#22 The Living Rainbow

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

~ John Muir

Oh yes. John Muir is spot on.  We are receiving far more than we had expected in today’s “walk with nature” here at Yellowstone National Park.

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We stand before Excelsior, once the largest geyser in the world. Its boiling water bursted 300 feet high and just as wide before the 1900’s, but with the exception of a two-day eruption in 1985, is now dormant as a geyser. One can only imagine what those monstrous  earlier eruptions must have been like. But I am fascinated  with simply observing it as it is today – a massive, boiling spring:

(Did you know that you can click on each pic to enlarge it on most devices?)

In his book, Our National Parks, John Muir wrote,

“Near the Prismatic Spring is the great Excelsior Geyser, which is said to throw a column of boiling water 60 to 70 feet in diameter to a height of from 50 to 300 feet, at irregular periods. This is the greatest of all the geysers yet discovered anywhere.”

As he continued, Muir referred to Excelsior as “incomparable” and that “nothing in the world” could match it.

Now we are watching the boiling  turquoise water of Excelsior spring up from deep within this crater and discharge 4000 gallons per minute into the Firehole River. It is amazing to think of the volcanic atmosphere underground.

Yes, John Muir, this Excelsior Geyser Crater is “incomparable.”

As we entered the park today, we had again followed the Madison River, but unlike yesterday, today we  turned south. It seems every road in the figure-8 loop of Yellowstone and those extending beyond the figure-8 loop follow rivers. Our ancestors and those original peoples of this area did the same – traveled beside the rivers. Today, we travel along the Firehole River, suitably named for the boiling water that feeds it. Here and there, a short distance below the boiling discharge from Excelsior, we see people wade and swim in its waters. Yesterday, we had seen men fly fishing in the Madison. (Click here) Not only does this park belong to its wildlife, it also belongs to us – the people of this country. And I am honored.

You’ll see today’s route in blue:

When you travel this area of Yellowstone, hot spots of this Yellowstone Volcano are even more visible than in other areas of the park. You can see them on either side of the road – for miles.

Planning for Yellowstone, Ron’s greatest desire was to see the Grand Canyon, which we had done yesterday. (Read about it here.)

Today,  we will view my greatest desire at Yellowstone – what I’ve most been looking forward to. And as awesome as I find Excelsior Geyser to be, I am most enthralled with the beautiful, colored spring behind it: Grand Prismatic Spring:

The center of the spring is near-boiling, and as the water reaches out to the edges and cools, colorful bacteria fill its waters. It is 300 feet long and 160 feet deep. The water in the center is 188 degrees! “The hot spring has bright bands of orange, yellow, and green ring the deep blue waters in the spring. The multicolored layers get their hues from different species of thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria living in the progressively cooler water around the spring.”

It’s not surprising this spring is called a living rainbow. 

We have arrived mid-day. Having read that the colors are best if the sun is shining, we’ve pretty much hit it perfect! I am blessed.

Ron spots buffalo prints and a “cow pie” it left in the crusty geothermal area between the boardwalk on which we stand and the spring itself. We humans are forbidden to step in this area, for our own safety. Temps had dropped to 40 degrees last night, and a buffalo had come here to warm up. The few rules of Yellowstone do not apply to those who call it home – its wildlife. 

Before we leave, we stand and stare. Others move past us, but I am still, standing and basking, trying to push this scene of the Grand Prismatic Spring deep into my long term memory. The photos will help me to remember, and later I am pleased by their quality.  

When we finally leave, we drive just a bit further on this road, around a curve to the trailhead that will take us to a lookout point of the Grand Prismatic Spring. And along the short distance, we see one single buffalo – between the huge hot springs and the trail to the lookout. This is the big boy who visited the hot spring in the night – I am sure!

We hike a half mile uphill to see Grand Prismatic from the overlook. It’s challenging on this hot day, but oh so worth it. Can you tell from the looks on our faces? 

Finally we hike back to our truck, parked along the road. We enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning as we drive further south on this Grand Loop, following the signs for Old Faithful. Amazingly, we find shade in the outer area overlooking the geyser.

So we sit on a log to picnic, awaiting the eruption, and within the time frame predicted, Old Faithful erupts! Afterward,  we browse the buildings in this “tourist attraction” – both old and new – and have ice cream on the porch of the Inn.  Old Faithful most obviously attracts thousands of people a day. At least that many are here for this one “faithful” eruption. The number of people makes this spot so different from others throughout the park. Throughout the afternoon, we see smaller geysers erupting in this area. 


All day, I thank God I am here in this place of the yellow rock,  Mi tse a-da-zi , which I wrote about yesterday. I thank God for the opportunity to be here and for the good health He has given Ron and me to hike these paths. I thank him for my travel mate of 50 years, my Ronnie. But most of all, and continually, I breathe spoken prayers of praise to my Father, for His amazing creation and this tiny bit of the original magnitude of that creation and a foretaste of what I will see in heaven. 

At the end of this second day, we again follow the Madison River toward our West Yellowstone exit, and today, our eyes are fixated on Mt, Haynes, named for the first official photographer of the park.  Mr. Haynes might be appalled at the quality of my photos, but I am thankful for each one. I am already reviewing them with joy as I send them to our children, while we drive back to our sweet little travel trailer for the night. Tomorrow is another day in Yellowstone!


Click here to watch a video from the National Park Service : Yellowstone’s Restless Giant

#21 Mi tse a-da-zi

Yellowstone. There’s no beginning and there’s no end to this place – at least, we couldn’t find either. Your own personal beginning might be the time and location you enter – something like your first time at Disney World but in awe rather than excitement. You can’t take it all in, so you absorb whatever you can – whenever you can – as you drive and stop and hike and stare and bask.

In awe.

And by the time you leave, you are saddened because you want more of this place, Yellowstone. You have stepped upon only a few of its 2,221,766 acres, have gazed upon only a fraction of its 3,472 square acres, and have spotted only some of the 67 species of mammals or  300 species of birds. You desire more, but you must save it for another time. It’s like a difficult breakup because you’ve established a relationship with this place that you’ll never shed. You’ll take it with you as you go, and it’ll never leave you.


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You’ve read about it – see pics of it. I joined some social media groups that shared information about it. Then you make a plan. Many people have a perfect strategy before arriving.

Ron and I know we are a bit weak on our plan. The night before we enter the park, after we are settled in our campground just ten miles from the West Entrance,  we review ideas and brochures. We have allotted three full days in the park and a fourth day to drive through the park, exiting through the East Entrance, planning much of that drive to be in yet a different area than we will see throughout the first three full days. So we plan our days in order of their significance to us, wishing for more, but realizing our time limitations.

We enter the park from the West Entrance each day, but the first day is something like that first day at Disney World, but both exciting and awesome! The traffic slows, and I fumble with my camera. I’ve heard that when the traffic slows, it’s most likely because they’ve seen wildlife. Yes, that is the reason today. This is the first but not the last time a park ranger coaxes us – well actually yells at us – to move on. “Don’t stop in the road,” she hollers to the row of cars in front and behind us. “View the wildlife from the pulloffs.”

But actually the traffic moves slow enough that we have ample time to view the wildlife from the vehicle. Our windows are down every day – all day. Crisp air, purified by greenery and water and rock, permeates my lungs, refreshing my body and invigorating my soul. We gaze, wanting to be one with this nature. A big dark buffalo saunters in the tall bright green grass of the meadow. Elk eat from the plants a bit further back.  This is a pasture unlike any I have seen across the Northern Great Plains or anywhere through this land so far. It is an unusual scene for this Michigan girl, for sure!

We seem to flow with the Madison River along this welcoming route, first on our left, then on our right. The first day we view the splendor of this river. The second day we fall in love with it. The third day we adopt it as our own. And the fourth day, as we leave, we pledge to always remember it.

We soon discover that this place belongs to the wildlife and to the plants and the trees and the water and to their Creator. We are merely visitors. But we are welcomed visitors – you and I – if we recognize and accept our place amongst all of this. We are humbled by its magnificence and by its uniqueness and by its beauty. We eagerly accept our place.

Day 1 in Yellowstone. Yellow route.

The  Madison River runs through the pastures like a cutout intended for watering livestock on a farm. Then it widens as it edges the mountain beside it, finally disappearing in the forests beside us, as we turn north onto the Grand Loop. Now the Gibbon River accompanies us. This land is filled with rivers and lakes and waterfalls, and with something quite foreign to us – geothermal features: geysers, steamvents, mudpots, and hot springs. We pull off to view the first hot spring we come by: Beryl Spring. I video – and photograph, soon realizing I wouldn’t have the time or opportunity to video each of the unique elements of the Yellowstone caldera, even if I lived here.

Gibbon Falls.

We see the Norris Geyser Basin with its many geysers, springs, and geothermal grounds.

This park is like  Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on steroids. Here, as in the U.P., one doesn’t find “Do Not . . .” signs all over the place – only occasionally and when necessary.  It’s all original and inviting – in its natural state. We are welcomed here. Roadside Parks are abundant, and we enjoy our picnic lunch up at one of those roadsides, along the Gibbons River. 

We follow Norris Canyon Road to the Hayden Valley where we drive slowly, stop, walk, view – and repeat this over and over for hours! Herds of buffalo, valleys as far as the eye can see, mudpots, caldrons – all along the Yellowstone River, from which this National Park was named. We have many close-up opportunities to view buffalo from our truck. We find that the bulls are often loners – near the road – far in the distance – but the cows are always seen in the herds, often with their babies.

Nearing the end of that first day in the park, we visit the location Ron has most anticipated: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

We have developed the habit of praying for one of our immediate family in each beautiful location we’ve visited on this western Adventure. We had started with our son, Matt, who we prayed for on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Today we pray for our grandson Noah as we stand in front of the powerful Upper Falls. The magnitude of its power and beauty is compelling, but when we proceed to the Lower Falls . . .

As I had been in the  Redwoods (Click here)., I am  again speechless. My eyes well up; I am so appreciative of being able to see this site. Ron stares in wonder. It is all he had thought it might be and so much more: the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: 

Borrowed photo of the canyon

First, the River was named by the Minnetaree Indians, who called it Mi tse a-da-zi, or Yellow Rock River in Eastern Montana, but the park then took the name Yellowstone after the yellow sandstones in this canyon. Now we understand.

Yellow sandstone formations in the Grand Canyon.

We literally force ourselves to leave this site to drive back to our campsite, our hearts full of the wonders we’ve seen, but our bodies tired from the day.  We look toward tomorrow –  another day in Mi tse a-da-zi – Yellowstone.  

Click here to read the next post, A Living Rainbow.

#20 The Trip, Itself

 (Have you read the post about our 21st day? Click here.)

On these 21st and 22nd days, we were “headed” to Yellowstone, although we didn’t consider it our “destination.”  Instead of a place, every mile, every jaunt, of the trip itself was our destination. This was practice I had developed as a youngster and Ron seemed to come by naturally.

When I was growing up in Michigan, my Daddy and Mama took our family on vacation every year – never across the country or to another continent – but to northern Michigan many times and to Virginia once. The destination was never our focus. The trip was our focus. We stopped along the way at roadside picnic areas where Mama tossed a tablecloth across the table and set out cold fried chicken and homemade lemonade carried in a glass gallon jar that had previously held apple cider vinegar. As we travelled, my brother, sister, and I played games in the car and occasionally fought like cats and dogs, while Daddy and Mama discussed sites we passed. My little ears and mind must have picked up their conversations, as I remember such things as The North Begins at Clare. I learned in those years that the trip, itself, was the destination. 

Then, after Ron and I married, whenever we took our three kids, Matt, Kristen, and Amber, on trips – camping in the Upper Peninsula or the long drive to Florida – we tried to make the trip, itself, our focus, too.

That first travel trailer, a used 20′ 1971 Holiday Adventurer, was probably our all-time favorite – undoubtedly because with it,  we created our first camping memories with the kids. We loved our little trailer, its cushions covered in a green flowered print,  coordinating with the avocado green appliances. (I wish I had it today!) We had some great experiences in that trailer. The first time we took it out, our two new bikes fell off the new bike carrier on the back, and a tree limb took the antenna off the roof when we backed into the campsite. Camping was always an active adventure, from Kristen falling out of the upper drop-down bed to Ron and I yelling at each other nearly every time we backed into a campsite at a State Park!

In addition to camping, the hours spent on the road throughout two days of driving to Florida hold special memories, as well. I wrapped small gifts to keep the kids busy in the car: new crayons and coloring books, small  magnetic checker boards, or my favorite – Colorforms.

The fascinating thing about those long drives was our mode of transportation . I particularly remember traveling in a 1976 Chevy Caprice Estate Station Wagon. Ron and I had driven a couple hours away to buy this used wagon, a few years old but in excellent condition. We lovingly referred to it as The Tank.

The Tank was huge – three full seats, each with plenty of leg room. Behind the third seat was a huge cargo area. The back gate rolled under and the back window rolled up (see the pic). Everything was automatic. It was all decked out with power options. When we went on vacation, we put the second and third seats down flat and placed a full-size foam mattress in the back and let the kids have at it (it’s a redneck term). I placed a suitcase beside each back door so the kids didn’t get near the door handles or automatic windows. Lunches and snacks were packed in shoeboxes, so we only stopped when necessary and for an overnight at a reasonable motel. They played all the way to Florida and napped only occasionally! It was a joyous trip – one for which we would be chastised today – but in those days . . .

Regardless, whenever we left for a vacation – either pulling a travel trailer or in a big old station wagon, my Daddy and Mama reminded us, “Remember now, your vacation starts when you leave home.”  It was a statement they had made all those years ago when they took my brother, sister, and me on family vacations; they repeated it some years later to Ron and me and our kids as we left home for vacation; so Ron and I have the same mindset to this day: the destination isn’t the focus of our travel. Each mile of the trip, itself, is the focus.

So, on these 21st and 22nd days, the trip itself – not Yellowstone –  was our destination. 

The trip today took us further east, through the high desert region of Burns and Hines, Oregon. 

The barrenness of the high desert region eventually gave way to bits of green, first found in small evergreens, then in pasture and hay fields, and finally in a few green corn fields, irrigated, of course. 

Lunch at rest areas in 95+ degree heat meant finding a picnic table shaded by a small pavilion, as trees were rare.  

To look on the map, one would think it a hop, skip, and a jump to cross into Idaho and up to the edge of West Yellowstone, but in reality, it was a long drive. It required another overnight, one which we had expected to spend at a Walmart parking lot or at a roadside rest area, but we had a problem with either: the intense heat, which permeated the surface of our trailer with no means of release without electricity to run the AC or even our little fan. So, I called ahead and booked us a site at Mountain Home, Idaho. The campground and campsite left much to be desired, but we were just thankful to refresh the inside of the trailer with AC!

Ron stopped along the road occasionally to cool the truck in this heat. 

The landscape was fascinating. In spite of the heat, I was thankful for these two days of the trip itself through Oregon and Idaho.  

Late in this 22nd day, the Tetons loomed to the east as we turned north toward Montana.

We settled in to our campsite just before dark. Behind us, chalets dotted the mountainside. To the west, the sun set, the end to another beautiful day of the trip itself. 

Tomorrow, our destination would actually be Yellowstone.

Click here to read the next post in this series,

#21 Mi tse a-da-zi


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#19 Our Own Oregon Trail

We left the Redwoods, our hearts full. (Have you read that post? Click here.) We yearned for more time in these forests, but it was time itself that caused us to move on. We tried not to look at all we left behind – rather at all that lay ahead for us.

We took a bit of the Redwoods with us – a seedling for our grandson, Noah. It would yet travel over 2500 miles with us. I babied it all the way. We headed north on US 199 to Grants Pass and then continued on Highway 62.

As we had done for 20 days, we continued on this 21st day – to observe our surroundings with its varied landscapes and features throughout every mile we traveled. The truck was most comfortable. Ron and I conversed about everything we saw. We drank fresh hot coffee and cold bottled water and munched on trail mix. Unlike other shorter drives near our Michigan home, I did not read or write while we traveled on this trip. Instead, I soaked it all in. Ron and I loved every moment of travel and every moment together. We were creating sweet memories.

It was a hot day, but we found shade as we lunched along the Rogue River.

Shortly after, we stopped to view the remnant of Mt. Mazama in the distance, which now held Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States.

But soon an unexpected treasure loomed ahead of us. I quickly looked at my map to find the name of this mountain I had not anticipated. It was Mt. Thielsen, over 9000 ft. high with the sharpest, horn-like peak of any mountain we had seen thus far. 

Called the “Lightning Rod of the Cascades,” its peak often receives lightning strikes, which have actually melted some of its peak, forming fulgarites. We were fascinated by this mountain.

A beautiful, clear day with perfect road conditions, we reached Bend, Oregon, where we had planned to overnight, much earlier than expected. We stopped and had a milkshake, discussed our plans, and pressed on, turning east on US 20. We drove 100 miles through sagebush and tumbleweeds, with no towns in sight, rarely meeting another vehicle, feeling like we were driving our truck through an episode of Death Valley Days. But unlike  those old days of bumpy roads in a covered wagon, this drive was smooth and quiet. 

The sun set to the west, behind us, casting pink rays upon the sagebrush.  It was a sight I’ll never forget.

We settled our little trailer into a quiet rest area just at dusk, looked at each other and smiled. It had been an awesome day on our own Oregon Trail. 

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Click here to read the next post, #20 The Trip Itself.

#18 I Walk Among the Giants

We drove just a short distance into California before gps instructed us to turn east onto Highway U.S. 199 toward our destination campground. I had booked three nights here, which I thought gave us two full days to go into the parks to see the beautiful Redwoods: our purpose in coming to this southernmost point of our journey. I assumed we would reach our campsite, set up, and visit the parks the next day, but . . . once we made that turn onto U.S. 199 . . .  we were already IN the Redwoods:


#17 The Fog Lifts

We both wished I had booked us another night at  Honeyman State Park along this Oregon Coast. So much to see. So little time. But this and each night’s camping  reservations had been made from over 2000 miles away . Not realizing all we would want to see, we had wished for more time at nearly every site we’d visited so far on this journey and would wish it again over and over in the weeks to come! But we moved on, leaving this beautiful park, 


#16 Reaching the Pacific!

I think I’m a light sleeper, so it’s amazing how well I can sleep inside a thin-walled travel trailer, on the outer sides of a Walmart parking lot, semis and RVs pulling in and out all night.

But I did. Sleep well. And after a breakfast of pancakes and french press coffee fixed over the gas stove, we were on our way from Corvalis to Newport where we would discover the Oregon Coast on this beautiful sunny day.

 The logging industry was evidenced here. Plywood, stacked high on railroad cars was of high value in today’s market. Farms – not green farms as in Michigan – but hay – lots of hay. And old barns here, as all across the country, told stories of long ago. We’d already seen such diverse landscape in this beautiful state of Oregon – ice-capped volcanic mountains, dry desert buttes, hay fields – and we weren’t yet at the water. I was anxious to see the coast


Soon we turned south on Highway 101, another scenic byway, this one along the Pacific Coast, and we crossed a beautiful arch bridge, The Yaquina Bay Bridge, 133 ft. above the waters of the bay below.

We saw the dark blue waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Anxious to get to the water, we stopped at the first beach pull off we could find. And we were simply amazed! 

Then we continued to stop as often as we could throughout the rest of the day. 

The winding roads of this southern Oregon coast mimicked those to which we’d become accustomed on this trip, but in contrast, these roads were set in clouds atop rocks extending well into the Pacific. 

Heceta Lighthouse on the cliff

Before we knew it, we had arrived at our reserved campground for the night. We would still cover much of the coast tomorrow as we continued south toward the California line.

We found Honeyman State Park to be perfect! 

We checked in at the small office and drove to locate our site in this beautiful park. Shady, Sun-filtered. Mossy trees. Everything I love in a campsite. Yes, it was perfect, at least, until we arrived! Yikes!

Water Spigot when we arrived
Water spigot after we backed in to our site!

When Ron and I were younger and took the kids camping, we struggled to back the trailer in to the campsite every – single – time! But we were well beyond that now. We never had a problem setting up the trailer at ANY site during this trip – until this one! 

In all fairness to us, you “campers” can look at our designated site and perceive the problem: The water spigot is on the edge of the drive – close to the drive – with no support post beside it.  (The wooden post you see is angled behind it.) When one backs in, one must crank . . .

Well, you see the problem. We, on the other hand, missed it!

Water started flushing out . . . oh, it was pitiful.. . . 

Two phone calls, campers walking by and pointing out the problem (as if we didn’t see it!), four park rangers, the water shut off to the campers for 45 minutes,  and over an hour later, the pipe is fixed.

Whew! Let’s take a walk and get away from this embarrassing situation! 

Although the campground is in a deep woods setting, the sand dunes are the key feature of this state park. Dune buggies run the dunes. 

We would have liked to have hidden when the tire of Ron’s truck broke that water pipe, but it’s difficult to hide with a pickup truck and a 24 ft. trailer! Ron kind of blamed me, since, as he backed up, he had called to me out his side window, “Am I okay on the other side?”

“Yes,” I answered. Never considering . . .

I assumed he had checked the area before backing up, so . . . 

But, unlike those early years of marriage and camping, there was no yelling – no anger – very little frustration. Not that we’ve reached any level of perfection . . .  I think we’ve just learned to put our problems in perspective!

We laughed about it then, and we laughed about it today, when I wrote about it!

By nightfall, the tent campers in the area were able to once again access water from the spigot, campsites downhill from the water spigot dried up from their flood of water, and Ron and I both slept well in the dark night of this forest.

See my next post, #17 The Fog Lifts. Click here.

Thank you, Eric Ethridge for your permission to use your awesome photo of the boulders on the Oregon Coast as my featured photo on this post. You’ll find more of his photos on Instagram: Eric Ethridge.

#15 Escapades, Palisades, Cascades!

As I’ve written previously, the climate and landscape can change almost instantly when driving through these western states. Today was a perfect example.

We left our perfect campsite in Viento State Park (did you read my last post about perspective? Click here)  and drove east along Interstate 84 for the last time, enjoying every moment: (Pause the website background music when viewing videos.)

We exited south at Hood River, onto Highway 35. We had previously stopped at the Walmart parking lot where I saw this view:

Yes, Mt. Adams, at over 12,000 feet, ruled the northern landscape. I was amazed to think of this view at one’s local Walmart! Certainly different than any Walmart parking lot view I’d ever encountered! Probably 40 miles north (by way the crow flies), this is the mountain we had observed throughout southernmost Washington before crossing the Columbia River into Oregon just a few days previous. 

Mt. Adams also reigned in the downtown area of Hood River –  one gorgeous town!  Homes are set in hillsides along narrow streets. The downtown is inviting with some shops open to the street.

A day or two before, Ron and I  had lunched outside one  cute little coffeeshop – then had coffee outside another. I had decided I could live in this town – if I didn’t get “blown away” in the wind. Like every area in the gorge, this town is very windy.  I spent my coffee time writing postcards to some of the grandchildren; the centerpiece on our outside lunch table was a bronze piece called Mama Bear. I knew, in reality, that I could never leave my Michigan kids, no matter how appealing this mountainous area might be! It’s the Mama Bear in me! But I certainly would love to spend a couple weeks exploring this town!

But today was our day to move on and head to the Oregon Coast. There was no “easy” route to the coast, except for Highway 84 directly west to Portland, but we didn’t want Portland, nor the busy interstates, so we chose a scenic route instead: the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway. And scenic it was – for awhile, that is.

As we drove south, we lost our views of Mt. Adams but gained views of magnificent Mt. Hood, over 11,000 feet high. It was within our sites for hours. (How many pictures of one mountain can a person take! ha-ha)

We turned on to U.S. 26, heading south, which took us away from the remainder of Mt. Hood Scenic Byway curving northwest to Portland. This directional and road change also created a landscape change, that of which I wrote at the beginning of this post: “the climate and landscape can change almost instantly when driving through these western states.”

Now we observed a different but equally striking view: Mt. Jefferson. Instead of appearing to be nestled in pines, as Mt. Hood had been, it stood beyond dry ground – miles and miles of dry, rocky surface – in all directions. Mt. Jefferson, in the next 100 miles, left our sights, as the dry ground became hammered into palisaded cliffs. As we travel, if I have cell coverage, I do a bit of research about the area we are traveling through. We are now in the middle of The Confederated Tribes of the War Springs Reservation of Oregon. (Click here to read more about this reservation.)

I read that typically, the summers are not “hot” here, but today most definitely was. Hot. Over 100 degrees hot! My fears of pulling the travel trailer around curves above steep edges, in windy areas, and 6% grade descents on hot pavement quickly returned as we neared Warm Springs, Oregon. (Click here to read that previous post: #10 Mountain-Size Fear) Thus, I was quite relieved  when we finally went through West Springs and Madras and turned west at Redmond.  I had become accustomed to looking at the triangles on the map, indicating mountains, by this time having learned that the mountains and their passes surely meant sharp curves and a multitude of ascents and descents! This next route had plenty of both mountains and passes! I wondered what lie ahead between us and the coast. But I was pleasantly surprised.

We were passing through a stunning range of the Cascades, viewing not only Mt. Jefferson now, but Black Butte and Three-Fingered Jack to the north and Three Sisters and Mt. Washington to the south. 

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Sage brush and rocky ground gave way to irrigated hay fields. Flat ground soon gave way to mountains.

Three-fingered Jack
Three Sisters
Mt. Washington

The mountains had one thing in common with the dry buttes we had traveled through earlier: evidence of wildfires. But in the wooded mountain range, the evidence remains for years. Burnt, charred trees and landscape revealed the  large wildfires of 2007 and 2011 – and smaller ones as recent as a month before we traveled through.

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I discovered that a pleasant drive through the Willamette National Forest lay ahead; Yes, it was filled with curves and ascents and descents, but each was surrounded by sunlit green forests – not steep cliffs dropping hundreds of feet beside me. This last stretch we covered today was Highway 20 – the same Highway 20 that runs 2000 miles east through Angola, Indiana, just a hop, skip, and a jump from our Michigan home. Once again, I find connection with the rest of this great country in which I live. 

This scenic highway is called Over the River and Through the Woods Oregon Scenic Byway:

Its very name denotes beauty, pleasant memories, a peaceful future. It is beautiful – this route through the wonderland of The Willamette National Forest. But my new life in Christ is even greater. It’s the byway that takes me home. And this new life – this beautiful route – can be yours , as well. Click here to learn about that new life in Christ.

Life is like today’s drive – always changing – bringing dry, rough patches – frightening ups and downs – but then times of refreshment. 

We are battered and destroyed – often by our own choices. But our loving Father is waiting, desiring us to seek Him, wanting to restore us to Himself. 

The burnt landscape is

– but a reminder of our lives before Christ 

– or of the damage of our own destruction 

– or the pain and grief the world has brought us.

The new growth arising through the rubbled ground and the freshness of the green, sunlit forests is

– the new life He offers us when we become Christians.

– Or for those of us who are Christians, it’s the restoration He brings when we turn back to Him after wandering. Or the comfort and peace He gives when we’ve been hurt by the world.

We must keep traveling forward:

. . . focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.

Philippians 3:13

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Click here to read the next post,#16 Reaching the Pacific Waters – and Unleashing Water into the Campground!

#14 Adjust your sails, girl. Don’t pick at paradise.

It’s all in perspective.

Dictionary.com defines “perspective” as “the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship . . .”

Previously, “the state of” my ideas were that one needed complete solitude to enjoy a campsite. Or at least close to solitude. A quiet, shady setting on a hot summer day would be best. That was the state of my idea. But my perspective changed. My ideas now were based upon this new and different perspective.   I was now looking at the setting through the lens of my new “interrelationship” with the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, which I wrote about in my last post: (The Magic of Multnomah) So from this perspective, I was camping in the midst of a wonderland. 

Where once I thought I could not sleep with the noise of a passing train whistling and roaring throughout the night, I unexpectedly quit noticing the roar of the trains and instead focused on the wonderland. I didn’t even need my pink earplugs I wrote about earlier. (Click here.)

Where once I thought I could not sleep with the noise of a major highway near (yes, the cars and semis ran just behind the Airstream travel trailer in the site next to us),  I suddenly didn’t hear the noise and instead focused on the wonderland.

It’s all in perspective.

An enlightened perspective sometimes brings great joy! As it did to me at Site 33, Viento State Park along the Columbia River (and along the train tracks, and Highway30  . . .  ha-ha!)

I don’t think I need to explain it. The videos and photos reveal it: my new perspective! 

It brought joy.

Give it a try! You’ll see things quite differently.

(If the background music on the website is playing, please scroll down and pause it while watching the two videos below. Enlarge video to full screen, if you can!:)



A short walk took us over the railroad tracks and to the river.

Loved our shady spot – sun filtering through the mossy trees! And Highway 30 was just behind the Airstream on the next site!

Click here to see my next post, #15 Escapades, Palisades, Cascades

#13 The Magic of Multnomah

Gorge. The very word has an ugly connotation. but this place is anything and everything but!

It is magical. Mystical. Enchanting. Refreshing. 

I thought I was prepared for its splendor, but I wasn’t.

(Be sure to turn on the music for this post. You should find adjustments on the side panel or on the bottom.)

Weeks before we left Michigan on this adventure, I had second thoughts about the whole long trip. Far away from the kids. What if something happened? 32 days is a long time. I had anxiety. Then something happened that gave me peace. It was a photo – a photo of  the most beautiful waterfall ever – in my opinion.   I had seen this photo often throughout the past few years, mostly online but had no idea where it was located. And so I judged it: the most beautiful waterfall ever.  I never even considered I would ever see it.  Researching the Columbia River Gorge we were to visit on this trip, I suddenly discovered this magnificent waterfall to be in the area. I was so touched to learn this, I choked up and whispered, Thank you, Lord. Now I knew it was His will we take this lengthy journey. I knew He was blessing me. I had peace. 

Isn’t it just like our Abba Father to give us the desires of our heart? Even the things we never asked for! And, in doing so, confirming His blessing upon us?

I had two overnights scheduled for us at the Viento State Park, along the Columbia River, but some way I maneuvered a third overnight at the state park, and we scheduled our days carefully. The first site we would visit would be Multnomah Falls.  We  drove  just  a  short distance to the six mile trail  of waterfalls  along  the Historic route.

We were driving through a mystical, magical  wonderland of massive trees, vibrant greens, and brilliant filtering sunlight. 



Finding a parking space near Multnomah Falls was challenging, as the lot is quite small. We learned that the state would require advance passes beginning the next month. This was further evidence of God’s blessing upon us this day. It was our time.

Multnomah Falls Visitor Center

This area, and especially Multnomah Falls itself, appears to be the landscape from Middle Earth. When one climbs to the bridge spanning the falls, one expects Tolkein’s elves, Aragorn and Arwen, to be standing there, conversing – to look at us and say, Come, join us.  The bridge, the 611-foot-tall waterfall, and the lush green walls of the mountainside are mirror images of Rivendell. 

(Open to full screen, if you can:)


I was simply enchanted. The cool spray of water refreshed my face from this and other waterfalls we would visit on this day. I closed my eyes and went back in time. The moss on the rocks and trees and fallen logs was reminiscent of that on the stepping stones leading to a water fountain in my Grandma Nutt’s rock garden. I find connection in the small and the large details throughout my life, demonstrating the same creator – the One True God. He uses both the minor and the magnificent to reveal Himself to us. The past memory was over 50 years ago and over 2000 miles away; God shows me today that He was in my presence then and He is present now. He is ever with me. Because I am His child.

Wahkeenah Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls, and Horsetail Falls. We went from one falls to another, climbing to the brink and hiking the stream of bedrock below. Our day was spent in exploring something like a Shangri-la.  I spread a cloth over the thick gray, moss-covered wood of a picnic table, where we lunched in the shade of tall pines and oaks. The trails occasionally took us to overlooks of the River beyond.


Open to full screen, if you can:



As magnificent as Multnomah Falls is, and as beautiful as the other waterfalls are, the last one we visited, Shepperd’s Dell Waterfall was the most meaningful to Ron and me. I’ll explain the reason.




The Shepperd’s Dell website explains,

“We owe our thanks to a modest farmer who gave us his “dell.” George Shepperd was a transplanted Canadian farmer who moved his family to the Gorge in the 1880s, settling on a 160-acre land claim along Young Creek, just west of the mill town of Bridal Veil. He supported his family by farming, dairying and working at the nearby Bridal Veil Lumber Mill.
“In the early 1900s, HCRH engineer and designer Samuel Lancaster began surveying a possible highway route through the Gorge. Travel in the Gorge at that time was mostly by train, and the Shepperd farm was one of the many stops along the route. . .  George was described as an early supporter of the highway, and this is surely the time when he realized that he could be part of Lancaster’s grand vision.
“Newspaper accounts show that Shepperd had many opportunities to sell his property for substantial profit, as the new highway was quickly dotted with roadhouses and gift shops aimed at the new stream of tourists. The Oregonian later reported: “ever since the highway was constructed, Mr. Shepperd has received offers to purchase the tract, but has refused them, having in mind an intention to dedicate the property to the use of the public.” In March 1914, George Shepperd’s land was donated to the public.”

So, here is a man who thought of others above himself. But greater yet, a placard at the sight told us that Shepperd and his family came to the waterfall on their property to worship. To worship! So that’s just what Ron and I did that day – at that last waterfall. We worshipped God. It was a blessed time.

Following are photos of Shepperd’s Dell Waterfall and the beautiful bridge and walkway leading to it. Notice the moss!

Ron and I love shady forests with the sunlight streaming down from above.  We love streams and rivers and waterfalls. We love being in the quiet woods away from the noise of highways. We love listening to the birds. And I love green moss! 

You might cherish other things in nature: certain animals, the atmosphere, the heights of the mountains or the depths of the valleys. The smell of freshly mown hay or of a rose in your garden. Perhaps you love the busyness and noise of the city, the whistle of the train, or the roar of race cars. 

How does God reveal Himself to you? Speak to you? Give you evidence of His presence?

He is always present and He cares for you. He wants to meet the longings of your heart. He desires communion with us.  Sometimes it’s a massive revelation; sometimes it’s tiny – like green moss.

Look for Him. Listen for Him. He’s there! Find your spot and worship!

Before you leave my wonderland, join me in the woods. I’m quite sure I saw Aragorn and Arwen flitting across the rocks along this stream:

You’ll find all the Adventure Travel posts in the “Home Sweet Home” Tab of this website. 

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Click here to read the next Post – #14 “Adjust your sails, girl  . . ”