A Stopover in Vancouver

Jeanne had found out about a lot of stuff to do in and around Vancouver/WA & Portland/OR (both pretty much the same city, just divided by the Columbia River), so we set our sights on the Vancouver Elks Lodge for a few days’ stay. Unfortunately, the weather was horrendous for doing outdoor activities, lots of rain off and on. But we gave it the good ol’ college try. After our (5) hour drive and initial set up, first on our itinerary was to hit a brewery we had heard about (OK, our son Chad sent us on a beer shopping spree…) called Great Notion Brewing. We braved the absolutely horrible driving conditions (traffic, plus rain, plus drivers with HUA) and found Great Notion. They had a pretty good selection of brews and I found (3) porter/stouts to be worthy…Double Stack, Cake Party, and Hot Fudge Saturday. Unfortunately, they don’t distribute much, particularly the Cake Party and Hot Fudge Saturday, beers that are limited in production and usually “tapped out” fairly quickly. But at least I got a taste…

On another rainy Monday we ventured over to Ft. Vancouver to check out Officer’s Row. The U.S. Army  “fort” built in the mid 1800’s was called Vancouver Barracks and later part of the Department of the Columbia. Officer’s Row was a series of some 21 residences for the officers and their families with the Marshall House and the Grant House belonging to various commanders of their times. The City of Vancouver took over ownership of the residences in the 1980’s and restored them. Today, some of the homes are working businesses, some residences. The city gives free tours of the Marshall House (lower level) and our docent did a very nice job of giving us a history narrative surrounding Brigadier General George Marshall.

Being the intrepid travelers we are, it was off into the rain again, this time to drive the historic Columbia River Hwy. and see some of the sights along the way (mostly waterfalls). First stop was the Vista House. It was built on a point overlooking the Columbia Gorge as a rest stop & observation point for travelers to stop and gawk at the scenery. The views were very nice. It was then onward and eastward where we encountered Latourell Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Multnomah Falls, & Horsetail Falls. The trail to the upper falls area of Horsetail Falls was closed, so we only got to see the falls that were next to the road. (Gee, I hope I don’t mislabel any of the photos, but if I do, go ahead and sue me!) We ended our journey along the Columbia River Hwy. at Clock Tower Ales in The Dalles. Clock Tower Ales is housed in one of the early courthouses and is now a tap room and restaurant. The beer was good, the food fair, and the building historic.

When we finally got a clear day with minimal clouds we loaded up the Woodster and headed to the Waterfront Renaissance Trail, a trail along the Columbia River in Vancouver. We let Woodrow lead us on a couple miles of paved walkway along the river, watching a few of the fishermen catching whoppers out of the river. When we finished we dropped Woody off at the bus and headed into Portland to check out a brewery Jeanne found on line with some high end seasonal offerings, the brewery  called Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. We had a nice pre-birthday lunch (her birthday happens to be this week on Friday the 13th…great!) and tasted some of the malts, barley, and hops they offer. Holy moly, I just added one to my top 4 brewers list. Hair of the Dog now occupies my top tier of breweries (my opinion) along with Evil Twin Brewing, Founders Brewing, and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. We had a great lunch to boot. May I suggest the brisket and potato/pasta salad with a wash down of their Fred From The Wood. Mmmmmmmmmm! Hair of the Dog also does a very limited production (sometimes just a dozen bottles per release) on a barrel aged brew they call “Dave”. “Dave”, as they have a couple of bottles there now, goes for upwards of $800 per bottle. It is about a 29% ABV Barleywine that has been aging in multiple barrels for over 20 years. I better get crackin’ watering that money tree I have… 

Moving day is here and we are off, southbound and down. Until next post…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time Well Spent at Olympic National Park

Forks, WA was our chosen base camp for the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. We found space at the Forks 101 RV Park, right in the middle of town along Hwy. 101. The RV park was a grass field with FHU’s, pretty primitive showers/bathrooms, and basically no amenities/activities located on site. It is overpriced as well, $50/night being their base rate, but at least they give a 10% discount to first responder retirees. It is centrally located to many of the features of the Olympic National Park. At Olympic National Park be prepared to do a lot of driving, similar to Yellowstone and Glacier N.P.’s. There are no interior roads to drive around inside the park, only spur roads off of Hwy. 101, which encircles the park.

Outing number one took us to La Push and Rialto Beach. I’ll tell you right now, don’t waste any time driving into La Push. It is a very typical Indian Reservation town, run down, nothing there, waste of time. We even tried to stop off at the one restaurant in “town” for a seaside beer, but were told they had a rule if we were going to order beer, we also had to order food. Good bye, La Push. It did not even merit (1) photograph…We quickly headed for the other side of the river to Rialto Beach, but Mother Nature slammed us again. To walk the 2 mile hike down the beach to see the Hole in the Wall rock feature, it really needs to be anything but near high tide, which it just so happened it was at the time we were there, sooooooooo, no Hole in the Wall. We would have to save that for another day.

We headed out early one morning to hit the Hoh Rainforest along the Hoh River. There are 3 trails out of the visitor’s center there. Since Woodrow Wilson is not allowed on park trails, he had to stay home. The Hoh River Trail was automatically out for us, it is over 17 miles one-way and I don’t think the little Chihuahua-mix has a sufficient sized bladder for us to be gone that long. But we did take the other two trails, the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.8 mile loop) and the Spruce Trail (1.25 mile loop). The Hall of Mosses was eerily spectacular with some massive trees covered in moss, I don’t know if it is considered Spanish Moss, but very similar in nature. We also noted the chrystal clear nature of both the Hoh River water as well as the springs within the rainforest.

A quick lunch break and we picked up Woody and headed south to Lake Quinault. There is a 31 mile loop road encircling the lake, through more rainforest, with a couple of waterfalls along the way. The North Shore Rd. was part paved, part gravel, lots of thick trees, but not a lot of other views besides trees. Once we began the trip back on South Shore Rd. we quickly found Bunch Falls and Merryman Falls, both small but still scenic (c’mon, face it, waterfalls are pleasing to the eye in just about any form or size). On the way back home we stopped off to walk the beach at Ruby Beach. I guess the name derives from the appearance of the rocks/sand at some certain time of day and year, but at this time, that appearance was not to be. Still, the coastline at Ruby Beach has some stand-out rock formations and, like most areas around here, would be a driftwood hunter’s dream location. Mother Nature still laughing at us, the tide was up, taking away our opportunity to check out any tidal pools that are allegedly here at this location.

Getting another early start, this time on a blue-sky-sunny day, we drove out to Sol Duc Falls and hit the short 0.8 mile (one-way) trail to see the waterfalls. Before we got to the trailhead we came upon an area of the Sol Duc River called Salmon Cascades. These were beautiful cascades into some of the clearest pools of water we’ve seen. A few pix for posterity and we continued on to the trailhead for the falls. The hike was easy on a well maintained trail, through more rainforest and moss covered trees. Sol Duc Falls did not disappoint in the scenery department. Now, for those of you daredevil hikers out there, there are many other trails that are accessed off of this one as you hike past the falls, traversing many many many miles of rainforest terrain. These would be the type of trails used by back-country, overnighting back packers who are required to purchase permits for said types of hikes. We are not that level of hikers…yet.

Since the weather gods were smiling on us we chose to head back to see Cape Flattery again, this time without the shroud of clouds. We got there with fairly blue skies and were treated to unobstructed views of that area that were in stark contrast to how we saw them less than a week ago in a heavy drizzle, clouds, marine layer, fog, you name the marine obstruction and we had it! Wow wow wow! Very nice! I even got to get a good look at what I previously described as “ghost island” from our first low-visibility visit to the Cape. Turns out it even has a lighthouse on it and Jeanne later discovered the island to be Tatoosh Island, a sacred island of the local Makah tribe of Indians. We topped the day off with “linner” at the By the Bay Cafe in downtown Sekiu, looking out onto the marina area and watching some of the locals cleaning their catch of the day.

Since the weather gods were feeling generous with us, we made another return trip to Rialto Beach but this time paying attention to the ocean tide tables. With tides low enough, we hiked down the beach to the Hole in the Wall. The sun did not want to come out to play, but the marine layer/fog stayed away as well, with just overcast skies and visibility good. The area of the Hole in the Wall is jam packed full of tidal pools at low tide and we got treated to some very colorful sea anemone(s), starfish, and even some well camoflaged fish swimming among them. The Hole in the Wall is just that – a large hole in the rock wall. You can walk through it and as you do, there are many little tidal pools in the tunnel with sea anemone(s) glowing in their brightness. All in all, we definitely got our money’s worth in the scenery department.

Our last day in the area was, surprise surprise, another crappy weather day, so we just hung out and prepped for travel day. That about wraps up our stay here at Olympic National Park. Until next post…

Posted in Uncategorized, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Time in Port Townsend, WA

We caught the ferry from Coupeville (Ft. Casey) to Port Townsend. It was our first experience loading our 16 ton bus towing the Jeep onto a ferry boat which I was a little apprehensive about. But all was well, after all, they are HUGE ferries. For the mere cost of a $90-something half hour boat ride we saved ourselves 200 miles of driving through some of the more congested areas of Washington state. It was well worth the price. But, again, no orcas, just a few porpoiseseseses…

Our first home on the Olympic peninsula was the Jefferson County fairgrounds camping lot in Port Townsend. Relieved we found space on the Labor Day weekend, we opted to stay at the fairgrounds until the holiday weekend was over. The Jefferson County fairgrounds is terrible as far as RV lots go. It definitely is not of the breathtaking scenery type of RV lot. The grass/dirt area for parking the rigs is extremely uneven and it takes a little effort to get level. I committed an RVer’s mortal sin; after finally getting level (used up all of my levelling blocks), we did a full set-up, pop-outs and all, before I went to hook up power. At the self-check in station it lists the sites with water, electricity, and sewer. We chose one of them, but when I tried to plug in I discovered the electricity offered was only a 20A 110 outlet. Shoulda inspected the power before set up, coulda saved me a whopping $5 per night…I ate the extra, being too lazy to load everything up again and relocate to the cheaper sites. Besides, with the (8) solar panels on my roof we don’t need their meager offering of 20A electricity… The sites here were stacked like cord wood, with very skinny travel lanes between rows of RV’s. But we had a base camp for the area…

Hurricane Ridge is just outside Port Angeles in Olympic Nat’l Park. We loaded up Woody and drove out to investigate the scenery. Being a National Park, in typical fashion Woodrow Wilson was not allowed on trails, so we nixed any trail hiking. I think that choice was made for us by Mother Nature anyway, it was an overcast day with limited visibility.

On another overcast, drizzly day we took the chance and drove all the way over to Neah Bay to check out Cape Flattery, the N/W point of the lower 48 (not the northernmost, just the N/W most). It was still overcast and drizzly when we got there, but it was jam packed with visitors. We hooked Woody up and let him lead us down the 25 minute trail to several Cape Flattery viewpoints. Even in the thick mist, it was a pretty scenic area. As we left we decided we may just have to return if we ever get some fairly clear weather after we relocate to the area of Forks, WA, our intended next destination. So far, we are not fans of this end-of-summer weather in Washington. Also, not fans of the cell service/wifi we have experienced at the places in Washington we have been thus far.

We finally got a hint of blue skies, with some clouds, but we capitalized on it and did a walkabout around the downtown waterfront area of Port Townsend, sans Woody. Port Townsend is touted as “Washington’s Victorian seaport”, with many Victorian style homes on the hills overlooking Port Townsend Bay. The waterfront area is home to a great many older buildings from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, still in use by businesses today. We found our way to the Port Townsend Brewing Co. for a flight of their finest. Not a lot to write home about, but their “Peeping Peater Scotch Ale” was fairly tasty. Lunch time found us at Taps at the Guardhouse at Ft. Worden State Park. A unique little Pub & Eatery, some of the tables are held within the confines of a jail cell. Their wings were good, washed down with a Fremont Brewing “Dark Star” imperial oatmeal stout. One thing we have discovered, there are a whole lotta deer here in town. They pay no mind to us humans and you really gotta pay attention while driving around, they just meander out into the roadway whenever they wish.

That about covers our stay here in Port Townsend. Tomorrow we are off toward Forks, WA and the other side of the peninsula. Until next post…

Posted in Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Time in Anacortes

Pioneer Trails RV Park was our chosen home for about a week in beautiful downtown Anacortes. The park was nice and spread out in the hills and trees and a good base to work out of. Our site was level gravel pull-through, FHU’s, but thick in the trees which put the kabosh to our satellite TV reception. And since they had no cable, I did not even try to catch over-the-air antenna reception and we “went commando” all week, aka: “unplugged”. 

Our first order of business was some exploring, so we headed out toward Whidbey Island. Crossing the bridge over Deception Pass, we wanted to stop and give it a good look but quickly discovered the way of the world in the state of Washington. Just about everything worth sightseeing they charge a $10 day use fee. But the great state of Washington to the rescue! They offer a yearly Discover Pass for all state sites/parks for the mere price of $30. So we buckled and bought a pass (which paid for itself in the first 2 days for us). Just one of the ways they make up for having no state income tax I guess…We returned later to walk the bridge. In the meantime, we continued south on Whidbey Island to Oak Harbor. We strolled the “downtown” area and walked along the boardwalk/shoreline. Whidbey Island NAS is in/near Oak Harbor and we were treated to numerous groups of fighters flying our friendly skies. Continuing S/B on Hwy. 20 we cruised on into Coupeville and the Fort Casey area. We needed to check out the ferry terminal in Fort Casey that runs across to Port Townsend on the Olympic peninsula for our eventual escape from this area heading south. Ferry information and schedules in hand, Coupeville became our lunch stop. After a walk around town and the Coupeville public pier/dock we ate lunch at Toby’s, a little quaint bar/restaurant.

Our return trip brought us back to the Deception Pass bridge. We walked the bridge and watched a group of fishing boats below catch some fish. They were also being surveilled under the watchful eye of what was probably one of the local harbor seals. It was a very scenic view on a clear day.

A run to Bellingham, WA found us stopping off at the Trader Joe’s for a little shopping. We also found out there is a Bellingham Tap Trail so, twist my arm, we HAD to hit just a few of them. The whole trail consists of about 30 not just breweries but cideries and tap houses as well. Of the six we visited, we picked lunch at the Bellingham Beer Garden, affiliated with Twin Sisters Brewing Co. This turned out to be a great choice, both food-wise and beer-wise. Jeanne had their cauliflower tacos and I had the pork belly tacos, both outstanding! And the bourbon barrel aged Stouting Thomas was very good. We did find Bellingham to be a pain in the #&$% to drive in the downtown area – all the one way streets and the sheer number of drivers driving HUA made it a true chore.

A drive to the opposite end of Fidalgo Island found us driving the Washington Park Loop, a short loop in the park with ocean views. German immigrant Tonjes Havekost owned this area back in the 1870’s and his gravesite is on a short walking trail off the loop.

Rosario Beach is next to Deception Pass State Park. We walked out to the beach and a small tidal pool area. It seems the tidal critters were critically damaged during a low tide event in 1995 where some 1,200 human visitors trampled over the sea life in one day. Time is allowing the critters to return and we saw many tiny what I think are urchins (if I’m wrong, go ahead and sue me). Also, a wayward red rock crab kinda crossed our “path” in the shallows of a nearby cove.

We met up with our friends Bud and Meredith (fellow Texans) when we relocated our homestead to the Fidalgo Bay RV Resort, still on Fidalgo Island. This was a bit different RV park from Pioneer Trails. Fully open sky, sites stacked like cord wood, views of the bay, and a nice bicycle/walking path that runs right through the park. There is a part of the path that is on kinda like a jetty with a footbridge over the channel which we used for Woody’s walkabouts. It provided us opportunities to see some of the local critters like harbor seals, blue herons, red rock crabs, a colorful starfish, and a whole bunch of clams “spitting” during low tide. Now, the last time we were with Bud & Meredith, it was at the opposite end of the world in Bar Harbor, ME. At that time, I can say I have never stuffed my face with so much lobster and steamed clams than I did then. Being on the left coast this time, substitute Dungeness crab for lobster and I can pretty much say the same thing. Mmmmmmmmmm…

One day we did a bicycle ride into town to wander their Farmer’s Market. It was relatively small as far as F.M.’s go, but we still managed to pick up some tomatos and tomatillos for future salsa. After hitting the market, we stopped off at a place called “Gere-a-Deli” for lunch and had some outstanding chow; Jeanne had a quinoa salad and I had a pastrami sandwich. I would highly recommend this place if you are ever in the area…

We made a short trip to check out the small hamlet of La Conner. This was another quaint little seaside town, home to a cool little antique shop called “Nasty Jacks”. We strolled town and some of the plaza/boardwalk areas along the docks and ended with some nachos at the La Conner Brewing Co.

Bud & Meredith took us up to Cap Sante Park where we were treated to some pretty good water and island views, as well as snow-covered Mt. Baker. As far as views go, we also hit Mt. Erie right in the middle of downtown Anacortes. There are a couple of viewing platforms at the top, as well as non-developed platforms which are frequented by mountain climbers and rapellers. 

Our big excursion here was a ferry ride over to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The boat ride was just over an hour one-way, cruising through the islands, ever watchful for whale activity (but, alas, we got skunked). Friday Harbor was fun to cruise on foot, Jeanne and Meredith poking their heads into several of the local shops. We lunched at San Juan Island Brewery, of course testing out some of their brews, then ice-creamed our way back to the ferry. The scenery on the ferry rides was gorgeous, if you can stand to look at oceans, mountains, islands, and whole fleets of sailboats.

Well, tonight will be our last night on the island. A huge thanks to Bud & Meredith for all the good times, good food, and good “tour guiding”. A special shout out to Bud & Meredith’s friend “Bull”, a commander from Whidbey NAS who was staying at Fidalgo Bay RV Resort. He smoked some pork ribs, jalapeno poppers, and corn for dinner one night, all of which were OUTSTANDING! For our escape we have reservations for the Coupeville/Port Townsend ferry to float us across to the Olympic Peninsula, then from there, the fun begins—to find a place to park it for a few days…on Labor Day weekend no less! But hey, that’s the fun part of full-timing, ain’t it?!? Until next post…

Posted in Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking & Biking Our Way Through the Northwest

We’ve not been real big on reservations thus far in our near 7 years on the road. But Florida, the northeast, and now the northwest are demonstrating that we may need to start relying more on reservations. The northeast and northwest have such short recreational seasons that we are finding it harder and harder to just show up and find space for Rosie the bus pretty much any time we like. So, we plotted out our course towards Anacortes, WA, location for our next meet up with friends Bud and Meredith, and the Butte KOA was next up on our list. This was a return trip for us, nothing new to see in the big town of Butte, but we stayed 3 days anyway. The KOA is kinda run down; grass dead, trees/shrubs needing the services of a “barber”, and interior dirt roads tight in some spots. It fits right in with the town of Butte, Butte being kind of an ugly, dirty little town. We did manage to find a Costco in Helena, about an hour’s drive away, so we took advantage and stocked up on supplies.

Butte in our rear-view mirrors, it was on to Missoula where we decided to stay at the Gray Wolf Peak Casino just north of town. They have 50A E with a communal water spout for 8 RV sites. They charge $20/night, but if you get one of their player’s cards they waive the $20 fee. Wow, since I have quite a collection of casino player’s cards already started, “Where do I sign up?!” We stayed 2 nights here and ended up relieving the casino of a few hundred dollars making it well worth our while. Montana has a strange casino system, to say the least. They have “casinos” at every street corner it seems. These are small buildings/businesses that are basically a bar with a few dozen slot machines. No card games. No table games. Just slots. Gray Wolf Peak is an actual Indian casino, quite larger than most Montana casinos with restaurant, bar, hundreds of slots, but this one differs from most Indian casinos in that it has no card games or table games either, just slots. We had a good time anyway.

Next on our itinerary was Haugan, MT and a place called Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver $. They have a dirt RV lot behind the business with 30/50A pedestals scattered around and a communal water spout for RV’s, and it is free for short term stays. Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver $ is an unabashed tourist trap of a business which touts itself as having Montana’s largest souvenir shop. There is a restaurant and bar, as well as a detached hotel and the RV lot. The bar has the walls covered with silver dollars mounted in boards, with an ongoing count total of over 75,000 of them. The restaurant is unremarkable and well not worth your time, effort, or gastric discomfort. And the “casino” consists of about a couple dozen slot machines only. The gift shop offers a strange mix of merchandise; some of the normal clothing, jewelry, knick-knacks, art, wall hangings, plus a variety of weaponry from knives to swords to battle axes to blowguns, metal “gladiator” style helmets, coins & silver, oh, and all the dope pipes you could ever want. The clerk tells me weed is not recreationally legal in Montana, only legal for medical purposes.

The main reason for our stay here was the Hiawatha Trail (RideTheHiawatha.com), a stretch of the old Milwaukee Railroad line converted for bicycling/hiking. Our friends Stacy and Jim Camara turned us onto this bicycle trail which meanders through the mountains of MT/ID border. It is considered the Crown Jewel of the nation’s Rail to Trail system and covers 15 miles with (10) tunnels and (7) high steel trestles, plus all the scenery you can handle. The St. Paul/Taft Pass tunnel is 1.66 pitch-black miles long and would definitely be a rough go without the required lighting instrument of your choice. The bonus here is that from the East portal trailhead to the Pearson trailhead (that covers 15 miles) it is about a 1.6% downhill grade. You can choose to do the round trip (the downhill half took us a little over 2 1/2 hours), or you can catch the shuttle bus back to the top. We did not have the time (Woody back in the bus) for the round tripper, so shuttle it was. You need to pay a fee of $12/person to use the trail, a booth is set up at the trailhead. The shuttle use is an additional $10/person. Even on a hot day, you may want to consider carrying a sweatshirt with you, the longer tunnels are a bit on the chilly side. The trail is gravel but plenty wide and in few places is a shared-use road with vehicles. Thank you, Stacy and Jim, it was a good time.

Bikes packed up, it was hasta luego to Haugan and onward to the Coeur d’Alene Elks Lodge for a 5 day stint. Unfortunately for us, parts of Idaho were experiencing wildfires northeast of us, so we got to enjoy the smoky skies that we miss oh so much from the past couple of years in the west. We used the 5 days to get chores done (had to perform that rare task of hunting down a laundromat for laundry), but we did squeeze in time to walk around the downtown/marina area and also take in the Kootenai County Farmer’s Market. 

Jeanne discovered a special event at the Mad Bomber Brewing Co. They do occasional collaboration with local first responders to create original recipes and subsequent brewings, and one night they were having a release party for the latest brew, on behalf of the Kootenai County Deputy Sheriff Association, appropriately named KCSDA IPA. Live entertainment included a young man named Jacob Maxwell who I’m told was on a TV show called “The Voice”. The Mad Bomber Brewing Co. is a rather unique establishment. It was started by some EOD Army soldiers after their return from deployment and is extremely patriotic, pro-military, pro-first responders. It definitely packed ‘em in on the night we were there. God bless America!

Moving day took us to the Wenatchee River County Park for a 3 day stint. This was a fairly nice park alongside the Wenatchee River. It was, however, a bit noisy since it sits between Hwy. 2 and a very active railroad track (I particularly enjoyed the 2 train runs between 0300-0330 hrs…NOT!). We took advantage of this stop to give the bicycles another workout and ran a stretch of the Apple Capital Recreational Loop Trail (about 12 miles worth anyway). It was a fairly scenic ride through the Wenatchee Confluence State Park and along both the Wenatchee River and the Columbia River.

We wanted to give Woody some outdoor time so we loaded him up and headed into the tourist trap town of Leavenworth, WA. There they have a trail that runs through the Waterfront Park, Blackbird Island, and Enchantment Park alongside the Wenatchee River. Once finished with the trail, we headed back to the bus, planning to return later to play tourista in Leavenworth without the burden of having Woody along.

Wenatchee has a Public Market, similar to the one we went to in Napa, CA, which is all enclosed like an indoor mall. When we went to check it out, it turned out to be a lot smaller affair than the one in Napa. We strolled through the market, Jeanne sampled some balsamic vinegars and we sampled some brews from the Wenatchee Valley Brewing Co.

The park we were in did not have space for us to extend our stay, so we moved about 5 miles down the road to the Chelan County Expo & Fairgrounds where they run an open lot with FHU’s for RV’s. Once we were moved in, we went ‘splorin’ in the big city of Cashmere. It is a dumpy little nothing of a town, many business buildings empty, home to Aplets & Cotlets, an apple confection manufacturing business and Crunch Pak, an apple processing plant. We wandered the “downtown” area, then found our way over to the Milepost 111 Brewing Co. to sample some of their wares. They brew a McC’s Irish Red that was OK, not outstanding, but palatable.

Woody wanted to do some more outdoor time, so we loaded him up again and headed outside of Leavenworth to find the Icicle Gorge Trail. It was a 5-mile loop trail alongside Icicle Creek with some very nice scenery. Woody took it like a champ the whole way. His attention was continually drawn to the many chipmunks we saw along the way…

Once we finished the hike, we returned Woody to the bus, cleaned up, then made our return to Leavenworth to check out the town. Back in the 1960’s in an effort to increase tourism to the area, the whole town transformed itself into a Bavarian themed city. It was miserable to find parking anywhere, we ended up circling around through town a couple times before we found one parking spot far on the outskirts. We started with lunch at a place called Munchen Haus which we found on Yelp. With 1,073 reviews and a 4 1/2 out of 5 star rating, how could we go wrong? Well, the food was unremarkable, felt like eating a brat at the ball game. However they did serve what is called a German chocolate cake ale called Dark Persuasion that was pretty tasty. Gotta like the hint of coconut…The wait in line here was not worth the payoff. And they allow dogs in the seating patio area which it seemed EVERYONE took advantage of, not my choice for dining companions… The shops in town were touristy and crowded on the Friday that we were there. All in all, Leavenworth, WA would not be our choice as a vacation destination.

Our grand finale while in the area was another hike on a Rails to Trails participating  trail, this one called the Iron Goat Trail, about 50 miles west of Leavenworth. This trail runs a section of the old Great Northern Railway, built in 1893-ish (abandoned in 1929), as a means of transportation between St. Paul, MN, and Seattle, WA. We loaded Woodrow Wilson up and drove out to the trailhead in Scenic. The main trail is about a 7-mile loop, with a 3-mile tag into Wellington to the east and a much shorter spur into the Martin Creek trailhead at the west end. We chose the main loop out of Scenic. A suggestion for anyone choosing to do this hike out of Scenic. Do the loop clockwise. It starts through the lower section, then loops up to the upper section and finishes off with a mile long set of steep, downhill switchbacks. Counter-clockwise however starts one off doing the steep, uphill switchbacks first, which may turn out to be a severe quad/ham-burner, with the greater part of 6+ miles still to finish the loop. The trail is very scenic, at times looks sort of like rain forest, with several train tunnels and what’s left of the snow sheds that were built back then to cover sections of track as avalanche protection. A big caution to hikers on the lower trail section-stinging nettles are everywhere and at times the trail can be a little skinny-wear long pants and long sleeves. On the upper trail it was harder to find nettles. Otherwise, the trail was easy to follow, albeit a bit overgrown in some areas. We were on constant critter watch and although we saw none of the usual suspects (bears, elk, moose, deer, etc.), at least we did not get skunked-an owl was sort of stalking us, licking his chops as he caught sight of Woodrow Wilson.

Well, that will catch us up for now. Moving day tomorrow, onward and upward toward the Anacortes, WA area. Until next post…

Posted in Montana, Washington State | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heading into Cody, WY

We found a city park in the town of Columbus, MT, called Itch-Kep-Pe City Park and decided to call it home for a couple of days. This park is run on donations only, no hook-ups, a real bathroom (albeit rustic) with flush toilets, dumpster, and a central water faucet. The park is right on the Yellowstone River and is a popular boat launch area. The main drawback we found was the amount of yahoos barreling down the dirt roads in their “Bubba” trucks, stirring up dust. We were able to find a “site” open enough for our solar system to function at full force and obtain satellite reception for the “tube”. 

Our one big excursion from Itch-Kep-Pe Park was to drive the Beartooth Scenic Hwy. into Silver Gate at the northeast gate to Yellowstone N.P. It was a spectacular 220 mile round-trip drive up and over the Beartooth Pass Summit at 10,947 feet of elevation. We saw some beautiful mountain views, a little bit of snow, and some scenic water falls and lakes along the way. We pretty much got skunked on our main focus of attention – critter watch – with the exception of a small group of mountain goats grazing near the road. A midday stop at the Beartooth Cafe managed to get us fed and ready for the return trip home. I do say, they had some tasty Elk tacos. Some pics have captions, some speak for themselves…

We packed up and made it to our next stop, Cody WY. On the way we did our darndest to get hooked up with an RV campground with hook-ups, but wouldn’t you know it, nobody had space for us except for some dry-camping at the Buffalo Bill State Park. Since that park was a bit outside the town of Cody, we found the local Walmart instead. We had 2 days to kill before we could get a spot at one of the local RV parks. I will admit, we cheated just a tad, and stayed both days in the Walmart lot. This particular Walmart is an extremely popular RV-welcoming business. They have a sign posted directing RVers where dumps are located. They also have a water faucet in the “back 40” for RV use. It averaged about 20 rigs staying there both nights we stayed. We spoke with one employee about the length of stay for RV’s and he said despite the “1-day only” rule, many RV’s stay for “weeks”. Even though we “cheated”, we made it well worth Walmart’s while, going on a shopping binge both days there. To kill time while here, we took a drive up to the Buffalo Bill Dam & Reservoir. Just before we arrived we had to pass inside 3 tunnels into the mountains in an area popular for mountain climbing. At the dam we did a walk through of their visitor center. The dam is not wide, but very tall. It was completed in 1910 and at that time was the tallest concrete-arch style dam in the world, measuring in at 325’ tall.