Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
June, 2019 - Mount Denali, Alaska

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Butte, Montana

We spent the last few days in Butte, Montana. What an interesting place! All the welcome signs refer to it as "The Richest Hill on Earth". Here's the reason why.

We took a two hour trolley tour sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Our driver was super knowledgeable, having grown up in this area. Butte came into existence due to the discovery of gold, silver and copper. Mining has been the main industry here since the mid 1800s. By 1887 Butte became the world's leading producer of copper, and for the next 30 years produced 50 percent of all copper in the United States.

There are 10,000 miles of mine tunnels under the city. Eventually, they switched to open pit mining. There is still mining happening here, but not at the levels of the past. At one point there were 100,000 people in Butte. Today's population is about 35,000. Here is one of the open pit mines.

Our tour took us the the Berkeley Pit overlook. This pit was closed in 1982 and measures 1.25 miles wide and 1 mile across. The depth of the water is nearly 1,800 feet (that's equal to an 180 story building). When this mine was closed, pumps were turned off and water was allowed to fill it in. That water also flooded the underground tunnels. The water is extremely toxic. So much so, that noise cannons and drones are used to scare off birds. If they drink the water, they die.

In fact, the mining here caused a great deal of pollution. A super fund was created to clean up all the toxic chemicals in the streams and waste dumps. They are nearing the end of a major clean up operation.

We learned so much about mining on the tour. We also learned about the history of Butte. The Dumas brothel was opened in 1890 and closed in 1982. It was the longest running brothel in American history. I guess those miners needed entertainment.

One of the copper king families were the Clarks. When their son got married, he honeymooned in Europe. Upon their return, his dad built him this French Chateau style home. Nice dad!

Upon entering town you can see a white statue at the top of a mountain. She is Our Lady of the Rockies. She was completed in 1985 by countless volunteers, and sits 3,500 feet above the city. She is 90 feet tall and weights 51 tons. A sky crane helicopter from the Air National Guard lifted the statue in five pieces. She is built in the likeness of Mary, mother Jesus, and is dedicated to women everywhere, especially mothers. Tours are available, but we didn't feel the need to see it up close. It is beautiful from a distance, especially at night when it is lit up.

Several miles west of town in the town of Anaconda is this huge smokestack. You can see it from miles away. It was completed in 1919 as part of a smelting company for copper. It measures 585 feet tall and is tallest surviving masonry structure in the world. Smelting is no longer allowed in the US due to the pollution created. Copper is now shipped to China for smelting.

We drove about 30 miles to Deer Lodge to visit the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. It is the only site in the National Park System dedicated to cattle ranching and cowboys. We took a tour of the main house led by a very knowledgeable park ranger.

The original owner was Johnny Grant who drove 400 cattle to market in 1859. He sold the ranch to Conrad Kohrs, a German immigrant. By the 1880s Kohrs was shipping 10,000 cattle to the stockyards in Chicago. The house has been added onto several times. Kohrs was a millionaire in his time, and the inside of the house reflects that. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside.

From 1860 to 1890 the cattle roamed over 10 million acres in free range ranching. Once farmers came west and started putting up fences, Kohrs purchased 25,000 acres surrounding his ranch and began growing hay. He also owned ranches in other parts of the country.

There are horses and cattle still being kept at the ranch. We also got to see a chuck wagon with "Cookie" telling us about how the cowboys survived on the trail driving the cattle to market. There was also a blacksmith on site sharing information. Another great place to visit and learn about history.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Missoula, Montana

Our drive from Spokane to Missoula was through some really amazing scenery. First, we drove along Lake Coeur D'Alene for some beautiful views. The rest of the trip was mainly through mountains, hills, lakes and rivers. Stunning!! We were on I-90, so safe roads. Probably not Kevin's favorite drive, but I loved it!

On Monday we visited the Missoula Smokejumpers Visitor Center. We took a very interesting free tour of the facility. There are nine smokejumper bases in the US.

These specially trained firefighters parachute into wildfire areas to fight fires. Requirements to be chosen include weighing between 115 and 210 pounds, and being 5 feet to 6'5 inches tall. They carry some gear with them as they jump. Additional supplies are parachuted down to them. Once they have all of their gear on their backs, it weights 110 pounds. Can you imagine carrying nearly your body weight on your back?? These men and women are strong!! Do you think I could make it :) Mandatory retirement is 57 years old, so I'm out of luck. Ha, ha!!

This is one of the planes they jump from. It carries ten smokejumpers plus two pilots, and two spotters, along with all the gear they will need. They can be at a fire site for as long as three weeks.

We learned that the 1871 Peshtigo fire in Wisconsin, which burned 12 million acres and killed over 1,000 people, led to National Fire Prevention Week.

After the tour it was time for some refreshments. We started at the Big Sky Brewing Co. which has been in business since 1995. Kevin enjoyed a flight of four tasty brews. I thought the bottom left of the sign was interesting. Montana law allows 48 ounces per person, per day to be served. That's three pints, and seems like plenty to me. But, knowing the culture in Wisconsin, this law would never make it.

Next, we headed to Highland Brewery. I liked the decor inside.

On Saturday we visited downtown Missoula to experience some farmer's markets. There were three different markets scattered throughout the town. It's not a huge city, but has been very nicely renovated. There were lots of people. The University of Montana is in Missoula, so I'm sure that helps keep the town vibrant.

The Clark Fork Rivers runs through town. There was a very nice park next to the river along with trails.

This is sure an interesting way to do yoga!

We visited the Kettle House Brewery. The second beer listed on the left has an interesting name. It's actually make with hemp. Kevin didn't try it, so I can't report on how it tastes.

Yesterday we did a road trip to Flathead Lake. It's about 70 miles north of Missoula. On the way we stopped at the National Bison Range. President Theodore Roosevelt established the range in 1908 in response to the fact that bison had been hunted almost to extinction. It was the first time the US government used public funds to purchase land for for the sole purpose of protecting wildlife. There are now about 400 bison on the range.

There is a 19 mile gravel one way road through the range. It took about 2 hours to do the loop. We saw this herd of bison.

There weren't too many bison around. We did see this big guy laying near the road posing for us.

There was other wildlife as well. I saw a small black bear cub in the trees, but I didn't want to get out to try for a photo in case the mom was nearby. This beautiful pronghorn was having some lunch.

I think these were mule deer in the river.

The view at the top was beautiful.

Next to the visitor center was this big pile of deer and elk antlers collected from the range.

Flathead Lake is the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi. Such beautiful views.

This animal bridge crossed the road. What a great idea to give animals a way to safely get across the highway.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Spokane, Washington and Coeur D'Alene, Idaho

We spent a week at the Spokane KOA. It was conveniently located between Spokane and Coeur D'Alene. It was an okay campground. My biggest issue was the nearby train that came through a few times each night with a very loud horn that it blew four times each trip.

We explored Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane. The park has this really awesome looking slide, a giant Radio Flyer Wagon. There are stairs on one side and a slide on the other. Kids were having a great time!

The Spokane River runs through downtown with several waterfalls. They're pretty small as far as waterfalls go, but several power plants along the river provide power for the area. In the background you can see the clock tower which was built for the 1974 World's Fair and a new amphitheater that is still under construction.

Downtown Spokane was very clean and the buildings were well maintained. We walked to the Black Label Brewing Co. Kevin ordered a flight and said the beers were really good!

The forecast for the rest of the days we were there was about the same, cloudy with no rain. On Monday we drove to Lake Coeur D'Alene in Idaho. I had always heard this was such a beautiful area and a must see place. We bought tickets for a 90 minute boat tour.

Unfortunately, the weather guessers were wrong. We had rain/drizzle almost the entire tour. Luckily, the boat wasn't full and we were able to hang out on the enclosed lower level next to windows, so we still got a good view. It is a beautiful area, but not as great as what I was expecting. 

The tour was narrated. We learned the lake is 25 miles long with 135 miles of shoreline. We felt the narration could have been better. We saw many places that we wish would have had an explanation.  

The Coeur D'Alene Golf Resort has won many awards. Their signature hole floats in the lake (on the left side of the picture with the red flowers). A little boat takes you out to the hole to finish playing. A lady on our tour said they had watched play on the windy day before. She said only about 1 in 20 people actually landed their tee shot on the green. It's a pricey place to play, not in our budget!

This single family home is one of the most expensive places on the lake. We saw many large, beautiful homes.

This house is literally the house on the rock.

The next day we drove to Post Falls, Idaho to tour the Buck Knife Factory. Someone Kevin had talked to had said this was a great tour. They were correct. As we don't hunt or fish, we weren't too familiar with these knives. The entry fountain was beautiful. We saw several of these large rock fountains in the area.

In 1902 at the age of 13, Hoyt Buck made the first Buck Knife while working as a blacksmith apprentice. He went on to start the company in a shack in the backyard. Four generations later, they have a beautiful facility with 320 employees. 

Here's the view of the lobby. The lamp is made with elk antlers. The company uses elk for the handles of some of the knives. They have an agreement with the boy scouts in Montana who find the antlers shed by elk and send them to the company.

Pictures were not allowed on the tour. We saw how the knives are made. Much of the process is done by machines, but the final sharpening is all done by hand. The knives are warranted for life, and we saw a display of some of the totally rusted, burned and mangled knives that have been returned and replaced. The tour was free, but reservations were required. It was definitely interesting and worth a stop.

We're headed to three stops in Montana for the next 18 days. We were at Glacier in Montana several years ago, but otherwise have not seen much of the state. More exploring needs to be done!

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Wenatchee, Washington

We spent the last few days at Wenatchee River County Park in Central Washington. We decided to stop here after finding out that fulltime RVers Steve and Joan were volunteering at the nearby Entiat Fish Hatchery. We have been reading each others blogs for several years and met them in Yuma a few years ago.

Their job is mainly taking care of the fish on the weekends when the employees aren't there. They also do some lawn mowing and maintenance jobs. They gave us a tour, and explained how the Chinook Salmon are raised for release back into the wild.

It was hard to get pictures of the fish, but here is one of the pools of small salmon.

They are hatched here and spend about 18 months being raised for release. They swim to the ocean and in about four or five years they come back to spawn in the river they were born in, having grown to about a size of 30 pounds.

Each fish raised here has a transponder implanted so Fish and Wildlife can track them and learn how to improve the process. The purpose of all of this is to mitigate the consequences to the salmon population when dams were built on the Columbia River.

There was an eagle nest on the property. Joan says she frequently sees the adult eagles in a nearby tree in the mornings.

Steve and Joan have a beautiful motor home with an enclosed trailer in which they tow their Jeep and motorcycle. They took us on a Jeep ride on some Forest Service back roads. Lots of beautiful scenery in this area. We ended up at an overlook where someone has hung a swing. What an amazing spot!!!

The fields in the background are apple orchards. Everywhere you look in this area there are apple, cherry or apricot trees. But, mainly apples. Lots of processing facilities as well. It was amazing to see how the trees were planted in stretches along the river between the hills and water.

I saw on the Washington Apple Association's website that about 60 percent of the apples in the country come from Washington. It takes the energy of 50 apple leaves to produce one apple. We stopped at several fruit stands during our stay. I've been thoroughly enjoying cherries and apricots.

We stopped for lunch at the Apple Cup Cafe in Lake Chelan, another cute town.

Steve and Joan were kind enough to let me take a picture to post.

We really enjoyed our visit, and so appreciate that they took the time to show us the hatchery and give us a tour in their Jeep.

On the way home, we stopped to tour the Rocky Beach Dam Visitor Center.

We went to the viewing area where we saw salmon swimming through the openings in the fish ladder.

We learned that the female lays an average of 5,000 eggs, of which only 6 to 8 will survive to return and spawn.

Here is part of the fish ladder. The large pipe above is where the salmon that are returning downstream to the ocean are piped past the dam. Kind of like a water slide for fish.

There is a really nice park on the dam grounds. Also, some very pretty landscaping. This Pac Man flower bed was amusing.

And the American Flag flower bed was beautifully done.

Yesterday we wandered around the nearby town of Leavenworth. In the 1960s a group of local residents mortgaged everything to save their town from the depression of a declining lumber and railroad economy. They recreated their mountain town into a Bavarian Village focused on tourism. It was a huge success. Today, it is one of the top tourist attractions in the state.

The downtown truly does look like a Bavarian town. There was live German music in the park, lots of buildings built in the Bavarian style, many shops and restaurants, and a huge May Pole. It looks crooked in the picture, but it wasn't. There were lots of tourists around.

We stopped at two microbreweries where Kevin had a few samples. The Icicle Brewery had good beer, hard cider for me, and a hot pretzel.

Behind the county park we are staying at is a migrant camp. I'm sure they need lots of labor when it comes time to harvesting all the fruit this area produces. I've never seen an organized camp like this. There are dozens of these white tents.

We really enjoyed our visit in this beautiful area of the state along the Columbia River. I'm amazed how mountainous Washington state is. The Cascade Range covers a huge area.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!