Saturday, July 30, 2005

Misty mornings

Mornings here at Long Beach are gray and misty no matter what the weather forecast, so we waited until mid-morning to drive south to the Cape Disappointment State Park. As you can see in the photos I posted, we didn't wait quite long enough. However, the marine layer would drift and blow so I was able to get a few good pictures.

Cape Disappointment received its name from British fur trader John Meares after he was unable to locate the mouth of the Columbia River. The state park encompasses 1,882 acres that includes two miles of beach, a large campground, two lighthouses and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. We stopped at the North Head Lighthouse first, climbing the several sets of steps to the top and marveling that the lighthouse keeper would carry 30 pounds of kerosene up with him to keep the light going. Both the North Head and the Cape Disappointment lighthouses are still functional and are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

While up in the lighthouse we saw a black-tailed doe, a yearling and a fawn. The parks volunteer mentioned that there were two other volunteers below who were doing a wildlife count, so I stopped by to check out their sign board to see what types of birds and mammals had been sighted that morning. There were several varieties of gulls, cormorants, sparrows, ravens and pelicans, the deer, porpoises and harbor seals. I was able to see a porpoise splash a couple of times, but they weren't jumping out of the water as we sometimes would see at Myrtle Beach.

There was a tour bus crowd at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center, so Denny and I chose to hike up to the Cape Disappointment lighthouse to take in the view. The last stretch was uphill but doable for seniors although you can't go inside the lighthouse as you can at North Head. The view was worth the walk.

A lunch of burgers, onion rings and clam chowder at Julie's Loose Caboose diner in Long Beach completed the morning. We also tried their "Coastal Pie" which had raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples and rhubarb. We decided that we'd try making our own version as it was quite good and I know Denny could make it better. I'm thinking raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples and rhubarb-sounds good, doesn't it?

One of two lighthouse keepers' residences, both of which are available to rent for overnight stays. Posted by Picasa

Same view seconds later Posted by Picasa

View from the North Head Lighthouse through the mist Posted by Picasa

North Head Lighthouse a few minutes later Posted by Picasa

North Head Lighthouse through the mist Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 29, 2005

No griping today

After two days of whining I figured it was time to change tempo.

We awoke to misty fog yesterday but armed ourselves with the camera and headed north to Leadbetter Point in hopes that the sun would burn off the fog. No such luck. Rt. 103 dead ends at Leaadbetter Point which is a state park and wild life refuge. The road leading to the park is one lane wide, so I was glad we had the rented Toyota rather than our large truck as no one would have been able to get by us.

The park itself consists of a view platform overlooking Willapa Bay and some hiking trails. Since it was still foggy and a light rain was falling, we turned back after tramping over to the viewing platform as there was really nothing to see in the fog. An interpretive sign at the platform mentioned that this was a good area for bird watching as plover stop over here in the spring and fall seasons to feed and rest, but there were no birds around while we were there.

We checked out Oysterville next, a small town that's on the National Historic Register. Many of the homes there were built in the 1870s and have the dates they were built and the original owner's name on plaques on their fences in front. It's a quiet little place a few blocks long and wide, although it was known for its oyster trade in the late 1800s.

We were going to drive the beach on the western coast as it goes from Leadbetter Point to Long Beach, but the sand here is not as firm as that along the shore in Ocean Shore so we didn't want to chance getting stuck. We drove south along the paved road instead to check out the houses. Beach front homes in Washington are functional and rather modest compared to many we've seen along the beaches around the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coastline.

Since the sun never popped out to burn off the fog, we decided to forego any further sightseeing for the day. A stop at a farm market for bi-color corn, tomatoes and blueberries meant a dinner of BLTs, corn on the cob and blueberry cobbler. Which of course necessitated a long walk on the beach after dinner where we perched ourselves on a piece of flotsam to await the sunset. Another couple from the campground wandered over to join us and we chatted about sunsets in various parts of the country and the state of the world in general. I was able to get a few good shots of the setting sun and after waiting to see if it was clear enough for the green flash (it wasn't) we returned to the warmth of the rig.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Another expensive day

An unusual occurrence; Denny rolled out of bed at 6 a.m.! Our 8 a.m. appointment was in Astoria, Oregon, which is about 25 miles away but since we didn't know how many 25 m.p.h. areas we would have to pass through to get there, we left about 45 minutes prior to the appointment. It was foggy when we left but started to clear until we reached the bridge across the Columbia River where a marine layers hovered a few feet over the water. It's a really pretty effect with the sun shining through and the layer of clouds resting on the hillsides in Astoria made a neat sight. Next time we head that way I'll bring my camera. The bridge across the Columbia River is 3.7 miles long as this is where the Columbia empties into the Pacific. It's a pretty impressive sight.

We rolled into Astoria Ford for our appointment where we waited for an hour to receive word on what needed to be done. Bad news; the transmission fluid was cooked, the clutch to the reverse gear was fried, the clutch to overdrive gear was probably bad and who knows what else they would find upon attempting repairs to the transmission. So the mechanic recommended a new rebuilt transmission, which they could get shipped from Portland by tomorrow. Okay. Then we discussed adding temperature gauges and/or a second transmission cooler and ended up going for both, as we have a lot of mountains to cross before we're through with our travels so we might as well have the truck's transmission set up to deal with them better. Our fifth-wheel weighs in at 16,900 pounds, which is within our Ford F450's towing capacity but close to the limits, so we'll bite the bullet on this. The lady handling the desk for the service department arranged a rental vehicle for us at an Enterprise dealership and an Astoria Ford employee shuttled us over there to pick it up. They have been very helpful and understanding of our situation and of course, we had extended our stay at our current campground before we arrived just in case we had major work to be done so we wouldn't be pressed for time. So it should all work out.

We took our little Toyota Corolla rental car to the grocery (love that tiny turning radius compared to our monster truck!) while in Astoria-what a neat town it is! I noticed a sign that said it's on the National Historic Register since it is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. It has some really steep hills reminiscent of those you see in San Francisco and some wonderful Victorian style homes. I told Denny we should come back to do some exploring while we were renting a car with great gas mileage as we also saw the Columbia River Maritime Museum in town which looked interesting. Perhaps tomorrow?

Back at the rig I unloaded groceries while Denny transferred the parts needed from the broken tripod to the new one so we could get the DirecWay satellite dish up and running for my Internet access. We set it up, got it leveled, pointed, and within five minutes had our signal peaked and we were off and running. Whew! Since our cell phone signal is weak here (Cingular does not have good coverage here either) having Internet access becomes more important for keeping in touch with family and friends.

So while we're not happy with having to replace the transmission on the truck, it appears we may be lucky in our choice of Ford dealerships to get the work done. I'll let you know if we're still pleased when it's all over and the truck is back in our hands.

Not a happy anniversary

Today is our 20th anniversary but it was marred by inconvenience and aggravation. We traveled from Randle, WA to Long Beach, WA which is a trip of about 150 miles. Not a problem normally and it was all new area to us. We took the back roads, winding through hills and enjoying the scenery and pulling off the road a couple of times to allow faster traffic by. I think that was the problem, because upon arrival while opening the slides to set up at our site I discovered the computer monitor face down on the coffee table and candles and items flung about. This normally doesn't happen in our travels, so I can only assume that when Denny pulled over since there were narrow shoulders on the road we must have had a couple wheels go off the road tilting the rig which caused items to fly. Fortunately, the monitor didn't break and it was just a matter of picking up and sweeping up a shattered candle and putting things back in place.
The next problem occurred while attempting to reposition the DirecWay satellite after being unsuccessful setting it up on one side of the rig. We managed to crack the cast iron plate at the top of the tripod which meant the dish now wobbled. And a wobbly dish means no satellite signal. Locating another tripod was a trip up and down Highway 101 until we found one in Long Beach where they charged us full price for a used surveyor's tripod. Grr. Or perhaps I should say full price in other states, as it may be for Washington it was a reduced price. Regardless, we needed a tripod and this place had the only one around for miles, so we bought it. So by then, we had missed lunch, gotten disheveled and grumpy and were in no mood to clean up and go out for a nice anniversary dinner, so we stopped at Chen's Chinese restaurant where we had a drink and a really great meal. For entertainment the waiter showed us how to open a bottle of beer using the bottom of a disposable lighter, something he said most Chinese folks do as so many of them smoke and have lighters available. It was a cute trick and his pleasant service helped us relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. We came home to clear out the back seat of the truck as we have an appointment tomorrow morning to have the transmission looked at to see why the reverse gear is slipping.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Sunday is our goof off day. We go out to breakfast at whatever little local restaurant we can find, avoiding the chain restaurants. Afterwards, we took a drive to the farm stand a few miles down the road and were treated to the sight of a black-tailed doe and her very tiny spotted fawn running parallel to the road, trying to find a break in the hedges. Returning from making our purchases of fresh sweet corn, green peppers and a honeydew melon, I spotted a cow elk munching on the leaves of a young tree near the roadway. So that alone was worth the drive.

The rest of the day was spent puttering around and enjoying the day. I did have to help a lady try to lure her cat out from under our rig. It seems it had gotten loose from its leash and didn't want to go back inside. The small cat seemed half wild and eventually the lady gave up, saying it would return home sooner or later. O-kay. I guess that's one way of dealing with a recalcitrant animal. You certainly meet all kinds of folks while on the road.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Washington Coffee Shop

I've mentioned Washington coffee shops a few times, so I finally took a picture of one. I couldn't resist one with a carved wooden horse and cowboy as the theme. Coffee shops are very rare in this area, but then again, so are towns.

There is also a small farm stand down the road with first of the season peaches and corn from Yakima, as well as cantalopes and Rainier cherries. Oh, so good! The only things missing are good home-grown tomatoes as our two plants aren't producing ones of a size to slice for BLTs yet.

It's hot here and we're staying in the air conditioning. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The cowboy of Cowboy Coffee, Packwood, Washington Posted by Picasa

Cowboy Coffee, Packwood, Washington Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mt. Rainier

Okay, what can I say about Mt. Rainier that hasn't been said a thousand times by folks with better writing skills?

I forgot to check the odometer but I know we drove at least 175 miles round-trip yesterday and we didn't even go all the way to Paradise. Hmm, perhaps I should rephrase that!

We entered the park by way of SR 123 on the eastern side of the park where we encountered a relatively long wait at a road construction area. A large portion of the southbound lane had fallen down the side of the mountain and they were moving large amounts of dirt around with the intent of shoring up the hillside. That would be a scary job, working on a huge crane and knowing the hillside is unstable! We missed the turn off to Sunrise when a car pulled out right in front of us (Washington does have some really crazy drivers, but they're polite, crazy drivers) so we ended up in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where a very friendly and super-knowledgeable ranger turned us around after giving us several tips on places to stop and trails to follow. We've found the national park personnel here in Washington to be absolutely outstanding.

So we hit the visitor center in Sunrise, checked out the trails and saw they all started at a steep angle and decided to pass as Denny has been having some episodes of extreme and scary shortness of breath on a couple of our jaunts. He's decided to have a stress test when we get back to Ohio over the Christmas holidays as this is causing us some concern. So we can't tell you about any neat things to see on the trails this time. I must say that there were a lot of people trekking up the hillsides there and many, many more parked at all the roadside trail heads. We also saw about 20 cyclists pumping their way up the mountain, which has about a ten mile stretch of non-stop ascent before they finally reached a plateau for a break. These folks are in terrific condition! We chatted with one cyclist as he was waiting for his partner to arrive at Sunrise Point; they had covered 32 miles so far and had more to go. I can't even imagine doing that on a flat roadway, much less up a 6 percent grade for miles and miles and miles.

Mt. Rainier is impressive and with our binoculars we could see areas where the snow had broken off showing the depth of the snow level. Apparently the area received far less snowfall than normal this year, so it would be interesting to see the mountain under normal snowfall conditions. A waitress at the local restaurant in Randle had mentioned to us that there were only ten ski days this past winter which definitely was not normal for them.

While heading back towards Paradise we saw a brown shape climb up from the edge of the road and start to cross in front of us. Thinking it was a deer, I was pulling out the camera to turn it on and focus when I realized that it was a small brown bear. He turned his head and startled when he saw us so he scurried across the road quickly and was up the hillside on the opposite side and into the woods before I had a chance to focus in on him. How neat it was to see a wild creature in its own habitat instead of behind bars in a zoo! While still relishing that sighting we decided to pull off the road at a small view point area and have our picnic lunch while sitting on the tailgate of the truck. Denny pulled out the binoculars to check the mountainside for any sign of elk and sure enough, about three miles distant there were two bull elk feeding. One had a particularly large rack of antlers so I tried to get a shot of him, but even with a 10x digital zoom I wasn't able to get a good shot. So we'll just have memories of the bear and elk rather than physical evidence of our sightings.

Rounding out the day we stopped for diesel fuel ($2.59 a gallon, major ouch) and decided to have dinner while we were out at the Plaza Jalisco Mexican restaurant. That was a wise decision as we both had excellent meals and took enough home with us to have a second meal. Plaza Jalisco is in Morton, WA a block up from the intersection of US 12 and SR 7.

It felt good to be home, but before we could even sit down a lady was knocking at our door with questions about our DirecWay satellite system for the Internet. So I explained it to her and we discussed traveling and full-timing and keeping in touch with the world by cellular phone and the Internet for about a half-hour. She's actually the third person who has stopped by to discuss the system since we arrived here in Randle, which is quite unusual. Folks normally ask us what the big dish is, then continue on their way when informed it's for connecting to the Internet. I think they believe it's some sort of super TV dish where they could get a zillion stations or something and when they find out it's not, they're not interested-heh.

So it was another perfect day in Washington.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Putting it into perspective

When we arrived at our current campground we were a bit upset to discover we would be placed at a site with no sewer connections. I realize this doesn't mean anything to non-rvers, but to those of us with fifth-wheels and travel trailers a two-week stay means that at some point we're going to have to stow away all breakables, take down the pictures, pull in the slides, unhook all cables and hoses, hitch up the truck and drive to the dump site here on the grounds to empty our holding tanks and then return to the site to reverse all we've just done. It's an inconvenience and many campgrounds have a honey wagon to empty your tanks for you when the campground has a large number of water/electric only sites. This one doesn't.

After getting all set up, we took a walk around the campground and discovered they had a nine-hole golf course on the grounds, that it is surrounded on all four sides by mountains and bordered by the Cowlitz River and has a great indoor pool with set "adults only" times which allows me to do my water aerobics in peace. Okay, it's getting better.

Then over the weekend I was IMing (instant messaging/online chatting) with a couple of friends who were going through family and medical problems and I realized how fortunate Denny and I are at this point of our lives. Our sons have stable jobs and marriages, our parents are in decent health and are still independent and we are healthy and still able to manage this lifestyle on one pension in spite of increasing across-the-board expenses. So it's time to remember that we shouldn't sweat the little stuff and appreciate what we have.

The sun is shining here in Washington-life is good.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Trees that were protected by hillsides from the powerful blast but were decimated by the ash. Posted by Picasa

You can see how the blast from the exploding volcano blew upwards, toppling the trees. Posted by Picasa

The north end of Spirit Lake, now totally covered with dead trees. Once there was a water fall in this area and many cabins along its banks. Posted by Picasa

Lupine and Indian Paintbrush growing amid the destruction. Posted by Picasa

The stairway leading to the Windy Ridge view point. Posted by Picasa

The still active Mt. St. Helen volcano Posted by Picasa

Mt. St. Helen from Windy Ridge

Twisting, turning Road 25 leads to the Windy Ridge view point from our campground. Towering trees dapple the roadway as we peer deep into the woods hoping for a sight of deer or elk and we're rewarded by two black-tailed deer scampering across the road in front of us. The quiet is deafening as we wind our way alone on a narrow two-lane road to Mt. St. Helen. Washington has provided us with a beautiful sunny day, so welcome after several weeks on the rainy Olympic Peninsula and we're enjoying having the windows of the truck rolled down to breathe the pine-scented air.

A turn onto Road 99 and now we're really starting to climb. Vegetation is lush, but as we near Mt. St. Helen we start to notice damaged tree tops. A turn or two more and suddenly we're in an area of denuded trees standing upright with stumps where branches once grew and low vegetation on the ground. Two or three more swings around the mountain side and we're looking at waves of trees blown like toothpicks laying on the hillsides, patterns emerging depending on how the hillside faced the volcano. And yet white and yellow daisies and brilliant red Indian Paintbrush dance merrily in the breeze along the edges of the roadway providing a sharp contrast to the desolation of the hills and give an indication of how Mother Nature is reclaiming the area.

Arriving at the Windy Ridge view point parking lot we stand and watch the steam rising from the crater of Mt. St. Helen and try to imagine what it was like seeing that huge mushroom cloud of ash and rock rising in the sky. The small town of Randle where our campground is located is twenty-six miles from Mt. St. Helen and was covered by 3 to 5 inches of ash and rocky bits that May in 1980 and the local schools were closed down for a year. It's hard to imagine that kind of devestation, yet the evidence is right in front of us.

To our right sat a long flight of steps leading to the actual viewing platform across the valley from the volcano. Windy Ridge is the closest viewing area to the crater and although the steps were daunting, I knew I had to climb them to take a picture of the crater area. More lupine and Indian paintbrush greeted me mid-way up and two hummingbirds were pirouting in the air once at the top of the climb. The viewpoint is about three miles from the crater and while you can't see down into the crater, you can see the opening better with a zoom-lens camera or binoculars. Going back down was certainly easier and we arrived back at the parking area in time for the nature talk. A perky novice ranger gave a 30 minute speech on the history of Mt. St. Helen, the eruption and its causes and its geological effects on the area. She obviously gave a great deal of thought to her presentation and with a great deal of body language gave a very interesting and informative speech. We learned that much of the regrowth of plant life in the area is due to the lupine family of plants which create nitrogen rich soil when they die and to the gopher whose burrowing habits caused good rich earth to be mixed with the ash left on the surface, allowing drifting seeds to take root and start to grow. There has been no human interference in this process of rebirth; everything has been allowed to regrow naturally. 90 percent of the animals native to the area have returned and they believe the remaining ten percent will return when old growth forest regrows, as that is the natural habitat of those ten percent.

Returning home, we stopped at several of the other view points to take pictures of Spirit Lake, a once popular resort area enjoyed for its fishing and swimming and camping. Now covered with thousands of dead trees it's hard to imagine this area being a playground for thousands of Washingtonians. However, as you look around at Mt. Adam and Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helen you can see what would have drawn people to the area.

There is a long loop following Rt. 504 that encircles Mt. St. Helen from the west end, but that would have been a lot of miles and a very long day so we'll save that for another time. Apparently there are many museums and viewpoints and areas of interest along that route, but we're happy we were able to see Mt. St. Helen "up close and personal".

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ruby Beach, Washington Posted by Picasa

The Hoh River, which is even more striking in the sunlight Posted by Picasa

Maple trees in Ohio don't look like this!  Posted by Picasa

The moss of this spring-fed creek reminded me of an Irish paper weight; Erin green encased in crystal. Posted by Picasa

Trees that have grown from a "nurse log", which is a fallen tree that has sprouted new growth. Eventually the nurse log will decay and disappear, leaving only a line of trees whose roots are exposed above the ground. Posted by Picasa

Linda in front of a large Sitka spruce, Hoh Rain Forest Posted by Picasa
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