Monday, July 30, 2007

Smoking

On December 8, 2005, Washington implemented a state-wide ordinance imposing a complete ban on smoking in public places, including a 25-foot buffer around entrances and air intakes. Not some jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction, piecemeal regulation, but a sweeping state-wide nix on this awful behavior. I'm not surprised that this was accomplished through the initiative process and not by the legislature; it's too bad that legislatures can't make decisions like this.

Okay, perhaps state regulation of personal behavior is bad in a libertarian sense, but a smoking ban has real appeal to me.

I didn't detect a coincident collapse in the hospitality industry. There didn't appear to be an exodus of people to Oregon, Idaho, or British Columbia so they could enjoy a puff and the satisfaction of putting out a cigarette in a billowy pile of mashed potatoes. The bars seemed to be doing just fine without the acrid smell of tobacco smoke to enhance the aroma of stale beer. If a smoking ban doesn't cause economic devastation (as the critics insist), what's not to like?

So, note to self: it's time to crank up the email machine and fire off a few missives to our representative government to see if there's an appetite in Virginia for a smoking ban. I'm not advocating a ban on the growing of tobacco [yet], just an outright ban on burning the weed. Perhaps some of the so-called "gun control" crowd can be persuaded to pick up a more worthwhile ban.

Hospitality

Perhaps this was the summer of our [national] discontent. Perhaps unemployment rates have dipped to the point where employers (including those in the service and hospitality industries) can no longer afford to apply meaningful criteria in the hiring process. Perhaps the practice of importing large numbers of English-speaking, foreign-born temporary "help" sight-unseen to fill seasonal jobs has brought customer service to the level acceptable in the developing world. Perhaps I'm used to spending my vacations in the far north, where there's less opportunity to interact with the public (and those who serve them). Whatever the cause, I noticed a considerable (and alarming) indifference on the part of customer service staff while on holiday this year.

Surly counter staff were legion. Yes, language and cultural differences can be a challenge, but that can't be an excuse for poor service. I suspect "management" is as much to blame as the employee. Managers that can't manage to correctly spell the county of origin of their employees (Jamaicia and Mexica, for example), may have the same lack of attention to detail when it comes to training and leadership.

Seafair

0013 PDT Monday, 30 July 2007 -- airborne, enroute from Seattle to Charlotte, NC

I've been in Seattle four times in the past nine years. On two of those occasions, I've managed to arrive in the middle of Seafair, the annual celebration of all things Seattle. Throngs arrive to watch hydroplane races [crashes?], mingle with Sailors in town for Fleet Week, enjoy the parade, and redistribute lots of money in the local economy.

All of this is a lot of fun if you plan ahead. I, however, have managed to show up in the middle of the festivities not once, but twice, without a hotel reservation. The first time this happened, I arrived in town after having hiked about 110 miles around Mount Rainier, and popped up at Seattle Center trying to figure out why so many people were welcoming us to town. We wound up staying at a motel somewhere between Seattle and SeaTac.

This time, the crowds were heavier than before. After trying Seattle and SeaTac, we wound up in Tacoma, at a place next door to the Tacoma Dome. It was a pretty nice place (at a steep price), but it was a place to stay. We still got to see a lot of Seattle on foot, but we spent a whole lot more time driving than I originally planed.

During our search, there was no room at the inn at any place I'd consider staying. My standards have shifted somewhat as I've grown older (and less financially desperate). There was a day when I wouldn't think twice about staying at a no-name, off-brand, night-manager-behind-bullet-proof-glass kind of place. Based on the advanced discrimination capability I showed last night, those days may be gone forever.

So, word to the wise: don't plan on arriving in Seattle in late July or early August without plenty of advance planning. Let's see if I can remember that important advice on the next trip to the Emerald City.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Portland

Well, we arrived safely in Portland this morning about 1045 PDT. We got our rental car, then toured around the east side of town for a while. After snagging a couple of geocaches, we arrived at Timberline Lodge shortly after 1700. Lorraine and I have never stayed at the lodge before, so this was on the list of things to do this trip.

Mosts / Bests

After nearly every big trip, we develop a list of mosts and bests. Here's a first draft of this year's:

Most number of people upset by lack of lavatory service: passengers on the Chicago -> East Glacier Park, MT leg of our Amtrak® journey

Most number of mosquitos and flies: Sperry Campground

Most number of waterfalls to cross: trail from Gunsight Lake to Lake Ellen Wilson

Best waterfall that we had to hike through: On the trail to Lake Ellen Wilson

Best waterfall overall: Pitamakan at Two Medicine

Best swim: Gunsight Lake

Best stoic pose during glacier-fed lake soak: Gunsight Lake

Best wildflowers: Gunsight pass to Sperry

Most anticipated pizza meal: Jammer Joe's at McDonald Lodge

Best view from a privy (inspired by Snow Lake in Mount Rainier National Park): Sperry

Best interpretive program: Fire (at Many Glacier); runners-up Bison (at Waterton Lakes) and Curly Bear (also at Waterton Lakes)

Best front-county campsite: Avalanche (we stayed there twice, once before and once after the Gunsight Trail hike)

Best back-country campsite: Kintla (with a close follow-up by Sperry because of the view)

Best backcountry meal: soup, followed by mashed potatoes with steak nuggets and vegetables

Best lodge: East Glacier Lodge

Best restaurant meal: Bay View Inn (Waterton Townsite)

Best new flavor sensation: Root beer and aged white cheddar cheese

Best berry: Huckleberry (Jeff and Joe), thimbleberry (Lorraine and Em)

Best ice cream: Huckleberry ice cream at Many Glacier

Best one-liner: "Bambi goes prehistoric...." [in reference to the "killer deer" warnings around the Waterton Townsite]

Best sign: Caution! Slow down...people breathing.

Funniest conversation overheard: Joey get your hand out of your underwear and stop scratching your butt!

Best snore: Jeff (at several locations)

Strangest conversation: "Em! Em!", followed by "Joey, you can't get out of the tent! We're camping!"

Best survival food source: pudding from Joe's eyeglasses

Most helpful NPS Ranger: Pete Siudara

Most startling geologic feature: Frank Slide (brings new meaning to the term "geologically active")

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Animals we saw:

Charismatic megafauna

  • Bison
  • Black bear
  • Grizzly bear
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Rocky Mountain Goats (goat antelope)
  • Mule deer
  • White tailed deer
  • Cows

Other animals

  • Long-tailed weasel (with prey) (at Logan Pass)
  • Marmot
  • Pika (on the way to Lincoln Pass)
  • Ground squirrel
  • Chipmunk
  • Tree squirrel
  • Snake (in the water at Kintla Lake)

Birds

  • Ptarmigan
  • Jay
  • Robins
  • Tanager
  • Thrush (VIreo and Hermit)
  • Bald eagle
  • Loon
  • White Throated Sparrow
  • Gull
  • Raven

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Amtrak®

2247 MDT Wednesday, 25 July 2007

We boarded the west-bound Empire Builder at East Glacier Park, MT about 1950 (only about an hour late, which isn't bad considering the co-usage of tracks).

The good news: we had dinner reservations for 2000, which worked out well. The toilets worked in the sleeping car (and elsewhere in the train, I presume).

The bad news: no hot water for showers. Ugh. Maybe we'll get hot water by morning, and maybe we won't. The water wasn't as cold as the glacier-fed streams we'd been swimming / soaking in, but it was plenty cold anyway.

I've developed a new-found curiosity about transportation subsidies. Perhaps if Members of Congress were encouraged to patronize our National Railroad Passenger Corporation, the subsidy situation would change...certainly worth pursuing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Waterton Lakes

0928 MDT Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Drove up to Waterton Lakes from Many Glacier yesterday afternoon. Stayed at the Crandall Lake campground. Went on a nice day hike to Crandall Lake in the afternoon.

Took in a great program last night from a fellow named Curly Bear (www.curlybear.org). An electrical storm started through the area just as the program was underway. We got a fair bit of rain last night in several thunderstorms, then the wind kicked up in the early morning. By the time we got up, the temperature was nice and there was a cool breeze blowing.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Backpacking

1628 MDT Friday, 20 July 2007

We're at Avalanche Campground -- we hiked from Sperry Campground to the McDonald Lake Lodge (where the truck was parked) today. It's a long, downhill hike, so I'm hoping that my toenails survive.

Here's what we've been up to so far.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Drove north to Kintla Lake, where we stayed at the campground.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Hiked in to Kintla Lake campground, where we stayed overnight. Great (but COLD) swimming.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Stayed overnight at Apgar Campground.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Stayed overnight at Avalanche Campground.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Took the park shuttle from McDonald Lodge to the Gunsight Trail trailhead. Hiked in to Gunsight Lake. Beautiful hike -- just about the right length for the start of this hike across the Continental Divide.

Great swimming at Gunsight Lake.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Hiked from Gunsight Lake Campground. Amazing scenery. Many songbirds, and wildflowers were abundant. Hiked through many waterfalls on the trail, including one big one just before Lake Ellen Wilson. We didn't hike down to Lake Ellen Wilson to avoid the loss of elevation.

Stayed overnight at Sperry Campground. Beautiful views, including McDonald Lake. LOTS of mosquitos, which come from the small pond in the campground. The Sperry Chalet is not to be missed. We refilled our water containers and checked out the dining hall before heading back to camp.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

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Crossing the divide


These kinds of bridges are always fun....
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Father and son....

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Not ready for a dip, quite yet....
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Berries!

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On the way to the trailhead...


We took the new, free shuttle from the McDonald Lake Lodge to the trailhead. It's a great service -- the only way to travel on the Going to the Sun Road.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Big Horn Sheep
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Joe at Logan Pass.
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Emily, Joe, and the Garden Wall....
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Marmot (2)


These guys get pretty close to the trail up a Logan Pass.

Marmot

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Logan Pass

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Doin' the tourist thing....
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Monday, July 16, 2007


No...we're not in Alaska this year.
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Life in the fast lane....

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One of my favorite flowers...fireweed.
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Here's another shot of the "kitchen area"....

This is what the "kitchen area" looks like. You can see food hanging from the bear wire. The "kitchen area" is quite a ways from our campsite, which helps keep bears and other "critters" away while we're snoozing.

Glacier National Park rangers hammer campsite cleanliness and backcountry animal awareness hard, which appears to pay off. We had some adventures with deer in other sites, but in general, we didn't have too many problems.
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