Friday, July 28, 2017

Victoria, Vacouver Island, British Columbia

July 4th - 11th, 2017

It's finally time to head across the water to Vancouver Island.  We will spend three weeks here staying a various places on the island.  First stop is the city of Victoria, where we will spend a lot of time with family. 

Since there were 4th of July celebrations planned in Port Angeles, Washington a little later in the day, we decided to get to the ferry terminal early so we could avoid any street closures. 
We went to downtown Victoria and took a harbor tour on this cute little tug.  We were the only ones on board. It was great being able to hop from seat to seat to take pictures and see all around!
The Empress Hotel and its harbor across the street from it.
I saw a couple of seals in Victoria's harbor.  Come to find out, they were the only ones we would see during our stay.
Below, are houseboats of all shapes and sizes.  What a view for these people.


Thank goodness Norm is really good at driving and parking in close quarters.  They REALLY pack the vehicles in like sardines for the 90 minute trip across the waters to Vancouver Island.
We put the motorhome and car on the ferry and enjoyed the 90 minute trip over to Vancouver Island, British Columbia where we spent the following 3 weeks
Norm and I had lunch on the waterfront in downtown Victoria amongst a profusion of flowers! 
Norm's niece and boyfriend took Norm one day on a long hike, and I joined them the next for a lovely bike ride on one of the local paths that goes for miles and miles
This was a lovely maintained trail, but frankly, I was bored to tears.  I guess when I bike ride I like the "thrill" and this trail felt more like "exercise". 


 Victoria is a very bike friendly town.  It rather freaked me out how all the cyclists just jump out in front of you, expecting you to stop as they approach.  It is very different in the states.  Cyclists realize they need to be the cautious ones. Pedestrians have the same mentality.  If you are walking and even approach a crosswalk, traffic immediately comes to a halt.  It's a great way to be, but I warned our family to be watchful of the US citizens.  We might just run them down!

While I went to Urgent Care to get my ear cleared, Norm, took a very long and arduous hike with his niece, Louise and her boyfriend Phil. at East Sooke Regional Park.  Boy are they in good shape! 

After a wonderful week together we all went to a cooking class /eating event at London Chef where we learned to cook authentic Tapas dishes.

Norm impressed everyone with his "pan-flipping" abilities!  A chef in the making!

We had a FABOULOUS meal of fresh Sockeye Salmon with an incredible dill sauce at Louis and Phil's house one night. We were sure treated like royalty while here!

We were also taken up the coast to see the smaller towns a little north of Victoria.  We had lunch at a seaside restaurant, and later that day we all had ice cream!   We had a lovely week in Victoria, and it was great to spend so much time with Louise who we had not seen in almost a decade, and meeting Phil was such a pleasure. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Olympic Peninsula - my new favorite place

Thursday, June 29th 2017

Next destination - Olympic National Park, where the term “ecosystem diversity” was made for. There is a glacier-capped mountain towering just miles from the ocean, a temperate rain forest only 34 miles away, surrounded on two sides by a beautiful, rugged coastline.  On the east side of the Olympic Peninsula, in the town of  Sequim, they receive an average of only 25.9 inches of rain per year. Yet the valleys on the other side of the mountain have the honor of being the wettest spot in the continental United States; receiving a whopping 135 inches of rain. Mount Olympus, the peninsula’s highest point, is estimated to get 50 feet of snow! Within a few hour’s drive of each other, the weather, forest and plants are so different!

We took secondary roads plus the scenic road along the Hood Canal is not the usual route RV's choose to take.  In fact, there was hardly anyone on the road at all!
The drive from Mount Rainier to Port Angeles was mostly back roads and scenic highways. We chose to take the longer drive along the Hood Canal strictly because of the scenic beauty.  It did not disappoint, however the opportunities to pull the big rig off the road were few and far between.  Normally I can get up and dash to the rest room, but when the road is very twisted, I get thrown around too much to venture from the safety of my seat belt.   

Boy, the sites were close together!  During the 5 days we were here, we had 3 different neighbors.  Some were pretty quiet, and one large group made so much noise they kept us up half the night talking loud and banging around in their rig!

Luckily I had managed to book a site that had a fabulous side yard.  Too bad it was really too cold to use it, but the privacy was cherished.  Others were jealous of our spot.  We were not able to get this site when we return in 3 weeks.
We arrived at Elwah Dam RV Resort and proceeded to set up in one of the better sites there.  We were but a few feet away from the RV on one side, but the side that we put the table and chairs, was as big as a ball field!  Was this luck, or because I was one of the first to make a reservation last winter?

We found a car wash, went to the Visitor’s Center (do you notice at pattern here?) and checked out the waterfront a little.  Norm went in the ferry terminal to ask where exactly he was to go when we take the rig on the ferry over to Vancouver Island on the 4th of July. 

Norm then set up the Satellite Dish and after a little news, watched one of the complimentary DVD’s they had up at the office. With temperatures quickly dropping into the low 50’s, we felt it a little too chilly to have a fire in that tremendous fire pit right at our site.

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Norm biking down the path,
A few weeks ago I had arranged for an adventure company to shuttle us up one of the nearby mountains so we could then bike down a portion of the Discovery Trail. It was described to me as two thirds downhill, and that the remainder is gently rolling.  I was really looking forward to this ride!  Other than Moab, this was the only other place I could find for us to do my favorite “off road” biking. The company picked us up at the end of the trail which was a convenient ½ mile from the campsite and drove us perhaps 20 minutes to drop us off.

When we first began, I headed down the trail thinking Norm was ready to go.  Well, he wasn’t.  He scrambled after me on a particularly precarious loose gravel section (the driver suggested we walk it, but I guess Norm wasn’t listening) and he fell!  Goodness what a wipe-out!  He skinned his knee a tad, but everything else was fine, thankfully.  Falling certainly shakes your confidence, at least it does mine, even if I wasn’t doing the falling!
Alison taking one of the corners. 

The trail was beautiful, if not a little scary. The trail was only a foot wide, and very steep, and within inches of said trail there were steep drop-offs several hundred feet down in places! Holy crap! The switchbacks were so sharp Norm opted for the safer method of walking his bike around the corners; usually having to physically lift the back to swing it around to make the turn. He was definitely out of his comfort zone.

Me, being the gutsy fool, (and more experienced in off-road single track mountain biking) rode the bike around each turn.  I must admit a little birdie in my head kept saying “Don’t be stupid!” “Remember risk vs. reward “ “One little slip and you’re going off the side of this mountain”!  Yikes!  I ignored the smart little bird.

I took a break to take this shot of my bike

We road downhill for several miles, enjoying the incredible weather with the sun dappling through the trees, trying our best not to die.  Or seriously maim ourselves.

We then had to start peddling. Hard. I would like to think I struggled making it up those steep hills ( to us Flatlanders from Florida ) because of the elevation.  But no, that was not the case because we were only several hundred feet above sea level at this point.  I’m just old, and out of shape, and just a little crazy wanting to be out here doing this. 

Oh, no wonder it was a little sore!
We hadn’t taken any good pictures of the trail yet, so I suggested to Norm he get ahead of me on a switchback section and video tape me coming down.  Well, as he did, I fell!  Just out of view of the camera unfortunately, because I would like to have seen it!  I wacked my helmeted head, and I felt my thumb bend backward in an unnatural way.  Ouch! I thought perhaps I sprained it, but kept going ( I had no choice, anyway ) favoring it as I rode.  My shoulder started to hurt as well where I must have smacked it on a rock. 

We had a hard ride with a few minor injuries on the Adventure Route of the Olympic Discovery Trail in Port Angeles, Wa

When we got back I immediately started icing the shoulder and especially the swollen thumb.  I worried for the next couple of days that I may have torn the tendon on it, but being the 4th of July, I hesitated to go to Urgent Care.  The third day I started getting some movement in it, the swelling was almost gone and I could now hold something in my hand, so my fear of having really hurt it passed.  It’s still sore, and the shoulder bruised, but we bought a thumb splint to protect it next time I want to act like a crazy teenager.

That afternoon we took a drive to Sequim’s Costco for supplies and went out to dinner at Dockside Grill where I got so snockered on a martini Norm had to drive  home.

Saturday, July 1st 2017

We decided to check out the most northwestern point of the lower 48 states in the US at Cape Flattery, Washington
It was recommended to us that we take the drive to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean.  Having the distinction of being the most northwestern point of the lower 48 states, and what had the promise of an interesting, scenic drive we decided to take the day and go.

We took the inland route as advised so we would drive by the beautiful, glacially-carved sapphire Lake Crescent.  The water here is devoid of nitrogen, limiting the ability to grow phytoplankton (like algae) which makes it able to be crystal clear. We had hoped to kayak here so we could marvel at this phenomenon, but the water was quite choppy, so it would not be fun fighting the wind, nor could we see into the water. Timing is everything.

All the points of interest in the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula are owned by the Makah Tribe.  After purchasing the $10 car pass needed to park or walk on any of their tribal land, we found the trail head for the path that would take us out to Cape Flattery.  I must say, the Tribe was making a lot of money that day, because not only was the lot completely full, but also the road leading to it.   

It took a lot of patience to jockey for a spot in order to take this beautiful picture at the end of the short ( by local standards ) hike to Cape Flattery, Washington. 

This popular hike was “improved” with boardwalks and slabs of large trees serving as stepping stones, and many wooden steps that allowed the masses access to the point.  I think there were almost as many dogs as people making the walk very difficult, if not dangerous, as their leashes wrapped around your legs while large dogs nearly pushed you off the various bridges.

People of all ages and physical condition made this 3 mile round trip trek down to the point. Some of these people are an inspiration as they made their way with such determination despite some very serious physical problems. 

Norm and I are not typically a fan of boardwalks, but this one, although a bit slippery in spots, was appreciated.

The next stop was Cape Alava and Shi-Shi Beach .  There we also found all parking lots filled, and to tell you the truth Norm and I aren’t much beach-goers.  We grew up in New England, so to look at a coastal beach was not worth the trouble or the extra fees to park. 

We then headed back, stopping back at the visitor’s center and Inn at Crescent Lake. It was beautiful there in the late afternoon, with lots of people in kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. We walked around for a little bit, but Norm was itching to get back and ignored my hints about staying for a drink on the porch and soaking up the atmosphere. (Probably because of the throngs of people.  Men, I have learned, don’t tend to enjoy the sport of “people watching” like woman do).

It was a long day, with a lot of driving.  If we knew what we now know, we would have probably gone and done something else with our day. But for those of you who have not seen a coast, or a huge and beautiful sandy beach – definitely go.

Sunday, July 2nd 2017

Norm and I next wanted to take the very scenic18 mile drive UP the mountain and hike the ridge trail.  We knew it would be very busy so we left about 8am to beat the crowds.

Today's goal:  Hike to the arrow!  Yikes, that looks like this won't be easy!

The hike up Hurricane Ridge trail was probably the most beautiful we have ever hiked.  Every step was awesome!

I just couldn't get enough of this view.  I wanted to stay all day!

At this point, I actually broke out in song....."The hills are alive...with the Sound of Music....La la la la......"
Well, we quickly learned we were not quite early enough for our liking.  Many people were already coming down as we were just arriving having watched the sun rise and the marmots start their day.

This hike was probably the most beautiful we have ever seen!  Brilliantly blue sky, meadow flowers, snow-capped mountains, jagged cliffs and the adorable Olympic Marmots ( which are only found here ) running around made for an incredible experience.  The steep, long hike made it a lot of work and its accompanying heavy breathing, but worth every step!

We spent over an hour taking pictures up at the top, basking in the morning sun and as we descended the real crowds had arrived.  We didn’t have the complete solitude we desired, but it was good enough.  Hey, “you snooze, you loose” they say!
Sorry, but I just want a photo that shows good form.  This was pretty good!

When we reached the Visitor’s Center it was a mob scene.  At this point we usually buy our memento of a National Park for our Christmas tree, but Norm had forgotten his wallet ( we only entered the park due to a kind ranger at the gate ) so we listened to a fascinating talk about the different types of pollination.
The ranger gave a fascinating lecture about the different types of pollination.

I was dying for an ice cream but the crowds wouldn’t have allowed us near the stand, plus the fact we had no money at all made it a moot point.  Didn’t really need the calories, anyway.

Driving the scenic road down the long, steep mountain about 2PM, the line waiting to enter the park was a couple of miles long!  Knowing there was absolutely no parking up at the top these people were all going to have to turn around and leave.

I guess we were plenty early enough.  We have found in the past that when you want to visit a popular ( therefore beautiful ) spot in a National Park, you must GET THERE EARLY!!  It’s just that as we age, it gets tougher and tougher for us to jump up and get out there. Lingering over a cup of coffee in the morning is almost as enjoyable as that glass of wine as the day winds down….

Monday, July 3rd 2017

Today was a lazy day, filled basically with some cleaning and getting reorganized before going through customs, and heading onto Vancouver Island.

Norm, probably needing a little “me time” himself, headed out to the nearby Visitor’s Center for another ornament memento.  They didn’t have a good selection so Norm (feeling guilty about forgetting his wallet yesterday) drove all the way ( 18 miles each way ) up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center to get one that would remind us of that spectacular hike.  Meanwhile I enjoyed my own “me time” puttering around the “house”.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mount Rainier National Park

Monday, June 26th 2017

We finally had an uneventful drive to Mount Haven RV Resort just outside the park entrance to Mount Rainier National Park where we were pretty much “off the grid”.  No internet to speak of, no television service and the cell service was intermittent at best.  This was no surprise considering where we were. 

Our campsite at Mount Haven RV Resort just outside the park entrance.

When we tried to find an RV campground that could accommodate our size, it was tough.  Mt. Haven Resort seemed to be our best choice, but read the sites were pretty small and tough to navigate with an RV.  So, I was totally prepared to have to pull out all our experience in maneuvering this thing, and try not to get any dents.  In fact, after passing the small entrance on the way by, we un-hooked up the street and drove the car back to check and see just how tough this was going to be.

I don’t know what these people were talking about!  Our site, and the ones around us, were under huge, old growth trees, but the site was HUGE!  In fact, it was one of the most level sites we had been on!  We only had 30 amp service which took a little planning when cooking ( we didn’t need the air conditioning that needs 50 amp for all 3 of them to work ) and no sewer, but the campground was lovely. 

The owners are a young couple that were so friendly and informative.  I had several conversations when booking, so we felt like old friends.  After setting up, Norm and I took off to take some pictures of Mt. Rainier since the weather was so clear.

After conferring with the park ranger to get ideas of appropriate hikes over the next couple of days, we headed further up the mountain to get a better view of the magnificent Mount Rainier.  Clouds like to congregate around tall mountains, so God forbid we miss this chance to see her in full glory, so we embarked on the winding, steep drive up the mountain.
One of our first exciting glimpses of the mountain!  It is so gorgeous, it took my breath away!

We first stopped at the Longmire Visitor’s Center and spoke with the ranger. While there, I saw an older woman getting sworn in as a Junior Ranger!  I have been dying to do that even if Norm thinks I am crazy! I guess it’s a throw-back from my Girl Scout days, and all the badges I achieved.   Last year I asked at many National Parks if I could do the Junior Ranger Program, but they usually weren’t doing the required talks or walks at that time of year. But finally, a chance!  I took the booklet that promised a few hours of “homework” along with quite a few items I would have to seek out in the park, similar to a scavenger hunt.   This was not going to be as easy as I thought! 

It was determined that this Douglas fir tree started to grow in 1293, lived through the "Little Ice Age" in 1350 that caused Mt. Rainiers glaciers to advance, grew through the Civil War 1861, and finally was cut by the Saint Regis Paper Co in 1963.  It was so interesting to read the little plaques describing the events that happened during a particular age of the tree.

With the booklet in hand, we drove about ½ hour more uphill, and arrived at the Paradise Visitor’s Center, and it was a zoo!  Hordes of people playing in the snow, and a parade of folks marching up the trail like ants.  We watched the movie, went to the Inn and had dinner, then headed back down the mountain, taking pictures of the magnificent views in the early evening light.  

A particularly nice view from the road of Mt. Rainier
Mount Rainer, to me, is the most beautiful place on earth!  I must say, I feel as if I am meant to be in the mountains, NOT in Florida.  Give me tall conifer trees with rough bark and jagged peaks.  Not palm trees and scrubby undergrowth set in sand. Cool breezes and snow caps not heat, bugs and humidity.

I stayed up late completing the Junior Ranger Workbook reading information then answering questions, doing word searches, etc. ( They have different requirements for the various age groups ). 

Tuesday, June 27th 2017
Right behind me is the Skyline Trail.  Obviously the remainder of the heavy snowfall last winter is limiting the number of hiking trails that can safely be traveled on right now. 

For months now, I have been dying to do Mt. Rainier’s Skyline Trail.  This trail is supposed to have the most views for the effort. Bang for the Buck, we call it.  Unfortunately, the snowfall here this past winter was huge, and a lot of the trails, this one included, are still snowed in! 

Norm was able to not only find the bird making the weirdest noise, but take a picture of this Snooty Grouse while it was making it's "hooting" call. ( This bird is also known as "Hooter".  The rangers were very impressed with this photo. 

This Hoary Marmot ran over an sniffed my shoe after munching on a dandelion !

When the ranger we spoke with said she just hiked that trail and it was so slippery she would not do it again until the snow was gone, that was all we had to hear.  It would be awful if we got hurt and ruined the next 3 ½ months of vacation!

We decided to take another, shorter trail that would give us the pleasure of hiking in the snow without the possibility of a couple of old fools getting hurt! 

We had a lovely hike in the snow.....

If you want to see my first attempt at a video project, (please ignore some technical glitches)click here to see our hike in Mt. Rainier National Park

When we arrived up at the trailhead we were pleasantly surprised to see that we were above the gloomy clouds that completely hid the mountain down at the campsite!  We hiked several miles in deep snow with the temperature in the high 50’s but the warm sun made it very comfortable, not to mention beautiful! Boy, I miss the snow- even the smell of it.

Stopping back at the Visitor’s Center I noticed a really nice Ranger swearing in a child as a Junior Ranger; there weren’t many people around ( I was a little embarrassed ) so I figured this was my chance! I learned other “mature” people are also Junior Rangers, some having up to 50 parks they have sworn to protect!  One fellow says he just shows some parks a picture of all his badges he has “earned”, and they just give it to him.  He thought it would be the same here. 

There were many questions and exercises to complete for my very first Junior Ranger badge.  The ranger quizzed me thoroughly before deeming me qualified to wear the badge. Is he this tough on the little kids?

Well, not with this ranger behind the counter!  He was tough!  He checked ALL my answers and quizzed me on many subjects around the park.  Norm was surprised I knew the answers to some of them.  The other fellow, with a barely filled out handbook, was quickly sent away to do the work. You may think me foolish, but I wanted my badge to mean something.  I only intend to earn the one, so I appreciated the ranger’s attitude.

Today I checked something else off my bucket list; become a Junior Ranger of a National Park!

My Ranger badge ( Jr. that is )
I vowed to Preserve Protect and Respect the Mountain and the forest below as well as promise to go to National Parks as long as I live.  With my badge proudly in hand, we headed off for more exploring.

The drive up to Paradise has switchback after switchback, so the going is pretty slow for the cautious.  We had just driven it the night before, then again this morning.  There was one more area we wanted to make sure we saw that was yet another ½ hour down the road, so we decided to make a long day of it and just do it.

It was humbling to stand under these 1000 year old trees in the Grove of the Patriarchs at Mt. Rainier National Park.

The Grove of the Patriarchs is probably the park’s easiest hike, and an extremely different one.  Here, one is immersed in towering Old Growth Douglas fir trees, and Western red cedars all draped in moss. Many exceed 25 feet in circumference and a few are said to be 50 feet wide and over 1,000 years old!  Norm nor I have ever seen such grandeur, and while walking under these towering trees, you feel the need to whisper …….

I was so shocked to see all these full size trees grow out from this fallen "nurse" log. How do they do that?

Emerging from the trail feeling somewhat humble, we drove deeper into the park to see the Ohanapecosh Visitor’s Center.  Feeling a little weary, we were disappointed to find that this Visitor’s Center was on a much smaller scale. We only looked around for a few minutes and started the long, windy road down the mountain. 

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

After the tiring day we had yesterday, and the fact we saw the highlights of Mount Rainier ( a lot of the trails were still closed due to the heavy snow still there) we decided to take it easy.  There are always things to do around the “house”.  Emails, blog, laundry and bill paying among the few.

Late in the afternoon we drove down the road to Elbe get a closer look at the iron sculptures we saw as we drove here. Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park is privately owned by a warm and lovely man named Dan Klennert who wishes to share his love of art ( and incredible talent ) with the world, for no charge.  With only a handwritten sign suggesting that if you would like to see him continue with his life’s passion, to perhaps donate $5.00 to help him make ends meet. 

These pictures don't do them justice, but you would swear that little foal was going to run and play with its mother!

We found this other magnificent piece of art found on the property of Dan Klennert's Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park.
These larger-than-life sculptures made of iron scrap were the most amazing metal art we have ever seen!  Made mostly of antique parts, it was fun to just stare and try to figure out what the different parts were originally.  I am sure my dad would have known.  Roaming freely around the property, you could appreciate that each piece was cleverer than the last.  The man has such talent, imagination and a deep seated whimsical humor that had you standing around grinning like a fool.  I am so envious of people with such a “gift”. 
Dan Klennert came out of his work shop and told us about his life, how he learned to weld, and tried to explain how he can take a piece of old metal (junk to us mere mortals) and instantly envision where that piece belongs in his next creative masterpiece.  He wants to share his work with the world, at absolutely no cost.

Norm and I went into the shop hoping he might have something for sale that might go in the house or yard, but he obviously spends his time creating pieces that need his boom truck to move.

Dan strolled out of his shop and we started to talk.  An hour later, we learned many details about his life. How he came about this unusual craft as a young man many years ago, and how it has ruled his life.  His ex-wife will account to that.   This is a man who collects junk parts of every type, the older and rustier the better. He became so excited when he found a neighbor had left what I would have considered truly “junk” at his side door. Picking up a part of a wire rake, he instantly knew that would become the hair on an animal.  Or the braiding on an old, dirty and broken basket would be a key part in a horse’s bridal. Dan stores his mountain of “treasures” (perhaps considered merely “junk” to those of us not gifted with the ability to see art beyond the rust) behind a fence called “Field of dreams”.

To learn more about Ken, click the link

That night we invited a lovely young couple next door to join us at our campfire, and we had a great evening, promising to call them when we get to their hometown of Bend, Oregon near the end of August. 

Cave Junction, Obrien, Oregon

August 17 th – 19 th ,2017 We were so surprised to see what looked like Customs down the road.  Did we take a wrong turn? I thought...