We are on the move again — destination west. There are national parks in Washington State we would like to visit. But we are feeling tired. Now I know what you might be thinking, “You guys seem to be on a permanent vacation. How can you be tired?” Believe me, it can sometimes be exhausting. We have been pushing ourselves non-stop for several weeks trying to see as much as we possibly can. It has been fun and exciting, but we need to catch our breath. We decided to take a couple of weeks for some rest and relaxation.
That doesn’t mean we hibernated in the camper for two weeks. Rather, we just slowed our pace — went to bed early, slept in if we wanted, hung out around the campground, did a little reading, and sometimes took an afternoon nap. We conquered some long overdue chores like laundry and washing the truck. We had new tires installed on the camper. We found a picnic table in a shady park where we sat and planned our route for the next few weeks. Even with all of that, we still found time for some adventure.
The quaint town of Thompson Falls, Montana along the Clark Fork River has a thriving Main Street with locally owned small businesses. It is noticeably void of fast food chains and big box stores, but still has everything we might need. We stayed a week at Rimrock Lodge and RV Park just far enough away from town to give a sense of rustic wilderness. It is an older, yet well maintained park with a hotel, restaurant, lounge, and bowling lanes on property. Our site between the pine trees was shady and spacious. The campground host told us to be on the look out for a black bear that has been coming into the campground. Sure enough, we saw it the next day near the dumpsters. It ran off when a truck came up the driveway. We didn’t see it again after that.
Not far from Thompson Falls, just past the appropriately named town of Paradise, is Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort. The resort offers accommodations in two lodges or in twenty-five small cabins tucked in the canyon or along the river. Registered guest enjoy the five natural hot spring pools, restaurant and lounge. It’s a destination where out of state visitor come specifically to relax. The resort offers a limited number of day-use passes. We called and made arrangements to spend a day there. What better way to pamper ourselves than to soak in the natural hot pools while sipping fruity tropical drinks? It was a much needed day of rest and relaxation.
One day we took a mid-morning stroll across Gallatin Street Bridge that connects Island Park with Thompson Falls. On the island is a trail to a view point of a dam that was constructed over the waterfalls as a hydroelectric project. Interesting was the fish ladder that provides a path for fish to navigate past the dam. A sign displaying the species and number of fish that passed through the ladder was posted.
Continuing on a trail across the island we came to the historic High Bridge. Built in 1911 and spanning 1000-feet across the Clark Fork River, the bridge was renovated as a pedestrian bridge in 2010. As we were walking across the bridge, we were recognized by a couple we met at Fish Creek Campground in Glacier National Park. They were camped just across from us. It was a hoot to see and talk with them again. It truly is a small world.
Known for its down home cooking, generous portions and homemade fruit pies, Minnie’s Montana Cafe on Main Street is where we went for lunch. A place where both locals and travelers stop to eat. It came highly recommended. It was busy during the lunch hour, but we were seated right away. The service was good, the food was good, but for us, it was just an okay place. It wasn’t bad. It just didn’t live up to the hype we heard from the people we talk with.
On another day we went for a drive just to get out for a little bit. We turned off Highway 200 and crossed over a one lane bridge where we ended up in the small town of Noxon. Established as a Northern Pacific Railroad station in 1883, it survives today with a hardware store, general store, post office and bar. Across from the general store and bar was a small park with a flagpole displaying the stars and stripes. Further beyond is a dammed reservoir on the Clark Fork River.
We went into the mercantile. There was a screen door attached to a long spring that slammed behind us. The boards of the wood floor showed years of wear. It was a scene from my childhood and it felt good to see there are still places like this around. We bought some things I’m sure we didn’t need, but we thought we should.
As we often do, we asked the kind lady behind the counter if there was anything we should see in the area. She asked if we’ve seen Graves Creek Falls? We had not. She sent us down the road to “where the locals like to hang out”. It was a winding road on a bluff looking across the river. Then we turned up the hill on an unpaved road toward the falls. It wasn’t a spectacular falls by any means, but it was an out of the way place and just what we were looking for.
For our second week of rest and relaxation we moved to North Lake RV Park and Campground located north of Kettle Falls, Washington. Near the Canadian border, we came hoping for cooler weather. What we found instead was an unprecedented heat wave. Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees all week. One day it was 112 and another it was a 116 degrees. That’s hot!
If you’ve been following the blog, then you know we lost the air conditioner in the truck when we had an unfortunate encounter with a deer. We have spent hours on the phone making multiple calls, trying to find somewhere to take the truck for repairs. Without exception, every place we called said they were booked up and couldn’t even look at it for three, four, or even six weeks. It’s been frustrating.
We didn’t see many people. Most stayed inside during this time. Our excursions were limited to the morning hours. One morning we saw a sign for u-pick cherries. Grammi loves u-pick of any kind. We were given a bucket and pointed to an area where cherries hung abundantly from the trees. There were two varieties — the dark red Bing and the red and yellow Rainier. We ate cherries right off the tree. They were delicious. More flavorful than what you can buy at the store. Eventually we filled the bucket. It was fun but we picked way too many. Grammi made a cobbler with a few of the cherries. We made smoothies which was great during the heatwave. Some went in the freezer, but with limited room in our small refrigerator we ended up giving some away to the lady that owned the campground.
One morning we went to see Crystal Falls fifteen miles east of Colville on Highway 20. There is a pull off for two or three vehicles to park and a path to an overlook. We went to take a look.Yep, there was a waterfall. Yep, it was pretty. Not unlike the many waterfalls we’ve seen recently. I’m not sure it was worth the drive though.
In Kettle Falls was a market and antique shop located at the old apple barn. We went there a couple of times to browse and to have lunch in the cafe, but mostly we went there to get relief from the hot days.
We heard about a local winery and were curious to check it out. China Bend Vineyards makes organic wines the traditional way with no added sulfites. We wanted to give it a try, so we headed off around noon to find the place. The temperature for this day was supposed to be a little cooler — only around 100 degrees.
We turned onto Northport Flat Creek Road and followed along the Columbia River through a dried and withering landscape. An on going drought and the recent high temperatures have turned everything brown. It is easy to see why everyone is so worried about a fire.
We came to a sign on the road showing us where to turn. Down an unpaved dusty road were more signs pointing the way, without which I’m sure we would have gotten lost. Soon an oasis emerged with green grass, lush trees, grape vines and a vegetable garden. The Wine shop and tasting room is a grand timber frame building. It was a lovely place.
The owners, who go by the names of Victory and Loyalty, have lived and worked on this homestead for fifty years. They’re old hippies aged to perfection like their wines. Their artistic influence is on full display throughout the property. We sampled seven wines and bought two bottles at $35.00 each. YOLO right?
Afterward, we walked around and admired the property. Fruit and nut trees were scattered around. We took a path leading to the Columbia River where we waded in the cool refreshing water. Before we left, we were invited to come to a festival they were having on Saturday with live music, food trucks and of course — wine.
When Saturday came, we returned to find a gathering of mostly local people sitting in lawn chairs or on a blanket spread across the grass in front of a small stage where a band played Reggae music. A new generation of hippies along with the old danced and sang all afternoon. It was like we went back in time a few decades. To my delight, the wine I paid $35.00 for was only $20.00 per bottle at the festival. Grammi had a great time. She enjoyed a couple glasses of wine — a rare occurrence and was soon dancing with all the other ladies.
When we worked, our vacations were two or three weeks of go-go-go. We felt we had to do as much as we could before going back to work. When it was over, we were exhausted and needed a vacation from our vacation. The truth is, now that we are retired we have the time to enjoy ourselves. But old habits die hard. We move around too much. We sometimes forget to chill out and take time for rest and relaxation. We need to work on that.
I’m glad we took the time now. Feeling rejuvenated, we are off to North Cascade National Park. That will be the subject for our nest blog.
So until then — Happy Days and Safe Travels.