Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington - 12 May, 2006
As we drive into the Olympic National Park, we pick up a long-haired hitchhiker. He turns out to be Arthur, a physicist from Nottingham, England who studies MRI physics and was in Seattle for a conference of 5,000. He has heard of Arthur Dent.
We hike back into the dense rain forest valley and remember our first overnight hike here in June, 1968. I see our young ghosts on the trail.
We camp by the Hoh River which rushes past. A sign says 'Dangerous Boating Area'. The swift water is glacier-melt cascading down the rain forest valley. I slip on my dive booties and hand the camera to Mrs Phred. Out into the rushing water, I'm swept off my feet (according to plan). I end up in the deepest, fastest part of the river with no hope of regaining my footing.
Rapidly I float downstream scrabbling at the tiny river rocks. The clock is ticking... hypothermia or loss of strength? Aha! A big rock. Just in time... I love this place! Up on the bank. What a rush! Do it again!
Next day another hike and another warning, this time from a Park Ranger, about Washington State helmet laws. My documents come back clean.
Here are the rainforest pictures.
A Change of Plans
Butte, Montana - 26 May, 2006
We got an offer on our house yesterday, printed out the PDF file, signed it and faxed it back. The closing is June 30th which means we have to get our 'stuff' out and stored by June 30th and make a trip back to Tampa, Florida rather sooner than anticipated. We knew this could happen but moving from our home of 30 years is a strange feeling. What do we care about? Books, pictures, my tools, our dive gear, an old Victrola case that reminds me of a mummy and my depression glass collection. The rest can go. Hoping for no hurricanes just now.
The last two weeks we have been hiking in the North Cascades National Park in Washington and Glacier National Park in Montana. When they put a National Park out in the middle of no place that there is always something there to see.
We find bear signs in both parks, including piles of deer bones and scattered fur. If you go outdoors where there are bears you should wear little bells and carry pepper spray, be alert for signs of bear and be able to distinguish black bear droppings from grizzly bear droppings.
Black bear droppings are smaller and full of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear droppings are full of little bells and smell like pepper spray.
Here are some snapshots of NE Washington, including the North Cascades National Park.
The contrast in communications and connectedness between a long camping trip in 1986 and 2006 deserves some comment. In 1986 you were lucky to find a pay phone. In 2006 you may each have a cell phone, a GPS hooked to a mapping program, an IPOD, a constant wireless broadband connection to online friends and the ability to Google for infinite information. Many channels of satellite radio are available as is television by cable, satellite and antenna. Signals are everywhere.
The people you meet on the road can also and often be interesting. Yesterday we met a very old couple, both with arthritis and other serious medical problems who love to fish and travel continuously with no fixed home. They advise us to follow their 2-2-2 rule. Drive no more than 200 miles. Quit by 2 PM and stay at least two days before moving again. Or you may meet a blue-eyed young Mormon mechanic, a meth freak iron-worker, an albino snake breeder or a big ugly biker with earrings and a poetry book in his leather pants.
Poets, Copper Kings, Wobblies and Evel Knieval
Buffalo, Wyoming - 28 May, 2006
Bomber Mountain at 13,005 feet is just to the North. A B-17 with ten aboard crashed there in the rain in 1943.
Give me a moment of breach
A second chance
To proof my existence
Let me tumble in the leaks
Though the cracks
and slants of light
- Found scrawled on the window of a long abandoned business in Butte, Montana in the cold wet drizzle of an empty street.
Butte had a long history of violent labour problems. The IWW 'wobblies' were involved in the labour disputes with Anaconda Copper and the 'Copper Bosses' and 'Copper Kings'. A book by Jarad Diamond, called Collapse, explores the failure of the Montana economy, Easter Island and other civilizations. Diamond won the Pulitzer prize for Guns, Germs and Steel.
Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel grew up in Butte. He operated a diamond drill deep in the mines and was promoted to driving a huge ore mover topside. He was fired after 'popping a wheelie' in the mover and taking out all the power to downtown Butte. Evel gained famed making ever longer jumps over lines of parked vehicles. He broke an impressive collection of bones on dozens of different crashes. One of his most impressive jumps was over the Snake River Canyon in a jet assisted motorcycle. His drag chute deployed on the launch ramp and he ended up in the river after his main chute deployed.
Here are a few pictures of Butte, Montana. The copper mines are closed, but you can see it was once prosperous.
Devil's Tower, Wyoming - 29 May, 2006
You may have seen Devil's Tower in the 1970s movie, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind? Or maybe on the three cent American commemorative stamp that came out in 1953? It's the first American National Monument and was created by president Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.
The tower goes more or less straight up for 1,267 feet. The first shot in this series shows a very tiny climber going straight up the rock face.
The tower is closed to climbers for the month of June by Presidential executive order to show respect for the 22 different Indian tribes who use the tower as part of their spiritual practices. On July 4th, 1893, William Rogers and Willard Ripley made the first known ascent with the aid of a 350 foot ladder. In 1895 Mrs Rogers used the ladder and became the first woman to reach the summit.
The strange part of the day is not the Tower, it is the minds and motivations of the small creatures driven to climb to the top.
South Dakota Tractor Museum
Nebraska City, Nebraska - 31 May, 2006
We pull off Interstate 90 east of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The museum has no other visitors. Ray Janish comes to meet me. Mrs Phred stays in the RV on her cell phone.
Ray is in his 70s. He is an Austrian immigrant. Lots of Germans immigrants and pretty Lutheran churches in this area. Ray takes me through the blacksmith shop, two barns full of restored tractors, a barn full of farm equipment and an old one-room school house.
I really like the 1937 Thielman tractor. It cost $185 during the Depression and came without an engine. You added your own Model A or Packard straight eight engine. There is also a two cylinder gasoline engine washing machine. Ray threw his away after they brought electricity to his farm in the 50s.
There are potato planters, corn planters, bob-sled type hay wagons, grain elecators, combines and a nice assortment of antique automobiles in addition to the tractors. Some of the old one-lung gasoline engines are called 'hit-and-miss' engines and fire off every once in a while when conditions are right.
There are few of the steel wheel tractors I had hoped to see. Ray tells me most of these were melted down for scrap during WWII. Also the big new diesels with enclosed cabs, air-conditioning and headlights are missing. Ray looks sad about these and says they never should have put diesels and headlights on tractors. It killed the family farm. He says all the kids go off to college now and don't come back.
Most of these tractors run and have been restored by a local farmer who is about 85 now and has been restoring them in his barn for the last 25 years. I'd like to touch one of these paint jobs but it would be like using your flash in the Versailles Palace. I sense that if I did touch one, Ray would just look at me with sad disappointment. Here are about 70 tractor shots.
After the museum, we veer off the Interstate and cut south on farm roads though 400 miles of South Dakota and Nebraska farm country. Then seven more days of driving brings us back to Florida to deal with the sale of our house.
The meet in the Ozarks will still happen July 3rd and 4th. Stay tuned for part seven.