Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Products of Fall Harvest

 Each year, I spend time producing items from fresh produce to use in the winter. It is not that we actually have shortages of groceries, but more that I am used to making my own stuff and like what I make.

Let's talk Pumpkin puree. I make pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin pie. I make those items for gifts or meals or fun. But I am not so sure that I like canned pumpkin. It always tastes canned and bland. So when pumpkins are available, I make my own puree from fresh roasted pumpkin. I blend different types of squash to get a rich flavor and deep color. I then freeze the puree in 2 cup or 1 cup measures. Over the next 3 months, I will have lovely pumpkin dishes right in my own garage.

And what about chili. Always a great dish when you are tired of cooking. It tastes better after the flavors have blended. I pack 2 servings in a glass container and freeze it, too. And fresh corn on the cob gets cut off the cob and frozen. I have dehydrated vegetables for making soups. Doggie biscuits made with real meat. Canned jams and jellies. The larder is full. 

But most people don't do this. Up here in the far north of Washington, we sometimes have shortages of items. The cost of fresh produce fluctuates and the quality suffers. Sometimes the roads are snowy and difficult to use. We get power outages, too. With a supply of candles and batteries, I can make a nice dinner on a gas burner and wait out the outage. A bit of effort and planning can relieve a lot of potential stress.

When I lived in Southern California, there was always the threat of earthquake or power outages, drought, and union strikes. I learned how to keep prepared for a week of trouble with supply and services. This knowledge and theses skills have transferred well to this northern area I now live in. But even up here, the skills are rarely seen in other people.

When Thanksgiving comes, I am so ready to stop working hard and start enjoying the bounty I have stashed away. I celebrate most of December with nice dinners and friends. As the various products work down through the winter, I am blessed with memories of the abundance of the summer and fall. I hope everyone has the abundance in their lives as well.

Enjoy each season and each blessing.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Travel Issues in Current times

 My last few blogs were about accessibility in Yellowstone National Park. But traveling along the roads has some ups and downs, too. We left from Bellingham, Wa, in the North west corner of Washington State. We can't drive straight east as there is no pass. But we could travel south on the 5 to the eastern part of Seattle and turn east there on the 90. We took the 90 straight to Cor D'Alene in Idaho.

When the weather is good, there is a road that winds through the mountains and gets to eastern Washington before turning south to pick up the 90. That is the 2. The 2 has a couple of rest stops up the mountain and turns East from Burlington instead of Seattle. Longer but more scenic.

On our way home from Yellowstone, we missed the last rest stop on the 90 and had to drive through awful traffic north. If I had known I would have taken the road to Burlington. It wasn't just the awful traffic, though. We encountered a mob of homeless people who had taken over the rest area when we finally got north of Marysville. It was a bit intimidating so we ate lunch in the car and hurried on.

The Burlington path, 2, would have put us out onto the 5 north of Marysville/Everett. So we would have missed the awful part of the traffic. But the situation at the rest stops has become so bad that the Highway administration is shutting down all rest stops north of Seattle to the Canadian Border. This closure will last until spring 2022.

As a driving society, these rest stops have become a necessary part of the trip. Toilets. Areas to eat lunch and stretch. Walk the pets. Or even rest your eyes for half an hour. These rest stops have become winter homes for the homeless. Toilets. Running water. Dry shelter and electricity. Trees for privacy. Flat areas for tents. Room to have friends and park your car.

We did not encounter any homeless people east of Seattle or in Montana or in Idaho. Or in Wyoming or at Yellowstone. But the situation on the west coast is dreadful. And it is so bad that traveling people are having to carefully plan their travel to accommodate their needs and avoid trouble, traffic, inconvenience and road work. Many of the common fast food chains have shut down their restrooms and dining areas for take out only. Gas stations have shut down their restrooms. Night or weekend travel is more precarious. 

For Accessibility, this means needing to take what ever you can get when ever you can get it. Or get a motorhome or trailer with facilities. Very Expensive option. Or don't travel in winter. Eduard and I have counted on Rest Stops on all of our trips. We now have to plan better and find options.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Yellowstone Park, day 4, accessibility

 This day is a bit different from the other three days. We were anticipating a 9 hour driving day to get back to Cor D'Alene where we would spend a night. We had to repack stuff for a one night hotel stay and we had to pack the car with everything again. Each day we had been putting our laundry into white bags and into the car so that the room did not get too full. The big suitcase was almost empty. We reloaded our small carry on cases with one night in mind. The box of equipment was organized and the ice chest was restocked with ice bags. Camera equipment was still an active part of the trip because were were spending the first 4 hours in the park. After eating breakfast and packing everything, we were ready to check out and hit the road at 8am. 

The goal of this last day was to drive to the NW entrance/exit and see the last part of the Grand Staircase/Mammoth hot springs. It was Friday and there was no traffic at the entrance to the Park. Odd feeling. We drove into the park and down the familiar 14 mile stretch to the junction. We headed north and this time we decided to enter the Norris Geyser Basin area. Parking lot was empty. There was a long dirt walkway between some tall trees and I could not see what was at the end. I could not tell how long the walk would be or what was at the end. I decided I had seen many geysers now and didn't need this one. We left and went north.

Driving North, we once again passed the Gibbon Falls and didn't stop. We passed familiar sights and debated whether we wanted to stop again. There was a place where the steam from a hot spring ran under the road and made a fog bank over the road. We stopped for some steamy pictures, then went on. There was no wild life, few cars, and not much to look at until we passed the upper level of the Mammoth Hot Springs. 

We wound down the hill to the bottom of the Mammoth Hot Springs area and parked in the first parking lot. There was a wooden path up to a viewing area but I didn't go. Stairs and tired legs from wandering around made me want to relax on this day. I wanted to conserve for the long drive. Then we went to the second parking lot. There was an area I could climb to and sit in my chair. The view was OK but to get the really good pictures you have to go up more and climb stairs. This is a massive feature and I preferred the top area to the lower area. The moon was setting over the springs so we got some artsy shots. 


About an hour later we were headed to the village at the North West gate. This was the first village at the park. It provided for the staff and rangers. There is a post office, some restaurants, hotels and housing. It is quite large and had some interesting architecture. We drove down the hill to find some restrooms before we exited the park. I didn't get out here to check for accessibility. There was lots of parking and handicap spaces but nothing I was interested in seeing. We skipped the gift shop and headed to the exit. Getting to the exit was a long drive. I was surprised. We drove along the Yellowstone river for awhile, through a gorge. People were fishing. Then we saw the Entrance/Exit gate and left. 

It took us about 4 hours to get out of the park, because we dawdled at each stop, but now we were on the road home. We had to wiggle around in a small city outside of the Park to get to the main highway, but before we knew it we were headed west and out into the wild rolling hills. It was really rather boring landscape after seeing so much inside the park. We stopped to take pictures of a herd of pronghorn. Then we went on, and on, and on. Montana is a big state. There are some interesting differences at some of the rest stops. There is one kind that is mostly for truckers. Little out house, big parking lot. No other stuff. Then there area the regular rest stops with real toilets and picnic areas. There are look out points with no facilities and nothing really to look at. And we decided to stop at a Rest Stop for lunch around 2pm. This was OK because we were going to fall back one hour on the clock due to passing a time zone. It was really only 1pm. I made sandwiches. We had yogurt and fruit. 


The drive to Missoula was almost 4 hours from the Park Exit. It was 4 hours from Missoula to the West Yellowstone Entrance. We still had another 4 hours to drive to Cor D'Alene. We got gas in Missoula at the Costco and headed on. We decided to get gas in the morning in Cor D'Alene. I was really tired. We ate a salad and crashed for the night. The drive home somehow was more difficult than the drive out. We missed the last rest stop before descending into the Seattle vortex and there was no place to pull out and have lunch. We had to pass Marysville before we could change drivers. I was the passenger and Eduard was driving for 3 hours in stop and go traffic. Saturday in the Seattle suburbs. We pulled over into the rest stop after Marysville and ate in the car. There was a homeless group working the area and intimidating people.

This blog is about accessibility in Yellowstone National Park. I have to say there were limitations but there were also wonderful things to experience. I managed to get to most of the major sites, have some reasonable walking with a walker or cane and enjoy the experience. Nobody was rude or impatient. I did have to tone down my expectations. I cannot walk or hike like I once did. But it was still fulfilling.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Yellowstone Park, Day 3, Accessibility

 We are getting really good at packing stuff for lunch and getting equipment into the car. We ate most of breakfast in the room, but snagged a bunch of stuff for the lunch also. Bearclaws and yogurt and fruit. We had been supplementing our lunches each day with small things. I would make a large sandwich for each of us and we would have tea or coffee. I would grab fruit and desserts, but both of us decided that half a sandwich was enough. So I made one sandwich and cut it in half. Grabbed the ice blocks, chilled meds, various foods and we were pretty much ready. Trash bags- we pack it in and pack it out.

Every night Eduard off loaded his camera to my computer and then to his storage device. We were ready again before 8am. Got gas first. Then hit the road. There are no gas stations where we were going but some of the little villages had gas inside the park. Better to be full before you go in. Also it is good to know that there are some emergency services. We saw a car accident, fender bender, near a bunch of bison. There was a tow truck and an officer of some kind. There are several emergency medical stations in the park but we did not need them this time. Just good to know. Cell service is spotty or non-existent. No internet either, in the park. 

We got into the park in 10 minutes and headed down the 14 mile scenic road. People were already fly fishing in the river.  We turned north at the intersection toward Norris Geyser field and stopped again at the Gibbon water fall. Last look. It is beautiful and we changed drivers. I drove to the next intersection and turned east to the grand canyon area. There is a Canyon Village at the east end of the road and the north road was closed for repairs. We turned south to find the grand canyon Virginia Cascade gorge and water fall. 


We first visited the North rim of the canyon. Nice parking and viewing areas. Toilets. Lots of people. And a short walk to the viewing area. This part is off the main road, which goes to Inspiration Point. Beautiful views of the gorge and canyon. Colors, landslide areas, vastness and sense of size. But not really too photograph interesting. After visiting the different parking lots we headed to the south side of the canyon. My legs had been tired so I only walked a short bit and did some viewing, but it was pretty. Not as pretty as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but interesting and beautiful.


The south side of the Canyon was more interesting. You can see the water fall and bridge, and river, and lots of people. Eduard got lots of great shots. There is a path you can walk to the bridge. It is long and rather flat, but I didn't want to do it. I only went a short distance. It is 6 miles to the other side of the canyon, over the bridge and up the path.  So people were going to make this walk. I wondered if they had a ride back to the car after they got there. No taxis here. No shuttle. 6 miles each way. One couple said it would take them all day and they would have lunch on the other side. I am about 8 years past this in my ability to hike a long way. So my mind was saying, "this is a job opportunity. Park on one side and drive people back to their cars for a fee." 

Eduard took lots of pictures before we headed to Artists Point. This is down the road from the main parking lot for the south rim. It is pretty much a small parking lot with a viewing trail down to a viewing area. I stayed in the car. Eduard took pictures. 

Next stop was the Mud Volcanos. We were headed toward the Yellowstone Lake and turned off to the mud volcanos. This area was easy to access but for some reason I don't have much memory of it. A bit of a hike, not much sulfur smell, but just not memorable for me. I don't think I walked very far. The bottom area near the parking is very accessible. A short ramp up to a walking platform takes you to more mud pots. One was the mud volcano and another was the Dragon breath mud pot. These are interesting features and shift with time to new areas. The walkway is nice up a bit, but kind of rough near the parking lot. Not long and worth a look. We were getting kind of ready for lunch, so it was not a really long stay.


After leaving the mud pots we found a turn out to a lake spur and had lunch near the car. We had brought a small folding table and a chair for Eduard. I used my walker/chair. We paused to enjoy the quiet and beautiful area with maybe 6 other cars well spaced apart. It was warm out and we found a shady area to pull over. Ducks were the entertainment feature. And trees. And a lapping lake. After a nice rest we decided to head back to the Hotel. We were now on the east side of the main center loop of the park. I wanted to go back doing the full loop so that we could drive past the places we had been the first day. It is about 2 hours back to the hotel. We passed wild life and Old Faithful. And it was beginning to seem like someplace we knew instead of a foreign environment. We stopped to swap drivers every hour so that we didn't get too tired. And we made it back to town. We decided to fill the gas tank before we went to the hotel. We were leaving in the morning to head back and wanted to drive through the park to the North West entrance.

There is a lot of driving in Yellowstone. If you take buses, you spend a lot of time getting on and off buses and waiting for people. Driving yourself is well worth the effort and gas. I did not see any buses with wheel chair lifts or ramps. This means that you need to have your own transportation if you are physically challenged. Buses go to the main attractions. If you are looking for some of the out of the way sights, you need a car.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Yellowstone Park again, Day 2

 Sometimes, when you take a trip with lots of driving, when you get home you are tired. But there is much to do to unpack, clean up, do laundry, buy groceries. About the second or third day home you collapse in exhaustion. That was yesterday. I could not even write a blog. All my effort just to make dinner. Eduard slept in a long time. He was feeling it, too.

So now I will proceed with my Yellowstone Park review of Accessibility- Day 2. Pictures will be included as they get edited.

We entered the park a little later in the morning. Almost 9 am. No line. Fast entry with passes. All the lanes are open to passes, but the far right lane is only for passes and pre-paid tickets. It moves a little bit faster than the other lanes, but on this day, there was little traffic. We entered and drove the 14 miles to the intersection. We had planned to head north this time. The north side takes you to the turn for the Canyon, Norris geyser basin, and the Grand Staircase- Mammoth hot springs. There are a couple of other things along the way.

Our first stop was Gibbon Falls. This is a lovely overlook of the river and falls. The base of the river is hard black stone. It contrasts well with the foaming white water. A beautiful river and the falls have several levels. The upper viewing area is great for accessibility. Railings, smooth walkways, gentle slopes, good parking. If you walk down a bit you get to a viewing platform for a better look at both the first and second falls steps. I stayed on top and enjoyed the sound and view of the river and first step of the falls.


We drove on north to the intersection of-  West to Norris Geyser, North to Mammoth Hot Springs, East to the Almost Grand Canyon. This time we went north. We were planning on going North again on the last day so we skipped Norris Geyser Basin. this is where we started to notice the smell of sulfur. It starts out smelling of gun powder or fire crackers. Then the smell gets stronger as you head north.

We did not see much wildlife or birds. The weather was cool and clear, the roads were nice. Not much traffic. We stopped at Artist Paint Pots. This area is pretty flat. Good parking. Out house style toilets. There is a 1/2 mile walk to the viewing areas. The right side takes you to some low level mud pots and a nice walk way for viewing them. The left side takes you to the not too accessible mud pots and geysers. I went left. I could do this with a walker. There were no benches or seating areas. There was one area of the walk that was messy, and there was a nice platform before the stairway. I stayed on the platform. I could see the continuous geyser and some other bubbling pools. The water in the stream was somewhat like the prismatic springs. Colorful but not large. Eduard climbed the stairs to the top and took lots of pictures. There is another geyser up there and some colorful pools. After he was done with the stairs, we walked over to the other viewing area. Flat with bubbling mud pots. Nice wooden walkway, but not very interesting.


Norris Geyser overlook- This is a nice parking lot. Not much else. You can look out over the geyser field hidden by trees and see a couple of frequently shooting geysers. Far away. You can skip this. We didn't even get out of the car.

Mammoth Hot Springs- This feature has an upper and lower level. We went to the upper level. The first parking lot has an accessible walk way for going out on the springs for a close up view. The next up parking lot is bigger and has lots of stairs going down. This is where we parked. I got out and walked around the upper flat area but did not attempt the stairs. Eduard took pictures for about a hour and we had lunch in the car. There were no picnic tables or other facilities, but the views were great. Like surround sound only visual. 360 degree features. The sulfur smell is strong but not unbearably. When we left we found even more lovely features. We stopped three times before we exited this area. I was able to walk with my cane to these sites. Close to the road and some you can see from the car. There were no toilets up here so we continued north to the lower level.

Traffic jam. Road work. Long wait. We made a U-turn at a pull out and headed south. It was a long day already and we were going to head home through this area, so we skipped the lower level for today. It took over an hour and a half to drive back but this was actually a shorter day than the first day. We stopped at an outhouse style toilet part way down to Norris Geyser Basin. 

This area has some mobility issues and some sulfur issues. If you have sensitive breathing issues you may actually need to skip this part. After we got back to the hotel, we noticed that we smelled of sulfur. Our urine smelled of sulfur for two days. You are breathing it in and ingesting it. 

Here I want to remind you that this is the inside of a volcano. It is a risky place all the time. The features change over the years. The trees die or fall, the ground moves, the ground has thin spots, the streams change paths, the air is less than good quality, but it is beautiful and exciting. Don't push yourself too hard.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Yellowstone Park again- Day One

 It took us about 15 minutes to enter the park from the Hotel. There was a line of cars, but it moved well. All 4 lanes were open. It was freezing cold out and there was some ice around, but the roads were safe. After we entered the park, we drove for 14 miles to an intersection. Where do you want to go? Plan this in advance. We headed to the Prismatic springs and Old Faithful. Then we would go on to Yellowstone Lake and have lunch. We packed a picnic and snacks for an all day outing. This picture is of Pronghorn outside the park on the drive into West Yellowstone.


Prismatic Springs- I needed my walker. A powered chair would have been nice, but too wide for the boardwalk. You can only have 1/2 of the width you know so that people can get by. There is a boardwalk that climbs the hillside. I stopped at the first platform. It was totally fogged in from the hot water hitting the cold air. And the boardwalk was frozen over. Very Dangerous conditions for the mobility challenged. But I could see enough color and experience the pools. We decided to return later in the afternoon.


There were about 4 handicapped designated parking spaces. The doors on the outhouse toilets were wide enough for a wheel chair or walker, but not a power chair. Would not be able to turn around your vehicle. Sidewalks and ramps were OK. I am glad I brought my own chair. There was one small, wet bench that could seat 2 on the walk and a couple of places at the bottom where you could sit and rest.

Old Faithful- great access. Lots of benches. Good walkways. Get there a bit early for a front row seat. Lots of disability parking. Need to stroll or walk a good distance but not a long way. There is a nice walkway around the viewing area. Suitable for motorized wheel chairs or walkers. A lovely area. Toilet facilities had ramps and flush toilets. We were there about an hour and had a great time. Eduard ran around taking pictures and I sat and took pictures. 


The south part of the park, Prismatic Springs and Old Faithful did not have a lot of sulfur smell. Lots of animals on the side of the road to watch. Seemed to have a traffic jam for every Bison. A pretty drive.

Around the Bend- at the junction in the south end you can head down out of the park or continue east to the Yellowstone Lake west Thumb area. We found a nice place to have a picnic on that side. We are now about 60 miles into the park and the lake is lovely. The road climbs up and over the divide a couple of times. If you have altitude issues it is good to be warned that Yellowstone, or most of it is above 6000 feet. My limit is now about 6500 ft and I had to struggle sometimes with breathing. Half way around the lake we headed back to the Prismatic springs for a warmer, clearer view. We found wild animals and some pretty little springs. The parking situation at the Prismatic Springs was awful. Long wait to get in but there was a parking spot. Hubby took photos for an hour and I sat in my chair and enjoyed the springs again.


Time to return to the hotel. We spent 7 hours driving around and looking at stuff. Most of the toilets were out house style. No water or concessions. Be prepared to pack most of what you need. There was toilet paper and sometimes hand sanitizer. 

This ends day one and I have not got the pictures in yet. I will write more tomorrow and add the pictures into this post.

Yellowstone National Park, accesibility

I grew old before I could get there. And with age there are sometimes disabilities or lower energy. So what was it like with a walker, walking sticks, or a wheel chair? Fabulous!!! Three exclamation points. Five Stars!

We had planned to visit the National Parks right after we moved to northern Washington State. We would be retired and have lots of time on a budget of course. I prefer hotels to camping or motor homes. I used to camp a lot but now I am having a hard time with it. So hotels are the choice. Soon after getting into our new house in Bellingham, my mom needed to come stay with us. 8 months of work and she passed surrounded with love and care and all her stuff. Another 2 months to clean out her stuff and have a memorial with the rest of the family in San Diego. Whew! That was a lot of work and driving and it was February 2020. On the way home from San Diego the world shut down behind us. Covid-19 was now in charge of our lives.

We had made reservations for the spring  2020 in Yellowstone, but everything shut down. Hotels. Federal parks. Restaurants. Rest stop toilets. The message was "stay home and stay safe", which we did. 2020 was happening in our house and on short road trips to the mountains to take pictures.

In August, we decided to go to Crater Lake. We could drive down and hotel camp one night, visit the park and hotel camp another night. Things were looking better and hotels were open so we booked one near the crater. Oh no! not going to happen. Fires were everywhere and the park was shut down. The hotel shut down. And Covid decided to spike again. We were just going to wait to get vaccinated before we traveled again. More home projects and local day trips. Outside of course. 6 ft separated. With masks.

This will eventually be about Yellowstone Park but the lead up is necessary. Near the end of 2020 I developed Knee problems and started using a walker or cane to get around. Slow, but functional. I can walk short distances with the cane but cannot stand in one place for any period of time. The walker is also a chair. I can use the cane at the grocery store or around the house, but for times when there is distance or standing, I use the walker. Getting up at night, I use the walker also. I started physical therapy. The Doctor said full knee replacement. One to two years of recovery time, if it doesn't reject or need a second surgery. I decided not to have surgery. 

2021-Time passes. We drove to San Diego to see my son's new house. It was Mother's Day 2021 and we had furnished their guest room. I was able to function and stay in hotels with accessibility rooms. I was still able to drive. On the way home we stopped at Crater Lake and a bunch of Bird preserves. We were vaccinated now, but still cautious. We ate every meal in the car or hotel room. It was a good trip and I enjoyed seeing my son and his wife again. When we got home we worked on the house for things we knew were coming. New roof. New paint. New deck. The summer passed and I was able to walk a bit more and sleep without pain. Still using cane and walker but more mobile.

Sometime during the summer of working on the house, the covid thing started to ease and we made reservations again for Yellowstone Park. Late September when the park is cooler and most of the crowds are gone, we would be able to drive there and see stuff. I could still drive and get around with the walker or cane, so I thought it would be good to go. We could camp in the room if necessary. Hotels were open. Parks were open. Gas stations were open. We packed the cooler and walker and clothing bags and hit the road in September. At the Autumnal Equinox. In the rain.

We had booked a hotel at the half way point of the long drive. And we shared driving one hour each time until we got there. We ate lunch at the rest stop and dinner in our room. So far so good. Day 2 was like Day 1, but ended at the West Yellowstone Best Western Hotel. Lunches on the road, dinner in the room. But the breakfast area would be open at the hotel so I could supplement our food box. 

Now we were there and tired and ready and excited. It was snowing and freezing cold.

This blog continues in a new page. With pictures. Read on.