Cannon Beach & Crater Lake

When I was visiting with Veronica, I asked her “If one wanted to put their feet into the Pacific Ocean, what would be the best spot nearby?” and she answered without hesitation “You have to got to Cannon Beach!” It was not the direction I intended to head, but what the heck, what else did I have to do?

So the next morning I headed northwest on Route 26. The skies were beautiful and clear but as I neared the coast, the clouds built and the temperature kept dropping! – for the first time on my trip I had to turn the heat on in my car! Finally I pulled into the little town of Cannon Beach, which despite the cool weather was PACKED with people. However, I had no problem parking in one of the many huge lots, and made my way down to the beach, and there it was, Haystack Rock!


I had a ways to walk to get closer, but I did go down to the water and dip my feet into the FREEZING cold Pacific Ocean.



As I neared Haystack Rock, the clouds began to break and the sun started to come out and warm up everything nicely.


I walked down right next to Haystack and along with everyone else, observed the many interesting sea life and formations in the tide pools. I was lucky enough to see orange and purple starfish!






Satisfied with my little visit to the Pacific Ocean, I got back in my car. I drove for a bit down 101, as I heard it was a very pretty drive and offered a great view of the ocean. I was not disappointed, as I snapped a couple of the most beautiful shots of the Pacific.



Early the following morning, after a quick overnight in Bend at an old but very well kept motel, I headed towards Crater Lake National Park. It was a short drive there, and I pulled into the last  stretch. I spotted the Crater Lake National Park sign, and pulled off in order take my usual selfie in front of the State Park sign. As I did so, I noticed two motorcyclists there – one was standing and posing atop the sign (I wonder how he climbed up there) and the other one had his pants unzipped and was peeing. I was hoping that once he saw me drive up he’d have the decency to put it away – but he didn’t. Not wanting to deal with that, I drove on. Ugh.

Between the fee station and the park itself, I passed what is called a “Pumice Desert. “ Wow, but also managed to find some pretty stuff growing.


Pumice Desert!


Pretty Purple

Once into the park, I pulled off the first chance possible at the North Entrance for my first look!  Amazing that there was still some snow at the base of one side of it!


My First Look!


Look closely and you can see some snow

I hit five of the seven highlights that are suggested as one drives around the rim. I think it’s also fascinating to note how the colors of the water changed from early in the morning to afternoon. Here’s some pretty pictures folks!



Cloudcap Overlook – The highest point there in the park. Great view, and you can see the line of haze above the horizon from the wildfires in CA. Also, look at the Whiteback Pine Trees, and see how they are bent permanently from the high harsh winds up there.


Line of haze at the horizon from wildfire smoke


Whiteback Pines – permanently bent over

Pumice Castle Overlook – Look! It looks like a Hoodoo from Bryce Canyon!



Phantom Ship Overlook – A little island that resembles a ship. It isn’t notated in the guide, but I got a WAY better look at a little trail called Sun Notch.




Vidae Falls – A lovely little waterfall. Not much rainfall lately so it wasn’t as cascading as I’ve heard it can be.



Discovery Point – It is said that in 1853, gold prospector John Hillman became the first Euro-American to see Crater Lake. Some stunning and beautifully colored pictures.





Hi Everyone! Miss you!


Whew! I’m getting tired!

Some pretty stuff in and around Portland

I left the very unattractive city of Spokane early in the morning, around 7am. (I didn’t even blog about it becaue it was so non-descript). I headed west towards Portland, a very long drive. I’d heard that I MUST drive along the Columbia River and see the Columbia Gorge and Multnomah Falls. Driving west along the interestate 90 and then 395 South in Washington was NOT attractive to me. It was fairly flat, and there was NO green. It was endless fields of yellow and brown. Flat flat flat! Talk about the immensity of the sky! But not at all pretty like Montana.

A bit after I got onto Interstate 84 I saw the Columbia River to my right. It was enormous! But a long time passed until it began to really be pretty, once I hit The Dalles. I exited off 84 and followed scenic 30 as much as I could, seeing some pretty sights along the way.

Columbia River - first look

Columbia River – first look





The Falls are a highlight of this little area, (there are five of them) and Multnomah Falls is the most popular.  I drove along a very crowded but beautiful little stretch of scenic route 30 – searching for a little parking spot anywhere I could. Luck! I pulled in and walked about 25 yards down to Horsetail Falls. It was beautiful!



And Multnomah was supposed to be better than that! I got back in my car and drove along. Traffic became heavier and I finally saw a sign for Multnomah Falls! But, it was the middle of Sunday afternoon, and the parking lots were full. I thought, oh well, I’ll just see if I can find a  spot a ways down the road. And I’m not kidding, as soon as that thought popped into my head, I saw a spot just at the edge of the parking lots, perfect for my little car. I pulled in and then walked back to the Falls. They were magnificent to me, although I heard folks saying over and over how little water there was and that they are actually quite a bit more spectacular. I was happy with every single view I had of them!






There were more Falls along the way, but it was approaching 4:30pm and the crowds were a bit overwhelming. I hopped back onto I-84 and drove the last 20-30 minutes to my motel near the Portland Airport.

The next day, I headed out with a purpose – Voodoo Doughtnuts! I’d seen several segments on various Food and Travel channels, and was eager to see if they lived up to the hype. Downtown Portland was a LONG drive from my motel – it took me nearly 30 minutes by the time I’d found a place to park. I walked a few blocks and there it was – with a line out front that appeared to be moving at a decent pace. I took my place in line and waited. I’d had many suggestions from everyone, the famous Voodoo Doll doughnut, the Maple Bacon, but I love chocolate and peanut butter, so I tried two – The Mempis Mafia, which is a fritter banana chunks and cinnamon covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top, and The Old Dirty Bastard, a yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, oreos and peanut butter. I took those and a cup of coffee and sat outside to enjoy them.




Well, folks, although the Memphis Mafia was indeed very good (I ate about a third of it) the Old Dirty Bastard felt flat, and I can honestly say that THIS doughnut place and these doughnuts beats Voodoo Doughnuts into the ground.

Shipley's Doughnuts in Houston

Shipley’s Doughnuts in Houston

After that intake of sugar, I spent the next couple of hours walking around downtown Portland, checking out the little shops and sights. Portland is unique in its preponderance of food trucks. I actually wished I hadn’t wasted my stomach’s food storage space with the doughnuts.

It was a beautiful afternoon, warm but breezy. I was weary from walking around, but there really aren’t places to just sit and relax downtown. So, I found a nice shady spot under a tree, sat next to the awesome food truck that was cranking out some great tunes. I sat and just enjoyed watching people walking by.

Finally, around 4pm, I headed to the west suburb of Beaverton to visit yet another friend from my horn playing days at the University of Iowa. My friend and former roommate Veronica had been on the west coast for years, and moved to Portland about 4 years ago. I pulled up to her house in a very nice but hilly suburb, knocked on her door, and was greeted by her two adorable daughters, Rayna and Elia. Veronica walked up and she looked just as she did 20-some years ago! We sat outside on her patio for a bit, enjoying some beers and catching up on our lives. Rayna came out, impatient to head out and show me the sights of Portland. So, Rayna, Veronica and I got into the car and headed out to get a bite to eat. We ended the evening with a drive to the Pittock Mansion. It was a bit hazy so didn’t have the best view, but it was nice and there were lots of pretty flowers.






Finally, we ventured down to a little creek in the local park near their home. Rayna spotted a crawfish but wouldn’t pick it up, but we did see a huge slug on the trail path! Biggest slug I’ve EVER seen, EWWWW


We returned to the house and said our goodbyes – Veronica’s eyes welled up with tears as we hugged.  It’s mind-boggling to think that it had been 20 years since we’d seen each other. I’m grateful to have had this opportunity to reconnect with a dear friend. BUT WE DIDN’T GET A PICTURE!!!!!!


Emerging from the Cocoon

Nothing-change-until-you-changeI left out an important story from my experience at Glacier National Park because I realized it was part of a more important blog combining a couple of experiences the following day. And part of a huge breakthrough in my journey.

Rewind to Glacier National Park. I arrived well before my 8:45am Red Bus check-in time. As I walked into the rest rooms, a young 6 or 7 year old girl  came rushing out. “Well, good morning, Little Bitty!” I greeted her with a big smile. She smiled back and said hi. She was followed by another girl around 9-10 years old, who also looked at me and smiled and said hi. I thought, wow, they have to be sisters, they look so much alike!  I said “Are you excited for your day here?” and she replied with an enthusiastic “Yes!”

When I returned to the Red Bus stop, the two girls were intently looking at something in the bush around the bus circle. The littlest girl ran up and exclaimed “A bird, we just saw a bird!” At that moment a very fit and trim man in his 40’s walked up and said to the girls “Was it a bluebird?” The little girl replied “I don’t know Daddy!” I turned to the man and smiled and said “I think I’ve seen about 1 or 2 bluebirds in my entire life,” and we started up a conversation about bluebirds and their color, etc. Sitting on the bench just next to us was a woman with another young girl. She looked at me with a smile and said “Are you taking this 9am tour?” and I replied “Sure am!” and she introduced herself as Anna, and said, “Well, looks like you’ve already met my husband Paul.” She proceeded to introduce me to the two youngest girls that I’d run into previously, Erin and Kimi, yet another daughter Josie, and their teenage sons Sean and Nolan. What an entourage! We shook hands all around (yes, all the kids did, very politely and enthusiastically!)

When Bill the bus driver pulled up the big Red Bus, the older boys cried out “Shotgun!” The girls argued back playfully and the boys laughingly teased them back – it was obvious to me that these kids had been raised with much love and respect. When we all loaded ourselves into the bus, Bill decreed that since I was the only solo traveler, I would be awarded the shotgun seat! I looked at the kids and playfully gave a victory yell “Shotgun is mine!”  “AWW!” the kids replied, although with much good humor. (I will note that I actually did NOT retain my shotgun seat – I gave it up to an older gentleman with much longer legs and an artificial knee).

I sat right in front of  The Adams Family on the bus tour and had a wonderful time with them. When we arrived at the halfway point at Rising Sun, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant there. As we walked in all together, Anna turned to me and said “Please have lunch with all of us! Then you don’t have to sit alone and it will make a perfect 8!” So, I sat in the midst of this big loving family and had a wonderful time. Sean showed me all the pictures he’d taken already, and we challenged each other to win the little Cracker Barrel type peg game. Anna and Paul asked me about my journey, so I told them how it had all come about. I found out that they live in Batavia, a Chicago suburb not far from Naperville! We also discovered a mutual love of music – I told them about my background and training in horn, and Anna gestured to two of the kids and said “well, horn players right there!” And the rest of the kids all play musical instruments! Sean told me all about his oboe, and how he recently got a new, non-plastic one. Paul asked where I was going next, and I told him that I was headed west and would be staying that night in Libby. Anna exclaimed “Well, you have to stop at Kootenai Falls and the Swinging Bridge on the way out of Libby the next day.” She explained that it’s a spot of Falls and rapids along the Kootenai River (it’s actually the spot that the movie “The River Wild” was filmed) and that it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. The kids all piped in about the trail, the swinging rope bridge, and how they had actually come across bear scat on one of the trails that they’d ventured off on! “Bear poop?!?!” I inquired a bit fearfully. “Yes!” they all exclaimed excitedly. They all related the beauty of the Falls and I assured them that I would stop to experience it.

So that’s one back story.

After the day at Glacier, I spent the night in the little teeny tiny town of Libby, MT. I stayed at an old but very well kept motel called the Caboose Inn. When I checked out the next morning, I was standing at the desk next to an older man who was chewing the fat with the desk guy. I waited for a lull in the conversation and I greeted them with a hearty “Good morning gentlemen! If one were driving to Spokane, what would be the prettiest route to take?” They looked at each other and proceeded to chat and discuss. They both agreed on one particular route and gave me the details. The older man standing next to me said, “I’ve lived in Montana my whole life. I just came from that direction yesterday. When you go, make sure you stop at Ross Creek and see the Trail of Cedars. Be careful you don’t miss the little sign for it. Once you turn in, it’s about a 4 mile drive off the road, and the trail of Cedars is about a mile long. Don’t miss it!”

So I now had a gameplan for the day – I would stop in Kootenai Falls, which was only about 10  miles out of Libby, and then stop later at the Trail of Cedars!

I began my drive – it was going to be another spectacular day. Not a cloud in the sky and already nice and warm. After just a short drive I saw the turnoff at the side of the road with a small parking lot. I had arrived at Kootenai Falls – the largest undammed falls in the state of Montana! I grabbed my camera and started the short ½ mile hike to the Falls.









As I sat there enjoying the view, I saw a family approaching. An older man, his son, and his two grandchildren. They walked up the rocks to the very tip of the rock overlooking the Falls – much further than I had dared! I thought to myself, wow, that’s pretty gutsy, and I pointed my camera and took a great shot of them.

Family on the Falls

Family on the Falls

When they came back my way, I called out to the younger man. I said “I snapped a great pic of y’all on the Falls – if you give me your number I’ll text it to you!” He did so, and I said although it won’t send now since there’s no service, I’ll make sure to send it once I get a signal. He thanked me and joined his family and walked on.

Just downstream from Kootenai Falls, accessible from the same parking area and path, is the swinging bridge, which crosses the Kootenai River, offers a great view of the Falls, and connects to other hiking paths. I was determined to walk across it, even though it is high up, and swingy, and unstable! When I walked up the ladder to the bridge entrance, I saw a young woman standing there, looking across at her family on the other side. I could see it was the same family I’d snapped the picture of. I said, “Kinda scary huh?” She replied “Yes, and I’m kind of afraid of heights.” And I said, well, we’re in good company cause so am I! And she said, well, then let’s walk across together – I’ll be right behind you!  We made it across and we gave each other a high five on the other side. She walked down to her family and I heard her laugh and say “Waiting much?” They laughed as she joined them.




Walking the Bridge!


View from the Bridge (haha)

I returned to my car and resumed my drive along the route suggested by the man at the Caboose Inn. I remembered to text the picture of the family on the Falls. Immediately I got a reply:

Smiling, I headed south on 56. I barely saw the sign for Ross Creek on the right hand side of the road. I turned and began a very secluded but beautiful winding drive, shrouded by unbelievably tall pine trees. It appeared completely isolated and empty – I wondered if I would be the only person there! Finally I got to a very small parking lot, filled with cars – I barely was able to find a spot. The Ross Creek Cedars is a grove of western red cedars, part of the Kootenai National Forest. In 1960, the Kootenai National Forest set aside the Ross Creek Cedar grove and established it as a scenic area protecting it for scientific and recreational value.

I started the short, .9 mile trail and was amazed. I have NEVER in my life seen such huge trees. The entire trail was enclosed by trees of such size that barely any sunlight could come through.









After walking the trail for about an hour, I made it back to the parking lot and headed west to Spokane.

So, now to get to the point of this long story. I am now acutely aware of how I have lived my whole adult life. When confronted with strangers or with situations with which I’m unfamiliar, I’ve kept my head down, not looking at nor talking to them. I have insisted that it’s because “I’m shy.” Well, I realize now that that is not true. It’s not shyness. It’s fear. I”m afraid that for some reason people won’t like me.  I have been told that often when people first meet me I appear unapproachable and intimidating. And I have fretted about that, wondering why in the world people have thought that. And now I realize it’s because my fear has kept me from interacting with others in an authentic way, and it has prevented my true spirit from being seen.  And the unapproachable vibe that I’ve put out has kept others from being comfortable with me.  It’s because YOU GET WHAT YOU PUT OUT TO THE UNIVERSE. If you don’t smile, people won’t smile at you. If you put up your guard, others won’t let their guard down. If you put out distrust, others won’t trust you. If you appear unapproachable, people keep their distance.

However, throughout this journey the past 7 weeks, I’ve made a choice to look people in the eye with a smile and greet them before they greet me. I’ve done it at  gas stations, at rest stops, at restaurants, on the trail at all the parks – every single place I go. And because of that small change that requires no real effort (and now I”m not even trying!!) I am getting a COMPLETELY different and wonderful response from the Universe and everyone in it. Many of you who have known me for a long time know what a change this is for me, but because of this – truly amazing things have happened:

Because I smile at little kids and greet them with a friendly hello, they  approach me enthusiastically and without fear – and I met the wonderful Adams Family, who invited me wholeheartedly into their family for the day, surrounded me with love, and told me about an incredibly beautiful spot that I otherwise would have completely and obliviously driven past – Kootenai Falls.

Because I saw an opportunity to take a beautiful picture of a family against the stunning background of the Kootenai Falls – knowing that they could not capture that shot themselves and would appreciate the beauty of it – and asked them for their number so I could send that memory to them – I received a wonderful heartfelt thank you in reply that made me smile and feel happy throughout the whole day.

Because I sidled up to a couple of old guys at a local hotel in a very small town as they drank their morning coffee, and asked them to tell me the prettiest drive to my destination, I had a wonderful interaction with a nice old man who gave me a tip to see the grandest most majestic sized trees – the size of which I’d only heard stories of – and of which I would have sped past without even a second glance.

Because I am living my life on this trip with a wide open heart, I am having the most authentic and loving experiences with the Universe and everyone in it. Prior to starting this journey, I thought it would be about finding or creating a new Alise along the way. But what I’ve discovered is that there is no need to “create” anything new at all. Each day, with all my courage, I am peeling back layer after layer of fear, hurt, anger, and unhappiness that has weighed me down. I am discovering that underneath all of those layers that I mistakenly thought were protecting me, I’m finding my real true self, and I’m so much lighter and happier and grateful, more than I have ever been in my entire life. And discovering that the Universe and all those in it are kind and generous and loving. This is a life changing realization for me – having the courage to let go of my fear, and to let go of the old habits that I’ve had in the past – is allowing me to live the life I’ve never thought possible – a happy one.


Breathtaking Beauty of Glacier National Park


Glacier National Park – the ultimate destination of my amazing adventure. I’d been looking forward to visiting this park since I circled the entire state of Montana on my map in mid-February. My expectations were huge, and after my semi-letdown at Flathead Lake, I hoped that they were not unrealistic.

YOU HAVE TO SEE GOING TO THE SUN ROAD IF YOU GO TO GLACIER was the advice everyone gave me. So, my plan was to drive the entire length back and forth. A few days before the big day, I was doing some research on the park and the drive, and just happened to stumble onto a link for the Red Bus Tours of Glacier. I read all about the tours, some of which do just a portion of the famous highway and a couple that do the entire length. It sounded like the PERFECT way to experience it – I wouldn’t have to drive the scary roads, and since I wouldn’t be driving I’d be able to see everything! I contacted them and made a reservation for the Mountain Majesty tour for that Friday – a 6 ½ to 7 hour tour that would take me the entire length of Going To The Sun Road and back. I could sit back and relax.

Thursday night I stayed in Kalispell, about 30 miles from West Glacier. I woke early that morning, excited about the day. It was quite cool, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It would be a glorious day. Wanting to give myself plenty of time, I left about 7:15 and started my drive to Glacier. The sun was shinging brightly in my eyes the whole way, but when I got to Columbia Falls, a pine covered mountain appeared before me, so large that it blackened the sky! I continued to drive alongside it, with the Flathead River sparkling on the other side of me. Deeper and deeper I drove into the pine covered mountains. I arrived at the admission gate, showed my pass to the Ranger, got my map and entered the park! As soon as I did, a doe bounded across the road – I looked to my left and along with her were two little white spotted fawns! So beautiful!

I'm finally there!

I’m finally there!

I arrived at the Apgar Visitors Center right at 8am. My pickup time wasn’t until 8:45, so I took that time to walk a bit around the center. It was so quiet and awe inspiring that I felt a reverence, not unlike being in a beautiful cathedral.




At 8:45am I checked in for my Red Bus Tour! My driver’s name was Bill, and he’d been driving these tours on and off for the past 20 years. Here’s a Red Bus. The tops are made out of canvas so that they can roll back and everyone can see all of the park out of the top!

Red Bus and Bill!

Red Bus and Bill!

The tour took about 7 hours, with a one hour break for lunch. We drove the entire length of Going To The Sun Road and then back. Folks, I really just can’t find the words to describe the awe inspiring, absolute MAJESTY of Glacier National Park, and I won’t even try. What I will do is post many of the 200 pictures I took on the tour. I hope you enjoy them. I will say that  my visit to Glacier exceeded BY FAR every expectation I had. It is truly the most amazing place I have EVER been in my life.



































The Elusive View at Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake was unknown to me until a dear friend sent me a message saying she’d seen a segment on this beautiful place on CBS Sunday Morning. I’d researched it –  it is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. I’d  looked at images and pictures and couldn’t wait to see THIS  in person.

Flathead Google pic

The picture in my head

I had been staying in Missoula which is south of Flathead Lake. I made a reservation the following  night in Kalispell, which is north of Flathead Lake. I had two choices: to drive from south to north on one side of Flathead Lake (either 93 or 35) and only see half of it, or to drive all the way around and then back up again. Since I was starting so early that day, and had nothing else to do, I decided to see the entire lake and then some. So, I left Missoula early and started the hour drive north to Flathead Lake on Route 93. Soon I began to see some beautiful mountains on my right. I stopped at a little informational pulloff and saw that they were the beautiful Mission Mountains.


Mission Mountain Range

Mission Mountain Range

Continuring on, I saw some friendly faces along the way and stopped and said good morning.



Finally I came to a scenic view pulloff and there it was, in the distance, my first view of Flathead Lake!

Flathead Lake - in the distance

Flathead Lake – in the distance

I pulled into the little tourist town of Polson, MT, right at the southern tip of the lake. I decided to start driving up the lake on the eastern side, Route 35. Starting my quest to find the view that I’d seen so many times on Google. I couldn’t wait!

The picture in my head

The picture in my head

I drove on this beautiful scenic drive, but there didn’t seem to be a good view of the lake yet, and certainly no good places to pull off!  The road was very narrow and windy. I did see many cherry stands, so I stopped and picked up 2 pounds for $5!!



Continuing my drive, I found a little state park and pulled into that, hoping to get access to the lake. I walked down to the shore and looked out onto the lake. Beautiful, but still hadn’t found the elusive spot.


State Park on the lake

State Park on the lake






I made it to the town of Bigfork. I’d read about this town – great views of Flathead Lake! But hmmm… direct access to the lake.

I was now at the northern edge of the lake. Everything I’d read had indicated that the east side had the best views. But, it was early and I had plenty of day left, so I drove west on 82 until I reached 93 and turned south, hoping that the west side of the lake drive would bring me to this view:

The picture in my head

The picture in my head

I saw another likely spot and pulled into the Lakeside Volunteer Park. I walked down to the edge of the water, and stepped in. Oh, so cold and nice! And so clear!!!

Volunteer Park in Lakeside

Volunteer Park in Lakeside



After leaving the town of Lakeside, I found a nice spot to pull off at the side of the road and took these lovely shots.



Still searching for the elusive view, I continued my drive and found another state park and walked down, snapped some shots, and enjoyed the view.





I’d almost completely made it back to Polson – and then I hit some construction. One lane road ahead, so the workers were stopping traffic and bringing a group through with a pilot car. I sat there in the hot sun for about 30 minutes. I knew I would NOT be coming back up this side of the lake! After I got through the road work, I hit the last state park on that side and relaxed for about 20 minutes.





I ended up back  in the town of Polson again and headed back up the east side of the lake again, heading towards Kalispell and my motel for the night. I didn’t think I missed a good view the first time around, but I kept looking. I had seen a perfect spot for lunch on the way up, so I stopped and had a delicious emu burger!!!

Emu! it was good!

Emu! it was good!

I finished lunch and headed north towards Kalispell, away from Flathead Lake. Lesson I learned from the day: Sometimes we have a picture in our mind of what we are going to see or a story of how something is going to turn out. And often that doesn’t happen. I never did see the spectacular images of Flathead Lake that I’d seen on my computer. Who knows what season it had been taken, the time of day, what kind of camera, from what angle-all those variables. But despite that, I had a wonderful time driving the lake today and it is indeed unbelievably beautiful. (but it would have been nice to have seen this!)

The picture in my head

The picture in my head