Within a mile of the Ohio River, West Virginia made a definite transition from valley to Appalachia. Rolling hills gave way to steep mountains and narrow, twisty, up-and-down roads – as well as gorgeous foliage. And it stayed that way until the Hudson River, with the exception of the rolling hills along the Susquehanna River Valley in south central Pennsylvania.
Just because we’re heading back to VT doesn’t mean we can’t explore new places. However, with ski season (read: snow) on the horizon, we’re aware our schedule is no longer timeless. We opted to explore the Ohio River Valley. We’ve been to the source in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and to Paducah, Illinois near where it joins the Mississippi. From prior travels, we’ve learned that river valleys tend to have unique stories and a sense of inter-connectivity. And we’d get to see a slice of the other 4 states along the river: Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Did we mention snow? We planned a quick truck maintenance and re-provisioning stop in Utah. While tucked into a Walmart with an award-winning view of the Utah mountains, we checked the weather forecast for routes east through the Rockies. Hmmm… The forecast was for snow and unusually cold temps for mid-October – nights in the teens – for the next 3 days.
I recently read an article that referred to social media as a way to live ‘a perfectly curated life.’ Hmmm, is that what we’re doing with this blog? Featuring the perfect? Sweeping everything else under the proverbial analog rug?
Not really. We’re genuinely having great fun. Some days are outrageous – we climb mountains, see unbelievable views, swim in crystal clear lakes. We do tend to emphasize these in our posts, though some days are ordinary and we do laundry and go grocery shopping, while other days have hiccups like flat tires and roads suggested by GPS that turn into singletrack. It’s all part of the great adventure.
We’ve known Nancy and David since… May. Yes – this May, this year, on this trip. We were introduced to them by our friends Mark and Linda at our Lake Powell rendezvous and it seems like we’ve been friends for years. Or, as Nancy suggested, perhaps we knew each other in another life…
Having skirted the worst of the smoke, we entered the North Cascades National Park from the west, up wind from the nearest wildfires. Although the air quality was improved – it smelled like a 24/7 campfire but it didn’t hurt to breathe – the skies were still smoky and views obscured. Oh, and add to the wildfires a record breaking epic heat wave torturing the Pacific Northwest. We’d figure out how to turn this into an adventure…
We left Glacier intending to head west toward North Cascades National Park. We meandered through western Montana, following the Clark Fork Valley through pretty pine forests, reaching Lake Pend D’Oreille in Idaho. The pine forests gave way to rolling hills and eventually those amber waves of grain (the wheat belt of eastern Washington). Cresting a hill, we got our first view of the Columbia River Valley in the form of Lake Roosevelt, behind the Grand Coulee Dam. Following the river, which retains a certain natural beauty despite having been heavily engineered for power generation and irrigation, we passed through miles of fruit orchards surrounded by green hills and more sagebrush.
Stan and Cyndee were driving their new truck camper from Vermont to Big Sky, Montana. We were on our way from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. The paths would cross, but the timing was off and it appeared we wouldn’t get to meet up (does this sound familiar?). Then the sun set, Jupiter aligned with Mars, schedules changed just a teeny bit, and we found ourselves a window of opportunity. We held over an extra day at a free campground overlooking the Yellowstone River, conveniently close to an air-conditioned museum on that scorching day in Columbus, Montana, then took a short detour to the south to meet our friends as they arrived at their destination.