My long work days have kept me from writing, but I hope to get some done this weekend! Meanwhile, as I was going through photos I found this one of a robin in Iowa, with dinner in his mouth.
I’m glad the weekend is here!
Day 2, July 17, 2018
You should probably know now that some days on my road trip weren’t really all that exciting. Some days had a lot of driving, and less sightseeing. This was one of those days.
I woke up at 6 and even though I wanted to get a bit more sleep, I couldn’t. I got up at 7 and got on the road just before 8. Kim and her husband both work early, so I said my goodbyes to her adorable dogs, horses and cows, and headed out.
I got on Highway 2 and it wasn’t long before I crossed into Idaho. The sign was on the other side of the road, and I opted not to cross over to pose with it. I was still getting my selfie-stick legs at that point!
I stopped at Albeni Falls and Dam on the Pend Orielle River (pronounced Pon-duh-rey) and checked it out. The Albeni Falls Dam was completed in 1955; Lake Pend Orielle is one of the largest and deepest natural lakes in North America. It is 68 miles long and 1,237 feet deep at its deepest point. I saw an osprey nest on top of the railroad bridge there, and managed to get a decent photo!
I also stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the Moyie River and the Moyie River Hydroelectric Project, but it was less than impressive from that vantage point. I could have gone down to the river level to catch a view of the dam, but that would have meant doubling back. Some things just aren’t that exciting…
The Montana state line was worth a stop though! Montana had one of the prettiest signs of the whole trip and it was easy to get to! Of course, I had to pose with it.
Lunch was at a rest area a bit further into Montana, a peanut butter and honey sandwich, peas and a peach. You will find I ate a lot of peanut butter and honey sandwiches. No refrigeration required!
The temperature outside was still in the mid-90s, and in Libby, Montana, the tire indicator light lit up. I stopped at a Les Schwab tire store and they checked the tires, which were all about 5 pounds over their ideal pressure at 40 PSI. The guy explained to me that tires “bloat” in hot weather, but that they would go back down when the temperature dropped. As I have lived all my life where it really never gets above the low 80s, this was new to me! You keep learning new things!
My next destination was my final stop for the day – West Glacier. I was going to spend some time in Glacier National Park! I didn’t have a reservation, and it was high season, so when I stopped in at the Timber Wolf Resort Campground and they had one remaining site, I took it, even though it was the group campsite. They were kind enough to not charge me extra. All of my friends could have joined me! It turned out to be a nice campground, even though the roads could have used a water truck (they were so dusty!) and the showers were one of only a few that you had to pay extra for (75 cents for 7 minutes).
Dinner was a four cheese pasta box and chicken sausage; it was my first time using my camp stove on the road! I also had a Black Box Merlot, that came in a 500 ml tetra-pack. I’ve never been much for wine in a box, but it came in so handy on this trip! I didn’t have to worry about an open bottle rolling around the car and it is reclosable!
Even with the high temperatures that day, it cooled off quickly after dark. I walked down to the gazebo at the campground, where they had wifi and I did some blogging and relaxing. By the time I was ready for bed about 10, it wasn’t too hot to sleep in the car! I did put the screens on the car door so I could sleep with the windows open without letting all the mosquitoes in. Those things came in handy!
Tomorrow is that day of days, where we Americans stuff ourselves silly with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, wine and the aptly named stuffing. If you are truly serious about this free for all of gluttony, you wear your fat pants…
I snapped this pic of some wild turkeys at the campground where I stayed in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. I liked the framing of the dirty, cobwebbed bathroom window… Art is everywhere.
Happy Thanksgiving! Now make sure you are ready – go find your fat pants!
Day 10, Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Today was another long day of driving, so we planned to be heading out at 7. We actually ended up getting on the road at 7:30, so we didn’t do too bad – after all, we did sort of dawdle at the hotel breakfast for awhile…
And then we drove… For awhile… Through desert and sagebrush and lots and lots of Eastern Oregon boring… The monotony was broken up only by a couple of restroom breaks, and a short stop for road construction in the middle of nowhere – so nowhere, I don’t even know where nowhere was… These are big states out West people…
There isn’t much that’s exciting to say about this 5 hours of mind numbing car sitting, except there was a little incident. The girls were bickering, so my brother did the classic, “Do you want me to pull this van over?” screeching stop on the side of the highway, releasing a huge plume of gravel dust into the air! Then we rearranged – my sister in law in the far back with one niece, my other niece in the middle seat, and me up front. Grounded in a 7 passenger mini van! I had to try really hard to keep a straight face; sometimes it pays to be the aunt!
Finally, just before 1 pm, we made it to the High Desert Museum. We had peanut butter wraps for lunch in the parking lot, and then headed inside. This place is amazing! My brother and his family knew that of course, since they had been there several times. The High Desert Museum is part history museum, complete with interactive history exhibits, and part zoo/conservation center.
I checked out the exhibits on World War II, the Native Americans during the period of assimilation in the United States, and a exhibit of really gorgeous Oregon photography! The exhibits are very well done and interactive. They also have an outdoor area with historic buildings that you can go inside, including a homestead home, a root cellar, a barn and an old sawmill! They have a couple of train cars as well that are being restored and aren’t on display.
We also saw several of the animal shows, including Desert Dwellers, featuring the Desert Tortoise, the American Badger and the Porcupine, a show featuring a Great Horned Owl (he can’t fly due to an injured wing), and a show featuring their River Otters. They also have animals on exhibit throughout the museum, so you can see them outside of the shows as well. They have several types of snakes and lizards, a Gila Monster, a Bobcat, and several birds of prey.
Note: Photo credit for the Bobcat goes to my Sister in Law.
Note: Photo credit for the Barn Owl, Bald Eagles and Golden Eagle goes to my Sister in Law.
After we left the Museum, we went into downtown Sisters, Oregon and had dinner at the Sisters Saloon (they have an all ages section). I had the Bison Burger and a cider – delicious! We all enjoyed the kids menu, because it had word searches. I love word searches, so I enjoyed helping the kids find their words. Sometimes it is the simple things.
After dinner, we checked into what is known simply as the “Llama Hotel” in my family. That’s right – the Best Western in Sisters, Oregon has a herd of llamas onsite to captivate and delight guests – my nieces and nephew love it and always ask to stay there, so we did. Like many Best Westerns, it has a Western theme, and this one also has a nice outdoor pool and covered hot tub. Of course, we made good use of it!
Perhaps strangely, I did not take any photos of the llamas at the Llama Hotel (don’t judge me!), but I did capture this mama deer nursing her still spotted fawn.
Our evening was capped off by sitting on the deck of my brother’s room, sipping on adult beverages while the kids watched TV inside. It was fabulous.
Distance for the Day: Nampa, ID – High Desert Museum, Bend, OR – Sisters, OR (5 hours, 43 minutes; 333 miles – you gain an hour coming west with the time change)
High Desert Museum Entrance Fee: $15 per adult, $9 per child (3-12)
Best Western Ponderosa Lodge: Sisters, OR: $210 for my room (includes tax) – free breakfast! NOTE: Bend and Sisters are incredibly expensive in the summer season!
Day 4, Thursday, July 27, 2017
This morning we got up, had breakfast, and piled in the van about 10 am.
Our first destination was the Hayden Valley, where it quickly became apparent that there wasn’t much wildlife to be spotted. The kids wanted to see bison and there were very few! We did stop for a bit to check out some distant wolves from Mollie’s Pack, who were hanging out in the same area where they were the previous summer, when I visited with my mom. They were beautiful!
We stopped at Dragon’s Mouth Spring and the Mud Volcano, and did a short boardwalk walk to look at the thermal features. The kids, as expected, were not impressed by the stinky, sulfur smelling thermals. I have to admit, of all the geysers, mud-pots and other thermal features, these aren’t the most exciting. But who could miss something called a Mud Volcano, or Dragon’s Mouth Spring?
We headed next to the Visitor’s Center at Fishing Bridge, and I got my passport stamps – and we found out there was a Ranger Talk later for the kids on river otters. Next up Pelican Valley and a short hike – where it promptly starting pouring rain – with thunder and lightning! Lightning in these areas makes me nervous, but the kids were whining because it was pouring and my brother made us all stop so we could “enjoy the experience.” Sorry bro, I gotta say, I am with the kids on this one! I was glad when we got back to the car after our one mile hike – we were soaked!
We had originally packed a picnic lunch, but we ended up eating in the van because of the rain. You win some, you lose some!
We tried to find another hike called Storm Point (ironic given the day), at Indian Pond, but we weren’t successful, and there was more thunder and lightning so we decided to scrap that idea and try to get out of the immediate path of the storm. We headed out towards the East Entrance and found our first close up bison. The kids loved it, so we all piled out of the car to take a look.
We also checked out a viewpoint that gave a fantastic view of Lake Yellowstone, as well as the damage caused by the the fires several years ago. Of course, as we were up there, we heard the thunder start to roll in. The weather changes so quickly! Seemed like a good time to get off the mountain – so we headed down to lower elevations.
Next up we found the LeHardy Rapids. My mom and I had wanted to see it on our trip the year before, but it had been closed because there was a grizzly hanging out there! The rapids are seen from a gentle walk along the Yellowstone River, with boardwalks in many places. A man showed us where Cutthroat Trout hide in the calmer waters along the side of the river. They jump the rapids to get to their spawning sites.
Lake Trout were introduced to Lake Yellowstone, likely in the 1980s, and are decimating the Cutthroat Trout population. Lake Trout are bigger, swim deeper, and eat Cutthroat Trout. Unfortunately, animals like otters and osprey don’t prey on Lake Trout much because they are too deep in the water. It was a nice walk and the kids enjoyed looking for the fish.
We went back to the Fishing Bridge Visitor’s Center to see the Ranger Talk on river otters. River otters weigh between 10 and 30 pounds, and eat primarily fish, but also young beavers and frogs. They have about 50 layers of fur to keep them insulated! They steal dens from beavers, and can hear fish in the water when they are on shore. What fantastically adapted animals!
There was another thunderstorm with hail when we were driving back to camp, so we went to the Canyon Visitor’s Center to wait it out. I watched the movie they have there and we learned a lot about the park.
We got a few groceries and went back to camp when the sun came back out – what a crazy day for weather! Dinner was a noodle box, with sausages, cucumber slices and canned corn. Not fancy but still delicious!
That evening, after dinner, several of us headed over to the Visitor’s Center nearby for a Ranger Talk with Ranger Cass Hennings on the history of Yellowstone, called “What’s in a Name?” She engaged us with tales of the first explorers, and how the various places in Yellowstone got their names. Places like Dunraven Pass, Sheepeater Cliff and even how the Yellowstone River came to be named Yellowstone! She told us the story of Truman Everts, who got lost for 37 days during an 1870 expedition, getting frostbite, scalding himself with hot thermal water and setting his hair of fire and starting a small forest fire. Oops… Ranger Hennings also shared information on the Native Americans and how they used the park too. It was really interesting! They normally do the evening Ranger talks outside in the amphitheater, but it was really cold and threatening to rain and thunderstorm – again!
After the talk, we head back to our pitch black campsite and headed to bed – it was very cold, but finally clear!
Distance for the Day: Driving within park
Canyon Campground, Yellowstone National Park: $30 per night for a tent site