The Last of Washington and the Beginning of Oregon


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Hello from Nevada!  I know, I know last blog post was from Mount St. Helens Washington so what’s with Nevada?  Truth is we are so behind in our posting we have decided to skip quickly (fewer words, more of Ed’s photos) through our travels in Washington, Oregon and California…yeah we’ve physically already covered that much territory!

After Mt. St. Helens we broke our normal pattern and got on Interstate 5 and did a hard drive north to St Rt 20 and the very lovely Anacortes City Washington Park.  Sitting on the west end of Fidalgo Island there are lovely views of the San Juan Islands and Olympic Mountains along the 2 plus mile loop road we enjoyed walking.


San Juan Islands and a ferry looking from near our campsite on Fidalgo Island and the Anacortes City Washington Park

Driving on down 20 we took the Coupeville Ferry to Port Townsend (yes fellow RV’ers you’ll fit) which is a town we recommend for a short visit. However, plan ahead as the Port Hudson Marina & RV Park, right on the edge of town is small and popular and sooo convenient.


Our evening sunset lights up the clouds to our east at Port Townsend from our campsite.

Wandering around town we especially recommend Insatiables Books (rare & used where Ed bought a copy of Winnie the Pooh in Latin), Forest Gems Mill & Gallery (wonderful wood works and raw wood), Better Living Through Coffee (dark chocolate mocha!) and dinner at Alchemy Bistro & Wine Bar.  Oh and if you’re into handmade wooden boats, Port Townsend is the place for you!  The wooden kayaks built here by Pygmy Boats are just beautiful!! Although we missed it there’s the famous Wooden Boat Festival every September.


There is also some really cool architecture in Port Townsend.

Being in the neighborhood so to speak we drove out lovely Rt. 112 to the Makah Indian Reservation and Cape Flattery the most northwestern point in the contiguous US.  Put this place on your MVL (Must Visit List).


We wandered off the path and the point beyond Marti is Cape Flattery.


and this is the view west from Cape Flattery at that point behind Marti.

Next up was the west side of Olympic National Park and the Hoh Rain Forest. I remember being fascinated by the temperate rainforest when Dad brought us west in 1962 and it hasn’t lost any of its charm.  Truly lovely in its remarkably green mossy mantle, it’s easy to believe that “thing” over yonder was a sasquatch, and boy oh boy are carvings, and drawings and businesses in on the bigfoot craze🙂


Sasquatch is everywhere….

We drove the famous coastal highway 101 which by the by is not all coastal, but lovely regardless, eventually ending up at Cape Disappointment State Park for our last night in Washington State.


North Head Lighthouse from the beach just north of Cape Disappointment 


Astoria from the Astoria Column.  The bridge from Washington State across the Columbia River is in the distance.

Our first stop in Oregon was Astoria where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.  One of the most dangerous crossings in the world, the bar here where the Columbia flows into the Pacific has sunk many a ship earning it the Graveyard of the Pacific name.  Reading about past and present stories of trying to cross during storms and the bar pilots who bring ships across is well worth your time at the interesting Columbia River Maritime Museum.  Afterward, do stop by Clemente’s Café for a good meal and to watch the boats.


The remnants of the wreck of the Peter Iredale a victim of the Columbia River bar on October 25th, 1906.

Ed in particular has a fascination with Lewis and Clark having a number of years ago read simultaneously Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage and Lewis & Clark’s Journals, so we had to visit Fort Clatsop National Memorial.  This is the site where the Corps of Discovery encamped in December 1805 until March 1806 when they headed back east.  There is not only an excellent small museum the fort has been replicated on the exact spot (they believe within 2 feet) as it was originally.  We highly recommend a visit here.


Fort Clatsop from outside the gate.  We asked why in such a rainy climate the roof was pitched inward and the answer was that the US Army protocol was to blame.  The roof is pitched like this so soldiers inside the fort can have a clear shot at invaders coming over the top.

Hope we’re not moving too fast…and do look for another posting soon!


Marti walking among the coastal cedars at Washington Park on Fidalgo Island.


The next day we sat along the water and watched the Sun set and the ferry’s go back and forth.  Marti really likes silhouettes. 


At Cape Flattery just to the left of the point.


At Cape Flattery we had the great joy of sighting extremely rare Sea Otters.  Four of them!


Still at Cape Flattery we saw these sea caves that are full of Cormorants squawking up a storm.  There were hundreds of them in this cave and the stench was noticeable. 


The walkway out to the point was laid out by an artist.  It was simply beautiful and perfectly proportioned following the ups and downs of the landscape.  It was the prettiest woodland walkway we have ever been on in our lives. 


Marti thinks these are two giant woodland creatures sitting side by side.


Then there’s the Winged Snuffleupagus.


We saw all kinds, colors and shapes of Banana Slugs all over the Olympic Peninsula.  


Along the road to and from Cape Flattery.


Ed thought this was interesting as it shows how long it takes to grow a forest.  Timber is the biggest industry in this part of the world.


In the Hoh Rain Forest on the west side of the Olympic National Park, Marti found a lovely walk.




Along the Moss Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest.


Very pretty mushrooms.


Pick Up Sticks in the rain forest…?


Temperate rain forest is green.


On 101 Ruby Beach is littered with driftwood as is the entire coast.


At low tide the Sea Anemones are exposed at Ruby Beach.


Sea Stacks on Ruby Beach at low tide.


Further down the coast towards Cape Disappointment.


On 101 between MM 162 and 163 there is a sign for Big Cedar Tree, so we went to look. They weren’t kidding.


A sea stack at North Head.


The Astoria Column, 164 open grate steps just about did Marti in. It’s not the climbing, it’s the opens stairs.  The artwork on the side portrays the history of Oregon.


The beach near Ft. Stevens south of the Columbia River bar.


The Captain’s quarters at Fort Clatsop.


The courtyard inside the fort.


In Astoria, there is a trolley line and this sign warns bicyclists who may have been drinking about the tracks.

Mount St. Helens


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Heading towards Mount Saint Helens from Ellensburg we drove south on State Rt. 821 which follows along beside the Yakima River through huge grass covered basalt mountains.  It was a Saturday and even though it was cloudy and just barely warm the river was full of folks individually, or tied together in groups, tube floating down this lovely wide river.  It’s a delightful drive and we highly recommend it over the parallel route of Interstate 82 and the rafting part looks like great fun.


A small stretch of the Yakima River without tubers.


As we left the Yakima River Canyon we found this orchard of espaliered apple trees. This is something you usually see in formal gardens. Why they were espaliered we don’t know but they sure were pretty. 

From there we took the beautiful US Hwy 12 to get to St. Rt. 505 then St. Rt. 504 (Spirit Lake Hwy) up to Johnston Ridge Observatory 5 ½ miles from the blast site of Mount St. Helens.  This drive affords spectacular views of the forest destruction, lahar mudflows, ash fields, surrounding landscape and of course, the still active but quiet volcano herself.


Mount Saint Helens


This is one of the lahars from the eruption.  A lahar is a type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material and water.  The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley. In this case the North Fork of the Toutle River valley covering 25 square miles.    A video is here.  

The observatory is named for David A. Johnston the USGS volcanologist who was killed while manning an observation point 6 miles from the volcano near this spot. The display of photographs, and timeline of the eruption on May 18, 1980 is very interesting, and the section with the stories of survivors and what they saw and went through is fascinating and incredibly sobering.


Johnston Ridge Observatory.  Flying rocks, over three feet in diameter, moving at 300 MPH ripped this tree apart. 

There are ranger’s talks held about every 20 minutes and we decided to listen to one. Like many of you dear readers, back in that spring of 1980 we had followed the news articles detailing the destruction, the many lives lost and the effects of the aftermath, but we had no idea really until we listened to Ranger Todd (who’s been here 30 years) tell about the eruption.  With encyclopedic knowledge (and humor) he explained the astonishing speed and power of the explosion and destruction accompanied by first hand photos and accounts.  Quite literally jaw dropping!!  Ed and I both agree he is one of the most fascinating, informative and delightful people experiences we’ve had on this adventure!  Absolutely put a visit to Mount St. Helens and the Johnston Ridge Observatory on your MVL (Must Visit List)!!


Our first view of Mt. Rainier from the Yakima River Valley.  Shortly after this it was obscured by clouds never to be seen by us again.


A typical view along HWY 12.


Before May 18th, 1980…


and now.  This is from the Johnston Ridge Observatory.


The soft ash is easily eroded by snowmelt and rain.  You can see some vegetation is coming back.


We walked out along a path that ran along a very, very steep and soft hillside.  This tree is one of the remaining examples of how violent the explosion was at this distance from the volcano.


A pretty detail along the above path where we stopped to chat with an older couple who were sitting to enjoy the view.  They come here often to see the rebirth and remember because they lived through the eruption.  The gentleman told us that on the night of THE day he got up to check on things and  also to drive down to check on their neighbors. Down the road the mud flow was high enough to come to his floorboard so he turned around and went back home.  He said  “I got her up (pointing to the lady) and said wake the boys and get the 3 dump trucks and go! ”  At that point the pickup would not start again so they left it and fled in the dump trunks!!!   


A view of snow covered Mt. Adams on the left, 25 miles away where a hiking party on the summit witnessed the eruption.  They heard no noise whatsoever because they were in the so called “quiet zone” due to the complex response of the eruption’s sound waves to differences in temperature and air motion of the atmospheric layers.  Others heard the boom as far away as British Columbia, Montana, Idaho and northern California.  Prevailing winds blew the ash cloud towards them and static electricity from the dust particles charged every metal thing they had with them causing it to hum including a 14 year old boys braces.  Then debris began falling on them and barely escaping with their lives they ran down the mountain.


The volcano is still active with live steam vents in the crater and some recent rumblings.  Winds kick up the ash creating a haze around the crater.


Harry Truman, who owned and operated the Spirit Lake Lodge refused to leave and is buried under more than 150 feet of debris.  He is one of 57 dead or missing.

Washington State ~ Orchards and Mountains


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After our Spokane goodbyes we headed north for the town of Republic via US Hwy 395 toward Kettle Falls Washington where we’d again pick up US 2.  This is where the Kettle River flows into the mighty Columbia which is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest.  Having lots of time we decided to investigate the Kettle for a while so stayed with 395N which follows the river all the way to Canada.  Not wanting to go that far we crossed the river at Orient onto Orient Cut Off then south on Pierre Lake Rd and back down to Lake Roosevelt created by the Columbia River’s Grand Coulee Dam 144 miles downstream!  It is a pretty drive on mostly good dirt roads.


Pierre Lake Road down to Lake Roosevelt

Heading west on US 2 over Sherman Pass we got into Republic in time for a late lunch at the Knotty Pine (very good bacon cheeseburger) and a visit at the Stonerose Interpretive Center and Eocene Fossil Site. Turns out right here in town there’s an extensive plant and insect fossil site dating from about 50 million years ago. For a small fee we’re all invited to come look for them, and even keep up to 3 finds!  We didn’t know about this interesting fact and consequently did not allow time to go digging….but I will if we ever get back this way🙂

The next morning we continued on State 20W through big hills/mountains covered with dry grass towards Tonasket where we started seeing orchards of apples, pears and cherries.  We cut back into the hills to look at the countryside and orchards.


Fruit orchards use reflective mylar to bounce sunlight back up to the bottom of the fruit to even out ripening.

On Pine Creek Road we drove past a place completely surrounded by high, screened fencing with cameras posted everywhere….HOLY COW IT’S DOPE!!… Yup, this is Washington State and it’s LEGAL cannabis!  Welcome to Empire Experience, marijuana growers! And yes, it certainly is a bit of a shock to folks who grow up in the 60’s, but we couldn’t help laughing!!


Cannabis, Marijuana, Dope, Pot, Grass, Weed, 420, whatever.  It’s legal!

We spent the next few days at the nice enough Pine Near RV Park (a really easy walk into town) in Winthrop which is a touristy town, but cute enough and GOOD home-made ice cream….have you noticed a theme with me yet🙂

With Winthrop as home base, we drove out beautiful 20W, put this road on your MVL (Must Visit List), into the Okanogan National Forest.  This route takes you by the Washington Pass Overlook where a short walk goes out to a wonderful view of the mountains, and the road you’ve just ascended.


Looking down on HWY 20 from the Washington Pass overlook. 

Further west at the edge of Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Ross Lake National Recreation Area, where we turned around for the day, the view over Ross Lake looking into the North Cascade Mountains is just fabulous, and with more glaciers than at Glacier National Park!


Ross Lake looking north towards the Cascade Mountains

On the return trip we had to stopped for a short hike in the woods at Happy Creek Trail….I mean with a name like that🙂


A picture of Marti taking a picture of Happy Creek.

Continuing on our trip west we back tracked a bit and picked up St. Rt. 153S through the Methow Valley along the Methow River down to where it joins the Columbia and we picked up 97S.  Lots more orchards and grapes growing, at least until we got on US 2 west and back into the mountains of the Wenatchee National Forest. From Coles Corner we wandered up 207N to pretty Lake Wenatchee where we drove out lovely NF65 (National Forest road) which while paved allowed for no errors.


Along NF 65 in a wide spot.

Back tracking again, we camped at Icicle River RV just outside of Leavenworth, which is a tourist town I salute.  Seems back in the early 1960’s this struggling logging town decided to do something to save itself and formed a committee, Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone).  Looking at their lovely alpine mountain location and taking a cue from a California town which had “gone Danish” they became Bavarian!  New fronts went onto buildings, Bavarian artwork, food, festivals and crafts were produced and promoted and they are now doing just fine thank you!  Pretty clever I think🙂

The next morning we drove on out US 2W, by the way also put this road on your MVL, to visit Deception Falls and walk the loop trail.  Not only is it really beautiful, but the parts of the trail that had steps were designed by someone who actually placed them at the correct height and stride, very rare!


Along the loop trail at Deception Falls.

After this we drove almost to the town of Index where we stopped to hike the Bridal Veil Falls trail.  Turns out it was a good bit further and up than we thought so although we never quite made the falls we had a gorgeous walk in the woods!


We are amazed at the ferns.

We took a couple of days to have a nice visit with Marguerite a newly discovered 3rd cousin of Ed’s, in Ellensburg and then headed out for our next blog posting… Mount St. Helens, Coming Soon!  🙂


Heading back into the hills where they grow the cannabis.


A spectacular view of the Cascades with nice green meadows.


Happy Creek Trail


Happy Creek


Washington Pass on our return trip in the afternoon.


An interesting intrusion of quartz?


Ferns in the late afternoon light along the Bridal Veil Falls Trail


A tree on a stump.  The loop trail along Deception Falls


Can you see the cat peering out from the stump?


Below Deception Falls on the loop trail


A log bridge over the creek below Deception Falls


The water of this creek at Deception Falls is nearly sterile of life due to a lack of nutrients.  The stream flows over granite which is high in silica, a mineral which does not easily dissolve in water and thus does not contain many nutrients.  Combined with low light this inhibits algae growth essential as the basis of life in the water. But it sure is clear.


The end of the day’s hike on Bridal Veil Falls Trail. 

Washington ~ Spokane and the Polouse


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With our arrival in Washington, Ed adds one more, #45 to his almost completed list of states visited.  We headed straight for Spokane (spoKAN) to visit with Moni (Monica) & Fred Spicker.  Moni and I became “blood sisters” back in junior high school but missed each other’s wedding because we got married on the same day. Although we have rarely seen each other since our early 20’s we still start right up where we last left off.  Fred was in recovery from an involved shoulder surgery and so Moni went into tour guide mode and showed us the surrounding sites.


Moni and Fred outside their cute Craftsman house beside Corbin Park, Spokane.

The geology of Eastern Washington is a fascinating result of almost unimaginable huge flows of lava followed much later by equally huge floods of water.  At the end of the last Ice Age in western Montana, a glacial ice dam that had blocked the Clark Fork River for thousands of years broke.  The estimated 500 cubic MILES of water that was Glacial Lake Missoula came roaring out of the mountains of Idaho scouring, reforming, redirecting and gouging the landscape around Spokane, the Columbia Basin and eventually into the Pacific.  Geologists estimate there were as many as 40 of these floods over about 2,000 plus years!

Our first day Moni took us to the Riverside State Park and the Bowl & Pitcher for a short walk around the lovely Spokane River.  Great basalt rock formations and cliffs make an interesting and unique landscape that invites climbing but closer inspections of potentially loose rock keep me on the trail.


The Bowl and Pitcher on the Spokane River in Riverside Park, Spokane.

Having worked up a bit of an appetite, we collected Fred and went to Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle for lunch.  Their specialty is milkshakes and we do recommend them…in fact that’s all I had for lunch🙂

The next day we went to Manito Park in the South Hill neighborhood of Spokane and had a nice walk around the various gardens and greenhouse.  The Rose Hill area of the gardens was especially nice.  Unlike so many rose gardens we’ve been to, here instead of a single plant of each they did large groupings and the effect of a mass of say Queen Elizabeth next to Mt. Hood was wonderful. The scent on the soft breeze was pretty darn nice too!


While Marti and I agree this is an exquisite photograph of a beautiful rose, she’s irritated that I did not take a picture of the overall garden, but she loves me anyway.

That evening we had a delicious dinner at Wild Sage where Ed and Fred enjoyed the attentions of possibly the most lovely and exotic Cleopatra-like waitress ever.

On day 3 Moni (being a dedicated Whack-A-Mole Wheels blog reader) loaded us and some good sandwiches up and headed out to show off the kind of landscape she was sure we’d love.  She was right!  The incredibly beautiful Palouse prairie with its layers of varying depths of loess (windblown silt) lying on top of Washington’s ever present volcanic basalt is like nothing we’ve ever seen.  It’s a unique landscape, there is nothing else like it in the world.


Amber waves of grain, the Palouse.

While vast amounts of wheat, barley and chick peas are grown here it is the Palouse that is the most important lentil growing region in the US. For miles and miles the undulating hills of crops are only broken up by spots of ground too steep to plow, often faced with exposed basalt.  These “eyebrows” add a delightful feature to this fabulous countryside.



Moni drove us to the top of the 3,612 foot tall Steptoe Butte sitting in isolation on the Palouse.  This quartzite protrusion of bedrock is 400 million years old, having withstood the much younger lava flows of the basalt layers under the surrounding layers of loess.  The view, well, put it on your MVL (Must Visit List).


View from the top of Steptoe Butte. It’s just magnificent.

On the southern end of the Palouse is the Snake River, where the farming stops because basically the soil ends.  Then about 4 miles upstream from the confluence with the Snake and the Palouse River we visited the beautiful Palouse Falls State Park and had our picture taken🙂


Don’t step back…

All in all, a perfect start to our Washington State adventures.  Thank you Moni & Fred!


Spokane, Washington, a really nice city.


Spokane River in Riverside State Park.  


Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden in Manito Park.


The formal Duncan Gardens in the same park.


In the greenhouse, I did not note the name of this really cool flower.


Steptoe Butte at 3,612 feet elevation it’s a good spot for radio towers but the view is still nice.


On the Palouse…


Piles and piles of grain, the harvest was underway.


Lentils from Steptoe Butte. It goes on forever.


Steptoe Battlefield where a fight with Indians occurred in 1858.


Our view from our picnic site on the Snake River.


and the Palouse Falls on the Palouse River just above the Snake.

Montana ~ The Mountains


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As we traveled west along US Highway 2 the Rocky Mountains that are Glacier National Park rise up from the flat plain with almost no fanfare, they just are THERE.  We camped at Glacier Meadow RV Park  which is not quite equal distance between two of the three primary entrances into the park. Saint Mary is the eastern end of the famous 50 mile long Going To The Sun Road and West Glacier is the western end of the road.


Driving up US 89 to St. Mary’s, the eastern entrance for Going To The Sun road.

Even though the weather was mostly cloudy and very hazy, our first day we headed east on 2 to Browning where we picked up US 89N to the St. Mary’s entrance.  This route is all on the Black Feet Indian Reservation and is open range country, so if you drive this be sure to watch out because there are lots of cattle and the calves especially can be unpredictable and would make one heck of a dent in your vehicle! In fact, our campground neighbors hit a steer on that road while we were there.  There is a shorter route from US 2 to US 89 via Rt. 49 but the vehicle size restriction is 21 feet and at 4 ½ feet over that we didn’t push our luck. That same size restriction is why at this entrance of Going To The Sun Rd. we could only drive in 6 miles.

After that we headed on up 89N to Rt. 3 and the Many Glaciers entrance where we were allowed to drive all the way in to the end at Lake Sherbourn and the old Many Glacier Lodge.  This was a lovely drive even though our weather was very hazy and gray and the crowds of people…wow! Oh, and we saw a bear!


Edge of Lake Sherbourne at Many Glaciers Lodge.

Next day (more sun but still hazy) we headed to West Glacier and up Going To The Sun Road for just over 16 miles where once again due to size restrictions we had to turn around at Avalanche Creek Campground.  The road runs beside the long and beautiful Lake McDonald, with pull outs for viewing both McDonald Falls and Sacred Dancing Cascade.


Lake McDonald looking up to the Avalanche Creek turnaround on the western side.

We took a walk back into the woods along McDonald Creek where my crazy husband decided to take a dip in this glacier fed stream!  The look on his face as he settled down….PRICELESS!!


Nuff said.

Truth is we had not planned on going to Glacier National Park but when in the neighborhood….SO…

Our tips for visiting Glacier National Park


This is not a place one can just drop by especially if your only vehicle is a motorhome.  There are campgrounds for RVs but they are filled fast or way in advance.  Many of the park campgrounds are first come, first serve and unfortunately we were there over a weekend when it seemed the whole country had come to Glacier.


Travel time needs to be considered.  It was over an hour drive from our campground just to get to the east entrance of Going To The Sun or 45 minutes to the west side.  The park service states the trip from end to end over its 50 miles will take 2 or more hours!  That is not including stopping and sightseeing etc.  ALSO remember you have to get back to where you’re sleeping that night!


The free park service shuttle works if you are looking for a ride to a trailhead to hike, or you just want to see a specific place in the park. They are NOT for just traversing all of Going To The Sun.  They are first come, first served so if one comes, it may not have room and they come roughly every 20 to 30 minutes.  From the park service web site:  To travel the entire length of the Going-To-The-Sun-Road from the Apgar Visitor Center (west side) to St. Mary Visitor Center (east side) and back, or vice versa, is approximately 7 hours.

We do not mean to dissuade anyone from going to Glacier National Park. The place is beautiful!  Even though between mediocre weather, heavy haze and not being able to actually get very far into the place, we are glad we went and we will be back!  Next time however we’ll plan ahead and get a room at the Many Glacier Lodge (I asked when we were there and they almost laughed at my hopes they had any vacancies) and we will book a tour with the Red Bus Tours.  Without a car this is the way to go and it clearly is worth going!


An approaching storm at our campground just down from Maria’s Pass, the continental divide.  William Clark (of Lewis and Clark) named the pass for his sister.

After our couple of days at GNP we continued on to poke around Columbia Falls, Kalispell and Whitefish. Whitefish is a cute touristy town, and Columbia Falls has Perfect Cuts which we recommend for excellent local meat and jerky.  Kalispell is a nice enough town with a great used book store and I finally found a pair of cowgirl boots that fit!!


Main Street Whitefish, Montana.

We drove up 93N to the cute town of Eureka and had a very good lunch at Café Jax  where they offer old fashion milkshakes….yes and YUM🙂

We continued on US2 which we highly recommend as an excellent route west. We stopped at the Kootenai River Falls where we walked the trail back to these wonderful stepped falls and then over a swing bridge lower down the river.


At Kootenai Falls, Ed is standing very near the edge. A big deal for him.

Further west on 2 we took a cut up NF 508 (National Forest road) which runs along the Yaak River.  A beautiful drive which offers a stop at the Yaak Falls which roar down huge slabs of flat sedimentary rock turned up on their sides and/or laid down in stair steps.


Yaak River Falls are not a sliding falls place. The landing would hurt.

If you make it to the itty bitty town of Yaak have lunch at the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile.  The bar alone is worth the visit. Maybe 40 feet long, 2 feet wide and 4 inches thick it’s a single white pine slab!  The owner is a delightful lady and just “nice folks” and the pizza was good.

All in all this last third of Montana is truly amazing!  We have never seen such crystal clear water all of which is flowing at amazing rates (I know it’s all coming down BIG mountains) and it’s everywhere.  Big rivers, little creeks and all incredibly picture postcard perfect.  In fact, put this entire area on your MVL (Must Visit List)!


The water in all these streams and rivers is crystal clear, even at great depths you can see the bottom and fish.


Looking East from near the Many Glaciers Lodge… where


we saw the bear.  An appropriate distance away.


Hiking in the woods beside McDonald Creek and watching for bears. Ed’s plan was to let Marti go first.🙂


McDonald Creek. 


Marti suns on the rocks at McDonald Creek.


The path back along McDonald Creek.  Big rocks and tall trees.


and a lovely bunch of Indian Pipe.


The Continental Divide at Maria’s Pass elevation 5213 feet.  


A lovely mountain meadow at Maria’s Pass.


Loosestrife in Glacier National Park


Yaak River Falls.


The swing bridge below Kootenai River Falls and yes, it was wobbly.


Looking upriver from the swing bridge on the Kootenai River.


Ed wandered up a logging road where he executed one of his famous 14 point turns to go back down.


And Goodbye to you from Montana!

Montana ~ At Least the First Two Thirds


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Montana, Big Sky Country. It was a bit of a surprise, though I have to say, out in this part of the world Big Sky Country fits several states.  We had visited Little Big Horn during our Dakotas trip in 2006, put it on your MVL  (Must Visit List), and thought we knew what the eastern part of the state looked liked.  We were not only wrong, the further we drove the more surprised we were, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Continuing on US Hwy 2 which runs through the top quarter of the state the gas & oil drilling stopped as did most of the crop fields and the landscape became more hilly and drier (this too will change).  Just east of the small town of Wolf Point we dropped south on Rt 13 and pretty quickly took Hwy 528.  Highway here is just a name not a fact.  Running south of the Missouri River this little road turns to gravel almost at once, but good and firm.  Abutting the base of lovely dry grass hills on one side and cropped flood plain on the other and a few open range cattle, for you city folk, that means they’re not fenced into a field but can wander where they please🙂    Eventually the road turns into the hills and if there had been any rain in the last few days we’d have been done as the gravel stopped.  This area is all gorgeous open range and there were lots of good looking beef cattle.


Beef! It’s what’s for dinner!

Hwy 528 ends at paved Rt 24 where we headed north to our campsite, Downstream COE (Corps of Engineers) Project at Fort Peck Dam.  This astonishing engineering feat was part of Roosevelt’s New Deal Work Projects.  More than 40,000 people came to the area creating 18 boomtowns.  In 1936 there was a work force of 10,564 workers directly linked to the dam project!  The Fort Peck Dam, the largest hydraulically-filled dam in the world is 50 feet wide at the crest and 3,500 feet at the base and is 21,026 feet long!


From these four towers of the spillway, the curve into the distance is the dam that runs almost four miles long.

There is a very good museum here which tells the story of the dam project details, boom towns, and one massive earth slide disaster during the construction. This being Montana, home of some major dinosaur fossil finds, there is also an excellent dino section at the museum.  I would say if you are out here, do put this on your MVL.

Our next day’s drive included another detour off US Hwy 2 onto O’Brian Rd….road is being polite!  Nobody without 4 wheel drive is going down this if there’s been any rain recently!  Rutted and rough dried mud it had a delightful photo opportunity of an old falling down homestead.  Always a beacon to us🙂  20160804-_EKP8415-Pano

We had, and recommend, the daily special lunch at the West Side Restaurant in Malta; homemade tomato soup, chopped steak sandwich, coffee, $20 with tip!!

In Havre, where we stayed for the night, we got the guided tour at Wahkpa Chu’gn (walk-pa-chew-gun)  Buffalo Jump.  Overlooking the Milk River this prehistoric Indian buffalo jump was discovered in 1961 by 14 year old John Brumley.


The buffalo jump cliff is on the upper right and today is somewhat filled in from what it was when in use. Each of the red buildings houses archeological dig sites.

Three different Indian groups used this site at various times in its 2000 year history to drive buffalo over the cliffs, a much safer way to provide dinner, clothing, tools and survival in an often harsh land!  This is the second buffalo jump Ed & I have seen, this is however the only one in the country that is displayed as an “open” archaeological site. Because of this, you can see all the layers as they appeared as they were unearthed.  It is very interesting.


Note the upper concentration of bones and then mostly dirt and below another concentration of bones showing the passage of centuries.

The next day was one of those times when all I seemed to be able to say was,  “I just can’t get over this, it goes on and on and on forever!”  20160805-_EKP8422-PanoField crops were back in acreages that make Iowa look almost second rate.  Farmhouses were further apart as were roads.  It is pretty with the different crop colors and planting patterns but over all there is a much more lonely feeling brought on by the overwhelming vastness to this landscape.  We kept asking each other how did this land, when only endless grass and Indians, affected the pioneers.  Can we even begin to imagine, as we zip across this land in our fully equipped motorhome, the courage, determination and surely fear these men and women in their wagons and on foot must have felt?  I suppose some might find this landscape boring, but we find it truly humbling… and a reminder of what a great country this is and why we are on this adventure.


Crops and sky.  Those tiny bumps on the left are the Sweet Grass Hills a sacred place for the tribes of the plains.


Along “Highway” 528 into the hills.


On THE intersection of Highway 528 and a very long “lane” is this sign posting which direction and how far the local ranches are.  Our favorite name is Ortie Twitchell 8.1 miles west.


This, boys and girls is mustard ready for harvest.  Can’t say if it’s Grey Poupon or Frenches… but it has a bite to it, yes, we tasted it to confirm it was mustard.


In the Fort Peck Dam Museum display about the horrible earth slide.  Eight men died.  Six were never found and are interred somewhere in the dam.


A derelict windmill.


O’Brien Road off of US Highway 2


Old farmhouse off O’Brien Road.  Note that something big knocked it off its foundations.


The oldest layer of bone debris at Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump.


Ed trying his hand at throwing a dart with an atlatl throwing stick.  This is going to take practice before dinner makes it back to the teepee.


Approaching the old farmhouse along O’Brien Road.


The harvest is on and they do grow a little wheat out here.


And the prairie comes to an abrupt end at the Rocky Mountains in the distance where Glacier National Park begins our last third of Montana.

North Dakota ~ Crops, Oil & Gas


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Ten years ago in 2006, Ed and I took our “two Dakotas trip” and enjoyed ourselves very much.  That time out we were mostly in the middle and southern part of North Dakota. Side Note: this is where one of his most popular photographs, “Trotters Church” is from. 


Trotters Church, North Dakota

This time we drove a northern route pretty close to straight across coming from the east on State Rt. 66 and dropping down to US Hwy 2 at Rugby for most of the remainder.

From Wikipedia –
“A large portion of the western segment of US 2, and a shorter piece of the eastern segment, follows the old Theodore Roosevelt International Highway. This auto trail, named in honor of the late former president and naturalist Theodore Roosevelt, was organized in February 1919 to connect Portland, Maine with Portland, Oregon.”

Along this way there are endless miles of crops; several kinds of grain, sugar beets, corn, canola and some sunflowers although not as much of them as we saw before farther south in North Dakota.   As in Iowa the country is generally flat but the farmsteads are farther apart and many of the towns are really only a few houses and maybe a grain elevator, perhaps a church. Not too much going on.


Canola fields. North Dakota is the #1 producer in the country.

The land varies with sections sometimes offering softly rising hills and then back to total flat, we started seeing Prairie Potholes, glacial ponds mostly small at first then larger ones as we went west.  These water sources are everywhere and make this land vital to migratory birds.  Even so, what remains is only half of what once was and there is a real effort to save the ones not filled in over the years by agriculture.


A large prairie pothole.  The farmers plant around these vital waterfowl habitats.

We spent two nights at the Dale & Martha Hawk Museum and RV Campground outside of Wolford.  While we do not recommend this as a campground (it’ll do but don’t expect much and bring your BUG SPRAY) we do recommend coming to see the museum, five bucks a head will get you in.  In fact, if you have any interest in old machinery and farm equipment not to mention STUFF and more stuff, put it on your MVL (Must Visit List)!  We wandered around and around just flabbergasted by the amount of restoration work and attention to detail.  We were flabbergasted by the unbelievable numbers of antique tractors, harvesters, cream separators, cars, blow torches, drill presses, hand tools of every kind, fire trucks, machine belts, typewriters, carriages, old washing machines, on and on and on, building after building, and that doesn’t touch the doll collection, the clock collection, the old church, the old one room school….it’s just flabbergasting!  It’s also FUN!


For those of us who have spent time riding a tractor, notice the radiator and fan are turned sideways to blow the hot air out the side instead of back across the operator.

As we headed down US Hwy 2 we noticed a lone church about a quarter mile up a dirt road in the middle of nowhere (there’s a lot of that out here). It was so lovely in a classic picture book church way we had to go see.  Although aesthetically more refined then Trotter’s Church it has the same sense of simple, honest faith and beauty.


The Tunbridge Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church built in 1915 by Norwegian settlers, services have not been held here since 1988.

We saw more and more oil and gas derrick pumps and fewer crops as we got further west.  Many of the vehicles on the road were related to this industry.  To the credit of the drilling companies, most of the pumps, rigs and buildings are painted to blend into the surrounding landscape but the gas burn off flares mark the location of many.  It’s not the booming gas and oil market it was but there are still lots of jobs to be had.


Up and down, pump, pump, pump.

We spent our last Dakota night at the Lewis & Clark State Park in Epping and recommend this spot to both RV’ers and tent campers alike. The drive to the park down scenic County Road 1804 slides into the N.D. Badlands and is especially pretty after the flat country before.  The park on Lake Sakakawea, a reservoir formed from the dammed Missouri River, has a lovely campground and we had no visible neighbors.  We had a short walk and met our friendly camp hosts Curt and Sheila, one of the plusses of our travels.  It was a nice goodbye to North Dakota.


The beginning of the North Dakota Badlands along our walk at the Lewis and Clark State Park.


Sunflowers, you just cannot help but smile…🙂


At Rugby, N.D. it’s the geographical center of North America.  You know, Mexico, USA and Canada.  This might give you an idea of how large Canada is if the middle of the continent is all of Mexico and way more than most of the USA.


and literally in the middle of nowhere, near the middle of North America is the lovely old Tunbridge Church.


The sign on the door invites you to enter but please be respectful.


Still sitting to the left of the alter is an almost in tune piano.  In the dust on the piano bench and the pews behind it,  it is obvious people have sat. Ed asked me to play Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”.  I tried but it’s been too many years and my fingers forget how.


North Dakota is #1 in the country in honey production and we saw hives everywhere.


This is the only operational Hackney Auto-plow in the country. Many of the machines here are still operational.


This 1929 Model A Roadster with mail carrier’s attachment was originally used by Wallace Froelich a mail carrier in the Crary, ND area. This is what’s known as American Ingenuity.


1923 (possibly) Horse drawn hearse converted to a Model T pickup was once used as a chicken house by May Bristol. More American Ingenuity.


Some of the 1350 blow torches in the collection all donated by the same man.


A thing of beauty, while not the surrey with the fringe on top it was nice to have the shade.


A wooden thresher.  In its day, it was what the modern combine is now but stationary with the wheat brought to it by human harvesters.


A one room schoolhouse that had all 12 grades.


A tall case clock decorated with ball point pens that is a must for the serious collector.


A North Dakota landscape of grain.


Okay, so not all the pumps are painted camouflage but note the gas flare and the one in the distance.


A greener form of energy, windmills are more and more prevalent across this breezy country.


Marti is cooling her heels in Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River.

Minnesota – Land of Clear, Blue Water


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We are extremely happy to say that after 3 weeks in lovely Iowa we finally got a working refrigerator (YIPPEEE!!) While we were waiting for said fridge we did some more looking around and visited both the highest point and second highest point in the state.  The highest point in a place that is basically flat (there are some areas with hills, see last post) is a bit amusing.  Getting to the observation tower at Pilot Knob the second highest spot actually requires a short walk up a hill and from the tower the countryside has contours and character.


View from the tower at Pilot Knob, Iowa

The highest place in the state is Hawkeye Point  and I swear if they cut the grass too close it would lose that designation🙂 , but they’ve done a nice job of marking the spot.


and Hawkeye Point, the highest point in Iowa… just.

While hanging around waiting for the fridge we also popped down to the Matchstick Marvels Museum in Gladbrook to see Pat Acton’s amazing sculptures made entirely out of wooden matchsticks.  Ripley’s Believe It or Not has commissioned and purchased many of his HUGE pieces but there is also an impressive collection in Gladbrook.  I can not begin to imagine the patience this must take….not to mention the hours.  Stop by if you’re even close to the neighborhood, or a Ripley’s.


478,000 matchsticks…

One other note about Iowa, A&W root beer milkshakes, (at least at the Forest City restaurant) are worth the trip…. YUMMMMM!!

Next up, Minnesota…land of 10,000 lakes….HA!….there are 11,842 lakes exceeding 10 acres in size and literally thousands of smaller size, and that doesn’t touch the rivers, and streams.  Water, water everywhere and yes, you betcha! mosquitoes but we had fun anyway!

Heading north on I-35 we swung west of Minneapolis and continued north on St. Hwy 169 to Onamia and Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.  The landscape started changing pretty quickly to hills, curves, fewer and fewer crops and more trees.  The park was very pretty, private and almost empty and we would have walked around but in hooking up our electric we were so nibbled on we decided not to venture out, plus we had a thunderstorm shortly after arriving. I nearly spilled my drink with one close by strike.

Next morning we went to the Mille Lacs Indian Museum.  This area is the home of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The museum briefly tells some of the story of their history and craft, but mostly more recent history.  The Four Seasons Room is however the stand-out reason for making this worth the visit.  Admitted only with a guide, this large room is a circular diorama depicting the four seasons of the year flowing seamlessly from early spring into summer, fall and then winter. It shows how the traditional Mille Lacs lived. On a slightly raised platform backed by a beautiful floor to ceiling painting of the actual surrounding landscape the very detailed scene of wigwams, work utensils, toys, clothing, everyday necessities and tools are exactly and wonderfully, naturally displayed.  The life size mannequin’s faces are of the Ojibwe people who helped build and equip the diorama. It is perfectly done and absolutely delightful, in fact if you’re ever in Minnesota go ahead and put it on your MVL (Must Visit List)!  Oh, and we were there when they opened so we had the place to ourselves!


Summer season.

After doing the museum we headed up into serious lake/water country via Brainerd (lunch at Last Turn Saloon ~ beautiful bar, really good wild rice/chicken soup) to Itasca State Park and the headwaters of the Mississippi River….yes THE Mississippi !  Side Note: I am phonetically deaf and CANNOT spell but I have always loved spelling that name, it’s practically a song 🙂   It flows out of Lake Itasca as a lovely, shallow little stream. The mighty Mississippi isn’t the “Big Muddy” here.  Interestingly as I was mapping our route and looking for where the river flowed from the park I couldn’t find it until I discovered my mistake.  We are so geared to thinking it’s a southern river that it took me a while to see it actually flows north at the beginning!  This also should be on your MVL.


Spilling past the rocks, the Mississippi heads for New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.

As part of our Field of Dreams highlights we headed to Chisholm, Minnesota home of Archie “Moonlight” Graham, who by the way was a real person (“bet you didn’t know that”) to see if there was any remembrance of him or the movie…basically nope!  This part of the state is called the Range after the Mesabi Range which is the chief iron ore mining resource in the country.  The trees hid a lot of it but there were piles and piles of red rock tailings.


This is an iron ore pit mine that has been flooded.

We went to International Falls because, well because it’s International Falls and the Icebox of the Nation. We stopped in at Sandy’s Place and had lunch.  Tiny, packed with locals, we had the Friday special meatball dinner.  Sandy said she makes 30 pounds of meatballs (the size of tennis balls) and sells out.  The special (and most everything else) comes in small, medium and large and they ain’t kidding about large!  Oh…and strawberry cream (Ed) or banana cream (me) pies…yum!  GO, it’s FUN and pretty darn good🙂


Ok, so maybe not tennis balls but still good and leftovers for dinner too… $8.50

In looking at the map I noticed a narrow tip going off at the top of Minnesota that I don’t recall ever having noticed before.  Northwest Angle MapCalled the Northwest Angle, it is the northernmost point in the lower 48 and there’s only two ways to get there….by boat or via Canada!  Well, of course we had to go and we only have the RV and I don’t do boats so off to Manitoba we went!


Oh Canada!

Don’t tell Donald Trump but not only is there no wall, you drive out of Canada into the USA for 8 miles before you PHONE in the fact that you’re in the country!! Helloooo!   We kid you not!! WHAT FUN!!


Really… this sign is at the border.

While clearly the best way to see this state is with a boat, and indeed judging from the cars and trucks on the roads everyone except us had one, we have enjoyed our visit very much. Plus one of the benefits of all this water is the sky which by early/mid morning begins to transform and by the mid-afternoon was just gorgous with huge puffy white cotton balls of magnificent clouds.  Very nice!  Maybe some day we’ll even try winter up here…..well maybe not!  -30*


Pick up the receiver, push the button for whichever direction you are heading, and talk to the agent who answers the call.  The American asked us the purpose of our visit, Ed said just visiting.  He said visiting who, Ed said no one, just visiting the Angle.  He said oh, bucketlisting?  Ed said yeah, bucketlisting.  


Beautiful Minnesota.


Winter scene at the Four Seasons Room diorama.


Both sides of the road in Warroad, MN are lined with these lovely petunias.


One Mississippi…  Lake Itasca flows over these rocks to become the Mississippi.


Two Mississippi…  Spitting in the river…  Look out New Orleans! (and our friend Michael Verderosa)


Three Mississippi… 


At Hawkeye Point the national Highpoint Club has made a display of license plates from each state.


Notre Dame Cathedral – 298,000 matchsticks.


Cutty Sark Clipper Ship – 38,000 matchsticks, even the sails. 


Last Turn Saloon back bar built of solid oak in 1871.


Rainy River.  Ontario, Canada on the left, USA on the right.


A local denizen of the upper Mississippi.


Marti is getting pretty good at this.  Rainy River with Canada on the right.


Whack-A-Mole Wheels at the tippy top of the lower 48!


Ed would kill to drive one of these in the snow.




“Is this Heaven?” “It’s Iowa!”


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With sincere apologies for our long absence Ed and I send greetings with great appreciation to all of you wonderful blog readers.  Thank you for sticking with us!

After the funerals for my brother and then Ed’s aunt, we ended up staying home in Maryland for some extra fun and games!  Thank you Carolyn Mackintosh and the Maryland Horse Trials for putting up with us again.  We did spend a week traveling to Upstate New York for a rally of 69 View/Navion owners (our type of RV) from around the eastern half of the country. We are part of a Facebook group and many of us have become “good friends” there so it was super to meet up and put faces to the names.  We had very interesting weather. Cold, sunny and blustery one day, cold, rainy and blustery the next, but it was a great week and lots of fun.

Ed has Dupuytren’s contracture in his hands and after many years it had finally bent his fingers so badly the doctor said surgery now! Since it was both hands, it meant two separate surgeries so…..we were home an extra month and a half.  Life’s an adventure!  Pictures at the very end of this post for those curious!

Because our life is an adventure, the first place we had to go was Forest City, Iowa!  Our RV fridge has been giving us fits for about ¾’s of a year now and finally simply just was not working.  According to many, many reviews, and our personal phone exchanges, the best RV repair place is Lichtsinn RV and since it’s sorta on the way to the Pacific Northwest where we want to go… we are!


Lichtsinn provides free camping spots with electric to customers and we have stayed here multiple nights.

IOWA!  Who knew?  It is beautiful, at least the northeast quarter we’ve been in!  Yes admittedly it’s mostly corn and soybeans but we love farm country and this is some of the prettiest we’ve ever seen.  Contrary to what we expected, it is not all flat, in fact a great deal of it is big rolling hills.  Often the roads seem to be on top of the world and we can see beautiful country side for miles and miles.  Perhaps the most impressive thing is how amazingly clean and orderly everything is.  The farms big and small, mostly big, are organized, yards full of flowers, grass cut, barnyards and surrounds clearly heavily used but not in disarray or knee deep in muck and junk.  20160705-_EKP7251-PanoEvery town, big and small is neat and trim.  Even in the yards of clearly less prosperous homes the grass is cut, there’s no “stuff” lying about and there are often flower beds or pots.  The paint might be peeling, but there is no question of their pride and belief in good honest living and hard work. There’s not even trash along the roads, just masses of wild flowers!


Although not all in this picture, Queen Anne’s Lace, Thistle, more Bread and Butter flower than we have ever seen, Black-eyed Susans, Cow Parsnip, Chicory and even more line the roadside.

We spent the 4th of July overlooking the lake at the COE (Corps of Engineers) Dam Complex campground at Coralville Lake, IA where the celebratory boating was in full swing.


By sunset, most of the boats had gone home.

In our particular spot there was also a massive Mayfly mating and molting swarm going on.  Eventually, the rain washed them off the side of the rig.  We didn’t see any fireworks that evening but we did have maybe the best hot dogs ever for lunch! If you’re ever in Galesburg, Illinois stop in at the oldest restaurant in town, Coney Island and have their signature Coney Island hot dog.  You won’t be disappointed and the decor is great too!

Being big movie fans we made a side trip to the set of one of our favorites, “Field of Dreams”.  In Dyersville, IA the farm house (not open, folks still live there), baseball field and corn crop are open to the public free of charge.  I don’t know if it’s the influence of the movie or just the story’s premise, but the place is kind of magical.  If you’re a baseball fan (Ed is especially) you have to stop here (and he got a T-shirt).


“If you build it, he will come.” – Field of Dreams

We stopped in Waverly at the East Bremer Diner where I had a Midwest favorite called a Cheese Frenchee for lunch.  Basically a grilled cheese sandwich made with mayo, dipped in egg batter, crumbs and deep fat fried!!!  Pretty good heart attack on a plate🙂

From there we headed up St. Rt. 218 to Nashua and The Little Brown Church in the Vale.  In 1857 a young music teacher, William Pitts, was traveling by stage coach to visit his future wife.  At a stop to change horses in the Bradford area while walking down Cedar Street he noticed an empty lot and thought how lovely a spot it was for a church.  Upon returning home he wrote the poem “Church in the Wildwood”, later setting it to music and putting it in a drawer, forgot about it.  Meanwhile back in the town people wanted a real church, which they didn’t have.  Someone donated land, and finally in 1860 limestone was quarried and a foundation was laid. The Civil War slowed things but someone donated timber and others the sawing into lumber and the work continued.  When it came time to protect it from the elements the cheapest paint available was Ohio Mineral Paint which unhappily was brown.   In 1862 Mr. Pitts and his wife moved to the area to be near her parents and he was hired to teach singing at the Bradford Academy.  To Mr. Pitts’ great surprise he discovered a little brown church just where he had envisioned it!   He dug out his song, taught it to his choir who sung to the equally surprised congregation at the church dedication!


This is a VERY popular place for weddings.

In the town of Decorah, where we stayed at the nice Pulpit Rock Campgound, we visited the Vesterheim (western home) Norwegian-American Museum.  This area was where many Norwegians settled and this extensive museum documents their culture.  Their love of decoration and color in clothing, furniture, household items, and even wall paint is I believe an effort to ward off the cold and depressing bleakness of the Norwegian winter. Fun and worth a visit, although I will admit to a bit of an overload by the end.


The good “plainer” pioneer Anglo Saxon farm people found these Norwegians and their colorful and decorative homes disturbing.

Just a bit outside of Decorah is the little town of Spillville and The Bily Clocks Museum and Antonin Dvorak Exhibit.  This absolutely needs to be on your MVL (Must Visit List)!   The brothers Frank and Joseph Bily (BEE-lee) made clocks in ALL their spare time!  Many huge and intricately carved, most with moving figures and incredibly complex filigree, they never sold any.  In fact they turned down Henry Ford’s offer of a million dollars for their 8 foot tall, 500 plus pound “American Pioneer History Clock”!  Truly delightful and amazing!


Just a sampling of the many clocks the Bily brothers made during their lifetime. There is a lot more story at the museum about the family and the clocks.  Go there.

Oh, and the composer Antonin Dvorak lived upstairs one summer in the building that houses the clocks.  Seems he was very home sick and a friend told him about a lovely spot in Iowa where the towns folk spoke Czech as their native language!

Located on the border with Wisconsin, Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves more than 200 burial mounds built by Native Americans. Found in many states across the Midwest these mounds still hold sacred meaning to the Indians of this part of the country. While there is some academic discussion going on as to how relativity recent some may be,  most agree the majority are prehistoric. We had a wonderful hike through the woods looking at them and wondering about the beliefs and meanings behind these complicated and work intensive mounds that can only truly be recognized as animal shapes from the air. Like the Blythe Intaglios we visited out west, one has to wonder who they believed would see them for what they are?


A long line of smaller mounds.

All in all….we might consider living in Iowa…..except we no longer grow corn or raise cattle.



“Ray, people will come Ray.  They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom.  They’ll turn up in your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.  They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.”


“Man, I did love this game.  I’d of played for food money.  It was the game…  The sounds, the smells.  Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?”     “Yeah.”


Iowa farmers are really good at contouring the planting to prevent soil erosion.  They plant grass or alfalfa in the space and harvest that for hay.


Erik Selland built this house from one pine tree in Big Canoe, Iowa in 1852-1853.  Using very wide hand planed logs from the one tree the house had one room and an upstairs loft.


Norwegian dress-up clothing is called Bunads.


Some of the wonderful clocks carved by the Bily brothers in Spillville, Iowa.


View of the Mississippi River looking south from Eagle Rock at Effigy Mounds National Monument. It’s the border with Wisconsin.


Some of the larger mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument.


One of the highlights of the Puckerbrush Days festival just this past weekend in Forest City, Iowa is a Mudball Volleyball Tourney.  Even though they fell in the knee-deep muck, missed shots and got mud in their eyes we never heard so much as a damn out of these kids.


and we watched fireworks that night from about 50 yards from the launch site.  Pretty exciting!

SCARY PICTURE of Ed’s hands…


Hello from Maryland!! 


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We have obviously covered a great deal of country since our visit to Death Valley.  However, before we knew we had to make this run home, we did get to boondock (camping with no water, electric, sewer hookups) in two places we couldn’t manage last year.  First in the beautiful Culp Valley high above Borrego Springs CA and then Joshua Tree National Park CA. We spent four terrific days at each location and had lots of delightful hikes and gorgeous starry nights.  We recommend both for your MVL (Must Visit List), but stay away on weekends and go preferably in February when both places can be pretty cold at night, but much less crowded.


Looking back into the Culp Valley campground.


The ruins of Ryan Ranch (on the left) near the Ryan campground in Joshua Tree National Park.

After Joshua Tree we slipped down to Desert Hot Springs for some laundry chores, our posting of the 2nd Death Valley installment, and a long soak in said hot springs🙂   It was during this time we received the news that my brother Bruce had passed away from complications of Parkinson’s Disease.   He and his wife Luanne lived in The Villages in Florida, but he was to be buried back home in Darnestown, Maryland and we had four weeks to make the trip home.

So over the course of 3 weeks we worked our way home stopping at a lot of places we have blogged about before; Prescott, Arizona,  Catalina State Park in the Oro Valley outside of Tucson as well as quirky little Bisbee in southeast Arizona. We did a short visit with our dear kids in Austin and Bastrop TX. Then stopped off in New Orleans where we got to watch the anything goes goings-on for St. Patrick’s Day (oh my, those tiny green stars were paint, not pasties!) and on home via Ed’s sister Susan’s in Tucker, GA.

During this drive back east we also received the sad news of the death of our best man (so many, many years ago) Bruce Will, a back home walking friend Leslie Schwartz, and Ed’s Aunt Lois!  An incredible reminder to do all those things you’ve always wanted to but don’t think you have time for, and most importantly, tell those you love “I LOVE YOU” at every opportunity!

We will be hanging around the mid Atlantic for about a month (we’ll do a post I’m sure) and then plan to head towards the Pacific Northwest, via what route we haven’t figured out yet, but you’ll be the first to know!🙂


20160229-A05_Bruce_DeppaWhen I was little of course I knew I had two brothers who were older than me, but what I could not seem to grasp was how to differentiate between the older and the even older, so, to me, Roy was my “little” brother and Bruce was my “big” brother….and OH what a big brother he was!

He could walk on his hands around the yard.

He could crack a bull whip and flip me in the air.

During his college years he’d bring his dates home for Sunday dinner.  It was a heck of a lot cheaper than restaurants and if they’d already met the folks on the first date, well, they sure couldn’t read anything into future visits!  He would always ask me, 10, 11 year old ME, what I thought of the girls he’d brought home!  AND, he REALLY listened to what I had to say!

When I was in high school and shall we say a little much for Mom & Dad to understand (and vice versa), I’d go to Bruce for someone I knew would listen to my frustrations, dreams, raging and mediocre poetry!

He would babysit our very precocious toddler Scott so Ed and I could have a little “us time”… and he must have set a land speed record getting to us when Scott was killed in Iraq.

Bruce always woke with a smile on his face, excited about the new day.

Bruce never met a stranger.

Bruce was kind, understanding, intelligent, interested in everything and everyone.

Bruce was my big brother.


Clearing storm early one morning at Culp Valley.


Looking down to Borrego Springs, California from above the Culp Valley.


Hiking in Culp Valley on a windy day.


The Cat Claw bush and Ed never did make friends… He has another name for it but this is a family blog.


A Joshua Tree at Joshua Tree.


Climbers scaling Headstone Rock at Ryan Ranch.  Joshua Tree is a very popular destination for climbing and bouldering.


The Joshua trees were just coming into bloom.


Joshua Tree Panorama.


Marti left me on a rock pile and went off to look at these rocks.


While she was away I photographed some of the local flora. It’s called Mickey Mouse Prickly Pear.


Jumbo Rocks hike.


Our neighbors, Kimberley and Emily were hiking the California Hiking and Riding Trail.


Jumbo rocks Campground in Joshua Tree.


Our new friend a Phainopepla, (FAY no PEP la).


Mistletoe, the mass of reddish brown on the left is the Phainopepla’s favorite food.  The literature says he will eat 1300 of those berries a day.  We’re not sure… and who counted all those berries anyway.


Evening light at the end of our hike at Jumbo Rocks.


More of those Shadow People.


On the way out of Joshua Tree National Park. What a great name.

#boondocking, #California, #Culp Valley, #Joshua Tree National Park, #Jumbo Rocks, #Phainopepla, #Ryan Ranch