A Burning Ring of Fire – West Coast Swing 2015 – Part 2


Welcome to the second of my articles on our 2015 trip to the Northwest United States. As I mentioned last week, I’m drawing quotes from emails that I sent to family and friends during this trip. This week we are in Northwestern Montana and Southeastern Washington in the Palouse. If you remember last year, the West was truly on fire. Here’s a photo showing how smokey the air was most days.glacier-2387

The following is from one of my emails:

“Hope all is well with everyone. We are safe and sound, well as sound as can be! We are in Columbia Falls, MT about 25 west of Glacier National Park. The title of this message says it all, there are lots of fires and smoke is heavy in the air. We are in the health alert area issued for those who work outside and those with respiratory problems. Highway 2 is closed to through traffic from West Glacier to Marias Pass. Most of the smoke in this area is coming from about 60 miles north of here, up by Eureka and from Washington state. We had a rain shower come through this evening so that has cleared the air at least for a day or two.”

“Today we went to Glacier National Park. We were here many years ago, to be specific it was 39 years ago! The biggest change we noticed was that the traffic in the park has gotten a lot heavier. Parking lots have been expanded and are mostly full, even though tourism is down some because of the fires. The Park Service operates a free shuttle service on the Going to the Sun highway that stops at some of the more popular sites along the road. We would recommend using the shuttle service as parking is a challenge. There are guided tours available but are somewhat expensive. We enjoyed the park, did a some hiking, not far off the road or too strenuous, saw some mountain goats, and did some photography although the smoke did obscure the majestic views.”

And here’s some photos from the Park. Photography was a challenge with all the smoke and haze in the air. We plan to return sometime when the air is clearer and we can enjoy the majestic Rockies.glacier-2404glacier-2409glacier-2449img_1555

And yes, the mountain goats were very entertaining. This mom and her kids ignored all the tourists trying to take photos. They took a rest and ate some lunch and dodged the tourists!glacier-2418glacier-2431

While in this area, we met my cousin Barb and her husband Phil ,who live in Kalispell, for brunch in Whitefish. Here’s what I said in my email about my past experience in Whitefish.

“We had a nice visit with my cousin Barb Ellwein MacGregor and her husband Phil. They’ve been in Kalispell for over 20 years and really like it out here, mild winters and lots of outdoor activities in close proximity. Later we explored the village of Whitefish, an interesting, funky town. In one of the shops, the friendly clerk asked if we’d ever been here before. Donna said no and I said that I came through Whitefish approximately March 15, 1970. I was inducted into the Army in Fargo on March 13 and they put a group of us on the Northern Pacific train headed for Seattle and Ft. Lewis where I went to basic training. I clearly remember pulling into Whitefish, lots of snow, skiers getting off and on the train. What a beautiful, picturesque spot, still is with the mountains and lakes. Highly recommend a stop in Whitefish but wait til the smoke clears.” And a couple of photos from Whitefish.whitefish-2374whitefish-2376

After a few days in the Glacier area we headed down the road to Polson, Montana to spend a couple of days with Cousin Kent Schulz who lives on the picturesque Flathead Lake. Here’s one photo of the Lake. Note the heavy smoke.img_0449

Next we move on to the Palouse area of Washington State to visit our long time friend, Marsha Appel. The following is from the email sent about our stay in the Palouse.

“This morning we were talking about all the connections we’ve made with family and friends so far along the way and we are only two weeks into our six week trip! And we know there are many more connections to come. At each stop we’ve shared laughs, stories and experiences. With Kent, we toured his log home on Flathead Lake that he purchased after a devastating fire and is resurrecting to like new condition. We also had a fun boat ride on the Lake on a warm Sunday afternoon. Marsha lives in the very unique and picturesque Palouse, a large area of dry land wheat farming with steep, rolling hills.  In addition, Marsha took us on a tour of the Snake River area, the nearby Washington State University in Pullman and the University of Idaho in Moscow. At the U of I we looked up a friend of our daughter, Melanie and son-in-law Daniel, Jeremy Falk. Had a great visit and reconnected.”

“While in the Palouse, we did some early morning and late afternoon photo shoots aided by a map designed specifically for photographers as this area attracts photographers from all over the world. The map designates old farm buildings, farm machinery, lone trees, high points as well as other sites that may be of interest to photographers.”

Following are some of our photos from this beautiful part of the world.img_1596palouse-2456palouse-2463palouse-2469palouse-2492palouse-2540palouse-2631

I especially liked the old barns, buildings and machinery that populated the landscape.img_1586palouse-2510palouse-2520palouse-2622palouse-2658palouse-2689palouse-2722

Donna is learning to use one of my digital cameras and this was a great place for lessons in basic composition such as get close, use rule of thirds, leading lines, framing, and watch the background. One morning, we were driving along a back road and spotted what we thought were some deer heading towards a farm yard. As we got closer, we realized they were moose, a cow and two calves. As we drove closer the cow slowly moved into some trees near the house while the calves were happily munching on the flowers! We were able to drive fairly close and Donna shot several excellent photos from the truck window. As we drove away, Donna commented that the person tending the flowers is really going to be angry when they discover the damage (we have several large flower beds at our house and she has an occasional war with the bunnies)!palouse-2117

Hope you enjoyed reading and seeing our adventures in Western Montana and Southeastern Washington. When this series resumes join us for a stop in Cashmere, Washington and Mt. Rainier National Park.

Until then safe travels,