Tag Archives: travel

Around the Olympic Peninsula, day 2

I really had the best of intentions, but here, five days later, is the second and last day of my friend’s and my trip around the Olympic Peninsula in July.

Both of us woke very early that morning (I’m talking six a.m., which is the middle of the night for me normally), but fortunately, the little restaurant attached to the motel was open. It did breakfast about the same way it did supper — I asked the cook/waiter if I wanted a single pancake or a short stack, and he said I probably wanted a single pancake. I don’t know what this trend is for restaurants to serve pancakes the size of Mt. Rushmore, but the one I ate about half of definitely fell into this category.

We were on the road by seven. Lake Crescent is beautiful at that hour of the morning. Alas, I wasn’t awake enough to think to stop and take photos, but here’s one from a previous trip. Lake Crescent is actually quite gorgeous at any hour of the day.

Lake Crescent at sunset, on another trip.
Lake Crescent at sunset, on another trip.

Our main stop for the day was Hurricane Ridge, so after stopping to get gasoline, we took a right turn in the heart of Port Angeles and headed up into the mountains.

The road up to Hurricane Ridge is seventeen miles long, and gains 5242 feet in altitude, straight up from sea level, so you can imagine how winding and steep it is. There are a couple of tunnels, and lots of pull-outs to enjoy the view across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island, but you can’t really see the Olympic Mountains themselves until you’re almost to the top.

We stopped at a trailhead along the way that I always stop at. It’s usually a good place to see yellow monkeyflowers. This time there were no monkeyflowers, but there were several large clumps of larkspur, of a type I’d never seen before.

Tall larkspur at trailhead on Hurricane Ridge Rd.
Tall larkspur at trailhead on Hurricane Ridge Rd.

From there we went on up to Hurricane Ridge itself, where we got out and walked the paved pathway up the hill to the viewpoint, where in one direction you can see back towards Vancouver Island again, and, if you turn halfway around, you can see the heart of the Olympic Mountains spread out before you.

The view north towards Vancouver Island.  One of the weird things about this part of Washington is that most of the radio stations you can get receiption on here are actually in Victoria.
The view north towards Vancouver Island. One of the weird things about this part of Washington is that most of the radio stations you can get reception on here are actually in Victoria, BC, Canada.
The Olympic Mountains.
The Olympic Mountains, from the trail at Hurricane Ridge.

I was a bit disappointed in the wildflowers this year. Most of them had already come and gone by the time of our visit, except in very protected, north-facing slopes.

The last of this year's lupine in a sheltered spot at Hurricane Ridge.
The last of this year’s lupine in a sheltered spot at Hurricane Ridge.

But it certainly was deer season. We saw at least three or four, and after my friend called it a day (she was still sore from the walking we’d done the day before) and went to sit on the deck at the visitor center to enjoy the view, I strolled further around the paths and saw a doe with a fawn. So that was fun.

Deer at Hurricane Ridge.
Deer at Hurricane Ridge.
Doe and fawn (fawn still has spots) at Hurricane Ridge.
Doe and fawn (fawn still has spots) at Hurricane Ridge.
The Olympic Mountains and the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
The Olympic Mountains and the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

I also saw some other critters.

A butterfly along the trail.
A butterfly along the trail.
A raven prowling the bistort (the white fuzzy flowers) along the trail.
A raven prowling the bistort (the white fuzzy flowers) along the trail.

When it got to be lunchtime, we drove back down to Port Angeles and ate, and then set out on the three-hour journey back home.

And that was the second day of our trip around Olympic National Park!

Two weeks ago, Day 10

Home again, home again, jiggety jog.

It takes five hours to make the — relatively — straight shot from Spokane on home. If you don’t stop anywhere. I’ve driven this stretch so many times I’m pretty sure Kestrel and I could do it in our sleep.

It’s not like we’d be missing a whole lot, either, at least for the first three hours. It doesn’t take more than about a dozen miles headed west from Spokane before you’re out of the pine forest and into the high desert, alternating between irritated croplands and plains of sagebrush.

On the bright side, you do start getting glimpses of The Mountain (aka Mt. Rainier, aka how I know I’m really almost home) from as far away as Ritzville, about sixty miles southwest of Spokane, given decent weather conditions, which include clear weather on both sides of the Cascades.

I had decent conditions two weeks ago today, and here’s the photographic proof.

Mt. Rainier from just west of Ritzville, Washington, a distance of roughly 160 miles as the crow flies.
Mt. Rainier from just west of Ritzville, Washington, a distance of roughly 160 miles as the crow flies.

After I passed Ellensburg, and I-90 turned northwest again towards Snoqualmie Pass, I got this nice shot of what I think might be Mt. Baker as well, although I wouldn’t swear to it. The shape’s right, anyway.

What I think is Mt. Baker, from I-90 west of Ellensburg, Washington.
What I think is Mt. Baker, from I-90 west of Ellensburg, Washington.

And that was the last photo I took on this trip. I climbed up over Snoqualmie Pass and got stuck in construction traffic (they’re redoing the interstate over the pass, which involves taking things down to one lane all the time and closing the highway altogether at night so they can blast rocks), but I still made it home by about 2:30.

My condo hadn’t burned down and the cats were still alive (and shot out the back door like furry little cannons when I opened it), and, while this trip was too short, it was good for my soul.

I was gone for ten days and drove roughly 2500 miles.  My father would have approved 🙂

And I want to go right back out again!

Two weeks ago, Day 8

Sometimes traveling at the last minute just doesn’t work out. But then sometimes it does.

So. I was supposed to switch from hostel bunk to single room two weeks ago this morning. I had been informed when I originally made the reservation that the rate of $95 would include an ensuite bathroom. I was informed this morning that it was one of the rooms in the old building that shared the same bathroom as the hostel.

You have to understand. I’ve stayed in one of those rooms before (about seven or eight years ago, when they cost what a hostel bunk costs now). It wasn’t worth what I paid for it then, for two reasons. One, the room had a horrible bedbug infestation (the bunks have always been clean), and two, that’s where I had a really frightening experience with what I’m pretty darned sure was — well, I’m not going into that here. Let’s just say that the only reason I was willing to pay $95 for a room was because I thought they were going to put me in the new part of the building. The new owner and I went round and round about it, and I ended up having him refund my credit card.

But now I didn’t have a place to stay tonight, nor did I want to waste the day looking for one. So I drove back into the park figuring I’d make the best of whatever time I had left, and I’d head on out this afternoon to find somewhere to stay farther from the park before heading home tomorrow a little earlier than planned.

Which all turned out to be a good thing. At least timing-wise this morning. I headed back out into the park, towards the geyser basins again, and decided my first stop on this cloudy-but-not-raining-yet morning would be at the Fountain Paint Pots.

The Fountain Paint Pots.  This early in the year, they're kind of runny.
The Fountain Paint Pots. This early in the year, they’re kind of runny.

The Fountain Paint Pots (and the long-gone Fountain Hotel, which was nearby) are named after Fountain Geyser, which is just off the boardwalk there. It was a geyser I’d always wanted to see, but it’s not officially-predicted, and I didn’t know then about the unofficial predictions, so I’d never seen it.

So what do you think happened? Yup. Just as I walked up, it boiled over and started erupting. And if I hadn’t ended up wasting the time arguing with the owner of the Madison Hotel this morning, I’d probably have missed it — again.

Glorious, glorious Fountain Geyser, which is much taller than it looks in this photo.
Glorious, glorious Fountain Geyser, which is much taller than it looks in this photo.

As for those unofficial predictions, just as Fountain was beginning to wind down from its glorious half-hour long eruption, a very nice lady named Maureen, who turned out to be on the Geyser Gazers Facebook group, strolled over and we struck up a conversation. And she told me about the unofficial predictions available if you have a smartphone. I really do need to get a smartphone…

The rest of the morning was still wonderful, if a bit anticlimactic. I mean, there’s nothing better than a new major geyser to add to one’s life list. But I stopped at all the usual suspects that I hadn’t wanted to get soaked over before — Midway, with the clouds of steam hanging over Excelsior and Grand Prismatic.

Runoff looking back towards Grand Prismatic Spring.
Runoff looking back towards Grand Prismatic Spring.

Biscuit Basin, with its glorious Sapphire Pool.

Biscuit Basin's Sapphire Pool.
Biscuit Basin’s Sapphire Pool, which erupted in 1959 after the earthquake.

And Black Sand Basin, with Cliff Geyser, which is James’s geyser. The one where he finally found out where he really came from, in a brief timeslip one sunny October afternoon in 1959/1983 in Finding Home.

James's Cliff Geyser.
James’s Cliff Geyser and hot spring runoff into Iron Creek.

By then I was way overdue for a late lunch, so I waved farewell to my favorite place on the planet once more, already making plans for a hopefully longer visit next year, and stopped in West for KFC, where the manager was having her Chinese employee write something to do with the Fourth of July on the window in Chinese characters, for some reason.

Want some Chinese fried chicken for the Fourth of July?
Want some Chinese fried chicken for the Fourth of July?

I then headed northwest on U.S. 287 towards Earthquake Lake, which is, obviously, the site of the earthquake I mentioned yesterday that was part of Chuck’s time travel device in Repeating History. On August 17, 1959, a 7.3-7.8 (estimates vary) earthquake struck here and an entire mountainside fell, blocking the Madison River and burying a campground, killing twenty-eight people. The quake also did a lot of damage in Yellowstone, just a few miles east of the epicenter, and, incidentally, sent my hero Chuck eighty-two years back in time.

Today it looks very peaceful, although the slide is still strongly evident fifty-five years later, and there’s an interesting, recently redone visitor center, too.

The landslide triggered by the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, which created a new lake, and, unfortunately, killed 28 people in the process.
The landslide triggered by the Hebgen Lake Earthquake, which created a new lake, and, unfortunately, killed 28 people in the process.

By the time I got that far, it was midafternoon, and while I had a good idea of where I wanted to spend the night, I needed to get moving again. I drove down the Madison River valley and turned west on Montana 287 (as opposed to U.S. 287) at the town of Ennis.

The Madison River Valley south of Ennis.  You'll note that the weather improved drastically as soon as I left the Park .
The Madison River Valley south of Ennis. You’ll note that the weather improved drastically as soon as I left the Park .

I wanted to see Virginia City again. Virginia City, and the neighboring ghost town of Nevada City, are two of Montana’s earliest settlements, and I hadn’t been there since my Long Trip fifteen years ago. It’s a fun, touristy place with an interesting history as a mining camp (of course) where vigilantes dealt with the infamous Plummer Gang. Lots of false-front buildings and even a stagecoach offering rides, and plenty of historical markers. I spent a rather pleasurable hour or so there, before I climbed back in the car one last time for the day.

Boardwalks of another kind, at Virginia City, Montana.
Boardwalks of another kind, at Virginia City, Montana.
Charley hated detachable collars like the one in this Virginia City storefront.
Charley hated detachable collars like the one in this Virginia City storefront.
Want a stagecoach ride, little girl?
Want a stagecoach ride, little girl?

On my Long Trip (as documented in Cross-Country), I was desperate for a place to stay one night in this part of the world when I finally ran across the tiny town of Sheridan, Montana, and found a nice little place called the Moriah Motel. I was banking on it still being there, and it was. I think the same elderly lady was running it, too. It was reasonably priced and modern and that was all I needed.

So some things do work out okay. But if a friend and I do go back to Yellowstone as part of our WorldCon jaunt next year, we’re going to make our reservations in January.

Two weeks ago, Day 6

So much for hot weather

This is what I woke up to the next morning:

Rain, rain, go away.  There *are* mountains there, honest.
Rain, rain, go away. There *are* mountains there, honest.

The temperature had dropped by about twenty degrees, which was lovely, but it was pouring rain, which was very much not.

I packed up from the very nice hostel at Teton Village and headed north, anyway. What else was I going to do? It did gradually clear up the farther north I went, and by the time I reached the part of the Tetons I’d been to before, the clouds were beginning to let those sharp, pointy mountains shred them a bit. (You do know what “tetons” means in French, right? — those fur trappers must have been out there a long time to make that particular association), and by the time I reached the southern entrance to Yellowstone, it had pretty much stopped raining, thankyouverymuch, although it was still nice and cool.

See, mountains!  Shredding clouds, too.
See, mountains! Shredding clouds, too.

I’d never approached Yellowstone from the south before. Because of where I live, I usually come at it through either the north or the west entrance. I missed out on entering via the northeast entrance two years ago because the Beartooth Highway (which tops out at almost 11,000 feet) was still blocked by snow in June. Anyway, it was an interesting change, and one that required me to show my parks pass three times today — once entering Grand Teton NP via the same goat trail I’d taken the day before, once re-entering GTNP via the Moran entrance (U.S. 89 is not officially part of the park, apparently), and once to get into Yellowstone itself. Weird.

It takes a while to get from the southern entrance to anything interesting except for Lewis Falls, which is pretty. I didn’t stop there this time, but here’s a picture from August, 2008, when the weather was much better.

Lewis Falls, in 2008.
Lewis Falls, in 2008.

My first real stop was at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. I’d never been there when the lake was so high before. Not only was Fishing Cone completely covered, but the water was actually lapping up underneath the shore boardwalk, and out the other side.

A submerged Fishing Cone.
A submerged Fishing Cone.  Don’t throw anything out there, please.
See the water lapping up to the *left* of the boardwalk???
See the water lapping up to the *left* of the boardwalk???

I love West Thumb. It’s as if TPTB said, where’s the prettiest place in the park to put some hot springs? And then put them there. There aren’t any regularly-erupting geysers at West Thumb, but it really is fetching.

West Thumb Geyser Basin and Lake Yellowstone.
West Thumb Geyser Basin and Lake Yellowstone.

In hindsight it wasn’t the best decision I’d made on this trip because of the weather (not today’s, but tomorrow’s), but I decided I would drive the Grand Loop today and do the geyser basin thing tomorrow and Saturday, so I headed north along the lakeshore. I stopped and ate lunch at the Lake Lodge cafeteria (which is absolutely identical to the one at Old Faithful, except for the view), then stopped again at the picnic area just north of LeHardy Rapids to look at the river.

Nez Perce Ford, where Charley almost drowned.
Nez Perce Ford, where Charley almost drowned.

Historically, this is where the Nez Perce crossed the Yellowstone River on their flight to Canada, and so it’s where Charley and Eliza and Anna crossed the river in Repeating History, and Charley almost drowned. So it’s sorta special to me.

RH 300 cover

So’s the next place I stopped, the Mud Volcano. Sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it? Well, it’s smelly, and it’s muddy, and it’s pretty violent. It’s also where James happened to be when he realized he was falling in love with Jo in spite of himself in Finding Home, so it’s another kinda special place for me.

FH 300 cover

Mud Volcano (aka one of the hundreds of photos I have of Authentic Yellowstone steam ), aka where James fell in love with Jo.
Mud Volcano (aka one of the hundreds of photos I have of Authentic Yellowstone steam ), aka where James fell in love with Jo.

And so I kept going north. I drove through Hayden Valley and saw some red dogs (the local name for baby bison), which are adorable.

Red dogs!  And their mamas.
Red dogs! And their mamas.

I stopped at Canyon and admired the view from Artist’s Point.

The classic view of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, from Artist's Point.
The classic view of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, from Artist’s Point.

And I went up over Dunraven Pass, where I saw a flower new to me at the top of the pass (and, yes, the yellow ones are dandelions, just ignore them):

Purple (much more like red-violet than in the photo) phacelia -- a new flower for me.
Purple (much more like red-violet than in the photo) phacelia — a new flower for me.

And around Tower Falls, and west across to Mammoth Hot Springs and drove the loop up and around. By then it was sunny and gorgeous. Go figure. There were no elk at Mammoth. There are always elk at Mammoth. I did not see a single elk on this trip. Go figure that, too.

Orange Mound Spring, aka orange Cthulu, at Mammoth Hot Springs, which used to be a lot more orange than he is now.
Orange Mound Spring, aka orange Cthulu, at Mammoth Hot Springs, which used to be a lot more orange than he is now.

Then, because it was getting on in the afternoon, I headed south again, only to be brought to a dead stop because there were iris blooming in a small clear spot between the aspens just south of Mammoth. I’d never seen iris in Yellowstone before. My favorite flower in my favorite national park. It was just too cool to be true.

Iris!  In Yellowstone!  A bit overexposed, alas.  They were darker blue than this.
Iris! In Yellowstone! A bit overexposed, alas. They were darker blue than this.

It took me a bit to get going again after that. I stopped at Norris and walked around Porcelain Basin, where I saw a geyser I’d never seen before (it takes a fair amount for that to happen these days). It’s called Constant Geyser, but it does not live up to its name, so I was pretty lucky on that score.

Constant Geyser -- at least I *think* I got the name right -- first geyser I've ever seen erupt in Porcelain Basin, anyway.
Constant Geyser — at least I *think* I got the name right — first geyser I’ve ever seen erupt in Porcelain Basin, anyway.

I also got to listen to the tiny springs that sound just like butter sizzling in a frying pan, which amuse me vastly every time. They’re not very photogenic, but this is probably the best picture of one I’ve ever gotten in any number of tries over the years.

One of the larger "spitters" in Porcelain Basin.
One of the larger “spitters” in Porcelain Basin.

After that, it was time and past time to go check in at the hostel in West Yellowstone, which, as it turns out, was sold to a new owner last spring. This was not an improvement, alas, but it was a place to put my head for two nights, and possibly for three if I didn’t mind paying for a single room instead of a bunk that third night. I signed up for all three nights, but, well… That’s a story for a couple of days from now.

I couldn’t wait to go back into the park tomorrow and wander around waiting for things to erupt.

Two weeks ago, Day 5

No sleep, and more mountains!

Well, that was the only night I camped on this trip. For some reason I could not get comfortable in my sleeping bag, and I finally gave up about four in the morning. So I pulled out my Kindle and read till it got light at about 5:30, packed up, and headed out.

Not very far at first — the Sunrise campground sits at the very top of the long, steep drop to Bear Lake, and a very nice viewpoint/visitor center, which was unlocked even at that gawdawful hour of the day (much to my pleasure, as the campground only had pit toilets and no running water), is practically next door to it. So I got cleaned up and then sat and watched the sun rise over Bear Lake. It was fairly spectacular.

Sunrise at Bear Lake, Utah.
Sunrise at Bear Lake, Utah.

I decided I deserved breakfast out after that, and after descending 2000 feet (7900 to 5900) to Bear Lake and the small town of Garden City, I started looking for somewhere that might feed me one.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, was open in Garden City at six a.m., though, so I went on, heading north along the shore of Bear Lake. Eventually I crossed the state line back into Idaho, and found the small town of Montpelier, which was just waking up for the day. The lady at the gas station where I filled the tank for the fourth time on the trip told me the truck stop just north of town was about the only place to go to get breakfast (I did mention that Montpelier is a small town, right?). So I went to find the truck stop.

It turned out to be a nice place, as such things go, and the waitress very helpfully warned me that I only wanted one pancake, not a short stack. Wow, was she right. That pancake was about twelve inches around and at least half an inch thick. It was good, though, especially with Bear Lake raspberry syrup (the berries are a local specialty). I ate a bit more than half of it before I gave up.

I headed north and east on U.S. 89, the same highway that I took all the way to Yellowstone. Up and over a pass and into Wyoming, where I noticed that I was not as alert at the wheel as I could be, so I stopped in a forest service campground, let my seat back all the way, grabbed my pillow and afghan, and crashed for a couple of hours.

Much refreshed, I arrived in the town of Afton an hour or so later, where I got stuck in a bathroom line with a bunch of French-speaking bus tourists, and saw what is purportedly the world’s largest antler arch across the main drag in town. I did not get a photo of it, but if you click here you can get a look at it.

My goal for the day was the ski resort of Jackson Hole (no, not Jackson’s Whole — that would be the wrong Nexus, thank goodness), where I was going to spend tonight, and Grand Teton National Park, where I would spend the rest of the day.

I’d spent about half an hour on my cell phone last night in the campground — I don’t know why I’m still astonished that I can talk on the phone in places that remote, but I am — making sure I had a place to sleep tonight at the hostel in Teton Village (at the base of the ski resort) and for the next two nights (they didn’t have space after that — last minute trip planning can be a bear) at the hostel in West Yellowstone.

I hadn’t spent any time to speak of in the Tetons since I was a kid. In 1999 on my Long Trip (see my book Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back) I’d spent an evening on a dinner cruise on Jackson Lake with some friends, and in 2008 my friend Mary and I passed through, stopping for a few photos, on our way from Yellowstone to Denver for WorldCon, but that was pretty much the extent of it. In all the rest of my jaunts to Yellowstone, I hadn’t bothered to come south even that far. So I wanted to spend a little time here, at least.

The Teton Mountains, Grand Teton (13,776 feet -- almost as tall as Mt. Rainier) front and center.
The Teton Mountains, Grand Teton (13,776 feet — almost as tall as Mt. Rainier) front and center.

The Tetons are spectacular, I’ll give them that, but they strike me as a bit — aloof. It’s hard to get out in them without doing a lot more hiking than I’m capable of. I stopped along the roadside to take pictures and to look at wildflowers (which were everywhere), and then at the visitor center at Moose, which was fun. Then I drove out to Jenny Lake and decided on a whim to take a boat ride across the lake to a trailhead that led to a waterfall.

The Moose at Moose -- no real meece, alas, not on this trip.
The Moose at Moose — no real meece, alas, not on this trip.
Scarlet gilia, which I've always thought of as a California wildflower before.
Scarlet gilia, which I’ve always thought of as a California wildflower before.
Another view of the Tetons.
Another view of the Tetons.

The boat ride was fun. It was also a great way to cool off from the 80+ degree temperatures. And the hike to the waterfall, albeit with a boatload of my new close friends, was good, too. So that was worth it.

Jenny Lake.
Jenny Lake.
From the boat on Jenny Lake.
From the boat on Jenny Lake.
Hidden Falls, approximately 100 feet tall.
Hidden Falls, approximately 100 feet tall.
Waiting for the boat to go back across Jenny Lake.
Waiting for the boat to go back across Jenny Lake.

After the ride back, though, it was getting late, and I took what was supposed to be a short cut but turned out to be a goat trail back to Teton Village.

And I ended my day by scaring the bejeebies out of myself. There was this gondola, you see. It was free in the evenings. I thought it would be like the gondola at Crystal Mountain here in Washington state, which is a pleasant little ride. This was not a pleasant little ride. It turned out to be about three times as long and three times as steep, and by the time I got to the top, I was a gibbering idiot (I don’t do manmade heights, at least not ones like these). If you want to see what the view from the top looks like, click here. I left my camera in the car.

I almost couldn’t make myself ride it back down again, but a group with a baby(!) got in the gondola with me, and that happy little baby was a great distraction. Thank goodness. I’m not sure I’d have made it down sane without him!

And that was more than enough for one day.

Two weeks ago today, Day 2

In which our traveler spent a morning with flowers and an afternoon wondering if she was ever going to get there.

It was already getting hot when I left Ontario, Oregon, and crossed into Idaho. Heat shimmering off the pavement and all that. But I stopped at the first rest area along the interstate, doubling as a welcome center, and stepped out to take a look at a nicely full Snake River, wending its way across southern Idaho on its way to meet up with the Columbia. It’s always good to see a river with plenty of water in this part of the country (east of the Cascades, west of the Rockies). The Snake was a lifeline for the pioneers on the Oregon Trail, too.

Snake River west of Boise, Idaho.
Snake River west of Boise, Idaho.

It was only an hour’s drive that morning to Boise, the state capital, a pleasant town along the Snake that has a great deal in common with many other western state capitols; while Boise is the largest city in Idaho, unlike Salem or Olympia or Helena or Carson City, it’s got that “we’re the seat of government because of some historical accident, not because this is where things happen” sort of vibe down pat.

On the other hand, it’s also the home of the Idaho Botanical Garden.

The Idaho Botanical Garden is situated on the grounds of the old state penitentiary, of all things, and the ruins of the 19th century stone buildings look almost like some sort of antique backdrop to the acres of beautiful landscaping.

Rose garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden, with the old penitentiary as a backdrop.
Rose garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden, with the old penitentiary as a backdrop.

The trouble with visiting places like this in other climates is that they grow things I would love to be able to grow but can’t. I realize I live in a very favored climate where many choice plants flourish with abandon, but it still makes me jealous that flax, for instance, its flowers looking like bits of the sky fallen to earth, won’t make it through our rainy winters. Then again, I wouldn’t appreciate botanical gardens in other climates so much if it did.

Blue flax and pink Clarkia, named after you-know-who.
Blue flax and pink Clarkia, named after you-know-who.

The highlight of the Idaho Botanical Garden was the Lewis and Clark Garden, featuring plants that L&C discovered while they were in Idaho, each labeled by name with where they were found. The garden path wandered back and forth up the hillside to a statue of Sacagawea and a view across Boise to the Snake River and beyond. Quite lovely.

Native rose along the path in the Lewis and Clark garden.
Native rose along the path in the Lewis and Clark garden.
Statue of Sacagawea at the top of the path in the Lewis and Clark garden.
Statue of Sacagawea at the top of the path in the Lewis and Clark garden.

I filled the gas tank for a second time in Boise, and ate lunch while trying to choose whether I wanted to drive 300 miles down to Great Basin National Park in Nevada or northeast up into the Idaho mountains. I decided on the latter. Great Basin NP will have to wait for another year.

The road up through the dusty desert foothills into the Sawtooth Mountains was steep and winding. And seemingly endless. At first I wondered if there were going to be mountains at all, as I passed by a dam that made me laugh:

*What* forests???
*What* forests???

But as I went farther on pine trees started to appear and the hills were covered in mock orange (Idaho’s state flower) in full bloom.

Mock-orange was everywhere.
Mock-orange was everywhere.

I stopped in Idaho City, one of Idaho’s earliest settlements and a gold mining town (of course), and visited the Boise Basin Museum  which told all about its history, including a 10-minute film narrated by, of all people, Tennessee Ernie Ford, who spent some of his later years here.

Self-evident.
Self-evident.

After that entertaining interlude, I kept going, thinking I’d spend the night in Stanley, one of the most remote towns in the Northwest but only about a hundred miles on. I must admit that was the case — that it’s one of the most remote towns, if you can call it a town with a population of 63. I drove and drove and drove that afternoon, up through a canyon and into the mountains. I was stopped at one point by a traffic accident involving a motorcycle that seemed to have been going around one of the many sharp curves too fast. The motorcycle was lying on its side, and its rider was on the ground with it as if he were still riding it. I was assured by one of the many people standing around that the ambulance was on its way. I suspect it took a while to get there, and I hope the rider wasn’t too badly off.

At last I reached Real Mountains ™, snowcapped and jagged and glorious. I also reached miles and miles of roadside covered in bundles of dead trees. I found out later that the cause was pine bark beetles.

But when I finally reached Stanley, in a lovely broad meadow surrounded by mountain peaks, I found a sweet little log cabin with my name on it, and sat out on its porch for the evening enjoying the peace and the beauty. It was so quiet there that I could hear a car coming for miles before it passed by. Perhaps half a dozen of them passed by that evening before the stars came out, it got chilly (I’d gained a few thousand feet in elevation from Boise), and I finally went inside.

Beautiful (and I do mean beautiful) downtown Stanley, Idaho.
Beautiful (and I do mean beautiful) downtown Stanley, Idaho.

Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back

400T E cover

I am proud to announce the publication of my new book, a non-fiction travel narrative entitled  Cross-Country:  Adventures Alone Across America and Back:

After a childhood of summers spent in the back seat of a car, and four months before the turn of the millenium, M.M. Justus decided to follow in the footsteps of her heroes John Steinbeck and William Least-Heat Moon, not to mention Bill Bryson, and drive alone across America’s backroads for three months.  Like the bear going over the mountain, she wanted to see what she could see.

The places she visited ranged from the homely to the exotic, from the Little Town on the Prairie to Scotty’s Castle, from New York’s Twin Towers to an ‘alien’ landing site in Wyoming.  From snow in Vermont to the tropical heat of New Orleans. 

After over 14,000 miles, history both public and personal, and one life-changing event, she finally arrived back where she’d started from, only to discover it wasn’t the same place she’d left behind at all.
It is available in print through Amazon and CreateSpace, and through other retailers coming soon, and as digital editions through Amazon and Smashwords, with other retailers coming soon:

You can read the first chapter for free here:  http://mmjustus.com/fictionCrossCountry.html

Thank you for your time.

M.M. Justus

Wow, what a view

Wednesday my friend L and I did something we’d been wanting to do for a long time.  We went up to Crystal Mountain Ski Area, and we rode the gondola, which is open to sightseers in the off-season.  It cost twenty bucks, but it was worth every penny.  I really had no idea how far we’d be able to see from up there.  I’d been to Crystal to ski several times, but that was fifteen years ago, and even then I’d never gotten that high on the mountain (the easiest trail down from the top of the gondola is intermediate, and I never got much beyond high beginner trails the entire decade or so that I skied regularly).

Anyway, the day was about as clear and dry as it gets in the Pacific Northwest (and hot — 90+F in the lowlands, which broke records for this time of year, and in the upper 70sF even at almost 7000 feet at the top of the gondola), and the views ranged from Mt. Adams, clear down by the Columbia River, all the way to Mt. Baker, all the way up by the Canadian border.  And Mt. Rainier looked as if a person could reach out and touch it.

The only view even slightly obscured was down towards Puget Sound, where haze hovered over the water, blocking our view of the Olympics and of the cities down there (I bet the nighttime view in clear weather of those cities must be absolutely amazing).

There’s a fancy restaurant up at the top of the gondola, but it was beyond our price range, so we’d packed a picnic (actually, we’d bought our picnic at a Subway on the way), and we had plenty of chipmunk company while we ate.

All in all, it was a seriously spectacular trip.  If you happen to be in this part of the world on a clear day, don’t miss it.

Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola.  That's the White River down below.
Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola. That’s the White River down below.
That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.
That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.
Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.
Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.
Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.
Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.
That little white triangle on the horizon towards the righthand edge of the photo is Mt. Baker.
That little white triangle on the horizon almost dead center is Mt. Baker.
Lunch company.
Lunch company.
Really brave lunch company.
Really brave lunch company.
Headed back down the gondola.  Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.
Headed back down the gondola. Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.

Just a reminder, the Time in Yellowstone series: Repeating History, True Gold, and Finding Home, and the story “Homesick” (including chapters from all three novels, and only 99 cents for the e-version), are now available as ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords, and Repeating History is now available as a paper book from Amazon and CreateSpace, with the other books coming in paper editions very soon.

My 20th? annual trip to Sunrise

Actually, it may be my 19th.  I moved here twenty years ago this month, but I don’t remember if I went up there that year.  I know I’ve gone up there twice in a summer at least twice, so does that count?

I love both Paradise and Hurricane Ridge, and I’ve been to a lot of other wonderful wildflower hunting places (including Yellowstone, which doesn’t seem like a likely place to find a lot of wildflowers but most certainly is, and an incredible little state park in Indiana called Clifty Falls, which is absolutely amazing in April), but my favorite wildflower hunting grounds of all time are at Sunrise at Mt. Rainier National Park.

The Mountain from Sunrise.
The Mountain (as it’s referred to locally) from Sunrise.

This year I was slightly late getting up there — my beloved alpine phlox was all but over except in a few favored places — but I still managed to rack up 36 different kinds of flowers.  That’s my best total this summer!

One of the really neat things that the rangers do up at Sunrise (and at Hurricane Ridge) is put little signs near clumps of blooming plants that tell you what they are.  I also have a couple of ID books, and I take photos of everything I see, so I can examine them better when I get home.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw today:

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.
Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.
Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).
Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).
Partridge foot.  I don't think I've ever ID'd this one before.
Partridge foot. I don’t think I’ve ever ID’d this one before.
Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron).
Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron) and one of those nifty park service signs.
Magenta paintbrush -- see, they're not endemic to the Olympics!
Magenta paintbrush — see, they’re not endemic to the Olympics!
A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.
A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.
Jacob's ladder, aka Polemonium.  One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.
Jacob’s ladder, aka Polemonium. One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.
A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it's happiest.
A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it’s happiest.
Elephantella.  The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.
Elephantella. The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.
Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.
Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.
White rhododendron, which doesn't look much like a regular rhody to me.
White rhododendron, which doesn’t look much like a regular rhody to me.

Cusick's speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica.  I didn't see Betty.
Cusick’s speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica. I didn’t see Betty [g].
 And here’s the list, pretty much in the order I saw them:

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus), pink and yellow

Small-flowered penstemon

Pearly everlastings

Broad-leaved and dwarf lupines

American bistort

Potentilla

Gray’s lovage

Thread-leaved sandwort

Common yarrow

Partridge foot

Subalpine daisy

Cascade aster

Pale agoseris

Fan-leaved cinquefoil

Pasqueflower seedheads

False hellebore

Sitka valerian

Spreading phlox

Paintbrush, scarlet and magenta

Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder)

Broadleaved arnica

One lonely Columbian tiger lily

Sickletop lousewort

Elephantella

Beargrass

Harebells

Pink heather

White rhododendron

Cusick’s speedwell

Mertensia

Newberry’s knotweed

Mountain ash

Pussy-toes

Oh, and I saw a bear!  In all the times I’ve gone hiking up at Sunrise, this is the first time I’ve seen a bear.  It was at the Sunrise Camp, which is an ex-auto camp that’s been turned into a backpacker’s camp about a mile and a half behind Sunrise visitor center.  There were about twenty of us watching it browse from a safe distance when I was there.  It obviously knew we were there, and it equally obviously couldn’t have cared less.  It was a bit closer to the trail than I was comfortable with, so instead of making my usual loop, I went back the way I came, along by Shadow Lake.

The first bear I've ever seen at Sunrise -- the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.
The first bear (photo taken with the zoom) I’ve ever seen at Sunrise — the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

And I saw this bird.  It’s got some blue on its back and rust on its front, and it’s about 6-8″ long, maybe?

A bird I'm hoping my friend will ID for me.
A bird I’m hoping my friend Katrina will ID for me.

A trip to Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is in Olympic National Park. I don’t get up there every year — it’s a bit farther than it is to Mt. Rainier — but I did combine a trip up there with a stop at the annual quilt show in Sequim, Washington, which in turn is associated with Sequim’s annual lavender festival. All in all it makes for a terrific, but very long day.

I’m going to concentrate on the wildflowers I saw, like I did with my last post about Paradise. The lavender festival was a bit earlier than usual this year. It’s usually the last weekend in July, but this year it was the 19th through the 21st. This meant that the flowers I saw were a bit different than those I normally see on this trip, because summer progresses so quickly in the mountains.

Most of the flowers I actually saw this time were on the Hurricane Hill trail, the first mile or so of which is along a south-facing slope. The meadows above the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge itself were mostly not quite in bloom yet, especially the lupine, which can turn whole sections of the meadows blue.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of photos of what I saw, with the full list after.

Columbia tiger lilies -- literally dozens of them.  I've never seen that many at one time before.
Columbia tiger lilies — literally dozens of them. I’ve never seen that many at one time before.
Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.
Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.
Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland.  How can they be of Scotland if they're here?
Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland. How can they be of Scotland if they’re here?
A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.
A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.
Scalloped onion.  I'd never seen this one before.
Scalloped onion. I’d never seen this one before.
Rockslide larkspur.  The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.
Rockslide larkspur. The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.
Some sort of saxifrage, I think.
Some sort of saxifrage, I think.
A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.
A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.
Nootka roses.  I don't think I've ever seen them here before.
Nootka roses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them here before.
Broad-leafed lupine.  I had a hard time finding any that weren't just in bud, but these were lovely.
Broad-leafed lupine. I had a hard time finding any that weren’t just in bud, but these were lovely.
Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that's the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?
Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that’s the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?
Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.
Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

And here’s the list:

Western wallflower

Broad-leaved arnica

Yellow monkeyflowers

Alpine phlox

Nootka roses

American bistort

Columbian tigerlilies

Paintbrush, magenta and scarlet

Harebells

Hawkweed

Yarrow

Woolly sunflowers

Pearly everlastings

Cow parsnip

Avalanche lilies

Thread-leaf sandwort

Thistle

Saxifrage — not sure what variety exactly, sometimes it’s hard to tell

Scalloped onion

Fireweed

Leafy peavine

Rockslide larkspur

Broadleafed lupine

Mountain heather

Asters

25 in total.  Not quite as many as I saw at Paradise, but a credible day.  I wonder how many I’ll see at Sunrise next week?