Thursday, August 29, 2019

A "Just a Stop On the Way" Turns Into One of Our Top Five!

August 22-25, 2019
Ennis, Montana

It's not the first time. Just picking a location because it happens to be a good number of miles from the last one, and before the next one. Sometimes they're places with nothing more exciting than a quirky main street, or a taqueria with good margaritas. Sometimes we laugh and agree we don't ever need to return. 

Then there are those rare surprises like Ennis, Montana. A place that is now on the list of places we must come back to. A place we could spend several weeks, maybe even a summer.

We arrive at Ennis RV Village in the rain. The storm has followed us for 200 miles, but never strong enough to be an issue for the drive. The park has recently added a new section overlooking the Madison River Valley. Pull-ins for motorhomes, and back-ins for trailers/5ers with the most amazing view. The owners are working hard to make this a great park - we love it already! FHUs with 50 amps, long, level gravel sites with nice green grass space and a picnic table. Very reasonably priced with weekly and monthly rates as well.

Big, stormy Montana skies on I-90

Hwy 287

View from our front yard - wow!
After our rainy night we wake to beautiful puffy clouds in a bright blue sky. A bigger sky. What is it about Montana?

Nearby Ennis Lake is our destination on Friday. It's a small lake on the Madison River. Bill finds a road that takes us into a pretty river canyon. What a perfect day of exploring in this surprising area.

Ennis Lake 

Also Ennis Lake
Old log homestead.

Herd and flock along the lake.
Madison River

The canyon narrows, the water roars.

I love old barns!

A little piece of heaven.

Takes us a few minutes to convince the gang that they should let us pass.

From the canyon we take Saw Log Road to the top of the range.

Madison Valley

A solo antelope buck watches us pass.
In addition to the wonderful RV park and the beautiful river canyon, the little town of Ennis is charming. The people are super friendly and fun. There are seven fly fishing stores in a three block business district :-)

Best of all, we have our own bar and grill!! With great brews and eats. 
The buck is the only wildlife we see except for lots of birds. There is an easily identifiable variety in the valley.

Branch Bird

Water Bird

Fence Bird

Line Birds
When we leave and continue south we'll be taking US 287, so on Saturday we take a drive on MT 287 to the west. Mining history is restored and celebrated in tiny towns along the route. We enjoy the smaller Nevada City, but Virginia City (not unlike the one near Carson City, Nevada) is packed with summer-Saturday crowds. Signs along the road give us the interesting history of the area.

An abandoned stunner in Nevada City.

The office and home of Dr Byam who came here in 1863. He  also served as judge for several years, and his home hosted clandestine meetings of the anti-confederate Union League.

Still serving drinks from the original bar.

Wild Hops help to hold an old cabin together.

The dredged tailings along the road show the permanent damage the gold mining did to the river here. 
More long distance views of Madison Valley.
We spend our evenings outside here. It's just so beautiful - view, temperature, overall feel. This is the first place we've stayed that I never close the front blind. Beautiful and private.

The small pond to the south is full of geese - over 50 at least. As the sun sets they take off in different size flocks - some two, others with 20. They make a lot of noise on take off then silently fly past us. We watch them for over an hour. Magical.

Like the geese, we will return to Ennis, Montana. It's one of our all time favorite places!

Ezra enjoying his cousins' birthday party.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sad News Changes Weekend Plans, Future Plans Change the Rest of Our Summer

August 16-22, 2019
Couer d'Alene, Idaho - Missoula, Montana

Friday morning we pack up for our drive to Couer d'Alene where our plan was to meet up with Bill's best friend Tom and his family. Sadly, last night Bill got a call that Tom was flying to California where his brother Mike (who we also have known for decades) is in a coma and not expected to survive long. It's always sad to lose someone we know, but his health has been poor for many years, so it is less surprising. Mike passes a few days later.

It's a quiet, pretty 100 mile drive through more golden plains, through Spokane, and into Idaho.

Highway 2
Blackwell Island RV Park is large and full for the weekend. Lots of families enjoying the beach. The price is more for the location on the water than anything special at the park. Still, everything works well, we're level on a gravel and grass site. Satellite connects.

Sitting outside by the water with our friends was the only plan for this stop, and other than a drive around part of the large and beautiful lake, we don't feel like doing much.

Coming to Couer d'Alene was a last minute change of plans, and I've been thinking about changing them again to get back to Arizona earlier. We've wanted to see more of Idaho, spend more time in the areas we rushed through the smoke two years ago. That was the original plan for the remainder of our summer.

The idea of having a winter base in Tombstone has really been on my mind lately, in a good and exciting way. Keeping an eye on the available properties, it's clear the prices are going up, and the inventory is going down. I really want to have a place before we head to see the kids in December. 

Soooo, Bill is on board with speeding up our return, and I cancel several reservations. Now we'll fly to California for an October wedding from Tucson instead of Ogden, Utah. Most of Idaho will have to wait, but there will be a stop for several days to see the Grand Tetons. There will also be longer travel days than the short ones we've enjoyed all summer.

The only large town in Montana we haven't visited is Missoula. Most people we know stay at Jim and Mary's RV Park, but they have no openings with short notice. Luckily the KOA has one space available, water and electric only. 

Missoula Holiday KOA is a nice surprise in that the sites are large, well maintained grass, right in town. 

Great for getting errands done - groceries, groomer, massage, shopping. Although we're in town, the park is quiet and good for naps. 

A day trip to the Ninemile Remount Depot gets us back into nature for an afternoon. With an interesting history, and a currently active facility for the forest service, it's a unique and educational visit. 

The original "fire bell" summoned fire fighters and their mounts to head to the next fire. 

4 pack trains of 10 mules waited in these corrals for the next fire call. Each pack train carried enough gear for a 25-man fire camp. 25 head remain at the depot, but today they are out of sight in the large pasture.

This large Blacksmith Shop made the shoes for all Forest Service livestock in the country in the early 1900's. They produced up to 15,000 shoes per year! 

The old weather vanes have great character.

The country drive takes us past farms softened by age.

This sweet baby nearly gets away before I can snap a pic, but curiosity on his part gives me this nice opportunity.

A whimsical house and fence catch my eye.

Had to stop and back up to see if I was really seeing this!
We're looking forward to our new route, and to getting back to Arizona to see if we can find a property to call our own. We hated missing seeing Tom, and that we've lost another long time friend. Having the flexibility to change plans on the fly, no matter the reason, is one of the great things about this wonderful life we live. We're always grateful that we have this opportunity.

For those of you who wanted a pic of the new audio system in the Jeep:

Smarter than we are.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Stretching Our Eyes in Eastern Washington

August 9-17, 2019
Cashmere - Electric City - Wilbur, Washington

We've headed east from Seattle a couple times, but this time we're taking the more northern Hwy 2. Bill has wanted to see the Wenatchee area, and after seeing Mona Lisa's recent photos of the Grand Coulee area I knew that was the route for us!

Our first stop is in the little town of Cashmere, WA. Known for aplets and cotlets - confections made from apples and apricots, there are acres and acres of orchards. The Cashmere Mountains look like their name - soft and smooth.

Cashmere Mountains on a hazy day.

Orchards fill the valley along the Wenatchee River.
The Chelan County Fairgrounds has a nice RV park with level dirt and grass sites and open skies. Pretty views of the surrounding mountains.

We take a couple day trips to the good size town of Wenatchee to the east, and Lake Wenatchee to the north. Summer catches up with us here and the temps in the mid-90's brings heat haze to the area.

High winds on Lake Wenatchee

The town of Wenatchee sits at the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers.

Love this on the back of an adventure truck camper.
Wenatchee River

Peshastin Pinnacles State Park, popular with rock climbers.
Our next stop across Washington is Steamboat Rock State Park on beautiful Banks Lake. It's a scenic drive, especially when we get to the water at Hwy 155. 

Miles of golden fields.

Hwy 155 along Banks Lake.

Columbia River basalt cliffs.
With 50 amp, FHU asphalt sites, surrounded by natural beauty, this state park is exceptional. Large well maintained grass space around each site in the Bay Loop is appreciated as the park is very full. Most sites are maxed out with 8 people, although our neighbors are a quiet couple with two well behaved dogs in a small tent. 

Steamboat Rock SP
The day we arrive is Ezra's fourth birthday - already! We talk with him on the phone, and later get pics and video of him opening our presents. His party is later this week.

Ezra sporting his new birthday shades.
I was only able to get a couple nights here, so we spend Tuesday, Bill's birthday, seeing as much as we can. We already know we'll be back for sure.

A long lake with miles of rugged shores.

Several people recommended we see Dry Falls - for good reason! Not only uniquely stunning, but an interesting geological history.

During the ice age this area changed numerous times. The Columbia River flooded and it's course was altered. Many miles of Montana was covered in water, blocked at the south by a large dam. When the dam broke, a flow up to ten times the combined flow of all the rivers of the world came over these basalt cliffs and emptied into Idaho and eastern Washington. Evidence shows the water was 300 feet above where I was standing when I took this photo.

Dry Falls, when active was 3.5 miles wide and 400 feet tall. It was the largest falls in the world.

The birthday boy enjoying the fascinating geology.

The protected lands here include a trail along the bottom of the gorge.

Lots of columnar cliffs.

Deep Lake is one of three small lakes below the falls.
We don't do anything different for our birthdays, everyday is a celebration of life for us. Calls and texts and Facebook wishes for Bill come in all day - always feels good to be remembered by so many :-)

A small nursery herd stops by.
While Bill hooks up the Jeep leaving the state park, I laugh at this covey of quail babies making three attempts to cross the road. They're soooo cute!
On our way to meet up with Bill's best friend, we need a couple nights before our reservation in Couer d'Alene. Goose Creek RV Park in Wilbur, Washington, is just 40 miles on Wednesday. A nicely maintained, small town park, it has the worst hookups we've ever had. 

The elevated sewer (if we'd realized how bad it was we wouldn't have hooked it up) is in the center of the site so you hook that up first, then back over it to hook up water which is deep in a hole, and electrical. Lots of dips and holes in the asphalt, but I'm able to get level. The nice shade tree blocks our satellite.

Surrounded by the most serene, golden wheat fields, there's not really anything of major interest here. Nice for chilling out during hot afternoons and getting a blog post written. 

Wheat fields in the gloaming.
In the afternoon Bill hangs out at home while I spend a couple hours driving through the fields I find so beautiful. Wild grass prairies are my favorite, but wheat fields are a close second. This area is all about the golden waves of grain.

Still small areas of wild prairie.
After months of coastal and forest locations, these wide open spaces give us the opportunity to stretch our eyes. Eastern Washington is so diverse with the lakes and rivers, the fascinating geological stories, and the agricultural abundance. The people are laid back and friendly. 

Homes range from multi-level beauties to humble smaller single stories - most all have at least one boat. Auto repair shops out number both eateries and churches. We learn interesting things about humidity levels ideal for harvesting wheat :-)

As we prepare for our move into Idaho, Bill gets a phone call that changes our plans. Not a huge surprise, but sad nonetheless (his mom is fine).