Monday, July 25, 2011

Great Falls Montana sights

Rainbow falls and dam

Black Eagle falls and dam
On Sunday we headed south from our campground in Fort Benton, MT.  We wanted to see the 5 water falls that the Corps of Discovery had to portage around including The Great Falls.  We succeeded in seeing 3 of the 5.  One is now under water due to the building of dams for hydro-electric power plants and the other, well, we just blew it and missed it.  All 3 of the ones we saw were "messed up" in our opinion because they have dams just above them holding back water.  Totally messes up the flow, beauty and whole imagination of what Lewis and Clark saw.  Oh well.  In the pictures try to visualize the falls without the dam (I know, it's hard). Note: click on pictures for bigger images and use the browser back button to return to the blog.

Giant Springs
Great Falls
Giant Springs - smallest river in world
We also went to Giant Springs.  This is a huge spring flowing right next to, and into, the Missouri River.  It flows so much water that they classify the water coming out of it as a river and thus that river is the shortest river in the world.  See the picture to the right to see why.

Next we went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  It was a museum dedicated to the journey of the Corps of Discovery.  It was very well done and very informative.

Buffalo jump ridge from below
Next we went to the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park.  This is all about seeing a cliff and hearing the story about how prehistoric Native Americans would chase Buffalo over a cliff to kill them.  The pamphlets talked about piles of Buffalo bones 15 feet deep at the bottom of the cliff.  This I wanted to see.  Well, no such luck.  The bones are all covered with top soil now so you take their word for it and just look at the cliff and use your imagination. At the top of the hill there is a huge prairie dog town - fun to watch.
Buffalo jump ridge from above
Pelicans on a log in the Missouri

Here are a few miscellaneous pictures from the area.

Prairie dog - there were hundreds

Missouri below Great Falls

Missouri just south of Fort Benton
Missouri just south of Fort Benton

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Glacier National Park

The last post was from eastern Washington near Spokane.  We didn't do much there but walk around the Gonzaga campus to see what had changed and go to Jack and Dan's for a beer, just cuz that's what you need to do when in Spokane.
A view from the Going-to-the-sun
A view from the Going-to-the-sun

On Monday July 18 (I took a week vacation) it was on to Hungry Horse Montana and Glacier National Park.  It was about a day drive so we got in late afternoon just in time to get to the GNP visitor center to pick up information for planning our days. 

A view from the Going-to-the-sun
Road at Logan Pass
The next morning we were entering the park gate a little before 8 and cruising the Going-To-The-Sun Road.  The drive was spectacular, magnificent, amazing... well you get the drift.  Of all our world travels we have not been on a more beautiful, scenic stretch of road.  On top of that it is a marvel that they could even build the road where they did.  You climb thousands of feet over Logan Pass and back down clinging to the side of the mountain the entire way.  I can't really say any more, just check out a few pictures (that don't do it justice).
A view from the Going-to-the-sun
Road - Jackson Glacier

Virginia Falls
We had a great hike a trail that went by a series of waterfalls.

We started driving back at just the right time because as we got back down the mountain a nasty thunderstorm came through which caused flash floods up on the mountain where we had just been a half hour earlier.  We were lucky to be down in safe area and just pulled off in a turnout and let the worst of the storm pass. 

Avalanche Creek gorge
Avalanche Lake
The next morning was rainy so we sat tight for a while until it stopped.  After lunch we ventured back into the park to see if we could get in another hike that we wanted to do.  We got to the trail head to get a parking spot (hard to come by) and waited until we were sure the rain had stopped for good before heading out.  This trail went along a gorge for a while that was roaring with water.  It was a great site.  At the end of the trail was a lake with a bunch of waterfalls flowing down the mountains into it.  It was magnificent.  We sat there for quite a while and the sun started peaking out through the swift moving clouds causing what looked like spot lights moving across the mountain causing the water falls to shimmer.  Not enough words to describe the scene.

The next morning we were off on another hike.  This time it was a nature hike through burnt forest to see how the forest was recovering and ended on the shore of Lake McDonald to enjoy the view.  We spent most of the day at various places around the lake just enjoying the lake and vista of the mountains shrouded in various densities of clouds.

Our final day again started with rain and fog until around noon.  As the rain subsided we decided to go to the Hungry Horse dam which was only about 7 miles away.  It is one of the worlds largest concrete dams.  It controls flooding on the Flathead River and provides power to a very large part of the northwest states.

So, we saved the east side of the park for our next visit.  The park is too vast to try to do in the amount of time that we were there.  When we come back we will do the other side and then go on up into Canada to their side of the park and then on to Banff.

Today was travel day again. We drove through the Rockies on US 2 and on to Fort Benton Montana near Great Falls.  We plan to take in a lot of Corps of Discovery and other history of the area.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Victoria BC and Olympic National Park

Victoria BC harbor from Coho
The Empress Hotel from Coho

What a great little side trip!  Friday morning we drove to Port Angeles, WA where we left our car and boarded the ferry (the MV Coho) to Victoria, BC.  We had a nice little package that included the walk-on ferry ride and a hotel room at the Queen Victoria Hotel. It took 90 minutes to cross the Strait of Juan De Fuca to Vancouver Island.  As we crossed we made a reservation for a round trip ride to Butchart Gardens which was our main goal for the trip.

Butchart Gardens Sunken Garden
Butchart Gardens pond view
Butchart Gardens Italian Garden

Upon landing we boarded a bus to the gardens and it turned out we were the only ones to book so we had a personal, guided, round trip tour - very cool.  The ride ended up being about 40 minutes so we were very glad for the friendly guide rather than a boring taxi ride.  Butchart Gardens was as good as everyone said it was and we enjoyed it very much.  Because of our personal tour guide we got a little extra guided drive around Victoria on the way to our hotel.  It was interesting and saved us some walking.
Cool building in Victoria
When we were dropped off at our hotel we dumped our stuff in our room and started walking.  Victoria was a very nice city with some wonderful old buildings.  We had a nice walk, nice dinner, and good beer. 
Bastion Square in Victoria

Saturday morning started with some more walking in Victoria.  We saw Blue Herons nesting in trees in Beacon Hill Park before heading to the ferry back to Port Angeles.

The north entrance to Olympic National Park is at Port Angeles so it was convenient for us to take in part of the park.  We drove up (literally) to Hurricane Ridge at about 5200 feet (remember we started at sea level at the dock).  Hurricane Ridge far exceeded our expectations.  It was awesome looking across miles of snow capped peaks.  It was surprising to us to have so much snow at 5000 feet in July.  That would never happen in Arizona's mountains.  Because of so much white (snow, clouds) my pictures didn't come out all that great and don't even come close to doing justice to the scene.  It was then back to the campground to pack up for our departure. 

View from Hurricane Ridge
Strait of Juan De Fuca from
Olympic National Park
(you can faintly see Victoria on far side)
Driving through Cascades on I-90
Sunday was driving day as we went across state to near Spokane.  The first hour or so was crossing the Cascade Mountains and after that it was low rolling farmland all the way across the state.  We are now near Cheney, WA until next week.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On to Seattle

We pulled out of Silverton on Sunday morning June 26 and drove to our destination southeast of Seattle.  We had another beautiful sunny day which made this drive very special. Why?  Because we saw Mount Hood, Portland, Mount Saint Helens and then Mount Rainer all crisp, clear and beautiful in one sunny day.  That is a rarity and we are very appreciative of the experience.  Sorry, no pictures, as it is just too difficult to take pictures out the window of a moving vehicle trying to time between obstructions (trees) and they don't seem to believe in scenic pullouts here.

Our new campground is Lake Sawyer in Black Diamond, WA.  We are about 20-25 miles from downtown Seattle.  We got here on Sunday the 26th and went into visiting and wedding mode.  I worked Mon-Thurs and Ann did wedding prep.  Thursday afternoon I shut down the work and went into vacation/wedding mode. 

Starting Thursday night and all the way through Monday night fireworks, we had so much fun with family and friends it is very sad to have it all end. The wedding was exceptional on Sunday with everything going smoothly and it was a huge amount of fun.

Monday and Tuesday we got to do a little Seattle tourist stuff. We walked around the city, went to the fish market, went to the Space Needle, did the Underground Tour and walked along the beach.

Where are the pictures?  Forthcoming.  I kept forgetting my camera so I have to get pictures from other people to post.  That will give you an excuse to check back.

Ann and I are relaxing for a couple of days and then on Friday and Saturday we will go to Victoria, BC and Olympic National Park.  I'll post pictures and details of that next week.  Sunday (10th) we'll move to the other side of the state to stage our selves for a week vacation in Glacier National Park starting the 18th.  This is the life!

Note: this is the second post today.  Don't miss the post prior to this one!

Oregon activities

Oregon State Capitol - Salem
Mission Mill Museum
I'm a little slow on updates as once we got to Seattle there just wasn't any free time to post.  I'll try to get caught up a little.  Based in Silverton OR, we drove 10 miles into Salem one afternoon to visit the Capitol and historic district.  The Capitol was relatively modern (early 1900s) so wasn't all that much fun.  We walked around a 5-6 block area of older buildings and then went to the Mission Mill   Museum.  This museum had a collection of some of the oldest (circa 1860) homes and buildings from the Salem area that had been moved there to preserve and show.  It was well done and very enjoyable.

We drove about 17 miles to Silver Falls State Park on Friday afternoon June 24th.  The park had a trail that looped around for a few miles to view a series of water falls.  The falls were pretty and the canyon they were in was intriguing also because of the moss and other plant life that grew on the trees in the constant damp, shaded environment. 

On Saturday we drove about 70 miles to Lincoln City on the coast.  We actually had a sunny day but a very cold, strong wind blew out of the north that the sun couldn't offset.  We were lucky to find a kite festival going on (they loved the strong wind) at the beach.  There were some pretty awesome kites.

Cape Foulweather
Boiler Bay
After having a nice lunch we drove down the coast stopping a lot to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.  We actually saw one whale surface a few times while at one stop.  It was a beautiful drive which we thoroughly enjoyed.