It was the last week of August, and already the weather was cooling and a hint of fall was in the air. They say there are three seasons in Montana: July, August, and winter. So reluctantly we bid farewell to Glacier National Park and a lovely two weeks in Montana, and headed west in the general direction of home.
We spent a weekend in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, a large resort town. The city is surrounded by a large lake which provides all types of water recreation. This area was a bit too populated for our tastes after weeks spent in quiet mountains and forests. We hiked a little around the lake, and then took off for Washington state.
We continued on our way west past the mighty Columbia River. Its banks are mostly desolate rock, but the sheer size of the river is awe-inspiring. I was reminded of our first RV adventure in 2001, when we watched boats traversing a navigation lock at The Dalles
We made our way into southern Washington, where the imposing bulk of Mount Rainier rose up in the distance to welcome us. It's a rare day when she appears this boldly, proud and exposed, unshrouded by heavy gray clouds. Working our way slowly past the great peak on the mountain roads, we made a lucky find in Harmony Lakeside RV park. A quiet and inviting spot tucked away on a still country road, it turned out to be one of our favorite places on the trip.
The managers rented us a beautiful spacious campsite which is normally reserved for one of their regulars, and we settled in for a week of exploring the area and enjoying the adjacent Mayfield Lake. While there, I got to indulge one of my favorite vices -- fresh ripe Washington blackberries. The RV park was surrounded with groaning bushes, and one afternoon we even rented a canoe to plunder a small island in the center of Lake Mayfield. And I managed to make the perfect blackberry pie, even in my crotchety and unreliable RV oven!
We intended to spend some time exploring Mount Rainier herself, hoping we would find some hiking trails on or near the mountain. But we soon learned that this grand lady is rather aloof, and we were stymied by her winding roads and iffy weather. So instead, we chose to investigate the rural areas near our RV park.
Our first adventure was a visit to Pioneer Farm Museum, a semi-working replica of an 1880's farm. It's a great place for kids; they can see an old-time schoolhouse, feed farm animals, learn how to knead bread dough and grind corn into meal, and pound cooling molten horseshoes into shape on an anvil.
While exploring the back roads, we ran across the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad in the hamlet of Elbe, Washington. We thought we'd enjoy a relaxing train ride to show us some more of the countryside. Sounds like fun, right?
Riiiight. The "countryside" view from the train alternated between (a) an impenetrable forest and (b) backyards right out of The Dukes of Hazzard. One fleeting glance of a distant Mount Rainier really wasn't worth the two weeks, er, hours we spent.
Our next great adventure took us to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, a local zoo of sorts. After the great train wallet-robbery, I expected this one to be another kind of rip-off, but it was actually a quite nice animal park. A lot of their animals, particularly the birds, are injured creatures who can no longer survive in the wild.
My favorite was the exuberant young wolverine, who tirelessly chased after his booted zookeeper with growling enthusiasm.
Southern Washington is home to a number of commercial flower and bulb growers. We spent one of our final Washington days touring a spectacular local show garden.
Would that we, my deadly black thumb and I, could produce such results!
The cooler evenings of early September reminded us that the long beautiful summer was over, and prodded us to turn southward. Setting a blistering pace -- for us -- we drove for two exhausting days until we were once more engulfed by the inhospitable freeways of home. The city has its advantages, but ah -- the charms of the country. How I'll miss it...until next time.