August in Tucson is hot and muggy, what a perfect time to head up to the Pacific Northwest to check out tall trees, waterfalls, volcanos, islands and beaches. Our first stop for the evening, was along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon We hoped to see some of the Perseid meteor showers but we couldn’t see the shooting stars for the pesky trees. There are worse things I gues
We drove through Logan, Utah, Monty worked near here, at Hill Air Force Base for several months in the early 90’s. I came to visit him and we did some exploring in this area. While driving through Logan, Utah I took a picture of Monty stepping inside a small overhang of rocks, the golden trees in the background created a great picture. Later Monty’s sister Joyce, used the premise for a painting she did using the same setting but with Native Americans at a campfire.
We are just passing thru this time on our way to Yellowstone National Park. This was my first trip to Yellowstone and I was amazed at the geysers and bubbling pools. Old Faithful didn’t disappoint us, she did her thing right on time to the ooohs and aaahs of quite a large audience. The various geysers and pools are other worldly, the colors are so vivid; some are bright blue and look for all the world like looking
into a broken geode. Other geysers range from the rusty color of old nails to bright red. Except for Old Faithful and a few others that do their thing on a regular basis most of the geysers are quiet. We enjoyed walking around on the boardwalks to peer into the steaming pools. The Lodge is beautiful and you could just imagine spending the night there under a down comforter with a fire in the fireplace. I won’t even mention the bear skin rug idea! Yellowstone is a totally unique place, not to be missed.
Grand Teton National Park is right outside the South entrance to Yellowstone so you get two great parks in one trip. The visitor center for Grand Tetons is actually located in Jackson Hole, Wy. The National Park Service did a nice job with the displays for this center. There was a grassy area and pond outside that provide the backdrop for the ranger talk, the ranger for the day talked about recognizing the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear. When he got to the part about the claws I kind of lost interest in seeing one up close and personal. Memorizing the characteristics of the bear to determine whether to act aggressive or play dead, seemed a bit much to expect. Lucky for us we didn’t have to face that decision, but we did thoroughly enjoy the awesome views of the mountains, the elk and moose. We were fortunate to drive right along side a herd of about 40 bison. They are huge beasts and we enjoyed listening to them communicate with low grunts and growls.
Welcome to the Grand Tetons
A couple of the fellas were feeling frisky and started the head butting thing, I’m sure I heard the other young males yell ‘fight’ and they all ran over to get a closer look. The gals, on the other hand, seemed to just ignore them. We sat in the little Tracker for a long time watching them, glad they didn’t want to play ‘tip a Tracker’. We were always on the look out for wild life and we were excited when we saw a moose in one of the ponds. We were standing on the shore of the pond expressing our excitement next to an equally enthusiastic family, also from Tucson. Maybe it is a small world after all. The camp ground hosts, definitely senior citizens, had been camping in Yellowstone since they were kids. Figured that was about sixty years.
We stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument on the way to Boise, Idaho. This park is a lot like Sunset Crater near Flagstaff but on a bigger scale. We went into a lava tube cave and walked the trails. It is a very desolate and foreboding area. A quick trip through is enough, a little lava rock goes a long way.
Home on the Range
We liked Boise, a town of about 100,000 people. The country side is mostly hilly and brown sage brush not a very pretty setting but the August weather was perfect. The winter highs are in the 20’s, too cold for me! We stopped at a Good Sam RV park, it was crowded and not a real biggie but served the purpose. We went into town and had a pizza and walked around a bit. The next day we planned to stop at the Birds of Prey Center we read about. We got kind of turned around after stopping at the RV place for a vent cover. We ended up traveling miles on a dusty road and never finding the Birds of Prey Center. After stopping at the local DIY car wash we were finally able to locate the Center, on a paved road, about five miles from where we started. The Center was one of the many highlights of the trip. A wonderful place that supports the efforts to save endangered birds of prey. They are the folks who are re-introducing the condors to northern Arizona. The displays, videos, and live birds were excellent, you could tell the docent holding the peregrine falcon really loved her work. They had bald eagles, condors, and falcons to name a few of the feathery creatures there.
We arrived at the Oregon visitor center about 4:30 in the afternoon and picked up arm loads of information, we took the docents suggestion and traveled the ‘road less traveled’, the scenic route, toward the Columbia Gorge. We found a place to stop for the night with only three other campers so that was nice. We looked through all the literature to form a plan for the next couple of days.
We hit the road about eight in the morning and didn’t get to the Gorge until after three in the afternoon. The scenic route turned out to be much slower than anticipated and less scenic than we were led to believe. After a while, the speed limit signs got to be a joke, the posted speed limit was 55 MPH but every quarter mile we entered a set of switch backs with a 20 MPH maximum. It was tiring and we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
Multnomah Falls, Columbia Gorge
We did stop at the John Day Fossil Museum and enjoyed that break. The museum is a lovely old white wood siding house with an attached carriage house. It sits in a beautiful meadow with a meandering stream. We kept seeing the name John Day on everything from bridges to siding parks. We thought he must be some great pioneer of the area but turns out he was a traveler in the early days that was robbed of everything he had and was found naked sitting by the river. Not exactly a claim to fame, but I guess since he was the guy at the headwaters of this river it was named for him.
One of the interesting things about Oregon is the law that requires an employee of the gas station to pump the gas. We are so used to pumping our own gas, we grumble if they don’t have pay at the pump. In Oregon you have to wait until the kid comes out to your vehicle to do the pump honors for you and take your credit card. Don’t confuse this with the old days when the nice man washed the windows and checked the oil, these kids just pump. Sort of antiquated system, we couldn’t decide if there was a real reason or they just want to be sure the high school drop outs have a job. (That was cold) To my knowledge they are still using the same system.
We moved on to the spectacular Columbia Gorge. You can believe the pictures in National Geographic are the real thing! I’m not sure which was more spectacular the lush ground cover vegetation and trees or the waterfalls. The old historic highway, we now understand to be synonyms with very narrow, winding road never built for the motorhomes of today. We were happy to have the Tracker along so we didn’t have to worry so much about squeezing thru the narrow bridges and finding a spot to pull into for the views. We took lots of pictures but it is impossible to do justice to this beautiful place.
The Columbia River has several dams and we toured two of them, the Bonneville was the first dam built on the Columbia and it is really something. We found the fish ladders absolutely fascinating. There are viewing windows under the ladders and you can watch the fish work
their way up the ladders and into the river. The tiny fins holding on to the rails are really cute, the little tails balanced on the rung, jumping to the next one, OK, not true, they really do swim up stream thru these twisty ladders that look like a labyrinth, advancing their way up the ladder. There are people, whose job it is to sit by the windows and count how many of each kind of fish passes thru the area. We saw some really large steel head salmon and a lamprey eel as well as smaller fish. The silly eel kept trying to swim up the ladder and when he got tired he stuck his lips on the side of the window and hold on for a while and then take off swimming again. The displays were nice and we enjoyed reading the history of the area and the building of the dam.
The Dalles is another big dam we hoped to see but although they had a nice display inside the visitor center you could not go into the dam. They provide a train trip of about three blocks to view the dam up closer with a guide that talks about it but it wasn’t really memorable.
We stopped at the small town of Mt Hood to locate a post office and look around a bit. It was a pretty little place, they were preparing for the annual apple festival the following week. Timing is everything! We found a nice campground right off the Gorge Scenic Highway with spaces that were separated by bushes. The bushes turned out to be blackberry shrubs so we picked fresh berries for breakfast.
On a rainy morning we took our time getting ready to head down through Portland and on to the coast. We will return to Portland later, but now we are headed to Seaside, Oregon. We took the Tracker up the coast to Astoria and through the state park here. Astoria was a quaint little town with colorful, narrow houses built on hills.
Rain again the following day, guess there is reason this place is so green! We loaded up and headed down the coast to Tillamok. We stopped at Cannon beach along the way, it looks just like all the pictures in the travel brochures. I wonder how many commercials have been filmed there. Nice wide beautiful beach with spectacular rocks out near the waters edge. Lots of people on the beach. It was a bit chilly for us desert rats but nice. Later in the day the road took us up high overlooking the ocean and we stopped several times and walked thru fields with waist high grass to the edge of the bluff to see the ocean. It is really a beautiful place, rugged cliffs, huge trees and lovely beaches. The rest of the trip to Tillamok was pretty, with winding roads and small farms with lots of dairy cows. We stopped at a local produce stand and stocked up.
The Tillamok cheese factory apparently is a tourist destination, the parking lot has a couple hundred spaces for cars/rigs. We enjoyed the tour and bought ice cream, cheese and smoked salmon. We stayed the night in a little town outside Portland, at a fairly new, well manicured RV park, completely lacking in charm but we weren’t buying it, just staying for the night.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
We went into Portland to look around and stopped at the famous Powell bookstore. This bookstore is a square block under roof, home to new and used books of every kind. The President was coming to Portland for something or other, so there was a lot of activity.
Since the RV park wasn’t any great shakes we decided to try our luck at the Walmart, sure enough there were several rigs in the parking lot. We met an interesting couple from Australia. He was a retired ship builder, they visit the US every year. They purchase a new RV when they get here and travel all over the US and Canada for six months. When they are finished with their travels they load the RV on a ship to Australia, sell it there and repeat the process the next year. He was eager to tell about spending three weeks on Vancouver Island just outside of Victoria. The park was right on the ocean, he wanted to make sure we knew just what spot they had so we could ask for it when we went there.
On to Squaw Ranch for the Music Festival, it was a beautiful place lots of trees and lovely grassy meadow for the musicians and audience, plenty of room to toss a blanket and kick back. We lucked out with wonderful sunny weather. Everyone said the previous year it rained all the time and was pretty awful. So glad we got lots of sunshine. Great music, from country fiddle to 50’s rock and roll.
We left Squaw Ranch heading to Mt. St. Helens. We stumbled on a couple of Cruise-ins, a popular weekend activity to show off street rods. There were great looking rods of every description in a lovely park with cars tucked in along a winding path through the trees. That made for a delightful stop.
We traveled up thru Kelso and on to Sunquest State Park to spend a couple of nights. We walked around the boardwalk by the St. Helen’s visitor center.
On Monday morning we drove up to the Longview Visitor Center to see the displays and learn more about the volcano eruption that took place on May 18, 1980. The morning was very foggy and it gave an eerie feel to the trip. The visitor center had nice displays, but the main attraction is a large movie theater. This is a theater from bygone days, with the imposing red velvet curtain hiding the large screen. The curtain parted cueing the movie about the volcano and the eruption. The massive destruction is hard to comprehend and the loss of life was tragic. When the movie was over they closed the curtain, raise the screen and to much fan fare, open the curtains to reveal a wall of windows, and Mt. St. Helen’s in all its glory, almost, it
Beautiful Flowers in the Market Place
was completely shrouded in fog. You couldn’t see anything but a huge bank of clouds. A guy behind us snickered and said maybe it was all a conspiracy theory like the moon landing. There are some strange people out there. The experience left us wanting so I guess we have to make a return trip.
We drove down to the Forestry Learning Center sponsored by Weyerhaeuser Industries. This was a great place with beautiful displays and we learned a lot about the logging industry in the hour and a half we spent there.
Off to Long Beach for the day, Long Beach claims to have the longest beach in the world, I guess I can’t argue with that since I’ve missed several beaches on the globe, but it seems unlikely to me. We ‘toured’ a lighthouse built in 1856. Actually we just went up in the lighthouse, the ‘host’ didn’t have anything to say about it other than it was tall and white and sat on the bluff. Usually volunteers at points of interest like this, are friendly and are eager to tell you all the nitty gritty details. But I guess not today.
We stopped in town at the kite store and Monty found a kite he couldn’t live without. There is a reason this area is the kite capitol of America. It is reallllly windy, and since it is on the beach, damp and cool to boot. We lucked out with sunshine though, everything is better with sunshine. We stayed at an RV park that turned out to be less expensive than the state park and was fine.
We headed over toward Seattle by way of Anacortes. We stayed at the Pioneer RV park and it was lovely. Very spacious sites, lots of grass and trees, they even had covered wagons called yurts used like tents or cabins for camping, great experience for kids. We will definitely keep this place in mind if we come this way again.
Taking the ferry to the San Juan Islands was a new experience for us. It was nice to have the Tracker with us so we could see the island without having to take the whole camper. We got to the dock early in the morning then cruised over to Orca Island. We drove up to Mt. Constitution for a 360 degree view of the islands. Took a couple of short hikes, looked in the shops and found a great lunch spot at a lovely outdoor cafe. It was definitely a good day.
Whidbey Island is next on the itinerary. The highlight of this trip was Deception Pass, the bridge is beautiful, especially shrouded in fog. This is a pretty place but you gotta enjoy fog, mist, rain and cloudy days. We took a couple of short hikes down to the beach, the climb back up the bluff was a challenge! We found a farmer’s market and stocked up on good stuff before heading back to the camper and off toward Seattle.
We drove past the space needle but our focus was the Market Place on the wharf. What a fun place, so many beautiful flower venders, jellies, jams, crafts and of course, Pikes Fish Market. It was a hoot to see them toss the fish and we thought the whole experience was unique. We had fish and chips on the wharf and counted it a good day.
We took the ferry over to Victoria, on Vancouver Island. What a treat, absolutely lovely place, we took a city tour on a double decker bus and loved the history and the humor of the guide. We looked in the shops and found the sales people to be so helpful and friendly it made for a good experience. We found a little deli and enjoyed lunch out on the patio. If we had planned better we might have had time to see Butchart Gardens also but there wasn’t enough time before the last ferry left the island.
Back to the coast to travel thru the Olympic Peninsula to see the Hoh rainforest. The forest here gets 140 to 170 inches of rain a year, that’s 12 to 14 feet, if my math is correct. The undergrowth is so lush and beautiful it is hard for these desert rats to believe. We loved walking the paths and seeing all the ferns and huge trees. The forest ranger gave an informative talk and was eager to tell us how unusual it was that we had a beautiful sunny day to see the park. We loved it.
In one of our many travel books we saw Rose Beach mentioned. As we were driving, we passed a small sign for Rose Beach and luckily we decided to turn around and take a look. Oh, my gosh, this was an experience to remember. We walked down the bluff to a foggy, eerie beach littered with huge trees that had turned to silver gray driftwood. Rocks the size of small houses jutting out of the ocean competed the picture. It was the most spectacular sight we have ever seen. It was so foggy it was like a scene out of an old English movie. We were so glad we stopped and thankful someone thought to include this spot in the National Geographic book.
We are taking I-5 from Centralia, Washington down to Grants Pass, Ore. I can’t believe it, but we are getting a little claustrophobic with all the trees, time for a little wide open spaces. Grants Pass is a nice little place in a pretty setting. The owner of the RV park where we stayed fancied himself a wood sculptor and there were sculptures all over the park. We are here to have lunch with George Seaver, my former brother-in-law. He married my sister, Marilyn, when I was still a kid. George had an off beat sense of humor, you had to be on your toes to keep up with him. He was always good to me and we enjoyed seeing him.
Crater Lake is next on the itinerary, the day dawned sunny and bright and we loved the drive up to the lake. We started out in shorts and t-shirts but as we climbed in elevation it got colder and colder. After taking a few pictures of the lake and stopping in the visitor center it was SNOWING when we returned to the car. We couldn’t believe it! But there it was actually sticking to the ground. We grabbed our coats and headed down the mountain.
We were back in the trees again driving through the giant redwoods on the way to Crescent City, CA. Crescent City has the awesome distinction of being the only city in America ever hit by a tsunami. It was heavily damaged by four tsunami waves in 1964 after the Alaska earthquake. We put the top back on the Tracker and headed along the coast. Another beautiful day for cruising the coast, we saw whales and seals at Cape Blanco and Port Orford. Both places had good viewing areas and we loved spotting the wildlife. We discovered a beautiful natural bridge along the way, it was a good day.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the Redwood National Park was our next stop. Took a walk thru the grove and spent some time in the visitor center. We traveled on and spent the night in a campground along the old Highway 101. No grass here, the trees are so dense and huge that the sun never gets to the ground! There were big ‘bear boxes’ at each site to store food. Apparently the bears are fond of this campground. It was just too dark here and out of our comfort zone.
Today’s SUV’s Won’t Fit Through Here!
On the way out of the area we stopped at one of the old time road side attractions. I’m sure you have seen the pictures of the car driving thru the giant redwood. Lots of redwood carved art. Apparently if you own a chain saw, and who doesn’t up here, you are a sculptor. It was reminiscent of the old National Geographic books with 1940’s pictures of people looking at the giant trees. This tree tunnel was originally designed for cars to pass thru.
No trip to Northern California is complete without at least one stop at a winery. We enjoyed tours and wine tasting at both Geyser Peak and Clos du Bois wineries. It’s time to head for home, we are looking forward to starting our house re-modeling project. Lots to do.