Massive road trip, days 3-6 (oops)

Thomas and I and our trusty Honda Fit on our departure
The intrepid travelers depart!

Wow – lack of internet and the busy-ness of college visits and GECCO in Portland have once again put me behind on this. Enough so that my wonderful mother commented on it.



It’s day 11, and I’ll try to get us up to day 6 today :-).

So, a quick recap, but generally no pictures because I’m even more behind on those.

View across Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park
View across Two Medicine Lake

On Day 3 we drove from Great Falls to Glacier Park Lodge on the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. This lodge is one of those great railway lodges in the park built about 100 years ago using enormous timbers brought by rail from the west coast forests. We’d booked ourselves on the Red Bus Secret Valley Tour, which drives you to Two Medicine Lake, takes you across the lake and back on a boat, and then swings by Running Eagle Falls on the way back. The weather was pretty cloudy and occasionally rainy, so the views weren’t those stunning clear shots you get on postcards, but still quite impressive in its own way (see the photo above). Running Eagle Falls was back out of the mountains a bit, and it was clear and sunny there, which gave us some nice views there. The photo below is from the river there, and illustrates the three main colors of rock that form the mountains of Glacier: Red, green, and yellowish-brown.

Stones in the river at Running Eagle Falls, Glacier National Park
Stones in the river at Running Eagle Falls

We had a really nice dinner that night in the lodge, looking out on the mountains, and then played cards and hung out in the grand lobby the rest of the evening. There are, indeed, worse things.

A panorama of the mountains of Glacier National Park as we approached from the east
Approaching Glacier

The highlight of Day 4 was the drive through (over really) the park on the Going-to-the-sun road. I drove us to the park entrance, (the panorama above is as we approached the park from the east) but Tom drove the entire Going-to-the-sun road. If you’ve never been to Glacier, the Going-to-the-sun road is a little 2 lane job winding through very high mountains — definitely not like driving in Morris — and Tom did an excellent job. It was again overcast so the views were less than steller, but it’s still an amazing and awe inspiring place. Logan’s Pass (the high point at over 6K feet as you cross the continental divide) was cold, probably in the 30’s (F) with wind chills well below freezing. The road had only opened two weeks before we crossed, and we stood there on July 4th freezing and surrounded by big snow banks. There are two main trails that leave from the ranger’s station at Logan; one was closed due to “unsafe snow” and the other still had several feet of snow on it. The latter is apparently wheelchair accessible when clear, but people were using cross country skis on it when we were there.

The driving ended with our arrival at Lake McDonald Lodge, where we stayed in a nice if simple little cabin accommodation. After lunch Tom decided to hang in the lodge, and I went out and hiked and took pictures for about two hours, mostly along a muddy horse trail up parallel to the lake from the lodge from the Sperry trailhead towards John’s Lake. We then had dinner, and spent another fine evening playing cards in the lodge. The Lake McDonald Lodge is a smaller affair, and we played on a table on the second floor with a view of the grand fireplace and an audience for the various guests that shared their musical talents on the piano and banjo. I could totally manage to spend many an evening there.

Day 5 was the big push from Glacier to Portland. That was a long drive so we swapped quite a bit, but I think Tom drove over half of the day. Tons of beautiful mountain views at the beginning, and we ended with several hours in the amazing Columbia Gorge. We also had some nasty traffic in Coeur d’Alene, which turned out to be because of a light aircraft that crashed in the median between the two sides of our interstate the night before! They had cranes out and were still cleaning things up, and that plus rubbernecking was wreaking havoc with traffic.

We were pretty pooped after all that driving, so we got checked into the PSU dorms (the student housing for GECCO, and a hell of a deal compared to downtown hotels), ate dinner at Hot Lips pizza :-), wandered a little, and crashed.

Day 6 was devoted to Reed College, both as a visit to a prospective school for Tom and as a major nostalgia trip for his father. We had an excellent day there, starting the information session and tour (and me mumbling about how things were 25+ years ago). After lunch we went to the library, where I gave them a couple of signed copies of the Field Guide and Tom and I got to look at yearbooks and student newspapers from my time there. The weirdest bit of that was Tom’s discovery of a front page piece I wrote about the campus nuclear reactor receiving some minor regulatory thwaps; I have absolutely no memory of writing the piece, but it’s pretty clearly my name and my writing style, so I must have :-). We then had long visits with Irena Swanson and Jim Fix in the Math/CS department, and Walter Englert in Classics. Walter was my first year Humanities prof, and a huge influence even though I only had him for one course. Irena and I overlapped as students and took at least one class together, and Jim is the sole computing faculty at Reed and it was cool to meet him and learn what and how he’s managing the computational side of the curriculum at Reed. I think Tom was pretty bored listening to me talk show with the Math/CS folks, but he really enjoyed meeting Walter and talking about Reed, colleges in general, and courses like Humanities. We went up the hill with Irena, her husband Steven (who also overlapped with me at Reed), and son Simon (who didn’t, since he’s 17) and had beers and conversation, and then Tom and I came back, wandered around a bit and collapsed!

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