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volume 2                         October 1991                            number 9
Volcanos, Ghosts, Glaciers and Geysers

Bannack Ghost Town State park, Montana

Howdy Pardners!!!  I couldn't help starting like that since as I begin this we are deep in Montana and about to head into Wyoming. We have covered a lot of ground since the last newsletter. If we had our druthers we would have moved a lot slower too, but winter is pushing us on. We have learned one thing: We must come back to the northwest and spend a lot more time. 

After leaving Bend, Oregon, we headed north. This is the high desert of Oregon but always up ahead was a huge snow covered mountain. We found out that it was Mt. Hood one of the volcanos in the Cascade Mountain range. At the Columbia Gorge we found our CC campground at Mosier. This area of Oregon is famous for its scenic beauty. The mighty Columbia River gorged out this canyon many years ago and besides its awesome beauty, it is filled with the history of those pioneers who struggled to cross it. Across the wide river is Washington. The river seems tame now but that is because it has been conquered by dams at every fall. We are not fans of any interstate highway but the drive along the gorge on I-84 from The Dalles east towards Portland is lovely. The mountains rise gently in huge mounds across the river while you ride snug to heavily forested mountain sides that go straight up from the road. 

We left Oregon on Sept 9th and headed into Washington on I-5. It was a beautiful drive. So many mountains thick with big healthy evergreens surrounded us on all sides. Our first stop in Washington was our most luxurious in a long time. Silver Creek Resort (ccc) near Morton was so complete in facilities that we honestly felt that we were at some luxury resort. There was not one thing lacking or in poor repair. The pool complex was very large, bordered everywhere with fragrant flowers, chase lounges  lined two walls, and there were several umbrella patio tables. There were three pools (all heated) and a jacuzzi; a large family pool; a good sized adult pool; a kiddy pool. 

We picked this area to stay primarily so we could visit   Mount Saint Helens National Historic Site and spent two remarkable days doing just that. Do you remember May 18, 1980?  We first visited the visitor center just a few miles off I-5 at Castle Rock. We spent over two hours there and could have easily spent more.There were many geological displays showing the hows and whys of volcanos but the most impressive was the movie. Ron and I remarked that living in Michigan at the time of the eruption, we didn't really know all of the story until now. The movie started with home movies of a lovely place called Spirit Lake. Situated at the base of Mt.St. Helens, this clear lake with heavily wooded shore line was a popular vacation place for many people. It was quiet and very remote. If you arrived at the lake from the only access road, you had to take a boat to get to your cottage. We met Harry Truman (not the former president) in the film. He owned and operated the lodge at the lake and had lived there since the early 30s. Then we saw the explosion and the aftermath. The lateral blast traveled 200-250 MPH down the mountain and part of the avalanche surged into Spirit Lake causing waves that sloshed 826 feet up the surrounding hillsides. Nearly 230 square miles of forest were blown over or left dead and standing. Over 50 people lost their lives and we heard the stories of some who died like Harry Truman who refused to leave his lodge and the geologist who was nearby studying the volcano. We also saw what was left and it was unrecognizable. In fact, rescuers had a hard time trying to locate possible survivors because all the landmarks were gone. We saw what the nearby towns were like, suffocating in the fallen ash. 

The second day of our visit, we headed to Windy Ridge. From the campground, it was a beautiful drive through heavily forested mountains of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The trees so tall and thick, so green and beautiful, were everywhere until suddenly we came to the first evidence of the blast. It looked like no mans land. Everything was grey, and barren - once mighty trees striped of their branches were scattered like match sticks. And it was quiet. Even the visitors were quiet. And the once lovely Spirit Lake is larger than it was, the surface is 200 feet higher and it is full of floating trees. It is Harry Truman's grave. We hiked up the ridge and could easily see into the crater. The mountain is rebuilding. There is a large dome raising up out of the crater and steam escapes all the time. We left with a feeling of helplessness and a greater respect for the powers of nature. 

Mount Rainier National Park was our next stop. It was a short drive north east to the Cougar Rock campground at the south west part of the park. Of all the mountains in the Cascade range it is the tallest and can be seen from 100 miles away. It was crisp but bright during the day and we had a nice campsite with a view of the mountain. Established in 1899, Mt. Rainier National Park preserves one of the world's most massive volcanoes. At 14,410 feet high it is one of the major areas of glacier ice in the U.S. I was amazed that there are 48 square miles of glaciers on this mountain compared to 21 square miles at Glacier National Park. I wanted to see a glacier so we drove to Paradise and took advantage of a one and a half mile ranger walk to view the Nisqually glacier. We learned that glaciers are formed when snow from the winter doesn't melt during the summer and this process builds up over the years. It is not the largest glacier there, but it is the easiest to see and observe. It was easy to see the snout and the water running from under it as it melted. This glacier is up to 400 feet deep and covers 1.8 square miles. We were surprised to see that the glacier is not at all white but instead looks more like chocolate ice cream with a little marshmallow ripple inside. That is because of all the rock it crushes as it moves downhill. The largest glacier in the park (Emmons glacier) is also the largest in the contiguous United States. It covers 4.3 square miles. We learned that the sport in the park is climbing to the summit of Mt. Rainier. It takes about two days and much skill. Climbers use this mountain to practice on before they try Mt. Everest. The day we were there it was about 500 F at Paradise and on the summit of the mountain it was 150 F. Because this is still an active volcano, we understand that climbers can keep warm at the summit by finding one of the ice caves which is actually heated from the steam escaping from the mountain. In fact it is so hot in the caves that climbers roast on one end and freeze on the other. We had to cut our visit short by one day - it was just too cold at night to be comfortable and we hated to ruin the peace and quiet by running the generator. 

From Rainier we went north to Snoqualmie. The Cascade Resort was another CCC owned by the same people who owned Silver Creek and another luxury campground. Here we just lounged around, played a little tennis, walked, soaked our bodies in warm sunshine and hot tubs and had a nice visit with son Robert and his new wife Carol Anne who just happened to be in the same area at the same time. But after just three days, we had to move on before winter hit the hills up ahead. 

From Snoqualmie we went north to Rockport where we spent one night in a beautiful Washington State Park. It was lush with trees and heavy with vegetation reminded us of a rain forest. Full hook ups were at every site and each site was large and made private by foliage on three sides. We are spoiled by our Coast to Coast campgrounds at one dollar a night and hate to spend $12.00 a night anywhere else. I would have liked to stay a while but...The next morning we were off to drive through the North Cascades National Park. We had decided not to try to camp in the park. The nights in this north country are too cold and we didn't have time to do serious hiking anyway. The drive through the park on RT 20 from west to east was breathtaking. The mountains, the trees, the bubbly rivers cascading over rocks -I wanted to cry for it's beauty and I wanted to stay a little longer. We stopped a few times to soak up the sights  especially around Diablo Lake. And at Washington Pass, we took a short little scenic hike. There were no visitor centers open as it was too late in the season so after 60 scenic miles, we were out of the park. 

Outside of the park at Winthrop, Washington, we stopped for a delightful interlude. Winthrop is a commercialized western town but we were there out of season so things were quite tame. We choose to eat lunch at a rustic looking hotel at the end of town (I didn't make note of the name). We each had the "Bowl and a Roll" which translates to soup and a roll. The homemade cajun chicken soup was delightfully spicy and the roll was huge and freshly made. Yummy!!!!  Going southeast, the scenery changed drastic-ally after leaving Winthrop - mountain forests changed to arid hills. We enjoyed viewing all the neat ranches and occasionally an oasis of green grass and trees around the ranch houses. We spent the night at the CCC at Soap Lake. Might have stayed longer if things weren't closing for the season. The lake is advertised as being heavily mineralized and very buoyant. It might have been fun to float and heal at the same time. Maybe it was the time of the year but it didn't look appealing to me and there was a sulphur odor to the lake too. 

Sandpoint Idaho was our next stop and the drive was easy and interesting from Soap Lake east to U.S. 2 which we took on into Spokane. We jumped on I-90 just until we got to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho and took U.S. 95 north to Sandpoint. Again, we would have loved to stay longer. This town is a big tourist area but it doesn't look or act like many tourist towns. It's big attraction is the huge Lake Pend Oreille framed by mountains and fresh air. We browsed the downtown area and especially enjoyed the Cedar Street Bridge which is a bridge converted to two floors of shops. These shops catered to the tourist who wanted something Indian or Western to take home. Best of all was our dinner that night. We were just lucky and picked Panhandler Pies (I can spot a home made pie even from a sign). We had the meat loaf special which included a crisp salad in an ice cold pie pan with delicious home made honey pepper dressing, two huge slices of meaty meat loaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, large square of corn bread, iced tea and pie for just $6.49 each. We got to choose from over a dozen kinds of pie. I choose peach sour cream while Ron took pralines 'n cream. What a meal!!!  We would have liked to spend more time in Idaho. We say this wherever we go. But one night just wasn't fair to this interesting and scenic state. We moved on into Montana the next day. 

Right away as we were driving on U.S. 2 into Montana, I knew that I wanted to live there forever and ever. Of course I say this often but I could just see myself with a small ranch and a few good horses and all those beautiful hills to ride. That would be heaven. I like Montana because it is so sparsely pop-ulated (my mini encyclopedia says 819,000 people live in the state's 147,138 square miles). Our first stop was at West Glacier on U.S. 2 at the western entrance to Waterton- Glacier National Park. We choose to stay in a private campground with full hook ups and drive into the park. When we arrived the weather was great -sunny and not too cool. It was too late to do any sight-seeing then so we planned our outing for the next day. The next morning, we packed a lunch, entered the park by 8a.m. and headed up the Going to the Sun Road. This 50 mile road listed as one of the world's most spectacular highways was built in the 30's and is considered to be an engineering wonder. Just as we began, it started to rain. The clouds were so heavy and low that they obscured any sight of the mountains. But we drove on sure that somewhere we would see something. After about 25 miles, as we approached Logan Pass all we saw was lots of snow. There was a visitor center there and we braved the two inch snow covering the ground to walk to the center. It was bare - no displays just a few rangers manning the book store and a fire place with a meager fire in it. We decided to go home and try again after the snow stopped. About 3pm, the sun came out and showed promises of great things so we took off again for the sun. This time we could see the mountains and were again amazed at the beauty in our country. How can beauty be so different?  There were more mountains, valleys, waterfalls and trees but each arrangement is different. Our trip was cut short again because just as we neared the pass, the road was closed. Back down at the campground, we studied the weather map and decided that it was not going to warm up enough in one day for the snow to melt up there. We couldn't wait around so the next morning we had to say "good-by" to a majestic mountain that we didn't get to see. We will return in the summer of 93 and my goal is to ride from ridge to ridge on horseback even if it takes a week. I decided that you have to get deep into these parks to see them. 

Flathead Lake is just a short drive south of Glacier and it was an easy drive. We got to Polson (east side of the lake) so early that we were able to take off in the car and explore the National Bison range just south of the lake at Moiese. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this 19,000 acre ranch shelters nearly 500 buffalo and other animals such as deer, antelope, elk, cougar, bear, and bobcats. Teddy Roosevelt established the National Bison Range at a time in our history when the Buffalo was nearly extinct. We drove the 19 mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive which goes over the top of the mountain, across steep hills and narrow canyons. The well maintained, one way road allows one to go slow and stop and watch the wildlife. Nearby is the St Ignatius Mission Church  which was mentioned in the Montana State map as the third most beautiful church in the world. Now we had seen some extra beautiful churches in England and doubted this claim but after visiting the church, we agree. The 58 murals on the walls and ceiling are outstanding especially when one knows that they were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano - the cook of the mission. We moved on to Anaconda. 

The Fairmont RV Park (CCC) near Anaconda, Montana is different in that the pool, tennis courts and so on are about two blocks away in and near the big hotel complex. There is a natural hot spring there but we didn't use it. There were too many other things we wanted to see in the area and there is a $4.50 charge per day to use the pools. We wanted to visit Bannack -a ghost town which is a state park. Since Montana is such a large state, the map is deceiving. What looked like 50 miles to me turned out to be triple that one way but it was a great day and drive. We stopped in Wisdom for coffee and a donut at  Lettie's. Wisdom is only one or two stores out in the middle of nowhere. We had driven 50 miles to get there and had only seen one car and just a few ranches way off in the distance on the way. We sat at the counter and chatted with a rancher and a trucker who were the only other customers. Kind of hated to leave - it was such a friendly place and the coffee was great. We turned west at Wisdom and went to visit the Big Hole National Monument which covers the battle of the Nez Perce and U.S. Army. It is a lonely place with a sad story. Some peace loving Nez Perce Indians who didn't want to live on a reservation had been moving east from Oregon. On Aug 9, 1977, they camped along the river but awoke early the next morning to an attack by the army. Women and Children suffered along with many men. We felt ashamed for our army's sneak attack on Indians who had never attacked a white man. South of Wisdom, we found Bannack but were disappointed. It was nicely preserved but there was no information on the people, just how mining was done. 

The next day was spent in Deer Lodge which is just a little north of Freemont. We had several things to see there and all were worthwhile. The Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Monument is a working 1800's ranch. The remarkable thing about this ranch is all the furnishings and equipment are original. The ranch was owned by the same family until sold to the park service. Also in Deer Lodge is the old Montana Territorial  Prison which was used until 1979, the Towe Ford Museum, and Yesterdays Playthings Museum. We spent the day thoroughly examining
everything even the Ford Museum which we thought we would be bored with after having spent so much time at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Gotta tell you - this Ford Museum was great. Fords in mint condition from 1903 to the 60's were on display in order. We especially liked the camping truck that belonged to Henry himself. Another highlight of the day was lunch at the Nickelodeon on the main street. We each had their BBQ sandwich and the most scrumptious baked beans ever. 

      Two story out house

The next morning (Sept 26th) we were on our way again. We had planned to stop and visit Nevada City and Virginia City but everything was closed for the season. I liked what I saw of Nevada City because it was not commercialized -more like a museum. We walked up and down the streets and peeked in some of the 100 buildings. I was fascinated with the two story outhouse attached by a short run way to the hotel. Still don't know how it worked. Virginia City - just a few miles down the road was definitely a tourist town with tee shirt shops and everything that goes with it. We were glad it was closed up but I would go back to Nevada City in a minute. 

We were in West Yellowstone, Montana by afternoon and took a short ride into Yellowstone National Park after we were all set up in camp. Can't believe the number of Buffalo there. We really didn't need to visit the Bison Range since there are many more there and they walk right down the road in front of cars and everywhere. The wildlife in Yellowstone is abundant. The trees aren't. It was sad to drive so many miles in the park and see nothing but burned trees. It is obvious that the fire there was significant although the rangers seem happy about the new growth and wild flowers, it is definitely scared. Again we ran into a lot of closures. Only a few visitor centers were open and no ranger walks or talks were scheduled. We did hike to all the thermal areas and we were both amazed at the number of hot spots. Steam arises from many places and it is fun to take the walks and see and smell (yes, they smell) them all. We spent three days driving and taking short walks. Guess with all the burn, we weren't excited about the park. 

We left Yellowstone Park by the south entrance and continued south on U.S. 89. Going that way you go from Yellowstone directly to Grand Teton National Park. The clouds were so low that we couldn't see the peaks of these famous mountains but later in the day, after we had set up camp in Jackson, Wyoming, we drove back into the park, took the loop around Jenny lake and sat by the lake shore to watch the sun set. That was beautiful. Earlier in the day, we played tourist and browsed most of the shops downtown Jackson. Lots of western stuff so if you like cowboy stuff that is the place to go. The valley is beautiful with the high rising Rockies all around. This time of year it was especially beautiful because of the touches of color - mostly bright yellow from the quaking aspen trees. Their little leaves flutter with the slightest breeze and create a gentle whispering noise. We found another good place to eat in Jackson. The Bunnery is a bakery and their soup and half a sandwich that we ate for a late lunch was enough that we didn't feel like eating dinner. Jackson looks like a fun place but many of the things were closed for the season - we hit the road the next morning because the private campground in town was outrageously expensive ($24.00) and it was too cold to camp in the national park. 

I have to be honest. Something has happened to us since we visited Yosemite. We look at these other places and say "Oh - that's nice". But there are some definite highlights to this trip. Mt. Rainier is majestic, the northwestern part of Montana is breathtakingly beautiful but the last part of the drive from Jackson to Salt Lake City was the most spectacular ever. We left Jackson on U.S. 89 S. and when it entered Idaho near Bear Lake, it became a mountain road. We wound around in between such high mountains (the Rockies are beautiful). The two lane road seemed very narrow with such mighty mountains rising up from each side of the road. I felt as insignificant as an ant in an alley between two skyscrapers. Oh and the trees were dressed in their autumn finery. Against the background of the deep green evergreens were splashes of orange, salmon, red, and yellow. 

We saw too much, too fast but we are learning. Tour the north in the summer and only move once a week. 

by Ron

You have to pay before pumping gas in California, while in Oregon (by law) all gasoline is pumped by attendant. Does that tell you something about these two states? 

I thought that we were hot stuff pulling our new pickup until I saw a motorhome on I-90 pulling a trailer with a helicopter on it. I'm not kidding. 

After paying $24 (including Good Sam discount) for a campsite in Jackson, Wyoming, I  really appreciate our CCC membership 
Yellowstone brought back some not so good memories of Yosemite. Too many people (even at this time of year) and inconsiderate drivers who are always in a hurry, or stop in the middle of the road with no notice, to look at wildlife. 

I surely don't like the football scores coming out of E. Lansing. Is it time for a new coach or . . .smarter players? 

With all of the recent baby news coming our way, it sure was comforting to have our answering service. It worked great. Reminder to family: we check the service every night between 7 and 9 p.m., E.S.T. 

Barb talked me into buying a leather "Indiana Jones" hat in Idaho. Maybe we will show you a picture of me wearing it in the next issue. 

My favorite park this past month was Mt. Rainier---unique and beautiful! 

Signs along the way
Name of a diner in Arlington, Washington
Rotten Ralphs 
Coffee shop in the western town of Winthrop, Washington
The pony expresso
Antique store in Polson, Montana
Precious seconds
Sewing shop in Polson, Montana
Two bobbins full
On a ranch near Anaconda, Montana
If you can't drive 8 mph - stay out!
Christmas store in Jackson, Wyoming
Moose be Christmas
Sign on a bridge near Silver Star, Montana
Limit one truck at a time on bridge

Everyone has a place that they rem-ember as "the most interesting" or "the most beautiful" in all of the United States so we asked our friends to list this place on a 3x5 card and bring it to the party we had two weeks before we began full-timing. 

Everyone co-operated and most even included names of places to eat or things to do. We filed all of these cards in the appropriate state file that we carry with us and as we are about to enter each new state, we get out the file and see what articles we have saved and what 3x5 cards, if any, are there. When we visit "the spot", we pick up a post card and mail a thank you. 

There are a few that we have missed so far. Chuck Fisher suggested Monteray Bay but all of you know that we didn't do much touring in California - not with the brown bomb. I don't have the California file out now but I know we missed a few others too. The cards are still there and we will visit those places yet. 

We are pleased to mention that the ones we have visited have been wonderful and in most cases we would have entirely missed the experience if it weren't for our good friend's suggestions. 

Our first "card" visit was to Weston, VT and recently visits to Sedona, Arizona; Crater Lake, Oregon; Sandpoint, Idaho; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming; were a direct result of the cards and it was fun to fondly remember our friends again. 

If we haven't visited your place yet, the card is still in the file. We will get there someday and for those of you who have joined us since the beginning, please feel free to jot down that place on a 3x5 card and we will do our best to get there. 

 This 'N That
by Barb

It was dusk at the Columbia River Gorge campground (Oregon) and I wanted to get a better view of the upcoming sunset. I grabbed Ron and we started to walk to a good spot when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a snake and knew it was a rattler. Of course I did the only respectable thing - screamed, and practically broke Ron's arm dragging us away. We watched the snake slither away but all the while I was shaking.  Ron calmly assured me that it was no rattler but that didn't matter, I went back inside and let the sun set by itself.  In fact I vowed that I would not venture out at night even if our house was on fire.  The next day at church, we were talking to some folks and they asked where we were staying.  Ron told him and the man responded with " Oh up there with all the rattlesnakes." I'll never believe Ron again. 

Washington State has some interesting names of towns and cities.  How would you pronounce Snoqualmie? How about Puyallup? Leave out the "l" in Snoqualmie and you'll say it right (snow-qua-me). Pew -all-up is the other one and once you have a good teacher it is easy. Thanks Carol Anne. 

Do you remember the article about my reunion with my best friend from my Air Force days (Feb-91)?  I didn't mention at the time but Glenda is being treated for lung cancer in Houston and is struggling. Can I ask any of you who will to include her in your prayers?  Although she has traveled the world she has missed seeing the United States in depth and I want her to be able to do that soon.  Thanks 

I goofed in the last newsletter and had a typo in the quiz.  The tallest tree in the world is 367 feet not 376.  That is roughly as tall as a 37 story building and is in Redwood National Park. 

I am really lucky that one of my kids travels as much as he does. Robert has visited us at more campgrounds than any of our kids.  He gets a big kick out of finding us "at home" wherever he goes.  I am not going to Alaska in the winter though. No thank you. 

I can't tell you how much I love the West and if I had my whole life to live over again that is where I would live.  And every time I think I have found heaven on earth, I go a little further down the road and find "another heaven". Gosh this country is beautiful especially the mountainous West.  Part of the secret is traveling the little back roads.  I started writing the main article by describing all the little state and U.S. routes we took but it made the article too long and I had to cut it all out. 

Here is a quote from Mary Walker's journal which was written in the 1840's. She was one of those rugged western pioneers: 

"Rose about five. Had breakfast. Got my housework done about nine. Baked six loaves of bread. Make a kettle of mush and now a suet pudding and beef boiling. I have managed to put my clothes away and set my house in order. May the merciful be with me through the unexpected scene ...Nine o'clock p.m. was delivered of another son." I'll remember this anytime I think I have had a bad day. 

I have picked up a couple of books about women who toured the West in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  These are wealthy women who could afford the trip but they didn't sit in some automobile to tour. Can you imagine climbing to Half Dome, or Mt. Rainier in long skirts etc? They did!!  I really wanted to hike to a glacier at Rainier but I had an excuse.  I had broke my little toe the day before we left Bend.  If those ladies could do it in long skirts and slippery shoes, I should have gone on with my broken toe. 

National Park Quiz
1.  Over 600,000 years ago, an area many mules square at what is not the center of the park suddenly exploded and in minutes there remained only a smoldering caldera, a collapsed crater 28 by 47 miles. This in now what national park? 

2.  There are many active glaciers at Mount Rainier National Park? 

A) 48      b) 25      c)5

3. Name the northwestern national park that best fits this description. "High jagged peaks intercept moisture-laden winds, producing icefalls, waterfalls and other phenomena n this wild alpine setting"? 

4.  Glacier National Park is part of what international park shared with Canada just across the border? 

5.  Name the national park known for, among other things, the feeding ground for the largest American elk herd. 


1. Yellowstone National Park 
2.  B)25 
3. North Cascades National Park established in 1968 
4.  Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park 
5.  Grand Teton National Park 


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