Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Happy: Reunion With Rose!

Hi... I'm Happy!… I'm always Happy... Today I'm happy because I had a reunion with Rose!

Macgellan and I were driving around today when he said, "I've got a surprise for you Happy dog!"

The next thing I know, we've pulled into my favorite dog park and I'm muzzle to muzzle with Rose, my old pack mate and doghouse neighbor at SP Kennel in Two Rivers, AK. Rose is retired, too, and now lives with Lynne who works not far from where Macgellan and I live. Our bosses arranged this surprise reunion, and it was great!

Rose and I may look a bit similar, but we have no relatives in common. She was born at SP Kennel, and I was adopted from a remote village. Rose was one of the superstar sled dogs so we never raced together, but we sometimes trained together and I always admired her. While checking out the dog park, we had a little girl-talk and agreed we both have really good lives with our new bosses.

It was great to have a reunion with Rose today, and I hope we visit each other again soon!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy: Rumpus Room!

Hi... I'm Happy!… I'm always Happy... Today I'm happy about "Rumpus Room"!

One of the best things about where Macgellan and I are living these days is that my young friend Luke lives right down the street! Luke is an Australian Shepherd pup, and he's my BFF!

Almost every day -- sometimes twice a day! -- we visit each other. While our bosses have coffee, Luke and I have tons of fun together in a little things we call "Rumpus Room."

You might not think an old sled dog like me would know how to play, but I do! Luke really brings out the pup in me, but when we're done playing I'm ready for nice long nap.

Here's a little video from our "Rumpus Room" this morning... Check it out!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Happy: Rainy Days

Hi... I'm Happy!... I'm always Happy... Today I'm happy even though it's been raining for two days!

Have you ever wondered what I do on rainy days? Well, here's your answer: I sleep!

If you think about it, sleeping is pretty much what I do every day... I'm a happy dog!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy: My Fan In Malta, Montana!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... Today I'm happy because I got pictures from a fan!

You may recall that I had a not-so-happy time when Macgellan and I were in Malta, MT, over the Fourth of July, because I really, really, really don't like fireworks!

A good thing about our time there was that I got to meet Willa and we became the best of friends!

It was so nice of her to send me these photos, showing how she loved me and I loved her right back!

Something I've learned: No matter how bad someplace is, there's always something good there too!

Thanks, Willa!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy: Life As A Left-Handed Dog!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... I'm also always a left-handed dog!

Being a left-handed dog means I always circle around things to the left, or what you humans would call counter-clockwise. When I say "I always circle around things to the left" what I mean is that I always circle around everything to the left.

For reasons I can't really explain, being a left-handed dog sometimes gets me stuck in odd places.

I don't really mind getting stuck, though, because if I just sit and wait until Macgellan sees me, he has a good laugh then gets me unstuck!

Sometimes this happens more than two (which is as high as I can count) times in a day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy: Pacific Northwest Camp

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... Today I'm very happy about my new Pacific Northwest Camp!

Because of all the really bad fires in Washington State, Macgellan and I skipped the rest of our planned route across the state and headed straight to the Seattle area. We are now parked in a really nice RV park, in a space right next to a small lake. As you can see, I have been spending lots of time out in the sunshine, enjoying my naps in peace and quiet.

For those times when I don't feel like being out in the open, I've made several little dens for myself.

This one is in the pine needles at the base of a large tree that makes our campsite very secluded.

I also have two hidden dens under the tall, thick hedges that give us privacy on both sides of our rig.

I've even got a bed under the camper for when I'm hiding from the rain or thunder, and of course I've always got my Igloo dog house under the awning right outside the camper door.

If all else fails, the back seat of my truck is always a comfy spot!

I have to take a lot of naps just to use all my sleeping places!

After four solid months on the road, we're both ready to be in one place for a while. Macgellan says we're going to be here for at least a few months and maybe through the winter. That's fine by me!

I'm sure we'll do some fun stuff (besides sleep) while we're here, so I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Roosevelt Lake

In my post on Monday, I mentioned that Kettle Falls, WA, is on the shores of Roosevelt Lake, which was formed by backing up the Columbia River over 100 miles away at Grand Coulee Dam.

Happy and I took a nice long walk today, along one of the bluffs overlooking the lake. We got this nice panorama photo (Thanks again, iPhone!) and think it's worth sharing! (Click to embiggen)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WA Hwy 20: Plan C

The wildfires in north-central Washington remain almost entirely uncontained, and new fires are being reported throughout the area. Both my intended route west (WA20) and my first alternate (US2) remain closed. Here's a little graphic that may help you to better see the situation:

The Carlton Complex fire is huge, now approaching 400 square miles. That's at least four times the size of the Seattle metropolitan area. Here's a map that shows its approximate size and shape. Be sure to look at the scale and try to imagine if this fire was burning in your area:

It has become clear to me that another day or two isn't going to bring any hope of the road being reliably open. Even if it opens in one place, it's very likely to be closed again in another. The last thing I want to do is get stuck in the middle of all that. The small reward just isn't worth the big risk.

So, I'm now looking at Plan C: Heading south to I-90 then west to Ellensburg and approaching Seattle from the southeast. That probably means nothing for any of you who are unfamiliar with the roads in Washington, so here's another nifty little graphic that may make it clearer for you:

I'll shave some of that distance off by heading southwest out of Kettle Falls on state highways, instead of going down and around through Spokane. It should be a relatively easy two-stint drive.

After four solid months on the road, I'm really fine with this alternative. I've already seen and done plenty on this expedition, and I'm feeling ready to be in one place for a while again... Stay tuned!

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Monday, July 21, 2014

WA Hwy 20: Part 1 -- Newport To Kettle Falls

With the largest forest fires in the state's history raging out of control throughout north-central Washington, it is entirely possible that WA Hwy 20 will remain closed in places and I will not be able to complete my intended end-to-end transit. Nevertheless, I'm determined to give it a go and hope that my relatively slow pace of western movement will allow time for conditions to evolve in my favor!

WA Hwy 20 begins in the town of Newport, just inside the state's eastern border. Although it is a significant route across the top tier of the state, only a simple overhead sign indicates its origin.

Heading up the Pend Oreille River valley, the region is a mix of agriculture and forested mountains. As you can see, smoke from fires over a hundred miles away is dense enough to reduce visibility.

As the valley narrows, the road runs quite close to the river and offers a number of nice views. As you might imagine, the corresponding railway line is also quite near, just out of view on the left.

At the tiny crossroads town of Tiger, WA20 turns west to follow the Little Pend Oreille River. It makes a long, steep and twisty climb through heavily wooded forest, then over a pass before descending.

Heading west down the valley to Colville and Kettle Falls is a very pretty drive. Looking at the terrain, it's easy to see how the grass and timber can be so flammable in the dry season.

I'm in a perfectly satisfactory little RV park in Kettle Falls, a small lumber town where the river runs into Roosevelt Lake. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir of the Columbia River, backed up over a hundred miles from its use to generate power at Grand Coulee Dam.

For a thousand years before the Dam was built, this area was a major salmon fishing area for native peoples and a significant crossroads for trappers and traders. All of that is gone now, of course, though the small local museum and interpretive center do their best to preserve the memory.

My plan is to stay here for three days, partly to check out the area but mostly to see what happens with the fires and roads to the west... Stay tuned!

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Washington Wildfire Watch & Wait

Happy and I are now just inside the northeast border of Washington state, enjoying a few days of R&R in this lovely wooded campsite. It is quite large, semi-secluded and very peaceful... Perfect!

I think it may be Happy's favorite campsite ever, owing particularly to the surrounding woods. She has made herself quite a nice little alpine doggie den, in which she is quite well camouflaged. (Can you see her in the photo below left?) Her relaxation is complete and she's making the most of it!

I'm relaxing, too, though not quite as much due to challenges ahead in the form of huge, uncontained wildfires in the middle of the state. You've probably seen them on the news... They're raging!

My plan has been to drive Washington SR20 across the top tier of the state, all the way from the eastern border at Newport to Anacortes on the Puget Sound. It's a beautiful road that I've driven parts of before, and I've been looking forward to doing an end-to-end transit in the weeks ahead.

Because of the fires, WA20 is currently closed right smack in the middle of the state. I'm not planning to be there for about a week, and am hopeful that it will reopen by the time I get there. If not, I'll head south and take my old friend US2 across the mountains, though that road is also closed at the moment because of the fires. Worst case, I'll drop farther south and drive I-90 west to Seattle.

There's nothing I can do besides watch and wait, making short hops west as conditions permit... Stay tuned!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Glacier NP: "Going-to-the-Sun Road"

Glacier National Park's famous "Going-to-the-Sun Road" has been on my "Drive List" for years. Because it's only open for a brief period during the summer, I've never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. When I heard it had finally opened last week, I decided this was the year.

Starting from the east side near St. Mary, MT, the road begins as a gentle climb up the valley. A large fire to the north has unfortunately blanketed the area with a smoky haze, but you can still how beautiful Glacier NP is, and why it is one of the very best in the country.

A few miles later, the road ascends much more steeply. The abrupt drop-off and blasted rock (plus a couple of "interesting" tunnels) give you an idea of what went into building the road.

Just over the summit at Logan Pass, you get an excellent view back down the valley, and a good view across to your route down the other side. It's not as gradual as it looks!

There was a lot of traffic, so I tried to take my photos in the gaps. Don't let the single car in this shot fool you, it's a heavily traveled road full of drivers who want to go at all different speeds.

I can't say it's the best road I've ever driven, but it definitely deserves a place in the top dozen or so. The long, steady, winding route down the valley offers consistently beautiful views.

Down in the valley, the road follows a river to the main tourist/visitor facilities at Lake McDonald. From there, it's a short drive farther to the West Glacier gate.

If you ever visit Glacier NP, the "Going-to-the-Sun Road" is pretty much a mandatory activity. Plan on using an entire day to cover the 50 mile road at a good pace for viewing and frequent stops, then either turn around and go back the same way or — my suggestion — drive the very pretty US2 return route around the southern border of the Park.

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Happy: States I've Peed In -- Update!

Macgellan says we've now peed in all the new states we're going to pee in for a while, so I thought this would be a good time to update my "States I've Peed In" map.

The yellow states are ones I peed in last year, and the red states are new ones I've peed in this year:

If you count them, you'll see I've peed in 31 of the 50 states so far. Macgellan says I've peed in more states than most people have... Is that possible?

If so, you really should get out there and pee in more states... It's fun and ever so relieving!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Happy: Fireworks, Take Flight!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... But I am not happy about fireworks!

In our travels, Macgellan and I have stayed in a lot of different places. Some of them have been great for dogs like me, most of them have been pretty good, a few of them have been kinda sketchy. Our campsite here in Malta, MT, has been the worst ever.

I haven't really minded the freight trains that have gone by every hour along one side of our campground, or the trucks that have sped across an old metal bridge along the opposite side. I haven't even really minded the millions of mosquitos that have constantly attacked me, because they can't seem to get through my thick Alaskan Husky fur.

What's been miserable for me has been all the pops, booms and crackles of fireworks. Every few minutes for two days now, there's been some loud noise that's made me hide under our camper or in my doghouse. I can't help it, they really scare me and make me shake, shiver and drool.

Macgellan has tried to comfort and reassure me, even taken me for extra drives so I can have some peace and quiet in my truck lair. Last night he said it was going to be the worst, so we were going to "take flight" -- which means "run away" -- from town for a while.

That's why you can see our truck parked at a turn-out about five miles out of town. We drove there at dusk and stayed for four hours, until well after midnight when the fireworks were supposed to stop.

We couldn't get out of the truck because the mosquitos would try to kill Macgellan, so we just stayed inside and pretended we were camping. I had my dinner and slept while he watched a movie and read his book. I could see lots of brightly colored lights flashing on the horizon, but I couldn't hear anything... It was great!

There were still a few bad noises when we finally returned to our camper, but they weren't too loud and didn't last very long. Macgellan has been packing up our camper this morning, so it looks like we'll be hitting the road and getting away from this awful place.

I sure hope there are no more fireworks wherever we're going... They do not make me happy!

Friday, July 04, 2014

US Hwy 191: The End At The Northern Border

The last 57 mile stint on US191 north -- from Malta, MT, to the Canadian border -- is basically more of the same: Mostly wide open grasslands with occasional terrain features to break the monotony.

Considering that there wasn't an official "Begin" or "End" sign for US191 at the southern border in Douglas, AZ, it didn't surprise me that there wasn't a similar sign at its remote northern terminus.

I didn't realize it when I snapped this photo, but in it is the last US191 sign, 16 miles from the border.

Morgan "point of entry" is larger than I expected for such a remote facility, perhaps due to its need to provide housing for personnel.

I didn't pass another vehicle the entire drive up, so I doubt that traffic warrants the facility's size.

I hopped out of my truck to see if there was a US191 sign showing from the opposite direction.

There wasn't, so this photo must serve to chronicle that I completed my border-to-border road trip.

What there was plenty of, however, were millions of mosquitos who instantly attacked me. They forced me to beat a hasty retreat to my truck, where I sat for a minute to reflect on my journey.

Driving US191 has been another excellent road trip. Getting out of the desert heat and finding my little Alpine paradise was a great start. The Coronado Trail, Canyon de Chelley, Arches National Park and Dinosaurland were all treats, a little revisiting of the past and much brand new exploration.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks may have been a bummer for me, but the river valleys to the north and Livingston, MT, more than made up for them. Even the long haul north across central Montana has had a certain zen to it. I'm glad I changed my original plan from US95 to US191.

As always when I've completed an expedition, the question automatically arises, "What's next?"

I don't have a "plan" going forward, but I do have a destination: I've arranged to be in the Seattle area starting August 1st, for what I expect will be at least a few months of various engagement.

There's a lot of territory between here and there, with a lot on offer along the way. I have almost a month to make the transit, more than enough time to "follow my nose" and see what happens.

After three full months of documenting virtually every day, I'll admit I'm a little worn out from the "digital overhead" of reporting my findings on this site. So, I'm going to give myself a break and not declare a pre-defined expedition to chronicle. I want to just wander for a little while.

That said, you know I'm very likely to report any highlights... Stay tuned!

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Thursday, July 03, 2014

US Hwy 191: North-Central Montana

For about 70 miles north of Lewistown, MT, US191 runs through vast open grasslands. There are a few rolling hills to traverse along the way, but it's mostly flat and grassy as far as the eye can see.

All of a sudden -- and I mean sudden -- it looks like you're about to drive off the edge of a cliff.

With relief -- but still on edge about the long steep pitch you have to manage if you're pulling a trailer -- you realize that you're descending into what's known as the Missouri River Breaks. It's a daunting complex of valleys, created over the eons by a river that must have been absolutely huge in the past.

Crossing the modern Missouri River is actually quite anti-climactic, as the whole thing is spanned by a pretty typical little highway overpass bridge. Still, it's a significant milestone on this road trip.

North of the river the vast grasslands continue, though "vast" somehow seems an inadequate descriptor. For the next 70 miles, the impossibly green, lush and seemingly endless fields roll by.

Driving this narrow, uneven stretch of road takes a surprising amount of concentration.

The lack of shoulders -- and presence of strong, gusting crosswinds -- qualifies it as stressful.

With nary a roadside pull-out to be found, it almost feels like you are a prisoner of the road.

So, it was a bit of a relief when I reached the town of Malta, MT, and the intersection with my old friend, the US2 "Hi-Line."

From here it's 60 miles to the Canadian border.

The map shows virtually nothing along the way.

I plan to drive there and back tomorrow, wrapping up this road trip… Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

US Hwy 191: Lewistown, MT

Believe it or not, there's actually a fancy printed pamphlet entitled "50+ Things To Do in Lewistown, Montana."

Most of them are once-a-year events that are unlikely attractions for a casual visitor, and most of the rest are outdoor activities or other attractions in the much broader area.

Still, there are a few in-town features, of which the Central Montana Museum is the best and a good place to start.

It's a better than average local museum, with a few very fine and extensive displays.

In other places it suffers from a bit of the typical clutter, but the documentary signage is excellent and explains a lot about the area's history, heritage, etc.

From cavalry battles to nuclear missiles silos, a lot has happened in this area!

A highpoint of my day -- quite literally -- was making the drive up nearby Judith Peak. Enticed by the promise of a spectacular view, it was a long, steep slog up a rough gravel road to the summit. It was a good workout for my truck's four-wheel-low drivetrain, and I was once again impressed with how well it performed. At the top, it was just me, Happy and an impressive array of antennae.

It's too bad the sky was so hazy, because the spectacular view could have been truly amazing. Nevertheless, you can see how the grass and timber covered hills make this a very beautiful area.

Returning to town, I was amused by this large sign. (Read it to the bottom and you'll understand.)

I can report that the town's quality of life receives widely varied reviews from local residents.

Some say it's a terrible place to live, while other say they love it and wouldn't live anywhere else.

One challenge is that the economy is mostly agri-based, with only so many ranch hands in demand.

There are a few local manufacturing plants, but most work in service- and government-related jobs.

As a town of about 6,000 people -- about 11,000 including the surrounding county -- it strikes me as pretty nice. The downtown area is tidy and varied, and the people are all very friendly. As a bonus, there's a pretty extensive set of walking trails around town, mostly on old converted rail beds. Our lengthy walk prompted Happy to give the town a paws up. It's worth a visit if you're in the area.

In the morning, I will head toward Malta, MT, the last stop before the northern border… Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

US Hwy 191: Central-Central Montana

Out of Livingston, MT, US191 remains co-signed with I-90 for a 30-mile stint going east.

It's a wide-open road that truly serves as the backbone throughout the state. It's also an excellent example of something I know I've mentioned before: River-Rail-Road

Because rivers typically follow shallow changes in altitude and have — over the eons — carved wide valleys, railroads were very often built to follow them. When auto roads were built in later years, it made sense to follow the same basic pathways.

As you can see in this screen shot from my onboard mapping system, in this area all three of them run more or less parallel within a half mile of each other.

At Big Timber, MT, US191 turns north, leaves I-90 and crosses the rails and river.

For a few miles, you are entertained by the "Crazy Mountains" which are so named, I would bet, because it is crazy that they're there. In the middle of nowhere and pretty far from any other significant mountains, these 11,000 foot peaks are clumped together by themselves.

Continuing north after that, the landscape is mostly rolling hills, with vast grasslands, herds of cattle, a few wind turbine farms and even fewer tiny settlements. Another hundred miles of "out there."

I've called this "Central-Central Montana" because it really is pretty much equidistant east-west and north-south. It's very pretty in the summer, but notoriously cold, snowy and windy in the winter.

I've stopped in the small town of Lewistown, MT, in which the locals have all told me there isn't much to see or do. I'm betting I can fill a day's worth of exploration anyway, so I'm going to stay here tomorrow... Stay tuned!

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Monday, June 30, 2014

US Hwy 191: Paradise Valley, MT

It was such a beautiful drive up the Gallatin River valley from West Yellowstone, that I decided to check out the Yellowstone River valley down to the Park's north gate in Gardiner, MT.

The road definitely did not disappoint... It's called "Paradise Valley" for a reason! (Click to embiggen)

Stunning views for 50 miles going south, then the flip-side views coming back north... What a drive!

Gardiner is a pretty typical tourist mecca, packed with wilderness adventure companies -- offering whitewater rafting, horse pack trips, extreme fishing, etc. -- and the usual assortment of motels, lodges, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, etc. I only stayed there long enough to have lunch, take Happy for a long walk and share an ice cream. (Of which my dog ate well more than her half!)

Although I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Livingston area -- and will happily come back for a longer visit some day -- I'm going to push north tomorrow. With all the Fourth of July rodeos and other festivities coming up at the end of the week, it's going to get crazy and crowded around here.

I'll be heading up into the hinterlands of Central Montana, nearing the completion of this road trip at the Canadian border... Stay tuned!

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

US Hwy 191: Pine Creek Lodge

Ten miles south of Livingston, MT -- and just a half mile up the hill from my campground -- is an unexpected culinary treasure. I was referred to Pine Creek Lodge by my campground hosts when I asked if there was anyplace to eat in the nearby area. At first glance when I pulled up, I figured it was going to be a typical "lodge" with mediocre food and rustic ambiance. I was totally wrong.

It's a small place, with a half-dozen tables inside and a few more on a deck outside for use in warm weather. There's also a small bar with five stools, just the kind of spot I like.

Scott runs a quiet, efficient operation, the kind where it's obvious people know what they're doing.

Katrina is a delightful hostess and server, helpful with suggestions about the menu and perfectly attentive.

The menu is one-page, but surprising in it's breadth of offerings. The food descriptions are simple and concise, but make it clear that there's a real chef in the kitchen, not just a cook.

My dinner was perfectly delicious, an impossibly fresh garden salad followed by the kind of melt-in-your-mouth ribs that can only be accomplished by skill and time. In addition to al dente seasonal vegetables and a tasty potato portion, the plating included a delightfully unexpected black bean and corn garnish. Not your typical "lodge" food by a long shot!

If you're ever in the Livingston area -- for which I reprise my enthusiasm -- be sure to make the short drive down the valley to eat at Pine Creek Lodge. There's no better way to finish off a good day of exploration than by having a great meal at an unexpected culinary treasure!

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US Hwy 191: Sheep Wagon

This "Sheep Wagon" at the Yellowstone Gateway Museuem is typical of what Montana shepherds hauled from site to site and stayed in while their flocks grazed nearby. Built in the early 1900's, it is based on the centuries-old Gypsy wagons of Europe and later adapted to accommodate rubber tires.

Plus or minus a few amenities, it looks a lot like the interior of my modern camper... Sign me up!

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