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Monday, May 31, 2010

Mt. Saint Helens

Today we drove about 39 miles further up SR504 to Johnston Ridge Visitors Center. It wasn't the greatest day to go to the volcano, but everyone else thought that way too, so it actually was a great day to do it. The road up was an easy drive on a two lane road with hardly any traffic to speak of. The road usually has trees on both sides of the road which makes it even more enjoyable to trive.


The view from the center is stunning! We watched the intro movie and at the end, the movie screen retracts and the window coverings part and you can see the mountain right in front of you. From the outside railings, you can get great views of the volcano. You can see the part of the mountain that was blown down the Toutle River valley. A lot of the vegitation has really started to come back.


After touring the visitors center, we went for a short mile long hike on "Eruption Trail." This path leads from the center up a 100 foot hill and then winds down the back side to the parking lot. Overall disstance is right at one mile.

We then had a picnic lunch in the car and went down to coldwater lake. There we took a short 1/2 mile trail called "Birth of a Lake." This lake was formed by the debris from the explosion making a dam to hold back water ans sediment from downstream users. A few years after the explosion, the government had to blow a hole in the damn before the water broke the dam and flooded towns downstream.


The path is made of concrete and easy to walk. There are many viewing platforms in the lake that this path crosses and you get to enjoy views like the above!



There are many waterfalls along the road at this time of the year. Most are really movng some serious water,


On the drive back, the road was full of young green trees and they were very pretty to see.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Silver Lake, WA

We decided to go out for the Memorial Day weekend after all. We had thought about leaving on Saturday, but things overtook us. First, I was trying to help out some friends, Jeff and Tracey, with a computer problem. Jeff has tumors in is brain and the outlook is not very good at all. He has three small children and a 5+ acre horse farm and a old house that he started to renovate, but is right in middle of completion.

Tracey had mentioned that her computer had caught a virus and was shutting itself off. When I looked at it, the CPU fan was running slow and had a blade missing, so the CPU was shutting off due to overheating. I replaced the fan (a $10 part) and thought all was well, but then other things were wrong with the unit, probably also due to overheating. So Carol and I decided to just replace the whole computer unit. That way there would be no heat related issues downstream.

So I bought the unit for her and was able to recover her email, calendar, contacts, and browser favorites. Also loaded all her documents and pictures etc. She also had an old printer but it can't be connected because it is a parallel interface and HP isn't updating the drivers for Windows7. So next week we will get her a printer.

So that took all of Friday and part of Saturday. Tracey wanted to have some folks over to celebrate Jeff's birthday. He sleeps most of the time now but was able to be up for his party, so she had that Saturday night. It was great seeing him enjoy his friends at his birthday barbecue.

So all that to say why we didn't go in the RV until Sunday. We decided to go to Silver Lake, WA and we are staying at Silver Cove RV Resort. This is about 50 miles north of Vancouver WA so it was an easy drive.

We arrived around 1 or so and had lunch. Then I took a nap! I'm fighting either allergies or a mild cold, but whatever it is, it made me real tired. After the 2 hour nap (which really felt good!) we drove to the visitor's center and walked their mile long path around the wetlands.

We will probably go up the road tomorrow nearer Mt. St. Helens and maybe find another hike to do. Then will come home Tuesday morning.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 40 Vancouver, WA (Leg: 235, Trip 3403)

We are now at home after:

40 Days
15 travel legs
3,403 miles in the RV
1,216 additional miles in car
7 national parks

7 states
14 fuel stops for the RV
526.6 gallons of gas for the RV
$1,590.33 in gas for the RV
$1,457.14 in RV parks
6.02mpg for the RV
10 books read on the trip
4 games of golf
90.5 average golf score
and 6 boxes of Cheeze-its

It has been a great trip. Yes we had a few problems (water leak, alignment, tires) but the water leak was self inflicted, the alignment I should have caught sooner and the tires were the result. None of those three reduced our enjoyment of the trip one bit.

The scenery we saw on this trip was fantastic. If you have not made the grand circle tour, I encourage you to do so. You won't be disappointed.

I'm very fortunate to have Carol as my travel partner on these journeys and the journey of life. She's a great planner, organizer, and researcher for RV trips. She described this trip to someone as the "trip of a lifetime." I sure hope not, as we should have many more of the same. Thanks Carol!

Thanks also to all of you who joined up as followers on board the virtual RV with us. It was great having you along. Those of you who commented earned a special thanks as your comments gave us feedback that someone was actually reading the blog. Many thanks!

I'm going to put the blog on semi-hiatus until the next trip. As soon as I know when it is, I'll update the blog. So be sure to check it every so often for periodic updates. I would keep it going, but most of my activities in the next few months will be centered on football officiating items. I am a high school and semi-pro football referee and I suspect that many of you would not be too interested in those activities.

So stay tuned for periodic updates! Now, let's get the next trip planned and on the schedule!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 39 Pendleton, OR, UT (Leg: 207, Trip: 3,168)

Another state......


And another time zone


Another day, another state, another time zone.

Hard to believe that this great trip is almost at an end! Today we left Caldwell, ID about 9am MDT and headed to Baker City, OR and the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. We had visited this center about 15 years ago when our sons, Tim and Jonathan, traveled with us. We thought then that it was a great center and nothing we saw today changed our minds!

They do a great job displaying the Oregon Trail and all that went into making the journey. By far, this is the best place to learn about the Trail and the people who made the trek. If you are ever by there, be sure to stop. It only takes about 2 hours to see it and is well worth the stop.

One of the many exhibits in the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
that bring the journey on the trail to life

We also had snow just west of Baker City! That's right, snow, in May, in Oregon! And the outside temperature was in the 50s! But we do have pictures to prove it!
Snow starting to stick on the road with temps in the 50's

We found gas at the truck stop near the Wild Horse Casino and RV Park (and golf course) for only $2.93. And if you go in and get a free rewards card, you get 5 cents off every gallon. That's really nice when you buy 45 gallons at a time!

The Wild Horse RV Park is associated with the Casino and we will have dinner there tonight. They have a free shuttle to pick you up and take you there and back if needed. If it is raining, we will use it, otherwise we will walk (about 1/3 of a mile or maybe slightly more).

Tomorrow's last leg is only 221 miles. So we plan to get our usual early start and get home to beat the traffic which can be heavy, especially on a Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 38 Caldwell, ID (Leg: 317, Trip: 2,961

Welcome to Idaho! Today we left Utah and its rocks and made it almost all the way through Idaho too. Actually we are about 40 miles or so from the Oregon border. The roads were actually in pretty good shape most of the way. I think the Director of the Idaho Department of Transportation must be reading this blog. As you may recall, six weeks ago when heading the other direction, I really blasted Idaho and a section of the road likening it to the Craters of the Moon.

Well, today as we drove the same stretch of highway that was so poor, the eastbound traffic is diverted onto the westbound side, 1 lane each. The old road has been ground up and is already getting new cement lanes. They made great progress in the six weeks since we were here. Way to go Idaho! (Could be your new state motto!) (See Arizona, we do give credit where credit is due - get the hint?)

I believe the above picture is actually as we are leaving Utah and getting close to the Idaho border. You can see the terrain has totally changed and we are off the Colorado Plateau.

The new tires are running great! The RV is actually running with fewer squeaks as we go down the road. I do think the left front tire was out of balance too, so that may have been a contributor. Ever since we bought the RV, there has always been a small vibration when driving. I just assumed this was normal for this size rig. But today, the vibration has gone and so did many squeaks and rattles.


If you read Carol's blog, you'll see we made an unexpected stop along the way. As we were driving, we saw a road sign for a Oregon Trail Education Center. So we decided to take that exit which was for the town of Glenns Ferry. This was a very small town but fortunately the streets were wide enough for the RV. We drove about 3 miles down to the Snake River and Three Islands State Park only to find out that the center is open Thursday through Sunday. Oh well.

The church sign was interesting enough though: Our Lady of Limerick. I always thought Limericks were 5 line rhyming verses. But there actually is a town of Limerick in Ireland (where else?) and there is a statue of Mary there called Our Lady of Limerick, so not so odd after all. You can read it by clicking here.

I also want to welcome a new follower, Ali. Ali is another RVer who works while RVing. You need to read her blog at http://ali1257.blogspot.com/ to see more about what she does. It is not your ordinary job for sure. Welcome aboard, Ali!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 37 Brigham City, UT (Leg: 227, Trip: 2,644)

Today we officially started for home. Our first leg is to Brigham City, just north of Ogden, Utah. We picked this stop because it is on the far side of Salt Lake City and all of its traffic and road construction. 227 miles is a relatively short leg but there isn't much for miles beyond it, so it is our spot!

Most of the trip was in rain showers, a few of which were heavy, most of which were just enough to get everything good and dirty from the trip. The drive itself was fairly easy and we arrived in the area about 2pm.

While stopping for gas, I noticed that the front tires had really degraded. The wear bars were showing quite plainly on both tires. I was hoping to delay getting the tires replaced until we got home and I could go to Les Schwab. When I had the front end aligned three weeks ago in Arizona, we weren't sure if the tires would make it all the way home and they didn't. Fortunately, we are back in Les Schwab country, and there was one right up the street from the gas stop.

RV tires for a rig this size are large and not all that common. They did not have the tire in stock in the size needed, but were able to have it sent up from the warehouse in Salt Lake City. They said this would take about 2 hours, but they were slightly quicker. The two tires were mounted, balanced, washed, and put on the RV in about 45 minutes.

RV tires are expensive! These two cost $1,150 so you really have to keep an eye on them. After leaving Les Schwab, we had only 18 more miles to the RV park. I did notice slightly better handling with the new tires and it makes me wonder if the originals were ever properly balanced.

Tomorrow we will press on to Caldwell, ID. That will be a longer leg, over 300 miles. Hopefully the weather forecast of just cloudy conditions with light wind will be true!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 36 Richfield, UT (Leg: 0, Trip: 2,417)



Today we visited Capitol Reef National Park. This area became a national park in 1971. We visited 6 other NPs already on this trip, so I thought we had seen every kind of rock formation relating to sandstone that there is. NOT! Seems God saved a few more for this park!

The rocks above are called the double rocks. They are huge and apparently just rolled there from above.



Capitol reef is not a reef like you would expect to see in the ocean. Instead, it was caused by the Pacific tectonic plate pushing up against the North American plate. If you enlarge the picture above, you can see how the land has been pushed up at an angle. This wall of rock that has been altered like this goes on for about 90 miles, the longest such "fold" in North America. These folds, or monoclines to use the technical term, are usually found at the boundary of the plates or also where faults are.


We took three hikes today. We started with a short 2/10 of a mile hike then did a 2/3 of a mile hike. Then after lunch did a grueling 2 mile hike in the heat.


For the first hike to the Goosnecks, we had to drive on a dirt road for about 3/4 of a mile. Then hike to an overlook of a deep canyon containing Sulphur Creek.


I tried to get a good picture showing the depth of the canyon, but my others didn't turn out and the one above is the best I have.

Our hike to Sunset Point was 2/3 of a mile and was really enjoyable. The rocks along the way look real pitted.


This pitting is caused by rain! A hard rain can over time weaken the surface minerals cementing the sand into sandstone and the result is this pitting. We also saw more weird formations.


The above formation looks like there was some kind of rock structure that collapsed. Actually these rocks just collapsed as the underlying rock eroded away.



This formation is called Castle Rock. There are three distinct layers to the formation, each of a different kind of rock. After the hike, we went to the visitor center and watched a movie on the park. While there isn't much water in the park, most of the activity here is caused by the water from flash floods eroding the stone over time (lots of time). Then we had a nice picnic lunch in an area called Fruita.

Fruita was settled by early Mormons and they planted orchards of apples, pears, peaches, and several varieties of nuts. These orchards are still producing and when in season, you can pick the fruit.

We continued on the 10 mile scenic drive down into the park.



We saw this interesting formation along the road. I have no idea what could have caused rock to form like this.


This formation looks like 4 heads stuck in the sand.

At the end of the scenic drive, you can continue on a dirt road for another few miles. At the end of that, there is the Capitol Gorge hiking trail which, of course, we took. It was now about 2:15 in the afternoon, right in the middle of the hottest part of the day. Fortunately we had plenty of liquids with us to drink as needed.

This hike went a total of 2.5 miles, but we didn't do the last 2/10 as it was climbing up rocks almost straight up. But the part we did do (about 2.1 miles) followed a deep narrow canyon.
The first stop on the hike is near some petroglyphs.



The second stop, about 7/10 of a mile in, is in a narrow part of the canyon (say maybe 15 feet across) where these pioneers had etched their names and dates onto the rock. The earliest I recall seeing was 1883.

As you continue walking, you come to rocks with deep holes in them. Erosion causes these holes too by attacking the weaker minerals in the sandstone.


When we finished this hike, we were both really bushed. We visited a few more overlooks and took pictures but were too tired to do any hikes.

It was 82 miles each way to & from the park and we arrived back in Richfield just after 7pm. Tomorrow we officially begin our journey home which will probably take 4 days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 35 Richfield, UT (Leg: 179, Trip: 2,417)

Today we left Moab about 9:30 and headed to Richfield, UT. Along Interstate 70, there were several view areas that were really well done. The first was at the San Rafael Reef (or Swell).

The San Rafael Reef Formation


The San Rafael reef is part of the Colorado Plateau that was "pushed" up and tried to force its way over the underlying tectonic plate. You can see in this picture, the way the rock "folded" as it pushed up and over.


View Area signs really explain the sites

These viewing areas contain good parking, restrooms, and signs that explain what you are looking at. There were 5 of these view stops within about a 20 mile area and we stopped at all but one to learn about the sites we were seeing as we drove.


Click to enlarge to read about the outlaws

In these canyons, outlaw gangs like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hid out from the law. You can go for miles into these canyons and back then they were unmapped, so the Sheriff rarely tried to follow.


Trooper Dennis "Dee" Lund Memorial

This monument at one of the view stops shows that the outlaws still come through this area. Trooper Dennis "Dee" Lund was killed in this area on June 16, 1993. You can read his story at http://publicsafety.utah.gov/highwaypatrol/history_2000/dee_lund.html. If you read to the end of the story, you'll see that his wife and 8 year old son were at home listening to the police radio scanner and heard the call come in. She was a volunteer EMT and was dispatched to the scene where she got the bad news. Truly a sad story. My thinking is that once a criminal opens up on law enforcement with a weapon, they should respond with immediate and devastating lethal force and blow them apart. This sad story never need have happened.


Looks like a small Grand Canyon

Another section of the road shows off canyons that remind me a bit of the Grand Canyon, though on a much smaller scale.


We arrived in Richfield about 2:30 or so. Even though it was only 179 miles, we made so many view stops for pictures and lunch and all, that it took 5 hours. Later in the day, Carol found some good hiking boots at the local WalMart and of course, we had to go back later so I could get a pair too. Tomorrow we will try them out in Capitol Reef NP. Then on Tuesday, we head for home.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 34 Moab, UT (Leg: 0, Trip: 2,238)

Today we drove down to the other park entrance for Canyonlands NP. It is called the Needles section. (As you may recall from an earlier post, the Green and Colorado rivers meet in this park and divide the park in three parts: The Maze which is difficult to access, Needles, and Island in the Sky which we visited 3 days ago.)


It is about 82 miles into the park via the Needles entry and then 82 miles back to the RV. Plus a lot of driving in the park itself. On the way in before you even get to the actual park, there are many remarkable rock formations like the one below. There is no official name for it so I'll just call it a weird looking formation for now.



No name rock formation

Some of the cliffs as you drive to the park are row after row of fins that will most likely become arches someday in their lifespan. There is also an area where there are needles developing but they have not yet separated from the wall. If you look carefully at the picture below, you can see where a needle has slipped down the wall and is laying on a slight angle.


Look carefully for the needle leaning


For about 5 miles of the ride in, you see large mesa like structures repeating every half mile or so. It almost reminds you of cathedrals the way they loom over you.


Carol and I call this Cathredral Valley

You have to remember that this is actually a desert and that they get about 9 inches of rain a year, usually in a few violent thunderstorms that create flash floods. So the water doesn't really percolate much into the soil. Yet as you can see in the picture below, there are pockets of really green trees and bushes.



Where did the water come to make this desert green?


We also saw some pyramid like structures here. Have not seen anything like these that I can recall anywhere else on this trip.



The Pyramids of Utah???


I used the digital zoom to get a closeup of the top of a pyramid. It looks just like a small city up on the top.



Looks like a city on top of the pyramid



Digital zoom of the pyramid city

We did three hikes in the park today. The first was to a cave that contained a spring. It had a cave that cowboys used to use seasonally when running cattle in the area. It also contained another cave further in that had a series of petroglyphs carved thousands of years ago.



Ancient Petroglyphs on the Cave Spring trail

Our second walk took us to an area of potholes. No, not those kind of potholes. These potholes are puddles on the top of the sandstone rocks. There is actually life in the pools including small brine shrimp. When the water evaporates, the small creatures go into a hibernating stage and some can last weeks until the next rain.



Potholes on top of the sandstone rocks


We saw some rather weird formations here too. I don't know what to make of the two below.



Really weird rock formations

There was a good viewpoint to see the needles that give this area its name. You can drive up to the needles if you have a vehicle like a jeep with both four wheel drive and a high clearance.



View of needles formations



More Needles



Even more needles


Another stop we made was to view the Wooden Shoe Arch.


Wooden Shoe Arch

Our last hike of the day was a relatively short one to see a Anasazi grain storage area. The ancient Indians would come here and grow crops and store them in these walled up containers. You can't see it, but the lid is on top. These walls would store crops safe from rodents, though as the years go by, the side walls begin to develop small holes and rodents do get in. Apparently there are many of these sites in the area and you can still see some with crops, and others where rodents finally got into them.



Anasazi grain storage bunker


Tonight, on a whim, we decided to go back into Arches NP at sunset to see the stars from there. Unfortunately it took a long time to get really dark and there was significant moisture so we weren't able to see too much from there. But we did see the international space station pass over and it was fairly bright. On the drive out, many of the formations were silhouetted against the western twilight in the sky and looked really spooky.

Tomorrow is a travel day to Richfield, UT.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 33 Moab, UT (Leg: 0, Trip: 2,238)

Today we toured the remainder of Arches NP. We arrived at the park a few minutes after 10am and it was crowded! There was a long line of vehicles waiting to enter the park at the pay stations. Fridays through Sundays appear to be their busiest times with a lot of off road vehicles using the parks. Once we got into the park, we headed for Delicate Arch.

We came to the trailhead to walk up to the upper viewpoint. We could have taken the 3 mile trail directly to the arch, but it was very crowded and there was no place to park the car. So we went to the viewpoints. The lower one is an easy 100 yard walk while the upper one is about a half mile and climbs a couple of hundred feet over rough terrain. Fortunately our walking sticks worked really well here though there were some moments of excitement as we tried to climb up the rocks.


Delicate Arch from the upper viewpoint


The people you see in the picture took the 3 mile trail and had an even harder climb. Between the viewpoint where we went and the arch is a deep chasm so you can't just run across. Our viewpoint was crowded too and the primitive trail got a real workout.

After the upper viewpoint we went ahead and did the 100 yard walk to the lower viewpoint. It is almost as good as the upper one without all the hiking. But at least we can say we did both.

Then we went to another trailhead for Sand Dune and Broken Arches. The trail to Sand Dune Arch is short, only 2/10 of a mile, but you walk into a tight space between two rocks to get there. Once there, it is like being on a beach with all the sand.


The path to Sand Dune Arch gets mighty tight!

You can actually climb up onto the arch and some kids were doing this while we were there.


Sand Arch

A family even brought sand toys for their young ones. They must have been here before.


Anyone think we are at the beach?

Then we hiked over to Broken Arch. We thought this was a 3/10 of a mile trail but as we started walking, we could see that this estimate was way off. It was more like 1.6 miles. Nevertheless we made it to the arch. You can climb up this one too and stand on top, but it is pretty rigorous so we didn't try that.

Broken Arch

I was wondering why this was called Broken Arch. If you look carefully at the picture below, you can see a crack developing in the arch. So I guess that must be the reason. There was an arch that broke last August and fell and now it is just a pile of rocks. We saw home video that someone took of it falling during the intro movie at the visitor center on Wednesday. So sooner or later, they all break and new ones develop too.

Did the crack developing in the center give this arch its name?

After that hike, we drove down to a picnic area but it was totally full, so we just ate in the car. There were more arches to see but we were both tired from hiking at altitude. So we just went to the remaining viewpoints and took pictures.

Double Arch
The above arch is called Double Arch. If you look carefully, you can see inside the arch there is another leg to the arch. You can hike to this one too, but it is a bit more difficult.
Carol's blog will have pictures on Windows Arches and others, so be sure to see her entry for today at http://www.carolksjourney.blogspot.com/.

When we first got to the park this morning, we were a bit underwhelmed because it seemed we couldn't get near any of the arches and it was looking like it might be too crowded. As our day went on though, we really came to appreciate the views and arches. In fact, while the park is called Arches, there are many other "wonders" in the park to view.

Strange rock formations from a distance

Not sure how these formations ended up with the little rocks on top. This picture was taken from quite a distance using digital zoom, so those little rocks are actually the size of cars!


Rock about to topple?

This is another digitally zoomed picture and you can see the large rock (about 30' tall) carefully perched on top of a rock fin. Sooner or later, it will just topple over, roll down the side, and break into a million pieces.


Balanced Rock

The formation above is called "Balanced Rock" for obvious reasons. This one looks like it could fall next time the wind blows. You can actually hike up near this one for a better view.

Tomorrow, we will visit Canyonlands again, only this time we will go to the Needles section of the park, about 80 miles south of where we are now. Then we plan to leave on Sunday and head to Capitol Reef NP which has its own geological history.