NW Exped Site #8, 9, & 8 again Washington

Sorry for the delay in posts and I can’t blame technology this time. But it was accidental and self inflicted concussion protocol. As all my teacher buds know this limits screen times.img_6597 Yes but my graceless nature had nothing to do with it. Simply Washington quality mud. I was at the edge of the road, near three large rocks (ottoman size) and my feet just went out from under me like stepping on ice. Sadly S’More went down with me but he was on top and flew into the soft mud. I just laid out with no time to catch myself or yell, only ending in my head bouncing off the edge of the pavement. Yes it is hard, very hard. My glasses and puppy flew.  I was dazed and put my hand on my head to a hand full of blood. But my new florescent green bag was at the ready.  All good just a residual headache now and then.

Washington is truly amazing everyone should drive across from Idaho/Montana side at least once in a lifetime. It has all the ecosystems: marine waters, tide pools, estuaries, rainforests, dry coniferous forests, subalpine and alpine meadows and parklands, shrub-steppe, grasslands, prairies, sand dunes, riparian areas, and a variety of freshwater wetland types. Basically it has all the previous states’ environments we have traveled through in one. The trees are amazing a new favorite is the a ?? Cedar, which has deep green scaled fern like branches.img_6614

The Riverside WA SP campground in Spokane was basically a boat ramp with spaces for campers but was convenient and on the lake. There was an Bald Eagle fishing and a lot of entertaining activity as the day use area was next to and around our grassy site with parking on the hill above. It was only a night but won’t visit again.

The drive to Millersylvaina WA SP campground was phenomenal. See more in the album below. The campground was functional but advertised as full hookups, which did not include septic. The showers also cost which is odd. This would be img_6591a fantastic spot for kids 8-40 who like to ride bikes the trails are amazing.

Deep Lake is beautiful as well stocked with trout, several swimming areas, a Ice Cream Shop and Beer Garden nestled in the forest. The dogs and I enjoyed many a trail walk. Oh and the Red Squirrels here are tiny (Chipmunk sized) with attitudes. One even taunted the dogs, chirping at them and turned as if to say kiss my butt.

Made the trek to Mount Rainer National Park, the views were amazing but the crowds were excessive, especially near the visitor center.

Cliffside Recreation Area Whidbey Island WA on the Navy base was STELLAR! Soundimg_9257 front on a concrete pad. WE SAW WHALES and a juvenile Bald Eagle swoop to the sand to pick up a dead fish. Daily air show of F18s and P-3 sub-hunters.

Orcas Island and Moran State Park was a lifetime dream that ended up being a test of life perspective and fortitude. IF you don’t know I love FERRIES and have ridden one in every state I travel too.


Pinto, S’More & I by a GREAT TREE!

Washington is now the exception for ferries, at least Orcas Island is. The plan was to catch the 10:20 am ferry (goal attained) to and the 2:20 pm ferry off the Orcas Island. As I reflect on making the reservations in MAY mind you I did not note the detail of being exactly 30 minutes early or being placed in standby. We missed our 30 minute prior to departure time deadline by 2 minutes and were placed in lane 8 by Satan who was working in the WA Ferry booth. We were in line 30 minutes before but that did not matter, we were not checked into the system – we were even unsure of our lane assignment and reversed to check which lane she said. We ended up waiting from 1:30 to 7:15 pm. The ferry was running 90 minutes behind due only having half power and they put us in the wrong line to catch the next ferry. So upon further reflection and telling myself over and over I was on a 7 week vacation adventure and Satan was not going to ruin it … I was on Orcas Island in Washington, suck one Satan!

Olympic National Forest was Devine! Gorgeous forest filled with awesome trees, ferns, and berry plants. This is beautiful drive from Coupeville to Olympia avoids the traffic of Seattle. Another weekend in Millersylvania then south to Oregon!

Photo Album Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/fgCMWAsDjxZ7HG3g9

NW Exped Site #7 Montana Lewis & Clark

Lewis and Clark Caverns State  in Whitehall Montana, outputwas remote and provided fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. There was a fast flowing river below and cliffs behind. The bird activity would prove to be phenomenal. I did not expect to check two birds off my lifetime list in this remote area of Montana but it happened. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about Pelicans, namely brown, but now seeing their White Pelican relatives hunting for Cutthroat Trout they may have competition. I had seen a formation of six flying Pelican style in a half V, but was unsure of the species. Get out the camera next day for a solo bird and what? It was a WHITE PELICAN in MONTANA!! img_9094Not one but seven, my National Geographic Bird book says this is the only Pelican species who will come inland and boy were they near abouts 500 miles or more. Wow who new but then while basking in the morning sun and a view of the surrounding mountains what flew up but a Mountain Bluebird right in the grass in front of me. WOOOO HOOO!!! He was amazing!

      Amazing thunderstorm circled us as we watched the cumulonimbus clouds boil and bend in the wicked wind. Off in the distance we noticed a fast bird diving (stooping) and hovering in air. It had a sharp cut tail distinctive of a falcon. But what kind was it? Back to the bird book to find it was a Prairie Falcon. We watched him hunt every morning and evening. Over the horizon of the southeastern mountain there were two large bulky birds with dark brown mottled feathers. We soon heard them to confirm they were two juvenile Bald Eagles.

Caverns dark okay – underground tight spaces hell naw. So we opted out of the tour and went to see the spot Lewis and Clark camped just down the river from the campground. The marker explained how much game they caught even how they had an Elk steak for lunch.

Photo Album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/SdTrWwqCeXcEgLFF8 more pics coming soon still uploading.

Off to Washington (the state) on the 4th of July!

NW Exped Site #6 Montana & Yellowstone!

So my plan for Yellowstone was to stay on the Northeast/North side due to the access to Lamar Valley where the wolves, bison, elk and brown bears roam. Our campground was the Red Lodge KOA in Red Lodge, Montana. There are campgrounds closer to Yellowstone which would have meet our needs but the idea of pulling the vintage camper on hairpin turns and steep Rocky Mountain grades turned my stomach. So retail campground it is. The KOA did have laundry, a heated pool, and was supposed to have full hookups but somehow we only had water & electric. It was full, so we could not move sites. We set up and prepped for the Yellowstone adventure.

Prep includes breakfast on the way and a picnic lunch in the park. I went to a fantastic store Beartooth Market in the ever so cute town of Red Lodge, Montana. It was like a baby Harris Teeter and Fresh Market combined. Got our supplies and we were off some 70 miles south through Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (943,000 acre) and Custer National Forest that contribute to the 11 million acres of natural area. The route was via the famous Beartooth Highway which climbs from 5,000 feet to over 10,000 feet of mountain ranges, which I knew but somehow forgot my height aversion. You leave the grassy Montana rolling plans to green to snow capped rugged Rocky Mountains cutting into the blue sky. It is a beauty that your mind seems stunted to absorb.

The road, was a buttpuckering experience (where your anus forms a suction to the car seat) due to the shear, thousand foot drops on my right over tiny seemly ineffective guardrails as we ascended the mountain range to the snow capped peaks!20190628_180916 There were 2 daredevils riding bicycles on this death defying road one peddling up the other coasting at a dangerous speed down. I sat clinched grasping the door handle doing Lamaze breathing thinking of how I should have had a tranquilizing prescription like my dog to handle this. I don’t do heights! Snakes, spiders, deep velvety darkness sure, not heights. I managed to watch my altimeter 20190628_113805to check our ascent to over 10,000 feet, snap a few photos, and remain flexed for the hour that it took to climb these 30 miles up and over to Yellowstone. There were frozen ice blue lakes, 20190628_120544 and snow drifts which made me wonder the age of the ice. Oh my God there is a ski lift with lots more brave souls skiing down the 80 degree mountain … hurl moment. The views (the few times when I looked to my right) were unbelievable. We would find another way out.

Thank God made it into Yellowstone.

Most National Parks have an entry fee, normally around $25 a car, which is good for a few days. You may purchase an access pass to get into all the National parks. I wish my beloved Smoky Mountain National Park charged a fee, it would be amazing to see what that kind of money would do for the park and staff.

Okay back to Yellowstone, armed with our map and visitor newspaper we entered ready to see all the amazing things this park offers both with mega fauna and geologic wonders. First stop Lamar Valley carved by the Lamar River banked on both sides by amazing mountains creating a rich green ribbon of river and grass winding and rippling as far as you can see. Rivers here are snow cap fed, crystal clear, rapid and 41 degrees. Bring on the Brown Bears and Wolves! There are switchbacks through the deep “forest green” Lodgepole Pine, Spruce and Birch forest, opening again to the valley floor. On one such switchback we found a Bison on the right a mere 20 yards from the road, traffic slowed to gaze on this 2,000 pound 6 foot beast. As we rounded the corner a Bison was on the shoulder of the road walking the same direction we were going. What popped in my head? img_9063If I wanted to … slap him on the ass just by reaching out my car window without even a stretch. His big booty was right there. Then all the rules I can quote about harassment of wildlife popped in my head. We did have a laugh at the deviousness of my mind.

Mammoth Springs is a mind blowing place with hot water img_9078seeping out of the ground to create these amazing formations.

Please see the album below for all the photos.

A Raven stopped to model and check us out as we took a stroll to investigate Bison sign on a img_9074hill just up from the valley.  Ravens are so cool and smart besides being a bit of a beak face. They have even been seen (according to the NPS) unzipping bags to get inside and pillage for booty.

The shear number of mega fauna in the park is overwhelming look at this herd of Bison. Your img_9068mind just can’t really absorb it.

As you may have noticed we did the Northside of Yellowstone not the super crowded Southern portion. That we saved for a future trip in three or four years. We planned to hike in the Custard & Gallatin National Forest 20190630_122304but were unprepared for the extreme wild and opted out. We did walk the lovely wetlands along the river filled with those famous white barked Birch trees. This place had warnings to make noise and keep your dogs close, along with the bear safe food containers. Here is a 360 degree photo so you too can feel the wildness.

Enjoy the album here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/BmWvMz1ahwyidQ4K6

NW Exped Site #5 Badlands

So for Badlands National Park we stayed in a retail campground, something I try to avoid. Due to our electrical needs, the whole C-PAP breathing thing it was a necessary evil. We got to the campground after a long day of driving through a beautiful landscape. The crops of Nebraska are something to behold. From wheat a beautiful blue green shade undulating in the breeze to Black & Red Angus Cattle grazing in deep grass field. We keep hoping every cow was a Bison. There were random Pronghorns just one or a group of three in the fields hanging out. These guys are easy to spot with their fluffy white tutu looking derrières and tan brown coats which really pop against the sea of green. There were some solitary Mule Deer too, with dark big ears and black tails.

The campsite claimed it had a pool (I assume functional) and was across the street from a Prairie Dog Observation area.The Prairie Dogs were amazing cute, busy and the more you looked the more you saw. These guys are fun to watch and an integral part of this ecosystem. They are prey for many species from ferret to eagle, aerate the soil  and even mow their grass to make predators easy to see. The pool however was closed for repair – no sign – just no water in the metal sided basin. Our site was the one if during entry your brakes failed our camper would stop you. The Adirondack-ish style office (sad gift shop) had a damaged large beam you had to go under to enter – if it were in the woods I would have called it a widow maker. I keep telling myself it was near Badlands but the lived in shack cabins at the back, and the trailers area, and the cinderblock badly painted bathhouse were impeding my view. Nevertheless the morning sun at 5,150 feet of elevation is phenomenal as was the distance to Badlands. The days are longer here; Sunrise at 5:10am Mountain Time (minus 2 from Eastern Time) and sunset at 8:40pm. The temperature is high of a dry 89 and low of 60 degrees F.

Did I mention how green the state is? img_6526I imagine it white for the other six months of the year. The Badlandsare a cream white anomaly piercing the landscape in an alien way. We had to go that day, yeah we were tired from driving but sunset over the Badlands with a storm brewing to the south was a view we could not resist. A storm front was boiling up from the south and we wanted to see this place in all its sunset colorful glory. The skyline and colors made by the setting sun, left you speechless and in awe. It made you consider what it was like for the first human on horseback to discover this place. It is a must see, words could not express the play of light and shadow over this beautiful landscape. The thunderstorm was giving a light show and quickly approaching, so we turned back to return the next day. img_6518

The sheer expanse of the Badlands is daunting as the loop road runs the “spine” of the area is over 43 miles long. It looks like sandcastles touching the blue Montana sky in all sorts of layered shapes, sizes, and states of repair. This park is a course in Geology and Paleontology. There are sedimentary rocks dating to the Oligocene Epoch. The layers are differing shades from cream, yellows, terra cotta red and a haze gray. The astounding thing is the shapes are formed by deposition and erosion (thanks NP Visitor’s Guide). Scientists discovered evidence of an ocean and a volcanic ash millions of years ago. Fossils are everywhere in this natural example of the Law of Superposition. There is even a fossil trail winding through spires into a canyon. It was crazy to see the mountain goats with their kids perched atop these delicate crumbling structures.

The pictures tell the best story. We saw a Golden Eagle perchedon a mountaintop, mule deer,a Magpie, BISONS (correct name for Buffalos), Mountain GOATS, and more. The photographs share these images better than any of my words ever could.

Enjoy the album here:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/Q4rmdcvC2i7CDqJz9

Off to Montana to see the wilderness including Yellowstone National Park and another retail campground.

NW Exped Site #4 – Ponca

Apologies for the delay my chrome book “STB” (put fecal matter in the bed). I am now on this super new Apple iPad Air Pro with a keyboard. I love tech but I can’t get into typing on a screen. Having a touchscreen was enough of a challenge.

Nebraskas’ Ponca State Park is gorgeous a haven for campers! This was just what we needed after the debacle of Red Bluff MO, and the storms/ power outages of Nebraska Park Indian Caves. You enter the park on a hill with a monolithtelling the history of the site, they made me think of stone totem poles. On your right is the large swimming pool with water park type slides and a golf course on the left. We got checked in and defended the hill into the lush green forest below. The forest was dense with 2-3 foot undergrowth of spring green grasses and flowers. This park too was on the banks of the Missouri River. The park is spread out with many dips curves and “H” shaped intersections which for the road weary is somewhat challenging. The oaks intertwined their branches in the canopy which to me always feels like a warm embrace from the forest.The entry drive gave you sneak peaks of the beauty of the park from the high vistas and river views.

Our site was terrific facing the dense woods with our back to the rest of the campsites. There was a nice breeze and a Baltimore Oriole flew by. Best of all NO RAIN or should I say torrential downpours from severe thunderstorms and flash flood warnings. Maybe everything could dry out. For those non camping people, dampness is a battle from the environment and human created. Without sunny days to dry it all out things are moist and being the dismal path to mildew.

This park offers riverfront sites right on the banks of the Missouri where during our stroll we saw a Gold Finch couple and several Red-winged Blackbirds. This would have been a great place to camp but the off-putting post showing the flood level from 2011 (some 6 feet about the ground level) confirm my choice of the high elevation Oak Bluff Campground area.

The high rolling hills offer a fantastic viewof the river valley below. The Loees Loop offers a trip up to bluffs and cabin area where a deerand woodchuck made an appearance. A Wild Turkey and her 8 chicks also popped ought of the deep grass only to disappear again. In case you did not know Nebraska has mosquitos like hungry ones, more than MAINE! This was a shock to me, they also have the annoying “No-see-us” a vampire breed of gnat. Bugs also include Mayflies, standard house Flies, a cool iridescent green fly, horseflies, and a tiny green aphid looking thing that likes to land on you as often as possible.  The white oaks are amazing with deeply grooved bark and great big scalloped deep green leaves. The branches remind me of our southern Live Oaks twisting up to gather sunlight.

This place is therapy, quentasential forest bathing.

Photos include a 360 degree view from the overlook and here is the Link to the Album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/m7rF5tXXootfNjfS7 img_6508

Off to the Badlands National Park next.