August 30 Dickinson to Devils Lake

Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (31) Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (27)
It’s a bit exciting to travel through North Dakota with tornado watches in our pathway! Best part of the day was a great visit with Laurie and Odel, full time RV’rs who have been on the road since 2003

Photos for this day of travels are here>

Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (3)The storm last night was a bit gentler than the night before and I slept well. When we woke, it was gray and foggy in Dickinson, but not raining.  I had been writing the night before, so took some time at the dingy laundry room to upload photos and post to the blog while Mo packed up the MoHo.  By 9 we were hooked up and on the road.  We hoped to be in Minot by 1, but the time change to central was a bit disconcerting.  I-94 was gray and dingy most of the way to Bismarck but somewhere before the town of Mandan, the fog began to rise and we had a great view of the Missouri River Valley from the Mandan Overlook.

Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (19) There is a very attractive and thoughtfully made marker at the rest stop, with bronze engraved plaques describing the natural  and human history of this area of North Dakota.  It stood in great contrast to the Alien Bar and Grill that we passed in Bismarck.  One incredibly tasteful, and the other unbelievably tasteless.

About 30 miles north of Bismarck is the very well done Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  The center is beautifully situated overlooking the Missouri River Valley with dramatic steel sculptures of bison silhouetted against the horizon and a nice bookstore and gift shop.  There is a 7.50 fee to view the exhibits, which includes a trip through Fort Mandan about two miles down the road and would take at least 90 minutes to complete.  We skipped that part, but I bought a great book by a native North Dakotan, Clay Straus Jenkinson.  “Message on the Wind, A Spiritual Odyssey on the Northern Plains” is a collection of his essays.  His style is somewhat like Terry Tempest Williams who writes in much the same way about about Utah and the Colorado Plateau, and is one of my favorite writers. 

Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (10) Late last night under the dark North Dakota sky, I read this passage: “Then came a few drops of hot rain, dust-spattering rain, and thunder and lightning as no member of our crew, perhaps including me, had ever witnessed: threshing, scouring, clashing, streaking, urgent, crashing, orgiastic, pounding, anarchic, punishing, apocalyptic, zigzagging, cross-hatched, grotesque, pandemonic lightning. And then, briefly, heavy rain, or rather sheets of water pretending to be rain.”  I felt that thunderstorm, and knew we hadn’t seen anything like it so far on this trip through the Dakotas. But I am coming to love North Dakota in a way I never imagined, crossing it’s wide open lonely roads, seeing the coulees and valleys, the badlands and the glacial moraines stretching out to forever.  Whoever said North Dakota was flat wasn’t really looking.  It is anything but flat, and so far anything but boring.  I have to come back to North Dakota and explore it more slowly, take in the Lakota culture expressed here so deeply, and the story of Lewis and Clark that bisects this land the same way it bisects my own land in the northwest.  But back to today.

As we continued north we passed extensive fields of wheat and sunflowers, interspersed with wetlands and small lakes of the kettle and kame landscape until we reached the more level valley near Minot and Highway 2. 

Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (25) I was so excited about meeting Laurie Brown and her husband Odel in person.  I have followed Laurie’s blog for a couple of years, we have connected now and then through comments to each other and through email, so this was a real treat.  They were camped in a very nice park west of Minot and the pull through space next to them was empty and waiting for our visit for just an hour, but what a delightful hour.  We shared conversation, and were treated to some of Laurie’s famous tea, and their hospitality was unsurpassable. Lucky us! Odel gave Mo some tips about the RV, while Laurie checked out our inverter, helped Mo figure out some of that complexity, and then gave me some tips about adding photos to my blog! 

Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (33) After leaving Minot and continuing east, the storms got heavier and darker, and when I had sporadic reception with my iPhone I managed to connect long enough to see the red bands moving northeast on the local radar and the tornado warnings on the weather site.  Laurie and I had just  discussed what to do in a case like this, so I asked Mo, “What county are we in”?  Where is there a shelter around here?”

We both looked around the landscape that consisted of very black clouds, an empty highway, and absolutely nothing else.  Hmmm.  Now and then I got an updated radar image, and new warnings, but no watches.  Mo held tight to the wheel and kept the MoHo on the road until things lightened up a bit when we neared our destination at Devils Lake.

Dickinson_to_DevilsLake (38) Finally arriving at Graham Island State Park by 6, the skies had cleared even more and the rain stopped altogether.  This state park is wide, open, and expansive, on an island surrounded by water. Devils Lake is the largest natural lake in North Dakota, and famous for its northern pike and walleye fishing.  The campground was almost completely empty, and even though it is only Monday, it still is the week before Labor Day!  We settled in to a pull-through site, and decided that any kind of outdoor activity would have to wait until morning when the winds and clouds would hopefully subside a bit. 


August 29 Visiting Killdeer

The rest of the photos for this day of travel are here.

FortPeck_to_Dickinson (107) Yesterday the skies were gorgeous, but after a wild night of lightning, thunder, and rainstorms, the morning dawned gray and quiet.  I had planned to do laundry early, but the cool rain made sleeping perfect, and when I rose, it was daylight.  Camp on the Heart advertises free Wi-Fi, but it is only available very close to the office.  I packed up the dirty clothes and the computer and headed for the laundry room.  There the Wi-Fi worked reasonably well and I finally uploaded our photos to Picasa and managed to write a bit more about our travels.  Even though we felt crowded last night, today most everyone left and we had the entire row to ourselves.  Sunday calls for a good breakfast, so Mo made bacon and I poached eggs while we made good use of the excellent cable service to watch some of Mo’s favorite Sunday news programs.

Kildeer_Dickinson Chores completed, we headed north to Killdeer a little before noon, although we still aren’t sure if this place is in Mountain Time or Central Time because my phone keeps switching.  The trip north was uneventful and a bit dreary with the low gray skies.  Once in Killdeer, Mo drove around searching for old home sites and remembering some of the family stories associated with her birthplace.  Mo was born in Killdeer, but her family left when she was three or so and moved to Oregon.  She came back often later in life because her parents returned to their roots here in Killdeer after they retired.  I looked around the very small quiet town, imagined the winters of North Dakota, and wondered aloud just why they felt they wanted to return.  Did they still have family here? Did they miss these wide open skies and low rolling landscapes? 

Kildeer_Dickinson (5) Mo pointed out the building that once housed her uncle’s sweet shop, and the home where her father’s parents lived when he met her mother.  We had no clue how to find the Oakdale Cemetery, with no address Garmin Girl was useless, and of course the phone had No Service.  Being Sunday, everything was closed up tight, even the police station.  I finally found a mechanic working in his shop on a back street and hopped out to ask him where the cemetery was located.  In true North Dakota fashion, he said, “Well, it’s about 4 miles north on 22.  I think there is a sign there, but I’m not sure.  Let’s see…it’s past the Robert’s place, I think. Been there a lot, but can’t remember how I get there.  You turn west, and go a ways.”  I wish I could put that accent in writing because it was classic.  Solid and true high north country man. 

Kildeer_Dickinson (8) We traveled north, and yes, there was a sign, so we went “a ways” and actually found the old cemetery.  Mo thinks there was a small community there at one time, but no more.  We tramped through the grass and weeds until we found her grandparents and their baby son, the Ross family, a common name in “these parts’”.  By the time we drove back south through Killdeer it was after 3, or 2, depending on which time zone we accepted.  The line goes through here somewhere, but by tomorrow we will definitely be in Central Time on our way to Minot.

On the way home we stopped in at the big WalMart Supercenter to pick up some milk, some bolts, and some wine.  I couldn’t find wine anywhere, and when I asked, I was met with appalled stares and aghast comments.  It was as if I were asking for drugs!  People informed me quite vehemently that of course they didn’t have wine or beer in the store, you had to buy it at the liquor store!  Well, I know it’s not California, but at least in most states one can usually buy a bottle of wine somewhere other than a liquor store. For supper we opened the one good bottle of Pinot Noir we brought with us.  We can’t take wine into Canada anyway, and what better time than a stormy evening in Dickinson to have some very good Pinot Noir!

Kildeer_Dickinson (15) Back in camp, Mo put the Montana and North Dakota state decals on our map and we commiserated about how big the South Dakota hole looked.  Although South Dakota is just 70 miles from here, we decided that unhooking the MoHo and driving it for several hours just to bag a state was dumb.  We knew we couldn’t drive the baby car there and legally claim the state, and I think that maybe just driving through the state doesn’t count either, so we decided instead to hang home, play with the animals, have a nice dinner and RELAX!  ahhhh.

After supper I again went down to the laundry room to hang out with the internet and post photos, write a bit, and catch up with my emails to family and comments to friends. My truck driving daughter told me about Points Of Interest that I can locate for my Garmin that will include all the things I am missing like campgrounds, rest areas, and cemeteries.  She also said that this part of the country is well known for sporadic to almost non-existent internet and wireless access.  So it isn’t just my ATT iPhone, but her Verizon didn’t work here either.  Good to know. The skies cleared up in the afternoon, but by evening the clouds were forming again, and now as I write late at night, it is storming.  I love hearing the thunder, watching the lightning and listening to the wind.

The plan tomorrow is to travel north to Devil’s Lake and Graham Island State Park by way of Minot, where I hope to meet some rv’ing friends for a short hello.  Looking forward to another State Park, which much of the time seems to fit our style of traveling.  I love the openness, the trails, and the dark nights of these parks.  I know state parks differ from state to state so it will be interesting to see how North Dakota does in this regard.

August 28 Fort Peck Dam to Dickinson, North Dakota

The photos for this day of travel are here.
FortPeck_to_Dickinson (27) I have so much to write about this day, leaving Montana and traveling through the wildly beautiful northwester portion of North Dakota.  However, time and internet connections have timed me out as well, so I am only posting the link to our photos for the time being and will hopefully add something to this day when I again have an internet connection.

August 27 Continental Divide to Fort Peck

The rest of the photos for this day of travels are linked here.

Divide_to_FortPeck The wind blew hard all night, yet it never really cooled off until this morning.  We are surrounded by thin lodgepole pines with a few subalpine fir trees in this high elevation habitat, more than 5000 feet.  I was surprised at the warmth, and could feel the difference in the air.  We are over the Continental Divide and the climate is now more influenced by continental air masses rather than the Pacific air flow that controls much of the weather in the northwest.  The major difference is felt in the summer rains that happen east of the Rockies.  Out west we have a long dry summer, and the soils reflect that difference.  The deep dark soils found on the plains get summer rain. 

I was grateful that the campground seemed to be well managed, without many dead or diseased trees, especially as I watched them whirl and twirl in the high winds.  The sound was soothing during the night, and I slept really well in spite of the warmth and slight humidity.  Morning sunlight illuminated the high mountains of Glacier Park to our north as we hooked up the rig and were on the road by 7:45, hoping to make up the extra miles we would have to drive due to our early stop in the forest.  I drove, and in spite of the wind, was pleasantly surprised at how well the rig handled.  I think most of the wind was coming directly from behind, and we were being pushed along, not a bad thing for the gas mileage on this day.

FortPeck_to_Dickinson (12)Within a very short few miles we were out of the mountains, passing through East Glacier, and onto the high plains.  This part of Montana seemed very dry, with only a few wheat fields with short stubby wheat nearing harvest.  As we traveled east, the wheat fields became more prevalent, with wide strips of fallow land.  I noticed a lot off what appeared to be CRP grasslands, the Conservation Reserve Program set up to remove some fields from production, seed them to  grass for a minimum of ten years, and pay the farmers a stipend for doing so.  The main objective is to protect highly erodible lands from severe erosion, but it also helps to keep crop prices up.  Could agriculture manage at all in this country without government support?  Who knows, but I can’t imagine the free market system really working when it comes to food production.  Wonder how the big corporations would outsource it if they didn’t have the government subsidies for agriculture.

After being in the close up hills of the California foothills, covered with thick brushy vegetation, I especially appreciated the wide view of sky and plains.  Subtlety becomes the norm, with small differences providing entertainment.  As the miles slid by I noticed that the grasses on the right of ways were becoming more lush and green, reflecting the increasing precipitation as we traveled east. 

Our route is still Highway 2, so far a two lane road with excellent surface and very little traffic.  In the past, I have crossed Montana in I-90 and the difference is striking.  It’s wonderful to travel along at 60mph without having to worry about the heavy truck traffic on the interstate. We stopped in Shelby to try for an internet connection, and a phone connection to cancel our Ontario Provincial Park reservations.  It was a bit of a shock to find out that this would cost us a 50 percent fee to cancel simply because our reservations were made more than a month ago.  I debated a moment, then decided to do it anyway.  Somehow it is more enticing to travel northern Wisconsin and The Upper Peninsula of Michigan than the long miles through forest along Canadian Highway 17.  Part of this may have to do with the time I spent on google earth last week viewing the route.  While our destinations were gorgeous, most of the route of several hundred miles seemed to be through flat thickly vegetated forestlands dominated by scraggly spruce without many views.  The decision is made, the reservations cancelled, and we now have 5 extra days to travel spontaneously.  Hopefully the Labor Day weekend campers won’t be a big problem.

Divide_to_FortPeck (2) Around mid day, we reached Havre, Montana, a town I have heard of through work but never seen.  There is a soil survey office in Havre, and it’s difficult to get soil scientists to apply for the MLRA Soil Survey Leader position for some reason.  As we drove into town, Mo checked the AAA book and found information about several interesting historical sites that we decided to take the time to visit. Something I am discovering about our NUVI is that a specific address is usually required to find something.  When I search for attractions, I get things like bowling alleys and golf courses, but not campgrounds and cultural attractions like the one we wanted.  I do hope that when I get access again to, I can buy extras that hopefully include campgrounds! After a bit of a mix-up  regarding the location of 3rd Ave vs 3rd Ave W and 3rd St, Divide_to_FortPeck (6)we found the chamber of commerce.  Havre has put of lot of thought and resources into it’s historical value and we took brochures for the Havre Residential Historic District Walking Tour and the Havre Business Historic District Walking Tour.  Our main choice was the Havre Historical Underground Tour, however, so we decided to walk just a Historic Bungalow portion of the residential tour.  There were some charming bungalows, but many of them seemed to be a bit run down, without a great deal of work.  I love bungalow style, and in places like Boise, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington, there are some gorgeous renovations of bungalows, kept true to style.  Of course, I remember the bungalows in Pasadena that I loved as a kid, and now that whole area is called Bungalow Heaven.  It’s on a destination list for another trip someday.

We arrived at the Underground Tour just in time to leave.  The tour lasted an hour and was a fascinating view into the history of Havre.  These tours are worth the time and fees just to get the inside story.  Our tour guide was informative and knowledgeable, a short nice little lady born and raised in Havre.  Even midweek, midday, there were close to a dozen people on the tour.  Viewing the maps at the end with pushpins marking visitors locations was impressive.  There were thousands of pins from all over the world. As with many other towns in the early twentieth century, Havre’s business district burned to the ground in 1904 and the businesses were forced to take up shop in their basements in order to continue to function. 

Divide_to_FortPeck (19) A quote from the brochure: “Havre was a community that was instrumental in the taming of the West.  It was a melting pot of races, and racism was prevalent.  For this reason, the ethnic mixtures of black, red, yellow, and white created an explosive atmosphere and created the rough and tough town to be tamed.  TO this mix was added the refinement of another class of people whose temperament drew them to the concert hall and theater productions that were so lavishly provided.  A cross-section of this melodrama is presented in the historical underground tours, bringing to life the successes, the good times and the tragedies of those early years.”

We saw the meat market, the bakery, the brothels, the opium dens, the hidden safe house for the Chinese who were brought to Havre to work but were treated to cruelly by the locals.  South of Havre, is Fort Assiniboine, home to the Buffalo Soldiers, black men in the US Cavalry, another story told by our diminutive guide.  Leaving the tour, we viewed the museum, with many displays about the history of Havre, and the importance of the railroad in this part of the country.  The Railroad was the driving force for settling this part of Montana and much of the west.

Divide_to_FortPeck (35) We left Havre by 2 or so, and headed east again to our original destination of Fort Peck Dam.  Prior to Havre, much of the skies were murky with haze.  I wondered about this, if you can’t find clear skies in Montana, where are they?  I suspect much of the haze was due to the bare fields and harvest in progress, but it was good to get out of it as we approached Fort Peck.  Mo picked this campground from an internet search, and we often try to find something near water so we can kayak if time allows.  We both knew that our history tour no doubt cut short any kayaking time, but still it was at first a bit disappointing to see that the campground was below the dam, and the river wasn’t even accessible from the campground directly. 

After settling in to our spacious site and making supper, we decided to explore the surrounding area on bikes.  The park is really very nice, with open space, no water at individual sites, but good water available for filling the tank, and electricity onsite.  A wonderful paved bike trail winds around the perimeter of the park, with loops circling small ponds and the banks of the wide Missouri River as it emerges from Fort Peck Dam.  We couldn’t see the lake, and the thought of camping below a huge earthen dam is a bit disconcerting, but this one has never failed, so I let that thought go completely.  Of course, no dam has ever failed till it fails, right?

Divide_to_FortPeck (25) The bike ride was wonderful, and we saw several deer and a lovely sunset.  Even though we are in eastern Montana, somehow it feels much more Midwestern, similar to Nebraska, and I kept forgetting that we were still actually in Montana.  There were even cicadas singing in some of the big cottonwood trees. It was a lovely end to a lovely day, and we capped it off by using our lovely electricity to watch a DVD, “Did you hear about the Morgans?”.  A silly bit off unlikely fluff, but not demanding in any way and of course, a bit entertaining.  I think all the funny moments in the movie are shown in the trailers. That was a bit disappointing, but it was still fun to slow down enough to watch something anyway. 

We haven’t seen television or heard any news at all since we left.  I think there is a hurricane going on somewhere in the Gulf, Danielle.  I think we will actually have cable tomorrow night, so may get caught up on news and happenings in the world outside our own cozy space with a view of the plains.

August 26 Bonners Ferry to the Continental Divide

  …  Just a little side note here…Recently there has been some conversation about travel blogs and the do’s and don’ts for writing a good blog.  One of the comments discussed eliminating long paragraphs and rambling conversation so people don’t get lost and bored.  So I tried, I really did.  I thought I could put some photos up and add some captions, and then continue my personal journal down below somewhere.  Well, THAT just doesn’t work at all here since I have spent way too much time tonight trying to figure out how to edit and move photos around in LiveWriter (most unsuccessfully) and make my blog more “readable”.  The previous couple of posts show my efforts.  However, since I am writing this blog for me more than anyone else, I have decided to continue to ramble on with my thoughts and put the photos where they happen to fit.  Anyone else who happens to drop in can read or not, right?

The rest of the photos for the day of travel are linked here.

Bonners_to_DivideWe slept wonderfully last night in the quiet of the North Idaho forest, untroubled by any worries of intruders, lights, or noise.  It cooled off to a pleasant 45 degrees overnight and sleeping with the down comforter and no fans was perfect. Chet stopped in around 7 on his way to his morning meeting just in time to catch us almost completely buttoned up, with the baby car attached.  He said Georgette, (not a morning person) was already awake and waiting for us to come up to the house for breakfast.  Once up there, we were treated to fresh eggs from her hens, some of the yummy roasted potatoes from last night sautéed with chicken basil apple sausages, homemade granola with honey and yogurt and fresh blueberries.  I enjoyed having tea the way Georgette does it, strong and black with honey and milk. 

I enjoyed so much being in this part of the world.  The plants are familiar, the geology and shapes of the mountains are so familiar to me.  I first knew Boundary county as a student trainee soil scientist, and the western rim of the Selkirk mountains in my breakfast view this morning was my first survey area.  I described one of my very first soils in something similar to what is on Georgette’s land and made a soil monolith that now hangs at the University of Idaho in this Port Hill soil. 

After breakfast, after entreaties to visit again, we hugged and laughed and waved goodbye as we drove off toward Bonners Ferry and Highway 2.  Traveling beyond Moyie Springs, we crossed into Montana, crossed over the wild Yaak River, and paralleled the dramatic Kootenai River.  This river drops 90 feet every mile west of Libby, over ledges of pre-Cambrian rock so old the only fossils are of blue-green algae, the only thing living on the planet at the time that these rocks were sediments under a great inland sea.

Bonners_to_Divide (23)Not far from Troy, the road passed the Kootenai Falls Swinging Bridge Park, and we decided that it might be worth a turnaround.  It was worth every bit of the effort, which actually wasn’t much since traffic on this road is almost nonexistent and the turnarounds are wide and long.  The park is lovely, with clear paths leading to the river in two directions, one to the bridge and the other to the falls.  Midway there is a span of stairs that crosses the railroad tracks, an excellent plan for the safety of all the people hiking to the falls, but a little bit tough for Abby in her bare feet and her fear of walking on something with holes in it that looked far down to the ground below!

The swinging bridge crossed the canyon over the river, was sturdy and well built, but swung just enough to feel a bit exciting over the rapids.  The falls were wild and free, with many pools on the ledges and several runs between rocky cliffs.  It was warm and a bit humid, but a perfectly lovely morning walk.  Bonners_to_Divide (8)Once back in the rig, we headed east again along the river, crossing over from time to time.  We are on our way to Kalispell, and as we continue east the air is getting more smoky from forest fires.  I have a vague memory of something mentioned in the news recently of Montana fires and smoke predictions.  Here I have no cell reception at all, so will have to wait for Kalispell to find out any more information other than what I can see looking out the windshield

About 35 miles west of Kalispell, we passed a lake district which appeared to created by dams on the river, but they looked like natural lakes, not reservoirs.  We passed Thompson Lake State Park, and Mo said, “Gee, can we stop yet?” Tonight we are planning to go to the Williamson Park Campground near Shelby, but don’t have a reservation for this first-come first-served park.  We can stop anywhere we want!  Although 200 miles east of our destination might be a bit premature!  Again we passed another lovely lake, called Macgregor, long, narrow and blue, without much sign of habitation on the perimeter.  There are lots of fishing signs, and some cabins.  The smoke thinned a bit as we traveled east. 

Bonners_to_Divide (37)Sometime this morning, we had a brainstorm, although I am not sure just what started it.  Our original plan was to travel north from Grand Forks and go into Canada through International Falls.  However, reviewing the maps, and talking with Chet last night, we realized that Highway 2 extends as far east as Maine, and is a dotted, scenic route almost the entire distance.  On the map, I saw the road leading to Duluth, then through Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to Sault St Marie.  Recently some RV blogging friends have been  traveling the area extensively and singing the praises of the UP.  Once we get to Kalispell, I am going to cancel the two provincial parks we have reserved in Ontario and we are going to travel Highway 2 much farther east than we originally planned.  During the planning process I was excited about seeing Thunder Bay and Northern Lake Superior, but now I am excited about the change in plans, and we can go to Pictured Rocks National Seashore.  More importantly, however, we can add Wisconsin and Michigan to our state decal on the back of the MoHo!  Yes, Laurie, I will watch the ships in the locks, even more meaningful for us since we just transited the Panama Canal last January!

Highway 2 follows the southern boundary of Glacier National Park, but there weren’t many places to pull over for photos of the peaks.  Near West Glacier, the peaks appeared snow free and rocky, with fire smoke dulling the view somewhat.  Once in the distance, I saw a patch of white that appeared to be a glacier, but that was all.  The road, however, was lovely, with forest and rock, river and mountains all around us, I remembered that I found two forest service campgrounds along this road while internet searching a few months ago, but didn’t choose them because I Bonners_to_Divide (41)thought they weren’t far enough along our route.  It was so beautiful, however, that we decided to try to check them out to see if they might work for our evening stop.  At the Continental Divide, stopping for photos of the monument there, was a campground entrance, with reasonably wide paved roads and only one other camper in sight.  Driving through it didn’t take us long to agree to drive the extra 85 miles tomorrow to reach Fort Peck Dam where we had pre paid reservations. It was worth it to take advantage of this delightful campground.

After several days of hookups and plenty of driving, we had plenty of power for a dry camp night.  After parking and settling in, we walked the campground roads, took photos of the mountains and plants, and Mo found firewood at a vacated campsite for our evening fire.  We didn’t bring wood on this trip, but Mo really loves to build campfires, so any opportunity is a good thing.  I made tacos dressed with the tomatillo salsa that Georgette and I made with Laura’s tomatillos and we Bonners_to_Divide (59)had supper at the picnic table by the fire. Mo got out the comfy chairs and shortly after we settled in to enjoy the fire, big drops of rain started falling.  We weren’t about to give up the fire, however, so Mo got out the umbrellas and we sat in the windy storm and used the umbrellas for protection from the smoke more than the rain, which wasn’t much at all.

It was a perfect evening, and I really felt at last as though we were on a real vacation.  The skies were dramatic, with a front coming over the divide, and the sound of the wind in the lodgepole pines was soothing rather than scary.