Day 7 - Hood Park, WA
|Saturday, August 19, 2023: The sound of the trains going by the state park all night hadn't prevented us from getting a good night's sleep, and we awoke to the sunlight coming through the top mesh of the tent.
|We packed up and as we were leaving, we saw this black bear on the tracks right above our campsite.
|She was just walking along the tracks, minding her own business, using them as a highway to get to wherever she was going. This is why you follow the bear country guidelines that the park staff give you when you get to camp. You really don't know how close the bears are to your campsite.
|It was very smoky and hazy. There were a lot of wildfires in the northwest, and you could really see the lingering smoke in the air.
|We got breakfast at McDonald's in Whitefish, and headed south.
|When we got to Kalispell, we checked the weather app on Debbie's phone and sure enough, there was an air quality alert for the area.
|We would be driving through Spokane, Washington, and then down to Lake Wallula, where the air quality index was still showing a wonderfully low 30.
|We drove along the enormous Flathead Lake as we left Kalispell. It was a gorgeous lake, with beautiful wooded islands not far from the shoreline.
|The sun struggled to shine through the layer of haze. The sun was a dull red color, which was very interesting to see.
|The haze was becoming more dense as we headed west away from the lake.
|You couldn't see more than a mile ahead. We knew there were mountains out there, but you couldn't see them.
|There were pockets of clearer air, like this one along the Flathead River outside Perma, Montana.
|This is gorgeous country, and the haze shrunk the world down to a radius of a dozen miles or so.
|Even with the haze, it was still beautiful, with the greenery and the mountains and the river running alongside the road.
|As we reached the outskirts of Paradise, Montana, the outside air smelled like we were downwind of all of the campfires ever made.
|In the trees up on the hillside, we could see the trees smoldering and even some flames from active fires.
|There were signs up warning of the active wildfires that were near, and telling motorists not to stop.
|We didn't realize that Google Maps would put wildfire information on the map, since we've never been this close before. It let us know that we were approaching the River Road East Fire. Thanks Google!
|We turned south onto Highway 135 before we got any closer to the fire, but we could see plenty of it from where we were. There were no flames visible, but plenty of plumes of billowing white smoke. We easily counted more than a dozen plumes as we hurried past.
|As we officially entered the Lolo National Forest, we wondered how many acres would burn and what it would look like when we next drove through this area of the country.
|Upwind of the fire, the air quality improved immediately. There was still some haze, but it was nothing like it had been.
|Look how gorgeous that view is! Train tracks ran parallel to the river and the road.
|We joined up with I-90 in St. Regis, Montana, and a few minutes after that we were crossing the border into Idaho.
|As we drove closer to Spokane, the dense haze was starting to come back.
|By the time we entered the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, we were back to jast a few miles of visiblity.
|Welcome to Washington!
|We thought a treat was in order, so we stopped just over the border at the first McDonald's that we saw. The crew of the drive thru were all wearing surgical masks to try to keep out the smoke.
|We drove right by the giant milk bottle statue in downtown Spokane. This used to be the home of the Benewah Dairy Company, and the milk bottle was built in the 1930s to attract customers.
|You could see that the haze was increasing the farther west we drove.
|We were routed off I-90 due to active wildfires, ...
|... and Google helpfully identified it as the Gray Fire.
|The detour route was very scenic, with huge trees lining the road.
|Look at that old 3M sign! How old is that logo? Does anyone know that sign is still here?
|Just before 1 PM, we reached the end of the detour. There were emergency vehicles blocking access to the eastbound on-ramp to I-90, ...
|... and the highway to the east was empty. Spooky.
|We were go glad that we'd taken Google's advice and gotten off before the official detour, otherwise we would have been sitting in barely moving traffic like these poor schmucks. The line to get off the highway stretched for miles and miles.
|Two and a half hours later, we were arriving at Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Pasco, Washington, for a late lunch. Debbie's first reaction to seeing the sign was "Oh, they've changed the logo."
|When we got inside, she was delighted to see that the original logo was still painted on the walls, ...
|... along with the kitschy signs that she remembered from when she was a kid. The one on the right says "Ye old notice ... in case of fire, remain calm and stay seated until all employees have left the building." Ha!
|We'd ordered a small Ultimate Meat pizza and a small Rustic Garlic Chicken pizza with the idea that we would share. After a slice of each, Debbie decided that she loved the Rustic Garlic Chicken pizza best. We ate about half of each, and then saved the rest for a delicious cold pizza dinner later.
|After lunch, we headed southeast toward our campground, ...
|... which was Hood Park on the banks of the Snake River.
|Debbie checked in at the office, ...
|... and then we headed to our campsite. After setting up our tent, we took a stroll down to the water's edge. Here's the view looking downstream toward the Columbia River, ...
|... and here's the view looking upstream.
|Once it is all set up, our tent is transformed into Bundlings Utopia.
|We relaxed, watched more of "The Masked Singer," and ate the last few pieces of pizza for dinner.
|The smoke from the wildfires had caught up to us, and the sunset was barely visible through the increasing haze. The reflection of the sun on the water was a pale red as the sun tried to break through.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy