Monthly Archives: July 2017

Three Brothers — Wenatchee & Leavenworth, WA; June 30 – July 9, 2017

Of the five surviving brothers of Barb, three now live in Washington State: Dan, George, and Hugh.  We spent an enjoyable time visiting them and seeing some of the beautiful area.  Knowing that we intended to be in the area for some time, we had, three weeks earlier, arranged for the cracked left pane of the RV’s windshield to be replaced in Wenatchee.  Alas, the replacement windshield was delayed and had not yet arrived when we did.  No matter, the brothers and their families were attentive hosts, and that part of the world is gorgeous.  Early in our visit we took a side trip northward along the Columbia River to Chelan, where we visited the  Fielding Hills Winery before continuing on to Manson for lunch.  When we returned to Wenatchee, we joined the pool party/cook out in progress at the home of Dan and Candy (they also own a home in Leavenworth), already attended by the extended families of all three brothers.  George and Hugh have separate businesses in construction; Dan & Candy together own an Italian restaurant in Wenatchee and another in Leavenworth perhaps more well know:  Visconti’s.  I say only half jokingly that Dan must have some kind of hormone problem:  in addition to the two aforementioned restaurants Dan and Candy also have two additional eateries in Wenatchee in the Pybus Public Market — a Gelato and Crepe shop called ICE, and a Pizzeria called FIRE.  They also have several additional businesses in Leavenworth: a cheese and sausage shop, an open-air sausage “garten” a gelato shop, and, believe it or not, down in the basement of Visconti’s, a facility for making their own sausages, called CURED.  See what I mean about hormones?

George and Hugh seem similarly afflicted:  among other things they have each been buying homes and then renovating them for resale.  When we arrived in Wenatchee, George was just in the process of moving into his impressive new home which he almost entirely built by himself.

George’s new home, by the way, is on property adjacent to the beautiful Ohme Gardens.  From the Garden’s page on the internet: 

In 1929 Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Included was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River valley. Herman and his new bride, Ruth, began dressing up the bluff for the their own enjoyment.

Small evergreens were transplanted from the nearby Cascade Mountains, native stone was hauled to form paths and borders, desert sage gave way to low-growing ground cover, and pools took shape adjacent to massive natural rock formations. It was hard work, done mostly by hand, and truly a labor of love. In the beginning, sustaining the Gardens meant hauling water in five gallon buckets from the river valley below, but eventually the Ohmes constructed an elaborate irrigation system that pumped water to the site.

Initially intended as a private family retreat, the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the Gardens to the public. The Ohmes continued to perfect the Gardens for 42 years, until 1971 when Herman died at the age of 80. The couple’s son Gordon and his family then assumed responsibility for the Gardens, and in 1991 Washington State Parks and Recreation purchased the Gardens and surrounding property. The Gardens are currently owned and managed by Chelan County.

We had an enjoyable time in Wenatchee.  Dinner several times at the Wenatchee restaurant, visits to George and his wife Anne and their daughters at their new home, and visits to Hugh and his S.O. Patty at their isolated home on the edge of town up high enough to give a commanding view of the orchards below.  We also visited Hugh’s most recent renovation, located just two doors down from Dan and Candy’s home.  And the extended families all attended the July Fourth fireworks display on the waterfront in the Walla Walla Point Park, which we accessed by parking at the restaurant and then walking to the venue.

The uncertainty concerning delivery of the RV window pane restricted our ability to commit to extended time in either of the two near-by RV parks, consequently we were forced to make last-minute reservations that were hindered by unavailability.  So we found ourselves bouncing back and forth between the Wenatchee Confluence RV park and the Wenatchee County Park.   But both had their charms; Barb was happy to get some fit-bit steps while I focused on bird photography.

We took the RV up the scenic highway to Leavenworth, where we parked in Dan’s yard.  The town was packed with visitors there to enjoy the Bavarian theme that permeates the entire village.  Dan’s Sausage Garten was packed; understandably so:  the various x-wurst sandwiches, potentially garnished with any of approximately one thousand different mustards, and accompanied by German-style potato salad and locally-brewed cold beer, were delicious.

The Wenatchee River borders Leavenworth to the east; about half of that boundary is given over to a lovely park offering shaded walks along the river, which, on the day of our traversal, was filled with inner-tube floaters (featherless bipods) and ducks (feathered bipods.)

All told, we had a great time visiting warm and friendly people in some lovely parts of Washington.  We’ll be back.


Here are some of the birds seen during this time frame.

Side Adventure with Zane — June 27-30, 2017

On June 27, we moved to Post Falls, a small town near Coeur d’Alene (CDA) , Idaho. CDA is a satellite city of Spokane, which is located about 30 miles to the west, in the state of Washington. We were in Post Falls to see Zane Cowles, son of Jeff Johnson, son of Barbara.  Which is a long way of saying that 16-yr-old Zane is our grandson. We proposed that he join us on a little camping side trip, and were pleased when he agreed. We were even more pleased when it developed that he seemed to enjoy the experience as much as we did.

Farragut State Park

We were much more interested in camping than in driving, so Barb chose the nearby Farragut State Park as our destination, located at the southern tip of the Lake Pend Oreille in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains.

The 4,000-acre park is about 30 miles northeast of CDA. Publicized activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, cycling, fishing, boating, swimming, water sports, orienteering, disc golf, flying model aircraft, archery, and horseback riding.  We didn’t do all of these, but we did do some hiking, some bird-watching, some kayaking, some Ladder Balling, some Mexican Training, some museum visiting (see below) and S’mores Eating.

The Park formerly held the Farragut Naval Training Station, a major training base of the U.S. Navy during World War II.  Why northern Idaho for naval training?  To keep it well inland away from possible attack by the Japanese.  Ground for the base was broken 75 years ago in March 1942 and its first phase opened in early August; by September the base had a population of 55,000, making it the largest city in Idaho. It was the second-largest naval training center in the world at the time, and liberty trains ran three times daily to Spokane, Washington, about an hour away. Over 293,000 sailors received basic training at Farragut during its 30 months of existence. The last recruit graduated in March 1945 and the facility was decommissioned in June 1946. It was also used as a prisoner of war camp in 1945, run by the U.S. Army; nearly 900 Germans, most captured shortly after D-Day, worked as gardeners and maintenance men.   Reportedly, many former prisoners liked the area so much that they returned after the war.

After its use and closure as the Farragut Naval Training Station, the site housed “Farragut College and Technical Institute” for three years, beginning in 1946. It did not re-open in late 1949, because of financial difficulties.

A remaining park feature is the Museum at the Brig, located in the confinement facility of the naval training station. Its displays include boot camp, naval, and war memorabilia, as well as historic prison cells.

Lake Pend Oreille

We did our kayaking outside of the Park, renting kayaks in Bayview.  Lake Pend Oreille is huge.  It is not a reservoir, but is instead the creation of the melting of ancient glaciers.  It is the state’s largest (43 miles long, 111 miles of shoreline). It is the deepest (at 1,158 feet deep, there are only four deeper lakes in the nation).  We spent about 3 hours on the lake, with Barb and Zane in a double and Chuck in a single.

On June 30 we returned Zane to his home in Post Falls.  We had all decided it would be good to take him with us to see Barb’s three brothers in Wenatchee, WA (and take a train back later), but when we returned we learned that in our absence an employment opportunity had materialized, so we said our farewells. We look forward to our next visit with the fine young man.

Smokejumper School — Missoula, Montana – June 23, 2017

On June 23 we stopped in Missoula, Montana to visit the Smokejumper School.  Our already-existing interest had been heightened by having read a book by Timothy Egan.  As indicated by the title — The Big Burn — the book is about a wildfire that occurred in 1910 that burned about three million acres in northeast Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana  — the largest wildfire ever in the United States. The book also details some of the political issues, focusing on Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot (the first Chief of the United States Forest Service from 1905 until his firing in 1910).  The discussion of Theodore Roosevelt’s rise to power and the formation of the U.S. Forest Service provide the setting and background in which the action occurs. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot created the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by every citizen. But critical politicians, under the sway of powerful and moneyed capitalists, accused the Service of governmental meddling into the rights of private business to exploit natural resources.  As a consequence, the Forest Service was slowly starving to death from lack of funding when the fire broke out. The fire resulted in raising public awareness surrounding national nature conservation and highlighting the forest rangers and firefighters as public heroes. And so, even as TR’s national forests were smoldering they were saved: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion in favor of the forests. Hence, the subtitle to the book: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America.

At the Smokejumper Visitor Center , tourists can see many displays explaining firefighting procedures, smokejumping history, and other fire related issues.   We took advantage of a guided tour which lasted  about an hour and took us through the working facility of the smokejumpers, used for both training of new smokejumpers and as a smoke jumping base. The tour gave an in-depth look at the profession of smokejumping and allowed us to learn about jump gear, parachutes, cargo and aircraft.

Time well spent.


Pits & Mines — Butte, Montana; June 22, 2017

This last winter, while still in Bonaire, Barb and I read two interesting books by Timothy Egan.  So interesting, that they have influenced our travel plans as we head west.  One, Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West, is a social history, with each chapter dedicated to a particular site in the western states.  One of the chapters is about the rape of the environment in Butte, Montana.  We vowed to see for ourselves.  This posting is about that visit.

(The other book is The Big Burn, and that will relate to a later post in our blog.)

Berkeley Pit

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Berkeley Pit is a former open pit copper mine located in Butte, Montana, United States. It is one mile long by half a mile wide with an approximate depth of 1,780 feet (540 m). It is filled to a depth of about 900 feet (270 m) with water that is heavily acidic (2.5 pH level), about the acidity of cola or lemon juice.[1] As a result, the pit is laden with heavy metals and dangerous chemicals that leach from the rock, including copper, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, and sulfuric acid.

The mine was opened in 1955 and operated by Anaconda Copper and later by the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), until its closure on Earth Day 1982. When the pit was closed, the water pumps in the nearby Kelley Mine, 3,800 feet below the surface, were turned off, and groundwater from the surrounding aquifers began to slowly fill the pit, rising at about the rate of one foot a month.[1] Since the pit closure in 1982, the level has risen to within 150 feet of the natural groundwater level.

The pit and its water present a serious environmental problem because the water, with dissolved oxygen, allows pyrite and sulfide minerals in the ore and wall rocks to decay, releasing acid. When the pit water level eventually reaches the natural water table, estimated to occur by around 2020, the pit water will reverse flow back into surrounding groundwater, polluting into Silver Bow Creek which is the headwaters of Clark Fork River. The acidic water in the pit carries a heavy load of dissolved heavy metals. In fact, the water contains so much dissolved metal (up to 187 ppm Cu) that some material is mined directly from the water.

In the 1990s plans were devised for solving the groundwater problem. Water flowing into the pit has been diverted to slow the rise of the water level. Plans have been made for more extensive treatment in the future. The Berkeley Pit has since become one of the largest Superfund sites.

The pit is currently a tourist attraction, with an adjacent gift shop. A $2 admission fee is charged to go out on the viewing platform.

From other sources:

Butte is the largest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site in America. It is their job, along with the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology and other groups, to maintain it as a terminal sink and keep the pathogens contained to help the public stay safe and healthy.  Water levels in the East Camp/Berkeley Pit system will not be allowed to exceed the established Safe Water Level (SWL) of 5,410 feet

  • Within eight years of approaching the SWL, design of final water-treatment plant shall begin, with construction completed four years prior to the projected date for water to reach SWL. This will allow for a shake-down period, for optimizing plant operations.
  • Long-term, ground-water and surface-water monitoring program will be implemented.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 snow geese perished in December 2016 in the Berkeley Pit’s toxic water, sucumming from both heavy metals and sulfuric acid, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The companies responsible for the pit, Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield Co., could be fined as much as $5,000 per bird. The report says the birds’ condition was similar to the 342 snow geese that died in November 1995 when a flock landed — almost 21 years to the day — on the pit during a snowstorm and perished.

Mining Museum

From the time it was located in 1875 until it was purchased by Marcus Daly and associates in 1879, ownership of fractional shares in the Orphan Girl Mine changed hands many times. The Orphan Girl eventually operated to a depth of over 3,000 feet. While not a huge producer according to Butte standards, by 1944 hardrock miners had removed a respectable 7,626,540 ounces of silver as well as lead and zinc from her depths. Cool temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees made the Orphan Girl—affectionately nicknamed “Orphan Annie” or “the Girl”—a desirable place to work unlike some “hot boxes” where temperatures could top 100 degrees. By the end of the 1920s, the Anaconda Company owned the Girl and operated it until the 1950s. In 1965, the Girl became the site of the World Museum of Mining with its stated mission to preserve the history of mining and the cultural heritage of attendant mining communities. Many of the original structures are still visible, including the 100-foot-tall headframe and the Hoist House, which houses exhibits as well as original equipment. Visible are the cages that were crammed with six or seven miners for their daily trip 2700-feet down the shaft.

The World Museum of Mining’s most prominent feature, besides offering underground mine tours of The Orphan Girl Mine, is the “composite re-creation of an Old West mining town, called Hellroarin’ Gulch.” There are fifty exhibit buildings, with sixty-six exhibits in the mining yard alone, that revolve around not only mining, but the ethnic and culture groups that worked in this dangerous profession It is described as “an authentic reproduction of an 1890’s mining camp. Buildings include a bank, funeral parlor, jail, post office, city hall, union hall, school, the sauerkraut factory, saloon, and Chinese laundry.

The highlight of our visit was the trip down into the mine using a special entrance created by the School of Mines for the Museum. Accompanied by a guide, our group descended some 65 feet. Although the original shafts were some 2700 feet deep, that is no longer possible, since the shafts are now flooded to a depth of about 100 feet.