We Made it to the West Coast!

We headed from Spokane to our next KOA campground in Leavenworth in the mountains of Washington, and spent a lovely few days walking and bicycling around this scenic tourist town that is modelled after a Swiss Alps village.

Then we headed up to Vancouver to spend the Canada Day long weekend with my family. It took us roughly a month to travel from Michigan to Washington, and we took another month to travel back to Ontario through the western Canadian provinces. Most of that return journey was spent visiting friends and relatives. What a great trip!

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Wildflowers in Washington

From Missoula, Montana we travelled due west for a few hours to stay a couple days in Spokane, Washington. We picked our campground because it was a KOA and the right travel distance and direction for us, but it didn’t have a lot to recommend it. But we found this lovely bicycle path a half mile away and cycled about 8 km along it one day. There were so many wildflowers blooming and of course I had my camera with me, so here are some of the best shots.

While in Spokane we took in the new animated movie ‘Cars 2’ at the cinema. It was very good, but not quite as wonderful as the first ‘Cars’ movie, which is right up there in our top ten favourite movies of all time.

Surfing in Montana

I bet you think I’m talking about surfing the internet in Montana, but I really do mean surfing as in surfboards and waves. And yet there is no ocean in Montana! What gives!?

Surfer on the Missoula River

We were exploring the excellent bicycle trails of Missoula that go through town and along the riverfront. They had these super cycling lanes right through the old downtown.

North end of John cycling south through downtown Missoula

The river was very high and moving fast, as have all the rivers been that we have seen this spring.

Missoula River - very high, muddy and running fast.

We came upon this group of people taking turns surfing the curl of the rapids on their surfboards and in kayaks. Looks easy here but I photographed and videoed lots of failed starts before I got some good shots. I will include the videos in a later post as I am running out of time with this good Wi-fi connection.

River Fun - Surfboards and Kayaks

Missoula also hosts this tremendous skateboarding park. What a great place for kids to hang out and get some exercise. Maybe we can get something like this in Caesarea!

McBash Skatepark in Missoula, Montana

As luck would have it, there was a car show in the riverside park on the Friday night and all day Saturday that we were in town, so we enjoyed walking around the 50 or so cars on display.

Classic cars and vintage architecture in Missoula. What a great city!

John is on the left, admiring some of the classy automobiles on display at the car show.

I noticed a very eye-catching getup on this lady and she was nice enough to pose for me beside her car, which is in the style of a Rat Rod.

Tatoos and leopard skin tights. Hard to miss!

What a pair! (I do mean her and her car.)

There was a farmers market and craft show downtown on Saturday morning so we took that in as well and bought some local fresh produce.

One of the stalls selling fresh flowers and produce at the weekly farmers market.

The KOA campground in Missoula was very well situated, within walking distance of all the big box stores, so we were able to get a lot of errands done and do a little shopping. The campground was very well organized but a little crowded, unless you stay in one of the deluxe sites with patio set and fire ring.

On our way to Missoula, we saw this ‘mobile home’ on the highway. Not as aerodynamic as our Earthbound trailer!

Can you spell 'wind turbulence'?

Yellowstone Videos

Finally we are at a campground with good Wi-fi signal so I can work on my blog again. I think I’m over two weeks behind but then again I am on vacation. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow…

I got some excellent camera photos in Yellowstone National Park, but the landscape is so vast and the waterfalls are so thunderous that a video with sound it the only way to really let others know what it was like to be there to witness the spectacles.

So I persevered and figured out how to upload my videos onto YouTube and then link them to my blog. Hurray!

So please enjoy these short movies of Yellowstone:

So Long Yellowstone

After spending a whole day exploring Yellowstone Park, we happily accepted a dinner invitation from our RV friends Jay and Carol. We packed all the beer and wine our bicycles would carry (It’s amazing how much you can pack on a bike when motivated!) and pedalled across town to their campsite.

By this time their second couple of friends had docked their own trailer next door, so we got to meet Murray and  Nancy. Cam and Susan joined in and the eight of us feasted on BBQ steak and salads at the picnic table, swatting mosquitoes all the while. Apparently it had been raining in Yellowstone for the last three weeks and we brought the warm weather in with us, just so the new crop of bugs could hatch!

After dinner we gathered inside Jay and Carol’s spacious coach and chatted over our wine and beers like long lost friends until dark (pretty late since this is the spring solstice). All the guys are great storytellers, but the most notable tale was Murray’s recollections of attending the original Woodstock concert weekend at the impressionable age of 16. A truly memorable evening!

You can just imagine this bison challenging the driver of this car: "You think I'm gonna move aside for you? Dream on."

The next day was our last full day in Yellowstone Park so we bit the bullet and got up very early so we could eat, get our morning chores done and be in the park by 7:30 a.m. This worked wonderfully, as we passed the bison shown above with just a few other cars and made it all the way across to the east side of the park in record time, perhaps 40 minutes.

It seems so otherworldly to see steam rising from bare ground in Yellowstone. The morning was cool so the steam really showed up well.

Our first excursion today to the Lower Falls on Yellowstone River was to descend 328 steps down the metal grid stairway of Uncle Tom Richardson’s Trail. The stairs took us 3/4 of the way to the bottom of the canyon.

This is the stairway we climbed down to get a view of Lower Falls from below. The climb back up was challenging, since we are at 8,000 ft altitude here and there is less oxygen in the atmosphere. It has nothing to do with being out of shape of course!

I got some good photos and a video of the falls but my legs felt like rubber for a few hours after the climb back up to the rim of the gorge. And I thought I was fairly fit…

Lower Falls of Yellowstone River, (308 ft). Notice the rainbow.

Then we drove down the south rim to photograph Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from ‘Artist Point’ which was beautiful and iconic but quite far away from the falls. So we drove back to the north side of the falls and hiked a steep zigzag down to the brink, using a trail that must have had 20 switchbacks. Can really feel that in our legs now! But the photos and videos were worth it!

View of the brink of Lower Falls. Once I figure out how to get videos linked to my blog I will post some footage of this awesome river roaring over the edge.

By now it was late morning and we were tired so we headed back to our campground in West Yellowstone. Of course there was a bison holding up traffic entering the park from the west side (similar to what we had been caught in yesterday). But from our westbound vantage point we were somewhat amazed to note that the line of traffic stretched for 15 solid miles! The fact that this was the first beautiful weather weekend of the spring probably brought more visitors to the park also.

Fifteen mile long traffic jam in Yellowstone. So glad not to be in that lineup...

There are still many sights to see in the park but after just 48 hours of battling traffic and crowds, not to mention covering lots of ground by foot, we are quite content to leave tomorrow and return to the park another year to see some more.

After lunch we had a well deserved nap and walked to the downtown strip of West Yellowstone to window shop. For dinner we met with Jay, Carol, Cam and Susan for the most excellent gourmet pizza and locally brewed beer at the Wolf Pack Pub and said our farewells. We are so glad to have made such great new friends on this trip and hope to bump into them again when we are in Calgary.

Tomorrow we head northwest to Missoula, Montana.

Yellowstone – Hurry Up and Wait

Having seen half of the south loop yesterday evening on our way to view Old Faithful, we decided to spend our second day in Yellowstone Park driving the northern loop past Mammoth Hot Springs. We figured it would take several hours and ended up taking all day.

This female elk is losing her winter coat.

As we drove into the park from the west entrance, very soon we were stuck in a slow moving lineup of cars, so it took us about an hour to travel the 14 km to the start of the loop. The good thing was we saw this elk beside the road and John was able to take this great photo since traffic was stopped. Hey wait – the elk was the one holding up traffic – Duh!

Of the dozens of photos I took of bison in Yellowstone, this one is the only one of bison crossing a river. Notice the two in front are totally submerged other than the tops of their heads. Apparently they are walking along the bottom and don't float worth beans!

The famous Golden Gate pass in Yellowstone. The original wooden trestle was built in 1885 across the face of the Golden Gate. Since 1900 two concrete trestles have replaced the wooden one.

Nearing Mammoth Hot Springs, we passed through this odd looking terrain.

Strange rubble in Yellowstone

Mammoth Springs had some unusual formations as shown in the photos below. Interesting but I can’t see me ever painting these places… And I think we got the last parking space. Talk about lots of people!

Mineral laden hot water from deep beneath the earth's crust builds tier upon tier of cascading terraces of stone.

Thousands of gallons of water well up and deposit large amounts of travertine daily.

Mammoth Springs formations have taken thousands of years to form.

From Mammoth Hot Springs we continued clockwise around the northern loop and stopped to photograph some gorgeous views.

There are many rivers in the Park. I believe this is the Yellowstone River, or it may be a tributary.

Tower Fall, (132 ft)Yellowstone Park.

We drove to an elevation of almost 9,000 ft through Dunraven Pass and saw lots of snow again, as well as more evidence of the 1988 forest fires.

Winter in June, Yellowstone Park!

Finally we reached the awesome Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River. Now we’re talkin’ great scenery! Gimme a waterfall over a geyser any day!

This was our first view of the Lower Falls. We decided to return again tomorrow to see these 308 ft falls from the other side of the gorge known as Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Here We Come

One of the reasons we decided to travel across the northern US was to visit Yellowstone National Park, which is the world’s oldest national park (1872) and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It contains more than two million acres of lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and gorgeous mountain scenery, as well as over 10,000 hydrothermal features such as hot water basins, steam and bubbling mud, and more than half of the world’s geysers (200 to 250). Most of the park is in Wyoming.

Following Jay and Carol's coach from Cody to Yellowstone Park. Notice the field of yellow wildflowers.

We reached the park in a few hours and stopped to take these photos.

Our new RV friends Jay and Carol in front of their coach. They are en route to Alaska to take a guided tour.

John and I in front our our truck and trailer.

As we headed across Yellowstone Park to our campground just beyond the western boundary, we gained elevation gradually until we were above the snow line. Apparently they had four times the normal snowfall this winter so there is still a lot of it to melt. But the roads were bare and dry.

The snow on the right is about 14 feet deep. We know that because it was the same height as Jay and Carol's coach!

So much of the forest in Yellowstone was destroyed in the widespread fires of 1988 and we saw lots of dead, burned tree trunks but also some regeneration of the forest.

Remnants of the great 1988 forest fires when almost 800,000 acres burned. This is part of the natural cycle of the forest, to recycle nutrients back into the earth.

As we passed into the ancient volcanic crater that makes up the majority of the park, we started to see plumes of steam rising out of the ground. Very weird! There are also tons of bison in the park and they have right of way on the highway.

Steam rising from a vent, with a herd of bison in front.

Herd of bison grazing in Yellowstone Park. Notice the professional photographers with their tripods in the background.

We soon got tired of seeing the lumbering beasts on the pavement. Boy can they hold up traffic, as each vehicle passing them has to take a photo or two.

King of the Road! It became commonplace seeing these on the highway. Unbelievably, each year several tourists are gored because they get out of their vehicles to approach these massive animals. I was quite happy to get my shots from the passenger seat!

We got to our campground in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana by mid afternoon without too many holdups for bison on the highway. After settling into our site for a three night stay at (very!) Rustic Wagon RV park, we drove a mile or so across the village to the KOA park where Jay and Carol were staying. (We tried to get a spot there but the campground was full.) We each enjoyed one of Jay’s beers (I believe it was called Buffalo Sweat but was actually not bad) and met their friends Cam and Susan who also were from Maryland and staying in a nearby motel.

Having read that it was best to see the Old Faithful geyser in the early morning or evening, to avoid the crowds, John and I headed into the park about 4:30 a drove about 40 minutes to the site.

Two elk grazing in the park.

We had just missed an eruption so filled in an hour or so exploring the boardwalks in the vicinity. We saw some very unusual features.

This boiling pool was about two feet across and bubbled constantly. The public is not allowed to walk on the crust as it is too thin and if anyone falls through he can be scalded or killed. In the background you can see the stain of the seepage from a thermal pool above the river.

Each pool was totally different from its neighbour. This one was perhaps three feet in diameter and the loveliest clear blue.

Then, along with several hundred other tourists, we took a seat on the viewing benches and waited for Old Faithful to erupt at 7:11 pm. She finally made her entrance about 7:25 and steamed for perhaps three minutes.

Old Faithful eruption is only about 30 feet high. The rest is a large plume of steam. I found it a little anticlimactic but very peaceful. I told John it should be called Old Graceful.