Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday, 31 August

You never know what each day will bring. We left the campground looking for a beach to go to. At the first beach we came to we saw a lighthouse in the distance. So when we got to a turnoff for the lighthouse, we took it, thinking we might get a nice picture of it. We ended up spending between three and four hours there.

The beach below the lighthouse was black cobble, but Gene managed to collect some wet sand and a couple of pebbles (undoubtedly illegal). Jean looked for interesting stones like agates, but didn't find any.

 When we went back up the bluff we spotted whales offshore. They seemed to be working the area just beyond the surf line. They moved on after a little, but one stayed and spent a lot of time just beyond the near-shore rocks. We watched it for a long time, and it was still there when we finally left.

Jean made some lunch so we could continue to watch from the comfort of the van (out of the bugs). While she was doing that Gene looked at some pelicans through the binoculars and discovered that one of the offshore rocks had about a dozen seals on it. They were mostly just lying around, looking like rocks. But shortly before we left several of them started swimming around.

We could have stayed longer, but it was getting late and Jean had called ahead for a campsite about 60 or 75 miles down the coast. We stopped in Newport and got some things we needed, including some Frontline for YumYum.

We also stopped briefly at a place called the "Devil's Churn." It reminded us of Thunder Hole on Mt. Desert Is., ME.

We made it to the campground by about 7:00 after a day that (like several) went better than planned. Tomorrow, the Oregon Dunes and then off to Gene's sister in southern Oregon.

Wednesday & Thursday, 29, 30 August

Wednesday we stayed in Portland (actually Tigard) and visited. First we went to the store and got some groceries. Then we visited with Gene's step-mother, Henrietta. She recently moved from a nursing home to a very nice group home. There are three other patients there and at least one caregiver. It is in a pleasant home in a quiet neighborhood of Oregon City. The day we visited there were also two dogs and two kids (children of the caregiver). This is a much  better place for her, since she was not nearly as whifty as the other patients where she was before.

We had a pleasant visit. Gene hadn't seen her for several years, but she still looked pretty much the same and was in good health and spirits. After an hour or so she had another visitor and we left to get back to the campground in time for Gene's niece and her son to arrive.

We managed to arrange the motorhome to accommodate four people (it is basically set up for two) and visited for some time. Then we went out for a good Chinese dinner. Afterward we visited some more and looked at pictures.

Thursday we headed out late (Gene spent some time talking with a couple who have a Sprinter set up very differently). We went to what was billed as a shopping mall to do some shopping, but when we found it it was just a large collection of high-end stores. It was like a smaller version of Short Pump, for those who know what that is. We fled that and got back on the road for the coast.

 Along the way we passed through a large valley filled with farms. We stopped at a big roadside stand and got some fresh fruit and corn. We also got some strawberry shortcakes which were delicious.

The mountains in this part of Oregon are not very high so the road through them was easy. We got to the coast in Lincoln City, a few miles below Tillamook.

  The beach we went to was at the mouth of a river, and also included a small bay. Gene collected some sand, though we will have to see if it differs much from what he got just up the co

We also ran into a Tanger Outlet center, so we got our shopping in after all. Not much to say about that.

We stopped for the night in an Oregon State park. It costs more than a National Park, only a little less that a commercial campground, but we were in the deep forest. No bars there, so we are writing this next day. Back to the coast for a couple more days.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday, 28 August Happy Birthday Rosie!

We checked with Gene's niece, Shelley.  Her car would be fixed and she would be back in Portland that night.  It was time to head for Portland.

Our first stop down the coast was Cannon Beach. We drove down to the shore and walked along the beach a little way. The tide was going out and it was easier to walk on the damp sand. It was interesting looking at the footprints of those who had preceded us this morning: people, dogs, horses, elk.

Elk? It turns out there are several elk reserves in the area and elk sightings in town are not uncommon. They don't seem to be afraid of humans. I guess when you weigh 600 pounds you aren't afraid of much of anything.

 The road at this point runs right along the bluff, with frequent overlooks giving great views of the ocean and beaches. Just about every curve produced a "wow!" reaction. You are probably getting tired of hearing us say this but we still haven't gotten used to the sight of tree-covered mountains falling into a blue sea, with wide, white beaches everywhere. Most of them had a small town along the beach.

Going down the road, we spotted a plume of white smoke ahead. Going around a curve we saw a steam locomotive backing down the track with three cars and a caboose. Two of the cars were open and full of people. It was a scenic train. Gene thought he even saw passengers sitting at the front of the tender. We finally caught up with it in Garibaldi.

Driving into Tillamook, we stopped at a small restaurant and had a delicious lunch: clam chowder and salad. Then we reluctantly took leave of the coast and headed into the mountains on our way to Portland. Outside the many parks, there was plenty of logging going on. Seeing a clear-cut makes the mountain look like it had been scalped. We much prefer the forest, but we know that these bald areas will grow back. All the seaports had huge piles of logs, waiting to be shipped to Japan or wherever.

We managed to get lost in Forest Grove when we were suddenly faced with a "Do Not Enter" street and no signage telling us which way the highway went. Advice from a local was of no use at all (maybe that's why men don't ask directions --- they are often wrong). We wandered around little, then spotted a sign for our highway.

A little later we ran into another reason we don't like cities: we hit the outskirts of Portland at rush hour (why do they call it "rush" hour when you barely move?). The directions to our campground put us in a series of long, narrow parking lots. But we made it and we're settled in for a couple of nights while we visit with Shelley and her son Ben.

A day that started with nothing much on the agenda served up a couple of surprises. It's that sort of thing that makes travel interesting.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday, 27 August

Today we started out thinking we were going to Portland to visit Gene's niece, Shelley. Before we even left the campground, we got a call from Gene's sister saying that Shelley's car was in the shop and she needed to spend an additional day in southern Oregon. We quickly decided to continue down the Washington coast and cross the Columbia at Astoria. Then go a short distance down the Oregon coast and find a campground for the night there.

So we headed further down 101. While the coast doesn't change that much from what we have already seen, it continues to be beautiful and we still like to look at it.

Along the way we passed an area that at first glance looked like another clear-cut area. But signs along the side of the road told us that some years back a storm with 120 mph winds blew down trees for several miles along the road. Sure enough, a closer look revealed many trees that had been snapped off.

About mid-afternoon we got to Cape Disappointment. That is the Washington side of the mouth of the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark got there in 1805. The mouth of the Columbia is a dangerous piece of water, with a bar that has claimed many ships. Gene hoped to be able to see the waves breaking on the bar, but the weather was too easy for anything dramatic --- at least as could be seen from shore. We drove out on a Corps of Engineers jetty and Jean walked down the broad beach to the Pacific.

We came back to the mainland for a picnic lunch close to Cape Disappointment Light.
YumYum enjoyed it, too.

Reluctantly, we pressed on and crossed the Columbia (it's huge) at Astoria and continued down the coast to a place called Gearhart. Of course, we had to go out for seafood for dinner. Tomorrow, Portland (maybe).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Olympic National Park

Back again! We spent the last couple of days in Olympic NP, completely off the grid. With great reluctance we are back in civilization: doing laundry, answering phone calls, getting online.

Where to start? We left the pleasant campground at Sequim and drove to Port Angeles. There we got an Olympic Peninsula map and some advice on what to see (actually we got lots of advice on what to see from many places). As we went along our plans changed frequently based on where we wanted to end the day and what the time was. We skipped the great views from Hurricane Ridge because the mountain top was in the clouds. We bypassed going to Cape Flattery (the westernmost point of the lower 48) because it would be a 2 1/2 hour side trip.

We ended up at Rialto Beach, our first West-coast beach. Typical of such beaches, it was littered with lots of driftwood. Not your cute East coast driftwood, these were logs. Gene paced one out at 150 feet. And they were piled up like cord-wood.

It is a steep and rugged coast, with pieces of it, called sea-stacks, off-shore. The beach here was mostly cobble, though there was some sand fine enough to collect.

YumYum enjoyed the beach, too

We went a couple of miles inland and checked into a National Park campground. These are almost all "dry camping," i.e. no hookups. But they are in beautiful, quiet places and the price is certainly right. Jean marveled that we paid $35 to park in a parking lot in Bellvue, and we spent two nights in quiet splendor for $6 a night.


Next day, we checked out and headed for the Hoh Rainforest that we had heard so much about. Neither one of us had ever been there so it was to be a new adventure. We found a good spot in another campground right in the middle of things. We checked in and then went next door to the trails. That day we walked along the old river bed.  We expected lots of trees, but this blew us away. The ground was covered with ferns and salmonberry as well as some clover-looking stuff. The trees were mostly spruce and Douglas fir --- and they were huge!

The spruce trees in this forest average 220 feet tall! And the Douglas fir about the same. Some of the trunks were huge, and they had the most incredible root systems.

 Everything was covered with moss and lichens and fungus and what not. It is as lush a place as you will see anywhere.

Often the trees are held above the ground by huge and incredibly tangled roots. This happens when the young seedlings grow on a fallen tree, called a "nurse tree." By the time the trees are big, the nurse tree has rotted away, leaving big holes under the new trees.

It is called a rain forest but it had been dry for about a month and the sun was out so we didn't have to worry about getting wet. The next day (today) we took a walk on another trail that led up higher to  the older forest (thousands of years rather than hundreds of years). The trees were bigger and included some big-leaf maple as well. Everywhere we looked was an incredible scene. The forest out-Disneyed Disney. It is just impossible to convey the full experience.

But we finally had to return to civilization. The highway followed the coast for a while and we stopped at a couple of beach turnouts. On the first we just looked down on the beach from the top of the bluff, on the second (lower) one we were able to go down to the beach. By now it was overcast and chilly and the wind got up, This beach was very long (several miles) and quite wide, being low tide. There were some cobbles and logs up against the bluff, but it was mostly fine sand and very flat.

We stopped for lunch at an inn along the way and had a delicious meal while gazing at this view. It doesn't get any better.

Tonight we are still in southwestern Washington but tomorrow we head to Portland.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday, 23 August

After a long day and a late night yesterday, it was hard to get up this morning. We were getting low on water, so Gene prepared to connect to the water supply. We have developed the habit (based on a bad experience in the Outer Banks) of tasting the water before using it. So Gene drew a glass of water, but he didn't even taste it. It was yellow with rust. So we will be taking on water tonight (if it tastes okay).

We didn't have time to write the entry for yesterday and still check out on time. As it was, we were just a few minutes late pulling out. On the way we went by a new neighbor, a small, interesting-looking motorhome with a strange license plate. Gene guessed that it was from Germany.

Gene had picked up the ferry schedule, but we didn't want to leap back in to the maze and mess of downtown traffic, so when we got to Interstate 5 we turned left. We had a little less than half a tank of fuel, so we figured we would get well away from the Seattle price zone and pick up fuel.

At Olympia (the capital) we turned right onto US 101, which goes up the Olympic Peninsula toward Port Angeles. At the edge of Olympia we stopped at a Barnes and Noble and finished the entry for yesterday and posted it. Then we looked for some lunch but didn't spot any nearby, and since we were still in a fair bit of traffic, we opted to move on. We eventually spotted a Subway, where we found that some of the options, like choice of cheese, vary from place to place.

At first the road went along the bottom of Puget Sound, then it moved inland to follow the Hood Canal. This is not a canal in the usual sense, but a very long, relatively narrow arm of Puget Sound.

The road went alternately through deep woods and small villages clinging to the shore. At one place we stopped, there were people down on the shore (I would hardly call it a beach) collecting things, probably clams or oysters. Another place there was a sign telling people it was illegal to catch fish, shell fish, or octopus (octopus?!)

We had tentatively set our goal for Port Townsend or Port Angeles. We blasted right by what turned out to be the only road into Port Townsend, and didn't make it as far as Port Angeles. So tonight we are in a campground in Sequim (pronounced "Squim"), where the water is good and the temperature is actually cold. We probably won't backtrack to Port Townsend, so it is on to the Hoh Rainforest tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 August

A long and busy day. So long, in fact, that we are writing this on Thursday. When we checked in to the RV Park(ing lot) we asked the woman at the desk about parking in downtown Seattle. She said that basically there was none except we could park the motorhome at the Space Needle and it would be free all day. So we made plans accordingly.

It isn't Seattle without a picture of the Space Needle

We left about 9:30 in hopes of snagging one of those parking places. We couldn't lay our hands on the detail map of downtown Seattle but Gene thought he could remember the simple route we had worked out. He didn't quite remember it right and we ended up in a residential district miles from downtown  and off the detailed map. Jean found a large-scale (wider area, less detail) map and with a lot of guessing we finally found our way to Seattle Center. There was parking, but it wasn't free. If we had been able to go there directly we could have gotten a special rate, but we arrived after the time for that, so it cost us $16.00 for the day. Not that bad considering. So it was off to explore a little and get some breakfast.

When we returned an hour and a half latter to give YumYum a walk, we noticed a backpack that we don't use on top of his water dish. How odd. When Jean took the doggie out, Gene went in and discovered that the motorhome had been ransacked. We swore we had locked it but someone had obviously been in there. Cabinets were open and contents thrown down on the bed and seats and counter. A careful check revealed that nothing had been taken. All the medications had been gone through but we don't take anything that would pass for drugs so there was nothing missing there. Both our checkbooks were still there. As far as we could tell, nothing had been taken, not even the GPS on the windshield.

Gene went in search of security, who took him to the police. They found that the driver's door had a small hole over the handle where the thief had inserted a tool and popped the lock. Obviously somebody who knew what he was doing. We don't leave any money lying around, and the fact that nothing was missing, not even the GPS, which is a prime target, suggested to the police that whoever was in there had been spooked and left quickly (perhaps by our coming back unexpectedly).

While the police were still there, our friend, Linda, arrived. We had arranged to spend the afternoon with her. When things quieted down, we went to the Chihuly Museum. Chihuly is a well-known glass artist and the museum is amazing. It was filled with glass in a wide range of shapes and colors. There are several darkened rooms with the glass illuminated by spotlights and glowing in every color of the rainbow and then some. Many of the works are very large and often consist of an assemblage of several individual pieces.

In addition, there is a very large area with dozens of glass flowers hanging high inside a huge "greenhouse" affair.

Outside, there is an extensive garden with glass pieces placed among the plants like flowers. The whole thing is a little overwhelming.

After checking on the dog again, we went to a small but very good Greek restaurant.  Then Linda took us up to Lake Union and the Wooden Boat Center. This consists of several floating piers with a variety of boats tied up. There were boats of almost every kind, all of wood: sailboats, rowing boats, motorboats even a couple of pedal boats. There were even two skin boats.

Too soon it was time to go  back and pick up the motorhome and go meet Linda's daughter, Liandren, and her boyfriend Luke for supper. Linda led us to a quintessentially Seattle restaurant on Lake Union that specializes in salmon. Here Liandren revealed that it was Linda's birthday. After a delicious meal and lots of conversation, Linda led us to the nearest interstate entrance and we were on our way back to the RV park. On the way we crossed a high bridge that gave us a view of Seattle at night, two hills covered with lights flanking the Space Needle.

After a not-so-good start, we had a long, somewhat exhausting, but delightful day. Seattle has many more things to offer, but we opted not to deal with the traffic, rough streets, and parking problems another day, so tomorrow we are off to the Olympic Peninsula. We have been spoiled by Yellowstone and are eager to get back to the woods and quiet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday, 21 August

"Fish and guests smell after three days." So it was time to move on. Jean's cousin had made an 8:00 am appointment for her at the dog groomer so we were off by about 7:50 (early for us). We dropped YumYum off at the groomer and started looking for a place for breakfast. About that time we got a check-engine light, so when we came across a garage, we pulled in and had them look at the codes. After much surfing on the computer they determined that it was "particulate filter in the exhaust" and wouldn't affect the engine. In fact, the light turned itself off later on.

However, they gave us a recommendation for a good breakfast place, so we went to Mike's Log Cabin, which is in a Conoco station, not a place we would normally look for food. Was pretty good, though. After breakfast we got a call that YumYum was ready to be picked up so we did so and got on our way to Seattle.

Maybe it was because it was cooler, but we didn't have as much trouble going over the hills out of Yakima. On the other side is a beautiful valley with lots of green fields (thanks to irrigation) and orchards. We also caught a glimpse of a snow-capped mountain in the distance, presumably Mt. Ranier, but that was only briefly.

We crossed the mountains through Snoqualmie Pass. The views are breathtaking. You look around and realize that there is no way you can squeeze all of that into a little square. The most carefully made photograph is a paltry reproduction of the magnificent scenes you see at every bend in the road.

Then we were into the outskirts of the Seattle area. Jean chose an RV park as close to Seattle as possible, in hopes that our friend, Linda, might be able to meet us tomorrow and save trying to maneuver the motorhome in downtown Seattle. But we determined that was not likely. The woman at the desk told us we could find parking for the motorhome at the Space Needle, so we guess that is what we will do.

The RV park is like none we have seen so far. It is basically an RV parking lot. The whole area (not very big) is paved and striped. Each space is just wide enough for a trailer and a car parked next to it. No picnic tables, practically no grass.

So tomorrow we will try driving downtown to the Space Needle and exploring from there. We will make contact with friend Linda after lunch and play it by ear.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday, 20 August

Our hosts have gone to work and we are laying low, hoping to get well enough to press on to Seattle tomorrow. We fear that we have passed our colds on to our hosts who have been so kind. Hope not.

Today we ran the generator for its two-hour monthly maintenance. We waited until the afternoon when everybody would be off to work so as not to create a disturbance. Gene also removed the venetian blind, cleaned it, and somehow got the strings for raising and lowering it unstuck. That and showers sort of sums up the day's activities. Exciting, huh?

Tomorrow YumYum goes to a groomer first thing in the morning, and then we head across the mountains to someplace not as dry (and hopefully not as hot). More roadie stuff tomorrow, see you then.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday, 19 August

We're in Yakima, visiting Jean's cousin for a few days, so this will cover the weekend. Since Gene has now come down with a cold, don't know if much of anything will happen tomorrow.

Yesterday, our host took us for a ride around Yakima. We followed the old road through the Yakima River canyon. It seemed easier than the road we took in, which went over three steep hills. Probably go out the same way though, just for simplicities sake.

It being Saturday, there were many tube riders on the river (above the dam, beyond the pix). This is not white-water rafting since there is no white-water. These are people just floating around, having fun. Frequently you would see several tubes lashed together for a floating party.

Yakima is the main hops-growing  region in the country. We saw several fields. They train them on these V-shaped arrangements. The hops are not ripe yet, so we didn't see what the fruit looks like.

Then back into town to a Mexican restaurant. Some of the help in the restaurant came from the same area (Morelia) that Jean lived in for three years so she had some conversations with them. She also gave the food her approval.

As you can see, we are basically laying low, resting and healing. Most of what has happened has been family talk. Ready or not we're off again in a couple of days, so keep tuned.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday, 17 August

We are now on Pacific Time. On our way to Yakima. About the only thing of interest we expected to see is Coeur d'Alene. It took about an hour. We went downtown to see the lake and get a bottle of sand. Once more the parking lots say "No RV's." Once more we ignore the sign and have no problems. We noticed that they seemed to allow cars towing boats.

We walk YumYum around the public park, which is the only place we can legally take him, it would seem. "No dogs on the grass!" "No dogs on the beach!" etc. So after a leisurely stroll around the park, we were back on our way.

We shortly got to the greater Spokane metropolitan area. It seemed to go on forever.

Eastern Washington is mostly flat and dry. We see grain fields (cut at this time); nothing green, no cattle. It looks like South Dakota all over again except for the grain. As we move west we gradually see green fields (irrigated) --- them more and more. We realize that we are approaching the Columbia River.

Lunch was at a small town called Moses Lake. There was no shade and no lake in sight. Eventually we crossed a long, narrow body of water. Along through here there is a 14-mile stretch with crop signs posted on the fence line. A wide variety of crops, from potatoes to timothy.

We run low on diesel and put in to a cross-roads to fill up --- at $4.52 a gallon.

After a while, we came to a deep canyon at the bottom of which was the Columbia River. It seemed amazing that here was a big river with no trees or other greenery growing along it.  Shortly, the road dropped down and crossed the river. A big river! it makes the Mississippi look puny. Going up the other side we climbed a long, steep hill in 100-degree heat and the Mercedes labored and slowed way down. This happened again on three other hills as we approached Yakima.

Finally made it to Jean's cousin's house about 4:45. A very tricky job of parking in front of a rear garage not designed for 22-foot vehicles. We'll spend the weekend visiting' in Yakima, don't know what that may involve.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday, 16 August

Another straight travel day. Our next stop of interest is Jean's cousin in Yakima. Jean picked up a cough in Wyoming which she thinks is from inhaling all that smoke. So the first thing we did when we left camp was go to a Safeway and get some over-the-counter medicine for cough and congestion. While there we also picked up some groceries. Then back to the interstate.

This part of Montana is pretty much the same as we have been traveling through for the last couple of days; dry grass and sage brush except where the farmers are irrigating. Lots of cattle. The biggest difference is we are seeing more hills.

By about mid-day we reached Missoula. This seems to be a very pleasant town. It is a cultural and shopping center in the otherwise sparsely-settled cattle country. We went downtown to a little park they have there next to the river. We found a parking place in the public parking lot with the sign "No RV parking." In such situations we consider the motorhome a van. Didn't get a ticket so it must have worked.

This park has a carousel that is the pride of Missoula. It was rescued by someone and the city took it to its heart. The horses are all sponsored by someone, and each has a story to tell; such as the pony with the books across the back to remember the sponsor's pony that she rode to school every day. It seems to be pretty much an all-volunteer situation and was very popular when we were there.

Next to the carousel is a big, interesting playground that was built entirely by volunteers. Missoula seems to be a pretty neat place.

West of Missoula we got into the mountains for sure. The road went through narrow valleys and canyons, following rivers. The mountains became more wooded. At first, there would be puzzling patterns to the trees. One hill would be thickly timbered while the hill on the other side of the road would be almost bare. Gradually the area became completely wooded.

We have been getting more and more into the mountains. The road is not difficult. We travel from one valley to another, through canyons of varying ruggedness. But the road is never very steep (or steep for long). A number of years ago we talked with some people who were riding bicycles from coast to coast. They reported that the mountains in the east, while not as high, were much steeper and more difficult, while the big mountains in the west were not that hard. The road is easy and fast enough that you don't realize that you are going over the backbone of North America.

We stopped for the night in a little town called Osborne, ID. Tomorrow, Yakima.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday, 15 August

This should catch us up. Yesterday we left Yellowstone and drove to neighboring Grand Teton National Park. Basically we drove through Grand Teton to Jackson, WY, south of it. Since we had not been able to get online for several days, Jean needed to do some business with her bank ASAP. We found WiFi in a Wendy's and combined lunch with business (does that make it a business lunch? can we deduct it from our taxes?).

The Tetons are generally considered to be among the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in the world. Everyone raves about them; steep, rugged mountains with some snow still on them in August. Unfortunately, with several fires in Idaho, the smoky haze was so thick we could barely see them. But even as dim outlines they were astonishing. We only hoped we wouldn't have to buy a postcard to see their whole glory. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

After doing business in Jackson, we headed back to the park. Acting on advice from a couple of people, we headed to Gros Ventre campground. Jean has been trying for a year and a half to see a moose. We were told this campground was in prime moose habitat, and they are often seen near there. We didn't see any moose, but on the way there was a herd of bison right next to the road. We passed carefully, since there were a couple of bulls that looked like they were about to walk out in front of us. You don't want to mess with a bison; one of the rangers in Yellowstone told us of someone whose car was gored. Imagine that insurance claim. We also spotted eight elk in one of the fields. We checked in just before sunset and walked down to the river, but no sign moose (though lots of scat).

This morning we got up early (for us) and went back down to the river. Still no luck. So we headed off for Jenny's Lake, where the road goes closest to the mountains. If we were hoping for less smoke we were disappointed. It looked like even more than yesterday. Gene's thought was that getting as close as possible, we might be able to see through the haze better. The mountains were a little clearer closer in. We drove right by a turnout with a good view with the idea that we would get some breakfast first, then come back and try a picture. We got to the lodge only to find: a) they had stopped serving breakfast and hadn't started lunch yet, and b) the road was one-way from there and we couldn't go back.

So on we went, hungry and disappointed. There was a pull-off that put us right next to the lake with the mountains in the background. Gene took a couple of pictures which, with the magic of Photoshop, turned out reasonable, if not as glorious as a clear day would have been.

We also found a pull-off that had a nice view across a meadow.

On the way to lunch we spotted a lot of cars parked at the side of the road and a lot of people standing on a bridge over the Snake River. Sure enough, there was a large bull moose standing in a backwater. We joined the crowd and Jean got her moose sighting (and Gene got a picture). Gene said that he could no longer tease her that a moose was a mythical beast, when a bystander suggested mass hallucination, so he was saved.

Sometimes even a moose gets an itch

We then continued on to a place where we could get lunch (it being almost noon by then). 

So a day that started out with a number of disappointments turned out well after all.

Then we were off for Yakima. We spent most of the rest of the day in Idaho. After you drive out of the mountains the land is the same old flat country with mostly dry grass and sage brush, except here the sage was larger and thicker. There were some fields where there was irrigation. We might have been surrounded by mountains but who knew? The smoke was thick enough to cut visibility to about three miles.

We left the valley by way of a canyon and soon found ourselves following a large lake. It looked immense until we noticed that it was down at least 25 feet. It was a reservoir formed by damming the Snake River. After the dam we were in a smaller valley with rugged mountains to the west and more rounded ones to the east. We also seem to have gotten past the worst of the smoke.

Stopped for the night in Dillon, MT, glad to have wifi and showers. We did alright in campgrounds with no services, but full hookups are a real luxury.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No, we didn't drop off the face of the earth, we dropped off the internet. Yellowstone has just a couple of places with cell towers, and though we could get some phone service there. We couldn't get online. So we will combine the three days in Yellowstone into one entry.

It rained during the night in Greybull, and in the morning our campground host told us that the East Entrance to Yellowstone was blocked by a mud slide. So we got advice on alternate routes. However, by the time we were ready to leave we got the news that the slide was cleared, so it was back to Plan-A.

We got breakfast at a cafe in downtown Greybull. Looking around at the locals in this Western town we saw nary a Stetson or any cowboy boots. It was all baseball caps and tennis shoes --- obviously farmers. Sure enough, leaving town we drove past fields of various crops and scattered farms. It looked like the Midwest all over again, except that only the fields were green; everything was irrigated. Everywhere else it was back to dry grass and sagebrush. After a few miles, the farms gave out and it was all dry grassland again.

The valley is very flat right up to Cody. We stopped in Cody for fuel, then groceries, then information at the Visitor Center. Driving west from Cody, we ran straight into a wall of mountains. The road went through the Shoshone River canyon. It was narrow and dramatic, and in one place went through a series of three tunnels. Beyond, the canyon widened to a narrow valley.

We went through a couple of state parks --- with lots of campgrounds --- before we reached the Yellowstone East Entrance (52 miles from Cody). Back to mountain driving through forests of lodgepole pine (about the only thing that will grow in the acidic volcanic soil). Tall and straight, to Gene it looked like millions of masts waiting to be used. We passed the mud slide and continued onin to the park.
We saw this lovely Alpine lake on the way in.

Before too long, we drove through miles of fire damage from a big fire in 1988. This fire burned for months and we saw damage all over the park, both from that and subsequent smaller fires. Eventually we arrived at Jackson Lake, in the middle of the park.

We bought some sandwiches for lunch/supper and found a nice location to eat them.

 Then checked in at the Bridge Bay Campground. This is a huge campground beside the lake, but we didn't have a view through the trees.  We had an alongside parking space, so it is the first time Gene had to parallel park the motorhome. The first couple of times it was tougher than a back-in. Then we took a short walk in the campground but gout out of breath quickly. Big surprise, at 8,000 feet elevation.

Next day (Sunday 12 August) it was cold enough in the morning to cause us to run the furnace for a few minutes to take the chill of the motorhome. So Gene made a hot breakfast of kupwurst (from Wisconsin), eggs, and toast. What a way to rough it! A day of playing tourist.

 First stop was at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Lots of geyser basins, but you rarely see a geyser. Mostly was we saw were various hot springs --- of different colors.

The only place where you can reliably see a geyser is Old Faithful, so that was our next goal. Approaching it was like merging into a freeway. Once we got there it looked more like a football game. There were acres of parked cars, but not a free space in sight
As we cruised the parking lots, frutlessly, we spotted the geyser over the top of some buildings. That was basically good news because we knew a lot of those people would soon be leaving.

I know you've see it before, but you didn't think I wouldn't show one, too, did you?
Sure enough, after circling around on the endless one-way streets, we got back to the parking area and found a space right in the front row. We had an hour or so until the next eruption, so Jean made sandwiches while I tried, fruitlesly, to get online. We headed for the geyser about 20 minutes early to find all the seating taken (surprise) but a nice family made room for us in the front row. The geyser went off about five minutes early (can't they make these things behave?) and a little higher than usual according to an old hand sitting nearby.

 Afterwards, traffic was pretty heavy on the west side road. We stopped at Artists Paint Pots, but didn't do the whole thing, since it required a 1/4 mile walk followed by a climb up the hill. We looked at what was on the level and then went back to the motorhome.

We took the Firehole Canyon Drive --- incredible! A raging river running between sheer rock walls.

There was a spot in the canyon where the river calmed down enough for people to swim.

Went to Canyon Village and saw a display of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, then drove along the North Rim of Yellowstone Canyon. Not good for photography, we will try again on the South Rim in the morning when the angle and the light will be better.

I know one bison doesn't make a herd but is easier to see

We were told that no bison had been sighted anywhere for two weeks, but on the way back to the camp we saw a whole herd of them.

On the way back to the campground we were slowed down by people stopping at the side of the road and even in the road to look at some animals. They appeared to be elk. We stopped at a legal pull-off and Jean walked back about 1/4 mile only to find that some jerks wanting to get pictures on their cell phones tried walking up on the animals and spooked them so nobody got a look.

that we went by a large herd of bison  and stopped at an area where someone had seen a wolf. The serious wildlife watchers go to the good spots early and wait patiently.

We decided to stay another day, so we needed to extend our space. When we got to the campground there was a long double line of people waiting to check in. Jean managed to find a window that everyone else missed and got them, after a little delay to clear things, to get us another night. That meant we had to get set up in the dark.

Wolf or no wolf, it's a beautiful spot

Next morning we got up a little earlier and skipped breakfast to get to the wolf spotting pulloff "early."  It was already well occupied by people with binoculars and spotting scopes. There was a ranger there with a scope set up and aimed at a female (with 2 pups) lying low in the grass. Looking through his scope, Gene got a view of her as she popped her head up for 1 second, Jean saw her get up and move a short distance.

After a while we moved on the the South Rim of the canyon where we got some pictures. Then about 11:30 we went in to Canyon Village for some breakfast that turned out to be lunch.

After lunch we drove the long way around to Mammoth Hot Springs, at the north end of the park. Jean slept part of the way. At the Hot Springs, we went to see the Terraces. Much traffic, but we managed to find a tight parking place in the last parking lot. It was a high climb to see the springs, but they are unique in the park, coming down the hill in narrow steps, often with a rim around them. In the past Gene seems to remember pools of different colors, but this year they were all pretty much the same.

A bison can walk anywhere he wants to
Heading south, we stopped at Canyon Village for fuel. Diesel in the park is $4.19! We went back to the "wolf pullout" which was already (about 5:00) full of wildlife watcher. Some of them come every year and stay for quite a while (we met one couple who comes from Florida). Many of them are very knowledgeable about the wolves and can recognize individuals and know which pack they belong to. We stayed about 2 hours but there were no sightings. We left in time to get back to our site just before dark.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we head for Grand Teton Park, to the south. Hope we can get on again soon.