The series of storms was supposed to continue. We decided to wait and see about staying or leaving on Friday. It was showery and windy during the night, but not that bad. When we woke up Friday morning, the whole front was heading east and the sky was pretty clear in the west. We were going out for another morning expedition.

I didn’t want to get on any narrow, hilly roads that were slick with 36 hours of rain. The atlas doesn’t discriminate among paved, gravel and dirt roads. We decided to avoid any of the dirt roads, turning around if gravel devolved into dirt. The first road we turned down was Bumgarner, in honor of our premier Giants’ piticher. The road lived up to its name.

We got on main Highway 26 for a few miles and came upon an accident on a curve in the road. A semi hadn’t made the turn and fell on its side. We weren’t sure he was the driver, but a forlorn-looking guy was sitting on the semi as the police did their thing. He didn’t look hurt so that was good.


We went north on a road going to the town of St. John and stopped to pay honor to an iconic barn that we photographed with the Malpases in 2013.


We hit a number of roads with good subject matter and new clouds began scudding across the sky, coming in from the west. That provided good ambient light. We came to the top of one hill and suddenly there was Steptoe Butte.


It was noon and we were getting tired. The last few images were questionable as to stability because the wind had really picked up. So we packed it in and headed home. We found that we had several new neighbors. My initial guess was that the Cougars are playing in Pullman this weekend and this is one of the few places to camp in the area. I thought there wouldn’t be any tailgate parties due to the wind, but it died down and there were people galore. Many were in camouflage; a hunting tailgate?

I found out on Saturday when I asked a young woman in camouflage what was going on. Deer hunting season was only open for one weekend and that was the weekend. “They’re bringing in two bucks now for dressing” she told me. We dumped at the supposedly closed dump station and took off for Walla Walla. As we headed south we saw many old campers and trucks parked off the road in the middle of nowhere and often spotted hunters in their orange vests heading into the hills. It was a good weekend to be on the highway and not driving around on back roads.


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We got in to the RV Resort Four Seasons that we shared with Don and Dorothy Malpas in 2013. All the cougars and roosters and other items are still scattered around the park.


On Sunday, we lounged around. Dave read the Sunday Chronicle on my iPad but I miss tossing all the paper sections around. We had a late breakfast and went to see “The Girl on the Train”. It’s a suspense mystery and pretty good. We got out around 3 and thought we should eat lunch. We found The Bread Company on Main Street and discovered that they serve brunch until 5 p.m.! We each had a breakfast sandwich. Thus fortified, we were ready for wine tasting.


There are many tasting rooms lined up on Main Street in Walla Walla. We went into Sinclair Estates, with a very small tasting area in a large room filled with antiques. We spent quite a bit of time talking with the young man who was pouring and he eventually toured us around the furniture and artwork. The artwork included 3 bronze sculptures, 2 of ornate, beautifully done bronze clowns. One actually had a removable bronze apple core in his bronze pocket.

The second winery we visited, Kontos, had 7 other people there, quite a crowd from what we had seen in other places. The wine was okay, not great, but the company was congenial. We drove a short distance home and had a light, late dinner.

The weather was due to get bad. We took off from Winthrop on Thursday to head to the Grand Coulee Dam. I wanted to visit there because I was told my dad had worked on the Grand Coulee Dam. The trip was pleasant – cloudy skies over farm and ranch land. We arrived at Coulee City and landed in a less than wonderful RV park. But we were installed next door to the laundromat and the park manager made a big effort to find the Giants-Cubs game on the laundromat TV, but didn’t have that channel. (Dave managed to stream it on the iPad.)

After settling in we drove a few miles to the Grand Coulee Dam. It’s not as as impressive-looking as the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona but it was quite an accomplishment for the time. A kind person at the Visitor Center volunteered to see if he could find any record of dad working there. Having an unusual name (Norwood Brunsvold) and knowing his birthdate, I figured they might be able to find a record of his having worked there. But no, no record.



We continued east towards Spokane the next day. We ended up in Cheney (not my favorite name) at the Peaceful Pines, a pleasant campground positioned next to oft-used railroad tracks as well as near the Spokane airport and Fairchild AFB. So noisewise – not so peaceful. Its advantages included being south of Spokane so we didn’t have to traverse the metro area as well as being next to Turnbull National Wildlife Reserve. We went out there later in the afternoon and were pretty bored. A few ducks and a few squirrels was it.


On Sunday, we went to town. I found a few parks in Spokane and we visited the John A. Finch Arboretum. It was really neat. The trees are mostly planted and are spaced out in an attractive manner. You can really get the feel and look of each separate tree. The unfortunate aspect of the park is the noise level coming from I-90 right next to it.

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Dave noticed that there were a lot of people taking “formal” shots of their families in the park. It certainly was busy for a cloudy, cool Sunday.

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After the arboretum, we headed to downtown Spokane to check out the river running through it. Meh….it wasn’t too interesting. So we went to Manito Park that had a Japanese garden. It was nice, but very small.

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We also checked out the separate rose garden that still had a lot of roses blooming. We were interested in a party of three that were apparently making a film. There was a guy dressed in a black robe and hood who was scaring another person. It was fun to watch the director trying to get her scene done. So not much done, but we got out and about in Spokane.


It rained most of Sunday night but we got away with just heavy clouds. It was only 50 miles to Colfax, our center of operations in the Palouse and it was a nice drive. We were happy to be back in hilly farming country.

We settled into the Palouse Empire Fairgrounds and fondly remembered being here with Don and Dorothy Malpas in 2013. We were armed with Atlas and cameras and hit the road about 2:30. I’ve covered the Palouse pages of the atlas with notes on the roads and places we particularly like. The fields are not as colorful as in spring but the patterns from the plowing and harvesting are still fascinating to us.

We drove around the back roads southwest of Colfax. Figuring out where to go to see the miles of fields and farms is a good game for me. The atlas has many but not all roads named. Some are good gravel, some are mud. There are so many roads because the huge equipment needed to plow and harvest has to have a road big and in good shape. You don’t want to wreck a $400,000 harvester. Also, various trucks transport the grain and hay from one place to another. There are trucks hauling hay bales all over the place.

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The back roads are usually two or three miles long and usually go past one or two farmsteads. They own all the fields we are driving past. As we drive past the houses, we are often greeted by dogs, often border collies, running to the road to see who’s trespassing. Some of the spreads are pristine and beautiful, others are an old house with some decrepit outbuildings and defunct machinery. Some spreads have been around a while, evidenced by the family cemetery on the property. For an urban girl, it’s all interesting to me. It’s such a different way of life.

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Tuesday, the weather was supposed to be much colder and it was. Dave had unhooked the water hose. If it freezes in the hose, no water for us until it melts and that is if the hose doesn’t split open. We woke up in a chilly home and stayed in bed until both the propane and electrical heater made the air tolerable. Then we got dressed, ate breakfast, filled our coffee cups and piled into the Rav to catch the morning light. No clouds but the October light is angled nicely for quite a while in the morning.

We drove around the area southeast from Colfax. That entails driving through town. The speed limit is 25. As we headed out of town, Dave sped up a little prematurely. Uh-oh, cheese it, the cops. We were nailed. A pleasant young woman told us were going 35 in a 25 mph zone. She asked what we were doing and we told her we were photographers out to catch the nice morning light. She told us she had been a photographer in the military. Ooo, a bond! She took our info, went back to her car for a while, returned and gave us a warning. No ticket! Yay!

We didn’t find anything spectacular but it was fun nonetheless.

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Our destination for Tuesday sunset was Steptoe Butte, 3,612 feet of hill. If you could drive quickly, you would get dizzy circling the butte all the times you need to get to the top. We started taking pictures at the lower levels.

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Then we were nabbed by a guy with a couple of big backpacks. It was Tim, a paraglider. We gave him a ride back up the butte with his equipment. Tim told us he was a railroad engineer in Alaska. He said the biggest problem was the cold – it caused a lot of problems. He had a fair amount of off time and liked to paraglide. We stuck around to watch him set up for another ride. It took a while but he finally set off. It was exhilarating.

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After that, we went to the top of the butte and hung around until sunset was near.

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After the sun had set, we took off down the hill. Almost at the bottom, there was Tim, folding up his sail. We gave him another ride up the hill. On the way down, in the gathering dusk, I saw something waddling up the hill next to the road. When we got closer, it was a porcupine, only the second one I’ve seen on our travels. Finally, we headed home in the dark and had a late spaghetti dinner. We have been the only campers in this huge grassy area that has 80 campsites.

That night was cold, really cold. So cold that I put on my knit cap during the night to keep my ears warm. We woke to a sunny day with a few high clouds. That meant we had to go out. The weather news was bad: a big storm was coming in starting Thursday and continuing through the weekend. They were talking about 50 mph winds in Spokane.

We got out pretty early and went to the area northeast of Colfax. We were searching for a particular spot Dave had photographed. We managed to find roads we had done before but couldn’t find the site Dave had photographed. Telling one wheat field from another isn’t that easy, especially when the same field is sometimes green, sometimes blond, sometimes brown.

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We reached Elbertson, a town that consists of a boarded-up church and house. There are picnic benches, outhouses and a basketball court. Not much to look at. At first, the frost-tipped greenery attracted us. Everything in shadow was rimmed with sparkling ice.

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But as on an earlier trip, the church, encircled by towering old maples, entranced me.

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We drove around for a while longer but wore out and returned to the LD for showers, lunch and rest. It doesn’t seem like driving, stopping and getting in and out of the car should be tiring, but it is.

Knowing the weather was going to go downhill, we betook ourselves out again in the afternoon, this time northwest of Colfax. We found some nice roads there, one of them named Bumgarner. (Sigh, the Giants are out of the playoffs)





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Wednesday night was much warmer. We woke up at dawn, saw only gray and sighed with relief; we weren’t going out. Laying there in the quiet (no heaters on yet), we heard the hoot of an owl. I think I also heard the cry of a caught creature. Soon the pittypat of light rain was going, so we were officially off the hook for going out. We enjoyed the day. Caught up on a lot of stuff including cleaning the damn kitchen venetian blinds. There has got to be a better way, but I don’t know what it is.

Monday was our getaway day. The weather was turning and we wanted to get over Rainy and Washington Passes before it rained. But we got a pretty nice day. We had already been to Newhalem, the “central” part of North Cascades National Park, and now we got to see the sights to the east of it. Diablo Lake is nice but I wouldn’t call it spectacular. We won’t get to do the hikes that actually are in the park. Part of the issue is that we’re camping far away. Oh well, maybe next time.


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Washington Pass is impressive. WA-20 does an oxbow bend and a quarter-mile road takes you to an amazing lookout. The Liberty Bell Mountain formation is very stately and a huge larch-filled saddle leads into many more peaks. It’s a 180-degree view of mountains.

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We went through the pretty Methow Valley and found our next home in Winthrop. It’s downtown has a Old West look that I think is fake, but might not be. The Pine Near RV Park has tipi’s and resident deer. Not bad. They have a better-than-expected IGA store where I found our favorite Dare chocolate cookies. Finally!

Blue Lake Trail

The weather reports are showing a week of showery, chilly weather -not my favorite hiking weather. But there are larches (tamaracks) to be seen, so I threw every coat, sweater and jacket into the car along with 3 pairs of gloves and my long johns. The Blue Lake Trailhead is just west of Washington Pass so it was a 32-mile drive to reach it.

It was chilly, not freezing but we were going to ascend 1,100 feet so I settled on a hoody covered with my jacket and squished my new rain jacket into my pack. Ready to go! The hike set off through a dim forest for the first of the 2.2 miles. There were occasional breaks in the trees where views of the mountains could be seen but the light was less than optimal.

Finally, we rose high enough to see our first larch. Oh, we’ve seen them before but not in a wonderful range of pale green to yellow to orange. Their short, skinny little limbs curved into interesting shapes. They are fun to compose with.

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During the hike, it would start to sleet lightly, then fade away. I’d get warm enough to take off the rain jacket and my mittens, then it would get chilly. It took us a long time to reach Blue Lake because the larches made such great foregrounds to the mountains. We finally crossed a slippery log over the lake’s exit stream and reached our endpoint.

The lake had lovely shades of green reflecting the gray sky.

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We photographed for a while and then light sleet-snow turned heavier, right when we were ready for lunch. We parked under a tree and watched the weather change, minute by minute. It wasn’t super cold but my mittens were wet and my hands were cold. We stayed a bit longer and then started the return.

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We stood aside on the trail as a group of 10 young girls and a couple of adults passed us. I was really surprised at how many people were on that remote trail on a Tuesday. Our trip down was as slow as our trip up because the light on the mountains had improved. I was getting very tired. Not from the walking so much. I have 2 lenses for the camera and to protect them, I put the unused one in my pack. That means putting down the hiking poles, sliding the pack half off my back, unzippering a little pocket and changing lenses. Not much effort unless you do it 5 times every time you stop to photograph. And often, we stop to photograph a lot.

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Sun Mountain

The next day was a recovery from our hike. We did some chores then headed up to Sun Mountain, a hill near Winthrop. We took a walk around the Beaver Pond. It was not too exciting but it was very pleasant. There were aspens and eventually I pulled out my camera and shot a few. Idyllic.

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Maple Pass Loop – October 6

Just the facts, m’aam:

Name:              Maple Pass Loop

Distance:         7.2 miles

Altitude gain: 1800 feet

Weather:         Variable, rain showers expected

We were as ready as we’d ever be. We were in pretty good shape from a month of hikes. Maple Pass was touted as one of the premier trails in the USA. The weather report wasn’t optimal but it was our only chance to do it. We got up early and were on the trail by 9:40. Like most other trails, the first mile or so was dim forest, then the trail sailed out onto a talus slope with some good views of the surrounding peaks.

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We passed the Ann Lake Trail cutoff; we were headed for higher ground. Whenever we weren’t under trees, it was drizzing or sprinkling. There were quite a few people on the trail. Some were already returning because the weather was deteriorating. I had 3 layers beyond my turtleneck: a hoodie, my jacket and a new, waterproof jacket. I quickly graduated from my knit mittens to heavy gloves. We eventually got to dramatic views looking down on Lake Ann. It got chillier.

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We stopped for lunch at Heather Pass. A short walk off the trail took us to a view of a different valley. Very nice, but chilly.

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We made our decisions: Dave would continue over Maple Pass; I would return down the trail we had done. The reasons for me was that the trail went a lot higher than Heather Pass and it was already rain-snowing there. Also, the trail eventually descends at a very steep angle and I do not like steep descents. We told each other to be careful and separated.

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I was hearing pika squeaks at Heather Pass and paused to stare at the talus slope in hope of seeing one. And I did! It went dashing across the rockpile. I picked up my camera and snapped away. Looking at the pictures later, I see no pika but I know it’s there.


I was concentrating on picking my way through a really muddy, deep rut that was the trail. I was startled to see a guy standing to the side waiting for me to pass; I never knew he was there.


From there, I began to head down, appreciating how easy the trail was compared to what Dave was probably dealing with. I was crossing another steep talus slope when I started chatting with a couple from the area. The man had gotten a wonderful closeup of a pika chewing on a stem of grass with his small, utilitarian camera. We heard a noise and started looking around. A boulder, about 2 feet in diameter, had broken away from way up the slope and was bounding down towards us. As we waited breathlessly, wondering which way we should move, it crashed over the trail about 20 feet away from us. Close call!


I continued down the trail, and decided to take the half-mile side trail to Ann Lake and see what things looked like at lake level. After scrambling over some logs on the shore, I got a good vantage point for photographing reflections of the colorful foliage on the slopes.

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I started back on the final 2 miles of the trail. “Speed back” I thought but I had forgotten about the wonderful talus slope and the now clearer shots of the surrounding peaks. I was carrying Dave’s heavy zoom lens, and my arms were tired from lifting it. Finally, the damn scenery deteriorated to a point where I could put away the camera and speed back to the coffee and cookies in the car. Dave returned about 45 minutes after me and we shared our adventures with each other.

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After driving home and showering, we tested the cuisine of Winthrop. Dave had the brisket, I had a bacon-cheeseburger and we brought home a great piece of chocolate cake to chomp down later.

We were done with the North Cascades. We were heading east the next day.




We experienced a peaceful, sunny afternoon at a nice RV park on Whidbey Island. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough phone reception to make any calls. The campground had WiFi, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. The next morning, we drove away, expecting a short hop to Concrete and into North Cascades National Park. Some short hop that turned into!

We stopped in Burlington for grocery shopping (Dave got his chocolate birthday cake a day late) and enough connectivity to upload our blogs. The Garmin was acting sluggish, announcing turns after, rather than before, the turn. Even the visual indicators were not working on a timely basis. I wanted to stop at a Ranger Station to get hiking and camping info. We sailed past the convenience store where the ranger station was supposed to be. The iPhone showed a map of where the station was located but we couldn’t find those streets fast enough on the Garmin to know how far we were from where we needed to be. You can’t make quick turns with a 26-foot vehicle towing another vehicle.

The Garmin then told us to return west for 4 miles, the way we had come. That didn’t make any sense. Finally, we decided to just head for the mountains and skip the Forest Service office. Of course it showed up about a quarter mile east of where the Garmin located it. Our old Garmin used to do the same thing. Disconcerting and disheartening. But we got the information we needed, ate lunch and headed east again.

The only campground open near Mount Baker was the Howard Miller Steelhead RV Park. It’s a nice one, right by a river, with hookups and good WiFi. The camp host is an old dude who started telling us WWII stories. It’s so amazing to hear what those guys experienced.

Dock Butte Trail

Since Friday was going to be sunny, our goal was to see Mount Baker. The ranger had told us that the Dock Butte Trail had good fall foliage color and that good views of Mount Baker were to be had. The downside: a 1400 foot rise in 1.5 miles. Another downside: my 17-85 Canon lens kept spitting out an error and didn’t work most of the time. I’d have to share a lens with Dave. Another downside: the Garmin isn’t working well and we’d have to go on several forest service roads to reach the trailhead. Electronics don’t seem to like the northern U.S.

We took off. I was trying to triangulate between directions to the trailhead, the Washington atlas and the Garmin. The Garmin eventually calculated a list of correct directions but the visual and vocal directions weren’t keeping up if one turn came within a quarter-mile of the next turn. I misunderstood one sign and we went off-track for a mile or so until another sign told me that we were on the wrong road. It was mostly heavy forest with several little cascades with milky, silt-filled streams.

We found the trailhead and took off. The trail headed uphill with no delay, but the incline wasn’t severe. It was a rocky, rooty, muddy trail and our hiking poles were invaluable. Mount Baker would show up here and there through the trees, but no unobstructed view occurred at first.

After a half mile or so, we broke from the trees into open ground and the foliage suddenly was red, orange and gold. There were meadows with neon green grass and mosses. Mount Baker was shrouded in fog but the top was clearly visible. It’s over 10,000 feet high, the big boy in the neighborhood. Wow, what a scene!

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We stopped for lunch in a stunning meadow and then moved on to the final leg of the ascent. A girl passed us and it turned out she lived near Alamo Square in San Francisco. Small world. There was a butte looming ahead of us. Were we going to climb that thing?

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Yes, we were. We switchbacked through a fantastic meadow that plunged down a long steep way. We scrambled up some slippery rocks where a fall might send us into the abyss. And suddenly, we had a 360-degree view of the world.

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After wearing out our cameras, we headed down. Now the sun was at an angle to set the meadow on fire. What a fantastic trail. I am so happy we spoke with the ranger and got to go on this hike.

Old Sauk Trail

It was supposed to rain on Friday so we decided to make it a drive day. We headed south and then east into the Cascades on a Scenic Byway. It was showering on and off and overcast made for dim light. We pulled off into a parking area and discovered it was a trailhead for the Old Sauk Trail, which ran by the Sauk River. We immediately were in another rain forest environment, dim and luxuriant. We could hear the river but there was a lot of brush between us and the water. I was playing with my unreliable lens and found that it worked okay at any focal length from 25-85. So that made me feel a little better. I can use this lens for the rest of the trip, I think.

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We went further on the Scenic Byway and found another entrance point for the Old Sauk Trail. We walked along for a while but I wasn’t finding anything that interesting and my hands were cold, so Dave went on and I returned to the car to read Volume 5 of Stephan King’s Dark Tower Series. I don’t read much horror but this series isn’t all torture, blood and guts. The characters are compelling. The sprinkle that occurred as I headed back to car turned into a 15-minute shower. Dave got back not too wet because of the heavy tree cover in the forest.


From there we drove to Newhalem, the central section of North Cascades National Park. The only campground open in the entire park is the 21-site Goodell Campground and we wanted to check it out. As we expected, it was heavily wooded with little light. Not good for solar panels. We checked in with the rangers and found a few hikes we might like. Not too surprisingly, hikes tend to fall into the less-than-a-mile type or the more-than-six-miles type. In the middle of mountains, the short, flat trails usually follow rivers or lakes and the rest go up mountains.

The weather was still dim and cloudy but we checked out Ladder Creek Falls behind the dam and power plant.

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The falls: okay but not good for photography. However, the small garden had red maples so we focused on them. I discovered little crescent shapes dangling like ornaments off the branches. Cute!


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Once again, we made back to the car just as it began to rain.

The next morning, we woke to a heavy fog. My inclination was to nestle back under the covers. Instead, we got up and went out at 7:30 to explore the Skagit River Trail that runs out from our campground. Within 10 minutes, my feet were soaking wet. But I got caught up in dead flowers and bare trees.

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A grassy path opened up and I followed it, losing Dave in the process. Then, glowing in the fog, a fairy tree. It’s slender limbs were covered with pale green moss. I fell in love with it.


By the time I got tired of that tree, the fog was breaking up and the trees on the slopes were appearing. More magic!

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Sauk Mountain Hike

“Wow!” is all I can say. We went on the most unbelievable hike of the trip. Yes, it rose 1,046 feet in 1.4 miles. Yes, there were 30 switchbacks. It was stupendously steep, but not that hard, really.

Getting there was a short 13 miles from our campground. But……7 of those miles were an unpaved, curvy one lane road. When we got towards the top and saw our trail, I started to laugh. It looked impossible.


After deciding I had to relieve myself next to the car, I found an A-line chalet outhouse, the first I had ever seen. We amused ourselves with that for a few pix, then finally moved onto the trail. It was spectacular. Not for those who have height issues. You have to lean over to look down or look up. There were many people on the trail and they provided perspective as to how much above or below us they were.

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I was counting the switchbacks. Numbers 13 and 17 went all the way into the shade of the trees at the east end of the trail. All the rest was in the sun. Lots of people had dogs, many on leash but some not. One woman kept calling her dog that was chasing birds a couple switchbacks downwards. The dog ran in the wrong direction a few times before he realized his owner was above him. A good argument for keeping your dog on leash. One man carried his young daughter on his shoulders. That made me nervous.


We continued up until switchback #26. That part of the trail kept going around the edge of the slope until we were facing another valley! Amazing! We stopped for lunch and suddenly heard a buzzing noise. In the distance was a electric-powered parasail with a guy riding in a seat hanging below. He came very close before he went over the ridge and disappeared.

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We made another turn and got to what I thought was the high point of our hike but it was not.


We had some more hiking before we got to the high point. And Wow! Another 360-degree view. Mount Baker popped out although it had cloud cover. We spent some time alone up there, then began the descent. It went pretty quickly and we weren’t too exhausted when we got back to the car. What an experience!

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Salt Point has been providing us with quite a show. On Monday night, the clouds were neat so Dave had the idea to photograph each other looking out on the Juan de Fuca Strait. We were making our neighbors nervous, mincing around on the top of our 10-foot high motorhome but we are pretty comfortable on the roof.

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After dinner, we had a fiery sunset.

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And the next morning, more deer.


Hurricane Ridge

We woke up to fog on Tuesday. It was breaking up when we left for Hurricane Ridge, another area of Olympic National Park. It’s a 17-mile curvy drive up 5,000 feet from Port Angeles. At one point, Dave had to hit the brakes hard to avoid 2 black-tail deer. Further along the way we entered a heavy fog. Then we broke free of it. Then more heavy fog. Finally, we were above the fog and stunning vistas of the Olympic Mountains appeared with a huge pool of fog below them. There wasn’t much traffic on the road but what there was pulled over with us, photographing like mad.

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The parking lot for the Hurricane Ridge Trail is fairly small but there were few cars there when we started up the 1.6-mile hike with a 700-foot rise. Almost all of the trail is paved, so the ascent is fairly easy. The alpine foliage is changing color to gold, orange and deep crimson – very striking.

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The fog in the Olympic Valley was thinning off and the sun was high enough to make views that way very contrasty. The treat when you reach the crest of the hill is a view of the Port Angeles, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Vancouver Island with Victoria. However, fog was having its way with the view, which was fine with us. Dave noticed that what I thought was a thunderhead was actually Mount Baker. Massive and  impressive!

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We were sad to read that non-native coyotes have decimated the marmot population in the area. The last time we were here, we saw a marmot basking on a rock formation. However, when we stopped for lunch, other wildlife decided to join us. A brazen chipmunk would not leave us alone, making runs at us from all sides. Throwing pebbles at it did not discourage it. Finally, I was trying to scare it away with a hiking pole. It looked ready to grapple with the hiking stick.

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We finished the hike and did a short walk on a flat, paved trail, then headed down. I drove on the way back and slowed way down for a doe and fawn who decided to run down the side of the road in front of the car. They veered off to the side and stopped to catch their breath. I stopped to look more closely at the fawn. Then they began to run again – in front of the car again. Deer are not long on brains.

Salt Point had one more surprise for us. There was still fog when we returned but we both noticed an eerie glow in the shape of a rainbow – a fog rainbow! The sky so often surprises me with what it can produce.


Ferry to Whidbey Island

Based on the recommendation we had received from a Lazy Daze owner who lived in Port Townsend, I had made reservations for the ferry. We would save driving 150 miles through Tacoma and Seattle (metro areas are never fun in an RV) and the cost of the ferry was about how much the gas would cost for 150 miles. The drive to Port Townsend was easy and we were the first ones lined up to go on the ferry. It turned out to be a short half-hour ride but it was something different.

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Hoh Rain Forest

Thursday was Hoh Day for us. We prepared as usual for our safari and drove away as the morning mists were dissipating. It’s only 15 miles or so up US-101 to the Hoh Road but then its 17 miles east to the trails. This part of Olympic National Park is not developed much. There are only 3 trails that begin here: the Hoh River Trail and two Nature Trails. The Hoh River Trail runs 17 miles – a little too much for us. We hiked 8 miles round trip in 2011; we hiked about 6.5 this trip.

More than anyplace else we’ve been, this forest feels like a green, leafy cathedral. It was quiet. Guidebooks talk about all the birds but we sure don’t hear many of them. I had looked at my blog from 2011 to refresh my memory. Would we see the big orange fungi? Banana slugs? Red leaves on the maples? (No, No and Yes.)

Because the hike was going to be long, I decided not to bring my tripod or my long lens. Not lugging the tripod freed up my hands; a luxury I don’t often have on these hikes. I could wave my arms around! Luckily, I can cheat on the lack of a tripod. I have a tripod mount for Dave’s tripod so I can use his if I have too. You’d think I’d do that all the time, but we can each spend half an hour trying different exposures for a picture and using one tripod would double that time. Instead, when I needed to, I upped the ISO to 800 or1600. Not good for the quality of the digital image, but okay by me.

We immediately got caught up in the maples; the pattern of their leaves is always interesting. Sunlight was filtering in, highlighting here and there. That makes for “hot spots” photographically, but those mostly can be dealt with in Photoshop. It was so beautiful there.

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It was only when the trail went close by the Hoh River that we saw maples with red leaves. The trees farther from the water were all green. There were a few other couples on the trail and we played criss-cross with them, passing and being passed. One girl had bear bells on (to warn bears away) and they were jingling pleasantly. We stopped for lunch at Mineral Creek and continued on until we reached 2.9 miles. We took a short detour over to the Hoh River and were rewarded with the sighting of a young black-tailed buck.

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On the way back, we crossed paths with two young uniformed rangers heading out. They told us they were going to camp out a few nights.Their task? Dig new “privvies” (latrines) for the backcountry campsites. (I didn’t ask what they did about the old latrines.) As we tired and our backs began to hurt, we just trudged along. I have trouble looking around when my back is aching and rarely make pictures. During the last mile, we passed many groups of people heading out on their trek.

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We got back to the car around 2:30 and had our coffee and cookies at a picnic bench in the shade of a large tree. We were surprised to see that even in mid-September, the large parking lot was full.

We departed Kalaloch on Friday morning. As we were sipping our coffee, we suddenly saw a large white creature cross Highway 101 a little up the road. Dave realized it before me: it was an unattended llama crossing the road. It was sauntering down a local road as we went past. Was it feral? Are there wild llamas stampeding in the Olympic forest? Weird!

We arrived at Forks, the largest town on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, but that’s not saying much. Their largest market, Forks Outfitters is the type I love: As you pass the infant food, there is a section with picture frames. Lots of little things for the home are interspersed with the food. The clothing part of the store is open next to the grocery area so I could pay for my new purple raincoat along with the vegies and Tillamook ice cream. The one RV park in Forks is all right but didn’t have cable TV and so we’re very out of the loop for news and politics. (Is that bad?)

The next scheduled hike was out of Sol Duc Hot Springs. Twelve miles off the road, the Hot Springs is a nice little development with a large hot and cold pool, informal café, cabins and camping. Being Saturday, we expected a lot of people but we took a trail that is longer than most people use. There were few hikers when we started around 10 a.m.

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We enjoyed our last rain forest hike. There is such luxurious growth everywhere. One area is a forest of ferns.


At the beginning of the walk, I started developing a camera lens issue. The connection between the camera and the lens only worked intermittently. My long lens worked fine so the problem lies with my 17-85 lens. Darn! It’s not like there is a camera store in every town. I’ll have to see what I can find out on the internet.

We scrambled over some mossy, slippery rocks down by the Canyon Creek and had a peaceful lunch.

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Another mile took us to Sol Duc Falls, a gusher that splits into 3 parts as the river makes a hard left turn. There are various viewpoints but the only good one is from the bridge. Unfortunately, anyone walking on the bridge shakes it. And there were many, many people walking across the bridge. We didn’t stay there too long. It was about 2.5 miles to the end of the trail and soon we were trudging, tired and ready to be back to the car.

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Amazingly, just like Quinault hike, it began to sprinkle right when we returned to the car. We got some coffee at the café, sat for a bit, then started the 40-mile drive back to Forks.

Salt Point

An easy drive took us to Salt Point on the Juan de Fuca Straits. We settled in and took it easy the rest of the day.

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We woke up to sun for the first time in a while on Monday. We were just hanging around when Dave spotted Orca’s frolicking pretty close to shore. We spent about 20 minutes watching and waiting for them to surface. It’s a great benefit being able to camp right next to the Straits.

Fort Stevens State Park

It was a big 100 miles or so to Astoria. The highlight of the day was lunch in the Tillamook Cheese Factory. As in ice cream for lunch. Somehow I managed to convince Dave that it was a good idea. So we each got two huge scoops, one chocolate and one other. Dave got Mint Chocolate chip and Mudslide. I got Butterscotch and Udderly Chocolate. The clear winners were Mudslide and Butterscotch. I hope the next time I consult my previous blogs. If I had, I would have realized that I got Udderly Chocolate in 2011 and it wasn’t as good as Dave’s Mudslide. What are blogs for, if not reference? They also reveal that we are very consistent with our ice cream choices.

We found our way to Fort Stevens State Park out on the peninsula where the Columbia River runs into the Pacific Ocean. It was the most convenient place for a reservation but we were hesitant about the fact it has over 500 campsites. Fort Stevens was built during the Civil War and was operational until 1947. I wasn’t too interested in the military aspects of the place. But it contained the wreck of the Peter Iredale, that shipwrecked in 1906 and I really wanted to photograph that wreck. The campsites are certainly not private but there is a lot of foliage. Rain was being predicted and our site has a full hookup.

As soon as we were set up, we went to see the wreck, only a mile from our campground. It was still a big chunk of real estate, outside the surf at low tide, in it during high tide. On Friday, it was totally surrounded by people. It was not conducive to projecting a tragic, forlorn feeling. We took some perfunctory pictures and went north a few miles up the South Jetty to the Columbia River. Every direction I looked, there were bridges and land in the distance. Some of it was Washington, some of it was Astoria. It was a gray afternoon, no dramatic light. We did the best we could and returned to camp.

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Saturday was another gray day with light showers. We went out to the wreck; the tide was splashing on the vessel’s ribs. But we did not expect the 20 mph blasts of wind by the open sea. There was someone windsurfing but I couldn’t photograph him because I’d have to face the lens into the wind. Not a good idea in the sand. We took a few shots and drove across a few bridges to Astoria.


We found our way to the Astoria Column, a city landmark. However, as we rose up the hill it sits on, we ascended into a heavy fog. That didn’t slow us down. What slowed us down was climbing the 164 (Dave counted them) steps up a spiral staircase. It was very foggy at the top, but it would lighten up a tad now and then.

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The gift shop sold light little balsa-wood airplanes and people were flying them off from the top of the column. When we had returned to earth, I collected a few of the fallen planes, gave them to a family with a child who was going to top and told them I’d try to photograph the planes as they let them go. The first one fell in a death spiral. The next two flew well but I had the automatic focus on and couldn’t focus on the small, rapidly moving plane. It was fun anyway.


As our luck was running, the fog cleared up a little as soon as we descended from the column. So we got some nice shots of the surrounding area.

The Twilight Eagle Sanctuary was the final spot on my itinerary that day. It’s supposed to be a good spot to see Bald Eagles. There was some confusion between the Garmin and the directions I had noted down from some reference book. There was a lot of traffic moving quickly on a Saturday afternoon and we passed a car that had apparently gone up a steep embankment and flipped. We finally got to a quieter road and found a small, decrepit lookout. Tall pines lined up against meadows, bogs and inlets, a good spot for birds. But no eagles. Photographically, we were batting zero for the day, but as usual, we managed to entertain ourselves. We are easy to amuse.


Fort Stevens

The sun returned on Sunday and we decided to walk the mile to the Peter Iredale wreck. But we had lolled around too long before the walk. The wispy fog in the trees had dissipated and the wreck was totally surrounded by beachgoers. It was a nice walk nonetheless.

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A few chores took up most of the afternoon, then we returned to the wreck. Too many people. We returned to the South Jetty and walked around the point from the Columbia to the ocean. There were many birds, mostly gulls but some other gull-sized bird with a racous call. There were loads of pelicans, gliding close to the water and then suddenly diving in. There were a few people on the beach, fishing, walking or just watching the water go by. A nice way to spend an afternoon.

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We set the alarm for 6:20 to get up and check out the wreck one more time. But it started raining during the night and when the alarm went off, I looked out the window and went back to sleep. Forget it! Next time! Dave, however, got up and went out. So check out his blog to see another try at the Peter Iredale wreck.


Monday was a 150-mile drive into Washington and the Olympic Peninsula.


The weather was pleasant and the road was curvy and interesting to drive. It’s always a pleasure to coast along the coast through small towns, ranches and farms. And then enter narrow channels where US-101 winds through tall trees. A harbinger of the weather we would have occurred the very moment we entered Olympic National Park: a few splatters of rain.

We were somewhat apprehensive as we had no reservations. Non-prime season is both good and bad – good because we have a chance to get into great places; bad because we might not get in at all. Our intended destination was Kalaloch, a wonderful coastal campground. Our fallback was South Beach, an overflow campground 3 miles south. When we reached South Beach, it was closed for the season. In fact, it closed the day before.

We went in to the nearby ranger station and were heartened to find that Kalaloch was totally on a first-come, first-served basis. We drove up and there were plenty of empty spaces – under dark groves of trees. The primo spaces are right on the coast and most of them were taken. We found one we liked but while we were moving there, a Volkswagon bus snuck in there. Damn! But after thinking about it for 10 minutes, they left. Yay! We were in. After getting set up, Dave explored a dark, muddy 120-foot tunnel leading from our site and discovered a tiny balcony overlooking the beach and ocean. He dragged the chairs out there and, voila! We had a site with a fantastic view. It called for cocktails and we responded.


Lake Quinault

We headed off for one of our favorite hikes on Tuesday. Lake Quinault is a large lake 25 miles south of Kalaloch. It has several campsites but none of them can accommodate our 26-foot rig. The weather was variable, with clouds piled up here and there. We got on the 4-mile trail and entered a primeval forest. The sun was filtering through the trees, highlighting different spots. Except for a few birds, the forest was silent.

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We eventually came to a great photographic spot: a bridge looking down on some interesting rock shapes, with Vine Maples dangling over the water. We spent about half an hour trying different exposures and compositions.

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Another nice thing about the hike is the final mile is along Lake Quinault. It began to sprinkle, so we put on our rain jackets, which of course stopped the sprinkling. I soon took off my jacket because it was too hot. The Lake Quinault Lodge is at the end of the trip. The lodge has an enormous expanse of grass from which one can enjoy the view in Adorandack chairs, sipping tea or exotic drinks. The flocks of kayaks and beach chairs in candy colors caught my eye and we dawdled away another 15 minutes. It started to sprinkle again and we headed back to the car, reaching it just before it started to pour. Perfect! We found a good spot that overlooked the lake and had our coffee and cookies while the shower wore itself out. We had several more showers before we got back to camp. Then we took a shower when we returned.

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After dinner, sunset was close so we went out to walk on the beach. Dave has a favorite tree to photograph here. The unfortunate pine selected a section of cliff to take root. But the land collapsed under it and while roots are still connecting it on both sides of the empty space, the roots directly under it are hanging in air. The tree looks like it is scrambling to move over onto solid ground.

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Our final treat of the evening came later. I usually open the door before bed and peer outside to see what the sky looks like. A cloudless sky was fully stocked with stars. There was no competing light from nearby towns and the moon hadn’t risen yet. It was chilly, but we laid on the picnic table and stared up for 15 minutes or so. One oddity: in that amount of time, neither of us saw a shooting star, a satellite or a plane. No moving objects at all.

Ruby Beach

Wednesday was a relax day. We enjoyed a sedentary life until 3 p.m. when we drove up to Ruby Beach. There were quite a few people there, scrambling around the enormous logs that wash up on the beach. It’s a tough place to photograph but we poked around to our satisfaction. The tide was coming in and I always enjoy watching people play chicken with the waves, never knowing when a big one would soak you. This is a stony beach at high tide; no sand. I love the metallic, hissing noise each wave makes as it goes out over the stones.

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It was sunny when we got back so Dave dragged the chairs out to our “balcony” overlooking the beach and we enjoyed smoked Tillamook cheddar with Roger and Noreen’s apples (thanks again!) and a glass of Chardonnay. This is the good life!