I know I promised a picture-illustrated account of nathan and my trip to the west coast, but it was impractical to make an email with that many pictures. Thus a blog has been born!
Started the day at IHOP with family all joined for breakfast, yum! THen headed up 75.
Our little truck by lake michigan!
Had bison pasties for lunch in true UP fashion and camped near lake superior in a beautiful state forest. Baked beans for dinner. The next day we headed out to lake superior and played a bit on the beach.
We had a really fun time in Marquette. We went rock hunting at the beach and found lots of beautiful green, blue, purple, and yellow stones. I don't think any agates, but what we found were still quite beautiful! We had lunch at the Wandering Rover, which was DELICIOUS irish food.
Nathan is posing like the 'wandering rover' on the sign. We bought some sweet corn at a farm stand and tomatoes too, and then continued driving across the UP and camped just over the Wisconsin border at the Saxon Harbor. This was literally a harbor, so we were just camped out on the lawn and very exposed, but we were about 5 ft from the shore. Here is the view of lake superior from our campsite. We skipped rocks for a while before we ate roasted the sweet corn for dinner--so good!
Drove across WI pretty quick in the morning as it is narrow there. Got into MN and stopped in Duluth, which was completely dead on a sunday and not worth going to as far as we could tell, so we booked it to ND, but did stop in Bemidji to see the giant Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox statues. Rural tourism, as far as I can tell, is mostly based on the concept that if you build a giant animal sculpture, people will stop and buy things there. There are SO MANY giant things we saw along our way, we didn't take pictures with 90% of them. Bemidji is also where the Mississippi river begins!
Ok, so we beat it out of MN and just over the border to camp in Turtle river state park, ND. Kind of a pretty swampy area, but the bugs were so bad we had to hide in our tent. The only good thing was that they had hot showers!!
Started our drive and discovered that north dakota is totally beautiful. Stopped in Michigan for breakfast. That's right. Michigan, ND. Like most towns in ND and MT, it was composed of a few grain elevators on one side of the road, and a few houses on the other side.
When we first saw a grain elevator in the distance, Nathan said, "is that a castle?" So we called them castles from then on. Continued driving to get to Beach, ND (no water in sight) where Reid and Lindsay said we would find a scandinavian restaurant. Well, we never found one and the locals didn't know what we were talking about, so we ended up at one of two restaurants in town, La Playa Mexican Food. This is funny because playa means "beach" in spanish. It was no sabor latino, but the decor was fun!
We also bought some beautiful pottery mugs at Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach. The artist used to sell her work in Kerry Town! Small world.
Got to our campsite in Teddy Roosevelt National Park and set up our tent just before it down poured. Fortunately the weather cleared up in time for us to go to the ranger talk about snakes in the park, which was fun and informative. Also there were all these signs about how the buffalo are very dangerous and one should not approach them under any circumstances. The ranger also told us that the buffalo like to "bed down" next to tents sometimes, so if we woke to find a giant bison by our tent, we should go back inside and wait until they leave!!!
The next day we drove the 35-mile loop around the park. The park was beautiful and almost totally deserted. Cool rock formations, Buffalo chillin' right by the roadside, wild horses, and prairie dogs--CUTE. Let me tell you. Prairie dogs have all these interconnected tunnels and there are thousands of them, and they pop up on their hind legs and cheep to communicate! It almost looks like they are hopping! We didn't get any good pictures though.
Then we continued, heading north this time. We wanted to see the northern part of the national park, but there was road construction that took us on this crazy long detour through some beautiful badlands country. It was getting late by that point, so we headed into Montana!
Got stuck behind some crazy large farm equipment and so it took us forever, but we took the small detour up to see Homestead. Beautiful clouds that pretty much go on forever.Here is Grandma Margaret's old house and barn.
Decided to drive into the night for the first time and stay at a motel. We stayed at the Chinook Motor Inn. In the morning we got coffee at "bikini coffee" which was the first we saw of this western phenomena: the roadside coffee shack. The barista was not wearing a bikini however.
Stopped in Cut Bank at a drive in for lunch. It claims to be the coldest spot in the nation. It was pretty cold that day. I made nathan pose with the giant penguin. Pretty soon we could see mountains on the horizon! Here is the view out the car window.
We made our way to Bear Creek Ranch, which is just below Glacier Park and the site of the old McCarthyville--the wildest town in the wild west, founded by my great, great grandfather, Eugene McCarthy. As a child he worked on the transcontinental railroad and then surveyed land as a young man. He thought this particular spot was so beautiful he squatted on it until it became his (this is how you obtained land then, apparently) and founded this rough railroad town at age 20.
It was only in existence for a few years while the railroad was under construction, and was apparently an infamously lawless place! Here is the only remaining building. The first floor was a saloon and dance hall, and lodging on the second floor.
Now it is just a storage shed for the ADORABLE bed and breakfast that is there now. You get your own private log cabin with a porch and a beautiful view of the mountains. We stayed and talked to the woman who worked there for a while, but unfortunately the owner was out.
Onward to Glacier!
We set up camp in the park and then took a hike just as the pouring rain started to let up. We hiked up to Avalanche Lake, which was a great trail through the woods (which is just incredibly wet) and alongside waterfalls. It opens up to reveal the view of the lake, the snow capped mountains behind it, and 4 or 5 waterfalls running down the side of the mountain.
Everything was wet and the temperature really dropped toward nightfall, so we were freezing our buts off in our tent!
The next day we headed up the Going to the Sun Road on the bus that runs through the park. Unfortunately, there was a lot of waiting for buses, and waiting in buses (contstruction everywhere! and it was crowded!) I took some pics from the bus window.
We took a short hike at the top, but it took so long to head up there, we basically had to turn around.
Stopped in Happy's Inn, MT (which is one building as far as I could tell) for dinner at the Kickin' Horse Saloon and Eatery. This is the painting on the door. We ate fried pork sandwiches. They were kinda weird, but we had a good time sitting at the bar and talking to the bartender. Really good fresh fries. We camped near the Yaak river and played cribbage by a roaring camp fire.
The next day we crossed into Idaho and went to breakfast in Bonner's Ferry, which is an adorable town tucked into the side of a mountain and the crook in a river. Would love to come back here. We had a great breakfast at "The Panhandle." Delicious thick-cut bacon and the best hashbrowns of the trip! Then we went next door to Under the Sun, cutest gift store I've ever been to. I loved everything in it and it was also a cafe in the back and had a tin ceiling. I snapped a few photos, one from the balcony looking towards the front, and another towards the cafe in back.
We finally made it to Washington! Eastern WA is surprisingly "old west" feeling--tumble weeds, etc. There were all these dust torndos along the roadway. You could see them far in the distance--just these columns of brown--closer up you can see they are just swirling dust!
We then crossed into the mountains and visited Leavenworth, which is this very bizarre and tacky "bavarian" village full of touristy shops selling cristal dragon statues and australian t shirts. Thats right. An australian store. I wouldn't advise anyone to come here.
We had some trouble finding a place to camp as we were coming into the holiday weekend and the cars were streaming into the mountains from the Seattle area. Finally we found a place with openings. The trees here are HUGE. Like 5 times as tall as michigan trees. The pictures really do not show it. And everything is covered in crazy moss. Our first night in Washington! The train tracks must have been super close to our campsite, because it sounded as if the train had derailed and was heading straight for our tent!
From our campsite it was just a quick drive to Seattle! We made it without running out of gas (there wasn't a gas station forever!) and enjoyed some coffee for nathan and tea for me in a cafe-- because that is what you do in Seattle, right?