Olympic National Park, Washington

August 12, 2008

I made it across the border to the states with no problems.  There were border police both sides, but they didn’t “swipe” my passport [in a computer] and just asked a few questions.  Ya!

While I was waiting for the ferry to come in to board, I was in my car reading about things to do in WA when a different border police guy came up and started asking me why I bought a Jetta and how do I like it.  We had an unusually long conversation about my car.  I couldn’t figure out if:
* he’s just “making time” with me
* he truly is trying to figure out if he wants to buy one or not
* he is asking me what appears to be innocent questions, but secretly is gauging my responses.

The ferry ride was 18 miles, which took 1.75 hours.

So…I was back to the land of cherry dip for my dairy queen ice cream cones [and $1 less expensive for a small].  Back to the land where when you pump gas, you can lock in the handle to fill your car up, instead of standing there holding it.  And as we all know…cheaper gas.

Olympic National Park is right here, so I thought I would check that out.  I decided to travel 2/3 of the loop around it, traveling going west route and ending up in Olympia.

First off, apparently Mt Olympia is here.  However, nowhere on my AAA map does it show Mt Olympia.  Nowhere in any of my info materials does it mention Mt Olympia.  As I drove the one road around the circumference of the Park, there are no signs stating “this way to Mt Olympia”.  So, I’m not sure what the deal is.

The ferry docks in Port Angeles, which is an ok little town.  I decided not to spend the nite, but to keep going and do some hiking.

First stop is Elwha.  I hiked to the pretty waterfall.  Deer were everywhere.  Huge trees with moss all over them with the light from the sun setting sprinkling in.  One can hear the various waterfalls and streams the entire way.  Came across a really cool dam, with the lake water a pretty blue color.

I started driving up a path that probably would have been a fantastic view, but it was rocks/stones and 1.5 cars wide, twisty with blind turns every 40’ – 50’ with a drop off over one side.  I realized I was NOT enjoying the drive, so decided to turn around.  However, how do I do that?  Sheesh.

It gets dark around 8.30!

They have an odometer check here!  Just when I mention it a couple weeks ago in Canada, I found one here.

I then went to Crescent Lake and hiked around and spent the nite.

In the morning I got a very early start to the day. I hiked to a waterfall near Crescent Lake, and kept seeing these ?? 6” olive green snail like things, but without the shell.  Crescent Lake is really pretty.

I had a much needed bfast at the Hungry Bear Café, near Forks.  I like the name.  I should have known the size of the bfast by the name…it was huge.  There was a sign/xerox in the place with the names of the kids from the area who are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I went to the farmers market, and again, there was that sign.  The town of Forks is around 3,200.  They claim the “area” is 5,000 people.  They have 36 kids who are in Iraq and Afghanistan!  Unbelievable.  They said that “that’s where our young boys go when they leave here”.

I certainly don’t want to get into a war discussion with the locals here, but I did want to know what their view of the war was…since this affects the whole town so greatly [the main woman I was talking to – her son just got back home from his second tour].  I can understand reasons that they would be either for or against the war.  They were FOR the war: “we’d rather have us over there, than to have terrorists over here”.

They have coffee kiosks [in parking lots] here.  I got my Ice Rage…exceptionally tasty!

I then hiked thru a rainforest and the moss growing all over the VERY tall trees.  Went to Ruby Beach with the monoliths in the ocean and driftwood on the beach.  And as you know, checked out the huge cedar and spruce trees.

It was pretty much dark, rainy and 58’ along the coast.  NO ONE was on any beach that I stopped at [besides tourists for a few minutes] except one fisherman.

They have a bunch of signs stating the years when trees were planted and then harvested.  50 – 65 yrs between planting and harvesting…”next harvest 2036”…

Saw only 3 cyclists on the road.

Along this loop, there is really nothing besides nature.  Here and there are trailers/trailer parks and small run down houses.  Be sure to have all you need before you arrive here.  Also, and this is a MUST, have your accommodations booked in advance.

I didn’t know if I wanted to spend the nite in Aberdeen or Olympia.  I had thought Aberdeen – cuz I like the name, and besides as I mentioned the other day, I was expecting Olympia to be dumpy.  However, I went with Olympia and made the right choice.  Aberdeen is the dumpy town. I need to add it to my “small” town worst list.  It’s a real undesirable looking logging town, with 90% of the houses that look exactly alike [one story, square, front door in the middle and windows on each side, with an additional foyer ?? built to enclose the front door].

I’ve read that Kurt Cobain was from Aberdeen, and couldn’t wait to leave town. I now understand why.

For some reason, Aberdeen makes USA Today’s weather map.  Wonder why.  East of Aberdeen is really pretty.  Farmland with 2 nuke plants.

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Long Beach and Tofino, British Columbia

 

August 8, 2006

I would have been a fool indeed if I had NOT driven to Tofino.  The drive alone was worth the trip, even if I found mediocracy [unsure if that’s a word] at the end…which I didn’t.

It only took 10 minutes inland from Parksville for the wow factor to kick back in.

Spectacular.  Picturesque rivers, lakes, mountains.  Lots of stopping and picnicking.

This part of the island is only around 100 miles wide, however, the drive takes much longer than you’d expect.  Most of the road is very narrow, twisty/windy, up and down mountains, lumpy/bumpy…driving between 30 – 40 mph.

I’ve seen a few logging trucks on the road, not too many, and only saw one small spot where they clear cut the trees.

On the way I saw a sign for “pot sale”.  A week ago I would have known it was for plants, but it made me laugh with a different vision.

There was sign to check your fuel – next gas station was 55 miles away.  Right after that, there was  “closed” sticker on the gas station sign.  I knew to fill up.

Long Beach is on the west end of the island, and then Tofino is about 10 miles beyond that.  Between mid island and Long Beach, the temp dropped 30 degrees.

The area along the coast, including Long Beach is a Provincial National Park.  I hiked the Wickaninnish Trail, which they call the Bonsai Forest – due to the little trees/vegetation.  Hiked down to Florencia Bay where there were surfers in wet suits, surfing in the cold [60’] and fog.  Lots of white drift wood on the beach and people building fires.  Very misty/foggy…mystical.  I hiked thru trails of huge cedar and fern trees.  All I had heard about is Long Beach, Long Beach, Long Beach, which I thought was just ok [but I’m not a beach person].  More people in wet suits surfing, LOTS of driftwood, fog.  I think without the fog it wouldn’t have been as cool.

I had thought of taking a passenger ferry to Ucluelet and then cycling over to Tofino. I would have been sooo disappointed if I had done this.  First it’s far away, and second, there are no trails for people to cycle/walk on [narrow road], and thirdly, from the road you can’t see the water…you have to park and hike in.

I had done all I could do at Long Beach.  I decided to drive the remaining 10 miles to see Tofino.  Unsure if it would be worth the drive, but what the hey.  I drove past a few areas where there were 5 older wooden buildings, and wondered if this was the village of Tofino [ie Lake Louise], but kept going.  I thought I’d go until the road literally ends.  I turned a bend, and literally yelled out  “HOLY F*#%”. Immediately pulled over to take photos.  There were already quite a few cars there with people taking photos…and more cars stopping.  It was that initial POW.

What took away from the beauty was a huge tourist bus, other machinery/equipment, and the workings of a working logging/fishing area.  I spent the next hour meandering my way to areas where I could get a photo without the added “junk” in them.  However, I did attach the photos of my initial wow moment.  Of course, seeing it panoramically is more impressive.

Tofino is a working fishing/whale watching/logging town with a lot of young people who could use a good warm shower.  There is a dichotomy…lots of people/housing who seem in need of money, and then there are the resorts and the $25 personal small pizzas.  Meals at a small café are $25 – 30.

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Lake Mara and Vernon, British Columbia

 July 28, 2008

Last nite when I first got into Vernon, I was asking a hot 28 yo the best way to get to Okanagan Lake and Kalamalka Lake.  I know I didn’t need to tell you he was hot, since, after all…I’m in Vernon.

Anyways, he tells me in minute detail how to drive to each lake.  Every turn, every curve.  Then he proceeds to tell me in detail which beach he suggests at each lake, and which runner up beach. Then he makes suggestions for food, again, in detail for both lakes.

He highly suggests hiking at Kalamalka out to Juniper Bay which is at a point, and there is also a beach nearby…and of course how to get there in detail. 

His gfriend walks up, and he tells her:

Him: I’m sending her to Rattlesnake Point!
Me: Ahhh…is there something you forgot to tell me?
Him: Oh…ya…watch out for rattlesnakes. 
Me: Jokingly, I say: does my bear spray work on rattlesnakes?
Him: [he doesn’t get the joke] no, but if you’ve got bear spray, bring it.
Me: I need bear spray?
Him: You’re in BC…you ALWAYS need bear spray. 
Me: And what about the snakes?
Him: You’ll be ok if you stay on the path.  They don’t want anything to do with you.  I’ve lived here 8 years and I’ve only seen 4 rattlesnakes – and 2 were on the same day.

So, in all the minute details he told me, he forgets to mention rattlesnakes on the trail?  Goodness.

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Field and Golden, British Columbia

July 27, 2008

Today I traveled to Field and checked out the Takakkaw Falls.  Then to Golden and then to Revelstoke.

I crossed into BC as I drove to Field, BC, which is about 30 minutes from Lake Louise. 

 

Along the way I stopped to see the “spiral tunnels” which were made for the trains. 

 

The trains would go thru the tunnels and since they can’t ascent/descent on the mountain, and they can’t do “switchbacks”, spirals tracks were made so that they loop around and around as they either go up or down the mountain.  Cool concept to see a train do, but it was really tough to see any tracks with all the trees.  If fact, I couldn’t see anything and there were tons of people stopped trying to see.  Waste of time.

 

I then went to the Meeting Of The Rivers.  Here, the Columbia and another river come together.  One is fresh off a glacier [milky colored], and the other has traveled a distance [turquoise blue] and they come together.  I was correct that the glacier silt makes the water milky white, and when the water settles the silt settles out leaving it turquoise blue.

 

Then it was off to Takakkaw Falls.  It was quite the adventure getting there. 

 

Narrow switchbacks, twisty turning roads in the rain.  However, on the way, it looked as though I was in a rainforest – it was so lush green with trees/vegetation everywhere.  The falls are the 2nd highest falls in Canada.  Quite impressive the amount of water that one glacier can spew 24/7.  Great roar and spray.

 

On the way back from Takakkaw Falls there was a lookout for the spiral tunnel.  I stopped, and had the luck that a train was actually doing it.  Still couldn’t see the tracks, and couldn’t see the train too much [too many trees], but I got the gist of it. 

 

Pretty cool.

 

Stopped in the village to Field, which has a population of about 400 people.  This is a little village that looks like some place in Europe.  Couldn’t pinpoint where/what country, but totally NOT Canada/North America.  Little European looking houses, European feeling café…totally out of place…in a good way.  If you drive this way, be sure to stop in Field.

 

Would you believe that their transcontinental highway is a 2 lane road?

 

The mountains that I drove by were smaller mountains – all covered with trees.  I can see higher mountains – barren with snow off in the distance, but pretty much all that I drove by were tree covered.

 

I stopped at a lake to picnic.  I set up shop…just as it started to rain again.  A woman came over with a British accent and said: it always seems to rain whenever you squat to have a picnic, doesn’t it?

 

The drive into Golden is most impressive. Quite the road engineering feat, considering the terrain, which is spectacular. So spectacular that I decided to stop and spend the nite.  I found a B&B that is a log cabin house on a mountain with a great view.

 

Cute little town, Kicking Horse River runs thru it.  They have the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge which was built around 6 years ago.  I was told by others visiting that there is some documentary on the making of the bridge on some educational TV channels.  They cut the wood from the area and brought in 100 …I can’t remember what they are called…but timber experts that build things just fitting the logs together [using wooden nails and such], I suppose Amish style.  The whole town pitched in to help build the bridge, feed and house the 100 people from around the world.

 

Since we all know that the sun sets at 10 pm.  I covered up completely – due to mosquitoes – to read outside.  The only thing not covered was my face.  And of course the mosquitoes were buzzing my ears.  So, I went to my car and got my handy dandy mosquito net “hat”, and was content.

 

I pick up a newspaper here and there, so went thru that.  I read some book reviews.  I read that the guy who wrote “the last lecture” passed. He taught in Pittsburgh.  Ahhh, good thoughts re Pittsburgh.  Then I read a review of a book of fictional short stories re down on their luck women who live in Winnipeg.  Ahh…yuck…Winnipeg.

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Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta

July 26, 2008

This email will probably be blasphemy to some…but I didn’t dig Banff nor Lake Louise.

I totally made the right call the other day by staying in Canmore, where the mountains are right there, and I like the “look” of the mountains, if that makes sense.

Banff is about 30 minutes from Canmore.  You need to enter the Banff National Park, and pay a fee to enter.  Banff is located in the National Park.  I found the mountains around Banff to just be nondescript/“regular” mountains…I wasn’t inspired.  Driving into Banff there is block upon block upon block of accommodations.  At first, I thought that is all there was.  But I did come to downtown, which looks exactly like a typical “hoity toity” ski village – which is what it really is.

It has the pretty turquoise Bow River running thru/next to it.  I was going to walk the loop along it, but realized it was paved…so I got my bike out and cycled.  It is really pretty.

There is a High School with field/soccer yard downtown. That must be expensive real estate to have a school on!

All the street names are named after animals [lynx, gopher, bear…].

Banff is a Planned Community – no unsightly electrical/tele wires.

My addiction was more expensive here than in NYC.

I asked some locals where I should have lunch…a place with character and NOT touristy.  I got the reply: it’s ALL touristy.

On my way to Lake Louise, I took the scenic route and stopped at Johnston’s Falls.  This is a really popular spot to hike up 30 minutes and see the falls. Very crowded.  The falls were cool and one could walk thru a cave and get close and feel the spray from the falls.

After that I drove to Lake Louise.  Where I was staying was “in the village”.  In Lake Louise, they have these big green info/directions signs, but they have little bitty print.  So, there is all this empty green space on the sign that is not being used.  I can only read the signs when I am right there…no fore planning of what I need to do.

I follow the sign’s arrow in the direction of the village.  I can’t find it…however I find a small “L” shaped strip center.  I go back out on the road to look at the sign again…and again I can only find this little strip center.  I ask a guy on a motorcycle where the village is, and he says he just got here, but thinks this is it.  No way.  So I ask someone else, and yep…this is it!  Who knew?

Canada Man had suggested several hikes, but the one he most recommended was the hike to the Six Glaciers.  It was also the shortest [4 hours]…so I decided to do that one.  I was already sluggish from cycling and the earlier 1 hr hike, but really, what else am I going to do here?  So, I drove down to the Lake.  Lake Louise is about 10 minutes from the village.

Before a few days ago, I thought Lake Louise would be this HUGE Lake.  However, when I looked for it on the map, I couldn’t find it.  So, that gave me a clue of what to expect.  And I must say, I was still disappointed.  One can see the end, and both sides of it.  It is the turquoise blue, but I have seen “deeper” turquoise blue lakes and rivers over in Kananaskis and Canmore.  And the mountains around it didn’t inspire me.

It would have been interesting to know what I would have thought of Banff and Lake Louise if I hadn’t been to Canmore and Kananaskis first.  I am sure the initial “shock and awe” of seeing the vibrant turquoise blue left a huge impression on me.

The only buildings around Lake Louise are a public restroom, and the Fairmont Hotel.  I have seen the Fairmont mentioned in every piece of info I have.  I also saw a photo, and it looked castle like.  People emailed me to say there is a big fancy hotel in Banff and in Lake Louise.  Nowhere in any of the 5 info books/brochures that I had for Banff was a fancy hotel mentioned.  So, I just assumed there is only one…and it’s the Fairmont.  To me, it’s just a boxy big building.  I can see with special lighting, at dusk, that it could be photographed to look more impressive. 

Again…disappointed.

I spoke with someone and he said there is a big castle like hotel in Banff, and told me where it was.  I totally missed it.

I did the Six Glaciers Hike from Lake Louise.  A mile around to the back side of Lake Louise, then 2.3 miles up about 1,100′ [approx 110 stories].  It kicked my *ss. 

It is a really pretty hike, and the evergreens near the base of the trail smell real nice. Lots of little water falls.  You can see the 6 or 7 different mountains, and the glaciers.  The entire time you can hear the roar of the [river] water coming down from the glaciers.  The water is a milky color as it comes down from the glacier, and I suppose the milky silt must sink or something and magically the water appears turquoise!  Ha.

After 1.3 miles is a Tea House that was built in 1927.  I thought it would be abandoned, but it is open.  There weren’t that many people on the trail, and I think I spoke to 90% of them.  The Tea House is open!  That will be a good excuse to stop.

Later a woman told me the Tea House has killer chocolate cake.  Well, she sure knew how to motivate me.  Later, someone told me that it closes at 6 pm – 5 minutes ago.  Drats!

As I got closer to the Tea House, the trail was kicking my butt, and I must have looked “strained”, cuz when people took one look at me, they started to offer words of encouragement.  Ha ha ha.

Only 20 more minutes to the Tea House.
15 more minutes.
8 more minutes.
5 more minutes.
Just around the turn.

I make the turn, and can see someone at one time has laid a stone path.  There are lots of benches to sit and watch a waterfall and the stream, and what looks like an outhouse…a one person outhouse at that.  THAT is the Tea House?  No dummy, it IS an outhouse.  The Tea House was way off to the right.

They are closed, but sold me some lemonade.  The women were friendly and told me I could look around all I wanted.  They were cleaning up and also nursing a man who had a bloody nose/mouth or something.  He didn’t look too well.

It’s another mile to get closer to the glaciers.   So, I kept going.

This was the best part of the trail. The fantastic view, the roar of the water, little bitty VERY smelly evergreens, and the path is somewhat flat.

I am then out of the vegetation/tree line, and after a bit I am walking on a narrow, 1’ wide, rocky ridge that goes down steeply on both sides.

I start to “over think”, and was freaking myself out.  I’m tired, I’m wet, I’m cold [my car down below said it was 65’], it’s after 7 pm and most importantly, I think I am the only one on the trail.

MY path ends here.  I am very near the glaciers and felt I had experienced enough of this.  The view was incredible.

I little earlier, I heard a chopper.  I thought that someone was on a tour of the lake.  When I got back to the Tea House area, I sat on one of the benches and enjoyed the water fall and stream.  I noticed off to the right there is a chopper there.  I thought that’s a weird place to house a chopper overnight.  Then I thought that maybe that’s how they get either the workers or supplies to/from the Tea House. I soon realized that it’s a medevac, and they are “rescuing” the man with the face injury. He had an IV in.

The area in general:

* LOTS of French and German spoken here, or French/German accents.  When I was in Jasper, I rarely heard English spoken by people walking around/on the streets.

* Once you exit the Transcontinental Highway 1 towards a city, you have to drive over what they call a “Texas Gate”…what I would call a cattle guard.  You know how before you enter a ranch, you drive over a grid of several bars/tubes/pipes, a few inches apart so the animals can’t get out [they can’t get a good footing].  Well, they have those here at each exit.

* No fatties here.

* There were no miles markers on the Transcontinental Highway east of Calgary.  They start up west of Calgary.

BOTTOM LINE: to me, if you are coming to this area, I would bypass Banff and Lake Louise, and instead concentrate on the hidden gems of Canmore/Kananaskis and driving to/from Jasper.

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Kananaskis & Canmore, Alberta

July 24, 2008

I had the most wonderful day yesterday.

I drive an hour to Kananaskis.  Went to the ranger/info center. The rangers there were 2 young women.  Bears are no big deal.  They are always active…this is their home, after all.  Basically, clap/yell/sing and I’ll be ok.  If I do see one in my path, slowly back up, don’t turn my back, don’t run [they’ll want to chase me], talk softly and sweetly to it, talk softly and sweetly to myself to calm me down.  Don’t make yourself look “big”, unless he’s being aggressive.  Don’t blow my whistle along the trail – instead of yelling – it frightens them, only use the whistle in case it becomes aggressive.  I knew most of the above, but it was nice to hear it again.

A bear attack is rare.  And I know that I have more of a chance dying in a car accident than having a bear attack me, BUT it is the talk of everyone here.

Later, I was reading in the local newspaper that a young woman out jogging at 6 pm got attacked by a bear.  The bear didn’t attack her, but was nearby.  However, she did the ol’ play dead routine, which I find impossible to pull off, and the bear sniffed her, started licking her and then biting.  They note that one should only play dead once a bear attacks you…NOT before.  I suppose he licked her first to see if she tasted good!

Right before the ranger station, I’m thinking it’s pretty here with the mountains, but not outstanding. The mountains are pretty – with green trees up to a point, then barren rock.  30 seconds from the station, the wow kicks in.  In the valley next to the road are lakes/rivers…and the water is a bright turquoise/aqua color, with the mountains right there on the edge.  Simply stunning.

People are driving slowly, taking the beauty in.  Everyone pulled over to let the car behind them pass.  I didn’t listen to music at all, all day.

I hiked along Ribbon Creek, and hour round trip.  The creek is just gushing down with rapids everywhere.  It is sooo clear, with a tint of blue.  Really pretty.

Later I realized that the reason the water has a blue tint is due to glaciers…you know how they look a blue-ish color?  Well, it just makes sense that the water off it is blue-ish also.  Probably most people know this, but I never really thought about it before.

Then I hiked up Scoggins Pass to see the water falls.

I was in dire need of food – no big deal…I’ll eat lunch at Kananaskis Village.  Well, what this is is a ski village.  A ski lodge, with food you’d find at a small airport, and resorts.

So, starving…I was off to Canmore.  And you already know I had the most spectacular salad.  The crimp in my plan to eat there again?  I wasn’t hungry again.  Sheesh.

The other reason I wanted to stay in Canmore, is becuz it is not touristy/commercial…yet.   Lots of building going on.  I haven’t been to Banff, but I suspect it is touristy.  There were 3 older women at lunch and I sought their advise, and without a doubt, stay in Canmore.

In Canmore, I hiked to the Grassi Lakes.  Super aqua in color.  On the way I went by spectacular waterfalls.

I really wanted to hike Ha Ling – which takes you to a peak with a great view.  However, it had been raining all day and too much cloud cover.  I’m NOT hiking up in the rain for no view.

Lots of people here say “eh” and “no worries”.

It is REALLY beautiful here in Canmore.  It seems as though the mountains are right here, and in fact, they are.  Right now it’s 48’, sunny except for clouds “mid air”…one can see the top and bottom of the mountains, but there are clouds in the middle.

Today, I will hike around Banff, Lake Louise, and depending upon the day, head my way to Jasper and the Columbia Ice Fields.

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Canmore [between Calgary and Banff], Alberta

July 23, 2008

I spoke with a woman ranger re places to hike and i am totally lined out.  she suggested i have lunch at the Grizzly Paw Brewery in Canmore [which was the 2nd city i planned on hitting today].

went on a couple hikes, and came here to eat and then hike some more.  i am in love with this little town.  so, am spending the nite and will check out banff and lake louise tomorrow.

and the Grizzly Paw? well, truth be told, THAT is the reason i’m staying.  i walk in and someone is eating this unbelievable looking batch of fish and chips. however, they have a salad on the menu with my name all over it.  it was simply unbelievable.  somewhere in it, it has heroin/cocaine…cuz i couldn’t stop eating it.  so, i decided to stay so i can have dinner there tonite.  AND, i ate so much i’m too full to hike, for now.

i’m staying at a hostel. it’s an old resort that they just re-did.  it is NICE.  seriously nice.  $25.

i am sending this from the only place in town with wi-fi – a coffee shop.

will write more in a word doc later and send out when i can.

however, i will leave you with this…

this is before i got my 6″ $40 can of bear spray.  the guy in front of me was telling me he ran into a cougar on his mountain bike a couple days ago.

i get to a “popular” trailhead and there is a YMCA group and 2 cutie 18 year old leaders.  they smile as i approach to talk to them [for some reason i seem to always have a problem figuring out where the correct trailhead is.  here, i had a choice of 3].  they have full packs and will be in for 3 days.

i start out ahead of them.  i can hear them behind me clapping, yelling and singing [to scare off the bears].

good God.

so…i decide to sing.  what belting song pops in my head without thought?  “well, helllooooo dolllllyyyy…”  sheesh. i have no idea where that came from, or how i know so much of it.  but i went with it.

i must say, that every bird, squirrel, chipmunk…noise, and every black tree or rock, made my heart race. 

i think i lost weight.

am off to hike around canmore.

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Duluth and Ely, MN – Day 1

July 18, 2008

 

This little motel has wi-fi!

 

I’m exhausted, so I will make this short.

 

I cycled down to see the freighter go by, but it wasn’t on the monitor.  Unsure if it went by already or what.  Which is a shame, cuz I really did want to see how big it was and see the coal piled up…or is the coal enclosed [so that it doesn’t blow away into the Lake]?

 

I drove by Dylan’s house before I left.  I had read that it went up for auction a few years ago and someone paid a little under $100k for it.  It is a duplex [up and down].  I drove by and it’s in a part of town where the neighbors are working on their cars on their front lawns.

 

I drove back thru town, thinking I’ll see Duluth with new eyes, but it seemed even worse than I thought yesterday.  Best to stick close to the beautiful water’s edge.

I’m in Ely. Theresa and Rob own and run the place.  Long story short, Rob is going to take me out canoeing tomorrow morning.  He said: we can leave mid morning – around 8 or 9 am, OR we can leave at the crack of dawn.  Ahhh, 8 or 9 am IS the crack of dawn for me.

 

He has something planned out for us.  I told him that I have no idea what I’ll think…I may have had my fill after 30 minutes.  He seemed ok with this.  He thinks that 3 or 4 hours are just going to fly by.

 

I also told him that I’m OK with “being the babe in the front of the boat” and he can do all the paddling and steering.  He seemed OK with this too.  I told him I was serious.  Unsure if he realized that or not.

 

About 3 blocks away is Miners Lake.  I cycled around that.  Really pretty.  Lots of people walking their dogs, fishing, just sitting on a lawn chair watching the water, or getting their canoe/kayak in the water.

 

After that I hiked up to Kawishiwi Falls.  You could hear the roar of the water way before you could see it.  I had to google how to spell it, and saw that there is a youtube video of it.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruzFnfbm81A

 

Hiking my way to the Falls I came upon an older couple who had these head nets on [that covered their entire head].  I told them that that is what I need.  They told me where to buy them.  I’m getting one tomorrow.  Unfortunately it will be after we go canoeing.

 

Theresa told me that the Boy Scout troop that is here left the waters a day early – due to mosquitoes!!  I told her about the black flies, mosquitoes et al that were getting in my ears and orbiting my head the other day…and she said I hate it when they do that…it drives me INSANE.  Ha…that is the exact same word I used!

There is a replica of the Vietnam Memorial/Wall from DC that apparently is traveling the states.  It is here right now.  Lots of people taking photos of a name, or scratching the name on a piece of paper.

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Wausau and Ashland, Wisconsin

July 15, 2008

 

I am camping in Ashland, which is near the Apostle Islands.

Yesterday morning started the same with the bright and cheery innkeeper lady.  I knew I was headed to this area, but again, had spent my time the nite before writing my email.  Again, she came at me with both guns a’blazing.  Again, she had great suggestions.

I left Wausau and took the scenic route out of town.  Then the scenic route along the river.  I stopped to pick strawberries.  Since I’m on the road, with no refrigeration, I bought what I thought I could eat.  Still, it was probably more than a quart.  Came to $1.75.  The strawberry patch didn’t look too big.  The kid working said that they’ve been thru it picking 7 times, then they open it up for people to pick their own.  He says that the farm is making money.  Nice to know that they can keep afloat and have what I consider a small patch of strawberries.

About a mile down this scenic road, I see a bear and two cubs cross the road about 100m from me.  Remember when I was hiking at Lands End [Quebec] and thought I spotted a bear, but it was really a fat porcupine or something?  Well, this time I was correct.  It WAS a bear and her baby cubs!!   I am having a blast!

I then went to the Concrete Park.  This is an outdoor park with almost life size people and animals re-creating scenes.  The figures are made out of concrete and adorned with broken glass and marbles.  Kind of fun and goofy.

I think I’ll be saying this a lot the next few days, but it’s really pretty here.  Lots of green, trees, rolling hills, lakes and rivers. However, hardly any places to pull over and picnic.

I had a late lunch and thought this café looked cute.  But in the window it said that they also sold nite crawlers.  So…I moved on down the road.

I seemed to have lost cell service, but it came back again when I arrived in Ashland. Unsure how much longer I’ll have that and thus my internet.

I went hiking in the National Forest to a waterfall [Morgan Falls] and to a lookout area.  Well, I should say I attempted this.  I went way out of my way to drive to the trailhead.  The hike to the waterfall was very easy and short.  And the waterfall was a disappointment – hardly any water.  Then I set out to hike to the lookout.

The problem…bugs.  Oh my.  Unsure what all there were – black flies, mosquitoes, gnats and others.  But there were buzzing around my head and ears.  I could literally see them orbiting my head around and around and around.  And for some reason, they seemed to want to get into my ears.  They weren’t bothering the rest of my body…they just liked my ears.  And it was driving me insane!!  I wondered if I wore ear plugs and couldn’t hear them, if that would bother me…would I still know they were there [besides the ones orbiting me].

After about 45 minutes, I realized that I am NOT having any fun.  I am being tortured.  They say the noise that will “break” a person being tortured is a baby crying.  Well, I can think of #2.

So I turned around and went back to my car.  I sure hope this isn’t how being outdoors for the rest of my time here will be.  If so, then it will be short.

The innkeeper highly suggested I make Ashland my home base while exploring the area.  It is on the water, and has great paths along the water and the view is simply beautiful.  However, the town itself does nothing for me.  I’ll be moving on…up to Bayfield which is right there next to/near the Apostle Islands.  Unsure if today I’ll kayak or will take a ferry and ride around one of the islands.  Probably kayak since I can’t do that every day.

 

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Fairbanks, Alaska – Day 7

Last thoughts on Fairbanks: Fairbanks has definitely grown on me. We found the cool coffee shop, we’re finding good food places, discovering more hiking/cycling paths, fun places where the locals hang out…

My niece Sara will be here for a few more years, and I can see myself coming back to spend next summer. However, my bike is a must. I can’t imagine living here w/o a bike.

Of course, if I think the drive to the NW is daunting, I shouldn’t even consider this!

We went to hike around Lake Chena today in the rain. We both liked the rain, however, there were swarms of huge mosquitoes. So, we had to cut it short. Too bad, cuz it was really beautiful. It would have been the perfect cycling moment…if I had my bike.

The Trans Alaska Oil Pipeline comes thru this area. In the perma frost areas it is above ground [approx 50% of it. Off the top of my head, I thought there were several 36″ lines. But in reality there is only one line – 48″. In a certain area there is a “viewing area” where you can walk up and touch it and walk all around it.

Pull Tabs – there is no lottery in Alaska. However, they have Pull Tabs. Which are these little cards, and you …pull the tab off, and there is something written underneath.

You can only buy pull tabs in these small buildings that only sell Pull Tabs. I decided to give the state of Alaska a buck. We went in one and it was crowded [it’s small] with 3 older Native woman pulling tabs. I waited to get waited on and watched as these women kept opening their wallets and getting $20 out. And they would just pull them off with gusto. They’re seated with those big plastic garbage cans next to them to throw the used tabs into. Then in between pulling, a woman leans over and spits chew/dip into the garbage can…inches from me. It was all around a sad sight, so I had to leave.

There are an unusually high number of people who chew here.

There are electrical plugs in parking lots so that people can plug their cars in, in the winter.

There seems to be minimal trash along the side of the roads here.

I was talking to someone and he asked if I’ve tried the moose. I said I was a vegetarian. He again asked if I’ve tried the moose. I laughed. He said that people up here don’t consider moose “red meat”.

They have transfer stations here, which are areas where they have a bunch of trash bins. People can take their garbage here to be picked up. They also have a free cycle tented area that you can put things for others to take.

It was 92′ on Saturday. Today was 68′ and rainy.

This is stating the obvious…and I know that I recently commented that some place had a high % of beater cars. Well…THIS place has them beat. Of course no one would have a “nice” car here, and I certainly haven’t seen any.

Most radio stations play 70’s music here. We got in the car today, and the DJ said “you may wonder what kind of rat bastard would play a song like that.” Now…when’s the last time you heard a DJ talk like that?

Off to bed. I’ll spend all day getting back to Baltimore, where I’ll be for a few days.

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