Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Munising (MI)

Sept. 24-26, 2011 - Spending time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has been wonderful.  The trees are changing color and getting more beautiful every day.  I love eating fish at the local restaurants; there is nothing like a Midwest fish fry!   

The day after our backpack trip, we all hiked to the Au Sable lighthouse along the shore of Lake Superior.  It was a beautiful hike.  The best part was carrying light day packs on our backs instead of heavy backpacks.

I spent Sunday morning storing our backpack gear and cleaning the RV.  That afternoon we kayaked with our friends, Russ and Clara, launching the kayaks from the shore behind our RV site.  Lake Superior was calm when we started, but really whipped up swells and white caps for our return trip.  While the guys watched the Packer football game in our RV, Clara and I drank chocolate wine and ate chocolate truffles at her RV.  It has been fun to stay in the same RV park with friends, going back and forth to visit.

The four of us explored back roads on a rainy Monday.  The Upper Peninsula has so much to offer for those seeking outdoor recreation.  We drove through Hiawatha National Forest lands, walked on trails along small inland lakes, checked out canoe launches on sand-bottomed, clear rivers, and ate hand-dipped Jilbert ice cream at the Forest Glen General Store.  Evening found us sipping Buttershot Hot Chocolate, hot chocolate with a dash of butterscotch schnapps.  Life is good...

Au Sable lighthouse on Lake Superior

Teva, the sleeping bag cat

Pat kayaking on Lake Superior

Boardwalk Trail near Munising

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (MI)

Sept. 21-23, 2011 - It was such a beautiful hike as we backpacked the Lakeshore Trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  It is the premiere trail in the Midwest for hiking and backpacking.  Our weather was not perfect, but the rains only came at night after we were in our tents.  Cloudy days, with occasional sunny breaks, gave us great light for taking hundreds of photos to capture the beauty of Lake Superior with its 200-foot cliffs and sky beaches and maple/beech/pine woods and cascading streams and waterfalls dropping over cliff edges to meet the lake.  It was great to hike with our friends again and spend time immersed along the shores of Lake Superior.  This was Tom's first backpack trip in seven years.  As he hoisted on his heavy pack the second morning, he remarked, "You guys are nuts!"

When we hiked out on the last day, there was an ice chest of cold beer and wine waiting for us in one of the cars.  We had a tailgate party at noon!  Two park employees working on a project at the parking lot thought it was great that backpackers coming off the trail had cold drinks waiting for them!

Backpacking friends at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

A sky beach 200 feet above Lake Superior

Grand Portal Point

Spray Falls
Pat along Lake Superior on a very windy morning

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Munising (MI)

Sept. 20, 2011 - It was a beautiful day to hike five miles with our friends to two waterfalls.  Now we're packing for our Pictured Rocks backpack trip.  There is not much room in an RV to spread out to get the backpack gear and food ready.  Tom baked cookies tonight.  It smells so good in here when he does that!

More to follow after we get off the trail...

Tom & Pat at Mosquito Falls

Champion (MI) to Munising (MI) - 73 miles

Sept. 19, 2011 - Leisurely morning... We didn't pull out of our site until 11:35 am, Eastern time.  It was a short trip to Munising Tourist Park Campground where we are staying for the next week on the shores of Lake Superior.  We have a beautiful view of the lake and Grand Island.  Strong winds this afternoon whipped up lively white caps.  Tom walked along the shore while I finished reading my book.  Russ and Clara Marr rolled in about 7:30 pm from Janesville, Wisconsin.  After they got settled into their site, we had a drink here.  We are looking forward to connecting with the rest of our backpacking friends on Wednesday for our four-day trek at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Our site on the shores of Lake Superior

Autumn color

Monday, September 19, 2011

Saginaw (MN) to Champion (MI) - 238 miles

Sept. 18, 2011 - We put on traveling miles today since the weather has been rainy and breezy.  We’re spending the night at an RV park on the shores of Michigamme Lake along Highway 28 in Michigan, the highway that will take us up to Lake Superior.  The plan is to meet friends on Wednesday for a four-day backpack trip at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  The weather forecast is not looking so bright.

Quote from the book, The Wind in the Willows:  “There you are!  There’s real life for you, embodied in that little cart.  The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs!  Camps, villages, towns, cities!  Here to-day, up and off to somewhere else to-morrow!  Travel, change, interest, excitement!  The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!”


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Teva's Travel Log

Help, I’m a prisoner in mobile kitty jail!

This is Teva the cat writing now.  About a week ago our humans, Tom and Pat, picked my brother Cooper and I up after breakfast and carried us out to the motorhome thing that has been in our driveway for a couple of months.  We’ve been on a few short trips before, but I heard the humans talking about a 2 1/2 month trip.  Tell me it’s not true.

We’ve been on the road just over a week now and it hasn’t been as bad as I first thought.  I ride up front with the humans, either on Pat’s lap or on the dashboard.  My fluffy brother, Cooper, rides in the back on the bed looking out the window.  We do get a lot of attention (brushing and food) in this traveling house.  And the humans have given us all kinds of new toys, mostly little mice we can toss around.  They also brought along the laser light to entice Cooper.  That cat is such an airhead, he’ll chase that thing for hours.  He really believes he can catch it.  Usually I don’t want anyone to know I’m related to him.

Oh, and wait until you hear what Cooper did yesterday.  That knucklehead jumped out of Tom’s window just after Tom had expertly backed the mobile house into a campsite.  Cooper decided to make a run for it.  He got a few feet from the mobile house and realized he didn’t know where he was, so then ran back and hid under our mobile house.  There are some good places to hang out up in the frame (I’ve been there myself when the humans used to let us out at the big non-moving house.  They changed their minds about letting us out after Cooper stayed out for two nights and came back with a nice scratch across his nose.)

While Cooper was under the mobile house, Tom tried to coax him out and back inside the motorhome.  Finally with some smelly wet cat food and Cooper’s favorite - cantaloupe, Tom was able to grab the knucklehead.  Oh, did I mention that I got thrown in the bathroom, so I wouldn’t escape from the mobile house while the humans opened the main door in case Cooper might come back in on his own.  Ha, like that’s going to happen.  Well that’s news from mobile kitty jail for now.   To be continued...

Cooper & Teva on their cush-y perch at back of RV

Teva hanging out in upper cabinet

Teva, the dashboard cat

Lake Itasca (MN) to Saginaw (MN) - 161 miles

Sept. 17, 2011 - We drove the car back to the Mississippi River headwaters after a breakfast of applesauce pancakes.  It was the first time I stirred homemade applesauce into the pancake batter; it was really good.  There were a lot of people at the headwaters this morning.  I’m so glad we had the place to ourselves last night.  The river is higher than normal, so there wasn’t a place to plant our feet on each side of the water.  We saw the Mississippi River several more times as we headed east on Highway 2.  It is a long and winding river...

We stopped in Grand Rapids, MN to take a few photos for a friend of ours who lives in Sequim.  She was raised there 80 years ago.  It was fun for us to get out of the RV and walk the downtown streets.  We discovered an old school that has been turned into a museum and shops.  Judy Garland was also born in Grand Rapids and there is memorabilia about her.

We’re spending the night in an RV park near Saginaw, Minnesota.  It got dark here by 7:30 pm.  Yikes, is Fall on the way?

Great MN sweet rolls - Yah, For Sure, You Betcha'

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Larimore (ND) to Lake Itasca (MN) - 149 miles

Sept. 16, 2011 - We are now in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.  We stopped at a small grocery store along the highway and bought two sweet rolls - a jelly-filled Bismarck for me and a glazed cinnamon roll for Tom.  We ate them as soon as we got back to the RV; they were Oh, So Good!  You just can’t get sweet rolls in the West as good as those made here in the Midwest.  My friend, Flo, says it’s the flour in the Midwest that makes the difference. 

Tonight, we’re staying at Itasca State Park near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  The forests here seem so much smaller to me now that we are living in the Pacific northwest with its huge trees.  After we backed into our campsite, Cooper escaped from an open window and hid in the framing under the RV.  It took Tom a half hour to coax him out.  After that little drama, Tom and I escaped in the car for a scenic drive along the lake.  We discovered that the restaurant at the Douglas Lodge was serving walleye.  It was a wonderful dinner, complete with a wild rice salad.  Mmmmmm...Oh, So Good!

We still had daylight, so we headed over to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  It was so cool to see the clear water of Lake Itasca flow over a rock spillway to begin the Mississippi’s 2,552 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tom at Mississippi headwaters - Lake Itasca, MN

Pat at Mississippi River headwaters

Friday, September 16, 2011

Williston (ND) to Larimore (ND) - 313 miles

Sept. 15, 2011 - It was another windy day of driving, but we were on divided highway today which made it easier.  I’ve dubbed the RV - The Hippo!  It’s wide, slow, difficult to control, and sucks up a steady flow of fuel. 

The southeast winds today stirred up whitecaps on the shallow roadside water holes along the highway.  We could see areas where the spring floods left high water debris on fences and large tree branches and trunks pushed up along the side of the road.  We drove by the geographical center of North America at Rugby, North Dakota.  We passed from the golden open plains of Montana and western North Dakota to a region of cornfields and green grasses and trees that remind me of our Midwest homeland.

While traveling the open plains on Highway 2, the northern east-west route across the U.S., we saw several bikers loaded with gear cycling west.  The big surprise, though, was seeing two separate backpackers loaded with their gear walking westward in the eastbound lane.  They were not hitchhiking.  I would love to hear their stories.

We’re staying at a wonderful place tonight - Larimore Dam Recreation Area.  We walked to the lake as soon as we got the RV parked.  I love seeing oak trees again; I have missed them since we moved to the Pacific northwest.  The smell of autumn is in the air.  The nights are cool.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Havre (MT) to Williston (ND) - 313 miles

Sept. 14, 2011 - It was a long day crossing the high plains of Montana on a narrow, two-lane road with a wide RV heading into an east wind.  The loose steering wheel on the RV makes it a challenge to keep the vehicle in our lane.  Tom was frustrated with RVing today.  Our engine battery is dead every morning and Tom has to switch over to the RV cabin batteries to start the RV.  We are not impressed with the Ford chassis (FORD = Fix or Repair Daily).

Montana is a wide state - 667 miles crossing on Highway 2.  We were glad to get into North Dakota late this afternoon.  We headed for Trent Lake to spend the night, but discovered that spring floods devastated the recreation area and closed it to camping.  A young man fishing at the lake filled us in on the details of the area.  The lake, a wide spot in the Missouri River, rose 6 feet during the flood.  There were even white caps on the water over the road!  He is working for the oil companies that are extracting oil in this area.  He is from Minnesota and sends money back to his mother and sister.  He reminded me of the young CCC men who worked after the Great Depression to send money home to their families. 

We got back onto Highway 2 and found an RV park just down the road.  We’re parked near the highway again tonight, but we’re glad to have a spot.  With all the oil workers needing lodging in the area, we heard it would be hard to find a place.  It’s late and we’re tired and hungry.  We drove into Central Time at the Montana/North Dakota border.  By the time we got settled and started dinner, we were eating about 8:30 pm.  We needed a special boost tonight, so we put a favorite Leonard Cohen DVD into the player and actually ran our TV!  It’s the first time that the TV has been on for this trip - eight days on the road.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

West Glacier (MT) to Havre (MT) - 230 miles

Sept. 13, 2011 - “I wonder where we’ll end up tonight.”  Those were my words as I woke up this morning and started the day.  Each day is an adventure... 

I made time this morning to do stretches; I really needed to make that a higher priority.  Tea in bed came afterwards!  By 11:00 am, we were on Highway 2 driving around the south border of Glacier National Park.  We passed over the Continental Divide at Marias Pass - 5,280 feet.  Driving out of the Rocky Mountains and onto the high plains, we followed the railroad the entire way.  Tonight, we’re in an RV park in Havre, MT, spittin’ distance to Highway 2 on one side and a railroad yard behind us.  This one is not a wilderness setting!

West Glacier (MT)

Sept. 12, 2011 - Today we decided to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road across Glacier National Park.  It’s a spectacular 50-mile road cutting through the heart of the park.  The road was designed to blend in with the natural environment.  It is a work of art with its quarried rock supports and arches and tunnels.  There is major road construction going on now to repair surfaces and rock walls, but the delays did give us lots of time to gaze at the wonderful views of Glacier’s mountains and valleys and wild flowers and waterfalls.  We were thrilled to see a small black bear cross the road in front of our car.  We even saw two mountain goats high up on a snowfield when we hiked 4 miles on a trail at Logan Pass, 6646 feet in elevation, to an overlook of Hidden Lake.  This was the same trail that Tom and I had hiked some 30 years ago, but we hadn’t made it to the lake.  Maybe in 30 more years we will make it all the way down to the lake! 

We turned around near the east end of the park and returned to West Glacier on the same spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road.  It was nice to get back to our RV site to relax with good books and wine/beer.  Tom’s trying Montana brews - tonight’s was Golden Grizzly Ale.

The RVers next to us had just returned from a five-day backpack trip in Glacier.  They are from Alberta, Canada and travel in their fifth wheel trailer to wilderness places.  They did see grizzly bears on their hike.  I’d love to backpack in Glacier someday, but I just can’t imagine sharing the trail with grizzly bears!  Besides, this RVing lifestyle is really starting to grow on me!

Pat on Going-to-the-Sun Road

Black bear (taken through car window)

Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park

Monday, September 12, 2011

West Glacier (MT)

Sept. 11, 2011 - A layover day... After a late breakfast of blueberry pancakes, we headed into Glacier National Park to kayak on Lake McDonald.  We paddled up the west side of the lake.  The mountains at the head of the lake were shrouded in a smoke haze from a wildfire burning in the Bitterroot Mountains west of here.  We found a nice pullout along the shore for a lunch break.  Someone had created an artistic stone design on the shore using small, colorful stones.  A larger rock was etched with “Barbara was here 9-10-11.”  It was a special surprise to find her stone artwork.  We paddled against a light wind heading up the lake.  On our return trip, the wind changed about a half mile from the boat launch and we were paddling into a strong wind.  Tom has never seen such an immediate wind change on the water!

We ate dinner at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier, an old lodge dating back to 1910.  It was our first restaurant meal since we began our trip.  We checked at the main desk to see if we could use their internet connection, but they wanted $5.00 to connect.  We passed on that, and discovered that the office of our campground has a great free connection.

Tom on Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Circle of Stones

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cusick (WA) to West Glacier (MT) - 248 miles

Sept.10, 2011 - Got an early start to our day.  We were on the road by 8:45 am!  Drove out of Washington, across the Idaho panhandle, and into Montana.  We are on Highway 2 now.  It will take us all the way to Munising, Michigan.  By late afternoon, we had made it to West Glacier, just west of Glacier National Park.  We’re in Mountain Time Zone now.  We are going to stay three nights at Glacier Campground so we can relax and explore Glacier National Park.  We’re nestled into the trees tonight listening to the Amtrak train whistle as it arrives and departs from the West Glacier train depot. 

While traveling in the RV today, I started reading The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, aloud to Tom.  It’s a classic that I remember reading when I worked as a children’s librarian in the Janesville, WI schools.  Tom has never read the book, but he was very familiar with one of the passages:  “...there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”  We’re planning to paddle our kayaks in Lake McDonald tomorrow.

On the open road...

Winthrop (WA) to Cusick (WA) - 235 miles

Sept. 9, 2011 - We kayaked on Pearrygin Lake after breakfast - a wonderful way to start the day.  Drove the Subaru into Winthrop to buy a few groceries before getting on the road with the RV at 11:50am.  Then it was a steady day of driving through 90+ degree temperatures.  By late afternoon, we wanted to find an RV park for the night.  Our iPad has been so helpful to locate RV sites, but it failed us today as we looked for a site along the Pend Oreille River in Washington.  The first two places listed were actually RV resort communities that you buy into and they were both abandoned.  We saw a billboard sign for another RV park, but that one was also a resort that you buy into.  A woman at that resort community told us about a DNR site nearby on the Skookum Creek.  So, we drove the RV down a gravel road for a short way and “dry camped” for the night - no electric or water hookups.  We ate a light dinner - a tuna wrap and chips with Roger’s chocolates from Victoria for dessert.  Tom was surprised to get truffles on this trip!  Even though we have battery power to use in the RV when we can’t hook up to an outside source, we called it an early night and crashed at 8:30 pm.  Waking up in the night, I could look through the back window above our heads to see a forest of tall trees reaching up into the stars... 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rockport (WA) to Winthrop (WA) - 98 miles

Sept. 8, 2011 - Leisurely morning... I just love drinking a cup of tea in bed first thing in the morning while I'm journaling.  I don't do that at home!  We were on the road by 11:00 am today.  The drive through North Cascades National Park was gorgeous - high mountain spires still holding snow fields and aqua blue lakes created by a series of dams.  A sign outside the small town of Marblemount just west of the national park proclaims that it is the "Entrance to the American Alps."  We hiked to Blue Lake, a 4.5 mile round-trip hike with a 1,050-foot elevation gain.  The larch trees were just starting to turn yellow.  We saw a chubby little pika scurrying through the rock boulders.  Two mountain goats, a female and a young one, were grazing 20 feet off the path as we passed by.  There were even fish in the alpine waters of Blue Lake.  It was a great hike.

Tonight, we're parked in a private RV park near the shores of Pearrygin Lake.  Silverline Resort is only a few miles outside of Winthrop (WA).  It has nice sites for RVs with a view of the lake in one direction and a view of the mountains in the other.  We sat in lawn chairs behind our RV tonight to watch the sunset over the mountains.

Pat at Blue Lake in North Cascades National Park

Tom on trail to Blue Lake

Sequim (WA) to Rockport (WA) - 123 miles

Sept. 7, 2011 - We started our trip at 10:40 am on Wednesday, Sept. 7.  Everything I’ve read online about stress levels rising as two people pack the RV and get things ready to roll is so true.  I stayed up until 12:30 am the night before to get things ready, thinking I was going to be ahead of the game.  Woke up at 5:30 am the next morning and really thought I was going to be ahead of the game.  But no -- I wasn’t ready to go by the time Tom had the Subaru hooked up behind the RV and was ready to roll. 

Once we were on the road, though, we both felt the excitement of a road trip in our new RV, hauling our favorite toys - kayaks, bikes, and hiking gear.  A woman on the ferry trip from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island commented that we must have won the lottery to have a new RV, new car and new kayaks.  We didn’t win the lottery, but we have decided to spend our retirement years following “blue highways” and enjoying all that the road has to offer.  (P.S.  Our car isn't new.  It was just really clean because Tom washed it before we left home.)

By the time we arrived at Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport, WA on the Skagit River, we were ready to relax.  It has become our routine to select a site as soon as we arrive at an RV park or campground, register, park the RV, then go off to explore the immediate area.  We are right on the Skagit River, a wide, clear, wild and scenic river.  Setting out our lawn chairs on the shore of the river, enjoying a glass of wine and beer, it wasn’t long before we saw an eagle flying down the river!

It is so much warmer here than our Olympic peninsula.  It didn’t take us long to change into shorts and sandals.  I found a large, flat rock along the shore that I could sit on to read my book.  Tom also relaxed along the river with a book.  The start to the day was hectic and stressful, but the end of the day has been a dream. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Washington to Michigan

Our travel plans have been made.  We're driving Highway 20 through northern Washington, one of the most scenic drives in the state.  We'll catch Highway 2 in Idaho and stay on that route all the way to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.  Wednesday, Sept. 7, is our departure date.  We are so excited about traveling the blue highways across the northern United States.  We're prepared to paddle the lakes along the way, fish the streams, hike and bike the trails, eat the local food (especially trout if Tom doesn't catch any), shop at any General Stores and Farmer's Markets we find along the way...

The RV is about ready to go.  I've made hundreds of trips out to the driveway to load it with food, dishes, traveling clothes, and odd 'n ends.  The tow bar and brake system have been installed on the Subaru and appear to be doing what they are supposed to do.  At least, the car is following closely behind our traveling home and turning when we turn.  I drove the RV for the first time last Friday.  Tom was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to get me behind the wheel.  That thing is BIG!  I'm sure I'll be more comfortable with it by the time we get to Michigan.

We'll be in Munising, Michigan by Sept. 20 where we will be meeting friends for a four-day backpack at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior.  We'll spend another week in northern Wisconsin visiting friends and family.  We should be in southern Wisconsin by Oct. 8 where we will be staying for the next three weeks.  Then it's on the road again on Nov. 1 to head back home.

In front of our house on a foggy day (Sept. 5)