Greetings to all,
Well, our last full month on the road is behind us. Almost every day was stuffed with work and fun. We completed our research of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area and Gifford Pinchot National Forest (NF) and than revisited Idaho's St. Joe and Montana's Lolo national forests before arriving in Ennis, Montana for our annual visit with Tyler and his parents.
Gifford Pinchot NF was our last forest in the Pacific Northwest Region. The Cowlitz River flows across the northern part of the Forest like a slow and lazy undersize Mississippi River through Big Bottom (got to love the name) Valley. Last November, a huge devastating storm hit Washington. We'd been seeing the wind damage all through the state but, in the Gifford, the number of trees lining Cowlitz River give us a better idea of the storm's destruction force. One meadow we passed regularly was dotted with fat cows grazing between dead trees carried there by the River like so many Pick-up-Stick.
Some of Gifford campgrounds we surveyed, tucked back into the forest and stretched along rivers and around lakes that fed the Cowlitz River, are for off-road vehicle recreation enthusiasts. Unlike most campgrounds we have surveyed that cater to this activity, we were pleasantly surprised to see these campgrounds not overused and looking tired. And the Forest hasn't forgotten equestrian campers. One of the oldest campgrounds in possibly prettiest camping location in the area was Walupt Lake. At the very edge of the Goat Rocks Wilderness, this campground features a lake full of the clearest, coldest water you have every seen with Nannie Peak as the backdrop. Perfect for exploring by canoe, there are also a number of hiking trails for folks without a paddle. And there is a small but spacious horse camp nearby. The Washington Backcountry Horsemen Association has helped to develop and build many horse, or equestrian, camps, like this one. This is great except these campground are for the exclusion of campers with horses. Oh well, maybe that will change if the occupancy numbers are low.
In the south end of the Gifford, in the middle of a cluster of campgrounds, is the quaint little town Trout Lake. This town is so small you can walk from one end to the other in about 10 minutes. The town has a General Store that is the grocery, hardware, video, clothing, and drug store. Trout Lake's only gas station has a coffee shoppe on one side and a café serving all three meals and the best huckleberry milk shade in town. While there, the High School had a couple of volleyball games (varsity and jr) and parking lot was completely full. You got to love small town high school spirit.
After surveying the campgrounds around Trout Lake, we were off to do the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It is a beautiful location but we found not one overlook and pull-out from which visitors can stop and enjoy the scenery. On the north side of the River is Washington State Rt. 14, a narrow, two-lane road full of semi-trucks. The Oregon side has the high speed, four-lane Interstate 84. Overall, the Gorge wasn't our "cup of tea." FYI: from what we saw, the Gorge really is a national forest in every way but in name.
As you have heard up from us all summer, weather hasn't been outstanding. Sorry to say, once we completed the Pacific Northwest Region, the weather did a nose dive. Not only was it damp, but the morning dew was getting frosted. However, we have learned, a frosty climate produces warm hearts. We enjoyed returning to St. Joe and Lolo Nfs and seeing changes, improvements, and, in one or two cases, the decline. Our primary reasons for revisiting these campgrounds was to take GPS coordinates and to get some new and/or better photographs. Fred is working hard at getting the Wenatchee NF up on the web (that sucker is HUGE!) but should have the new photographs for St. Joe and Lolo soon. Hope you take a few minutes to see the improvements in those Forests and in our photographs for those Forests.
We decided to celebrate this year's accomplishments with a steak dinner and, fortunately, Seeley Lake, Montana offered an outstanding opportunity called Lindey's Prime Steak House. So delicious and so fitting a celebration of all we have accomplished. Who could have thought, fifteen years ago as we were enjoying our camping trip in eastern Canada, someday we would spend month after month, year after year, camping, researching, surveying, and photographing our magnificent national forests.
Next year we will be off for Alaska to do the Tongass and Chuguk Nfs. Some of you might ask, "So what's next?" Our plan is to revisit national forests and, this time, be true visitors, experiencing as much of the forest as possible. But first, we will do for the National Grasslands what we did National Forests. So our adventure continues.
October will see us spending time spoiling Tyler and than heading home. So, until we start our sojourn to Alaska, we hope you have a great fall and winter. Hope to hear about your adventures soon.
Suzi and Fred