I felt a mixture of sadness, trepidation, joy and excitement as Kate and I parted ways soon after the fireworks ceased (it seemed like they went on all night long!). She and her faithful dog Winnie headed back to Colorado as I continue to travel east to Montana. Kate was an excellent travel guide – I’ll miss her inquisitive nature, gentle smile and concise planning techniques. She was instrumental in making my new-to-this-life transition comfortable and fun! Thanks Kate, Bon Voyage!
Early on July 5th, I stopped for a farewell shot of an unusually calm section of the lower Columbia River Gorge along Highway 14 in Washington.
Soon after leaving the Gorge and meandering toward Walla-Walla I couldn’t help but notice the giant wind turbines capturing the gentle breezes as the view turned into a patchwork of golden wheat, green legumes, and dormant-brown fields. In places, orchards and vineyards were tucked into irrigated crevices.
Picture of Walla-Walla fields (above) is from Google Images.
The scenery was beautiful, but the day was warming up faster than a pioneer’s woodstove on a cold winter night! Too hot to even think about stopping in Walla-Walla, I decided to fuel Katrina and boogie on down the road. Still following the Lewis & Clark Trail along Hwy 12 Lewiston, ID (across the Snake River from Clarkston, WA) was next. Road construction and detours led me astray for an extra half hour, but eventually I made it out of town on the right road. After consulting my Free and Low-Cost Camping Guide I decided to stop at a campground east of Lewiston.
Around 4:00 pm, I pulled into McKay’s Bend Campground. It was 100 degrees, the sun was still high in the sky and I was melting faster than a Hersey’s bar in your S’Mores. As I cruised around the small camp, a friendly couple sitting in the shade of their awning invited me to sit with them by the fan. As it turned out, Colleen and Monty lived nearby and knew the area well. When I asked if they thought if it would be worth traveling further to get out of the heat, they smiled at each other, grabbed a map of the Clearwater National Forest area (Colleen used to work for the National Forest) and proceeded to point out their favorite spots along Hwy 12, then GAVE ME THE MAP and sent me on my way. Hallelujah!
Off I went in a cloud of dust eager to find higher ground and a cool river. A couple hours later and 20 degrees cooler I pulled into the lush Apgar Campground to find one spot left – this was my lucky day!
Colleen and Monty steered me in the right direction – I am so happy I ran into them!
I loved the Clearwater National Forest and the Wild & Scenic Lochsa River so much I took my friends’ advice and spent an extra day and night tucked into nearby Wendover Campground. I had the camp and private river access to myself until about 6:00 pm when a few other travelers quietly slipped into sites far from my private little spot.
Side note: These Forest Service campgrounds were small and quiet and only cost $7 per night (with my senior card discount).
Another side note: If you are 62 years
old young be sure to buy your lifetime Senior Pass now while it only costs $10. In October 2017, the price goes up to $80 (still a bargain!).
I left camp early on Friday and decided to spend most of the day in Missoula. It gave me a chance to work on the blog, eat lunch at Wheat Montana Bakery and Deli, then visit one of my favorite retailers, REI.
When fully saturated in commerce, traffic and noise, I knew it was time to push eastward again. The helpful clerk at REI told me about the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park near I-90, so off I went. Along the way, I prayed that the park would have a few important amenities: 1) A shady campsite (or at least a vacant site). 2) showers 3) good views 4) did I ask for shade?
As I approached the State Park, the sun was still pretty high in the sky and the campground looked hot, dry and crowded. However, a Park Ranger crossed my path as I drove into the park, and told me he just had a cancellation on site B-4 – the only one available for the night. More lucky stars thrown my way!
The jolly Camphosts met me at the site, helped me register, then invited me to join the group to listen to ghost stories told by Ellen Baumler. Ellen is the author of several books about all things ghostly. She was entertaining, funny and helped us spend an hour in the shade while we waited for the sun to go down (the only way I was going to secure a shady spot!).
I didn’t stick around for a cavern tour, but hear it is great. Check it out next time you are between Butte and Bozeman!
Here are a few of Ellen’s many books for your reading pleasure. By following one of the links below, your purchase will net me a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank You!