Monday, August 31, 2009

West End Highlights

Makah Days Festival
Hoh Rain Forest
Sorry it is so SUNNY!!
Everything is covered with epiphytes.
The Hoh River with the Olympic Mountains.
Some colorful fun-gis we saw along the trail.
Scenes from Forks
The tidal pool and along the beach.
This fog bank burned off to reveal the blue sky below.

Mount Olympus on the drive from the beach.

We have moved to the west side of Olympic National Park and are staying at the Hard Rain Cafe, Mercantile and RV Park just outside the entrance of the park. As if to live up to its name it began to rain shortly after we arrived but it rained so little that there is still a burn ban in the back country of the rain forest. The campground is near the town of Forks that is "famous" for being the home of the Twilight series of vampire and werewolf books. We can't honestly say we had ever heard of them before we came here and we have not seen any of those bloodsuckers though Nanc has been attacked by a couple mosquitoes.

Our first day here we drove back to Neah Bay in the Makah Nation to attend the Makah Days Festival. The day started over 80 years ago when an American flag was raised over the reservation to show their loyalty to the government. We learned about the tradition and festival from Edward, the tribal elder, we met when we visited the museum. Over 5000 native people from as far away as Alaska were there to participate in the event. In many ways it was a typical festival with artisans selling everything from handmade crafts and jewelry to others selling authentic Chinese imported Indian knockoffs. One of the highlights was the food that also ranged from your usual festival fried fare to a meal of salmon they were cooking in the old style on an open fire. We had the salmon dinner that included potatoes, corn, beans, bread and cantaloupe. It was wonderful!! For entertainment, native dances were performed by Makah children and a group from Alaska. An unusual event was a group of Japanese citizens who had traveled here to perform as a way of thanking the Makah ancestors for saving the lives of three sailors who were from their village 175 years ago. The sailors then made it across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, BC where they learned English and upon their return to Japan wrote the first Japanese translation of the Bible. It was interesting hearing the story of how these two distant peoples were linked. Another big event was the canoe races that were a way to celebrate the Makah whale hunting tradition. They are the only tribe still allowed by treaty to hunt gray whales. The races started with singles, then doubles, then mixed doubles and ended with a very long race in eleven man boats. In every race at least one canoe overturned dumping the paddlers into the chilly ocean water. Each tribe was represented by a team and you could tell there were intense inter tribal rivalries. All in all it was a great day and we would highly recommend it if you are in the area near the end of August. Be warned, if you want the salmon dinner get in line early as they sold out.

On Sunday we visited the third distinct environment in Olympic National Park, the Hoh Rain Forest. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your expectations, it was a beautiful bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky. We had mixed feelings about that since it was lacking the total effect of the rain forest. That said it was better getting dusty rather than muddy on the hike we took. We started through the Hall of Mosses where the 12 to 14 feet of rain they get here each year has resulted in huge conifers and big leaf maples that are draped in an otherworldly covering of epiphytes. The trees are some of the tallest in the world and it is hard to capture the ghoulish look of this place. We then hiked along part of the Hoh River, a fifty mile long glacial fed stream that is the color of milk from the glacial silt. While August is the driest month here and the river was not at its maximum flow, its power is still evident by the number of large trees and the wide gravel beds it has left behind as it recedes after the winter rains and the spring melt.

On our last day here we drove to Forks to tour the Timber Museum and, as with the best laid plans, we discovered it was closed on Monday. We did cruise through the visitors center and took a pic of a truck that has something to do with Twilight, but we don't know what. There is also more evidence of this throughout the town. I guess we are just not into vampires. We then decided we would visit another Olympic National Parks coastal area and drove to Rialto Beach where we enjoyed a 3.5 mile hike along the Pacific. The tide was going out and we were able to explore the tidal pool and collect a couple interesting small objects along the shore. This ends our stay on the peninsula and we have had a great time checking out the many different areas. The weather for the most part has been great and even when it was overcast in the AM it often burned off creating bright sunny afternoons. The temperatures have been perfect and we have not used either the AC or the furnace. Our next stop is back in Olympia to spend another week with Dave and Kazuko before heading south.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

On the Edge of the Continent

Beautiful Lake Crescent
The Steeler Nation and driving under the fog.
Nanc and Jim at Cape Flattery with the lighthouse in the background.
Literally on the edge.
Outside the Makah Museum.
Following the cedar board path through the woods and then hiking the beach.
Ozette Island off the coast.
The Tidal Pool
Animals we saw along the beach. The raccoons were too quick.
Sol Duc Hot Springs

We have moved to Sam's RV Park in Clallam Bay, WA near the Northwestern most point of the lower 48. The drive here was spectacular beginning with the morning fog lifting off the water. We then drove through many miles of forest, several miles of which ran right along the shore of Lake Crescent, a large glacial lake in Olympic National Park. This lake is the deepest in Washington and the color of the water and sky were beautiful. Along the way we passed a house with a huge banner proclaiming "You're in Steelers Country," once again proving the Steeler Nation is everywhere.

This is an area where I am getting to fulfill my quest to go on roads that just end. The road to Cape Flattery, the most Northwest point, is a twisting turning two lane road along the Strait of Juan fe Fuca. It is well worth the drive and a short hike, as the point offers a wonderful view of the strait, the Pacific and Tatoosh Island on which sits the Cape Flattery Lighthouse. There were seals and many birds on the rocks and in the water. We just missed seeing gray whales that passed by before we arrived. We have now been to the opposite ends of the US as we previously visited Key West the Southeastern most point of the contiguous states. Surprisingly, as the crow flies they are less that 2900 miles apart.

Cape Flattery is on the Makah Indian Reservation that is the home of the Makah Museum / Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay. The center houses one of the finest collections of precontact tribal artifacts in the US. The collection is from Ozette, a Makah Village that has been called the American Pompeii because it was buried in a mudslide nearly 500 years ago. The site remained buried until it was exposed by a Pacific storm in the 1970's and the archaeological dig which followed found that thousands of items had been preserved by the mud. Three of the five longhouses in the village were excavated and many items are exhibited to give a complete look at the way of life of these earliest Americans. The display also includes replicas of dugout canoes and a full size longhouse. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed. We did get to talk at length with Edward Claplanhoo, a Makah elder, about their culture. The Makah are ancestrally related to the First Nation people of British Colombia and not to any of the other six tribes on the Olympic Peninsula. Edward told us about his pet project, a veterans park honoring the nearly 300 Makah who have served in the US military from WWI to the present. This museum is a must see for anyone who travels to this remote corner of the country.

Another day we took a different road that just ends so we could go to another US extreme, the Western most point Cape Alava. Here we visited a second of the three distinct areas of Olympic National Park, the coast. After driving on a road where the one sign declared "No Warning Signs Next 21 miles," we arrived at the Lake Ozette rangers station. From there you can choose one of two three mile hikes to Cape Alava or Sandpoint on the ocean, or you can hike out one trail, walk three miles along the water and return on the other. The choice was really between a six mile out and back or a nine mile loop hike and we opted for the nine which was no simple walk in the woods. From the station to the ocean the trails wind through forest with some open prairie and are mostly on a boardwalk because without it the large amount of rain they get here would turn them into huge mud paths. The walk along the ocean must be done at low tide because two head walls jut into the water at high tide making them impassible. We were rewarded with great views of the coast but that portion is not for the faint of heart, as much of it is walking across rocks and kelp in the tidal pools. Where we stopped for a snack we saw many birds, seals, and families of raccoons and deer. It was sad but interesting to see what human items littered the shore. There was everything from fishing net to tires and a water bottle with Asian writing. This is a great place to see a wee bit of the longest undeveloped coast in the US.

On our last day here we decided to soak our weary hiking bodies at the Sol Duc Hot Springs in the park. This was an ideal place for me because they had four nature spring pools that ranged from 75 degree river water to 109 degree mineral water in which I think you could have cooked lobster. I chose the cooler ones and it was wonderful to lie in the mineral laden water and just relax the afternoon away. We have had a grand time on the Northwest coast and have enjoyed fabulous weather. We are next heading to the rain forest so we will see if the weather will lives up to the name.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


People often ask why we do this and what we do with our time. After talking about it we thought a list might be the best way to show what we do and why we love this lifestyle. These are all from 2009.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Port Aransas
Mike and Loretta
Fulton Mansion
Christmas with new friends
Big Tree
Skimmer tour and Whooping Cranes
Mark and Renita
USS Lexington
Center for the Art
New Years Eve with friends
Watersedge Happy Hour Gang
Georgie and Tom
South Padre Island, TX
Meeting Class of 07 mates at Pepe's
Stu and Donna
Port Isabel Lighthouse
Sabal Palms Audubon
Boca Chia
Steeler's Super Bowl Party
Joe and Jin
Progresso, Mexico
World Birding Center
Smitty's Jukebox Museum
Bentsen Rio Grande State Park
Los Fresnos Rodeo
Austin bats
Jill, John and Dave
Chicken Sh_t Bingo
Little Longhorn Saloon
Texas Capitol
6th Street
Class of 07 Reunion and Mates
Dave and Kathy
Bill and Leslie
Jim and Bobbie
John and Sue
Greg and Jean
Howie and Norah
Joe and Marcia
Hank and Patty
Tom and Paula
Bob and Molly
John and Mary Nan
Jim and Faye
Amistad National Recreation Area
Seminole Canyon State Park
Judge Roy Bean -- Law West of the Pecos
Big Bend National Park
Santa Elena Canyon
Soaking in a hot springs
Lost Mine Trail
Victor singing in Boquilla Canyon
Pinnacle Trail
Aussies Joe and Deb
Ft. Davis National Historical Site
McDonald Observatory Star Party
Marfa Lights
Paisano Hotel
White Sands National Monument
Cloudcroft, NM
New Restaurants
New Mexico Museum of Space History
Matilda the Camel
Lincoln National Forest
Sunspot, NM
National Solar Observatory
Jim and Chris -- Geeks on Tour
Easter potluck with SKPs
Ted and Lois
Rockhound State Park
Poncha Villa State Park
Columbus, NM Museum
Tombstone, AZ shootout
Rick and Terry
Saguaro National Park
Taliesen West
Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Linda Rocks
Sedona and Red Rocks
Montezuma Castle National Memorial
Jerome, AZ
Grand Canyon National Park
Bright Angel Trail
South Kaibab Trail
Rim Trail
Marie and Lolita
Las Vegas, NV
Treasure Island
Caesars Palace
New York New York
MGM Grand
Fremont Street Experience
Mike and Sherri
Grand Canyon Skywalk
Hoover Dam
Death Valley National Park
Scotty's Castle
Rhyolite, NV
Goldwell Open Air Museum
Reno, NV
Empire Mine State Park
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park
Sutter's Mill
Healdburg, CA
Sonoma Valley, CA
GTO Restaurant
Bodega Bay, CA
Avenue of the Giants
Redwood National Park
Lost Coast and Shelter Cove, CA
Pacific Coast Scenic Highway
Trees of Mystery
Humbug Mountain Trail
Seals and sea lions
Chainsaw carvings
Penguins win the Stanley Cup
Oregon Dunes National Park
Cape Arago Lighthouse
Umpqua River Lighthouse
John Dellenback Dunes Trail
Shore Acres State Park
Allan and Sharon
Free mussels
"D" River
Rouge Brewery
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Depoe Bay, OR
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Spouting horns
Cape Kiwanda Dune
Newport, OR
Sea Lion Cave
Tillimook and Blue Heron Cheeses
3 Capes Scenic Loop
Munson Creek Falls
Ft. Vancouver National Historical Site
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Dave and Kazuko
Allan and Breadon
Mt. Rainer National Park
Meeting Class of 07 mates in the Pacific Northwest
Steve and Sandy
John and Lori
Navy jets
Vancouver, BC
Rick and Denise
Stanley Park
Granville Island
Museum of Anthropology
Sun Yat-Sun Garden
Los Pinguos
Guemes Island Ferry
Farmer's markets
Anacortes Arts Festival
Anacortes Mural Project
Fort Casey State Park
Keystone - Port Townsend Ferry
Fort Flagler State Park
Port Townsend, WA
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge
The Dungeness Spit
New Dungeness Light Station
Olympic National Park
Hurricane Ridge
Dungeness River Audubon bird walk
Fort Worden State Park
Olympic Discovery Trail

Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Olympic Peninsula

Hiking in Olympic National Park on a crowded day.
Sharon and Allan in Port Townsend
Out with the birders.
From the road to Hurricane Ridge we could see Mt. Baker and the New Dungeness Lighthouse.
From Hurricane Ridge; The bright spot in the middle is the sun reflecting off a building in Victoria, BC.
A panorama of the Olympic Mountains.
Glacier covered Mt. Olympus and some of the animals we saw.
Spots in Port Townsend that were in the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.

We awoke Sunday to a blue nearly cloudless sky and decided to go to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park even though it was a free admission day and would be crowded. As expected, the visitors center in Port Angeles was overrun with people, but unexpectedly we learned a landslide had closed the road to the ridge. We were only able to drive about five miles and had to settle for a short hike through an old growth forest. It was a great forest walk but there were no views of the surrounding land and sea.

On Monday, Allan And Sharon took the ferry from Whidbey Island and we picked them up and showed them around the area. We went to a campground right on the waterfront in Port Townsend and then drove out to the SKP park where we are staying. We later explored a few shops, had lunch overlooking the water at Fins and delivered them back to the ferry landing. We enjoyed the day as the weather continued to be clear and sunny.

On Tuesday we took advantage of being in a SKP park, where washing your rig is allowed, and did a complete inside and outside cleaning including washing the roof to cut down on some of the chalking that runs down the sides. Now washing the roof is something I never had to do when we lived in a stix and brix.

With the great weather continuing we had a really big day on Wednesday. We set the alarm:( for 6:30 AM and drove to the Dungeness River Audubon Center to go on a bird walk. This was a first for us and we had a grand time. We have a bird book and often try to identify birds we see but we have never gone to an organized event. Sue and Dave Woodson (?) neighbors we met in the park told us about it and we figured it would be fun. A group of about twenty strolled along a path and pointed out many different species. They had a spotting scope so we got very good looks. Even though we were amateurs, we were made to feel very welcome and the group was very helpful on ways to spot birds and we did see a couple birds we had not seen before. We did learn if birding is going to become a bigger interest, we are going to have to do a serious optics upgrade. As in all things, you have to have the right equipment.

After the bird walk we took advantage of the Olympic Discovery Trail to work on our year three goal to do more biking and rode from Sequim to Port Angeles, a 33 mile round trip. With this ride we have already passed last year's total miles. As part of our commitment to this goal we have purchased new tires, a new pump and replaced our helmets which were 33 years old. It was well passed time wouldn't you say?? The trail is part of an extensive and growing on and off road biking system on the peninsula. Most of the portion we travelled was a rails to trails which was once the route of the Seattle Port Angeles Railroad. From our starting point we rode through farmland and then into the forest. As we neared Port Angeles the trail ran right along the water. One big difference from other rail trails we have ridden was the many steep hills where it crossed over streams. This was really kind of nice since where there were hard climbs in one direction we could coast on the return. Usually, on rail trails you are pedaling the entire time.

We topped off Wednesday (literally) when we learned the road had reopened and we could drive the 17 miles and nearly one mile up to 5242 foot high Hurricane Ridge. We were rewarded with fantastic views. From the top you can look into the interior of the park and see the glacier covered peaks and in the other direction you can see across the Strait of Juan de Fuca all the way to Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. We could even see Mt. Baker over seventy miles away. It was rather unique to see the ice covered mountains then walk a short distance and see the water far below. We were so glad to get these clear days. The interior mountains are one of the three distinct areas of Olympic National Park. Even though these mountains are all under 8000 feet, they receive a huge amount of rain and snow as storms come in from the Pacific. Because most of the precipitation falls there, Sequim just northeast of the park is in a "blue hole" and only receives about 17 inches of rain a year. There are no roads that cross the park so the interior is only accessible by back country hiking. We are planning to visit the other two areas, the rain forest and coast, next week. Our stay in Washington has been well rewarded with the spectacular views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainer, Mt. Baker, and now the Olympic Range which includes Mt. Olympus.

Another unique thing about the Port Townsend area is that the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, was filmed here. So we decided to view it again and were able to borrow it at the park. It was neat being able to identify many of the locations used in the movie. We also couldn't believe how long ago the movie was made. WOW how time flies!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Port Townsend Area

The ferry ride to Port Townsend.
Around Port Townsend
Birds of Prey
Wildlife on the Dungeness Spit.
Driftwood on the spit. On the right; The lighthouse from afar and up close. Top left; Looking back from the top of the lighthouse.

We took the ferry from Whidbey Island and are now at the Evergreen Coho SKP Coop in Chimacum, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. The ferry was well worth the trip since it saved us over 130 miles of driving through the Seattle metro area. When we arrived Saturday afternoon we found the office closed and a sign to go to the dry camping area, but there were no sites there where our rig would fit. A friendly SKP told us there was a site with hook ups that was empty and he thought we could use it. We set up, went to the store, and found out when we returned he was wrong. We were told we had to move and park across three dry camp sites until Monday at 9AM when we could put our name on a list for a full hook up site. The site we moved from, and others, sat empty until Monday when we did get a site and plan to stay here a couple of weeks. Despite the "rules'' here it is a very nice place with many things to do and see in the area. Just be warned that if you arrive after the office closes on Friday be prepared to dry camp until at least Monday and being prepared means having a full water tank and empty holding tanks because the dump station and potable water are locked. We were happy to see SKP Class of 07 mate Marty Cassidy, who is from the area, was still here. He was able to give us an insiders view about what to do and see as we explore the peninsula over the next three or four weeks.

Nearby Port Townsend is a unique old seaport town where the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, was filmed. Many buildings were built in the late 1800's during the days of the sailing ships and the town has Victorian houses, old stores, office buildings and hotels that have been preserved in their original state. There are many shops and restaurants to serve the tourists who come by ferry for a day or two visit. We talked to a couple locals about the struggle it has been to maintain the historical district with its locally owned businesses. They even lamented a Hollywood Video store that put two locals out of business. There is a thriving hippie and art community here and they offer live entertainment at several local establishments each day.

We visited Fort Flagler State Park, one of three former forts in the area that are now parks. Along with Forts Casey and Worden they were built in the late 1800's to form a triangle of fire to protect the Strait of Juan de Fuca from enemy ships. They never fired their cannons and were soon made obsolete with the invention of the airplane. As the forts closed after WWII they became state parks and many of the old buildings are now rented out to groups and families for vacations. There was a band camp and a soccer camp when we were there. The old gun batteries are still in place to be explored and the park has great views of the surrounding waters and mountains from its many hiking trails.

The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge near Sequim is an excellent place to see a large variety of wildlife. The five mile sand spit, which is still growing by about 20 feet a year, is one of the longest in the world. We hiked eleven miles on the beach which is covered with thousands of pieces of driftwood from small sticks to huge trees and logs. We got a close up look at many different birds. The spit is home to or visited by over 250 species. There was a seal pup on the beach and adult seals in the water. Near the end of the spit is the New Dungeness Light Station. As a 100 foot lighthouse, it was the first one built along the strait in 1857. In 1927 it was lowered to the present 63 feet because of cracking in the tower. Since 1994, when the Coast Guard withdrew its last keeper, it has been maintained by volunteers who pay to spend a week in the keeper's home while doing tours and helping with upkeep. This was a unique place and is well worth the long walk.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back in the USA

Welcome to the USA. Why is the RV sign here when the line starts a mile back?
This is the first time we have ever seen a stop sign for a train.
Some of Bill Mitchell's murals.
An evening of culture listening to Los Pinguos.
Going to Guemes Island on the ferry.
Anacortes Arts Festival

We are staying at the Northern Lights RV Park in Anacortes, WA for a week. This park is at a casino on the Swinomish Indian Reservation. We are about six miles from downtown but you can get there on a bike route that starts near the park. This park, like too many, is located by a railroad track but this track is a little different. Since there is a swing bridge over the channel here, there is a STOP sign for the trains where they must wait until the bridge is turned into place. Our return to the USA was not totally without incident as we once again ended up in the wrong lane and had to turn around. Fortunately, there was a large area to do this and we did not have to disconnect the car. We now know that we MUST go through the car lane and found it to be plenty wide enough (our real concern) for the motorhome. When we got to the booth the border patrol, after looking at our passports, wanted to talk about how we liked fulltiming and then sent us on our way.

Allan and Sharon Frey, who we met in Rockport last winter and have crossed paths with several times this spring and summer, are staying near here for a month and we have gotten together to explore the area. Anacortes is a neat little bayside town where you can catch the ferry to Victoria, BC and the San Juan Islands. One of its unique features is the mural project that artist Bill Mitchell has been working on since 1984. He has painted 100 life-size murals of local people and events that have been mounted on buildings all over town. The paintings range in subject from the Safeway manager to the first car wreck. We had great meals at Greek Island and Rockfish Grill, a local brewpub. We attended a concert that was part of the Anacortes Arts Festival. The Spanish guitar music by the Argentine group Los Pinguos was great. The venue was an old warehouse on the water that is the home of the local arts council.

Another day we went to Guemes Island on our bikes with Allan and Sharon. We biked to their RV park and then the four of us rode to the ferry for the short crossing to the island. We went our separate ways there with Allan and Sharon exploring a little beach and Nanc and I taking a longer ride along the uncrowded roads of this little forested island. We met back at the ferry landing and had a late lunch at Anderson's General Store overlooking the inlet and Anacortes on the other side. Before we got to their rig Nanc, who rode across North America without having a flat tire, got her third in our last three rides by running across a broken shell dropped on the path by a bird. The other two happened at the RV and I fixed them and used the foot pump to air them up. Since this one occurred on the trail I had to use the small pump for the first time in years only to discover it was no longer working. Allan drove me back to the rig for the other pump and in a short time we were on our way. I'm glad that flat didn't happen in Vancouver when we were ten miles from the RV park. All that said we had a wonderful time exploring the area.

On our last day here the four of us went to the 48th Anacortes Arts Festival where we did much more looking than buying. That is a phenomenon among fulltimers who really don't have extra room for more stuff. I did find a t-shirt that had two of my favorite things (a frog & a beer) printed on the front and I could not resist. There was music and street performers, one was a juggler who put on a great show. The weather cleared as we arrived and we had a great time admiring all the different arts and crafts. That evening we had another wonderful meal at Il Posto, a small Italian restaurant.

We enjoyed our week in Anacortes and, as usual, we did not do everything we planned so we will have to come back in the future. It was great hooking up with Allan and Sharon again as we have many common interests. They are planning on a day trip to the Olympic Peninsula, our next destination, and we will be getting together again.