What a crazy four days of driving! This roadtrip was the theme of "go visit some friends in the north, and take the scenic route home". That I did. I spent the first 7 days visiting friends in Seattle and Portland, and then from there I went on a crazy four day drive through a few more of the Mountain States I hadn't yet seen. There were some rough points where I sorely wanted to spend some more time exploring, but I had work waiting for me so I just made notes of the pretty and moved on.
Heading out from Portland, I was told I had to see the waterfalls. So that's what I did. I took the exit 22 to Corbett as instructed and climbed up the hill to the Historic Columbia River Highway. My what a lovely drive that is. It added about an hour on to my trip, what with the much slower speed limit and all the stopping to get out and look at the pretty, but it was well worth it. Most certainly recommended to any others who happen to be driving along that way themselves. Unfortunately, the pretty didn't last long. Once I got past the Dalles, Oregon was plenty brown. Similarly for eastern Washington, up till Spokane. My theory is that some time in the distant past, there was a big forest covering all of WA and OR, but then there was some freaky event that scared all the trees and they all ran out to the east and west. Thus, western WA and OR both are very green and pretty, and also the Idaho panhandle. That middle area, though, is all hot and brown and not much fun.
Speaking of the Idaho panhandle, WOW! I'm an evergreens and mountains kinda guy. Never did much like going to the ocean beach, but I've always had a weakness for big piles of dirt. :) The Idaho panhandle (what little of it I saw, anyway) is just about 100% evergreen-covered mountains with little streams and rivers feeding from one mountain lake to another. Seriously, go take a look at the satellite imagery, I'll wait. Yowza, isn't that something? I hadn't even gotten maybe 10 miles in, right about when I came to Coeur D'Alene when I had decided that I would need to spend a whole week just exploring Idaho. Thus my previous plans of taking a day for southern Idaho were tossed in favor of flying through it as quickly as I could before the tears for such beauty overcame me. As it was I almost drove off the highway about three times, I was so distracted by the scenery.
|Gotta head for the Sun
I had planned on staying a day in Montana, just idly wandering around, possibly hitting a few hashpoints. But when I was told that Glacier Park was a "must see before you die" kind of thing, well, I had to make a northern detour. Fortunately for me, there was a hashpoint that wasn't far out of the way so I figured I'd try to tag it as I went by. Unfortunately for me, the area it was in has almost no road signs and almost half the roads are private drives. I'm guessing that you generally don't drive there unless you live there. Dang pretty neighborhood, though, and there were quite a few "for sale" signs up, so if any of you would like living on a lake shore (literally, some of the houses had water up to their porch!) you might want to look into that area. I'm not entirely sure I actually walked on the spot or not, as the phone GPS was failing me there, but I went back and forth over the general area a few times so I think that counts.
After spending a good hour between getting lost searching for the point and backtracking, I headed out and continued up north to Glacier Park. Being the fan of mountains that I am, I can definately say that it was a nice drive and certainly worth the time. Honestly, I think I actually liked the trip through Idaho more, but that was probably just because there were less tourists. :) That's the one problem with taking an area like that and putting a park there. You're basically sticking a big sign up saying "tourists come here, it's pretty". So yeah, lovely area worth seeing, but man did I pick an unfortunate time to visit it. I may go back again if I ever find myself making a trip to Montana.
From there it was just a simple drive east to the 15, and then follow it south to Idaho Falls. I posted a picture of one of the highways from Montana, since they all looked just about the same. The thing that you can't really see in the picture, though, is just the scale of everything. There were constant mountains off in the distance (or much closer, depending on where you were standing). Even the relatively flat areas still had rolling hills. And their motto of "Big Sky Country" is truly earned. Not that you can see more sky, in terms of degrees, than you could anywhere else. But there was a certain quality to the sky there that was lacking from other states. It was just somehow "bigger".
Oh, and one more thing: Montana wins the award for "worst cell coverage I've seen yet". Seriously, even in the cities I got crap signal. I think there might be three cell towers allocated to the whole state.
|Geohashing in Utah
When you really have no idea what to see, and you don't feel like playing tourist, go geohashing! But first, I had to make a pilgrimage to the Apple Store in Salt Lake City, UT. Not because I'm some huge Apple fanboi or anything, just that I was tired of my phone battery crapping out on me before even one day was done so I wanted to pick up a car power adapter so I could charge the phone while driving around. I also took about half an hour to wander around Salt Lake City before deciding I wasn't going to be able to do it justice and still make the hashpoint I had picked. So I hopped back in the car and headed south for a small side-trip.
I got to see a bit more of small-town Utah, and some back country, and I also learned a few things. One, the car-charger, while sufficiently powered to charge the iPhone if all yer doing is playing music, is not sufficiently powered to run GPS updating with Map access and photo taking all going at once (though I think it does help extend the battery life under those circumstances slightly). Another: every town in Utah I went through used the *exact* same naming scheme for all their streets. Seriously, all of them. I checked. From small "population 500" kind of towns up through Salt Lake City itself, they all did the same thing. Start your town with an intersection of Center and Main streets, one going north-south the other east-west (doesn't seem to be a consensus on which goes which way)(one of them sometimes gets renamed to State street, it seems). From there, you put your roads in a grid structure. For the names, though, simply measure out how far that road is from the primary street it is parallel to, and to which side of that street it is. Measure in five foot increments. Thus, if your street is 500' north of Main st., it is called 100N. If it is 5000' to the west, it is called 1000W. Just keep doing this whenever you need more space. Seriously. They go up to, and past, 14-thousand something. As long as you're not counting from the next city over yet, you keep going up in the numbers. And if the street is at an odd measurement like 750', instead of 500' or 1000', you just number it accordingly (750' would be 150N (or 150S), which I saw). If the city gets large enough and the streets get long enough, you can split them to denote which part of 300S you are on, the east or west part. And you get E 300 S or W 300 S as a result. Yeah, a bit confusing at first, but once you wrap your head around it there is a comforting kind of "you can't possibly get lost here" to it. Not only can you not get lost, you can quickly figure roughly how far it is between any two intersections. Nice and simple.
After I had fun wandering around a Utah hillside covered in Sagebrush (and failing to make the hashpoint by about a hundred feet or so), I decided it was time to head home. I wanted to get to Sac by some time Tuesday so I could have Wednesday to recuperate from the driving, and while I could easily have spent an extra few months exploring all there was to see, that wasn't the point of this trip. This was just a "scenic route" heading home from visiting some friends up north. Dipping my toes in the waters, as it were, for exploring the mountain states. So I got gas and provisions, and drove west. I got to see just how flat the salt flats are (defies description by my limited vocabulary), I saw The Tree of Utah, I slept overnight at rest stops in Nevada, I was amazed at the sight of California air coming down from the mountains. Yesh, I was heading home to clean up and relax.
edit: fixed some formatting and a poor word choice.