13 August, 2015

From Sea to Shining Sea

Well, we made it. We last saw saw an ocean when we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and from Chincateague Beach, both on June 10th. Today, August 6, almost 2 months later, we got our first view of the Pacific Ocean at Ocean City, Washington. A cool, overcast day but still a momentous day for us in our little RV.

We've seen quite a few roadside chain saw wooden statuary artists. Most of them are quite impressive. It looks like some even used Mark as a model!
Quinault Lake has LOTS of activities to offer for tourists – this is the busiest sign of its type we've seen so far.

Quinault valley is home to 6 "champion trees", some World record and some US record holders.

The Olympic Rainforest receives about 12 feet of rain per year! The tree roots are very shallow as they do not need to burrow down to get the moisture they need. Therefore they tend to be top heavy and are prone to falling. The downed trees, as well as felled tree stumps, serve as a water and nutrient source so seeds that fall on them can root in the rotting wood. These "nurse logs" and their adopted children make for intriguing tree structures.

 We'd heard that Fork Timber Museum was great and it was – well worth the price of admission.

On a whim we decided to drive up to Neah Bay. Ozette is the most NW town in the contiguous United States. It was a rainy, cool day, typical weather that the Olympic peninsula is famous for. What a great drive along the rugged coast to the Makah Indian Reservation! In spite of the rain we could even see Vancouver Island, Canada across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We paid a visit to the outstanding Makah Museum where we learned lots about these Pacific Northwest natives. An archealogical dig nearby has uncovered many artifacts that were buried in mud 500 years ago, showing what life was like before the white man arrived. See http://makah.com/.

 Can't leave the yard art and roadside fun out of the mix.

 After parking atop the windy, pot-holed, cliff-hanging Elwha Valley road, we trekked another few miles to the natural hot springs. Do they always smell like sulpher?

 Our last two days in the Olympic National Park were also the most outstanding. We once again drove up a long, steep, windy road in 1st gear to the overflowing Hurricane Ridge parking lot and found a spot. There were lovely trails and we happened upon the news that an astronomer would be giving a talk and allowing visitors to look through his two telescopes at 10pm. While waiting for this to start we spent a romantic hour on top of the world, watching the sunset with another great view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

 After getting up close and personal with Saturn's rings and Titan, one of his moons, we looked at other astronomical features like galaxies and shooting stars. We were also treated to a surpise visit from the International Space Station which whirls around the earth so fast, we saw it twice!

We spent the night in the car park at Hurricane Ridge along with one other couple in a camper van at the far other end of the parking lot. We rose early in the morning (at sunrise - yawn), walked the trails again (this time we had them all to ourselves), then sat drinking our coffee watching the light change and shift on the glaciers as the sun rose slowly in the sky.

We dragged ourselves away from this magical place at around 10am as the new batch of day tourists started to arrive.

 Our last stop in the peninsula was at Port Townsend, a great Victorian town on the water famous for it's wooden boat centre. We sat and watched small sailboats zipping around the foggy bay along with the massive ferries heading back and forth to Seattle.

03 August, 2015

Washington State

We spent our first night in Washington State in a town named Colville. Of all the wildlife we have seen so far this was our closest encounter. While sitting outside the camper at dusk we saw 3 deer foraging maybe 20 feet from us.....where were we? A Walmart car park - really!

The National Forest Service has escalated the fire risk from 'Very High' to 'Extreme'. It's dry, dry, dry out here.  There were fire alerts for the North Cascades National Park and we were hoping we wouldn't have a rerun of our experience in Glacier. So far, so good.

Looking at the map, we decided to deviate from our planned route to the North Cascades National Park, leaving Rte 20 to take yet another beautiful scenic route through the Colville Confederated Tribes Reservation. It took us south through the Sanpoil River valley which was stunning. A high sided, magnificent rocky canyon with the Sanpoil River meandering down the narrow, lush, green valley. We eventually rose out of the valley and travelled up through high range land. We barely saw any other cars as we headed back north to rejoin Rte 20. (Sorry no pictures)

Statue of Chief Joseph in Nespelem, WA.
This land was given to the few remaining members of 12 tribes after they had been forcibly moved around, starved, and humiliated for many years, like so many other American Indian tribes.

We have spent a lot of time in 2nd (and sometimes 1st) gear going over passes from 3,200 – 5,600 feet above sea level, but after seeing the covered wagons that made this same trip almost 200 years ago we feel like we are flying. Wheee!

We spent a few days at North Cascades National Park where we managed to snag a great campsite right on Diablo Lake by arriving at 8am. This is the first place we have camped for more than 1 night since we left Collingwood, Ontario. We walked some great trails in the mornings, but it was so hot we spent the afternoons relaxing. In the evenings we attended interpretive talks at the amphitheatre – it was a very nice, relaxing three days.

Julie decided to take a dip in the lake one afternoon, but she only made it up to her knees - there's a reason it's called a glacial lake! Brrrr!!

We decided to head east back over the Cascades on Rte 20 again for our second trip over Washington Pass at 5,476' above sea level. 

Welcome back to 1st gear!! The reasons for our decision to backtrack were first, because we had missed a lot on our way in, and second, so we could take yet another scenic route we didn't want to miss.

   Town of Winthrop

So we headed south to rejoin Rte 2. As we drove we started smelling smoke and by the time we reached Chelan it was thick and acrid. We stopped for groceries and asked where the fire was, hoping they wouldn't say it was along our route. We learned that it was at the top end of Lake Chelan, 50 miles NW of us, but the wind was bringing the smoke right down to us. There was no chance of it reaching us so we headed up Rte 2 back up into the mountains for a nice smoke-free night.  

The next day we stopped at 2 awesome roadside interpretive trails. The first was the Iron Goat Trail which follows the abandoned Great Northern Railway through Stephen's Pass. More info on this wonderful trail can be found at "http://www.irongoat.org/history.html". We got to walk beside the concrete backwalls that are the remains of the snowsheds built to protect trains and tracks from avalanches in the winter.

The second was Deception Falls, a lovely walk through a beautiful forest to another dramatic waterfall.

We then dawdled our way west to Seattle to spend a few days with our cruising friend Connie.

At one point we were following a small biplane on a trailer with wings folded along the sides – very cool.