Friday, June 15, 2007

Grand Tetons

Day 53 – Leaving Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Well, I bid my elk a fond goodbye after they again woke me up. The night before we had stayed up quite late as there was actually someone else from NY in the campsite across from us – two teenage boys and their parents from around Ithaca. The boys came over and chatted until after 11. They were very interesting and had done all sorts of hiking in the park.

The drive through the Grand Tetons was gorgeous – I think prettier than Glacier as there is a lake with wonderful snow capped mountains in the background. It is just a much smaller area than Glacier and doesn’t seem to be as accessible to hiking although there were definitely a lot of water activities in the numerous lakes. We stopped again for a picnic brunch this time as we hadn’t had breakfast before we left. Lots of people came over to talk to us as we were making pancakes and sausage!! Caused quite a stir at this picnic area. Now our view for this lunch was snow capped mountains in the background while we sat overlooking this lovely lake – of course another nice day!

It still seems that the views from the car every day are totally different. I just decide that there can be no other version of a canyon or mountains and then the next day I am proven wrong. We got to see the area called Jackson Hole where Lisa had gone skiing one winter – in fact we drove right through it. It is the area around the town of Jackson which is a lovely valley with the Tetons in the background.

We stopped at a hotel for the night and caught up on a little email although the connection was very bad so we only did necessary stuff. We are heading for Warren’s cousin’s tomorrow. The weather for the next couple of days is supposed to be very hot!!

Currently the plan is to head out to the Badlands on Sunday.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park – Days 49-52

Well, the weather predictions had been that the weather wouldn’t be too good on Sunday and Monday. There had been snow at Yellowstone the previous week so we decided to stay at the campground that was at the lowest altitude which was Mammoth Springs at the north end of the park – only 6200 feet instead of the 7000 – 8000 of most of the other campgrounds.

The drive from Glacier was very pleasant and easy and it was overcast which always makes driving easier. It was still overcast when we reached Yellowstone and looked threatening so we put up the screen tent so we could eat in the rain if need be. The campsite had a wonderful view of the mountains and was on a hill itself. The “host” of the campground had told us there was a slide presentation that night about the park and that there was an elk with two calves over by the amphitheatre where the presentation was. So within an hour of being there I had pictures of mom elk and the two fawns.

The biggest problem was that the site was on a hill and the bathroom was close by but you had to walk up equivalent to about four flights of stairs. That first night I managed to twist my ankle climbing down the hill so that was very uncomfortable but I was determined to tough it out.

The next morning I was awoken as was about everyone else in the campground by the baying of elk. I got up and there were about half a dozen female elks all over the campground – almost looking over people’s shoulders as they were cooking. They kind of wandered around eating the grass and not bothering anyone. Too cool! These are really majestic animals. As we were getting ready to leave, I managed to see a “bull” elk as well sitting up on the hill in the campground – we think he may have been the noise maker.

As it was still a bit cloudy, Warren and I decided that we would tour all the hydrothermal parts of Yellowstone that day. This turned out to be a very ambitious plan. I was cobbled with my very sore ankle by this time. We started out at Mammoth Springs which was closest and worked our way down the parkway to Old Faithful. What an amazing day. The weather cleared up almost immediately – it was 65 to 70 out and gorgeous. We stopped at every hot spring, geyser, mud volcano and site we could along the way. They were extremely interesting as well as strikingly beautiful with all the colors. The different colors are caused by the different bacteria which grow in this extremely hostile climate (boiling water that many times is the pH almost of battery acid). The afternoon was capped off with arriving at Old Faithful about 20 minutes before it went off. It is not as faithful as it used to be so it was about 2 hours between eruptions. There were crowds but it was not bad at all and we got a good parking space. We saw lots of animals including a bison that was determined to move a car out of it’s way. I have pictures of a field of bison with their calves which were also almost newborns. We saw a bear on the way back although we still can’t figure out if it was a grizzly or a black bear. I thought when I saw it that it was a grizzly but it is not clear from the picture. We were totally exhausted when we got back that night.

The next day we decided to take it easy and just to go over to Tower Falls and have a picnic along the road somewhere at the many picnic places. The day started out with quite a bit of excite as one of the lady elks decided that the tent in the site next to ours would make a nice breakfast and she was trying desperately to tear it down and eat it. Luckily the people had already gotten up. Warren and another guy finally got her to leave although it looked like she might try to charge them a couple of times!! She then headed to the next tent to repeat her performance!! The first tent was saved except for a fair amount of elk drool!! We found a place with a nice view for our picnic after taking much needed showers at the local hotel. The weather was again totally gorgeous – perfect for being out in the sun without getting hot and warm enough so you didn’t get cold in the shade. As we have found everywhere, there are wild flowers all over. Each part of Yellowstone has it’s own character and this day was lots of meadows and lots of bison. I of course took more pictures of flowers hoping to get a few that look good. We relaxed a bit at the campsite that afternoon with lots of elk to view again.

The last full day of traveling through the park, we decided to see the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, the Sulphur Cauldron and the Mud Volcanoes which we had missed on our first day. We first had to get some gas for the car so headed north. On our way, we saw a pronghorn which was a beautiful kind of antelope looking animal – supposed to be the fastest animal in this hemisphere. On our way to our first stop we also saw our first black bear (and our only as it turned out). We headed toward the Yellowstone Grand Canyon but stopped at the top of a mountain area and again had a lovely picnic looking out. A lady told us that there was a grizzly mom and two cubs just further on, so we packed up and went to find. Of course, everywhere there are the more unusual animals, there are lots of cars!! We did see mom but she was asleep; and the cubs were asleep also so we didn’t get to see them clearly. We also saw two bald eagles off in the distance as well as another beautiful bull elk grazing. Another coyote also passed by us and was determined to take up the whole road. They are really a pretty animal out here in the park – not like the ones at home.

We arrived at the Upper and Lower Falls which are part of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This canyon supposedly was created by a huge flood after glacier water melted and according to the ranger, this happened in less than a two week period hundreds of thousands of years ago!! The falls were beautiful and then we headed to an overlook called Artist’s Point. Well, it literally took my breath away, it was so beautiful. These falls cascade down this canyon which is all these different colors because there are again the hot springs coming out of the canyon walls. You add in bright blue sky and the green trees and you have a full palette of colors. I know my pictures will not do justice to this incredible eye candy – even Warren was impressed and he by this time was bored silly with scenery.

We headed to the sulfur cauldron and the mud volcanoes and they did indeed look different from the other hydrothermal features of the park. It is amazing to be walking around inside the caldera of what is considered to be an active volcano. The ranger said that there are about 1000 earthquakes a year inside the park but most very small. The magma is about 3-8 miles below the earth’s surface here as opposed to the 40 miles that it is most places. There are two mounds that they keep close watch on as they are rising and falling. It was also interesting to note that they didn’t know that Yellowstone was a volcano until they started getting satellite pictures. They have traced the three major eruptions – the last caused ash and materials from California to St. Louis. They said that another eruption like that would cover all of California in 10-20 feet of debris. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago. Pretty amazing stuff!! As you drive through, you smell all the hydrogen sulfide gas and see all the steam everywhere.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Glacier National Park -- Days 43-47

Well, we are finally in a motel for the night in Great Falls,. Montana. After leaving Seattle, we headed East (Warren's new favorite direction). The weather was pretty overcast but Western Washington State in beautiful. I was most impressed by the precision of the trees which are tall and all perfectly shaped. When you look at the distant landscape, it looks like zig zags -- I believe there was a fabric with that kind of imagery which I hadn't gotten before as nothing could be that even. We headed into Idaho and stayed there for an evening and got caught up with shopping, laundry and showers although we did have showers in Washington.

The weather kept getting worst until we got to Glacier when it was very overcast, cold and then rainy. That was our first tastes of beautiful glacier which was not so beautiful with those conditions. Fortunately, the rain dissipated and we were just left with clouds on the western side of Glacier. Unfortunately, there have been significant forest fires over the past 7 or 8 years and large, large areas are just black where once there were beautiful forests. It was so cloudy and the clouds were so low, you couldn't even see the mountains the first day and a half. We knew the weather was going to improve so we moved toward the eastern part of the park. The famous road that traverses the park was not open for the middle section (80 foot snow drifts plus 100 feet of road that is just gone from horrendous rain storms last fall). We took the long way around the park but it was worth the ride. By the time we got to the other side, it was sunny with lingering clouds in the mountains. That also made it freezing, freezing cold I might add.

We did get to see quite a bit of the park. It is beautiful but Yosemite still wins the beauty contest for me. Of course I took tons of pictures and hopefully some will come out. We saw a coyote (different from the ones in the east), a snowshoe hare (brown with huge white paws), a herd of longhorn sheep and many deer.

A ranger came by to talk to us the last day we were there and was called away as a mother bear and her cubs were heading for the campground. Guess she has been making an occasional appearance. All the parks now are incredibly careful about outlawing even leaving food of any kind out when you are not specifically eating. We have had bear boxes most places to store our food. So we haven't seen any bear as a consequence which is okay with me. Seeing one by the side of the road might be fun but not when you are sleeping in a tent!!

Again, I have been more than amazed with the variety and number of wildflowers that I have seen along the side of the road.

I tried to get pictures on the blog and Picasa said they had gone but they never appeared!!

I will try to get some on later tonight!!

Monday, June 4, 2007


The first of these days was again used in traveling from Crater Lake to as close to Portland as we could come. The drive up Route 5 is very nice through Oregon with lots of beautiful flowers along the sides of the road as well as magnificent views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens and I think even Rainier in the distance. We were both too tired to think at the end of the day so we ended up in a motel in Salem Oregon which is just south of Portland. We managed to find a Walmart, did shopping and got my prescriptions refilled which was a piece of cake. We then headed north again for a campsite along the ocean close to where we planned to meet up with Zanne and Justin.
Our first official day in Washington was right on the Pacific Ocean in a lovely campsite right on the beach. There were huge wide sandy beaches but of course the water is very cold. I did collect quite a few sand dollars which I packed carefully for the ride home. The beach was literally littered with bits and pieces of sand dollars and I managed to find 7 that were in good enough shape to take home.

Well, we haven’t managed to fine internet linkage and found out it is against the law in Washington to find unsecured signals so don’t know when this page will get uploaded.

We are on the back end of the trip now for sure. We have about three weeks left of actual travel before getting to LJ’s in North Carolina which I hardly consider travel. I look forward to seeing her new house and making a visit to Mary Jo’s in Gastonia – the best fabric store ever I guess!! I hope it is the first of many visits.

That first day of our official Seattle visit in a campsite on the Pacific was absolutely beautiful until about 7 in the evening when the fog rolled in and then it was cold and damp. With that, we decided to find a better campground closer to the kids so chose Rosewallip State Park on Puget Sound rather than the site on the Pacific we had originally planned.. It turned out not to be directly on any water, nor did it have a view of the mountains but it was gorgeous weather for all the days we were here and it was great for the kids. Zanne managed to sprain her ankle the day before we arrived so she was gimping around a bit but the kids seemed to enjoy being outside and the weather has been truly perfect – again, like Crater Lake, very unusual for this time of year in Seattle. Don’t know what we have ahead of us now. We are planning on taking the ferry tomorrow over to north of Seattle and then heading towards Eastern Washington and onward at some point to Glacier National Park We may find an intermediate stop somewhere.

As we have had showers at this campsite, I feel no great need for a motel except for the internet feature. Maybe when we get to Montana….

One note is that the oysters are just sitting on the beaches here, there are so many. The law is that you must shuck them on the beach so that the shells can be used for others oysters to attach to. The beaches, needless to say, are COVERED with oyster shells. Just like at the Pacific ocean, where there were sand dollars broken all over the beach. Even in Fla, I have not seen that many.

We finally did find a Senior Center that had wireless so we managed to get a little mail out. And we finally crossed over into Seattle as can be seen by Beth's picture against the Seattle skyline. It rained and rained which made us feel like we had seen more of the true Seattle!

Crater Lake

Day 37– Crater Lake, Oregon

How can I tell you how stunningly beautiful this lake is!!! We awoke to a FREEZING cold morning – the price you pay for staying at high elevations. It wasn’t cold at all when we went to bed but must have been in the 30’s when I got up. We started the day by stopping at the nearby Logging Museum which was an outdoor museum and mildly interesting – great for men who like big machines – they were big!!!

We headed then for Crater Lake. Now the brochure says that weather in May and June is unpredictable, the high temp is around 50 and many times you can’t even see the lake from the rim. Good thing I didn’t look at the brochure until after we got there!! We had another stunningly beautiful day – 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky – no wind either. There were still huge snowdrifts around Crater Lake and some small areas of ice on the lake that were barely perceptible. Now the sky at 8000 feet is very, very blue on a day like this. The color of the lake was even a more intense brilliant blue – hardly seemed possible. It was perfectly still so you could see all the reflections of the snowcapped peaks in the lake. There was snow everywhere and the eastern rim is still closed because of the snow. The western rim was open so we enjoyed the drive and the frequent stops. The snow was so deep in many places that you couldn’t even find the signs much less read them – the drifts were still 10-12 feet in some places. I had on a sweatshirt but forgot to put stuff on my face so a little sunburned tonight.

I swear my pictures looked just like the picture postcards I bought. This was definitely a place where I needed to buy a t-shirt to remember!! The afternoon was spent driving back to Route 5 and on toward Portland. We ended up in Salem Oregon and hopefully will find some internet access in the morning. The ride back to Route 5 along the Umpqua river was another gorgeous drive but we were too pooped to go on to Portland today so we stopped about 50 miles short. Tomorrow on to Mt. St. Helens and then Olympic National Park where we will meet up with Zanne and Justin this weekend

Day 35 – Lassen Volcanic National Park

Well, we left Eagle Lake after a freezing night and headed for Lassen Volcanic National Park. We have quite a bit of road to cover by Thursday – about 900 miles and we still have to see Crater Lake and Mt. St. Helens. I am in a volcano phase right now!! It was a lovely drive to the park where there are the remnants of snow and it is quite cool.
The high point of the day was on one of the first stops in the park – the bubbling cauldron of sulphur spouting out of the side of a hill about four feet from where we were standing. It was cool to watch but even cooler to listen to it as it sounded just like a noisy washing machine. Warren says that there are far more views like this at Yellowstone so I can't wait for that! Very cool…. We did all the typical tourist things and learned a lot about what the volcanoes do so it was fun.

We then spent the rest of the day driving through some beautiful country as usual. A highlight of the afternoon was the wonderful views of Mt.Shasta which is really one of the larger mountains. We watched it for the better part of the afternoon from different angles. Beautiful mountain and Route 5 which is a super highway was extremely scenic through the Shasta Lake area. Warren would have liked to stop and kayak but we used up our extra time at Eagle Lake.

Day33 - Eagle Lake

Well, we have had nice weather and very uneventful days staying at Eagle Lake. It was the beginning of fishing season so we have seen people with some pretty huge rainbow trout that they caught early in the morning. The place seems to be populated with mostly people from the town of Susanville which is where we stayed in the motel. Memorial Day weekend is the busiest camping day of the year so we are fortunate to have landed where we did. I think the rest of the trip will be a piece of cake now. It is exactly the half way point from a time standpoint. Friday will be the halfway point from a miles standpoint. We will have an additional 10,000 miles on the speedometer by the time we get home.

I am afraid I am going to miss the nice predictable California weather as we head further north into the Cascades and some of the “rain forest” areas of NW USA. We have both decided it wouldn’t be hard to get used to this wonderful weather.
Well, will be out of touch for a couple of days after this. We had planned to go to Eagle Lake today so that Warren could kayak some. Well, we got there fairly early and lo and behold, they still had some open campsites!! So we booked for three days even though we are again staying in our motel tonight here in Susanville. We stayed there all day and will go back for Saturday and Sunday and leaving on Monday. Seems as though as soon as we make some plans, we change them!! The campsite is probably the nicest yet but packed with people. It was a miracle that we got a site and a super nice site at that – overlooking this gorgeous lake with mountains in the background and the john right across the street (my requirement). Warren spent the afternoon kayaking and I sat and did my piecing. Thanks to California’s wonderful dry climate, it is a breeze to use the water soluble thread to baste all the little hexagons – it NEVER breaks.

The current plan is to leave on Monday, tour Lassen Volcanic National Park and then head for Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. From there we will go to Mt. St. Helens and then Olympic Park near Seattle. Justin and Zanne are going to meet us there – good thing they were flexible. So we will be in Seattle next weekend and then on to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Warren’s cousin. Then we head back east, stopping hopefully to see the Badlands National Park, Sioux City Iowa (where my father was born) and then on to Lisa’s in North Carolina for a few days.