Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Must-See Places

August 11-16, 2017
Kalama, WA - Portland, OR

With the goal to be in Albany, Oregon, for the solar eclipse, I planned one fishing/birthday stop and one stock-up/bucket list stop after leaving the Hood Canal. Expecting the smoke to move out, and the temps to drop down, I am much happier to be moving inland than I anticipated.

We set up at our level grass site with 50 amp and water on the Kalama River, at Camp Kalama RV Park, mid-day on Friday. There are very few places we don't like, and I can't really say what it is about this park, but it's not a place we'll return to. Of course I picked it for Bill's birthday so he could fish, and there's minimal river access even from our "river front" site. Oh well, we make do. 

And for our Saturday day-trip it is ideal.

Bill's best friends from high school were hitchhiking in Washington when Mt St Helens blew in 1980. I was planning a move to Missoula, Montana that same week (that changed). So although they are "distant" connections, we've both wanted to visit the volcano for years.

Smoke on Friday and rain on Sunday mean our Saturday is the only day the mountain is visible - and we have perfect views all day. From the Visitor Center in Castle Rock, to the Forest Learning Center, to the Johnson Observatory at the end, Spirit Lake Highway is 52 miles of awesome. 

And the clear skies are wonderful!!

"Before" photos begin the story told in the VC (Spirit Lake was completely buried in mud and debris, but has returned over the years in a higher location)

Volcanoes on other planets is an interesting exhibit - Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system at six times taller than Mt Rainier, and twice the size of Washington state. Why do we want to go to Mars?

The mountain's history is told through the lives of Native Americans, explorers and settlers, miners, and forest rangers. The life size mannequins are really well done.

I forgot that there was so much seismic activity prior to the main eruption.

The pyroclastic ash clouds would eventually circle the globe!

Even with the advance notice, and closure of the area to the public, many people were caught in the massive mud flows. This man and his dog were both rescued just hours after the blast.
There isn't a lot of information "inside" the volcano, but the geologic layers are really cool ('cause it's not a real volcano).
While the VC focuses on the volcano, the Forest Center is all about salvaging and restoring the devastated trees.
Weyerhaeuser salvaged over 21,000 acres with 1000 loggers from October 1980 to December 1982. Replanting and restoration would take years.

The restored forests are lush, but look like a pixelated canvas having all been planted at the same time.
The route treats us to many views as we get closer. 

In addition to repositioning Spirit Lake, the eruption formed two new lakes. This is Castle Lake. Coldwater Lake is just off the highway. Note the steam on the mountain above the left of the lake.
Loowit Point has the best view of the mountain and mud flows. 
The remaining cinder cone in the center of the crater. 

The Johnson Observatory has incredible views from the large deck, and the long line convinces us that we don't need to see any more. 

We have a wonderful meal at Guadalajara Restaurant in Kalama for Bill's birthday eve. Excellent margaritas and yummy eats. The service is the best we've had anywhere, and I go back inside as we're leaving to tell the manager how much we enjoyed it. It costs nothing to appreciate others.

Rain!! Early Sunday morning we get a few good showers, and then lovely drizzles all day. Unfortunately Bill isn't feeling great for his birthday, but it's the perfect day to hang out at home. 

Monday he's up early to fish for a couple hours before we continue south to Portland. Just 40 miles gets us to Columbia River RV Park where we have to wait to check in at 1 PM. Our GPS routes us through four large loops to get there - later we find a direct route from the interstate (sometimes I think the GPS gremlins get together and laugh at where they get us to drive!).

Several other bloggers recommend this park for being close to town. It is very clean and well maintained. Our back-in site is tight all the way around, but other than the road on the other side of the wall behind us, it's very quiet here.

Expecting there to be hordes of people at our next stop, Tuesday we run errands and stock up on groceries in case we want to avoid going out. OMG Portland is so busy! And crowded. 

But they have a Trader Joe's so I love Portland :-)

On my bucket list (the original one, it's grown since we got on the road) is Multnomah Falls in the nearby Columbia Gorge.

Wednesday is the day!

We're not surprised by the crowds, this is the most visited site in Oregon. There's no parking on the south side so we continue to Horsehair Falls where we snag the last parking space. 

The crashing water is loud in the small pool.

The unobstructed views make this a special spot.

The temperature drops 6 degrees from the car to the pool - glorious :-)))
We return to Highway 84 to get to the parking lot for Multnomah Lodge at the base of the falls. It's a good size lot with a short walk under the highway. The scenic road we were on is now backed up in both directions - glad we didn't try to squeeze in.

The lodge is Disney-esque and seems to be trying too hard. Over priced kiosks line the patio. People fill the space in front of the falls. The sun is just over the falls, right in our eyes. 

Still, I'm excited to see that the falls live up to my years of expectation! 

Although the upper falls are visible from the highway, it's the iconic bridge crossing the water that confirm you're at Multnomah. 

Tall and thin view from the highway. The upper falls drop 562 feet - combined with the lower falls they are the second highest in the country.

The lodge originally opened in 1925, but lacks the feel of an original structure.
Bucket list!

The lower falls drop 69 feet.

During a wedding on the deck a 400 ton boulder fell from the top into the pool at the bottom of the upper falls, sending a wall of water over the event. There were several injuries, the couple did get married that day, and now they're part of history!
We backtrack to the scenic highway and Crown Point. Now this looks like a building built in 1916. Even with some residual haze, the views of the river gorge are spectacular!

Vista House designed by architect Edgar Lazarus "to recall the ancient and mystic crown of Thor".



The wetlands add another layer of color in the gorge.
The ceiling and windows are stunning.
Being in the shadow of the solar eclipse is something I've looked forward to for over three years. Me and thousands of others. So while I'm looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I'm not excited about the expected chaos of such a huge event.

Thursday we head into the fray!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Across the Water and Under the Haze

August 4-10, 2017
Brinnon, Washington

We've seen a lot of new places, and had a lot of new experiences since we hit the road. But none have made me as anxious as taking our house on the ferry. It's so big! And so's the ferry!!

What if we're late (reservations are required for our size), or we enter at the wrong place (recent ferry experience has proved entrances and exits can be challenging), or we don't fit (even though we've seen large trucks with trailers nearly twice our size getting off a ferry), what if, what if, what if????

Of course it isn't only easy, it's a great ride! We have zero traffic and end up sitting on the side of the road to kill some time so we don't arrive two hours early. The signage is aided by a real human who walks along the line of vehicles to ensure we're all where we're supposed to be. Even though I reserved for five feet under our actual length it's not a problem, and costs $20 less than the estimate. 

In the right line, at the right time. Ferry terminal, Coupeville, Washington.

We're really doing this!
Best of all - we load first and have front row (comfortable) seats for the ride. We don't even go to the passenger deck, just enjoy the views. Nothing to do with wondering if we could find our way back......

Front row.

Sweet view.

30 minutes fly by, and too soon we're pulling into Port Townsend.
That was fun! We can't wait to do it again :-)

Back on solid ground we're in familiar territory, having spent time here our first summer as fulltimers. But it looks very different under the still-smokey skies. 

I'd like to say it clears during our stay, but sadly we're under a thick haze for the whole week. 

Set up at Cove RV Park in Brinnon is easy after we survive the killer speed bumps at the entrance - seriously, these are the worst we've encountered. I have to inch the back-end over them with my foot on the brake to avoid pitching everything we own on the floor - arrrgghhh!

There's nothing in Brinnon, but the Hood Canal is one of the prettiest places we've been, and the rates for FHUs w/30 amp and open skies, make this a good place to spend a week before venturing back to Central Oregon for the madness that we know will be the Solar Eclipse. Every day we're here I say "Remember how beautiful this was without all the smoke and heat?"

Yes, it's also warmer than normal :-( 

Enough whining, let's go see what we can see!

Saturday finds us along the Duckabush River.

Some are more anxious for Fall than others.....

All dressed up for the forest festival.
The drive along the Duckabush River (from the native word do-hi-a-boos meaning reddish face for cliffs in the area) is pretty. When we cross the bridge and start heading up we leave the water behind. 

I don't know why I don't listen to that little voice in my head. The one screaming "Don't go up that narrow, steep, dirt, shelf road with nothing between you and imminent death!!" Because when I don't listen, the universe throws in more excitement like numerous ditches across the tiny path that pitch the Jeep at a 90-degree angle that.......okay, they're not much worse than the speed bumps in the park, but they are on the side of a mountain.....okay the mountain is only 600 feet tall....but, well, I'm not having fun.

Fortunately the only vehicle we pass comes by just as we find a small widening in the "road". Further up I find a larger one and get turned around. As soon as we're facing down again I'm fine. I'm so weird.

The one wide spot in the squirrel track we followed.
Back down where humans belong, we stop at the bridge to watch and listen to the rapids and riffles of the river.

Guess which side I prefer?

At first I think it's a bear :-)  Soon we hear her people splashing under the bridge.

Further down the road we see real wildlife. Sadly these are the first live raccoons we've seen in over a year. Far too many end up as road kill.
Sunday we head north to Sequim for a regrettable grooming appointment that gives us a not-so-fluffy dog. The highlight of the trip is a visit to Purple Haze Lavender Farms. The parking lot is full, but with enough space for everyone to spread out it's possible to spend time just enjoying the beautiful sights and smells.

Not happy with her nearly-nakedness.

The bright yellow helichrysum is harvested for essential oils and healing tinctures.

Rows of sachet and white spike lavender.
Everything lavender is available at the little shop. I come home with more lavender lemonade and a little sachet.
Bill's new glasses need adjusting, and Monday we drive an hour south to Shelton to get that done. So nice when you can walk-in and have something fixed for free with no wait. Small towns are the best.

A quick visit to the fish hatchery confirms what we've been seeing - there aren't (m)any fish in the rivers, and the lakes are surrounded by private property. 

Still, looking for "good spots" along the water gets us out on smokey afternoons, enjoying the scenery below the smoke-line. Tuesday we explore the Dosewallips Recreation area outside Brinnon. The name comes from a native myth about a man named Dos-wail-opsh who was turned into a mountain at the river's source. 

If this was fog I'd be loving it - the stinging smoke, not so much.
Looking down it's much prettier.

Most of the trees are draped in thick moss.
One of the prettiest little towns in the country is Port Townsend, Washington. Although I'm not a shopper anymore, I do love strolling this historic district. Bill and Tessa people-watch while I take my time looking at beautiful pottery and handmade textiles, smelling organic spice and tea blends, thumbing through classics and coloring books, and enjoying the century-old architecture.

Vintage detail.

For the tall and thin.... head!
All this and you can make your own custom blends.

Thursday is a lazy day at home. As much as we love this area, we're tired of the smoke and warmer temps, and ready to move on down the road. 

Friday we'll move inland where the forecast says things are looking better.