9/2/14

Finley Point State Park, Montana

We drove in three states on our Labor Day journey. We started out in Washington. First, we got diesel fuel, and then crossed the border into Idaho within about ten minutes of getting on the road.


The most scenic thing on the short Idaho leg of the journey was Lake Coeur d'Alene.


In the Idaho panhandle, the distance to Montana is only about 40 miles, and so we passed into Montana shortly thereafter.


We drove through some beautiful country, up and over mountain tops. The St. Regis River ran on one side or the other of the road for most of the day.


We passed by some idyllic homesteads, ranches, and farms,


on our way to the National Bison Range.


When we first started planning our trip, one of you told me about the National Bison Range. I've forgotten now who it was, but thank you. We enjoyed this very much. It was a nice break in our journey of many miles. And we got to see some elk and bison to boot.

You can read a little more about this place in that link I've given you above. It has an interesting history. When I read such stories, it renews my faith in humanity. When we got out of the truck, the first thing we saw was this pile of elk antlers. They were piled approximately eight feet high.


The contrast isn't very good in this next image, but I'm hoping you'll be able to see it well enough to read some interesting facts about antlers. (Remember that you can always make an image larger by clicking on it.)


Up close, they appear as white-washed wood.


Here's another little brief history of the bison range.


And here are some interesting little statistics about bison.


While we were at the visitor center getting our bearings, a herd of elk strolled by. These are the cows and a few juvenile bulls.


This guy was standing off by himself, and we figured he must be the head bull in charge of everything.


He was rather majestic.

The scenic drives were gravel and bumpy, and so we unhitched the trailer and took the shorter of the two roads, the Prairie Drive. Right away, we began to see bison. Here are all the ladies with their little calves.


I was having the hardest time getting a shot of one of the closer animals. They kept their heads down, and mostly showed me their backsides. Finally, Mike yelled something like, "Hey, your mother wears Army boots!" and this one looked directly at us. He seems to be considering his options for taking care of this ne'er do well.


We went back to the parking lot, had some lunch, and then continued on our way. Our destination for tonight is Havre, Montana, and we drove until we felt like stopping. While I was planning this trip, I updated our library of tourbooks and directories and happened on a national state park directory. State parks tend not to be on our radar screen, but they are usually nicer and cheaper than staying in an RV park. We checked out our options and found a few along the way, and so we decided to just keep driving and stop when we were ready.

We drove through some beautiful wide open spaces. Big Sky country, you know.


Lately, I've been taking pictures of barns. If I ever finish the Doors of Ireland quilt, I'd like to make a Barns of America quilt. I don't know if this one would be included, but it's in my library of barns now.


We stopped for fuel in the tiny town of Ronan. There happened to be a feed store there. Apparently, in Montana, the convenience stores associated with gas stations are also feed stores. If you're a city girl like me, strolling around a feed store can be a fun little trip. Need any tack for your horse? Vaccines for your cow? Feed for your chickens? They have all of it. This one, being a convenience store, didn't have a lot, but I did get a thrill out of these shelves lined with boots for the cowboy or cowgirl of the family. Something in purple for me, please.


So, on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake there are several state parks. One of them even had hook-ups. It was a bit of a slow drive getting the four miles out to Finley Point, and there was no promise there would even be a campsite available. Nevertheless, we decided to chance it. This state park even had hook-ups, which is kind of unusual in the more primitive campgrounds of the state parks. When we arrived, we were in the location you see in this satellite image below.


A tiny little hook-shaped peninsula into a very large lake, and let me tell you, it was lovely! Not only that...there was a campsite waiting just for us! When we stood on the lakeshore and looked to the right, this is what we saw:


When I turned directly around 180 degrees, our trailer was right there.


Looking to the left had me looking directly into the sunlight. I used the "low key" setting on my camera to get the shot below.


The campground is essentially a small parking lot, with narrow slots for trailers, side by side by side. Maneuverability was a bear with our big rig, but the driver backed the trailer into that narrow slot like a pro. And then he took some well-deserved relaxation time beside the lake, beer in hand.


The folks in the motorhome next to us were gone when we arrived. When they came back, they had three big barking dogs with them. Smitty was not at all happy about that. He climbed up into his secret ninja kitty cave and kept an eye on those bad woofies from there. I might add that he was also afraid of the yipping puppy, smaller than some rodents Smitty has caught and eaten.


As the sun started to set, the lake took on a golden glow. Our dinner was hot, but we left it sitting on the warm stovetop while we went out for a walk. Smitty had his photographic portrait done while he continued keeping an eye on the now-sleeping woofies.


There is a nice marina associated with the lake, and boaters can rent slips for $5 per day...not bad. Resident campers can stay here for $12.50 per day, and so it makes for a relatively inexpensive trip.


Of course our shadow selves tagged along.


They are such camera hogs.


Mike's shadow self fancies himself an Espheni Overlord. (You have to be a Falling Skies fan to get that reference.)


Here's another shot looking south from the marina across the lake. You can see our trailer on the left side of the image there.


Today we're traveling west to east across the northern part of Montana on US Hwy 2, known as the Montana Hi-Line. I'll say more about the Hi-Line in my next post. Our goal is to reach Havre, Montana tonight, and then continue on to North Dakota and Teddy Roosevelt National Park tomorrow.

With that, it's time to warm up our breakfast burritos and get on our way.


9/1/14

Spokane Valley, Washington

 We drove 376 miles yesterday (give or take) and stayed at a KOA in Spokane Valley, Washington. Originally, we thought we might go all the way to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, about 30 miles east. Then, we thought better of it. An extra 30 miles today sounded better than an extra 30 miles at the end of such a long haul the first day.

We drove out I-84 through the beautiful Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. To our jaded eyes (having traveled this road approximately 3 million times), there is nothing to see except trees. However, I did hang my head out the window long enough to snap this image of Multnomah Falls. The image is not very impressive. You'll have to take my word for it, however, that the falls are definitely worth a trip should you ever find yourself in Portland.


Trees pretty much line the road on both sides until you reach Hood River, Oregon, where the landscape starts to clear out. There's a wide place in the river here that is well known for its windsurfing. 


You may recall images of John Kerry windsurfing here during the 2004 presidential campaign. Here's one of the more iconic images of Mr. Kerry.


When you get to The Dalles, Oregon, the landscape is almost devoid of trees, and becomes much more arid.


The Dalles has an interesting place in Oregon history. You can read more about it at that link I've given you.

There is a lot of wind power here too. With such flat land, the wind does blow.


We stopped at a rest stop here to give the kitties a skritch and stretch our legs. Gracie seemed pretty comfortable. We found her sleeping on the bed. Smitty was a little more freaked out and was hiding behind the bed. Recall that the last time he rode in the trailer, he got chased by some bad woofies when he jumped out of the door unexpectedly. Believe me, we're being super careful when we open the door this trip. (Smitty wrote a blog post about his excellent adventure there at that link I've given you.)


And because we're really roughing it when we go camping, we made ourselves some espresso while we were stopped,


and snacked on the pile of cherry tomatoes I picked just before we left.


We crossed the river into Washington around Umatilla, Oregon


The bridge is less than thrilling there,


but you can get a good view of McNary Dam as you cross over. There is lots of hydroelectric power being generated along the Columbia River.


You cross over again near Kennewick, Washington, although this is an area where the river sort of loops back on itself. It heads north in Washington, and ceases serving as the border between the two states.


From there you can look off in the distance and see this really swell modern bridge. (We like bridges as much as we like tunnels.)


From there we traveled up US 395/I-90, which is at the edge of The Palouse. (You can read about previous travels through the heart of The Palouse right here. We traveled along seeing idyllic little farms like the one in the image below.


I posted the image below to Facebook and told folks you'd have to be crackers to live here. Ha! (Sorry to put you through that again, Facebook people. I'll warn you to close your eyes next time by saying, "Caution: Bad Joke ahead." It was really too good not to say it again, you know.)


When we travel through these little towns, I like to pull out the AAA tour book to see if there's any information about the place. The town itself isn't all that remarkable except for the fact that it is just south of the area known as the Channeled Scablands. This is actually quite interesting (to me, at least). I watched a documentary program about it once. This is an area that was essentially denuded of all of its topsoil during the cataclysmic Missoula Floods that occurred when an ice dam burst during the last ice age. If you have any interest in geology, you'll enjoy reading more about this area at that link I've given you. 

When we started getting into the landscape more representative of the "scablands", we stopped at a rest stop to try to get a picture of it. It's an area better seen from the air, but I can show you what we saw. Look to the left, and you see this:


This is just below the town of Sprague, Washington. That's Sprague Lake in the picture. Look to the right and you see this:


I took a panorama of the area, but these end up fairly small. Remember that you can make the image larger by clicking on it.


What I really wanted you to know about the landscape is that it is yet another take on the shapes of valleys and how their formation determines their shape. Valleys formed by rivers are V-shaped, like the Grand Canyon. Perhaps you recall that when we traveled to Glacier National Park in Montana, I showed you how valleys formed by glaciers are U-shaped. Here's an image to demonstrate what I'm talking about:


They look a little as if they've been scooped out with an ice cream scoop. By contrast, in the scablands, the valleys are rectangular in shape, characterized by steep walls and deep flat floors.

We were fairly close to Spokane at that point, and we continued on to our the space we reserved at the KOA before we left home. And there, I was delighted to meet up with Kate, who blogs at Katie Mae Quilts. Kate and I met up just for fun. She was so helpful in giving me information about quilt shops and road conditions in the area, that I repaid her kindness with a jar of pasta sauce.


You can tell which one of us is Kate. She's the one who doesn't look like she's been sticking her head out of a moving car taking pictures of the landscape.


She brought along her two energetic little men, William and Russell (Russell is the one on the right). Russell is just about to start the 4th grade. William, at age 2, is the one who keeps Kate's days from ever being boring. Kate also gifted me with one of her NewFO's for August, this cute cat quilt. Take a look at that fabric that says "I love birds." She couldn't be referring to anyone in my family, could she?


It was great fun meeting up with one of my bloggy friends.

And after Kate & Company left, we had dinner and pretty much collapsed. It had been a long day, and we were hungry and tired.

Smitty wanted me to end by telling you that he wasn't "freaked out" as I reported earlier. In fact, he wanted everyone to know he'd been in Spokane, and so he snapped this selfie.


Oh yes, I included this picture of us traveling alongside the train (sorry about the glare) to remind myself to tell you that campgrounds tend to be built in one of two places: along the shoulder of the interstate, or along the shoulder of the railroad tracks.


During the evening, we could hear a far-away train whistle (horn...whatever), and we congratulated ourselves for choosing a park that wasn't too close to either the freeway or the train. Ha! Around 9:00 the real train experience came when a train rumbled through not 50 yards from where we are. And let me tell you, it was loud and long. Approximately one hour later, it went through again. We wondered if it was going to go through all night long, but we didn't hear it again. I'm not sure if that was because it didn't come along, or because we were so tired we were sleeping like logs. In any case, I just wanted you to know that the freeway/train track rule still applies.

Before the day is out, we will have traveled in three states. And with that, it's time to get moving.