I always wake up at the crack of dawn when I’m camping. Especially this time of year when it gets light before six in the morning. But that’s okay.
I’m not sure why (am I ever sure why?) I decided to drive up to Lake Chelan this morning, but I never really have before. I stopped in the touristy town of Chelan, at the foot of the lake, to buy batteries for my camera and to stick my head in a quilt shop on the main drag. Whoever their fabric buyer is, her taste does not agree with mine. I’m not a big fan of what I think of as sixties neon, and that was about all that little shop held.
There is no road clear around Lake Chelan. It’s a landlocked fjord, and the upper end of the lake reaches deep into the North Cascades. There are two roads on either side. The one on the north shore of the lake is only about twenty miles long. The one on the south side is about twice that length, so that’s the one I took.
Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in North America at over 1500 feet deep (the bottom is lower than sea level), according to a sign I read at the ferry landing. It’s roughly 55 miles long, and varies from one to two miles wide. It’s also pretty darned gorgeous. I stopped at the Fields Point Landing, a few miles up the lake, to poke around the visitor center and ask about the ferry that runs daily to Stehekin, the tiny settlement at the head of the lake. One of these days I want to take that trip, but the boat had left an hour or so earlier. Next time.
But I saw beautiful views, anyway, and more flowers.
I’d thought about camping at 25 Mile Creek State Park at the end of the road that night, but it wasn’t even noon yet, and I decided I wanted to actually go on up to the Okanogan. So, stopping along the way to make a picnic lunch, I headed up to the town of Omak, where one of my favorite quilt shops (Needlyn Time) is. And, yes, this time I bought fabric, which I needed like a hole in the head, but tough.
After that, I headed up to Conconully, the little town that inspired the ghost town of the same name in my Unearthly Northwest books.
Conconully is one of the few towns I know of with a state park right at the edge of town. But it’s a nice state park, and the campsite I wound up at was right on the lake and pretty secluded. I spent what was left of the afternoon just enjoying the day and reading, and listening to the red-winged blackbirds sawing their courtship cries. Oh, and watching the geese and ducks use the lake as a landing and launch pad. And the deer eating the campground’s mowed grass.
All in all, I drove a bit more than I had intended, but it was well worth it.
I need to quit showing up at Yellowstone for a couple of days at the end of trips, and devote a whole trip there again one of these days. With adequate advance planning so that where I’ll stay isn’t an issue. Because if I could have found a place to stay for less than $100 a night in West tonight I probably would have stayed there before camping some more, but oh, well. I was thinking about it on my way out of the park this afternoon, and the last time I spent more than three days here at a time by myself was in 2005. I’ve spent a whole week at a time here several times since then, but always with a friend. I want to spend more time wandering around geyser basins waiting for things to erupt.
Anyway. At least I got to do that today. I got up at the crack of dawn this morning (it wasn’t even good light when I pulled out of my campsite) and drove into the park. One advantage of doing that is that there is no line at the entrance station, very little traffic, and I get my choice of spots in the ginormous parking lot at Old Faithful. Yes, it’s still pretty crowded here, even in late September.
I packed up my day pack with all the stuff I might need for the day – water, lunch, camera, Kindle (for the inevitable waits), etc., etc., etc. – doused myself in sunscreen, and went to the visitor center to check on predicted eruption times.
Two strokes of luck later – Riverside was due around 11:30 and Grand somewhere between 11:45 and 3:45 so not too late in the afternoon – I headed over to the lodge to get some hot tea, then watched an eruption of Old Faithful before I headed out. And an eruption of Lion, off in the distance. A good start to the morning.
I strolled slowly down to Morning Glory Pool (about a mile and a half), stopping to see several more geysers along the way. Castle wasn’t due till about suppertime, alas, so I didn’t get to see it erupt, but I saw Sawmill, which is one of my favorite little (as in about 25 feet high max) geysers, as well as Tardy, which is sort of Sawmill’s little brother.
On down a piece, I saw that Grotto, aka the phallic geyser (look at the photo and tell me I’m wrong) was erupting, as was its neighbor Grotto Fountain, the latter of which, to the best of my knowledge, I’d never seen erupt before. Any day is a great day when I see a geyser I’ve never seen before. Trust me.
Then it was on to Riverside Geyser, which is pretty much the most regular geyser in the park (yes, more regular than Old Faithful), and by far one of the most graceful. I took video of it – the first time I’ve ever taken video of a geyser (I didn’t know how to do video until last year, and I haven’t been to the park since year before last). By the time Riverside’s half hour eruption was over, it was time to head over to Grand.
Oh, Grand. It has a four hour eruption window (that is, 90% of the eruptions happen within that window), and today was one of the 10% of times it was late. While I was waiting, out there in the sun (thank goodness it was only in the low 70s today and breezy), I read, and chatted with my fellow geyser gazers (yes, that’s what we’re called – go check out the Geyser Observation and Study Association – gosa.org – website, if you don’t believe me) and helped explain the Grand’s logic puzzle of a prediction cycle to the newbies (more in a bit), and ate my lunch, and was patient along with everybody else [g].
The Grand finally went off just before 4 pm, two lovely, fantastic, beautiful bursts, and it was, as always, worth every minute of the wait, and every bit of the, okay, the pool’s overflowing, are there waves yet? there goes Turban (Grand only goes off just before or after Turban starts), oh, ptui, there goes West Triplet again (if West Triplet goes off while Turban’s doing one of its every twenty minute eruptions, then Grand won’t go off until at least the next Turban cycle), etc., etc., etc.
It always reminds me of those kinds of puzzles where Mr. Smith lives in the blue house and Mr. Gray is the plumber, but the green house is next to Mr. Jones, so who lives in the yellow house sort of thing.
Oh, and I got video footage of Grand, which makes me very happy (my comments on the audio portion of the thing are kind of embarrassing, I was so excited, but that’s okay).
After that I needed to hit the road, because the only relatively reasonably priced place I could find to stay tonight (I needed a place with a shower) was 25 miles outside of West Yellowstone, which in turn is 30 miles from Old Faithful, through animal jams and so forth.
I’m in a cute little cabin (with no wifi and no TV, alas, but that’s okay) up by Hebgen Lake, which is rather nice, and it’s on my way home (I still can’t believe I’ll probably be home the day after tomorrow), so that’s worked out for the best. But I do need to plan a whole vacation around the park again soon. I will. Maybe next year.
I woke up to a world that didn’t look like it rained a single drop yesterday. Not a cloud in the sky (for the morning at least – it did cloud up and shower just a bit this afternoon and started coming down good again about bedtime) and Goldilocks temperatures (not too hot, not too chilly).
I drove north on Trans-Canada Hwy. 2 until I saw a sign that said Grand Falls. That sounded interesting, so I got off the freeway (basically Canada’s answer to the Interstate) and drove down into a cute little town with an enormous waterfall right in the middle of it. A sign nearby said that during the spring freshet, the waterfall has 9/10ths of the volume of Niagara. Of course it’s late August now, but it’s still pretty darned impressive.
My next stop was for lunch in the town of Edmundston, then a few miles almost to the Quebec line, where I saw a sign that said Jardin Botanique. Well, even I can translate that! The New Brunswick Botanic Garden, complete with butterfly house, was charming. Absolutely charming. The late summer flowers were in full bloom, the grounds were beautiful, and it was just the right size to while away a couple of hours on a perfectly sunny afternoon.
I had an interesting conversation with a gardener in the potager (kitchen garden) section of the place, my first real attempt at a conversation with someone whose English wasn’t much better than my all but non-existent French (northern New Brunswick isn’t quite as Francophone as Quebec, but almost). Anyway, I asked her what those berries in the photo were, and she told me they were related to blueberries, but needed to be cooked with a lot of sugar so they wouldn’t be disgusting (her word) [g].
There were some rather odd sculptures, apparently a temporary exhibit, and a stonehenge, my second one of the trip (the first one was back in Washington state at Maryhill). And just a lot of lovely scenery.
I crossed over into Quebec right after I left the garden, and all of a sudden everything was monolingual – in a language I don’t speak! I’ve never been to a place where my native language isn’t the primary language before, let alone driven there. It’s a good thing I had a couple of weeks worth of bilingual road signs before I arrived here, because at least I recognize most of the common road words (sortie for exit, convergez for merge, directions, that sort of thing). Anyway, buying gas (about 10 cents more a liter in Quebec than in the Maritimes) and getting a campsite were interesting exercises, too. The campsite is right on the water, and very lovely.
I decided planning was the better part of valor, so I have reservations in Quebec City’s hostel for three nights starting tomorrow. That has me leaving QC on Saturday, Christine, Elizabeth and Marna, so it looks like I actually won’t get to Ottawa until at least Monday, and Mississauga after that, depending on whether I actually spend time in Montreal or not. I hope that works out for everyone!
Today was the day I finally got to go see Longwood. Katrina’s been posting photos of the huge estate garden originally owned and developed by Pierre DuPont back around the turn of the last century for a long, long time, and I have been drooling over same about that long. At any rate, I’ve been wanting to see Longwood for years, and it was the one thing I wanted to be sure and do while I was visiting here.
It’s a two-hour drive up across the Pennsylvania border to Longwood, and on the way we stopped at a place where Katrina knew of eagles. We saw several, and this is the best photo I got (cropped and enlarged to a faretheewell) of a baby eagle.
Then it was on to Longwood, where we spent the rest of the day walking around in the 90dF humidity looking at everything. We ate lunch there, and got ice cream, and stayed until almost dark. I was absolutely exhausted by the time we left (according to Teri’s phone, we walked over five miles), but it was so worth it. What a gorgeous, gorgeous place. I think I’ll let some of the almost 300 photos I took speak for themselves.
And on the way back to Teri’s house we drove over the Susquehanna River at sunset. It was a great ending for the day.
This morning I drove eight miles up the road to Pleasant Hill Shaker Village. Most of the Shakers, a 19th-century religious sect who most people know of because a) they were celibate, b) they danced as part of their worship services, well, and c) for the style of furniture named after them, lived in communal villages in New England, but a few of them ventured as far south as Kentucky, where Pleasant Hill was their longest-lived community.
It’s a pretty place. Peaceful. Very bucolic. And the museum in the main house (they lived in what were basically dormitories) was fascinating, with a few surprises.
I also got to listen to and watch a demonstration of Shaker songs and dancing. The lady who sang had a gorgeous voice. I did try to record with my new camera, but I can’t figure out how to make a proper clip out of it or how to post it here. If I do figure it out, I’ll post it on Facebook.
I ate a picnic lunch there, then drove on what William Least Heat Moon would have deemed the bluest of blue highways (except that on AAA maps, which are my standby, they’re black, not blue), winding sharply down through the hills to the Kentucky River and back up to the city of Frankfort, which is the capital of Kentucky.
I was on my way to another museum. I like state history museums, as you know from my visit to the one belonging to Kansas a couple of weeks ago, and I figured this one was far enough east to have a different take on things than that one did. Which was true. And here’s some photographic proof of that.
After that, I put another thirty or so miles of Interstate on Merlin’s odometer (which is now at over 6000 miles — over 5000 since I left home — of which less than 300 have been on Interstate), because that can be the easiest way to find an inexpensive motel. I’m on the outskirts of Lexington tonight, on this first night of the Fourth of July weekend, with traffic to get here to match.
Tomorrow I’m headed for the Cumberland Gap, where Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee meet. It’s one of those places that’s always been on my mental list, because of the history that took place there, from the early days of settlement up through the Civil War.
Then it’s on to North Carolina, and Mary (CatMtn) and my best friend’s granddaughter. And we’ll see what happens after that!
Sigh. Today I drove from Caňon City almost immediately into the flatlands before I ever reached Pueblo, which is the big city of southeast Colorado. Gas was cheap there, and I topped off the tank before heading out onto the plains.
I have learned to appreciate plains and prairies after 23 years in forested, mountainous western Washington. I wouldn’t want to live here, mind, but it’s wonderful to see wide open spaces where it looks like the horizon has to be more than 180 degrees and you swear you can see the curvature of the earth.
Except when I look up at all that sky and all of sudden want to beg something not to step on me like a bug, because that’s how small I feel.
There’s only two towns of any size between Pueblo and the Kansas border, and one historic site. U.S. 50 follows part of the old Santa Fe trail at this point, and Bent’s Fort National Historic Site is not far off the highway just east of the town of La Junta (Spanish for the junction).
Bent’s Fort is sort of the Santa Fe Trail’s version of Fort Union, North Dakota, which I visited four years ago. It’s not a military fort, but a trading post, privately owned, where people traveling from St. Louis to Santa Fe could stop and buy goods and rest. It’s made of thick adobe, and the interior rooms are much cooler than the outdoors, which was a terrific thing on a 100dF afternoon. The park service did its usual excellent job interpreting the site, and there were some small living history demonstrations as well.
I do have to say that a couple of things were rather disconcerting. First was the extremely sturdily built, partly underground, bunker-style restroom next to the parking area, with a tornado shelter sign above the doors. The second was the two donkeys, who I first saw ambling along the quarter mile path from the parking area to the fort itself (a reconstruction – the original was destroyed in 1849), and then, when I returned, wisely taking advantage of the shade of the pergola by the parking area. I wonder if they found the exhibit panels as interesting as I did <g>.
Once I left Bent’s Fort, I started thinking about where I would stop for the night. I really had intended to camp somewhere, and I actually did find a place in a hamlet just before the Kansas state line – but it was still 100dF outside according to Merlin’s thermometer, and getting more humid by the mile. So reluctantly I decided to look for an air-conditioned motel.
I didn’t intend to drive 60 miles into Kansas – my first “I’ve never been to this state before!” state for this trip! – before I found one, but that’s what happened. I’m in Garden City, Kansas, which is nice, and I’m sure some people here have nice gardens, but I think the name is a bit hyperbolic.
It’s probably just as well that I’m indoors. There’s an 80% chance of thunderstorms tonight, and that’s not my favorite camping weather at all. Maybe (she says hopefully) it’ll cool off a bit after this front pushes through.
I wish that saying that my thoughts are with those poor people in Orlando actually did some good.
It was only 70dF when I left Capitol Reef NP at seven this morning <wry g>. I’d have liked to do some hiking, but not with temperatures approaching 100dF in the afternoon. Today was my last real day in the desert, though. It’ll still be warm at Mesa Verde over the next day or two, but after that I’ll be way up in the Colorado Rockies for a few days. Of course, after that I’ll be crossing the Great Plains, but still… I have to take my optimism where I can get it. Part of me is wondering if I should have headed across Canada, turned south when I got to the other ocean, and come back across the middle of the U.S. Oh, well. Too late now <g>.
But here’s two more Capitol Reef photos, anyway.
Today was sort of Monument Valley North. I’m only a hundred miles or so northeast of the real Monument Valley tonight, but I can remember going there when I was a kid, and trust me, what I saw today was plenty. Lots of huge monoliths rising from the ground. And very few places on the narrow two-lane road to pull over and take a photo.
Oh, and the mighty Colorado wasn’t all that mighty. Or at least it didn’t look mighty enough to justify photographing it, apparently.
Natural Bridges National Monument, which preserves three of the largest natural bridges on the planet, was much more photo-worthy. It was the first designated federal property in the state of Utah, which is saying something, and was brought into being by Theodore Roosevelt. Well, the monument was, not the bridges. They’re natural, formed by water over thousands of years. Never mind.
Two of the three bridges were easily viewable. The third one was perpendicular to its viewpoint, and so you really couldn’t tell what it was. But here are the two that actually looked like bridges.
I also saw lizards (I think they were lizards, anyway), and a beautiful prickly pear cactus blossom (along with more other kinds of flowers than should have been blooming in that heat). Pretty nifty.
The rest of the drive over to Cortez, Colorado, where I am now, was mostly through farm and ranch land, and I didn’t see anything really worthy of photographing. But tomorrow is going to be fun. I’m going to Mesa Verde National Park, just ten more miles down the road, and see cliff dwellings.
You don’t have to camp to see critters, apparently. This morning, I looked out my motel room window on the north shore of Lake Tahoe and saw a bear! A big lumbering black bear. He didn’t stay long, fortunately, and was gone by the time I was ready to pack up and leave. But still. A bear!
I headed around to the east side of the lake, crossing my third state line into Nevada, stopping at a viewpoint to take some better photos, and drove down the steep eastern escarpment of the Sierras. I arrived in Carson City in the middle of the morning, where I have to say that the signage for east on U.S. 50 was not the clearest on the planet. I did finally find my way out of town, though.
I hadn’t realized until I’d pulled my map out while I was trying to figure out the aforementioned way out of town that Virginia City was only a few miles off of U.S. 50, just a few miles east of Carson City. I hadn’t been to this Virginia City since the weekend I got engaged to my first husband, thirty-mumble years ago. Since I visited another Virginia City (the one in Montana) early on during my first Long Trip, it seemed like a good idea to visit the other one this time. Besides, it was getting on towards lunchtime.
Virginia City, Nevada is kind of a hoot. It’s a tourist trap extraordinaire, but it’s also the home of one of the richest strikes in mining history, as well as where Mark Twain got his start as a newspaperman. It was fun to wander up and down the board sidewalks and peer into shop windows, and eat lunch in a saloon. I do have to say, though, that it wasn’t where I expected to see anything Seahawks. At this point I’m a lot closer to Forty-Whiner country <g>.
After Virginia City, I kept going east! finally! (after almost a week of going south) on U.S. 50, which in Nevada is known as the Loneliest Highway in America. Once you leave the outskirts of Carson City behind, and the town of Fallon about an hour further on, it does get pretty empty, at least of human stuff. It was 110 miles from Fallon to the next town, Austin, a tiny old mining camp perched on the side of a mountain, and I think I saw one human habitation along the way. Oh, and a rest area with an exhibit about the Pony Express, the route of which crossed what would become the highway several times.
There’s a reason they call it the basin and range country. The geology is such that from the air, the state of Nevada looks like a piece of fabric stretched then rumpled repeatedly in neat rows. Across the plain, over the mountains, across the plain, over the mountains, lather, rinse, repeat.
I’m in a forest service campground just east of Austin, where I think I may have camped with my parents when I was a kid. It looks vaguely familiar, anyway. The altitude is 7200 feet, where it’s nice and cool, as opposed to the 90s I left behind in Carson City. There are wildflowers, too. My old friends mules’ ears and lupine, and my favorite wildflower of all, alpine phlox. My neighbors are friendly, too. It’s a good place to be for the night. I wonder if I’ll wake to find critters peering in my window again.
Waughop Lake is part of Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, Washington. It used to be a farm for the mental hospital across the road, where the patients doing farm work was considered therapy back in the old days. Nowadays it’s a city park, with soccer fields and a bark park (as my sister calls off-leash areas) and trails. And an old cemetery managed by a wonderful group called Grave Concerns.
Waughop Lake is not a Native American name, even though it sounds like it ought to be, at least to me. It’s named after a former superintendent of the mental hospital.
Anyway, it was a lovely spring day, and my new camera lets me take much better photos than my old one. So here’s some of what I saw.
So. This is the first photo I took with my new camera (a Nikon Coolpix L340). Say cheese, Theodore!
My old camera is 10 years old, so it was time and past time. I have a lot to learn about this camera, even if it is just a point and shoot. Also, there’s a little red light flashing at the lower left of the preview screen, and the manual doesn’t say what it is or how to get it to shut off. But I’ll get there.