Saturday, June 23, 2018
Cloudy, rainy and a whopping 56 degrees. Cleaned the coach, did laundry and worked on our planet jigsaw puzzle.
Friday, June 22, 2018
Thunderstorms in the forecast. We picked a bad weather week to be here. We finished the jigsaw puzzle from hell and started on a planet puzzle we got at Lowell Observatory.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
First day of summer and it’s 62 degrees. And raining. It’s like being back in Alaska. The sun rises today at 5:36 AM and sets at 9:41 PM. It’s nearly eleven when it gets dark, but starts getting light after four in the morning. I like that late sunset part. You just keep doing things with your day. It doesn’t feel like it’s getting late. I don’t like the rain and cold. I’m about done with Montana. A population 1,023,579, according to the 2014 census and their visitor information. All in 145,545 square miles. There’s a whole lot of nothing in between small cities and even smaller towns. I can see why the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, choose to live in Lincoln, Montana. No one to bother him. The people in Montana are nice, but plaid seems to be the official state color. Every bar, restaurant, store or wherever you go, there is plaid. A sea of plaid. I don’t think I have every seen so much in one place in my life!
We stay inside today working on our jigsaw puzzle.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Life has its up and downs. Triumphs and tragedies. Happiness and disappointments. Today is no different. That disappointment is Glacier National Park.
I was looking forward to visiting. The Going to the Sun Road, the fifty mile road that takes you through from one side to the other of the park is closed. We got conflicting reasons; the center section was still snow bound, they were working on the road to make it safer. Who knows. The bottom line is it is CLOSED. You can drive fourteen miles in from the west entrance or 13.5 miles in from the east side and get to Jackson Glacier overlook, but this glacier isn’t much of a glacier, it’s more like snow on the mountainside.
We go in from the west side and make what stops we can, Lake McDonald, the river and falls.
But fourteen miles goes by fast, so we leave and have lunch in West Glacier at West Glacier Restaurant, then drive the ninety eight miles to Saint Mary to get to the east entrance through twisted, hilly roads that were under construction and sometimes nothing more than dirt. And these are state highways. When we get there, we find out we can only go to the glacier overlook, thirteen miles. A few stops along the way to see Saint Mary Lake and we are done. We didn’t get to Logan’s Pass to stand on the Continental Divide, though we have crossed it many times. Disappointed, we start the hundred forty odd miles home.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
A running around day. Went to Petco, got my nails done, pharmacy and a quick stop at Wallyworld, aka Walmart. We drive to Kalispell’s downtown and have pizza at Moose Saloon, a local hangout. You can carve your name into the wood walls, tables or benches. There’s sawdust and peanut shells on the floor.
To get in, you push your way through old saloon style swinging doors. But don’t push too hard or too fast, the real door is right behind.
The pizza wasn’t the best, but it also wasn’t the worst. The local beer was good, but served in ten ounce frosted glass goblets. It just seemed out of place in this rustic cowboy bar. You would think they would have mugs, something more rugged. In spite of the cowboy feel, it was a family place. There was even a kid’s birthday party going on!
Monday, June 18, 2018
Cold, raw, rain today. The kind that go stright through you. We stayed in and worked on our jigsaw puzzle.
Sunday, June 17, 2018
It’s an iffy weather day. Possible rain is in the forecast. We are going to brave it and drive down 35, the same road we drove up on yesterday, to go to Bigfork, on Fathead Lake. Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. It is approximately 30 miles long and 16 miles wide, covering 191.5 square miles. It’s big! On the east side of the lake they raise apples and cherries. The orchards line the highway. Unfortunately, we find out my favorite fruit, cherries, will not be ready for picking till sometime in July. Too bad, I hear they’re very good.
We wander down the streets of this quaint old town lined with art galleries, shops and restaurants.
What we’re learning in this part of the country is that business establishments only take cash. I prefer not to use cash for two reasons, one, I get cash back on my ALLY credit card, and two, it can be difficult to find a ATM or bank to replace cash used. We asked a sales clerk where we could find good pizza. She told us to go to Rosa’s, so we take the short drive, only to find that it is closed on Sunday. Instead, we stop at Flathead Lake Brewing Company Pubhouse.
I think it was a better choice. We leave stuffed and happy.
Saturday, June 16, 2018
The rain that was predicted came during the night. Sure, the first real rain in seven months and it has to rain when we need to pack up and move. The only good thing is we didn’t unhook Sergio last night so he’s ready to go. Alex just hooked up electric, making pack up all an inside thing. It pays to plan ahead.
The ride to Rocky Mountain Hi RV Park off 35 in Kalispell, Montana was a dreary, wet one. The sites are nice, with water, sewer, 50 amp electric, trees and good cable. As we were pulling into our spot, we were greeted by a German Shepard, Akita, wolf mix dog, River, who was our neighbor. We met his mom and dad, Connie and Allen, from Texas, and chatted awhile. Then we hooked up, went inside and hunkered down.
Friday, June 15, 2018
The clouds rolled in yesterday afternoon. When we woke it was windy again. Long sleeve shirts, shoes, socks and long pants! Rain is in the forecast for Arco. There is more snow on the mountain tops than there was yesterday. I guess the precipitation got there first. As we were readying to leave, it started to drizzle. It was short lived.
Our stop for the night is Black Rabbit RV Park in Hamilton, Montana, on 93. The ride here is not easy.
As we drive north, the clouds disappear and we have blue skies. We are running with the Salmon River in Idaho. This big beautiful river, that flows for 425 miles, is also known as The River of No Return. Since we are on the west side of the Continental Divide, the river is flowing north, traveling with us. It meanders along providing some gorgeous scenery. You cross it many times and ride along side admiring the view.
However, it comes with a price. Route 93 has many steep hills and switchbacks making for a slow and white fisted ride.
We did reach 7,180 feet at Summit Creek. Someone painted a smiley face in black paint on the blacktop giving a touch of humor.
Black Rabbit RV Park is a one night stop over. The park is all gravel. It has the usual water, sewer and 50 amp electric, but if you want cable, it’s five dollars and you have to play games with a converter box. I have never been able to get this setup to work in this coach. I tried again and, again gave up. It’s only one night.
We’re just going to take it easy the rest of the day. We get a few rain drops, just enough to coat the ground.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Craters of the Moon National Monument, established in 1959, is about eighteen miles from our campground. It sits at 5,955 feet above sea level.
It is a vast ocean of lava flows, cinder cones and sagebrush, giving you some of the most bizarre landscapes anywhere. It is not a big park, by any means, unless you plan on doing all of the trails, the longest being two miles. Even then, you can do the park in half a day. The trails are mostly paved, some steep, but fairly easy. There is a seven mile loop road that gives you access to all the trails. The park recommends a half an hour for the drive. Add in time for the trails you choose to hike.
We start out at the Visitor Center to get a map and information. They have a small education center where you can learn about the different lava formations, rocks and the history of the volcanic eruptions. Then we start the loop to the North Crater Flow, one of the youngest flows to create monoliths. There is a 1.8 mile paved trail that winds up and down through the craters.
We drive on to Devils Orchard and walk the half mile paved trail through island-like lava fragments swimming in a sea of cinders.
Inferno Cone is a steep .2 mile hike to see cinder cones along the Great Rift. A .25 mile hike up Splatter Cone allows you to peer into a volcano, not active, at least not for the moment. Even though this was a short hike, the wind was blowing fiercely. It is a narrow path along the side of the cinder cone, and the wind made it difficult to stand, not to mention cold.
Two of the longest trails, Broken Top at 1.8 miles and Wilderness Trail at 2.0 miles are the next stop on the loop. Broken Top, an unpaved trail, takes you around a cinder cone top. Wilderness Trail brings you to trees trapped by lava flow. The Cave Area is a .8 mile trail. To access you need to obtain a permit. You will need a flashlight, closed-toe hiking shoes and courage. You’re venturing forth at your own risk.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
We’re moving to Idaho. To the Craters of the Moon KOA.
Interestingly enough, the speed limit on I-15 is 80, 70 by cities. We don’t get anywhere near that in the coach, but great for cars. Otherwise, the drive shows us nothing but farms and ranches, ranches and farms, in the valley with mountains on both sides of all these farms. Miles and miles of cattle and crops, with nothing and nobody in site.
After Pocatello, Idaho, the land levels off a bit. Hills are on the right, or east side of us and relatively flat land on our left or west.
It’s very windy, again. Not far from our destination, we started to hear this sound, like our big slide topper was flapping in the wind. We pull to the side of the road, and just as we did we heard a big bang. We saw nothing. The only thing we could think of was that the wind pulled the topper out and our stopping caused it to slam back.
We arrive at the KOA and find that we can come to an ice cream social at 6:30 on the patio.
Tomorrow morning they serve complimentary waffles in the office. This is not a big campground. But nice enough. They have all the usual amenities, including a dog wash, but their cable does not give you the fab four prime networks, ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC. One other thing, do turn at Pickle’s Place, a restaurant on Front Street, aka Route 26. If you go by the GPS, it will take you down a rather bumpy dirt road. You still get there, just a bit shaken up.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Taking a break today. We’re staying home. I’m making lasagna while Alex is washing Claudia.
Monday, June 11, 2018
I am not a morning person. Plain and simple, I do not do mornings! After spending my life getting up at ridiculously early hours of the morning, or should I say night, for work, I vowed never to get up early once I retired. Somehow, the universe has been conspiring against me and my plan the past few weeks. If it’s not one of the kitties, it’s a text, or phone call, or some coach leaving at 5:30 in the morning, or some other racket in the campground, or my old body giving me trouble. My beauty sleep has been greatly disrupted. This morning it was a phone call from someone in Grand Canyon, Arizona calling at 6:38 AM. So, I now have a new rule; all electronic devices will be turned OFF when I turn off the lights for bed! At least that is one less thing to wake me up.
We’re going to Salt Lake City to Mormon Temple Square, the thirty five acre headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormons. The Vatican of the Mormon faith.
When the Mormons first arrived here, the ten acre Temple Square was their first endeavor and it became the center and start of Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Temple was built between 1853 and 1893 of granite, hauled from Cottonwood Canyon by ox cart, and later by a narrow-gauge rail line they built in 1873. Eight million tons of granite were brought to the site in the first year. Brigham Young, the President of the Church, sketched out the temple and Truman O. Angel, Sr. was the architect who supervised the construction until his death in 1887. The Civil War, building of the railroad, a flawed initial foundation and Federal troops arriving in 1858 to the area, caused extensive delays. Once the Temple was dedicated, no one other than Mormons may enter.
We are allowed in the Assembly Hall, complete with organ built in 1983 by Robert L. Sipe of Dallas, Texas. There are 3,489 pipes to this organ. This building is now used for educational purposes, like explaining the faith to those who enter and will listen.
We tour the South Visitors’ Center, where we learn of the Mormons 1,350 mile journey from Iowa City, Iowa in the 1850’s. Some 3,000 made the journey, mostly by pulling wooden carts containing all their belongings. The more fortunate rode ox carts. Two hundred fifty died alone the way. We visited the Tabernacle, home the the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, again with a massive organ originality built by Joseph H. Ridges in the 1860’s. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1948 by the Aolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston. This organ has 11,623 pipes, dwarfing the organ In the Assembly Hall.
Unfortunately, we are not here at the right time to hear the Choir, but we do leave the walls of Temple Square and cross the street to the Conference Center to hear an organ recital. This massive 21,000 seat Center is unbelievable. There are many other areas to the Center besides the concert hall. When I walk into the concert hall, my breathe is taken away by the organ. Tears fill my eyes. You see this huge organ bathed in color. It is drop dead gorgeous. It was built between 2000-2003 by Schoenstein & Company of San Francisco and contains 7,708 pipes. We settled in for the half hour heavenly performance by Brian Mathias.
We decide no trip to Salt Lake City is complete unless you see the Great Salt Lake, so off to Antelope Island State Park we go. The park is about twenty miles north of the city and, like its name suggests, is on an island that has a causeway for cars to reach it.
The Great Salt Lake is the largest lake west of the Mississippi and is up to eight times saltier than the ocean. It is a remnant of pre-historic Lake Bonneville, which covered 20,000 square miles during the last Ice Age. The lake size can fluctuate, but on average, it is seventy five miles long and twenty eight miles wide, with a depth of thirty three feet. Four fresh water rivers, with trace amounts of salts and other minerals, flow into the lake depositing about 2.2 million tons of minerals every year. Once the water enters the lake, its only exit is by evaporation, leaving behind the salt and minerals. Because of the high salinity, only brine shrimp, brine flies and several types of algae can live in the water and are the primary food source of millions of migratory birds. The lake is an important ecosystem for North American migratory and nesting birds. The sand, called Oolitic, is formed when mineral grains or brine shrimp fecal pellets are coated by concentric layers of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate, the same way pearls are formed.
Antelope Island State Park is 28,022 acres, 15 miles long and four and a half miles across at its widest point. Bison roam free on the island. Twelve bison were introduced to the island in 1893. There are anywhere between 500-700 bison currently living here. There is an annual bison roundup held each fall to assess the animal’s health and sell off extra animals.
Pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, bobcats, badgers and birds of prey like owls, hawks and falcons can also be seen on the island.
After paying our five dollar senior admission fee, we begin our drive around the island, stopping at pullouts to view the scenery. We drive to the end of the road, Fielding Garr Ranch, but it is late in the day and is closed at five. The map we were given does not have all the points listed, so we just come upon some spot and stop. We haven’t had lunch and it’s pretty much dinner time, so we stop at the only food concession, The Island Buffalo Grill and get Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. When we’re finished eating, I have to put my feet in the Great Salt Lake, so I start the long trek to the water.
We were told when we entered the park that it’s gnat breeding season and they weren’t kidding. I have never seen so many gnats in my life. There were swarms on the ground. When they moved, it sounded like wind. Happily having put my tootsies in the Great Salt Lake, we start the one hour journey home.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Moving day! We’re off to Provo, Utah, 251 miles north.as we drive, we watch the cattle walking cresting dust clouds as they go. They’re not running, they’re not moving fast, just meandering along and plumbs of dust go spiraling into the air.
Our home for the next three days will be Lakeside RV Campground, a Good Sam park. It has you parking buddy style. Not a big fan! What that means is your door and your neighbor’s door face each other and you share the available outside space. Nice and cozy. Otherwise, a quiet, shaded site with the usual amenities, a pool and good cable, with a short walk to the Provo River.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
We’re staying home today resting from two busy days. Around six, I’m sitting outside barbecuing. It’s 96 degrees with six percent humidity. I have to say, it doesn’t feel like 96. Maybe there is something to this “but it’s a dry heat” thing.
Friday, June 8, 2018
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is our destination for today. It’s about a hundred and forty miles south of us, back in Arizona. We’ve got that time warp thing again. At the Rim, it will be one hour earlier than it is here in Utah.
It’s a long drive to the middle of nowhere. The North Rim is the least visited rim of the Canyon, with only one million visitors a year compared to the South Rim’s five million. There is only one way in and one way out, so I can see why. But if you make the trek the views will be well worth it. Here the canyon has slopes and trees and it looks nothing like the other rims. Now we can truly say we have seen the Canyon. We’ve seen every Rim.
As soon as we drive into the park, we’re greeted by a herd of bison.
It’s another twenty three miles to get to the lodge and rim. Once we get to the rim, we stop at the Visitor Center to get the lay of the land. Next to the Visitor Center is the Grand Canyon Lodge, and oh, what a beautiful thing it is. Stone and wood and glass, overlooking magnificent canyon views.
This is the only lodging in the park, complete with a restaurant and gift shop. We decide to have lunch in the lodge while taking in the sites. There is a deli that is part of the complex, but we opted for a nice relaxed lunch with a view. Then we took the short, but nail biting, hike to Bright Angel Point at 8,161 feet. It was so incredibly windy making it difficult to stand, which added to the nail biting. You walk along this very narrow path out onto a point that does have fencing, flimsy as it is, to stand at the edge of the canyon. Beautiful, but terrifying, especially with the wind.
Alex went back to the lodge, while I walked past the lodge and continued on the trail to another point, then turned back to meet him. In the observatory room, we find Brighty, a statue of a canyon burro. Brighty, named after the creek that flows to the Colorado River from a spring, and his fellow burros were turned loose by miners in the late 1800’s, when they no longer needed them. Brighty, who lived at the canyon around 1892 until 1922, became a fixture here delighting young and old alike.
There are thirteen day hikes you can do in the canyon. Some easy, some more difficult. We choose the four easiest and start our car ride around the canyon with the first stop being the farthest, Angels Window, elevation 7,865 feet.
From here, you can hike the .8 mile Cape Royal Trail for views of the canyon and Colorado River. We stop at all the unnamed pullouts on the ride back with the next trailhead stop at Roosevelt Point, elevation 8,470 feet. Anywhere you drive, you are greeted with a different, but spectacular view. There is no bad vantage point. Next stop, Point Imperial, the highest point in the Grand Canyon at 8,803 feet.
That’s high, but on the ride to the canyon, we exceeded 8,840 feet. That kind of elevation makes for a cool temperature. It’s in the low seventies at the rim. Back down in the valley, it’s in the nineties. On our way out of the park, the bison were still in the field relaxing and enjoying themselves. The two and a half hour drive back, and one hour time difference, has us getting home after nine. A very long day.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Zion National Park has been on my bucket list. Today’s the day. We pass through the town of Springdale at the park entrance. A quaint little tourist village.
At the park entrance, our senior park pass gets us in for free. Then it’s time for our adventure.The first thing you notice when you enter is the red roads. The local asphalt mix has the red sand and stone from the area, turning the normal blacktop into red top. We can’t find a place to park at the Visitor Center, so we drive on.
Zion has a shuttle service, and if you want to go to any of the famed locations, this is the only means to get you there. The only other way is to hike, no cars allowed. We start our adventure by driving Sergio down the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. The twelve mile east-west road connects the south and east entrances.
We travel through the steep switchbacks and go through the mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Vehicles over 11’4” tall or 7’10” wide cause tunnel traffic to stop. The tunnel can’t handle two lanes of traffic with something that large going in any one direction. This takes tunnel traffic down to one lane going in one direction controlled by a traffic guard on both ends of the tunnel. Oh, and there are no lights in here!
We stop at all of the pullouts to check out the scenery. The sandstone mountains and formations are incredible. Reds, yellows, browns and the greens of the vegetation. Like a painting. Jaw dropping! Now that it’s afternoon, we go back to the Visitor Center and, this time get a parking spot. We’re going to hop on the shuttle and go to all of the other eight stops. You can get on and off the shuttle at each of the stops, then get on another shuttle when you are ready. We’re starving, so our first stop is number 5, the Zion Lodge for lunch. Visitors can stay at the lodge. There is a cafeteria style restaurant and gift shop. Alex has a Dome Burger and I have a grilled chicken sandwich, then we get on a shuttle that takes us to the end of the shuttle run, to the Temple of Sinawava and The Narrows. This is the area where the Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper canyon. It’s sixteen miles long, up to 2,000 feet deep and at times twenty to thirty feet wide. Alex stays behind while I take the trek.
Back on the shuttle, we stop at Big Bend for a look at the river and the rock formations. We bypass Weeping Rock, the drought has stopped the rock from weeping. We stop at the Grotto, the Court of the Patriarchs to see Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the three towering peaks, and then Canyon Junction. The museum closed at six, so we go back to the Visitor Center to get Sergio and head home. We have a bit of a drive and by the time we get home, it’s eight thirty and we are exhausted. Happy, but exhausted.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
We’re moving to Hurricane, Utah. We’re driving north on I-15 with more desert land to look at.The odd part of this journey is the time zones. We have been in Pacific Time while in Vegas, but have to cross back into Arizona, which technically is Mountain time. Arizona is one of two states that doesn’t adhere to daylight savings time. So even though Arizona should be one hour later, it’s the same time as Vegas. But crossing into Utah, we loose the hour. We’re in a time warp!
As we cross into Arizona, the terrain is becoming much more rocky.
Utah begins to show us her mountains. The average elevation in the state is 6,100 feet above sea level. We’re heading to WillowWind RV Park, where you can “walk to everything and hear nothing”. This park has tree, honest to goodness trees, and shade and grass. The sites are a good size, with all the usual utilities. Great cable, no pool, but a fitness center. And, like its slogans says, it is close to everything in town, but very quiet.