Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Eclipse–Wow!

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  Watching the sun – Donald, (a brand new van dweller!), me and Suanne

   Our eclipse plans were made just about month ago because we weren’t sure where we would be. We’re so glad we decided to camp in the zone of totality. What a cool experience!

   Our private little camping spot started filling with cars early this morning. I don’t know how they found this road but by the time the eclipse started there were 50 cars parked along the sides of the road and it’s only 1000’ long.

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   Leave the eclipse photos to professionals with the correct equipment  because this is what you get:  :-D

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    A 360 degrees sunrise when the sun peeked out from behind the moon.

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  Less than seven years until the next one! April 8, 2024

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

National Bison Range Visitors Center

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   Bison were hunted almost to the point of extinction due to greed and a misguided government policy designed to eliminate the largest food source of Native Americans living in the plain states. The theory was that a lack of bison would force the Native Americas onto reservations and eventually they would assimilate into a farming and ranching lifestyle.

  By 1908 it was obvious that the few remaining bison had to protected. The Range was established as a home for a herd that grew from four calves brought over the mountains to the Flathead reservation by a member of the Pend d’Oreille tribe. The herd is still small with a total number between 350-500.

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  The Range has a small visitor center with displays about the bison and the Native Americans who depended upon them. The only way to see the Range is by driving. There are a few short trails but hiking over the grasslands is not permitted. West Loop, a short 1 mile loop starts near the visitor center.  Prairie Drive is a 14 mile trip out and back that follows the Flathead River. Red Sleep Mountain Drive is 19 miles long and takes about 1 1/2 – 2 hours to complete. It’s one way until it joins Prairie Drive to complete the loop.

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  Since we didn’t have a lot of time we only drove Prairie Drive. We saw few bison so we surmised that they were all at higher, cooler elevations on Red Sleep Mountain. We did see many other animals along the very scenic river valley.

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The visitor center and two short trails -  a crushed stone, 1/3 mile loop at the visitor center and and a paved, 1/3 mile loop at the day area are accessible.

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  The visitor center and day use parking lots have room for RVs. Trailers and RVs over 30’ are not permitted on Prairie Drive and Red Sleep Mountain Drive. West Loop has no restrictions.

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  We stayed at the rest area along US 93, two miles north of Ravalli. It has long RV spaces and is quiet at night.

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Range  47.36728, -114.2556

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Old Molson Museum Ghost Town

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   In 1898 George Meacham and John Molson founded Molson as a base for gold mining in the hills. The gold didn’t pan out and the town went bust in 1901. A few people stayed on and settled down to homestead. 1904 brought welcome news of a railroad line coming right by Molson and the town experienced another boom. More change, unwelcome this time, came when the townsfolk discovered that JH McDonald, owner of the local stage line, had quietly bought up the town site acreage. In 1909 McDonald kicked everyone off of the land and the town was moved 1/2 mile north. Trains stopped running past Molson in 1935 and the population dropped again. There isn’t much left of either old or new Molson today - just a few house along the streets of New Molson, a schoolhouse, an old store building, vacation homes, ranches, and the Old Molson ghost town.

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   Buildings have been moved to the original town site to form a small town. Farming and mining equipment and other artifacts are displayed on the grounds and in the buildings. The brick schoolhouse, which had over 100 students in the 1950s, is now a museum.

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The main floor of the schoolhouse is accessed by a stair lift. The basement and top floors are accessed by stairs only. The basement displays can be seen from a viewing window cut into one of the entry floor walls. A paved path circles around some of the displays at Old Molson but the buildings do not have ramps so access to very limited.

There aren’t any services in Molson however dry camping is permitted in the pull offs along Sidley Lake, just a little over a mile north. This is fish and wildlife site where a Discover Pass is usually required to park or camp but since there are no signs about a fee I think it’s okay to camp here without the pass.

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The parking areas at the schoolhouse and Old Molson, and at the pull offs at the lake are all large enough for RVs.

  Thank you Gary and Sharon for coming to visit us!

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Molson   48.97611, -119.19979

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Waiting for the Eclipse

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   Experiencing a total solar eclipse is a once a  lifetime thing so we didn’t want to miss it. With all of the news coverage of the expected crowds we decided to find a quiet spot on BLM land and hang out until Monday. This is a great spot! We’re just a few miles off of the interstate but we can’t hear or see it. The skies are clear blue, the temperature is about 80 degrees, a cool breeze blows through our camp, and the plains stretch in all directions.

  We’re sharing the spot with our friend Suanne. We are just west of Dubois, Idaho so if anyone else is in the area and wants to join us let me know.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

North Cascades National Park

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  The 504,781 acres of the North Cascades Park were granted some protection in 1897 when they were designated a Forest Reserve to be managed by the US Forest Service. Many people believed that they would be better protected as a national park and the issue was debated several times over the years. In 1968 the area was finally given national park status. 93 percent of the park is wilderness with access by trails only. 

  With so much of the park wilderness we thought that we would  just be driving through but surprising a number of short accessible trails are located right off of route 20 which bisects the park. All of the accessible features are listed HERE with sort descriptions of each. They are in order starting at the west end of the park and going east. We did not visit all of them but of the ones we did this is what we found:

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Visitor Center and Sterling Monro Trail – very short boardwalk, completely accessible, a low railing at view point. Haze from forest fires obscured many of the views during our visit. The visitor center is accessible.

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River Loop Trail – excellent one mile long loop, wide, hard packed surface. The off shoot trail that goes to the visitor center is steep and most wheelchair users will need assistance.

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Linking Trail – hard packed one mile trail.

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Rock Shelter Trail – short, steep, gravel surface. Most wheelchair users will need assistance. Not much to see at shelter.

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Newhalem – paved paths in town area with interpretive signs. Follow the town road or drive to the parking lot to see the power house. Newhalem is a company town built by Seattle City Light in 1917. The Gorge Dam power plant began providing electricity to Seattle in 1924. It and two more hydro- electric dams on the Skagit River, built in 1930 and 1940, supply 20 percent of the city’s power.

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Trail of the Cedars – short loop, half wide and gravel, other hard packed dirt and crushed stone with one hill. Wheelchair users may need assistance.

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Gorge Overlook Trail – the first section, steep but paved, leads to an overlook.  A crushed rock and packed dirt trail completes the loop. Most wheelchair users will need assistance.

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Diablo Lake Overlook – very good, paved with interpretive signs.

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Happy Creek Forest Walk – very short loop of boardwalk and gravel. Slight uphill.

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Rainy Lake Trail – excellent, one mile long paved trail that ends at an alpine lake. Slight grades. Wheelchair users may need assistance.

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  We stayed at the Newhalem Campground in the accessible site in loop C. The site is very good - wide, level and paved with an extended top on the table and a fire ring with high sides. The paved trail to the restroom is used by other campers. Back in so your outdoor area is on the opposite side.

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   The visitor center, overlook, and all of the trails except for Happy Creek have plenty of parking for RVs.  Park  48.66599, -121.26845

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Harbor History Museum

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  Croatian and Slavic settlers came to the east coast of the Olympic Peninsula in the 1860s to fish in the bays. They were soon joined by Scandinavian immigrants and settlers from the Midwest who started farming and logging.

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  There were few roads and until 1940 when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built almost everyone took the ferry or rowed themselves across the bay to Tacoma. The bridge cut automobile travel distance from 90 miles down to 7.  However the design of the bridge caused the deck to move up and down on windy days earning it the name “Galloping Gertie”.  Four months after it opened it was hit with 40 MPH winds. The deck started swaying side to side as well as up and down, adding a twist which broke cables and towers. Fortunately everyone managed to get off the bridge before it collapsed.

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  Labor and material shortages due to WWII meant a new bridge could not be built until 1950. They got it right the second time. This bridge is still in use although a second bridge was added in 2007 to carry the increase in traffic.

This excellent small museum covers the history of the Native Americans who lived here first and the immigrants and their means of making a living. Besides the museum galleries, a one room school house and the Shenandoah, a fishing boat that was used from 1925 to 1967 and is being restored, are on the grounds and opened to tour.

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   The museum is accessible but to get to the second level which contains the bulk of the museum it’s necessary to go outside where the Shenandoah display is located and up a long ramp. The exhibits are accessible but some of the video screens are hard to see. The schoolhouse is accessible. The interior of the Shenandoah is not accessible.

  The parking lot is small. Large RVs can be parked on the street.

Museum  47.33722, -122.59349

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