Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wet Portland

We spend a few days outside of Portland. It's a great city but unfortunately it rained most of the time, following the script for this part of the country. We did get a nice bike ride in one day before the rain, and went into the city for a fun evening. 

The place we stayed was by far the nicest State Park we've ever been in. Huge spots, biking and hiking trails and great amenities.  

Our site at Stub Stewart State Park
40 minutes from Portland
We went into the city for a nice dinner one evening - and because it was my birthday we capped it off with a dessert at Voodoo Doughnut. This place is a favorite with the locals in Portland and deservedly so. We had to wait in line at 10 pm on a Sunday night, but it was worth the wait.

I didn't have my camera with me so I borrowed this pic from the web.

"Old Dirty Bastard" from Voodoo Doughnuts 
I admit that while I enjoyed every bite of this decadent monster, I would probably take it down a notch next time. Denise had the Portland cream which she enjoyed immensely. When in Portland, stop by and try this place out.

We also enjoyed going to a few Oregon wineries and sampling several Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. Our favorite was Lemelson, a place we had been to in 2006. The motorhome is now officially at capacity, and we might need to buy a trailer to haul the stuff we plan to buy in Sonoma and Napa unless we do some serious drinking between now and then. 

Oregon Pinot Noir Vineyards

The Northwest Corner of the Lower 48

When in the Olympic Peninsula we visited Cape Flattery, the Northwestern-most corner of the contiguous United States.  

It's a long drive to the corner of the country (2 hours from where we were staying in Port Angeles). The Cape is on a Makah Indian reservation and you need to stop at the museum to purchase a pass before driving to the trailhead. The Makah have built a beautiful boardwalk trail which leads to the cape. The views are rewarding.

Cape Flattery, the Northwestern corner of the lower 48

Tattoosh Island with Cape Flattery Lighthouse
It was a long way here, but worth the journey. Maybe we'll get to the easternmost point next year (West Quoddy Head, Maine). 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Boeing Factory

While near Seattle we dropped in to the Boeing Factory for a tour. I've been in seat 4K on the BA 777 so many times that I wanted to see how they were built.

The factory tour was very interesting. They take you into the largest building in the world by volume where there are several planes in various stages of construction. You see 747's, 777's and the new 787. 

Unfortunately, they don't let you take photos on the tour. In fact, there is a serious-looking security guard checking for cameras. I guess they are afraid of Airbus stealing their secrets. But I was able to get some pictures of the outside of the building and the planes after they were just finished being built. 

A small part of the largest building in the world
Finished planes with protective plastic film 
When the tour was finished I noticed a bunch of people with cameras near the runway adjacent to the factory. They were waiting for a brand new 787 taking off on a test flight. I grabbed my camera from the car.

Brand new 787 on it's first flight - built for LAN of Chile. 

I like the swept wing design of the 787.
Hopefully they finally got the bugs worked out. 

At the end of the tour they give you the price list. The 747 costs about $360 million but you can get a brand new 787 for a mere 250 million. Seats are extra. 

If you are near Seattle and like airplanes, I recommend this tour.

Monday, September 16, 2013

San Juan Islands

We stayed in Anacortes Washington and took a ferry to the San Juan Islands. First we visited Orcas Island and went to Moran State park. It's a curvy road up to the top of Mount Constitution where the views are fantastic.

Amazing views of the Islands with Mt Baker in the background
On the trip up we passed lots of cyclists climbing the 2500 foot mountain - it's a 5 mile trip straight up with some grades at 15%. Wow. 

We prefer our bike rides a bit flatter, so we took the ferry from Orcas to Lopez Island and took a great ride along the bay.

When in Puget Sound, take a ferry!
Saw a tug hauling a house on a barge
Nice House! 
We returned to Anacortes after a wonderful full day in the San Juans! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Washington State - Great Red Wines

We had some fantastic red wines in Washington State. We stayed a few days in the Tri-cities and visited the Walla Walla and Red Mountain areas. Both were great but I'd give the edge to Walla Walla for their cabs, cab blends and syrah.

The area is very hot and sunny which helps the wine grapes get dark and concentrated. The region gets 300+ days of sun each year, and the temp was a pleasant dry 88 degrees when we were there.

Some of our favorite wineries were Woodward Canyon, Dunham, Hightower and Terra Blanca, and our absolute favorite was Long Shadows. This winery employs several wine-makers from around the world to each make a specific wine. The cab (made by Randy Dunn from Caymus) was wonderful. The bordeaux-style blend ("Red Wine" made by Gilles Nicault) was fantastic. After we purchased some wine, we were introduced to Gilles and he signed one of the bottles! 

The harvest is coming a few weeks early this year because of the hot weather this summer. We were lucky enough to witness some grapes being de-stemmed and crushed at Hightower of Red Mountain, a small winery run by a husband and wife team (and their yellow lab Riley). 

Freshly picked Merlot grapes waiting to be crushed
About half of the merlot harvest from this small winery
Winemaker/owners Kelly and Tim Hightower 
Winemaking isn't a glamorous as it sounds!
Overall, it was a great wine experience. We'll compare to Oregon and California and report back.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Wild caprids

A "caprid" is a goat-antelope, a subfamily of bovids which includes mountain goats and bighorn sheep. We saw a few of these at Logan Pass which is at the top of the "Going to the Sun Road" in Glacier NP. 

The bighorn sheep came right into the parking lot. We spotted them and I snapped this photo just when they climbed onto some rocks - a lucky shot with Reynolds Mountain the background. 

The mountain goats were right next to the trail that we took to Hidden Lake. A mother and her kid even walked up the trail toward us and then diverted around us. 

Mom and Kid
A goat going around us on the trail
We really enjoyed getting close to these wild animals, but we may have been too close to the bighorns. We heard later from a ranger that they can ram you if they feel cornered, and even have been known to kill! We survived. 

Glacier National Park

Glacier is a great place for driving, hiking and boating. The "Going to the Sun Road" climbs over Logan Pass traversing 50 miles from West Glacier to St Mary with amazing views. It was built in the 1930's and is one of the most impressive mountain roads I've ever been on.

Here are some photos which might give an idea of the scale. 

From an overlook on the way up to Logan Pass.
They call this the "Garden Wall"
St Mary Lake on the east side of the mountains
Hidden Lake - a 1.5 mile hike from Logan Pass
The westbound direction is much better for the driver - it really feels like you are "going to the sun" when you travel westbound in the afternoon. I highly recommend you take this drive if you get a chance. I think early in the season (May/June) would be best because the waterfalls would be running strong and there would be snow on the mountains.

On the west side is Lake McDonald and some interesting waterfalls. 

Lake McDonald
McDonald Creek
We stayed in a very nice RV resort in West Glacier and they provided a full-sized BBQ with a patio set - one of the nicest KOA's we've ever been in. 

Our Patio site at West Glacier KOA
We also visited the Two Medicine and Many Glacier regions of Glacier NP (we saw a bear, see earlier post). Overall, it was a great visit to the "Crown of the Continent." 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hot springs and geysers

Yellowstone National Park is most famous for it's various thermal features. The colors and diversity were fascinating. Here are a few of our favorites.

The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the park and the most colorful. The spring itself is an eerie blue because of the clarity and depth of the water, and there are red thermophilic bacteria growing around it along with some pinkish mineral deposits. The best view is from above (GPS from above) but the trek to the top of the mountain was above my pay grade so I took this shot standing on a bench.  
Grand Prismatic Spring
While "Old Faithful" is the most famous geyser, we kind of liked this little one which happened to erupt as we passed by. 
A small geyser whose name I don't know
I liked the cones (some geysers have them, some don't) and especially this one called pink cone.
Pink Cone
One thing you may notice about my photos - many have interesting clouds and light. I'm learning that for landscape photography, this is as important as the subject. Of course you need to get lucky with the weather, and I have many photos with ugly gray skies which don't make it to the blog.

Another hot spring with a cool blue tint. These things are all over the place. This one has some yellow-ish bacteria around it. 

I'll leave off the shot of Old Faithful - the sky was gray that day.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Finally... a bear!

We (especially Denise) have been diligently looking for a bear for a few weeks. We just missed seeing one in Yellowstone, but today in Glacier we saw 2! I got some pictures of this guy through the trees by the side of the road in the Many Glacier region.

This appears to be an adult Black bear sporting a white spot on his chest. We got out of our car (along with several other people who stopped to check him out) but stayed a good distance away. He didn't care about us and went about his business eating berries. 

He or she looks to be about 300-400 lbs

You can see him (her?) eating the berries
She seems to be smiling at us!
OK, we can check that box now! Next stop moose. 

Wildlife in Yellowstone

Here is some of the wildlife we saw in Yellowstone. There were tons of elk (mostly female) were seen every evening along the Madison river, and I was lucky enough to get some close-ups. 

Note the tracking device.
Several elk we saw were sporting these.
Bull Elk posing for my camera
Cow and calf elk in the Madison river
Nice bull elk
Another cow tagged with a tracking device

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Definitely the highlight of Yellowstone in my opinion is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. It's almost unreal with its colors of yellow, green and red, but it really looks like this:

We took a hike on the north rim of the canyon and got some great views of the upper and lower falls. Amazing to see it up close:

The only problem is that we had to walk back up 600 feet from the brink of the lower falls. We drove around to the south rim and got these classic shots (same as all the postcards):

What is so impressive about Yellowstone is its size and diversity. Besides the canyon and waterfalls, there is also the unique thermal features like Old Faithful and the grand prismatic spring, a huge alpine lake, abundant wildlife and some great hiking. We spent a week here and saw different things every day.