12-30-2022 Remembering December

It is 3AM and the words that I need to bring this year to a close in my journal of life are tumbling around in my mind, refusing to gather into reasonable order. It seems that I haven’t written anything since we returned in October from the Cross Country 2022 journey, but of course, that isn’t really true. I wrote and wrote and finally finished the stories and blogged our mid-October return on the last day of November. Just one month ago. “The Holidays” begin at the end of October with Halloween and race along in a jumble of family gatherings, cooking, and for me, a big part of the Holiday season is decorating.

We are ready for a wedding and Mattie is a witness

Happy Mom Happy Bride

This week between Christmas and New Year feels like I am caught in a space in time. I am ready to move forward toward the new year and yet not quite ready to take down the Christmas tree. The twinkling lights greeting me in the early mornings are so cheerful, and let me forget that it is very dark and very chilly and very wet in the outside world. For me, memories are reinforced by the photos I take and store and label and review. I recently wondered, as I lay awake in bed in the early morning hours trying to compose this post in my mind, if any of my memories of people from long ago are memories of them in actuality, or simply memories of the photos I took of them. It is the photo memories that come to mind when I think of some of the truly deeply loved people in my life who have passed.

We found a cute Christmas decoration for Mo’s workshop. 

My friend Maryruth always marvels at my memory of the dates and years when things happened. I know that isn’t any great memory ability, but simply that I am putting all those photos into chronological order and storing them in so many versions online and off that I hope will never lose them. Is it a way to stave off the loss of memory of old age? If I write enough and take enough photos, the memories won’t fade and the people and places I loved will always be alive. So I write, and I photograph, and sometimes I share the photos and the thoughts on a blog, or on Facebook. But the driving force for this blog has nothing to do with sharing, it has to do with my own ability to remember, and a fear of approaching the eighth decade of my life and facing my own mortality and that of others near to me who have left the planet or are in the process of leaving.

My friend Sandy surrounded by her sisters and Lorrie and Kathy from our long ago women’s group in Northern Idaho

A sweet friend from long ago is in the process of passing with grace and dignity. She is in hospice many hundreds of miles distant, and I will not see her before she goes. Her impact on my life, beginning in 1988, was life-altering in ways I never really understood. After an intense friendship, we grew apart by years and miles and changing life priorities and values. But her approaching death is always on my mind in the early mornings when I wake and can’t sleep.  I know that I need to write about October, November, and December before those memories fade into the past with so many others.

Can I do my simple process of beginning with “now” and going backward in time? It is the only way to corral the words and the experiences of the last two and a half months. Christmas was so special this year, and shared with just a few and yet incredibly precious.

Robert and Melody on Christmas Eve

My daughter Melody has been with Robert for seven years now, and their relationship is a sweet one, they are solid and best friends. Melody wasn’t sure Robert would ever want to marry, but she had come to accept the fact that it might never happen and was OK with it. They bought a home, and they traveled to Mexico, to Italy, to the desert to camp on the ground and search for rocks. Then a surprise. She told me they were going to marry before Christmas and could they say their vows at our home. So Christmas became a surprise preparation for a wedding ceremony, attended by me and by Mo and by my eldest daughter Deborah who lives close enough to be part of Christmas with us.

After the ceremony, a Happy Couple

It was a simple ceremony, quiet and lovely, with only the two of them in front of the fireplace saying their vows as we watched. Melody’s words were elegant and thoughtful and reflective of her deep personality. Robert’s words were simple and perfect; I had no clue that he took them from a song. Robert has a crazy sense of humor, and he chose the perfect words that also happened to be from a song from the ’80s that has been used for something called “rick-rolling”. I had no clue what that was, but Melody burst into laughter and said, “Have I been Rick-Rolled at my own wedding??”

“I am never going to give you up, never going to let you down, never going to leave you and desert you.”

What could be more perfect? I can’t explain rick-rolling but if you aren’t part of that generation X you can look it up on the internet and get a deeper sense of the humor of the moment.

The wedding cake surprise with the topper stolen from my Christmas Village

When Melody first told us, Mo said,” We need a wedding cake!” How to find a bakery willing to do a small cake just five days before Christmas? With some searching and some phone calls, one baker called to say she was booked until late January but could maybe fit in a small cake if it wasn’t too complex. Done. It was fun to surprise the kids with the cake after their vows. The champagne toasts all around were sweet and they did the traditional cake cutting and feeding each other. It was a perfect wedding and my mama’s heart is so deeply happy that this youngest daughter of mine has not only found love but companionship and friendship and someone who is truly her partner in life and living.

A view of a happy bride and some of the goodies before supper

Mattie patiently waiting for popcorn

After the ceremony, it wasn’t long before we were all settled into pajamas after eating our traditional Christmas Eve clam chowder and laughing together while we watched a sweet and silly Hallmark Christmas movie.

Deborah sound asleep on Christmas morning

With Melody and Robert in the guest room, Deborah decided to skip the offer of the MoHo for her nighttime privacy and chose to sleep on the sofa with quilts and a pillow in the light of the Christmas tree. It warms a mama’s heart to see a child sleeping on Christmas at home, even when that child is going to celebrate her 60th birthday before the end of January. Memories. Where oh where does it all go? The lament of almost anyone who has lived this long.

My precious daughter Deborah on Christmas morning

This morning, as I walk the quiet halls toward the living room and wait for the timer to turn on the Christmas tree lights I know that all that decorating that I do will need to be undone. I began a bit early this week, taking down a few of the outside lights, and putting away a few of the inside treasures. I started decorating right after Thanksgiving, taking my time and enjoying the process. I have enjoyed the lights and the treasures around me for more than a month now. There is one more day left in the year.

The Christmas ham went in the oven at 6am

Still, the memories are coming as I write. Christmas Day, with fabulous snack food created by Deborah to add to the yearly ham purchase that provides delight for the day and for many months to come from the frozen leftovers.

We all get excited when something fits

A Christmas puzzle on the table pushed aside the placemats so that we could all play with it. It was a fun way to spend the day, with another Christmas movie and taking time to watch a recording of the original Avatar movie for afternoon entertainment before we went back to the puzzle. Simple things. Simple Christmas. Simple sweet memories of family.

Maryruth and Gerald joined us in the afternoon to help with eating.  Deborah made a fancy crab dip in french bread that was a hit with the crab lovers in the group.

A phone call with the middle daughter and her husband who lives far away in the deep snowy country of Northern Washington. Phone time is punctuated with more sweet memories of our recent time together in October.

Great-Grandkids Theron, Tearany, and Orion

Videos of the great-grandkids shared by their mom, opening the annual Christmas jammies from Grandma Sue. My now 15-year-old great-grandson said specifically when I saw him last fall that he still wanted his Christmas jammies. He now wears men’s sizes. Memories, as I watch those videos of the kids opening presents, come of Christmas mornings decades in the past when I watched the delight of my own kids opening their presents. More words tumble around in my mind with memories as I try to write about December.

Kristin knows all the ins and outs of shopping at Trader Joes

Early in the month, I spent a sweet day with my friend Kristin, who offered to drive us to Medford for a girl shopping and lunch day. It was simply a little extra treat that she drove her new Tesla. No way to describe that car except when she hit the gas my head hit the headrest. I have no clue that an EV could have that kind of get up and go getting out of the way of oncoming traffic when needed. She let the car drive itself for a bit on the freeway.

Fast charging at Target in Medford

The car took a complete charge while we shopped at Target and has a driving distance of 400 miles between charges. The future is here no matter how we might resist.

Kristin’s bookcase is spectacular

On December 10th, the Grants Pass Book Club repeated a Christmas party at Kristin’s, and it is now a tradition. Eight of us laughed, ate great food, and exchanged wrapped books with only hints as to what might be inside showing on the wrapping paper.

A very challenging Dowdle puzzle

Mo and I fed our puzzle addition with three different Christmas puzzles throughout the month, enjoying almost every minute. Some puzzles are very frustrating, however, and we tore our hair out trying to get the blues to match up in this one.

The fudge is a favorite but the cranberry pinwheels are a close second

I started making cookies late in the month. Simple cookies with chocolate, cranberries, nuts, and peanut butter in various combinations. Of course, Fantasy Fudge is also a tradition that I celebrate. During Covid, it was almost impossible to find the special marshmallow crème ingredient that makes this fudge so creamy smooth, but this year it was everywhere, at double the price from years past. Yes, inflation is real, and I come home from the grocery store often in shock at some minor item that has actually doubled in price. On a happier note, this week with Christmas behind us, I was surprised to see many prices dropping back to something that might be considered reasonable. Oh please. Wouldn’t it be nice if inflation slowed a bit and let my federal pension and social security COLA raises keep up with all the extra costs of fuel and utilities and food? There go the words again, wandering around in my head as I try to write about December.

Maryruth and Gerald are great hosts

On December 22nd, my friend Maryruth had an appetizer party with a fabulous prosecco Christmas punch and 11 people from the neighborhood to share. It was a fun time, made more so for us because Maryruth also invited Connie and Jim, (Connie and Jim are book club friends who met Maryruth and Gerald at my home last summer). Mo and I aren’t particularly fond of parties with people we don’t know so the addition of mutual friends made the evening truly delightful.

The view from site A23 at Harris Beach State Park

Once again, as we seem to do every year in December, Mo and I traveled to the coast for three magnificent days at Harris Beach in the MoHo.  We snagged site A23, with a view of the ocean. In addition to beach walking time, we planned the trip to be sure that we could visit the magnificent Festival of Lights at Azalea park.  This year Maryruth and Gerald joined us in the coastal city, staying at the Beachside hotel with a perfect ocean view.  Their son Terry and his girlfriend drove north from California to spend time with Maryruth and enjoyed the show as well.

The lights were wonderful as always, with an addition this year of another million lights, bringing the total to more than 3 million lights lovingly strung by hundreds of volunteers.

The light show was great, but the best part of the trip was the incredible weather.  Mornings were close to freezing every day and the temperatures never rose above the mid-forties during the day but it was sunny!  No fog marred the morning views over the ocean, and by the time we walked the beach around 11 every day the skies were brilliant and there was no wind to interfere with our leisurely time on the beach with Mattie.

Mattie loves the beach

One of her favorite things is climbing the rocks to a high point.  I think I have at least half a dozen photos of Mattie over the years on this very same rock posing for my camera. 

Mo and I have another tradition with Maryruth and Gerald viewing the Christmas lights around Grants Pass topping it off with hot chocolate from Dutch Brothers. We live in the home city of the original Dutch Brothers which used to be a local Oregon thing, but somehow now is a huge company worth billions. Everything seems to be in billions and trillions these days.

The weather has been wet, with atmospheric rivers sending wild waves of wind and water over Oregon. Our light-viewing tradition was postponed until after Christmas and sadly the big wind event must have encouraged folks to take down some lights. We decided that we would be sure to see the town lights before Christmas next year. The local newspaper prints a map of the best houses for light viewing. I was thrilled when I saw a little red light marker at our house. We made the newspaper of houses not to miss when touring the lights. I did notice cars going by slowly now and then but not enough to be intrusive. After all, we are on a slightly remote almost but not quite in the country road. Still, it was satisfying to see that we made the map. Like the blog, I do the decorating for myself, but I still enjoy sharing it with other people. I would decorate if no one but me ever saw the house and I would write if no one but me read the blog.

Sunshine and green grass in late December

Mo and I shared one magic day of brilliant sunshine and blue skies as the month came to a close. The storm brought crazy winds to Oregon that wreaked havoc on so many areas of the state. Many people in the Grants Pass area lost power but we only had one tiny blink and somehow escaped that particular bit of difficulty. We did have a lot of flying debris from our ancient trees. The Douglas-fir is especially susceptible to dropping branches in high winds.

The lower pasture stays green until June

A few were several inches in diameter and we later realized that the banging noises that we heard at 3 am during the worst of the storm were those branches hitting our roof. When we woke again the next morning, the skies cleared, and we could see debris scattered around the property. In addition, the fabric shelter succumbed to the wind and Mo had to remove the winter cover to prepare for adding a new one.

We decided that it would be smart to let the oak leaves remain in areas of the gravel driveways to kill the annual grasses that sprout every year. I have learned that I can’t mulch gardens with our oak leaves. The first year we lived here I used them in the flower beds and it was three years before I could get anything to grow well. The leaves work great under trees or shrubs, but not in soil flower beds. Once we left a pile of leaves on some grass in the pasture and discovered it only takes a few days for that pile of leaves to kill the grass. Why not let those leaves kill the grass in the driveway and skip the evil weed killer?! I’ll let you know next spring how our plan worked out.

The Doug fir on the left and the ponderosa on the right are more than 150 years old.

While Mo worked on the fabric shed, I spent a few hours raking up leaves and debris and basking in the incredible sunlight and the Technicolor green of the winter grasses that love the rains. I treasured every minute of those more than ten thousand steps outside in deep winter. The news was filled with stories of the storms throughout the country. We escaped unscathed with the extra treat of one gorgeous sunny day between storms.

Now, hopefully, this crazy word salad of memories has been expelled, and I can close out December and get back to writing about October and November.

10-07 to 10-10-2022 Family Time in Washington and the Final Run Home

Take a look at Daughter Deanna’s view through their front windows in Lincoln, Washington

Let me say right away that this is a family picture-dense story of our visits as we wound our way home from our 7-week trip across the country.  We traveled many miles to see “stuff”, but we also spent some quality time with family. As many have said in comments throughout this trip, we are so lucky to have a way to not only see amazing sights throughout the country but also visit family and friends along the way.  It doesn’t happen without serious planning and ensuring our route includes these heart-warming stops.

My Great Grandkids: Orion, Theron, and Tearany

With everything falling into place for Friday, October 7 for a visit with my great-grandchildren, we left early from Don and Wynn’s home in Spokane.  The trip on this section of Highway 2 between Spokane and Davenport would be the last of our magnificent trip across the northern part of the United States.  Highway 2 continues west over the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Coast near Seattle and is another stretch with magnificent scenery I have traveled many times over the years.Lincoln is a tiny community on the shores of Lake Roosevelt, the dammed portion of the Columbia River east of Grand Coulee Dam. 

The lake is long and surprisingly deep with the depth of the portion near Deanna’s house more than 200 feet.  The nice thing about this area around Roosevelt Lake is that the cold snowy winters of Eastern Washington are moderated a bit. The National Park Service operates 35 recreation areas along the 660 miles of shoreline and the adjacent hills are dotted with vacation homes for Spokanites searching for a bit of relief from the late winter to enjoy a bit of springtime that comes earlier along the shores of this lake. Lincoln is about half an hour from the closest community of Davenport where Deanna and Keith can get a few groceries and eat at a small restaurant.  The big box stores of Airway Heights west of Spokane are less than two hours away if needed.  The two of them have created a lovely life in this rural spot with a home and small acreage surrounded by open space and wildlife.

The sheep are an interesting addition to their property, coming down from the cliffs nearby to nibble on whatever tasty goodies might be in the yards and gardens of the residents.  A small herd wanders almost daily through Deanna and Keith’s place.  It is fun to see them, and many are wearing trackers. 

The best part of this location for the family is that it is within driving distance from Wenatchee where the great-grandkids live with their mom Tracey.  My grandson Steven lives just an hour north with his new wife Stormi as well.  It is all about family, and when Deanna and Keith decided to retire from trucking, this was the spot they chose to be.  Keith is retired, working part-time locally, and Deanna is working from home.  It is a good fit for everyone. 

We parked the MoHo in the driveway, perfectly level, and hooked up the power to their 20 amp outlet.  The temperatures were pleasant with no need for using the air conditioner so 20 amp was completely adequate for the small amount of time we spent inside.  Most of the day was spent in the house with the family.

Tracey, the kid’s mom

I was excited that we could visit, and even more excited that Tracey did some fancy maneuvering to get the kids out of school on a weekday so that I could get hugs and love from my great-grandkids.  This was the reason Mo and I slowed down and took a few extra nights along our route as we approached Washington State. 

The kids had worked on a painting for me and decided that I wouldn’t have space enough for three so they collaborated on a painting with each kid doing a section.  Happy Birthday to me! I think I spent that day completely immersed somewhere in the middle of New York City. I had completely forgotten that I had a birthday, so this, and the cake Deanna made was a sweet surprise.

We also got to listen to Orion play his flute which he is very good at with some years of band behind him.  He is also now learning the Saxophone for his high school jazz band and played that for us as well. 

We spent the day laughing and playing with the kids and enjoying the view. I don’t get to see these kids nearly as often as I would like with several hundred miles between us.  It was a special day.

Loved seeing how much Orion has grown, now 14 years old and in high school

For supper, Keith made burgers on the grill and we enjoyed the great weather with dinner on the deck

The kids stayed overnight, and the next morning Deanna and Keith cooked a big country breakfast for everyone with all the fixings, including some yummy cranberry muffins.  We had more sweet family time, enjoying the view and taking more photos before Mo and I continued toward more family visits in this part of Eastern Washington.

Deanna and me.  Yeah, we both like to be barefoot.

Mo’s brother Don, whom we visited the previous day in Spokane, bought a recreational piece of property near the confluence of the Spokane River and Lake Roosevelt near the community of Fort Spokane.  He wanted to share his new place with us and show Mo all his plans for creating a family getaway not far from their home in town. 

A few acres near the Spokane River for Don and family to enjoy

Mo and I traveled north along the beautiful road to Fort Spokane, enjoying the amazing views.  Currently, the property is a work in progress but it was fun visiting and hearing Don’s plans for the future.

Theron, Steven, and Stormi

Our day continued with another half hour north of Fort Spokane to Gifford, Washington, where my grandson Steven lives with his new wife Stormi.  It was wonderful seeing Steven again and hearing his stories about living on a small homestead.  Steven is very much into permaculture, organic gardening, and growing as much of his own food as he can on his small hillside acreage with an amazing view of Lake Roosevelt.

Steven’s property isn’t far from the Gifford Campground on the lake. Mo and I took Mattie there for a bit of time at the lake so she could run around before we took the steep road up to Steven’s place.

Theron takes after his daddy with his love of gardening.  He was very proud of his carrots.

Here is a photo of Theron’s dad Steven.   Think they look alike?

It was late afternoon when we returned to Deanna and Keith’s home for a wonderful supper of freshly caught trout on the grill.  Yum.  It was incredibly delicious.

With the kids gone and just the four of us, there was time for good conversations about family and life and all the good and all the challenging stuff that life can bring.  I treasured the time with my daughter.  Grandkids and Great Grandkids are great, it is wonderful to see them, but for me, there is nothing quite as special as daughter time. I am darn lucky to have three loving, beautiful, fabulous daughters. The other two are closer in distance but we are all as close as the phone and the internet. 


Daughter Deanna in a moment of talking about our family

On Sunday morning, Deanna went back to work in her cozy home office and Mo and I packed up the MoHo.  We headed south from Lincoln by 8 am, on our way through Davenport toward Highway 395 and West Richland, a town in what is called the “Tri-Cities”, consisting mostly of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco.  Located on the Columbia River, the TriCities have grown exponentially since I lived in Idaho.

Nancy and Mo in Nancy’s kitchen.  Didn’t manage a photo of her new puppy

Mo’s sister-in-law Nancy, wife to her brother Roger who passed a few years ago, lives in West Richland and we didn’t want to miss another visiting opportunity.  We didn’t stay long, but enjoyed the time at her home visiting and meeting her new pup. Nancy has often made the effort to travel south to Oregon to visit with us at Sunset House so we were glad we could stop in to get a hug and a bit of good conversation. 

After our short visit, we continued south toward the Columbia River and west on I-84 toward Mo’s brother Dan and wife Chere’s place in Beavercreek, Oregon, a small community in the mountains east of Portland.  We settled into another level paved site and enjoyed a fabulous dinner that Chere made for us.  Tacos, Tostados, and all the fixin’s including some crock pot roasted jalapenos for a topping and fajita grilled chicken.  So Yummy!  Sometimes visiting friends and family gives us a chance for some great meals.

Chere on the porch of their lovely home in the woods near Beavercreek

In addition, Mo’s brother Dan is a great fix-it guy and he and Mo settled in for the afternoon trying to troubleshoot the overheating MoHo, and the messed up levelers which hadn’t worked since we were somewhere in the Midwest. They were partially successful but needed at least part of another day to continue the work.  We decided that instead of waiting around, I could take the Tracker and continue home first thing in the morning and Mo would come later with the MoHo.

Dan and Mo

The best part of this plan for me was that I got to drive south on I-5 and cross the six steep passes between Eugene and Grants Pass without stressing out about the rising temperature gauge in the MoHo.  I stopped in to visit my youngest daughter Melody in Brownsville, just a hop off the freeway before continuing south.

Melody loves her little dahlia garden

The next morning, Mo and Dan flushed out the exterior of the radiator to see if that might help with the heating problem. Mo then headed south toward home, alone in the MoHo without me or Mattie for company. Even without the Tracker, the temperature gauge rose a bit over the steepest passes, but Mo was able to get home without incident.

Yes, Jeanne, that is the wine you gave us that we saved for a good celebration

That evening we celebrated the completion of our cross-country trip with a bottle of wine on the deck.  Even in October, the temperatures were 91 during the day and evening sunset time on the deck was warm enough to sit outside without sweaters.  Such a surprise.

With this final story, I am at the end of the long tale of our 8,150-mile trip. I realized that in the post where I talked about miles and days, I never added up the states that we traveled from late August to mid-October.  We traveled to 28 states, including Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

Just a little side note:  In the next post, whenever I get around to it, I will tell the story of the overheating problem and the fix!  So far so good, and we think the problem is solved.

10-05 and 10-06-2022 Onward to Friends and Family in Idaho and Washington

Now that is a long title that isn’t all that exciting, but I have no clue how to write it differently.  We crossed the country from Wisconsin to the Continental Divide without stopping along the way to visit anyone.  No one we know lives near the High Line, which lies close to the Canadian boundary.  But once we officially entered a part of the Pacific Northwest, the area of Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington sometimes called “The Inland Empire”, that all changed. 

We left early on the 5th, traveling west toward the looming eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. We expected a steep grade and decided that it would be prudent to travel separately so the chances of the MoHo overheating would be less.  I took the photo above with my phone while following Mo in the Tracker.  Yeah, a bit fuzzy and the photos of the buffalo along the highway are even worse.  Still, I knew Mo would love the buffalo photos so I did my best.

No eye rolling allowed, please.  Those black things that look like rocks really are buffalo.  I think my friend Gaelyn takes pretty good photos while driving, but I am not a fan of that process, and obviously not very good at it.  Believe me, I never try it while driving when Mo is in the car.  Not a good thing to do, I know.  Still, I have the photos to prove that there really were buffalo there, and caught some great photos of the MoHo which I would never get any other way.

It was only 60 miles or so from our campground in Cut Bank to Marias Pass.  The actual distance of any part of that pass that could be considered even moderately steep was the last 12 miles from East Glacier to Marias Pass.  I knew that crossing the Rockies in this northern part of Montana was much less challenging that traveling some of the passes through the Rockies in Colorado.  The elevation difference between different passes is considerable. 

Elevations along Montana’s Divide range from a low of 5,280 feet at Marias Pass near Glacier Park to 11,141 feet at the most southerly situated Eighteenmile Peak.

An interesting tidbit from this website about the Continental Divide in Montana: Montana’s Divide respects no geologic structural dictate, but rather snakes at random through the high terrain of the state’s Northern Rocky Mountains. With a spectacular start in the remote western reaches of Glacier National Park, at the 49th parallel of latitude where Alberta, British Columbia and Montana join, the northern most point of Montana’s Divide begins its run to the south at an elevation of 7,460 feet. It leaves our great state about three miles into Yellowstone National Park at 8,320 feet where Montana, Idaho and Wyoming join in a nondescript, flat, difficult to find timbered landscape.

When we reached the top of the “grade”, we parked opposite the Continental Divide marker at Marias Pass and laughed with each other about how easy it had been.  We hooked up the Tracker and continued west on our route toward Northern Idaho.

Once again, when attempting to find fuel in West Glacier there was a bit of a kerfuffle and before we knew it we had passed all the recommended stations and were in downtown Libby.  Lucky for us, we had enough fuel to get farther west to Troy, Montana, where we made no attempt to find cheap gas and simply fueled the MoHo at a station that was on the right side of the highway and had large enough bays to make fueling easy.  Funny how after driving several thousand miles the priorities shift from saving money to saving sanity.

Troy was a sweet afternoon delight.  I was again in familiar territory, having driven the route from Spokane to Troy many times for many different reasons in the past.  It is an easy route, quiet, curvy in places, without any significant grades to deal with.  We were content to stop in Troy and enjoy the city park for an hour or so on such a beautiful afternoon. 

The park was lovely, located along the banks of the gorgeous Kootenai River.  The population of the town is somewhere around 800 people, and on that sunny afternoon, it was clear that the city park was the location of much of the social life of the small community. Funny thing about Troy, at 1880 feet, it is the lowest-elevation town in the state of Montana. Troy was registered as a town in 1892 and grew quickly after the Great Northern Railway built a freight station there, leading to a boom in workers, miners, and their families.

The railroad bisected the town and we waited a long time for some train workers in individual cars to pass at a crossing.  There were many people on both sides of the tracks watching the working cars, and it was evident that they appreciated their train workers.  No one seemed the least bit frustrated by the 20-minute wait except us.

Our destination for this first night in Idaho was Bonners Ferry and the big parking lot at the Kootenai River Inn Casino and Spa located on the banks of the beautiful Kootenai River.  We have camped there in the parking lot a few times in the past and when I called the casino to verify overnight parking they were as welcoming as always.  The only request was that we park on the far eastern side of the lot and make sure that we weren’t blocking any traffic.

The Kootenai River Inn and Casino is a great parking lot for a free night on the road

Chat and Georgette, long-time friends who once lived in California, now live in Bonners Ferry on a gorgeous piece of property overlooking the wild mountains east of town. We have camped with them in the past, but sadly this time Georgette was away at a cow dog training event and couldn’t be with us.  Her husband Chet was hiking on that day but agreed to meet us at the Casino for a nice visit and dinner at the restaurant.  I completely forgot to take dinner and friend photos but did manage to get a photo of dog lover Chet visiting Mattie in the MoHo after dinner.

Our night was pleasant and quiet except for the trains.  There was a crossing right near us. Every hour or so the loud clanging of the crossing would wake us and the train would roar past with its whistle wailing.  We laughed at this being the worst train night of our trip. If you decide to park at this casino it might be smart to have earplugs.

Our route the next morning was along a very familiar road.  Highway 95 bisects the state of Idaho from south to north and is a route I traveled sometimes daily in my years mapping soils in Northern Idaho.  The road hasn’t changed all that much and I recognized much along the way.  I found myself remembering soil pits that I dug in various locations in Boundary, Bonner, and Kootenai counties.  There is no better way to learn a landscape like the back of your hand than to travel all those back roads day after day.  Every time I return to this part of Idaho memories surface about my days in the field.  Most of them are good, but other memories come up of fearful lightning storms where I hid for an hour in my eight-foot-deep soil pit with trees falling all around me. Another time when a giant bald-faced hornet managed to get inside my long leather gloves and stung my arm repeatedly.  Such fun and part of the life of a field scientist.

Nothing but a windshield view of Pend Oreille Lake south of Sandpoint since we were moving along quickly

Our first destination for the day was in Dalton Gardens, Idaho, a small community adjacent to Coeur D Alene.  The sweet thing about Dalton is that most of the lots in the town are at least an acre or two.  My friend Laura lives on one of those acres and covers every inch of her lot with flowers.  There are some vegetables there as well, but the most exciting thing about Laura’s gardens are the dahlias.  I grew dahlias when I lived in Northern Idaho, sometimes digging as many as 700 tubers to winter over in my tiny rock-lined basement. 

Laura welcomed us with open arms, and her three young labs greeted Mattie enthusiastically as well.  It only took a minute or two for the dogs to begin running and playing together. In Laura’s complex backyard, Mattie had plenty of places to hide when the bigger dogs wore her out.  Those labs never seem to slow down.

Laura brought out pumpkin pie and coffee while Mo tried to keep the lab entertained with the slimy ball that you see if you look closely at the top of this photo.

We had a wonderful, sweet visit, sharing memories and flower walks.  Laura and I have almost 40 years of history together and even with miles between us, the friendship is enduring.

Laura is holding one of her grandbabies here, and notice the slimy ball in the lab’s mouth

We left Laura’s place in early afternoon, traveling west on I-90 toward Spokane.  It is always a shock to see the Rathdrum Prairie and the Spokane Valley after living in that area before the huge growth that exploded in the 80s.  What once was miles and miles of fields of bluegrass grown for seed has become miles and miles of housing developments, malls, and box stores.  It is a sad sight, but one repeated in so many places.

Mo’s youngest brother Don lives on the south side of Spokane, in a lovely neighborhood with a view toward the Spokane Valley to the east and Mt Spokane to the north.  Mo and I both looked forward to spending a night with Don and Wynn.  There was plenty of room to park in front of their home located toward the end of a cul de sac.  After settling in, we visited a bit with the two of them while waiting for the rest of the family to arrive.

Wynn is a great cook and has a beautiful kitchen, recently redone.  Here she is enjoying the huge bouquet of dahlias given to us by Laura

Mo’s niece Ginny, with her husband Gabe and their three beautiful children, arrived a bit later.  The kids are all well-behaved, however the youngest, Georgia Wynn is a very talkative ball of fire. We shared deck time and talking time before a lovely dinner that Wynn made for us in the dining room. 

After our lovely supper, with good manners all around, the kids decided to head for the basement game room, and Mo and I followed.  Before long the family was engaged in a rousing game of ping pong, with Mo, the one time PE teacher giving everyone a run for their money. 

Here are a few of the moments during our evening ping pong game that created so much happy laughter.

It was a wonderful evening, filled with family, good food, and most of all lots of laughter.  We went to bed tired and happy and ready for the next day that we would be sharing with another great family.  Our planned route of family visits would include the next destination, Lincoln, Washington where I would spend time with my daughter, grandson, and great-grandkids.

10-04-2022 Visiting Glacier National Park

The Jackson Glacier is one of the few remaining glaciers in Glacier National Park that are visible from a highway

Visiting Glacier NP can be challenging at any time of year.  The park straddles the spine of the Rocky Mountains and accessibility to all there is to see can be difficult.  Most importantly, it is good to do some serious research before going to the park.  Road closures can hamper travel any time of year.  The magnificent “Going to the Sun Highway” that crosses the Rockies over Logan Pass requires a timed entry pass during the summer and is currently closed for construction on the west side.  Be sure to check the website for the latest news and reservation requirements if you plan to visit. Snow comes early and stays late and the date of that famous road opening changes every year. Always check road conditions before you even consider traveling in the park.

If you plan to hike in Glacier, a very popular reason for visiting, be well prepared, read everything you can read, and remember your bear whistle and pepper spray.  Many people see Glacier from a single perspective.  Traveling to the West Entrance, they will drive to glacial Lake Macdonald viewpoint and ooh and ahh before driving the challenging narrow road to the top of Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Highway, returning the same day to the West Entrance and say they have been to Glacier.  I have been known to do that myself in days past.  I have also camped in Glacier and done a bit of hiking there, including a dip into Hidden Lake where I think I broke the ice on the surface of the water.

The thing to know is that there are two sides to Glacier, both figuratively and literally.  There is the wild side and the tourist side, and there is the east side and the west side, and there is no easy way to see all of it in one day.  Mo and I perused the maps that Carol gave us, trying to decide if we wanted to do the entire circle route to the west side and then over the top of the pass to the east side.  That would have been a lot of driving, and our plans were nixed almost immediately when we read that Logan Pass would be closed on the west side. We could travel to Logan Pass only from the east side of the park.  Lucky for us, Cutbank, where we were camping, is on the east side of Glacier NP. Logan Pass is a highlight of the park and I wanted to be sure that Mo could at least see that famous summit.

With Carol’s information, we also knew the most scenic route to take was from the East Glacier entrance to Two Medicine Lake and then north toward St Mary Lodge and the beginning of Logan Pass.  Her recommendations were invaluable and made our one-day visit to the park absolutely spectacular.

We began our day early, just before daylight, with a plan to travel first to Two Medicine Lake where I camped long ago in the 90s.  The road crossed the flat plains toward Browning with the high ridge of the Rockies looming as we approached.  We were blessed with a magnificently clear day, blue skies, and no clouds.  The slight bit of smoke from fires to the west of the mountains drifted in a bit but didn’t mar the views too much.

We were lucky that the rising sun was behind us. By the time we reached the East Glacier Entrance and began our ascent up scenic highway 49 (with vehicle length restrictions at 21 feet) the mountain peaks to our west were illuminated beautifully by the morning light.

We continued past Lower Two Medicine Lake toward Two Medicine Lake, surprised at how very low the water was in the lower lake. 

Before reaching the main lake, however, we came to the turnout for Two Medicine Falls.  At this early hour, we arrived at a parking lot with only one other car.  The owner of that car came walking toward us saying it was a magnificent hike.  He left and we had the entire Two Medicine Falls trail entirely to ourselves.  I should mention that since we were visiting a National Park where dogs are only allowed on pavement, we chose to leave Mattie at home in the MoHo for the day.  We are so lucky that she is such a great traveler in addition to being quiet and patient when we are gone until our return.

In retrospect, our quiet, lovely hike to Two Medicine Falls was a highlight of our visit to Glacier.  The trail wasn’t long and relatively flat.  We had the falls completely to ourselves.  I can imagine this might be a rarity any other time of year when the park is renowned for its crowds.

When the river is flowing at a higher level during the summer season the waterfall flows both over the rock at the top of the falls and through the hole in the rock where you see it flowing in this photo.  It was a lovely fall and a lovely moment for both of us.

I enjoyed a delightful moment when I suddenly saw beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) along the trail.  I remember this plant so well from my days mapping in the high mountain ranges of Idaho, just across the divide from where we were hiking in Glacier.  I loved seeing so many familiar plants in the forest understory and recognizing all the tree and shrub species from so many years working in mountains like these.

It was a short hike, and even though we took our time, we returned to the car within an hour or so.  Continuing on toward Two Medicine Lake we reached a park entrance kiosk which, like all others we passed on this October day, was closed.  We placed our geezer park pass in the hanging folder on the car mirror and continued toward the lake.

There was a ranger at the campground, and we took our time cruising around the sites, deciding which ones we might like to try if we ever came back. Most of them are first come first served and I would be reluctant to drive all that way to fight crowds in the summer for a spot. 

This time of year the campground was still open, but the lake was closed to all personal watercraft, so kayaking wasn’t an option.  I would have loved to drop the kayaks on that lake, but with our long day ahead of us, even if it had been allowed we may have decided to skip unloading the boats.  I should mention that Montana was fairly rigorous in their boat check stations located at both ends of the state.  We had to stop three times for boat checks for invasive species along Highway 2.  One time an official carefully sponged out the water in our boats left from the hard rains we had passed through.  For some reason our kayak covers don’t keep out the rain very well.  I saw the guy carefully inspect our sponges for bad critters and then he gave us a couple of new bright sponges along with our certificate of inspection.

Traveling the return route along Two Medicine Lake road we continued north on scenic Highway 49 toward the Going to the Sun Highway. As you can see from the map above, the road is winding.  What you can’t see on the map is how narrow and steep it was as well.  We were both glad we were driving the Tracker and not the motorhome. 

The views of the mountains to our west and the changing fall colors were spectacular.

After an hour or so, including stops for photos, we reached the intersection of Highway 89 and the Going to the Sun road at the St Mary Visitor Center.  Sadly, the visitor center was closed for the season, as was the beautiful St Mary Hotel at this eastern edge of St Mary Lake.  I had hoped to see the visitor centers because the displays are always wonderful and add so much to a visit to our national parks.

Entering the park we stopped for the obligatory photo at the entrance and only had one other car waiting behind us to take the same photo. 

The Going to the Sun Highway is a truly spectacular drive, with rock walls created by the CCC many years ago and magnificent views.  Having driven the western portion of this road, I would say that the eastern part is an easier drive, not quite as narrow and not as scary as the west side.

We reached the Logan Pass parking lot before noon with only about 1/3 of the parking lot filled.  With the visitor center closed the main activity to enjoy at Logan Pass is the hike to Hidden Lake.  I knew that I would make it all the way to the lake but hoped that I could at least get to the upper part of the trail where I could at least see it from a distance.

Logan Pass is well known for sightings of Rocky Mountain sheep along the trail, but we weren’t lucky enough to see any on this day, although I did see them back in the late 90s when I hiked all the way to the lake.  The trail wasn’t terribly crowded, but all those steps are sometimes worse for me than simply hiking up a slope.

I went as far as I could before realizing that my shaky and very weak thigh muscles weren’t going to carry me to the top and I did want to have enough left to get back down.  I had to call it quits and Mo and I sat on the broad red metamorphic rocks enjoying the view before we headed back down the “trail”.  I put trail in quotation marks because much of it is paved and the rest is a complex maze of wooden stairs and boardwalks as far as the upper viewpoint.  Beyond the viewpoint, the trail descends rapidly to the lake through forests and looks more like a “real” trail.

Going to the Sun Mountain towers above the boardwalk trail to Hidden Lake

We lingered for quite some time simply enjoying the views before we meandered back down the trail to the car and backtracked down the highway toward St Mary Lake.  There were a few viewpoints along the road that allowed us to see St Mary Falls down in the canyon, but there was no way I was going to even think bout hiking down there!

One thing noticeably absent on our hike and our drive on the highway was a glacier.  Even high on the pass, we saw no evidence of glaciers within our views.  The statistics about the retreating and disappearing glaciers in Glacier National Park are sobering.  It may have to change its name to “once upon a time glacier national park”.  A sad story repeating throughout the world, especially in the west of the United States.

We had packed a picnic lunch.  I have a silly story I want to add, although it might not be as great a story without the facial expressions to go with it.  On our way up Highway 89, we came upon some road construction.  We were the first car in line and a tiny woman came up to the car and smiled at us.  She asked us about the kayaks and smiled some more.  Asked where we were going and smiled some more.  Then she asked if we had packed a picnic lunch.  We said, “Sure we did”.  She smiled some more and then asked, “Did you make it yourself?  What did you make?”  I told her, and then she just kept smiling at me with a very certain look, much like Mattie gets when she is watching us eat bacon.  I said “Would you like a cookie?”  She smiled extra big and said, “Yes!!”  So we gave her cookies.  I will never forget that sweet lady and her smile that said more than any words could have said.

We drove a bit down the road thinking we might come upon a picnic area with a roadside table for our lunch (minus a few cookies.).  Nothing appeared that fit the bill perfectly until we saw this broad rock on the side of a wide place in the road.  Lunch on that rock in view of all those magnificent mountains was delicious.

Continuing down the road, we finally did see a glacier.  Through the trees, with no place to pull over for a decent photo, we saw Jackson Glacier nestled into the mountain in the distance.  The sunlight was so bright and was facing directly at me but I did manage to prove that there is at least one visible glacier in Glacier National Park.

The highway levels out a bit as it approaches St Mary Lake, and there is a very large fire scar from recent forest fires that mar the views somewhat. Fires are the story of the west, and in National Parks they try to let them burn naturally, hoping to eliminate the truly epic fires that happen when the landscape isn’t allowed to burn as it would without suppression. 

We had one more destination on our list for the one-day quickie look at Glacier National Park.  The road to Many Glacier is to the north on Highway 89, with a 20-mile or so route to the famous hotel and lake.  There is a campground there in addition to a trailhead that leads to views of another famous glacier in the park, the Grinnell Glacier.

Once we were on the road west toward Many Glacier, we were stunned to discover a long stretch of rough gravel road.  We were both a bit tired by this time of the day and had no clue if 20 miles of traveling on a rough gravel road at 5mph would be worth it.  We went back and forth a bit with the decision and finally decided to keep going, just a little bit further.  It was only 2 miles of gravel before we hit the pavement once again and we were glad we hadn’t turned around.  There were no signs or warnings of any kind about this construction or any indication of how long it would last and for how far it continued.

When we arrived at the location of the historic Many Glacier Hotel it was late afternoon.  We weren’t surprised to discover that like almost everything else during this October day in Glacier NP, the hotel was closed up tight. 

We parked in the upper parking lot where there was a short walkway to this view of the hotel with the beautiful lake and mountain backdrop.  The hotel is in the familiar style of national park lodges that are familiar throughout the country, including our own Crater Lake Lodge, the lodge at Yellowstone National Park, and many others. 

There is a great history of this old lodge, and people return year after year to hike and enjoy the lake.  Once again, the lake was posted with a sign prohibiting private watercraft.  I am not sure if this is the case during the summer season as well and the only boats allowed on this lake would be park-owned excursion boats.

We drove the short distance from the lodge toward the Many Glacier campgrounds, but most of the cabins were closed as were all the stores and restaurants that are in that area.  The other thing that was noticeable was the lack of sunlight in the deep canyon protected on all sides by the towering peaks that surrounded the lake.  It was dark in there, especially late in the day and late in the season. 

Something Mo and I were especially intrigued by during the day was the dramatic view of Singleshot Mountain above St Mary Lake with its colorful sedimentary layers of the Appekuny Formation.

One obscure piece of information that was documented on a roadside sign was fantastic.  We stopped at a point overlooking Lake Mary where this sign explained with maps and diagrams that we were looking across the lake at Triple Divide Peak, one of the few places in the world where streams feeding three major watersheds originate.  From this point waters from Glacier National Park flow into three different places:  The Pacific Ocean, Hudson Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.  I thought that was really cool. 

As the sign above said;  It’s All Downhill from Here.

The trip from Many Glacier back to Cutbank and our patient little dog took about an hour and a half.  We crossed the wide open landscapes of the Blackfeet Reservation to the town of Browning and returned home from Browning on Highway 2.  It was a good day, albeit a long one, but we were happy with our choices and decided that we did exceptionally well for a single one-day visit to an incredible national park.

10-01-2022 to 10-04-2022 North Dakota to Cutbank, Montana

Traveling west on the High Line Highway 2 in North Dakota

When I left you last, Mo and I were happily settled in for two peaceful days at Grahams Island State Park.  Currently, as I write this morning, the fall foggy mornings have settled into our beautiful Southern Oregon Rogue Valley.  Grants Pass has fog.  It isn’t the beach, but just 2 short hours from the ocean and a straight line to the ridge of mountains that likes to make sure that fog settles in. 

Sometimes it rolls around and we watch it rise from the valley, shrouding our outdoor views with soft gray.  Sometimes we watch it lift.  Unlike the cold not snowy winter days of January, it stays all day.  I am happy that at this time of year it usually lifts.  But what I find interesting is that when the rains stop and the weather apps say “sunny”, I can be fairly certain that our mornings, at least, will be foggy.

What better time to return with photos and pictures and notes in my journal and calendar to write about our travels as we continued westward.

We left Grahams Island State Park early on the morning of the first of October.  Mo was born in North Dakota and knows the state better than I do, but I was surprised by the views of rolling hills and meandering canyons as we drove west from Devils Lake.

Before long, however, the landscape flattened into what most people imagine for the state of North Dakota.  In addition to the flat landscape, we noticed more and more oil wells as we approached Williston on the far western border of the state. North Dakota experienced a major oil boom in the early 2000s.  Here is the introductory paragraph from Wiki. Skip over it if you like, but with the current state of oil production and oil and fuel prices in the US, it might be interesting:

“The North Dakota oil boom refers to the period of rapidly expanding oil extraction from the Bakken Formation in the state of North Dakota that lasted from the discovery of Parshall Oil Field in 2006, and peaked in 2012,[1][2] but with substantially less growth noted since 2015 due to a global decline in oil prices.[3] Despite the Great Recession, the oil boom resulted in enough jobs to provide North Dakota with the lowest unemployment rate in the United States from 2008 to at least 2014.[4][5] The boom gave North Dakota, a state with a 2013 population of about 725,000, a billion-dollar budget surplus. North Dakota, which ranked 38th in per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001, rose steadily with the Bakken boom, and had a per capita GDP 29% above the national average by 2013.[6]

By October 2020, total oil rig count in the state had fallen dramatically. According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the total oil rig count in the state had fallen from 58 active rigs on October 3, 2019, to only 11 active rigs on October 3, 2020, a reduction of over 80 percent.

The oil boom was largely due to the successful use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which made tight oil deposits recoverable.[7] Contributing to the boom was a push to commence drilling and production on oil and gas leases before the expiration of their primary term, commonly three to five years, at which time the leases would terminate unless a producing well was drilled on the lease. But once production was established, the leases continued as long as oil and gas were continually produced.”

As we continued west and the day extended toward evening, we had to make a choice.  In our original planning I thought that we could camp at Fort Peck in the COE campgrounds near the dam.  I knew that the campgrounds closed on September 30, but thought we could still dry camp there.  However, when I contacted the campground by phone I was told that the gates were all closed and locked but that we could still find a spot along the road leading toward the lake for dispersed camping.

It was time to make a decision.  Our travel plans were slowing considerably by adding a few extra days out to arrive in Lincoln Washington on October 7.  Why rush to a closed campground?  We chose instead to boondock in the parking lot of the Flying J or the Love’s Truck stop in Williston on the border between North Dakota and Montana.

The Flying J was on the edge of town, along Highway 2, but when we stopped it was small and seemed a bit isolated and sketchy.  Continuing a few miles toward the town of Williston, we checked out the Love’s Truck Stop and decided it would be a fine place for an overnight.  We have camped a few times in the past at Loves or Flying J or other big truck stops without incident.  I never thought to take photos, for reasons that might become more clear with the continuation of this story.  It wasn’t a good night.

The truck stop was fairly new, built in the last couple of years, and there seemed to be plenty of room in the parking area surrounding the store.  We first settled into a spot along the right side of that island you see on the right because all of the overnight slots for truck parking were back-in sites.  We really didn’t want to have to unhook for just an overnight at a truck stop. 

We settled in and managed to open the slide into a safe area with big rigs passing us on the right.  Just a short time later, a guy with a fifth wheel pulled out of one of the back in slots, leaving his chair and ice chest in place, and shortly after that, a trucker pulled up next to the leftover stuff.  Suddenly he was screaming and yelling and throwing everything in that space into the air and out to the grass.  He was angry and loud and very scary.  Funny thing was that there were at least 20 open slots all around that one space.  No matter, the guy was really mad.  I looked at Mo and said, “Let’s just pull straight into that spot far from everything on the boundary of the parking lot and we can unhook in the morning”.  So we did.  It was an easy place to settle in, with grass on two sides of us and some garbage cans, and no one nearby.

Within minutes, however, some very strange-looking people pulled up in a couple of trucks, yelling and trying to find out if someone had left a small portable refrigerator by a telephone pole by us and these people were trying to figure out if it was useable. There was a plug-in on the phone pole and they were trying to use it. We locked our doors.  As we settled in for supper, more and more trucks pulled into the lot, however instead of semis, most of them were working trucks with a lot of big dirty equipment.  Maybe we were getting a bit paranoid by this time but the drivers all seemed angry and fast and scary as well. 

We pulled the shades tight against the outdoor lights surrounding us and went to bed with our Kindles to read.  The noise never stopped.  There were trucks and a lot of strange people running around and yelling at each other.  I was afraid to open anything to look out the windows to try to see what was going on.  Then as the night progressed, the noise got louder.  Coyotes started howling close by and there was a lot of dog barking.  Then there was a lot of crashing and banging.  I finally peeked out the window to see another angry guy throwing the full garbage cans into a giant trailer.  He was yelling at the dogs and the coyotes I guess, or maybe the garbage cans. Things settled down for a bit before he returned for more yelling and throwing the now-empty garbage cans back into their locations on both sides of our rig.

I think it was around 1am when things finally settled down and I slept, although fitfully and very apprehensive about what might happen next.  We left early the next morning.  I think we might avoid staying at another Love’s truck stop in the future, at least not in working man oil country.

Eastern Montana on Highway 2 was a bit less flat than Western North Dakota

When our plans shifted with an early stopover at Williston, we needed to re-evaluate our nightly destinations.  I already had a reservation for an RV park in Cutbank, Montana for Monday the 3rd, and we didn’t want to drive all the way to Cutbank in one day.  I searched around a bit and found a little treasure in the tiny town of Zurich, Montana.  (unlike Switzerland, it is pronounced like “rich”).

Once more, as we continued west, we were accompanied by the muted fall colors of a plains state with few trees

As I was searching for places to stay, I came upon this video for the tiny town of Zurich, about 30 miles east of Havre.  I then read a few reviews, and we decided that a night in this old park in an old town would be a delightful way to spend an extra night on the road.

We arrived early afternoon and the park was empty.  We had our choice of sites and discovered that the new posts were 30/50 amp, not only 50amp as was noted in one of the reviews.  We had a converter either way but it was nice not to have to use it.  The water spigot adjacent to our site was also operational, although all the other spigots were turned off for the winter.

Next to the park building was a mailbox with envelopes and registration forms.  Inside the box were two other filled-out forms with money inside the envelopes.  Only in rural Montana, I would guess.  No one seemed to bother the money-filled envelopes in the mailbox.  We added our envelope and our ten-dollar bill to the pile.

I took Mattie for a walk and we enjoyed the silence and the ambiance of the park.  It was easy to imagine summertime picnics and ballgames and happy laughing people having barbeques and family gatherings.  Mattie loved this park because she could run and play off-leash to her heart’s content. For us, it was a perfectly quiet and very dark overnight stay.

We discovered to our consternation the next morning that someone had parked a vehicle right in front of the MoHo.  We never heard anything, but there was a dry spot where the overnight rain hadn’t reached below the footprint of the vehicle.  Sadly, there was no additional envelope in the mailbox.  Before we left that morning an older gentleman drove in and picked up the envelopes and drove up to what appeared to be a caretaker’s home just across the creek.  He was taciturn but did say hello to us.

Loved seeing these two schools across the street from each other in Zurich

On our way out of town, we took advantage of the moody, foggy morning to stop and take some photos of the old bank and school.  Such a sweet little place and great fun for a change of pace for us.

As we crossed the rest of the state of Montana toward Cutbank, the perfectly flat landscape opened up with a slight hint of the great mountain range to our west.  It is always exciting to approach the Rocky Mountains after traveling across so many hundreds of miles of flat country.  Although I developed a new respect for the Appalachian Mountains after this trip.  Still, the magnificent front of the Rockies viewed from a long distance is thrilling.

We were a bit less thrilled when we drove into Cutbank and found our 4-star rated campground.  Glacier Mist RV Park is definitely a strange place.

Here is a review that encouraged me to take a chance with a park that was “a work in progress”  In fairness, there wasn’t much available on the east side of the Rockies this late in the season.  Most of the RV parks that cater to Glacier NP visitors were closed, and after many calls, I got a reservation at Glacier Mist.  When I called this morning to request an additional night Carol called me right back.  Carol is nothing if not friendly and very talkative.

Convenient to Glacier NP, 30/50 A, wide spaces for all size RV, we camped 3 days with 40. Ft Fifth wheel, plenty of room For truck also. Carol, the owner runs the place by herself and is very nice, campground is a work in progress so it looks a little rough but Don’t let that keep you from coming in Price was great….

As you can see from the photos, work in progress is definitely a good description.  Carol told us to take our choice of campsites, and we hooked up water and power and surprisingly, the site was completely level.  Our plan was to spend two days at this park to stall another night before traveling to Idaho and on to Washington, to catch up on laundry, and to catch up on rest. 

When I went to the office to ask Carol for the bathroom and laundry room code she asked if we planned to visit Glacier, and then proceeded to give me maps and charts and a ton of information about visiting the park this late in the season.

I did laundry in the spotless laundry room, took a great shower in the spotless bathroom, and meandered back to the rig to talk with Mo about the possibility of seeing Glacier NP.  What I didn’t know is that Mo had never been to Glacier.  I had to search my memory banks and photos to remember the several times that I visited the park during the time I lived in Northern Idaho.

The sunset from Glacier Mist RV Park toward the Rocky Mountains was stunning.

After supper, we reviewed the maps and decided that a day trip to Glacier would be a great idea.  What better way to kill an extra day on the road?!

Our day in Glacier was spectacular and has earned the right to a post of its own, coming next.