Friday, July 30, 2010

On My Way... to Alaska

By the time you read this I should be in Canada on the long road to Alaska! Normally I don't post my itinerary in advance, but I'm going to take a chance and do so now.

The basic route is as follows (double-click on image for a larger version):

I will be entering Canada on Route 93 and following it north to Banff National Park and on to Jasper. On Route 16 north of Jasper I'll turn off on Highway 40, which cuts across to Grande Prairie (about 900 miles).

From Grande Prairie I'll go west to Dawson Creek, which is “Mile 0” of the Alaska Highway and take it to the official end of the road, which is Delta Junction, Alaska (another 1,390 miles).

I have no idea what internet access there will be along the way. I've been told that many campgrounds have wifi – I can only hope that they do! I'll check-in with at least a short post whenever possible...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Glacier :: Highline Trail

The next morning (Tuesday July 27th) I drove the Going to the Sun Road. The shuttles are nice and you have the opportunity to look at the tremendous views as you are riding, but it is nearly impossible to get good photos through the window of the moving bus! Also, the shuttle does not stop at any of the overlooks.

Taken from about a third of the way up the road.

A little further up the road with the road visible on the right. Steep drop-offs were the norm with guardrails in only some sections.

Nearing Logan Pass. This was taken from the Highline Trail. Construction along the highway can cause delays of up to half and hour in several different sections. It took me 1.5 hours to get to Logan Pass and another 1.5 hours to get to the east side entrance at St. Marys.

The Highline Trail, which begins at Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Road, is one of the premier hiking trails at Glacier National Park. I only walked the first mile or so where it hovers several hundred feet above the Going to the Sun Road. This section of trail was rather wide in most places, perhaps 5-6 feet, but narrowed to less than 2 feet in some spots. They did have a chain threaded through water hoses and attached to the mountain side for you to hang onto if you felt the need...

A portion of the Highline trail on the left (in the shade), Going to the Sun Road winding up the hill, and Clements Mountain in the background.

Wildflowers were in bloom, scattered here and there, clinging to the walls of the mountain.

Another view of the Going to the Sun Road and Clements Mountain. Waterfalls graced the sides of the valley – one can be seen in the lower right corner.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Glacier National Park

It was mid-morning on Monday (July 26th) when I arrived at Glacier National Park. Since I didn't have reservations, the first order of business was to find an open campsite! Rather than stay at Apgar on the west side I decided to take a chance on Avalanche Campground, which is just before where the Going to the Sun Highway starts its climb to Logan Pass. Luck was with me once again and I got one of the last five sites still available!

Lake McDonald on the west side of Glacier National Park. It was a hazy day with mist rising from the lake. This is from about half-way down the lake looking to the northeast, before you get to Avalanche Campground.

About four years ago Glacier National Park began running shuttle buses on the Going to the Sun Road. They aren't mandatory, but enough people use them to take some of the stress off of the parking areas, which are limited. In fact, the shuttles that I road were filled to capacity with people waiting for the next one. The do run frequently but with construction on the “Sun” road, the schedules are all out of whack.

As soon as I got settled into my campsite, I walked to the shuttle stop and took it to Logan Pass where there is a Visitor Center and trails. The trail I took that afternoon was to Hidden Lake. It is 1.5 miles to the overlook along boardwalk and snow...

Note to Steve: Our shoes are made for walking, but not for walking in icy snow! I was slip-sliding all the way...

The view to the northeast. Part of the Going to the Sun road is visible in the center of the picture.

This is looking to the southeast.

There were several small groups of Mountain Goats that frequented the trail area. They didn't seem to be afraid of people.

The destination: Hidden Lake, looking south.

Bearhat Mountain towers over Hidden Lake and environs.

A bit of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain on the left. Lake McDonald in visible in the distance in the center of the photograph. The trail from the overlook continues another 1.5 miles to the lake shore. Due to time constraints (having to catch the last shuttle back to the campground) I didn't go all the way down.

The snow-covered trail on the way back to the Visitors Center.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Adios, Big Sky Country

And this is why they call it Big Sky Country!
The Crazy Mountains, dwarfed by the sky and clouds.

You may have noticed that things have been rather quiet here at Kinexxions. I've been busy with the photo project, which I'm happy to say has been completed. In the process I was able to free-up over 55gb of hard drive space on the netbook and have sent an external drive with all of the photos to a friend for safekeeping.

The ladies at the library have been very nice, helpful and friendly. The wifi has been wonderful and it is greatly appreciated. I've spent a couple hours there every day that it has been open.

Sadly, I haven't done as much sightseeing here as I would have liked. Which means that I'll probably have to come back... which wouldn't be a bad thing, it has been VERY NICE here. The weather has been pretty good. Most days there has been sunshine. In the evenings it seems to get a little cloudy. There have been a couple of rainy days, but not an all-day rain. Temperatures have been very pleasant – in the upper 70s and lower 80s with a couple of days in the low 90s.

The van has been emptied and cleaned and a few things were discarded giving me a little space for some of the things I'll need for the next portion of the journey. I'll be leaving here Sunday morning and heading North... through Canada and into Alaska!

Yes, Alaska! A place I've wanted to go to for a very long time... my friends Sue and Fred (the same folks who got me down into the Grand Canyon) notified me less than a month ago that they had added Alaska to their fall trip. I took advantage of their generous offer to join them anywhere along their journey so we're going to meet at Denali National Park for several days then go down to the Kenai Peninsula for a few days. I'll be spending additional time in that area while they head on over to the Inner Passage to Haines, Skagway, and Juneau. I'll be going there too, just not at the same time. And so, this is why I haven't done much sightseeing here in Montana! I've been spending a great deal of time at the library looking up information about activities and making reservations. There is so much to see and do! It is overwhelming.

I'm excited but nervous at the same time. It is a long drive but from what I've read, the roads through Canada and into Alaska are similar to our secondary roads here in the lower 48 so I'm not overly concerned about that aspect of the trip. It is just a very, very long ways away...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Where the Buffalo Roam...

Sure, they are “domesticated” Buffalo, being raised on a ranch, but they still roam...

Their manners and actions reminded me of once, a long time ago, when I stopped to photograph some cows back in Indiana. Apparently cows and buffalo are both curious creatures; they kept coming closer and closer.

So close that I could have reached out and touched them...

Momma was very protective of her calf.

Photos taken in south-central Montana on July 22, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunset over the Crazies

The Crazy Mountains (also called the Crazies) are an isolated “Island Range” sitting between Big Timber and Livingston in south-central Montana and are the dominate landmark in the area. The highest peak is Crazy Peak, which stands at 11,214 feet and rises over 7,000 feet above the Great Plains to the east.

These photos were taken on July 17, 2010 near the exit ramp of Interstate 90 a mile east of Big Timber. I couldn't decide which one I liked the most... the clouds kept changing, as did the colors, which were absolutely amazing. Mother Nature put on another fantastic display. Enjoy...

8:37 pm

8:46 pm

8:53 pm

8:56 pm

8:59 pm

9:09 pm

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Beartooth Highway

Yesterday I took a break from sorting and deleting photos from my hard drive and decided to follow U.S. Highway 212 from Red Lodge, Montana south into northern Wyoming. This route is also known as the Beartooth Scenic Byway or the Beartooth All-American Road, and, according to an acquaintance, Charles Kuralt put this highway on his list of the top 10 spectacular drives in America. It is also the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. And, it definitely lives up to its reputation!

Looking northeast from Rock Creek Vista Point (elevation 9,190 feet) in the Custer National Forest, Montana. The highway is that ribbon of white way down in the valley.

Looking northwest from Rock Creek Vista Point. The speed limit was 25 mph along this stretch of winding switchbacks that traveled up the south side of the mountains.

The view to the north, a short distance from Rock Creek Vista.

From Rock Creek Vista, the road continued upward and into Wyoming where the peaks were viewed from across wide-open meadows.

Stopping at almost every overlook along the way, I was taken by surprise when I saw this view as the lake was not visible from the road. The wind was quite strong and several times I had to brace myself when a big gust came along.

Taken from near the summit (elevation 10,947 feet at Beartooth Pass) in Wyoming, looking towards the north. It was windy and cold, and the short walk to get this picture was quite exhilarating.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dark Clouds Overhead

Storm clouds have moved in towards late afternoon each of the past few days. Sometimes rain falls, sometimes it doesn't. Southwest Montana July 12, 2010.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Greetings from Montana!

So, here I am in southwest Montana, in what is called “God's Country” by some people. It is a gorgeous place. But I must say, there are many areas of this nation that can easily be referred to as God's Country. Our nation is, to put it mildly, a fantastically beautiful place. I've seen much of it in the last 10 months and, the good Lord willing, will see more of it in the future.

However, I'll be taking a short “vacation” from traveling for a few weeks. (It is hard to believe that I've been here over a week already!)

The Agenda: Simply relaxing and taking care of a few “chores” such as sorting photos and deleting duplicates from my hard drive, which is rapidly filling up. Never fear, ALL photos (except the obvious duds) are also stored on two external drives. The van is in need of a good cleaning too so I'll be removing everything from it as well as doing some sorting and discarding of things I think I no longer need, which I don't think will be all that much.

The local library has wifi (Yay!!) that is not “fast” but isn't too awfully slow so I've spent an hour or two there nearly every day (they are closed on Sunday and Monday). But most of my time has been spent working on the computer. I have made some headway with sorting and deleting images from the netbook but it is a slow and somewhat tedious process. However, seeing those pictures again has brought back some wonderful memories as well as more than a few “Huh, what is that? Why did I take that?” moments. LOL.

Now, Susan, if you're reading this, I just want you to know that I'm not complaining... but television reception is nearly nonexistent (one channel comes in but it's fuzzy) and NPR is the only radio station that comes in clear. Luckily they have a collection of DVDs and VCR Tapes (remember those?) so I've been watching a few movies (most I've never seen and some I've never heard of). It's almost like leading a “normal” life!

I haven't done much sightseeing yet, but that too is on the agenda. After all, Yellowstone National Park is only two hours away! The day after my arrival I visited with an acquaintance who also has a place here (he influenced Susan and Don's choice of vacation homes) and he gave me a list of “must see” places in the area. So Sunday afternoon (July 4th) I went for a drive along one of the area highways. Soooo pretty. I think I'm going to like it here...

I will be forever indebted to my friends Susan and Don for their generosity. I know I've said it before, but it truly cannot be said often enough – THANK YOU!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Teton-Yellowstone Drive-Thru

When I left Juniper Campground at the Ririe Reservoir, I decided to continue on US 26 over to US 89 in Wyoming, which goes through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I greatly underestimated the amount of time that route would take! I had no intention of stopping for any length of time in either park (blasphemy, I know...) but thought it would be nice to drive through.

Teton National Park. The view from the Glacier View Turnout.

The drive was nice. Very pretty too, but it was also frustrating sometimes. Any kind of wildlife sighting resulted in traffic coming to a standstill. You'd think that people had never seen animals in the wild before! ;-)

First there were Buffalo. Not a big herd though, just a few scattered about.

Then there were Bears! Mama bear and her two cubs came up from the valley and crossed the highway, blissfully ignorant of the chaos and confusion they were causing! These pictures were taken through the windshield with the zoom at maximum magnification. I was about 15 vehicles away from the action.

There was also a moose (at least, that's what I think it was) with a large rack of antlers. I didn't get a picture of it though.

The place where I'll be staying in Montana is only two hours from the northern entrance to Yellowstone and I have every intention of spending a few days there, in the middle of the week when, hopefully, there are fewer people! Though with it being summer, there will probably be lots of people there no matter when I go.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sunset in Idaho

Two hours after leaving Elko, Nevada I turned off of the Interstate onto US 93, which goes north into Idaho. Construction delays made the drive longer than it normally would have taken, but it was through some interesting scenery. In Twin Falls, I connected with the Interstate again, this time I-86 to Pocatello and then I-15 to Idaho Falls where I decided to take US 26 to the small town of Ririe, Idaho. There I found a nice campground on the north end of the Ririe Reservoir, another river that has been dammed up.

I couldn't hardly believe my good fortune – two beautiful sunsets in as many days! The light sensor of the digital camera can't quite handle the variances in brightness of the sun and the area surrounding it, hence the “halo” effect, which in this case I rather like.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Nevada Sunset

Before I left home on my journey a little more than 10 months ago, my friends (Susan and Don) back in Whitley County generously offered me the use of their vacation home in southwest Montana “any time I wanted to take a break from the road” and “for as long as it was needed.” Thank you very much!! You have no idea what it means to me, because that time has finally come...

I left Lassen Volcanic National Park early on the morning of June 30th and drove over 500 miles through northern Nevada to South Fork State Park near Spring Creek (south of Elko, which is on Interstate 80). The Dixie River has been dammed so it is also a State Recreation Area.

It seems like it has been so long since I've witnessed the setting sun and this one was fabulous.