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  1. #1

    Default 2009: Touring the Northwest

    Last June I took a 15-day, 7,500-mile trip from my home in Augusta, GA to our great Northwest and back. It was one of the few places in the United States that I had never traveled, even though I did fly into and out of Seattle once, back in the early 1990s. I had never driven through Montana, Idaho, Washington or Oregon.

    Prior to my trip, I did a lot of online research on points of interest along the way. I spent hours poring over Google Earth maps looking for telltale little blue squares. They indicate that someone has attached photos of some attraction they saw there. I would then open the pictures to see what interested them and determine if it would also interest me.

    In all, I found about forty points of interest, some of them as much as fifty miles off the interstate highways I was using, and determined to see as many of them as I could.

    Once the journey was under way, and after three days of driving to get into position up in South Dakota, I started taking my own pictures by day, downloading them each night, and tweaking them slightly to make them look like the sights did when I snapped the photo. Then I chose the best of the day’s shoot, composed a short story to accompany them, and sent them to about a dozen friends and family.

    Now I want to share the best of the best with all of you, and I have several reasons to want to do that:
    1. To encourage you to follow your dream for travel if you have one.
    2. To show that a simple point-and-shoot camera is all you need to get class photography in digital format.
    3. To give you some great things to see if you ever duplicate my trip.
    4. To relive for myself that wonderful feeling of freedom I had while I was on the road in the Northwest.

  2. #2

    Default Day 1 - South Dakota

    The only bad part of this trip, if there was a "bad part," was the drive to get into position for the sightseeing. I had to drive 1,500 miles to Sioux Falls, South Dakota before I could start taking pictures. I also had to drive home from Denver, Colorado over the flat plains of Kansas and on down to Georgia over familiar and boring territory.

    All of the preliminary planning really paid off, because I know that I saw things that millions of folks drive right on by without ever knowing they are so close to a breathtaking sight. My best example of that took place over in central Washington at a place named Frenchman coulee. You will see what I mean later in this journal.

    But enough of the explanations, it is time to go on a brief and scenic ride with me through the northwestern corner of this great country. I will not bore you with the first and last three days of travel, but will start off as though the trip begins in South Dakota and ends in Colorado.

    First stop, the Corn Palace in Mitchell. This is the only building in the world that is decorated once a year with artwork composed almost totally with ears of corn. The ears are different colors, but mostly yellow, brown and black. Native grasses are used where appropriate, but as you can see, corn is the main medium.

    Yes, I admit it is pretty corny as a beginning picture, but you have to agree with me that it is unique.

    Even the inside of the building is decorated with corn art, but it wasn't open at the time I visited. Instead, I can show you some of the outside work in progress.

    On across the state, I skipped the Badlands and Wall Drug (been there, done that) and went directly to the Black Hills. I had been to Mount Rushmore several times previously, but a major renovation took place in the last ten years. What used to be a terraced parking area is now two multi-level garages, the Washington Garage and the Lincoln Garage no less.

    The grounds now have a full granite plaza, a walk of state flags, and a huge amphitheater.

    There is also a walking trail that goes right up to the base of the mountain for a heads-up view of the presidents.

    Another picture that I had attempted to take about thirty years ago, but was thwarted by rain then, I was able to get this time around. It is taken from a tunnel on the Iron Mountain Road which just happens to look out across to the Mount Rushmore Memorial about five miles distant.

    On my loop trip around to Iron Mountain Road, I also saw the progress on Chief Crazy Horse Monument, but I must say that it hasn’t come along very fast. It looked somewhat similar to what I remembered from our trip to the Black Hills in 1991. Eighteen years, and there is very little to show for it. I’m beginning to doubt that it will ever be finished.

    Another interesting sight that did impress me was the great job that has been done to clean up the undergrowth and fallen trees in the entire Black Hills forest. All along the roads I saw huge stacks of wood. Someone has taken a lot of time and effort to clear the area so that forest fires will not be as severe as they have been in other areas of the country. It sets a good example for others.

    The picture above shows some of the piles of brush that were readied for removal from the forest. Note the green growth among the trees.

    This is a good place to rest for the first night in Rapid City, twenty miles from the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-10-2010 at 03:24 PM. Reason: removed the extra photo tag

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Nice report unfolding

    Nice work, getting your field report underway --

    Looking forward to reading the rest of the thread.


  4. #4

    Default Day 2 - Wyoming and Montana

    Having awakened at my hotel in Rapid City and breakfasted at a buffet, I headed west into Wyoming and Montana with Bozeman my destination that night. I had a beautiful day until I had passed Billings and then the rain came, and it came with a vengeance. Of course, I was through with my sightseeing for the day by then, so it was a minor distraction to my driving.

    I went off the interstate to see Devils Tower, the monument that was featured-and probably introduced to many moviegoers-in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the Steven Spielberg film starring a young Richard Dreyfuss.

    Devils Tower is certainly awe inspiring, even more so than in the movies. You first see it from miles away as a huge monolith poking up over the rolling hills of eastern Wyoming. As you get closer, you can make out the tubes of rock that give it the appearance of a monstrous pipe organ.

    There were several climbers on the south face, the one away from the visitor center. I later learned that June is the month that the National Park Service observes the Indian taboos against defiling a sacred ground the tower represents. They discourage all climbing and will not issue permits to park visitors, so those climbers were doing so illegally.

    Up close, the tower is really quite majestic and the lava tubes are really visible. Devils Tower rises 867 feet from the base to the top.

    After leaving Devils Tower, I got back to the interstate and drove on toward Montana. However, I stopped for a stretch just outside of Buffalo, Wyoming and took a picture of my first view of the Rockies, blanketed with snow, even in mid-June.

    Being a history buff, I couldn't pass the site of The Battle of The Little Bighorn where George Custer made his infamous "last stand" against overwhelming odds. The tribes commanded by Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Crazy Horse, among others, were 2,000 strong, while Custer only had about 220 troops under his immediate command with a reserve force of about that many under Major Benteen and Captain Reno. Nevertheless, he attacked, and what ensued has been chronicled as one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the US Military.

    This is the place, Greasy Grass Hill, where Custer and his scouts first saw the encampment of the Sioux. The Little Bighorn River is out among the trees below.

    The battlefield is not what I had thought, and not a level playing field at all. The whole conflict took place on a ridge of hills and valleys that covered about 4 miles.

    When the battle was over, the Indians gathered their wounded and dead and departed, leaving the cavalry soldiers scattered over the fields. When Benteen and Reno arrived on the scene, they buried the soldiers where they fell. Thus, the battlefield is marked by many individual and small group headstones, which you can see in the background.

    There are many headstones at Last Stand Hill where the final chapter in the slaughter took place. However, in 1881 all troopers’ bodies were disinterred and reburied in a mass grave. The original headstones weren't disturbed. The one with the flag alongside is Custer’s.

    It is hard to believe, even now, that I was heading into a huge thunderstorm just a few miles ahead, but that was what awaited me, and it lasted throughout the night.
    Last edited by Harry Kline; 04-11-2010 at 07:27 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Nice work.

    Thanks whenlick, I am enjoying reading your well written and informative report, and the photo's add so much more.

    Looking forward to more !

  6. #6

    Default Day 3 - Montana

    My third day turned out to be one of those days when nothing goes right. I left Bozeman is a light drizzle, but the clouds soon parted and I thought I was going to have another bright sunny day. I only had about 200 miles to drive before I reached Missoula, but I had gone from rain to sun to rain again. Still, I had hopes that my travel north would get me clear of the weather.

    I started up the road to Flathead Lake and immediately was in a construction zone. It was Sunday, so I wasn't concerned about men and equipment, but the road was torn up, and I mean it was down to the sub-layer of mud. I drove over it for about 30 miles and was about to turn around and go back. I asked a local resident about the construction and he assured me that I would be out of it in another five miles, so I pressed on. Sure enough, I got onto good road, but then I missed a turn for the National Bison Range, a huge refuge for bison and several other forms of wildlife. To go back would have entailed a twenty mile backtrack, so I decided to skip it. I'm sorry I did.

    There was a rest area near the town of St. Ignatius, where I got my first glimpse of the Mission Mountains, named for the St. Ignatius Mission, although they were partially blanketed in clouds. Still, I snapped a picture of the range in the distance.

    Continuing north, I eventually reached Flathead Lake, a large inland lake with many islands and several state parks along the banks. It might be a remnant of prehistoric Lake Missoula, which formed the Scablands in Washington State. More on that later. I followed the shoreline for miles, with lots of nice views. However, it was not good picture-taking weather.

    I reached the little tourist town of Somers and turned east to round the top of Flathead Lake. At that point, I was as close to Glacier National Park as I was going to get. GNP was still 40-50 miles away, but the mountains were nice and the sky was showing signs of clearing.

    Driving east to the base of those mountains, I then turned south to go down the east side of Flathead Lake to the town of Seeley Lake. Once again, the rain caught up to me, and I drove through another downpour. However, the scenery was pretty nice as I was going through the Lolo National Forest, and on both sides of the road there were large-stemmed flowers with huge white blossoms. There were thousands of them growing wild in the forest. I asked about them in town, and was told that they are called beargrass, and the blooms are short-lived, so I was lucky to have seen them at all.

    I couldn't take a decent picture of the beargrass due to the heavy rain, but I came across some of them later in the trip, so here is what they look like. This stand was on the road to Mount St. Helens in Washington State.

    Just after I left the town of Seeley Lake, I came to another small mountain lake, this one named Salmon Lake, and the weather had cleared enough for me to get a few good photos of this one. At least the day ended on a bright note for me.

    As you can see, the weather had once again changed, and Salmon Lake was under a bright blue sky. It’s hard to see, but the island in the center of the picture has a nice home on it, accessible only by boat.

    If I had had more time, I might have visited the Smoke Jumpers Museum at the Missoula Airport, where they train firemen for the task of parachuting in to fight the forest fires that seem all too frequent in that part of the country. I suspect they might use some of the B-26 planes that I worked on in the US Air Force back in the 1950s. However, it was Sunday night, so the museum was out. As I said in the beginning, it was just one of those days.

  7. #7

    Default Day 4 - Washington State

    This was one of the best days on my trip. I started out of Missoula and drove across the narrowest part of Idaho to Coeur D'Alene and then on to Spokane, Washington. All of that was done on I-90, but when I got to Spokane I took a planned detour on a country road that took me over to Coulee City. Just after crossing the dam there (not the Grand Coulee Dam, that is farther up the river) I made a turn onto another road that led me to the Visitors Center for Dry Falls.

    Dry Falls is really not a waterfall at all now, but it once was a fall ten times the size of Niagara in width and a Little higher as well. It was formed toward the end of the Ice Age, when an ice dam that held back Lake Missoula broke and a huge flood ensued across what would someday be the state of Washington. Scientists and geologists estimate that the flooding only lasted a short time, but it gouged out what is now called the Scablands. Dry falls was a part of that, and the rock formations in the vicinity do resemble scabs.

    In order to show you the entire Dry Falls cliff, I would have had to take five photos. However, with the aid of technology, we can blend them into a single panoramic picture. The panoramic picture came out too small, but I found later that pan pictures work better if the camera is rotated 90 degrees to take vertical photos. when stitched together, the finished picture is wider and more detailed.

    Those lakes down below are all part of Sun Lakes State Park, by the way, a campground complete with RV hookups.

    After leaving Dry Falls, I drove down through the valley and through some of those scablands for about 60 miles to the town of George--yes, there is a town called George, Washington. There is a huge amphitheater outside of the town, but I passed that up for another natural wonder.

    At exit 143 on I-90 there are no services and no buildings at all. Instead, it is just a road called Silica Road. Just about a quarter mile off the interstate on Silica you come to another named Vantage Road. A left turn onto Vantage takes you into Frenchman Coulee. The road winds for seven miles down through the coulee all the way to the Columbia River, which is about a mile wide at that point. (A coulee is defined as a deep gulch with sloping sides, often dry in summer)

    Frenchman Coulee has cliff sides and is deep with lots of rock formations in it and the road down to the river is very scenic. Notice the windmill farm on the ridge across the river, by the way.

    Toward the bottom of the road, there is a great view of the Columbia River and the I-90 Bridge which spans it a few miles below Frenchman Coulee.

    It really is sad that thousands, if not millions of people pass this landmark every year without knowing that it is there. Frenchman Coulee is a playground for hikers, rock climbers and rock hounds. Shown above is a formation called The Feathers. There are three people at the base of the rocks in the center of the picture. Can you find them?

    Having seen Dry Falls and Frenchman Coulee, you would think I would be ready to quit for the day, but I had one other destination in mind. If you ever watched the 1990s cult TV show "Twin Peaks" you'll recall that the opening of each show featured a waterfall with a hotel alongside it.

    Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Hotel are situated just east of Seattle and a short distance from I-90, so I was determined to see them. It was a neat detour and I got a great picture there.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-17-2010 at 12:43 AM.

  8. #8

    Default Day 5 – Washington State

    No, I didn't go up in the Space Needle or to the Boeing Aircraft Plant while I was in Seattle. I went to the Boeing Plant In 1990, while I was still working for American Airlines. That trip was courtesy of AA and Boeing, and included both plants and all airplanes in production at that time. I found a brochure in my hotel that listed the cost per person to tour just one of the plants at $58, so that was quite a bargain for me.

    I did take two scenic loop drives, one around Mount Rainier and the other up to the Johnston Overlook at Mount St. Helens.

    Harry Johnston was a photographer who thought he could photograph the Mount St. Helens eruption from a distance of about ten miles. He underestimated the power of the volcano by about seven miles, and he perished. The overlook, although not the place where Johnston died, is a memorial to him. The drive to the overlook was 108 miles round trip. There were no side roads after the first ten miles, so the road from there on was built for only one purpose: to get to the Johnston Overlook, but it was a neat drive and had lots of viewpoints on the way.

    The first picture is of Mt. Rainier, and you can see that it is snow-covered and somewhat difficult to see. The rest of the photos were taken at Mt. St. Helens, a much more interesting subject.

    Notice that the river below the overlook is still a sea of volcanic concrete even 29 years after the eruption. The only flowing water is the white line running horizontally through it. That is what is left of the Toutle River. It was much wider before Mount St. Helens erupted and sent the flow of mud and lava down the riverbed.

    This is the head-on view of Mount St. Helens from the Johnston Overlook.

    They are still clearing the downed trees, which were blown down up to 17 miles from the mountain in a radial pattern such as that shown above by the parking lot of Johnston Overlook. The cleanup and restoration is a joint project between the government and Weyerhouser.

    The new plantings are called noble spruce. They appear very symmetrical and almost reminded me of the imitation Christmas trees we use these days. Each stand (forest) is marked with a sign with the year shown in which the trees were planted. This stand was planted in the late 1980s.

    From here on I will try to post a travel tip at somewhere within the journal posting. Today's tip concerns hotels. I always try to book in advance of my trips with a chain of hotels that suits my comfort level and offers rewards for membership and stays. I save travel expenses and sometimes even get free room upgrades in addition to the reward nights. On this trip I saved four nights of hotel costs amounting to over $300.
    Last edited by Harry Kline; 04-13-2010 at 10:03 AM. Reason: Changed picture within the post

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Great Photos once again

    That panorama shot of the Dry Falls area is very cool and I did enjoy the introduction to the Frenchman Coulee area. Very nice.


  10. #10

    Default Day 6 - Oregon

    I stayed in Portland for two nights--kind of a resting up place, since it is the middle of my trip--but I did take an interesting drive today. Interstate 84 goes along the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, and has numerous state parks.

    The parks feature some spectacular waterfalls. I had to hike up to them, so I got good exercise, too. It was a four-mile round-trip, and all uphill for the first half. Whew! However, I did it all with frequent stops, and it was well worth the effort.

    This babbling brook was running alongside the trail. In some places, there were tree bridges, or rock steps across the stream. The water is spring-fed and very cold, so it kept the air along the path kind of cool too. As you can see, the vegetation was lush and abundant.

    The trail was paved for the first half of the trek, with plenty of switchbacks...

    But then it became hardscrabble and an ankle twister.
    The three waterfalls, in case you're interested, are

    Wahkeenah Falls,

    Fairy Falls, and

    Multnomah Falls. All are beautiful, and Multnomah Falls is actually two separate falls, one of 542 feet and the second of 69 feet with a pool between them.

    I show you the Washington State side of the Columbia River Gorge, too, because that is the height I had to climb to view all three waterfalls--about 800 feet.

    Mount Hood is shown in this picture. It is more impressive than Mount Rainier up by Seattle, and is visible from downtown Portland.

    There are several ski resorts on the face of Mt. Hood. This one is called Mt. Hood Meadows, but it is right below the tree line and well up the side of the mountain. Nobody was skiing, but there certainly were a lot of cars and buses in the lot.

    I arrived back at my hotel just in time for an early dinner at one of a chain of restaurants called Shari’s Restaurant. The restaurants are only located in the Northwest, unfortunately for me. The food was good and the prices were very reasonable, less than $10 for an excellent pot roast dinner complete with a free slice of rhubarb pie and a senior discount. I ate at Shari’s three times on this trip and loved the meals every time.

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