Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fort Spokane, Washington


On June 23, we left Kettle Falls and moved 60 miles down Lake Roosevelt (Columbia River) to Fort Spokane. It was a beautiful drive. There was a mix of pine forests and some farm land on the highlands. Here are a few shots along the way.


The lake was just like a mirror.


When we arrived at Fort Spokane, we found a very nice campground at the confluence of the Spokane river and the Columbia. It did not take 5 minutes to meet our neighbors. Bill and Darrell are both in their 80’s and live in the Spokane area. Sadly both of their wives have passed away. They do some traveling together while still maintaining their houses in Spokane. They have been friends for many years. We really enjoyed their company during our stay.


There is a nice marina here and a swim beach. I went swimming to cool off after the drive. As we are moving down the river, we are losing elevation and it is getting hotter. It got up in the 90’s each day we were there and we did not have electric, so no air conditioner. The huge Ponderosa pines did give us some much needed shade.

This is a shot of the swim beach and the Spokane River. In the distance is the mighty Columbia river slowed by Grand Coulee Dam.


This is a shot of the boat ramp area, check out the interesting rock formations on the far shore.


Our site at Fort Spokane is huge. It could easily hold two rigs as big as ours. It was the nicest site in the campground and may be one of the largest sites we have ever had.


Kim and I took a walk to the now restored Fort Spokane. The National Park Service has done a nice job of restoring the fort and telling the story of what happened here.




The story of the fort is interesting and very sad. The fort was established in 1880. It was the last fort established on the frontier. The mission of the men stationed here, was to keep the peace between white settlers and the Native Americans that had been moved to the Colville Reservation across the river. They saw no action other than stopping the white settlers from encroaching on the Indian Reservation. When the Spanish-American war broke out, the men were reassigned to Cuba and fought with Teddy Roosevelt at the battle of San Juan Hill. The fort was reassigned to the Bureau of Indian Affairs around 1900. In what I feel is one of the saddest events in American History, they opened an Indian boarding school on this site. The children from the local reservation were moved here against their will and they tied to force them to learn the white mans ways. If they tried to escape, they were locked in solitary confinement in the old jail at the fort. Some of the children that were locked up were under 10 years old. The children were only allowed to go home 3 weeks each year. This happened in this country less than 100 years ago. I was appalled.

We were about 80 miles from the Grand Coulee Dam and decided to drive the truck down and take a tour. There is also a laser light show that we have been told is worth seeing. The only problem is that it starts at 10 PM. On June 24, we decided to head down to check it out.

Since I was a small boy, I had heard of The Grand Coulee Dam. At the time, it was the largest Dam in the world. It was built for three reasons: Flood control, Generate Electric Power and provide water to irrigate crops. The negative effect was the elimination of prime river land used by the people up river and the destruction of the Salmon run further up the Columbia river.


This area of Washington is very dry. They get less than 9 inches of precipitation per year. The irrigation is the only way that this has become such a major producer of grain, fruits and vegetables. The very rich soil was brought in to this area from Montana by the massive floods that I mentioned in my previous post.

The dam was built in three phases starting in the 1930’s. It was finished with phase three in 1964. The penstocks on the hillside above the dam in the picture above carry water to Banks Reservoir that was created to provide the irrigation water.

We took the tour. The security is very tight. Another post 9/11 dam issue. We did get to see the large turbines in generator house #1.


These are less than half the size of the ones in the third generating plant on the other side of the dam. They told us that much of the power that was generated by the dam was used by the Hanford project during WWII, that is just south of here. My father worked at the Hanford project in the 50’s and 60’s. I can’t wait to ask him about that statement.

Looking down the 550 feet to the base of the dam.


We had dinner and then went to the visitor center. The best part was the movies they were showing. We watched three movies including one on the construction of the dam. There was also and hour long movie called “Sculpted by Floods”. It was the best explanation of what has happened in the Columbia river valley that I have seen during this trip.

I also picked up a booklet called “ Brief Historical Introduction To the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. It gave a brief history of the 12 tribes that were moved onto the reservation that was established in 1872. I found it very interesting and sad. The population in the tribes had been reduced by about 2/3 in the previous century by disease brought to them by the White man. 

We stayed for the laser light show. Normally they have the rotating doors open and the face of the dam is white, but they are having trouble with the doors, so the face of the dam was brown and the lasers did not show up as well. We drove back to camp and got there by around 11:30 PM. It was a long day, but very educational.

I did get a picture of a Bald Eagle right after the tour.


We really enjoyed our time at Fort Spokane. We ended up staying three nights. We are making our usual slow progress on our way to the Portland area to meet our Daughter and Son in Law for the forth of July weekend. We are really looking forward to that. The only problem is that the forecast is for some very hot weather moving into the Pacific North West. It is time to find some electricity, so that we can run the air conditioner. We are exceeding our sunny and 75 goal. We are not sure what our next stop will be. Come back to see where we end up.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kettle Falls, Washington


On June 21, we left my Cousin Debbie’s cabin and headed over to Lake Roosevelt. Lake Roosevelt is the 135 mile lake that is formed by Grand Coulee Dam. The lake is the flooded area that was the Columbia river. The drive was only 60 miles. We had our choice of many nice camp sites in this very nice campground. We liked site 66 which overlooks the lake.


The area is full of pine trees and is just beautiful.


After we got set up, I looked out the back window and there was a few quail including a large group of chicks. The chicks are hard to see, but they are directly in front of the adult quail.

Baby Quail

These are not Bobwhite quail. They are a California or a Gambrel Quail that we have seen in this area. They have a cool plume on top of their head. Here is a shot of another adult sitting up on the picnic table.

Adult quail

I thought that we would have a falls to go see while we were here, but there isn’t. It is actually a very sad story. The Native Americans in this area used to go to Kettle Falls to catch Salmon. The Salmon had a very difficult time to get further up the river because of the falls. They would be so thick that the legend talks about the ability to walk across the river on the back of the salmon. I have seen pictures of King Salmon that were caught that were in excess of 6 feet long. Many of the tribes would get half of their food for the year from the salmon run. When they built the dam, they did not provide a way for the fish to get up river. The falls are now under about 100 feet of water. The locals lost a significant amount of prime farm land. The Coleville Indian Reservation runs along the north side of the Columbia River (Lake Roosevelt) in this area. The tribes were compensated by getting a portion of the proceeds from selling electricity from the dam. We are planning to go visit the dam while we are in the area. I will get more into this story when we visit the dam. I have very mixed emotions about the building of the Grand Coulee Dam, but I will get the whole story before I decide how I feel.

We really enjoyed our two days at Kettle Falls. The weather was perfect with comfortable days and cool nights. We have seen the forecast and that was going to change. It was going to be in the 100’s by the next weekend. 

We took advantage of our nice weather to take some long walks and took a few more pictures of the area.


Here is the marina. There were a bunch of fishing boats and some very large house boats.



We ended up staying two nights before moving down the lake. Our next stop was Fort Spokane. I will tell that very sad story in my next entry. History can be very sad some times.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Weekend with Family


On Saturday, June 20, we left Trout Creek, Montana and followed the Clark Fork through far eastern Montana and across the panhandle of Idaho. Clark fork flows into Lake Pend Oreille. It is a beautiful lake and was quite busy on this Saturday morning. We went through the town of Sandpoint. There are many motels and other resort business in this area for people visiting the lake. We then drove on to the town of Newport, which is right on the Idaho/Washington border. We then turned north and followed the Pend Oreille river.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Pend Oreille river flows to the north to Canada. It is a very large river and the water is flowing briskly, but it is nothing like the flow that this river saw a few thousand years ago. Geologists have recently been able to explain the very unique features around this area.

As I have learned more about this area, I have found out that most of Eastern Montana, northern Idaho and Eastern Washington was heavily altered about 12000 years ago by a massive flood. There was a large lake in Montana in the Missoula area, called Glacial Lake Missoula. It was a huge lake and was blocked by a large glacier dam. As the ice age was receding, the dam was compromised and burst. The result was a flood of biblical proportions. They have evidence that the water in the Columbia river was as high as 1100 feet deep in the gorge down by Portland. It is also why there are large rock outcroppings all over western Washington. You also see many dry valleys that are not from recent rivers.

Sorry for the tangent, but that is all part of the journey. We continued up the river until we got to my cousin Debbie’s “cabin”. Debbie and her husband Steve live in Spokane, but come up to their retreat almost every weekend. Would you call this a cabin?


The house and grounds are gorgeous. Steve is the head grounds keeper and does an outstanding job. He has added trails and golf cart paths throughout the property. They also have a nice dock to hold their very nice pontoon boat and jet skis. There is also great fishing from the dock as my 1st cousin once removed Andrew showed us.



I met Andrew and his sister Stephanie and their spouses Shayla and Colby for the first time. They are very impressive young people and have great young families. Both families have a 2 year old. Here is Avery and Emerson. They are so cute.


Stephanie and Colby also have a 3 month old. Kim got some much needed baby time. My Aunt Elizabeth was there for the Fathers day weekend. Both Kim and I were able to get some quality time with her also.


This family loves their dogs and Lola the boxer is in a number of the pictures.

At one point, Steve proved that he did not know me well by asking me if I would like to take one of his brand new Sea Doos for a spin. I, of course, quickly said yes. I really need to learn to be a bit slower on the answer. That thing was FAST! I had a blast.


We had a fire on Saturday night and they got Fathers Day cards for all of the dads including me. We just had an amazing time.

On Sunday, folks were leaving pretty early, but we took the time to take a boat trip on the river. Here is a shot of Captain Steve and our sunbathing beauties on the front of the boat.



Sadly, that is the only picture I got of Debbie. We have spent very little time together in our lives, but she still was willing to let us park in her driveway and hang out for the weekend. We certainly plan to spend more time together as our lives continue. If you are reading this, Thanks for everything Debbie and Steve.

As I have mentioned in my blog before. One of the things that I would like to do as I travel around the country is to connect with my very large family. They are spread all over the US. I highly value family.

Take the time to make contact with a family member that you have not talked to in a while.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trout Creek, Montana


We arrived in Trout Creek, Montana on June 17. We planned to stay there 3 days before moving on to Washington state to visit some family. I would like to report that we filled each day with adventure, but that would not be true. Kim caught up on laundry and I did a few domestic chores, but mostly we did nothing. We watched movies on Netflix and just relaxed. The Trout Creek Motel and RV park is very nice. Kim met the owner and she told her that her husband is constantly working on the grounds and expanding the park. It was fairly quiet even though we were not far from the road. Here are a couple of shots of our site:



You know it is not going to be a very exciting post when I start with pictures of our campsite. I still like to document the places we go and the places we stay. We have been on the road for 6 months on this trip. We have stayed at 36 campgrounds. We often talk about an incident that happened to us and then try to remember the name of the campground. They are usually pretty funny conversations.

We are in a valley that has been cut by the Clark fork that ultimately flows into Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Ponderey) and then becomes the Pend Oreille River. That river is the only river in the US that flows south to north. It goes into Canada, makes a U turn and then south into the US. When it enters the US, it is the mighty Columbia River.  Lake Pend Oreille is one of the deepest lakes in north America. It has places that are over 1000 feet deep. There are places that have over 2000 feet of silt in them, making it over 3000 feet to the bedrock from the current lake levels. Why would I write about all of that? Well, the area we are in, has a very interesting history and the Clark fork is part of that history. I will explain that in future posts as we work our way down the Columbia river.

The Columbia river has always held a special place in my heart because I was born in the town of Richland, Washington which sits on the banks of the Columbia river. In many ways, this is a very personal part of this journey. I left Washington state when I was 7 years old and have only been back a few times for short visits. I have a strong interest in learning more about where I am from. I think we all have that kind of a homing instinct. Kind of like the salmon returning to where they were born. Of course, the salmon go there to die. I would prefer to continue this journey. I will write more about all of this as we go.

The good news is that after 3 days of rest, my back felt much better. We were now ready to cross northern Idaho and head into Washington. My next entry will be about an awesome weekend with family. Some of which I had never met. I will just tell you now, it was awesome.

I think the message here is to learn more about the world around you. There is a reason why things are the way they are.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Leaving Glacier National Park


On June 17, it was time to move on from Glacier National Park. We had about 300 miles to drive to get to my cousins cabin north of Spokane, Washington. For those in Missouri, that is pronounced SPO-CAN – not SPO-cane. We thought seriously about floating a portion of the Middle Fork of the Flathead river that ran by our campsite, but we decided that we needed to work our way up to that. Yeah OK, we chickened out. Here are a couple more looks at the river.



Big Creek campground is a beautiful place. We just loved it there and it is a perfect place to use as a basecamp to explore Glacier NP.

It took us a while to get motivated, but we got going and drove south along Flathead Lake. It is a beautiful drive with lots of towns along the lake with large marinas. You can tell this is the place to be in the summer for many people from this area. We turned west on Hwy 28 and everything changed. We went for many miles without seeing another car and very few large ranches nested in the beautiful valley. As we were approaching Plains, Montana, we saw something in the road in front of us. As we got closer we could tell it was a very young baby elk. We could see mama up the very steep slope to our right. The baby was struggling to get across the road. It was a steep downhill on the road, but I got stopped and put my flashers on. We sat there for about 5 minutes and just watched the baby struggle, but finally get up to where mama was.






You will have to zoom in a bit to see the baby and its mama. It was very cool.

With our good deed done for the day, we headed on to Trout Creek, Montana. We found what looked like a nice RV park on Passport America in Trout Creek. It was only $15 per night with full hook ups. We have lived without electricity for 30 days. That is the second time on this trip we have done that. We were ready for some modern conveniences like a Microwave oven and a toaster. I was also looking forward to playing unlimited Wii. It is amazing the things you miss and the things you don’t.

We will report in again from Trout Creek and then it is on to Washington State, the state of my birth. As the Boy Scouts teach – Do a good turn daily.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Bowman Lake–Glacier National Park


On June 16, we decided to head up to Bowman Lake, which is on the west side of Glacier. It was only about 20 miles north from where we were camped. We got a fairly early start because we were on a mission. We had heard about a little Mercantile Store in the village of Polebridge that sold fresh baked items including Huckleberry Bear Claws and Cinnamon Rolls. That would be breakfast.


I would have to say that the baked items were good, but not great and a bit pricey. It was a cool store and it was worth stopping. We then headed into the park. There is a manned entrance station just outside of Polebridge. We then drove the 6 mile very windy narrow road to Bowman lake. It was a beautiful day and the water and scenery was gorgeous.


You can fish in Glacier National park without a license, so I brought along my ultralight spin casting rod. I will get into the fishing stories later. The good news is we were not shut out.

Kim went off to do something and she took this picture of me paddling solo.


There was another couple that was paddle boarding. They headed to the far end of the lake. We just cruised along and I fished. I hooked one nice trout, but as soon as I got a look at him, he got off the hook and my shutout continued. As we moved down the lake, the mountains just got more impressive.



As things happen, we got to the far end of the lake and the wind came up. We crossed over to the other side to get more wind protection and started working our way back up the lake. At one point we found a nice quiet cove to rest and Kim asked to use my fishing pole. Kim is a good fisherman, but rarely fishes other than helping the grand kids. On her fourth cast. I look at her pole and it is bent over. I ask if she is snagged and she says no, I caught a fish. Here is the evidence of the 12-14 inch lake trout.


We let it go, even though the park would rather you keep the non-native species of fish.

I guess Kim is the fisherman in the family. It will take a long time for me to live this one down – probably never. Oh well, she was excited and I was happy for her.

We paddled along the shore and stopped to talk to a young couple that had been hiking along the lake. They were newlyweds and were hiking Glacier as part of their honeymoon. They were really nice kids. They asked us our secret to 35 years of marriage. We just told them that you have to have the mind set that giving up is not an option. I do believe that unless there is abuse or some other unforgivable issue.

We had lunch on the shore of the lake while we packed and dried the boat. A few more people were there at that time and some were heading out to enjoy the lake. We loved our paddle on Bowman lake. It will be a highlight of the entire trip.

We were thinking that we would move on from Glacier the next day and I really wanted to make one more trip up the Going to the Sun road. We drove back to the unmanned Camas Creek entrance and through Apgar village and headed up the road. It was a beautiful day and we got some great pictures.




That is a sheer drop-off of about 500 feet. The red bus is one of the famous Glacier tour busses.



The waterfalls are amazing. Bird woman falls is 492 feet tall.


We saw a few more mangy goats, but that was all of the larger wildlife we saw on this trip up the road.


My favorite shot of this drive:


It was late in the day on a Monday. There were much less people on the road than we saw the last time we drove up on a Saturday.

Views from the top of Logan pass.



Much to my surprise, Kim wanted to take a hike up the snow fields to Hidden Lake. The problem is she was not prepared. She only had sandals, so she put on some thick socks and started up the trail. I followed her to make sure she was safe, but I had no intention of hiking all the way up those snow fields with my bad back.


She made it up to the top of this pitch and stopped to rest. I went on up and tried to convince her to stop. She reluctantly agreed. The views from up there were very impressive.



We started the drive back down the Sun road and made a few stops to take pictures with the evening sun. This drive is as spectacular as advertised.



In the middle of the drive is a real nice tunnel now wouldn’t you know.


Just like the tunnel in Zion, there are windows cut in this tunnel. Very cool.

That was a full day. We really wanted to fit both activities in before we moved on from Glacier the next day. We loved Glacier National Park! I could easily spend another week there. And that does not even include going to the Canadian side of the park.

We have been invited to a family gathering over in Washington. We are really looking forward to that. We have about 300 miles to get there and we only have 4 days to make it. That is moving fast for us, but I think we are up to it. Some interesting things happened to us along that route. Come back to see us assist a little baby.

Have an awesome day.