Saturday, August 30, 2014

Glacier National Park, MT

What can you say about this magnificent place?  Glacier is known as the Crown of the Continent. Descriptive powers fail.   

Apgar Campground

Since arriving on Thursday, I’ve been staying in cramped and crowded Apgar Campground.  The sites are really just gravel pull-outs with no privacy; nevertheless, I feel fortunate to have snagged a spot over Labor Day Weekend.

I'm getting 3 bars of 4G Verizon, but only at the Visitors Center, and no cell service in the campground.  Being unplugged has its advantages, but not when I need to organize a new class and grade mid-terms in another.  

Friend Suzanne arrived yesterday and is just a few sites away in A Loop from me.  Stay tuned to her blog because you know she will have some amazing posts and photos from her time here!

The best feature of Apgar Campground is that it lies along the shores of Lake McDonald.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign ....

A ranger told me yesterday about a recent credible sighting of a mountain lioness and her 3 cubs in the woods around the campground.  Just hours before, a black bear was seen on the campground’s innocuous-looking paved bike path.  Over and over one hears the warnings not to hike alone or without bear spray. 

Going To The Sun

Yesterday offered up some glorious weather so I boarded the park shuttle system

for the trip along Going To The Sun Road.  The road is narrow and steep - a 6% grade for over 11 miles at one point.  The views, however, are incomparable.  

The experience is as thrilling as I imagined and will remain a highlight of my time here.

I spent the afternoon at Logan Pass.  

Climatologists and geologists calculate that by 2030, the glaciers that sustain this ecosystem will have disappeared.  Possibly sooner.  Not that there is any such thing as global warming! Yeah, right.

The Visitors Center hosts a large population of playful acrobatic marmots.

I set out along the Highline Trail – an 11.4 mile stunner.  

At the outset: road to the left, Highline Trail to the right.

I did not come prepared for hiking as I expected more solitude along this trail (and the constant warnings against solo hiking were on my mind).  But there were actually enough people that I hiked for as long as my torn-up sneakers, flimsy flannel shirt, and lack of hiking poles would allow. 

When my fellow hikers thinned out, I turned back.

The hour grew late so it was time to board the shuttle for the return trip.  And more spectacular views.

What next?  Well, with the official end of the summer season approaching, I'll get busy planning my Yellowstone NP adventure.  Any and all suggestions welcome!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Post Falls, Idaho

It was goodbye to Washington this afternoon after 6 weeks of enjoying her diverse beauty.   It was rather a shock to drive through big city Spokane on a frenetic 5-lane interstate after so much time in the slow lane.  It felt like a rude re-entry.

Speaking of the slow lane, here are a few more photos from North Cascades NP.

Bridge to Newhalem

Rock Shelter Trail

Newhalem Visitor Center Overlook

Another trail view.

Post Falls is providing a scenic overnight camping spot, surrounded by hills and former farmland (before the big bad big box stores moved in).

Like this one .... my home for the night.  

Some of my fellow travelers

And the GDB, all by herself.

At 2:30 it was really too early to stop for the day but I was tired of driving.  After settling in, I stayed busy working and also putting the pieces back together from my hard-drive crash 4 days ago.  Only the direst life-saving efforts revived my laptop.  As a result, I lost all of my apps and bookmarks.  Some of the re-installs will have to wait until I return home.

A freakish heat wave has caused me to alter my plans.  Initially, I was going to wait out the Labor Day holiday hordes before heading to Glacier National Park.  But the forecast temps in the 80’s over the next few days have motivated me to move north.  

Tuesday08/2685 | 54 °F
Tuesday 0% Precip.
Clear. Lows overnight in the mid 50s.
Tuesday Night 0% Precip.
Clear skies. Low 54F. Winds light and variable.
Wednesday08/2789 | 56 °F
Wednesday 0% Precip.
Sunny. High 89F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.
Wednesday Night 0% Precip.
Clear skies. Low 56F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.


Get me outta here!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

North Cascades National Park

Here we are in Newhalem Campground.  Jim and Gayle, Debbie, Suzanne,

and me.

It’s a beautiful spot with deep sites in a deep forest, providing ample visual privacy.  All this and the bonus of screaming-fast wi-fi!  It was even dead quiet here for a couple of days until the onslaught of young families.  To be expected on a summer weekend, I suppose.  The serenity should return tomorrow.   

With a campground elevation of only 500 feet, we sit in a valley of this mountain kingdom surrounded by sheer skyscrapers of stone.  These perpendicular peaks are something to behold - rising straight up, decorated as they are with glinting glacial fields like showy strands of pearls.  In fact, this National Park boasts more remaining glaciers of any other national park in the lower 48. 

On Thursday, Gayle, Debbie and I explore a few of the trails accessible from the campground. The River Loop Trail runs partially along the crystal clear fast-flowing Skagit River.   

The forest is a moss-draped emerald wonderland.

This trail leads to the Visitor's Center only .5 miles from camp.

Yesterday all 4 girls tackle Thunder Knob Trail, an out-and-back hike of just under 4 miles.  

The trail winds over the river 

and through the woods

up, up, up ... culminating in this pay-off view of Diablo Lake.

Back in the car after the hike, we stop at the Diablo Lake Overlook about 10 miles from the campground.  What majesty! 

The turquoise color of the water is a result of eons of glacial stone-grinding.  

The road to the left, Highway 20, bisects the entire width of this half-million acre wilderness.

This morning, Debbie and I watch the film at the Visitors Center - an excellent production that makes one want to explore this protected wilderness further.  A quote from the film:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
~Chief Seattle~

Thursday, August 21, 2014

San Juan Islands

I was a lazy tourist yesterday.  But it pays off!  I want to see more of the San Juan Islands 
so I decide to  

What a great trip!

Casting off from Anacortes. 

The crossing is an end in itself and provides several relaxing hours of watching the numerous islands in this exquisite archipelago roll by.

As you can see, the weather is ideal for a 3-hour tour.   A 3-hour tour.  

Many sailors are out enjoying the fine day.

These folks have a nice view of the Olympic Mountains in the background.

The Washington State ferries are very comfortable.  They contain large seating areas,

expansive decks for walking and gawking,

and plenty of picture windows.

I'm not interested in exploring Friday Harbor – too touristy, too crowded.  Too much work!

Fellow passengers waiting to disembark

As always, it's impossible to capture a wide-angle view of any town with my dainty point-and-shoot, so now I’ll be a lazy blogger and share these web images of Friday Harbor.

I stroll around town for a bit but am content to return to the dock within the hour and re-board for the trip home.  

On the way back, the low clouds clear and offer a momentary glimpse of the North Cascades' jagged peaks that make me gasp.  I don't get a good photo of the scene at the time but later that evening, I climb to the Cap Sante Overlook and get this shot of the majestic mountains to the northeast.

This scene intensifies my desire to move on to the Cascades.  Good timing too – as I am there now writing this post! 

This morning I take a last walk about the marina that has provided such a fun and rewarding home-base these past 5 days.  What a memorable stop!  

My pleasure!