting difficult was bringing the smoke all the way across Montana.   The peaks in Glacier  are  really  spectacular  and  the  haze  was  a disappointment but  keeping things  in  prospective it was a non issue.   Glacier is not like Yellowstone with lots of stops to see different boiling pots, etc. The claim to fame for Glacier is the Road to the Sun, a narrow winding mountain road that runs east/west thru the park.  There are several overlooks and pull outs for viewing areas. The Road just opened after the 4th of July, so you know they had a lot of snow this year.  The peaks were still covered with snow and it was beautiful.

Glacier National Park

We took a side trip to Many Glaciers, an area with a separate entrance to the National Park.   There is a beautiful old hotel with a magnificent view of the lake that is surrounded by snow capped peaks.    We took another route home through lovely farm land and to the cliffs called the Goat Licks.   Sure enough there were mountain goats on the cliffs licking the clay.  One momma was wearing a pretty golden coat and she was showing junior the best spots to find the good clay.

We are off to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.   We decided to take the Osoyoos crossing into Canada so that meant zig zagging along mountain roads b e f o r e  c r o s s i n g  i n t o  C a n a d a .       W e  s t o p p e d  i n Coville,Washington to take a picture of the town sign for our friend Evie Coville. We grabbed a few groceries at the local market and filled up with gas before we entered into Canada where gas is sold by the liter and is considerably more expensive that the US.   The highway was pretty smokey and the last report before cell phone service ended was that part of the road we were traveling on was closed.    Of course we didn’t know where that closure was since the phone was out.  But Monty assured me it would be fine and of course since he is right 99.9 % of the time, it worked out fine.  We found a lovely campground on a lake and the smoke was clearing in the morning. You gotta love that guy!

Crossing into Canada was no trouble at all and the Okanogan Valley we traveled thru was beautiful. Vineyards, orchards and breath taking mountain peaks.  We bought fresh fruit at the local produce stand and headed on to the Provincial Park in the Manning District in Canada. We found a lovely spot by the river.

We  made  reservations  in  the  only  RV  park in Vancouver.   We’ve stayed in several RV parks in Canada (2007 and 2013 trips) and loved them….. this was  not  one  of  them.   Picture  a  drive-in  movie theater and you pretty much have this RV park.  Our worst nightmare but….we are flexible and we can handle it.   Ignore the fact that the people to the right have their awning out  two  inches from our front window and forget the fact that the people on the other side actually managed to get their rig into a spot three inches from our awning.  Luckily we put our awning out to mark our space or he would have been at our front door.  We learned from the past that Canadians are a little different about their camping experience.    Some are friendly but the majority are protecting their privacy to the max and will not even make eye contact.  Both of these camps only spoke French and didn’t care to bond!

We had several things on the ‘must see’ for Vancouver, the first of which was the Capalano Bridge Park, and it was only about two miles up the road.  The bridge park has several features, the foremost is the suspension bridge spanning a 230 foot deep gorge.  It was originally built in the 1800’s and updated to remain in use.  But really the most specular part of the park is the trees, some of them 250 feet tall and hundreds of years old.  The forest has an interesting variety of trees, red cedar, firs, pines and trees we didn’t recognize because they were taller than our house.

Capalano Bridge at rush hour

If you  Google the Capalano Suspension Bridge it brings up incredible pictures of one or two people on this huge suspension bridge spanning the deep gorge.    The reality is somewhat different.   When you get about sixty people on a suspension bridge it is bucking like a rodeo bronc and really hard to maintain your balance.  As eager as we were to ‘do’ this bridge it just didn’t live up to our expectations.   On the other hand,  the  tree  top  canopy  walk  was exciting  and the nature trail  was delightful.   Both of us enjoyed the cliff walk. This walkway is fixed to the side of the  cliff  but  some  of  it  is  a  glass walkway, suspended over the gorge. The single file walking conquers the challenge of two way traffic.    We loved hanging over the gorge and we tried not to think about the recent incident in New York with the glass floor on the Empire State Building.

Glass floor walkway

We heard a rumor about the traffic in Vancouver but we weren’t sure if we believed it.  But trust me, you get four lanes of traffic plus a bus lane heading for Lion’s Gate Bridge with only one lane and you have a

traffic jam of major proportions.        We only drove across the bridge once and in truth, it was kind of fun watching the people shuffle five lanes into one lane. Just like a deck of cards, no pushing or honking and we didn’t see any fingers waved in a special salute.

We ate the best meal ever at the Fish House  in  Stanley  Park. We had fish dinners and wine from the Okanagan region we drove through a few days ago.  The setting of  the  Fish  House  is a b s o l u t e l y  b e a u t i f u l . Located  right  in  Stanley Park with acres of grass, huge trees and flowering bushes, some over eight feet tall.   We ate out on the patio and it was just the best experience ever.

The next ‘must see’ attraction on the list is a tour of Stanley Park.       The young man in the RV Park office suggested we simply walk across the Lions Gate Bridge to see Stanley Park.  I believe he said something about a quick fifteen minute stroll. Taking into consideration he was about 20 years old, his fifteen minute stroll and our forty minute hike weren’t  the same thing at  all.     Luckily I packed some water, we were wishing for lunch!!  I think the park guy’s last words were ‘just purchase a hop on /hop off ticket from the trolley driver.’ Our trolley driver was probably the only one  in  Vancouver  who  didn’t  have  access  to tickets.   He was gracious enough to take us to another trolly stop but we still didn’t have any tickets to ride further or to take the ferry to Granville Island.   We waited for the next trolly/ bus which turned out to be a completely different bus route but the driver was eager to welcome us aboard.  We rode with him for a while but we wanted to have lunch on Granville Island so we jumped off and caught a ferry.

Garden at Fish House in Stanley Park

We enjoyed walking around the Grannville Market and we found a lunch spot on an outdoor deck by the bay. At our servers suggestion we tried the clam chowder and it was delicious. Back to the mainland to catch a trolly/bus, we still hadn’t figured out which one would take us back to the bridge.  We finally figured out none of them would actually take us to the bridge, we had to get the Stanley Park excursion tour to go past the bridge.   Hey we are nothing, if not patient as saints with this system that had hordes of tourists standing around with the same expression that said, ‘what in the heck is going on!’  But all’s well that ends well and we headed off on our trek across the bridge.  I don’t want to belabor the point about this being a big bridge but as we were walking across a cruise ship passed right under us.  I took lots of pictures since I figure that is as close as I’m going to get to a cruise ship until we drive the wheels off the motor home. I’m good with that!!

We took a day trip up the Sea to Sky Scenic Byway to Whistler, where the 2010 Olympic skiing events were held.  The road travels along a fjord with breath taking views of water and mountains.  Whistler was a beautiful place, some of the ski runs were absolutely straight up and down but, it was very crowded with limited parking, so we headed up to the little town of Pemberton for lunch.

The scenic byway has several overlooks with kiosks sharing some of the history of the native peoples of the area.   All of the road signs along the highway are in both English and the language of the native people.  In their written language the number 7 appears in different words.   Finally toward the end of the day we found a historical site  that  told  about  the  elders  creating  a written language and using the 7 as a symbol to indicate a pause in the pronunciation. I don’t think that information helped our pronunciation at all.

One of many road signs

Along a river we watched some of the natives using fish traps to catch salmon.   They set rocks up to form gates in the river and wade into the water to catch the king salmon with nets.The fish were beautiful and the young men were very skilled.

One of the brightest spots of the Canada stay was the family we met from Holland.   One morning while walking Zoe we met an eleven year old girl who was so poised and well spoken we were amazed.  She was delightful and wanted to know all about Zoe and if we were enjoying our travels, etc.  She and her mom and dad were visiting from Holland.  They flew to Calgary and borrowed a 1989 RV from some friends and headed off to Vancouver and their next stop is Vancouver Island.

The next time we were out she brought her dad out to met us.   He was intrigued with the whole motorhome idea and he really wanted to know all about it.  He asked if we were accepting visitors and we said, sure, so the family came over after dinner.   That was the first of many chats we had with them and we thoroughly enjoyed their company.   We answered a knock at the door about eight o’clock one night to find Guido and the daughter standing in the rain under a child’s pink parasol with a broken spoke.   They were having trouble with something on their borrowed RV and were confident Monty would know what to do. This is the best part of RV travel.

Returning to the States wasn’t quite as easy are getting into Canada.    After answering all the questions and letting the nice young man into the motorhome and giving up our lone tomato; they were sorry to say that just like “Person of Interest” our number came up for a complete check.  They were very nice, but it was disconcerting to have them hold our passports while we moved the motorhome, walked back to the crossing station, put Zoe into a kennel and went in to answer more questions.   Monty was asked to walk back to the motorhome  with two of the agents while I was instructed to stay inside.  They checked the motorhome again and looked in the outside bins, etc.   They were polite but no nonsense, Monty said they apologized several times but it was all little uncomfortable.

Potty humor? LOL

We enjoyed Canada but it was good to be back in the States.  We are looking forward to some time in North Cascade National Park. While looking up information on North Cascade I noticed there are fifty-two National Parks listed in our Road Atlas.  Out of curiosity I started checking off the ones Monty and I have seen and it comes to thirty-two, of those, we have made multiple trips to ten of them.  Alaska boasts the most parks, with six, and Alaska is still on our bucket list.  Several of the parks can only be reached by boat.  Maybe we need a boat!

Cascade National Park is without doubt one of the most beautiful parks, but I admit I love them all.      This is another park that is a hiker/backpacker  paradise.        The  real  hiking treks, with multiple water bottles, emergency supplies, snacks and lunch have gone the way of roller skates and skis for us, we are content to amble  along  a  marked  trail  with  a  definite destination.   Be it a lake, stream, waterfall, or canyon overlook.

Our favorite kind of hike

We spent two nights in a forest campground,  on  the  Skagit  River,  in  Cascade Park, and enjoyed following some narrow trails thru the dense forest. The trails were simply a slice  thru  waist  high  ferns,  grass  and  brush under magnificent trees.   Growing up in Tucson it is just hard to imagine places like this.   We walked a single file path to Rainy Lake, crossing a stream several times along the way.

Seattle City Light, sounds like a rock band, but it is actually a public utility, have  several small power plants on the Skagit River on a strip of land that runs thru Cascade Park.  In the 1920’s the superintendent of the plant created a garden around the waterfall that generates the plant.  He was the son of a horticulturist and devoted his spare time to cultivating interesting plants.  The sign behind the small power plant directs you to the garden and falls.   This is no small garden but a hillside of stone work and paths leading to different levels and various gardens that originally held exotic and unique plants.  Unfortunately most of the area is over grown now with the native ferns and grasses but it was still a treat to walk the path and let your imagination play with the past. The waterfall was spectacular. The path was so close to the falls that the spray kept the whole area wet.   The huge rocks and trees surrounding the waterfall were green with moss.   It definitely looked like a rain forest. This is a ‘must see’ in the Cascades.

The lakes in the park are an interesting blue/green color.  It doesn’t look quite real but the color is due to the glacial silt in the snow run off.   We went to the Ranger talk about the area and he claimed that Cascades Park has over 300 glaciers while Glacier Park has only 21.  I can hear the Glacier guys now, yeah, but ours are bigger!! We spent another night in a lower campground and really enjoyed that as well. We strolled to the river after dinner. I could get used to this!!

Lake in Cascade Park

Although we have been to Washington and Oregon several times we have never driven through what is considered the high desert in  the central part of these states.  It is a mix of vegetation, lots of rolling hills but mostly brown grass with a few trees thrown in.   I believe Monty’s comment was,’this makes the Sonoran  desert  look  like  an  oasis’.     We  are  still sticking to the small two lane roads so it is definitely more interesting than a freeway but it is not fast travel. In Washington we enjoyed seeing the miles and miles of orchards, many sitting on hillsides.   Lots of apples, cherries, peaches, and hops.   There are a lot of breweries in this area so I guess the hops have become a cash crop.   Actually we’ve seen several distilleries also.   Since we don’t have a designated driver we haven’t stopped.

Winthrop was an interesting little town.  Think Tombstone without the dirt roads since the highway runs right thru Winthrop.  The town is all set up like a western movie set.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a place to pull over and have a closer look. Some of the area we drove thru was involved in the fires that we mentioned earlier.  In fact Winthrop just had the power restored the day before we passed through. We were amazed the fire fighters did such a good job of saving homes and orchards.  Sometimes the scorched earth was right up to the fenced yard of a house.  With all the dry grass, I can’t imagine how they could have controlled it. Every farm had signs thanking the fire crews, cases of bottled water sat out by the road for anyone who needed it.

When we talk to full time RV’ers we always ask about their favorite place and so many have mentioned Bend, Oregon that we wanted to check it out. Well, I think we will agree that it is a great place. Bend has mild weather, the summer days are usually in the 80’s, we were in a hot spell with temps in the low 90’s this week, evenings are 50’s.  Similar to Colorado, where it is ‘hot’ for two or three hours during the day, but it is still nice to sit outside in the shade.  The mornings and evenings are lovely and cool.  We kept the windows open and a couple of blankets on the bed and it was perfect.  The altitude here is about 3,200 while Tucson is 2,500 but the vegetation here is very different.  Hills are grass with Ponderosa pines, junipers and cedar trees, we found a lot of manzanita in some areas.  Bend sits in a valley surrounded by the Cascade Mountain range, the setting is not exactly like Tucson, for some reason, the mountains appear more distant.   These mountains are more volcano peaks/cones.  The jewels of these peaks, are the three Sisters, at one time known as Faith, Hope and Charity but those names didn’t last and they are simply known as north, south and middle Sister.  The girls are snow capped and it looks like God poured marshmallow cream over the top of them.      Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Jefferson are a couple of other snow caped peaks, in the area, it is a beautiful setting.

Bend lived up to it’s billing and we enjoyed it.   It has a lot of the same attributes as Missoula, but this is more upscale.  The river walk in Bend has lots of nice restaurants with outdoor tables and upscale shops.   We looked around in the afternoon and checked out the restaurants and decided on a nice place with outdoor dining.  They had a sunset dinner special from 4-6 pm. We decided that would be perfect, now you realize sunset isn’t until about 9:30 here so  apparently  it  was  for  those  of  us  in  the ‘sunset of our years’, not actual sunset!!     We didn’t care, it was four courses of sumptuous dining.    From the shrimp cocktail and salmon served on a small stack of smoked mashed potatoes  on  a  cracker  base  to  the  chowder, salad, fish entree, and Bailey’s Irish Cream mousse, it was a feast.

Munch and Music, is the Bend version of music in the park. The crowd numbered about 1,500, all ages, young families to retirees. Do I need to mention there is a river running next to the park?  Montana has their rugged mountain kind of river, this one is a tranquil scene.  Luckily we couldn’t find a parking place and ended up walking about eight blocks, so we took advantage of the great housing tour.  I find houses in other areas of the country fascinating. Nothing makes me happier than walking thru these areas.

We selected an RV park in the Bend area and to our delight it was absolutely beautiful.  I didn’t dress well enough to hang out here! It was very upscale, escort to your site, brick patios at every site, no dumpsters, they picked up the trash from your site.  I thought it was a little over the top to have patio brick work around the sewer connection, but what do I know.   Zoe met the neighbor dog, also named Zoe, a cross between a poodle and a handsome stranger.  This Zoe was a therapy dog and frankly a little snooty.  Zoe gave her usual enthusiastic greeting to a member of her nation and Therapy Zoe turned up her nose and growled.  She was probably perfectly happy walking only on the designated dog path keeping off the grass at all times.  I mean really, what is grass for if not to let your traveling companion enjoy it? There was a lovely pond, you could even fish (catch and release $8.00!) A flock of Canadian geese wandered around the park after a dip in the pond, apparently it was OK for them to walk on the grass! I don’t understand why, they poop all over everything. There must have been acres of grass that the yard guys kept mowed. Hand to my heart, they sat on the mowers waiting as each RV moved out so they could mow before the next RV moved in.  Flowers and split rail fences competed the picture. I wanted to move there, except for the dogs on the grass thing!

The Three Sisters

When our time was up at the Ritz we moved to Camp Sherman north of Sisters.   Sisters is located just north of Bend, a small town, well actually just a main street, two stop signs, no traffic lights.  It is really quite delightful and I wish we could have spent some time browsing but it wasn’t to be.  We did manage to stop at the bakery and OMG it was wonderful.  On the way back thru there Monty suggested I jump out at one end of  town  and  run  to  the  bakery  and  catch  him  at  the  other  end  of  town.        I  have  to  admit  it  was tempting!  Near Camp Sherman is the head of the of the Metolius River.  It is really just a bubbling spring, amazingly, with the help of some underground springs it forms a rushing river in less than a mile.  There was a small path that led down by the river and we loved the evening walk.   The only thing in Camp Sherman is a general store and it is a sight to behold, stuff everywhere, pinned up on the walls, on the counters.   It is a throw back to another era. Nice farmers market there on Saturday morning.

We took a day drive on a scenic byway and had a good time ‘discovering’ hidden treasures. Clear lake was one of them.  This lake was formed when one of the volcanoes erupted and closed off part of a river.   It happened fast and the water was so cold that is has kept the trees under the water just the way they were when the flood surrounded them.   The water is so clear you can see the trees, with all their leaves,  just standing there under the water.   It is a quiet and serene scene with only canoes on the lake and some divers cruising around looking down thru the water.  It is still a very cold lake and    the divers wear wet suits.

Another interesting place along the byway was a lava observatory.  About half way around the byway there is a huge lava flow.  It is really something to behold, just miles of volcanic rocks. In the midst of the lava field they used lava rock to construct a round structure with window slots and plaques that identify each mountain in the distance.   Of course there were story boards explaining the eruption and surrounding area.

Notice the tree under Clear Lake

The rest of the byway was just the same old stuff, you know, beautiful green trees, ferns, grasses, creeks and  lakes.  One of the story boards told about the forest fires the area has suffered and I found it fascinating that the western side of the mountains gets 112 inches of rain a year and the eastern high desert side, gets 12 inches. Guess that is why Bend is so popular, you are in Oregon but don’t have all the pesky rain.

We went up the Newberry National Volcanic Park to see the obsidian flow, billed as shining diamonds in the sea of lava rock. hummmmm. Monty loves geology, I on the other hand, figure you’ve seen one lava rock you’ve seen them all, but we enjoyed the climb to the top of the flow.  The camping here was a little strange, our next door neighbor group included an over 50 guy that must have weighed in about 320 with a blonde mohawk. We’re hoping he was a rock star that we just didn’t recognize but doubt it.

Somewhere along the way we picked up a hitchhiker.  I found some coffee grounds on the counter and thought it was strange because we are usually more careful than that.  Later we were eating cherries that had been on the counter and noticed a couple of them were damaged.  Hummm those don’t look too good, oh, LOOK there are tiny teeth marks.    Wait a minute, arggghhh they ARE teeth marks!    Those weren’t coffee grounds, YIKES we have a mouse!  Off to Walmart for a mouse trap, do you know someone really did invent a better mouse trap?  Gone are the days of smashing their little heads under the snapper.  They now have a disk type thing that is about the size of a saucer, one inch tall, you drop the bait inside, apparently he/she loves cherries so into the disk it went.  Set the dial and presto in a couple of hours the mouse is trapped in the disk. That goes into the garbage and you never have to mourn the little critter!

We  found a Bluegrass festival outside Spokane so we headed back up that direction before going on to Missoula again.   This festival was in a place called Medical Lake.   Not only did we find the name a little strange but the whole place was a bit surreal.  First the festival brochure touted an RV park near the festival grounds that had hook ups. We thought that might be good since it was on the warm side and we didn’t want to take the chance of leaving Zoe without cooling.  This ‘park’ was nothing more than a patch of dirt with a few trailers.   We wouldn’t be able to get into any spot that actually had hook ups without crawling under the motorhome to connect. After some discussion we decided we didn’t want to stay there. Time to re-group.

We looked thru our camping directory to find the phone number for a place we saw coming into this area.   We called and they had one space, great we’ll be there in thirty minutes. We already have the car disconnected from the RV so we drive separately.   When we get to the ‘RV Resort’ there is no room and apparently it is not even the place we called.   This is a trailer park with no turn arounds, we are already pulled into the park and now we have to find a way out.     I found a place to park the car and ran out to the winding two lane road to help Monty get the RV backed out, I hustled back to the car and we head out again.   Of course now we didn’t know where we were going and we can’t communicate because we were in different vehicles.   You really can’t use a cell phone and drive the motorhome.   The roads were all two lanes with no parking on the side.  Where’s a Safeway when you need it?  In frustration Monty pulled into the beautifully manicured grounds of the State Mental Institution and just stoped.  I was afraid he was considering checking in we were so frustrated.  We decided it was best to move out of there as quickly as possible . We didn’t want to take the time to re-connect the car while parked there and we couldn’t find any place to pull off.  We finally just pulled into the dirt siding of the freeway on ramp, right under the No Parking sign.  This wasn’t anything like what we had in mind.  At least we were together in the same vehicle and could talk.  We developed a new plan, head to Spokane, find an RV Park and hang out for two days until the festival starts.   We’ve never said RV travel is easy.

We’ve been to quite a few bluegrass festivals but this one was a little different. Why did this not surprise us after the time we had getting here.  The music was great, the setting was perfect, but the people were a little strange.  Usually at a festival everyone looks forward to pickin’ together in the evening after the on stage music.  In fact, at some festivals Monty is out until midnight playing music. But many of these people lived close by, they brought their RV for a lunch spot but went home for dinner and stayed there.  It was odd. The camping fee is reasonable at festivals so people usually stay thru Sunday night to play. We planned to stay but everyone, I mean everyone, was gone by six o’clock on Sunday evening.  So there we were all by ourselves in the middle of his big parking area.  We just stayed, there no sense trying to find a place for one night when we were on our way out of the area the next morning. It was kind of eerie though.

On the road again,  we were really finished with Medical Lake.  We have driven thru Spokane and the area around Coeur d’ Alene before and it is a beautiful drive.   But we were looking forward to getting back to Missoula and meeting up with our friends Dianne and Stuart from Texas.   We have a tradition started here of finding each other on our summer wanderings.   Last year we met them in Minnesota, sticking with the ‘M’ theme, we are back to Missoula. I’m voting for Maine next year. Stuart plays guitar and Dianne plays the dobro and both sing so they keep me entertained.   Monty and Dianne compared notes on new ‘licks’ and we shared meals and a trip to one of the breweries in town. Just a good time.

Pickin’ in the RV park

Time to head for home, we promise to take our time but as soon as we put ‘home’ in the GPS we are on the run like stable horses.  The trip through Salt Lake City can be a challenge and if you can’t plan a Sunday trip thru there you are bound to be in rush hour traffic.  We kept plugging away until we left Provo behind and there were no more stopping places.  We remembered seeing a state park on a lake a few miles down the road so plan to stop there.  OK, the park is full, but there was the whole beach area by the lake that was available. That sounds pretty good.  There were a lot of campers, trailers, etc. in the area so it must be pretty level and firm. The young cutie at the kiosk had apparently never actually been to the lake, two blocks away. She had no idea the best place for an RV our size, knew nothing about the sand situation and when Monty gave her a $20 for the $16 dollar fee she couldn’t take a bill that big.   She WAS cute though.   We pulled through the entrance and had to choose left or right, looks less crowded to the left so we head that direction.  The reason it is less crowded quickly becomes apparent when we pass the sign “Beware Dunes/Deep Sand’. Monty was turning the motorhome blue with language usually reserved for the garage.  We drove on the semi hard pack until we hit the dunes and figure this is a far as we’d go.    Luckily the night was quiet, no one else turned left, so we had the place to ourselves. Getting out in the morning required disconnecting the car and some tricky maneuvering but Monty knows his stuff and we were back on the highway in no time.

This trip included signs that made us laugh and a couple of highway accidents that made us want to cry.   A reminder that life can change in an instant! Live it like you love it.  One of our favorite signs was for a pizza place, the billboard has a big mushroom and reads ‘We give a shiitake’  Johnny Carino, has a billboard proposing we ‘legalize marinara’.  Love those Italians,  what  a  sense  of  humor!  Sometimes  place names give us pause. On the Indian Reservation, Old Person Lane, Monty’s favorite town name was Chilliwack in British Columbia, I favored Klicktat also in British Columbia. We love this kind of traveling!

 

Carrie – Glacier Park

Monty at Logan Pass, Glacier Park

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