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Old 08-29-2010, 08:29 AM   #1
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ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

There have been so many great trip reports posted on the forum this summer that I feel obligated to launch my own humble submission. Nothing too exciting; just a drive to the Pacific Ocean and back from western Montana.

It was a great relaxing trip, and had a few different twists for us. I realized that this was the first time in ten years that we had taken time off in mid-summer to have a vacation. For a decade we have been taking camping vacations in the spring and fall to avoid crowds, and mainly because there is so much to do in Montana in the summer.

I also visited places like Mt. Rainier National Park that I had not visited in more than thirty years, allowing Mrs. Ed to describe the trip as the "Ed's Memory Lane Tour". Cynic!



I've got most of the pictures processed, so here goes!
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:45 AM   #2
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT
US 12 Helena, MT to Olympic National Park, WA and back
July 26th to August 9th, 2010

CREW: Ed in Montana, Rosemary in Montana, and the two giant Labradogs Logan and Kintla

MILES DRIVEN: 2,005

DIESEL BURNED: 132.4 gallons

AVERAGE MPG: 15.1 miles per gallon

CARBON EQUIVALENT: 366.75 kilograms of CO2 or 808.55lbs

NIGHTS OUT: 12 camping, two in motels to dry out from the fog.

COLDEST WEATHER: 58 degrees F in fog with a breeze one afternoon at Rialto Beach WA.

HOTTEST WEATHER: 98 degrees F, Walla Walla WA.

MOST EXPENSIVE FUEL: $3.499/gallon, Cliffdale, WA on eastern boundary of Mt. Rainier National Park

CHEAPEST FUEL: $2.899/gallon, Helena, MT

NATIONAL PARKS VISITED: Three: Mt. Rainier NP, Olympic NP and North Cascades NP

TRIP FIRST: First time we have driven US12 all the way to the Pacific Coast from Helena, MT.

MOST AMAZING WILDFLOWERS: Fields of Avalanche and Glacier Lilies with a few clumps of Tiger
Lilies, all in two days in Mt. Rainer NP. The trifecta of wildflower lilies!

BEST DINNER: Grilled Willamette Valley Natural Flat Iron Steak served with roasted fresh Yakima Valley veggies accompanied by Walla Walla wines with the Pacific Ocean for a backdrop, Olympic National Park, Kalaloch, WA.

BEST NATIONAL PARK VISITOR CENTER: North Cascades NP Visitor Center in Newhalen, WA. Amazing map displays and an incredible bookstore.

BIGGEST DISSAPOINTMENT: Saw no marine mammals. Need more whales next time.

SECOND BIGGEST DISSAPOINTMENT: The crush of suburban development and huge traffic jams east of Port Angeles, WA. None of that stuff had been there ten years ago.

NUMBER OF PICTURES TAKEN: 792

NUMBER OF SPORTSMOBILES SEEN: 5
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:15 AM   #3
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

DAY ONE -Monday, July 26th, 2010 Helena, MT to Wilderness Gateway, ID

This is sort of a different launch day for a long Sportsmobile trip. We are not leaving at the break of dawn but around noon. The Sporty is pretty well packed, but having just gotten back from a conference in Las Vegas over the weekend, thereís still a lot of yard and garden work to do before we can get away. Thatís the curse of taking a vacation in mid-summer in Montana. You donít want to return and have the home place look like it has been abandoned for months or foreclosed upon.

After several hours of weeding, fertilizing and watering, we turn the garden and the house keys over to our wonderful neighbor, and tell her to eat anything that ripens up while we are gone. Unfortunately, I forget to tell her to be careful about those hot peppers that look like sweet peppers. Oh well.

Finally, we are on the road after noon, and the labradogs are going nuts in the van, like they always do on the first day of a trip. I pull into the Cromwell Dixon Campground 6,400 feet up on the crest of the Continental Divide just west of town to let them run and cool their jets. Itís all downhill to the Pacific Ocean from here.

Itís been a pretty wet summer here in Big Sky Country, and the normally dry meadows around the campground are alive with wild flowers, like these Sticky Geraniums and Potenillas.



Thereís also a type of Blanket Flower blooming.



And also quite a lot of individual plants of Fireweed. After a wild fire, Fireweed will cover whole large areas of the burn, but up here its just scattered around.





It is unusual to have some of the best wild flowers of a trip just a few miles from home.

Loaded back up in the Sporty we chauffeur the labradorians to their next stop, Beavertail Pond Fishing Access Site just off of I-90, east of Missoula. A cold swim on a hot day is just what they need. Back in the van they smell a lot better too after this washing.



A young woman fishing at the pond takes a couple of pictures of the labradogs swimming, and then offers to sell them to us, as if we donít have pictures of our own dogs. Some people need the money I guess, or are just natural born businessmen.

We get through the late afternoon traffic in Missoula without too much trouble, and head southwest up Lolo Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains on US Highway 12. I could smell smoke on the hot drive up, and sure enough thereís a wild fire burning just east of the pass. A helicopter and a crew of the Ronan, Montana Hotshots fire fighters are organizing next to the Lolo Pass Visitor Center to control the small blaze.






I wish them good luck and we descend the windy, curvy road that is US12 paralleling the north bank of the Wild and Scenic Lochsa River. You donít drive the Lochsa to get anywhere fast, thatís for sure. After another hour and half of slow driving we pull into Wilderness Gateway Campground on the Clearwater National Forest. Itís a big developed campground, but less than half full on this Monday night, so we drive around a find a large site away from other people to walk the dogs and set up camp.

It is very hot and very humid and very still here low on the Lochsa River. As soon as I get out of the air-conditioned van, I get attacked by ankle biting gnats before I can get any bug dope on. Thankfully, a light breeze starts up in an hour and the bugs and the temps die down a bit.



Also, before I can get the bug dope on or a cold beer open, we are accosted by a fellow camper bellowing ďI thought I heard a Ford diesel coming through here!Ē The guy turns out to be a retired school teacher and proceeds to talk my ear off on the pros and cons of diesel engines. I pop the hood on Sporty to let the engine cool as much as it can in the hot humid air, and the guy practically crawls into the engine compartment to look around. Iíve met diesel fanatics before, but this is the worst kind, a guy who is used to talking to kids all day who canít do that anymore, so he will talk to YOU. After nearly an hour of this one-sided conversation (at least it seemed like an hour) a lone motorcyclist with international plates drives by and camps nearby. The retired teacher notices that it is some sort of road bike of interest to him, and wanders off to introduce himself. Several hours later after we finish a fine dinner of smoked pork tacos, Mrs. Ed walks around the camp loop and remarks in amazement ďHeís still talking to the motorcyclist!Ē Grizzly bears are not the only thing to worry about while camping in the Northern Rockies!

Luckily, near sunset, the temperature drops just enough to let us sleep warm but well.



The light clouds resemble a fire sunset during an active fire season, something we have not had this year. Itís on to Mt. Rainier national Park tomorrow.
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:30 AM   #4
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

Those gnat bites itched for two weeks and the bugs on the Lochsa proved to be the worst on the entire trip. Thank god I didn't run into anymore retired-teacher-diesel-fanatics too!
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Old 08-29-2010, 04:49 PM   #5
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

DAY TWO ĖMORNING Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 Wilderness Gateway, ID to Lodgepole Campground, near the east entrance to Mt. Rainer National Park

We are up early and out of camp by 8PM to try to beat the heat traveling across eastern Washington on this our longest travel day of the trip. It is only 350 miles, but with the winding road, hot temps and the labradogs it is about as long as I want to drive in a day.

Speaking of the winding road, Iím impressed by new paved turnouts at various points along US 12, thinking that finally that Idaho highway department is doing something for tourism along this very scenic route. WRONG! Later I find out that these turnouts are not for tourists, but for the giant big rigs that several energy companies hope to drive through this corridor. Huge pieces of industrial equipment built in South Korea and ferried up the Columbia and Snake Rivers by barge to the Port of Lewiston, Idaho will be trucked over this route. The first proposal for several monster loads will go to the Conoco-Philips Refinery in Billings, Montana. The second crazier proposal for over 200 loads will be trucked to the Exxon-Imperial Oil tar sands project in northwest Alberta, by US 12, MT 200 up the scenic Blackfoot (from ďA River Runs Through ItĒ fame) River, then up my favorite road US 287 along the Rocky Montana Front to Lethbridge.

The proposals are completely nuts. The loads are too big to fit on railcars and canít fit under Interstate overpasses. Exxon-Imperial Oil of Canada is offering to bury most powerline crossings along the route for nearly 100 million dollars! The monster 30 foot high-162 foot long loads may be driven up US 12 at night with the road closed to all traffic, since the rigs take up two lanes by themselves.

Mrs. Ed drives Sporty down the Clearwater portion of the road between Orofino and Lewiston, Idaho which is narrow enough as it is with heavy truck traffic. We wonít be traveling this route again if the energy companies succeed in turning this into Big Rig corridor.

Hereís a couple of references to this big rig project. The Big Rig Blog on the Missoulian newspaper, and an excellent video summary of the project on Youtube.

http://missoulian.com/news/local/articl ... 002e0.html

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Old 09-13-2010, 11:57 PM   #6
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

Ed,

Love your trip reports. What happened to the rest of this one?

Brent
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Old 09-14-2010, 07:08 AM   #7
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

My apologies for the slow posting vwteleman. The end of summer frenzy around the yard and at work has temporarily knocked me out of my writing routine. There's still lots to mention on this one, and I am determined to finish it, especially if I can just get one more day of yard work in before winter arrives here in western Montana!

It has been the a year without a summer in Big Sky Country, only the third time in thirty years of living here that I can remember that happening. There hasn't been more than three days in a row of warm (not to speak of hot) weather before the cold drenching rains start again. Camping has been wet and miserable (sort of like camping in a Northwest winter!) and getting anything done in the yard and garden has been really difficult, unless you can work in scuba gear.
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Old 09-14-2010, 08:32 AM   #8
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ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

No problem Ed, no need to apologize. I understand when life gets in the way. Just didn't want you to think there was no interest in your reports.

Thanks,
Brent
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Old 09-14-2010, 09:13 AM   #9
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

Nice report Ed! The Rainier pic was outstanding.

Keep it coming (when you can find a free minute).

-Mark
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Old 09-15-2010, 06:34 AM   #10
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Re: ROCKIES TO THE PACIFIC TRIP REPORT

DAY TWO ĖAFTERNOON Tuesday, July 27

We refuel in Lewiston, and start the climb out of the Snake River Canyon onto the rolling hills of the Palouse Prairie. Although still winding and slow, I have always enjoyed this part of US 12 with the scenic rolling hills with wheat farms and grasslands. We are still fortunate that thereís a light cloud cover and even a few rain showers keeping the dayís high temperature down so far.

We roll into Walla Walla just before noon. What used to be a sleepy college town in the 1990s has become Napa Valley North today with a booming wine industry of more than 110 local vineyards. Unfortunately having become discovered years ago, wine prices have soared with many boutique wineries concentrating on producing high priced bottles of red. Not having lots of money or lots of time today we stop at one of our favorite wineries, L' Ecole No. 41, a mid-size business located in a old school house just west of town.



One of the older wineries in the Walla Walla area, the abandon school house was lovingly restored as the tasting room and the business headquarters, and now offers a great variety of superb, but affordable whites and more pricey reds.



I leave Mrs. Ed outside to manage the labradogs in the noonday heat as I go in for a quick visit. Iíve barely tasted one wine when another guy, a thirty-something motorcycle rider sits down next to me. The sommelier, a young woman, asks him where heís from. ďIím a redneck sheep rancher from southwestern Montana,Ē he replies.

Interesting, I think, and I tell him Iím from Helena, Montana. ďYou a redneck too?Ē he asks. No, Iím a computer geek, I reply, and try to get back to my wine tasting

Suddenly the guy launches into a long rant of the trials and tribulations of sheep ranching and how much he hates wolves. ďIíve lost 1,500 sheep to wolves in the last ten years, and that doesnít count the ones Iíve lost to coyotes,Ē he goes on. I wonder how he remains in business with that level of loss, if itís real. ďIíve only had permits to shoot a couple of them legally, but Iíve shot quite a few more than that,Ē he goes on and pauses. ďWell letís say itís been more than two, in case you are one of those wildlife service special agents.Ē

Iím not a US Fish and Wildlife Service agent I reply, but I donít mention that I know a few of them back in Helena.

The guy stops ranting about wolves, orders another glass of wine and asks the woman sommelier ďDoes your daddy own this place or do you just work here?Ē The young woman looks like sheís been slapped in the face, and mumbles ďNo, I just work here.Ē ďThen how do you know so dang much about wine?Ē he goes on. ďBecause Iíve worked here a long timeĒ the young woman replies curtly.

The sheep rancher buys a couple of bottles and thankfully leaves abruptly. The woman working there and myself are still a bit rattled and irritated. How often do you run into someone that virtually confesses in public to a felony poaching wildlife, insults the people around them and then leaves? I purchase a case of wine at a huge discount, which seems to get the sommelier back in good spirits and return to the Sportsmobile shaking my head at the odd turn of events.



I find Mrs. Ed and the labradogs buttoned up inside with the air-conditioning running on full. I can see there will be few stops this afternoon in the heat.

On the road again on US12 west we head past the giant wind farms and down to the Columbia River to the Tri-cities area, taking Interstate 82 up into the Yakima Valley. The Valley is filled with farms and wineries, but we are determined to gain altitude up on the eastern side of Mt. Rainier and get out of the near 100 degree heat. Off the Interstate at Yakima we take US12 for a few miles and then turn north on WA 410 into the beautiful valley of the Naches River.

Washington 410 rises steeply to the east entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park, and we stop just short of the boundary at Lodgepole Campground on the Wenatchee National Forest. Itís a moderate sized campground with paved roads and pullouts and we manage to get a nice site near a small creek, which the labradogs appreciate. The late afternoon temps up here are 30 degrees cooler than down in the Yakima Valley, and we have a pleasant evening with cooking grilled chicken with a bottle of that good L' Ecole wine. Thankfully there are no wolves or wolf hating ranchers around either!
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