Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Winter Trip 2014

Feb 1st The start of Pam and my ski trip from Denver and then all the way to Canada and back. We are using the Monarch Ski pass that is good at 31 other areas and the Quality Inn Choice Privilege card for our stays, where we can on both accounts.

When I set this trip up in November I didn't realize that Feb.1st was on a Saturday or that the Bronco's were going to go to the Super Bowl. If you live in Denver you are born with the idea that any travel on the weekends towards the mountains is almost suicidal. The long lines of traffic moving towards everyone's favorite ski area is a mind blower. Then if you add the Super Bowl being televised the next day was a double trouble for any weekend warrior. The parking lot traffic almost started in front of our house, on Feb 1st. We left at 6:20 am and the sight on I-70 was a slow moving caterpiller working its' way up over the mountains. Our living hell ended when most of the Olympic hopefuls headed towards Summit County and we turned our truck towards Winter Park in Grand County over Berthoud Pass.

We could tell that this was going to be a good ski day, because as we drove over Berthoud Pass, we couldn't see highway signs along the road because they were covered with the fluffy white stuff. As we approached Mary Jane ski area, the twisted sister of Winter Park, a long line of cars was pouring towards their parking lot. Maybe I heard a little voice telling me to pass up this parking lot and drive towards the main ski area, or it was the other voice in the truck, Pam. The vehicles were like pieces on a chess board moving in front of us. One piece drove straight, then the second one would go turn, everyone had their own plan on getting to the slopes the fastest.

Our parking lot was a sea of humanity covered with expensive clothes and carrying even more costly equipment. In the next row of cars was a small girl that was at the end of her rope, either because of the traffic or the cold weather. Her screaming could be heard all over the mountain slopes as it bounced off the helmets of skiers. Everyone except her parents was paying attention to her melt down, so the idea of jumping on the hood of the car parked next to them seemed logical. The sound of the car alarm was loud enough to drown out this girl's wails, which was followed by a sound of applause coming from fellow skiers like myself.

Pam and I haven't been to the Winter Park ski area since skiing was invented and it has come way up in the world. Where the old parking lot used to be is now a high end shopping street, which is certain to lighten the load in our wallets. There is also a people mover in the shape of fifty gallon drums connected to a long moving cable that feeds you towards these shops that skiers can't live without. Pam and I stood on a platform as our drum came closer, then at the right time half of the drum opened and we stumbled into our mover. We had a grand view of the surrounding area as we moved towards the ticket windows. Getting out was a tad tricky with skis and poles and the slippery floor of the drum.

With our Monarch Pass we had one free day of sking and that went without a hitch. As we stepped into our skies we were back to the realization that we weren't the only people wanting to ski today. The lift line was hundreds of people deep, but the chair held four so the line moved fast.

With lots of new snow, the conditions were ideal, except for the extremely low temperature for some people,that I will not name!

At 2:00pm, the perfect time for old people to stop sking, we headed to Kremmling, Colo our first night of rest. With a population of 500 tops, we didn't have to worry about traffic anymore, maybe a moose or two, that's it.

Feb 2nd Pam and I woke to 20 below in Kremmling, it was so cold my tongue stuck to the metal plate in my head!! As we drove out of the Colorado River drainage a heavy frozen fog hung over the valley, we thought we had been cast into a remake of Dr. Zhivago. Today we are headed to Steamboat Springs but first we have to go over the high pass named Rabbit Ear's. The rock formation on the pass resembling a jack rabbit's ear seemed to get closer as we drove north, and I swear he was wearing ear muffs.

A snowmobiler that was staying at the Super 8 in Kremmling told me there was over 5 feet of new snow on the pass, and as we got closer he was spot on. Luck was with us and fellow snow lovers, for the highway dept. had dug tunnels in the snow that led to a small parking area. This snow was piled up to three times the height of the truck. Pam wanted to snowshoe in a flat area, not on any mountain's sides and not near any avalanches. This is why women live longer, than us men. On the south side of the pass was a large open meadow with enough snow to cover New York City three feet deep.it looked like hundreds of weekend warriors on powerful snowmobiles had made tracks all over this area. You could tell these people where very independent, as no one stayed on the same path. If we would have had a hot air balloon and looked down on the site it would have looked like a bowl of limp spaghetti had been poured onto a large white table. We were going to use these snow tracks to our advantage, since one false step off the packed snow and we would have been up to our arm pits in the white stuff.

A slight breeze was coming out of the south and with the temps at close to zero, it put a nice color to our cheeks, Compared to Kremmling's 20 below zero this was like a balmy. Our plan was to snowshoe over to the crop of pine trees about 1/4 mile away. The skies where completely blue, not a cloud to be seen. Only occasionally we would hear a distant snowmobiler coming towards us, appear out of the trees then race across the open field, like enemy under fire as they ducked back into the trees. After an hour of pushing along through the snow we reached the trees and turned around, now with the wind at our backs. Since we were wearing three layers of clothes and taking quite a bit of work to walk with the snowshoes, I could finally start to feel several body parts.

As we decended into the Yampa Valley which would be our home for a few days, the snow was still piled high along the highway. Steamboat Springs could be seen in the distance with the ski slope off to our right. We checked into the Steamboat Hotel and unloaded all of our gear and found out the most important information that a snowshoer needs, the best place to eat. Trying to keep the truck under the speed limit, we found our lunch spot, the Creekside. I don't need any stinking creek, I want food. The place had a few people waiting for a table, but we were seated lickety split. The fellow sitting at the next table was from Florida, West Palm Beach, and he needed a sounding board to listen to his stories. He told us about the period in his life that changed his outlook on everything. He met a preacher while he was riding his bike and later went to his church and found Jesus. From that minute on until now everything looks differnt he reported, even the look of leaves on the trees. I thought of the Forest Gump movie, when Lt. Dan asked Forest if he had found Jesus? "I didn't know he was missing!" says Forest.

After eating enough food to fill two stomachs, we drove to the world famous Steamboat Hot Springs. Not the hippy dippy Srawberry Field hot springs, located in the mountains, no these are right down town. The Strawberry Hot Springs are bathing suits optional after dark, which everybody and their dog tells you with a wink and nod. We soaked up to our eyeballs in the 103 degree hot springs. The talk at the pool wasn't the snow depth, or nudity, it was the Super Bowl. Denver verses Seattle Seahawks.

We drove back to the motel with the thought of watching a close game with our home town of Denver giving a good show. Someone forgot to tell the Bronco's the game had started because we got our butt kicked, slaughtered, pushed into the astro turf-48 to 8. After all the hype generated in Denver about the Super Bowl, I don't want to hear about football for a whole year. Even the shape of a watermelon at the grocery store is going to send me into orbit.
Feb 3rd Woke to a potential snow storm and from our vantage point, gazing up at the ski slope it looked like we were in for a whole day of a winter wonderland. The town has a free bus and a bus stop was right out front of our hotel. The bus delivered us right up to the ski slope within minutes of pickup. After a short walk we were able to show our Monarch Pass and get a free pass for Steamboat Mtn. This mountain has a gondola that is completely enclosed, which made for a nice warm ride up the mountain. After sking to another lift we found ourselves right smack dab on top of Storm Mountain. What a great name and so fitting, since it was storming. The depth perception was down to five feet in front of us, due to the lack of sunlight. Even the crazy snowboarders were cutting down the hill at a snails pace. After fighting these conditions for several hours we wised up and moved down the mountain, where the condtions had improved greatly. We did four runs on this long slope which had all kinds of different challenges.

By 2:00 pm our legs said uncle and we headed down towards the base and our bus ride home. We got on the wrong bus but we sure got to soak up all the sights of downtown Steamboat Springs. A woman on the bus who had just moved to the area kept telling us that the bus would finally reach our motel. Five miles out of town the bus driver came back and told us, " You're on the wrong bus!" He dropped us off at another bus station and thirty minutes later, after going back to where we had started, we saw our motel.

Pam wanted to spread the wealth around so we drove ourselves back downtown and did some serious shopping, Pam did anyway.
Feb 4th Time to drive to Wyoming, the cowboy state by way of going back over Rabbit Ear's Pass, for the last time on this trip. Snow was also our companion as we made it up over the pass and into the Medicine Bow Mountain range. The higher we climbed in the mountains the higher the snow was packed on the side of the road. This was good, since we wanted to ski this area the next day.

Laramie, Wyoming could be seen in the distance as we decended out of the mountains. The winds were blowing snow squalls across the road in front of us, but it didn't seem to upset the hundreds of antelope that were racing across the plains. We drove downtown and I noticed a sign for a musuem plus a mansion that might be interesting to visit. Since it was winter, the place was closed but we managed to find a woman that agreed to show us around in a few hours. We headed onto the main street to check out the shops and to find a good place to eat. With out bellies full of Thai food it was back to the mansion. The Ivinson mansion was full of period pieces and chuck full of interesting tidbits about the family who had lived there. Mr. Ivinson was the ultimate baby crib robber, his wife was 13 years old when he at 23 years old married her. He must have known what he was doing because they stayed married for 61 years. The mansion has three floors with 12 foot ceilings and measures 3,600 square feet. Every room had something interesting to look at and our tour guide explained every little detail.
Feb 5:th Woke up to 20 below zero temps with snow falling, "Lets go sking!" yelled Pam or was that me. Anyway we headed back up the mountains towards Snowy Range ski area, another free area on our Monarch Pass. The snow got deeper the farther we drove into the mountains. At the ski area it was a balmy 15 below zero but no wind, there is a God! We made a few runs and the sun occasionally made an appearance. After a small lunch it had warmed to 8 degrees and it wasn't bad compared to 20 below. I hit the slopes for another hour while Pam had her skis resting in the rack.

We made it back to Laramie with enough time to visit a musuem of Anthropology on the University of Wyoming campus. What a great and very informative display the university had set up.
Feb 6th We left Laramie with a snow storm in our rear view mirror and temps 20 below zero. The interstate I-80 would lead us to Salt Lake City after traveling thru many small snow storms. By 2:30 pm we drove into the parking lot of our next home at Econo Lodge just west of downtown.

I had been to this major town just last year and kind of new my way around. The south and north vistor center could be a command central, for info about the Mormon religion. The temple in the center of the square with its' huge stone towers would be impossible not to notice. The only way to get inside the temple is a permission slip from your Mormon priest, if you belong to the church. Knowing this, the church has a model of the temple in the visitor center. Probably the number one question about the temple is the story with the baptism room that is held up by 12 golden oxen. The Mormon"s have an answer for the number one question for all true believers. If I am baptised and going to heaven, what happens to the people before baptism was invented? Now with the Mormon religion you can have your friend that bit the dust or your family member that is wearing wings in the sky baptised after the fact. While a church member is totally being dunked in the baptismal water the priest can read off a list of dead folks that are in limbo because they weren't baptised in the Mormon church. From that moment on if your dead friend excepted the baptism they go directly to heaven. This was all explained in the south visitor center. In the north center it is set up to explain all about how Joseph Smith found the golden tablets and then wrote the Mormon bible. With this bible he was able to convert millions to the Mormon religion.

We needed a way to end our educational learnng of religion so we went to an ice cream shop and pigged out.

Thumb nail sketch of the Morman religion from what we have learned in our 2 hour visit.
1) Joseph Smith had a lot of questions about religion as a young man, so he went out in the woods to pray. God and Jesus came to him and told him they would give him the right answers at the right time.
2) Joseph Smith, 4 years later had a visit from the angel Moroni. He let Joseph know that he had buried some golden tablets right near his home. On these tablets Moroni had written the gospel given to him by his father Mormon.
3) The tablets told of the story of America a long time ago, way before Walmart. Two Isralie tribes following a compass given to them by God came to America. Jesus visited them after his day on the cross and told them how to behave and be good. One tribe didn't follow the rules and killed every cotton picking member of the other tribe except Mormon and Moroni.
4) As you might imagine God wasn't real happy with the remaining tribe but how would God know which tribe was what, so God turned them red. The only way these Indians could get back into God's good side, was to help the Mormons.
5) Joseph Smith translated the golden tablets into the Mormon bible.
I imagine it's like any religion there are folks looking for answers in life's confusing twists and turns.
Feb 7th Woke to balmy temps in the 30's but a big storm in the mountains, above Salt Lake City is predicted. The road that led up to the Alta ski area got steeper and snowier as we climbed into the mountains. When we pulled into the Alta ski area parking lot a cold wind was blowing up from the west. A very steep mountain was attached to a ski lift that shadowed the ticket window. Since we had our mighty Monarch Pass we only had to pay half price for our ticket. Pam and I studied the area map with a eye for maybe a tad bit easier ski slope than the one that was in front of us.

We found a long lift that led us along the valley floor which was made up of long ropes, being pulled by a cable. As the ropes went by we grabbed onto them and within ten minutes we were delivered to a slope that we could handle. When I bought our tickets instead of having a tag hung onto our jacket, the ticket master gave us a ticket to be scanded before the gates would be open to the lifts. Each time Pam and I would fumble with the ticket and in fact one time Pam's blew away and we had to ski after it. Then a kind attendant told us to keep it in our pocket or glove and the scaner would pick it up.

The snow was over 12 inches deep with new powder and what a treat to ski it, I can't begin to explain how good the sking was. The only down side to our pleasure was the higher we got on the mountain the higher the winds. My mother is part Cherokee Indian but I think she is Eskimo because I love the cold weather, the biting temperatures are my friend. Pam's mom must have been from the French Riveria because her tolerances are a tad bit lower, or normal.

By lunch time Pam had enough of the wind and cold so I continued on for another hour. Then I stopped to see how Pam was doing at the restaurant and took off my mittens and forgot about my ski ticket. Frosty the snow man must have found my lost ticket because I sure didn't. That was the end of my sking which was just as well since my legs were ready for a break. Wrong wording!

After driving back to Salt Lake we decided to take in a movie and "The Monument Men" was a great choice, what a movie, primo baby cakes.
Feb 8th For a change we didn't wake up in the middle of a snow storm, no it's raining. Today we are heading to Boise, Idaho. The drive was very direct on I- 85 and with a rain storm as our traveling companion my truck is squeaky clean. We got into Boise about 2:00 pm and after a quick meal at a restaurant next to Sleep Inn we headed to downtown Boise. Pam and I are suckers for all musuems and Boise has a great one. Lots of historical objects about, you guessed it, Idaho. A whole big section was on the Native Americans that had lived in Idaho and how they influenced Lewis and Clark exploration thru Idaho.

Tomorrow we head north to Mccall, Idaho and rent snowmobiles that will take us 20 miles to Burgdorf Hot springs. Pam and I will rent a cabin for 2 days with plenty of back country snowshoeing and the hot springs to soak our aching bones for as long as we don't turn into Sunkist raisens.
Feb 9-10-11 Pam and I drove north out of Boise Idaho during a rain storm, which I was hoping wouldn't follow us to Mccall. Every mile that we put behind us the snow got deeper and whiter. By the time we spied the sign reading Cheap Thrills Snowmobile rentals the snow was knee deep. There is a husband and wife team running the snowmobile rental business. The wife runs the office and her job was to make sure our snowmobile outfits fit well and where warm enough. The husband meet us at the trailhead and made sure we had enough knowledge of the machine to not run it into a tree. We also rented a sled that was attached to the back of our snowmobile and we had no problem filling it up with food, sleeping bags and warm clothes.

We left the parking lot about 10:30 am with the thought of the soothing hot springs on our minds. Pam had a nice soft seat behind me as we cruised 30 mph towards our cabin for 2 days. A old forest service road that is closed to vehicle traffic during the winter would be our path. The snow along the road was waist deep and the surrounding hillsides where covered with tall pine trees. Our rental agents told us not the take our machines off the road and we passed plenty of hot dog snowmobilers that had their machines buried up to the windshield.

After 22 miles of cruising along our winter wonderland we could see the Burgdorf Hot springs in the distance. The where a number of wooden buildings that where decorated with several feet of snow. We followed a sign to the check-in lodge and was meet by Caroline a lovely lady and with her husband, they manage the hot springs. A cabin named Ann Marie would be our home for 2 days. We jumped back on our mighty machine and drove right up to the cute cabin. After unloading our gear we started a fire in the wood burning stove. Then with our swim suits and towels in a small back pack it was back on the machines for a return to the lodge and the hot springs.

The main pool was between 95 and 100 degrees and was the size of a 1/2 of a basket ball court. Two smaller pools feed this large pool and they where both 115 degrees and they where called the lobster pots, wonder why? A group of five fella from Seattle had been in the pool for a hour before we arrived and they sure knew how to handle the booze. A 1/2 gallon apple cider container held more then just apple cider. The recipe called for apple cider, apple juice, cinnamon sticks, sugar and 120 proof Everclear. This concoction was called Apple Pie and Pam said it tasted just like it. When they finished that and a case of beer it was time for a metal flask that was the size of a NY city phone book(not kidding!) that was filled with apple flavored whiskey. They had bought the flask at a restaurant in town called Lardo's, it should have been wino's. Another couple people joined us with more booze and what a good time we all had just talking and making fun of the Bronco's since they where from Seattle. Everything outside the hot springs was covered with several feet of snow, including the logs surrounding the pool. One of the these 1/2 pickled Seattle fellas kept trying to walk across the snow covered log, along side the pool. Each time he would get half way and loose his balance and fall into the pool, I thought of a you-tube moments. But there wasn't any broken bones! When everybodies hands had turned into wrinkled prunes from the hot springs we all got out.

Pam and I went back to our cabin and had a candle lite dinner, since there isn't any electricity. By 8:00pm with the only light we had was from the wood burning stove we called it a night. Then every 2 hours I would get up and feed our mighty stove with more wood.
Feb 10th Pam's birthday yipeee. We started with a breakfast of oatmeal and off to our very own hot springs for a hour soak, life is tough. Our host showed up and we ordered a special birthday dinner, wieners and burgers, to be served tonight. She told us some history of the place, the Indians used the hot springs for centuries until the trappers, miners and then cattleman showed up, with their dirty back sides. A Dr. from McCall now owns it and he got it from his family after they bought it in the 1900's. There was a mine in Warren and a road ran right by the hot springs and mule skinners and the like use to stop in the 1800's from hauling ore from there.

We found out about a mountain that is covered with quartz and it's called Crystal Mountain. Pam and I decided to snowshoe up the trail that lead to the top of this mountain. The trail had been beaten down by a snowmobile, so it wasn't to hard to follow. On top of the mountain we didn't find any quartz but we had a great view of the valley and surrounding mountains.

After lunch we fired up our snowmobile and decided to head to the ghost town of Warren. It was 16 miles away and the road cut thru a couple small mountain passes. Within a hour we where zooming through downtown Warren. I noticed a small ranger station with a few signs explaining local history so I drove off trail. Then after reading the signs we got back on the machine and the snowmobile didn't move. The snow as like granulated sugar and we couldn't get any traction. I thought why not just grab this machine and spin it around, except the machine was heavy as a car. We tried to back the machine up without any success. Then in the distance a man appeared carrying a shovel. I didn't know if he was a ghost and I didn't care at this point. With 20 minutes of shoveling and three of us turning the machine around we got our frozen butt out of the snow bank.

The soak in the springs before dinner, completely nicked out our snowmobile problems. The burger and chip dinner was followed by a brownie with a candle for pam's bday. We found out our hosts, had gone to school in Boulder Colorado and had meet in Jamestown. For the last 10 years they have maned a fire lookout station with limited access to see each other during the summer. Caroline only got 2 days off the whole summer.
Feb 11th Woke to colder temps and lite snow fall. We loaded up our gear on the sled and headed back to the real world, without hot springs. We turned in our gear and headed to Spokane. Pam's mom is needing some tender loving care so Pam headed down to Lousiana from the Spokane airport.

I drove onto Castlegar BC after answering a thousand questions at the border crossing. Do you have guns, pepper spray, tasers, A Bombs? The mountain pass just before Castlegar was snowy and icy but that didn't keep a tractor trailer from passing me going 80. Finally I could see the Quality Inn and it made everything A OK.
Feb 12th I woke last night and looked outside to a true Canadian sight, snow coming down, covering my truck. Well this will work out perfect because I have down hill ski on my mind. I had bought a discount ski pass for Red Mountain and that's where this old boy was headed. With all the new snow the area couldn't have been better. All the slopes had something for everyone's ablity. My first run was down a slope cover with boulders that where covered with snow on a 45 degree slope. I was working very hard to make my way through this puzzle and sweating so hard I fogged up my googles. I had to go back to the truck and take off a layer of clothes. By 2:30 my legs told me enough already, so home I headed. It had been foggy driving up this morning but now it was clear and quite beautiful.
Feb 13th Today I would head back up into the mountains and snowshoe. I asked around Castlegar and no one seemed to have any knowledge of hiking trails. The grocer at Safeway told me to go to the Canadian Tire store, they may have some maps, I think he was trying to get rid of me. I did find a nice trail called 7 Summits and found it to be very good for snowshoeing. I actually found 2 A frame cabins that I used to sit and look at the distant mountains. After eating my lunch at Sunset A frame I headed back down the hill with a windy snowstorm on my back side.

Just thought of a couple funny things I didn't add to the blog. Yesterday when I was skiing I was riding with a student from South America. He reminded me of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite movie, he even looked like him. He told me of the last time he snowboarded Red Mountain. " I was taking this sweet jump, when I caught a edge and woke up in the hospital!" Pedro said. He had dislocated his elbow and had just got out of a sling. Next funny is at Alta ski area. Pam didn't like looks of the steep ski runs and was very nervous just thinking about them. As we stood looking up at the slope and I was trying to convince her everything would be alright, the ski patrol set off a series of explosions to break up avalanches. The sound bounced off the valley and rattled my filings in my teeth. The third explosion last was the last straw as I looked at the Alta ski map to find a kinder slope.
Feb 14th It's my job today to drive to Canmore Alberta. The weather is a mixed bag of really snowy conditions to white out conditions. My aim is to make it over the pass from Radium Hot Springs before they close the road for avalanche control. Two years ago when I was on the same road, I drove up to the hot springs and a road workers was standing in the middle of the road holding a big coal shovel. "The pass is closed!" he yelled. "I bet the department of roads couldn't find a bigger guy to stand guard!" I yelled. He laughed and agreed. The hot springs was just over the hill from Big John, so I told him to honk his truck horn when the road opened, which he did. This time there was no road blocks but the road was something out of the North Pole, especially when I saw a road sign telling us to watch out for reindeer. I wouldn't have been surprised to see old Saint Nick, it was that kind of day. Snow was piled up along the road 8 feet deep and all the pine trees where covered form top to bottom. I sure was glad to get to the valley floor, because the snow didn't follow me down there.

The rocky mountains along this valley are beyond all description, the best camera will not capture the breath taking beauty also. These mountains are a lot steeper then the ones we have in Colorado. As I drove in the Econolodge lot, my home for 3 days, my neck hurt from looking at the scenery all around. After checking in I took a drive downtown Canmore and tried to get some good pictures. Standing in the doorway of the Safeway grocery store looking up at the mountains was unbelievable.
Feb 15th My goal today is to ski Lake Lousa ski area, but I also noticed this area has what is known as Family weekend, to kind of go along with our Presidents day holiday. My hotel clerk told me that the ski area will have between 5-7 thousand skiers. Knowing this I got up real early and was down at the breakfast room 30 minutes before it opened. The night clerk opened it ahead of schedule just for me. I drove in the dark to the ski area and I was the first one in the huge parking lot. Got all my gear and walked up to the lodge and was able to buy my ski pass, from a vending machine. The ski lifts don't usually open until 9:00 am so I was surprised when the attendant let me on at 8:30. I went to a back bowl and skied 4 runs before a lot other skiers showed up. By 2:00 pm there where between 5-7 thousand skiers so I headed to my truck. The parking lot was full and the road leading to the parking lot was covered for a solid 1/2 mile both sides of the road.

My room had a whirlpool, which I used to sooth my aching legs.
Feb 16th Pam called this morning her mother had passed during the night at he ripe old age of 93. So I started the long drive from Canada to Denver at 1,200 miles, than another 1,200 miles to Lousiana.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wind River Range Wy.

  Wind River Range is located a couple hours north of Rock Springs Wy. or ten hours north of Denver my home town. It's a huge area that covers 2.25 million acres and 2,900 lakes dot this landscape. Even though it's located not that far from populated cities not many people know about the area or visit it. 700 miles of hiking trail cross over 3 wilderness areas that offer many views and experiences. I have to put myself the same boat as the uninformed hikers when it comes to Wind River. I had purchased the two map set many years ago and only recently bothered to look at them. There are so many lakes shown on the maps that a fisherman slash hiker doesn't know where to start in planning his trip.

  Like most hikers I was interested in a trail that would make a circle and expose myself to as many lakes as possible in a 4 day period. I left Denver on July 17th with my objective of camping in the Boulder lake campgrounds on the southwest entrance to Wind River. After a ten hour drive I was ready to settle down and look at some mountains instead of 18 wheeler trucks along I 80, so the campground was a welcome sight. A couple from Salt Lake City occupied the site next to me so I walked over to find out some information about the area, mostly about the fishing. The couple had walked up towards Lake Ethel yesterday but got caught in sudden thunder storm, so they high tailed back to their tent, which they discovered leaked like a sieve. The fella had been to the lake in the past and told me that it was a fishing mecca for local fisherman,so don't expect many fish, since it was the first lake hikers came to.

  This Mormon couple had meet when the woman's car broke down and he was able to fix it along side the road many years and children ago. He was brought up Mormon but didn't practice as much as his wife until they got married in the church and the rest is history. He worked at the lumber yard but was a pretty fair hand at fixing cars and had collected a few through the years. Their one son was ready to go on his missionary duty to Fort Lauderdale Florida so this fella had to sell one of his cars to pay for the trip. If I had to go on a mission the east coast of Florida this place wouldn't be bad I thought to myself.  I would try and convert girls to Mormanism as I applied sun tan lotion to them. The longer we talked the clouds got darker and with rain starting to come down each one of us headed for shelter.

  The next morning the skies had cleared and I started on the Boulder Creek trail towards Lake Ethel. The trail followed the creek for the whole distance to the lake. A past forest fire really did a number on the landscape.This area is a major example of what a glacier can do when it's got a granite mountain in the way. The left side of the trail was solid rock that was decorated with large round granite boulder. The glaciers had tumbled these rocks ahead of them and had turned them into giant marbles. Within 3 hours the trail took a hard left turn and began to climb and climb. Then in the distance I could see my lake. A large waterfall was dumping water from the lake above. I expected a few back packers since there where a several trucks in the parking lot at the trail head. I almost ran to a great level spot over looking the lake. I set up camp and was down in the water fishing before I knew it. I found out that a fire ban had been lifted so maybe I could have trout for lunch.

  The weather couldn't have been milder and I was up to my knees in the lake as I walked the shore line casting out my lure. On the second cast I hooked a nice Cut Throat Trout. With the help of a willow branch I was able to secure my lunch at shore line. I must have caught 6 more before heading back to my camp for lunch of trout. Since I forgot to bring anything to cook Mr. fish in I made a rack out of green willow branches. What a grand view looking over my own personal waterfall as I devoured my vitals.

  After a short siesta I was right back in the waters casting and catching with some success. Then came the thought of my pathways for tomorrow which would lead me to my next campsite and more fish. the trail according to my map was on the south end of the lake and I must of walked right by this morning. walking back towards the end of the lake I noticed a bridge leading over the stream that was coming from my lake. the stream might not been hard to cross if it was on the same plan as the path but the power of the water had carved a deep recession out of the rock. The water was about 20 feet below the bottom of the bridge and was moving so fast it was making a whistling noise.

  The next morning I was up and on the trail by 7:00 am. This trail didn't follow any creek it just seem to have a mind of it's own. the trail twisted and turned as it made it's way among giant rock formations. The past forest fire also made the rocky mountain look like the back of a giant porcupine, with blackened trees as quills. The trail was also climbing which gave me a chance to look back down the Boulder Creek drainage which I had hiked yesterday.

  Within a few hours I came to a lone horse standing inside a homemade corral of small pine logs. I walked all around looking for this critters owner but he must have been out counting chipmunks. Then I came to beautiful lake that almost made me want to stop and break out the fishing pole. Like the past lakes this lake was set down in a large bowl of rock that must have been carved out from the many glaciers a zillion years ago.

  A lunch time I came to North Fork Lake which must have been 4 times bigger then Ethel lake. The views, let me try and describe the views. For one thing the lake backs up to the Continental Divide on it's eastern side. Large mountains capped with snow made for a mirror image on the still water surface, these are the mountains that divide the America's in half. It's a image that has to be experienced and with the changing light the images changes every hour. On the north and south side of the lake the fires had done their damage here.

  I set up my camp and wanted to see if i could repeat my luck with trout for lunch. This lake din't let me down and I was eating trout by 1:00 pm, with all views as my back drop. As I ate my food I heard a group of Boy Scouts come marching down the trail from Lake Victor. I noticed when I had signed into the trail head log that is where this group was headed. I thought they where going to stop and camp but by the time I got my fish cooked and eaten they had vanished.

  I walked back down to the lake and decided to walked the shallow shore line casting and wading as I worked my way along the lake. Within a hour 2 fellow fisherman came walking along the trail and I stopped to chat. Their packs looked like they where ready for base camp on Mt Everest. Wide, tall and heavy is what it looked like to me and they where in a mean mood, with carrying all that gear in the blazing sun can do. Every positive point I brought about the Wind River was answered with a negative point. "The trails are sure marked well!" said. "We have been lost several times!" they yelled. "The fishing has been rewarding at Ethel Lake!" I explained. "We have had a few bites, but not a s good as expected!" said the cranky back packer. I was sure glad they where walking down the path carrying all the bad vibes with them.

  Within a few hours and countless caught a released I made it to a rocky point, which I couldn't go any farther without swimming. From my past experiences trying to catch the trout rocky points sometimes have all the fish hanging out. This point also had a rocky ledge about 20 feet out in the lake where the water depth dropped off very fast. Now it's time for a fish story with in a few hours time I caught and released 130 trout. What can be the down side of this story, I knew it would spoil me for any other fishing if I didn't have a fish on my line at every cast.

  I walked back to my camp with a sore arm from casting and catching but what a day. Then at dinner time I heard some horses walking by and saw three rider with their cowboy hats bobbing above the trees. After eating I walked back down the trail and I could hear them and their horses. I walked out to the tree line and watched as these cowboys where trying to shoot the trout out of the water with their guns. Maybe somebody got kicked in the head one times too many!

  The next morning I headed on the trail towards Lake Christina, which I had heard was steep and rough. I found the trail to be fairly easy and was making great time. I walked a number of small lakes but kept on walking towards my next campsite. I started to descend into the lake basin when I noticed a Bull Moose standing at the end of the lake knee deep in water. It turned into a starring contest between Mr. Moose and myself, until the moose took off running. I stopped along the lank shore and tried fishing but only caught few small fish, I knew the last lake bounty would spoil me. After spending a hour casting I decided to walk back down to Lake Ethel.

  The trail dropped fast going into this lake drainage and I was at the lake within a few hours. I set up camp and tried fishing but this lake was holding onto it's reward in the way of fish. By lunch I decided to walk back to the truck and set up camp at the campground where I had started 3 days ago.

  By this time it was getting warm and I ran into a few back packer with their tongues hanging out as they climbed the trail. By 5:00 pm I made it back to my truck but being Saturday all the campsites where full. So I drove back to Denver and was in my little bed by 2:00 am.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Italian/Scottish Western Tour 2012

  My good friends from pizza land were going to visit me again in the good old USA. The first time I met the Italians was when we walked across Scotland and had shared a cramped hostel room. Then a few years ago, I invited them to my country for a hiking and ski trip that started in LasVegas. This time I wanted to share with them our spectacular Northwest. We would start in Denver and travel for 36 days, always heading towards the northwest. I am getting a little ahead of myself, let me introduce the players in this grand adventure. I am Vince from Denver-then there is Keith from Scotland-all the rest are from northern Italy, Milan to be exact-Biagio-Piero-Adele-Piero-Allessandra-Carmelo-Giorgio-Antonio-Gianni- and Santino.

  It took me over a month to get all of the arrangements for our stays and the rental van lined up. The Italians had a lot of planning also with getting plane tickets and visas. It all came together on a warm night on Sept. 5th 2012. I had my 15 passenger van ready with a roof carrier attached for all the baggage. I could only park in certain areas of the DIA airport because of the height restriction. I didn't want to wreck our trip before it started by pulling the top off the van. Their plane arrived on time around 7:30 pm, but by the time they made it through customs it was touching on 9:00 pm. Pam, my wife had a complete feast waiting for us when we arrived at our house. It was fun meeting new friends and rubbing elbows with my old friends as we ate the food prepared. Biagio, Piero, Allessandra, Giorgio and Keith had all met up in 2009 when we had walked across Scotland on the The Great Outdoor Challenge. Biagio, and the 3 other Italians had gone with me when I showed them our Southwest.

  Sept 6th-  After a good night's sleep, we all met back at our house after the group had been divided up   for sleeping. Nick and Anna and Dave and Melisa helped with sleeping accommodations. I loaded up our van with food left over from last night and we headed to the mountains. Mt Evans's 14,000 foot peak would be our destination. There is a road that leads all the way to the top but because of the time of year it was closed at Summit lake. Dave Guzy and his lovely daughter Elizabeth followed in their own car. The weather was clear and we had a fine view of the tundra and twisted pines created from the wild weather inhabiting this part of the country. At one of the stops, a couple from back east were taking in the panoramic views in the distance when the lady gave out a yell. Looking down on the ground she had found a large diamond that must have fallen out of a visiting tourist's ring. Her husband was also excited with the thought of maybe the diamond could pay for their vacation and a couple of beers. That night we all got together with a few additional friends for another feast.

Sept 7th-  The whole group assembled in front of our house with plans of getting all baggage into a 15 passenger van. After much shifting and moving and a little bit of cussing in English and Italian we were ready for our grand travels.

  Our first stop would be the Flat Irons in Boulder, Colo. for some low impact hiking with one eye on downtown Boulder and the other on the impressive Flat Iron mountain formation. It being a weekday, the trails where not as crowded. There are more bicycles in Boulder than cars and I think the same goes for dogs. When someone moves to Boulder I think they stop by the pound and buy themselves a canine. There are some impressive athletic types that live in Boulder and they can be seen running the trails with their trusty dogs and doggy-doo bags hanging from their belts

  I drove our group to Estes Park as our final destination with a short stop at Lyons for some much needed nourishment. This small town has many little shops and a few good restaurants that would meet everyones needs. Dave G and Melisa were joining us for our first couple of days and Miss M. suggested we stop at a Mexican restaurant for food. After traveling with this group before, I should have known that hot Mexican food would go over like a lead balloon, so I planned for the worse. On our last trip I found that it was always easier for me to order for the whole group. I would take pen and paper and try to make it as simple as possible for waiter cook and cashier. This cafe had a special on enchiladas that were not supposed to be hot enough to burn a Northern Italians' tongue. So half the group ordered the special and some chose the traditional American hamburger. The drink of choice was always easy, it being a frothy glass of beer to clear the throat.

  Biagio, always the keen observer noticed a couple of shapely cowgirls at another table. With tight jeans and weathered cowboy hats, they did kind of stand out. Purely from a scientific point of view everybody wanted to know about these girls from the range. I walked over and explained our group makeup and asked if they wanted to join us. Without a moments hesitation these young fillies slid up a chair and became part of the international group. The cowgirls didn't have horses tied up outside, they were riding Harley Davidson motorcycles.

  When our food arrived some of it was a hit and some a miss. Carmelo said he didn't get enough besides it being a bit hot, so he ordered chips. The waiter brought corn chips and the look on Carmelo's face was priceless. Chips in Italy are french fries, which are bought by grand parents when they take their little ones for a treat.

   Within a few hours of driving we pulled into Estes Park with its' high mountains guarding the town. After a few minutes driving around we found our sleeping establishment. I had spent a lot of time locating all our accommodations for our 36 day adventure. Because of the large group I tried to keep one eye on the budget and one eye on location. When I had been investigating Estes Park I couldn't believe my luck when a hostel appeared on my computer screen. I had not only looked at the site but I had also called the nice woman that owned the hostel. She was so glad to take reservations for 12 people. No worries she told me, we have plenty of room at the hostel and a cooking area also.

  I got out of the van first and noticed right off that the place looked well used,with a bit on the shabby side thrown in for flavoring. There was a long wooden staircase on the right side of the building that definitely had seen better days. After climbing up this death trap, I knocked on the side door with hopes of being greeted by some kind of transformation other than what the outside represented. The kitchen, if that's what you would call it, was the first thing I stepped into and out of with one step. A dark living room beheld a man stretched out on a long table with his face in a twisted state. Another fella had his one leg bent straight up towards the ceiling and was pushing down hard on it. After a few seconds I realized the tormentor was a masseuse. "I am here with the party of 12." I explained. "Should I bring the bags up?" I questioned. "Where else would you put them!" was his come back. I thought to myself, this is going to real good, a  hostel from hell and a smart ass inn keeper. By this time the rest of the gang along with Dave and Melisa in tow showed up. Even if we all wanted to stay there, it wasn't enough room. I knew we would have a hard time finding something else with the Scottish games going on this weekend. Biagio asked Mr. Smarty Pants about all the trash under the stairs. His reply, "don't look down at it keep your eyes straight ahead."

  All of us spread out in this nightmare, trying to find something that was clean and a place where a normal person could stretch out on. There was one room that had two beds, so we could take that, there was another bed room with one bed so we took that. Then there was one room that had four bunk beds in it, but clothes shoes and assorted other things where thrown around the room. By this time our inn keeper must have been feeling our pain and started to size up the situation. We all went from room to room trying to make sense of this puzzle. One of the rooms, if you could call it that was more like an outside porch with a chaise lounge, could provide a bit of a sleeping space, for somebody that liked the great outdoors. Melissa with a heavy sleeping bag was selected for this room. The next room, which used to be a porch that somebody remodeled with one blind eye the other one that could not see was another possibility.

  Our first place to stay looked like a horror movie set and had a Smart Ass as it's director. Our host told us that a lady who lives up north owned the place and he just watches it for free rent. Two girls from Bulgaria who lived down stairs, were in charge of cleaning for free rent, but I think they where more interested in the night life then the life at the end of a mop! When I explained that we would try and make it work our host said, " I don't care!"

  When we all got back in the van there was a lot of chatter in Italian but I didn't need to know the language to know what the subject was. I decided to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and take in beautiful scenery to bypass some of the mayhem in Estes Park. I was heading to the park when I noticed a vacancy sign on a nice motel. I couldn't believe my eyes, with a large festival going on in Estes Park, I didn't think there would be any rooms available. I rented a cabin that sleeps six and we all went back and got the six bags from the hostel and switched things out. When I came into the hostel the host said, " I bet you came back for you're bags and you're leaving!"

  It was a nice feeling to get back into the park and look for wildlife and take in the mountain views. Within a few minutes we where looking down on a herd of elk that were grazing in the meadow. The bull elk were bugling for another bull elk to challenge their call, followed by the shoving match with antlers smashing together. We next drove over to Bear Lake and followed the trail around it' scenic views. Large pine trees completely surrounded the lake, with a large mountain crowning the west shore. Our large group were walking and talking when I saw something large moving towards the calm lake. Almost immediately I realized we had broken up a mating ritual between three Elk. The male Elk was doing his very best to get the females into the right mood. Maybe he needed a couple of Dean Martin records and a bottle of wine, but our presence didn't help the situation any, I am sure. This big fella was on a mission and we all tried to stay out of the way of those very sharp antlers. At one time all three Elk stood in knee deep water and the lovely creatures made a picture perfect mirror image on the still water. I don't think the Italians knew how lucky they were to witness such a sight.

  For dinner I had made reservations at a restaurant that overlooks Mary's Lake and everybody got exactly what they wanted, as far as food and drink. After dinner I dropped off the 6 Italians at there new, clean and comfortable motel. Then the rest of us drove back to the Hostel From Hell. While we were gone the crazy twisted host rented out Giorgio's bed and my bed. So Giorgio had to sleep on this old couch and I slept  on the floor beside Keith's bed.

  Sept 8th-The next morning our group drove back to the motel which had a real kitchen and ate breakfast. I had written a note pretending it was from our crazy host. I told Piero and the other 5 Italians that I found the note under my door this morning. I tried to keep a straight face as I read it out loud. "I am sorry that the hostel didn't work for you 6! Therefore I am going to give you 2 free nights next summer, but you have to come in a week early to clean!" They all listened then everybody laughed and we ate breakfast.

  This morning was going to be the Scottish festival parade so we drove back down to Estes and found a place to watch the parade. Keith, being from Scotland made watching the parade interesting. Each group that came marching down the street wore a different outfit and carried a sign explaining their clan. Keith was able to fill us in on where the clan came from and and give us a  little history. After a few hours the parade was over and we were ready to head back to the park for some more hiking. Dave and Melissa had some things to take care of in Denver so we said goodbye until we would see them again in 30 some days.

  With all the tourists taking in the Scottish activities the park was also pretty crowded. The park service was also working on Bear Lake road so I had to change a few things  around and head a different direction. We found a very nice trail that led us to a lake where we could eat our picnic and soak in a little sunlight. We met some other hikers who had the same idea in mind and exchanged some thoughts with them. I had bought some food at the grocery store so we headed back to the motel and cooked a traditional Italian dinner and all was good with the world.

Sept 9th-  It was time to move on to our next adventure but I didn't know exactly how to handle the Hostel From Hell's bill. I sat at the small kitchen table with the host and he explained the way things work in the hostel as far as the billing goes. It would be $26.00 per person per night according to our host. "Now wait a minute, 2 of us had to sleep on a couch and the floor, do we pay for that?"I asked. Before he could answer I said, "Also we aren't paying $26.00 but only $20.00 per person!" "I cleaned up under the stairs and the land lady will be mad!" our host said. To echo his response to my questions, I said "I don't care!"

  We drove back through the park over the highest road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. At the very top there is only alpine flowers and tundra but on this day a bull elk was standing in the crisp clear air. By noon we drove into the Shadow Mountain lake area and brought out our picnic food and had a feast, while looking at the lake.

  By 2:00 pm we drove into Steamboat Springs Colo and checked into a real live motel with beds for all and it was real clean. Carmelo had been eating bananas since he had landed in Denver and he had a problem with his plumbing. Everything seemed to be backed up in Carmelo and his eyes were getting browner by the minute. I had planned a trip to the downtown for some western clothing shopping and then on to the Strawberry Hot Springs. Carmelo wanted to sit in his room and just concentrate on having a smooth movement. I promised him we would stop by a drug store and find the right medicine, told him not to take it before we drop into the hot springs. I thought  the hot water and X-lax combination might make for a embarrassing situation for Banana Boy.

  The drive up to the hots springs had breathtaking views, with the aspen trees turning yellow in preparation for winter. We stopped by the waterfall pictured on the Coors beer bottle as a little side trip. By 4:00 pm we drove into the Strawberry Hot Springs parking lot which gave us plenty of time to soak and relax. The ticket taker resides in a old caboose which looks like a old hippie hangout . I had planned on having a steak cookout after our splash and asked our attendant about the location of the barbecue. "Oh we don't allow any cooking around the springs!" explained ex-hipster.  Thankfully I had called and gotten permission and directions to the propane burners.

  This hot springs is not your typical resort type enterprise. The changing room is a open pavilion with lots of  space for people to stare and gawk at the changers. After dark wearing a bathing suit is optional, as everybody and their dog will tell you in town with a giggle. I have been to a few nudie hot springs and I would say over 75 % of the people should never be seen naked outside of  their own home! The bottom of the pool is covered with small round pebbles which feel good on your feet.

  After soaking for a few hours, a group of us walked back to the van and carried all the food down to the picnic tables.We where going to have a lot of cook outs and picnics as we traveled so everybody had a job and all the meals were a happy occasion.

  Sept 10th-  Today we would drive to Rock Springs, Wyoming with stop at Dinosaur National Monument. The dinosaurs are long gone but they sure did leave a lot of fossils. A building covers the discovery of over a thousand fossils. The wall of bones is like the size of a football field but slanted at a 45% angle. I have seen the wall several times but I am always impressed by the sheer size.

  By 5:00 pm we drove into the rough and tumble town of Rock Springs and found our nice motel to the travelers liking. On the internet I found an Italian restaurant and we had a great time eating and chatting into the evening.

  Sept 11th- Always heading north we stopped in Pinedale, Wyo to visit a frontier museum that really represented the old west. A tepee was set up outside with another one inside the museum that looked like it had come off an Indian encampment, which it had. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, when the army was surveying the area they came upon this tepee with all the weapons and tools abandoned in it.

  Just before lunch time I drove the van on a dirt road that would lead us to Granite Creek hot springs. The hot springs have been here forever but during the 1930's, the CCC build a pool and changing area around the hot springs.  What a great area to just sit and soak while the pine trees sway in the breeze. After a few hours of soaking it was time to have a picnic before driving on down the road.

  By late afternoon we drove into the cowboy and ski town of Jackson Hole which would be our stopping point for 2 days. Our hostel was at the bottom of the ski slope which was convenient to the town and the Grand Teton National Park. The hostel host gave us three rooms which slept 4 per room. In the lower level was the eating area with refrigerators and large tables. The cooking part would prove to be a little bit more complicated. There was a hot plate on the main floor and a microwave in the lower floor. I had brought a propane cooker so we set up everything and it worked. "No problems only solutions!"

  Sept 12th-Today we would have a hike around Jenny Lake with the  Grand Tetons as our guide. As we drove we noticed a group of cars pulled off the side of the road and it was a bear sighting. The Italians got to see there first bear of our adventure. The trail around the lake was very well maintained and we got to have a 360 degrees view of the lake and the Tetons. As a added bonus we came upon a pair of moose calves half way hiding in some brush right where there mother had left them. By late afternoon we had made it back to our van and it was time to fire up the propane stove.

Sept 13th- Now it was time to drive to Yellowstone NP, yes the world famous Yellowstone. We entered through the south entrance and within a few hours we saw our first buffalo. We fixed lunch in the picnic area along side Old Faithful geyser. A couple hours were spent walking around the different thermal attractions connected to Old Faithful.

  Then we drove to West Yellowstone and to our camping area. I had rented a few tepees for us to sleep in for our two nights. As we drove down the dusty road we could see the snow white tepees in the distance. A woman checked us in and everybody wondered what the sleeping arrangements would be. But first of all everybody had to sign a waiver. I got everybody lined up and all 12 of us signed on the dotted line. Then the young lady showed us the bath house, which was a very clean mobile shower and toilet unit. Then she showed us to our tepees which had cots with two sleeping bags and a wool blanket, it gets cold in West Yellowstone. Because of the possibility of bears roaming about, we couldn't cook any food and even tooth paste had be stored in the van. There was a place to have a fire and benches around the area.

  We drove back to the town of West Yellowstone and found a restaurant to eat our dinner. It was a little Italian restaurant owned by an Australian and run by a Mexican girl. We ordered pizzas and while we waited Biagio wanted to know what we had all signed. I explained that if a Grizzly Bear came into your tepee during the night and chewed your legs off the tepee company was not responsible!

Sept 14th-The 2 sleeping bags and wool blanket were needed because we woke up in a frosty tent. We drove into Yellowstone and started the long journey of sightseeing and trying to catch animals with our cameras. Every entrance to the national park proved to be interesting because of the large van chuck full of Italians and Scots. Every ranger figured me for a tour guide without a license and insurance. I have a park pass but at Yellowstone they wanted much more. The ranger couldn't believe I would do this for fun and she asked her supervisor to give me the Third Degree. At first just for fun I told the rangers these people in the van where all my cousins from Italy, Which is another funny thing, for when I made all the reservations for all our stays along the route I didn't know the Italians last names so I gave them mine, "Vogel" Within a few minutes of explaining the ranger waved us through.

  Our first stop was the Painted Mud Pots which have different colored hot mud bubbling up and making a kind of  slow motion burping noise. Then we all walked down to the Yellowstone Waterfalls which were running very high and provided lots of views. Along our drive we saw our fair share of animals and by 4:00 pm we where ready to head back to West Yellowstone and to a fine steak dinner. The 2 sleeping bags felt good climbing back into them after a long day of hiking.

  Sept 15th- This morning we are headed to Glacier National Park for some more sightseeing and hiking. Our travels will take us through Montana which at this time was being clouded with smoke from all the  forest fires. The town of Kalispell would be the place where we would lay our heads for three nights. The town had lots of stores for shopping and a couple of nice sporting goods stores. The last time I was here I stopped by a ski shop so we got a chance to check this store out again. Keith had been looking for a set of cross country skis and boots. Keith and I put a pair skis and Italian leather boots on the sales counter and asked the clerk for her best price. Keith was able to buy the package for what the boots would cost in Scotland.

  Sept 16th-   Santino informed me that his birthday was getting closer and he wanted to have a birthday party, which I thought would be a fantastic idea. I drove to the grocery store and ordered 12 rib eye steaks, then picked up goodies for a salad, birthday cake and party favors.

  I drove everybody into Glacier National Park for some great scenery and perfect hiking trails. The Going to the Sun road would close the next day so we lucked out. the road travels over Logan Pass and the engineering that went into the road is a sight to behold. In fact,the park service hired a landscaper to design the road. The road is cut out of the side of the mountain with panoramic views and waterfalls splashing down on the roads. At the top is a visitor center and a couple of trails that lead even farther up into the sky. We all decided to hike the trail to the over look of a high alpine lake. There were many steps in the wooden board walk that lead onto a dirt trail. After a hour walking we made the summit and what a view we had as we  enjoyed our lunch.

  Along the road we spotted several white mountain goats feeding on sections of grass. I was driving along the narrow road trying to not be sideswiped by on coming cars when "BOOM" I had hit a wooden pole stuck into the edge of the road to warn snow plow drivers of where the road ended. The passenger side rear view mirror insert went flying off and then crashed to the ground. Keith ran back and picked up what was left of it.

  We also stopped at McDonald Lodge to have a view of the lake and consume a snack. We met a few people and one fella bought beers for the Italians.

  Back in Kalispell it was party time for Santino. Johnny fired up the barbecue for steak, and everyone else set the picnic table in a local park. After much singing and talking it was time for Santino to give a birthday toast which he did and thanked everyone for being there. As a gag gift I gave Santino a can opener to replace the one he had broken, that I had brought from home!

  Sept 17th- Today we hung around Kalispell and did some window shopping. We all went into a thrift store and some of us found a few  bargains. I went into Walmart and found a makeup mirror for $4.50 and with a couple of smashed beer cans behind the mirror, I duct taped the mirror insert back into its' place. It sure beat  the $150 the glass man wanted.

  That night I found a small Italian restaurant that had a special on spaghetti dinners with a salad. The owner came by a few times and had a ball talking to all of us.

  When we got back to the motel, we stood outside our rooms talking and a lady came out and wondered what was going on. This screw ball from another planet wanted to know where all of us were from. As soon as we said Italy she went into this long speech about how the Vatican was against the Lutheran Church. I thought Lutherans were calm and docile, but not this one. She told Biagio she had the copy of the doctrine that Martin Luther had nailed on the door of the Catholic Church. Biagio thought she said come into my room and I'll show you the paper. Biagio followed her into her room and she let out yell. "He's in my room!" I got the international incident straightened out and we gave this woman a wide berth.

  Sept 18th- I had breakfast stuff in my room and was outside getting the propane burners fires up outside when the crazed Lutheran showed up. "I have a 5 year old boy in my room and could you watch him while I get coffee in the lobby?" she asked. I thought to myself this could go from bad to worse in a matter of minutes. "How about if I go get your coffee and you watch your child?" Then I ran to the lobby and was back before she could say "Bless your heathen heart!"

  As we drove through town a car next to us slammed into the stopped car ahead of it. Then within a hour I was driving when the car in front of us slammed on its' brakes. I cut the steering wheel a hard left and just missed the car but drove through a school crossing zone. Then I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a police car with lights a flashing coming towards us. I pulled on a side road and the officer walked up to the van. "Did you know you drove through a school crossing?" he asked. "Yes I did but the car in front of me slammed on its' brakes and to avoid an accident, I drove around the car." I explained. "I also noticed that all of your passengers are not wearing seat belts and that's a $100.00 fine per passenger!" he explained. Trying to worm my way out of this potential huge fine, I decided to use the police badge card. "My son, that is on the SWAT team, has the same bullet proof vest that I noticed you are wearing." I declared. Our officer went back to his car and sat there for 15 minutes, then came back with a warning ticket and an envelope for a $20.00 donation to the endangered Montana Bigfoot. After that I pulled out real slow and drove into the setting sun.

  By the time we drove into Spokane,Washington it was a little late in the afternoon. After checking into our motel we drove downtown and walked around the park that borders the river and waterfalls. After a lot of sightseeing we had worn a hole in our stomach that needed to be filled. I had made reservation at the Steam Plant restaurant. The host took us through the restaurant and showed us to our own room. Everyone left with a smile on our faces.

  Sept 19th- Today we had Mt Rainer National Park on our schedule. As we got closert to the mighty mountain we had fantastic views of all the glaciers on its' slopes. We would be staying in a small town named Randie. I drove into the driveway, and the motel was old and spread out, with a cabin here and a another building there. I walked into the bar and lobby and found the woman that owned the place. We had both mixed up the day that had been reserved for our stay. After more then a few minutes trying to figure out who could sleep where, we all walked into another buildings and counted beds. We finally ended up with a cabin and two rooms. I would sleep on the floor and used cushions off the outside chairs as my mattress.

  Sept 20th- After talking to a ranger in the visitor center, I found a trail that would lead us up to Paradise Park on the slope of Mt Rainer. We parked the van and met a couple that wanted to join us on our little adventure. The trail was always climbing and snaking around the different valleys. Part of it I had hiked before when I hiked the Wonderland Trail in 2004. By lunch time we found a small waterfall and our new friends along with a few old friends were getting tired out. Within a few minutes after lunch we found a hard top road and part of our group decided to walk or hitchhike back to the van. The rest of us carried on until we feared we might run out of sunlight and turned around.

  Now it was Carmelo "Banana Boy's" birthday, so lets party. I had asked the bar restaurant if they could cook us up a feast of steaks, salad and french fries. They where more then glad to accommodate us but they didn't have any cake or decorations. The only store was located 20 miles back from where we had come from. I bought cake, decorations and Champagne. I was driving back to the motel when a state trooper driving towards me flipped a u-turn on the road. He pulled me over and I think it might have been racial profiling, since I tend to be a tad darker then most people. He walked up to the van shining his flash light in the back of the empty van. " After looking at my license and realizing I wasn't an illegal, he said " I know you probably thought the speed limit is 60 but it's really 50!" and then he turned and walked away.

  I decorated the room for our party, which happened to be connected to the bar. All the patrons at the bar who probably had one to many drinks, kept swinging around in their bar stools and looking my way. one yelled "Are you getting married?" and then laughed. " Yes I am in love with a waitress, and I don't even know her name!" was my reply. Which really got them all laughing.

  The party went off without a hitch and we drank the bubbly and ate cake back in the motel room.

  Sept 21st-Today we are headed to our first large city,Seattle, Washington. Our hostel is located in downtown Seattle and has everything a hostel should have. A clean kitchen and breakfast is included in the price. We unloaded all our gear and headed to the heart of the city, where all the shopping and fish markets are located. Along the way we walked along the wharf and checked out a few boats and also noticed some activity under white tents. Come to find out there is a tradition where local Indians paddle these large wooden canoes into the harbor to honor the catching of salmon. There was a large crowd around Pike Fish Market so we slowly worked our way through the masses. Most of the other shops were not as crowded. Everybody had different types of shopping in mind so it was every man for himself.. The crowds were large around the restaurants so we had to settle for Subway sandwiches. As we were crossing the street a black women with red and blue hearts painted on her face ran right in to the rush hour traffic yelling about something that must have been very important to her. She was dressed in a white sheet and had a aluminum covered hoop that dangled above her head, picture an angel. Two policeman, talking to her, couldn't picture her as a angel, she was more of a nuisance. After they left she went right back into traffic as she chattered away to the car hoods  banging on them.

  We walked down to the aquarium and spent several hours gazing into the world of the marine life represented behind the thick glass. There was a lot to learn if you spent the time reading about all the sea creatures.

  It was dinner time and I knew where I wanted to be, back at the Salmon Festival. For $10.00 the cooks gave you a large slice of salmon, potato salad, baked beans, bread and a drink. There was more then a few homeless people hanging out in Seattle and one fella just seemed to be following us. This fella was like my shadow as I ordered my food and then stood over me when I started to eat it. I ordered another for him but the cook said they already fed him earlier, so I had to tell him to move down the road which he did.

  Sept 22nd-Today would be the day for the Indians to paddle their wooden canoes into the harbor to start the Salmon festival. We all walked around and looked at the different shops selling tickets to the tourists. Carmelo couldn't get enough refrigerator magnets representing the areas that we had visited.

  In the distance we could see a number of canoes paddling towards our bay. Numerous Indians from different villages came to represent their tribes. Within an hour all the canoes from the various tribes in the area were lined up facing the harbor. A single leader in each canoe would yell greetings and ask if their tribe was welcome to the festival. The woman chief standing on the dock would yell "Yes you are welcome!" One canoe held the great grandchild of Chief Seattle. All of the canoes and the Indians in them were decorated for the event.

  After spending hours watching the ceremony, we walked to the Space Needle that overlooks the city of Seattle. We had to wait for our turn to travel in the elevator to the top of the tower but it was worth the wait.

  Sept 23- Today we were going to travel to Port Angeles, Washington to catch the ferry to Victoria BC the next day. Our travels took us along the coast line of Washington with many sights to take in as we looked out the windows of the van. We stopped at an Indian settlement and went through  their museum and gift shop. By the time we got to Port Angles it was dinner time and we were able to set up our food in the breakfast area.

  Sept 24th- We arrived early to catch the ferry to Victoria that would take a few hours of our time. There was a bit of fog, but for the most part it was clear sailing. The ferry pulled into the harbor and we could see the Empress Hotel and the capitol building. After walking for 15 minutes, we arrived at our hostel but our rooms were not ready so we dropped off our bags in the basement and started our adventure downtown. I have always loved the Natural History Museum and made that our first stop. There are three floors of everything you can think of that relates to the Northwest. The museum has a  full replica of Captain Cook's cabin that was part of his boat. There is a whole seaside town with barber shops, saloons and hotel, it is one of the best museums ever. The Italians attention wasn't as focused as mine was, so they just walked right through the museum and were ready for something more stimulating. I told them to walk around the town while I spent another hour at the museum. Keith had missed the Captain Cook's officer's quarters so he joined me.

  Sept 25th- Today we decided to take a hike in the mountains, which we could reach by bus. Santino and Banana Boy decided to hang around Victoria. I had ordered 12 sandwiches for our lunch at a local restaurant so that would be our first stop. Then it was a short walk to the bus stop and within an hour we were at the road that would lead us to the trail head. As we walked along I noticed a huge apple tree covered with red apples. I walked up to the house and ask the owner if we could have a few. With a surprised look she said. :You are the first person in 20 years that has ever asked, most people just take them!"

  Our trail led us up over a wooded area covered with raspberry bushes full of lovely black berries. I got to thinking that maybe we didn't even need to bring food. The trail emerged onto a beach with lots of sea life to explore.

  After eating our apples, berries and lunch we walked back to the bus stop, and within an hour we were back at our hostel. We dropped our packs and headed to the capitol building for a bit of a tour. The next stop was the Empress Hotel with its' highly decorated exterior and interior. I don't  know what they charge to stay here  but it didn't cost a dime to have a look see.

  We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant which was a first for my Italian friends but they seemed to enjoy it. After dinner we took a long stroll along the bay lit up with reflected lights from the city.

  Sept 26th- It was time to say "adios" to Victoria and "hola" to Port Angeles again. The ferry ride went rather smoothly and before we headed back to the motel we took a look at the Olympic National Park visitor center. We had planned on doing a long hike here tomorrow, and I needed some info on the right trails to explore.Our new ranger friend suggested a few hikes that would take us close to the view of Mt Olympic.

  For dinner I picked up some steaks and found out from my meat clerk about a great park to cook them in. She had gotten married there and said it was the cats' meow. The only problem was the great distance which she forgot to tell me about. By the time we arrived it was already getting dark, and by the time we finished cooking, we had to eat by van headlights.

  Set 27th- Our group headed to the trail head which the ranger said may be steep and he was right on. The trail kept leading us higher and higher with great views as our reward. We all had lunch with a view of Mt Olympic. The trail coming down was so steep every step required us to hold ourselves back, in order not to turn into a bowling ball. I got back to the van first, and knowing everybody would want some refreshments I drove into town and bought some beer and chips. The sight of my tired  friends coming off the trail made me realize I had made the right decision. For the next couple of days the front of our legs were very sore, particularly when we sat in the van for a few hours.

  Sept 28th- Today we will be heading to Forks with our first stop at Sol Duc Hot Springs. The hot springs are located in the national park but are run by a private company. The water was the hottest we had encountered at 107 F. The water was very clear and very soothing as we splashed around. After we got out Giorgio noticed his camera was missing. I asked the clerk if they had a lost and found and she produced the camera which was a relief to Giorgio.

  We checked into our motel in Forks and then I noticed I didn't have the van keys. I had placed the keys on the dash and we had locked the van. The motel owner knew someone and within a few minutes they showed up and with a long flex cable and unlocked the door.

  I found an Italian Restaurant in town and talked with the owner about eating there. If it was good, we would eat there again tomorrow night. The pizza and beer were very good so it was all set up for manana.

  Sept 29th- We drove into Olympic National Park with the idea of hiking up the Hoh Rainforest trail. The weather held as we walked along the forest floor and watched in wonder at all the moss covered trees. By lunch time we had come to a back pack campsite and decided to have lunch there. The walk back was just as nice with the river running beside the trail for most of the way.

  Tonight, at the same restaurant for dinner we had our own private room with lots of pitchers of beer to go with the pasta.

    Sept 30th-  Today we were going to drive to Astoria, Oregon and meet up with some of the Italian friends that they had met on the TGO in Scotland. On the way down we stopped at a few harbor towns and got to look around. At Westport we visited the harbor and watched a zillion seagulls trying to get bait fish from under huge nets. These crafty birds would walk on the nets and occasionally when the nets touched the water, the fish would rise to the surface, and the birds would lunge forward and grab a meal. A high tower at the end of town provided a great view of the ocean from its' lofty reaches.

  We found our motel in Astoria fairly easily and then came the hard part, finding the Italians friends. We called his wife and then called him. He then called called us and the motel but we never got connected to anybody! I found a park for a our dinner meal, and sat at a picnic table after having  given directions to this hard to find friend. In a few minutes this lost soul made an appearance and we all sat around and ate and talked. It got to be so late that this fella had to stay over and leave the next morning.

  Oct 1st-  A month has gone by, and today we would travel into California for the first time. The Oregon coast holds many hidden gems in the way of beautiful beaches. Our group stopped at a few of them and we ate our meal along one of the wind swept ones.

  By night fall we were getting close to our destination of Crescent City and the trees where getting a lot bigger. Our motel was located at the edge of town and there was a pizza place which served cheap pizza and cold beer. The food and drink put a end to a fine day.

  Oct 2nd - We had driven through a massive Redwood grove last night and due to the darkness  we couldn't see the splendor of these giants. I retraced our travel from last night and found a long dirt road that led us right in the middle of these brutes. Everyone got sore necks from looking up into the blue skies, as they tried to fathom the size of these trees. It didn't matter the kind of camera we had, the trees couldn't be captured in our lenses.

  The world famous town of San Francisco would be our resting spot for a few days. The city by the bay was on everyone's minds as we drove into town. Our hostel was located on one of the many main streets and it took a little time to find the right hostel. We had traveled from the peace and quiet of Northern California to the explosion of noise in a major city. I parked across the street from the hostel and we had to unload and carry everything across the street and into the hostel without becoming a part of a traffic accident. The hostel was huge and very well run. Our rooms were spread out all over the third floor. It was fun exploring the building and finding out what this hostel had to offer.

  All of us were excited about visiting Fisherman's Wharf and taking in a fine meal along the way. I found out where Little Italy was located and off we all went. At a couple of the restaurants we stopped in, the pasta must have been made of gold for the prices they where charging. At one place the Mona Lisa, the owner came out and talked with us and finding out the group was from Milan, he decided to charge us the local Italian rate instead of the tourist rate.

  After a fine meal we walked down to Fisherman's Wharf and to all the other attractions. There was plenty of gift shops for Banana Boy to buy refrigerator magnets. I told him that his frig might fall over with the weight of all of those magnets.

  Oct 3rd - Last week, before arriving in San Fran, we had reserved tickets to visit the island prison of Alcatraz. Today would be our lucky day to visit the rock, which I imagine wasn't somebody's luck if they were scheduled to be a prisoner. We were glad we got our tickets early, because hordes of people lined up to get on the ferry that would take us to the rock. Before we boarded, and as a way for the tour company to make more money, they had each group of tourists line up and take pictures, with Alcatraz in the back ground.

  The trip over in the boat was the only way to get to the rock with views of the Golden Gate bridge and San Fran's skyline as an added treat. A ranger met our boat with some important info at this National Park site. Then it was everybody for themselves with the idea of meeting back at a certain time to get on our boat. I found the place very interesting with stories of events and the prisoners that served their time here.

  After a few hours it was time for us to get back on the boat for our return to the city by the bay. There in long rows were the pictures that had been taken hours earlier. I showed them to Johnny and with smile he stuck them in his pocket and walked on. I didn't have the heart to tell him that we had to pay for them! I found a small cafe and went in and ordered 12 sandwiches, and it was quite a treat to watch a woman make all the sandwiches. Her hands where moving so fast you couldn't see them. Every place we ate at was a two sided sword, the restaurant was glad to see such a large group but it made the waitress's jobs a lot tougher with 10 Italians ordering from a English menu.

  After lunch we walked up to the tower overlooking the city and then had a nice walk around  the area. We all hung out in a local park and then decided to have dinner at the hostel. We were close to a grocery store, and three of us filled up our packs with dinner items. After a full meal of pasta, I was looking up at the activity board showing what was going on at the hostel. For tonight, it was pizza with a showing of the movie "The Rock"  in their events center. Sure enough when I arrived the movie was just about to start and then a woman showed up with 10 pizza pies. It was nice watching the movie after having just been to Alcatraz.

  Oct 4th- My friends have always heard about Napa Valley and today would be the day for them to experience it. I had to walk over to the underground parking garage and free our mighty van. The countryside leading to the valley was picture perfect with acres of grape vines and fruit trees. In one small town we walked around and went into a winery for some wine tasting, with everyone leaving feeling a little less pain. I found a large market that sold everything we could imagine in the way of Italian picnic goodies. We walked around to the different vendors and bought cheese, hard bread, fruits and glasses of beer. We all carried our meals outside and had a feast fit for a couple of kings and maybe a few queens.

  We drove to Calistoga with the idea of dipping our bodies into some more soothing hot springs. I saw an advertisement for the springs and walked into the establishment. The prices on the wall were not made for us mortals as they were sky high. Come to find out, this place was made for the people with deep pockets who  needed the extra touch and a little pampering. I found a pleasant hot springs just down the road which was top notch. The changing rooms where big and clean. The hot springs were laid out very nicely with fountains. We sat and swam in the pools for hours.

  Oct 5th- Time to hit the road again with the national parks of Sequoia and Yosemite on our hit list. We had to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and then walk back over it before our San Fran trip would be complete. I drove to the far side and parked the van, and as usual for this area, it was foggy, cold and windy, a typical day along the bay. We all traveled along the bridge walkway with hundred of visions for our eyes to behold. A long way down below us was the water of the bay that looked cold and somewhat inviting in a strange way. Seals on a distant rock barked and fog horns blared their lonely wail. There were large yellow signs every so often advising potential suicide jumpers to call this number listed. At the half way point some of the group decided to turn around and head back to the warmth of the van. The rest of us plodded on and at the end of the bridge on the San Fran side we found bathrooms and a few goodies to buy, especially something to warm our bodies.

  On our return journey across the bridge, I noticed a Coast Guard boat plowing through the water towards the lapping waves below the bridge. I also noticed a couple of fisherman pointing to the deep dark water. A fellow next to me at the guard rail, told me that someone had jumped off the bridge. We saw a set of clothes  spooky like  floating in the water without its' owner. This poor fellow hit the water so hard that his clothes got ripped off.

  By noon we had found our motel in Mercer, our stopping spot for a few days of exploration. I knew we had a long drive to Sequoia today so I wanted to drop our gear and start the adventure. In the lobby was a man talking to the host about his lost tooth brush. For 15 minutes the host and this idiot talked about his missing tooth brush. The host offered to buy a new one, giving him anything to end this craziness. Finally after the battle of the brush ended, I was able to check in, with the clerk just shaking his head and saying, "Why did I buy this motel?"

  Our road kept getting higher and higher as we got closer to the giant trees of Sequoia. A stop at the visitor center showed all of us what the park had to offer. I had been here many times before. Everyone was amazed by the sheer size of the trees. We took a couple long treks through the forest with our eyes always looking up.

  Oct 6th- Yosemite NP would be on the dance card today. The weather was picture perfect for us to take in all the magnificence that the park had to offer. The views of the sheer rock walls cannot be described. The mirror images on small lakes and ponds made for many Kodak moments. We had a nice picnic in the Yosemite Valley, as we filled their bellies and our eyes.

  Oct 7th- Time to start heading back to Denver with a few stops along the way. We drove back through Yosemite and got to have a view from above the park. Large granite slabs of rocks made for a large play area for many tourists and our group along the parkway.

  Our next state besides confusion, would be Nevada. At every state line we would all pile out of the van and take numerous pictures. At the Cali.- Nevada state line a truck was setting out in the middle of nowhere, it wasn't the end of the world but you could see it from here. The driver got out when we pulled up and he was looking at the bullet riddled sign of California. Thinking the Italians could speak English or care about his opinion he started into his sermon. "This represents what Nevada thinks of California gun laws!" pointing to the demolished state sign.

 Our stopping spot would be Hawthorne, the capitol of the bomb making factory for our armed forces. In the distance there were hundreds of buried bunkers that held powder with a few workers putting together weapons of mass destruction. The town was proud of its' place in our history for making bombs for all of our wars. There where several museums showing all the different types of hardware used in the bomb making process.

  Oct 8th-Our next state would be Utah and the city of Salt Lake. On the way we traveled by the Bonneville Salt Flats and talked to a couple of old race car drivers.

  Oct 9th- I wanted my guests to get the whole experience of Salt Lake so we drove downtown, and took in all that the Mormon faith had to offer. The city center has really changed and has added much to the holy square. The building showing the scale model of the temple is very informative. A visual aid shows a cross section of the temple, since non Mormons can't enter. Another room has a giant oil painting of the high priest with a select number of questions that he answers from a computer. It's mostly about how to run your life successfully as a Mormon. There is also an area dedicated for anyone to be able to look up their ancestors. The Italians found their long lost family way over in Milan.

  Another three story building is the event center that has a 5 acre garden on the roof . As we traveled to each floor there was more info on and about the Mormon religion.

 We drove to Frisco, Colorado and had plenty of time to shop till the Italians dropped at many factory outlet stores.

Oct 10th- Heading to the last roundup, Denver, and the plane home.  We wanted to have a last hurrah so we bought a lot of food and friends brought a lot of food. We sat around for hours and talked about our adventure.

  On the way to the aeroporto I stopped at Buffalo Bill's grave so the Italians could look at history and have a great view of the the city of Denver. I also asked everyone why Buffalo Bill was buried here? "because he is dead, ha ha!"

  Everyone, including myself seemed to have a great time and it seemed like we were gone for just a few days, not 36 days. We drove a total of 6,600 miles. Man oh man/ HO KA HEY!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Katy trail 2012

5/4/12 Mike L. and I got an early start driving towards Clinton, Mo. The 670 mile drive would take awhile so we wanted to allow enough time to get there without having the highway patrol collecting revenue for their Christmas fund. The terrain from Denver and across Kansas changed from the brown flat of Colorado to the green flat of western Kansas. When we got about half way across Kansas the rolling hills started to appear. The humidity was observed, since we were used to Denver, the driest city in the whole USA. After 11 hours of driving we arrived in Clinton, Mo. The start of the 250 mile Katy trail starts right here or ends here, according to which way your bike is headed. A very nice trail head with a detailed map showed what lay before us. A group of college kids had ridden to Sedalia and back, a 76 miler in 90 degree heat and 90 degree humidity, and they looked like it. Their shirtless backs shined from the sweat that was pouring out of their pores. They tried to convince us and themselves that they had biked close to a hunderd miles, but it only seemed to be that far. They did give us some valuable info on free camping behind the community center.

We checked out the camping spots and then checked out the restaurant scene. An Italian restaurant in the downtown square filled us up with homemade pasta and bread. This would be our last kitchen cooked meal for a few days, so we tried to make it last, by almost sweeping the floors and pulling up the chairs on the tables.

We drove back to the community center and noticed dew had already formed on the grass. We set up our tents and noticed fire flies lighting up the dark skies. Mike had never seen them so it was quite a treat. A lone car pulled into the large lot and the driver just sat in his car, with the dome lights on. I was wondering if we where going to wake up dead from this potential axe murderer.

I did wake up to a wet tent drapped across my body, the heavy dew had weighted down the tent and I felt like I was held between two wet sheets. I had brought a bigger tent and set it up around midnight, with much relief.

5/5/12 Next morning we loaded up our bikes and parked the truck with our canoes on top. May 12 would be the next time we would hopefully see the vehicle. We rode our bikes to the trailhead and our camp companion was sitting in his Cadillac. He had a Rosy Crested Cockatoo and a small lap dog with him. He seemed to be homeless, but going in style with the Caddy as a shelter. I think it was Will Rogers who said America is the only society that went to the
poor house in a Cadillac.

We had 36 miles to bike today and the humidity was a tad high, with dew dripping off our biking helmets. A cold front was supposed to bring relief to the area in the form of a major thunder boomer, forcasted for tonight.Every town that used to be part of the Katy trail way had a shelter for bike riders and in most cases a tiolet with some running water. Some of the towns were located just a few miles away and others as far as 15 miles apart. Sedalia, our stop for the night used to be a major stop for the train that connected Oklahomha, Texas and Kansas. The path leading to our town was hard packed limestone and what a sweet trail it was. In some cases it was better than riding on a black top service road. Large fields of newly planted crops lined the path on both sides. Sometimes a thick forest came down to the trail which was a welcome relief from the sun. Lots of critters either scampered or slithered across our path. Packs or groups of turtles found the trail very appealing for a morning sunning.

Within a hour we biked into the town of Calhoun, that as suppouse to have a cafe named the Whistle Stop. I found the barn wood covered building decorated with a faded sign reading Whistle Stop. We rode through town and found a small gas station that sold snacks and drinks. I asked inside about the Whistle Stop and a fella that lived there hppened to be in the store. His sister owned the Whistle Stop but got tired of chasing her tenants for her rent money. Her brother also needed a place to lay his had so he made the restaurant into a apartment. The women behind the cash register told me that she had plans on biking the Katy, "if I could find my bike that was purchased 10 years ago!" she said. At lunch time we rode by a sign reading Dairy Queen, attached to a arrow pointng right towards the town of Windsor. We found the ice cream stand that was being manned by Mr. Wilson. His family bought this store 65 years ago and had lived in the house that was connected to the store front. Mr. Wilson when he retired a few yeas ago moved into the bussiness and house. By 3:00 pm we biked into the town of Sedalia, and after asking directions we found our campsite at the state fair grounds. I imagined a small fair ground with some out building,WRONG these people take their county fairs very serious. This complex was the size of a small country with 500 acres of buildings and camping for 1,500 campers. When we arrived a black smithing convention was going on so there weren't that many people. We found our little place of heaven for the night under some big oak trees as cover from the rain that was forecast. We found the showers with both temps of water that could wash off a few pounds of trail dust, and cool down our bodies.

A fellow camper told us a guard would come by for the dinero sometime tonight. In the meantime Mike and I rode our bikes to a local grocery store for a little fresh fruit. After dinner we rode all around the buildings. These structures where built to last, with red brick covers and metal roofs. Signs on the front of the buildings identified the type of product inside. And along with the building was another structure that sold the product inside the building. The dairy building had a giant ice cream building beside it. The open swine building was so big that I rode my bike up and down the concrete pathways. It had a pork restaurant on the outside of it. A well manicured garden represented a lot of the flowers and trees native to Missouri.

The more I rode the more I noticed the evening skies getting darker with lightning flashes in the distance. A guard came by to pick up $10.00 for the camping and to tell us that a tornado warning had been declared in Kansas City. If the tornado did arrive he said to head to the brick bathrooms and hold onto a toilet. It reminded me of a joke. A women gets stuck on her tiolet seat and her husband can't get her off. "You better call the firemen to help get me off this seat!" says the woman. "But first hand me that cowboy hat to put on my lap!" she says. The firemen came rushing in and the the captain of the squad looks the situation over. As he is scratching his head he says " I see no problem saving you but the cowboys a goner!"

The storm seemed to be pretty far off until a lighnting bolt hit the trees next to a parked RV. Mike and I didn't spare any time running to the brick toilets. After a half hour of heavy rain the show was over and our guard came back and said we had missed the twister. We walked back to our tents and settled in for the night of storm after storm with lots of lightning.

5/6/12 The next morning brought cloudy skies but no humidity. YIPEEE We rode our bikes to the Sedalia refurbished train station. The original station was built in the 1890's and the state of Missouri had put millions of dollars into the building. Somebody sure knew what they were doing when it was decided to fix up the station. We had a self guided tour from basement on up. In the Victorian times train stations had male and female waiting rooms, since us men are a bit rough around the edges, not me now! One room had the history of the Katy train way with hunderds of rail connecting all the bordering states which was a major employer until trucking came in.

Outside the building was a restroom and we noticed a fellow biker sitting against a wall. Miss Chicago as I called her had gotten a ride to Clinton from Chicago and was on a collision course with the Katy Trail. She hadn't trained
enough for the mileage and her gear was heavy. She also was a tad bit over weigh but had lost 30 pounds trying to get in shape for the pounding of the trail. She had stopped last night in the swine building at the state fairground
because she had taken so much time biking in from Clinton that it was dark and raining when she arrived. I can't imagine sleeping there as the building could be used to make a slasher movie. She told us about how hard it was to get time off her job for his bike ride. After pleading and begging her boss OK'd the week off. "You will probably end in a shallow grave with a long knife in you're chest!" was the boss's last wods.
We meet up with her again on the trail when we saw a couple having trouble with their bikes just outside of Sedalia.
The husband's front tire had a slash across it and the tube had come out and blown apart. He had taken a piece of velcro and strapped it across the outside of the tire. It would have lasted maybe 1 mile. We took the tire apart and used duct tabe and heavy cardboard inside the tire and put in a new tube. I suggested he bike back the 5 miles to Sedalia to a bike shop and get a new tire. "No I want to continue, it's only 30 miles to Boonville!" he said.
We left the couple and Miss Chicago and continued onto our new campsite at New Franklin, just across the Missouri River.

We stopped at a small town of Pilot Grove along the trail for a bit of refreshment and to dry out our tents from last night's storm. I started to walk across the street to a small grocery store but only ghosts shopped there now. We found this true along a lot of the trail. Small stores and restaurants were closed up from lack of business or ambition. I rode my bike up the street to one of the many friendly Casey gas stations with a convenience store. I had just locked my bike down when a fellow biker in a bright yellow shirt walked up to me. His hands were plenty busy with assorted junk food. "Are you going all the way to St Louis?" he asked. "It seems like you don't have enough gear for that kind of trip." as he pointed out his bike. He must have had 100 pounds of gear and he wasn't a slim jim either. In the rear of his bike he had two panniers and two duffle bags on top of that. In the front he had two
front panniers and handle bar mounted camera and radio. It was already 2:30 pm and he was just getting started. I mentioned the camp ground at New Franklin was just ahead but the Texas Toothpick, as I called him, wanted to do 30 miles today, so we said goodbye as we crossed the bridge over the Missouri River. Like a lot of travelers I meet they have great ambitions wiyh little experience, his plan was to bike into Canada!

At Booneville there is a great train station turned into a visitor center. In the front window was a very clever
poster of a long haired woman riding a bike on the Katy trail with a a jug of whiskey under her arm. I liked the
poster so much the woman behind the desk gave me one and I mailed it home.

Mike and I rode into the New Franklin campsite and it was very clean with hot showers. We unloaded our gear and rode around town after dinner. Another Mike, a former teacher in the Cathlic church in Salina Kansas, was camped beside us and he had many questions about biking and camping. He had just retired and wanted to get into the great
outdoors. After asking him a few questions about the church in Salina Kansas, I found out that my cousin Cerial
Vogel, the local bishop had confimered his 2 sons, into the church
About 6:00 pm Miss Chicago came dragging into camp with her bike between her tail, it didn't look good. Every part of her body was in the rebellion stage, especcialy the part where the sun doesn't shine. She was already talking
about how she could cut her trip short, like right now. We tried to talk her into going for the next 30 miles but
we never saw Miss Chicago or Texas Toothpick again.

5/7/12 This campsite was especially great because the camp host never came by to collect the dinero for our camping. After finishing our breakfast of oatmeal we headed down the trail and it really is all down hill from here since we will be following the river to St Louis. Since Lewis and Clark used this Missouri river bottom as their trail of discovery, the Missouri department of whatever has erected hundreds of sign posts marking things that Lewis and Clark did along their way. it's great fun to stop and read about some of the events they overcame paddling up the river, yes boys and girls they paddled against the current, and this river really moves. Thousands of floating trees and tree limbs went sailing down the river as we biked beside the current.
Our first town along the Missouri was Rocheport, and what a beauty it was. We biked up into the main town and talked with a few locals and got a feel for the area. A tour bus pulled into the rebuilt train station and let off some folks to stretch their legs along this Katy Trail. More then a few of these older folks wish they where going with us on our little adventure. There seemed to be a lot more critters along this part of the trail, especially in the way of turtles and snakes. Lots of snapping turtles crawled up on the trail to soak in the sun rays, since the Missouri water was a bit chilly. These shelled creatures with one inch claws look like dinosaurs which I guess they are.

If we rode our bikes 10 miles farther today then it would mean we would have 10 miles less tommorrow, I didn't even take college math. I had planned on stopping at Copper's landing in Easley but why not go to Hartsburg, since we got hold of the fella that OK's the camping in the town square. At the Hartsburg crossing three bikes were leaning
against the fence when I pedaled in. A mother and her two kids where riding the Katy. They had started out with
one other rider but he gave up the ghost after 40 miles. Her husband, their support, had just gotten home from a 3
hour drive, when she called and told him to come back and pick up the tired bike rider. I had seen a Copperhead
snake on the trail and mentioned its' beautiful colors. "WAIT-WAIT I can beat that!" she said. "Yesterday we were
riding along when a Billy Goat came charging down the hillside and slammed into our trailer that carried our
gear!" she explained. "Then two days ago 2 Pit Bulls and three other dogs tried to stop us on the trail" she said.
All the time she was talking her tribe was stuffing Slim Jims into their mouths like they were going out of style.
She had stopped by Cosco and picked up a 50 gallon drum of Slim Jims, for the trip. The kids told me they always
stopped at stream crossings and counted turtles and this really excited them, rememeber there isn't any TV out here.
There was a real live restaurant and watering hole next to the trail, this was the first. Mike and I stopped by and
talked with the owner. the place was originally a winery but had gone belly up, the owner drank the profits, maybe.
We found out after filling our bellies with a few bags of chips that there wasn't much to do in this small town, but get back on our bikes and cruise the area. Much to our surprise we did find a wild life area and a couple of miles of back country bike trails. Our trail led us over hill and dale and finally to an over look of the Missouri river basin. it was well worth the extra pedalling with a view to die for.

When we got back to our campsite along side a town square gazebo we saw a couple of women hanging around our newest friend who owned the restaurant. Thinking it was Miss Chicago we walked over to give our praises, but it turned out to be a couple of woman from Colorado. They were with a small group of 5 and had been staying at a B & B along the trail. I found out one of their friends was with the Colorado Trail Assocaition from near my home town and I have hiked the 500 mile trail a couple of times, so we had a nice chat.

For a change of pace we decided to eat dinner at our watering hole, that being the only place in town. The owner and his mother-in-law were trying their best to drink up all the profits with a continuous supply of Bud Lite beers standing in front of them. After dinner we rode our bikes down to the Missouri river and discovered a large tree with a small black berry type fruit, that tasted good. We rode back to ask the bar keep what type of berries they were and the whole group was half gassed with empty bottles decorating the bar top. We did find out through their slurred speech our trees are Mulberry trees and they are good. In fact we noticed a fisherman by this tree over hanging the river and our bar keep said the cat fish also like the berries and will hang out under the trees
waiting for small fallen treats. By 9:00 pm we didn't see Miss Chicago nor Texas Toothpick so maybe they rode off into the sunset.

5/8/12 This morning we woke to clear skies and a trail that was very well maintained. Within a few miles we would be approaching the state capital of Missouri, Jefferson City. We had planned on stopping in this town anyway and
with me getting a flat tire just out side of town it made it a given. I knew my rear tire was worn and I was trying to strech a few more miles out of the rubber but it was so worn a small sharp object went through it a lot easier than if I had a heavy tread. At the trailhead we meet the group from Colorado. They had stayed in the capital in a soft cozy bed while we slept on the ground, but ours was free. The trail going into the city was very well marked and we had no trouble. The state of Missouri has poured mucho dinero into this whole trail system, I have never seen anything like it.
The ramps going up to the major highway bridge across the Missouri cost the city more than 6 million smackers.

We found out where the bike shop was and we also noticed the lack of cars on the road for any city of this size. Jefferson City only has 40,000 people compared to Denver's 3 million. We rode to the shop and was met by the most easy going bike shop owner. After buying a new tire and tube they told me to use their equipment yo install the tire. Then they pointed out a fab Greek Restaurant for lunch. After lunch we spent several hours touring the capital building with its' museums.
Then we were back to the trail and our next stop at Portland, but not in Oregon, this is a tad smaller like 20 people and 6 dogs. I rode into the first stop and a couple were lying on the bench trying to get enough strength to carry on. I asked them if they had seen a sign for Riverside RV? "Oh ya, just down the river a mile or so." says the biker. Then she turned her head as she lay on the bench and looked up the steep hill and she spied a small sign that said RV park. There was a small building like 6 foot by 6 foot and 3 picnic tables, but not a soul in sight. I rode my bike up to a bar and opened the door and was met with a cloud of cigarette smoke. I should have mentioned that there isn't a large tax on coffin nails here so why not smoke yourself silly with a pack of Camels. Every store, restaurant, bar and bathroom we went in smelled like smoke, maybe the same chain smoker is following us. Anyway I asked the bar keep and she said go down to the white house with the dogs. I rode down to the white house, there are only 6 houses in town and they are all white with dogs. I tried to walk up to the door only to find that half of the porch decking was rotten.
Small trees were growing between the spaces where boards should be. I heard someone inside yell out to come to the side door, that's the only safe one. I found out that I was at the wrong white house with dogs."You need to go to Dave's house to pay for the camping, but don't go through his yard his dogs are a crazy!" says the hill billy, as his dogs are trying everything to get out of their chains to taste a Yankee biker. I walked all the way around Dave's yard so I wouldn't become dinner for these canines and stopped at the gate and yelled for Dave. Then I noticed Dave's white truck in fornt of his garage and opened the door and layed on the horn which only excited the dog patrol even more. I was thinking he probably uses this to signal chow time. I finally quit and biked back to the campsite and then Mike showed up.

As we set up camp the fellow from the movie Deliverance showed up minus the banjo. He had all kinds
of questions for Mike as I tried to avoid eye contact. We found out Young Dave takes care of this RV park, not the old Dave, but they both have white houses. Mrs old Dave showed up driving a golf cart and explained all the rules, don't leave the shower room unlocked when you leave, don't squeal like a pig, that went out in the 90's. Then as soon as she left Deliverence boy showed back up and suggested we could us his camping equipment. "Come on up to the white house with the banjo music coming from it, if you need anything!" he said.

Just when we thought it was safe to leave our campsite our next crazy showed up. I remember him from the bar scene earlier, when he was laying waste to Bud Lites, like he owned stock in the company. "I use to work on this river, as a tug boat captain!" he said as he burbed. "I use to remember every tight river crossing and every loose woman all the way to St. Louie!" he boosted. "But too many beer and too many years have passed me by!" he said. "I use to lay on the deck of my boat and look up at the sky and think of one thing and I want you to think of one thing." he explained. "How big would one cubic square mile of water be, just think of it!" drunken crazy man said. I thought it was going to be world peace!

When it got dark Mike and I decided to walk up to the bar to see in person the breeding ground of these Missouri River loonies. A thick cloud of smoke from 20 cancer sticks filled our nostrils. Our ex river boat captain sat on the end bar stool with one hand on his beer and the other around the shoulder of his drinking body. I think they where holding each other up or maybe it was the thick smoke. Black and white pictures filled the walls and they showed the past history of this once vibrant river town. Now it was just a stopping place for bikers and beer soaked exriver men.

5/9/12 After leaving Portland and all is colorful citizens we where headed to a old German town of Hermann. In the 1800's thousands of German settlers flocked to this area. It remained them of the Rhine River valley of home. At one time there was hundred of wineries and this place was one of the top producers of vino in the world. That all stopped during Probition and didn't start back up until 1970's. Now everybody that grows a few grape vines has a winery. There are countless German festivals during the year. Hermann has 65 B&B just so every German that visits, can have a place to lay their head.

When the kind bike mechanic in Jefferson City tried to help by lifting my bike by the seat, he broke one of the supports on the bike seat, I know it wasn't my robust backside. So I found a bike shop to fix the seat and it was layed back just like the last one. The owner was laying on his bed in the back room when we walked into his store. Him and his dog live and breath at this store. There must of been 50 bikes all lined up in the store and there wass room for maybe 20. You couldn't swing a cat around without hitting a bike or a bike accessory. After fixing my bike we visited a large sausage making company that gave out free samples. The samples where in plastic bowls with sharp toothpicks beside them. I got real good at stabbing and filling up the whole length of that poor toothpick with sausage morsals. The sales lady must have experienced hungry bike riders before because we heard this low growl coming from the direction of the cash registor, and it was from the keys being punched. "I think we have sampled enough boys!" suggested the lady. Mike just moved over to the resident sausage maker that was showing off his craft of 5 different types of sausage. "Let me try that hickory,bacon combo one more time." said Mike. By the time we where both through sampling sausages all stocks had to be resupplies for the real customers. I did actually buy 5 packages of sausage for the price of 4, so maybe they came out even.

I also bought a sausage sandwich which I ate for lunch after we got back on the trail. Little did I know that I would need the extra protein. As I rode towards the town of Gore I heard a pack of dogs come charging down a hill side towards me. I was already pedaling fast and at the sound of the hounds I poured on the steam even more so. A grey pit bull came up on the left side and tried to bite my foot. A well placed kick in the teeth slowed him down and I continued pedaling fast. This canines partner tried to attack me on my right side but he made the mistake of trying to run in front of the bike and coming up on my right side. I was pushing down hard on the pedals and my front wheel was whirling just inches from his tight furry skin. I wanted run over the middle of him with a passion but finnally he turned and went back to his farm.

When I met up with Mike at Treloar he had a far different story to tell. He was just peddaling along enjoying the scenery when it seemed like his bike brakes suddenly came on. The two pit bulls had sunk their teeth into his rear bike packs and Mike turned around to see dust coming up from 8 dog feet digging into the dirt. Mike came to a complete stop and stepped off his bike the dogs charged but Mike held his ground and they turned for home after a few harrowing minutes on Mike's part.

We rode into Marthasville our last campsite. A large ball field meet us on our right and this would be our resting stop. We called the grounds keeper and he gave us directions to the grassy camping spot. That night kids of all ages came to the field to play ball and it was fun to watch. One women group stayed until 9:00 pm and they where very good at ball playing. We all took showers in the ball field building "just Mike and I" -get you're mind out of the gutter!!.

5/10/12 Last day on the Katy Trail for us and it will prove even better then before. Within minutes of biking out of Marthsville, we came to a sign pointing us to Daniel Boone's grave site. There isn't a baby boomer that hasn't grown up with Davie Crockett and Daniel Boone, so off we went. The scenery along this hard road was very pleasent with trees and green grass. The reason Mr. Boone settled here was because the Spainsh goverment gave him and his family thousands of acres, in order to get other familes to settle here. Then after the USA goverment purchased the land in the Lousaina purchase poor Dan had to fight to keep it from the feds. Within minutes I pulled up to a large red brick farm house set way back off the road and up above the road. I noticed a large white bearded fella stepping out of a truck and I rode my bike back to ask directions. I found out that we where near the grave but also his crew of 4 men where rebuilding one of Boone's relatives houses. A local fella had bought the property and was rebuilding a whole community with barns, school house and a 1700 log cabin all shipped down from Pennslvania. All the building where furnished with the period antiques. What a treat to be able to tour the buildings without anybody looking over our shoulders since Santa gave us permission have a look see. This job will take up to 10 years to finish but what they have done already is amazing. We also did find the grave site of Old Dan and we found out way he was buried here-HE'S DEAD- no actually they moved him and the Mrs many years ago to Kentucky they think or they might have moved the Boone's slaves bones by mistake.

As we got closer to St Charles we started to see lot more day bikers. The town of Defiance had everything a biker might want or thinks they need. I biked into St Charles a few minutes before Mike and rode my bike to a local gas station to ask directions to the Super 8 motel and a real bed. It felt funny to be on a real road with a real surface. But we found the motel and relaxed for a few minute that is until we wanted to use a library computer and then we where back on our bikes for another hour.

CONCLUSION The Katy Trail and the Missouri State park system is the greatest and I will be back. Mike and I spent $20.00 each for camping for the 6 days and we had hot showers for all but 2. The history of the Lewis and Clark along the trail combined with the friendly country folk, like I said I'll be back.