Archive for July, 2016

A Dam good week

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Grand Coulee Dam is in the middle of nowhere on the Columbia River and I’m pretty certain that you would not be going there unless you were intentionally going to the dam.  The Dam is impressive, the tour not so much!  Except that is the only way you can take the photo below.  Since 911 you cannot cross the dam.  There is a bridge not far from below the dam that crosses the Columbia River, infact you have to drive across the bridge to get to the tour.  Some things baffle me.


They put a lazer light show on in the evenings during the summer complete with a Dam cartoon before the lazer story of why the dam is here.  Corny but fun.  There isn’t much else to do in Coulee.



There is a lake and a state park campground on the Banks Lake that is created from Grand Coulee just for irrigation.  They pump water into the lake and then canel it to farmers.  Banks Lake is huge and full of recreation if you are into boating.  The mosquitos were quite bad.  Infact in the campground they came through each evening and fogged us.  It didn’t do much for keeping the mosquito population away so I could sit out and enjoy the evenings!

Steamboat Mountain; how the park got its name!

Steamboat Mountain; how the park got its name!

Sunset reflecting off the lake

Sunset reflecting off the lake

Pauls idea of swimming in the lake

Pauls idea of swimming in the lake


More Glacier NP

Sunday, July 24th, 2016


This is the inside of the East Lodge at Glacier National Park.  The woodwork on the lodge is amazing and these lanterns were beautiful.


Lake MacDonald

                                   Lake MacDonald

Looking for a good cup of coffee we stopped at the lodge at Lake MacDonald.  The lake was very inviting even though it was early and quite chilly.  From here we took a drive to Polebridge, over 1.5 hours each way just for a cinnamon roll!  We didn’t even have one, we opted for cookies instead!  Polebridge is in the northwestern part of the NP and very remote.  They don’t even have electricity, only generators and solar.  We did stay long enough to travel another 45 minutes to Bowman lake and take a nice walk/hike along the lake.

We stayed an extra day in the area just to visit Whitefish.  The brochures said it was a beach town in the middle of Montana.  It had lots of shops and very cute but not beachy if you are from the Capitola area!  Just sayin.  We did stop for a picnic at the lake and they even have a control your dog area on the beach and encourage the dogs to have as much fun as we do.  Duke went right into the water and then Paul thru the ball!  I wasn’t sure Duke would chase it but he did.

Whitefish Lake

                                        Whitefish Lake



Top of the Sun, Glacier NP

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016


Paul and his sister Cindy enjoying the view of Avalance Lake in Glacier National Park.  We took a six mile hike and the views were spectacular.


It is a pretty decent uphill from the parking lot but very soon you get to see this amazing stream.  It was flowing very quickly and there were many areas you could get right down and into the water.AvalanceTrail

Then as you climb away from the stream this is the beautiful, lush forest you are walking through.  The trail was really well maintained.  So far, one of my favorite hikes on this trip.  I think mostly because it was so clean, hardly any people (we did get on the trail by 8, at 10 when we were descending there were scads of people) and the sun was hidden so it was cool.


At two miles you arrive at the lake and then you look across and….




The mountain was filled with waterfalls.  You couldn’t get up to them but you could definitely hear them.  Perfect.


This little guy was sure we left some scrapes after we left his log.  Returning to the trailhead and our car we were amazed at how many people were scurring for a parking spot.  I wonder how many got one and how many actually took the hike.  We find that most people visiting the NP never get very far from the parking areas.

We decided to take the drive through the rest of the park on Going to the Sun Road.  A beautiful drive through the heart of Glacier NP, actually the only road that goes through the park.  Once we got to the Eastern side the sun finally came out.  We stopped in the Eastern Lodge just to look around and then we continued around the park.



If you look closely near the bottom you will see an arch.  That is built so the waterfall can go under the road!

Tomorrow we will explore a different, less traveled part of the park and enjoy one more day with Pauls sister before we split again.  Next meet up will be on our Alaskan Cruise.


Here we are again

Sunday, July 17th, 2016
Boiling River again

                                Boiling River again

One of our favorite parks and this week we are at the top end.  We are coming across Montana and the park is only 50 miles south.  Mammoth Hot Springs area was amazing last time so we made the trip.  By the time we got there it was very crowded and hot so no hiking today.


This is the entrance gate from the north into Yellowstone NP,  There is these tiny doors and of course Paul has to check out the mechanics.  We decided the doors are not original and they have been put in so you can see the arch is hollow.


See the door in the corner?  That is how tall this arch entrance gate is.


Mammoth Hot Springs, this time was not spectacular,  still very cool but there was very little water flowing and they didn’t have that “it” factor.



This one was pretty cool,  all created from hot boiling water coming out of the ground.


We saw a couple of beautiful waterfalls in the north area.  We had to walk a bit to see them.

The river below the falls


The Gorge the river runs through.  This was from a viewpoint very high up.


Just a wall!  Actually it was a wall that went straight up from the road with these trees sticking out into the sky.


And of course the Elk that come into the park to graze and relax on the grass in the early evenings.


Where the Buffalo roam

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

We didn’t see any buffalo but we saw lots of Pronghorn and deer along the highway as we drove through Wyoming.  We stopped overnight in Gillette and continued to Montana where we will be roaming for about a week.

Today we are working (at least Paul is!)  I’m catching up on a few things that I had been putting off and then I went to the Zoo.  The Billings Zoo is just down the street from where we are parked in Billings.  It isn’t much of a zoo and many of the exhibits are being renovated.  They did have a big reptile exhibit indoors where the gift shop and concession stand is!  I did check out the concessions but not the reptiles.  Most of the other animals they had were somewhat up and about.

Wolf (1)

This guy (wolf) was chomping away.  His buddy was up and about but very hidden.Panda

This guy was a bit shy but I got a pretty good look when he came down off his perch to dig in the ground.

Red Panda

Red Panda

He was right under me but would not look up.  I guess he was comfortable in his habitat and didn’t care about the noises the kids were making to get his attention.  Or,  he is just tired of all the interuptions to his day!




Bald Eagle2

This guy was a show off.  His mate is directly behind him but he would not allow a good shot of her.

There was a giant grizzly but he was taking a nap in the sun and was really snoring so I am sure he would not be getting up anytime soon.  That would have been a highlite as he was huge.

Well I haven’t been to a zoo in awhile but I was hoping for monkeys.  There was a lemur exhibit but it was not open.  Next time!  Probably somewhere else.

Another “Fine” day

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Enjoying Rocky Mountain National Park.


Lava Cliffs near the top of the mountain


The Rockies.  I love the clouds


Yes, I do!


We found something we had not seen last year, lots of waterfalls.  This is Alluvail Fan.  There were people everywhere.  I was amazed that they let you climb the rocks, walk in the water.  It was great.RMNPElk2

Elk trying to enjoy the green grass and all the people clamoring for the best shot!  I had a better one of the top Elk with his butt to me.


Paul at Alluvail Fan

RMNPWaterfalls                                                                                                                                            Another Water Fall

And now for my new hobby.  Actually it has  always been a hobby but now I am going to photograph it and share!  People watching.


This family joined our picnic area and had no idea we were even there.  They walked these kids back and forth across a log that was not off the ground!  Very fun to watch.  The little girl is holding her sandwich in her hand that is raised way up.  She never dropped it and took a bit hardly ever.RMNPPeople7

Cairn, the stacking of rocks is always fun to see, but watching this boy doing it was very fun


Just playing on the rocks next to a really fast moving steep waterfall.



Dad joining him, now that is much safer

Dad joining him, now that is much safer


More from Estes Park

Friday, July 8th, 2016

We hiked the WindRiver trail today with Paul’s sister, Cindy who joined us for a couple of days.  She lives in Golden, CO so only about an hour drive up.  We are here for her daughters wedding reception on Sunday.  The hike didn’t have many views but a nice hike other than watching for horse droppings.  It was a very popular hike for horse tours.

Most were small groups of 3 or 4.  We did pass one really large group but they were taking a lunch break

Most were small groups of 3 or 4. We did pass one really large group but they were taking a lunch break

The trail was almost 6 miles long and an elevation gain of 800 feet.  I was not sure I would make it but Paul and Cindy were very kind when I had to stop to rest and empty the dirt I was kicking up into my shoes.  This was not the best maintained trail but we finished it in about 3.5 hours.

Cindy and Paul, plus a great photo of the clouds we get to see everyday.

Cindy and Paul, plus a great photo of the clouds we get to see everyday.

That was Wednesday!  Thursday we went to the big city for errands, no photos!

Friday we played more tennis,  I was winning until I got too tired. So we took a drive and played after and Paul beat me handilly!  I guess I was still tired.

We took a drive south and found a really nice stream and some amazing canyons



The RV park is filling up for the weekend and town is crazy.

Finding a trail that the Dog can do sometimes is a challenge

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

We always look for trails the dog can come on and that is not always easy.  Many of them are just the paths in town which are ok, but usually too crowded and definitely do not take advantage of nature.  I found one that seemed like it would work, it was about 4 miles with a 900 foot elevation gain.  That is doable unless the trailhead starts at 8100 feet!  I thought I was going to die the first 1/4 mile!  The view was beautiful and so many wild flowers



I love the wildflowers and this trail had so many.  It was  an open space area with lots of camping and primitive amenities.  To get to the trailhead we had to drive on a dirt road about 2 miles all up!

Looking down on Estes Lake and town

Looking down on Estes Lake and town


Duke loves to hike and makes sure to water all the plants, living and dead.  I think of it like dropping cookie crumbs so he can find his way home!  Once we got past this look out which was at about 3/4 of a mile I was starting to feel like I could do the 2 miles up to the rock and then the sky turns dark, and starts with it’s afternoon noises!  We went another 1/4 mile and decided we probably were not prepared to get caught in a thunderstorm.

Just the start of the dark skies!  Behind us it was almost black!

Just the start of the dark skies! Behind us it was almost black!

We turned around but now I know I can do it if I take it easy at the beginning so we will try another one tomorrow.

Since it was cold and somewhat rainy and only 2 pm we decided to take a drive into the National Park.  Duke can come into the park as long as he doesn’t go on the trails.  We went into the park and took the drive up to Bear Lake.  It was a beautiful drive and very wet.  They do have a 1/2 mile trail around the lake and since it was cold we left Duke to guard the car and took a walk.  I call it a walk because it is one of those trails that everyone can do and everyone was there!  It would have made a great picnic hike though.  We don’t usually pack a lunch when we hike but this one we could have

Bear Lake, RMNP

                              Bear Lake, RMNP


Trying to stay away from the tourists

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Estes Park is at the base of Rocky Mountain NP and is very popular especially over the holiday weekend.  We knew this coming in.  The RV park is packed but we have lots of room around our spot and some good views of the mountains.  The weather has been beautiful and then here come the thunderstorms every afternoon.  You can tell we are not locals because when the wind and rain come we retreat inside and I watch everyone else just going about their business.  It seems cold to Paul and I so we try to bundle up and sit outside however our little propane firepit just does not provide the heat we need.

There is tennis courts right in town and a really nice path around Estes Lake so we have been getting lots of exercise without hitting the trails in the park.  We will do those after the 4th!  We do join the masses in town at the Starbucks but after finally getting my latte (about 20 minutes) we sit along the stream and enjoy!

We survived the holiday and never heard a firework.  Duke gets really spooked so we are afraid to leave him if we don’t know the area so we stayed in the RV park and never heard anything.  They had a big display over the lake but it was far enough away we missed it.

Tomorrow we hit the trails!

Had to take a chance

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Between Hot Springs and Custer State Park is Wind Cave National Park.  We knew nothing about it, had never heard of it but we haven’t been in a cave this year so why not!  Plus it is always cool inside a cave and it was pretty warm in South Dakota this week with lots of crazy storms in the afternoons so off we go!  It is one of the oldest National Parks and you would have no idea a cave was here, it is below a prairie of small hills with lots of grass.  We checked in and got our tickets for the Fairgrounds Tour.  It involved lots of steps so we thought it might not be that popular, but it was.  Our tour was at least 30 people but the guide was amazing and we saw so much and really enjoyed our 2 hours inside the cave.





Box work, something that you don’t usually see in caves.  It looked like someone had poured water over a sugar cube!



More Box Work

It was an amazing cave and we are so glad we took the leap to try something we had no idea about.  It was an amazing experience.  This whole area is amazing and definitely on our list of returning, for now we are on our way to Colorado and more exploring of the Rocky Mountain National Park.