CRUISING: Zion National Park via Grand Tetons National Park, Salt Lake City and Heber City

Hello dear friends and family!  Hope you are all doing well!  I just want to catch you up to where we are now, so here goes!

After leaving Yellowstone on July 9th, we headed south and entered Grand Tetons National Park by early afternoon.  Our initial intent was to stay in the Tetons for a couple days but we  could not find a RV park that fit the bill AND we had an appointment in Salt Lake City to have some work done on the RV so Bob wanted to get down there and make sure we had plenty of time to get that done.  And of course we wanted to see our grandbabies (and Lisa and Mike too!) as soon as possible!  Lisa and her family had just returned from a 2 week vacation and were trying to catch their breath when we called and said we would be in SLC earlier than expected.

But to give them breathing room before we descended on them we thought it would be nice to stay in the Tetons for a night or two. Driving down through the Park, the gorgeous mountain range, rivers and lakes were calling to me!

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As we entered the Grand Tetons National Park, the mountains reach out and hold your attention.
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Lake Jackson ringed by the Grand Tetons.

We stopped at the Grand Teton Visitor Center and tried to get an RV site for the night but that didn’t work out (you usually have to book one year in advance!), but I did poke around some and found a beautiful beach on Lake Jackson with the majestic Grand Tetons reflected in it–what a beautiful sight–which made me want to stay even more–but it was not to be!   So one more thing on the old bucket list!

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A wildflower-strewn path leading to a small peaceful beach on Lake Jackson.
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The beach was beautiful and quiet with children playing in the edges of the water.  Sunny shores and snow-frosted mountains–what could be better than that?
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It was hard to say goodbye to this beautiful scene.

Very reluctantly leaving this incredible setting, we headed south.  We stopped in Jackson Hole long enough to get the oil changed in the Jeep and also found a wonderful Mexican bakery that made some delicious sandwiches on fresh-baked bread for us.  Yummy!   We ate the sandwiches sitting in the RV on a side street near the Jeep dealership’s service department.  We were very lucky to find a parking spot that would accommodate Baby so close by.   After calling around, we still could not find an RV site, so continued down the road and wound up camping that night in Idaho on the Snake River just a short drive away.

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The Snake River in Idaho.
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BIG black cows roaming free near the Snake River in Idaho.
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Rolling plains in Idaho.  Looked almost like a moonscape.

From our Snake River campsite,  we headed south the next morning through Bear Lake, Utah (it was the season for raspberry milk shakes on the shores of Bear Lake so we did follow that ritual!).

And then we headed into Salt Lake City, arriving just in time for Mikaela’s soccer practice.

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We ditched the RV at Walmart and went over to the soccer fields to watch the kids, then we all went to dinner.  By then it was getting late so Bob and I headed to a RV campground close to the RV repair place so that we could be first in line for the repairs the next morning.  The RV place didn’t have a site available so they let us plug up on the sidewalk with just one slideout out so that we could squeeze into bed.  That was interesting….

The next morning as we pulled into the RV facility, a big banner across the front welcomed Bob Tiffin from Tiffin Motorhomes (the owner of the RV company that built our RV)–apparently he was there from Alabama visiting the dealership for two days.  So Bob L. enjoyed chatting with Bob T.  throughout the morning while they ate strawberry covered fresh made waffles–compliments of the dealership in honor of Mr. Tiffin’s visit.

I headed up to Lisa and Mike’s house in Bountiful after running a few errands of my own. Once repairs were complete, Bob drove Baby to Lisa and Mike’s house to pick up Lisa and the kids; they were planning on spending a couple days with us at our next campground in Heber City (about an hour from SLC) and Mike would join us the next day.  Bob arrived in the RV at their house on top of the mountain blowing his air horn and making a real ruckus (reminiscent of Christmas Vacation when cousin Eddie shows up in his old battered RV and parks it on the street), which got the kids very excited.

The campground in Heber City turned out to be very nice, and we spent lots of time that weekend playing at the pool with the kids–they also enjoyed the playground and games in the park.  We cooked out the night Mike came up and the weather was perfect — a beautiful weekend!

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Balloon floating over our campground in Heber City early one beautiful morning.
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A perfect sunset over Salt Lake in Utah just below Lisa and Mike’s home on the mountain!  This is also their view from their back deck–very relaxing place to sit and watch the sun go down…

Lisa and Mike and kids headed back home on Sunday  (they have lots of activities–soccer practices, karate, etc.) and we relaxed and drove down to SLC a few times to attend soccer practice, and hang out with them.

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Sammy working with his coach,
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Soccer practice over!
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Girls afternoon! Manis-pedis were just what the doctor ordered!
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Kids just want to have fun—showing Mammaw and Pappaw their tricks on the playground.
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Really going wild!
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The Serio girls with their big smiles!
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Sammy’s new haircut a la soccer star Ronaldo.

Our next stop was going to be Zion Canyon National Park in southern Utah, and Lisa and kids were going with us with Mike to follow for the weekend. On Thursday, we headed down to SLC to pick them up.  This was the first time Lisa and the kids had ridden in the RV; the kids had a blast partying in the RV on the way down–Mikaela was the copilot for either Bob or I as we took turns driving; they loved having snacks and drinks whenever they wanted while riding in their reclining seats.  Of course, some one had to work the galley so Mom and Mammaw played “RV attendant”—and they kept us busy!

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Sammy is making sure all is well and the snacks keep coming while cruising in the RV.
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Mammaw, it’s cold in here!

Once we arrived at Zion, the next few days flew by.  Zion was a stunningly beautiful park, and we never tired of driving through those canyons and gazing at the amazing rock formations and spotting the wildlife posing atop colorful, unusually formed rocks as if in a National Geographic article.

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In the evenings the wildlife make their dramatic appearances.
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Stopping traffic!

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Mom and Dad take their floppy-eared baby’s picture. JR likes to pose for the family album!

 

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Cowboy and Cowgirl Serio with Mammaw and Pappaw.
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Serio Family going Cowboy in Zion National Park!
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Our first day in Zion National Park.

We had lots of fun in Springdale one evening, a little village on the other side of the park–it was an adorable little town with lots of CUTE shopping and interesting restaurants.

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Having dinner at Oscars in Springdale, Utah–on the western edge of Bryce Canyon NP.

We went on a hike back to the Emerald pools in Zion Scenic Canyon and checked out a Trading Post (several times) not too far from our campground.

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Off we go on our hike to the Emerald Pools. Note Mike’s shoulder gear–he is videotaping the entire hike!
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Two brave explorers wearing their Junior Ranger vests.
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Hiking up to the Emerald Pools in Bryce Canyon.
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Waterfall over first Emerald Pool.
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Mikaela, the photographer, at work.

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After a full day adventuring in the Park (or before we headed out), the kids found lots of things to keep them busy around the campground.  They loved the campground with its 2-level pool with slide, rodeo, zipline, horseback riding, country dancing, rock climbing wall, putt putt course, and other activities–not to mention some of the biggest jack rabbits we will ever see.  Pappaw and Sammy chased them down a field one night–guess they thought they may make a tasty dinner!  Lisa said they were as big as a medium sized dog.  I think their EARS were at least that big!  We did s’mores one night, although we were all a little apprehensive about Bob’s roaring fire in the raised fire pit.  We had seen the “Extreme Fire Danger’ signs, but the campground staff didn’t seem concerned about it.  Bob put out the fire as soon as we had our fill of s’mores — thankfully without burning down the whole countryside.

 

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Enjoying the rodeo at the Ponderosa campground.  Sammy has his slingshot with him just in case the cowgirls get rowdy!
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This cowgirl is ready for the rodeo to start.
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We meet the stars of the show. Yes, this was an all girl rodeo!
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Mikaela heading up the climbing wall. She made it to the top!
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Sammy heads up the wall–what a brave 6 year-old!
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Serio family getting ready for the zipline–at night! Sorry guys–my pictures didn’t quite make it–but I have never seen anyone zipline in the dark before–even the workers had to do their jobs by flashlight!
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Another day, another adventure!
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Off they go! Sammy and Mikaela agreed this was the absolute best part of the week–horseback riding!

Our time at Zion ended all too soon since both Mike and Lisa had to get back home to work.  We left as well a couple of days later, heading for Bryce Canyon National Park.  Another day, another National Park, another adventure!

We are now into our last month on the RVing trail, and it is bittersweet to contemplate the end of our adventuring–this round anyway!  Yes, Bob and I are a little tired and we miss our friends and family at home.  But the lure of the road, waiting to see what’s around the next corner, getting to spend some quality, relaxed time with our family and friends who live so far away from us–storing so many wonderful memories away to take out and enjoy later–this has been an opportunity to dream about and relish–even those times when we are sitting in some RV repair shop, or making a big jump to our next stop, or trying to find a place to spend the night.

Lisa, Mike, Mikaela, Sammy, and Junior–we miss you already!

Hugs to everyone!  Miss you guys!  Happy Trails!!

Animals in Yellowstone National Park are WILD!

So back on the road again!  Leaving Glacier National Park, we headed south to Yellowstone–the first National Park.  And from what we quickly learned, it is probably the WILDEST and MOST (potentially) DANGEROUS!  Founded in 1872, Yellowstone has become a model of stewardship for parks around the world–the National Park Service’s continuing philosophy to protect both wildlife and natural resources began here.  To enter the park from the north, we passed under the Roosevelt Arch,  a stone arch that perfectly frames the rolling hills and meadows  on that end of the park; and as we left each night, the Arch captured the last rays of the sunset making a perfect, memorable image.

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The Roosevelt Arch.

President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the Arch in 1903.  A message engraved on the Arch simply states, “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.”  I wonder if they had any idea how many people would come and do just that.  By all accounts, it was extremely difficult to even get to the park in the early days–you had to be tough and persistent to make that rough journey and once you got there you were on your own–no hotels, camp stores, or tour guides to take you in hand.  From the photos we have seen scattered throughout the Park, the visitors of that era looked dusty, tired, but determined as they camped out of the trunks of their cars or wagons.  It must have been quite the adventure!

Entering the Park, the Park Ranger gave us  the usual park newspaper and map.  But after being in the park for a little while, we thought perhaps we should have received a more forceful indoctrination to the park (like a few knocks to the head to drum home their message!), since the warning signs we saw throughout the park simply weren’t enough to get the message across to some visitors–and if visitors don’t employ the services of a guide there is no one there to explain and reinforce the importance of the warnings.  Let’s face it–in this video world, if it’s not flashing, glowing, and making dingy sounds, many people just won’t pay attention.  Yellowstone is NOT Disney and some people figure that out just a little too late.

We stayed at a  RV park just outside the north entrance gates in a little town called Gardiner–a little western, rough-and-tumble sort of place with all the tourist places thrown in.

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The town of Gardiner, Montana sitting next to Yellowstone’s North entrance.

But across the street from the main drag are big, wide-open spaces for many miles–Yellowstone National Park–a huge contrast to the little town squatting on the Park’s border.

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Yellowstone National Park on the north side of the Park near Gardiner.

There are two big lessons we immediately learned about Yellowstone: 1) the animals are WILD and the Park’s stewards intend to keep them that way, and 2) most of Yellowstone sits on one giant volcano and it will BLOW one day and people around the world will be affected!  We were quickly reassured that the BLOW day was not anytime soon (they think!) but maybe 10,000, or 10 million years from now.  The important word is maybe.  No one really knows so if you want to visit Yellowstone the sooner the better….  In the meantime, the geothermal activity of this active volcanic area must be respected (or else).

My first acquaintance with Yellowstone was when I was 5 years old and learning to read my Dick and Jane book in first grade.  My primer was totally about how Dick and Jane and their family visited Yellowstone and the things they saw there.  That lit my Yellowstone fire!  So I have to say visiting Yellowstone was the culmination of a lifelong dream.  And yes, the whole experience lived up to my expectations as sparked by my first grade reader.

Since Yellowstone is such a huge park and we wanted to see as much as possible in the few days we would be there, we decided to focus on the two main attractions–wildlife and that simmering volcano just beneath our feet.  So here goes.

1.  Circle of Fire.   Remember the Red Bus tour at Glacier NP?  Well, Yellowstone has an equivalent bus still being used in the Park — but guess what? It’s yellow!  How cool is that?   Actually they have two kinds of yellow buses.  One is just like the red buses at Glacier (except yellow) and the other one is bigger–more like a regular tour bus except very old (made in 1975) but obviously very durable.  And it is one of the few remaining straight shift buses requiring a driver who really knows how to drive –no just “buckle and drive” like most tour buses today.

Although we saw lots of scenery and wildlife on our Circle of Fire tour, the big focus was those fiery emanations from the simmering volcano underneath Yellowstone.  It’s hard to believe that a volcano is cooking up a real firestorm under our feet, but after a full day of the Circle of Fire tour, I was a believer!  The warning we received consistently throughout the day was, “You MUST stay on the boardwalks and official trails around hydrothermal features.  The ground surface is thin, and often overlies scalding water.  Visitors have died here.”  After a few tales of woe related by the tour guide we began to understand why the cautionary signs were so dire.  One tale was particularly awful–a fellow brought his dog out for a walk (which is not allowed!) and the dog jumped in a pool of steaming water and began struggling in the boiling temperature level water.  His owner jumped in to save him and neither survived.  I asked the tour guide if the wildlife steered clear of the areas with the dangerous hydrothermal activity–in response, he showed us  the bones of elk and bison lying at the edges of some of the pools; they had unfortunately wandered into a boiling pool of water not knowing it would be their last drink/bath.  If you manage to steer clear of the boiling water, hot springs, fumaroles, steam vents, mud pots, travertine terraces, and geysers, then you must also stay aware of toxic gases which may exist at dangerous levels in some of the hydrothermal areas.   Either way it is advisable to take  Yellowstone’s warning signs seriously.

With all that said, the Park is a mecca for scientists and other folks fascinated by Yellowstone’s active volcanic environment.  Some of the bacteria and minerals resulting from this unique environment have been used to develop life-saving medicines and other compounds.

Even as a first grader I was fascinated by Old Faithful, the geyser in Yellowstone that erupts on a regular basis and has been doing so for many years (many, many — as in it was in my first grade reader—and that was a long time ago!)  Look at the pictures below–this section of the Park is, in general, not the beautiful mountains and forests of most national parks, but what is happening beneath the ground is what made Yellowstone famous, unique–and fascinating!

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We rode in this bus for our Circle of Fire tour. It was old but our driver had been driving it for over 15 years so really knew how to work the gear shift! It reminded me of the old greyhound buses my grandmother and I used to flag down on the highway to make a trip into town.
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Welcome to Old Faithful!

The Old Faithful eruptions can last only a couple minutes or go several minutes longer.  If it is a long eruption, then it will take a little longer to build up for the next eruption.  The Park Rangers use a simple formula that helps predict when the next eruption will be based on the last eruption and length of that eruption.

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In another section of the Park you can find a different kind of hydrothermal activity that is also fascinating in its own way.  Below are pictures of Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces which form as hot water moves along a fault line and spills out carrying calcium and bicarbonate to the surface.  All of the hydrothermal features at Yellowstone are constantly changing and you will never see exactly the same thing twice.  Our tour guide said he is always surprised each time he walks through and finds big changes to the different areas.

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Notice the clarity of this pool–looks like it could be in someone’s back yard?  But it’s deceptive–the clearer and bluer the water the hotter it is. Too hot even for chemicals to grow–so much hotter than the yellow and orange pools below. Look closer and you may see the bones of animals that got a little too close.

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Some plants can adapt to even the most harsh of environments.  These heated pools are next to Yellowstone Lake and much of it drains into the lake.  However, the lake is so large the drainage has not yet inordinately affected the lake’s chemical balance.  In fact, we saw fisherman catching fish very close to the hot geysers submerged around the edges of the lake–too close according to our guide.  The geysers are protected territory and fishermen are not supposed to get within 400 feet of them.
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The eerie landscapes of the “hot side” of Yellowstone Lake. The colors of the heated pools and surrounding area are wide-ranging and lend the landscape an ever-changing spectrum.
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This usually underwater hydrothermal feature in Yellowstone Lake–which looks like a small volcano–was at one time considered a “catch and cook” spot for fisherman with boiling water spilling from the top. Now access is restricted.

The hydrothermal features at Yellowstone come in a wide variety of forms, from sluggish, boiling pops of gaseous bubbles in thick, boiling mud pots to the violent explosions of geysers, such as Old Faithful.

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This is a mud pot simmering with large heated bubbles popping to the surface.  They are acidic features with a limited water supply.  Gases are converted to sulfuric acid which breaks down rocks into clay–boiling clay in this case.

 

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Although we saw only a small percentage of the hydrothermal features of Yellowstone, the variety and intensity of this active volcanic area is intimidating.  On our way to an early morning tour, Bob and I were driving through Yellowstone very early one morning along what we thought was an ordinary forested, lonely stretch of the road when we spotted huge clouds of mist floating through the trees and hovering over lakes and springs.

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Early morning steam rising from a lake.

The misty clouds floated for miles along the roadway and we soon realized they were hovering over hot springs and lakes–an area that was barely mentioned during our Circle of Fire tour since it seems to be just a part of the normal Yellowstone landscape.  The enormity of the surface evidence of Yellowstone’s active volcanic activity definitely reinforces our understanding that there are gigantic forces at work underneath the surface.   As I said–intimidating!

We are now in a campsite just outside Zion National Park and one of the long time residents here, upon hearing that we had been in Yellowstone recently, asked if we had seen the melted asphalt highways.  I said oh you mean where miles of construction is currently ongoing with the road ripped out down to the rocks and dirt?  Apparently, what we thought was routine maintenance on a main access point into and through the park (although it did not appear routine since crews are working day and night to repair the melted road, single lane traffic waits up to 30 minutes before proceeding, and the construction crews pass out expected wait times when you pull into line), is being repaired aggressively before another area starts melting.  Talk about the Grand Meltdown!

2.  Wildlife encounters.  After the Circle of Fire tour, we changed directions and headed off into other parts of this enormous park to see if we could find more wildlife.  We had already seen quite a few wild animals.  As we rode down the streets of Mammoth Springs–especially in the early evenings–we saw many large elk grazing throughout this small settlement of buildings and Visitor Center, lingering on the roadside, napping and lounging at every conceivable turn in the road in this tourist-heavy area.  The Park Rangers have their hands full  keeping tourists and wild animals separated, since up close and personal interaction between animals and humans create massive problems which can result in death and injury to both people and animals.

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Nap time for the elk family!
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Elk grazing in major Yellowstone visitor area attracts a lot of attention. Notice the Park Ranger vehicle close by monitoring the situation.
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A little get-together with friends near Mammoth Springs.
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A mountain big horn sheep high on the cliffs at Yellowstone not too far from north entrance at Gardiner.

Feeding wild animals is a big no-no, right up there with not getting too close.  Although Federal law states that we have to stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from all other wild animals, we were still able to have wildlife encounters using telephoto lens, binoculars and telescopes.  And of course we were constantly warned to keep a safe distance if animals move toward you–which I have no problem with.  I really and truly do not want to be face to face with a grizzly.  Have you ever seen their claws?

During a drive along one of the mountainous areas, Bob and I had seen a black bear foraging for food in the forest.  The bear was paying no attention to the crowd of people snapping pictures at a safe distance–he had important work to do–food.  (Whenever we saw a group of people along the roadside with cameras in hand, we knew there was possibly a wild creature to be seen.)

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Hungry black bear along the roadside in Yellowstone.
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You have to look hard to spot them.
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There must have been 30 people on the side of the road photographing this bear.

When asked why the bears foraged for food so close to the road when there are thousands of acres of wilderness completely away from any humans, a Park Ranger told us that the black bears came closer to the roads for protection from grizzlies, since grizzlies usually like to stay in unexposed areas.  Also, bears in general like to return to what feels like home to them.  A Ranger told us that a particular black bear was frequently spotted in a cluster of trees in a curve in the road where his mother and grandmother hung out for years.  He had apparently spent a lot of time there as a cub so he felt safe and protected there.  And if all else failed, he could climb a tree to get away from the grizzlies.  The grizzlies cannot climb trees because they have very long claws designed to roll over rocks to find grubs and things; also their claws are very useful for “other things” which may be why the black bears try to steer clear of them.

While driving though the park one morning, Bob and I got into a traffic jam of sorts.  A small herd of bison were trotting down the middle of the road with an air of “don’t mess with me or your pretty, shiny car may not look so great when I’m finished with it!”

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A herd of bison stopping traffic in Yellowstone.  When they say SLOW, they do mean SLOWWWWW…..
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After following them for a while cars are trying to ease around them. Of course we don’t want a souvenir footprint plastered on our car!
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Some of them have not gotten the message that our tour leaves in half an hour–on the other side of the park!
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This is what this bison thinks of our tour!!!!

We were (kind of) patient and the three cars ahead of us poked along behind the bison’s big fannies until we all realized that this may take hours.  So the cars started gently pressing to the left until we finally got around and proceeded on our way.  So even before our wildlife tour we had had a taste of Yellowstone wildlife–not literally, of course, even though I did have a bison burger one day at a Yellowstone lodge.  (However, the burger did not come from Yellowstone–those animals are completely protected from hungry tourists.)  The National Park Service takes their job of protecting the wildlife very seriously!  And part of that philosophy is “let nature take its course”–and that means no wildlife hunting–and no wildlife feeding.

So we began our wildlife tour with some exposure to Yellowstone’s wildlife, but now we wanted to go out with an experienced guide who knew where the more elusive wildlife could frequently be seen.  It was really exciting to climb aboard the Yellow Bus which was almost identical to the Red Bus at Glacier.  Seating only 14 people and with the top down, we could easily feel like a part of the outdoors while getting a good look at the animals–and maintaining a safe distance.

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Our multi-talented tour guide: driving our antique vehicle on twisty, mountain roads, looking for wildlife along the way, encouraging us to watch for “flickers of movement”, and giving us lots of information on wildlife behaviors and habitat as we slowly cruised the roads of Yellowstone.
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I want one of these–maybe take it camping????  I think it would be cute towing it behind our RV!
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I love the limo look of our yellow bus. This vehicle was in a Hollywood movie that was quite popular, although I can’t remember the name of it.

This tour explored a different part of the park than we visited on our Circle of Fire.  We headed up over the mountain peaks and through Dunraven Pass, glimpsing sections of the Yellowstone Lake and then Yellowstone River, and turning at Tower-Roosevelt to drive into the Lamar Valley.

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The Yellowstone River winding through the valley, while herds of buffalo graze nearby.

Along the way our guide’s radio crackled with bear spottings from other buses, and at one point we pulled into a turnoff where a couple of Park Rangers had just cleared out all of the tourists because a bear was foraging nearby.  Because we were in a contained group and the Rangers knew our tour guide, they let us stop and the Ranger talked to us about the bears and how they try to protect them and why.

Leaving that spot, we immediately spotted mule deer along the road.  As we rounded a curve we saw a big bunch of people with binoculars trained on the valley below; they swore there was a bear down there but although we checked it out with binoculars and telephoto lens we never confirmed that one.  Later we saw a flash of fur down a steep gulley but there was no place to stop.  It seemed the animals were being very elusive this morning!  So we headed into Lamar Valley, a mecca for wildlife, with broad valleys ringed by mountains and plateaus and lush vegetation–no Ring of Fire evidence here!  We immediately began to see individual bison–usually bulls–and then we began to spot giant herds of these great beasts in the distance.  We then entered an area where the signs said “DO NOT STOP–Wildlife Priority Area”; apparently a wolf and its den had been confirmed in this area and it was being given plenty of room to do what comes naturally.

We began to spot wildlife more frequently, as evening drew closer.

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A bull elk grazing in the evening shadows.
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A desert bighorn sheep at attention.
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Desert bighorn sheep watching us watch them.
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A bull bison resting in solitude.
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Looking across Yellowstone Lake, we could see the Grand Tetons in the distance.

As we continued we began to see pronghorn deer–some of the fastest animals on earth. At one point as we circled back, our bus pulled into an area where we were told a coyote and her pups were making their home.  The guide set up telescopes and binoculars and told us where to look.

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Bob is checking out the baby coyotes.

It took a while and we were beginning to think nobody was home.  In the meantime, we spotted a row of unusual bird nests built under the eaves of the old barn next to us with little bird heads popping out.

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Tiny baby birds peeking out of their nests.

This must have been a nursery with all the babies everywhere.  But then we began to see little coyote heads popping out of the den where we had the telescope focused on, and as they grew braver (mom was not at home) they began to move outside their home.  We were momentarily distracted by an American eagle that landed on a log across the street and sat there steadily watching us.  Perhaps he was wondering whether we might be a tasty dinner–when we saw mom coyote marching parallel to the road obviously waiting for all the crazy humans to leave so that she could cross the road and get back to her pups.  Then in the distance we spotted more herds of bison.   Hmmmm,,,,now this was getting interesting!

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Coyote den with tiny pups occasionally sticking their heads out. I didn’t catch it with my camera, but after a while it must have been time for Mama Coyote to come home so they started getting braver and wandered out of their den.
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Here comes Mama Coyote trying to make it home to her pups. Must be feeding time!

Leaving this point behind and headed back to our starting point, we were quickly surrounded by humongous bison, many with calves sticking close to their mothers.  (Our tour guide told us this had been a very good year for bison babies.)  Hundreds and hundreds of bison had chosen this particular time to cross the road and munch on the greener pastures across the street.  They were so close we could have reached out and touched them–and what a photo op!  Several times I found myself staring straight into the eyes of a very intimidating bull bison as they crowded up against the bus while following the herd (in a very meandering way–no rush!) across the street.

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I suppose those horns could go through the thin metal and wood skins of our buses….
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This one must work for the Park Service–cleaning up the edges of the road.
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With al the babies in the herd, the mamas must have to eat a lot to feed both of them.
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This baby is playing a little hide and seek with her friends. The tour guide said the bison community is very communal–all bison mamas care for all bison babies—so there is always a bison mama there to keep the babies out of trouble.
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I kept thinking what an unreal picture–that beautiful landscape, those American icon beasts–it could be hundreds of years ago.
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Here they go across the road–hundreds of hungry bison–this is going to take a while!
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Take your time!
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Nobody seems to mind waiting for the crossing. That’s what we came here for!
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Mamas carefully herd their babies across the road.
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There are hundreds more bison in the distance. I wonder if we’ll get home tonight?
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Here’s three buddies sticking close together!
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If you look closely, each bison has a distinct look around the face. This one looks like she just tasted a dill pickle.
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More coming!
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Baby is hungry!
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Sweet mama and baby picture.
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Just a few more…
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This has been quite the grand crossing–see the cars backed up down the road?
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OK, I guess we can let one more pass!

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Forty-five minutes later, we were finally able to ease by them and headed back, with more bison, bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer sightings on our return trip.  A very satisfying day and a great way to end our time in Yellowstone.  And the beautiful scenery–mountains, plains, valleys and rivers–that we saw that day reinforced how diverse and drop-dead gorgeous our first national park is and will continue to be due to the protection and oversight it enjoys.  Even the wildfires of Yellowstone–and we could still see the evidence in places–only help to regenerate the forests and provide more food and shelter for the animals.  Overall, our Yellowstone visit was a wonderful learning experience and what memories!  I think–like so many of the parks we have visited–we could probably spend a month there and not even begin to understand the diversity of this beautiful park–and how all of the things we see balance out each other.

We now moved southwards the next morning, but with a lingering look at Yellowstone, as we drove Baby down through the less precarious areas of the park, which can accommodate our 42 foot RV, to exit the southern gate.  And on to the Grand Tetons!

Happy Trails!

 

 

 

RED BUS Cruising: Glacier National Park

Hello dear friends and family!  We are moving along–actually faster than I can keep up on my posts!  But I will try to catch up since the train will be leaving the station tomorrow and I will get even further behind! We are currently in Heber City, Utah, but will be leaving tomorrow to head toward Zion National Park with Lisa and her family.  The kids are very excited to ride in Baby II for the first time.  But hold on–we will talk more about this stage of our journey in a future post.

The last time I left you, Bob was flying back from Indiana on the 30th of June and we were leaving the next day for Glacier National Park via a couple of stops.  First of all, after leaving Sequim we first headed to a repair facility in Mt. Vernon, WA.  We had a little wobble in the front end at slow speeds we wanted to check out.  I think Baby just wanted some attention since as soon as the service staff checked her out and pronounced her “just fine” there has been no further issues.  Hmmm…. But it was kind of funny how we traveled to Mt. Vernon–always a little twist in our travels!  If you recall, I talked about the Washington Ferry System in my last post and how it connects the Washington Highway System.  Before Bob returned, I had checked into the best ferry route to take to make the trip to Mt. Vernon shorter since we were scheduled for a big jump that day to the other side of Washington.  Bob read the info and was still a little apprehensive about taking our “monster-Baby” on the ferry; he was afraid she might drag in the front since the ferry brochure suggested that was a possibility.  So he thought he had programmed the GPS to cut out all ferry connections to take us all the way down the Peninsula and back up the other side, since Mt. Vernon (where the repair shop is located) is north of Seattle.  The trip would be MUCH longer but Baby would be safe.  Well, Baby must have had other plans, because when I woke up we were heading into a ferry lane.  Bob didn’t realize we were headed onto one of the ferries until we were well ensconced in the line and it would have been very difficult to back Baby (and all the cars behind us) up so that we could continue on land.  So Bob bit the bullet, went with the flow, and since the ferry folks didn’t gasp for air and choke when they saw us pulling onto the ferry, we figured all was well.  And it was!  I think Baby just wanted an adventure–a little whale watching–and she made sure she got one.

Reaching the other side, we held our breath as we rolled up the ramp but all was fine and on to Mt. Vernon we went! After a successful checkup, we got back on the road–but by that time it was mid-afternoon so we knew we wouldn’t make it to Spokane as we had initially planned.  So I went to work trying to find a place on down the road that we could get settled into before nightfall.  Unfortunately, what we found was a lot of forests and mountains in one national forest after another.  It was getting late and I was a little nervous (parking Baby after dark is kind of like wrestling GIANT greased pigs into a plastic ZIPLOC sandwich bag), when I finally pinpointed a RV park in the town of Leavenworth, WA that accepted BIG RIGS (that’s us–sounds ominous, heh?).  We called but apparently they were closed so we thought we would just chance pulling in and hoped for the best.  It was getting dark as we came down the last mountain and began searching for the campground, Icicle RV Park.  Sounds like the North Pole, doesn’t it?  We turned into what looked like could be a campground and it turned out to be an exclusive spa retreat.  I jumped out to go find out exactly where we were and the lady behind the desk informed me that no, they were not a campground but that they had a room available for the night at a special price of a little under $400.  She apologized and said unfortunately we would not get breakfast with that though since we were late arrivals.  I finally escaped that encounter, helped Bob wiggle Baby out of a TINY cul de sac in front of this cleverly disguised resort we had pulled into, and back on the road.  There ensued a tense discussion about turning left or right and I stressed that if the address was on Icicle Road we needed to stay on it, but Bob was worried about getting caught on what was increasingly becoming a darker dirt road.  We continued down Icicle Road for what seemed an eternity (clearly the GPS was no longer working) and Bob was saying we have to turn around when lo and behold Icicle RV Park came into view.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief and turned in.  I jumped out to try to find an open office (hah!) or late arrival instructions, and was looking around when a golf cart arrived with Santa Claus on it (no, I mean the PARK ASST. MANAGER–same thing under these ciricumstances!).  By this point things were a little surreal–but quickly improved when Santa (I don’t remember his real name) said “yes” they had a site available, that it was BIG RIG-friendly, and he would personally lead us to the back-in site and help us park our chariot.  Even with Santa’s assistance, getting back to the BIG RIG section was challenging since the park must have been made for small trailers and such with tight little turns and unexpected dead ends — but we were led to the new section in back which, after some maneuvering, we were able to slip Baby right into bed.  Later, we headed out to find something quick to eat and discovered that we had definitely missed a turn somewhere since we were in GERMANY.  Yes, the entire town was turned out “a la Bavarian.”  More Bavarian than anything I’ve seen in Bavaria and a lot nicer and newer.  Unfortunately, the similarities ended there–we couldn’t find a bite of schnitzel and spaetzle anywhere, so settled for pizza, salad and bratwurst (a little bit of Deutschland!).

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One of the Bavarian-esque buildings in Leavenworth, Washington.

The next day during a 15-minute photo and exploring session (Bob was eager to hit the road), I learned that shop workers are expected to dress in their Bavarian clothes most of the year and that the Bavarian frenzy hits its peak during the Christmas holidays, when the little village is transformed into a Bavarian Christmas Village, attracting visitors from many miles around.  Unfortunately, it is also blanketed in heavy snow by that point so it is probably about as unreachable as the North Pole! On his early morning search for coffee that morning, Bob found the Icicle RV Park Coffee Club gang hanging out in the coffee hut and learned that this particular RV park had given Baby a new name–MONSTER RV.  I think we must have been the biggest thing to actually make it around their little curves after FINDING the park down that long dark road AND arriving in almost darkness–and probably waking all the older folks up who were already snoozing when our 450 Cummins diesel engine eased by their homes the night before.

Heading on down the road, we made it to the Motor Coach Country Club in Spokane, where life was easy for our overnight stay, sunsets were outstanding and the only thing to worry about was a golf ball going through the windshield.  Great or not, we had places to go!  We were up and rolling by 6:30 the next morning, headed toward Halispell, Montana, gateway to Glacier National Park.  As we were leaving this beautiful park the manager stopped us and asked us if we had a problem with the park;  he seemed very worried that we were leaving so early because we didn’t like his park.  We assured him it was very nice but we had reservations on down the road.

We arrived at the Glacier KOA RV Park in Kalispell, Montana in the early afternoon, and immediately realized why this KOA is called the “nicest KOA in America.”  The RV park was very well laid out with elaborate landscaping, many amenities, such as an ice cream parlor in a frontier log house,  and a cute little pavilion surrounded by flowers where we had breakfast each morning. After getting settled into our campsite, we drove into the Park and did a little initial exploring on our own.  We found Lake McDonald, a beautiful crystal clear lake with classic views of Glacier peaks along the edges of the lake.  We took the one-hour boat tour around the lake and saw views of the forests and mountain perspectives that we were told could not be  seen from the shore.  What a great way to be introduced to this magnificent park–but it still gave us little inkling of what was in store for us the next day!

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The Glacier Hotel at Lake McDonald, celebrates its 100th birthday this summer.
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The marina at Lake McDOnald.
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The forest-lined shores of Lake McDonald.
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Viewing some of Glacier’s many mountains and peaks from a lake perspective.
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The interior of the Glacier Hotel at Lake McDonald.

 

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Another view of the Glacier Hotel at Lake McDonald.
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The fireplace in the Grand Lobby of the Glacier Hotel could easily hold six grown men–standing.

Our first morning we finished eating in the breakfast pavilion and walked up to the front office and waited for our tour bus to arrive.  After all the driving we had been doing we had decided to let someone else do the driving as we explored the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a highlight of Glacier National Park.  To our delight, our BRIGHT RED antique convertible touring car, built by White Motor Cars in the mid-1930s, arrived with a flourish, driven by an older gent who said he had been doing these tours every summer for 17 years; he lives in Florida during the winter months.  And did he know his stuff!  He was knowledgeable and entertaining and gave us ample opportunity to get many photos, even if it was what he called the “prairie dog drive-by,” where we stood on the seats and popped our heads out over the convertible top for unimpeded shots of glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife. The following pictures speak for themselves.

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Our antique ride compliments of Glacier National Park.
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Hitting the (very) high road in an antique!
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Our Red Bus got a lot of attention! Sometimes tourists were taking more pictures of us driving by than all the scenic wonders of Glacier!

DSCN1444 It was a little intimidating at first when we realized we would be climbing peaks in vehicles older than we were.  But the driver reassured us that in the 90s, Ford Motor Company volunteered to upgrade the cars with all the safety requirements nonexistent when they were first built.  But the basic frame is still the same–made from wood with the same bright cherry finish on them as when they were first delivered to Glacier NP. And the Red Bus performed admirably on some of the highest, steepest, brilliantly designed mountain roads carved into the mountain to maximize the spectacular views of mountains, waterfalls, glaciers and glacier carved valleys — scenery you could never imagine.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most spectacular highways imaginable.  Bisecting the heart of Glacier, the 50-mile long road follows the shores of the park’s two largest lakes and hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide as it traverses Logan Pass.  We enjoyed many scenic turnouts and wayside exhibits along the way.  And with the top down we were able to see views from above that towered over us, and in some cases showered us (good thing it was a warm day) as we passed under waterfalls plunging down in every direction.  We had arrived at a perfect time–this was the first week the Going-to-the-Sun Road had opened after the final clearing of snow from the roadway, thus we had an opportunity to see the Park at its best–hundreds of roaring waterfalls coming out of everywhere (including out of the rocks themselves), flowers blooming in unlikely places as the snow continued to melt, peaks and glaciers unfolding at every turn in the road, and sweeping valleys carved by glaciers with rivers twisting and turning across the valley floor.

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Traversing Logan Pass before heading down the back side of the mountain.
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Our fearless driver handled the Red Bus very well even with all the challenges, while making sure we saw all of the scenic wonders along the way.
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Stopping at Logan Pass, the Red Bus attracted a lot of attention.
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I think Bob is wondering how he could get his hands on one of these.

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There was still lots of snow aound Logan Pass with piles of snow way above my head and skiers picking their way down the snowy peaks of Logan Pass where the US government-owned part of the Park adjoins the Native American side.  Roads were clear of snow and ice except for waves of water running across the roads as water gushed down the mountain in many, many waterfalls, streams, and rivers.  But that didn’t stop the many drivers, bikers, and hikers from setting out over the Going-to-the-Sun Road–a road that clings to the side of cliffs as it climbs steadily to Logan Pass.  Groups of motorcycles also climbed this precarious road, stopping frequently to view the astounding vistas that stretched for miles. Many drivers, unaccustomed to driving on such a narrow road, constantly drove in both lanes creating harrowing moments of Russian roulette as cars jockeyed for space with our Red Bus.  Each of those moments made me increasingly grateful we had not driven our car up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Our tour host explained how Glacier National Park is also called the International Peace Park (a first!) since the area’s majestic wonders extend into Canada, comprising Canada’s  Waterton National Park.  But the adjoining parks are truly an example of  peaceful cooperation, demonstrated by the fact that both US and Canadian Rangers work together to create unique visitor programs, such as hikes that cross the international boundary and are led by both American and Canadian Rangers. Although we did not have time on this trip to check out the Waterton NP, or attempt one of the hikes or boat tours that cross the International Boundary, that is definitely a bucket list item!  In fact, from observing the cars on the Going-to-the-Sun Road it seemed that many Canadians were on the road that morning.  Our tour guide explained that many Canadians save themselves 90 miles of driving by cutting through the Park and driving across Logan Pass to get to the shopping in the US.  Of course, using the Park as a shortcut doesn’t help the traffic congestion on the 52 miles of steep, winding roads that cuts through the heart of Glacier National Park.

Mountain Peaks and Glaciers…..WOW!  The Going-to-the-Sun Road, named by the local Native American tribes, was aptly named since it is up, up, up—and more UP.  Here’s a few pictures of the beautiful mountain peaks and glaciers.

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You can see skiers here at Logan Pass. Our Tour Bus Driver said on one memorable day a skier actually flew off a pile of snow at this location, flew over his Red Bus, and landed in the snow on the other side. I wonder if his name was Evil Knievel?
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Admiring the view….
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The glaciers are slowly disappearing from Glacier National Park but there are still some beautiful ones to admire.
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This is where a humongous glacier began its slide to carve out the valley below.
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Mountain peaks.
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Admiring the scenery from our cat seat in the Red Bus.
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More peaks in the distance…
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Just breathe in that fresh mountain air. If only they could bottle it for a whiff once in a while…
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Bob is checking out the view.

Would you like to see some waterfalls?  Here goes…  Some of these waterfalls are only temporary as they disappear once the snow has completely melted.  But what a grand show the day we were there!

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This was so long I had to take multiple pictures to capture it all. This is just the top of it.  Parts of the waterfall flow beneath large islands of ice and snow and appear where the snow has broken away on its journey down the mountain.
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A melting mountain.
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With water flowing beneath the ice, it is extremely dangerous to walk on these columns of ice. But we saw people on them (with their children) slipping and sliding over the ice as if it was their own backyard.
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A photo cannot begin to capture this display.
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So many waterfalls—so little time!
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Our Red Bus drove under many of these waterfalls from the Weeping Rocks–the screaming as we got soaked in the crisp mountain air was almost like what you hear on the Big Bad Wolf ride at Busch Gardens!
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Aaaahhh…..

So enough with the scenery!  Would you like to see some wildlife?  Let’s start with a nice grizzly out having his morning breakfast.  We discovered this bear grazing along the roadway as we drove into the back side of Glacier Park.

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Glacier National Park is one of the few places in North America where all the native carnivores live. Grizzlies and black bears forage for greenery and berries. The Rangers told us that large predators indicate a healthy landscape with lots of prey. This grizzly looks like he could eat almost anything.
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The grizzly appeared very active–almost restless. Maybe he was craving a big steak rather than all the roots and berries.
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On the move again!
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Uh oh–I think he’s spotted us. Time to move this Red Bus on down the road!

Topping Logan Pass, we spotted some mountain sheep on the hillside.  They clustered just below the snow and rocky areas of the mountain tops.

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Bighorn sheep foraging for food.
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A stream in the valley is swollen with the water from thousands of waterfalls pouring off the mountain top.

As we descended the glacial peaks into the Valley at the end of the day, we remembered it was Fourth of July.  What a way to celebrate our beginnings as a country by exploring one of our national treasures!  No fireworks needed!

Our Red Bus dropped us off at the Campground and I headed down the road to a tiny grocery store to find something for dinner to go with our huckleberry pie we bought at a wayside bakery the day before.  I’m sure someone had fireworks somewhere but we never heard them since by nightfall we were sound asleep.  Clean mountain air, BBQ chicken, and huckleberry pie did us in!  And tomorrow was another day and another national park–Yellowstone!  Stay tuned.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July!  Take care, friends and family!  Back on the road again–Happy Trails!

 

How many National Parks can you stuff in one state?

So how many National Parks CAN you stuff into one state?  Well, if it’s Washington State you can stuff a good many!  And crazy me–I tried to see them all in just a long weekend.  As I mentioned in my last post, at the end of Ashley’s week with us, she and her dad headed to Indiana to visit with family before she went on home to Virginia.   They left from Seattle on the 27th and Bob got back to Seattle on the 30th.  To get them to their destination via Seattle Airport from Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula (where we were camped in our RV)  they had to take plane, ship and automobile.  First, we headed to Seattle Airport via the ferry the night before their very early morning flight and we stayed in a nearby  hotel.  Their shuttle took them to the airport at 3:30 am and I slept in until I woke up enough to realize I had a very long list of things to do that day.

So a long weekend all by myself–the possibilities were endless!  I could rest, catch up on my reading, and just float around doing not much of anything–it sounded good at first but then I realized if I have all this down time I will miss all the wonderful parks and towns in the area that just can’t be missed.  So I started making a list of things I would like to see and I realized I needed a month to do just some of it, so had to whittle down a bit.

If you have ever been in the Olympic Peninsula area you will already be aware that many Washington roads run on water. Yep, that’s right!  The Washington Ferry System is an official part of the Washington Highway network–and without it you would be doing a LOT more driving, since the State of Washington is sliced and diced into slivers of land and water in the Peninsula area.  The Ferry system is safe, efficient, and provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of driving your vehicle for hours to get to something that is really only 30 minutes away–on water.  And it connects the many islands to the mainland so that they are not isolated from the rest of the State.  So on my first  day alone, I planned to head back to Sequim from Seattle but in a different direction than the previous night when we took a ferry directly over to Seattle and then drove to the Seattle airport.  You can actually easily take a boat over to Canada from Seattle as well, but I’ve been there a couple times already (although it’s a very fun place to go to) —so I wanted to stick to the State of Washington on this trip.  And I deliberately did not bring my passport–so there you go.

First Day:  Island-Hopping…..So this is how I went exploring the islands–by taking two different ferries that would deposit me on one end of an island and I would drive to the other end and take another ferry to the next island.  Repeat process.  First of all, I had to say goodbye to Ash; we had so much fun while she was with us but off she went until next time.  I had to stay busy so I wouldn’t miss her so much–so off to the islands!  Leaving Seattle, I hopped on the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton (called the gateway to island bliss!), located on Whidbey Island.

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My mode of transportation enjoying a respite by hitchhiking on a Washington State ferry.

And on the way across the waterway,  you can check anything out that strikes your fancy.  It’s a fun and exciting way to get around, and you can nap, eat, watch for whales, read–whatever– during the ferry crossing.  I chose to do a little of each.

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A sweet little Lighthouse at the ferry landing.

Heading north on the island, I found Coupeville, a pretty little village on the water.  I checked out the boutiques, hung out in a bookstore, ate their famous mussels and clams, visited the Island County Historical Preserve, and made it to the ferry with minutes to spare.

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I wandered into this cozy little bookstore in Coupesville. I could have spent hours there — especially in the rocking chair in in the used book room!
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A little hideaway near the waterfront filled with shops and businesses.

Arriving in Port Townsend, I found an adorable town with boutique-y shops, many with a distinct nautical theme.  There were also those “special” corners I didn’t really know how to understand them without knowing their history, but it was appealing in a very unique way.

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Funky little corners of the harbor transformed into historical memoirs with a definitely interesting twist adds a touch of whimsy to the Port Townsend business area.
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The Port Townsend dock with shops and cafes.

But what I fell in love with was the Rose Theatre, a little jewel of a cinema with quite the repertoire of offerings including first run independent movies, ballets, operas, and plays.  I signed up for a movie and was astonished when I walked into an upstairs room filled with antique sofas and chairs comfortably arranged around a large window framing the harbor.

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The Starlight Room of the Rose Theatre overlooking the Port Townsend Harbor.

Once the black velvet curtains were pulled together blocking the evening sunset, the movie began.  Popcorn (in faux crystal bowls) and an array of delicacies were discreetly served throughout the movie–and it was a super movie.  Since I have not seen a movie in a very long time this movie-starved girl was grateful to find myself in such a cute movie theatre watching a GOOD movie.

Afterwards I drove back to Sequim to our Baby, our lonely little RV.  She was very glad to see me–and I her since it had been a very long day!

Second Day:  Olympic National Park–So now I was on a roll!  I planned to see as much of the Olympic National Park as I possibly could on this day.  I started out heading to Port Angeles to check out the Visitor Center, where I got some bad news.  Hurricane Ridge, where I had planned on heading to, was fogged in and chances were I would only be able to see my hand in front of my face.  But the Ranger suggested I check out Lake Crescent and/or the Hoh Rain Forest, on the other side of Olympic Park.   So I did just that!  Lake Crescent was peaceful and beautiful, a gem of a sweet lake; even though they were gearing up for a big wedding that afternoon,  I could have sat in one of their Adirondack chairs next to the lake for hours.

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What a dream setting, the softly misting lake, the chairs waiting for the lucky person to settle in there, the fireplace warming the lobby on this damp, drizzly day–give me a week there and I would probably never leave!.

And the Lodge was out of a movie, beautiful, gracious, with a fire burning in the lobby fireplace making it a very cozy place to spend some time.  But I had places to go…

So back on the road to the Hoh National Rain Forest.  It was a rather long drive rounding the peninsula and I saw lots of places I would have liked to check out, especially the beaches on the Coast–as far as you can go on the Lower 48 without treading water.  But my goal was the rain forest–and it was a different world.  I went on a couple hikes even though the woods were dripping with moisture.  I was so glad I had the waterproof jacket I had bought for Bob in the car since it kept me, and more importantly, my camera, nice and dry.  I have to say I felt like I was dropped into an alien landscape with trees, logs, vines dripping in moss and unusual plants dominating the landscape transforming what would be a tree in another climate into a masterpiece of alien vegetation.  After a few minutes (alone) in this place, your imagination begins to run wild!  I cannot even describe it–so just look at the pictures.  You will see what I mean!

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Come join me on my quest….
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To the deepest, darkest worlds…
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Where strange creatures crawl freely…
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And alien beings await…
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With surprises behind every tree…
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And a wonderland awaits…
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Where the known becomes the unknown…
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And strange distortions of nature…
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Gently beckon you to enter…
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To meet the strange…
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The unknown…
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The strangely beautiful….
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The overwhelmingly memorable…
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Reclining declining…
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Scarily outfitted…
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A jewel in the garden…
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Funghi unlimited…
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The battle of the beasts…
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Which way out of this forest?????
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Giant crickets unleashed…
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Run, Hide! You are in the Hoh National Rain Forest!

I left the Hoh National Rain forest only a little damper than when I arrived, and decided to stop in the town of Forks on the way back to Sequim.  I had passed though it on the way to Hoh, and I was maybe a little fascinated by it.  You see, Forks is where most of the Twilight movies were filmed, Bella’s home town.  And I, even though I am definitely not an adolescent vampire admirer, got caught up in the series after Ryan told me about it.  (He has since disavowed anything to do with Twilight movies.)  To tell you the truth, I like to read ANYTHING, and Twilight caught my imagination so I read all the books and saw all the movies.  So I decided to slow down on my way back through town and check it out.  Well, I have to say it was a little sad.  You could tell that Forks must have been very hot at one time when the Twilight movies were being filmed, but now it is in its twilight time (sorry about that).

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Just a little scary–I don’t remember the robed figure on the left standing there when I took the picture….????? It’s time to get the heck out of town!

The signs advertising “Bella” tours (where she had her first date with her vampire boyfriend), her high school, etc. were fading and the tour store seemed possibly closed for good.  The souvenir/dry goods store still had a prominent Twilight display, but it was dusty and fading, the books stacked there in no certain order….  And even the hotel on the edge of town had a flashing sign “Edward Cullen (Bella’s vampire boyfriend) NEVER slept here.”  Just a little sad after all the hullaballoo.  And since I wasn’t sure if any of those terrible rogue vampires weren’t still in town, I headed back towards Port Angeles arriving there just before sunset (twilight?).  As I entered town I searched Yelp for something quick to eat and found this fantastic little restaurant called the Fireside Grill.  The restaurant was once a private home plus potter’s shed, and the plates they served the food on were made by the now departed potter.  They were beautiful and unusual and almost made me want to take up pottery!  But the food was astonishingly fantastic—everything!  I had absolutely no complaints except that I could not come back again since my time in that area was coming to an end.  Darn!

So back to Baby patiently waiting for me to show up again!  She was again glad to see me–and I her, since I was tired after such a long day.  I could not even read my maps and books for the next day’s travels before I was out.

Third Day:  Olympic National Park…Hurricane Ridge  So I decided to try Hurricane Ridge again on my third day of exploring–my last chance to see what everyone was talking about.  I did not even stop at the Visitor’s Center at the bottom of the mountain again since the prospects still didn’t look so hot.  Drizzly rain, foggy misty clouds obscuring the roadway–it didn’t look good!  But, fortunately, as I drove up the 5,242 foot mountain the clouds began to clear in places as I neared the top.  By the time I reached the Visitor Center at the top I could see glimpses of the mountains surrounding us.

I headed into the Visitor Center and talked to a Ranger about possible hikes and I quickly finished the first two crisscrossing the meadows close by.  Then I decided to tackle the almost 4 mile hike that ended at a glacier after walking along a narrow ridge covered in spring wildflowers.  This hike was one astonishing view after another–I  was beginning to think I heard strains of “Sound of Music” floating through the air as I was gazing down on the peaks and valleys and acres of wildflowers–and the weather gradually improved until I almost reached the highest point near the glacier and a steady misty rain began to come down a little heavier.

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The clouds began clearing as I reached the upper part of the mountain.
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Meadow walk at Hurricane Ridge.
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A peak over the edge of the meadow as clouds began to clear.
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A fawn in the meadow waiting for mom to return.
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I bought a flower book to identify all the wildflowers–but there are so many it is slow going!
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The clouds tease with little peeks of peaks!
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I LOVE the wildflowers!
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A quiet and beautiful trail.
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Aaaaaahhhhh…..
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So delicate and beautiful.
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Sooo…..what are you??
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More wildflowers…
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Mom keeping an eye on things….
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Dad overseeing his domain…

As I approached the glacier area, a small herd of elk appeared with several fawns tiptoeing after mom.  They faded in and out of the trees with no apparent fear or trepidation of the little crowd of hikers collecting on the trail.

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A German family and a Swedish family of hikers were glued to the spot as was I—the elk just danced around eating and ignoring us–even a couple of bull elk showed up and the little herd eventually moved further into the forest with no fanfare.  But for about 15 minutes we took pictures from a distance so as not to frighten them–and they gave us plenty to admire.  Just a few more wild creatures putting smiles on hikers’ faces…

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One of my favorites!

I didn’t care about the rain anymore and as I walked back to the trailhead the sun came out and the views were even more fabulous.  I went into the Visitor Center and thanked the Ranger for her suggestions.  It was a memorable day I will never forget!

Fourth Day: Mount Rainier National Park

I woke early on our last full day in Sequim and I spent the morning pampering Baby, cleaning and polishing and making her feel a little less neglected.  I was supposed to pick Bob up late that night in Seattle so we needed everything ready to roll the next morning since we were going to make a detour to Mt. Vernon on our way to Glacier National Park.  More on that later.

Then I got on the road headed to Mount Rainier.  This mountain is actually called a stratovolcano, is 14, 411 feet in elevation, and is located in the Cascade range; it last erupted in November to December 184I.  I told you in an earlier post how this volcanic mountain has mystified me the way it appears and disappears with no apparent rhyme or reason.  One minute it appears in the most unlikely place and it’s gone minutes later.  My first sighting of this mountain, located 54 miles SE of Seattle, was about 12 years ago when I was working in Seattle.  But I only saw it for a few minutes and then it disappeared.  People told me that was common since it is usually shrouded in clouds.  But it called to me so I tried to find it the next day but I finally gave up–no GPS at that time and it was getting dark since I didn’t leave on my search until I finished working.  Then recently when I was driving in Portland to pick up Ashley it floated into view again as I was driving over a high bridge in Portland but it quickly disappeared from view.  (Portland is 164 miles to Seattle!)  I had nicknamed it the Disappearing Volcano, and I was determined to find out if it was really and truly real.

From Sequim it was a long drive since taking a ferry across was not going to cut off any miles so I trekked all the way down the Peninsula, through Tacoma, and finally started working my way toward the National Park.  By this time it was finally dawning on me that this Park was way out there!  Occasionally I would spot it in the distance and then it would disappear.  Same old tricks!  You would think that something that big couldn’t hide so easily–and this was luckily a sunny day so we couldn’t use the old fog and clouds excuse!

I eventually reached the Park entrance and then drove for another hour to get to the Paradise Visitor Center.  The last few miles were a little harrowing but I was determined.  Peak after peak were gradually exposed to view as I climbed that mountain road.  And finally Paradise!  ((That’s what a woman visitor called this point on Mt. Rainier when she reached this area, thus the Visitor Center was named Paradise.)  I pulled into the parking lot at the foot of this giant volcano and just sat there looking up at it.  I got out of the car and when I looked up it made me so dizzy I had to lean on the car until I adjusted my perspective.

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This view made me all wobbly-kneed. Seeing it so close after only very far away glimpses was quite the shock.
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View from Visitor’s Center.
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The Paradise Lodge in the lap of Mt. Rainier.
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The Grand Lobby of Paradise Lodge.
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The individually painted lampshades in the ceiling of the lobby of Paradise Lodge. Books have been written about these lampshades.
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It’s so hard to say goodbye–I was just getting to know you….
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Drifting away again…
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Mt. Rainier slowly floats from sight.

People were skiing along the ski runs, picnicking at the foot on a scattering of picnic tables, and the water draining from the glacial melt was running in waves across the parking lot.  I walked into the Visitor Center just as they were preparing to close.  When I asked the Ranger “Why is this a Disappearing Volcano?” she had no answer.  She was more focused on closing down the exhibits than answering my inane questions.  But I was able to look at the exhibits, the topographical maps and other bits of information–and my only conclusion at this point is it must be topography!  With all the peaks circling and protecting the Grand One (the Disappearing Volcano) and with the altitude changes and miles and miles between the Park and the places the vision appeared to me, it has to be the way the earth is situated.  Or I am hopelessly at a loss to explain why now I see it and now I don’t!!!!!  Well, now I have seen it up close and personal and it is GRAND.  Another place I want to go back to when the whole place is not closing down as soon as I walk in—another conspiracy??

I did walk into the Paradise Lodge and what a cool place!  Beautiful hand-painted lanterns floating from the ceiling, views of Mt. Rainier from every corner, a pianist playing music most certainly composed for this magnificent place, the open, multi-raftered lobby–what a beautiful place to go and spend some time, soak in this impossible view close enough to touch it, and let the mystery of this place lull you into a feeling of—–whatever will be.

Well, Mt. Rainier is still a mystery to me.  Of course, I only had a few minutes there since it was time to head to the Seattle Airport to pick up Bob.  But it was just enough time to give me a better appreciation for this floating giant and understand there is so much more to be learned from exploring this area.  As I was driving back to Seattle, I saw a sign pointing back down a dirt road (about 40 miles from Mt. Rainier) stating “Pick your own fresh vegetables while viewing Mt. Rainier.”  Well, I guess to some folks Mt. Rainier is no longer a mystery–and have even incorporated the Disappearing Volcano into their business plan.  Ah well….

To our very special family and friends, Happy Trails.  We miss you loads and hope you are doing well.  A very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sera, our very special oldest granddaughter! Have a wonderful birthday!  We will definitely celebrate again when we get home.  CHEERS!

 

 

Beachcombing in Oregon…and other delights

Hello everyone! It’s your favorite Blogger checking in!  We are still chugging along albeit with limited phone and Internet service during our time on the Oregon coastline.  But who cares when we were seeing some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!!!???  Well, that’s what National Geographic says–to be specific, one of the beaches we stayed at–Cannon Beach–was placed on the top 100 most beautiful places on Earth.  And NG knows their beautiful places all right–just look at the amazing photography of impossibly beautiful, fascinating places they give us in their magazines, web site, etc.  (Apologies if I am really into NG–I just went to a photography seminar presented by some very well known female NG photographers and was blown away by their work!  Thanks again, Bonnie, for that opportunity!  Bon was not able to go to the class she signed up for and gave me the opportunity to go in her place.  The photographs were astounding!)

I haven’t forgotten my Blogger duties–but sometimes I get so caught up in doing stuff (we are in Washington State now) I just can’t get it out to you as timely as I would like.  But never fear–I always try to catch up as I settle in somewhere for some quiet time. Bob got back to Sequim yesterday and we traveled today, after sitting in a repair shop for half the day in Mount Vernon, WA.  We have an occasional wobble in the front end at low speeds so they went over the coach and checked it out thoroughly.  Seems they think the cause could be the fancy Tryon things we have on the front tires to prevent out-of-control blowouts.  One more thing on the list to get checked out when we get down to Florida!  We feel better now that we know nothing MAJOR is going on.

So instead of my usual nap I was trying to finish this up on the road since I have even more fodder ready for the blog once this one is out!  But that didn’t work out so here I am trying to finish before the clock strikes midnight… Since Bob and Ashley left for Indianapolis for a family gathering on the 27th, I have been trying to get at least the Oregon travelogue up for you.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for me) my exploring bug was biting and I was all over the place during the day.  Island hopping, hiking mountain peaks to a glacier, checking out a rain forest–you will hear about all this eventually–but right now I have lots to tell you about Oregon.  So here goes…

On the Road to Oregon….After leaving Lake Tahoe we cut across California in a Northwesterly direction headed for the Oregon coastline.  Our destination was Coos Bay, where we planned to stay several nights.  We spent our last night in California sleeping in a grove of huge Coastal redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants.  Yes, that is the real name, and every stop on this road (101) has a claim to fame–all very interesting and entertaining.  I am such a sucker for all that stuff and would have stopped at every crossroad but we had a schedule that included picking up Ashley at the Portland Airport in a couple days, so we tootled on down the road with my making a mental list of all the places I would like to come back and visit.  However, I did get a little taste of HWY 101 kitsch at our campground.  First of all, let me tell you it was more than a little eerie.  Huge, very old trees (like thousands of years!) surrounding you, like wizards of the wilderness, with even the street we came in on –the Avenue–seemingly closing off with the shadows deepening as  the sun began to set.   Although dark and deeply shadowed by the GIANT trees during the day, it was downright scary as nighttime crept in.  And then these weird anomalies out of nowhere–shall we think Twilight Zone here?–a truck made from one single Redwood tree that appeared in the parking lot the next morning; and the “Immortal” tree sitting in the parking lot that reportedly refused to succumb to fire, lumberjacks, lightening and a long list of other life-threatening events too long to list.  And oh yeah, let’s not forget the house “in” a tree!  Yes, that was just behind the café where we had breakfast the next morning; the house was big enough that you could walk in the door, eat, sleep, and whatever in the house if you don’t mind a certain amount of dark gloominess–no electricity–and I don’t think you would want to build a fire!

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The Avenue of the Giants could also have been named “The Avenue of the Most Unusual, Most Hysterical, and Most Imaginative.” This was a house in a tree.
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Fancy a ride in a LOG truck, anyone? No, I didn’t say LOGGING truck! It is a LOG truck–made out of a single log!
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Nothing like an aqua colored truck to say, “Follow me to the closest antiques store!” — and I did! Fortunately (or not) it was closed.
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This would have been VERY interesting….despite the  Open sign the door wouldn’t budge.  (I tried!)  Twilight Zone–again???!!!
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Heading for the Oregon border.  From my vantage point sitting up high in our RV these huge trees on the Avenue of the Giants still easily loomed over us, swallowing us in a canopy of greenery that wrapped its arms up and over the roadway.
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The huge trees were packed in so close and densely to the roadway that we had to be very careful to ensure we didn’t unintentionally take one home with us.

Coos Bay, OR…We finally reached our first campsite in Oregon at Coos Bay.  And what a campsite!  It was on the beach within earshot of the pounding surf—and a two minute walk to some of that astounding scenery I had been admiring all day.  By the time we had set up camp, it was time to go to bed since I was trekking to Portland the next morning to pick up Ashley.  She was coming in for a week to join us on our trip up the coast of Oregon and none of us had anticipated what an amazing week it would be! The next day I left early for Portland to pick up Ashley by following the Coast (HWY 101) for a while.  I left early enough to give me enough time to dawdle a bit.  Then Ash called and said her plane was delayed so I dawdled even more.  As it turned out, I dawdled so much that I drove up just as she was walking out with her luggage.  Good timing, I must say.  Ashley agreed when I explained to her all the things I had done on the way up–and even got the car washed for her.  She was most appreciative since Baby (the RV)  tends to spew yuck all over the Jeep while on the road.  (I think she gets a little peeved about having to pull the Jeep every time we head out!) My first self-appointed task once we reach our destination is to get the car washed.  I HATE driving a dirty car!

While driving up the coast and then back down after picking up Ashley, I took more pictures.  So many views and so little time—-I was getting a little freaked out by the beautiful scenery.  How could just one state have all this????  Good thing I took all the pictures, since Ashley was such a sleepyhead almost all the way back to Coos Bay, she remembered nothing of the 5-hour trip.  Maybe lunch–I know she was awake then–but shortly afterwards I was back to Sirius XM and the sound of surf on the shore (not the Beach Boys) while cruising 101.

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Oregon coast in all its splendiferous beauty.
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Each time the tide comes in and out the coastline changes, with water-sculptured driftwood randomly accenting beaches intersected by rivulets looping across the beach.  Result?  Interesting pools to explore and dip your toes into–if you don’t mind a little icy cold water.
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Fascinating rock formations continue to astound as we rock to the 50s heading down 101.
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It seems a favorite hobby of Oregon-ites is rock climbing along the beaches. Imagine that!  We met so many very nice people on the rocks–and of course their dogs.  One Irish setter particularly loved the icy cold water at Bob’s Creek so much she would sit submerged in the water until she was shivering violently.

 

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It’s kind of hard to drive on this road with this kind of scenery tempting you along the way. How could anyone get tired of HWY 101??? Love it!!
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Oregon Dunes National Monument–designed to amaze!  I think this is where the Hamners went out on dune buggies and said they laughed so hard they could barely breathe.  Maybe we can do that next time–we were focused on getting to our next stop on this leg of the trip.  Hey, a schedule is a schedule—-maybe next time a much more relaxed one!
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More dunes–up to 400 feet high and cushioning the Oregon Coast for miles and miles of wonder at how this all came about.

Driving up and down the Oregon coast was MAGNIFICO!  On my way to Portland, however, I had to finally cut across the country side and make my way northwards.  What a wonderful surprise when I found this elk grazing area.  I took a break (who am I fooling?–I’ve taken a lot of those!) to see if I could spot any elk in the pastures.  Thank goodness for my trusty telephoto lens!

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With beautiful pastures like these to graze in it must be pretty cushy to be an elk!

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Tasty stuff for breakfast–yummm!
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Watching over his little family, this male elk still manages to eat his fill as well.

I can’t leave this side excursion to Portland Airport until I tell you about one memorable thing that happened in Portland that sticks in my mind.  I was just getting into Portland and was negotiating their spaghetti junction–a concrete jungle of highways coming together in one spot–when lo and behold Mount Rainier floated into my vision and then totally vanished from view.  I know–Mount Rainier is in Washington—so how could this be?  I had a similar experience in Seattle a number of years ago when I was there working.  It was a remarkably clear day and I stepped outside for a walk one evening and there it was–Mount Rainier floating in front of me. A couple days later I decided I would go and find it after the day was finished–but alas–it had fogged in that afternoon and the only thing I found was my hand in front of my face.  It makes me think I am hallucinating.  The problem is that it only appears momentarily so you start wondering–am I imagining this????  So I call this the case of the Disappearing Volcano.  Today, I decided to investigate this phenomenon and in my next installment I will tell you what I found out.  So hold on—this mystery is something that’s been bothering me for years so I have to get this one laid to rest! Exploring Coos Bay…I cannot begin to tell you how astonished Ash and I were when we ventured out on the beach the next day.  It was the most amazing beach–an understatement of course.  And the more we explored the more we found to be amazed at.  Our first night we enjoyed the campfire and pounding surf with fog horns sounding on ships rounding the bay.  Can’t get much more relaxing than this!  We couldn’t wait for the tide to go out so that we could explore the next morning.

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After our long trip that day, Ash and I sat by the campfire and had S’mores while trying to stay warm. Bob was being a little stingy with the wood since the fire ring was close to the awning and we didn’t want sparks to nick the fabric. But the blankets helped!
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A secret pathway to the beach–just steps to our campsite…
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I was so happy to have my baby here for a visit. Gosh, I have missed her so much — and the rest of my family and friends!  The sacrifices we make to be an adventurer, a rolling stone, a wanderer, a gypsy–call us what you will but just call us!
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A melting dragon??? The rock formations make your imagination go wild!
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Hundreds, thousands of these tidal pools are left on the beaches as the tides recede each day–all teeming with creatures of every variety. As if some aquarium fanatic went a little crazy. The picture cannot possibly do it justice–you have to get on your knees and really watch all of the plants and animals left to live or die before the next tide (possibly) retrieves them.
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More amazing tidal pools…
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And more…
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Ashley getting her feet wet and her mind set in vacation mode…
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We have a visitor….or maybe that is what he is thinking about us…
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The waves were crashing into the small inlet beside us. Later you could not even see these rocks when the tide came in.
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Waves–1, rocks–0
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Mysterious tidal pool.
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What strange aliens are these?
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I love that stubborn little tree!
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Boiling water?
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Ashley demonstrating her rock climbing skills.
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Rocks–1, Waves–0
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More melting dragons?  Or perhaps molting…
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Another fascinating tidal pool. And is that the mermaid of the rocks in the distance? Ash is trying to avoid walking on living things–thousands of mussels are clinging to these rocks.
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Peaceful–for now.
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Aaaaahhhh….the perfect lighthouse.
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Back to the campsite. Spirit Horse is doing his job protecting us by flying his wings to ward off ill spirits. Bob has been working on getting all my doo dads out–I somehow keep adding to the traveling family. Spirit Horse was a little bit of home (VA Horse Country) acquired at an Indian reservation, thus the name–Spirit Horse.  My Baby Bear–“Cubby”–was added to commemorate the Yosemite time with the kids and our run in with a bear cub.  I think Bob is standing in front of him–you will see him later.  The Kokopellis are also Indian reservation memories.  Gosh, I wish I could have brought that wonderful pool along with me too!  One more very good memory!

We spent several wonderful, relaxing days here and then the road called and back on the road we went—Road Wanderers!  By that time I thought I would have Ashley in vacation mode but that child went to sleep every night hanging over her work computer.  I would sneak up to her and gently pry her fingers off her computer and work papers and she would wake up and say “No Mom–I’m not finished!”  and then back to sleep she would go.  I would just have to watch her and catch everything before it slid to the floor.  She is so committed to her job–but she needs her rest too.  I resolved to get her mind and spirit into vacation mode.  Beach therapy, anyone?

Sea Perch RV Resort, Yachats, OR……..As soon as we drove into this place all three of us knew we were going to love it.  The wind was blowing so briskly that Spirit Horse  had to stay in his stable (Bob put him out for a little while but he threatened to blow down the beach so back in the stable he went).

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What a view–beach and meadows–and what a sunset each night!
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The sunset bench.

This beach is an explorer’s dream–beautiful driftwood, rocks, rivulets, eddies, sand, and all kinds of living and once living things in the most unusual places and arranged as if by a master botanist.

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Another beautiful day fades away.

DSCN0212 DSCN0213 DSCN0214 The driftwood serves as natural benches to sit on while we just relax and soak up the sounds of nature–and perhaps take a little nap. DSCN0217 DSCN0218 DSCN0219 DSCN0225 DSCN0226 DSCN0239 A favorite hike–Bob’s Creek–which empties in meandering streams into the ocean.  This is where we met the Irish Setter who loves to sit and swim in frigid water.

DSCN0253 DSCN0258 DSCN0264 We accidentally found this little treasure of a state park within the little village of Yachats.  Priceless.  As the sun began to set, the warmth settled on everything, blessing the world with a peaceful glow.  I think Ash began to really relax at that point! DSCN0268 DSCN0287 DSCN0292 DSCN0293 DSCN0294 DSCN0304

Edit as of 7/2/14:  I have to edit this post!  Mikaela sent me an email reminding me that I forgot to talk about the WHALES!!  How could I????  My only excuse was it was late, I was tired, and I am a tad feeble-minded.  So here goes…

While we were in Yachats, we were told that this village by the sea was a prime viewing area for migrating whales.  We were very excited by this news–if only we could see a whale!  We spent lots of time those few days gazing out to sea watching for water spouts, when we weren’t mesmerized by a sunset, or taking a nap, or whatever.  We had learned that the primary migration had already occurred with 18,000 whales going by before the end of May.  But we thought we may be in luck because about 800 mama whales and their babies were still playing around the coast waiting for the babies to get stronger and improve their swimming skills before tackling those rough waters heading into Alaska for their summer feeding grounds.  We were also told that on the northward migration the whales swim close to the shoreline just at the breaking waves.  Our last night in Yachats, we were having dinner at the Adobe Hotel and Restaurant which juts out into the sea with an astounding view from every table of the ocean and waves pounding the rocky shore.  We were halfway through dinner when Ashley spotted a spout and a flash of whale.  I think she almost forgot to eat she was so excited.  She saw glimpses a few more times but the people outside must have been watching too (we found out later that the restaurant passes out binoculars to diners) since the rocks were crowded with people gazing out to sea.  We finished and left but we were happy that Ashley had at least seen a glimpse of a whale.

The next morning we were headed for our next beach destination and packed up early since it would be a big hop that day.  At the last minute we decided to pull into the big parking lot at the Adobe and park the RV there while we went in for breakfast.  We were in luck–they put us at a table with a prime view of the beach.  Within minutes Ashley spotted water spouting and glimpses of whales frolicking and rolling in the waves.  Eventually everyone in the restaurant tuned in, they began passing out binoculars, and someone would occasionally yell “Water spout!” (usually us).  I suspect the display was mommies working with their babies to work on their swimming and diving skills, but to us they were playful and having fun in the surf.  This went on for the rest of our meal and Bob started urging us toward the door so we could continue our trip.  It was so hard to leave!  I wanted to catch a picture of them but you would have to be clairvoyant to know where they would pop up next and when.  So, alas, no pictures!  But we could see they were orcas playing in their natural environment–not Ocean World!  And it also felt as if they did this JUST FOR US!  What a special, special breakfast!  I can’t even remember what I ate….  But on to Cannon Beach!

Cannon Beach, OR…This is the beach National Geographic named as one of the 100 most beautiful places in the world.  The village itself, the adjoining state park, and the one of a kind beach is like a dream sequence.  It just keeps on coming…

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The flowers–the bluest hydrangeas ever and flowers we could not name set against charming gray-shingled cottages and shops. OH MY!
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We loved the library! I think Tracie would appreciate the Shakespeare included in the wall sculpture.
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Love, love, love this library. Wish I had had the time to go inside — if the outside was this charming I can’t imagine what the inside had in store for us.

DSCN0498 DSCN0499 DSCN0512 What can I say about Cannon Beach that hasn’t already been said?  Alien in its ultra charm and beauty, otherworldly, with mystical views that constantly change depending on the weather (a very misty day when we were there), and definitely a people magnet.  A wide, wide beach where tiny ripply waves come shooting across the sand chasing us until the water just gives up and dribbles away.

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Having lunch with “the view” captured in the Twilight movies.  The garlicky clams were exquisite!
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Cannon Beach–this view is iconic. Probably been photographed 50 million times–especially since the Twilight crew took a shot at it. So my photo is 50 million and one.
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It’s hilarious to run from these little skittery waves as they chase us up the beach. Maybe an inch of water at that point (it’s a WIDE beach!). But it’s cold and misty and breezy–but who cares?
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Forget Florida-bronzed lifeguards.  This is the Oregon-style lifesaving setup.  Hopefully she is wearing her thermals.
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The nearby state park offers a special benefit for Cannon Beach residents–if Cannon Beach gets too full of tourists just retreat to this hidden cove with more discoveries at every turn–rain forest environment of moss-covered trees, AMAZING BEACHES (I mean it!), picnic tables dangling on the edge of cliffs overlooking these cove-bound beaches, and fresh gusts of ocean air filling your lungs with pure oxygen.
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A dangling picnic table, anyone? I could live here!
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Poor Terrible Tilly! This lonely little lighthouse was given this moniker because of the horrific storms that battered this outpost as she tried to fulfill her duties. Due to the cost of maintaining it and repairing the frequent damage, Tilly was sold to an investor—who (get this) uses the lighthouse as a mausoleum. Yes–that was a shocker!  This poor little lighthouse just can’t get a break!
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Views from cove side of state park.
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Here is a canine VOLUNTEER PARK RANGER. He took his job seriously sniffing and anointing every bush in sight.
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As we were preparing to leave the beach part of the state park, we noticed elk hanging around patiently in the upper meadow waiting for the human visitors to depart. Occasionally they would lift their heads and gaze balefully toward us as if to say “Are you still here????”  Apparently the beach view meadow contains their evening dinner buffet and they wish not to be disturbed while dining.  For Ash and I–mystery solved! We were wondering about the source of all the poop throughout the meadow but had dismissed elk as the culprit only because it looked nothing like the elk poop in the Rockies. But in retrospect the Rocky elk were foraging for food in a drought-stricken environment, while the Oregon elk have a gourmet buffet of delicacies, resulting in a more, shall we say “lush,” reminder of their presence. No, I am not unduly focused on these topics although I know Sammy is VERY interested, but every Park Ranger session I’ve listened to focuses on these “items” to explain animals’ habits, diet, behavior, etc.  They also have charts and “samples” to help us in identifying animals. By the way the Oregonian elk are referred to as Roosevelt elk.  No relation to the President although he did have a SIGNIFICANT impact on procuring and conserving parkland for future generations–and us old folks too!

DSCN0639 DSCN0643 DSCN0649 DSCN0660 DSCN0271 DSCN0264 Sequim, WA….After (regretfully) leaving Oregon behind, we headed to Sequim, WA to check out the Peninsula’s sunshine town.  Known for having more sunny days than anywhere in Washington, Sequim shows off its sun-filled spaces with a sprinkling of lavender farms throughout the region.

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All things lavender….
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Sequim is known for their lavender farms and long sunshiny days. At the Purple Haze, everything was lavender, from lotions, sprays and blossoms to ice cream! The ice cream tasted just a little odd….like you are 2 years old and drinking your mother’s cologne.
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Can you see the long line for lavender ice cream????? Hmmm….
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Ashley is enjoying the view.  And busy texting her friend Becky about the uniqueness of the oil–delicate and sweet but not overpowering.
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Well this is what I’ve always wanted—-a goat on my roof! The flowers are a nice touch
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This corner just says “Sit down and stay awhile…”
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One of the prettiest little marinas I have ever seen is in Sequim. John Wayne left money in his estate to build this marina for the town of Sequim–it is called John Wayne Marina (of course!).
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Sunset at John Wayne Marina.  Sweet.
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is it a photo or a watercolor?
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What a totally pleasant way to end the day. And the Marina grill cooks a mean clam sauce and linguine!  Yum!
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This rose was shaped into a tree with showers of roses exploding everywhere. The scent mixed with the lavender was heavenly.
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Another aaahhh moment…
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A keystone rock–perfectly carved by Mother Nature!
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A beautiful sunset. Can you hear the wolves howling?

So I have finally reached the end of the week with Ashley keeping us company.  We had such wonderful days together and quiet evenings relaxing.  And then she and Bob left for their trip and instead of relaxing and catching up on my reading–OK, you all know me so well!  I was out from morning till night sightseeing, hiking, and just messing around the little harbor towns getting the feel of each area and soaking up the ambiance.  But that is all for my next blog–so good night dear friends and family!  Happy trails!