Monday, June 30, 2014

North Cascades National Park

June 24 - 28, 2014:

The rain stopped about 8 AM, perfect timing for me to do the usual tank draining, kicking of the tires, checking of the oil and cleaning of the windshield without getting wet.  The ride was route 174 to 17 north to 97 south to 153 north to 20 west, about 170 miles and one of our longer moves.  We traveled through the Columbia river valley past some huge Cherry orchards which gave me a bad hankering for some cherry pie, but I resisted, maybe another day.  On route 20 the scenery started getting real interesting with the cloud shrouded Cascade mountains in the distance.  Route 20 is called the Cascade Loop scenic highway is rated as a top drives in the country and is also labelled as the "North American Alps".  The hardest part of the trip for me was keeping my eyes on the road and to keep moving, I wanted to stop at every photo Op along the way.

Along the way we passed the Chief Joseph Dam

A view along Route 20 in North Cascades National Park

Another view, the upper elevations were all clouds
We arrived at North Cascades National Park about 1 PM and found our site in the Newhalem Campground.  It is an almost rain forest setting with huge fir trees, moss, ferns, lichens and I must admit some mosquitos, bug spray is recommended.  It is beautiful, all I can hear is the birds and the sound of the Skajit River nearby.  No hookups, but convenient potable water and a dump station.  Amazingly, we have a real good phone signal here.  The campground is in the town of Newhalem which was and still appears to be a Seattle City Light company town for Dam and electrical workers.  

First stop, as usual, was the park visitors center to get some park information.  We watched the movie which was the weirdest one so far, very new age artistic, strange ?  The park service videos now all seem to have a native american perspective, but they put such a flutey musical, medicine man, spirit worldly spin on it that even I, a true indian supporter have to say Ok, enough already ! 

A beautifully clear sunny day on Wednesday which gets us out for a hike on the Thunder Knob trail with great views of surrounding mountains and Diablo Lake.  Afterwards we check out several other roadside view points along route 20.  The forest here is so lush with vegetation and the trees are covered with moss and lichens.  There are three Dams on the Skagit River, Gorge, Diablo and Ross, just to the east of the campground which supply over 90% of Seattle's power.  There are so many creeks flowing down into the Lakes and several waterfalls. The Lake water is the weirdest green color from "rock flour" or ultra fine grains of rock in suspension in the water that are washed down by the mountain streams from the glaciers above.  There are hundreds of glaciers in the high mountain wilderness regions of the park. 

This is Thunder Creek, the water was almost white

A pristine pond on the trail

View from Thunder Creek Knob looking at  Diablo Lake,
note this green coloration of the water, all natural
A peaceful rest at the Knob before heading down

View from the shore of Lake Diablo

Turk Cap Lilly's along a roadway

The weather here is strange, the Pacific coast weather systems as they move west to east get hung up in the mountains here on the west side of the park resulting in much clouds and rain.  The east side of the park, a few miles away, stays much clearer and dryer. Unfortunately, it seems to be wet period this week.

Thursday we go for another hike, this time on the Pyramid Lake Trail with a mix of sun and clouds.  It was a moderate rated trail, 2.2 miles with a 1,500 feet elevation rise and lots of steps, rocks and roots to get over.  Twinkles knee was hurting at about the 2 mile point so we turned around and went back.  There was a beautiful creek along the trail flowing over moss covered rocks and many old growth trees.  Also incredible views of the snow covered peaks in the distance from time to time through the trees. 

A Bunch Berry, Perfect !

Mountain stream along trail

Lots of colorful Mushrooms

The trees are covered with these lichens

A mountain view through the trees

Friday is intermittent periods of rain, sun and clouds all day.  I went to Newhalem to see the Seattle City Light visitors center which has lots of history of the company town and the Dam system.  This prompted me to do a walking tour of the town where I found the "Cedar Trail".  The trail is 1 mile, one of the best 1 mile flat trails ever !  You cross over the fast flowing Skagit River on a suspension bridge to get there and enter a virtual rain forest, the trees are covered with moss and lichens, the forest floor covered with ferns and there are massive old Cedar trees.  The town is very well maintained and is a registered National Historic site.

Logging truck on route 20

The Skajit River

Fox Gloves growing wild along roadway

Original steam locomotive that ran passenger trains into
town of Newhalem

The general store in Newhalem

Lush foliage on the Trail of the Cedars

This area had been logged, but many huge trees remain

Such as this huge western Red Cedar Tree

Some type of Hosta , liked the way the water beaded up on it

Also nearby is the Power House for the Gorge Dam with the Ladder Creek Falls and flower gardens behind it.  The man who masterminded this Dam complex, J.D. Ross, also had a love for horticulture and planted rare plants from around the world on the power house grounds.  He also installed multi-colored lights on the Falls and had music piped in.  The power house grounds became a tourist attraction with two day excursion tours run from Seattle.  The idea was to promote electricity and hydroelectric Dam systems. This Dam was built in the early 1900's when electricity was a fairly new commodity.  The Falls continue to be lighted today with more efficient bulbs, of course.

View of the Ladder Creek Falls

A high section of the Ladder Creek Falls

Following this I went to the next Dam upriver, the Diablo Dam, which you can drive across, park and then walk back over the Dam.  The quantity of water flowing at the Dam is staggering and a bit scary even though it's only normal at this time, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near there in high water periods.

The roadway over the Diablo Dam

The Lake level is not far below

View of Diablo Lake

The discharge from the Dam

Amazing shape of this Lichen

A view along the Seetattle Creek Trail

A Banana Slug

Beautiful blue wildflower
We slipped out on Saturday afternoon between rain storms to hike the flat but beautiful River Loop trail.

The Skajit River is nearly overflowing it's banks here

Lush vegetation along trail

Tree lichens are thick and dripping wet, everything is dripping wet

Many trees are covered with layer of moss

Don't eat the mushrooms !

A huge pileated Woodpecker

Next stop is the Pacific coast,

Twinkles and Slick

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Coeur d'alene and Grand Coulee Dam

June 18-23, 2014:

It is a cloudy day turning to light rain as we drive  from Lewiston to Coeur d'alene, Idaho.  Our route was route 95 to route 90 east to route 97 west along Coeur d'alene Lake to forest road 438 to the "Beauty Creek Campground".  The ride on route 95 was straight uphill out of Lewiston, then through miles and miles of rolling green farm fields.  We traveled through several very rural small towns along the way, but nothing very noteworthy.  

Beauty Creek is a small National Forest Service campground with only about 8 RV sites, so we were a little nervous about availability, but all was fine.  It has no hookups, but water is available and a dump station is nearby.  It is in the forest, next to the magnificent Coeur d'alene Lake, seems rustic and remote, but you can be in downtown Coeur d'alene in about twenty minutes. 

The campsite

Beautiful Lichens on the trees

Beauty Creek

These were abundant and very pretty

The name Coeur d'alene derives from the Coeur d'alene Indian tribe who lived in this area.  There seems to be a couple of versions to this story, but the one I like best is as follows.  The indians were shrewd traders and refused to sell their goods for mere trinkets and beads and told the trappers that their heart's were small as an awl.  As a result, the trappers called them the "Coeur d'alene" or in french "heart of an awl".  I suppose that was an original racial slur ?

This is a different version, but they all refer to the
Coeur d'alene tribe as shrewd traders
Thursday, with partly sunny skies we took a 3.3 mile hike, it's been awhile now since we last hiked and it felt really good. The Mineral Ridge Trail trail was pretty much all up and down, 600 feet elevation gain, but considered moderate. It is a local favorite as it has great views of the Lake.  We also took a partial drive around the lake which is the high rent district, lots of mansions, marinas, keep out signs, etc. National Geopraphic some years ago named Lake Coeur d'alene one of the five most beautiful lakes in the country and it is quite the view. 

The lake from the trail viewpoint

The Lake at dusk

Another view

The lake side road is a scenic byway
We are most definitely out of the desert now, everything here is lush green, tall pine trees, ferns, moss, streams and rivers all over and way more humid.  Another big change is coffee, they love coffee here, in town there seems to be a drive up coffee shop on every other corner. 

Friday we explore downtown, use the Library WiFi to research and decide where to head next.  Coeur d'alene has a beautiful small vibrant downtown area right on the Lake front. Actually it's a little too clean, upscale and resort feeling for my liking.  On Saturday, we return and hike another popular trail downtown, the 2 mile Tubbs Hill trail with great views of Lake Coeur d'alene.  We then stroll around the downtown park with lots of people out on the beach area.  I haven't seen so many white tanless bodies in a long time !

There were many steam boats on Coeur d'alene

Resort Hotel in Coeur d'alene
Along with nice Marina
Tubb's Hill Trail view
The beach area
Sight seeing plane ride

June 22, 2014:

It was a busy day starting off with a trip to Urgent Care to have the stitches removed from my poor finger along with another course of antibiotic's to battle the infection that is still raging.  It's still ugly !  
It's then on the road for Grand Coulee, Washington.  Shortly after leaving on Interstate 90 west everything came to a halt, then creeped along, stop and go, as the highway was closed ahead.  We were put off on an exit and then no detour signs or police guidance for an alternate route.  We latter found out there was a shoot out during a routine traffic stop on the highway at 2 AM.  This caused then to shut down an interstate highway for at least 12 hours ?  Idaho police get a "F" for their handling of the situation and the traffic.  I just followed the big trucks ahead for awhile thinking they must know the way and my GPS kept telling me over and over to make a legal U-turn, turn left, turn right, very confusing.  Eventually, a few miles latter there was a traffic sign saying which road to take to get back to route 90 again.  The rest of the trip was thankfully uneventful and we arrived at Grand Coulee RV Park about 4 PM, rather late for us, but not a problem as we had a reservation.  

The major attraction here is, of course, the Grand Coulee Dam on the mighty Columbia River.  It was built in 1933-1941 and was the largest masonry structure in the world and is still the largest in the US.  It was enlarged in 1967-1974 to add a third power plant and is the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the US and generating about 3 times the power of Hoover Dam.  It was another visionary project of the Roosevelt new deal administration.We went to the visitor center which had great exhibits and several movies along with several viewing areas of the Dam.  There was a Woody Guthrie exhibit with him singing his classic song "Roll on Columbia" about the Columbia River and the Grand Coulee Dam.  We were told that the nightly laser light show was not to be missed so there we were on Monday at 10 PM. It was mostly an educational show about the history of the region and the Dam, the laser images were clear, but the show could not be considered exciting to watch.  

A distant view of the Dam
A closer view, there was very little water being released

Inside the visitor center
The Indians life style revolved around the river and the
Salmon migration upstream.  The Salmon no longer can
get upstream as the Dam is too high.
Woodie Guthrie was under contract to write songs
A quilt at the visitor's center
A bust of Roosevelt near the Dam

The town of Grand Coulee is small and not photogenic, nothing exciting, but then another 2 miles and you come to the Town of Coulee Dam, with the Coulee Dam Casino.  The Indian reservation is across the bridge on the other side.

Bridge over Columbia River at Town of Coulee Dam

Sign on the bridge

The confederated tribes of the Colville Reservation

The Casino in the Town of Coulee Dam

Wood carving at Coulee Dam

I then took a side trip to "Electric City", 1 mile away, which is a lake recreation area on the irrigation supply reservoir, mainly so I could check out the "Electric City Bar and Grill", where good friends meet.  It was nicer than expected with very interesting ceiling tiles.  They were standard acoustic drop ceiling tiles that were hand painted by bar patrons, or so it appeared, and well done. Also not to be missed in Electric City is the Windmill garden outside of town.

Interesting Windmill Garden in town

THe Electric City Bar and Grill

The Wi-Fi at this campground actually is good, always a surprise, enabling us to do some trip planning.  We made arrangements at a campground in the Seattle area and once there in a couple of weeks, we are definitely slowing down the pace.  Another travel day on Tuesday to North Cascades National Park which is highly regarded for it's wilderness scenery. 

Off to see the glaciers,
Twinkles and Slick