Sunday, August 31, 2014

Road Tripping Part 5

Thursday Morning: Departure from Sundance Campground
Destination: SamOwen Campground, Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho
Purpose: a couple days of doing nothing!!

We departed from Glacier National Park area on August 28th, with a full day of driving ahead of us. With the Labor Day weekend approaching and not having reservations anywhere, we didn't really know where we'd spend the night. We had plans to detour through Kalispell Mt to visit a friend there and other than that, we were intent on enjoying the scenery. Lee and Laura headed out about an hour before us and promised to keep us appraised of camping availability as they would undoubtedly arrive before us.

Under sunny skies and rising temperatures we didn't go far before we pulled over to investigate a tour attraction we'd spotted when we came in earlier in the week. Billed as "The house of Mystery & Montana Vortex" we'd been mildly curious. I was thinking about the mystery house of Knott's Berry Farm as we got out of the truck and came closer to check things out. It wasn't long however before some red flags were waving...

The first flag was a sign welcoming us, the cost of admission and some new-age/eastern religion language. This in and of itself wasn't bad, necessarily, just enough for me to say "hmm" and be alert. As we read the literature on the walls outside the storefront however a gnawing uncomfortable feeling began to  grow in the pit of my stomach. I shared my feelings with Bruce who listened with concern. While he appreciates my discerning nature and was not about to discount my apprehensions, he was still mighty curious. When I read more of the descriptions something struck a nerve and brought to mind a rather scary encounter I'd had several years ago. Without going into all those details, suffice it to say it was all the reminder I needed that this was not some place I was willing to plunk my money down on. Just as I finished murmuring this decision to Bruce, the third thing happened that literally made THE HAIR ON THE BACK OF MY NECK STAND ON END.

From out of seemingly nowhere, a man appeared. "Come in please" was all  he said but it made me jump. Honestly, we didn't hear or see a door open from the storefront-- he was just THERE. It was eerie but his voice was even more unnerving. "the next tour is about to begin folks."
I can't describe his voice but it was like something you'd expect from the bad guy in a Steven King novel. It was CREEPY. I tugged at Bruce's shirt and Bruce told the man we needed to get something from the truck first and we quickly scooted across the parking lot to the truck. We had no intention of returning and we climbed inside laughing a little nervously.

Let me clarify. We. as believers in Christ, need not be afraid of the supernatural. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and His Perfect Love casts out fear. But because of the Holy Spirit we have a realization of what we should or shouldn't wander into. This place, while on the surface sounded fun and family friendly, seemed to be capitalizing on something more and that was what we felt repelled by. While I don't think we would have been harmed by going in and exploring things, there was just enough of something 'off' in the presentation that warned us, that as Christians, we didn't need to go there.

Our next stop was to Lakeside and the Glacier Bible Camp where our friend is the director. We toured the grounds as we visited and while it was a short stop it was still good to connect.

Bruce chatting with friend Dave Saugen on the lake at the camp.

Glacier Camp, Lakeside MT

at Glacier Camp Lakeside MT

After this we had to make tracks if we were going to make it to our campsite by dark. We had communication with Lee and Laura and they were making camp just inside of Idaho and reported there were still available campsites. We decided we could make it and pushed on. As we came through the town of Libby MT, it was that time of day where the sun hangs in the western sky and blinds you. On a 4 lane highway in the middle of downtown Libby, that is when it happened.

With nothing in front of us, no one behind us, and scarce traffic in the east bound lane, we had a wide open view, except for that blinding sun. Suddenly BAM! from the driver's side The truck shook. "What the heck?" shouted Bruce. Just as he spoke I saw on my side a horrible sight. A deer.... tumbling through the air.... dear readers, it was awful! I cringe still as I recall this.... I cried out to Bruce "We hit a deer!" and he pulled over as soon as he could safely maneuver the truck and trailer off the road. We sat in the parking lot of an empty business center and caught our breath. I felt ill and got out of the truck, certain I was going to lose my lunch.

It was next to impossible to turn around given the lay of the highway and besides, there is nothing you can do for a deer that's just been hit by a one ton truck. Bruce hugged me as I moaned and shed a few tears, then with prayers of thanks that it had not resulted in injury to us, we got back in our vehicle.

With a keen alertness for the rest of our drive that day, we spotted probably 5 or 6 more deer as we pressed on. Thankfully they were seen with enough time to slow down and avoid any more accidents. We arrived at Samowen Campground just before dusk.

Lake Pend Oreille

to be continued...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Road Tripping Part Four

Monday- Thursday: Sundance Campground (our base camp)
Destination: Glacier National Park
Purpose: Camping and Exploring

by the way...Sundance Campground, where we have settled for most of the week, was a good choice. Conveniently located just a few miles from West Glacier one direction and the town of Coram the other direction, it's proving to be excellent base camp. The price per night includes water, electric, Wifi, hot showers and the nicest owners/managers. The bathroom is sparkling clean and our campsites are thoughtfully laid out. We have some very nice 'neighbors' all around us.   While we are close to the highway, we don't really hear much of the traffic and it's actually the trains we hear most. 

Tuesday: We left soon after breakfast to spend the day inside the Park. Going to the Sun Road is not for the faint of heart! I am glad I wasn't driving but riding shotgun in order to take pictures, I found myself instinctively leaning to the left away from the view more than once. Yikes. Narrow road, hairpin curves one right after the other, and sheer drop offs... um, yah....

The highlight for me this day was reaching Logan's Pass-- the highest spot on the road AND the opportunity to stand on the Continental Divide! How beautiful... are the feet...

The parking lot at the Pass was crammed full and even though we drove around several times, there never was a spot that opened up so we had to just take turns hopping out of the truck and checking out the view while someone else drove around.

We went down the east side and came out by St. Mary's Lake and enjoyed ice cream in the berg of  St Mary's. We hopped on Hwy 2 and completed our day with dinner in Essex, a popular winter spot for cross country ski enthusiasts and anyone with a love of trains as the lodge and restaurant is right next to a very busy train station.

We returned to camp at dusk and enjoyed some quiet time around the campfire before retiring. Extra blankets have been needed the last couple of nights. It's been pleasantly warm during the day but this high altitude brings a nippy chill once the sun sets.

Wednesday we all slept in. I guess the days of hectic traveling caught up to us and we needed those extra Z's. With breakfast dishes done we laid our maps out on the picnic table and plotted a course for the day. With some online research we were able to find a hiking trail that met our criteria: short drive to the trail head, no more than 5 or 6 miles in length round trip, a moderate hike and preferably with shade. We discarded one hike because it came with the cautious advice to carry bear spray and bells. (later learning ALL the hikes in the park suggest bear spray!)

We settled on hiking to Avalanche Lake. 5 miles round trip and under the shade of massive cedar trees, with a alpine lake at the end of the trail, this hike packed the punch we were craving. Most of the hike was fairly easy. A few challenging uphill/downhill traversing but the path was wide and smooth. We were within earshot of the Avalanche River the whole time and able to view it often. The smell of the trees and water and earth was pleasing to our senses and despite some climb in altitude we all kept a fairly brisk pace.

As we came around one bend, we were rewarded with the sighting of a deer. Oh, not just a deer, a buck! And not just a buck but a 5 point buck, quite large and really indifferent to the presence of humans. A group of hikers coming down the trail and our group coming up were able to get in quite close range of this princely animal and he just kept grazing at the base of the trees, glancing our way once in awhile, totally unfazed by our close proximity.

We continued our way to the lake and by the time we arrived we were famished. Sandwiches never tasted so good. (I made my delicious peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. Truly to die for. Honest, you ought to try them!)

 We were visited by a few curious squirrels and chipmunks. They really are cute for rodents.

Then as we were finishing our lunch, Bruce calmly announced "Bear!"
Bear?? Where? Where?
Over there!

Sure enough, meandering his way down the edge of the lake, across from us, was a large black bear. Oh, my. I wanted to see a bear this trip so bad but only if it was a safe encounter. With a body of water between us, this felt quite safe and the zoom lens on my camera was as close as I needed to be. We watched and snapped photos till he moved into the brush and out of sight.

We lingered at the sandy shore of the lake, breathing in the fresh alpine air and delighting in waterfalls cascading down the mountain sides above us. When it was time to head down, we did so rather reluctantly. Downhill always sounds easier but in truth the impact can be hell on ones' knees. Still we made it back down in about half the time it took us to hike up.

The whole day was cloaked in  a perfect warm temperature with sweet breezes blowing in off the creek. Our fellow hikers both coming and going were just as happy to be there as we were and smiles and friendly greetings were exchanged each time we passed on the trail. It is truly an international tourist attraction and we heard many different accents and dialects spoken as we traversed.

We made it back to camp around 6, pleased with our day even as our bodies registered discomfort from the physically demanding excursion. Tomorrow we will break camp and begin the slow trip toward home. We will continue to travel together until we reach Washington and then likely go our separate ways for the remainder of the trip. We don't have specific plans for the next few days other than to take our time and enjoy the sights. With no reservations and a major holiday approaching, we may end up in a Walmart parking lot but I think we'll be more creative than that. Whatever our remaining travel days bring, "as long as we're together, it doesn't matter at all."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Road Tripping Part Three

Sunday Afternoon:Departure
Destination: Black Sandy State Park, Helena MT
Purpose: meeting up with our friends Lee and Laura

yummy BBQ on Saturday with Dave and Kathleen.

After 2 days of just relaxing with Dave and Kathy, we packed up the truck and trailer and followed them to church Sunday morning. It was a blessing to fellowship with them and see the crucial roles they play in their church family. There was a teary goodbye on the church steps after the service but I take comfort in the knowledge that this represents how very much we love and are loved in return. When I think about all the years I was deprived of a close relationship with my family, it just makes me appreciate what we have know all the more.

good byes are hard. but I'm taking you with me in my heart.

With the rain splashing against the window shield, we pushed ahead to Helena and the arranged location of hooking up with our friends. We arrived at the park before dark and with a practiced hand established camp and prepared dinner. The state park is located on Lake Helena and provided a beautiful, if breezy, view. But the rain had stopped and a warmer temperature was rising even as the sun set. Still we nestled under extra blankets, delighted to find sun and near balmy breezes when we awoke Monday morning.

Black Sandy State Park, Lake Helena

setting up camp next door to Lee and Laura.

picturesque Lake Helena 

if it was just a little warmer.... 

good morning world! I'm incognito till I've finished my coffee!!

We broke camp as quickly as we had set up and with our trusty GPS leading the way, set out on to Glacier National Park.

Monday Morning: Departure
Destination: Glacier National Park/ Sundance Campground, Coram Mt. 
Purpose: exploring Glacier and surrounding areas.
lake Helena

We drove till noon, over winding highways, through bucolic country side, some flat, some vast and wide, some mountainous. Trees and green fields told us the ranchers irrigated while on the other side of the road, dry grass rustled in the wind.


the long and winding road.

We broke for lunch at Salmon Lake State Park; a heart stoppingly beautiful lake on hwy 83. Lee and Laura in their little Shasta trailer and we in our Aristocrat, have everything we need pretty much at our fingertips, if we can just remember where we packed it!

the burke-turque with the shasta

 After a tasty lunch some of us dared to stick our toes in the lake and were pleasantly surprised to discover how warm it was. If the day was hotter I can imagine a refreshing dip in the water would have taken place.

Salmon Lake. Warm enough to wade.

We pushed on through more beautiful countryside, reveling in the sight of the Rocky Mountains to the east. Indescribable!

well, Hello Rocky Mountains!

what a view!!

We pushed on through Hungry Horse Montana, and then our chosen destination, Coram and the Sundance Campground/RV Park. Clean, quiet and with all the amenities we need: hot showers, laundry, shady camp sights, electricity and water hook ups. Even WiFi. Can't complain 'bout that!

almost to our destination.

south fork of the Flathead River

After setting up our campsites, we each cooked our dinner and then enjoyed them together at a shared picnic table. We managed to procure side by side campsites with a common area between us. After dinner and a brisk walk around the campground, a hot shower was in order. This evening the guys have a snapping crackling fire going in the fire pit and since the mosquitoes have discovered a way into my little burke-turque, I shall close down for the night and sit by the fire with my sweetie and my friends and plan our adventures for the next couple of days.

home sweet home for the next few days.