Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Richland's alphabet soup houses

An A house today
Richland, Washington's alphabet houses were quickly constructed to house thousands of people working on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

The one- and two-story ranch style homes formed the nucleus of the community which grew out of the desert as people converged to construct the atomic bombs that were later dropped on Japan to end the war.

B house today
The community was quickly designed, with street construction starting in March 1943. The first house was completed a month later. Before construction started, Richland had only about 20 homes, hardly enough for the 16,000 people coming to work at Hanford.

Each house style was assigned a letter, with B being the most common, followed by A. Both were duplexes. Housing was assigned based on how many people were in a worker's family. Some houses had only one bedroom, others had three. Though almost all of the houses had chimneys, few had fireplaces. Instead the chimneys were used to vent from the coal and oil used to heat the homes, the local historical society says.

Dozens upon dozens of the houses exist today, just about everywhere you go in Richland. While the houses essentially all looked the same back then, today's owners have added decorative touches such as paint schemes, porches, window shutters and carports. As you drive around Richland, it is amazing to see the changes made by a little creativity.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Two PNW colleges among most beautiful campuses

Two Pacific Northwest colleges are on Travel + Leisure's list of the 30 most beautiful college campuses in the United States. The colleges, which originally were listed in a 2011 magazine article, were picked because of outstanding architectural features as well as natural beauty.

Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, made the list because of its park-like campus with "verdant forests, sweeping pathways and stone walls." The article notes that a tree walk is lined with native trees that early  explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark saw when they made their great journey from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean in the early 1800s.

Another Pacific Northwest college on the list is the University of Washington in Seattle. The article singled out the Gothic style Suzzallo Library because of its 35-foot high stained glass windows and vaulted 65-foot high vaulted ceilings. Also noteworthy are the 30 Yoshino cherry trees that bloom every spring in the Quad and the spectacular views of Mount Rainier from the Drumheller Fountain.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Barnard Griffin winery

Barnard Griffin is a small, quality winery operated by a husband-and-wife team located in rural Richland, Washington.

Rob Griffin has been involved in the Washington wince scene since 1977. He and his wife Deborah Barnard have been making wines under their own label since 1983.

Winemaker Griffin has a master’s degree in viniculture and enology from the University of California at Davis. He came to southcentral Washington in 1977 to serve as the first winemaker for Preston Winery located a few miles north of Pasco. He met with quick success, with his 1977 Chardonnay winning Best of Show at the Seattle Enological Society’s Northwest Wine Festival.

Barnard Griffin Wines Started in 1983

He and his wife began making wines under their own label six years later, with their first bottlings consisting of a total of 400 cases of Chardonnay, Fumé Blanc and Riesling. Griffin went on to become winemaker and general manager at Hogue Cellars in Prosser, before the couple went full-time with their winery. They have been at their present facility at 878 Tulip Lane in Richland, Washington, since 1996.

Barnard Griffin has used colorful tulips on its label since 1983, and bottles lines of White Tulip and Red Tulip wines in addition to their white and red reserve lines. The winery’s production is more than 75,000 cases a year.

Winery Wins Many Awards

The number of awards the winery has won attests to the quality of their wines. Many of their awards come from California wine festivals, making the wins particularly sweet because California is better known for its wines than Washington. In early 2009 alone, Barnard Griffin wines have won at wine festivals in Riverside, Monterey and San Francisco. For the fourth consecutive year, Barnard Griffin won a gold or better for its Rose of Sangiovese at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Barnard Griffin was named the Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest in the spring of 2006.

Wine Grapes Come From Throughout Mid-Columbia

The grapes for Barnard Griffin wines came from throughout the Mid-Columbia region, from the Wahluke Slope to the north to the nearby Red Mountain vineyards.

The on-site tasting room is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The tasting room also houses a small art gallery, where glass works by Deborah Barnard are on display. There is a fee to taste wines which is refunded when purchases are made. The winery also has a small wine bar/eatery and offers live music on weekends.

How to Find Barnard Griffin Winery

Barnard Griffin is one of three wineries on Tulip Lane. It is the middle one, bounded on the north by Tagaris Winery and on the south by J. Bookwalter Wines.

Take the Queensgate Road exit off of Interstate I-182, which runs from Interstate I-82 in the west, past Richland and on to. From Queensgate turn onto Columbia Park Trail, then left onto Windmill Road, and finally right on Tulip Lane. Watch for the winery signs on Columbia Park Trail.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sacajawea State Park honors Indian guide

Dug-out canoes at Sacajawea State Park
Sacajawea State Park, near Pasco, Washington, honors Sacajawea, Lewis & Clark’s guide on their Corps of Discovery journey from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Ocean.

The park is located at five miles south of Pasco at the confluence of the mighty Columbia and Snake rivers. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis in May 1804, looking for an overland passage to the Pacific Ocean. On October 10, 1805, they arrived in what is now Washington State, traveling down the Snake River to where it joins with the Columbia. They arrived at the confluence six days later on October 16, staying for two days to explore the area, before continuing down the Columbia to their final destination, the Pacific Ocean. They also stayed in the area on their return trip to St. Louis in the spring of 1806.

Sacajawea joined expedition in North Dakota
They spent the winter of 1804-05 at Fort Mandan, in what is now North Dakota, where they added Sacajawea, a 17-year-old Shoshone, to their group. She was to serve as their translator and sometimes guide for the remainder of the trip. Also joining the expedition was her French-Canadian husband, Toussaint Charbonneau and their infant son, Jean-Baptiste.

But it is Sacajawea which this 284-acre park honors. The park was originally a construction site for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and was called Ainsworth. When the railroad moved on, the town disappeared, eventually to be replaced by the park, which got its start in 1927 when some land was given to the Pasco chapter of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington. The group deeded the land to Washington State in 1931. The Sacajawea museum was built in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) to display Native American artifacts from Columbia Plateau tribes.

Visitors may note two spellings of Sacajawea’s name, even inside the park. The traditional and historic name, Sacajawea, is used at the park and the interpretive center.  The Shoshone word means “one who assumes a burden.” The name, Sacagawea, is used in the exhibits, and means “bird woman.” This was her given name.

Interpretive center explains journey
The museum is operated as an interpretive center today. It tells the story of the Lewis & Clark expedition, with emphasis on the West. There’s a marvelous statue of Sacajawea, a lodge made from reeds, and a display of items that the expeditionary corps would have had with them, among other things.

The interpretive center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily April through October.  The park itself is open from 6:30 a.m. to dusk year ‘round, though in the winter months, visitors must park at the gate and walk in. Once inside the park, a myriad of activities are open to visitors. The list includes hiking, walking, picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing and bird watching.

A number of activities take place at the park during the open months. They range bluegrass festivals, old-time fiddlers, heritage days and haunted forests.

Sacajawea State Park is part of the Washington State Parks System. It is located southeast of Pasco just off Highway 12 at 2503 Sacajawea Park Road


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

More pretty Pacific Northwest beaches

Two more Pacific Northwest beaches have been added to a list of cant-miss beaches in the United States.

Cannon Beach, Oregon, and La Push, Washington, were named on a supplemental list of 20 more beaches to visit in the USA. Oregon's Ecola State Park and Washington's Cape Disappointment State Park were named on the first list of 22 can't-miss beaches.

Of the four beaches, Cannon Beach is the only one I've visited, though I have driven by Ecola beach. Cannon Beach is most known for Haystack Rock, a huge rock formation on the shoreline. I remember one visit when I took an early morning walk on the beach. In the early morning mist, the scene reminded me of the Robert Frost poem that started with 'The fog creeps in on little cat feet . . ."

La Push is located on the Olympic Peninsula and is the northern-most beach in Washington.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Two PNW beaches make "top" list

Two Pacific Northwest beaches are on a CNN list of 22 beautiful beaches in the United States.

Cape Disappointment State Park is on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula. It was recognized for having the North Head Lighthouse, rugged cliffs and beaches.

To the south, across the border in Oregon, Ecola State Park also was recognized for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreational activities, including crossing the path the Lewis and Clark Expedition took on their history journey in 1803-5. Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, about a mile offshore, can also be seen from the park.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Richland’s Horn Rapids Golf Course Utilizes Desert Surroundings

Horn Rapids Golf Course
Horn Rapids Golf Course incorporates the surrounding desert landscape into the club’s 18 holes which are the centerpiece of the golf course community. 

The Horn Rapids subdivision is located a few miles out of Richland, Washington, proper, though it is still within the city limits. The golf course is surrounded by upscale housing which is surrounded by the desert. Inside the golf course community, the fairways are lined with sagebrush. There are many ponds on the golf course and it is not unusual to see ducks paddling away.

Horn Rapids Golf Course opened in mid-90s

Horn Rapids Golf Course opened in 1994. It was designed by Keith Foster who has designed and renovated golf courses across the United States.

The course features 18 holes spanning 6,988 yards. There are six tees, the black tee being the longest; the aqua tee is the shortest at 4, 455 yards. The black and blue tees’ hole 12 is the longest hole at 579 yards. The black tee’s hole 13 is the shortest tee for the course at 200 yards. The golf course website has hole by hole descriptions and diagrams of the course.

Horn Rapids Golf Course is a par 72 course.

Horn Rapids offers year ‘round golfing

The Horn Rapids Golf Course is open year ’round. Cheapest greens fees are Monday through Thursday or in late afternoon any day of the week.

The golf course has a driving range, three practice greens and an 18-hole bent grass putting course. Carts and clubs are available for rent through the pro shop. A full-service restaurant with banquet facility is located on site.

Horn Rapids Golf Course Has RV Sites

The Horn Rapids Golf Course offers golfers the opportunity to play in close proximity to their recreational vehicles. The course has four RV sites which have 30-amp electrical hook-ups as well as water and sewer hook-ups. The Horn Rapids RV Resort is located right across Highway 240 from the golf course community. It has more than 200 full hook-up sites for RV’ers. The resort also has a recreation hall, convenience store, internet access, fenced run for dogs, deli and laundry.

The Horn Rapids Golf Course is one of 10 golf courses in the Tri-Cities area of southcentral Washington which encompasses Pasco, Richland and Kennewick. West Richland, a growing town which borders Richland, is considered part of the Tri-Cities area.

Horn Rapids is located just off Highway 240. The golf course is at  2800 Clubhouse Lane.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Seattle's Pike Place Market named a top free attraction

Spring onions
Seattle's Pike Place Market, which has been serving up fresh produce to shoppers for more than a century, was just named one of eight top free attractions in the United States.

The CNN article the famous waterfront market is copied by farmers markets throughout the country.
The market, set on nine acres on a hill overlooking Puget Sound, is a mixture of produce vendors, restaurant, bakeries, butcher shops and boutiques.

The produce is artfully arranged, but watch out for the flying fish as fishmongers toss fresh salmon and other fish, sitting on ice out front to behind the counter where they're wrapped for customers.

Pike Place Market opened in 1907 as the result of a consumer revolt about the rising price of onions. The market today is a Mecca for shoppers and visitors alike as it is one of the state's top tourist attractions..

Other top free attractions on the list were the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., the Alamo and the National 911 Memorial.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lowden: quiet until Saturday

This Indian Scout sold for $32,000.
Lowden, Washington, is a quiet little community, more or less a wide spot in the road as you drive Highway 12 between the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla. It has a couple of top-notch wineries and a grain elevator, and is best known as being near the site of a famous battle between Indians and the cavalry back in 1865.

It's not an incorporated city; probably under 200 people, but all that changed for a few hours on Saturday, June 22, when m hundreds of people, amounting to many times the community's population, descended upon Lowden for an auction of equipment and vehicles owned by the late Ted Small. This wasn't just any farm auction, however. Included aamng the old and antique tractors and Caterpillars were five rare vintage Indian motorcycles and more than a dozen antique and classic cars. These were the vehicles that drew the crowds. While people were somewhat spread out for sales of the tractors et al, they were almost wall to wall  when it came time to auction off the motorcycles and cars.

While it was wildly rumored that late-night talk show host Jay Leno would be an hand to buy vehicles for h is garage, he never showed. Reportedly, some of his staff flew into Walla Walla Airport on his Learjet that morning.

This rare engine sold quickly for $200,000.
Of the five motorcycles, a 1941 Indian 441 went for the most money, $50,000, while a 1940 Indian Scout sold for the least, $32,000. A 1910 Auburn touring car brought $97,000, the most paid for any of the cars, but the highest selling big item was an 1896 Golden Gate gas engine, of which less than 10 were made. A local wheat farmer bought it for $200,000 on the fourth bid.

The crowds began clearing out after the last auto was auctioned off, though only just over a third of the items to be sold had been sold by that time. By the end of the day, Lowden had returned to normal.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Washington falls on best list

A waterfalls in Olympic National Park in Washington is on a list of the eight best waterfalls in U.S. national parks. The list, prepared by CNN, says Marymere Falls is easy to find and get to from Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway that ends at the border with Mexico.

The news service says the 90-foot high  falls is about a one-mike hike over a relatively flat trail from the highway.

Also on the list were Bird Woman Falls in Glacier National Park in northern Montana and Horseshoe Falls at Yosemite National Park in California. Noticeably missing from the list was Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Gorge at George

Another Pacific Northwest place has earned a place on a list of bests. This time it's the Gorge Amphitheatre that was named to CNN's list of "8 amazing outdoor music venues" around the world.

The amphitheatre overlooks the Columbia River near the town of George, Washington. Great views of the Cascade Mountains to the west can be seen across the river. CNN notes the Gorge's scenic beauty is one reason why it was picked for the list.

The Gorge has been a popular outdoor music concert "hall" for many years now, hosting some of the biggest stars in the music world.

Other music venues on the list included outdoor theatres in Germany and Scotland, as well as elsewhere in the United States.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gearhart, Oregon: Nice beach town

A recent CNN article listed Gearhart, Oregon, as one of the top beach towns in the United States. It's on the northern Oregon coast between Cannon Beach and Seaside.

We prefer the central and southern Oregon coasts because they're prettier, so I can't comment too much on it, though we have occasionally driven through the town. I do remember my mother, who grew up in Portland, talking about it as her family went there a lot when she was a child. According to the article, Gearhart is still popular with Portlanders who like to drive on the beach at night, drink wine and look at stars.

Beach towns from Hawaii to Maine and Florida also were named to the list.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Charbonneau Park Offers Riverside Camping Near Pasco, Washington

Camping in Charbonneau Park
Charbonneau Park and Campground, with 54 sites located on the Snake River, is an oasis of shade in the high desert land that is southeastern Washington.

The campground and marina sit on the south side of Lake Sacajawea, a reservoir that was formed when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed Ice Harbor Dam a couple of miles down river. The corps operates this campground just as it does its sister campground, Hood Park, a few miles to the west.

Charbonneau Park RV Camping
Charbonneau Park offers 37 RV and tent sites with 50 amp electricity; 14 of the sites are located along the water.  It also has 15 full hook-up sites with electricity, water and sewer; two of these sites are handicap accessible. All of the campsites can be reserved in advance through the federal government’s campground reservation system.

The sites have paved pads and each one comes with a picnic table and fire pit/grill. The campground also has playgrounds for children, flush toilets with hot showers, potable water and dump stations.
A boat launch and marina are nearby. The marina sells gasoline for boats during the summer months. The boat launch is open year round.

The Corps of Engineers charges nightly fees for camping from May 1 through September 30. Dry camping is available for free the rest of the year.

Day Use

Charbonneau Park also has a day use section with a picnic shelter for large groups. The shelter can be reserved in advance; otherwise, it is available on a first-come first-serve basis, the corps says.
The park is very popular with residents of the nearby Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick, who flock there by the hundreds for picnicking, swimming and boating on hot summer weekends.

Charbonneau History

Charbonneau Park is named after Toussaint Charbonneau, the French-Canadian husband of Sacajawea, the Shoshone Indian guide who interpreted for the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery as it traveled to the Pacific Ocean.

On their journey to and from the ocean, the explorers spent several days camped a few miles downstream at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. Their campground is now the site of Sacajawea State Park.

How to Find Charbonneau Park
Charbonneau Park is located at 642 Campground Road in rural Burbank, a small community on
Highway 124. Turn on Highway 12 just south of the Snake River Bridge and go 8.3 miles to the Ice Harbor Dam intersection. Turn right on Safe Harbor Road just before you get to the dam. The park is located a couple of miles down this road.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A visit to Reininger Winery, Walla Walla

Reininger Winery
Reininger Winery, located in rural Walla Walla, Washington is an award-winning winery that is truly a family affair as siblings and spouses are involved.

The winery, located west of Walla Walla on Old Highway 12, was started in 1997 by Chuck Reininger, a former mountain-climbing guide from Puget Sound, and his wife Tracy. Reininger was familiar with Walla Walla and its wineries, as he used to help with the crush at Waterbrook, another Walla Walla winery. Plus Tracy Tucker was from Walla Walla, so a few years later it was natural that her brothers and their wives, Jay and Cyndi Tucker, and Kelly and Anne Tucker joined the operation. Terry and Ronnie Tucker have since joined the operation.

Reininger’s First Winery Located at Historic Airport

Like many fledgling Walla Walla wineries, Reininger’s first winery was located in the industrial complex at the Walla Walla Regional Airport. The airport served as an Army Air Corps training airfield during World War II. The buildings that housed the Army air base are still in use today by restaurants, aviation businesses and more than 20 wineries.

An old Army entertainment center served as the winery’s first home from 1997 to 2003 when it moved to its present location which involved renovating two old potato sheds into  a winery, complete with tasting room.

Reininger Winery Adds Second Label

In 2004, Reininger added another label, Helix. While Reininger label wines are made from grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley, Helix uses grapes grown in vineyards located in the larger Columbia Valley. The name of this label also links back to Tucker family history, since their grandparents had a farm in Helix, Oregon, which is near Pendleton.

Just as the parent label does, Helix’s line up of wines is heavy on reds, such as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Reininger and Helix bottlings are limited to a few hundred cases of each wine. Bottlings range from 303 cases of the 2009 Helix Rose to 805 cases of the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Reininger Wines Win Numerous Awards

Chuck Reininger says on his website his goal is to create premium red wines, and the awards his wines have won prove he’s achieved his goal. The 2007 Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley was a gold medal winner at the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition which lays claim to being the largest competition of American wines. The 2011 competition involved more than 5,000 wines created by wineries in 23 states. Syrah under both labels have won accolades from Wine Spectator magazine.

More evidence of the popularity of Reininger and Helix wines is shown through the winery’s wine club: it’s full up, but wine aficionados can ask to be wait-listed for an opening. A note on the winery’s website explains, “We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer assure new members consistent access to our most popular wines unless we limit and control the size of our wine club.”

Reininger Winery Located in Rural Walla Walla

Reininger is located at 5858 West Old Highway 12 just west of Walla Walla.  The tasting room is open daily.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lolo Pass Highway Traces Lewis & Clark Route

The Clearwater River over Lolo Pass
U.S. Highway 12, which goes through Lolo Pass, follows the route of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery through northern Idaho.

Because of this, Highway 12, which ends in neighboring Washington State, is sometimes called the Lewis &Clark Highway. The 175-mile stretch through northcentral Idaho is also known as the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. Lolo Pass, toward the eastern end of the route, is the highest point along the way with an elevation of more than 5,000 feet.

Route Follows Lewis and Clark Trail

The route is very scenic as the highway follows the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers the two explorers came down in 1805 as they traveled from Missouri, seeking out a route to the Pacific Ocean. The mission was ordered by President Thomas Jefferson who, two years earlier, had completed the Louisiana Purchase of what is now the western United States.

Their journey through Idaho starts about 12 miles south of present-day Missoula, Montana, and ends at Lewiston, on the border with Washington, where the Clearwater River pours into the Snake River.

Lewis and Clark took 11 days to make the trip from the road’s start to Kamiah, where they spent six weeks building the canoes that would take them westward. Modern travelers can drive this section in just a few hours. Though the route isn’t very long, it’s filled with twists and turns that defy high speeds. Indeed, travelers in a hurry to get from Montana to Washington should stick to Interstate 90 to the north to cross the Idaho Panhandle.

Highway 12 is close to the route the two explorers took, but for those who require a more authentic route, Forest Road 500 is available through the Clearwater National Forest. Because the unpaved road isn’t in that great of condition, Forest Service officials say only vehicles which have high clearance should attempt this route. Trailers are not allowed on it. The sites where the expedition camped are still used by hike-in campers today.

Indians Were There First

Before Lewis and Clark arrived on the scene, the trail was used by the Nez Perce Indians. The tribe called it "Khusahna Ishikit" which translates as “buffalo trail.” The Nez Perce taught expedition members how to make canoes for the final legs of their journey. The expedition camped with the tribe for six weeks on their return journey.

Just over 70 years later, the trail became famous again, though not for happy reasons. In 1877, Nez Perce Chief Joseph led his band on a tragic march through Idaho and Montana, almost to the border with Canada, when he uttered his famous “I will fight no more forever” speech.

Modern Travelers on the Highway

Highway 12 through Idaho was completed in 1960. It is a road is to be traveled at a slow pace to savor the scenic beauty of the Bitterroot Mountains. Rushing it is not advised because of the 67 curves on one 99-mile stretch of the road. It is these curves that make the road a favorite with motorcycle riders.

Motorists should make sure they have sufficient fuel for the trip, as there are no gas stations Kooskia, Idaho, and Lolo, Montana.

The Lolo Pass Visitor Center is open most of the year. In the winter months, it sells parking permits to cross-country skiers and snowmachiners.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A different perspective of Mount Rainier


Mount Rainier from Raven Roost
Raven Roost Lookout in Central Washington offers stunning panoramic views of the state’s iconic mountain, Mount Rainier.

Getting to Raven Roost in the Wenatchee National Forest is a bit of a journey, but the views of the east side of Mount Rainier make bumps and potholes well worth the effort.  “Awesome” is how a recent first-time visitor to Raven Roost described the view.

At more than 6,000 feet in elevation, Raven Roost affords a view of Mount Rainier, sometimes hidden by clouds, sometimes cloudless and snow-covered but always majestic.

Mount Rainier, at 14,410 feet tall, is the most well-known of Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Pictures of the mountain abound on scenic calendars and other items promoting the state, though many of those pictures are usually taken from Paradise on the west side of the mountain.

Miles of velvety-green forests 

The only thing standing between Raven Roost and Rainier are miles of forest-covered valleys. Deep green trees, interspersed with small grassy meadows, and other mountains make up the landscape as far as the eye can see.

Visitors share the perch with a satellite tower, which is located at the rear of the perch.

Because of the altitude, it can be windy and chilly at Raven Roost, even on the hottest of summer days, so visitors should bring light jackets or sweaters to guard against the cold.

Getting to Raven Roost is a trip

Getting to Raven Roost is a trip unto itself. Raven Roost is a detour off State Highway 410 which connects the scenic Chinook Pass with Yakima. Turn on Forest Service Road No. 19; this is three miles west of the popular Whistlin’ Jack Lodge at Cliffdell. Follow the directional signs, making a left turn on Road No. 1902, which is a few miles north of Highway 410.

Motorists will wind through Crow Creek Campground, with the pavement ending a short distance from there. It is 13 miles from the campground to Raven Roost. After the pavement ends, the road is fairly decent gravel until you get to Sand Creek Campground seven miles up the road.

Motorists should be on the lookout for motorcycle riders in the Sand Creek area as several popular dirt bike trails end there, including No Name, Sand Creek, Yellowjacket, Crow Creek and Pepsi.

The road starts deteriorating after Sand Creek and gets progressively worse the higher you go. From this point on, don’t expect to drive faster than 15 miles per hour as the road contains many potholes. If you’re traveling in the early morning or late afternoon hours, be on the lookout for elk and deer on the road. At all times you should be on the lookout for dirt bike riders who frequently forsake the trails for the road, especially when it comes to the final ascent to Raven Roost.

It takes about an hour to drive to Raven Roost from Highway 19; the return trip takes half as long because it’s downhill all the way. The road is closed in winter due to heavy snow. Sometimes it’s not possible to get all the way up to Raven Roost by vehicle until July, though the road is usually open by mid-June.

Hiking into the William O. Douglas Wilderness

Just before you begin the final ascent to Raven Roost, Road 866 juts to the left for hikers who want to reach the Pacific Crest Trail about three miles away. Motorized vehicles are not allowed beyond the parking lot which has limited parking for vehicles and horse trailers. The Forest Service requires a permit for hikers who want to go beyond this point.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Montana Territorial Prison Museum

Guard tower
The Montana Territorial Prison housed convicts for more than a century. Today it has been turned into a museum.

The Montana Territorial Museum, located in Deer Lodge, accepted its first prisoners in 1871, and closed its doors in 1979 when a new prison was built just four miles away. The Powell County Museum and Arts Foundation leased the building in 1980 and turned it into a museum. One end of the museum was turned into another museum, one housing an outstanding collection of old vehicles.

Montana was a lawless country in the 1860s, so the U.S. Congress appropriated money to build a prison in the Montana Territory at the request of the territorial legislature. The federal government funded the prison until Montana became a state in 1889. The new state could not afford to operate the prison, and so contracted it out to private operators, according to the website, Legends of America. Deer Lodge residents Thomas McTague and Frank Conley were awarded the contract, receiving 70 cents per day per prisoner. The prison began accepting women in 1907.

Montana prison warden made convicts earn their keep

Conley, who served as warden until 1921, put the convicts to work at such things as constructing additions to the prison to hold its burgeoning population and establishing a farm to grow food for the inmates. Convicts replaced a wood fence surrounding the prison with a 4-½-foot thick fence made with stones they made themselves. They also built the 1912 cell house, the maximum security building and the prison theater. Later prisoners helped construct state government buildings around Montana and paved 500 miles of state roads.

The prison looks pretty much as it did when the last convicts moved out. The Powell County Museum and Arts Foundation did only minimal restoration before opening it as a museum. As visitors walk through the museum grounds, they will find paint peeling from the ceilings, uneven walkways and dark hallways.

Walking tour covers entire complex

The walking tour includes the dental and medical clinic, housed in the same room, and seeming very primitive compared to today’s clinic. They’ll visit the cell blocks and can see the cell occupied by Pete Eitner who spend 49 years in the prison, and whose cell was “retired” upon his death. He earned the nickname of Turkey Pete because he cared for the prison’s flock until he sold them to a man for 25-cents each!  As he slipped away from reality, he imagined he was running the prison and “issued” checks to pay for prison expenses, including the salaries of his guards. His funeral was the only one ever held inside the prison walls.

The museum offers guided tours of the facility during the summer months as well as provides a booklet for those doing self-guided tours. It takes about an hour to tour the complete facility.

The prison is located at 1106 Main Street in Deer Lodge, a small town on Interstate 90 between Missoula and Butte in western Montana.  Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last admission at 3:10 p.m., from March to December.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Totally awesome video!

If you love wildlike, you'll love this short video clip about wildlife at Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and the National Elk Refuge at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was the grand prize winner at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana. After you've watched it, you'll agree!

Enjoy the video!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

White Salmon - where?

The New York Times list of best places to visit in 2013 contained a major surprise this year. Tucked in among some of the world's most fascinating places, such as Paris, Oslo, Rio, Ghana and China, was White Salmon, Washington, which came in at No. 13, above Paris and Washington, D.C., the last two places on the list of 46.

Few people have probably ever heard of this small town on the Columbia River. It's a pretty little town that we've driven through a few times when we chose not to take the freeway to Portland.

White Salmon made the list because of its potential to become a major whitewater rafting destination. A dam on the White Salmon River was removed last fall for fish conservation reasons. But its removal meant the river can now flow freely from its headwaters in the Cascades to the Columbia River. The river boasts Class IV rapids, making it a challenge for rafters and kayakers. The newspaper predicts a slew of rafting companies will begin offering trips down the river.

If rafting doesn't appeal, you can always cross the river to Hood River, a major center for wind surfers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Free things to do in Seattle

Seattle skyline from West Seattle
Seattle can be an expensive city to visit or it can be easy on the budget, like free. The Emerald City offers visitors many things to do that don’t cost a penny.

Activities that won’t break the bank include walking along the waterfront, visiting Pike Place Market or touring a winery. These are all free. In fact, it’s possible to build a vacation around just doing the free things Washington’s largest city has.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is the best known farmers market in the United States. The market, founded in 1907, is a colorful place to walk through with its farm fresh fruits and veggies, flowers and seafood markets. Watch as workers toss salmon around like baseballs. There are also boutiques with funky clothes, art galleries, magazine stores and restaurants; in short, the market has something for everyone.

Seattle Waterfront

Just below the Pike Place Market, Seattle’s waterfront offers opportunity for a pleasant stroll. The water side of the street is lined with the usual souvenir shops, but there are also places for visitors to sit and watch the seagulls at play or the ferries crossing Puget Sound. It costs a few bucks, but if the day is nice, why not enjoy a relaxing ferry ride. Ferries leave frequently from the terminal on Alaskan Way.

Visitors who want to wade in Puget Sound can head over to West Seattle’s Alki Beach for more unobstructed views of the islands as well as a look back at the Seattle skyline. The area has restaurants, delis and sidewalk cafes for folks who want a little something to eat with their daily latte fix.

Space Needle at Seattle Center

Seattle’s number one landmark, the Space Needle, is located near downtown area at the Seattle Center. Unless visitors are eating at the Space Needle’s restaurant, a ride to the top of the Space Needle can be costly. However, gazing up at it from the ground doesn’t cost anything. The Seattle Center has many things to do, ranging from sporting events to ballet to big name entertainment acts. Spend some time just wandering around the site of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Wineries in Seattle

The Puget Sound area is home to 35 wineries, of which 20 are located in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville. Woodinville’s oldest winery (and the state’s) is Chateau Ste. Michelle, an award-winning winery centered around a French chateau. Guided tours which last 35 minutes are free, but there is a charge for tasting the wines. Tours are given from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The winery is located at 14111 NE. 145th St.

Art Museums

Most Seattle museums, such as the Seattle Art Museum, are free to the public the first Thursday of every month. Many museums also offer free admission to seniors on the first Friday of every month and to families on the first Saturday. These museums include the Frye, the Wing Luke Asian Museum and the Experience Music Project.

Free Transportation

There is such thing as a free lunch, or in Seattle’s case, a free ride. Seattle’s Metro Transit offers free rides from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily in the downtown area. Boundaries of the free ride area are from Battery to Jackson streets and from east Sixth Avenue to the waterfront.