Friday, September 26, 2008

Bacon Creek and the Skagit September17th-19th

Driving through North Cascades National Park we found ourselves looking at the Skagit river quite a bit, and pulled over at a boat launch. Mike left me and the kayaks in search for a take out down the river. He pulled over to look at a particularly white looking area, and debated for a very long time if we should try it, or if we should get out before hand. Thankfully, he decided to err on the side of sanity and we stopped before the biggest continuous wave train I have ever seen.

I can't think of anything witty to say about this picture, but I think it's pretty funny anyway
It looks so pretty and calm right here, but even in the calm spots the water was really moving-It made me dizzy to look down while we were zooming along, especially since the water was so clear and you could see all the way to the bottom.

The scenery was really nice along the way
And here is the famous wave train- we were actually trying to decide if we should try it (I almost just parked the vanagon right after this, and wasn't' going to tell Emilie, leaving it for a nice surprise at the end.) After we took out we went by and got this view from the road. At a closer look, the waves were the size of me, so maybe it was a good thing I chickened out.

A very good thing

After the river we decided to try to find a place to camp for the night. Driving along we saw a sign for Bacon Creek Road. It was a gravel road in the national forest, always a good sign for free camping. And sure enough, about 2 miles down, we came to out best site yet. It's hard to describe how amazing it was- so I'll just let the pictures do it...

And then there was the creek- I wasn't expecting much from a place named Bacon Creek, but it was amazing.

So of course, when you have crystal clear water, multiple rapids and 60 degree weather, what choice do you have but to tube down it? We were hooked as soon as we tried it- and ended up spending the better part of 2 days floating and screaming down.

Notice my death grip on the rope, this was the first time we actually stayed in the tube going down together, so I was pretty excited.

Oh yeah, and we found a couple of blackberries right along the road- we had them with everything. Blackberry pancakes, blackberry oatmeal, blackberry cereal....mmmmm

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September 9th-16th Kayaking, biking, bears, climbing, and sleeping at trailheads

September 9th: After spending the night at some kinda scary looking lake in West Glacier we were ready to have another exciting day. We got up decently early for us and were ready to hit the river. We dropped off the boats and myself, and Mike drove back into town to the take out, and then hitchhiked back the 7 miles.

We thought we were going to be in for a relaxing float for the first 3 miles or so we had to paddle and everything, but the water was so clear and so deep and the scenery so neat we didn't mind at all. And then out of nowhere, we turned the bend and heard the crash of water and knew we were in for it. We both got through the first couple of rapids. Exhilarated we pushed on, me bravely leading the way (by bravely I mean whimpering the whole time). Sure enough we hit a tricky spot and the water violently grabbed the back end of my kayak and flipped me over like I was nothing more than a leaf. Well even though I had practiced my roll when we got in the water, I wasn't able to pull it off in the panic and had to bail...again (sigh). My consolation was that Mike said it was one of the funniest things he's seen in a while... just you wait I thought to myself.

So I dumped out my boat and we headed off again, and the rapids just kept coming, and they were not joking around. I was still leading the way until a particularly roaring rapid. (It's bizarre, being so close to the water you can't really see what you are coming up can just hear it). Well this one sent a particularly vicious whimper out of me and a plea for Michael to go first. So finally he comes to the front shouting "Watch out, Here I come to save the day!" And then immediately goes down the first drop and flips over. Now I would be lying to say that I wasn't at least a tiny bit happy when this turn of events happened. But then he didn't pop back up like usual, as I went over the lip of the drop I saw his little head pop up and then go back under. Meanwhile I just realized that I had gotten myself into a hole, and if i didn't start paddling I would soon be facing the same fate. So with three hard paddle strokes I was free of the hole and cascading down the rest of the rapid, and Mike was still under. Finally he pops up next to his boat, he had to bail to, and once again I would be lying to say that I did not have at least a little smile on my face at this. We make our way over to a rocky shore to regroup. Of course by now his kayak is full of water and he's holding on to it so it doesn't simply take itself down the river without him. This predicament made it somewhat difficult to simply pull over. He perched himself onto a rock holding on for dear life to his boat which simply wanted to take it's very full heavy body downstream. Finally he's able to get out of the water, and this is when he realizes that his paddle which we so cleverly tied on to the boat is missing. The rope had snapped. So he sends me out looking for it, hoping I can catch it before it's too late. So I take the next 2 sets of rapids by myself, which were no small potatoes mind you, but no paddle. So I pull over, wondering what the heck we're gonna do now.

Luckily 2 rafts were following us down the river, and although they didn't find the paddle they did offer to take Mike and his kayak down the rest of the river. They were very friendly, and we were very lucky. The only problem was that when the 2nd boat tried to pull Mike's kayak along the river it flipped over and filled with water, so the guide decided to just pull it onto the raft instead...still full of water. This would be a difficult task no matter what, but these rafts are equipped with screws which the guide not so gently pulled the boat right over. I know it's terrible to complain about people helping you, and I still have no idea what we would have done it they hadn't come along....But there are now two giant Deep scratches in the bottom of Mike's boat...just very eh. Oh and and top of the sorrow of losing the paddle, Mike also had a t-shirt in his kayak which was never accounted for either- and it was clean!

But anyway, I ended up just following the rafts down the river, and there was no more flipping, although a couple pretty good rapids left. Meanwhile Mike is sitting in the raft listening to the boring people talk about jobs and fishing and stuff as I'm getting thrown around all over the place and fighting for my life, he was a little on the jealous side.

The rafts were taking out at the same spot we were, so they dropped us off and bid us farewell. Overall it was still a really fun run, but Mike was not in the best of moods for the rest of the night. Although he realized it could have been much worse, but it was still really frustrating. We figure that the paddle got stuck where he flipped and that's why we never found it. When he tried to use it to flip it hit the bottom and then he lost his grip- this is all very confusing and adrenaline pumping when you are under water and running out of air. To make matters worse, he wasn't able to bail right away. When he tried to reach the loop to release the skirt the water was pushing him into the ground and he couldn't reach it for quite a while, but finally he managed to pop out. We do have an extra paddle, (Mike's boat came with 2) so we are not out there, at least not until we lose another one.

Just so you get an idea of the river these are a couple of pictures from rafting companies doing the middle fork of the Flathead, same river, same stretch and everything.
One of these days we are gonna have to figure out a way to get pictures of us kayaking, but none yet.
Sept 10th-12th:Moving out of the Glacier area, we decided to find some biking. We stopped in at Glacier Cyclery in Whitefish Montana where a guy was super helpful and gave us a couple of good rides and even a free camping spot, about 25 miles out of town. So we spent the next couple days there riding a 15 mile ride, and then 26 miles the next day. The second day we ran into a couple of downhill riders who were not too happy to see us. Mike passed them on the way up, and then one of the guys started riding right behind him like a madman, looking all funny with his seat all low and tons of body armour and everything, and completely out of control. I turned the corner just in time to see the guy not make the turn in front of him and go flying off the trail tumbling down the steep hill side. Both Mike and I stopped and asked if he was ok and he gave us the yeah yeah I'm fine, in other words leave me alone. We let him go in front, but about 2 miles from the end Mike started to get a flat tire, and had to ride on it so that the air wouldn't all come out (since he's riding tubeless) so he managed to catch up to the two of them again, and this time on the final downhill portion of the ride. Boyyy was sir-crash-a-lot,ride-completely-out-of-control pissed. Mike tried to talk to him after the ride while he was waiting for me to finish and all he got out of him was that he wasn't from North Carolina(what the license plate said), and that he was from somewhere around here (even though we were in the middle of nowhere) and...well i guess that was about it.
Sept 13th-14th: After those 2 long rides, we decided we needed at least a day off the bike and so decided to press westward.
We spent one night right next to the Kootenai river, at a pretty campground that actually didn't have trash in the fire pit. The campground was closed for the season, so of course it was packed with RVs.

The next day consisted of lots of driving we finished off Montana, went through the tip of Idaho and got half-way across Washington before we decided to stop for the night. We stayed next to a dirty lake and had a dirty fire with algae wood, but it was no complaints
Ready to hit the road again, notice the basil plant is still doing well, despite travelling from St Louis and getting run over by atvs at the gallatin, she's still going strong- yay basil!

September 15th: The next day we wandered into Winthrop looking for another bike ride. After establishing that there was only public restroom in the city, and it was closed, and that there was no such thing as free camping we headed off to starvation mountain.
After picking out the best of the about 50 free camp spots we found we loaded up with water and started up the road. Highlights included a very long ride on the road, a very steep sandy side trail, 4 black bears playing in creek about 20 feet from us (a mom and 3 cubs), more very long road riding, being certain we were lost, finding out we weren't, another 5 miles up on the road, and then finally going down- as Mike described it, the worst part of trail he's ever ridden. Now, I don't think it was quite that bad, but it certainly wasn't good. But after flying down a rock strewn gully essentially for a mile or so, things got much more interesting- the trail narrowed, really narrowed.
The next 12 miles were all downhill on singletrack and just got more narrow as we continued. We rode through some a recently burned forest right on the ash from the fire, and then we got to the cliff edge. For about 3 miles we rode down inch wide tread on the edge of a cliff on sand. Precarious doesn't quite sum it up, finally we got down to the bottom only with one minor over the handlebars mishap. It actually didn't hurt at all, but it was really hard to get back up on the trail. So overall, we were glad we did the trail but certainly didn't feel like doing it again anytime soon.
September 16th: Trying to stay well rounded we found a climbing wall. It was a nice place with some cool climbs and friendly people.
Climbing near Mazama Washington
We drove into the National Forest and started to look for a place to camp. But all the campgrounds were not only not free, but costly, and all of the gravel roads had trailheads. Usually not a big deal, but this National Forest was charging 5$ per vehicle to use the trails. Absurd, to park in a parking lot- Mike is even more vehement about this, don't get him started. Anyway we decided that we weren't really using the trail anyway, so we should be fine. We hunkered down at the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead and set up camp, making sure to leave early just in case- we didn't want any more friendly wake up knocks.
The drive through the cascades was beautiful...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fun in Glacier

Because we didn't want to be questioned about staying in the parking lot at Many Glacier we decided it would be best to move on to the next lodge lot. Little did we know the next one was a little less crowded so we had trouble blending in (there's something about a bright orange van with kayaks on top that makes you stick out a little bit) but we thought we would be ok. The next morning we woke to a firm rapping first on the front window then every window including the one inches from our face. We froze in terror. We know we didn't ask for a wake up call/knock, it must be included in that park pass. So we stayed still and waited for it to go away. We packed up a little quicker that morning than most. We were gone in minutes. Thank you VW for including those curtains. We wanted to get an early start anyway. Thank you mystery person for the kind wake up knock it was very thorough. So our plan was to hopefully find a way to run Swift Current Creek. The creek was right outside the park to the east on the Blackfeet Reservation. We nervously scouted it and thought the only place that we could take-out was still moving pretty swiftly. We weren't sure we would be able to pull off.

The put-in 3 miles upstream from were we parked the car was relatively calm. We decided to try out what kayakers call a seal dive (get into kayak on land and push off small drop or cliff into water.) So I sent Emilie off the 1-2ft drop and like a pro she landed it perfectly thanks to the perfect push.

This is the take out of the river

Not to mention along the way we saw a cow, an egret, and 2 black bears. A mom and her cub watched us pass from the river side, kinda keeping an eye on us as we went- they ended up following us for a while, and eventually the cub scurried about 30 feet up into a tree- it was incredible.

It was time to do the drive through Glacier. We followed the going to the sun road up up up, and finally got to the crest where it said 6% grade next 12 miles. Well this of course sounded like the perfect opportunity to get the bikes down for a bit.

It was a lot of fun, and we didn't have any problem keeping up with the cars- I have to say, it was a neat way to see the park

When we got stopped by construction, I handed off the bike to Mike and I got to drive, almost as exciting as riding the bike down the mountain side.

As we continued through the park, we just had to stop at this pull off.

We were marveling at the crystal clear water

and the pretty waterfalls

when an idea struck, that water is pretty darn deep...hmmm

I'll admit it took an awful lot of convincing once I got up there. I even had onlookers at the pull-off along the road. When I finally did jumped, Mike said they cheered- For some reason I didn't hear it between my scream as I went down and the water rushing up to greet me.

So to sum up:
-woke up to unrequested wake up call
-Ran uncharted waters, with some really fun rapids
-saw cow, egret, and 2 bears
-rode our bikes down a mountain
-and jumped about 25 feet into a river

All in all I would say it was a pretty good day.

Black leaf canyon and Glacier

We uprooted from Bozeman hit the road in search for Black Leaf Canyon. As we approached our turn off the highway we were amazed again by climbers vague instructions 12 miles past Chouteau we turned into what looked like someones ranch driveway. We backed out carefully not wanting to be their next trophy hanging above their fireplace. We continued to drive about 15 miles coming to another town with the fine establishment JR's "wildlife refuge". The bug zapper was hard at work in the back yard. We walked in and startled the locals asking where Center road was they looked pretty confused. Then we mentioned the canyon and they said yeah that's straight up the road directly across from the bar. Just stay straight on it about 20 miles. So an hour later we showed up had no idea where the canyon was it was pitch black we found a few campsites and pulled over wondering what this place is like. The next morning we were pleasantly surprised by this amazing view...

Black Leaf Canyon looking east

See if you can find me, I'm pretty small about 90ft up

view of the chilly damp weather


the view from camp

First night in Glacier, we decided to live it up and stay in the Many Glacier Lodge.... parking lot

Glacier accommodations- the campground was $20-

View from lake at Many Glacier Lodge

Hiking up to see Grinnel Glacier

Neat clouds

Good view

Ginnel Lake

A look back at what we had come up with Grinnel lake, Lake josephine, and Swiftcurrent lake

Glacier and me

Glacier is cold
He stuck his head in it

Looks like a nice swim

We regretfully descended and revisited the amazing views