Saturday, September 2, 2017

2017 Fall Habitat and More Trek!


Baker City to Craters of the Moon National Monument
294 miles

We left Baker City around 8am, stopped to check air in the trailer tires at Les Schwaab, and are on our way! I drove through Boise today – my first time with the trailer. UGH! Gas and food stop at Mountain Home (Arby’s!) and Rick took us across the Snake River plateau – the Sawtooths in the distance to the north, and an old lake bed of farms and ranches surrounding us. Smoke and haze bad in Boise area, but cleared out the further east we went.

Arrived at Craters of the Moon National Monument around 3 and found a campsite! By evening it was full. Up on a knoll with terrific views and plenty of breeze. We walked up to the Visitor Center to get cave passes for tomorrow, explore the information, and pick up some great books for kid gifts. 

The Cave Passes are new – the white nose syndrome for bats has spread to the western states and they are trying hard to avoid it here. We can’t wear or take anything with us into the cave that we wore in Mammoth Caves last year, as Mammoth is one of the really bad ones back east.

Back to site to relax and enjoy the evening unfold. Leftover pizza from our night with MT Nesters earlier in the week for dinner!

Beautiful sunset, although clear skies and no clouds. The crescent moon and Venus sinking into the western horizon was gorgeous - the moon becoming almost orange. Right before we went to bed, the stars were fully out and the milky Way soared across the sky. So beautiful. We left trailer door open (screen!) and all the windows on the back bed open. Like sleeping outside!

SATURDAY, August 26
Exploring Craters of the Moon

What a beautiful morning! I slept until 7 and then saw the sun rise over the eastern horizon. The campground is eerily quiet in the morning, but gradually traffic on the highway begins and the sounds of awakening happen.

We spend a lazy morning until 10am, when we leave, with the truck, to make the 11 mile loop of the monument. We had thought to just walk down to the caves, but that would have been a 7.5 mile trek, and the trip back in the hot sun on the black pavement just didn’t sound appealing. This way, we’ll do all the stops.

So...splatter cones with their deep shafts and snow in the bottom of one! Pahoehoe lava and a’a lava cover the landscape, the flows very visible. But in many places limber pine, brittlebrush and rabbitbush dot the terrain. The rabbitbush is in bloom with its bright yellow canopy of color. We walked the half mile Devil’s Garden nature trail – an area of huge ‘Floaters’ - giant pieces of crust that were carried down from the vent by the lava. They look like immense grotesque statues.

But the highlight is always the lava tube caves! We hiked out the black asphalt ribbon trail over the flow first to Beauty Cave, got our headlights going, and descended the rocky entrance. Couldn’t go too far, but the roof of the cave appeared to be dotted with sparkling gems – light reflecting off drips of water and ice. Boy Scout Cave has a challenging entrance through a narrow opening. Rick was disappointed to see the lack of ice. He remembers coming in the spring and the whole floor was a sheet of solid ice. But it is 40 years later and nearing fall, not spring. We found a few places with ice tucked in corners!

Our last ‘cave’ was actually Indian Tunnel – a long lava tube with several cave-ins along the way so light filtered in frequently. You didn’t need the headlights. We exited at the far end through a tiny arch tunnel of lava, into a tiny pocket, and then out. Pigeons were roosting throughout. We got to walk across the pahoehoe to return to the trail and the entrance, following a series of stakes.

Back to the trailer for a late lunch, rest, and then a return to the VC (it is slightly air conditioned!) By 4pm, there was enough shade cast by the trailer to sit outside and relax.

Around 6 I put my shoes back on and headed out on the North Crater Nature Trail. I wanted to finish getting my 10,000 steps and it was a lovely cool (well, cooling!) evening. Up and over a small cinder cove to the trail start and then a good wander through the most recent of the flows. Back in 45 minutes!

The sky again put on its display of stars once the sun and moon disappeared! The campground is full, more children this time! We have families near us. I went to sleep to the sound of a little girl very unhappy…..

Craters of the Moon to Rexburg, ID
118 miles

To Rexburg and time to get to work!! Another calm, quiet morning and a late arising! The wind is still and the birds even are silent.

We are on our way around 9:15 – the topper of the morning is Rick’s spies one of the rare ‘Blazing Star’ flowers in bloom right at the campground exit. These flowers bloom at night and then close up early in the day, so we hadn’t seen them yet! Soooo pretty!

Smoke in the air!! And as we near Rexburg we perhaps see the reason why. Acres of burned sagebrush plateau about 10 miles west of town – between I15 and Rexburg.

Into Wal-Mart for groceries and gas, and then down about 8 miles towards Idaho Falls on US 20 to find Sheffield RV Park. I had discovered a voice mail earlier in the day from our team leader giving directions to the park. We get settled into a little spot (as far from the highway as possible, thankfully!) and get set up. Two other rigs are already here, including our friend Mike Humes, whom we built with in Columbia Falls.

A hot afternoon, but we get the air turned on, showers taken (they’ll be in the trailer, not the bathhouse as it is $2 for a shower). Our neighbors arrived during my shower and it will be cozy! I think their RV is angled 90 degrees from us and the door is about 4’ from the back of our trailer! Oh well! We can make it work. Nice folks so far. ….. More later. Luke is calling!

We gathered at 5:30 around a picnic table nearby – made introductions, etc. Our last couple is due to arrive soon (not tomorrow!) Three rigs who have built with CAVs 15+ times, and two rigs that are relative newbies – this is their third build. Folks from a high-rise in downtown Chicago to full-timers from PA to Naval officer Mike to us from small-town rural Oregon. Quite the spread. Around 6 the Executive Director came to join us and share a little more about their affiliate. Nice gal, who got the word on Wednesday that her Building Supervisor wouldn’t be working Thursday-Friday-Monday. Taking a LOOONG Labor Day weekend! So….we hope to be able to work inspite, but have to get permission to do so without ‘supervision’. (Politics and paper-work!)

It is going to cool down much nicer here in Rexburg than at Craters (all those rocks holding in the heat!) I spend the evening catching up on computer work since I can finally plug it in. No wifi yet – need to get the code from the camp folk.

MONDAY, August 28
CAV Build Day 1

Brrr! It definitely cooled down more! Rick grabbed the sleeping bag in the middle of the night – it was obvious we were going to be cold by morning! A brisk 52 in the trailer when I just got up. But the forecast bodes for considerable warming by day’s end!

The house site is only 5 miles up the road, so an easy 10 minutes max to get there. It is in a very new development with CCR (restrictions, like in Kalispell. They will have rock, garages, etc.) It is a Mormon development. Our homeowners are a single woman with 5 kids (NOT Mormon, but it will not be an issue) and a veteran, Shelby, his wife, Nori, and teenage grandchild. The vet is in poor health (needs heart surgery) so will not be able to work. We met Shelby and Nori today (Nori worked all day) and they will be providing lunch tomorrow. Nice folk. (I liked Shelby instantly as he was wearing a Star Wars style shirt with “May the Lord be with you”.)

Our site supervisor is Steve, an older guy but is becoming more and more invested in the Habitat spirit of building. He still maintains his construction firm on the side. I ended up working with him for the latter two-thirds of the day – all of it out in the front of the house in the sun!

Rick worked with Mike H most of the day, putting up missing pieces of sheathing from Shelby’s house – ladder, scaffolding, and up and down work! I did a few odd jobs before Steve grabbed me for his helper. We put up the header for the garage and built the rest of the garage front walls. They I installed some bracing brackets (14 nails each) on one of the trusses. Then we sheathed three of the front trusses so they didn’t have to be done after they were raised. A crane is coming tomorrow at noon to lift the trusses up to the top of the second floor for us. We just have to anchor them in!

This is a good group of workers, but we were all feeling the intensity of the heat by the end of the day. In fact, I tried to work with one of the nail guns after I had taken off my gloves and almost burned myself on the metal shaft. We stopped around 2:15 and cleaned up.

When I opened up the trailer, I realized why we were so fatigued! Our little clock/thermometer registered 106 inside the trailer. I think that is a record for us! Ouch! But….by the time we had returned from Happy Hour at 5:30, it was down to 78 and much more comfortable! I don’t think the low is forecast to be as cold tonight.

We gathered at 4 for a de-briefing and Happy Hour and chit chat for an hour and half. I did get a wifi code this afternoon, but it is so slow, not sure it will be worth anything. Alas.

TUESDAY, August 29
CAV Build Day 2

Whoa. Today was somewhat brutal! Again in the 90’s, although the clouds protected us for awhile. But….we worked until 5:30pm, having started at 7:30am – a 10 hour day! 

Rick spent most of the morning finishing up sheathing projects and getting walls ready for the trusses. I wielded the archaic nail gun and helped sheath two more gable ends, and then switched to a sheetrock drill and we installed the firewall sheetrock on one of the gables. Steve grabbed me to come up and help install sheetrock on the wall of the second floor also. (In a duplex, you must have sheetrock separating both halves with a gap of 2” inbetween.) We were working with a deadline, as not only was Shelby and Nori bringing in lunch, but the boom truck was due to arrive at 1pm to raise all the trusses.

Two houses worth of trusses is ALOT!! We didn’t finish, even though we worked until 5:30. But we got all the really heavy and major ones up. Still a few tricky ones to maneuver to the back of the house (which was part of the problem for the boom truck) which we will have to do by hand. Rick did yeoumans work – scrambling up on the trusses, interior walls, etc. to install all the spacers, line things up, etc. I was given the job of the tie line, which is a rope attached to one end of the truss to help guide it into place and keep it from spinning around in circles. Those of us on the ground crew at least had the option of hiding in the shade between loads. We were sending three trusses at a time up.

Everyone was absolutely beat by the end of the day. A short meeting style happy hour (no food or drinks!) Oh – trailer was only 101 today when we returned!! We voted to work a short day tomorrow and perhaps have dinner out together.

CAV Build Day 3

Last night at our ‘meeting’, we decided to only work a half day today since everyone was rather beat from yesterday. As it turns out, it would have been a decent afternoon to work, as clouds covered the sky much of the time and it even dropped a few sprinkles of rain! Plus homeowner Prudence arrived around noon with her son Jordan, ready to work for abit! Rats! She had also brought by a huge zucchini and a cucumber, ice and more drinks. Promised to come back tomorrow as she wants to help raise the rest of the trusses.

Steve got us started on a variety of jobs today while he made a trip to the lumberyard. Rick and Mike were finishing up the bits and pieces of sheathing, another group fronted the garage walls on the west side, and I went up to the upstairs level to install hurricane brackets on all the trusses! One of my favorite jobs! At least here they have a specific nail gun (powerful little guy – it blew my hardhat across the room on the first nail!) that has a tip that fits right into the holes on the clip. Push, pull the trigger, and pow! Nail in! Shoots through the metal bracing quite easily. After abit, Gae came up and manually hammered two nails into the clip to hold it in place and then I came around and put the remaining 8 nails in with the gun. I also had to go back to the brackets I installed the other day and secure the truss to them with 6 nails each. It was a lot of lifting the heavy nail gun, climb ladder, climb down, move heavy ladder through bracing, wall sections, etc. I finished around 11:40 with the west side and figured that was it. I wasn’t starting the other side then! My arm was getting tired! And Rick said he was running out of steam around noon as well. We must still be tired from yesterday.

After our showers, Rick and I discovered the water system was again leaking until “my” seat in the trailer. Rick went to work to fix it, once again. At 2pm we all gathered with our laptops at the picnic table for the first two hours of Mike’s “Safety Class”. (Technically, we get yellow hardhats for this!) At 4 we decided we would do that last hour at another time!

Time to take off then for Applebee’s! We took Ginny and Michael with us, carpooling a little! Still Happy Hour time, so half-price appetizers!! Good thing, cause our drinks cost more than the food! Good time, however, with conversations all over the spectrum. The group is pretty compatible.

Relaxing time back at the campground and another early to bed evening.

THURSDAY, August 31
CAV Build Day 4

The last day of August!! And it turns out to be overcast for MUCH of the day, therefore MUCH cooler than the previous two! We’ll take it!

Local volunteer Dave wasn’t here today, but a new local, Rick, was! Rick will also be our contact man tomorrow when Sup Steve is gone (a ‘quick’ trip to California!) But we made progress!

While the guys all tackled the process of getting the back trusses up, Gae and I worked on the hurricane clips on the east end. Judy helped me briefly. We got a shorter ladder and with someone there to hand the gun to, all the trips up and down the ladder seemed much easier! (Morning probably helps!) I lost my air hose and ladder after abit as both were needed to get the trusses up. I went to help do the preliminary lift there, and then returned with a shortie ladder to hammer about 5 clips in by hand. WORK!! Decided to wait for my air hose! Eventually Gae and I finished the east end, went back to install clips on the new section just raised, and then did all the east garage trusses. By the end, I was barely able to lift the gun with my left hand and had used ladders, scaffolding, and even Bill’s head in order to get into position for some of the odd angles. 118 hurricane clips total!

Rick says he was ‘all over’ today! Initially helped get the trusses up, and then worked on porch base plates, blocking, etc. Prudence and her son Jordan worked most of the day and it was fun getting to know them. For the last half hour Gae and I checked both bottom floors for shiners and took care of them. Can’t do anything about the second floor (which has some horrible strips of shiners!) until the scaffolding goes up.

We clean up around 2:15 and are back at camp by 2:45. Short 45 minute meeting. I went back around 4:45 to fold strips on the table in expectation of Happy Hour, but only Ginny and Michael came over. We had a good visit and I got a whole batch of strips ready to curl!

Baked potatoes for dinner with salsa! appears Rick’s fix on the water hose has worked!

FRIDAY, September 1
CAV Build Day 5

We heard the sandhill cranes again this morning! AND the sun was a solid red ball – hard to see through the trees, however!

Rick the Volunteer is back again today to make sure we are on task….and to answer questions! And the variety achieved today is vast!! Porch pillars are raised, porch beams are constructed in sandwich style (2 2x8’s with a layer of OSB in the middle) and installed. Sheathing work continues and a few more hurricane clips added to my total! A good day overall, but it got hot!! No clouds in the sky today to hide the sun!

Lazy afternoon after our brief meeting. Nice to know we have a few days off. I think all we have planned tomorrow is laundry, breakfast out, shopping, and Rick is watching football!

SATURDAY, September 2
Day Off

And boy howdy (to quote friend Rusty!) was it a day off! A leisurely morning, then a trip into ‘town’! Frontier Pies Cafe for breakfast (we got the buffet) and then two doors down was Magic Suds laundromat. Not the cheapest we’ve found, but clean and quick. Two loads done before noon. We cruised down the main drag towards Walmart, stopped at a Dollar Tree for a few purchases (including a new coffee cup for me since mine has never shown up since I left it at the job site on Monday!) Back to the trailer by 1. Rick spent the afternoon watching football games and taking a walk. I went to McDonalds for a little wifi time (over two hours) and took a short walk around the park afterwards. Nothing more, nothing less!

Sunday, September 3
Teton Scenic Byway Loop-Grand Targhee

What a beautiful day! We left Sheffield shortly before 8, stopped for gas and coffees, and then headed up Highway 33 toward Sugar City, Tetonia, and eventually Driggs. Rolling potato farms and wheat fields. It is not a perfect day to head up to Targhee, but we are going anyway. Smoke has filled the valley again – fires in Missoula, fires in Salmon, and nearly 50 fires in Oregon all blowing in this direction. Awful!

Rick reminisces from Driggs on up the road to Targhee. It has been 40 years since his days in Pocatello, and adventures skiing at Grand Targhee. SOOO much development up and down the valley since then. Labor Day weekend and we find the Rendezvous Bike Festival in full activity when we arrive – all sorts of RV’s in a mock campground, bikers everywhere! But...we purchase our $15 Scenic Lift ticket and ride to the top of the mountain (Fred’s Peak) at 9762’. From there we can follow hiker only trails along the summit ridges.
We take the Marmot Trail along the ridge crest. The Tetons are silhouette shadows with the morning sun behind them, but the peaks are very clearly defined in the distance. The dropoff on the north side of the ski area is severe. We can hear the squealing of bike tires below us, thankful that this isn’t a shared trail!

We hike up to Mary’s Saddle, and then follow the trail around the east flank of the peak, thinking it will go to the top eventually. We are fooled, but grateful when we get to the other side of the peak and see the shear wall of lava rock that forms it’s north side! Instead the trail continued on up an old uplifted lava flow to what our waitress later told us was Steve-Bob – a rocky prominence that overlooked a vast barren glacial plain. We could see evidence of some mini lava tubes that had collapsed as we hiked up to the end of Steve-Bob.

After a large group of young people left, another couple around our age got to the top and we visited with them for nearly 45 minutes. Mark and Karen, who live in an apartment in the plane hanger down in Driggs. Moved out from Virginia a year or so ago.

Wildflowers were abundant, but most in the final stages of life as autumn rolls in. The wild geraniums were a beautiful red tint leaves, asters, etc. Rick was thrilled to find a few gentians and I even found one clump of Rocky Mt. Blue columbine, altho the blue had mostly faded out. LOTS of butterflies, grasshoppers, and ladybugs, especially near the summits.

The Tetons are incredibly close here. As the day progressed, more and more of the snowfields and shadows of the peaks because visible, but likewise the smoke seemed to increase as the day advanced as well. A no win situation!

We hiked back down and rather than taking the Marmot trail back up along the ridge top, we opted for the service road that would take us back up to the lift. The day was quite warm for that ¾ of a mile of dusty road! We stopped at the Observation Deck to check out some information plagues there, and ended up visiting with a PT who had just hiked up from the bottom of the mountain! By the time we got back to the lift to ride down, we had pretty well scrubbed a visit to Jackson from our itinerary for the day!

We shared a Ciabatta chicken sandwich at the Trap Bar restaurant down in Targhee Village and were ready to head back down around 3pm! Completed our loop for the day with the drive to Victor and then over Pine Creek Pass on Hwy 31 to Swan Valley. US 26 to Ryrie, and then backroads with my phone to get us back to Thornton and our campground. LOTS of wheat fields between Swan Valley and Ryrie, plus we met up with the Snake River several times.

Quiet evening. Oh, and the trailer was an even 100 degrees when we returned today. Thank goodness for the air conditioner!

MONDAY, September 4 – LABOR DAY
Mesa Falls – Nez Perce Historic Trail
Ashton, ID

After a very lazy morning, we left at 11am heading north toward Ashton and a visit to Mesa Falls on Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. I knew not what to expect, although we saw something on the news last night with a video of the falls – and plenty of water roaring through!

Highway 20 is a four lane freeway until about 5 miles from Ashton, where it narrows to its original two lane access into West Yellowstone and the national park. Ashton is a town built on the fertility of the wheat and potato fields surrounding it. We headed east from there and then wound north into a narrow canyon, rimmed with basalt on one side and rhyolite tuffstone on the other. There are two sections of falls – Lower and Upper (appropriately named!) You can only view the Lower from a distance as access is so poor. But the Upper Falls area is well developed with a Visitor Center, fee access (due to the National Historic Trail designation), and plenty of trails to follow. I used our Senior Pass – once again the best buy in the world!

The boardwalk path for the Upper Falls visits several platforms with various views of this, the highest of Idaho’s waterfalls. Shoshone Falls is more massive, but this is higher. The falls slants away so until the final platform you don’t really get even a ¾ view of the dropoff. But there is a rainbow visible and PLENTY of water! Fireweed is puffy white with seed hairs everywhere. Lots of berries, none of them edible!

The Visitor Center focuses on birds of Henry’s Lake and the wildlife in the area – lots of tracks, pelts, etc. Also the history of Chief Joseph and his flight to Canada, which was through this area. Picked up a few postcards, but couldn’t get a pin. :(
I drove us back down to Rexburg and our planned visit to Walmart for some groceries. Tonight we are having a CAV potluck and I needed to be prepared. I am taking my pickled asparagus horse-overs and cut pineapple. Rick picked up a sweet potato pie to try!

Just before our potluck a huge 5th Wheel RV pulls into the pass-through space next to us. Truck AND car with it. We feel just a little boxed in – with their slide-outs and Mike and Judy’s car dolly, there is only about 20” to walk between to get to our trailer! Oh well.

Fun time with the potluck – this is a very congenial group! Meatballs, beans, potatoes, apple crisp, plus my offerings. I am stuffed!

I took pictures tonight of an orange sun setting in the west, and just saw an orange moon rising in the east. The smoke is terrible!

BTW….Rick founds my coffee cup in the back of the truck and tonight I found his neck lamp buried under his seat in the trailer! Rick wondered if we would spend our old age finding things for each other!

TUESDAY, September 5

A solid red sun this morning and MUCH cooler weather! Reprieve for the day! (Although eventually the sun did heat up the day – but only 92 in the trailer when we got home this afternoon!)

It took a little while to get everyone started today, but once we did, we got quite a lot accomplished. Rick worked on the west porch trusses all day, installing the truss, plumbing it, and put in hurricane clips to anchor it. I worked with Ginny and Michael on the sheathing of the back of the west garage. By day’s end, we made it! It involved a lot of extension ladder work, nail guns, and some OSB cuts. At the end of the day I had a small project to fill a gap with OSB that involved climbing on the garage trusses and nailing into the width of OSB. Did it!

We met at 6pm tonight to complete our Safety Training course with Mike. All 6 of us finished the 4 hour course, which pleased our team leader Bill immensely! We got bright yellow Safety Helmet hardhats as our prize.

A rough day….from Sunday’s discovery of Travis Talbott’s death, to Hurricane Harvey and now Irma, to DACA news from Trump, wildfires throughout the west and the Columbia Gorge in flames to the final blow – a text from Annalea and phone call from Luke that Jodie Averett was killed yesterday when kicked in the chest by a cow. I talked with Annalea as well after the call with Luke. So much to grieve today.

WEDNESDAY, September 6
CAV Build Day 7

Forty-eight degrees in the trailer this morning and up to 90 this afternoon! I actually had on my sweatshirt for awhile this morning! But when it warmed up, IT WARMED UP!!! Sun was again an orange ball in the east – we have air quality advisories in affect until late Thursday when hopefully some winds will come and start blowing the smoke away. Apparently it is a mess in Portland with a fire, started by kids throwing fire crackers, in the Columbia Gorge threatening Multnomah Falls Lodge, Crown Point, etc.

But we are building here! Rick spends the day again working closely with Steve on the front porch lookouts, sheathing the porch roofs, etc. Hot time in the sunshine! We moved scaffolding around a couple times to help them out. Mike H worked on the ground for them as a cutter.

I teamed up with Michael (we lost our cutter Ginny to another crew) and we finished up all the sheathing on the walls, backing for the last six earthquake brackets on the foundation, helped move trusses up to the second floor, and then upstairs to install some ceiling anchors for the sheetrock.

Prudence showed up today and worked with various teams, plus we firmed up a tie dye party after work today. So….back at the trailer park, a quick meeting, and then we are setting up for tie dye on the picnic tables. Ginny, Judy, and Gae all dyed articles and we were just cleaning everything up when Prudence arrived at 5:15!! She had four of her five kids with her! So, we reset and got everything tie dyed with them! I was finally done at 6:30pm!! Whew! We have a bucket of items to wash out tomorrow!

I’m tired and ready for bed! The ‘boys’ all went out for drinks and appetizer dinner tonight. Rick said it was a lot of fun and good conversations.

Thursday, September 7
CAV Build Day 8

Another busy day! Cool in the morning and heating up by afternoon, but not as bad as it has been. The smoke is still rather heavy – fires burning in Idaho, SW Montana, not to mention the entire west side of Oregon.
Prudence brings the son of a friend with her today – they do a lot of clean up in the upstairs areas where we have been preparing for sheetrock, etc. I spent the morning in the east house installing nailer strips on top of the walls. Managed to whack the hammer on my healing thumb at one point, but Judy got me some ice and it isn’t too bad this evening.
Rick worked with Steve sheathing the roof of the east garage in prep for putting up the trusses on that part. After lunch Rick took a crew with him to install trusses over the east porch, while Prudence, Caleb and I went up to help Steve finish with the garage trusses. Step by step the end of the day pictures show progress!

Prudence extended her heartfelt thanks to all the crew as she wouldn’t be back (has to work the weekend) before they all leave on Sunday. I told her I would see her next week! We haven’t seen Nori and Shelby all week, but heard that Shelby was having medical problems. Hope all is well for him. He needs heart surgery, but waiting for the VA hospital to schedule.

Back to rinse out all the tie dye, and then wait for a washing machine to become available. In the meantime we had our ‘house tours’ of everyone’s RV! (It was Judy’s idea!) Kinda fun. We have an example of everything – 12’ mini trailer to our 18’ hybrid, to a class A motorhome, a class C motorhome, and a 5th Wheel. Mike Humes 5th Wheel is probably the most spacious and luxurious!

Tie dye came out great – especially Ginny’s baby blanket. So pretty! I got into quite a discussion with one of the park permanent residents while picking up the goods from the dryer. She wants to learn to tie dye AND they had lots of questions about Habitat. Spreading the word is part of our job!

I had devotions this morning and used one from my book, which was a good lead-in to a little promotion. I think I might sell a few! Judy was previewing them!

Muscles are feeling a little sore!

FRIDAY, September 8
CAV Build Day 9
Whew! We are starting to run out of steam! I work with Steve all day today – the east side garage trusses that form a decorative hip above the garage. We got the trusses installed and sheathed, plus the trim on the eaves put up. Mike H was our cutter on the ground floor. I just tried my best to anticipate what Steve was trying to do and hand his the right tools, with the right nails, etc.

Rick and Mike P worked on the east side porch trusses, having to MAKE two additional trusses as well. They also ended up moving scaffolding around and eventually got most of the roof of the porch sheathed. Tomorrow we move more scaffolding and work the last gable peak above the east pop out.

The rest of the group was inside building boxes for attic crawl spaces?? I didn’t get a real good description of their project, but told them I would be inspecting tomorrow!

We wind up work today shortly after 2, so a good relaxing break time (but it was warm!) before the group goes out to dinner for our final ‘fling’. Mike and Judy will be leaving tomorrow afternoon – we are only working a half day tomorrow.

We all gather at 5:30 at Fresco Kitchen and Grill – just a few miles north on Old Yellowstone Highway. Its a good thing we met early, as by the time we left on a Friday night the place was overflowing with people waiting everywhere. Part of that could be due to the arrival this weekend of the BYU-Idaho students!! Rick and I had a great time visiting with Ginny and Michael who sat opposite us. We shared a BBQ Chicken Sandwich and Artichoke Dip appetizer, plus a glass of wine. Good times.

There are clouds in the sky and rain is falling somewhere in Idaho. We even saw Flash Flood warnings for SW Baker County – heavy rain!! Please, God, put out some of these fires!!

Saturday, September 9
CAV Build Final Day 10

Surprise! The sunrise today looked almost ‘normal’ - no red glow, just beautiful clouds and color!

We started out today with important stuff – our group picture!! Steve took a few and then Rick went to ask the neighbor if she would take a couple of everyone, including Steve! Then it was time to get to work, especially since it is just a half day today!

Rick and Mike P finish up their work on the porch and then get scaffolding moved so they can do the wrap around part of the gable that Steve and I are tackling. Sadly enough, I’m not totally sure what everyone else worked on!! Mike H continued to cut for us and after awhile Michael came out to lend a hand hoisting the OSB up. Shortly after noon we had finished what we set out to do today! The gables and porches are all ready with eaves and sheathing!

Back to the campground and lunch, then Rick and I take off for Magic Suds and two loads of laundry! I am able to get online briefly there, but can’t upload any pictures. We meet Mike and Judy leaving as we come into the park – Judy has brought back fresh peaches for everyone. SOOOOO good!

Warm day and we hide in the trailer for awhile, grabbing some dinner. By evening, Gae comes to our door with the peaches and I see Ginny and Michael out at the firepit. We join them for awhile, eventually everyone gathers there. Some final goodbyes around 8pm. Most are leaving tomorrow early morning.

Karl and Kendra got back to us and they aren’t available tomorrow for a lunch date, so Rick and I have no schedule to maintain, other than to be back at the park by 5p for our initial build meeting. We have some questions for Karen, the affiliate director, so we’ll be sure to be here!

A final composite collage of the Rexburg CAV Build.  A great group!  

SUNDAY, September 10
Day Off!

My subtitle above sums it up! When we couldn’t make connections with Karl and Kendra, knowing we were back at work on Monday, we decided to go no where today and just plain relax!! We did some grocery shopping (the aisles and shelves at WalMart were bare due to the influx of BYU-I students this weekend. Rick watched football and I spent three hours at McDonalds on the internet!

Our new building partners pulled in during the afternoon. Team Leaders Jeff and Laura have been up in the Flathead Valley all summer, hosting at the KOA campground just south of Whitefish. They worked on the Ashley house off and on when they could. Paul and Meg are from Sacramento and relatively new to CAVs. They arrived in the SMALLEST RV (short of a tent) we have ever seen – one of the little teardrop trailers that is bed only with the kitchen in the rear that opens to the outside. Wow! Rick just said, ‘I’m not tough enough for that’!!

Good meeting with Karen, the affiliate ED, which lasted almost two hours because we just sat and chatted. Karen seemed much more comfortable this time around.

MONDAY, September 11
CAV Build Day 11

Here we go again….same place, new co-workers!! It takes a little while to get started as Rick and I show Laura and Jeff where the keys are, etc. Steve arrives a little earlier than normal, and we are pleased to see the return of both Dave and Rick, locals we didn’t see last week. Nori and Jordan also were on site today.

At times today there wasn’t enough work for all, as Steve was focused on the roof and getting the outlooks and fascia done so we could sheath. Meg and Nori made mitre saw cuts, Jordan toted a lot of lumber here and there. We all moved scaffolding. Jeff and Rick sheathed the back of the garage before break! Once again, Steve grabbed me as his ‘helper’ and I ended up on the upper trusses of the Smith house putting in the 22” braces for the fascia. Local Rick came up to help me – I wasn’t tall enough and it takes one to hold and one to fire the gun, especially in that awkward spot. (OK, Steve does it alone, but I couldn’t!) The goal today was to prepare the Smith house so we can sheath the upper roof, except for the back hip section, while Steve, Dave, and Rick attend the mandatory safety seminar on Tuesday.

We worked until 3:15 – no one really paying much attention to how long we were ‘at it’! Clean up and then some ‘down time’ in the shade before we left, discussing our approach for tomorrow.

Showers, rest, and a short Happy Hour out by Walkers trailer getting to know one another. I have Nori coming for a tie dye party tomorrow afternoon, plus I went down and gave the information to the lady in the trailer next to the restrooms. (I don’t even know her name yet!) Hopefully enough dye left!

TUESDAY, September 12
CAV Build Day 12

A full day, even if we were only a crew of 5! Laura decided to go to the safety training in Idaho Falls, so Jeff rode with us to the job site. Nori joined us around 9, but that was it! The three guys spent the day ‘UP TOP’ while we three gals manned the saw station below, used the ladder lift to raise the OSB to the porch roof, and built Toe Plates for the guys to install at the edge of the roof – a safety measure. Meg and Nori also finished up the upper door sill in the garage – a job Meg started yesterday with Dave.

Steve, Dave, and Rick were all at the safety seminar as well, so we did our best to be on good behavior today. Rick and Jeff shot hundreds of sheathing bullets today. Paul lifted a lot of OSB!! He should be sore tonight.

Overall, we got all the south side of Prudence’s roof sheathed, part of the north side, and the fascia finished on the north. We couldn’t go any further at that point without a little direction from Steve.

I cut a lot of sheathing today, plus taught Meg how to use the nail gun and Nori made her first cut with a circular saw (fortunately an easy cut and with the portable little saw!) But she was very proud of herself.

Back to the park around 3 and ready to prepare for our tie dye party!! Laura dyes a couple of items, Meg one shirt, and then Nori shows up with her daughter Jennifer and five grandchildren! Great kids and we had a fun time. AND I didn’t run out of dye!! Hopefully we’ll find things wash out ok tomorrow! The gal in the park who wanted to dye never showed up. :(

A quick thunderstorm went through around 7 and then sunshine again. Cooling off. Tomorrow could be rain later in the day and barely hit 80 degrees. Hurray!

WEDNESDAY, September 13
CAV Build Day 13
Our second day ‘on our own’! We hope to work until noon at least, praying the forecasted storms hold off! The safety class should be done around noon and maybe Steve will show up and give a little direction.

In the meantime, Paul, Meg, and I work on the 8” OSB sections that go above the sheathing – to prevent the insulation from popping out. Meg and I are able to do the part on the gable of Prudence’s house, but we can’t reach from the porch roof. Paul gets that part! Jeff and Rick tackle the fascia on the back, and we move more scaffolding (with only four sections it is a never ending process!) I build another toe plate and help deliver boards. Meg and I spend the latter portion of the day cutting OSB for Rick and Jeff who continue the sheathing then on the back side of the house.

Steve didn’t make it in the afternoon, but Dave showed up, fresh with SAFETY ideas! We put up handrails in the stairway, and for Rick and Paul to build the last corner ‘bird box’ on the fascia, they had to span a scaffold riser between two anchored 2x4’s, and then harness up to reach the corner. Dave was excited to try out his newly learned skills!

Back to the campground to relax abit and then help Laura and Meg wash out their tie dye handiwork! Laura had made a crockpot shepherd’s pie for everyone to share at dinnertime. We brought over a loaf of kale bread. A most pleasant evening as we sat around and visited until 8pm.

THURSDAY, September 14
CAV Build Day 14

The forecast is NOT good for today, but we are going in to meet Steve and hope we might get a morning in. Thunderstorms forecast – not what you want for roof work!

The project for today is the back hip section of Prudence’s house – our last remaining challenge! We move the scaffolding again so the gables eaves can be built, and then Steve and Jeff set the hip trusses. I go up to hold the level for abit in that process. Rick is finishing fascia and more OSB goes into place.

Thunderstorms interrupt us twice, but it isn’t until 1:30 when the storm passes right over us and more rain falls that we call it quits – the roof is too wet to be safe! I did a lot of running around today, making cuts, helping with scaffold, making deliveries! Prudence came by just as we were getting ready to leave and we visited with her for awhile. She will be coming in to work tomorrow and we will finish roofing HER side of the complex then!!!

Heavy rainfall for awhile before we head to Applebees - more storms on the way!

A few hours to relax and then Happy Hour at Applebee’s on the schedule for this evening! I also have a conference call with the Program/Mission Committee to review grant applications, but not until 8pm and I’ll do it at McDonalds so I have internet for all the materials.  

FRIDAY, September 15
CAV Build Day 15….nope.

Raindrops are falling on our heads! It rained last night solid from the time we got back from MacDonalds (I came back before my call and sat in the truck talking!) until early morning, paused for a few hours, and then started in again. We cancelled – the roof will be WAY too wet to be safe. Day off!

Walkers and Hoyles headed into town in search of breakfast. We were so excited about Frescos, but they discovered it didn’t open until 11 on weekdays! Wow! Rick and I kicked back and relaxed for abit. A trip to Magic Suds for laundry and Dollar Tree, back to trailer for lunch – Rick had a hankering for spaghetti and we had bought some pasta and sauce at Dollar Tree. We then tried to go to the Teton Flood Museum, only to discover it closed at 2pm. So we went to Deseret Thrift Store and picked up some shirts, jeans, and lots of books!

We pulled out the heater today. The forecast for tonight is high 30’s. Since we washed our sheets this morning and I had the bed all pulled apart anyway, I put up my ‘heat shield’ along the back wall of the bed. Time for the Fall weather!

After dinner I asked Laura if she wanted to make some Christmas ornaments and I took my bin of rolled magazine paper crafts and we made doves. I had worked on a star and dove earlier in the day, plus got a snowman or two made. Meg and Paul came over as well and we ate popcorn, drank wine, and visited for over two hours. A nice evening.

SATURDAY, September 16
Teton Flood Museum….and not much else!

Temperatures are cooling down! It was 38 outside when I got up around 7 (yes, a cozy sleep in day!) but 52 in the trailer since we had the heater going during the night. Not bad at all!

The group is having a final meal together this morning at Frescos – meeting at 9. We sit and chat for two hours!! Laura and Jeff then left for Craters of the Moon, Meg and Paul for Jackson. We went to the Flood Museum!!

A good 25 minute movie of the stages of the Teton flood – the photography wasn’t great and the resolution of many pictures poor, but it wasn’t hard to see the devastation on the farming communities the breach in the dam wrought. The flood happened on Rick’s birthday in 1976 while he was living in Pocatello. Pokie wasn’t affected for the most part, but every town up river was! Besides the loss of homes and businesses, the waters scraped the top soil away from fertile agricultural lands, rendering them useless. It seems much of the area has rebounded in the succeeding 50 years, since we saw acres upon acres of wheat, sugar beets, and POTATOES!!

Over to WalMart for a few groceries and then back for a nap! Later in the afternoon Rick took a walk and I called Cherrie while walking the park. A thorough cleaning of the trailer took place. We spent the evening closing up the front end, draining the tanks, and putting away the water hoses. Easier tonight than in the cold of the morning! All that’s left is our bed and the electric. We can be out of here FAST if we wanted to be!
A few goodbye conversations before heading in for the night. Tomorrow we hit the road again with an open schedule! No firm reservations, just a general direction with a few target locations to set up camp and explore!

SUNDAY, September 17
Rexburg, ID to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, MT
173 miles

What a GORGEOUS drive today!! Blue skies, fluffy clouds, and mountains with fresh snow in all directions!! Plus it was new highway for the most part for each of us.

We left around 8:15 with hugs all around (although Laura was still in bed, but we got her last night!) Jeff was still in his pjs, but came out to say goodbye. I do hope we meet up with them again sometime on the CAV trail.

Coffees at Maverik (they raised their prices, however, so refills are now $1.29!! PLUS tax!) and then on up the road toward Ashton, Island City, and Henry’s Lake and the Montana border.

New experience!! Just before the road narrows from 4 lane to 2 lane 5 miles from Ashton, we were stopped by a police vehicle blocking the road with lights flashing. Same thing on the other side. We soon observed that a MAJOR sheep crossing was about to take place! Must have been 700-1000 sheep in the flock and they weren’t very happy about crossing the highway at first. The mass of wool just keep coming and coming until we saw three border collies and a couple of guys on horseback trying their best to get them across the road. Quite the sight!

I sent a text to Diane and Tom as we neared Ashton. The storm clouds have lifted and the smoke dissipated and I can finally see the amazing view of the Teton peaks towering on the eastern skyline. The view from the Ashton RV Park would be a gorgeous as Diane described it!

Stopped in Island City for gas, choking at the price ($3.09) but the climb and a headwind meant we wanted to be sure to run on the top of the tank. Island City is where the Speelmans have their cabin that Conks have borrowed a few times. (We found out the exact location AFTER we were through the area!)

Broad plateaus and snowy peaks from Island City to Henry’s Lake. The rain and snow from Thursday to Saturday have dusted the mountaintops down to around the 6500’ level. No snow on the highway, but roadside in places. It is so beautiful! We cross over the Continental Divide and into Montana at Raynolds Pass (6800’). Shortly after we meet up with the Madison River which is our companion for the next 60 or so miles. We have traveled all three rivers feeding out of the West Yellowstone – Yellowstone area now. The Yellowstone River from the north entrance to the Livingston, the Gallatin from West Yellowstone, and now the Madison. Both the Madison and Gallatin, along with the Jefferson (which we are currently camped next to) all form the Missouri River at Three Forks, just east of us.

Enjoyed the charm of Ennis, MT, and the magnificent vistas of vast ranches, wheat fields, cattle grazing, and always, the mountains. We left US 287 to turn west on Montana 2 to find Lewis and Clark Caverns.

We are able to secure an electric site for the next three days ($34 for tonight as it is still peak season, and then $30 night for the next two). I take care of the fee arrangements at the Visitor Center while Rick fills the trailer water tank (important since we discovered the showers are $3 for 6 minutes!) We haven’t really used the water pump and water tank in the trailer before. This will be a good test. We have 30 gallons of water – that should be able to last us for 6 quick showers over the next three days.

We decide to wait and take the cavern tours on a less than ideal day (most likely Tuesday when rain is forecast), so we take a two plus mile hike around the foothills below the caverns during the afternoon. We lost the trail at one point, but managed to get back on prior to arrival back at the camp. We passed an old gypsum mine (used to make talc) and had several good views back up the valley with the Jefferson River, snow on the north side of the mountains, and the Bridger Mts east of Belgrade in the far distance.

Dinner (we finally ate up the leftover turkey soup from Christmas Eve) and then a relaxing evening reading all the material we picked up at the Visitor Center. We contacted Linda Thoth and have David’s cell number in case we have an opportunity tomorrow to contact him for perhaps a meal out.

The day was beautifully sunny and warm, but not hot, but it is cooling down quickly now. Forecast is for 31 tonight! That’s why we needed electricity – the heater will be running!

MONDAY, September 18
Exploring Butte, MT – Mining Capital of Montana

We stayed warm last night with our little heater putting out the warm air. But it also didn’t get down to the forecast of 31 either, I suspect. By 8:15 we are ready to hit the road and head toward Butte.

We wind for four miles or so through Jefferson Canyon, a narrow gap in the strata walls of limestone and older rock, the river and railroad our companions.

As soon as we are on the freeway and I have some cell reception, I send David Toth a text and invite him to lunch or dinner, depending on his schedule. (We are secretly hoping for lunch!)

First stop is the Office for the Lady of the Rockies tours. Our decision on whether to invest in the two hour trip is made for us – too much snow at the top of the divide and they aren’t making trips this week. We put around the gift shop and then discover a movie on the construction of the statue is playing. We slip into the back to watch the rest.

The statue was one man’s dream to originally place a 5’ statue of Mary, as a symbol of all mothers, in his yard when his wife passed away from cancer. But Butte in the early 1980’s was suffering from economic depression – mines had closed and people were out of hope and out of work. One man’s dream became a rallying call of hope for the whole community. The effort took nearly 6 years, but in December 1985, the 5 pieces of the steel statue were flown by helicopter to the top of the Continental Divide overlooking the town of Butte and anchored in place. It is lit at night. I found the story behind the statue moving – the views today aren’t great with a white statue and a steel gray sky! But we can see it from town!

While at the statue visitor center, we get a reply from David. Yes for lunch! We eventually arrange to meet at the Metals Bar and Grill in uptown (the historic district) at noon. In the meantime we drive around town and see the Open Pit Copper Mine – a nice viewing area allows you to see INTO the pit – which now holds an acid lake. Pretty interesting.

We drive up and around Montana Institute of Technology where David attends school off and on (he is on the 10 year plan according to Linda) and then park and walk the historic blocks, noting buildings, churches, and lots of history.

Lively lunch with David – he is very talkative. Reminded us both so much of his father, Steve! (Including his lion’s mane of blond curly hair!) Glad we made the effort and David’s work schedule allowed for it.

A quick stop at the mall for some shopping, then to Walmart for a few groceries. We decided to take an alternate route home by following Montana 2 the whole way rather than getting back on to I-90. It takes us up and over the Continental Divide at Pipestone Pass, 75’ higher than the I-90 pass. But the top is unmarked and we are up and over before we know it! A fun route home through Whitehall and the small towns along the way.

Just before we get back to the caverns, we spy a huge gaping hole in the hillside above us, facing west so I didn’t see it this morning. ???? I walk over to the visitor center upon our return to ask and discover it is an old limestone quarry.

The wind is picking up and the storm is coming. RAIN!! I write as the water streams down the trailer windows. We are hunkered inside for the rest of the day!!

TUESDAY, September 19
Lewis and Clark Caverns Tour

After a few good storms with wind and rain, we awake to a morning of calm and sunshine! It is beautiful outside! Shortly after 9 we are ready to head up the mountain for our tour. We want to be sure to go while the walking will be dry – more rain is forecast for later in the day.

We just miss a 9:30 tour and the next isn’t until 10:30, but that’s ok, because it was a big group. We poke around the gift shop for a little while and then get our jackets ready and head over to the tour gate. End up with a group of 5 – PERFECT! Our tour guide is Tom who has been giving tours here for 10 years. He is a storyteller and gives a great deal of background on bats, Lewis and Clark, the CCC -you name it. For those unfamiliar with some of this information, it was great and we had a father and son from Germany in our group. Tom did get a little long winded at times though! Our 2 hour tour lasted 2 ½ and we were hungry when we got back to the truck!!

The Caverns were so different from both Carlsbad and Mammoth. Smaller in scale, but much more intimate. We wound in and around columns and formations. So far they are not having any bat white nose syndrome problems, but are being careful. All the bats were gone, however – it is mating season! We descended down about 500 steps and up 100. The exit tunnel is about 50’ below the entrance. A ¾ mile hike to the entrance and a ½ mile hike back – both mostly on the contour of Cave Mountain. We bought a few souvenirs on the way out and headed back down the mountain to get something to eat!!

By mid-afternoon, the rains had returned – we spent a lazy afternoon. I took a mile walk around the campground while Rick cooked dinner. We might have snow again on the peaks in the morning!

WEDNESDAY, September 20
Three Forks – Library Wifi!!

Heading over to Three Forks from the Caverns - Bridger Mts. 
Not much action today, but very productive! Around 10 we paid for another night here at the Caverns and drove into Three Forks, about 20 miles east, to find the public library and some free wifi. We had some planning to do, contacts to make, pictures and posts. By 1pm I had posted to both blogs, updated Facebook, checked emails, etc. Rick had his Kindle and researched weather and RV parks for the immediate future. We made a decision on Kalispell and contacted Steve.

We found the librarian very helpful. She directed us to the ‘meeting room’ so we had tables and privacy. She told us where the post office was (I mailed 16 postcards!) and recommended the cafes on Main Street for lunch. We went to the Three Forks Cafe and had grilled chicken sandwiches. Basic good food. I enjoyed some broccoli cheese soup with mine! Back to the library and Rick called his Mom and Rusty. I called some RV parks. I sent birthday ecards. We heard back from Steve – affirmative, COME! We left feeling like we had a plan, which is always a good idea!

Quick stop at the Three Forks Market – I wanted some more hummus and didn’t bring my dry mix (sad face!) Really sad cause I had to buy Sabra brand, which I am trying to boycott, but its all they had.

Back to trailer to get a quick walk in between rain storms. Evening in trailer.

PS. The weather is supposed to be rocking COLD Saturday and Sunday. We had to find reasonable rates that included electricity. We also have purchased a backup heater, since this one has been doing duty for 5 years now. I didn’t want it to crash when it is 18 degrees outside! Weather should be warming up to typical Indian summer by next week. Nothing like camping at 5500’ near the Continental Divide when it turns frigid!!

THURSDAY, September 21
Lewis and Clark Caverns to Phillipsburg, MT
100 miles

Time to hit the road again! We pack up, drain the tanks, thankful for this chance to use the water tank, water pump, etc. It worked well to give us a few hot showers, altho we discovered the wind had blown out the water heater prior to our showers and I was the second in line. Needless to say, it was a rather brief shower! But we tested the stove to make sure we still had propane which was affirmative!

We pull off in Butte to find a propane refill – successful for a reasonable price. We were only a half empty! Gas fill up, coffee fill up, and we are on our way. Blue skies to the west and snow white mountains! Beautiful!

Ananconda is a much bigger town than we expected – just a few hundred under Baker City. The smelter smoke stack TOWERS above the city on a hill, with the Continental Divide Mountains just behind it. The ore from Butte was often smelted in Anaconda. A LONG Main Street drive with old buildings, houses just three feet apart, but plenty of amenities. I checked the map and found that Philipsburg is only 900 people! The two towns are definitely NOT the same size! We decided to come back on another day to explore Anaconda, as we didn’t want to drag the trailer everywhere.

On up a canyon paralleling the divide and up to Georgetown Lake and dam. Pines, firs, rocky outcroppings and white peaks. The road dropping down from the dam was an engineering nightmare and is still being worked on. A narrow canyon that eventually opens out into a wide valley and Flint Creek which feeds into the Clark Fork near I-90. We find a ski area with runs already outlined with white streaks.

Into Philipsburg and through town to find our Inn RV Park on the north side. We pay for two nights, and figure we’ll decide on the rest later. Tonight and tomorrow are supposed to be the worst weather wise, with snow in the forecast. We think we’ll wait for Anaconda until Saturday and just sit tight and visit the shops in Pburg tomorrow.

After lunch a drive and walk through downtown. This town was just about dead in the late 80’s with buildings collapsing, unheated, and falling apart. Then one by one, visionaries bought a building and starting painting and remodeling. Step by step the momentum gained and Philipsburg was rebuilt as a tourist mining history center. The nearby ski area helps in the winter.

Went into a pottery store and found some great ideas, but I bought a Santa figurine. Will try to make my own at some point.

Late afternoon and evening spent reading, TV (two stations!), etc. We will try to stay warm tonight….the heater is holding the trailer at 62 at the moment. My hope is to keep it warm in the evening so it doesn’t drop TOO far during the night!

FRIDAY, September 22
Exploring Philipsburg

We wake up to SNOW!! Temp is right around 30, the trailer is 47 when I get up at 6:30. Brisk! I bundle up with two blankets and my gloves and sweatshirt, a hot cup of coffee by my side. The snow probably only started a couple hours ago – it is a light dusting.

We linger reading, etc (I draw two more Picasso Prayers) until 9:30 and then head over to the Sunshine Cafe, about ¼ mile away for breakfast. We were going to walk, but the north wind was blowing just hard enough, with blowing snow, that it didn’t sound like fun. I’m a wimp.

Good basic food, plus coffee for under 1.30. Gotta like a country diner. I order french toast and ham for something different from my usual breakfast egg wrap. A huge slice of ham! While eating breakfast, Cherrie texts me back that Josie Skidgel lives in Philipsburg. I remember Josie from the middle school. I finally ask our waitress if she knows Josie when we are about ready to leave. She laughs and said, “Josie is back in the kitchen, saying ‘I think my middle school art teacher is out there. Either that or her twin!’” Josie comes out, we hug, and chat for a little bit. It’s a small world!!

We drive on in to town to do a little shopping, wandering up and down Main Street, entering about 5-6 places. Mostly window shopping, but we purchase a few gifts and some novelty items. One store had so many beautiful wood bear pieces I nearly went crazy, but we ended up buying some wood cattails.

Last stop was the Sweet Palace, the biggest candy store in Montana, or so they say! I just wanted a few pieces of hard candy to suck on in the evenings when my desire for sweet overwhelmed me! Four dollars and a small bag later, we headed back to the trailer. Rick got the furnace going to really warm things up. Snow is starting to melt and switch to a rain-snow mix. Temp has warmed up to 32 degrees by 12:30pm!! It is NOT going to be hot today!

Furnace finally working and it is up to 64 inside! Woo hoo! (Since it is still just 32 and spitting snow outside!) Hour or two spent talking to Luke on phone and then doing laundry at the bathhouse (one washer, one dryer and cheap!)

Quiet afternoon and then a long conversation with Jed until after OUR bedtime! We hadn’t talked with him since school had started. He had a lot to share!

We are keeping the furnace on low tonight. Should help the temps, but will also keep the little space heater plugging away!  

SATURDAY, September 23
Anaconda, MT

I think it is going to get above 35 today!! The sun has come out, although there is still a layer of clouds all around. The furnace did its job last night – it was 55 today when I got up – about 10 degrees warmer than yesterday!

We decide to head over to Anaconda when we see the sun shining and some blue skies to the south. It is just a 30 mile drive, but over a small pass at Georgetown Lake. The trees and rocks are beautiful dusted with snow. Road is clear though! The small elevation gain meant considerably more snow!

We cruised around Anaconda, at first looking for the Stack State Park. Not well signed, but we finally found a viewing area, largely supported in 2000 by the people of Anaconda who wanted the historical structure to remain. Hundreds of memorial bricks were sold to raise the necessary funds, many in honor of former smelter workers. Their individual jobs were marked on the bricks which was interesting. I still want to know what the rope boys did. Three metal sculptures, from copper, iron, and ?? portrayed the miners, the smelters, and the railroad workers that transported the ore between the two. It was well done and very informative.

Then we cruised the streets checking out old buildings, steeple chasing, finally finding the county courthouse at the base of the foothills. A beautiful old building with a great tower. The Presby church had the emblem on the sides of the tower, so it was easy to spot! Washoe Park is on the north side of town and it is beautiful with sports fields, ponds, walking paths, playgrounds, swimming pool, etc.

Finally we settle on Subway and find wifi to boot. A match made in heaven! We spend nearly two hours there enjoying our sandwiches and using the internet.

On our drive back to Philipsburg we explore the road toward Ski Discover, only to find it blocked as we near the ski area. Then off on Georgetown Lake Road to find the forest service campground on the bay. Only the host was camped there, but the area with the snow and the thick trees was very calm and tranquil.

Overall for our drive? I sum up our sightings as Bighorn Sheep, Bambi, and Bald Eagles!! Two bighorn females ran across the road as we neared Anaconda, we saw four deer, and then spotted two bald eagles in the treetops at Georgetown Lake.

When we got back to Philipsburg, we walked over to the grocery store for a few items, and then took a good walk up past the main downtown and towards the mountains. The road ended at the Philipsburg Brewery, which was a historic brewery that shut down with Prohibition in 1915. With many mistrials and alternatives, it finally began brewing beer again 100 years later!! There are 11 freshwater springs in the area. Two more deer at the brewery plus some yellow finch. I forgot to bring my camera on the walk so no pictures. :(

A good day, but it supposed to completely clear tonight around midnight and drop down into the 20’s. Furnace time again!!

SUNDAY, September 24
Exploring Ghost Towns

I had very good intentions of going to church this morning, but the cool temps, my cozy blankets, and the 9am Worship time conspired against me! Around 11, having spent some good time working on the last scripture selections for my Psalms Picasso Prayers, Rick suggested that we go explore some ghost towns. Excellent idea!! To see the towns for real seemed better than just looking at pictures at the museum, which had been our plans for the afternoon.

We had some good directions and information from one of the multiple tourist brochures we picked up on Philipsburg. So on a beautiful sunshine morning (still brisk, however!) we head south under the RR overpass and take off on a dirt road toward Kirkville. I really didn’t know what to expect, not having a great deal of knowledge about the mining industry.

Our first visit is to Kirkville, just a couple miles from downtown Philipsburg. I will include the description of Kirkville from the brochure:
Located just southeast of Philipsburg, mill workers of the Bi-Metallic Mill on Douglas Creek settled Kirkville in 1890. It included dwellings, boarding house, rooming house, nearby company residences, an office, a warehouse, a barn, buggy shed, an assay office, a retort building, and the 100 stamp Bi-Metallic Mill site. The mill was over 360 feet long, 150 feet wide, and had two smokestacks, furnaces, chimney flues, and a massive foundation built of cut granite. The owners burned the structure in 1957 for safety reasons. The remains are both interesting and impressive to view. There is a modern flotation mill owned by the Contact Mining Co, which operates from time to time as a processing plant on a contract basis.”

I was amazed by the size and scope of the ruins. The rockwork was incredible, with only spots here and there of obvious mortar. Multiple arches were constructed of red brick, in contrast to the gray granite. The two smokestacks loomed high over it all. We found the water flume, old boarding houses, the buggy house, company office, etc.
Up above where we parked was basically a grave yard of old mining equipment and the automobiles and trailers of local area residents – old trucks, cars, trailers, etc. But the view from the hillside was great looking down on the village of Philipsburg. We found a pile of cardboard boxes broken open, and discovered crate upon crate of core samples, broken to pieces.

From Kirkville, we headed on up the dirt road toward the main Bi-Metallic Mine, the Granite Mt Mine, and the ghost town of Granite, which at its heyday had over 3000 residents. From the brochure:
Established on Granite Mountain in 1884, Granite, “Montana’s Silver Queen,” had its heyday in the early 1890’s with a population of over 3000. In 1872, Eli Holland reportedly found a piece of high-grade ruby silver while following a wounded game animal. Eli dug a shallow shaft on the outcropping. The site lay dormant for over 5 years until Charles McLure found a piece of silver ore on the shaft dump and thought the prospect showed promise. He traveled east to St. Louis to obtain capital for exploration and development of the property.
The town boasted as many stores and commercial establishments as any other modern Montana city at the time. One of the most famous buildings in Granite was the Miner’s Union Hall with a billiards parlor and club on the first floor, office, library, dance floor and auditorium space on the second floor called the ‘Northwest’s Finest Dance Floor’. Other amenities of Granite City included eighteen saloons, a thriving red light district, a roller rink, a hospital, five doctors, a school, four churches, several banks, a water system, named streets, and several homes for the more than 3000 inhabitants. There was no cemetery as bodies had to be taken down to Philipsburg Cemetery because the ground was so rocky a grave couldn’t be dug.
In 1893, Congress repealed the Sherman Act lowering silver prices. Within 24 hours of the repeal, on August 1, men and women came down the mountain in search of new homes, leaving their worldly possessions behind them. One year later, only 140 people remained in Granite.”

The road up to Granite, marked “Travel at Your Own Risk – 4w drive recommended”, wound steeply uphill through forested slopes. We saw timber ruins along the way, and finally came to a sign marking a major portion of the Aerial Tramway, built to transport ore from the mines at the top of the hill down to Kirkville for processing. Gradually, as the views of the Flint Creek Valley opened up below, we entered the snow zone! Granite sits at 8000 feet elevation, well within the recent snows. But the road was quite passable and we eventually came to some parking areas.
We parked near a sign marking Main Street and quickly found the ‘Visitor Center’ - a signboard with information about the Granite Ghost Walk. Unfortunately a map of the walk was missing, just shortcut information. We saw signs marked GGW everywhere, but mostly followed the roads and some trails in our exploration.

We found the following: the Miner’s Union Building – the brick and stone walls still standing, but in a dangerous way. Cabins, with mattresses still inside, the roof caving in. Churches – just the foundation remains present. For the bank and the Company Office, just the vault remains. All of the wood remains were covered with snow, which added a sort of frosting to the image. A more modern mine rebuilt some of the buildings, but we saw the original ‘headframe’ for the mine shaft – not screened over and filled with cement. We found some of the rusted metal cages used to transport miners up and down the shaft.

Way up on the hill, another long wall of granite foundation with brick arches supported the old stamp building. Rick was awed by the size of the timbers used – the heart wood of the tree, as we could see the inner rings of many cuts. Some looked to be 12x15” in size. The main ore shaft is a towering wood structure, leaning to one side. Next to it is the intricate lacework of logs that form the framework for the carts that roll out the ore to dump it down toward the tramway.
Off in the distance the multiple runs of Ski Discovery Winter Recreation area can be seen.

Down off the mountain by 3pm, quick stop at the Gem Shop to find NO postcards or pins. I have been stumped to find a pin from the Caverns, Butte, or Philipsburg!

Showers and then Rick disconnects the water and sewer – easier in the sunshine that in freezing morning temperatures. We are ready to move out in the am!

MONDAY, September 25
Philipsburg to Kalispell, via Missoula
186 miles

We are on the move! A warmer night than anticipated as it is nearly 38 degrees when I arise. Cloudy which kept the temps higher.

On the road at 9:15 headed north toward Drummond and I-90. We pass through a narrow canyon and then the Lower Flint Valley opens up with extensive pastureland – cows, horses, sheep, even some goats! It is a beautiful drive.

Then it is west on I-90, a stretch of interstate we haven’t driven since we came home from a trip back East with the boys years ago! The freeway follows the Clark Fork the entire way, winding through forested hills and rocky outcroppings. Really a nice route.

I call Sabine as we enter Missoula – we made arrangements to meet at Mackenzie River Pizza near Exit 101. We gas up the truck, park, and then walk down to the restaurant. Sabine and Katya arrive about 5 minutes later. A very pleasant meal catching up with them, learning from Sabine the ins and outs of the fire season and its impact. It just occurred to me that I forgot to ask about the Thompson Pass fires.
At 1pm we are headed north on US 93 toward Kalispell. It is even spitting rain off and on – nothing particularly heavy, but the clouds are hovering over the mountain peaks. I will not get my stellar view of the Mission Mountains from above St. Ignatius today as I had hoped with it new dusting of snow. I probably won’t see the peaks! (And I didn’t!)

Into Somers and Steve’s place by 3:15. We park right in his driveway in front of the garage, finding the electric cord Steve left sticking out of the garage for us! All set up and then we head up to Kalispell to check out cameras at Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. A useful trip as it helped answer some questions I had about battery power.

We arrive back at Steve’s just as he is getting home. A quick hello to the dogs and Steve changes clothes (he has been helping a friend all day with some construction project) and then we drive down to Lakeside to the Tamarack Brewery for dinner. A busy place on a Monday night!

Steve and I order fish tacos and Rick another sandwich like wrap. Wow – servings are plentiful. I only ate ONE taco – it was huge! And I still have my leftovers from lunch as well! We sit and visit for nearly two hours. Steve is doing well – keeping busy with projects, some of which Genia encouraged prior to her death. He opened up pretty well about his tough days and special days, especially Sam’s wedding and a trip the week before with Sam to a boat show in Washington.

Back to recluse ourselves to the trailer, as Steve will be heading to bed early! We could tell he was tired.

Raindrops are falling on our trailer roof! G’night.  

TUESDAY, September 26
Habitat Dedication and Family Visits

Wow! What an incredibly gorgeous morning after a questionable Monday evening!! The sky is clear, the sun is shining! After some good mornings with Steve, who is working from home this am in addition to a meeting at the office at 10a, Rick and I take a walk along the bikeway. I go with him down to the intersection with Hwy 82 to BigFork and then turn around. Rick continues another mile plus. His extra section is not as scenic – it is along the highway! From Steve’s to the intersection is a beautiful stretch under big rocks and along the pond. Steve and I saw trumpeter swans on the pond this morning – so beautiful when they skimmed the surface in flying off.

Internet at Steve’s! My computer and phone automatically connect since I have been online here before. Wonderful...and before we leave I will take advantage of SECURE internet to do a few financial transactions!

We make arrangements to meet with Jen Schultze at 1 since she has to work tonight during the dedication. Otherwise, Allison has contacted many of the other homeowners and they are all going to be at the house between 4:30 and 5 so we have a chance to visit before the dedication and before Ashleys get caught up in all their other guests.

When Steve gets back from his meeting, we stand outside chatting for awhile and he tells us the story of the flower ‘bed’. A beautiful new section of flowers as we approach the house, put together by Genia’s friends who wanted to help landscape and Genia wanted a flower bed. An old metal headboard and footboard, with alyssum quilt and zinnia pillows anchor the area. As we were talking, a butterfly landed on the pillow and lingered all during our conversation. Genia was present.

We lunch on our leftovers from last night. Plenty to eat!

We visit with Jen for over an hour. She is such a wonderful gal – so concerned about Ethan’s and Mahrias’s transitions to the new school, so involved in their church and community. Anticipating some job changes, including EJ’s promotion with the Pepsi company.

Leaving Jen we have a couple hours to blow before 4:30. We trek to Walmart, and I look at cameras once again. I just think I am going to wait – the reviews on the one I wanted were so bad. We pick up a few other things, but want to wait on the groceries until after the dedication. So….we gas up the truck and then wander into Home Depot. I REALLY like the portable Ryobi Circular Saw I used at Rexburg and it would be compatible with all our other Ryobi stuff. The shelf is empty. More wandering and I finally ask someone. Well, it turns out they are on the top shelf. We are in luck! saw, plus a new umbrella (the price was right and the size is very condusive to TWO people!).

Now what...Still have 45 minutes to blow. Coldstone Creamery is calling to us – a good dinner, just in case the appetizers at the dedication aren’t enough! We share a small Oreo Mocha and say a toast to dear Katy Branston. The last time we were there was with Katy.

Over to the homes and since Ashley’s aren’t there yet, we knock on Mary’s door! It is so rewarding to see the shock of recognition on Bree’s face when she opens the door! Eventually Davida brings her three over, Davidson kids are all over the place (high energy!), and the Ashleys arrive. It is so good to see them all. Finally EJ comes over with Ethan and Mahrias – they are post cards for Rick and I that never got mailed this summer. Mahrias’s tells me how sorry she is about my mom. What a sweetheart.

The dedication is packed. Ashleys are so active in the Fresh Life Church of Kalispell, their pastor is the one doing the prayer, and many friends came to congratulate them. Nici, the volunteer coordinator, reads the Ashley’s letter requesting a Habitat home which is a total affirmation of why we do this!! Building hope, building community! Kids are in and out the entire time, weaving their way through the crowd to the cheese and cracker trays!

Afterwards, I help Nicci cut the chocolate cake (Liesel’s request – love that little girl!) when Rick comes over with John and Jenny Branston, Katy’s parents from Memphis, TN. What a surprise. They just happened to be out in the ‘area’ since her brother is getting married next Saturday in Polson. Saw the email, and decided to drive up. Amazing. We visited with them for awhile (I abandoned the cake).

Pictures with the Ashleys, and final goodbyes to families and kids. I told Liesel we would be coming back in the spring and she immediately asked me, “Can we have another tie dye party?” I guess my reputation precedes me!

We stopped at Walmart for groceries and then down to Steve’s. Thrilled to find he has made a fire in the firepit. We put away groceries, change into smoke worthy clothes and quickly join him. An hour and a half at least in conversation as the skies cleared, the moon was beautiful and the stars came out. Steve shared so many Genia stories of this summer, his plans. A good evening. 

WEDNESDAY, September 27
Somers, MT to Priest Lake SP, Indian Creek, Idaho
246 miles

Up and rolling a little earlier today! Steve stops to say goodbye around 7:10a on his way up to the jobsite in Columbia Falls (they are rehabbing one of the townhouses). We pull out at 8:15 heading south along the Flathead toward Plains. The clouds came back in over night, but the further south we drive, the more blue we see in the sky. Eventually it clears off into a gorgeous day!

From Plains it is new highway up the Clark Fork along Hwy 200 toward Sandpoint, ID. Huge rocky cliffs on the north side of the road as we leave the Plains ‘plains’, but we are surprised by the breadth of the valley overall. Large ranches and wheatfields, rangeland. The Clark Fork is dammed at Noxon, so the river gets wider and wide like a long lake as we near the dam. We pass through Thompson Falls around 10:30am and decide we aren’t stopping that early in the day – we will travel on to Priest Lake and just enjoy the canyon as a drive today. And we do!

The railroad and highway crisscross the lake/river several times between Thompson Falls and the state border. Soon after passing into Idaho (and Pacific Time Zone again!) the Clark Fork empties into Lake Pend Orielle (why don’t they just say Ponderay which is how it is pronounced?). This is a natural lake that is deep and huge! We follow the north side of the lake into the town of Sandpoint, and then the Pend Orielle river to Priest River.

A stop to gas up and get some information, plus a bite to eat! The lake is another 25 miles north and the campground another 15 after that. We are going on hope that spaces will be available and open!

And...they are! Indian Creek Campground of the state park system is located about halfway up the east side of the lake. It is the only campground with full hookups. The air smells wonderfully of pine and fir, the lake is 20 miles long and beautiful. We find a campsite, settle in, and relax! Rick reads while I wander a nature trail, put out an errant campfire left burning, and then I sit and read as well. The sunshine is warm and inviting!

Tomorrow we explore some more!!

THURSDAY, September 28
Exploring Priest Lake

It’s a glorious fall morning! Crisp air and sunshine! We spend a lazy morning and then take off for the north end of the lake.

It is a somewhat disappointing trip. First I led us on a wild goose chase, thinking a road went around ‘Cape Horn’ - when it actually deadends. Plus all the lake was lined with private homes and mostly we saw lots and lots of trees – no good lake views.

The rest of the drive to the tip was much the same. Tree-lined road. And the trees were pretty, but we were hoping for much more. We found Lionshead Campground and drove through. Would have been a tough place for the trailer. But a beautiful beach and the water is so very crystal clear. Private roads kept us from continuing, hoping to find the ‘Throughway’ which connects the two lakes. We drove on up East Shore Road aways, thinking we might come to it, but only found extensive logging! Maps indicated lots of trails and ‘things to see’, but nowhere did we find anything actually marked. So….we drove back down to Indian Creek, stopping once to pick up firewood since campfires are allowed now.

Stopped also at the park store and picked up a few postcards, a pin, and a metal pinecone art work.

In the afternoon we followed two trails that go around the campground. The first took us UP to Vista Viewpoint, which overlooks the southern portion of the lake. A nice viewpoint, although I think trees have grown up some since they put in the sign. Then down to follow the flume trail, which doubles as a winter cross country ski route. It mostly wound through the dense forest – so a cool hike! The only evidence of the flume is at a display area down by the Day Use loop.

Rest of afternoon reading, etc. Cooked our kibasa on the fire and had an enjoyable evening watching the flames and all the visitors pouring in for the nice weekend.

FRIDAY, September 29
Priest Lake to Riverbend RV, Twisp, WA
282 miles – mostly on WA Hwy 20

So today seemed like a lot of driving (especially since Rick did it all), but we only traveled less than 300 miles. It was just all two lane and over 4 mountain passes, one of which was Sherman Pass, the highest in Washington at 5575’!

We left Priest River around 8am, heading back down to Priest River (gas up again prior to entering Washington!) and then we follow the Pend Orielle River north from Newport. The route follows closely with the river in places, then veers away through large ranch fields. We passed two paper factories spitting massive amounts of smoke – we thought the fires were much closer!

A stop in the non-town of Tiger (it lost its zip code and post office) for a bathroom break and a quick visit to their little museum store run by volunteers. The town has been hard hit economically this year as the tourist train didn’t run, a major slide closed the road to Canada this spring, and then fires shut down the road on both the Canadian and US sides.

From Tiger we are officially on JUST Hwy 20 and it goes UP rapidly to climb out of the Pend Orielle valley. We passed a string of lakes and through thick mixed forests. Then DOWN into Colville and Kettle Falls (on the Columbia River). Shortly after leaving Kettle Falls, we stop at the Flume Logging Interpretive Center and grab a bite to eat. Nice conversation with a gal from Colville who knows Cal Kelley (former Bakerites). She was very interested in our trailer, so we gave a quick mini tour! I picked some rose hips from around the area. We took a short half mile stroll through the trees which had displays on the flume, logging in the area, and the fires that took the ultimate toll on the logging industry.

And then we climb again to Sherman Pass. We stop at the Sherman Overlook just below the summit for a brief walk and interpretation on the White Mt. Fire which devastated 20,000 acres in the late 1980’s. A 1929 fire which burned over 150,000 acres pretty much wiped out the white pine lumber industry. is down to Republic, Kady’s hometown. The layout was much different than I had pictured in my mind. Much more on a hill – which Rick said is typical of mining towns. We saw Kady’s high school and football field, and then stopped for gas at the Beaver Trap Junction, a gas station and store. Prices were at least under $3 so that was good! We had to turn out of ‘downtown’ before I was ready, but the hwy turned, so we had to!
From Republic, we are out of the national forest as much – the hills opening up much more with grasslands and ranches. We still had another 4,000+ summit to climb, and then a windy narrow road down Bonaparte Canyon into Tonasket. We are finally in the Okanogan Valley, a fertile stretch of orchards and agriculture reaching from Wenatchee to the Canadian border.

As we headed down US97 (also Hwy 20!) south to Omak, I managed to get cell service and called again to an RV park in Twisp to ascertain they had space for us with a WE only spot. In luck and the price is JUST outside the budget, so good enough!

We stop in Omak for gas, and then west again on 20 toward Twisp, 30 miles away. But we must climb again, past apple orchards in abundance, to 4005’ Loup Summit and ski area. From the summit down to Twisp, there is evidence of the 2015 Twisp Fire, in which three firefighters were killed, and the town itself was threatened. Blackened trees everywhere.

Twisp was a typical small town. We find Riverbend RV two miles north along the Methow River. Get settled, and Rick has read a little about the town of Winthrop and thinks we should head up there for dinner. It proves to be a GREAT suggestion. Winthrop is the Leavenworth of a Western Town circa 1900. Wood boardwalks, false fronts, and a fully restored downtown. We find the Old Schoolhouse Brewery and Pub, and eventually make our way to the riverside patio for dinner. Not the cheapest meal we have enjoyed, but definitely original in terms of our orders. Rick had a local brown beer and a turkey, bacon sandwich on ciabatta bread. I ordered a Super Food Wrap that included chicken, kale, quinoa, brussel sprouts, feta, sunflower seeds, and multiple other healthy things on a spinach wrap. It was very good! We sat right out along the riverbank and enjoyed the water and the ambiance.

After dinner a walk past all the shops. Might have to stop here tomorrow and poke into a few.

Back to campground to enjoy a little internet time! 

SATURDAY, September 30
Rainy Pass and Lake; Washington Pass Overlook; Cutthroat Lake Trail

What a great day filled with variety!! The forecast was so-so, but we managed to get a great day in inspite of the fluctuating clouds, shifting weather, and scattered raindrops.

We head up the Methow Valley past Mazama, at which point the agricultural valley gives way to the narrow confines of the rapidly approaching peaks. The fall colors are a constant blaze of reds and oranges and yellows mixed with the greens of the firs and the gradually changing larch. The sun is shining until we cross over the top of Washington Pass, at 5575’, and drive into a wall of cloud and light rain. By the time we reach Rainy Pass five miles further, the pass is living up to its name! Welcome to the west side of the Cascades!

The parking lot is a zoo – cars everywhere and yet it is raining! Guess we have to remember the west side folks ALWAYS have rain, so they come prepared! We find a spot and decide to just take the short 2 mile RT hike in to the lake. As it turns out, nearly everyone else is taking the 4 mile Maple Loop Pass Trail! We encounter a few people, but when we get out to the view area at the lake, we have it
to ourselves for at least 10 minutes! The trail is accessible, so paved the entire way and relatively level along the contour of a hill to reach the lake. The fall colors on the hillsides above the glacial lake are incredible – patches of light green, gold, and red. High above the tamarack trees are beginning to lighten, making a golden tinge on the upper slopes. The tops of the peaks above the lake are hidden in the swirling mist of cloud.

Back to the truck and we drive back up to Washington Pass and the overlook. (Rick missed the turn earlier!) The North Cascades highway was the first major route over the mountains proprosed – back at the turn of the century in 1900. But it was the LAST to be completed, nearly 80 years later! Many route proposals, etc. The overlook was built as part of the pass and it is a spectacular view down the valley and into the cirque of peaks surrounding the pass. William Stafford poetry highlighted two of the display areas. The weather made visibility a little difficult, but a beautiful spot.

Originally today we were going to hike to Blue Lake, located just past Washington Pass, but when we drove by, the cars were already parked out on the highway. A mess of people! So we decided to drive on down a few miles and find the Cutthroat Creek Trail, which involved a 3.8 mile RT to Cuththroat Lake, nestled at the base of the peaks on the north side of the pass. We did NOT get
rained on, and even got a few moments of sunshine! A wonderful COOL hike along a red bordered trail – huckleberries are turning orange and the mountain ash was thick in a deep red color. When we got to the lake, we found extensive marsh areas on one side – the lake will be a pond and then a meadow in another 50-100 years!

No wildlife today other than a few deer and chipmunks. We drove into Mazama on our way back, but didn’t find much there. Quick stop for wine and bread in Winthrop, (quick, but for Rick and I and a loaf of bread totaled $39.50 with tax!) and then ‘home’ to do some laundry and eat soup! We did pay for another night’s stay here, so we can hike Blue Lake tomorrow.  My pedometer logged over 8 miles today and 19,000 steps!  Hurray! 

SUNDAY, October 1
Blue Lake Hike

Oh my! What an incredible hike we took today! The weather didn’t give us what we wanted, but gave us what we needed!! However, it WAS sunny in Twisp this morning. We have witnessed first hand the difference of 30 miles in the west moist-east dry phenomenon of the Cascades. As we drove up to Washington Pass this morning, we entered a whole new world! White! Yet, more of the peaks were visible (with their fresh dusting of snow) than yesterday when they were hidden in swirls of foggy mist. The powder white was simply amazing.

Since we arrived at the parking area shortly after 9:30, we didn’t have any trouble getting a parking space (I will note that when we left, cars were again parked out on the highway!) A beautiful and brightly colored blue jay at the registration board.

The hike up was a gradual climb (1100’ in 2.2 miles) but never severe UP. Long switchbacks helped to dispel the idea of uphill. The snow fell and then stopped. One avalanche chute was a complete carpet of white on top of the undergrowth. When we returned around 12:30, all the snow had melted and the full glory of the fall colors were displayed.

The larch/tamarack trees this high in elevation are turning to their golden hues. Such a contrast with the deep green firs, spruce, and pine. The lake is deep, which gave it a bluer color than Rainy and Cutthroat. We visited awhile with some gals who were in Winthrop for the Volkwalk. That explained the crowds in Winthrop and all the groups (especially women) that we met on the trails. They asked about my Baker Bulldog sweatshirt – her son coaches in Pendleton! Another group told us to continue on up the trail to another little tarn around the ‘corner’. It was snowing again by the time we arrived, so the tarn didn’t reflect the peaks as well. The Liberty Bell and the Early Winter Spires tower over the lake basin (and everything else at the pass!)

A busy trail coming back down – and it seemed 80% of them were bringing their dog with them! All breeds and colors. Families, little kids, old folks – this is one of the most popular trails in the pass area.

We are back at the trailer around 1:45, having gassed up in Mazama (cheaper than anything in Winthrop at $3.09) Afternoon spent watching football and uploading photographs! Taking advantage of the decent wifi at this park!  
MONDAY, October 2
Riverbend RV Park, Twisp, to Alpine RV, Marblemount
93 miles

We didn’t cover a lot of miles today, but what miles they were!!

Packed up, drained, and on the road by 9:30am. The clouds are lingering on the east side this morning and we found growing sunshine the further WEST we went! Go figure!

Spectacular views up around Washington Pass – the snowy dusting still lingers on the peaks. As we head down new highway past Rainy Pass, the peaks just keep coming! All have a touch of snow, larch trees in golden colors, and radiant vine maple, huckleberry reds, sumac and ash. We find the road steepens to a LONG downhill grade toward Ross Lake. (Not one we would want to pull a trailer UP!) We follow Granite Creek down its canyon, but with peaks and views above us and all around. Sometimes the trees just get in our way from perfect viewing!

We missed the overlook for Ross Lake and Diablo Lake, which was too bad because both are worth the view. So we caught the one at the end of Gorge Lake, the third and final dam on the Skagit River. The namesake for Gorge Lake is narrow and complete rock walls of canyon. Amazing. We continue on down through Newhalem, the company town for the dam work for Seattle City Light. We tried to stop at the North Cascades National Park visitor center, but it is closed during the week now and the parking lot was being resurfaced, so we couldn’t even go look at ‘outside’ displays. In fact, it was a challenge for Rick to even turn around, as we had no warning about the parking lot closure.

On down to a few miles east of Marblemount and the Alpine RV Campground. Nothing fancy, but full hookups for $25 a night! We set up camp, grab a bite to eat, and then drive on in to Marblemount to find the ranger station and park wilderness center. Helpful young ranger who made suggestions, plus a few phone calls for us! (No cell service still!) Picked up a few brochures, plus a pin and a passbook stamp for the park.

I wanted to poke around Newhalem abit and we weren’t planning to head back up that way tomorrow, and at first Rick wasn’t going to go, but then he changed his mind. I drove up the 13 miles to the town, and we took two trails: the Cedar Tree Loop that visited the old powerhouse and the Ladder Creek Falls trail that winds up a hill behind the current powerplant. The early developers were so enamored with the power of electricity that they designed the trail with colored lights in the trees and on the falls, planting exotic non native vegetation to thrive in the ‘warmth’ of the lighting. I didn’t see any of the orchids, etc., but the creek and falls were lush and full. Rick visited the inside of the powerplant and its interpretive stuff while I found the falls. Great information – The Gorge Dam was built first in the early 1900’s, followed by Diablo, and then Ross. None of the dams harmed the salmon runs because there was a natural barrier just below the Gorge dam that stopped the salmon anyway!

Back to the trailer around 4 to read, relax, shower, and in general get ready for a big hike tomorrow. We are going to head out of Marblemount southeast, and make the 7.5 mile RT hike UP to Cascade Pass. This is the old native route over the mountains and into the lush Stehekin Valley. If we were ambitious we could hike all the way to the cabin….just 20+ miles away!

TUESDAY, October 3
Cascade Pass Hike

A cloudless morning – perfect fall weather. Cool, crisp (very cool – frost on truck window!) and sunshine.

Beyond the weather? I have no words to describe. Bald Mountain, Mt. Jefferson, Yokum Ridge, every hike I have been on that has moved me to tears – all rolled up into one! I’ll do my best to describe, but…..

The road into the trailhead takes off right from Marblemount. It is the Cascade River Road, paved for the first 10 miles, and then gravel for the final 13. The ranger said it would take us a hour to drive, and he was right! Very washboardy (is that a word?), but overall the gravel sections weren’t as bad as I had imagined. Parts of the upper road were paved of sorts, probably because they were washing out so often.

Gradually as we drove, the mountain peaks began to emerge. The Johannesburg Mountain to the south of us was a magnificent ridge of multiple pinnacles and massive chunks of rock. Glaciers clung to the cirques, and everything was dusted with the first snows of the season from over the weekend. The sun was rising right over the pass and casting its glow everywhere. We only caught occasional glimpses of the peaks as the road traveled up the heavily treed river bottom area. The road climbed over 3,000’ in elevation from Marblemount to the trailhead (thankfully!)

The wind rushes over the pass and down into the bowl below – a perfect glacial carved valley under the peaks and ridges. It was COLD when we started out, clad in mittens and ear warmers and wind breakers! By the time we reached the pass, we both had shed our windbreakers, and undershirt, and all extra cold weather gear!

The trail climbs 1700’ in 3.7 miles (most of that climb in the first 2.7 miles!). Thirty-three switchbacks on the side hill of the canyon, through forested slopes thick with cedar and douglas fir, hemlock, vine maple, and huckleberry, gradually carry you up, up until the final ¾ mile high above the valley that contours to the pass. We hit patches of residual snow from the weekend around switchback 20, but nothing of any consequence. On the open slopes, the colors were amazing – bright yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Open hillsides of a kaleidoscope of hues. We had to cross a long talus slope just short of the pass, and then through thicker snow as we crested to the top. The pass sits at 5392’ and the view down into the upper reaches of the Stehekin Valley were lush. We didn’t have a good map with us to identify much of what we saw. But everything was spellbinding and breathtaking. I felt like we were already in the Alps!

A group of ‘Happy Hikers’, a Seattle based club that hikes on Tuesdays, was already at the pass when we arrived. MANY more came through while we enjoyed the top (for over an hour, despite the cold wind!) Trail had more traffic than I would have expected on a weekday, but it was a gorgeous day to take off! As we began the return hike, we heard of a black bear on the slopes above the talus field. Sure enough, we spotted a HUGE bear foraging in the bushes, healthy with a shiny sleek fur of the deepest black. Far enough away, but easy to watch with binocs! Rick was excited!

We are back at the truck around 3pm – we aren’t the fastest, but 5 hours wasn’t too bad for nearly 8 miles and plenty of time at the top! By the time we got back to the truck, the sun had set behind the ridge and the canyon was cooling down rapidly.

Once back in Marblemount, we decided dinner out was a good idea! Three places to chose from, and our first choice was closed! So we ended up at Mondo Restuarant, with its rather eclectic menu. We both had BBQ pulled pork with coleslaw, beans, and corn muffin. GOOD!!

HOT showers, arranging a date with Casey Kirkendall tomorrow night, and reading and internet time. Tomorrow we head for Mt. Baker.  

WEDNESDAY, October 4
Marblemount, WA to Maple Falls, WA (Silver Lake Co. Park)
80 miles

Another day of transition, but a short one! (Although the roads were narrow and windy in places, so not exactly FAST travel!)

We left Alpine RV around 9:30, heading west on Hwy20 toward Sedro-Woolley, the first ‘big’ town we would encounter. Went through Concrete, a company town that supplied much of the material for the dams upriver and located at the southern tip of another dam that forms Baker Lake to the north. We couldn’t see the lake, however.

Following the Skagit River – this section is a huge wildlife area for wintering bald eagles. The salmon run is strong and the eagles know it! Nothing happening now though.

Into Sedro-Woolley and we found gas and a grocery store. We had just a few things to pick up for the next few days. Eating out helped, as I ate my cornbread muffin from last night with my breakfast, and eventually the second half of my pulled pork on a salad for lunch!

From Sedro we head north on Co. Road 9 toward Deming and the junction with 542, the Mt. Baker highway. We stop at the information center in Maple Falls and pick up some fabulous brochures on the drive and hiking options. Then 4 miles north to Silver Lake County Park.

We ended up in a different section of the park than I intended, but it had electric and water and was the first we came to. Heavily wooded campsites – overall almost cold and dark! (In the middle of a hot summer, it would be wonderful!) Found a suitable spot #43 and while Rick began the set up, I took the truck to drive down to the park office to fill out the self-registration for two nights. As out-of-county residents, it cost $31 a night, but we have amenities!! No complaints.

We eat lunch and then spend a rather relaxed afternoon. Rick reads and takes a nap, then reads some more and showers. I took off on an hour walk around the park and trails, visiting the other campground area, the cabins, the lake, the playground, the beach….you name it. About 2 miles worth. Then back to draw two Picasso prayers and tackle a crossword puzzle.

We left for Sedro and our hot date with Casey Kirkendall, Kady’s younger sister, who is living in Bellingham and working in Mount Vernon. She works late, so couldn’t meet us until 7pm. Sedro was our compromise location – a place she could get to relatively fast, and we didn’t have to get into the I5 mess. I drove down with the stipulation that Rick would drive home in the dark! It was about 38 miles on a windy road back down to S-W.

Casey arrived right at 7 – we were on our second bowl of chips by then! We spent a good hour of conversation and catching up, but with a picture from the waiter, we parted at 8, knowing both parties had a 45 minute drive to get ‘home’. It was a fun time and hopefully encouraging and supportive of Casey.

Couple glasses of wine (that’s one each) and we are just about ready to call it a day. Mount Baker is calling to us tomorrow!!

THURSDAY, October 5
Mts. Baker and Shukskan, Mt. Baker Highway

How lucky could we possibly be to get the two most absolutely gorgeous days for our two more important hikes? Or should I say blessed?? THANK YOU, GOD!!

Obviously, the day dawned perfectly crystal clear – not a cloud in the sky. We left shortly after 9 to make the drive up the Mt. Baker Highway to the end at Artist Point. Maple Falls is the last ‘major’ city on the way (I use the term loosely – it has under a 1000 in population – its credit comes from having the last gas station!) We pass through Glacier – FS ranger and info station and a few restaurants, but that’s it! Maple Falls was at milepost 25, and at milepost 47 the road begins a 3200’ climb over the last 9 miles! Up and up with multiple switchbacks, past the Mt. Baker ski area lodges and lifts, past Heather Meadows Day Use area (closed for the season), the picnic area, Picture Lake (the iconic spot for taking photos of Mt. Shuksan) and up more steep and sharp switchbacks to Artist Point. What a marvel of road engineering, but you can understand why the road crews decided NOT to continue with a road across the top of the North Cascades!

Driving up we had good views of Shuksan from the ski area on, but Mt. Baker is hidden from view by a large massive of stone – Table Mountain. That is the very mountain we plan to hike today! It is less than a mile and about 600’ climb to the top of the initial summit, but the mountain continues in a long ridge to the southwest. The trails are hard to follow since most of them are user trails past the ‘rock’ and probably change year to year based on snow levels, etc. Parts are muddy, and we try hard to avoid the areas where we would be stepping on the fragile alpine heather the rangers are trying to encourage. We continue at least another mile along the top of the ridge to a point where we can sit and just reach out to the north face of Mt. Baker.

A treat along the way! The wild blueberries are thick in certain places, and the further we go from the main ‘rock’ trail, the more we find. Big ones, hidden down among the heather. I don’t think I have ever gleaned blueberries or even huckleberries from such a scenic spot! We didn’t pick to take any back with us, just to stuff into our mouths.

The fall colors, as everywhere, were glorious, especially when the sun shone through and made them light up. I kept turning around to see if pictures of Shuksan were presenting themselves, but we deliberately hiked Table Mountain first, so the sun could be shifting from behind Shuksan and we would get Baker while the sun was right. Later in the day will be better from Shuksan to our east.

I built an inuksuk for Luke in the middle of a vast rock field, and then found dozens of cairns up on top of the rock later! Table Mountain is not volcanic, and most of the rock was nice flat shale pieces! Easy stacking!
Panorama Photo of Shuksan on left and Mt. Baker on right (peeking out from Table Mt. Ridge)

Eventually we came down from Table, grabbed drinks and shed extra gear, and then took off for Artist Ridge on the opposite side of the parking lot. This trail wanders, with just a little climb, about a mile out to the end of the ridge towards Shuksan. Wow! I never imagined I could get this close to a mountain at this elevation. Several glaciers. Shuksan is NOT volcanic like Baker. It is of the same geology as the rest of the North Cascades peaks. (Fact….Did you know that North Cascades National Park has over 300 glaciers? More than Glacier National Park!)

Back to the truck and the drive down the mountain and a stop at Picture Lake for the classic reflection shot of Shuksan. Rick stayed in the car while I ran down the path to take several shots.

Our last stop on the way back down was at Nooksack Falls, a 90’ twin drop of the North Fork of the Nooksack River. It was part of a former electrical power plant of dubious intent (a get rich with underhanded methods scheme). The viewpoint looks down at the falls from the top as it is very steep and dangerous (fencing kept people back as nearly a dozen have died going where they shouldn’t and falling).

Back to the trailer! It is cool in the shade, which is a good thing since we discovered we never turned the fridge back on yesterday when we arrived! It was a little warm (50 degrees), which was only 5 less than the temp in the trailer! Showers, dinner, and a quiet evening. Tomorrow we head for home.

FRIDAY, October 6
Maple Falls, WA to BakerCity, OR
504 miles

Yes! The horse was heading to the barn and we drove all the way home today! A long day, but glad to arrive home to the blaze of a glorious sunset over the Elkhorns and to sleep in our BIG kingsize bed! Rick felt so good to shower with SPACE!

We left Silver Lake CG at 8am, stopped to ‘dump’ the sewer and waste water, and were on our way back down Hwy 9 to Sedro Woolley again. One final time to gas up there at the Arco! On down 9 another 60 miles or so to the junction with US Hwy 2. We could have jumped over a few miles to I5 at any time, but it just seemed nicer to stay on the backroads 2 lane. We wound through farmlands, lakes and country estates, tiny towns, and eventually into more of the ‘burbs’ of Everett before turning east on to Hwy 2, one of the first east-west roads across the state of Washington. This way, by the time we took Bluette Pass south of Leavenworth, we were on all new highway until we got to Ellensburg!

The road over Stevens Pass, which follows the old Burlington Northern rail route (and now Amtrak) is beautiful, especially on the east side of the pass where the trees open out and you can really see the peaks and rocky cliffs above. We missed the first waterfall stop and then bypassed the second as we had made the decision by then to plow on home and Rick had just started momentum on an uphill climb! From the pass it eventually follows the Wenatchee River down a narrow canyon to Leavenworth. Fall colors were amazing on the hillsides, with a quilt like patchwork of orange, red, light and dark green,mingled with the white of granite cliffs and rocks.

Leavenworth is hosting is Octoberfest this weekend, one of the reasons why we opted NOT to stay in this area for the weekend. We drove through town – traffic was heavy but not impossible – and then 4 miles further, headed south on 97 to go over Blewett Pass. Poor Hondie – up and down over and over today!

As we neared Ellensburg, several emergency vehicles, including fire trucks, passed us heading toward a pillar of smoke I had seen on the hillside as we came down. Hope that was not a serious fire.

Gas stop in Ellensburg and I took over driving at that point. Rick had logged nearly 250 miles on two lanes. Time for a break and we were on interstate all the way home!

Around Tri-Cities the driving became a little more intense as high winds had picked up and the dust was blowing freely! When I turned south toward the river, it seemed like I had a head wind for quite some time. Not fun driving, but I got us to the Space Age in Hermiston in one piece. I said hello to Maryalys in Quincy as we made the decision to head south on Blewett, then hello to Mike and Michelle and Suzanne and Steve in Tri-Cities, and finally to Midge and Cal in Hermiston. But we were on a mission by that point – Baker or bust!

Rick took us home from Space Age on… up and over two more passes. We arrived home at 6:45, as dusk was descending on the city. It is Homecoming night in Baker City, and we hear the Star Spangled Banner playing at the stadium as we unhook the trailer. Afraid we are too tired to make it to the game.

Total Trailer Miles: 2076
Nights in Trailer: 42

Avg. cost per day of trip: $66