It’s good to be home after
- one Jewish lesbian wedding
- visiting six states, and five of their capitols
- driving 2,780 miles
- hiking another 28
- burning 87.44 gallons of gasoline, creating 1,696 pounds of carbon dioxide
- purchasing 100 oysters, consuming 30, and donating 50 to an Oregon state park ranger
- observing two grizzlies swimming in a lake by our campsite
- snuggling one baby tiger
Leaving Montana, we drove back to Oakland in a mad dash across three enormous states. We took the incredibly scenic “Peaks to Craters byway” in Idaho, past the highest point in the state, and through the beautiful Salmon River valley. After sleeping in Arco, the first town powered by nuclear energy, we visited the volcanic landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument.
The same volcanic forces that created Crater Lake, Mount Ranier, Mount St Helens and Yellowstone also poured out onto the Snake River plain. I got a refresher book called Practical Geology, since I don’t remember much from my last formal training in eighth grade science. Turns out that the lava is blue due to the presence of titanian magnetite. We entered lava tube caves and I did a little spelunking, crawling into a cave that maintains an icy floor year round. Not quite as Indiana Jones-esque as in Belize, but a good adventure nonetheless.
Heading back across Idaho and Nevada, we stopped in almost every town to stretch our legs and refill the tank. Had an amazing breakfast at the Buffalo cafe in Twin Falls, and digested it while overlooking the town’s 212-ft high namesake. Looked across the canyon that Evel Knievel tried to jump, and marveled at the audacity of the man to try. I wanted to go to the Western Folklife Center in Elko to hear cowboy poetry, but it was closed, and might be shut forever if the Tea Party gets its way. Tried to take the downtown walking tour of Wells, but it appears to have burned down a few years ago.
On to Winnemucca, where we ate at an excellent Basque restaurant and some friendly local teachers at our table reminded us that it’s pronounced ne-vAD-a, not ne-vAH-da. Went to a bar called the Mineshaft, where a Yelp review warns that all the patrons would be meth-heads. I watch Breaking Bad, so this was sort of an attraction, but it’s actually a fine place with free pool tables and an endless slideshow of semi-nude parties. I’d go back when I’m in town again.
Left the Cascades and drove across Washington and Idaho towards the Rockies. Stopped for lunch in Coeur d’Alene, where I had an excellent elk burger topped with brie and pear, and a blueberry-dressed salad. Very country-chic. We got off I-90 in Montana, and headed north through a dry thunderstorm. Saw an excellent double rainbow near Polson, and wondered what it all meant. At least the car got a natural shower. Arrived later than I had planned to Kendra and Dan’s, forgetting about the hour difference to mountain time, but they were good hosts and gave us beer for dinner anyways.
Woke early for our drive up to the park, with Kendra graciously accompanying us as a car shuttle between trailheads. It turned out that we couldn’t hike the route I had planned, because snow still blocked the pass, so we settled for an out and back to Upper Kintla Lake. It was still beautiful, and probably enough hiking for the moderate shape that we are in. I knew that California could make me soft, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.
The friendly trail crew at our campsite saw a pair of bears splashing into the other side of the lake, but by the time I found my binoculars they had disappeared. Probably for the best, as I didn’t really want to have to use the bear spray Kendra insisted we take. We did hear barking twice on the trail, which was close enough for me. We did see lots of other friendly wildlife:
When we emerged from the woods dusty and sweaty, we returned to Kendra and Dan’s for showers and a bike excursion to their favorite bar in Kalispell. Moose’s Saloon had cheap pitchers of local beer, a sawdust floor, good “Montana-style” pizza. We got the jalapeno, sauerkraut and sausage special, which is as delicious as it sounds.
Drove across Oregon, by some Roosevelt Elk that were conveniently sitting in an elk viewing area. Then north on I-5, stopping at a hellish mall in Woodburn for last minute hiking acquisitions at the Columbia outlet. Then through Portland, where we didn’t stop to put a bird on it. We did enjoy an excellent burger at the Willamette Burger Company in Salem, and got a good look at the art deco capital building.
Spent the evening in Seattle, where we enjoyed four kinds of meats and five kinds of scotch at Quinn’s. In the morning we toured the Experience Music Project, where I learned more about Nirvana than I ever expected to, and was actually out-dorked by the Battlestar Galactica exhibit. Bought some excellent salmon jerky at Pike Place, which we resolved to eat before entering the woods, as its smell would surely attract a bear. Also spied the Sea-Based X-Band Radar in dry dock across the sound, which lead me into a lengthy discussion of the suitability of various missile defense system designs. Felt like 17.477 with Ted Postol all over again…
Kassie and Monica’s wedding was lovely, ranking up there in my top three most picturesque Jewish lesbian ceremonies.
Left Oakland after a short breakfast with James, and drove north on 101. Stopped in the Redwood National Park to view some living giants, and to drive through a tree. Saw a truck inching through the hole, with the wife of the driver looking on telling him not to be a pussy. The Fit had more clearance, so we looped around to do it again. Got our money’s worth out of those five bucks.
On a friend’s recommendation, we stopped at the West Coast Game Park to pet their menagerie of baby animals. The place doesn’t feel like a professional zoo, the bears look quite sad in their cages, and the goats are pretty aggressive in demanding treats from the children, but the opportunity to pet a 15 week old tiger is not to be missed. I didn’t pay them $10 for a posed photo, so got to play photographer while Ruth tried her best Rafiki impression.
Proceeding up the coast, we climbed sea mounts at the Whaleshead, and splashed into the frigid water to marvel at starfish. We gorged ourselves on oysters from Clausen farms in North Bend. We bought one hundred for $60 to take advantage of their volume pricing, but were saddened to only be able to comfortably eat fifteen each. The creamy silverpoint oysters filled us up faster than the bluepoints we were weaned on in Massachusetts, and we couldn’t help but feel like failures. We donated the rest to a friendly park ranger at the campground where we spend the night, and waddled to the beach to watch the sunset.