Archive for Summer 2005 Vacation

Vacation Extension

We were having so much fun, and got home one day earlier than our plan. Also, we were going to use the van for a shopping trip to the Bay Area for furniture, so… we decided to take a side-trip to the coast. We drove to Santa Cruz to go to the Boardwalk and beach.

As we left, the heat had come to Sacramento. We were happy to leave for the cooler coast. In general, the hotter it is inland in Northern California, the foggier and cooler the coast becomes, as the hot inland air hits the cooler coastal air, blah, blah, blah. Santa Cruz was warm and windy, and the Bay Area was socked in with fog.

We started with a dip in the ocean. It was refreashing, and cool (water on the California Coast comes down from the Gulf of Alaska so it’s always lower than the air temperature). The boardwalk is literally right on the beach, so we walked over and started to take rides.

Everthing was going well at this point. Then, we decided to get some lunch and hit the beach again. Leroy was facinated with a nearby cliff where the San Lorenzo River went into the ocean. So he ran ahead and started to climb the cliff, etc. I was desperately trying to read a sign, which I had a feeling was not good. Sure enough, it said that the river was contaminated, the water was slow and warm so I had a feeling it was a breeding ground for god-knows-what. So, I told him we had to leave. Leroy is a master of non-cooperation and passive-aggression at moments like this. He dragged his feet following me, and we were seperated. Terry went back to look for him, but he was not by the lifeguard station where I last saw him. We looked all around, and finally, I thought he might have gone on past the cliff to a lighthouse tower. I decided to tell the lifeguard Leroy was missing before I headed out. Well, he already knew Leroy who had gotten lost trying to follow me and was at the next lifeguard station. They drove him over. He was a little shaken, so we went back to the hotel and used the swimming pool instead.

Later we went out for dinner. We went to a local diner, which was nice. We walked there and on the trip back, I had an accident. It was dark, and I was wearing flip-flops. I took a header and scraped up my knee. This was the second accident I had since returning to California. We we were packing for the trip to Santa Cruz, I had cracked my temple on the corner of the refrigerator. I was feeling pretty bruised at this point.

I don’t know what it is about Centerville, but I the dryness and altitude always sneak up on me. I had been scaling back on my fluid intake to avoid frequent bathroom breaks, big mistake. I ended up dehydrated and almost induced a migraine from my sinuses being as dry as the Mojave. I got up early, got some Excedrin (the one OTC I didn’t have on hand), Ocean nasal spray, a coffee drink, and started to chug water. Aiko (Terry’s niece) was very patient with my nasty mood. It’s very similar to having a bad hangover.

Soon it was time to leave Utah. We headed out east on Interstate 80. Take a look at the picture below. The white stuff is not snow, but salt left over from an ancient inland sea. The Great Salt Lake, and this huge stretch of salt is all that’s left of it.


The trip was going along fairly quickly, but at Battle Mountain (halfway between the Utah border and Winnemucca, our destination at the middle of the state), there was a huge grass fire. We got through before traffic was closed in the westbound direction (thank goodness), but the traffic heading east was stopped for miles. Not a great situation. We got into Winnemucca, but our favorite diner (the Griddle) was still closed (it was closed on our trip out). Here’s hoping it’s not permanent, because good food is hard to find there.

We got home in the early afternoon, and are now planning to extend our trip with an outing to Santa Cruz tomorrow. We’ve spent the day reorganizing the car, and restocking clothes and supplies. More pics when we get there!

I’ve added pictures to this post. – Alice 7/6/05

Our second and last day at Yellowstone. Today, we chose the road more traveled, and went to see Old Faithful. It wasn’t on our time schedule that day, so we missed it, but we checked out the cool (pun intended) surrounding hot geyser basin and that was nice. We got a tip from a ranger to get in early (before 9 a.m.) to beat the crowds. It took us until then to get down to Old Faithful from Gardiner, but even though there were people there, it wasn’t a mob. Leroy had a great time running through the basin, and finally worked out the difference between a geyser and a hot spring.

We left Yellowstone and heading south through Grand Teton National Park. The two parks are connected, and you only have to pay one fee to enter both. The Tetons were absolutely breath-taking. I was pretty tired from a bad-night’s sleep, so Terry and Leroy ran around and played on the shores of magnificent Lake Teton while I napped.

After Teton it was on south through the Centennial State, Wyoming. It was Sunday, so most of the small towns we went through were closed, and few cars on the road.. This changed drastically once we got to Jackson (Hole), the big tourist/ski/rafting destination for college students and good livers from acround the land. The streets and byways were packed. The traffic along the main drag was jammed. There were people everywhere. Jackson has a major case of western kitsch (witsch?). They have an arch of antlers over the park entrance, but it’s more than that (other towns have those). It’s also much more spic and span, with very up to date paint jobs, lots of cute art work, etc. Terry said it reminded him of a western version of Fisherman’s Wharf, built from top to bottom to separate you from your money. We drove straight through and left the spending to the tourists.

We hit the largest number of states today. We started in Montana, went south the entire length of Wyoming, went through a small southeastern tip of Idaho, and finished in northeastern Utah. We arrived at Bear Lake, straddling the Idaho/Utah border, after dinner. Bear Lake is the vacation home of Terry’s older brother, Oscar. His family has a weekend and vacation getaway cabin on a hill overlooking the lake. It was utterly relaxing. Leroy especially liked “camping out” in his personal tent on the deck.

The Fourth was cool and overcast. We went down to the lake, but the water was still cold. That didn’t keep Leroy out of the water. Because of their work schedules, Oscar and the kids had to leave that evening, so we went with him to Salt Lake (Centerville) and spent the night there.

I’ve uploaded images, see Yellowstone now! – Alice

Alright, another slow start out of Helena. It rained, really hard rain, off and on all day (mostly off). The trip was all rural highways. Terry correctly pointed out to me that we were not on INTERSTATES on the trip through Idaho to Montana, but U.S. Highways. The same was true for this trip. The trip rolled through the eastern side of the Rockies. Lots of cattle, lots of farms growing hay and what I think was wheat. I think I figured out what causes the “big sky” effect in Montana. Most of the valleys near the Rockies are carved out by glaciers and are shaped like shallow and wide pasta bowl. Also, Montana has dry air so the clouds float in a really high sky. The horizon is long, the sky is deep, so there appears to be a lot of sky.

We stopped at a local deli run by a wheat growing company called Wheat Montana. The sandwiches were delish. Leroy had a hissy-fit because he wanted a cherry drink, but waited until after we had waited in line and got our order to insist on it. Turns out it was cherry cola which he can’t have (would you give a kid sitting in a car for 4 hours a caffeinated drink?). I got him what they called a cherry Italian soda. Just a warning in Montana they make ‘em with milk (what you might call a crème or cream). He was great for the rest of the trip to Yellowstone.

So we arrived at Yellowstone. We came in the west entrance, and went to Artists Paintpots, which was okay (not colorful, but lots of interesting stuff). Leroy saw a great mud pot, and didn’t really want to leave, so he had a fit when we tried to get him to the car. All the time, we were trying to see what we could before a nasty looking thunderstorm hit.

Leroy was still not in a good mood when we arrived at Norris Geyser Basin. Adding to our frustration, we needed a bathroom break, and there was only a nasty pair of pit toilets and a big crowd there many in line for the toilets. So we asked Leroy if he wanted to go, and he just screamed for his lawyer, etc. Terry went to the bathroom, and when he got back, Leroy decided he had to go, and couldn’t wait. There are certain moments during a family trip when strangling becomes really tempting, and this was that moment for me. I took him in line and told him he had to wait and if he had a problem with that, he should have gone with his dad. Grrr!!

Once we started to go on the trail, he was totally into it, and happily pointing out all the sites. It sprinkled a little rain on and off, but the biggest problem was the wind which was almost gale-like. Here are some pics:

The best part of the day was yet to come. We went to look at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was BEYOOTIFUL. Even with showers and winds, we had a great time. Here are the pics. I highly recommend going there if you make it to Yellowstone. If we had more time, the canyon is small enough that you can do a circuit trail around the canyon easily in a day.

We then took the trip north to our hotel in Gardiner, MT. We stayed at a Super 8. This is a small town perched on the bluffs over the Gardiner River. How small? We bought buffalo burgers from a hometowner who lamented that he had to drive 80 miles just to get to a Walmart. They have the tourist months of summer to make their money, and the rest of the year to get by. It was an okay room, but in a basement under the stairwell, and definitely the lowest quality 100 dollar room we had on our stay. Still, folks were being turned away looking for a place for the night. I had booked our stay about a month or more in advance. If you ever go to Yellowstone and want to stay at a town right outside the park, you need to plan in advance, or plan to drive 50 miles away. Leroy liked the hotel because it had an indoor pool, and pointed out that it had a pool from the sign as we drove in.

Well, this was a sad and happy day. It was our last day in Glacier, so that was sad, but we had a great time. We are still getting a late start with the time change, the late sunlight, etc. so we didn’t get started until ~10 o’clock.

The day started with a trip on Going to the Sun. We passed Logan Pass this time, but stopped off there on our way to Saint Mary Lake. We saw a bunch of Mountain Goats (which we found out are not goats but related to New World antelope). I also got a picture of a badger there hiding under the walkway.

the mountain goat,

the badger,

a classic glacier valley vista,

and a classic piece of posterior coverage (click on the picture and read)

The classic vista above is the “bowl” shape carved out of the mountain face by the heavy scouring of ice as it moved down the mountain while subliming.

The classic butt cover is provided by a sign at a scenic overlook in the Logan Pass area. It refers to how glaciers have been shrinking/retreating/disappearing since the park opened. It assures us that this is part of the ebb and flow of geology and next time we visit, the glaciers may be smaller, or may be larger! Hmm, well you can’t rule out nuclear winter.

Okay, now we were on the east side going to Saint Mary Lake, which is large (not as big as Lake McDonald) and picturesque. The east side of the park is on the east side of the continental divide and is dryer and not as green as the west side. We took a nice short hike to Saint Mary Falls, which becomes the Saint Mary River, which flows into…Saint Mary Lake!

Leroy was nervous because he could read the bear postings (warnings that bears had been spotted in the area). We bought him a “bear bell” more as an anti-neurotic, but I was told by another camper, they were considered ineffective and were jokingly called, “dinner bells” because they let the bears know where to find food. On the whole I found the bear control (or human control to protect the bears) lower key than we’d experienced in Yosemite. At Glacier you are told to store food in your car, but that is not even allowed at Yosemite (you have to use bear lockers if you are staying overnight). They show you these scary films of mangled door frames that bears have pried to get into cars. Okay, here are the pics from Saint Mary land…

the road down to Saint Mary Falls

the Falls themselves

The pool below the falls. Does it look inviting? It’s only about 50 degrees!

I’m smiling, but really my feet are frozen.

Okay, after that, we were driving down to Helena, capital of Montana. The drive was long (4 hours) and I was suffering a stomach problems. Terry was nagging me about my “delicate” stomach (I’ll remember that next time he vomits – and I know he will sooner or later). I felt like crud, so I don’t have much to write about the trip. There were thunderstorms on and off during the trip. Oh, Browning really looked awful. Even Terry commented on how horrible it was. Like some documentary on rural Indian poverty, etc. There, that’s my travelogue for the trip to Helena.

We got into Helena and stayed at a hotel that is based in a new themed mall dedicated to the Great Northern Railroad. The town seems very imposing and conscious of its Victorian architectural heritage (although most of it looks like it’s been erected in the last 10 years). Hey, at least they have a look? We also noticed that all the convenience casinos (attached to minimart/gas stations) had been banished to East Helena (the more blue-collar neighbor next door. The hotel was very nice.

Needless to say, I have no pictures of the trip down, or of Helena. More with Saturday’s report which will be from…Yellowstone!

Wow! Our first full day, and it was busy. We overslept (between all the travel and the time zone change, that wasn’t a surprise). We drove up Going to the Sun Highway to Logan Pass (the highest point). They were doing lots of work on the road (all the stuff you can’t do, or that’s caused by the winter here). We had been told that the hike to Hidden Lake Overlook was manageable. Well, the trail was still under snow, and we only brought hiking gear for a hot summer, or cool/wet spring hike. Leroy was jazzed by the snow, and wanted to go for it. We let him play in the snow, then headed back down to the west side.

Logan is at alpine level, and has some magnificent meadows. Below are just a few of the many pictures we took. I managed to use up two sets of batteries today taking pictures.

Leroy and Terry on Going to the Sun Road between Lake McDonald and Logan Pass

Terry and Leroy in front of the Logan Pass Visitors’ Center

This shows it all; the mountains, the snow, melting into waterfalls, and the meadows of alpine wildflowers

The little ants climbing up the path are hikers on their way up to Hidden Lake Overlook

Okay, so Logan wasn’t much of a hike (although Leroy did get a lot of snowplay in). We then went down to Avalanche Creek and started the hike to Avalanche Lake. Leroy had to be led into this kicking and screaming, but once we were heading up the path he totally into it. It was a 2 mile hike up about 250 feet in elevation. He did it barefoot at his insistence. He was had to be carried on the way out because he skinned his ankle while he was wading in the lake.

It was a really beautiful hike. Since it was uphill, it took a lot going there, but the trip back was easier. People keep assuring us on the way up that it was worth it, and had big grins on their face. I got myself in a nice Zen state where it really didn’t matter how long it was taking. The workout of climbing a mile-plus uphill, the beautiful forest and creek on the way, the numerous deer we spotted more than compensated for any sore muscles. My favorite part was the clearing right before the lake. The fir canopy opened to a lakeside meadow full of beargrass and other greens. There was this wonderful green smell that was peppery and reminded me of mustard greens after they’ve turned “hot” (over-ripened). Below are pics from the trip up to Avalanche Lake.

The results at the end were SPECTACULAR! I will just let the photos speak for themselves. The only unusual thing about the lake was the shore felt “odd”, kinda rubbery. Since the lake has a large number of rotting trees in it, it looked like some of the trees were rotting to sawdust in the lakeshore, and I’m guessing they were forming a “glue” with the sawdust and water??? Here are the pics:

Okay, it was a short drive today (about 3+ hours) to get up to Glacier, the pinnacle (both in goal and latitude) of our trip. The drive up from Missoula was beautiful. The road north hugs Flathead Lake. We took a bathroom break and I took these two photos. The one with Leroy managed to catch him mid leap.

We arrived at Apgar which is the westernmost entrance to the park and at the end of Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park. We went on a boat tour after dinner. Leroy was just too excited after all the work to get up here, and was very contrary about leaving Apgar to go the dinner and the boat tour at McDonald Lodge. The second photo is him hiding his face, which he alternated with playacting really loud (Fartboy seemed to be a favorite). We’re hoping he’ll settle after a good night’s sleep.

Speaking of sleep, the sun doesn’t set until almost 10 p.m. here. It’s been really hard convincing Leroy to go to bed at a decent hour because he insists he isn’t supposed to sleep until the sky is dark.

I have a TON more of pictures, but it kinda reminds me of taking photos in Yosemite. You see how good they turn out, and you think you’re a photographic genius, then the thought occurs, “Hey you arrogant schmuck, it’s the place that’s perfect looking not your photography.” Really, it’s hard to take a bad photo at this place.

Well, it’s been a loooong driving day. We got a late start because we wanted to spend more time with Ossalina in the morning. We had a very nice breakfast with her spending time catching up on the news, etc.<./p>

We started out at 11 a.m. and began heading north. We were taking Interstates, but they were all two-lanes, and through some very rural areas. All of them were largely along the river canyons. The first leg of the trip out of Boise followed the Payette River (Highway 55).

Next, we followed the Little Salmon and the Salmon River (Highway 95).

This is from a rest stop.
It was raining a bit,
but we played a furious game
of chase with Leroy.

Highway 13 was the exception, it went through a farm valley. At the stop in Grangeville, Terry took this picture of a local coffee shop:

It sold lattes and uniquely designed dresses. Sounded very “blue state” to us.

Then it was the Clearwater River along Highway 12. We didn’t get any pictures of that, lol.

It rained on and off all day, but not as hard as the thunderstorms the day before. The scenery was beautiful.

Now we’re in Missoula, a change made when I discovered last night it would take 10 hours to get to Kalispell. Since it took us 9 hours to get to Missoula, it probably would have taken even longer.

The weather is definitely NOT summer-like. We ran into thunderstorms today on the way to Boise to stay with Terry’s sister, Ossalina and her husband Ron. It is definitely a backroads trip going between Winnemucca and Boise. The roads were pretty empty except for trucks.

We stopped at the Rockhouse in Jordan Valley, OR. It’s the last town in southeastern Oregon before the Idaho border, so there are services, and hotels for folks too tired to continue on to Boise. The Rockhouse is a really nice outpost of art-farty stuff. Caffeine drinks, local crafts, and a selection of books on the area (lots on Lewis and Clark) are available.

We had a quick lunch with Ossalina before she went to work. After a nap, I spent some time setting up this blog site. A HUGE thunderstorm came in. Very exciting, but we’ll see how exciting it is tomorrow when I’m driving up to Kalispell, MT in it. It was time for dinner. We went out to an old favorite, Rockies Diner with Ron. Rockies is very vintage 50s complete with waitresses on rollerskates.

Here are some pics from after the thunderstorm (Leroy took the picture of me):

Day One – Sunday June 26, 2005

The first day of our trip was pretty good. We got an early start (leaving at 7:00 a.m.) which was nice, because it meant we got to our first stop, Winnemucca, by noon. Here we are leaving lovely Sacramento:

We rented a van for the trip which is a pretty good deal. The cost (~$350) is less than a car payment on a minivan if we owned one. The only problem with this one, it has these great seats that stow-away, but I haven’t yet figured out how to make the rear seats recline. Leroy was cranky the last hour of our drive today because he wanted to nap and couldn’t get to sleep upright.

Once we got to Winnemucca, I took Leroy out to McDonalds so he could run around, etc. Winnemucca is in the high desert of northern Nevada. The air is very dry, but it wasn’t very hot, but like our last trip through two years ago, it was very windy. The sky is spectacular. Below are pictures from McDonalds that include a view of the sky.

We had been through Winnemucca before, so we knew where to find the local park. Leroy tried out a Styrofoam glider I got from the DollarTree and ran around on the play structure.

You meet nice people at this park. Last time we met a nice couple who offered to sell us their dog. This time we met some kids who played with Leroy’s sand toys and ran around some with him. We all had fun.

After that, we returned to the hotel for a swim. We had a decent and filling dinner at the Flying Pig, a local BBQ restaurant. On a Sunday, there are not a lot of choices. The family restaurants are closed, and most of what is left is third rate casino restaurants that are not family friendly (too formal) but without the quality of food to support the ambience (Winnemucca is definitely downscale from Reno, If you are ever in Winnemucca at the Flying Pig, I recommend the pulled pork, and my husband liked the ribs.