Day Nine–Back to the U.S. of A.

I got to drive back over Highway 3 again, but I came into the country at a different border crossing—a teeny, tiny one with no line. (And, again, I didn’t take any pictures. I’m an idiot.) I came into Idaho and drove down to Libby, Montana. I camped at a campground on the Kootenai River, right next to the Libby Dam. It was quiet and peaceful. The only other campers were way down the road from me, and I was right on the river. I even had shade. I made dinner (cooked some Penticton potatoes that I didn’t declare at the border–illegal potatoes!!) and had a beer while I watched the eagles fly over the river. Lovely and peaceful. I slept well that night, not in the least worried about anyone walking up to my van. I didn’t even close the curtains. This was a free campground.

My site on the Kootenai River near the Libby Dam.
The Kootenai River.
My nearest neighbors.

Day Eight—Labor Day, Camping near Penticton

We got up early, and I followed Carlo and Tracy to their favorite place to camp near home. I took us about an hour and a half to get there, and most of that was driving on a dirt road. As I followed, I wondered why we were going to FAR. We went way past all the other campers I saw. But then, when we stopped, I figured out why. Their secluded spot was right near the river, and Ichabod, their four-year-old dog, loves to chase chipmunks. He barks his head off while he does so, and where we were camped, no one could hear us. We were completely isolated. 

Our beautiful camping spot.
Carlo kept the fire going the whole time we were there. And although the dogs had their beds, they both dug holes in the ground to rest in. Ichabod was especially pooped after his chipmunk-chasing adventures.

Carlo and Tracy have a really nice set up. I ate good (both lunch and dinner supplied by them), and we had a fire the whole time we were there. They have a lot of experience camping, and it shows.

Lunch. Dinner was French dip sandwiches. Plenty of IPAs, too.
The river was unusually low. Carlo gave me a helping hand to hike down there. (It wasn’t very far, but I’m decrepit.)
Ichabod (on the right) loves the water. He’s the barker. 🙂 Molly is deaf.

We went to bed early because I had a long drive the next day. 

Day Seven–Penticton

This day was all about exploring Penticton and spending time with family. Tracy’s parents came over for dinner. Such lovely people. They’re from Glasgow; they immigrated to Canada in the 70s. They still have their Glasgow accents, which was fun for me, since I have good friends in Glasgow.

One of Penticton’s many, many vineyards, this one with a fabulous view of the lake.
The fabulous Mr. and Mrs. Ferrari. If I hadn’t bought a Kawasaki back in the day, I never would have met them. They came to the second Red Lodge rally, and we’ve been friends ever since, along with a core group of people who became fast friends the same way.

Carlo took me for a drive around the area, and we stopped at a microbrewery, where I got a nice, strong IPA. Then it was back home, where I made green chile and we had smothered burritos. Nobody there had had Colorado/New Mexico style green chile, and I think they liked it. I brought four extra packages for their freezer.

I don’t have any bad tattoos, but I enjoyed the beer here, nevertheless. It can’e compete with City Star, though!

Rita and Al (the parents) are a lot of fun. Al reminded me a bit of dad because he immediately started telling me jokes. Rita is warm and a lot of fun. She takes good care of Al, who has had a lot of medical problems in the past few years. We watched a horror movie together (one I know for a fact my parents NEVER would have watched).

Day Six–Highway 3 to Penticton

I left Lake Pend Oreille and headed north to the border. The line at the border was LONG! When I got up to the border agent, he asked me the usual questions about whether I was bringing in drugs or fire arms, etc. If he asked whether I had pepper spray or bear spray. I told him I had both. Apparently, pepper spray is illegal in Canada, but bear spray isn’t. 🙂 It’s all about intent, he told me. I didn’t tell him that my intent with both sprays was to shoot a human who attacked me, not a bear. But I kept my mouth shut. I had to give up my pepper spray but crossed the border with the giant can of bear spray. 🙂

The drive along Highway 3 is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever taken. The road is mountainous and twisty, and all along the way there are lakes and rivers (including the Columbia). It was a fun road to drive, and I was wishing I’d been on a motorcycle. Next time.

Sadly, I was so busy driving that I didn’t stop to take pictures. There wasn’t really any place to stop, though, and since the road was so twisty, I was preoccupied with taking care with my driving.

I hadn’t realize how that the entire area where Carlo and Tracy live is a fruit-growing region. Once I got near Osoyoos, there was nothing but orchards and vineyards. I stopped to get some fruit to tae with me to the Ferrari’s house.

I got to Penticton in plenty of time for dinner, and we went out to a restaurant coincidentally named Casa Ferrari, where we had some excellent pizza. That night I slept in a comfortable bed, and I got to take a hot shower. Luxury! 🙂

Day Five–Lake Pend Oreille

I slept well last night (aided by half a sleeping pill and the dead quiet); didn’t wake until 9:00. It’s been overcast all day, which has helped with the heat.

I used the windshield repair kit, and it worked like a charm. From the inside, it looked like there was a huge hole in the windshield, but it was just a tiny pinprick; all the damage was inside. So I wasn’t sure the kit would work. But it did! You can’t even see where it happened now, and I saved a lot of money by not going to a glass shop to have it done.

Right now I’m sitting at a picnic table in front of the lake, just people watching. There’s a cool breeze coming off the lake.

This is the most southern end of the lake. It’s 43 miles long.
It was sunny the day I got here but overcast the whole day during my full day. It never did rain, though.

Day Four—Disappointment, Frustration, and Pleasure

The day started off pretty good, with a hot shower at my beautiful RV park on the Salmon River. But then it went downhill. I had picked up information at a Forest Service station on Lolo Highway about the viewpoints overlooking Hells Canyon, and I picked the one that looked easiest to get to. It was also the highest, so it supposedly affords the best views. If you can get to it.

I drove south to the town of Riggins; the road going up to Heavens Gate was supposed to be just south of the town. A forest service road. I had my GPS on map view, and I drove up and down the stretch of 95 for about 15 miles south of Riggins. I couldn’t find the damned road. I finally gave up, went into town, and got breakfast. There, I asked a local where the road was, and it turns out it’s labeled something completely different. OK, well, at least I got a good breakfast.

So I went to that road. It was paved for about 15 miles, so that was good, since it was steep and hilly. Then it turned into the dirt road I expected. The FS pamphlet said 18 miles of dirt road. I made it about two. The road was rough, and my poor van (and poor me) were shaken pretty bad. I decided to give it up, because by then it was nearly 10:00, and I still had a six-hour drive to Lake Pend Oreille.

So I started back up 95, and then I saw a sign for another access to Hells Canyon. Why not? So I took that road, and guess what? A moving truck was completely blocking it. I guess I wasn’t meant to see Hells Canyon. Not on this trip, anyway.

I did see a lot of interesting country along the Salmon River, though (some of it several times). But on the way north on 95, I drove for about 20 miles on a paved road that was covered in loose gravel. I kept WAY back from the cars in front of me, because I didn’t want to have rocks thrown up on my new windshield (bought by the previous owner). But wouldn’t you know it? A big truck came barreling along the opposite way and—bam! A HUGE rock hit the windshield, producing a good-sized chip with little runs on several sides of it. 

I drove on to Moscow, Idaho, where I stopped in at an Ace hardware store. Ace employees are the best! I was going to get some epoxy to temporarily fill in the chip until I can get home, but he came back with a windshield chip repair kit. I hope that it’ll work. I’m going to work on it tomorrow.

I stopped to get gas in Moscow and had an interesting conversation with a couple of college kids in the store. The clerk carded me for buying beer, and I jokingly said that I get Medicare next week. That led to a discussion of Medicare and Social Security and whether it’ll be there for their generation, plus talk about climate change. I apologized for the destruction that my generation and my parents’ generation have wreaked on the planet. It was a nice conversation. I’d been passing so many Trump signs all day that I didn’t think any liberals existed in Idaho.

So I drove on up to the lake. I thought my campsite was right on the water, but it actually overlooks the lake, just above the road that circles the lake. It’s a beautiful view through the trees.

The view from my van

The little road to the tent sites is narrow and rutted and steep. My site was tricky to get into. But I found a fairly level place to back the van into, and it is NOT moving until Friday morning.

I had to back into this carefully because of the rocks and tree stumps everywhere.

It’s hot here—92—but it doesn’t feel that hot here among the trees. I’m sure the lake helps make the air feel cool, too. The camp host told me there aren’t any bears around here, just deer. So I won’t need to keep my bear spray handy tonight. -)

A lovely young couple from Alberta is in the tent site next to mine. It’s so peaceful and beautiful here. I’m glad I’m staying for two nights. I’m going to drink beer and fix my dinner in a while and contemplate Mother Nature’s glory. And think about how mom and dad came THIS CLOSE to taking a caretakers job for the famous Dr. Byrd, an inventor and pilot who lives on the lake. That’s what got me interested in coming here in the first place. Dr. Byrd, like my folks, is long gone, but I think his factory and lakeside airport are still functioning somewhere near Sandpoint.

My Canadian neighbors’ tent is back among the trees. Here’s my simple kitchen setup.

Day three–Lolo Highway

I got on the road about 8:00. Headed up to Missoula and from there over Lolo Highway. What a beautiful drive! Too bad I wasn’t on a motorcycle, but at least I got to drive it.

I stopped at a Forest Service office/rest area on the highway and got some information about Hell’s Canyon and some maps. The ranger told me about an old-growth cedar forest just 10 miles down the road. Who knew? If he hadn’t told me, I would have driven right past it. Instead, I got to stop and walk a beautiful path through 1500-year-old trees, with the ground covered in ferns. It reminded me of northern California. So peaceful and gorgeous.

DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove

Then I decided to drive to Hell’s Canyon, but despite the maps I had, I couldn’t feed the right thing into my GPS. I ended up driving over White Bird pass and then to the Salmon River. I was tired of driving, and I spotted a pretty RV park right on the river. So that’s where I spent the night. I got a nice spot overlooking the river, under some weeping willow trees.

This is where I stayed last night.

I’m having breakfast right now in Riggins, then I’m going to try to get to the Hells Gate overlook of the canyon before heading up to Lake Pond Oreille. It’s 18 miles of dirt road with a steep climb, and I’ve driven so many dirt roads the past couple of days. But I guess it’ll be worth it. If I don’t make it, I saw some lovely, different scenery coming down to where I am now, so I’m not going to be sad about it.

Day two—near Butte, Montana

I made my lazy way north today, stopping whenever the mood suited me. I have to say that I-15 through Idaho and Montana has almost no traffic. And it has the best rest stops I’ve ever seen (except for the ones in Germany).

The campsite I selected is about 25 miles south of Butte, and it’s accessible (I use that word loosely) three and a half miles down a dirt road off I-15. The directions said to continue on the road past the trailhead parking lot to the campsites, but it only took me a few hundred yards to realize that’s impossible. If I had a 4W-drive vehicle, maybe I could have managed it. But not with this van and its low clearance. The road is completely washed out in places, with deep, deep grooves. I went up a way and then had to back down. Yikes. There’s one shaded spot in the trailhead paring lot, and that’s where I am. 

It’s beautiful here, though. Really beautiful and completely secluded. I passed two cars coming up; most of the road is only wide enough for one car. Going around tight bends I slowed down to about 1mph, worried about someone coming the other direction. The temperature is 70 degrees, so it’s nearly perfect. 

Where I slept last night.
The impassable road.
It wasn’t very light when I took this photo this morning, but these are the kind of rock outcroppings that were all around me. This is a popular hiking/climbing area.

After the last hiker left, I saw a woman in a 4W-drive pickup buzz up the road I couldn’t get up. So I’m sure there are some nice campsites up there. If only I could get up to them. Ah well. I’m all alone here in the parking lot, surrounded by trees and beautiful rock formations. I’m not going to complain.

II was just settling in for the night when I saw a large brown object moving past my van. Cows! Three huge ones. They decided to graze around the parking lot, and they were incredibly loud. They didn’t stop mooing until well after dark. 

This morning I’m proud to say that I washed my hair with cold water with an outside temperature of 38 degrees. I don’t now what was colder—washing it that way or washing it in the fjord one time in Norway. Either way, I have clean hair.

I’ve decided to trash my plans for tonight and instead head over to Hell’s Canyon. I have no idea where I’ll camp tonight, but that’s what adventures are all about, right?

I had no cell service there, but I’m parked at a rest stop now, using my phone’s hotspot to upload this.

First day of August 2019 road trip

I spent the night next to a little reservoir in Idaho—right off I-15 and a little north of Malad. It’s surrounded by hills, and although it isn’t the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, it’s free. About half a dozen people showed up to fish, but by dusk everyone except me was gone. I felt completely at ease because the reservoir was down a rutted, dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and I knew no one would come driving up to my campsite. 

Deep Creek Reservoir, where I parked last night.

I left earlier than I expected yesterday because I woke at 4:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. Loveland and Fort Collins were ghost towns when I drove through them. I guess no one goes anywhere at 6:00 on Sunday morning. 🙂 

The drive across southern Wyoming was as usual—lots of truck traffic and construction. But once I got onto Highway 30, there was almost no traffic. I took 89 past Bear Lake and through Logan Canyon to Logan. I took pictures of the lake, but I don’t think they’ll do justice to the dark turquoise color of the water. It’s beautiful. A lot of families were at the lake. School starts today, so I’m sure they were trying to enjoy the last weekend of summer.

Bear Lake, Utah, from the hill climbing to Logan Canyon
Beautiful blue water at Bear Lake

No pictures of Logan Canyon, which is beautiful, but there’s really no place to stop for photos, and the traffic was heavy. 

I had told my friend David that I wouldn’t have time to stop in Logan. But it turns out I did. He wasn’t home, though, so I made my way on up to the reservoir. Then he called and offered to drive up and have a beer with me. It’s about a 45-minute drive, but we still had a few hours until sunset, and it was nice to have the company for a while.

I’m parked at a truck stop so I can upload pictures and update my blog. Today I’m on my way farther north into Idaho and have planned to use another free, dispersed site.

Dispersed camping

I’m leaving for a two-week trip on Sunday. I’ll be experimenting with dispersed campsites, almost all of which I found on freecampsites.net. That site has mixed reviews on the various Facebook camping/RVing sites I belong to, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the campsites I chose work out.

I’m paying for a campsite for two nights–at Lake Pend Oreille. I scored a wonderful tent site right on the water, and I couldn’t resist. The rest of the time, except for one night camping behind The Alpine Lodge, my friends’ motel in Red Lodge, MT, and the weekend I’m spending with friends in Penticton, B.C., I’ll be staying at free sites on Forest Service land.

At most of these sites, I might be the only person camping there. There could be a few other people, but they definitely won’t be crowded places with lots of RVs and generators running 24/7. I don’t really know what to expect, though. Just in case I get to a site and it isn’t all I expected it to be or I feel uncomfortable for some reason, I’ll abort and use my Benchmark folding maps to scout Forest Service roads where I can pull off the road and park for the night. In most cases, the campsites are just places for me to sleep for one night, as I plan to spend my days exploring and sightseeing. So I don’t really care where I park for the night, as long as it’s safe. If it’s a pretty spot, even better.