top left corner

2002 West Camping Vacation Travel Log - page 4 of 5
Week 4 ~ Monday August 12 to Sunday August 18, 2002

Monday August 12 - We had a good night's sleep. Quiet and not too cold. We drove down back toward town, Port Angeles, and over to a state park to check out the camping. It was too crowded with small tight campsites and it would be very difficult to pull our small trailer through the tight turns in the campground which is on a lake and certainly looks like a great place to camp. Not as nice as Michigan's State Park campgrounds. This whole area, the Olympic peninsula, looks like a great place to spend a few years. Lots of recreational attractions not to mention all the drive-thru espresso stands. Washington people do like their coffee. My kinda place!

We went back to our Heart O' the Hills campsite for the early afternoon to just relax and chill out for a few hours. Then back into the van and off we went to Dungeness Wildlife Refuge which is on the water where I took a bunch more pictures. This is the world's longest sand spit (with a lighthouse on the end).

Dungeness Wildlife Refuge
Dungeness Wildlife Refuge - That's the sand spit going out for miles into the water.

It's a five mile walk along the shore all the way out to the lighthouse which you can't see in these pictures. The first picture was taken along the descending trail from the parking area. It was a three quarters mile walk thru the woods to the water front. This is supposed to be a bird sanctuary but all we saw was a crap load of huge logs. There is actually quite a story about this place.

For my first mystery picture, everybody was guessing some kind of animal excrement and yes this is true. But, nobody guessed bear skat which I photographed close to the base of Old Faithful. Yes, I said skat. That's what the rangers call it out here. Back in Michigan it's called shit.

Now for the second mystery picture.

This is entirely organic and not a bunch of rope. What is it?

From Dungeness, we drove to Port Townsend which is a really picturesque little town on the water.

Port Townsend Washington
Port Townsend Washington

The downtown has some really neat old buildings. The whole city is a national historic town. We had our first and probably only dinner outside a campground. Very nice restaurant on the waterfront. The filets were great as well as the Crown Royal. On the way back to the campground we stopped at a casino and donated some money to the indians. After all, our ancestors stole all this really nice property from them.

Tuesday Aug 13 - We packed up the camp crap and started heading east toward the Cascade National Park. This driving trip was one of the most varied and nicest trips. We traveled thru farmland, small mountains, around lots of water, thru a bunch of small towns and we had to take a ferry from Port Townsend to Keystone across Port Townsend Bay.

Driving onto the Ferry. It only cost about $35 for the van and trailer.
The Ferry going back to Port Townend.

The ferry ride was fun. They have more ferries here than any place in the world. Even more than San Francisco. Different ferries or fairies. Anyhow, you should really look at a map to see all the water and islands that are here to understand how big the ferry business is here. People live on the west side of Puget Sound and work in Seattle. The ferry is huge with passenger seating on the enclosed upper deck that has a snack bar and restrooms. Very nice 25 minute ride from Port Townsend to Keystone. I had a cup of Starbucks coffee and a donut and Diane had a cookie and tea. Fun ride. That was the second time our trailer was on a ferry.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent cruising thru some really pretty countryside and small towns. We landed in North Cascades National Park at another fantastic campground with lots of big trees and a noisy river. Very few people here. Quiet. Good cell phone signal, but none of my calls go thru. Technical crap. Years from now, as we are all talking on satellite phones, we'll all laugh at how stupid it was to even try to put up a cell tower every few miles across an entire grid of the US. Oh well. I'll try to get a connection tomorrow down the road.

Spectacular view of bridge on SR20.
Whidbey Island Washington with the Cascades in the background.
Our North Cascades campsite in Newhalem Campground. We have a campfire going with the computer and a bottle of beer on the table, but no prunes.
Entrance to the River Loop Trail.

We went on a nature trail walk down to the river and back, had a great campfire dinner, walked around the loop and went to bed. There was maybe 20% of the campsites occupied. Very quiet indeed.

Wednesday Aug 14 - We slept with the windows wide open and the temperature was very comfortable. Maybe sixty. We actually got up and going pretty early; picked up the welcome mat and started out of the campground. We decided to check out the Visitor Center that we missed yesterday because it closed at six o'clock. It is just up a short drive from the campground. Now, I've seen some nice visitor centers, but this place takes first prize. It had to cost the taxpayers a bunch. I loved the building's architecture with its stone foundation and beams. There is a large exhibit room that is loaded with sectioned nature displays. Lots to read. There are video screens that activate when you step into the area and you are treated with some very well produced movies with great nature sounds.

The North Cascades Visitor Centor with us as its only visitors this early in the morning.
Inside of the very impressive North Cascades Visitor Center.

Most National Parks Visitor Centers have a large relief map of the their park and this park certainly has the best one I've ever seen. And as you can see in the picture, a fantastic fireplace and sitting area. We were both extremely impressed and walked away with a desire to come back to the park and spend some real time.

This is the Cascade mountains viewed from an observation deck near the rear of the Visitor Center. The walkway to the deck was all wood and very well crafted.

We made very slow progress in our drive out of the park due to all the stopping and picture taking.

Just another spectacular view in Cascade National Park, Washington.

The wide angle views from this huge scenic turnout were absolutely breathtaking. The water in the picture looks blue, but is turquoise in real life. I have more pictures that show the color better. The water is melted glacier water which picks up a lot of fine ground up rock that contains certain minerals that changes the light refraction of the water and we see turquoise and not the usual blue reflection of the sky.

Cruising around the curves on SR20 in Cascade National Park, Washington.
Coming around a bend on SR20 and we got smacked right in the face with yet another fantastic shot of the Cascades. We were blessed with this type of condition for a few hours. More oohs and aahs than the Fourth of July.

A lot of our late afternoon drive was through countryside that was reminiscent of driving through Wyoming, but not quite so vast. It changed constantly from empty brown rolling hills to forests of green and twisty turny roads. Very nice drive.

We flat out ran outta day but we never ran outta Washington. The plan was to get to the middle of Idaho which was another hundred miles of driving. No way, so we stopped in another low end campground for the night. Oh, and we had showers and electricity. Microwave oven, electric toaster, electric coffee pot, refrigerator...

Absolutely no radio stations or cell phone service anywhere! Maybe tomorrow. Maybe internet so that I can upload this stuff and get email. Maybe.

Thursday Aug 15 - We have a lot of driving to do today and I'm looking forward to our docking in Glacier National Park later today. The drive out of Washington and into Idaho on SR20 was very scenic as it was all the way across that skinny part of Idaho. Idaho is only about forty miles wide at this point, but it's about seventy miles driving and it sure is purdy. Holy cow, I'm starting to talk and write western.

Well, we hit Glacier National Park about 6:00 pm mountain time. By the way, I Love This Park (I.L.T.P.). This is my favorite National Park and maybe I can show you why I feel this way.

I think we are here!

Immediately after turning north off US2, we were greeted with the sign on the RR bridge that says we can stop driving and start cruising. Well, not yet. First we must drive thru West Glacier, a small commercial section, actually a town, that has the train station, a couple gifts shops, the Canadian Visitor Center, a gas station, a laundramat, general store, motel, and other welcoming facilities. One thousand feet later and we were on the main drive into the park and, once again, we are glad we bought the National Park annual pass for fifty bucks. We stopped at the entry station to get a fresh map and the newspaper about the park. All the major National Parks dish out these two items.

We toured one of the campgrounds and settled into the second, Fish Creek Campground, which was a bit quieter and we found a pretty nice site. I must say that Cougar Rock Campground at Mt. Rainier was the best campground we have ever stayed at. This campground is old and showing its age. The restrooms need a paint job, but the scenery is so beautiful we won't look at the crappers. It ain't no Holiday Inn.

Our Fish Creek Campground campsite.
...and this is Fish Creek

I haven't seen any Holiday Inns with a genuine Fish Creek running thru it. This was out our back door and down a hill thru the trees. There is a constant soothing river noise coming from it. You can see why I.L.T.P.

This is a shot of Lake McDonald looking north from the Fish Creek Picnic Area. I.L.T.P.

We made a campfire and cooked a nice Safeway steak for dinner. Or is it supper out here? Once again we ran out of daylight and the clock said it was quittin' time, so we did. Quit. Went to sleep. Much to do tomorrow.

Alan Darge's commentary on National Park Campground Restrooms:

I know you were all waiting for this. There are a lot of National Parks in the US and we've been to most of them. Did you know that all of the restrooms are of a different design? Some are much better than others. Why wouldn't the Park Service take the best design and use it throughout the US in all the parks? Okay, who would decide which is best? After all, it is a branch of the government we are talking about here.

The standard floor plan seems to be a Women's and Men's with a small wash basin room in the middle for dumping dishwater and rinsing out clothing, etc. Very few will have a water spigot and drinking fountain at the Restroom building. The water is right there in the building, so why not have it available right outside? That would make too much sense. By the way, the water spigots are strategically hidden along the campground loop road.

The mirrors above the sinks need to be teen aged boy proof, so they are made of polished stainless steel. Never polished enough. We all look a little weird in the early morning and we don't need the mirror to make it worse. Some of the mirrors are so blurry they are not much better than looking in a pool of water. That's the answer! Use the toilet bowl!

Now, speaking of toilet bowls... Why in the world would a restroom architect design a stall with a door that swings inward to within four inches of the white ceramic fixture? Imagine this: you step into the stall and try to close the door. You are in the way. You need to step back. Where? Okay, you need to straddle the toilet. Great! Don't touch that damn thing. Believe me, it ain't clean. It's not so bad for the guys due to the fact that we stand in a different area most of the time when we go. And there's lots of elbow room. But, I do feel sorry for the gals. Every time. And if you are a little overweight... Heaven help you!

One last thought on the people that use public restrooms. Can you imagine what their own bathrooms at home look like? Do they think that their mother will follow in behind them to do clean up? Yellow water everywhere and bits of TP on the floor. Pigs.

Friday Aug 16 - Well we had a lovely good nights sleep and woke to a cloudy sky. Holy cow! Looks like rain! I tuned into the only radio station I could get in the trailer (I need to get serious about installing a decent antennae and not just a little piece of wire stuck into the back of the radio). The weather report said 30% chance of rain today and clear skies on Saturday and Sunday. Okay, we did the laundry first thing. Actually, Diane did the laundry while I sat in the van and got caught up on some of my computer work. It did rain just a little, but the whole thing cleared up as I was sitting in the van and the rest of the day was very nice with clouds rolling in and out, overcast a little then clear. As I type this, we are currently sitting in full sun on the eastern shore of Lake McDonald. Here's what we see.

McDonald Lake shoreline looking south.
Relaxing in the sun at McDonald Lake; typing this journal.

We toured McDonald Lodge on the northern shore of the lake. This place is great! I talk about coming here on the train and staying at this lodge for a week or so and really relax. They have a very nice dining room and a separate bar for the food and booze. Outside back is great with lots of chairs and sitting areas with a stairs that goes down to the lake where you can take a cruise of the lake for ten bucks. I.L.T.P.

McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park, Montana - This is one place we would love to come in by train and stay for a week.
Where else can you find the heads of so many dead animals hanging on the walls?

As we drove south back toward our campground, we stopped along the road and hiked a bit along the river and took some beautiful pictures of the waterfalls and rapids.

McDonald River
Why do people go to foriegn countries on vacation when we have this here?

We drove 35 miles to Kalispell which is having its 100th anniversary fair. We went for the rodeo which was extremely entertaining and a lot of fun. I didn't take any pictures because I didn't want to haul around the camera. If you have never been to a rodeo, you should go. The Longhorn Rodeo comes to the Palace every year in February. We went a couple of years ago and had a great time. Much different in real life than on TV.

After the rodeo, we got an excellent cell phone and internet connection in Kalispell so we sat there for half an hour and uploaded all of past due pictures and some new text. For some technical reason, we still can't send email, but we are receiving it just fine.

There will be a lot of pictures for Saturday so I am ending this page early on Friday and starting a new page.

Just another Alan Darge observation:
Honestly, America should have some sort of public dress code. We have seen more people wearing mixed sets of pajamas in public. You know... the striped tops with wild colors and plaid bottoms with more wild colors. Looks like a giant golf course out there. Kinda like Walmart. There otta be a law.

Saturday Aug 17 - Have you ever slept in your refrigerator? It was cold last night! Forty degrees inside the trailer. It is so nice and sunny today and warming up nicely. We had French Toast for breakfast with blueberry sauce on top. Lots of coffee and we are ready to go to the top of the world on Going to the Sun road.

As usual, we got a later start than we would have liked. We drove around Lake McDonald on Going to the Sun Road and headed up to the sun or rather the mountains and Logan Pass which is about 20 miles up. We've been here twice before and I know this drive is incredible. I love this park.

Lake McDonald River that runs along the highway
Going to the Sun highway

This scenery can't be beat! Past Lake McDonald, the road follows the river for several miles and we stopped here and there to take it all in. Diane made sandwiches before we left the campsite and we stopped for a very late lunch under a bridge with a noisy waterfall rushing by us as we sat on the rocks. Actually, the lunch ended up being supper.

A tunnel on Going to the Sun road

And what's a mountain drive without a tunnel? Just a mountain drive. Well this ain't just no mountain drive; it has two tunnels. One of them has a couple of openings in the side where you can walk out a bit and hang over the stone wall and look down a thousand feet. I did, and I got some more pictures. Cool!

Keep your eyes on the road

Now, there is a sign down at the beginning of this road that states No Vehicles Over 21 Feet total and the maximum vehicle width is 8 feet. As evidenced by the above picture, 8 feet is way too wide. The lanes are maybe 7 feet in a lot of places and the turns are so tight that 10 mph is too fast. It is a real thrill ride here folks! The outside edge has only a short stone wall and it is straight down from there with nothing to stop you. Cool!

The views keep getting better and better all the way up to the pass.
Truly made by the hand of God just for us. Cool!
See what I mean? As the Canadians would say, "Cool, eh!"
Think about the guys who built this road.

Water is always flowing down from the top. Gravity is amazing. And we get lots of small waterfalls. They started building this road back in 29 and finished it in 1932. You know that the equipment was not what we have today, but they did a great job. The craftsmanship on the stone walls is something to see. Of course, it is a constant repair job for the road crew because rocks keep falling down and it gets washed out in places. The on-going repairs are quite evident.

...and the water flows downhill.
At Logan Pass, we walked a one and a half mile trail uphill to the top of the world! It took us a few hours due to the constant stopping to check out the scenery. We took 150 pictures this day. I love this park.
This is it! Hidden Lake and beyond. We sat here for a while and sucked it all in. The wind was blowing in our faces and was constant. Not cold and the sun was nice and warm. The best scenery we'll ever encounter.
This is a shot in the other direction from the deck shown above.

You can see why I love this park. Along the trail up here, we shared the trail with a bunch of mountain goats. Tame buggers that walked just a few feet away from us and later camped out under the trees next to the trail. Big ones and the kids. One of the kids was a bit vocal. Cool! I love this park.

Late day shot in Glacier National Park.

We returned to the Logan Pass Visitor Center and continued our driving tour down the other side, which is shorter and not as scary, all the way to St. Mary's Lake and the Visitor Center on the east side of the park. We checked out the Visitor Center and the campground over there and started our return trip back over the top. It was getting late and the sun was going down behind the mountains and lit up the clouds and gave us yet another spectacular view of the mountains and of course more pictures. Cool!

The drive back gave us different views and more pictures, but it was getting late and the sun was disappearing as it does every day like clockwork.

We stopped in at the lounge in Lake McDonald Lodge for a bowl of black bean soup for Diane and a Peppermint Schnaaps for me. As I said before, this lodge is great! So comfortable, we hated to leave, but it was real dark now and the lake disappeared, so back to the campsite we went.

Back at the campsite, I made a campfire and we sat for awhile watching wood being consumed. Campers do this sort of thing on a regular basis. The campground is very quiet and it began to sprinkle. We saw the dark clouds and lightning on our drive back. It was just a sprinkle and that was all.

Later, after the fire died, somehow I managed to get a good cell phone hookup and uploaded more pictures and then it quit. I tried again and again, but noluck. It was about midnight here and Diane was fast asleep (she couldn't handle all the excitement and the long trail hike). I also quit and called it a day. Great sleeping. Not nearly as cold as last night.

Sunday Aug 18 - We got up too late to make the 9:00am church service at the amphitheater. We'll catch the 7:00pm service. We made cheese omelets, hash browns with bacon and toast for breakfast. This day was planned to be real slow with zilch driving. We did drive the short distance to West Glacier, the main gateway entry to the park, and walked around. I took a bunch of pictures while Diane checked out a couple of the gift shops and the general store. We visited the Canadian Visitor Center and then walked up to the historic train station which is now just a bookstore open only during the week. The Amtrack passenger trains stop here to drop off and pick up passengers twice a day. No more ticket sales here like in the olden days. Lake McDonald Lodge and the Village Inn provide motor transportation from/to here for its guests. It is a real shame that the trains are disappearing from the US.

We bought a couple of espressos and drove back into the park and a mile or so around the shore of Lake McDonald and parked ourselves on the shore where I am now writing this stuff. I would really like to do nothing like this for a week or so.

Relaxing by Lake McDonald. It doesn't get any better than this.

Here we are. Relaxation doesn't come in a better package. We stuck our feet in the water just to check it out. Cold. It's melted glacier water and is perfectly clear. Beautiful. After a couple hours of this relaxing stuff, we returned to the campground and went to church services at the amphitheater for the seven o'clock service. There were only a few people in attendance. These services are put together by the National Parks Christian Ministries and run by the young volunteers from the Christian schools. We all gave thanks to God for giving us this most beautiful park. Afterwards, we ate supper and walked back to the amphitheater for a ranger talk on cougars in the park. We did the campfire thing again and called it quits for the day.

Well, I tried and tried, but I can't get an internet connection. So no upload again today.

And this is the end of Week 4 of our vacation. Go back to Week 3 -- Go to Week 5