wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Lookout Pass

Still dodging ice clumps that may or may not have rock-like centers, we are nevertheless, making progress in leaving the snow behind.

We pass the small town of St. Regis, near our Exit 16 refuge, where we will stay the night again.

Then another climb awaits us up into the hills to the Montana/Idaho border at Exit 0, Lookout Pass. The good thing about this pass is that it is about 2000 feet lower than that last one we went through, and less likely to be snowed in.

By the way, notice that “Lookout” is spelled as one word, as in “viewpoint.” I had started to think of it as two words (look out) like “watch out,” but its elevation is not nearly as high as MacDonald Pass so I must get this two-word definition out of my head. It’s just a pass with a gorgeous view from the top. The photo below is from 2015 (no snow). We didn’t stop to photograph the view this year.

Sure enough, the roads are fairly clear, in spite of snow hanging onto the trees right down to the level of the road.

Once we were over that hump, the rest of the crossing of the Idaho panhandle brought us ever closer to fall weather as we knew it.

We felt as if we were truly getting closer to home. Our next stay would be in Omak, Washington. I want to call it “Oboy!” instead of Omak because of the mini dramas that happened to us there. I’ll tell you all about it soon.


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Winter’s Frosty Breath

It’s only October, but this farm scene would make a perfect Christmas card.

The shrubs in the distance have a frosting on them that is making the little ground squirrels living under them shiver.

Here is plenty of fuel to keep someone warm – someone far away, wherever this train is going.

The clumps of sagebrush and other grasses have been coated by winter’s frosty breath, giving them a designer look.

Did you ever mix up powdered laundry soap and water with an egg-beater and then dab the “snow” you made onto your Christmas tree? Then the decorations would be hung once the soapy snow had dried. These trees reminded me of doing that as a child. (I apologize for mentioning Christmas so early.)

The wintery air brings out the elves

They wait for dark or fog

So they can better hide themselves

Behind a nearby log.

The head elf orders laundry soap

The powdered kind is best

They spit in it and then they hope

That this will pass the test.

The soapy snow must be so thick

That it won’t dribble down

It must be right so it will stick

And give the tree its gown.

With sagey brush, like tiny brooms

They paint each branch with snow

The night is short, a new day looms

And all the elves must go.

If I’d been passing by last night

I’m sure I would have seen

But I’d have given them a fright

And I can’t be that mean.

And so I’ll just admire their trees

That look so pure and white

The elves are happy when they please

And know they’ve done it right.


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Giving Up – Part 5

There comes a point when, no matter how badly you want something, you know that it’s wiser to give it up. Going ahead with our trip to eastern Montana, after negotiating three snowy weather systems in two short weeks, would have been pushing our luck.

So with high winds and snow still coming down on the way forward, and snow settling on the road behind us, we reluctantly turned homeward.

The tires had sat frozen and immobile for two bitter cold nights, so we eased ahead a few feet and held our breath. So far, so good. We could have cried, turning back, but it was a relief not to drive into more snow blowing sideways.

I could have cropped this photo so the antenna wouldn’t show, but the icy snow on the forward side of the antenna says something about the chilly air.

Here is one of the many views of the Clark Fork (one of my favourite rivers). It is visible flowing beside or under the highway off and on for many miles.

On our drive eastward, little snow covered these lower elevations. Now it made for scenic winter postcard material. In some areas, the water was warmer than the air, resulting in fog along the river.

You can tell where the river goes.

Snow had covered these hills that were bare when we had driven through a few days earlier.

Some snow was still on the roads. As the day warmed up, big transport trucks lost clumps of ice that had collected on them. In the stretch of road below, the eastbound lane is closed and the westbound lane is taking two-way traffic. You don’t want to catch an edge or a clump of ice. The one in the photo below is one of hundreds of clumps we had to avoid.

I wondered what these cattle were “grazing” on. Not much grass poking out from the snow. Winter is hard on many animals.

As we neared the upcoming MacDonald Pass, my knuckles gave the snow some competition for whiteness. I knew I had a good driver beside me, but with so much construction and lanes restricted by cones and ice (and I don’t mean ice cream cones), I was nervous all the way to the top of the pass.

 

And relieved to be going down to a lower elevation right afterwards. Only two passes left to negotiate before we got home.

 

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 4

The snow kept coming sideways and we talked about cutting our day’s drive short. We had planned to go as far as Fort Benton where a friendly RV park always awaited us, but Fort Benton was down a big hill along the banks of the Missouri, and we had seen pictures of how the town had fared in the September snowfall a week earlier. Did we want to be trapped in this valley town with snow covering the steep roads in and out of town? For that matter, could we even make it that far if we wanted to?

We had to get off the road or end up in a lonely prairie ditch. But where to go in Great Falls?

I remembered a Wal-Mart across from the town’s famous smelter and refinery, and that’s where we pulled in.

Wal-Mart Customer Service told us we were welcome to stay for three days. They had all the groceries we might need, a water supply, and a relatively safe place for us to stay. Three other rigs were already parked there and would remain there until after we left.

Wal-Mart even had Wi-Fi but it didn’t reach out to the parking lot.

Generally I prefer to be in an RV park or a place like Exit 16’s park, since public parking lots can be a bit risky if you’re camping overnight alone, but we had no choice by this time and were thankful for the relatively safe haven as the snow began to cover us up.

It would have been foolish to continue traveling, as the many accidents that day proved.

However, we were quite frozen in this place with -17degrees Celcius, feels like -23 (1 degree Fahrenheit, feels like -9F). In the morning, the windows had about a quarter of an inch of frost on them (on the INSIDE!), and the holding tank was frozen at the outlet, as we found out when we tried the next sani-dump we came to. We also tried to add water to our potable water tank – to no avail. The pipes leading to the tank were frozen.

We had a furnace, but running it all night might run our battery down and as luck would have it, the trailer battery was very low in the morning. The Captain ran the Honda generator and brought it back up. Everything was a struggle, and we were getting worn down.

The second night, some drug-crazed kids did a kick boxing display near our rig on the parking lot (yes, in that very cold temperature)! The driver even kicked the lid of his own car’s trunk. (The Captain said, IF it’s even their own car.) Then they tore out of the parking lot at 90 miles an hour.

After two nights there, if we continued north and then east as we had planned, we would be driving into more blizzard and heavy fog in extremely cold temperatures. We were only one long day’s drive from our destination, but there didn’t seem to be any point in going on, even if we could have done that safely. But could we safely go back?

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 3

From Exit 16, it’s not far to Missoula, one of our usual stops, but we pushed on this time and took a lunch break at Drummond, a bit farther east. Drummond is a tiny, tiny, tiny town, but it has a lovely community park, just past the sheep in this field.

While I made our lunch, the Captain let the dogs stretch their legs. They’d been very good about riding in their straw-filled crates in the back of the truck, but they were ready for a romp. Emma’s flying ears tell the story.

Then on we went, on our way. We took the shortcut to Helena by crossing on Highway 12 at Garrison. This meant going over MacDonald Pass at 6312 ft. It is on the Continental Divide, and that makes it seem special to me.

Going through Helena was uneventful, now that we have discovered the easiest route through it, turning onto Highway 15 North.

We tootled on happily until I said, “Oh, look at that fog up ahead.”

“Sure is thick, and we’re driving right into it.”

And then there were those dreaded orange and white barrels, forcing traffic into one lane for construction work that wasn’t even happening.

“That’s not just fog.” The Captain stated the obvious. We were heading into a blizzard.

See all the white stuff?

At one point, the orange and white barrels seemed to indicate that we should go into the right lane, and moments later we realized that we had exited I-15 and were on a little by-road with no place to turn back to re-enter the highway.

Being a little lower down, the visibility was better, but the winding road was narrow, and traffic was two-way. Not so much fun for a truck pulling a trailer. (You can see the highway above us to the left. So close and yet so far away.)

We came to a sign that said we had 8 miles to go to Wolf Creek, where we could rejoin the highway.

Oh joy! We were back on the main drag at last. With every mile, the air got whiter, and so did the fields, and the trees, and the road.

At this point we were feeling a bit of anxiety creeping in.


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A Cool Trip – Part 1

We left Vancouver Island on our way to eastern Montana. Having waited out the unexpected September 30th blizzard, we hoped to find that the worst was over after a few days of traveling.

In the southern interior of British Columbia is the Similkameen Valley, probably best known for being a wine growing region of the South Okanagan.

For us, it was a good place to stop for a quick coffee and sandwich while the dogs stretched their legs.

Then we continued on with our truck and trailer to the U.S. border into Washington and Coulee City.

The Coulee City Community Park provides RV parking and a lovely setting on the south end of Banks Lake, a reservoir created in 1942 after the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Our stay at Coulee City was perfect, but the worst was yet to come. Stay tuned.


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The Maple Leaf is not “Forever”

I went to the wharf to make sure the boat had weathered the weather. It is tougher than I am, withstanding the first system of wind and rain that marks the end of this summer.

On the way home I took a small detour to dash out onto the beach for a photo. After many wipes of the lens I got a couple of wettish pics to show what kind of day it is.

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Thoroughly dampened, I drove home, but couldn’t resist taking a picture of this very old house on the way. Too bad the upper windows and the skylight are a modern style. They don’t quite go with the rockwork, but it’s still a unique house. Not just the huge chimneys, but even the walls are made of rock.

As I pulled into my own driveway a few minutes later, I saw a pretty, bittersweet sight — a maple leaf landed on my car, marking the end of summer and proving once again that, contrary to the old Canadian motto, the maple leaf is not forever.

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But it will come again in the spring.