Monday, July 6, 2009

Playing Catch-up!

I promised to write about my short trip to Newport, Washington that I took two weekends ago, so here I am fulfilling that promise.

Sometime near the middle of May I was asked to attend a friends surprise 60th birthday party. This is a friend that I haven't seen in fifteen years (or more!). I was happy to be invited and Joe, my boss, allowed me to take the day off. As the day approached, I became more and more apprehensive about attending. I didn't know anyone that was attending except my own family and the birthday boy and his wife.
When I start to feel this way, many times I chicken out and make some lame excuse as to why I suddenly cannot attend. I have to admit, I was very close to that! But, I did want to see Don and his wife so I packed up the Rav-4 and had an adventure!

I worked a full day on Thursday, then headed north from Great Falls to Kalispell. I had packed a cooler with easy meals so I wouldn't have to eat fast food and I had plenty of cold drinks, too, so I didn't have to stop at the convenience stores. I am not used to eating my supper until about 8pm, so I didn't eat before leaving town at 6pm. By the time I was passing through the tiny town of Valier, I was feeling a little hungry, so I stopped at a picnic area next to Lake Francis. Here is where I ate:
After eating a quick meal consisting of some crackers, cheese, ham, and tuna salad... followed by a dessert of fresh strawberries (thanks, Albert!), I got back on the highway. The drive from Great Falls to Kalispell takes you from the Plains of Central Montana, along the Rocky Mountain Front, and finally into the heart of the Rocky Mountains. About 50 miles of the trip you are in the Blackfoot Indian Reservation. At each boundary line on the major highways the Indians have placed sculptures like these:
This one is at East Glacier, where I left the Reservation. I forgot to take a photo of the sculptures when I entered the Reservation just out of Valier while the sun was still up! Silly me! It was about 9:30pm when I stopped here, and the sun was behind the mountains casting everything in early evening shadows. These sculptures are life sized warriors mounted on horses. They are made completely out of old car parts and the three I have seen are all different! Oh yeah, for all you fellow Geocachers... there is a cache hidden here, too!
After leaving the Blackfoot Reservation and passing through the tiny tourist trap town of East Glacier, the highway enters the mountains. The Great Bear wilderness is to the left, while the towering peaks of Glacier National Park flank the right. Although the light was not good enough for photos, I could see the scenery quite well as I travelled along. The beargrass was in bloom everywhere! I also stopped at a place called Goat Lick and watched mountain goat nannys and kids playing on a steep hillside. The mountain goats like this particular place because salts and minerals seep out of the rocks here.
I finished the drive to Kalispell without another stop, arriving at my daughters home at about 11:15pm. She had already gone to bed, but had left blankets and a pillow for me on the couch. I don't care what anyone says... I personally think a couch at a loved one's home is far better than an impersonal hotel room! I settled in, and a few moments later I was befriended by one of the cats, Socks, who decided I needed company. He slept on my hip, or behind my legs all night. It has been years since I owned a cat, so I thoroughly enjoyed his company.
Friday dawned bright and early. I was awake for about half an hour before Heather and the grandkids, so I quietly enjoyed the morning. I had thought we were going to be leaving Kalispell for Newport, WA fairly early... only to find out my Mike ( my SIL) didn't get off of work until 10am, then they had a few errands to run before leaving town. That meant we weren't going to be on the road until about noon or so. After showering, I had nothing to do so I accompanied my ex-husband on a few errands. He and I had an early lunch at a local taco joint (Taco John's) before I left him to finish his packing while I filled my gas tank and washed the previous nights bugs off the car. Had I known we weren't leaving until noon, I could have left Great Falls early Friday morning instead of driving so late at night. *sigh!* Kids! Oh well...
I had told everyone that I was stopping at Kootenai Falls just outside the town of Libby, no matter what time we left. Everyone else thought that was a great idea, so we planned to all meet there. By everyone, I mean Heather, Mike, and their kids in one car, Harry (my ex) in his car, and me in mine. We were all heading different directions on Saturday after the party, so sharing rides was out of the question. Besides, I didn't want to ride with Harry because although we get along OK, that many hours in a small space, the fact he smokes and I don't, and the crazy way he drives would have combined to push me over the proverbial edge and I would have had to strangle him.
U.S. Highway 2 from Kalispell to Newport, WA is a beautiful drive. Had I been on my own and not part of a caravan, I would have stopped and taken many photos. The only stop we made was at the waterfalls. The photo does not do them justice!
Not too far from the Kootenai Falls is a suspension foot bridge across the river. Harry and I hiked to it since we knew Heather and Mike were at least half an hour behind us leaving Kalispell. They had stopped at McDonald's Drive-Thru for their lunch on the way out of town. The bridge was awesome! I would have loved to have been able to spend more time in the area exploring, so I know I will return! Here are a couple of photos of the bridge:
See the people? I don't know who they are, but I wanted them in the photo to show scale. It's a pretty wide river! Here is one from the "far side" looking back the way I had just came. I snapped the photo, then went back across and hiked the half mile back to the parking lot.
I am glad I insisted on stopping at the falls. It is a beautiful place that I will return to. Next time I will be sure to have more time. I have a goal of taking better pictures of the falls themselves.
We didn't stop the rest of the trip, driving through Libby, MT; then across the Idaho panhandle through Bonner's Ferry, ID; and Sandpoint, ID. Bonner's Ferry and Sandpoint are beautiful towns and appear to be rich in history. I will return there, too!
The state line between Idaho and Washington runs through the middle of what looks like one town, but the Idaho side is named Old Town, while the Washington side is Newport. We had arrived at our destination!
It was 4:15pm Pacific time, and Don's surprise party was to be at 5pm. We checked into our hotel rooms and headed to the restaurant / bar where everyone was to gather before Don showed up. He thought he was meeting his wife and two grown boys for a quiet dinner. His friends and family were so good at keeping the secret that he was truly surprised. His wife had even managed to fly his sister and brother in from California, picking them up from the airport only hours before the party!
The party went well, but I did end up sitting on the sidelines the majority of the evening. I wasn't alone, though. Mike, my SIL, didn't know anyone either, so we drank our bar drinks and "people watched" together. Heather was mingling with some of the guests she had met after Harry and I had divorced while her kids had found other kids to play with. After Heather said her hello's, she joined us, with Harry coming and going as he saw old friends from his past.
I was thankful the party began breaking up early, and was pretty much over by 8:30. Heather and Mike had found out about a carnival that was in town, so they took the kids to that while Harry and I drove out to Don's home to spend some more time with them. I had never been to this house, so I was given "The Tour". Their home is right on the banks of the Pend Oreille River (pronounced Ponderay). While out on the boat dock, I took a photo of the last rays of the evenings sunset:

We visited with Don and his family until about 11:30pm, then returned to the motel. Heather and Mike were just returning also, so after the kids were put in bed all the adults fixed their drink of choice and we sat outside enjoying the summer night. It had been a good day.

(To Be Continued: Saturdays Adventure!)

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