Saturday, August 11, 2007

Yakima -> Seattle

On Thursday we made it to Yakima, Washington which is known for its contribution to wine production and the use of its name in the form of bike racks and rooftop boxes. Oddly enough there is plenty of wine, but few biking opportunities here. Yakima Corp: why did you take that namesake?

The weather on the Eastern side of the Cascade range is always great; sunny, warm and predictable unlike the Puget Sound area (Seattle). Sara and I found a great state campground in Yakima, setup for the night, and then headed out to some local wineries along the Rattlesnake Valley Wine Trail. We visited several wineries, talked with the locals and purchased a few bottles to ensure we receive our daily dose of anti-oxidants. Yakima has a relaxed wine touring atmosphere, probably because the wines are not as good as you would find in CA therefore making people less snooty and because there are still plenty of residences with yard cars spread in-between the wine estates. Since we were out of fire restriction territory we had a campfire, a nice dinner, a bottle of Washington red, and made s’mores. We are also now out of high-risk bear territory, which significantly reduces the amount of rules enforced at campgrounds for food left out, etc. It is weird to travel in bear country and keep everything in your car and now be here in which people spread everything out all over the place. We did have one wildlife encounter here however, a skunk. Sara and I were sitting at the fire, it was pretty dark and I noticed a skunk walking about 3 feet next to Sara’s chair. We quietly got up and jogged safely away out of fear from being sprayed. Apparently our tent was near his home in the marsh/stream and he rustled around for the most of the night, but there was never an odorous encounter.

On Friday we got up early and headed for Seattle. We stayed in Redmond near my old stomping grounds during the summer of 1999. We headed downtown, visiting Pike Place, the Space Needle and other usual Seattle tourist attractions. We came upon a block party in South Lake Union, enjoyed some free food, hit the beer garden for a few hours and enjoyed some live local music; it was a great afternoon with warm sun and breeze… Seattle summer weather at its best. We grabbed some cocktails and appetizers at some dive restaurant near the wharf which seemed to be packed with retired rock stars (lots of leopard print and Mick look-alikes) and hip late 30s who were too cool for anybody.

We are headed up to the San Juans this weekend for sea-kayaking with the orcas.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Since we seem to have broadband access all along Rt. 90 running through the middle of nowhere Washington State, we decided to catch up on randomness from the trip. Eastern Washington gets “middle of nowhere status” similar to South Dakota. We are passing through Grant County, the nations leading potato producing county. Did we mention that we didn’t see much in Idaho related to potatoes? Supposedly they are the spud state, but similar to how we believe dairy farms in Wisconsin are a fake, we believe potato farms in Idaho are a fake. Perhaps we don’t know what a potato plant looks like… Paul can you help us out?

Odd things from the road…

1. Children on leashes. What is going on here… we see this everywhere. If aliens came down and saw this it could cloud their views on our level of sophistication. America, teach your kids not to run out in the street. We saw a woman choke a kid back from the road yesterday similar to how you would choke a dog back from the edge of the curb.

2. Just an observation, not a final opinion here, but the few people who will engage in a conversation at a campground are the from East coast. We try to be friendly and smile and wave to others in an unimposing manner just to let them know we are not crazy people. Usually we don’t know where they are from and they don’t know where we are from since small talk occurs in the bathroom or at the water spigot, yet later on we will stroll about the campsite and find out that they are from the East coast (NY, NJ, PA). We thought East coast people were supposed to be jerks and West coaster were the nicer half of the population. We are not looking for conversations and are actually private people compared to most, but West coasters do not talk to us… perhaps we smell like the East coast? On a different topic, Canadians don’t make eye contact with us, it is the strangest thing.

3. Sara and I use our CamelBaks for hydration while riding on the trail or hiking. We often don’t use all the water so rather than pouring it out, we put the bladder behind the seat and run the hose to the front seat. We refer to this as “EXTREME DRIVING!”

4. When we come across a campground bathroom that has hand soap, this is exciting. Perhaps it is a pain to refill it, or people steal it… we are not sure. We have stayed in probably 20 campgrounds, 4 have had hand soap dispensers and all have been watered down significantly.

5. We sometimes spend a portion of our day strategizing where we will shower next and how much it will cost. There a tons of campgrounds out here not many have showers and if they do, they are pay-for-use.

6. It is acceptable to take a shower and put the same clothes back on as long as there are no large stains or obvious odors, small stains may be acceptable depending on severity and location. (new socks and undies each time though)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Glacier National Park

We headed up to Glacier National Park after stocking up on groceries in Whitefish. We got a great spot in a first-come-first-serve campground called Sprague Creek on Lake McDonald. Glacier is an amazing park with wild scenery. Glaciers that were upwards of 2000 feet thick carved out these deep mountain valleys. Sadly global warming has reduced most of the glaciers to something more like the size of a football field on each mountain. The park is famous for its large grizzly bear population, the chance for an encounter and even more famous for the occasional brutal mauling/fatal encounter, so we were on full bear alert for the entire visit.

We spent the first day getting situated in the park and did a strenuous uphill hike in the afternoon to Snyder Lake. A nice alpine lake centered in an alpine bowl and rock slides and deep forest around it. The second day we drove the “Going to the Sun’ road during the morning. This road was literally carved out of the side of the mountain in the 30’s and is nothing short of spectacular. That afternoon we drove over to Many Glacier and did a small hike to Red Rock Falls. Another great hike with terrific scenery through a glacial valley however the most notable event on this one was our brief encounter with a Grizzly on the trail. The original trail we were going to do was closed for dangerous bear activity so we selected this shorter one which was headed in the opposite direction. Well, about 5 minutes into the trail I happened to turn around and see a medium sized Grizzly munching flowers about 25 yards up slope from us. He didn’t see us at first, then stood on his hind legs to smell the air. He sniffed, looking away from us, then turned toward us and started running down the slope. The bear spray safety came off, and we assumed position for an encounter. The position consisted of Sara and I tripping over each other and saying oh’shit, repeatedly. The bear was down the slope in 2 seconds and then ran into the woods never to be seen again. Okay, not that exciting, but he was close, and when he started running down the hill towards our direction, he would have been on us no time. We were making plenty of noise but the wind was blowing about 20 knots that day so he probably didn’t smell us or hear us because of the strong breeze. We turned after making sure he wasn’t following us and continued on.

The third day was another spectacular hike that left from Logan’s pass (middle of Going to the Sun road), this trail was called the Highline trail. The trail followed the Continental Divide along the mountain tops and along what is called the “garden wall”. The garden wall is basically a very narrow trail running along the slopes with alpine meadows, and steep cliffs. The drop offs to the left of the trail were in thousands of feet, not hundreds… not for people who are a afraid of heights. The hike was long, about 11 miles over varying terrain. The first 6 miles was awesome and we stopped at a mountain top chalet for lunch, then finished with a steep 5 mile downhill that took a big toll on our bodies.

Glacier is a great park with great scenery but isn’t nearly as accessible, nor does it have the many activities as Yellowstone. For hikers and campers, Glacier is awesome. For families, I think they would get bored. Check out our picture album by clicking here.

Today we awoke early and headed out to Spokane where we will stay the night. Tomorrow we are either heading to Washington wine country or Yakima, or Seattle… not sure, we’ll discuss over happy hour.

Smokey-the-bear was asleep on the job...

The drive from Boise through northern Idaho and western Montana was uneventful until we neared the many wildfires burning in Montana. This was our first experience with forest fires and we were quite surprised just how much of an effect they can have on such a wide area. (picture is a fire in the distance) Driving near a wildfire is strange, obviously quite smoky all around you and the sky takes on a deep mustard/brown color. We drove through this for about 100 miles since most of the area north of Missoula all the way to Whitefish was smoked out… visibility was about 2 miles which obscured most of the Flathead range and the large lakes. We stayed in Whitefish in a state park, which was on a lake just north of town. The park was nice except for its proximity to the railroad tracks. The train came through every 30 minutes all night long and blew the horn about 300 feet from our campsite. Loud. Interestingly enough as the wind died down and the humidity went up a bit, the smoke cleared and we had a semi-clear night. The next morning we awoke to a large amount of ash on the tent which was fun to clean off. My aunt and her family lived in Whitefish several years ago and I believe at the time, it was a sleepy little town. I am quite confident they wouldn’t recognize it or Kalispell. Whitefish has a “dining guide” and million dollar ski chalets, Kalispell has a Target, Starbucks and every other standard convenience you would need.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


Sincere apologies to summeroff2007 readers (as if there are any), there just isn’t much internet or cell service around Glacier National Park. Some Montana humor for you: