Wednesday, June 28, 2017

More scenes from Glacier National Paek

Today we were able to drive the Going To The Sun Road from one end to the other. It opened just today. Hundreds of people got the word, so it was crowded, but it was well worth it. What an amazing road and what an amazing place! We pulled over several times, stopped at the Logan Pass Visitor's Center, but mostly we just tried to take in all the incredible vistas that each turn in the road provided. We got off to a very late morning start - about 11a.m., got to the other side after 2:00p.m., and then had a snack and drove down through the expansive Montana grasslands to Helena, the capital, where we met up with the rest of the family. We found them at a local restaurant, had a quick bite there and then we all gathered in Paul and Max's room and had a round of Salad Bowl,  the word guessing game I described in a previous blog post. A lot of fun!

I took scores of photos; here is a sample, in no particular order:

Swiftcurrent Creek - taken on a Ranger-led nature walk

Jackson Glacier

Glaciers from the Going to the Sun Road

Lake MacDonald Lodge, one of the classic lodges in the park

Max skipping stones in Lake MacDonald

Interior of lobby at  Many Glaciers Lodge

Tamar with friend

U-shaped valley formed by a glacier eons ago. At one time, the snow would have been up to the top of these peaks!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Beautiful Glacier NP

  Ellen, Jerry, Tamar and I had a wonderful day in the GNP today. Very reminiscent for me of the Swiss Alps. That's how special it is.

We got back very late, but here are a couple of photos. More later. 

                                   The glaciers 

                         Many Glacier Lodge

                         From Sunrise Point

Glacier N.P.

We had a full day yesterday. I actually made a 4- mile r.t. Hike, much of which was pretty steep. My knee is complaining a bit but not too bad. The Road to the Sun road is closed by snow, so you can't do the whole trip. Thus we decided to go to East Glacier , stopping on the way for our hike, then going on to Glacier Park Lodge, one of the classic lodges, then to Two Medicine Lake for a short hike to some falls , back to W. Glacier for supper. In the car we had Mimi, Ben and Tamar, and we played Contact over and over, another word game. A person who is it, thinks of a word and gives the first letter. The others ask questions. Let's say the word is camel. First letter "c." Someone #2 asks, e.g., "Is it a guy out west on a horse?" The it person says,  "it's not a cowboy." Then questioning continues. But if it can't think of an answer, and another player #3 thinks #2 is thinking of. "Cowboy", #3 says "contact," and counts down 3-2-1 and if #2 and #3 then simultaneously say "cowboy" together before #1 can say anything that would reasonably answer the question (they could say "cowhand" for example), #1 then has to give the second letter of their word ("a") and play continues. It's sort of complex but once you get the hang of it, quite fun. Allowances are made if #1 hasn't the slightest idea what the question means. 

I took a lot of ohotos, here are some:

Bear Grass - the iconic wildflower here

          Two Medicine Lake

            Glacier Park Lodge
     Lobby of the lodge

      Classic Red Bus

    Paul, Max and Tamar in a HUGE chair

Sunday, June 25, 2017

WY to MT

Yesterday evening, we had a lovely dinner at the Yellowstone Garage Restaurant, which is just a couple of miles from P&J's house, and a very nice restaurant - considered the best in Star Valley. Thanks, Julie! It was ostensibly a birthday dinner for Ellen (whose birthday is in November, but Julie hadn't been able to do it then). Ellen got a free dessert from the restaurant as the "birthday girl."

Dinner at the Yellowstone Garage

Today, Sunday, we drove from Alpine, WY to West  Glacier, MT. By we, I mean Ellen and myself in our car, the Feinlands in their rental car, and Paul and Max in Paul's pickup. We wanted to carpool, but the Feinlands are going directly back to Salt Lake City, Paul is going home early, and so we had to take three cars. : ( 

One advantage in this arrangement was that Ellen and I traveled as we enjoy traveling. We listened to a Guilford Church tape of a service from 1993, featuring the music of Hildegard of Bingen by a women's group called Anima, and Shirley preaching on Hildegard's nature mysticism. We listened to lectures on The American Mind dealing with the Whigs and the Transcendentalists, we snacked out of our food box, and just toodled along enjoying the scenery. It was nice, but of course it would have been fun to carpool too. And also more efficient.

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful drive. We drove west on U.S. 26, picked up I-15 north of Idaho Falls, drove north about 190 miles and connected with I-90 and then drove west about 120 miles past Missoula, turned north on U.S. 93 through the Indian reservation up to Flathead Lake, then took MT 35 and Rte 2 up to West Glacier, well over 400 miles altogether. The scenery was varied, with long stretches of austere vistas, beautiful in their own way, then low hills, then mountains, and a long stretch along the shore of Flathead Lake (197 sq. miles surface area - the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. I had no idea). We stopped at a very nice rest area along I-90 to eat some lunch out of our food supply, and another stop along U.S. 93 where there were information posters about wildlife crossings built into the construction of the highway which have been very successful in dramatically reducing the incidence of collisions with animals of many species. We remarked on the bi-lingual signs in the reservation, in Salish (?) and English. 

View out the window

Rest area picnic stop

wildlife crossings that avoid deadly collisions

Bi-lingual sign in the reservation

Flathead Lake

The Feinlands got to the motel first at about 6:30, we got there at 7 and Paul and Max at 7:30. There was a nice restaurant next to the motel. Ben will share our room on a fold-out bed, JJMT are in a cabin and P&M in another room. We are gathering at 8a.m. to make our first foray into Glacier National Park! I'm psyched!

The vista from our room at the Vista Motel

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mountain Days

After our game of "Salad Bowl," we ate some lunch and headed up to Alpine Village to the Library and then to Mountain Days, which is an annual event. Lots of booths, displays, activities food, etc. The Teton Raptor Center had a good display: they introduced a peregrine falcon, a Great Grey owl, and an Eurasian owl, all rescued and unable to be returned to the wild because of disabilities. We learned a great deal about raptors. 

      The peregrine falcon

       The great grey owl

       The Eurasian owl


Salad Bowl

The Feinland family arrived yesterday evening sometime after 8:30p.m. They had driven up from Salt Lake City- a 4 to 4 1/2 hour drive. We talked a while, but soon it was after midnight for them, so we headed to bed. We slept ten in the house, no problem. Breakfast was pretty much each person on their own with lots of options: oatmeal, cereal, eggs, smoothies, muffins, toast, fruit, etc. No one opted for pancakes. 

After breakfast and cleanup, we played "Salad Bowl," a game the Feinlands introduced us to. Each person writes a word or phrase on five slips of paper. The slips are folded and put in a big bowl. Players form two teams; in our case it was girls against boys. There are three rounds. In the first round, the first one up draws a slip from the bowl, reads it, and tries to describe the word or phrase in such a way that their team will say the word. They can say anything except the word itself. E.g,, if the word was "apple," they could say it was a red fruit you take a bite out of, a computer, etc . When someone on the team says the word, the player throws the slip on the floor and draws out another. The player has one minute to do this as many times as they can. Play alternates between teams, in a pre-determined order of players, until all the slips have been identified. A player has the option of passing on a slip - it is set aside and goes back in the bowl. That constitutes the first round. Each team adds up and records the slips identified by their team. All slips then go back in the bowl. Round two is like charades. Play resumes where it ended in round one (if the last player only got part of their minute in round one, they get the remainder in round two ). The player draws a slip, and this time, they have two minutes to act out as many words or phrases they can get their team to identify as they can . These are the same words and phrases as used in round one so everyone has just heard them. This speeds up the identification. E.g.,  Ellen went through 7-8 slips in two minutes. The teams tally up and move on to round three. This time, a player can say only one word. If the team can't identify quickly, that slip is set aside and goes back in the bowl for the next player. The hard ones thus get left to last. The team with the highest cumulative score wins. It's a fun game and moves right along! 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Soccer camp

Today was the next-to-last day for soccer. I would say that Max has had mixed feelings about it. Yesterday he complained that "someone took the ball away from him" and today that "someone beat him up." I heard Paul explaining to him that "that's soccer." But on the other hand, they had an assignment today to report three facts about their team country (each team of five kids had to choose a country. Max's team is Indonesia). Max reported that Indonesia is made up of 17,000 islands, 700 languages are spoken in Indonesia and it is the fourth most populous nation in the world. He spoke up clearly and Coach Mark said "good job." So I think he enjoyed that aspect of the camp. Much of the camp is also about " life skills," like respect, paying attention, discipline, etc. So he's gotten something out of it, I'm sure. 

       Coach Mark giving directions

     The kids listen with foot on ball

       Break time

     What a day and setting for soccer!

The coach shouts RESPECT! and the kids holler back "RESPECT - Shhhh! and give him their attention. 

The assignment for tomorrow is to make an Indonesian flag.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My knee must be better

This evening, Ellen and I walked up the hill behind the house. That is the farthest I've walked in months. A month ago I could not have done that without paying a big price in terms of pain and swelling in my right knee. But I seem to have done it without any pain or swelling. I felt sort of weak - but I'm out of shape from lack of exercise. I then played a game of Scrabble with Paul and Ellen and won by 22 points even tho Ellen started out way ahead and my first seven letters were IIIRRCO! So, a good evening! 

      View from the top of the hill

                 The hikers 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Alpine days

So, now we are at Alpine, taking Max to soccer camp, which he seems to be enjoying, and just hanging out, etc. Ellen fixed supper last night - meat loaf, cauliflower/mashed potatoes, fresh green beans - Yum!

Paul is just starting a respite from his very stressful job, a respite which may just be permanent. The house that has occupied him for the last year or more is finished, and OSM does not have an immediate new one for him. Which is good, because he wants to spruce up their house and put it on the market! So changes are in the air in Alpine. Stay tuned.

Right now, the lupine would probably sell the house in a heartbeat:

Lupine in its glory at Paul and Jenny's house
Lupine up close
Today after soccer camp we stopped at Hederlie Farms for some herbs. They have two very friendly turkeys there who come right up to investigate. Max was fascinated:

Max and turkeys

Yes, guys, you are beautiful!

Wyomng road-side scenes

We spent Saturday night, June 17th, in a Motel 6 in Gillette, WY. We had made the reservation as early in the day as we could because a few years ago, we had tried to find a room in Gillette and had found every roomed booked by transient workers - presumably in the coal mines or oil fields. But that was not the case this time. There has been a severe cut-back in employment in coal and oil because of the market, and the availability of natural gas and shale oil. This time, the motel was only partially occupied. We would not have needed to worry about finding a room. The motel was fairly new and the room very nice, but I forgot to take photos.

On Sunday, we drove on I-90 from Gillette to Buffalo, and then on U.S. 16 through the Big Horn mountains and down the Ten Sleep Canyon to Worland,  then U.S. 20 to Thermopolous, Shoshoni and Riverton, and then U.S. 26 over the Wind River range and through the Togwotee Pass to DuBois and the Moran Junction entrance to Teton N.P., and then down U.S. 89 to Jackson and on to Alpine. This was a beautiful drive. The scenery was varied and often spectacular. Much of it we had not seen before. Route 16, for example, is called "The Sweet 16" and is named The Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway.

Our first fantastic view, coming out of Buffalo (which is an attractive town) was a field of wild flowers in the Big Horn mountains. We had to stop and get a better look:

A sea of wildflowers

Close-up of a bunch of lupine

Then around the Powder River Pass (9666 feet),  things got interesting geologically. The ancient limestone canyon walls were varied and beautiful:

Limestone canyon walls

More of same down the highway

The town of Ten Sleep, to quote Wikipedia,  was an "American Indian rest stop, so called because it was 10 days' travel, or “10 sleeps,” from Fort Laramie (southeast), Yellowstone National Park (west-northwest), and the Indian Agency on the Stillwater River in Montana (northwest)." Ellen stopped to find post cards.

Down the road toward Thermopolous we came to a roadside picnic area on the Big Horn River where we stopped, got out the food box and had an early supper:

Picnic stop on the Big  Horn

View of the canyon from our picnic table

 Then, before coming into Dubois, we came through some very colorful formations:

Painted desert
And then, of course, coming down from the Togwotee Pass, there is that first specacular view of the Tetons, enhanced this day by the low-hanging clouds:

The Teton Range

We ate at Whole Foods in Jackson and got to Alpine after 8:30p.m. - tired but happy!

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Devil's Tower

On Saturday evening and Sunday this past weekend, Ellen and I drove across the state of Wyoming from the very uppermost NE corner over to Alpine, which is on the farthermost Western border, almost in Idaho,  below Jackson. Our route started on Wyoming Rte 24, coming out of Belle Fourche, S.D., through Alladin, Alva, Hulett, and then by Devil's Tower National Monument. We were headed for Gillette, WY, where we had a motel reservation. This was an evening drive, and the light was beautiful. Much of the drive was in the Black Hills National Forest, and it was just a very lovely drive. As I get the opportunity, I will post on this blog scenes from this entire drive between the Soth Dakota border and Alpine, but right now I'll just post a couple of photos of The Devil's Tower, which is an iconic Wyoming site. It was, in fact, the first National Monument in the United States, proclaimed as such by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. But that, of course, is just a fairly recent chapter in its significance. For millennia, it has been sacred to the indigenous peoples of the region. This creates some tensions even today. Hundreds of visitors want to climb its steep sides (not as difficult as it looks via some routes, and extremely difficult via others), but the Lakota tribe regards this as a desecration of a sacred site. A compromise: climbers are to stay off the tower in June, the time of Native American rituals at its base. Most honor this pledge, but a few have sued the government for violation of the separation of church and state!

The geological explanation for the formation of the tower is not certain. It is some sort of igneous intrusion into the landscape, but there are various theories as to how this happened. Some think it is the remnant of an old volcano. It is composed of phonolite porphyry which intruded about 40.5 million years ago. A characteristic feature are the vertical ridges which look like scratches left by a huge clawed creature. And indeed, Native American lore tells the story of two girls who climbed the tower to escape a bear which left its scratches in an effort to reach them.

The name "Devil's Tower" results (of course) from a mistake. In 1875, a European explorer misinterpreted a native name to mean "Bad God's Tower." Bad names stick, unfortunately.

I took several photos, but it was late evening and the details of the tower were in the shade. Nevertheless, I got a lovely shot with three deer grazing in the foreground. I'm including a commercial photo to show the "bear claw marks."

My photo, taken at about 8:00 in the evening
The more iconic view showing vertical ridges
The truly iconic version is the National Park Poster:

The iconic WPA/NP poster

British soccer camp

Max started camp this morning. He looks more comfortable with the ball. Ellen and I had an anniversary breakfast at Tootsie's after we saw Max settled into camp. Twelve wonderful years! Wow!

     Getting ready for camp

           Warm-up exercises

       Meeting the coaches