Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Never and Always

August 4-9, 2019
Carnation, Washington

Between us we have six sons. Five are in Valencia while my youngest, our fourth, lives in Seattle. It's the best reason to visit this beautiful area.

We enjoy the drive from Forks, especially along Lake Crescent, a stunning glacial lake of turquoise and aqua. With delays due to construction, we get extra time to savor the views!

It's nearly impossible to reserve a summer weekend at Tolt-McDonald Park in Carnation, Washington, but I do manage to get Sunday through Thursday. The asphalt and grass sites are large with 50 amp and water. Strict check in time of 3PM! Lots of beautiful trees, and we still connect to satellite.

Last year we learned that one of our younger school mates that we're friends with on Facebook also calls Seattle home. Katie was in junior high when I graduated. Bill knew her older brother, and remembers Katie from school. She and I share a love of photography.

We meet at a lovely bistro on the shores of Lake Washington. With lots of locals enjoying the warm summer day along the water, we're lucky to find parking a couple blocks away.

"The beach"
Katie has lived here for over 25 years, loving her job at the Children's Hospital. We have a great time getting to know her, and the time flies by. The connection we have with the people from our tiny mining town is such a joy in our travels. Katie is number 95 of those we've visited (not including our annual reunions).

Katie and Bill
Jeff has Wednesday and Thursday off, so I pick him up after my massage (ahhhh) on Tuesday afternoon.

There just isn't anything better than spending time with our kids and grand kids. It's great to just hang out in our pretty site, take a drive to North Bend and Snoqualmie Falls, and enjoy each other's company. Not a lot of photos, but a wonderful time spent together.

Thursday Bill is feeling puny so Jeff and I take a day trip to Bainbridge Island on our own. As is often the case, the local boy has never been so it's a new experience for both of us!

The ferry ride is about 50 minutes. It's a huge ship, moving over 6M people every year! A beautiful trip on a calm and lightly cloudy day, I can't imagine it being my regular commute during winter storms.

Faye Bainbridge Park has easy access to a long shoreline with wildflowers and driftwood. Unfortunately the Broedel Preserve I was looking forward to visiting is closed this one day for a special event :-(

After a leisurely lunch at one of the small marinas, we return on the ferry. It's 5PM but we find surprisingly little traffic. Even after dropping Jeff at his place, I'm fortunate the roads aren't busy! I find a quick parking spot at the medical center, have no line at the pharmacy, and in less than 45 minutes I'm back home. Must be all that good "Carma" from letting people in front of me :-)

There is never enough time with our kids. Never. Jeff turns 30 next week, but he'll always be my little cowboy who would only wear boots and his cowboy hat with no shirt, no matter how cold it was outside. Always.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Lavender, Glaciers and a River Running Free

July 30 - August 4, 2019
Sequim, Washington

Pay attention to where lavender grows abundantly. The climate is bound to be as lovely as the flowers.

"Lavender is a Mediterranean plant, and requires a similar climate to thrive. The Provence region of France is where most lavender is commercially grown, as the climate, with mild winters and warm, sunny summers, is ideal for lavender production. Lavender needs full sun to do well, but not too much summer heat."

I don't think anyone thinks of any part of the Pacific Northwest as "mediterranean", yet lavender farms are prolific in the little town of Sequim, Washington. With mild temps throughout the year, and less than 16 inches of rain, Sequim (squim) is a sweet spot for both flowers and humans (and fluffy dogs).

Add expansive views, the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, a clean and whimsical downtown, delectable eateries, all the services you need, close proximity to other gems like Port Angeles and Port Townsend, nice people, and the massive Olympic National Forest, and you've got a location that we love. It was high on the short list of places we could land, but housing prices and distance to an airport took it out of the running.

Still, we'll continue to find our way back here often. And for longer than the brief five nights I planned this time!

For the second time we're staying at the well-maintained little urban GilGal Oasis RV Park on the east side of town. With just 28 sites it fills up fast for the summer. I was able to get a larger pull-through with decent views of the mountains, but sadly can't get level. These are snug asphalt and grass sites, but with wide open spaces in front of us, it feels bigger.

After setting up we head for a favorite Mexican food restaurant (Washington gets it right more often than Oregon - by a lot). Baja Cantina never disappoints.

Bill is a melophile and we always have music playing at home and in our vehicles. Always. So when our stereo quit on our last day in Forks there was no doubt that fixing it was the priority at our next stop! The Jeep dealer refers him to a local shop where he heads early Wednesday morning. I sleep in.

Simple beauty on a walk around the neighborhood.

We cannot be trusted on our own. I came home from Sisters, Oregon, with that cute little art piece that we didn't need, but I loved. Not to be outdone, Bill returns with, not a repaired, but a brand new fancy schmancy stereo. 

It's so cool! Connected to our phone it displays and narrates Google maps, and plays his playlists. Score! It does lots of other nifty stuff like connecting to our tire monitors to show their individual air pressure. Probably something that many others have, but for us it's a huge upgrade.

No we don't need it, but we sure do love it. Like the art piece :-) We probably shouldn't shop without supervision....

Lavender lemonade is the nectar of the gods, and Purple Haze Organic Lavender Farm has a delicious blend. It's also a beautiful setting that smells wonderful.

Some things just shouldn't surprise us. Like high winds at Hurricane Ridge! And at 5200', it's chilly too. Fortunately we both have warm jackets with hoods - and even better, the crowd isn't bad on Thursday. Although the parking lot is nearly full, people have spread out along the many trails and throughout the two-story visitor center. The gift shop is the exception with wall-to-wall people. Nothing I need here.

This is the only place we've found where we can see Mt Olympus. And even with a few clouds, the glaciers are stunning. The craggy ridges and deep pockets at nearly 8000' are majestic and powerful, and it's easy to imagine the gods calling this home.

Blue Glacier  and Hoh Glacier (the longest at just over 3 miles)
Summer splits in the snow pack.

Clouds compete for the wows.
A small doe grazes while Piper reflects our treeline views.
The flower-lined drive provides multiple views.
On our first visit to the area I read a wonderful book, Breaking Ground, about the successful campaign to remove two dams on the Elwha River. Restoring salmon spawning and a damaged critical ecosystem was the goal of the removals in 2011. The dam was no longer producing a significant amount of power to the area. We also visited the Glines Canyon Dam Site, heartened at seeing the river once again running free.

We aren't able to visit this time because the road to the dam site washed out during the last big storm. The irony is not lost on me. 

They'll figure it out. The salmon suffered for decades, humans can be inconvenienced for a bit.

Although it will take at least another 10 years to return to pre-dam conditions, the full and healthy Elwha River is a joy to see.
She's a beauty.
Our last day we visit Salt Creek Recreation Area, a favorite of several friends. I want to see about staying here next time. The water views are wonderful although as expected it's very full of big families enjoying the last of their summer. Hopefully we can get in coming back from Canada next year.

Although I'm sorry I didn't give us more time, I'm very excited about moving on. Next stop is the Seattle area where we'll visit with my youngest, our number four!! It's been way too long and I can't wait!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Did Sasquatch Eat All the Vampires and Werewolves?

July 26-30, 2019
Forks, Washington

I haven't read the very popular young adult books, nor have I seen the movies - but I haven't been living under a rock, so I know the Twilight series takes place in the lovely northwestern town of Forks, Washington. If I hadn't known this before our first visit here four years ago, I would have learned it quickly with all the references throughout the area! Businesses, signs, posters, street names, etc.

Before the vampires and werewolves took over, Sasquatch (Big Foot) was king. And in the four years since we last visited, he has reasserted himself as the dominant "mascot". Far less sign of those "other guys" these days. 

Although he is often depicted as a friendly "wookie-like" dude, apparently he has scared off the vampires and werewolves, or maybe eaten them!! The scarier interpretations of Sasquatch as a forest monster make that possibility very real :-)

He's everywhere!
Since our stay is only a few days, we stay in town at Forks 101 RV Park, rather than the beautiful Quileute Oceanside Resort in the National Park which I prefer. 

A no-frills park with dirt and grass sites, it's a good spot for making our planned day trips. The satellite connects, although their WiFi doesn't work for us. But we are able to use our MiFi and our cell phones, which we couldn't do at Quileute. As it's also the only Forks park, it's the best in town!

Our drive from Grays Harbor is the last section of "new" Hwy 101 for the motorhome. Much of it is narrow, and most of it is cut through a thick forest of ten-year growth trees. It gets a bit claustrophobic after awhile, and I'm very happy to stretch my eyes a bit when we get to Forks. 

The Hoh Rainforest to the south is a lovely area along the Hoh River. With rain in the forecast on Saturday we make the short 35 minute drive. Seeing it last time in bright sunshine, it didn't feel very "rain-foresty". Definitely better with the clouds and moisture, but also not something that everyone else didn't think of! There's a line to get through the kiosk where they're only letting in a car for every one that exits. At the visitor center the interpretive hikes are all full, lines at the restrooms....you get the idea.

Waiting our turn.

It is a Saturday, summer vacations are wrapping up, families out in nature is great; I'm grateful that not only access but education is available to so many. We're not fans of places with hordes of others, but can't begrudge that we aren't alone. Fortunately the Jeep gives us more options for exploring, and we quickly head out of the crowd.

Hoh River

Enough sun to catch reflections on the ponds.

We didn't find any ham.

Although soft and quiet today, the huge tree stump far from the forest line reminds us this river can get very big and very strong.

The creamy turquoise of glacier flour.

Wild life sighting!

Tessa looking for rocks for Linda to paint :-) 

No crowds here - yay.
Knowing that with the sun out we're likely to find more crowds at the beach, we take a chance on a Sunday visit to La Push. Unlike the wide expanse of sand with tiny surf in southern Washington, beaches here show off bigger waves crashing on narrow driftwood-littered dark sand around the mouth of the Quillayute River. Though they're not the giant waves we enjoyed here four years ago, the sound of the surf is loud. 

This is reservation land in the Olympic National Forest. As expected, lots of vacationers are already here.

No parking in the lots for Third or Second Beach and no overflow available nearby. We find a spot at First Beach where families, dog-walkers, surfers and sun-bathers enjoy the natural beauty and perfect weather. Before leaving, we visit Rialto Beach which is just as amazing. The large basalt rock formations add so much character. 

Little silhouettes up front, large ones in the distance.

James Island at the river jetty. The back of the island has a small cove, popular with kayakers.

Searching for treasures.

Little James Island

Stacks of driftwood aid the small dunes in providing protection from storm surge.

And offer unlimited building sources!
A different view of James Island from Rialto.

Quillayute River (spelled differently from the tribe)

A trail of sunlight in the center of a green corridor.
The Olympic Peninsula is beautiful - weather, geography, culture, flora, quaint towns, bodies of water. It's hard to beat this combination. It's definitely our favorite part of Washington. And within that favorite is my most favoritist - Neah Bay. 

A recreation pass is required to access the area, $10 and good through December. We pick one up at the little grocery store. Another reservation town, there are very few businesses here. The day we visit there's a recall election on the tribal council, and the voter turnout at the community center is hopping. 

I really want to make the hike out to the viewpoint on Cape Flattery, but the steep decline that continues as far as we can see means a steep incline coming back. We've gotten "de-conditioned", as my BFF calls it, so we opt out of the hike this trip.

Hobuck RV Resort has an unbeatable location, but is unfortunately first come-first serve. At the end of a 30 mile, narrow and winding road with few other options nearby, taking a chance at a spot in the middle of peak season isn't something I'm yet ready to try. So of course when we get there in the Jeep, there's one open site. Oh well....maybe someday.

I so want to spend a week right here!

Makah Bay. View from the RV park.

Cape Flattery in the distance - the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States.
Sea Serpent skeleton.

Sasquatch's sidekick??

Young explorers.

On the fly.

Above changing the color of the below.
Mesmerizing melody.

The good life.

Lunch on the marina at the Warmhouse is great - locally caught fresh fish.

The Strait of San Juan de Fuca with Vancouver Island in the distance. And this cool rock.......
Spending two months in Oregon was wonderful, but means our time on the OlyPen is much shorter than I like. We're coming back next year when I hope to have more time to soak up the special beauty of this corner of the country. 

Fortunately we have a few more days in pretty little Sequim, just 90 minutes east.