Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yellowstone or Bust Day 7!

We checked out of our room early this morning, hoping to catch some nice shots of Grand Coulee Dam before the sun got too high in the sky.
We visited the gift shop and excellent little museum of the Confederated Colville tribes, the people most affected by the building of this magnificent dam, the first, and largest on the Columbia River system. Families were displaced, villages were lost, historical fishing resources were inundated, but the tribes are resilient and living with change.
Looking for a café for breakfast we discovered Flo's through a series of happy coincidences, shared a table with a lovely couple, and guess what? He turned out to be the Dam Manager!!! What a treat!

We learned from our breakfast companion that a coulee is a large geographical gully formed by glacial action. The grand coulee is filled with water, and sports some beautiful rock formations.

Our route home to Gig Harbor  took us thru Leavenworth, a Bavarian styled village near Wenatchee. apparently everyone wanted to go to Bavaria on Sunday, because we couldn't find a parking place in the town proper, so settled for a special treat at Zimmermans German bakery, to give us energy for the grueling 3 hour drive home! Note to self: Do not repeat that drive on a Sunday afternoon. I am sure the entire population of Seattle had evacuated last weekend, and were all traveling home at the same time.

We arrived home, fulfilled with the joy of our adventure, with memories for a lifetime. We did indeed reach Yellowstone National Park, and our trip was far from a bust!

Intrepid road trippers at Yellowstone entrance. 


Yellowstone or Bust Day 6

Our drive today would only be about 120 miles, so we leisurely enjoyed coffee in our room, packed the car and headed to "Jimmy's Down the Street" for a wonderful breakfast. Mom, who is usually careful about her diet, enjoying oatmeal one day and an egg the next, pulled out all the stops at Jimmy's! It is an iconic 50's type breakfast / lunch diner, which at 10:30 AM was jammed packed with a 15 minute waiting list. Need I say more?

After breakfast we made our way down to Independence Point, a beautiful city park at lakes edge which sports a long beach and dock for seaplane rides, Couer d'Alene Cruises, para sailing and paddle boat rentals.

We bought our tickets for our 12:30 cruise and were soon on our way. The lake was calm and beautiful, and various members of the crew gave narrations of the history of the area, pointed out natural points of interest, and gave us little insights into the lives of some of the notable people who established the community here. Coeur d'Alene means "heart of the awl". It seems the early French traders tried to finagle the Indians into accepting a poor trade for furs and other items they needed. The Indians refused to accept discounted value for their goods, and the French thought they were very "'sharp", hence "heart of the awl". Put that in your trivia pipe!

With lovely Coeur d'Alene in our rearview mirror, we rejoined I-90 on our way to Spokane, but took another little side trip to Post Falls park and had a look at the small falls that were used in the early part of last century to run sawmills, and later gristmills by the Posts and the Kellogs... Yep.. for bread and Wheaties!!

Our afternoon drive thru little farming communities of Eastern Washington, past boat ramps and fishing places, over hills of green and golden grain, soon brought us to Grand Coulee Dam, and our resting spot for the night. The Columbia River Motel is right across the road from the dam park. We settled in, took the advice of the motel proprietor and went into the town of Grand Coulee dinner.. (Not worth mentioning after the last three nights. Suffice to say we took nourishment). Back under the air conditioning of our motel room, a nap seemed to be in order before attending the 10PM laser show at the dam.
Note: If I knew how to post a video here, you would see a black screen with lots of very colorful squiggles set to music... Unfortunately, my technical skills are limited, so my recommendation would be that you Go to grand Coulee Dam and see the show for yourself!

A 500 word essay would not do justice to the wonderful audio-visual presentation by the US Bureau of Reclamation. Sound, laser motion and voice narration, all played against the screen of white water flowing over the face of the dam. What a day!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Yellowstone or Bust Day 5!

Shower, dress, reorganize luggage, load car, go to breakfast! Whew! Although breakfast wasn't included at 3 Bear Lodge, they gave us $2.00 discount coupons for breakfasts, and the food and service were pretty decent.

Mom was taken with the mascot bears in the restaurant.

Our drive today took 425 miles across some of the prettiest countryside Montana and Idaho have to offer, dotted with little farming communities, fly fishing streams, silver pit mines and even a huge thunderstorm that chased us for 50 miles or so. 

We joined I-90 at Caldwell, Montana, just after visiting the Calico Clay Pottery. My car has an automatic breaking system at pottery shops, so we went in, met Barb the proprietor, and Mom bought me a piece of her very interesting 3 color slip pottery as a birthday present. After a short visit, and Barb graciously offering the use of her restroom, I set the cruise control on 75 mph and headed west. 
We remarked often on the lack of traffic we experienced on this entire trip. We passed about a dozen trucks an hour and cars were few and far between. This stretch of 1-90 between Caldwell and Couer d' Alene is the most beautiful countryside I have experienced on an interstate. 

Couer d' Alene is a hidden gem on the border of Idaho and Washington, and our nights lodging there was a gem inside a gem! The Flamingo is a 1950's style motel, totally updated and upgraded, each of the 14 rooms decorated in a different style. Ours was  #12 "Country Cottage", perfect for us with one double and one queen bed, lady sized chairs for sitting and a writing desk. 

The Flamingo is immaculately clean, inexpensive, and 2 blocks from the vibrant, busy downtown section of this beautiful little city. 

Dinner at Tonys on the Lake was a dining experience not to be soon forgotten, mom receiving a complimentary glass of wine because she charmed the owner, and complete with snuggies placed around our shoulders when the evening chill came up from the lake. 

My appetizer was enough for 6 people and consisted of house made fresh mozzarella, figs marinated in port wine, Greek olives and roasted, marinated garlic, all drizzled in rich Italian olive oil, served with delicious house made sourdough rolls. I think this will become a staple appetizer at my house for dinner parties! 

Tired from the drive, satiated with wonderful food and service, we returned to our little "Country Cottage" room, sank into our delightfully comfortable beds and enjoyed a beautiful nights sleep. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Yellowstone or Bust, Day 4!

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the lodge cafe, appreciating the choice we made to stay in the same lodging tonight. It was nice for a change to not have to pack up and load the car before setting off on today's sightseeing adventure. This day we will be following the road clockwise from Madison  around the entire lower circle of the park.

First stop at the Norris Geyser Basin, I hiked the 1/3 mile trail to the Artist Paint Pot area leaving mom on a bench under a tree near the parking area. When I got to the board walk around the thermal area, I realized my knee wasn't going to take a lot of uphill trekking, so I just enjoyed the pools nearby, and hiked the 1/3 mile back. While there though, I saw the "dinosaur egg" little cauldron... 

Our next stop was at the major Norris area attraction, Porcelain Basin, and Steamboat Geyser, where we enjoyed a most informative and interesting ranger talk. I left my phone in the car, and only have pictures on my big camera, and unfortunately no way to unload them here. Mom did amazingly well, using her 3 legged cane with the seat, she managed the 3/4 mile round trip boardwalk very well! 

We ventured off the main road to drive the upper and lower Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone loop roads, and indeed it is a grand canyon! Moms comment "Oh, it is beautiful, but it can't compare with the GRAND Canyon"... Smile. 

The stone benches along a walkway to one of the overlooks intrigued us, and ever the ham, mom posed on one of them.... 

Leaving the canyon, we leisurely drove through the verdant Hayden Valley, then along the shores of massive Yellowstone lake, and continued onto Old Faithful. An early evening rain shower occurred just about the time Old (not so) Faithful was predicted to erupt, so we watched this momentous occasion from inside the Visitor Center.

An absolutely wonderful meal of Bison Short-ribs (do you suppose this is how they keep the herd in check?) over garlic mushroom mashed potatoes in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge dining room capped our visit to this historic area. We had a 45 minute drive back to our lodge at West Yellowstone, but driving thru the Biscuit and Midway Geyser Basins in the damp evening twilight felt like driving thru an Ansel Adams photograph, every stream, steam vent and tree showing silver, black, white and shades of grey. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Yellowstone Or Bust Day 3

Wednesday morning dawned bright and hot in Idaho Falls, and after breakfast at our hotel, we took a little drive to look at the "falls".

The scenic drive over an 8,000 foot pass was beautiful and very slow, but at one point we did have a glimpse of the Grand Tetons, and lots of little waterfalls, lush forests, and brilliant wildflowers. We arrived  in Jackson and I couldn't get through it quickly enough. 30 years ago this was such a lovely, uncrowded little out post... But Wednesday was so jammed with traffic, pedestrians and bicycles, it took us nearly 15 minutes to drive thru it. We stopped at the National parks Visitor center on the far end of town, picked up maps and information about the Tetons, and went on our way. 

The majesty of those mountain peaks made my heart sing with the old hymn "How Great Thou Art".

We enjoyed our picnic lunch at a stop on Jenny Lake, and then made our way to the South Entrance of Yellowstone Park. I think our National Parks are among the greatest treasures we, as Americans share, and much needs to be done to preserve them for our future generations. (No politics here.. I'll save the soapbox for another day).

I couldn't resist putting this sticker on my bumper! 

Arriving at Grant Village, we visited another of the excellent visitor centers provided for interpretive services, and garnered the advice of a seasoned ranger as to how best use our time in the park. 
A visit to West Thumb Geyser basin was most enjoyable, offering us a 1/4 mile loop boardwalk introduction to cauldrons, pools, fumeroles and bubbling mud pots! Mom suffers from osteoporosis, arthritis and the subtle after effects of a small stroke a few years ago, but she is such a trooper, and surprised even herself she could walk such a distance! 


Driving at sunset the 50 miles or so from West Thumb to West Yellowstone with the sun in our eyes and a bug spattered windshield obscuring my view was no fun, but our efforts were rewarded by finding an immaculate room at historic 3 Bear Lodge, and an amazing dinner of Elk Medallions over mashed potatoes! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Yellowstone or Bust Day 2

The Geiser Grand was a great place to spend our first night. Built during the 1863 gold rush, to service wealthy mineral barons. Sitting  in the glass ceilinged dining room one can almost imagine dancing girls in feathered chapeaus advertising their wares on the mezzanine above

Leaving Baker City, we rejoined 1-84, stopping at the Idaho welcome center, where we caught  our first glimpse of the Snake River, the most important tributary of the Columbia River, running some  1050 miles from its headwaters near Yellowstone Natl Park, and dumping into the Columbia near Pasco, WA. 

Meandering away from the interstate, we followed historic Highway 30 through Hagerman, stopping at the Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor center, where we watched a 12 minute film depicting the prehistoric development of the fossil beds and Snake river. 
We had been advised to drive thru Buhl and visit the Clover Leaf Creamery for ice cream on our way to Twin Falls.

Serendipitous advice should always be followed, I think. In this case, we discovered a treasure hidden in a tiny Western town, and if ever you get within 50 miles of Buhl ID, you'd best follow this advice, as well! the ice cream is home churned from milk and cream from this family's dairy. Never have I enjoyed such a delightful treat! 

Following highway 30 to Twin Falls, we made a short stop at Shoshone Falls, another event of the Snake river, here harnessed by a small power plant. 

The sun was beginning to sink in the west and we made haste the following 160 miles to our bed at Idaho Falls. Our reward for driving at sunset was the most magnificent view of the sun sinking behind a little hill, the sky above radiant in flame orange, and highlighted by silver lined clouds. Unfortunately, although I consider myself a good multi-tasker, I have not yet figured out how to take a photograph with my iPhone driving at 75 MPH! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Yellowstone or Bust! Day 1

The day is dawned as perfectly as a road trip day should. It's 53, and will be 60 by the time mom and I  leave my daughter Cathryn's in West Linn, OR.  The sky is summer robins egg blue  behind slightly tinged apricot clouds, and just enough of a gentle breeze to keep the air fresh.
Youngest daughter Cathryn and her daughter Xela waved us off, as we left their little Portland suburb, headed for our great adventure!


First stop was Vista House, a beautiful stone monument to preserving the aesthetic quality of nature whilst building a road. Winding thru several miles of lush forest, highway 30 nearly parallels fast paced I-84 through the Columbia Gorge, but gives us a chance to see beautiful hidden waterfalls along the way.

Multnomah falls is the second highest year round waterfall in the US. It's rainbow spray and roar of falling water reminds us of the magnificent power of nature. Mom loves waterfalls! 

We lunched at Bonneville Dam... A double edged sword.. Providing power to millions of households and industry in the NW, it also disrupts the flow of nature, in making it difficult for salmon and other native fish to migrate upstream to their spawning beds. The Army Corps of Engineers has installed fish ladders to facilitate  annual migrations and have viewing windows for visitors to enjoy the beauty of our salmon. Although the spring migration is finished, and the fall migration has yet to begin, we were able to see a few stragglers.

We doddled so long getting to the dam and eating lunch, we realized we would miss our tour at Pendelton, but could still reach the mill shop before closing time.

Pendleton still produces the original Chief Joseph striped blanket robe, along with myriad designs and products other than wool blankets. We enjoyed seeing all the beautiful colors and designs, but there were no real bargains, and we left the mill with appreciation for tradition, but our wallets intact.

Baker City still lay a hundred miles or so to the east, so we once more joined I-84, put pedal to the metal and made haste to dinner and bed! The Geiser Grand hotel is grand indeed, with a crystal chandelier in each room! Tres chic! 

Day 2 will take us into Idaho..... Zzzzzzzzzz...