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.

 

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.

Ohme Gardens

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Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, Washington

July 29, 2018

Yesterday, I went to Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, Washington.  This area is very arid.  The hills are dry and covered with scrub.  In 1929, Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard.  It included a rocky bluff.  He and his wife started planting gardens on the bluff which required getting water to the arid land.  They used local rock to make paths and benches.  As word got out, people started to come and see the gardens and they were eventually opened to the public.  The gardens were expanded upon and they are now owned by Chelan County.

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Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, Washington

It was hot when I went and I was covered in sweat by the time I worked my way through most of the paths.  I can’t imagine how much work went into creating the gardens.  The early work done on the gardens was all manual labor requiring obtaining many of the rocks by the Columbia River and hauling them up the bluff.  It’s definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.  It is only $8 to get in.

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Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, Washington
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Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee, Washington

There are many orchards around the area.  The surrounding hillsides are very dry which makes the orchards particularly inviting with their lush greenery.  Our thermometer registered 99 degrees yesterday.  It must be very difficult to work in the orchards in this heat.  The skies are still moderately smoky from local fires.

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Orchards in Monitor, Washington with smoky skies.
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Orchards and bridge on the Wenatchee River in Monitor, Washington.
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Fruit crates waiting to be filled in Monitor, Washington.
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Fire equipment in Monitor, Washington.

 

Cashmere

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Cashmere, Washington the day before the wildfires created smoky skies. 

July 28, 2018

Yesterday, we went to Lake Chelan to explore which is about 30 miles from where we are staying.  The sky was smoky the whole way and by the time we got back, it was also smoky back at the campground.  A local told me there were 7 wildfires currently in the area.

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Smoke over Lake Chelan.
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Smoke over Lake Chelan. The paddle board on the right side has a dog on the front of the paddle board.

We went to the Lake Chelan State Park and Coco found two mice soon after starting our short walk.  Count on a Bedlington Terrier to find the rodents.  Dart found a squirrel taunting him from a tree.  Once Coco smelled the squirrel, she got excited and tried to climb the tree.  It was amusing to watch.  She was very determined.

The drive getting here was so miserable on the first day and it was very hot when we got here, so Regis and I went to a local Mexican restaurant the Agave Azul to get food and drink.  We loved it.  After our return from the smoky trip to Lake Chelan, Regis suggested going to the Agave Azul for happy hour.  It didn’t take me a nanosecond to agree!  We love their chips and dip.  So, we got magaritas and enough bar food to serve as dinner.

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Happy hour margaritas in Azul Agave.

After we got back and later that evening, I realized that I left my shirt at the bar.  I just realized how strange that sounds.  I was wearing a short sleeve shirt and took a long sleeve shirt to wear over it in case the air conditioning was too cold.  It wasn’t, so I left my shirt on the chair and forgot about it.  When I went back to retrieve it, it gave me an opportunity to purchase more chips and dip.  The dip they serve with the chips is amazing.

We found a local bakery that makes the absolutely best baked goods.  The Bavarian creme donuts have just enough donut covering the creme to allow you to pick it up and eat it.  We also tried the glazed donuts.  Both types of donuts are the best donuts we have ever had.  They also make cookies and the shortbread cookies are the best.  I will be buying a bag of them before we leave the area.

The bakery and Mexican restaurant are in the local town of Cashmere.  It was named after the Kashmir area in India because apparently the landscape looks similar.  It’s a nice little town.  It has important stuff like good restaurants, grocery stores, old fashioned soda fountain, etc. without being too touristy and crowded.

Bloedel Reserve

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Bloedel Reserve

July 23, 2018

Yesterday, I went to the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island while Regis kept the dogs company.  The reserve is a path through woodlands and gardens.  It was a very sunny day, so it wasn’t a good day for pictures.  The walk was beautiful and peaceful.  There wasn’t much in bloom at this time of year, but it was still a lovely walk.

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Path through the woods at Bloedel Reserve
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Flora at Bloedel Reserve
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Flora at Bloedel Reserve
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Flora at Bloedel Reserve
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Flora at Bloedel Reserve
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Flora at Bloedel Reserve
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Bloedel Reserve

We met some folks yesterday staying at our campground that came together for a reunion and to have a memorial service.  Many moons ago, six families came from Montana to Bainbridge Island to make their home.  One lady used to haul water 5 miles when she lived in Montana and was ecstatic that her new home on the Island came with a hand pump in the yard.

The families lived on the Island and eventually separated and moved on.  At least one family left around the time of the war out of concern that the Island was too close to Seattle and naval facilities and therefore, not safe.  Now, the families get together every year on the Island for a reunion.  There were at least 75 people gathered this year.  This park is a great place for a reunion.