West Trip and Alaskan Cruise -'08
On the Road Again
Out to the Northwest and the Inside Passage to Alaska
August 19 -September 29. 2008
It was Friday evening and Rhonda and I were in O'Neil, Nebraska in a town park campground. Actually, it was rodeo arena parking lot with campsites. Out western excursion began on Tuesday morning, August 19. We left Wytheville on I-77, shifted to I-64 in Charleston, W Va. and had lunch at a rest stop in Kentucky. We stopped just short of the Illinois state line at Harmonie State Park in Indiana. It was one of the best state park campgrounds we've stayed in thus far. It was well-groomed, had friendly staff, large camp sites, and a very nice shower/restroom facility.
It was on the Wabash river and near the unique little town of New Harmony. It originally was established in 1814 in the wilderness by a group of German Lutherans. After ten years, the original founders decided to move back to Pennsylvania and sold the land to Robert Owen. There was over 20,000 acres with a number of buildings. He was a Welsh industrialist and social reformer with the intent to create a new utopian community. From what we read, it didn't quite work the way they planned. It failed only after two years. The big opponent was that individualism was stronger than the theme of a social community. We spent about an hour looking around town at its restored buildings and reading about its history. There was one structural feature that stood out. It was a garden or park that had the tree limbs pruned and trained to form a dome-like roof over the walled enclosure surrounding it.
Wednesday, August, 20th
The next morning, we headed for St. Louis, arriving before lunch. We went back to the Gateway Arch (the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial), since we did not take the time to examine it closer and take a trip to the top. Rhonda, being a tad claustrophobic, decided not to go make the trip to the top. She decided to revisit the very well designed museum on westward expansion.
The structure was completed in October of 1965 for a cost of $13 million and opened to the public in June of 1967. The elevator has eight capsule style compartments that hold five people seated. Forty people can go up at a time, but once in the viewing area you can stay as long as you like. At the viewing area, you are 620 feet above the street or grounds of the park. While I was in the viewing area, there were a group of Russian business people on a tour with a company representative for a coal machinery company in Johnson City, Tennessee. It appeared they were really enjoying themselves and acting like you would expect tourist to act.
Afterward, we had lunch down by the mighty Mississippi and then we were off to the long drive across Missouri to Kansas City for some Arthur Bryant barbecue. We stopped at a visitor center and got directions to a restaurant location (there are three locations in Kansas City) in the general direction of our evening camping destination. After the huge plate of sliced beef and pork, some ribs and more fries than two should eat at one sitting, we drove north to Weston Bend State Park to camp. We went into the interesting little town of Weston to get ice and spotted a free internet sign in the window of the St. George Hotel. The desk clerk let us sit in the lobby and use their wireless connection so we could check on email. After we retired for the evening, it sprinkled most of the night and it was drizzling when we ate breakfast and folded up the tent.
Thursday, August 21
We killed some time before lunch at a large Menards discount store to see if the weather would improve. It did and after eating a quick bite of leftover barbecue at the trailhead, I started down the twenty-two mile Steamboat Trace from Nebraska City to Brownsville, Nebraska on the Missouri River right along the Missouri border. Rhonda drove to the other end and started riding north in my direction. It was a nice trail, but did not follow as much of the Missouri River as I thought it might. At the end, we loaded the bikes, checked the map and headed for the Waubonsie State Park out in the countryside across the river and I-29 and into the southwest corner of Iowa.
The campground was nice; good campsites and shower, remote, and there were only four other campers in the 30 to 40 campsites. I went out for ice before supper and went by this little orchard just outside the park. It had a sign out for fresh peaches. I bought a half dozen and carried them back to Rhonda as a surprise. They were some of the best peaches we'd had in a long time.
We walked up a short trail to an interpretive area after supper. From the viewpoint, we looked down into the rare natural area to the west which was part of the Loess Hills viewed by the Lewis and Clark expedition on their way to the northwest. The hills were created from wind deposited loess soils from the Missouri River. Loess soils are a homogeneous, typically nonstratified, porous, friable, slightly coherent, often calcareous, fine-grained, silty, pale yellow or buff. It was determined that the loess occurred when the glaciers receded; leaving behind the very fine rock flour which was blown by winds to the area on the eastern side of the river. There are an amazing number of geological, cultural and historical facts one can discover when you travel.
Friday, August 22
We drove to Shennandoah, a trailhead for the Wabash Trace trail which runs from Council Bluffs to Blanchard, Iowa. It was a clear and bright day. As the morning warmed up, the trees along the trail provided very nice shade. Out beyond the trail corridor, it was very open and treeless for the most part. I finished the 12 mile ride in Coin and we had lunch at a rest stop on I-35 before driving through Omaha, Nebraska en-route to find the Cowboy Trail beginning in Norfolk.
The Cowboy Trail has about 110 miles currently in use. It is proposed to be the longest rail trail in the nation when the 325 miles is completed to Chadron. The trail ran along highway 20 in an open prairie setting, with little variety; just a lot of sagebrush and arid plants. For the most part, it was a lot of the same and totally in the open with no trees except where it left where it paralleled the highway briefly and follow a narrow tree line here and there.
Before stopping to camp in O'Neil, Rhonda dropped me and the bike off to ride the 8 miles into town. She met me just inside the town limits and we found a campground in town. As I mentioned previously, it was a city park and was next to a rodeo arena. They generally had high school rodeos on Sunday afternoons. There was only one other person camping; he was in a large RV unit. The site had electricity, Rhonda was able to read without having to use a flashlight and I caught up on some note-taking and charged the camera and laptop batteries.
Saturday, August 23
It was cool, but sunny as we drove west. The Cowboy Trail followed the road and was flat and unchanging for the most part until we left Valentine. The character of the trail changed significantly in one area, so we stopped and did a short ride into some beautiful prairie with wildflowers, low hills and a few small hay fields. We had lunch in the parking lot with the last of the peaches with vanilla yogurt for dessert. We stopped again down the road a ways to ride across and photograph a large trestle over the Niobrara River (sounds like an African river name, doesn't it).
We drove on past Chadron where the Cowboy Trail is proposed to end. We exited Highway 20 at Crawford, NE to look for a campground and got directions for Robinson State Park. It had been originally established as a military post in 1874 and was used by the Army until 1948. It was used during the Indian Wars and as a P.O.W. Camp for Germans in WWII. A canine training unit had also been a part of its history. The park had lodging of all types, mainly in the facilities left by the army, but there were a few new cabins. They also had lots of activities such as stage coach, hay, jeep and horse back rides. There was a ridge of scenic rock cliff or buttes just along the border of the park. The campground was about three quarters full. The only negative aspect was that the tent camping area was right next to a fairly busy highway.
Sunday August 24
Another beautiful morning presented itself; a little overcast, but ideal for a bike ride. After breakfast, we rode from the park inito the town of Crawford along the White River on a very nice trail. From our campsite to the main street of town was about three and a half miles. On our return, we rode around the grounds of the main park (post) area and then went to the museum of natural history. The displays were mainly about the wooly mammoth that had been discovered back in the sixties in the area.
After packing up, we headed west again, stopping in Casper ,WY to see a very fine exhibit at the Trail Museum. The displays fold the story of the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express trails, all coming through Casper. It was here that each trail crossed the North Platt River. The computer cash registers were experiencing some technical difficulty so they waived the six dollar admission. It was not very busy so we got special attention from one of the attendants. He also told us that he participated in an annual reenactment of the pony Express ride. He did a 25 mile section just west of Casper. I did not realize that the pony Express only was around for 19 months. The telegraph put it out of business.
After many more miles of almost totally sagebrush prairie, we arrived at our evening stop of Riverton, WY and found a reasonably priced motel. After leaving our baggage and unhooking the trailer, we headed for the Golden Coral to pig out at their buffet. When we left the restaurant, we found a laundrymat near the motel so I left Rhonda with the car and I walked back to the motel to catch up on e-mails.
Monday, August 25
It was breakfast at McDonald's, more gas ($3.91) and on the Grand Tetons. We stopped in Dubois to buy some postcards and chain lube for the bikes (Dubois was the town we stopped in last year for overnight lodging). I took some video of the beautiful Wind River valley as we were coming into town. West of town there was serious road work going on around the continental divide, but we were at the campsite at Coulter Bay before lunch. The campsites were nice; somewhat private, spacious, and not far from Jackson Lake.
During the afternoon, we biked around the immediate area, hiked a three mile trail along the lake (its elevation was over 6000 ft) and toured the Museum of Indian art. In the campground and on the trail, there are signs that remind patrons to be aware of bear safety, especially with food and food related items. After supper, we went over to the general store where they had a laundry and showers (the showers were $3.50 each).
Tuesday, August 26
The next morning we biked down some of the park roads and took a six mile hike in the afternoon. While on the hike, we met a nice Swiss family on the trail who were now living in southern California. After supper, we took down the screen tent and packed it away, so we would have one less thing to do the next morning. I found out that the reservation office had WiFi and it had strong enough signal that we could sit in the car and get connected to the internet. I sent some emails, researched some more bike trails and even made a Skype call with a friend back in Raleigh (Skype is a computer program that allows one to use a microphone/headset to talk to someone with a computer and a Skype account anywhere for free). My friend in Raleigh has a camera connected to his computer, so I could even see him while we were chatting.
Wednesday, August 27
It was 40 degrees when we got up. After a breakfast of sweet potato pancakes and fried spam, we packed up and stopped by the rental office again to get access to their Wifi to check for and send emails. We drove to Jenny Lake to do some hiking. We packed a lunch and hiked about 2.7 miles to Hidden Falls. I hiked on past Jenny Lake to String and Leigh Lakes and Rhonda drove around to pick me up. I ended up with about 8 miles of hiking. We drove to the Signal Mountain area to a campground which had nice sites, but no showers.
That evening we had to take bird baths. After supper, I went up to the lodge and asked if I could sit in the lobby to get online. A friend sent me an email several days earlier which said that around midnight there would be two moons. This was due to the fact that Mars would be closer than it had been in over two hundred years and would give the appearance of another moon. The best time to view it was around midnight. Well, I got up around midnight and I did not even see one moon, much less two. There was just enough light cloud cover that the phenomenon was not viewable
Thursday, August 28
We ate a light breakfast of only oatmeal and a hot beverage and were quickly on our way to Jackson Hole. Some friends who have a vacation condo there, told us about an area called the Serengeti Plains on the Teton side of town. It was suppose to give you a good chance of seeing a variety of wild game and early morning was a good time for viewing, but all we saw was one buffalo. In Jackson Hole, we stopped at McDonald's and had some more breakfast.
We crossed Teton Pass at 8432 feet and were on to Idaho heading for Idaho Falls and points beyond. There we saw huge fields of wheat being harvested as we drove along highway US 20 again. Yes, we also saw big fields of potatoes. We stopped at Wally World and resupplied some groceries and got lunch from the deli. Mid-afternoon, we stopped at the Craters of the Moon National Monument which covered around 1,117 square miles, including 400 square miles of sagebrush steppe grasslands. It was desolate area which volcanic activity had occurred. There are excellent examples of almost every variety basaltic lava, as well as tree molds (cavities left by trees lava-incinerated trees, lava tubes (a type of cave) and many other volcanic features. There was a 5 mile loop you could drive and some hiking trails made of rough debris made to blend in with the color of the lava flow. The area was a little smokey from some prairie grass fires to the west.
Our destination was the Woods River Trail which runs down from the Sun Valley (skiing), Idaho just south of the Sawtooth Mountains to Bellevue. We found a private campground along the river in Bellevue. There were mostly travel trailers in the park, but they had a grassy lawn area set aside for tents. I was concerned about the effect that the smoke would have, but it turned out that it was not that bad in the campground.
Friday, August 29
I began the trail in Bellevue and rode 20 miles to Sun Valley/Ketchum. The wind had shifted during the night and there was no sign of the smoke. I was able to meet Rhonda on the trail in Ketchum after getting her on the walkie-talkie. To get through town, the trail followed sidewalks and it took some diligence to stay on the route. We returned to the car north of town and had lunch.
We drove into the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and crossed Galena Pass at 8701 ft twenty-nine miles from Ketchum on highway 75. As we descended into the valley below, we began following the Salmon River. It soon turned into quite a gorge. We were amazed that the highway did not have guard rails along the down hill shoulder. There was very little shoulder and beyond that, it was a long way down to the river below. We stopped along the way, when we saw a sign for Sunbeam Hot Springs. There were several people sitting in the pools along the river's edge. The springs were on the opposite side of the road and crossed the road by a small culvert. Where it entered the river, it was extremely hot. We had to move out into the river a bit to where we could sit on the rocks and soak our feet and legs. You could adjust the temperature by moving closer to the shore or further out in the flow of the river. All the others were in swim suits and sitting down in the pools. There was a small building at the edge of the road you could change, but we just settled for the legs and feet.
In Challis, we filled up with gas for $4.14 a gallon and got a bag of ice. I asked at several places in town as to where I could find someone to do some metal repair work to the tongue of the trailer and I got the name of a welding shop. Some time in the past few days, the weight of the bicycles and the rack had caused the tongue to bow a little and there appeared to be some stress in the lightweight metal.
I found Chuck's Welding. I had in mind just to bolt a piece of square tubing where it was bowing, but Chuck thought it best to weld two pieces of angle iron along each side. He did this after putting a jack under the tongue of the trailer and took the sag out. We were on our way in around 30 minutes and he only charged us $15. It was mid-afternoon on Friday and he stopped what he was doing to remedy our problem. I shall always be grateful to Chuck.
Our evening's stop was at the Cottonwood Campground, a very simple BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground along the Salmon river. It was 15 miles north of Challis and 43 miles south of town of Salmon. Back down the road we had passed a sign that marked the 45 parallel which was the halfway point between the equator and the north pole. Other than the campground host, (Bob and Betty), we and a motorcyclist were the only guests. Bob and Betty were very friendly and we had a nice time talking with them. They had been farmers in Montana and now spent time as campground host, with family members in Oregon, and the winter in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before supper we put on our bathing suits and took a cool rinse off in the river, since the campground did not have shower facilities; just a newly constructed pit toilet. I grill hamburgers that Rhonda had bought in Idaho Falls.
Saturday, August 30
From Salmon, Idaho, we continued our travels up highway US 93 which took us through the Bitterroot Mountain Range going over Lost Peak at 7,014 ft. and into Missoula, Montana. We passed east of Lolo Pass where Lewis and Clark crossed the rugged Bitterroot Mountains heading for the Columbia River. Our destination was the Hiawatha Trail beginning near St. Regis on the Idaho/Montana border. Before reaching the trail area, we took a side trip to a used book store in Alberton. It wasn't worth the trip. We had lunch out of the car there in front of the bookstore.
I stopped at the visitor center in St. Regis and got the complete scoop on the trail. We found out that we had to go to the Lookout Pass Ski lodge facility, get a trail permit and buy a shuttle ticket for the bus if we did not want to ride the bike back up. It was less than a 2% grade over the 15 miles with an elevation difference of 1000 ft., but we just want to just take the time to do it once. The shuttle was only nine dollars. The lodge was a agent or contractor for the Forest Service and they rented bike, helmets, and lights. Yes, lights, since the trip began with a mile and a half ride through a totally dark tunnel. Being as we arrived mid-afternoon on Labor Day weekend, all the bike lights had been given out, so when we arrived at the trail parking area, I duct taped one of our flashlights to Rhonda's handlebars and I carried one in my hand as I steered.
The trail was 15 miles long. There were 7 tunnels and 10 trestles and some magnificent scenery. The rail line had been a route from Chicago to Seattle and was a part of the Milwaukee Road. Some of the trains had been electric and powered by small hydro dams built primarily to power the trains. Construction began in 1907 and it began use in July of 1909. There were a number of interpretive signs along the way telling of the history of the rail line. The last train from Butte, Montana to the west was in 1980, after which the line was abandoned. At the end, down near Preston, we boarded the bus which brought everyone back to a parking area west of the first tunnel. From there we had to ride back through the long tunnel to where we had parked. While waiting we talked to a couple from Charlotte. The had ridden the Virginia Creeper and we offered to shuttle for them if they wanted to ride some of the New River Trail near us.
We found a fairly nice campground in Osburn called the Blue Anchor. It was primarily for RV's, but they had a few tent sites. They had nice showers and a reasonable laundry facility. It was located between the interstate (I-90) and the road between towns in either direction. There was considerable road noise, but were getting use to it and a good afternoon of biking in the cool, clean air would help sleep come easily.
Sunday, August 31
We decided rather than cook breakfast, we'd find a local restaurant. We drove into Wallace five miles away and ate a very good breakfast at the Wallace Hotel. It was an excellent old fashioned style breakfast. After breakfast, we drove to the far end of Lake Couer d' Alene to Plummer where the Couer d' Alene trail began. Rhonda dropped me off and I rode about 33 miles along the lake to where I met here on the trail about four miles from where she had parked the car at Rose Lake. It was a fabulous trail. It was paved and for the most part, ran along the shore of the lake. It was a perfect day and there were lots of people on the trail of all ages. We returned to the campground from there.
Monday, September 1 (Labor Day)
After eating and breaking down camp on a very cool morning, we went back to the trail to do another 8 miles from Cataldo to Rose Lake. On the way to the trailhead, we saw a moose out in a marshy area grazing on some aquatic vegetation. Later, as I rode along the trail, I saw muddy moose tracks in a number of places where a moose had come up out of the swampy area the waterway.
We stopped at Cabelas near the Idaho/Washington line. We both bought fleece shirts on sale, I bought a bottle of stove fuel and a pair of boots. I had discovered after hiking the trails in the Tetons that my old light-weight boots were in worse shape than I thought. I had them for a while and knew they were near their end. A new pair was needed for future hikes, particularly the one we had scheduled in Alaska.
We ate lunch in the parking lot and Rhonda dropped me off at a trail head of the Spokane Centennial trail. I rode another 8 miles toward Spokane, Washington. It was a very nice trail and I wished we had time to ride more of it. We drove around town to the highway heading up to the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. We stopped at the edge of town to gas up and get a couple of things at Walmart.
We arrived at the National Park campground, selected a site, set up, went for a hike and then ate supper. While we were fixing supper, a couple about our age set up a small tent, but it blew over in the stiff wind that was blowing. I had some extra tent pegs, so we staked it down to hold it in place. The campground host told us about the laser light show at the dam at 8:30. We had to d rive a few miles to an area below the dam where they released water to be the backdrop of a laser light show telling the story of the Columbia River and the building of the dam.
Tuesday, September 2
The next morning we drove down highway 155 along side Banks Lake, headed toward US Highway 2 in route to the Wenatchie Valley. This is the big fruit growing area of Washington. We stopped at a fruit stand and bought some apples and white peaches. After lunch at Taco Bell in Wenatchie, we d rove up to Levenworth and stopped for a look around the town reinvented as a Bavarian town to be a tourist draw. Everything in town had been garnished with Bavarian decor and facades, even the McDonald’s. We drove up to Lake Wenatchee State Park to camp for the evening. The campground was in a heavily forested area and not very crowded. I met a couple that had pulled their camper from near Florence, SC to visit their daughter and grand kids. We got there early enough to allow time for me to hike and bike a little in the area.
Wednesday, September 3
We left the park and headed south to find and ride some of the Iron Horse/John Wayne trail southeast of Seattle. We stopped in Ellensburg at the visitor's center to get information on the trail which ran though town. We decided to go down to the eastern end on the Columbia River near the Yakima Military Reservation. We soon discovered that the trail was practically unrideable. The surroundings were desert-like and the trail was too sandy and rocky. This made pedaling and steering very difficult. After three miles, we gave up and went back to the trailhead.
As we drove back west on I-90 to possibly locate a better section of the trail, we could see the ominous Mt Rainier in the distance to our left. We found a great section of the trail at the Lake Easton State Park, and good camping, too. We biked from the campground five or six miles beyond the lake and through a tunnel. Then it was back to camp for supper and a shower. The showers used tokens which you could get from a machine at the check-in station.
Thursday, September 4th
We left camp and headed down I-90 again to do another section of the trail at North Bend near Cedar Falls. This section was very nice and natural. I wished I had the time to ride the trail back to the park where we had just stayed. It would have been a scenic ride. We stopped for lunch at McDonald's and then went looking for the Burke-Gilman Trail on Lake Washington near Bothell. We found the Sammamish River Trail on the east side of the lake that connected to the Burke-Gilman. With the trail located, we'd be ready to ride the next morning.
Next on our agenda was to find a motel so we could begin our transition from campers to cruisers. We had to do laundry and repack for a week on the ship to Alaska. We asked at a gas station where we might find economically priced motels, but after some driving around we settled on a very nice LaQuinta Inn. After checking, in we went to do laundry and picked up some take-out supper. We called the Boyers to let them know we were in town and would be at their house on Friday afternoon. Before we left home, we had found out that a member of our Sunday School class had a brother that lived in Redmond, WA. She contacted him for us and made arrangements for us to park our car at his house while we were on the cruise. After we were on the road, we made contact with him by email and phone. By the time we got to Redmond, the Boyers had extended the invitation to stay with them Friday night.
Friday, September 5
Friday morning we had a great breakfast at the motel and were off to ride some of the famous Burke-Gillman trail. I rode from Kenmore to a shopping center where Rhonda was waiting at a bookstore. On the next leg, we went to the end down near the University of Washington campus and the arboretum. I rode a round trip of about 12 miles. After the ride, we visited the arboretum and a Japanese garden and had lunch from the car. We then drove over to Redmond, killed time and did a practice run to find the Boyer's home. Around four o'clock we called Dallas. He said he was on the way home so we headed over to meet him.
We cleaned up, changed clothes and headed out for supper. We told Dallas and Nancy that we would treat them to supper. Dallas took us to a great place called Joe's Chowder House that was located on the Puget Sound waterfront across the sound from downtown Seattle. On the way, Dallas gave us a quick tour of some of the Microsoft campus there in Redmond.
Saturday, September 6
The next morning we were up early and eager to start the day. Before we left Redmond, Dallas and Nancy treated us to breakfast at a very nice little breakfast restaurant. We arrived down at the port around 9 am and spent some time walking through the famous Pike's Market and around the waterfront. Around noon we checked to see if the ship was ready to receive passengers and baggage. Dallas brought the vehicle to the loading area, we got our bags and said our thank-yous and good byes.
September 7- 13 Cruise to Alaska via the Inside Passage
We had a fabulous time on the cruise to Alaska. We ate tons of great food, met new people, saw some good entertainment, enjoyed the shore excursions and seeing the beautiful scenery as we went. We hiked to the Mendenhall Glacier out of Juneau and biked out to a national forest area where the salmon were running in Ketchikan It was a special treat to see so many salmon doing their up stream thing.
We biked down the Klondike Highway after riding the White Pass Railroad from Scagway to Bennett. It was a 26 mile and 3000 ft climb up the route to the gold fields. The railroad was built in 1898 Klondike Gold Rush by 10's of thousands of men and 450 tons of explosives in, sometimes, harsh conditions. It is consider an international civil engineering landmark. During the trip, we saw beautiful panoramic views, waterfalls, glaciers, gorges, tunnels and trestles. As we passed into Canada, we had to present our passports to a official aboard the train. It was an expensive excursion, but a once in a lifetime trip.
Saturday, September 13
After returning from the cruise on Saturday, the Boyers picked us up and we went back to their house to get our car and trailer. We said thanks and goodbyes again to our new friends, the Boyers. They were so gracious to let us stay with them on Friday night before the cruise, let us leave our car and little trailer in their driveway and take and pick us up from the port. Saturday night, we camped in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park at the Ohanapocosh Campground.
Sunday, September 14
We hikes a couple of trails out of the campground before driving up to Paradise at 5400 ft. It was an absolutely perfect day. Often, Mt. Rainier is in heavy cloud cover or fog, but not so that day. The national weather service says it the snowiest place on earth, with an average snowfall of over 53.6 feet. It made the world record in the winter of 1971-72 with 93.5 feet. The trails we hike out of Paradise, were in a sub-alpine area and gorgeous. There were great views of some of the glaciers on the south side of Rainier. The abundance of wildflowers were just breathtaking and, again, the weather was perfect. We wished we could have taken more time to hike (we should have). There were trails all over. We may have to fly back and rent a car or RV and stay a week. On this trip, there were a number of places that we would enjoy returning and spending more time.
Monday, September 15
We went to Mt. St. Helens on Monday morning and then headed to the Portland area. We stopped in Castle Rock, Washington along the way to do laundry, buy some groceries, check and send email and have lunch all in one stop. Earlier that morning, we were in a campground and fixed pancakes and fried Spam for breakfast. There was an apple tree near our campsite, so I picked up a few, peeled and sliced them. Rhonda put some cinnamon spices on them and we stewed them to go along with the pancakes – very good.
The Mt. St. Helens area was interesting. It was a great experience seeing first hand what the 1982 eruption had done and the recovery that had taken place in the past twenty-five years. At several viewpoints, we could look down into the Toutle River basin where the volcano ash was 150 feet deep after the eruption.
We drove through Portland and headed out to the Banks-Vernonia Trail 40 miles northwest of Portland. We had a hard time finding the trail head in Banks, but finally located the section in Buxton. We retraced our route and found the trail about a half mile east of Banks and I rode the short section back to Buxton. From there we went on to Stug Stewart State Park. It was a relatively new park with a great uncrowded campground.
Tuesday, September 16
The next morning Rhonda dropped me off in Vernonia and picked me up just short of Buxton after an 18 mile ride. We stopped in Banks for gas and headed for the Pacific Coast Highway (101). The skies got cloudier the closer we got to the coast. We drove down the coast all afternoon, stopping several times to view the Pacific Ocean. We stopped in one town and had the oil changed, later we headed back east to find a campground. Once we got about 30 miles inland, the sun was shining again. We found a campground that was primarily workers for a major highway improvement project. It was a well-kept facility and we didn't mind just pitching the tent in the lawn area, since they didn't have actual tent sites.
Wednesday, September 17
The day's destination was Crater Lake National Park, but we had to drive down I-5 further than we planned to avoid an area with large forest fire (two major roads had been closed). We spent over an hour in the park, but decided not to drive the 34 miles around the rim of the volcanic range of the lake. We really didn't get to see the beautiful blueness of the lake because of the some of the forest fire blotting out the sun. It was still a gorgeous natural wonder.
It was established in 1902 and is the fifth oldest national park and the only one in Oregon. The park encompasses the caldera of Crater Lake, a remnant of a destroyed volcano, Mount Mazama, and the surrounding hills and forest. The park is 183m224 acres. The lake is 1949 feet deep in its deepest point, making it the deepest lake in the US. The caldera rim ranges from 7,000 to 8,000 feet. The surface level of the lake is 6,178 feet. The lake has not inlets or outlet. The water it gets is from rain and snow and it loses water from evaporation and subsurface seepage.
A trio of gold prospectors: John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel, and Isaac Skeeters were the first white people to visit the lake. On June 12, 1853, they stumbled upon the long, sloping mountain while hunting for provisions. Stunned by vibrant blue color of the lake, they named the indigo body of water "Deep Blue Lake" and the place on the southwest side of the rim where he first saw the lake later became known as Discovery Point. But gold was more on the minds of settlers at the time and the discovery was soon forgotten. The suggested name later fell out of favor by locals, who preferred the name Crater Lake.
Our next destination was Klamath Falls to ride the OC&E Woods Line Trail. We had trouble finding a government (state or federal) campground on the maps or in the material we had, so we asked someone in the downtown area. They directed us to the KOA out east of town. We generally try to avoid the KOAs, because they are usually about 20 percent higher than similar campgrounds, they offer amenities that we do not use and are often situated close to commercial setting in town. The facility was nice and relatively quite.
Thursday, September 18
We were out early to locate the trail head. Rhonda dropped me off and headed to Olene. The trail was paved for eight miles to our rendezvous. We loaded the bike and moved to the Switchback section of the trail between Dairy and Sprague River. From there, I rode to Beatty where Rhonda was to meet me. It turned out that the trail beyond Sprague River was in very ill repair and it was not fun to ride. There was a lot of fist size rocks and tall weeds in some places. When it got time to meet Rhonda in Beatty, Rhonda had trouble finding the trail head around Beatty. This was due to the lack of trail markings either on the trail or the highway. Fortunately, we had walkie-talkies and were able to meet up about a half mile from the trail head near Beatty. I ended up riding twenty-five miles and would have like to have ridden more, but the trail was too undeveloped.
From Beatty, drove back to Kalmath Falls and then down US 97 toward the California border. It wasn't long before Mt. Shasta (14,162 ft.) came into view as we drove past huge fields of strawberry plants (being raised to sell as plants). The area also had signs warning of the presence of dust clouds from agricultural cultivating. We stopped in the town of Mt. Shasta on I-5 to try to find some camping information, but the material we picked up didn't provide much help so we decided to head down CA 44 toward Susanville. I had done some internet research and found what was to be an extremely nice bike trail that ended in Susanville.
Ten miles south of Mt. Shasta, we passed a nice looking campground in McCloud, so I did a u-turn and went back. From our campsite, we had a great view of the magnificent mountain. The campground was primarily for Rvs, but they had a few tent sites and a nice bathhouse facility. One of their draws was a dance hall and regularly scheduled dances.
Friday, September 19
After breakfast and packing up, we drove southeast through the Shasta-Trinity and the Lessen National Forest. We arrived in Susanville, California before lunch and went to the visitor center to get a map and details on the Biz Johnson Trail. We then drove out to Westwood and had lunch in the trailhead parking lot. The trail was a little more than twenty-five miles and followed the route of the old Southern Pacific Railroad's Fernley and Lassen Branch line down the Susan River Canyon. It was established in 1914 to haul logs and milled lumber from Westwood to Fennley, Nevada. The mill closed in 1958 and the line was abandoned in 1978. Before reaching town, I met Rhonda coming up the trail just as a light and brief shower passed by. While I was on the trail, Rhonda had found a place in town to get a hair cut.
We went back to the visitor center to find out about camping in the area and discovered that we would have to go back to north a ways where we had been or choose one of the campgrounds along the highway. We decided to stay in a motel since it looked like it might rain again. Later, while doing laundry and my sleeping bag, we met two couples in the laundrymat from Alabama that were traveling around the west together.
Saturday and Sunday, September 20 and 21
We stopped in Reno, NV on Saturday and stayed with some friends, Clint and Parthena. They had been in our trail maintenance club from Chapel Hill, NC. After having lunch with them, we drove south up to Lake Tahoe and stopped in Virginia City on the way back to Reno.
Virginia City sprang up as a boomtown with the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, the first major silver deposit discovery in the United States, with numerous mines opening. At the city's peak of population in the mid-1870s, it had an estimated 25,000 residents. The mines' output declined after 1878, and the city itself declined as a result. As of the 2010 Census the population of Virginia City was about 855, with 4,000 living in Storey County. It was a tourist town for sure. Most of the downtown area was made to look much like on old western town with wooden sidewalks and shops of the period. I didn't realize that Samuel Clements worked there for a year and a half with the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. It was during this time he took the pen name of Mark Twain.
We pitched our tent in Clint and Parthena's yard, since another friend from the trail club, Kathy Bobscene was also visiting at the same time. From the spot on the lawn, we had a great view of the lights of Reno. I had stayed one night in Reno when I was in route to Yosemite to meet up with four others (Clint and Kathy was two of them) to hike the 220 mile John Muir Trail in 1989.
On Sunday, we drove across Nevada and through the salt flats of Utah to Salt Lake City. It was heavily overcast and looking like rain, so we again opted for a motel and we figured there wasn't much tent camping in or close to Salt Lake City.
Monday, September 22
It was raining on Monday morning as we left town and drove down to Provo. We drove out of the rain and I rode a trail from Provo Canyon to Utah Lake State Park where Rhonda was waiting. From there we went to Moab, Utah to visit the Arches National Park – Awesome. It has the world's largest collection of natural sandstone arches (over 2000). The national park lies atop an underground evaporite layer or salt bed, which is the main cause of the formation of the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, and eroded monoliths in the area.
We camped along side the Colorado River that night. The national park had very limited camping spots and if you wanted one you had to be in line at the entrance at day break. The campground we stayed in was extremely crowded. I think our camping neighbor and us used the same tent peg for one of the corners of our tents.
Tuesday, September 23
We spent all morning in the park walking trails and seeing the more prominent arches. It was on to Colorado and the Rockies after lunch. We camped at a private campground near Carbondale on the Roaring Fork River between Aspen and Glendale Springs. We camped next to a couple from Australia, Robert and Colleen Carnes, who was combining visiting their daughter and son-in-law in Los Angeles and Cincinnati and touring as much of the US as possible as they had time. The told us they planned to fly from Denver to Cincinnati to visit their son-in-laws parents and then rent a car to visit Mammoth Cave, the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We told them to call us if they got in our vacinity and it was convenient, we'd love for them to stop by for a visit. (They stopped overnight on Tuesday Oct 7th and we enjoyed talking with each other about our surroundings.
Wednesday, September 24
I rode two trails going into Glendale Springs. One came down from Aspen for 42 miles (I rode only 13 miles) and the other follow the Colorado River for 14 miles ending in Dotsero and then rode a trail from Vail Pass to Frisco for a total of 37 miles on Wednesday. We stayed in Frisco that night in the Snowshoe Motel, because the federal camping areas were already closed for the season and as far as we could tell, there were no private campgrounds close by. It was a neat little town and a great biking area. We were around the best ski areas west of Denver (Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mtn. And Aspen).
Thursday, September 25
I rode two more trail in this area on Thursday. One was a 12 mile trail in Leadville, Colorado which was the highest incorporated city in the US. I was biking at about 10,400 feet. Never thought I'd be doing that. From Leadville we drove over to Cripple Creek, Colorado. We wanted to see it since we lived just two miles from Cripple Creek, Va. We picked up souvenirs, took alot of pictures and stayed at the Lost Burro Campground just outside of town.
Friday, September 26
We were up before seven and on the road a little after eight. We drove out to Interstate 25 at Colorado Springs and then went south to Pueblo to connect with US highway 50 heading east into Kansas. It was only a short distance before the scenery turned to a vast, flat, open plain, even though the elevation was above 4000 ft. It was what they call high plains. The highway was flat and relatively straight with only a few towns along the way. We went through two areas with huge wind farms, both having over 100 wind turbines. West of Dodge City, we began to see a number of large feet lots where cows were brought in to feed them grain to prepare them for their final demise. When we reached Dodge City, we had already decided to use the free motel stay we had with the Wyndam Rewards Plan. The motel was on Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
Saturday, September 27
We left town on US highway 400 heading for our next planned stop in Greensburg, Kansas where there was the site of the world's largest hand dug well and the town that was completely wiped out by a tornado. Not far down the road we came upon one of those “Roadside America” sites. Someone had decorated a fence line with metal art and whirlygigs. Most in the form of creatures and characters. It was worth a return and an instant replay (I've got video). We continued on through the day and began looking for a campground after we passed Joplin, Missouri. We had picked up some information at the visitor center as we entered the state.
We found a campground listed at Monett, but the information did not provide enough information to find it without asking directions twice. It was well kept and had a very nice shower house facility. It actually was one of those mobile units you some time see at big entertainment events except it was made permanent. The highway and railroad was much too close, but by now we were more conditioned to road noise. Ideally, it would be great to have a slightly remote state or federal campground at the end of most our day's travel.
Sunday, September 28
Our first destination was the Frisco Highline Trail north of Springfield. As often is the case, it usually takes some effort to locate the trail. We drove out to we thought the trail was headed and asked directions. I started in the little town of Walnut Grove and rode the 16 miles back to Springfield. The total trail was thirty-five miles and went to Bolivar (rhymes with Oliver). After the ride, we drove east for ten or twelve miles before stopping for lunch at a Subway.
By the end of the day, we crossed the Mississippi River at the confluence with the Ohio. River. There was an abandoned park and campground there on the point between the rivers. It looked as if a storm had hit the area sometime back and no maintenance had been done in a while. We stopped down the road and asked about camping and found out the nearest was going to be in Puducah, Ky 28 miles away.
The campground was someone's family property that the commercial area had grown up around it. We were a very short distance from an interstate interchange an all the traffic and sounds related to the same. Camping next to us was a couple that had a tandem recumbent bike and were doing about 700 miles as a part of a multi-year cross country trip. They were from Washington state near the coast.
Monday, September 29
The next day we drove to Nashville on I-24 and to Knoxville on I-40. From Knoxville, we took I-81 to Rural Retreat, Va. (25 miles from home) where we stopped to pick up a few groceries for supper
It had been an absolutely great trip. We were gone 14 days and drove 8,514 miles plus traveled over 2000 miles on the cruise. We camped 26 nights, cruised 7 days, stayed in motels 6 nights and with friends twice. There were many splendid sights and a lot of nice people we met along the way and camping is the way to do it. At the end, Rhonda and I were still talking to each other. We had great weather with light rain only a couple of times and only a few minor traffic back ups. One for road construction east of Lamar, Kansas on road that we made a wrong turn. I'd say that was a good trip. Next year, if the good Lord is willing, we will be heading out to the southwest.