Going-to-the-Sun Road Closed – Fire!

 

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Sunday, August 12 picture of the Howe Ridge Fire. If you look very closely above the treeline, you can see the mountains in the background.
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Monday morning, August 13 picture of the Howe Ridge Fire. The smoke blocks all views beyond the trees.

 

August 13, 2018

It’s a good thing we went on the Going-to-the-Sun Road on Sunday.  I had thought about doing it Monday or Tuesday to get away from week-ends crowds.  But, the weather was good, so we went on Sunday.  As you may recall from yesterday’s post, we noticed a fire shortly after you entered the park.  It is called the Howe Ridge Fire.  I took some pictures and we did our thing.  Click here for a link to a video of the Canadian Superscoopers gathering water from Lake McDonald in an attempt to put out the fire.  This effort was not successful in dousing the fire.  (We did not post this yesterday because it took several hours to upload which is one of those problems associated with lousy internet access.)

Later in the evening, we wanted to go up to one of the look-outs and catch the sunset and wait around to watch for meteor showers.  We were both very tired, so we didn’t do that.  We drove through less traveled sections of the park in search of wildlife.  Dusk is a good time to see them and we were hoping.  We didn’t see much but we got a view of the fire that evening and Regis got a picture of a hawk.

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Hawk in Glacier National Park.
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Regis wants to go kayaking with these guys.

Regis and I wanted to hike the Highline trail in the park, but with Dart we couldn’t both do it at the same time.  Dogs are not allowed to hike in the park.  We decided to have one of us do it one day and the other the next.  Originally, Regis was going to wake up early and do it Monday and I would do it Tuesday.  He was so tired that he opted to wait.  I didn’t care about hiking in the afternoon, so I figured I would go Monday afternoon.

Monday morning, we decided to check out an area that often has mountain goats which skirts the edge of the park southeast of us.  On the way, we saw all the signs that said the Going-to-the-Sun road was closed because of the fire.  The fire we saw worsened overnight considerably.  Apparently, the winds picked up the fire expanded quickly.  It’s probably why I couldn’t see the meteor shower last night.

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We saw this fire on the way to look for goats. As of this posting, they still haven’t named it.
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A close-up of the fire we saw on the way to look for goats. As of this post, the fire had not been named.

On our way to see the goats (which we didn’t see) we saw another wildfire that recently started.  Between the time we first saw it and an hour later on the way back, it was definitely larger.

We went back to Glacier to go to the lesser traveled section to do a before an after picture of the fire from the same spot.  You can’t really see the fire itself, but you can see the smoke.  In the first picture, if you look closely above the treeline, you can see the mountains in the background.  In the second picture, there is so much smoke, you can’t see anything.

We headed out of the park and came back to the campground to grab lunch.  I set about adjusting our return trip and was successful in booking some campsites so that we could leave tomorrow rather than the next day as we originally planned.  At this point, you can’t go in the best part of the park from this side.  There are multiple wildfires causing lots of smoke.  Dart spent some time this afternoon sneezing and coughing (me too!).  I don’t know how fire fighters do it.  We don’t want to hike in these conditions and we are limited in what we can do, so it’s best to move on.

I am happy that we drove on the Going-to-the-Sun Road immediately and didn’t wait.  That was the priority item I had for this visit.  If we had gone to the overlook as planned that evening, we may have had to return home via the east entrance to the park.  Since they began to evacuate at the west entrance and shut down the road road at the west side of the park on Sunday evening, we may have found that we couldn’t go back that way.  That would have required a very long drive around the park to get back to the campground (perhaps 4 hours).  Sometimes things just work out.

Last night, in between trying to watch meteors, I tried to sleep.  But, there are non-stop trains that go through this area.  They make three long whistles somewhere around here, so back-to-back trains whistle and rumble and then shortly thereafter another one comes through.  If you live here, you probably get used to it.  If you don’t live here, it takes awhile.  We don’t here trains much during the day.  As we were looking for goats today, we drove on a road that went along the same basic route as the train tracks and saw some trains sitting still waiting.  I told Regis they were waiting for nightfall.  I don’t think I was wrong.  As soon as the sun set this evening, what do we here???, trains!

Internet access:  Even with unlimited Verizon internet access, we have SIGNIFICANT issues getting decent internet access.  We sometimes struggle to make a blog post and adding video is nearly a killer.  I look forward to seeing my friends when I get home and then I look forward to good internet access.  I miss it!

 

 

Leaky Mountains

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Glacier National Park.

August 12, 2018

Yesterday we headed to Glacier National Park.  We thought the smoky situation would get better after we got over the mountains in Idaho, but it got progressively worse as we neared the park.  We could barely see the mountains when we got here because of the smoke.

The air cleared last night and we entered the park through the West Glacier entrance and drove on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50 mile long road that goes along the shores of two of the park’s largest lakes and goes along the side of the mountain below the Continental Divide and through Logan Pass.  It is a narrow road that hugs the cliffs.  This is one of the most beautiful highways in the world.

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Dart in Glacier National Park.

When we entered the park, there were some fire fighters entering the park at the same time.  Not far into the park, we saw a fire across the lake.  The fire fighters were standing on our side of the lake, so they weren’t in a position to do much about the situation.

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Fire in Glacier National Park.

We left the fire and the fire fighters behind and drove through the park.  It is stunning.  The road through the park takes you through spectacular scenery.  The mountains are leaking everywhere.  There is water poring out between the rocks, so it looks as though the rocks are weeping.  There are waterfalls everywhere.  We saw some glaciers and there are still patches of snow here and there.  And, the wildflowers are beautiful.

The park information indicates there is a thriving population of black bears and grizzlies.  There are also cougars and wolves in the park.  If we hike in the area, we’ll bring our bear spray.

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Glacier National Park.

On the way back out of the park, we could see that the fire was larger.  We saw a couple of planes that were attempting to put the fire out with water.  The planes would get the water out of the lake and swing around to drop it on the fire.  The planes look so small compared to the fire, it doesn’t seem like it could be doing much.  Hopefully, it is.

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Glacier National Park.
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Glacier National Park.
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Glacier National Park.

 

Trip Planning

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Snoqualmie Falls in Washington State.

August 10, 2018

We left the west side of the Cascades and headed across Washington state to Spokane.  It was very smoky the whole way.  When we watched the news, it said that the smoke from the California wildfires was entering Washington on both sides of the Cascades.  Today, the Puget Sound area was going to get some fresh air coming off the Pacific through the Strait, so it was expected to be cooler and less smoky.  Not so on the east side of the Cascades.

We saw an active wildfire on the way.  There were lots of fire fighters and equipment, but it appeared to be a low intensity fire.  It appeared mostly under control.  It wasn’t like those videos we’ve been seeing about the fires in California – thank goodness.

It’s hot, hot, hot here.  It’s probably the worst we have encountered so far.  The campground has a little agility course in the dog park.  In spite of the heat, Dart was very enthusiastic about running it.  He did very well.  I need to double down on my efforts to get him back into agility training when we get home.  There aren’t many trials around us in Florida, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go to training regularly.

I wanted to mention how we do our trip planning.  Four years ago, when we started this RVing stuff, Regis found a software package called RVtripwizard.  We started using it for our first trip and the software has been continuously improved over the years.  We love it.  It shows all the campgrounds and links to their websites and reviews.  I usually look for a campground 250 to 300 miles from our last stop and the software makes it easy to do that.

When I decided to go to Washington state again this summer, I let RVtripwizard tell me the shortest path from Florida to Washington and then selected my stops along that path.  On the way home, our last “cool” stop will be in New Mexico.  So, I let RVtripwizard tell me the fastest way home from there and I have made some preliminary plans for stops.

I think it is time for us to get home.  I think that some couples can spend only some much time together in a confined space.  Regis has been yelling at the GPS a lot lately and it’s getting worse.  I have to calm him down.  The GPS doesn’t seem to do well in the west, but it does eventually get you there.  My Uncle Tom believes in maps and there are certainly days that he is correct.  A combination of the two is probably best.

The other night we were headed back to our campground from Seattle and I couldn’t remember the campground address.  I plugged in Main Street for the nearest town (which is a half mile from our campground).  I set off in the dark and the GPS eventually told us we had arrived at our destination and, I’m not kidding, we were in the middle of a cornfield.  There was tall corn on the left and tall corn on the right.  With it being dark and no other lights but my headlights, I felt like I was in some kind of video game.  I had to stop in the middle of this dark road and regroup with the GPS.  I eventually found out where we needed to go and we were probably about 2 miles from our campground.

We have only turned on our TV about 5 times since we got the motor home 3 years ago (and we have 3 TV’s!).  Most of that was to watch the local news.  When we got to our campsite today, it was very hot outside.  Not appealing.  I took Dart to the dog park and when I got back Regis was watching a game show.  The worst part, he was yelling at the contestant for being so stupid about the decisions.  Regis was correct with the logic, but are you kidding me.  If Regis is going to start watching game shows and yelling at the TV, we have got to do something with him.   Maybe we need something to break to give him something to do.

If you are going to do some RV traveling, get good software like RVTripwizard for planning, get a good GPS, and get some maps for the areas you will travel.

 

Cooking in the RV with Smart Cookware

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Avocado Bruschetta made with the Hestan Cue cookware.

August 9, 2018

Yesterday we took Coco back to Jason.  She is a very sweet little dog.  We had a nice dinner with Jason and Dan last evening and got to see their pictures from their recent trip to Iceland, Sweden, and Norway.  Beautiful!  These locations are now on my bucket list.

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Coco
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Dart, who doesn’t like to cuddle, is cuddling with Dan.

We are spending our last day west of the Cascades.  Tomorrow we start heading east again.  We have 3,690 miles to get back home in St. Augustine, Florida.  We will take a month to do it.

Regis found some blackberry bushes near our current campground, so we have been well supplied with fresh blackberries the last few days.  Yum!

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Fresh blackberries right off the vine!

I wanted to mention how we’ve been cooking while in the motor home.  It can be hard to keep the motor home cooled down in hot weather, so we have adopted a cooking routine that helps ensure we don’t heat up the motor home and allows us to eat the most fabulous meals.

A little over a month ago, we started cooking exclusively with our Hestan Cue cookware.  We even bought a second burner and pan so we can both cook if we want to cook multiple things (for example a protein and a side dish).  Hestan Cue is smart cookware that includes an induction burner and pan or pot.   By using Hestan’s video guided recipes, Hestan Cue automatically controls the temperature and time of the food.  That means everything is always cooked to perfection.  Since I tend to overcook, especially eggs and fish, I love this system.   We have better tasting meals by preparing meals in the motor home than if we go out to eat.

Regis has cooked outside on the picnic table using the Cue when it is too hot to cook.  We’ve also become more comfortable using the manual mode when we want to cook something on our own but the Hestan Cue still maintains the temperature of the pan.

We have not used our oven at all on this trip and we stopped using the stove over a month ago.  We still use the microwave to heat up food or cook corn on the cob.

The other night I made Roasted Peach Salad w/Warm Hazlenut Vinaigrette.  One of our favorite recipes is the Honey Chipotle Chicken Wings.  Words cannot describe how delicious they are!

We need cell phone service to use the cookware which is usually not a problem.  Regis has a cell phone booster he puts up if the service is weak.  We primarily need that because we use the cell phones for internet service.  We have only been without cell phone service a few times.  If that happens, we can’t use the Hestan Cue recipes but we can still cook using manual mode.  I am so committed to this cookware now, I donated all of our pots and pans a few days ago.  It has freed up some space in the cabinets!

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Pan Roasted Halibut w/Bacon Emulsion prepared on the Hestan Cue with fresh corn on the cob prepared in the microwave.
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Chicken Alfredo prepared on the Hestan Cue.
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Roasted Peach Salad w/Warm Hazlenut Vinaigrette prepared on the Hestan Cue.
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Brioche Custard French Toast prepared on the Hestan Cue.

Post Fire

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A view of the Wanapum Recreation Area in the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park and the Columbia River. The green area in the right center of the photo is the campground. The entire surrounding area was burned. The campground is watered regularly.

August 2, 2018

We found out that there were 3 fires in the area within the last two months that have burned an extensive part of this area.  (Here is a link that shows pictures of one of the fires.  Click here.) One fire started at the rest stop that is about 10 miles up the road.  There is almost no vegetation at this time.  It looks very desolate and it is hard to believe that any animals can survive in this environment.  But, some do.

Yesterday, we found several Bighorn ship by the river at the north part of the State Park.  There is some vegetation along the river, so it is not surprising the sheep would be there.  There are a few babies.  Once you get a few feet away from the river, there is no vegetation except for the grassy area around the State Park visitor center and parking lot.  This area is regularly watered and the sheep hang out here because of it.

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Bighorn Sheep in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park by the Columbia River. Mom spotted us and is heading to safety with her baby.
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Bighorn Sheep mom and her baby in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Bighorn Sheep in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Bighorn sheep baby in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

Regis went hiking for about six miles in this desolate landscape.  He found a couple seeps/springs where there is a bit of greenery among the barren landscape.  He found a few places where the plant life is beginning to come back.

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The little bit of greenery is this burned landscape shows where there is some water in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park. 
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Life trying to return after the fire in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

He noticed several animal skeletons.  At least some of them are charred, so the bones were there before the fire.  With the vegetation gone, it is easy to see all the “hard” stuff left behind.

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Animal skeleton in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.
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Burned fence post in Gingko Petrified Forest State Park.

We learned that in 2016, only one person died in the U.S. from a rattlesnake bite and that person had an underlying health condition.  Twelve thousand people died from stairs that same year.  Even the vet told me that rattlesnakes are not that big of a concern here.  He thinks there is more concern about alligators in Florida.  The snakes aren’t interested in being around you.  But, like anything, be aware of your surroundings.  We also learned that a relocated rattlesnake is a dead rattlesnake.  Rattlesnakes spend the winter communally in a specific place.  They learn where that place is in their first year and if they are relocated will search endlessly for that place.  As a result, they die of starvation and/or exposure because they will not eat while searching for that place.

It is about 10 degrees cooler today, so it is much more bearable.

 

Bee Sting and Wicked Wind

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View across the Columbia River from our campsite.

August 1, 2018

Yesterday, we had to take Dart to the vet.  The nearest vet is 34 miles away.  Dart’s been having digestive issues and yesterday was going on day 3.  We’ve been down this path many times, so I knew he needed some professional help.  Dart was diagnosed with colitis and the vet prescribed Metronidazole which always helps.  Dart has been having bouts of colitis for the last 2 1/2 years.

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View across the Columbia River from our campground.

It went up to 104 degrees yesterday, so we didn’t spend much time outside.  We decided in the early evening to set up the screened canopy which we purchased on last year’s trip to Canada.  We purchased it for the Canadian trip to give us relief from the mosquitoes.  By the time we bought it, we didn’t have to use it.  We wanted to set it up here to give relief from the bees.  While I was focused on helping Regis put up the canopy, a dag gone bee stung me.  Ouch! It hurt, but at least not as bad as a yellow jacket sting.

The canopy was VERY HARD to set up.  I had a canopy that I used for dog agility trials that I had no problem putting up and down by myself.  This screened canopy was extremely difficult for two people to put up.

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Dart, Coco, and Regis in the screened canopy we set up to give us relief from the bees.

Once we sat inside, we realized that what little breeze was outside was blocked by the screen.  As hot as it was outside, it was intolerable to sit under the canopy.  We gave up and went inside the motor home and fed the dogs and ourselves.  Around the time we finished dinner, the wind picked up so much we had to take down the canopy or it would have blown down the hill into the Columbia River.  So, all that effort and it was only up for two hours and we couldn’t use it.

The wind picked up considerably as the evening wore on and by the time we went to bed, it was howling out there.  That is the most wind we have experienced in the motor home.  In fact, it is probably the windiest situation I have been in outside of Hurricane Irma and perhaps a few tropical storms.  While I was laying there trying to get to sleep, the feeling I had was like when you are in an airplane taking off on the runway and the wheels haven’t lifted off the ground yet.  The plane is shaking and rumbling until the plane gets into the air.  The motor home was shaking and rumbling and I was hoping that it wasn’t going to take off.  Without wings, it wouldn’t have worked well.

A significant portion of the land around us for many miles has been burned not long ago.  I wonder if you tinted the land red, if this is what it would look like to be on Mars.

 

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This is what the land looks like around us for miles and miles and miles.

Leavenworth

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Leavenworth, Washington

July 31, 2018

Recently, we went to Leavenworth, Washington.  This town is draped in a German decor.  There are lots and lots of flowers.  On Sunday, it was packed.  It was too hot to walk the dogs through town, so we drove up to Wenatchee Lake.  It was a beautiful drive along the Wenatchee River.  There were lots of people enjoying the Lake in this heat.

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Leavenworth, Washington
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Wenatchee River outside Leavenworth, Washington

On the way back to our campground, we drove around Monitor taking pictures of orchards.  While taking a picture of one orchard, the farm animals across the street had something to say about it.

 

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Fruit crates in Monitor, Washington.
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Bridge in Monitor, Washington

We headed Southeast along the Columbia River yesterday.  The temperature hit 103 degrees.  Our campsite is very nice with a great view of the Columbia River.  When the temperature dropped into the high nineties, we went outside in the shade to sit with the dogs.  It didn’t take three minutes for them to start panting.  The bees arrived and harassed us, so we were forced to come back inside.  We managed to get a short walk in before the sunset.  The weather is expected to remain hot, so we’ll be exploring by car over the next few days.  With the dogs, we look for restaurants with outdoor seating that will allow us to bring them.  But, it is even too hot for that.

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My maiden name.