Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming
August 8 until August 27, 2017
On Friday August 8, before leaving Puyallup, I first have to pick some blackberries. There are so many of them that I only take the big fat ones and within 40 minutes I fill up my whole bowl. The next few days we have plenty of healthy fruit to eat. Unfortunately I navigate the wrong way, it goes through Mount Rainier National Park but we are not within reach of the visitor center so we cannot have our passport stamped. But from a viewpoint we see Mount Rainier in a steel blue sky.
The road we want to take is closed, due to fires, so we take another beautiful road that leads us along fast flowing rivers through the mountains. Finally we arrive in a much wider Valley with plenty of fruit trees and then we arrive at the Columbia River.
A beautiful park next to this river is already full but on the other side of the River, over the bridge, in Umatilla, in the State of Oregon, is a place available on the campground. It’s dry camp without any facilities and therefore cheaper but it’s a pleasant spot. We have a beautiful sunset over the Columbia River and enjoy the outdoor seating, until late in the evening it remains 80 degrees. On Saturday morning we look for a laundromat while Dick investigate our propane valve. Again it’s not working right.
We don’t understand what is going wrong with our propane. When I finish laundry Dick has replaced the valve of our propane tank, Yeah again, and everything works properly.
After buying some food we drive further South towards Weiser, Idaho where we want to see the Eclipse. It is very warm, so early afternoon we stop at Emigrants Springs state park, a nice place. It’s cool amid the high Spruce trees and we enjoy it here. The glass of one of our car lights is broken (by a stone) so while I’m writing for the website Dick provisionally repairs the light.
It needs another glass but it will not available here so we have to take one from the Netherlands. As Dick is working with duct tape, indispensable if you travel with a motorhome, he immediately tapes our rooflight that has been frayed by a tree branch. Again we can stay outside until late in the evening. Ofcourse it’s not allowed to have a fire with this drought. Many people in this State Park want to see the Eclipse and everyone ask for the best place to look at it. Especially the people who made no reservations will stay here as more southern in Oregon it will be very busy. Oh well, we’ll see where we can stay. In the worst case we sleep at Walmart and drive on Monday morning to a country road to see the Eclipse.
On Sunday, August 20 we leave in time before everyone hits the road to their “Eclipse destination”. We leave the I 84 at Huntington, Idaho and take a byway to Weiser. Along this road we see many signs “Eclipse parking”.
A big property just before Huntington looks promising and I ask some people what they pay. The answer is “100 dollar”. A lot of money for a place on a farmfield without anything so we drive further on along the Snake river.
At some point we see some RV’s along the River. When we ask ourselves or it’s allowed to stay here some guys of Bureau Land Management tell us that this is Federal country and it allowed to stay. The sheriff, driving by, confirms this so we don’t hesitate and put our RV on this great spot. There is a lot of space and our neighbors Katrina and David tell us that we are exactly in the center of the Eclipse. On his I pad David shows us what will be the path of the Sun tomorrow. Although we will miss the Eclipse party, 11 miles away in Weiser, we are really lucky with this beautiful spot, our “Eclipse Camp”. It is not very busy here and we don’t have to pay. The rest of the afternoon we socialize with our neighbors, sitting outside in the warm sunshine, the temperature is 80 degrees, I get a sunburn and we read our books. I look at the River because I like to swim but the first few meters along the side look like a mushy, green algae mass and I just helped another neighbor throwing a dozen dead, stinky and half filleted catfish back in the river, so swimming between them is not wise.
But we enjoy the pleasant company of the other “Eclipse hunters” here. Until late in the evening it remains hot and we are happy, when we go to bed at ten o’clock, that a breeze blows so that it cools down. We’re not quite sure of the correct time. Here on the border of Oregon and Idaho our GPS says it’s mountain time, an hour later than Oregon’s Standard Pacific Time. Oh well, tomorrow time is not important because we’ll see it when the Sun is leaving us. However, we worry because end of the afternoon the sky gets cloudy and the Sun disappears. We hope that is not the case tomorrow. Fortunately, later on in the evening the clouds drift away and when I wake up at night I see a beautiful sky filled with stars.
Monday August 21 everyone around us wake up early. There is a tense “wait-and-see” atmosphere. Everyone is chatting with each other. The clouds are all gone and the sky is steel blue. The camper of our neighbors David and Katrina turns out to be a midpoint. This is also because their friends Jules and Pam project the Sun on a screen with binoculairs. Very useful because now you can see right away when a piece of the Sun disappears. Our group is growing and we have a lot of fun together while waiting. Josh and Megan arrives. Josh is a professional photographer and we talk about their wedding in October. Hopefully he will give us some of the pictures he takes because my camera is unable to make photos of the Sun. Despite the fact that I put my Special Solar Eclipse glasses in front of the lens, the Sun is so bright (even partially) that I only see a fiery sphere. Time flies but at 10.12 am the first bite is out and the Sun disappears further. Everyone put on their Eclipse glasses to see and enjoy this magical moment.
It’s a little cooler and even the light decreases and then from 11.24 until 11.26 am the entire Sun is covered, it’s dark, the temperature dropped with 20 degrees and we see a white Halo around the moon. A magical moment, it’s a life changer and fantastic to see. You feel emotional and excited at the same time. Is that because our life depends on the Sun? I don’t know but as the Sun reappears, light is coming and we slowly warm up, we all know that this moment will stay with us forever.
Now I know that if there is a total eclipse somewhere and it’s possible to go, I go. Slowly the Sun takes his place again and at 12. 46 pm the full sun is back. We talk with each other, exchange addresses, promise to meet again (in the USA or in Holland) and make pictures. Deborah gives me a great Eclipse shirt, it will remember me at this magical moment. An hour later we leave and drive East. During this ride we talk about the Eclipse, it was very impressive. We drive in the right direction because almost everyone drives west. It’s very, very busy on the other side and cars crawling like snakes over the mountain road. Just after Banks, in Idaho, we stop at a National Forest campground. Not a bad choice because moments later all available places are filled up with people turning around to avoid this traffic jam.
This campground also has a Hotspring, a small pool next to the river but it’s 80 degrees outside, no temperature for staying in a hot spring and when it cools down at 10 pm we do not want to go there anymore. Tuesday, August 22 we find out that we follow the path of the Eclipse. That’s why everywhere it’s very busy with people who probably took a holiday around this event. After a nice drive in a beautiful mountain valley we arrive in the Sawtooth mountains, the village of Stanley, Idaho where we have to refuel. We’re lucky because almost every station run out of gas and diesel because there were far too many people here. Now gas and diesel is still more expensive than normal ($ 1,-) but yesterday the diesel was even more expensive or not for sale.
You still see the Eclipse campsites and rows of mobile toilets in the farmlands and it turns out that 100 dollars a night for a spot on a field was the normal price. There are huge crowds at Craters of the Moon National Monument so we can forget to visit this place. We drive a couple of miles inside but cars are double parked on each empty spot. Even in front of the Visitor Center is no place to park, so we leave Craters of the moon and find in Leslie a drycamp spot. All other sites on the campground are occupied. But we manage without any electricity or water so that’s no problem. After a warm evening, it’s getting cooler at 10 pm but we wake up on Wednesday august 23 with goose bumps. It’s only 48 degrees and very cloudy. It’s good we already saw the eclipse because now you should not see it. A good day for traveling so we drive to Rexburg, Idaho, over endless barren Plains with a National Laboratory. It’s not clear what they examine or test here however. In Rexburg we take a delicious Sonic milkshake and then search for a laundromat, yes, again. Despite the fact that we prepare our shirts with stain remover they are never really clean. It is no wonder that many Americans empty half a bottle of bleach with every load of laundry.
After our wardrobe is full and the laundry bag empty we drive to Walmart. Everywhere are signs with “no overnight parking”, but when we ask inside it’s allowed, these signs were only for the Eclipse. Fortunately on Thursday morning, all the clouds are disappeared and the sun shines again.
On time we leave Rexburg because we hope to find a place in Yellowstone National park. We drive through a volcanic landscape and next to us we see the mighty mountains of the Grand Tetons. When we arrive at the west gate of Yellowstone we have to wait because there are many cars in front of us but at 11 am we may enter Yellowstone. Unfortunately, we get stuck in a huge traffic jam and on a snail’s pace we crawl forward. It’s likely that this traffic jam will last till the crossing at Madison, 10 mile away, so at the first pull out we turn around and drive back to West Yellowstone.
There it’s also very busy and the first three campgrounds are full. Eventually we find a place on a campground, pay, put our RV in the place and drink a coffee before walking around.
It is only 60 degrees, warm enough to walk around with shorts and t shirt. Dick is willing to come with me in the stores and he even buy a nice printed t-shirt. Ofcourse we also search some geocaches and are back at the camper at 5 pm. Just in time because it starts raining and the sky is colored by lightning. We have had a wonderful afternoon and walked a lot. Friday morning August 25 our alarm clock wakes us at 5.30 am. At dawn we want to drive into Yellowstone to get a place on one of the campgrounds in the park. It means that immediately after showering we leave and arrive at the gate at 6 am.
Apparently not early enough because when we arrive at Norris campground, before seven am, already 8 cars are waiting for a spot.
We don’t think we get a place here so after giving space to a buffalo, who want to cross our way, we continue to drive to Mammoth Springs, in the North part of Yellowstone. Until now we always managed to get a place here. Yesterday we heard in the Visitor Center that this campsite filled up at 9.12 am, so it was good that we turned around. At 7.50 am we are 5th in line and within half an hour we have a gorgeous spot on Mammoth s campground, so finally we can have breakfast, in the Sun.
From this campground there is a nice hike to Mammoth springs, so after half an hour we put on our hiking boots and walk over a steep mountain path to Mammoth. It is very busy and it seems like everyone has taken an Eclipse holiday and stuck in Yellowstone. Ofcourse we go to the Visitor Center to stamp our Park passport. By now we have two passport books. Our first one was too small because of the quantity of stickers and cards, (it’s not only stamps that I paste in our passport). After looking around at the exhibition we walk to the Hot Springs. No springs where you can take a bath but terraced formations made by calcium carbonate, amazing fragile formations, some beautiful colored.
Despite the many people on the boardwalks you can relax here. Ofcourse we admire the herd of Elks who are domiciled here before we buy an ice cream in the General Store. It is very good ice and we give it a place in the top 10. However, our small ice cream is enormous and consist, at least, of 4 large scoops, it is more than a lunch. This morning it was only 48 degrees but meanwhile the temperature raised to 88 degrees. Unfortunately not for long because when we are back at the campground and I take my computer outside to write for the website, black clouds come in and within ten minutes you hear the thunder and it starts to rain. Fortunately, at 4 pm it’s over but the temperature dropped to 59 degrees, so in the evening we have long pants and a jacket when we walk to the ranger program.
There we hear all about the water in Yellowstone, where it flows (the Continental Divide runs through the park), hear about the fish in the park and what is done to preserve the native ones. Saturday morning August 26, we are early because I’d like to skype with my Auntie Ank . This campground is only 6 mile from Gardiner, Montana so we have excellent service at our MiFi. After talking a lot together for more than an hour we drive around in the park. We have to take the RV because of the vast distances in Yellowstone. Taking our bicycle is impossible. First we drive to the East side of Yellowstone, look at the magnificent waterfalls, and then we drive slowly South. We also want to walk in Norris geyser basin, but that is not possible.
There are already too many people there so the road is closed and we continue to the Old Faithful. What could be more fun than visit an old reliable geyser on your birthday (Yes, I am really old now, 65 years!). There are huge crowds here too but fortunately we find a parking spot and a place in the front row and after 10 minutes waiting we may admire the “Old Faithful”. We have seen this several times before but the force of nature that can spray water so high up impresses always. As the weather is beautiful, blue sky and 88 degrees, we walk along various other geysers and springs.
We’re lucky, at first it’s very busy on the boardwalk but if the word goes, most of the people ran the other way to see the “Beehive” geyser. We continue our way (it will stay there and burst without us). Now almost everybody is gone, we enjoy the colored Pools and springs and other geysers in solitude. The earth is rumbling, growling and bubbling around us.
The end of our walk is the morning glory pool, I think it’s the most beautiful with its green and yellow colors. Although the Ranger tells us that many years ago the color was more beautiful with a skyblue center. Because many people threw coins in the pool (which is strictly prohibited) the color of the water changed and the bright blue has given way to the green and yellow colors nowadays.
End of the afternoon, after a walk of 7 miles we are back at the RV, drink almost a gallon of water (of course I forgot to bring water with us on our walk) and we drive back to the northern part of the park. We cannot visit the “great prismatic pool” because the crowds are so large that in miles there is no parking space available. After a birthday meal of leftovers (minced beef with potato salad) we walk again to the amphitheater where another ranger tells us everything about bears, how they live, how you see the difference between a Black and a Grizzly bear and what you should do in the unlikely event that you encounter a bear. Bells don’t really help, a bear gets used to that sound and does not hear it anymore, but loud talking and singing is better and if you really meet an aggressive bear then the only effective way is using Bearspray. This kind of programs on the campgrounds in National Parks are really fun and educational.
On Sunday, it is much quieter on the campground, Holiday season is almost over. As we have only seen 2 buffalo’s we drive today to the Lamar Valley, a road heading towards the northeast entrance to Yellowstone. We want to see wildlife. When we enter the Lamar valley we directly caught up in a huge herd of buffalo’s, taken possession of the road in front of us. Instantly this creates a huge traffic jam because the buffalo’s do not want to go aside and on both sides of the road are cars blocking the way for the herd of a hundred buffalo’s.
Eventually a Ranger has to come in to clear the road and give way to the buffalo’s so they can walk over a long bridge until they finally arrive at the other side of the Yellowstone River and climb into the hills. It is great to be surrounded by these massive beasts, see them walking before and next to your car, hear them growling and blowing.
I cannot get enough of them and my camera makes overtime. It is not the only herd we encounter because in Lamar Valley live thousands of them and every few miles we meet them, right next to or on the road, so photo opportunities enough. We even see a herd of pronghorns.
Unfortunately not my beloved Grizzly’s but today with a temperature of 86 degrees it’s too hot for Bears.
Around noon we are in Cooke city, an old mining town at 7540 feet surrounded by high mountains. In 1882 a Stampede was here when the mare went on that gold was found in the hills. Three years ago we finished our drive over the Beartooth Highway, one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world, in Cooke city but then it was cold. We walk around in this small town, drink delicious cappuccino and look around in the shops before we drive back to the campground. There is still sun and we can sit outside to write and read and talk before having dinner.
The Eclips pictures are not ours but from Josh and David, joining us at the Eclipse Camp.