Tag Archives: #vanlife

Roadside attractions

No road trip can be documented without its requisite amount of roadside attractions, kitsch, and oddities. Although it doesn’t rise to the level of South Dakota, the inland Northwest does have its share.

The first tipoff was the town of Wauconda.  Besides its obvious Black Panther references, the town was mainly interesting for its sole commercial enterprise, the Wauconda Café, which was defunct.  

Glacier did provide some opportunities for selfie documentation, but nothing on the order of Bryce, or Niagara Falls.

Our campground at Fish Creek mainly had Southerners with huge RVs, but there was some attractive retro glamping. 

We came across an interestingly accessorized car at Lake McDonald.  From the bumper stickers we could tell they were National Park aficionados, but their dashboard totems most reminded me of my grandparents’ dashboard, which had an assortment of crucifixes, BVMs, and action figures of the saints.  This dash seemed more attuned to the secularized (perhaps pagan) tendencies of our pantheistic age. 

The rear window revealed these molded constructions., which we guessed were molded clay representations of iconic topographic features that were of special significance to the owners. It was lovely.

We couldn’t discern the cause of this remarkably twisted tree, but we think it might be used by one of our colleagues in a lecture to illustrate the concept of torque.

At a couple of points on our hikes, we came around a curve to encounter a rapt hiker, staring intently into the underbrush, and desperately signaling us to be quiet.  We thought that there must at least be a bear approaching, or a mountain lion, but no, this is what we saw:

We thought, Where the hell do you live, buddy, Brooklyn?  Most of suburban America is under assault from ravaging deer hordes, and you have somehow missed it?  I went for a short walk in Coupeville the other morning, and counted 27 deer, right in town.

One thing that has changed since our major explorations in National Parks two years ago is the whole political context, and the rise of the Alt-National Park Service.  That gave us an interesting lens through which to view this new sign, erected in 2017 outside the Many Glacier Hotel.  Bravo.

We stopped for lunch at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, and saw these excellent annexes to the inn – cabooses that had been converted to guest cabins, mainly used by cross-country skiers. 

On our way to West Glacier, we had passed this “Ten Commandments Park”, which seemed to follow the Stations of the Cross format, but with the Ten Commandments, and on billboards.  Greta was adamant that we had to return to examine it in more detail, as being a secular Eugenean, she doesn’t get to see religious zealotry too often.  Her willingness to explore the venue stopped short of wanting to engage the proprietors in conversation, especially after she spotted the “Make Jesus Legal Again” bumperstickers.

We had been without a cell phone signal for over a week, as T-Mobile doesn’t seem to bother with areas below a certain population density.  But as we pulled in to the Ten Commandments Park, Linda’s phone erupted with a cacophony of pings and beeps, as the flood of pent-up texts and emails was released all at once.  But as we drove away from the Park, all the bars disappeared.  It was a miracle, she said. 

Driving through Plains, Idaho, we came across a whole street with these regularly spaced garbage cans, each enclosed in what we assumed were cages to keep them from blowing away in the winter.  We especially liked the plaque on each one, pointing out that it had been built by Mr. Friesz’s Shop Class. 

Pullman had an okay downtown, where we were desperately looking for a place to have a god meal on Linda’s birthday, as we had just left Montana, where chicken is regarded as a vegetable (not an original joke).  After checking the options on Yelp, we came to this place – a church:

which had a quite good bar in its basement!  The weekend before Mardi Gras in New Orleans, we had seen an Episcopal church dispensing drinks from its basement church hall, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a church with an actual bar.  Who knew that Pullman would be on the cutting edge of such a cool trend?

We spent a little time looking for food in the Palouse – very small towns without many options – and in Colfax we came across Eddy’s Chinese American.  Despite Tom’s assurance that it was quite good (later independently confirmed by Jug when we returned to Coupeville), its Yelp rating of one star gave us pause.  Both Tom and Jug told us that there used to be another Chinese restaurant in Colfax – Pete’s.

The Palouse may be limited n the culinary area, but it has many options for big machinery.  This is the kind of thing we frequently saw driving down the street. 

While not technically a roadside attraction, I knew that there were other aspects to the Palouse that would please my family, besides the remarkable scenery.  Tom’s barn was full of kitties who, being working farm cats in training, rather than pets, had no idea what to do with a jiggling string. By the second day Greta had initiated them into this new mode of entertainment, and I assume that now they are constantly pestering Tom to pull out that ball of yarn.

By far the greatest roadside attraction we came across was the Codger Pole, in Colfax.  It is the tallest chainsaw sculpture in the world (so they say, and I believe them), and it commemorates two important moments in the town’s history. 

In 1938, Colfax was trounced by St. John in a football game, which they hoped to some day avenge. (You can read the details in the sign below.)

Their chance finally came in 1988, when the game was replayed by the surviving players, fifty years after the original game.  The sign doesn’t mention who won this time, but the occasion was of such note that it had to be immortalized.

Sometimes you come across things in small town America that just make you want to live there.

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Architecture in the Palouse

In this week’s edition of our normal finding-the-architecture-in-the-landscape, we turn to the architecture in the Palouse.  As I mentioned, the farms are so big that the buildings are few and far between.  Tom showed us a photographer’s map of the Palouse, which actually mapped all the picturesque barns, grain elevators (and even lone trees) for the region, as potential focal points for landscape photographs.  However, whatever the architecture may lack in number, it makes up for in size.  As in other agricultural areas we’ve visited before (such as southern Idaho, or southern Utah), grain elevators are the dominant type.

The town of St. John has a grain elevator that looks not so much like a building as it does a whole city of grain elevators.  In fact, the parallel holds true even at a deeper, structural level:  the elevators were built at different times and by different companies.  Just as in a city, the form is a reflection of the historical process of growth and change over time.

The metal siding develops an interesting character over time.

In Oakesdale, we came across JC Barron’s flour mill, which is apparently being slowly restored. 

Outside the town of Palouse:

In Ewan, on the way to Rock Lake:

In Endicott, where a concrete and a framed elevator coexist.

There are a few built edifices that are not elevators.  Near Pine City, we came across this corral for hay bales.  Our friend Jug tried to explain its function to us, but I’m still not sure I buy it.  It may have to do with moving and storing hay bales, but it seems entirely too elaborate for that.  I think they just wanted to do something that had that machine-in-the-garden look. 

We meandered down to Pullman, and got to see the WSU campus.  This is the only picture I could grab.  As Greta and I discovered three years ago, it is almost impossible to park anywhere within miles of big university campuses.  All parking lots are designated for those with stickers, and the traffic is usually so heavy that you can’t even stop.  So we did a driving tour of the campus (not too bad), and then drove downtown, where visitors could be accommodated.

The architectural highlight of the trip was the Round Barn in Ewan.  It was just superb, and clearly is being well-maintained, with a recently replaced shake roof. 

The owner graciously allowed us to go inside, and we climbed a rickety ladder to the hayloft, where we found this:

It should be known as the Pantheon of the Palouse. 

As always, the strongest impressions came from seeing the contrast between the landscape and the built environment, whether from the top of Steptoe Butte,

or one of those picturesque barns that had been mapped (this one on the road between Endicott and St. John). 

Wind turbines are starting to edge out the elevators as the big things in the landscape. 

And sometimes the effect comes from rhythm rather than form. 

Once in a while, it is not even a building, but the simplest manifestation of human intention that leaves a strong trace upon the land. 

The Palouse

After a week in Glacier, we opted for a change in scenery before heading back to Whidbey Island.  The Palouse is an area about which we had long heard from our Coupeville friend Jug Bernhardt, who grew up on his family’s farm there, and I thought Linda would especially enjoy some quiet pastoral beauty after the rugged alpine sublimity of Glacier.  The landscape couldn’t be more different from the Rockies, but in many ways it is equally beautiful.

Occupying the southeast corner of Washington, the Palouse has one dominant landscape type: rolling hills. But rolling hills on acid.  It is the landscape a five-year-old would draw if you asked for a picture of farmland (but minus the cows).  If you think of any rolling farmland with which you’re familiar, and then compress the horizontal scale by a factor of five, that’s the Palouse. 

As you drive through the landscape, you are enclosed by the topography.  I don’t know why, but the national grid of townships and straight roads was not imposed here, even though it wasn’t heavily settled until the 1870s. Roads curve in and out of the hills, and you are always at the bottom of a trough, with the horizon a half mile away. 

The color palette is also primal and surreal, limited to five tones at this time of year: tan fields of wheat, green fields of alfalfa or other secondary crops, blue sky, white clouds, and black shadows moving across the land. 

It is strangely devoid of people, or much evidence of their presence.  In our era of gigantic agribusiness, a wheat farm in the Palouse has to be around 2000 acres (over three square miles) to be economically viable, so there are few farmsteads to interrupt the landscape.  It feels like a wilderness of wheat, rather than the pastoral ideal of people and nature in a finely-grained net of inhabitation. 

The built elements you do see are seldom quaint farmhouses or curving fences (there is very little livestock, so fences are almost nonexistent), but the large, shiny, cubic geometries of grain elevators.  The contrast between the curvilinear landforms and the rigidly orthogonal elevators is the best illustration I’ve seen of Marc Treib’s ideas in “Traces Upon the Land”, and I’ll certainly be using these photos in my lectures next year. 

A couple of buttes poke up out of the hills, so we drove to the top of Steptoe Butte to see the big picture.  It looked no less weird from there than it did from below. 

We did spot some attempts to make straight lines, but they were foiled by the irregularities of the hills.

The big view confirmed our perception that the built world occupied a small fraction of the land. 

When I expressed some interest in the Palouse a couple of years ago, Jug put me in touch with his boyhood friend Tom Schierman, who lives on land his family has farmed for a few generations outside of St. John.  Tom is an extraordinary photographer, who always has his camera with him as he goes about his normal day, and his photos on Facebook convinced us to visit the area.

Tom and his son James host campers on the back meadow on their property (listed on Airbnb as Schierman Springs).  They have only one party camp there at a time, whether it is one small family such as ours, or a large group.  So we (in the small trailer pictured below) had this secluded field to ourselves, with only the owls and coyotes interrupting the quiet (quite a difference from the campgrounds at Glacier, where we were surrounded by RVs from the South with generators and many children). 

In a dry landscape, the Schiermans have made use of the springs on the property – building a pond, and cultivating a wider range of plants.  Tom has been planting trees and shaping this landscape for decades, until it feels like an oasis in the high, open, wheat desert of the surroundings.  There is an interconnectedness among the buildings, gardens, ponds, fields, paths, woods, orchards and clearings,

that contrasts strongly with the simpler abstract environment that lies outside. 

In an essay on the world as chronicled and evaluated by Baedeker, Roland Barthes remarked on how the only landscape type deemed worthy of notice by the 19th century tourist guidebooks was the precipitously steep;  flat landscapes were somehow never beautiful enough.  But somehow after a week in the most astonishing alpine scenery on this continent, we found a few days in the Palouse to be equally engaging.

Alpine lakes

Early on in our big trip three years ago, we learned how both Greta and I relate to landscapes:  she gets bored with stopping intermittently while driving to look at the scenery or big views.  She has to be moving – hiking, biking or rowing – and then she can appreciate the surroundings.  On the other hand, I look for constantly shifting views and a variety of spatial experiences: both unrelieved short views (like hiking in the woods), or unrelieved long views (like hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon), bore me.  So satisfying these two criteria became our modus operandi for the rest of the trip, and the character of the hikes often determined how much we liked a place.  Then on this trip, we added one more variable, with Linda’s preferences: she will often focus on the small scale – plants and flowers – that Greta and I barely register.  Luckily for us, there were hikes in Glacier that were spectacular in all these different ways simultaneously, and we all agreed that these were some of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen.

The first was along St. Mary Lake, starting from Sun Point, where there had been a chalet, which fell into disrepair and was eventually demolished. The view from this spot looked west towards Logan Pass, and I can imagine sitting on a porch at that chalet, looking at the light change on this view (while sipping a Huckleberry Smash).

We hiked along the north side of the Lake, which had been swept by the Reynolds Burn in 2015.  As the climate changes and droughts intensify, Glacier has been hit by a series of big fires in recent years; we had in fact planned our trip for early July, knowing that much of the area has been engulfed in forest fire smoke in mid-to late summer in recent years.

But our reaction to the burn areas was not what we expected – they didn’t seem devastated, and we didn’t spend the day bemoaning the loss of habitat and natural beauty.  It was astounding to see how much new growth had appeared in just three years.  The scorched trees were surrounded by undergrowth, and new trees were already springing up. 

It had a strange beauty, in the contrast between the scorched trees and the abundant, bright green growth.  (As we always said to Greta when she was confronted with death or destruction as a small child – it’s the Circle of Life).  The landscape resonated with meaning, and I wondered if this was the same appeal that we architects find in what’s been called Ruin Porn – those stunning photos of major buildings from the not-so-distant past, falling into decay.

We came across information from the Park Service which emphasized to visitors how different familiar trails would now be after forest fires.  Just three years ago, this hike would have been almost completely in the shade, only emerging at a few points to access longer views.  Now the sun shone everywhere, and the mountains were always visible in the background. 

There are series of waterfalls feeding into St. Mary Lake, most of which are accessible on shorter hikes off the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Here Greta has been applying her newly-learned rock-climbing skills to scramble up the Baring Falls (and to make her mother nervous).

St. Mary Falls was pretty crowded, and we began to understand the demographic of summer visitors to Glacier.  On our trip three years ago, we learned that when you’re camping in the South in the winter, you’re surrounded by retired Northerners.  This time we found that when you’re camping in the North in the summer, you’re surrounded by extended families of Southerners (and some Midwesterners).  In the Fish Creek campground, there were many multiple-RV encampments of connected households, who had travelled in convoys from their hot, humid homes.  They all seemed to have at least four kids, and the womenfolk tended to domestic tasks, while the guys messed with their RVs and giant pickups, and the kids rode their bikes in circles and ran amuck with sticks. Then they would all organize themselves, and head off on a short group hike to a noted destination. 

The crowds thinned out dramatically at Virginia Falls – the Southerners wearing flip-flops and dragging little kids along looked at the rocky climb and turned back to their vehicles. But for those less-encumbered, it was well-worth the climb.

On the return hike, we noticed a change in the view.  Hiking west, all of the trees we saw were scorched black.  Now as we headed back east, they were all silver. We realized that the fire has swept up the valley from east to west, so the east-facing sides of the trees had been scorched, and the west sides had been protected.  The fire must have burned off all available fuel quickly enough that most trees were not consumed, but left standing in this strange, two-toned manner.

 

When I briefly visited Glacier 22 years ago, during a one-week cross-country drive with my brother, I had stood at this point behind the Many Glacier Hotel, thinking it was the most perfect alpine view I’d ever seen (I described it to Greta as reminiscent of a Palladian villa, with its symmetry and hierarchy of flanking elements), and wanting to hike up one of those valleys which flanked the ridge of Mt. Grinnell in the center.  I finally got my chance, as we hiked around the south side of Swiftcurrent Lake, and then up the valley on the left, past Josephine Lake and arriving at Grinnell Lake. 

But before starting this hike, we stopped along Lake Sherburne, to see the huge meadows of wildflowers.  Even I, who has what we have come to term FPD (floral perception disorder) noticed these, and Linda was in heaven. 

Swiftcurrent Lake is circled by an easy trail, on which we kept our eyes open, as we had seen two moose there a few days before, and passing hikers told us of spotting bears. 

At the head of the lake there is short stream which connects it to the higher Josephine Lake.

Both lakes have excursion boats – if you don’t want to do the longer hike, you can take the boat to the head of Swiftcurrent, hike half a mile to Josephine, where you can catch this boat, which takes you to the head of Josephine, and closer to Grinnell. 

The water was much warmer in the lake than in the streams which drained the glacier fields directly. We did some wading, and wished we’d brought bathing suits. 

The hike from Josephine to Grinnell is through the woods and longer, and has some interesting aspects, such as this bridge, and a nice side climb to another waterfall. 

The path opens up, and Grinnell Lake comes in to view. 

It’s an amazing spot, with rugged peaks on every side, and a very cold stream to ford.

The waterfalls across the lake drain the Grinnell Glacier above.  It was hard to believe this place was real – it looked more like a CGI landscape from a movie about Shangri-La. 

Overall, it was about an 8 mile hike, with 800 feet of elevation gain.  Minimal effort, for a series of spots and views that are extraordinary.

 

Our final alpine lake hike was from the Logan Pass visitors’ center to Hidden Lake.  We took a shuttle bus to the top, which is much easier to do from the east side than the west. The hike starts at 6646 feet, and climbs another 600 feet, before dropping 900 feet to the lake.  It is incredibly busy – lots of visitors get to the pass and decide they can do the first section to an overlook, so the wetter areas have boardwalks to accommodate the crowds. 

We’d been heating stories all week about bear sightings (including someone who said that a grizzly cub snuck up behind him and nuzzled his side), but we hadn’t seen any at all. Finally, we spotted a grizzly sitting on the snow a few miles away (circled below).  Linda thought that was the right distance from which to view a grizzly. 

The path then climbed through a snowfield (which was definitely a slushfield by the time we returned), and where we were able to once again marvel at how tourists will just take off on a hike that seems reasonable, no matter how unprepared they are for it.  We saw many people in tee shirts, gym shorts and flip-flops (and no other gear) heading across the snow, dragging tiny children, some wearing tutus and carrying stuffed animals.  I actually had some initial problems with the altitude, having just taken a bus up the 3000 foot elevation change on the road, but I acclimated after about half an hour.  But we saw many people much older and in worse shape than us, who seemed undaunted.

This recalled an observation Greta and I had made while climbing through a cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde – you can probably complete a somewhat demanding excursion if you are old, or out of shape, or ill-prepared, but if two of those three conditions apply to you, you might be in trouble.  But we’ve found that with little oversight from rangers or officials, people seem to make reasonable decisions about their capabilities.  The one exception we came across was a young family that was about to head onto the pretty demanding hike to Avalanche Lake with three kids under seven, and no lunch (the shuttle from the west side was really busy, and they’d arrived at the trailhead later than expected).  We gave them our energy bars, and when we ran into them at the end of the day, they said they never would have made it otherwise. 

We arrived at this saddle 600 feet above the pass,

and hiked past the overlook to this view of Hidden Lake below.  If you look at the bottom of that notch to the right, you can also see the end of Lake McDonald, 4000 feet below.

The big panorama is breathtaking, but there were other attractions.  We took a break and watched a marmot (between Linda and Greta) licking a big rock. There were many other marmots around, a few different species of chipmunks,

and lots of mountain goats, who seemed quite used to the crowds, and who were willing to pose photogenically in the foreground. 

We left the crowds behind for more slush-climbing and scree fields,

and arrived at this spot by the lake for lunch.  We cooled our waterbottles in the snow, and watched the reflections in the lake while chatting with some other hikers. 

They pointed out that at the mouth of the lake, there was an osprey catching fish, while two rainbow trout were somewhere in the middle of their extended spawning activity.  The female (on the left), was swimming in place in the current, and every few minutes would writhe around, digging a trench in the gravel for her eggs.  The male was waiting to fertilize them, but would shoot off every minute or so, to chase off other males who were trying to horn in on the action.  I’m pretty much a city guy, and I couldn’t believe we were seeing this – it struck me as entirely too much like a staged nature video for it to be real. 

The reflections on the still lake were dazzling. 

We climbed back up to the saddle, and crossed over to the east side again, where the mishaps of the late-day crowds were intensifying as the melting snow got slipperier and slipperier. 

As I’ve mentioned, most of the day hikes in Glacier were either too easy, or a bit beyond our capabilities (that might change if we were there for more than a week).  But these three hikes had everything we were looking for – awesome views of the mountains, beautiful blue lakes, constantly shifting perspectives, a level of exertion that was enough to guarantee we’d sleep well, and the small-scale attractions of plants and wildlife.  At some point on each of these hikes I’d pause, and remark that this was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.  `

On the road again

After a two year hiatus, we have hit the road in Peregrine once again, this time travelling across the great Northwest, with Glacier National Park as our prime destination. I’ll put up a few posts about our trip, but it’s unlikely Greta will follow suit – we probably won’t run into any food worth writing about, and at 16-years-old, she’s getting a little too cool for blogging (preferring Snapchatting with her friends).

We came home from our big trip with the best of intentions to keep the travel momentum going, similar to those intentions we formulate at the end of every summer – we need to get out of town more, we should not let work take over all of our attention, we should do more family adventures while Greta is still at home, etc.

But normal life intervened, with all of its preoccupations and distractions.  We returned from the trip, I turned 60, and every aspect of life beyond our immediate family took a nose dive into a level of chaos and disarray that has constantly yanked our attention away from our personal concerns. The national and international issues are obvious to all, but at the same time, our jobs have involved a high level of chaos, conflict and turmoil for the past two years, as a new regime at the UO has done away with many of the givens of the past 25 years, leading me to question why we have dedicated our lives to this place, and whether the path forward is viable.  One of the drivers of our trip three years ago was my discontent with how the university was going, but in retrospect, that period looks like the golden age.

So rather than spending our free time travelling the Northwest, each weekend we have more or less collapsed, regrouped, and prepared for the coming week. Other circumstances have also kept our roadtripping in check:  I had knee surgery last summer, which knocked me out for months, a spring break trip to eastern Oregon was kaboshed by the weather, and much of Greta’s life has been taken over by her robotics team, which occupies all of her spare time for at least 3 or 4 months per year.  So Peregrine has sat in our carport for two years, an incongruous reminder that we once managed to leave it all behind.  Every once in a while I stick my head in the door, trying to get a whiff of that experience, but it always seems unreal, like a disconnected remnant from a forgotten civilization.  A memory will come up, and Greta and I will look at each other and say, Did we really do that trip?

But last winter I realized that we had to make a commitment to get away – if we just made decisions day by day, we’d never get out of the reactive mode.  This might also allow us to correct one of the problems with our trip – on such a long trip, it was impossible to make commitments far in advance, as we wanted to respond to the vagaries of weather and unanticipated opportunities;  mapping out nine months of travel in detail just isn’t feasible, nor desirable.  But that meant that certain destinations, such as popular National Parks, couldn’t be visited.  We had both wanted to go to Yosemite, but all campgrounds within striking distance had been booked six months in advance.  So making a plan in the depths of winter would give us access to a place which you can’t visit on the spur of the moment, as well providing a light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the themes of our trip had been Climate Change Farewell Tour, as I had realized that much of the world was going to change drastically in Greta’s lifetime, and I thought she should see the state of the current world as a baseline before that happened. The coming change was most evident along the southern coastline (as we visited many places that will probably be under water in 50 years), and in the Southwest, much of which might become uninhabitable for most of the year. The biggest missing piece was Glacier National Park.  I had briefly driven through 22 years ago, and thought it was the most extraordinary mountain landscape I’d ever seen.  Then recently I read that it was down to 28 glaciers remaining from the probable 150 in the 19th century.  It seemed that it was time to go.

So I made campground reservations in January (15 minutes after they were available online), we dusted off the trailer (literally), and tried to remember all the gear, protocols and approaches we’d taken two years ago.  We made one big change this year:  Linda was coming along.  She’s never been a big fan of camping (thinking that it is sort of like normal life, but less convenient or pleasant), but Peregrine was a nice enough little substitute home that maybe she could take a flyer.  Our big worry was that while 85 square feet might be adequate living space for two, it might be too tight for three.  So we hedged our bets by packing up a big tent we’d bought at Walmart five years ago for $40 (to use as a spray tent in our shop when we painted cabinetwork and trim), so anyone who felt the need for more personal space could bail out into the annex.

We left from our summer place on Whidbey Island, turning the corner onto Route 20, which took us all the way across Washington.  After crossing the Skagit Valley, we entered North Cascades National Park – a place we’d never visited, even though it’s only about an hour and a half away.  We stopped at the park headquarters, where I formalized a milestone in my life – for $80 I purchased my lifetime Senior Pass to the National Parks, which gives me and my companions free admission, and half-price campsites, forever!  I had previously tallied up our total costs for our big trip, and realized that my Social Security alone at this point would be enough to support me driving around the country and camping in National Parks;  if this trip goes well, I might not come back in the fall.

Our visit to North Cascades was brief – just a scoping trip, to see if we’d like to return in the future.  The west side of the park is what we are used to in Oregon – fir and hemlock forests, everything muddy and mossy.

Washington Pass was a change – giant craggy peaks rising up into the clouds.

And North Cascades was also where I was able to achieve a milestone I had not been able to in nine months on the road – documentation of a Triple Selfie!

We left the Cascades into the Methow Valley, a beautiful region about which we had only heard.

We drove down the valley to Winthrop, and stayed with our friends Lisa Spitzmiller and Hanz Scholz, whom we had met 16 years ago, when we were in the same Birth to Three group. Our daughter Greta and their daughter Gretta (whom we called Gretta-Two-Ts just to be clear) were friends for years, until they moved (along with their second daughter Stella) about nine years ago.  Lisa has continued her work as a counselor in Winthrop, while Hanz has had a major career change.  Along with his brother, Hanz was the founder of Bike Friday, the maker of superb folding bikes (Greta and I used one of their tandems for years, and Linda still rides a Tikit.)  But Hanz tired of big-city life, so they moved to Winthrop, where Hanz worked at various jobs, and recently bought a yurt manufacturing company in the Valley, which he is moving to Winthrop now.

They live on this beautiful farm (seen above), where Lisa can keep her horses.  We arrived in the middle of a ground floor gut remodel and addition to their house, and so we undertook our first driveway camping experience in years, as they were mostly living in a neighbor’s house.

Greta and Gretta were both the tiniest kids we knew a decade ago, so it was a surprise to see how Gretta had grown into a serious athlete, excelling at state and even international competition in cross country running and telemark skiing.  Stella has followed suit, winning the state mountain biking championship in her age group.  The girls seem much changed, but Hanz and Lisa haven’t, and it was good to see such good friends again after too long.

The next day was a pleasant drive down the rest of the Methow Valley, and a bit up the Okanogan (where we stocked up on cherries for the week).  Afterwards Route 20 was rather boring, through mid-sized, tree-covered mountains.  But then we came to a surprising place:

In the Black Panther movie, much had been made of how Wauconda was hidden away, out of the sight of western society.  We hadn’t realized that their strategy was to situate an African country in the Northwest, surrounded by hundreds of miles of the whitest people we’ve ever seen.

The end of the day was at Sandpoint, on Lake Pend Oreille (which seems to be just the dammed part of the Pend Oreille River).  Sandpoint is a surprisingly nice town (to those of used to the usual northwestern towns, with their sad, decrepit cores surrounded by dismal sprawl).  The historic downtown is in great shape, surrounded by beautiful residential neighborhoods, all of it quite compact, as it is hemmed in by the river and topography.

The next day we continued through northern Idaho, and stopped for a hike at Kootenai Falls, in a narrow valley where the Great Northern Railroad tracks ran right along the river.

By the end of the day, we reached our destination – Lake McDonald, on the west side of Glacier.  The 700 mile drive immediately seemed worth it.

Greta’s New Orleans

I’ve been gradually archiving our blog offline, which has involved going through all of our documentation – photos, writing, mapping – and sometimes in this vast trove of stuff I come across something I haven’t seen before.  Today, while looking for a picture of a sandwich at Cochon Butcher, I found a folder of Greta’s photos in New Orleans which I hadn’t seen before.  I liked them so much, and they were so different from my pictures of New Orleans, that I thought I should share them with you all.

Mardi Gras 2016

On this wet, chilly Mardi Gras back in Eugene, we’re recalling Mardi Gras in New Orleans last year.  I’ve put together a nine-minute video which captures the images and especially the music of that day, from parading with the St. Anthony’s Ramblers and the Panorama Jazz Band through the Marigny, St. Roch and the French Quarter, ending up at the amazing party at Constantine’s in the Pontalba on Jackson Square.

More photos and commentary from that day at  this post.