Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pictures from the last few days, as promised

I promised images when I got someplace with decent wifi.  Here they are.  The first are from Wilderness Gateway campground.

I'm pretty sure this is wild huckleberry.  

Low clouds in early morning.
The Renogy panel doing its thing, later in the morning

Rapids on the Lochsa River

The trail for my hike.  Can't ask for better!

And a couple from the drive on Rt 12 from Wilderness Gateway campground to Lolo Hot Springs.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Catching up

June 24-27

A series of entries, written while I had no internet access and posted together now that I do. I have quite a few pictures, but the internet is so slow here that I'll send this text and then send pictures in the next day or so when I get decent internet.

Saturday June 25

This, I gotta say, is about as good as it gets.  

It’s 2:30 PM  at the Wilderness Gateway NFS campground.   I’ve been here maybe 24 hours, having left Pollock and the Canyon Pines RV resort about 9 am yesterday. It was cloudy and cool and spit rain all the way.  I loved it.

The route went up US 95 to Grangeville, then over and up ID 13 to Kooskia, then north and east up US 12 in the direction of Lolo Pass and, eventually, Missoula MT.  It was a spectacular drive. At times the road followed the river canyon closely (first the middle fork of the Clearwater, then the Lochsa. This is premiere whitewater country.   The ex-river rat in me had to concentrate on NOT looking over, trying to read the water and find the best line through the rapids.  Sometimes I pulled over and did just that. Then the country would open up into something more like river valley than canyon: big vistas of green fields, cattle, and farmland, sloping up to the ever-present ridges and peaks.  Lots of little towns; a few small cities like Grangeville. Many places to pull over, either to gawk at the country or let traffic pass, or both.  I realized at one point I was driving along with a really big grin on my face. 

The elevation gain wasn’t all that much until I went through White Bird and headed up the White Bird Grade: miles and miles of steady 6-7 percent grade.  I stopped at one pullover with a historical marker commemorating a battle with the Nez Perce more than a century ago, as much to give Beastie some time to breathe as to admire the view and learn a little history.  

Lots of NFS campgrounds along the way, whose names I recognized from my map study.  And finally into Wilderness Gateway campground where I had reserved three nights. The sites here were described as in complete shade, and I thought I might have to run the generator to make it through.  The shade was overstated, and yesterday’s clouds and rain have given way to clear blue sunny skies.  The solar panel is pumping watts, the temperature is in the 70’s, and I have butterflies, ground squirrels (chipmunks to us native Easterners,) honeybees, and hummingbirds for company.

And people. When I pulled in yesterday about this time the place was more than half-empty.  By 8PM, it was about full. Now, it’s pretty empty again. Lots of tent campers; many more trailers than motorhomes. Families with children, mostly.  As I walk around, lots of chances to talk with folks.  The background sound is the river.  To say that it’s pleasant would be a VAST understatement. 

Sunday morning June 26

And although I haven’t really decided anything, it feels like I am staying here today.  Beautiful morning; the solar panel is scavenging what it can from the partially-shaded sun, with plenty more to come as the sun moves higher.  It’s cool, with only the sound of the river in the background.  Ooops — not quite: the hot water heater has just fired up its annoying blow torch sound; guess it’ll be time for a sponge bath in a little while. 

I was a bad boy this morning.  I drained the grey water tank (wash water) into the surrounding shrubbery.  If I were tent camping, of course, like the folks next door, I’d have been tossing my dishwater out in the same way, so the net environmental impact is about nil. So I tell myself.

I’ve been trying an experiment here:  I’ve left the bed in position.  My standard sleeping arrangement involves collapsing the “dinette” table into a platform and putting bedding on top: thick blanket as a “mattress pad” and then a sheet and then a top cover of a thin cotton blanket and then a lightweight sleeping bag folded like a quilt over that.  It’s surprisingly comfortable, but it’s a minor pain to do every evening and undo every morning.  So here, I’ve been eating on a little folding table, and leaving the bed set up.  Minor inconvenience, but great for naps! And since there’s no internet, I don’t spend much time on the laptop: right now I’m typing this at the picnic table.  So far, I like this arrangement.  

The water heater has shut up, so perhaps it’s bath time.

Sunday evening. 

I didn’t take as much of a bath as I could have.  What I did was go for a hike.  Yes, a hike.  An actual damn hike. At end of this little road is a trail sign.  “Overlook Trail.  1/2 mile.  Dead end.”  So I got a water bottle, my phone to take pictures, and my hiking staff. It was about 11am when I took off down the trail: A well-maintained little day hike trail, with no rocks or roots to speak of, and a slow gentle incline. Somewhat to my surprise, my knees were fine, my back was fine.  It was … glorious.  It smelled like forest: slightly damp, pine-needle-y.  I felt great.  I went at a comfortable (glacial) pace, catching glimpses from time to time of the river below me, getting further and further below me as the slow climb continued.  I was a truly happy camper; it didn’t matter how slow I was moving.  I was sweaty and loose and strong.  I was, by God, HIKING. 

After a while I began to doubt that “1/2 mile” sign, but it didn’t matter. I had managed to silence the part of me that kept wanting to know “how much further,” and tried, successfully for the most part, to simply enjoy where I was: in the woods again.  I wasn’t trying to get somewhere.  I was there.

And then … 

I stubbed my toe on a root, and kept myself from falling with the staff.  I paused, took a drink, and knew fear.  There I was, alone, with no one knowing where I was.  What if I sprained an ankle, or worse? Stupid!  I stood there for a while, turned around, and slowly, carefully, made my way back down the trail to “home,” no longer loose, but tight with fear around the edges of my mind, returning to my day job as a somewhat doddery old man. 

Despite this moment, it was a good experience.  Most of it was the best time I’ve had outdoors in Lord knows how long. The fearful part, not so great. For a little while, as I hiked back, I berated myself for turning around. For not leaving a note about where I was going.   But that wore off. I swallowed the last of my water as I headed down the campground road to the Beast.  I’ve been turned back from summit attempts in the Cacades by bad weather.  I’ve turned back on rock climbs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire when it turned out I was attempting a route that was beyond my abilities. The idea that an easy 1/2 mile stroll would prove beyond me was hard on the ego, for a little while.  But only a little while.  It was a really good time.

Early morning, Monday June 27

I’ll head out in a while, up US 12 to Lolo Hot Springs.  Maybe there’ll be usable internet and I’ll post this.  As I picked things up last night, and stowed the solar panel for travel, I realized that when I take off from here, it will feel like leaving home.  More than other departures on this trip, even the week-plus I spent in Cascade.  I think it’s because this leafy, green place with a river running through it feels like the places of my young manhood. The terrain reminds me of New England and the Adirondacks, with fewer rocks and bugs. It brings back memories of youth and strength, a little foolishness, unlimited energy, and the companionship of like-minded folks. 

Monday afternoon, June 27

I got out at about 9, and wound along Rt 12 up over Lolo Pass and on to Lolo Hot Springs. Nothing special: roomy sites on grass.  I’ll go investigate showers in a bit.  (UPDATE: ummm ... no thinks on the showers.  Good thing this place is cheap!) The wifi is really slow, but I’ll try to get this out this afternoon. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Somewhere near Pollock, ID

The view from my campsite:

The warning signs kinda detract from the wilderness-y feel, but it's a commercial facility, after all.

I pulled over at one of the places I was thinking about boondocking along the road, and the view was:

And just to prove it was me (us):

This is a really nice RV park.  Not close to a town, like Water's Edge in Cascade, but you can't ask for nicer ambiance than a rushing river, particularly if you're from Tucson. Everything is spotlessly clean and looks new.

The campground wifi seems to work OK.  Which is good, because ATT is zero, and there's a usable Verizon signal on the office porch.  I'm pretty sure that the next days at the NFS campground will be cell-free: they warn about it on their web page.

So I'm fine, and really attracted to a post-lunch nap.  See y'all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

For the visually inclined ...

This looks like the route for the next week or so.

I plan to leave the hot springs on Tuesday the 28th and head down US 93.  I'll find a campsite there and hunker down over the 4th of July weekend, and then probably basically head for home.

Routes 12 (Cascade to Lolo) and 93 (Lolo to Arco) are some very scenic territory.  I'm excited!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The road ahead

I spent some time today figuring out the next week of travel.  This is what it looks like:

Mon, Tues, Weds June 20,21,22 : Cascade, ID -- where I am now
Thurs, June 23: Somewhere near Pollock, ID
Fri, Sat, Sun June 24,25,26: Wilderness Gateway CGD on US Rte 12, Nez Perce-Clearwater NF
Mon, June 27: Lolo Hot Springs, somewhat near Missoula MT on US Rte 12

I extended the stay here in Cascade by one day in order to make this fit together. The night near Pollock will either be on a pullover on Rte 12 or an Idaho Rest Area nearby.

For those following closely,  the time at Wilderness Gateway will have no cell service; service at Pollock is iffy, but the Hot Springs people say they have internet.  We'll see.

My general plan after this is to head south, possibly jogging through Missoula MT if I need to refill a prescription.  Need to count pills ...

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Life at 6 Main Street, #38, Cascade, ID

Lots of people came in last night ... mostly Idaho plates.  I'm thinking a lot of people from Boise come up here for the weekend.  There surely are more families with kids.

This little cluster of trailers, motorhome and tents seems to be one group.  They arrived yesterday afternoon and set up camp.  The kids and one adult immediately set off to go swim in the river.  I dipped a toe in the river a day ago, and no thanks!  The pelicans don't mind, apparently.

Walked around the campground this morning.

Lots and lots of people, in lots of kinds of rigs, from huge Class A diesels to little pop-up trailers. Big sign in the front windshield of a big rig: "Due to a shortage of ammunition, there will be no warning shots."  Ouch.  Many levels of ouch, particularly right now.

Yesterday I did some laundry, feeling unbearably smug that I'd packed lots of quarters.  The major project was interior -- a chore I've been putting off for a while.

I mostly use the bathtub as a place to store boxes of things, laundry bags, etc.  But camped in a place like this, with unlimited water and continuous drainage, it can make sense to shower in the rig. The hot water heater has a 6-gallon tank, so long soaking showers are out.  The caulk around the edges of the tub had dried out and come away in places, so I cleaned out the seam between the tub and shower enclosure and put in new silicone caulk, which I had in my tool box.  Judging by the smell it's about cured; today I'll trim the excess and test it for leaks as best I can.  This is the kind of chore which would be torture at home, when the coach heats up to intolerable levels in the parking lot.  Yes, I could run the generator and the a/c, but that somehow seems excessive.

Other than finishing the tub project, I don't have an agenda for today.  That's OK.

And boy, did I time this trip right for weather!  It's gonna hit 114 degrees F today, maybe 120 tomorrow.  120 is almost unheard of for Tucson.   Here, 65 today, mid-seventies tomorrow.

Sorry, Tucsonans!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Settled in

Here we be.  Cascade, ID, population 900-something.

I arrived in the early afternoon, after what felt like a very long drive across to Boise from Jerome: Flat and uninteresting.  Getting on Rt 55 northwards toward Cascade required going straight through Boise, and while it wasn't all that hard, I found myself wondering how on earth I'd ever have done it, solo, with just paper maps.  Thank you, Waze!

Once north of Boise, the trip got nicer.  The road ran along the side of the Payette river, one of the West's premiere whitewater routes.  Some pretty gnarly-looking Class III and IV rapids; I only got a picture of one, almost certainly an easy III:

If you can, I recommend enlarging the image.  The interesting stuff is up in the top.  Yee-hah!

I used to be a whitewater guide.  Not on small fierce runs like this, but on big desert rivers like the Green and Colorado down in Utah. Still quickens my pulse, though, and I found myself "scouting" the way through some of the more challenging runs.

I'm staying here at Water's Edge park for a week.  I'll have more to say about the park and the town as the week goes on ... but here's the view:

Not bad, huh?  The weather has been cloudy and drizzly all day.  The high was somewhere in the 50s. Tomorrow should be mostly clear with highs about 20 degrees warmer.  I like it here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Idaho Ho!

It's Wednesday, so it must be Idaho.  I don't think I've ever been in Idaho on purpose before; I did drive through once on I-90 on my way from Olympia WA to the East.

I posted a photo from my phone yesterday, but you haven't heard much from me since I left Tucson. First night out was with friends in Flagstaff, then the "real" trip began.  I stayed at a small and delightful RV park in Mt Carmel Junction, UT, which is near Zion and a host of other scenic national parks.  The RV park was a strip of land with 12 campsites, run by the motel across the street.  Green! Green trees for shade, some green grass (complete with robins hunting worms), and the sound of water from a little river. A real sense of being out of the desert.

Not fancy, but cheap and I liked it a lot.  Full hookups!

Next day ended just south of Salt Lake city: A Walmart lot in Orem.  The road up was wonderful, as I made my way north and west around the east end of Grand Canyon.   I stopped to stretch and take some pictures at Glen Canyon dam, where in an earlier life I went boating and wakeboarding on Lake Powell.

Very hard to get a sense of scale, but this thing is BIG!

Next morning (yesterday, Tuesday) I drove from Orem up through Salt Lake City morning rush hour traffic (not fun,) and then north and west to Jerome, Idaho.  Another Walmart lot.

The northern Utah countryside was wonderful: lush rolling hills with high mountains to the west, a few stubborn snowfields persisting.

A few bug spatters on the windshield, but hey ... 

And so to Jerome, and Idaho.  The intermountain Northwest.  It's currently in the 30's up in Cascade where I'm headed for the next week, with rain showers.  Highs in the 60s.  Tucsonans, eat your hearts out!

So here we go.  As the intro to the NPR One app says, "It's on!"

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The next venture begins

In a few hours I'll head north to Flagstaff to spend the night and catch up with some friends up there. Then to Utah and Idaho.

I'm getting used to the routines of going on the road.  Emma the dog is across the street with my friend Steve, her alternate doggy daddy.  I've done laundry, packed clothing.  Food shopping and moving food from the house refrigerator to the rig.  This morning -- it's 4:30 as I write this -- I need to straighten up the house so it's welcoming when I return, and organize the last-minute stuff like shaving gear and the electronics.  

The road to departure has had a couple of bumps. When I set up the solar panel in the parking lot so the refrigerator could start cooling down, the indicator lights weren't what I'd come to expect.  That set off a flurry of email and phone calls with the folks at Renogy in California who supply the unit.  I cannot speak highly enough of them, not just because they make good gear at reasonable prices, but because they provide excellent customer support.  Excellent, I tell you!  They were ready to ship a new unit to me on the road, and sent me a prepaid FedEx mailing label so I could return the old one. Adam spent a lot of time with me, helping troubleshoot the "symptoms" I was seeing, and was unfailingly courteous.  When you buy high tech gear that you only partly understand, good tech support is crucial. These guys are the best.  If you ever contemplate getting solar gear, you can find their stuff on their web site or go to Amazon.  Tell them Rich sent you.  They won't know who I am, but they'll pretend they do and treat you right.  And they're even in the same time zone, sort of. 

Eventually the solar panel and its controller and the rig's indicators all decided to play nice, and it's behaving normally.  And Adam's offer to send a replacement wherever I am stands.  Nice!

The other bump was literally that.  Temperature regulation in a propane refrigerator is pretty crude; it depends on sliding a thermo-whatsis up and down one of the cooling fins, checking the temperature with a thermometer, and repeat.  It's easy to move the whatsis accidentally when you're loading food and I did.  It wasn't as cold as it should be. PANIC!  Then I remembered that I do this every darn time, took a deep breath, and fiddled with the whatsis.  I just checked, and it's nicely cold in all the right places out there.

You like the technical jargon??

So: shower, shave, wash the breakfast dishes, pack the laptop, and I'm ready.  I'll try to check in regularly, so those of you who want to worry can do so.   Be well, folks!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The overall shape of the next trip is emerging.  Drive to Cascade ID via Flagstaff, a week in Cascade, then head up and take Rt 12 over towards Missoula MT.  Then I’m thinking I may take US 93 S back S  into Idaho, through the Bitterroot Valley down toward the Craters of the Moon national monument. Loads of interesting stuff along that route and apparently another very scenic drive.  

From there … options open up, but the terrain dominates.  One strong possibility is to work my way S and E in WY towards I-25 — I-25 S to Boulder for a family visit.  Then I could go S and hole up in White Rock and Santa Fe for a while or angle SW toward home down through various places in CO. 

[Or instead of going S on 93, I could stay N, roughly along I-90 from Missoula, and head over toward a close encounter with Devil’s Tower in NE Wyoming and go south towards Boulder from there.]

The major unsolved piece of logistics is to find someplace to hole up for the 4th of July weekend. 

Time and money:  I need to find some places to stay for several days at a time to recharge the money meter, preferably at someplace cheap or free.  In any event, most versions of this itinerary involve a shit-ton of driving… the whole circle route home-to-home via Devils Tower would be about 3400 miles.  At 200 miles/day that would be about 17 days of continuous travel. About 400 gallons of gas at recent average mpg, and THAT’s maybe $1000 for gas at $2.50. That 17-day figure doesn’t include extended stays anywhere, like Boulder or White Rock.  Hmmm… In any event, it’s looking like this is a month-long venture at the minimum.