Missoula MT and the National Bison Range

Labor Day we hung out around the house…Blackwell Island RV Park was strangely not crowded at all even though it was a holiday…we originally had plans to grill some chicken for dinner but about 1500 Nicki called us and wanted to see if we were up for another dinner with them…we had figured that Joe would be too tired after his 100 mile gravel bicycle race on Sunday and the drive back on Labor Day. Apparently he told her he wasn’t so we headed out about 1830 or so…we first tried the floating restaurant Cedars at the Blackwell Island Marina but it was a 45 minute wait so we ended up at a tap house in town. Dinner there was OK…nothing really great but the brews were good and the company was great. It was very smoky on Labor Day though…Coeur d’Alene has several wildfires around it and the smoke was blowing over the city.

Tuesday we headed out early to Missoula MT for a 3 night stay at Jim and Mary’s RV Park site F11…a nice pull through shaded FHU site on the back row. The park is right off of I-90…but is actually pretty quiet. We only had 2 activities scheduled for Missoula…we wanted to eat at the Notorious Pig BBQ which is Montana’s entry on the Southern Living Best BBQ Spot In All 50 States list…we were originally going to visit the museum at the old west fort here…but then Connie spotted the National Buffalo Preserve just about 30 minutes north so that quickly becomes our primary activity for Wednesday.

There’s a lot of smoke here in western MT as well…hopefully it will clear up some when we get over to Yellowstone NP on Friday…it’s s supposed to but we’ll believe it when it happens. We decided not to let this stop us…sure, we wouldn’t get any nice landscape photos…but it is the National Bison Range and down at ground level the visibility was pretty good. We got up to the preserve about 1130 or so and watched the movie…then headed off on the 19 mile unpaved road tour around the Range. Remember though…these are bison, not buffalo like you probably remember from your early education…yes, just like Pronghorn Antelope are not actually antelope at all but more closely related to the giraffe and are officially known as just plain old Pronghorn…the animal formerly known as the buffalo in North America isn’t actually a buffalo at all…it’s a bison of species bison bison to differentiate it from it’s European cousin bison bonasus. Both species of bison, as well as cattle…but strangely enough not buffalos…are descended from the prehistoric bison order bosini.

At one point back in the late 1800s/early 1900s…the American Bison which populated North America in numbers estimated at 300 million…or maybe 30-60 million depending on which estimate you want to believe…anyway, it was a whole lot…had been reduced to about 100 or so individuals when the American Buffalo Society was founded to preserve the species. The Range was established and to this day maintains a herd of 350-500 animals in order to prevent over grazing on the lands of the range. In addition…about another 300,000 or so are owned by private ranchers where they are raised for meat as well as in the possession of researchers. The range encompasses 18,800 acres

We made the drive in about 2.5 hours…had to keep stopping for photo’s ya know as well as for lunch along side the road…then headed home. Our biggest impression was that the range was not really what we thought it would be. Our impression before we went on the drive was that it would be mostly plains, maybe rolling a bit but no real elevation changes to speak of…that was completely wrong as the range varies 2,300 feet ( between the highest (4,885 feet) and lowest (2,585 feet) points. There’s everything from wet, swampy areas alongside the various creeks, upland forest that looks an awful lot like some of the wooded areas in AL where Neil grew up with a large white tail deer population…all the way to grassy plains with scrub brush and pretty sparsely vegetated ridge tops with just grass and very low plants.  On to the photos.

We were completely correct…absolutely no landscape photos at all. Connie took the one below just so we could show you the efforts we go through to get the photos I put in these posts for ya…believe it or not there’s actually a valley down below there and some more ridges on the other side. I’m sure the views would be spectacular if it was a clear day. This shot was taken about halfway through the drive and is sort of out of order…but I wanted ya to be able to appreciate our efforts:-)

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OK, back to regular mostly chronological order as we drove through the park. Photo opportunities were actually pretty good through out our drive…we got all of the major fauna we expected to see…obviously not the black bears, mountain lion, or coyote but they’re pretty scarce and only rarely seen except at dawn or dusk…and we missed the Bighorn Sheep because they’re up on the mountains that we couldn’t see.

Park entrance sign…again, the white sky is not due to being overexposed…it’s all due to the smoke.

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Antler pile outside the visitor center…pretty large stack. As you’re aware…horns are bone and grow continuously over the animal’s life. Some…like the pronghorn…have both a bony core and a softer outside that is shed and regrown each year. Antlers on the other hand…are an annual growth that falls off after the mating season. They grow out from spring to early fall and are soft with blood vessels and covered with velvet. In the early fall they get hard and pointy and the velvet comes off so that the bucks can use them in fighting for the right to mate. After the rut they fall off…and because they are largely calcium…are eaten by small animals like mice, chipmunks and the like pretty quickly…so if you want to collect them you must do it in the late fall because they’re all gone by the spring. I’m sure it took many years to collect this pile…it’s mostly elk antlers although close up Neil could see a few mule deer ones. The pile is about 10 feet high and wide.

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Almost all of these were taken either from inside Big Red or standing just outside it…park regulations require you to stay in your vehicle or behind it so that the animals don’t see your human shape and because both bison and elk can move pretty fast (30 miles per hour) when they want to…and are liable to charge if one gets too close.

Interesting seed pod.

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Golden Eagle…about 90% of the way from juvenile plumage to full adult plumage…it’s carrying a piece of nesting material it looks like. It was really far away…and I had to crop considerably to even get it this large even though Neil used the bird lens at full zoom.

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Our first bison…this is a bull and he’s obviously wearing his ghillie suit to camouflage himself.

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Buffalo patty…the early settlers on the Oregon Trail and other migrations to the west used to burn these for fuel…I don’t see how as it doesn’t look like it has any fibrous stuff in it that would burn…this one is about 10 inches across. I’m not actually sure it’s a buffalo patty and not some other sort of scat…but at that size it’s too big to be anything but bison or bear and bear poop don’t look like that.

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This cow just stared at us from about 6 feet away…you can tell the females as they’re half the weight of the bulls, have smaller less wide horns, and less of a shoulder hump that provides the muscle to hold up the huge bull head that it uses for establishing dominance and mating rights.

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This bull looked like he was thinking about charging us as he also just stared at us…but after we moved along a few yards he just crossed the road behind us. You can really see the bull/cow differences in these two shots.

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Another herd we happened across.

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Giving us the old Evil Eye…another difference between the sexes is that the bull keeps a lot of his winter coat (the thicker lighter brown stuff on the one around the shoulder area) for most of the summer whereas the cows shed all of theirs.

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Couple of doe mule deer we spotted while having lunch…a long way down there. The road they’re next to is about a mile from where we had lunch by road but probably only 300 or 400 yards in a straight line.

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One of the few that we spotted all by himself…most of the bison were in herds of 10-30.

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Doe elk in the river on the latter part of the drive…we originally thought it strange that she was alone.

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Turns out she wasn’t alone…another 50 yards downriver we spotted her harem leader.

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The rest (well part of it anyway) of his harem.

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What a rack…probably 40 inches wide and tall.

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The big bull above bugled which is how they challenge other males…and this young bull came down in response…took a look at the weapons systems on the one above and decided to live to fight another day.

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After moving on from the elk harem…saw this bull laying in his wallow and swishing dust up on himself with his tail.

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Mule deer fawn…obviously this year’s offspring as it hasn’t lost it’s fawn dots yet.

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Another couple of does with the fawn…just about 100 yards downstream from the harem.

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Another cow elk in the background of this one…probably part of the same harem.

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Mom and calf.

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Spotted this pronghorn female just about 20 yards from the road and thought it would be the best shot we got…Neil was out of Big Red standing on top of the aux fuel tank to get as high as possible and she was still down in the grass.

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Another harem a couple hundred yards down the road…although these were out aways, probably 400-500 yards at least.

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And their harem master…bucks and does look pretty much the same except the bucks are somewhat larger and have longer/heavier horns.

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Magpie we spotted on the fence as we drove out of the Range…for a bird of their size they’re amazingly skittish and will rarely sit still long enough for a photo.

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With our day done…we headed home and had chicken for dinner. Thursday was devoted to haircut, nails, groceries, getting some pork from the Notorious Pig BBQ and then working on the blog post and planning for Yellowstone NP. 

Notorious Pig BBQ review. Over all we’re giving it a B- at best. The brisket was delicious…juicy and smokey…even Connie liked it and she’s normally not a big brisket fan. Potato salad was better than average…but not up to Red Hot and Blue (the gold standard) in our old Fairfax VA stomping grounds. Pulled pork was tasty but dry and chewy and really not very pulled…it was more like large chunks and we had to do the pullin’ ourselves. Beans were not good…way too dry, not very much liquid in them, and over spiced to our taste…although they did have nice chunks of pork in them. Staff and service were top notch. They gave us about 6 different kinds of sauce…we tossed the mustard one and the NC vinegar style as not our taste. Tried and dismissed the Texas style one…too hot. The sweet AL/MS style was pretty good although again a bit spicier than we normally would prefer.

Interesting stuff from the net this week.

See what they did there?


And you thought your day was bad.


True…100% true.


Trolling like a boss…from the personals page.



Posted in RV, Travel | 2 Comments

It Be Wondermous…I Gar-On-Tee

That title will be familiar to some of ya’ll…but probably only the ones that grew up in the south who may have seen the old cooking show Louisiana Cookin’ on PBS. The chef in the show was a Cajun named Justin Wilson…who actually started life off as a safety engineer He took himself way too seriously and was putting the audiences he was addressing to sleep…so he engaged the patois of Cajun country and some humor to liven up his presentations. He was also a pretty good amateur cook and eventually parlayed that and his humor into a later career as a humorist and cooking show chef. Anyway…those two phrases above were his catch phrases and you could count on them being in every show a half dozen times each. The significance of the title will become clear shortly.

And now…let’s go back to those thrilling days of yester-week…er, sorry about that…that’s a Lone Ranger reference and this is clearly a southern sorta post…I gar-on-tee.

Before I get too far though…keep the folks in the Houston area in your thoughts as they’re recovering from the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. This storm dropped 9 trillion gallons of water on SE Texas…thats enough water to cover the entire lower 48 states with almost 2 inches of water. Thank goodness they’re Texans and mostly take care of themselves…but have been helped considerably by the Cajun Navy who came over with 100s of small boats to help rescue stranded folks. They’re mostly recovered from the immediate disaster at this point but it will be weeks before things get back to normal and months before all the damaged homes and bidness get back to regular living  

When we arrived in Ellensburg WA on Monday…and after fixing the slide bolt…we wondered what to do for dinner. Our original plan was to walk over across the freeway to Perkins and eat there…as you’ll recall we were only staying overnight so didn’t unhitch Big Red which meant we walked or didn’t go anywhere. Neil decided it was too far to walk…and Connie separately decided there wasn’t anything on the Perkins menu worth walking for anyway…so it was time to eat in. We tossed out a couple of suggestions to each other…nothing really sounded good to either of us until one of us remembered the Crunchy Breaded Fish Filets in the freezer. We get the Gorton’s brand and they’re actually pretty decent tasting…they come in a pack of 10 so that’s 2 for Connie and 3 for Neil twice on a package. We usually keep them for days when we need easy meals…and Monday was definitely that day. So into the Breville oven they went to cook. While that was doing…Neil whipped up some mashed taters in the bag…yeah, I know they’re instant and not nearly as good as real taters…but they’re easy. He added in some sour cream and some left over cilantro-hot sauce-garlic butter (that we normally use on grilled corn) and they were darned good taters. Once those were in hand…it was time to whip up some cocktail sauce…this is just about the only reason we even have catsup in the fridge. Four tablespoons or so of that…add in a couple tablespoons of horseradish to give it some spice along with a dash of Worcestershire and lemon juice and that usually makes pretty tasty cocktail sauce…although ours is usually pink rather than red as we like it spicy…then we (well, Neil actually) had this idea. In the fridge as he was getting the sauce ingredients out he spotted some leftover wasabi from the seared tuna steaks we had the night before and decided to toss that in. I gotta tell ya…it be wondermous…wasabi is a great addition to cocktail sauce. The only drawback is that the green wasabi…well, it isn’t actually real wasabi as the real stuff from Japan is about $40 for 8 ounces and doesn’t keep very long…the stuff we have here in the states, even the powdered stuff that we buy and mix as we need it (this is the only way to have wasabi if you need it) is dried and ground Japanese horseradish but it’s pretty close in flavor. Anyways…the green in the wasabi made the cocktail sauce sort of brownish instead of red or pinkish…looked kinda like a baby diaper…but darn if it wasn’t mighty tasty.

Next morning we got up and hit the road about 1000…we only had 207 miles to go to get to Coeur d’Alene…we thought about stopping by and seeing Palouse Falls but decided it wasn’t worth an extra 100 miles on a 3 digit number state road…we arrived at Blackwell Island RV in Coeur d’Alene and quickly pulled into our nice site 67 and got setup. Neil dumped and flushed our tanks and then we got down to the main reason we stopped here…to visit his old college roommate Joe Claxton and his bride Nicki…haven’t seen them since the human kids wedding back in 2006. We had decided our destination for the day was the Daft Badger Brewing Company downtown and Joe (or Jodi as we mostly called him) met us there. We had a couple pints each of their Imperial Stout and a bacon appetizer. Connie had Pea Soup for dinner and Joe a sandwich but Neil stuck with the rest of the bacon and Connie’s bread which was pretty good. Turned out that Nicki was in Fear City for work for the week and wouldn’t be back until Thursday. We talked old times, acquaintances, and assorted hometown and college stuff for a couple hours before heading home.

Wednesday we met again for dinner…we had Joe pick a place and he headed us to the White House Restaurant over about 8 miles west in Post Falls ID…it’s a Mediterranean restaurant that has Italian and Greek food…with serious amounts of garlic. We knew it would be good as soon as we opened the doors on Big Red as you could smell the cooking garlic a block away. Connie had Chicken Curry Kabobs and Neil had about the best Chicken Alfredo he’s had in quite awhile…it was swimming in butter, cream, cheese, and garlic of course. Joe had a pasta/pepper dish that I forget the name of and we had some wine before heading up to their house in Hauser ID for a tour and more visiting…actually their house is right across the border into WA…they pay WA property taxes but get all their services from ID. They’ve got 25 acres and a nice 3 bedroom house along with a barn for Nicki’s two horses, a shed for the tractor and Joe’s pretty well equipped bike shop…he’s turned into a bicycle racer in his old age and travels around both the US and the world for cycling trips as well as races. That much property has a lot of upkeep…way too much for us…but if you want horses…and let’s not forget the 3 Border Collies and 2 English Mastiffs they have instead of children. The Mastiffs…both female…probably weigh 170 pounds each. We spent a couple hours drinking beers from Joe’s fridge and then he took us back down to the restaurant to pick up Big Red…we had left him there and rode up with Joe so we could get the area tour on the way.

Thursday…Neil went on a 11 mile bike ride…and discovered a few things about Coeur d’Alene…first is that no matter what direction you go from Blackwell Island RV it’s uphill…second that it’s windy…and third that the wind comes from all directions…he rode across the bridge than east to the park…then back west and north until he headed south back for the campground…and it was always, always upwind.

After that…we headed off to Joe and Nicki’s for dinner…although before dinner we hiked up to the top of their property…only about 1/3 of a mile to the top but 350 feet up vertically. Dinner was grilled Romaine lettuce with balsamic grilling sauce and grated Pecorino cheese, steaks with sautéed mushrooms, and spaetzle layered with caramelized onions and grated Swiss cheese…along with a couple bottles of Argentinian Malbec and cheese cake we took up…the latter was topped with cherry ice cream that was spectacularly good…even Connie liked it and she’s not much for cherries. We finally left there about 2200 stuffed and made our way down the now very dark roads to the RV park…didn’t see any animals about but we saw a half dozen deer earlier in the day and the day before so we drove very carefully on the way home.

For those of you who’ve never heard of spaetzle…it’s a German pasta dish…they call it a dumpling but it’s more like pasta. Basically you mix 1/2 cup of flour and 1 egg per person along with milk to get a waffle consistency batter and then drop it into boiling water using a spaetzle maker…essentially it’s a large grater and you schmear the batter over it with a spatula so you get little 1/2 or 3/4 long pieces falling into the water. When the float to the top they’re done. These go into a casserole and get layered with butter and caramelized onions on each layer. Top with the Swiss cheese…you actually are supposed to use Emmentaler cheese which is harder than normal Swiss and closer to Gruyère than Swiss cheese. Put into the oven until it’s melted, golden brown, and delicious as Alton Brown would say.

Before leaving we said our “until next time’s” to Joe…he’s headed 9 hours south on Friday for a bike race on Sunday so we won’t see him again before we leave. We did invite Nicki to give us a call over the weekend assuming she had time…she travels for work almost every week and has horse things and 25 acre property things to do so might be too busy…but we  told her we would be glad to get together over the weekend if she was able…she’s our kind of people. 

Friday…our sole outing was out to English Point Red Loop Trail for a 1.6 mile hike near a lake about 20 miles north of here…according to the reviews it had spectacular views. Well…not so much as you can see from the 3…count ‘em 3…photos Neil took. At least it was a nice hike in the woods and got us some exercise…but the views were basically non-existent as was the wildlife.

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Dinner Friday was soup made out of Connie’s leftover Curry Chicken Kabobs and rice…pretty tasty.

Saturday was laundry day and football day. We ate dinner early…grilled pork steak with corn and pear salad…and sat down shortly after 1700 for Alabama vs Florida State in the Chick Fil-A Kickoff Classic. The game featuring the top ranked Tide against the 3rd ranked Seminoles has been getting hyped for a couple of weeks now. One of the ESPN talking heads…don’t remember which…said that both defenses would come ready to play and whichever offensive line showed up better on the BBPI (Big Boy Pants Index) meter would come out ahead. Turns out that…as expected…the Tide D was the difference maker…holding FSU to 40 yards rushing and 210 passing with just a single score. The Tide offense rolled up 173 yards rushing and another 96 passing on 10 of 18 by Jalen Hurts including a beautiful 53 yard strike to Calvin Ridley…the deep ball was his worst trait when he was a freshman starter last year but he’s obviously worked on the passing game over the off season…going through his progressions much better and sticking in the pocket longer…and looking to throw it away and avoid the sack unless there’s a clear running lane for him to take. The D and special teams forced a blocked punt, blocked field goal, fumbled kickoff, and two picks on the way to a 24-7 win…although the game was closer than the final score would indicate being at 10-7 late in the third before the D stepped up and gave us a short field (20 yards or less) 3 times in a row and we put the game away. FSU’s quarterback was hurt late in the game in garbage time…season ending knee injury…you hate to see players get hurt anytime but especially in garbage time. He got sacked but wasn’t hit very hard…must have landed wrong as he grabbed his knee as he hit the deck.

Sunday was Mass, breakfast out, and then looking at our next stop. We’re supposed to leave Tuesday and spend 3 nights in Missoula MT before heading on to Yellowstone NP…but there are a lot of fires around Missoula so we might just stay overnight and then move on to a less smoky area…there aren’t any fires over near Yellowstone at this point, the closest one is the June Fire east of the park with the winds blowing the smoke east away from the park…and it’s fully contained anyway. After some discussion…we’re going to go ahead and stay the scheduled 3 days in Missoula unless the smoke is terrible there.

Interesting stuff from the net this week.

Following up on the solar eclipse a couple weeks back…just in case you didn’t see it.


Comment card left at Yellowstone NP by a tourist.


Another slow news day in Wales.



Following up on Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas…and the likelihood that Irma will hit somewhere along the east or Gulf coast this week or early next…not even hurricane panic buying results in people buying from the vegan aisle in the grocery store.


And this is the Cajun Navy on the way to help out in Houston.


And the company policy on hurricanes…for those of you still doing that whole work thing.



Guy in the personals…but he doesn’t want any weirdos.


And finally…this photo of a bus interior was posted to the Facebook page of an anti-immigration group in Norway. It immediately met with vehement outraged comments about how wearing a burkha in public was a disgrace and that all immigrants, especially Muslim ones…should be summarily deported. Trouble is…it’s seat backs in the photo. Duh!



Posted in RV, Travel | 2 Comments

Headed for the Barn

Eastbound and down…loaded up and truckin’. As the famous song from the Original “Smokey and the Bandit” movie sound track by Jerry Reed said…that’s us. We’ve reached our farthest westward point last week at Cape Flattery WA and from here’s it’s all eastbound and down (hill that is) to our winter home at Seminole Campground in North Fort Myers.

We packed up and headed out this morning from Port Angeles WA with our first destination Ellensburg WA about 70 miles east of Seattle and on the east side of the Cascade Mountains on I-90. We headed down US-101…and decided not to continue down that road to Olympia…way too close to the water and curvy roads to boot on the way up…and instead headed across WA-104 to the Hood Canal Bridge. This bridge is at the north end of the Hood canal where it connects to the Strait of Juan de Fuca…down south of the bridge a dozen miles or so is the Submarine Base Bangor where the Ohio class SSBNs patrol out of. Once Connie found out that (a) this was a floating bridge, (b) the reason it’s floating instead of being on piers is because the water is hundreds of feet deep, and (c) that it sunk in a windstorm in 1979…well, she wasn’t really happy about going over it. Nonetheless…we continued and got safely across and in another 30 mile or so got to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

This bridge goes over the Tacoma Narrows naturally…which is a portion of the Puget Sound once it passes Seattle and continues south. It’s the second bridge over the narrows…you may remember seeing the video below. The original bridge was opened in July 1940 and collapsed in November 1940. Turns out that there’s a severe wind problem in the gorge and the original designers forgot to take into account the fact that the wind going over the bridge deck would cause it to become an aircraft wing and pick itself up off of the cables it was suspended on. It rocked violently…almost from the day it opened…and collapsed on November 7, 1940. The only fatality of the collapse was Tubby…who was a Cocker Spaniel owned by Leonard Coatsworth who abandoned his vehicle on the bridge when it started to sway. Professor Frederick Burt Farquharson…and engineer employed by the University of Washington and who was involved in the design of the bridge…tried to rescue Tubby but he wasn’t going with a stranger and the professor abandoned the bridge by running down the centerline off the road just before it collapsed. That video is…to this day…showed to engineering students to point out how one must take all factors into any design.

The toll for the bridge was $15 for Big Red and the house…but it was over 100 miles to go the non toll way…so we just (as in West Virginia)…just paid the toll. It’s easier. The only other exciting part of the day was the stop at a T/A truck stop for lunch just east of Seattle and before we headed up the Snoqualmie Pass. We just wanted lunch…but there were zero, count ‘em none…places to park. So Neil double parked while Connie went in and got lunch…egg salad for her and honey mustard chicken for Neil sandwiches. Then we headed off and ate going down the road…the egg salad was “ok” according to Connie but the chicken was definitely in the top 3 for “Worst Chicken Sandwich Ever”.

Our destination for the day was the Ellensburg Journey KOA in Ellensburg WA just off of I-90…another 70 miles or so east. We got there…checked in…and quickly pulled into our site 67. This was a power only day for us…we had enough water for the night and our waste tanks are half full or so getting sloshed around for two days so that the indicators will work correctly…too much gunk stuck on the sides of the tank (mostly the gray tank, the black has less fat and soap scum washed down it and reads much more reliably).

Park…front jacks down…we’re stuck with a 1 degree port list and slight up angle but it can’t be fixed unless we unhitch and that ain’t happening for overnight…tried to put the slides out…and discovered that we had broken the rear LR slide bolt again. This hasn’t happened in probably a year or so…and now that we’re familiar with this repair we have spares in the basement and it only took us about 40 minutes or so to replace it and get the slide extended.

Tomorrow we’re off to Coeur d’Alene ID where we’ll visit Neil’s old college roomie (and Connie’s friend as well) Joe (better known as Jodi) Claxton and his bride Nicki Camerra…don’t ask me why their name ain’t the same…I have no idea. We’ll stay there through the Labor Day weekend and leave on Tuesday for Missoula MT for 3 nights then over to Yellowstone NP for 10 days. After that…a quick stop in Hardin MT so that we can visit St. Labre Indian School…a favorite charity of Connie’s mom and one we still donate to…before heading to Spearfish SD to see our friends Bill and Linda and attend the New Horizons Owners Group (NHOG) rally.

Sorry…no photos today. We walked over to the site of the former Elwha Dam from the RV park yesterday…and it wasn’t even worth taking a photo of.

Interesting stuff found on the net this week.

Meanwhile…in Texas.


And a prayerful request by a grand daughter.


My name is Bond…James Bond…and you are?


Guess ya’ll saw about Hurricane Harvey coming ashore in Texas this week…and has dumped some 50something inches of rain on the Houston area. Didn’t get the photo…but the Cajun Navy set off with 50 or so pirogues on trailers behind pickups to help in the rescues. God bless ‘em.

And finally…for those of our readers who missed it last week because they were in the wrong darn place…


Next post after we arrive in Coeur d’Alene.


Posted in RV, Travel | 1 Comment

Olympic National Park Fun Stuff© Part 2

Continuing on our grand tour of Olympic NP…we headed off Wednesday morning for a trip back over to Crescent Lake then had plans for a hike to Marymere Falls then a second one at Sol Duc Falls…but it turns out that we also passed Salmon Cascades…bonus waterfall!

We got stopped again at the road construction right off of Crescent Lake…they’re doing a rebuild of the road right next to a bluff that obviously collapsed before. There’s a bunch of equipment removing more of the bluff and then they’re going to put up some retaining barriers to keep little ones from falling onto the road and cars. If there’s another major rockfall the barriers won’t help but smaller stuff should get caught by them. There’s only a single lane open by the construction site so they’re stopping traffic for 20 minutes while they work…then pausing work for 10-15 minutes so the backed up traffic can clear and then they get back to work.

We arrived at the Storm King Ranger Station on Crescent Lake and got parked then headed off towards the trailhead for the Marymere Falls Trail…on the way we stopped for a few shots of Crescent Lake. You can see the dust from the construction zone on the right side of these photos…in the third closer view the road is at the bottom of that bare area where obviously the ridge slid down. 

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Marymere Falls is reached by a 2.1 mile round trip out and back trail with a rise of about 180 feet over the outbound leg…with almost all of the rise in the last 250 or so yards…you’re climbing stair steps set into the ridge by that time. There’s a slight dip from the parking lot down to the lakeside then it’s pretty flat for the first 0.9 miles then the fun part begins. Luckily it’s downhill on the way back. The falls are located on Falls Creek and drop 90 feet from a notch on top of the ridge.

A couple of shots taken of Falls Creek just north (downstream) from the falls…right before the climb begins. You can see the bridge across the creek in the second photo, one across the bridge you turn right and head out of frame to the right side and then up.

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Once you’re to the top of the ridge looking across to the falls…there is both an upper and lower platform to view them…naturally we stopped at both.

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While Neil was getting the bracketed slow shutter speed shots…that’s what gives you the really smooth water in the processed shots, Connie took a few closeup shots of various areas of the falls.

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We headed back down towards the parking lot…Neil grabbed a shot of Connie heading across one of the small bridges you need to cross…she turned around halfway across so he could get this shot.

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When we got back to the parking lot…we sat at one of the picnic tables there and had leftover Mexican Chicken sandwiches…they were outstanding. This Steller’s Jay was sitting in the tree above our table…Neil also got a shot of it from the rear showing off it’s brilliant Royal Blue plumage…even though you’re “supposed” to always show the bird from the front. Beautiful bird.

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This squirrel was running around hunting for food…Neil pretended to drop a Dorito on the ground next to our table and he came right over for this close up portrait. Four steps later he was on his lap…but he was quickly evicted.

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We then headed off for Sol Duc Falls…or maybe it’s Soleduck Falls…or maybe it’s Sole Duck…or Sole Duc…we found all of those spellings in various spots as we were doing research…Ima sticking with Sol Duc as that’s what the Park Service calls it.

Sol Duc Falls is another 15 miles west of Crescent Lake then south a dozen or so miles into the park. We figured that the “off the beaten path” part would keep the riffraff down and result in fewer folks on the trail…but it turned out we were in error. After entering the park we…well, Connie actually…spotted the Salmon Cascades and said we needed to stop there. Back in the day…there was a considerable salmon run on the Sol Duc river and this was the chief obstacle to them getting upstream. We weren’t sure whether it was worth stopping for a look…but as it turned out it was a great idea as we got a bonus waterfall and some great photos.

It’s only 10 or 11 feet from the top flat water section down through the two cascades the lower pool but obviously was quite a challenge for the salmon. Really gorgeous photos though…Neil had to hike a 70 yards or so to get down to the riverside to get these while Connie waited up on the viewpoint at the top…it’s just about even with the cascade and is out of the frame to the upper left maybe 20 feet…but it wasn’t such a great photo from there as you’re looking almost straight down onto the cascade and while that is a beautiful view it makes a lousy photo.

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We continued up past the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to the falls trailhead and on arrival at the parking lot…we found zero, count ‘em zero…parking spaces open. So…we did what seemed right…sat at the entrance and waited on somebody to leave. We spotted a few people walking towards their cars and also another visitor coming in behind us on the road…so we moved up and waited on one to leave then got parked and set up for our second hike.

Sol Duc Falls is another 2.1 mile out and back hike…but unfortunately it’s not one of those convenient up on the way out trails. You drop down 40 or so feet from the parking lot to the edge of the river then it’s up and over a ridge and down a bit to the falls overlook. Total elevation change is only 120 feet or so but almost all of the up is over less than a quarter mile as you head up and over the ridge.

The hike itself was actually not too crowded…it turns out that there are a couple of backcountry trails that continue on past the falls so most of the cars at the parking lot most likely belonged to backcountry backpackers. 

Sol Duc Falls is only a 48 foot drop…but it’s a sideways drop into a narrow canyon with up to 4 drops depending on water flow conditions. Although relatively short in height…it’s got a whole bunch of character and actually looks completely different depending on which angle you’re looking at.

As per usual…Neil got the tripod mounted slow shutter speed shots while Connie got various closeups. Rather than divide them into his and hers like at Marymere…they’re just mixed together. If you really want to tell them apart…the key is looking at the water. The first few is one of hers…you can see some definition and detail in the water flows. 

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First shot of Neil’s…again look at the water and you can see it’s all smoothed out into a more flowing appearance. I’ll leave the rest of figuring out the his and hers as an exercise for the reader.

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Some really tall trees…these have to be at least 200 feet tall.

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Looking from one of the upper viewpoints, downstream in the canyon is to the left and top. Nice to be able to see underneath this drop in the falls…

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We spent a half hour or so at the falls…after getting the photos we stopped for afternoon snack and then headed back down the trail to the parking lot. We headed home…got luckily and never had to stop at the construction area on US-101…just as we pulled up into the line it magically started moving and we got straight on through. Stopped for diesel…91 gallons at $2.76 each…and at Safeway for some French bread to have with our lasagna for dinner.

Thursday morning we headed off for our next adventure…and I say that advisedly as will be explained in a bit…which was a drive up to Hurricane Ridge. We headed back east a bit and past the park HQ and main visitor center that we visited the other day then continued up Hurricane Ridge Road towards the visitor center. It’s named Hurricane Ridge because of the high winds it experiences…it’s up to an elevation of just about 5,200 feet according to the Altimeter app on Neil’s iPhone and at the visitor center you’re within about 16.5 miles of Mount Olympus which the park is named after. It’s a pretty decent drive…18 miles from the park entrance to the visitor center and you’re about 9.5 miles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the visitor center. There’s not much at the top except for the visitor center…we watched the movie (it was way better than the movie at the main visitor center down in town) and spent $240 on stuff. We’ve been getting t-shirts, a ball cap for Neil and park coffee cups at each of the national parks we’ve visited this summer…and also got a nice pair of earrings that Connie liked as well as stuff for Alex.

Park main entrance…although this is pretty much a misnomer as the park has a dozen or more “entrances”. Hurricane Ridge is the most popular place in the park as it’s the easiest to get to…but the vast majority of the park is not only undeveloped but actually not accessible unless you hike in. The park is about 65 miles in size both N/S and E/W…and of the dozen or more entrance stations scattered around the park but mostly on the north and northwest sides…few of them have roads of any kind more than 7 or 8 miles into the park…after that it’s just wilderness and back country trails…probably 875,000 of it’s 922,000 acres is only accessible on foot. It’s really one of the most undeveloped national parks we’ve been.

In fact…Connie thinks it’s her favorite national park taking over the title from Acadia NP in Maine…because of the breadth of things to see here. Mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, rain forest, rugged coastline…you can easily find all of these in the park. 

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Mount Olympus…second shot from Connie’s camera at a slightly different angle. Not very impressive…is it. We tried hard…but could not pick out Zeus on his throne despite our best efforts.

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Connie’s shot…still not very impressive…but then it’s only 9,573 feet high…and really doesn’t stick up any more than the other peaks in the Olympic Range. Connie says its got glaciers on it, so its impressive, by definition.

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Pano shot looking basically south from the visitor center…about 160 degrees of angle in total with Mount Olympus about 4/5 of the way from the left.

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Another shot Connie took…she tends to get more of the closeup views of various things than Neil does but their respective points of view give us a lot of interesting photos. Neil didn’t even see the possibility for this shot with the tree covered ridge in the foreground fading back into the more distant peaks of the Olympics.

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After that…Connie had scheduled us for what we call “the adventure portion of the tour”…a drive out to Obstruction Point about 8 miles east from the visitor center…you turn onto a dirt/gravel road just as you exit the visitor center parking lot…and well…it immediately got a little more adventurous than anticipated. Sure…we had Big Red and he’s got 4WD and all that…and we’re used to going onto gravel or dirt roads in the pursuit of Fun Stuff©…but Obstruction point road was about a 9.5 on the scale of “we should not go on this road”. Usually “the adventure portion of the tour” means we’re on the unpaved road…and we normally like adventure a lot…but we prefer not to fall off of the cliff too.

We only made it out about 2/3 of the way to Obstruction Point…mostly because the first place we could really turn around was that far out. By the time we got a mile into the drive we were ready to go back. The road’s right on the side of the cliff…no guard rails and a drop of 1,500 feet or more on the edge of the road. It wasn’t straight down but definitely too steep to walk up…probably about a 50 or 60 degree slope most of the way down. The road itself…well, it was gravel but it wasn’t even a good gravel road and in most places it would not have been possible for two small cars to pass in opposite directions, much less Big Red. We only passed 4 or 5 folks on the way out and back but in each case it was a matter of looking and figuring out which vehicle had a slightly wider piece of road and getting as far over as possible so the other one could go by…we usually stopped and let them pass us. Best of all…at least from Connie’s point of view…was that for most of the drive out she was on the outside looking over at the drop-off…she could not see the edge of the road from the passenger seat at all.

We did get a few photos on the way out and about 2/3 of the way there there was a big enough pullout that we could turn around and Connie announced that she had had all the fun she could stand…so we got out, grabbed a few photos, and headed back.

Fireweed…same stuff as we saw up in Alaska but not the large fields of it we saw there…but then it’s earlier in the season and some of it hasn’t bloomed yet.

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More interesting wildflowers…or maybe weeds for all I know…after all Ima a bear, not a horticulturist…they’re purdy anyway.

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Looking northward from our turn around point towards the straits…you can almost see Canuckistan in the far distance if you try hard enough.

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Here’s a few shots we took out of Big Red’s windshield on the way back to the paved road…I left them unedited with Big Red in the shot for scale…definitely not a place we really preferred to be.

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My favorite…this is within about 50 yards of the parking lot on the way back…it’s just around the bend after you make the hairpin turn on the edge of the 1,500 foot ledge. There were several places on the adventure where we were on a 12 or 14 degree slope on a single lane road about 4 fee wider than Big Red is with a drop-off of that much or more…Connie was definitely not shipping over for this.

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Friday…scheduled to be another pretty long day…we were headed out to Cape Flattery which is the farthest northwestern point in the lower 48…and as far as we can get from Fort Myers while remaining in the lower 48. It’s at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula on the southern side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s only about 70 miles from Elwha Dam RV Park…but it’s a 2 hour drive since we had to go out WA-112 which is a twisty curvy road right along the edge of the strait. We were right on the water side sometimes then as much as 3 or 4 miles inland as the road wound up, over, or around the various ridges we needed to traverse. The cape itself is out on the Makah Indian Reservation…so we had to pay the usual $10 Baksheesh to the Indians before we could park on their land. On the way out…we got into some fog whenever we were down near the strait but luckily by the time we got out to the cape about 1115 or so it had cleared up. On the way we passed…the Makah Marina…and that damn song popped into our heads.

After arrival…we set out on our 1.6 mile round trip hike out to the Cape…about 200 feet down and then 200 feet back up to the parking lot…we really prefer the typical waterfall hike profile better as they’re usually up on the way out and downhill back to the parking lot. It was a nice walk through the woods and the Indians had built nice log board walks over most of the tricky parts…and a lot of steps over the last bit to the observation platform over the water. There isn’t any beach here in this part of the peninsula…just about a 100 foot bluff down to a bit of barely dry at low tide and invisible at high tide rocky gravel.

Couple of shots of a a cool looking tree on the hike down to the cape.

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Looking southwest along the coastline at Kessio Rocks…once again we were struck by how similar this is to the coast of Vancouver Island where the series Alone is filmed…an awful lot of the Pacific Northwest we’ve been in looks eerily similar to that location.

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Juvenile Bald Eagle…we probably saw a dozen or more of these but only 2 or 3 mature ones. Two of the juveniles kept flying up and perching near an eagle nest we could see but it wasn’t close enough to get a decent photo…clearly they are this year’s eaglets that have fledged but not left the nest and their parents yet.

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A bunch of Murre perched on the rocks.

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And closer view of the Murre.

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Testing his wings…or maybe just fluffing up…or something.

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Murre flying away…the only ones we saw airborne were from the rocks below us and not a very good view…but you take what you can get sometimes.

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This is known as the “Hole in the Wall”.

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The lighthouse on Tatoosh Island about half a mile offshore…it marks the entrance to the Strait. We didn’t notice the eagle until after we looked at the pictures later.

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Rock right off the northern end of Tatoosh Island.

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California Sea Lions on another rock just north of the island.

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Another of the juvenile Bald Eagles.

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Canuckistan across the Strait…about 15 miles away.

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A couple of shots across Neah Bay on the drive back…nice rocks offshore and the coastline of BC in the background.

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Ok, on to interesting stuff from the net.

ESPN takes on the Confederacy…according to http://outkickthecoverage.com and as confirmed by an official ESPN press release…after the recent flop and twitch/twitterverse meltdown/liberal outage over Confederate monuments…ESPN actually pulled a scheduled announcer from the college football telecast of William and Mary vs the University of Virginia. The stated reason for the change…ESPN was afraid that somebody would be offended by his name. The announcer…an Asian man named Robert Lee…who is not the famous general with middle initial of E (or even Antonio Banderas if you’ve seen the recent Heineken commercials)…but rather just plain old Robert Lee…an Asian man…still alive…who did not fight in the Civil War.

Quick…alert the media so the talking heads can demand that everyone with the name of Robert Lee (with or without the E)…should be forced to change their name to something else.

Incredible…is there anything more stupid but wanting to be politically correct than ESPN thinking that an Asian guy named Robert Lee calling a football game would offend anybody?

Mr. Lee’s photo…our sympathies are with Mr. Lee for working for such an idiotic, politically correct company. Obviously this was taken before he was informed of this insane decision.


Morons I tellya…morons.

Spotted this at the pit toilet at Sol Duc Falls on Wednesday.


So that’s why it’s wet.


Who knew???


Be a good parent…so many aren’t these days.


And now it’s clear.



Posted in RV, Travel | 1 Comment

Olympic National Park Fun Stuff©

Ok…we’re on to Fun Stuff in the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington…the primary attraction here is Olympic National Park. 

The thing about Olympic NP is…it’s freaking huge…Elwha is on the north side just about in the middle and the overall park is 60 miles E/W and 50 miles N/S plus a strip over on the coast…and there are no roads through the middle, you have to drive around the outside to where you want to go in and then drive into the park.

The other day we visited Blue Mountain…but our next two days of Fun Stuff©were concentrated in the Elwha River Valley section of the park right near our our campground and the Hoh Rain Forest section which is over on the west side.

We headed out Sunday about lunchtime after Mass for the Elwha River Valley section. The Elwha River runs about 30 miles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and has about 30 miles of tributary streams. Back in the day…there was a pretty good salmon run on the Elwha but starting back in 1913 a pair of dams were constructed…the Elwha Dam about 5 miles from the east and the Glines Canyon Dam another dozen or so miles upstream. Neither dam was built with fish ladders even though they were required by Washington state law…so that ended the salmon run except for the first 5 miles. In the late 1990s…Congress passed a law requiring rehabilitation of the salmon runs on the river and providing funding for that effort. Accordingly…in 2014 the two dams were removed and the river restored to it’s wild state. Salmon fry were seeded in the upper reaches of the river and it’s tributary streams immediately but were not expected to return to spawn for 4 years…but despite this salmon were seen spawning in the upper reaches of the river within a year after the dams were removed.

Our question was…how did this happen since salmon return in 4 years to spawn and…as far as we knew…always returned to their birth stream, usually within yards of where they were hatched. We asked the ranger about this…and it turns out that what we all know about salmon returning to their birth place is wrong. True…about 90-95% of salmon do that…but the other 5-10% are…well, let’s call it more adventurous. For whatever reason…the phase of the moon…their birth stream is too crowded…whatever…anyway some of them continue and spawn elsewhere. It’s not been enough years for any salmon hatched in the upper reaches of the Elwha to return…next year it will happen…but the numbers of spawning salmon in the river has increased each year since 2015.

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Our first stop was at the Madison Creek Falls…a nice 0.2 mile round trip hike to a 60 foot or so high falls on Madison creek right before it drains into the Elwha.

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Once back at the parking lot…a view up and down stream at the Elwha.

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Connie hard at work tweeting her view of the day.

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We continued on into the park to the site of the former Glines Canyon Dam which contained Lake Mills behind it…here’s a shot of the dam and the lake behind it back in the day.

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One side of the remains of the dam…for cost reasons only those portions that blocked the river were removed. The dam was 210 feet high and about 250 feet wide across Glines Canyon.

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Looking down on the downstream side of the dam.

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And upstream.

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The former Lake Mills lake bed…as you can see the lake was 30 or so feet deep up until it got deeper right before the dam.

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Mount Olympus in the background…it’s the one with the snow on it behind the first peak you can see…hopefully we’ll get some better photos later in the week from Hurricane Ridge. I looked for Zeus but didn’t see him.

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After those views…we headed back home for dinner and rest until bedtime.

Early Monday morning…we headed off for the Hoh Rain Forest section of the park on the west side…it’s only about 30 miles as the crow files from Elwha Dam RV…but about 70 miles by the time you drive around there. We passed Crescent Lake on the way…and a spot with a delay of “up to a half hour” where the cliffside has collapsed and buried the road…it’s under reconstruction and DoT is putting up some wire netting keep rocks from falling onto the road…but it’s a one lane road around the construction area and it’s one of those “let all the vehicles go by for 10 minutes then close both ways and do 20 minutes of work” before having another traffic going by time period.

On arrival at Forks WA…we stopped and picked up a Subway for lunch later on and also Neil got a couple pictures of the solar eclipse that happened today…more on the eclipse later. After that we continued on to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center where we had lunch and then went on a short 1.3 mile hike on the Spruce Trail over by the Hoh River before heading back…through the construction area again…and having pasta with chicken, nuts, and garlic for dinner.

Right past the construction area we noticed some nice reflections on Crescent Lake (hike there is scheduled later in the week)…and there was no wind so we got some nice reflection shots.

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Really, really clear water…you can see the rocks on the bottom as it drops off quickly…by the time you’re 20 feet offshore you’re in probably 20 feet of water. Don’t know how deep the lake is but it’s really a pretty view.

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Ok, about that solar eclipse today. Connie was really freaked out about it…she’s only got the one eye that works as you know…and we took all possible precautions to keep her remaining eye from getting any eclipse damage…but she was really freaked about it anyway. 

We didn’t get totality here in northern WA…just a partial eclipse with a maximum coverage of the sun of about 97%…not sure of the exact number but it was north of 95% and we saw estimates on the web ranging from 97% to 98.5%. Whatever. 

It did get darker than it was before the partial started…it looked brightness wise like it was an hour before sunset except it was blue-gray instead of the orange colors one typically sees at sunset. The thing that we were most amazed at was that it really didn’t get that dark even with something >95% of the sun covered. Sure…it was darker but nowhere near dark and actually not even really dark enough where sunglasses needed to be taken off.

The second thing we noticed…was that it just gradually got darker from the time the partial started but the last 5 or 10 minutes before maximum coverage the rate of getting darker got much quicker so that you could notice it getting darker as from now to a minute from now.

The third thing we noticed was that…at least the apparent brightening after maximum coverage was faster than the apparent darkening just before the point of maximum coverage. Physics tells me that the rate of change was the same for both at the same time before and after maximum coverage…but to the naked eye it really looked faster coming out of the eclipse than going in. No idea why.

The fourth thing we noticed was that…even at maximum coverage…the sun was still too bright to look at with the naked eye…which made it easy to keep from blinding ourselves. Apparently it’s just the couple of minutes before and after totality starts and ends that are the dangerous time.

While we were at the Subway…Connie grabbed lunch inside and Neil got a couple of shots of the eclipse. Don’t worry…he was safety conscious and didn’t look at it directly at all…he set his camera to use the screen on the back instead of the normal viewfinder and it was just a point and shoot thing with his hat held up to prevent the sun from impacting directly on his eyes. Long time exposure of even the camera to the eclipse can damage it…but he was quick about it. He tried a dozen or shots at varying settings…this is the best one he got and it’s right about maximum coverage.

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We continued on and parked at the Rain Forest Visitor Center. Funny thing happened on the way there. Shortly after we turned off of US-101 onto the road leading 20 miles to the visitor center…we were still on either BLM land or Forest Service land…and we passed a sign that said “Open Range. Watch for livestock on road.” A sign we’ve seen plenty of times before and you almost never see any livestock at all…much less on the road. Today we saw just about the last thing we thought we would see. We figured we might see cows or horses or maybe even sheep…but not a chicken. Standing in the middle of the road a few miles farther on was a single chicken. We stopped and were looking it…didn’t move. Another car drove up from the other direction and stopped…it took one look at it and obviously decided the itty bitty car was more dangerous then Big Red and skedaddled out of the road. I guess chickens count as livestock…but it sure wasn’t what we were expecting. No photo though…it got away too quickly and the camera was still in the back seat.

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Between the entry station and the visitor center we passed a pond and got some photos of ducks.

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Heading out on our hike in the rain forest…this was a damp, moist feeling area with strong light coming through the trees.

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Really tall trees…Sitka Spruce and Hemlock…although that might not be what these are.

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Neil liked this one that grew out of the root ball then sideways before heading upwards…a later photo explains the reason for this. This tree…due to lack of open space on the ground…began life growing out of a previously fallen tree then gradually the roots grew out and down to the ground and the tree grew higher…eventually the long underneath mouldering away to nothing.

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Looking down and then up stream on the Hoh River. We immediately noticed that it was a glacier fed river as the water was very milky…this is due to very fine silt known as glacier flour suspended in the water. If you recall our photos from Jasper and Banff National Parks in Canuckistan and the various rivers we photographed on our Alaska trip back info 2015…this glacier flour will be familiar to you. Supposedly elk come down to the river to water…but it’s obviously only at dusk/dawn…we didn’t see any sign of them.

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Connie next to really large tree…this must be 12 or 14 feet in diameter at the base. 

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The underside of a root ball from a fallen tree…again this is about 15 feet tall.

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This is how many trees start growing in the rain forest…all of these mature trees started life as seedlings on top of the log you can just see the remains of below them. Eventually the roots got to the ground and the tree matured…these are all at least 125 feet tall so they’re obviously mature trees a century or more old…with the few remains of their original sprouting log under them. 

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Another example of growing trees…this is actually 4 or 5 different trees. All of them sprouted as seedlings on to of a fallen tree stump…eventually the ones on the outside grew to the ground and matured chocking out the seedlings in the middle…and forming what looks like a single tree with 4 or 5 trunks although they’re actually separate trees that just grew up together. Big too…the large trunk to the left is probably 4 feet in diameter and they’re all 125-150 feet tall at least.

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Salmon fry…just left of center right over top of the right hand fork on the upside down Y-shaped branch piece. After hatching…salmon fry remain in their birth streams for a year before migrating down to the ocean and converting to a salt water pelagic oceanic fish…then return after another 3 years to their birth stream…or maybe elsewhere as noted above…to spawn for the next generation. Each salmon that actually makes it back to spawn faces extremely long odds…only one of about every 100,000-200,000 eggs that are laid survives to hatch, grow as fry, migrate to the ocean, grow, and make it back to spawn. This specimen is about 1.5 inches long at this point…probably hatched this spring.

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Another long view of Mount Olympus…looking almost directly east here and it’s a dozen or so miles away…but again it’s behind another peak.

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Tuesday’s Fun Stuff© involved a trip about 15 miles east to Sequim to visit the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge…ya know…I’ve been spelling that out for blog after blog so hereafter I’m just going to call them NWRs and National Parks NPs…saves me typing.

After arrival we hiked the 3/4 or so of a mile down to the beach bluff then down onto the beach. Not much wildlife to be found…mostly it was pictures of empty beach, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and driftwood…although drift logs would probably be a better description in this case. We sat on a log for an hour or so just watching the world go and enjoying the almost ocean views. When we got tired of doing that we hiked back to the car…stopped by a place named Sweet Beginnings Cafe for another cup of coffee (we left really early and never really woke up very well) along with a pastry…bacon and cheddar savory for Connie along with a latte and almond blackberry for Neil with a plain ol’ cup of joe.

From there…we stopped by Walmart and got groceries then headed home for the afternoon. Later on…we went to the local Elks Lodge for a brew…they have Taco Tuesday but the crowd was really sparse and the food didn’t really smell all that appetizing so we headed on over to Smuggler’s landing again for dinner…a Wee Heavy each…Connie had a steamed clams appetizer and Neil had an OK oyster po’ boy then we headed home.

Looking northward along the spit just before we headed down to the beach…our resting spot was on that log you see to the far left.

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Both of these driftwood pieces were 15 feet high…considerable chunks of wood.

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The local traffic…after heading past us it looked like he was heading out the strait to the Pacific but then he turned right and went over towards Canuckistan…musta had some containers to drop off or pick up there before he departed the coast.

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These two…the light blue one was inbound from the Pacific…passed starboard side to starboard side…completely opposite to what one would expect in Inland Waters…but there’s n traffic separation scheme or transit lanes in the Strait. The outbooud guy was coming out of the Hood Canal and the industrial area to the south while the other one was obviously headed farther inland along the strait…he’s out in the middle and the outbound one was heading gradually towards the right side of the strait…at least until he turned sharply right and headed up to BC somewhere.

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The absolutely strangest sight we would never have expected on the beach…a pair of doe mule deer…looked like a mother and offspring as one was larger. There was a couple hiking eastward farther to the west from where we were sitting and they herded the pair right within about 30 or so feet of us. The does were fearless…kept looking at us but none of us moved and they just wandered on by like they owned the place.

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Interesting stuff from the net.

Coincidence…I think not.


The 2017 eclipse.


Aliens vs humans.


Now there’s a surprise.



Posted in RV, Travel | 4 Comments

Transit to Port Angeles WA and Fun Stuff©

Haveya ever heard that story about the ‘best laid plans of mice and men’? Well it definitely applied to us on Thursday.

We were underway for our planned 310 mile transit from Jefferson OR to Elwha WA about 0845…150 miles straight up I-5 was the plan then onto the Olympic Peninsula via WA-3, WA-16, and WA-104 to US-101 that we would take over to Elwha just west of Port Angeles. Everything was going swimmingly…we stopped at the last Pilot for lunch and bathroom break just south of Olympia WA and then continued on our plan. Got off onto WA-16 and headed north-northwest…and then it happened. About 10 miles before we got on WA-3 temporarily then onto 104 to get across the Hood Canal Bridge…there aren’t a lot of bridges in the Olympic Peninsula…the GPS told us the road was closed and recommended an alternate route because WA-104 was closed. A quick check with the WA DoT site indicated there was an unscheduled bridge opening at the Hood Canal Bridge…don’t know if it was one of the Ohio class SSBN submarines going out to sea or something else headed out from the Hood Canal but in any event the bridge was closed and was expected to be closed for another 90 minutes. We checked the GPS and our alternate route was only an hour and 10 minutes delay…and we figured that the backup on 104 to the bridge would be even worse in the 20 minutes we still had to go. So…instead of exiting WA-16 at WA-3 north for the 8 or 10 miles to 104…we headed onto WA-3 south and went within about 10 miles of where we had stopped for lunch 2 hours before, got onto 101 which then proceeds up the west side of the Hood Canal. It’s a windy, curvy, narrow road right along the side of the canal and was really a pain to drive on with the rig.

We soldiered on and finally got to our destination Elwha Dam RV Park just west of Port Angeles about 1630 and checked in. We knew that we would have one night in site 9 which is a pull through but is shaded so there’s no satellite visibility before moving up the next day to site 47…whose previous occupant was supposed to leave on Friday morning. Fortunately…he had moved out early and the site was empty. Unfortunately…we didn’t figure this out until we had already pulled into site 9 and got power on and our jacks down…and at that point were not about to try and move. We just treated it like an overnight stop…we had water onboard already so put on power, put the slides out, and lowered the front jacks…didn’t even unhitch Big Red. We had some BBQ pork and stuffed potato skin soup for dinner.

Next morning we moved over to site 47 and got fully setup for our 10 remaining days at Elwha. After lunch…we had a shower and headed out. Connie got her nails done, we visited the Olympic National Park visitor center in town and watched the movie, and then went over to Smuggler’s Landing for dinner. Dinner consisted of several glasses of Kilt Lifter Wee Heavy Scotch Ale from Pike Brewing Company…along with some Dungeness crab and Chipotle dip with tortilla chips…then we had a pomegranate ice bar for dessert when we got home.

Saturday we did laundry and then headed off to Blue Mountain for a short hike…Blue Mountain is in the Northeast corner of the park but getting there requires a 9 mile drive on a gravel road right on the edge of the cliff…you go from sea level to about 6,500 feet elevation over those 9 miles. Most of the road was just a single lane barely wide enough for one vehicle…passing the 6 other folks going down from the peak required some careful positioning of both vehicles on the slightly wider portions of the road. Once we got to the top…we took the half mile hike up to the peak and it was actually pretty decent even though it was at altitude…we’re getting used to the higher elevation as well as getting into better hiking shape.

Here’s the overall elevation map of the park…the snow covered peak in the middle is Mount Olympus (gee…I wonder if Zeus is there)…which we’ll be hopefully seeing in a couple of days. Port Angeles and Elwha are on the southern coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca just between the f in “of” and the F in “Fuca” in the picture, right south of the couple of islands offshore. Blue Mountain where we hiked is one of the peaks on the first row south of the strait.

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A Roosevelt Elk and Mountain Lion…two of the local fauna we might see…these two specimens are stuffed in the visitor center. The bird on the right side of  the trunk just in front of the Elk is a Pileated Woodpecker…that’s the same kind as Woody Woodpecker…but that particular specimen has obviously seen better days…it’s looking pretty rough.

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Once we got to the summit of Blue Mountain…we got some nice shots there. The first three are 3 120 degree pano shots taken from the top of the mountain. The first one starts looking almost directly north…Port Angeles is right over the hill and the view goes clockwise through the 3 shots to arrive back at looking north.

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Looking north…Port Angeles in the foreground and BC Canada in the background across the strait…it’s about a dozen miles wide here.

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A couple more shots from the summit.

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After our hike…we made the 9 mile trek back down the gravel road and headed home. Sat outside for awhile with a brew and then Neil cooked dinner…chicken carne asada on the barbie sliced and served in tortillas with a side of black beans, rice, and corn seasoned with some duck fat, Andouille sausage and green chili’s. Pretty darned yummy.

While he was cooking…Connie gathered some more blackberries from the walking paths around the park…we’ll make some Blackberry Crisp out of them tomorrow.

Interesting stuff from the net…just a couple today because I’m tired.

Alaskan warning sign.


 Saddest book ever.


I would hate to have to use this bathroom after a hard night of drinking.



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Salem Area Fun Stuff©

Ya know…this verbal diarrhea from the left over the recent violence in Charlottesville has just got to stop. The guy that drove into the crowd should be tried for Murder 1 and executed…like tomorrow. Setting his actions aside as they were clearly not planned or organized by the rally people…the biggest problem with the left and media is that the right wing folks weren’t engaging in protected free speech according to the leftists…they’re racists and need to be shouted down. ‘Round these parts…as I said the other day…we don’t support the alt right folks who believe that Caucasians are a superior race any more than we support the far left wing who demand discrimination against anybody not brown for Affirmative Action or those who think the US government should pay “reparations to all” Americans of African descent just because.

Despite the fondest wishes of the left…we cannot and should not whitewash history and cleanse all remembrances of the Civil War or slavery. As I said the other day…the Civil War was largely not about slavery but about states rights…and no matter what you believe about the causes of the it both sides were fighting for what they believed was right. A memorial to Robert E. Lee…or to the Confederate dead like the one the leftist protestors destroyed in Durham NC later on with no arrests made…is just as “right” and “an important part of our heritage” to folks in the South as the memorial to President Lincoln on the National Mall or the hundreds of streets named Martin Luther King Boulevard around the country is to those in the north and on the other side politically. A memorial to Confederate dead is just that…a memorial to brave young men who died for a cause they believe was right…just like the statue below is a memorial to the brave young men who died for a cause they believe was right.


Here’s another memorial that’s just as right from another point of view…it’s the Hiroshima Peace Memorial dedicated to those Japanese citizens…the vast majority of which were non-combatant civilians…killed in the attack on that city in August 1945.


War memorials are largely that…memorials for the fallen who gave all in defense of their cause. One can debate the moral rightness of any cause…that’s easy…but why the hell can’t we let all sides honor their dead, have free speech, and not start a riot over it.

As best as I can figure…and again I’m setting aside the guy who drove into the crowd as he was clearly 100% wrong…the original rally was to protest the renaming of Robert E. Lee Park and the removal of a statue of the man…the park is a memorial to the dead in the Confederate cause. The counter protestors…the alt-left as the President called them…showed up itching for a fight…so naturally they got one. Both sides are wrong for the violence…but both sides have a guaranteed right under the Constitution to speak whatever they want no matter whether the other side likes it or not.

Now the media is all up in arms because the President…rightfully…blamed both sides for the violence…but that’s not acceptable to the left echo chamber…anybody further to the right than the leftists is automatically a bigoted racist and…at least as far as the left is concerned…that conclusion is settled science just like every other cause they support.

I wish all this crap would go away so I wouldn’t have to keep blathering about It…it’s irritated Connie so bad she’s unfollowed a dozen folks on twitter over it.

After our somewhat underwhelming trip over to the 3 Capes Scenic Drive…although we did get some nice moody/foggy photos…we were ready for something with a little more pizazz. So we headed out early Monday morning to the Columbia River Gorge about 90 minutes north for a hike up to Triple Falls. Actually…this trail has a total of 7 waterfalls on it…we visited 2, passed 2 others that were not accessible due to some rock slides and trail collapses last winter, and passed on the ones farther upstream. As it was we did a round trip hike of about 4.1 miles and 720 or so feet of elevation gain…it was almost all up on the way out and down on the way back…to get to the other 3 falls would have been another 4 miles and another 800 feet of elevation gain. We didn’t figure we were up for that so just settled for seeing Triple Falls and the Middle Oneonta Falls…Upper Oneonta Falls was inaccessible due to the rockfalls and the Lower Oneonta Falls is accessible through a connecting trail but would have added a mile to our hike and we were too tired to go over there.

Middle Oneonta Falls…that’s the one I’m sticking with but there’s some disagreement on various websites and with the USGS on which falls on Oneonta Creek are which name…I’m basing my selection on looking at the photos on the web…with 3 of the 5 places I looked agreeing with me. Amiright? Who knows…but that’s my story and Ima sticking to it. Anyways…it’s a 65 foot single drop on a side trail off of the main trail up to Triple Falls…it was only 1/10 of a mile down and then back up…but it was also about 90 feet down and then back up so Neil actually did a little more elevation gain than Connie did.

The Columbia River Gorge is bounded on the Oregon side by a pretty much sheer ridge ranging from 600 to 2000 feet in height…most of the waterfalls on the gorge are on the Oregon side and are located in side canyons…there’s a rim on the Washington side as well but it’s farther back from the river and not as dramatic a rise…most of the far fewer waterfalls on that side require considerable hiking to view and all of the famous falls are on the Oregon side. The first half mile is pretty easy hiking…it’s got a grade on it but it’s a pretty good trail. One previous review complained that it was too rocky…which it would be if you’re wearing flip-flops like a goodly number of people we saw were.

Looking out from a viewpoint at the Columbia River looking downstream…just before we turned away and headed up Oneonta Gorge.

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Once you make the turn off of the side of the main ridge bordering the Columbia and turn up into Oneonta Gorge it got more rocky but was still not bad. About 1.2 miles into the 2 mile outbound hike…Neil headed down the side trail to Middle Oneonta Falls and Connie waited for him at the trail junction. Once he got back 20 minutes or so later…we continued our climb and ran into what we would call the bad section of the trail. The grade remains about the same…about a 7% average but with sections from slightly downhill up to about 11% or 12%…however there’s a section about 250 yards long where the trail is basically gone and buried under a rock slide. On that section…you’re walking across piled up tennis ball to softball sized rocks and the footing is much worse. We figured that section would be way worse on the way down…but it turned out to be not as bad as we thought it would be. Bad enough though.

Bridge over Oneonta Creek at the Middle Falls…Connie would not have gone across this…open grating bridge deck and about 80 feet down to the creek.

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Middle Oneonta Falls…the first one is pretty much straight out of the camera and the second one I cleaned up a bit to bring out some details in the foreground and rocks.

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We arrived at the top about 1.5 hours after we started out…it just seemed longer.

Guess why it’s named Triple Falls? Go ahead…I’ll wait.

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Slightly wider view showing the bridge over the creek upstream of the falls…we could have walked there as it’s only about a quarter mile around…but you can’t see the falls from the bridge as it’s upstream. Note the log on the rock between the middle and right hand drop.

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Closer shot of the log below the bridge…it’s about 8 or 10 feet from the edge where it’s a 64 foot drop as the falls is 64 feet tall. The rocks were clearly wet…and the slope of the one jut below the log is probably 30%.

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And then there these 4…well…idiots would probably be the best term. Four of those millennial snowflakes I’ve mentioned previously…we know that because they got back down to the parking lot while we were having lunch…and they were the idiots parked the farthest into the travel lane as noted below. The chick in the white dress was the driver.

The two guys…well, they’re pretty stupid for sitting right there on the edge of the drop…note the steep slope just below the feet of the one with the black pants. Then there were the two chicks…the one walking on the wet log is wearing flip-flops and is just a slight slip from ending up at the bottom of the falls. The other one is wearing a white dress…and black velvet Ugg boots…I’m pretty sure they’re even less appropriate footwear than the flip-flops are.

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After getting our photos and having a snack we headed back down. Normally Neil lets Connie lead on hikes so she can set the pace she likes…but going downhill she was concerned about tripping due to her lack of depth perception so he stayed in front and told her about bad spots and helped her with the bigger steps down. It only took us about an hour or so going back down and we were really glad after seeing the large numbers of hikers heading up as we came down that we started early. The trail sign says that dogs are allowed on a leash…and we only saw 2 or 3 of the dozen dogs that past us that were not leashed. Strangely enough…almost all of the unleashed pooches were obviously snowflake millennials who decided the rules just didn’t apply to them.

Connie sez…the photographer in action.

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Here’s the elevation profile of our overall hike…that little dip at about 1.2 miles is where Neil did the side hike down to Middle Oneonta Falls.

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Arriving back at the trailhead parking lot…we discovered that all 8 or 9 spots were full (as opposed to only one other besides us when we arrived)…and that there were at least another 2 dozen cars parked in various non or sorta existent parking spots along the side of the road…it’s a narrow road but most of the ones parked this way didn’t bother getting out of the traffic lanes. We had lunch…leftover Lemon-lime-fennel-cilantro chicken from the other night turned into wraps…and then headed back westward for home with 2 scheduled stops and 1 unscheduled stop. The unscheduled one was first…when we passed Multnomah Falls Neil spotted a car pulling out so grabbed that spot and he got a some photos of that waterfall.

Both falls…Multnomah Falls has an upper drop of 542 feet and the lower one is 78. The bridge just above the lower drop is about 50 yards from this viewpoint but was a quarter mile hike up a bazillion switchbacks to get to…Neil’s feet were asking him just what the heck he was doing. Connie…well, she stayed in Big Red for this one.

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Closeup of the lower falls.

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The upper falls taken from the bridge…it was really windy and the water was blowing sideways.

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Here are a couple of videos we took today…if they don’t open in a separate window click Back to return here…or right click and choose to open in a new window or new tab.

Middle Oneonta Falls

Triple Falls

Next we headed for Smokehouse Provision BBQ in Vancouver WA just across the river from Portlandia. A few weeks back…Connie happened across an article from Southern Living that listed the…according to them…best BBQ bucket list place to eat in each state and as it turns out we’re going to be in the right location for several of them this summer. Alabama’s entry is Dreamland BBQ in Tuscaloosa…and since we’ve eaten there and know it’s outstanding…and since we really like BBQ…we put all 50 of them in our Places and Eats spreadsheet to visit as our travel schedule allows. Smokehouse Provision actually gives us a twofer…we get to check off both OR and WA on the list. The OR entry is Storrs Smokehouse in Newberg…Storrs is owned by the same guy that owns Smokehouse Provision in WA…so obviously it’s the same BBQ…and we don’t feel too badly about crossing both of them off the list. Besides…Storrs was closed today.

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Next stop was Fred Meyer’s to fill up Big Red with fuel…we took on almost 88 gallons…and then we headed home for showers, BBQ, and brews.

Dinner review…pretty darned outstanding. Really well smoked pulled pork with a whole lot of smoky flavor. Potato salad was also excellent…fingerling potatoes with pulled pork in them and a vinegar and mayo dressing. The baked beans were the best BBQ joint baked beans we’ve had in a long time…usually the beans are almost an afterthought and aren’t really smoky or flavorful. These were spicy and had both pulled pork and smoked sausage in them. We polished off everything but a quarter cup or so of the pulled pork…we shared a single full meal with 2 sides…we’ll make pulled pork soup later in the week out of it. We knew when we walked in…just from the smell…that it would be good though.

Tuesday we headed off for the Oregon State Capitol building and the Willamette Valley Cheese Company. Oregon became a state on Valentines Day Feb 14, 1859 but didn’t learn of it until St. Paddy’s day the following month Mar 17, 1859. The news had to come cross country by courier/horse/whatever and then up the coast via steamer, inland on the Columbia River to Oregon City and then overland south to the then territorial capitol at Salem.

The Capitol Building was built in 1938…it’s the third one. The first was the territorial capital which burned back in the 1800s. The second was on this same site but burned in the early 1930s and was replaced by the current building.

The Rotunda…it’s round on the outside but square on the inside…we’ve never seen a square rotunda in any other capitol building.

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Sculpture outside the entrance.

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Rotunda ceiling.

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Two of the 3 murals at the corners of the rotunda…they’re sorta strange looking as they wrap around the corner. The photos Connie took of the other two didn’t work out.

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State seal…many references to Oregon history here. The heart shape just inside the stars commemorates the Feb 14 acceptance into the union and the 32 stars the fact that Oregon was the 32nd state.  Other references include western expansion, mining and farming tools, mountains, and British and American vessels.

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Senate chamber followed by House chamber. They only meet here for votes and infrequent debates…which just as in other assembly chambers are intended as political points rather than an attempt to woo others to your way of thinking.

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North exterior of the building which is the front.

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Next it was off to the cheese company…we sampled and bought and…well, it’s cheese. We passed on the raw milk product as we prefer our dairy pasteurized for safety. Then it was home for lunch, getting our grill propane cylinder refilled, roasting garlic, and steak on the barbie for dinner.

So…we’ve been here in the Willamette Valley awhile so I figured I should tell ya about it. The valley is about 150 miles long along the Willamette River which runs north until emptying into the Columbia River. Bordered by the Oregon Coastal Mountain Range, the Calapooya Mountains to the south and the Cascades Range to the east…it contains the 3 largest cities in Oregon…Salem, Portlandia, and Eugene…as well as being the home of about 70% of the state population and almost all of the wineries.

Today’s activity was a visit to the Ankeny NWR just south of Salem in the southern portion of the valley. Because we were planning on a 1.5 mile hike along the boardwalk…we wanted to be there early for bird feeding time so we got up early, had coffee and a granola bar and headed off…arriving at our first stop in the refuge where the hike was located jut a bit after 0700. We headed off south about 1/4 mile then meandered westward a half mile through the swampy areas along the boardwalk then north, east, and south along the edges of a section of fields back to Big Red. It was a great day to be on a walk in the woods…60s, sun just coming up so the light was excellent for photos and no ‘skeeters to be found. There were some sort of lil’ bugs buzzing around…but they didn’t bite and weren’t bothering us so we left ‘em alone as well.

Following the hike we continued driving clockwise around the refuge stopping at another 3 or 4 places to look for wildlife. We got done and headed back to the rig arriving about 1000 and took a nap for a couple of hours before getting up and doing all of the preparatory stuff for tomorrow’s transit day.

Luckily there were observation blinds at a couple of our stops both along the hike and the remainder of the refuge…that makes it easier to get bird photos since they don’t know you’re there. Unfortunately…most of the birds we saw were out a couple of hundred yards…so even with the long bird lens they were still smaller than we would have liked. Still though…we got a few new species for us…and ya gotta take what ya can get we always say.

Connie got some really great shots as we walked along the boardwalk and peered out from the blind on the hike…I especially like the ones of the marsh with the reflection in them…quite nice.

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Meanwhile…Neil was concentrating on the birds with the bird lens…although it’s a zoom with a minimum focal length of 75mm which is just a bit more than a “normal” SLR lens…it’s too big and heavy to bother taking many closeup photos with it so he primarily looks for things way out there.

Female belted kingfisher…you can tell it’s the female because of the orange belt band in addition to the blue-gray chest patch…we can’t recall ever seeing a female before.

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Cinnamon Teal.

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Dunlin…both this and the teal above are new for us.

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Another shot of the female belted kingfisher…she kept flying off and coming back to this snag. Neil was irritated that she never came over nearer the blind so he could get better photos.

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Great blue heron…but way out there.

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Couple of great white egrets…again pretty far out there.

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Neil shot a couple of interesting looking leaves/seedpods/whatever they are…he thought they looked cool with the lighting the way it was.

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We almost stepped on this slug.

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Closeup of the slug with Connie’s boot in the shot for scale…this is the largest slug we’ve ever seen. Those folks on the TV show Alone would have made a full meal out of this bad boy.

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Another Cinnamon Teal.

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Neil really liked these two reflected birds shots.

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Barn swallows (or maybe cliff swallows, hard to tell which one). Those lil’ suckers are devilishly hard to get in focus.

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Sparrow of some variety.

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Another Great Blue Heron and then a shot of him flying off when Neil tried to get a better angle.

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And finally…just as we got back to the campground. Look…up in the sky…it’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s Superman!

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Just a couple interesting things today…this post is already pretty long.

The liberals at the TV station must have had a slow news day.


More pano gone wrong.


Busted…definitely busted.



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