Sunday, 21 August 2016

A tour of the West (part 2)

This continues our travels in the Summer of 1981.  The first, Southern, leg is here.

Our stay in Denver between the trips turned out to be a bit traumatic as the toilets stopped flushing.  Well, sort of: the water went into the pan but didn't flow out.  We got a plumber in and it emerged that the main line to the sewer system had been blocked for ages and basically the pipe had eroded so that the soil against which the basement emptied was liquified.  Fortunately a friend of the people we'd exchanged with offered to supervise getting this fixed while we went off on our second trip, in a Northerly direction.

This began with a trip up the Valley Highway (aka I-25) to I-60 where we went West.  I think we stopped somewhere near Rawlins WY at a KOA which was very desolate.  But then the whole area is desolate: like a giant sized version of the road from Cooma to Nimmitabel.  The next day we headed North through forest to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons.
Now that is what I call a range of mountains.  My memory is that we just looked at views for the day.  Overnight it got a bit cool, despite being late July, or possibly even August.  We had only erected the small nylon tent as that was quicker to put up and take down, which meant the three of us were a bit crowded.  In fact Ingrid's head was against the side of the tent and we found in the morning that she was frozen in situ!  This was a good excuse for not emerging from her sleeping bag as directed: I really regret not having a photo of her with a disc of ice on her scone.

The business of the day was going a few more miles North to bag a camp site at Yellowstone.  We had been hearing stories of having to be in line by 8am to get a site,  My memory is that we did OK.   We spent 3 or 4 days there looking at things like the Hot Springs and ...
...of course the geysers.
The two main memories I have from here are both bear related.
  • On a Ranger guided walk he had just finished saying there were no bears in the area when I drew his attention to a pretty fresh looking pile of poop.  "What is this?" I asked.  He went rather quiet and then said "It looks like a Grizzly scat, so we won't walk through that clump of trees!"  A side effect of this was that when Frances returned to her school next term and some little turkey sneered "Does a bear shit in the woods?" she was able to say "Yes.  And I've seen it."
  • We did actually see a distant Brown Bear and without a telephoto lens I couldn't gt a snap so was edging closer.  Then a voice rang out "Could you get a little closer, we want an action shot!".  I retreated rather swiftly, having got a photo with a tiny brown dot in the centre.
We then went to Glacier National Park which is a bit unusual in that the habitat stretches across the 49th parallel and both the US and Canada have adjoining National Parks, with the same name!  We only went to the US element - about which I can remember little except it bucketed down with rain, soaking the tent.

So the next day we went across the border (with much less trouble than we usually received crossing from New York State into Ontario later in our lives) into Canada.  I remember driving through some little burg with an RCMP detachment who were doing a musical ride performance.  Being cheapskates we watched through a hole in the fence.

In fact we weren't just being cheapskates as getting access to money was a continual challenge through the year.  This was mainly because Visa and Mastercard refused to mail us cards in Australia and were going to take some inordinate amount of time - ending after we had left for our year away - to arrange for them to be sent to our bank.  So we only had American Express cards (which were hardly accepted anywhere out of major cities) and cash.  (At the supermarkets in Denver we usually paid by cheque, but nowhere in the US would take a cheque (or as they amusingly spelt it "Check") drawn on an out of state bank or Savings and Loans.)  How things have changed - when we lived in New York in 2005 I think I wrote about 20 cheques in 20 months, using a credit card all the time.

We drove to a Holiday Inn in Calgary, our destination for the next couple of nights.  They had a heated basement (as you would, somewhere that has many nights of -40oF (or C - they are the same) in Winter) so I basically erected the tent over the car to dry it out.  The incidents of note here were both Ingrid related.
  • We went up the Telecommunications tower and when we descended Ingrid was close to the door when it opened and her fingers got jammed between the door and the side of the lift.  Fortunately myself and another guy were able to push on the door so that she got her fingers out.  When this was reported to the attendant on the ticket desk her response was along the lines of "Sorry.  That happens a lot.  Had another one last week."  What is it about the word 'lawsuit' that doesn't travel across the 49th parallel?
  • On looking at the morning paper Ingrid saw a photo of Lady Diana Spencer as she then was crying.  She asked "Why is the pretty lady crying?"  We explained it was because the paparazzi had been annoying her.  This led to the story of her being the daughter of a baron and she she was going to marry the Prince and would be Queen one day.  (OK, it didn't turn out quite that way but, hey, I'm not Nostradamus.)  We realised this sounded just like a fairy story to her and it became a small obsession with her.
On, on to Lake Louise.  As we checked in at the campground the ticket seller commented that a bear had been trashing the bins in row F but we would be OK.  She then booked us in to row I.  Hmmm.  I asked if it was a Grizzly or Brown Bear and was told that they hadn't got around to checking.  I repeat, "What is it about the word 'lawsuit' that doesn't travel across the 49th parallel?"

Oh well, if they're laid back I might see what can be done about a photo.  So holding Ingrid by one hand, and my camera in the other, off I go to Row F.  There is a clear track of garbage heading up a hillside so we follow it.  Down the other side and the used burger wrappers etc are still clear so up the next hillside.  About this point my brain rejoined me so we trotted back to the campsite, sans photo - but still with two full sets of body parts.

The other thing that happened in Lake Louise is that Ingrid showed how she had understood our comments about the financial difficulties outlined above.  This arose when we were looking around a Chateau near Lake Louise and she spotted a wishing well into which folk had pitched some coins.  "Look" she said"We needn't be poor any more!"  We explained things hadn't quite got to that stage yet.

Our next day was an out and back up the Icefields Parkway.  I'd suggest this is one of the most spectacular drives, in terms of scenery, in the world.  While there are places in the Alps which come close they are generally polluted by humanity, whereas this place was largely un-mucked-up.  A sample.
The idea was to go for a snow-cat ride out on to the glacier.  Here is me channeling Donald Sutherland from Kelly's Heroes (and hoping that Ingrid, in the driving seat, can't work out how to fire it up).

Here we are on the glacier!
We had decided that we really should let Ingrid see the Royal Wedding so the next day we fired up the Plymouth and set off for Vancouver where we would stay in a motel.  About 800km on the direct route so off we went.  We ignored all the log drives on various rivers we went past, but did stop briefly, as did everyone else on Trans-Canada 1, to watch a water bomber sorting out a brush fire.  We went straight past the Hells Gates rapids - something I have regretted ever since - and in to the guts of the city.  We were somewhere near Chinatown so went and had a nice meal there.
Somehow or another I got the time differences mucked up (remember there was no internet in those days) and when we awoke at 6AM the business was pretty much over.  (According to a fixture firing up at 11:20am BST would have started at 0320 Vancouver time: I'm not sure we were in the nick to have got up that early anyway.)

So we went out to check the sights of Vancouver which were pretty much OK, intending to get back to the hotel to watch a replay of  Match of the Day/Decade/Millenium.  I can't remember why, but again we missed the start but did see the drive from the Abbey this time.  (Unfortunately we missed the comment by, I think, a Dimbleby, on BBC about Charles travelling to the ceremony .. "with his very good friends Peter and Camilla Parker-Bowles".  I don't think Dimmers was in full Nostradamus mode either!)

Next stop was Olympia NP in Washington State.  Back into the US with little grief that I can remember to take a ferry across Puget Sound.  We stopped to have a look at Dungeness Spit poking out into the Straits of Juan de Fuca and marveled at the vast array of driftwood: the rivers in this area travel through serious forests and when they are in spate bring down a lot of former trees.
We camped in the rain forest (which of course made it a tad difficult to have a camp fire for cooking).  An ascent was made to Hurricane Ridge, of which my one photo completes this blog.  The main attraction was the moss forest which benefits from the 1250mm of rain per year (about double Adelaide or Canberra but pretty pathetic compared to Sinrahja in Sri Lanka which cops 6,000mm).

We headed on down the coast going from Olympia to Crescent City in a day.  The driving was pretty lurid due to the number of logging trucks on the road all of who seemed to have learnt to drive from Yves Montand in the Wages of Fear - especially the closing sequence thereof!  We stopped a couple of times to check the scenery ...
...and wildlife including a lot of seals and (at Coos Bay I think) a rather ginormous whale (most likely a Gray Whale Eschrichtius robustus).  

The outstanding element of this leg of the trip was going to the mouth of the Klamath River where salmon fishing was happening.  As I understand it the salmon that were migrating up the coast to the Fraser River had turned right about 800km too soon.  This picture doesn't to justice to the horde fishing there.  The guys on the shore were using large lures and were casting out near the boats (who must have felt in danger as these large lumps of metal with ferocious hooks, flew towards them). 
A local law didn't allow fishing within 100 yards of the river mouth and a game warden had stuck a post in the ground to mark the spot.  He was there with a very large gun in his holster to resolve discussion of fine legal points.  One of the guys on the shore suffered a cardiac incident so a 4x4 ambulance had too come and ship.him out.  A very exciting afternoon.

When we left Crescent City we had been thinking about Mark Twains comment that he had spent what seemed like the coldest Winter of his life, while enduring a Summer in San Francisco.  The maximum temperature was about 50oF and we were wearing sweaters and a parka.  As we left the coast the temperature climbed about 1 degree per mile and after cresting the Coast range (stopping a couple of times to remove layers) we called in to a small town to find the store's thermometer was showing 105oF!

We got to Crater Lake too late to get a campsite so went to a State Forest primitive site nearby.  It had everything but water and a nice river provided that.  The next day we were into the official park.  Here we got great views of a Black Bear wandering towards the campground, followed by a Ranger and several tourists.  If my memory was correct he had been attracted by the morning bacon being fried in a nearby diner.

Here is the Lake: its 26 miles around and is the remnant of a caldera.
We were again heading for home and came across this outstanding example of culture.
I think it was somewhere round here where I saw the greatest RV assemblage ever.  A large Winnebago with a tinnie on top, towing a glider trailer, towing a larger power boat.

A brief stop was made at the Craters of the Moon NP, a volcanic site ...
... and (after narrowly avoiding Salt Lake City) on to Dinosaur NM.  We camped here for a couple of nights so that we could have a really good look at the dinosaur quarry.  The outstanding event here came the following morning when Frances was struck by Montezumas Revenge.  I headed off the 20 miles to the nearest pharmacy to get some blocker (possibly Lomotil).  By the time I got back to the camp I was also affected - and only just made it back in time!   My suspicion is that we didn't have the fire hot enough when cooking the previous night and the hotplate had previously been crapped on by something.

However the blocker seemed to cut in quite quickly and we decided to head back to Denver using US 40 - a little shorter than I-70 and with more country towns with khazis along the way.    We got home without an unusually high number of stops, and found the plumbing work had all been fixed and all was well with the world.

I will conclude as I started with a nature shot.  These are Mountain Goats: according to the note on the back of the photo, seen on Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park. I can't remember seeing them there at all: my memorable sighting was in Glacier NP but possibly I didn't have my camera that day.
So that's all folks.

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