Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy: My Fan In Malta, Montana!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... Today I'm happy because I got pictures from a fan!

You may recall that I had a not-so-happy time when Macgellan and I were in Malta, MT, over the Fourth of July, because I really, really, really don't like fireworks!

A good thing about our time there was that I got to meet Willa and we became the best of friends!

It was so nice of her to send me these photos, showing how she loved me and I loved her right back!

Something I've learned: No matter how bad someplace is, there's always something good there too!

Thanks, Willa!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy: Life As A Left-Handed Dog!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... I'm also always a left-handed dog!

Being a left-handed dog means I always circle around things to the left, or what you humans would call counter-clockwise. When I say "I always circle around things to the left" what I mean is that I always circle around everything to the left.

For reasons I can't really explain, being a left-handed dog sometimes gets me stuck in odd places.

I don't really mind getting stuck, though, because if I just sit and wait until Macgellan sees me, he has a good laugh then gets me unstuck!

Sometimes this happens more than two (which is as high as I can count) times in a day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy: Pacific Northwest Camp

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... Today I'm very happy about my new Pacific Northwest Camp!

Because of all the really bad fires in Washington State, Macgellan and I skipped the rest of our planned route across the state and headed straight to the Seattle area. We are now parked in a really nice RV park, in a space right next to a small lake. As you can see, I have been spending lots of time out in the sunshine, enjoying my naps in peace and quiet.

For those times when I don't feel like being out in the open, I've made several little dens for myself.

This one is in the pine needles at the base of a large tree that makes our campsite very secluded.

I also have two hidden dens under the tall, thick hedges that give us privacy on both sides of our rig.

I've even got a bed under the camper for when I'm hiding from the rain or thunder, and of course I've always got my Igloo dog house under the awning right outside the camper door.

If all else fails, the back seat of my truck is always a comfy spot!

I have to take a lot of naps just to use all my sleeping places!

After four solid months on the road, we're both ready to be in one place for a while. Macgellan says we're going to be here for at least a few months and maybe through the winter. That's fine by me!

I'm sure we'll do some fun stuff (besides sleep) while we're here, so I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Roosevelt Lake

In my post on Monday, I mentioned that Kettle Falls, WA, is on the shores of Roosevelt Lake, which was formed by backing up the Columbia River over 100 miles away at Grand Coulee Dam.

Happy and I took a nice long walk today, along one of the bluffs overlooking the lake. We got this nice panorama photo (Thanks again, iPhone!) and think it's worth sharing! (Click to embiggen)

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WA Hwy 20: Plan C

The wildfires in north-central Washington remain almost entirely uncontained, and new fires are being reported throughout the area. Both my intended route west (WA20) and my first alternate (US2) remain closed. Here's a little graphic that may help you to better see the situation:

The Carlton Complex fire is huge, now approaching 400 square miles. That's at least four times the size of the Seattle metropolitan area. Here's a map that shows its approximate size and shape. Be sure to look at the scale and try to imagine if this fire was burning in your area:

It has become clear to me that another day or two isn't going to bring any hope of the road being reliably open. Even if it opens in one place, it's very likely to be closed again in another. The last thing I want to do is get stuck in the middle of all that. The small reward just isn't worth the big risk.

So, I'm now looking at Plan C: Heading south to I-90 then west to Ellensburg and approaching Seattle from the southeast. That probably means nothing for any of you who are unfamiliar with the roads in Washington, so here's another nifty little graphic that may make it clearer for you:

I'll shave some of that distance off by heading southwest out of Kettle Falls on state highways, instead of going down and around through Spokane. It should be a relatively easy two-stint drive.

After four solid months on the road, I'm really fine with this alternative. I've already seen and done plenty on this expedition, and I'm feeling ready to be in one place for a while again... Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Monday, July 21, 2014

WA Hwy 20: Part 1 -- Newport To Kettle Falls

With the largest forest fires in the state's history raging out of control throughout north-central Washington, it is entirely possible that WA Hwy 20 will remain closed in places and I will not be able to complete my intended end-to-end transit. Nevertheless, I'm determined to give it a go and hope that my relatively slow pace of western movement will allow time for conditions to evolve in my favor!

WA Hwy 20 begins in the town of Newport, just inside the state's eastern border. Although it is a significant route across the top tier of the state, only a simple overhead sign indicates its origin.

Heading up the Pend Oreille River valley, the region is a mix of agriculture and forested mountains. As you can see, smoke from fires over a hundred miles away is dense enough to reduce visibility.

As the valley narrows, the road runs quite close to the river and offers a number of nice views. As you might imagine, the corresponding railway line is also quite near, just out of view on the left.

At the tiny crossroads town of Tiger, WA20 turns west to follow the Little Pend Oreille River. It makes a long, steep and twisty climb through heavily wooded forest, then over a pass before descending.

Heading west down the valley to Colville and Kettle Falls is a very pretty drive. Looking at the terrain, it's easy to see how the grass and timber can be so flammable in the dry season.

I'm in a perfectly satisfactory little RV park in Kettle Falls, a small lumber town where the river runs into Roosevelt Lake. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir of the Columbia River, backed up over a hundred miles from its use to generate power at Grand Coulee Dam.

For a thousand years before the Dam was built, this area was a major salmon fishing area for native peoples and a significant crossroads for trappers and traders. All of that is gone now, of course, though the small local museum and interpretive center do their best to preserve the memory.

My plan is to stay here for three days, partly to check out the area but mostly to see what happens with the fires and roads to the west... Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Washington Wildfire Watch & Wait

Happy and I are now just inside the northeast border of Washington state, enjoying a few days of R&R in this lovely wooded campsite. It is quite large, semi-secluded and very peaceful... Perfect!

I think it may be Happy's favorite campsite ever, owing particularly to the surrounding woods. She has made herself quite a nice little alpine doggie den, in which she is quite well camouflaged. (Can you see her in the photo below left?) Her relaxation is complete and she's making the most of it!

I'm relaxing, too, though not quite as much due to challenges ahead in the form of huge, uncontained wildfires in the middle of the state. You've probably seen them on the news... They're raging!

My plan has been to drive Washington SR20 across the top tier of the state, all the way from the eastern border at Newport to Anacortes on the Puget Sound. It's a beautiful road that I've driven parts of before, and I've been looking forward to doing an end-to-end transit in the weeks ahead.

Because of the fires, WA20 is currently closed right smack in the middle of the state. I'm not planning to be there for about a week, and am hopeful that it will reopen by the time I get there. If not, I'll head south and take my old friend US2 across the mountains, though that road is also closed at the moment because of the fires. Worst case, I'll drop farther south and drive I-90 west to Seattle.

There's nothing I can do besides watch and wait, making short hops west as conditions permit... Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Glacier NP: "Going-to-the-Sun Road"

Glacier National Park's famous "Going-to-the-Sun Road" has been on my "Drive List" for years. Because it's only open for a brief period during the summer, I've never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. When I heard it had finally opened last week, I decided this was the year.

Starting from the east side near St. Mary, MT, the road begins as a gentle climb up the valley. A large fire to the north has unfortunately blanketed the area with a smoky haze, but you can still how beautiful Glacier NP is, and why it is one of the very best in the country.

A few miles later, the road ascends much more steeply. The abrupt drop-off and blasted rock (plus a couple of "interesting" tunnels) give you an idea of what went into building the road.

Just over the summit at Logan Pass, you get an excellent view back down the valley, and a good view across to your route down the other side. It's not as gradual as it looks!

There was a lot of traffic, so I tried to take my photos in the gaps. Don't let the single car in this shot fool you, it's a heavily traveled road full of drivers who want to go at all different speeds.

I can't say it's the best road I've ever driven, but it definitely deserves a place in the top dozen or so. The long, steady, winding route down the valley offers consistently beautiful views.

Down in the valley, the road follows a river to the main tourist/visitor facilities at Lake McDonald. From there, it's a short drive farther to the West Glacier gate.

If you ever visit Glacier NP, the "Going-to-the-Sun Road" is pretty much a mandatory activity. Plan on using an entire day to cover the 50 mile road at a good pace for viewing and frequent stops, then either turn around and go back the same way or — my suggestion — drive the very pretty US2 return route around the southern border of the Park.

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.