Sunday, August 31, 2014

Missoula, MT

Made it to Missoula early this afternoon.  

The ride from Kalispell on US 93 South along Flathead Lake was quite scenic, marred only by rain and holiday traffic. 

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I brake for college campuses.  My main objective for the Missoula visit was to explore the University of Montana (enrollment about 16,000 if you’re counting). 

Fortunately, the only grizzly in residence is this one, the U or M mascot.

Though I did spot some other wildlife on campus.  

She was calmly munching away near the library.

The football team has a lovely stadium.  One in which you can actually see the game (unlike our 100,000-seat monstrosities in the SEC).  

I was delighted with the good timing to land here on a holiday weekend when the campus is virtually deserted and all the offices are closed.  Including the every-vigilant Parking Services (a chief barrier to any carefree campus visit). 

Wild guess - this must be the Forestry Sciences building.

I had planned my usual long self-guided campus tour but you just can’t miss M Mountain from any location.  There it lurks behind the main administration building.  

I spoke with a couple of helpful students who advised me where to park and where to pick up the trail.  Bonus!  I ran back to the GDB, laced up my hiking boots, and was off in a flash.  

The trail is all steep switchbacks.  

It took almost an hour of steady climbing to reach the summit. 

Going down was oh-so-much quicker.  I had left my hiking poles behind and, consequently, had to be even more careful on the steep descent.  I have osteoporosis, so the refrain in my head when I’m hiking on any road trip is: 

Break a hip,
End of trip. 

What a captivating campus!  

Sometimes I think my favorite part about hiking is that I can eat whatever I want afterword. 

I’m at WMT tonight and breaking my rule about always asking permission to overnight.  But there are about a dozen other RVs here at 6 PM.  So I figure it's OK.  And according to the Overnight Parking database: 

City ordinance effective Sept 2007 allows Overnight RV Parking in retail business parking lots with permission of the business. 

I knew I liked this town! 

Look forward to exploring downtown Missoula tomorrow.  

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~