Archive for October, 2016

We took off for Bend on Wednesday. I thought we would have no trouble getting into Tumalo State Park, but we got one of the last two spaces. The problem was that they had closed everything but Loop B. There aren’t very many spaces in Loop B. The two spaces were both nonelectric. I set us up for the following 4 days by going online. Now all we had to do was get used to no electric hookups. Our generator was not happy; it wouldn’t turn over until we turned the engine on. We hadn’t been nonelectric for quite a while.

Newberry Volcano

The weather report wasn’t very good news for us. The weather was going to be iffy the whole time we were in Bend. On Thursday, we sat around during the morning and took off for Newberry Volcanic park in the afternoon. Would it clear up? No! Would we get to visit the Visitor’s Center? No, it was closed for winter! Would we be able to walk the Big Obsidian Flow Trail? Although it was 7,000 feet and snowy, yes, we could. We put on our boots and ventured up the steep stairs. We didn’t get much further, but we did the best we could.

690mg6276newberryvolcano 691mg6287newberryvolcano 693mg6295newberryvolcano 694mg6300newberryvolcano 695mg6297newberryvolcano

The sunrise was red light on the clouds on Friday and moments of light here and there. I am quite tired of clouds. We are not motivated to go out when it’s so dreary. But we did have to take the LD into town to dump and then I did some grocery shopping at an Albertson’s, that as the cashier said “Looks like Albertson’s on the outside and Safeway on the inside.” One fewer choice in the number of supermarkets available.

To cheer ourselves up, we went to Spork for dinner, a recommendation that Jim and Gayle Cummings made on their last trip to Bend. It’s a small restaurant that was very busy when we walked in. You order your food up front and then it’s up to you to find a table. We thought about leaving but I’m really glad we didn’t. I ordered the Carnitas Sango and Dave had the Korean Shortribs. They have many inventive cocktails and I had a Pakarang – a concoction with Tequila, Pineapple, Basil, Benedictine and more! It was so small, I had to have another. The food came quickly and it was delicious. There’s a fried egg in every dish which seems a little odd, but that sandwich was memorable!

700iphone1473spork 701iphone1474spork 702iphone1475spork

Mountains and Trails in the Willamette

Saturday was supposed to be the best day, weatherwise, of our stay in Bend. We decided to head for the hills no matter what. It was chilly, but we loaded up the Rav with half of the Lazy Daze and headed to the McKenzie-Santiam Pass Loop. A few miles north of the campground, we stopped at a mountain viewpoint and got our first glimpse of the mountains since we drove in on Wednesday.


After traveling through some miles of thin forest, we rose to lava country.

707mg6310lava 707mg6323lava

Dee Wright Observatory is a totally weird construction from lava, done by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Even the stairs up there are made from lava. It is not advisable to fall down in this building. Part of the steep path was still iced and very slippery.

708mg6319deewrightobservatory 709mg6338deewrightobservatory

After driving a bit further, we found a couple of ponds with thin ice breaking up on them, one of our favorite things to photograph.

710mg6356pondice 711mg6358pondice 713mg6350pondice 715mg6347pondice 716mg6363pondice

Next stop, Proxy Falls Trail, a very popular place. We descended into the Willamette forest we recognized from earlier in the trip. Lush vegetation: moss in the trees and on every rock and vine Maple all over. One difference was that many of the leaves had fallen and recent rains had left them wet. No crunching through the fallen leaves. The first mile of the 1.6-mile loop took us more than an hour.

720mg6367proxyfalls 721mg6387proxyfalls 722mg6395proxyfalls 723mg6390proxyfalls 725mg6402proxyfalls 727mg6410proxyfalls

We were amazed when we got to the falls. They were so much more voluminous than we remembered. But we also remembered the other issue: there was really only one good viewpoint to capture the falls. We did scramble our way down to the lower falls but still didn’t get an unimpeded view.

728mg6422proxyfalls 729mg6428proxyfalls

We backtracked to the trail and went to see the upper Proxy Falls. Unimpressive. The end of the loop was short and not too photogenic.

Twenty minutes of driving brought us to our last stop of the day – Sahalie Falls. It was booming! An incredible amount of water was sluicing over the brink. I overheard someone saying that the smaller falls on the right weren’t there a week ago. I guess all the rain made a huge difference. There is only one unimpeded view of the falls so we dutifully made our images and headed down the trail that runs alongside the McKenzie River.

730mg6442sahaliefallstrail 733mg6450sahaliefallstrail

The rapid river was a lot of fun. I saw one guy skirting along the edge in bare feet. Not too smart. Had he fallen in he would have gone over the next falls downstream.

734mg6462sahaliefallstrail 738mg6479sahaliefallstrail 740mg6513sahaliefallstrail 741mg6500sahaliefallstrail 744mg6514sahaliefallstrail 745mg6517sahaliefallstrail 747mg6518sahaliefallstrail 750mg6530sahaliefallstrail 752mg6542sahaliefallstrail 753mg6547sahaliefallstrail

About a quarter-mile down the trail, we reach Koosah Falls. Nice but we couldn’t get a good shot of them without a lot of trees.


Once again, we drove home, tired but exhilarated. It was a good day.

Last Days of the Trip

We began the serious driving-home part of the trip. Three days, 465 miles to reach Auburn, where we saw Steve and Ellen’s new home. Day One was very windy and included periods of heavy rain. Day Two was the same. We drove right by Mount Shasta and never saw one bit of it.

760iphone1476i-5mtshasta 761iphone1480i-5rain

Day Three was beautiful and sunny. We were heading south from Red Bluff to Auburn on roads with which we were unfamiliar. The Garmin had us make a turn onto Woodruff Road and immediately we were driving on a beat up road with flooded fields on both sides of us. It had to be a mistake, but it was too narrow to make a U-turn. We made a hard left and suddenly we saw hundreds of geese floating on whatever body of water we were traversing. It was amazing!


Eventually, we ended up on Highway 49 and realized the Garmin had provided us with a good route to Steve and Ellen’s place. But what a weird shortcut! We arrived at their home around 2:30 and it was a glorious, balmy day. It was hard to believe it had been raining for most of a week. After checking out their beautiful home, they made a great dinner of halibut accompanied by Greek Shrimp, Farro and Greens with Feta. Yum! We also became reaquainted with Jackson, the largest Golden Retriever I have ever met. He’s a sweet boy when he’s not tearing his toy shark to pieces.

The next morning, after showering in a shower that is bigger than our entire LD bathroom, we went out to breakfast at Katrina’s, and ate enough to not need lunch and maybe not dinner either. Then we farewelled our hosts and took off for the Auburn County Fairgrounds only ten miles away. As if Wednesday had never happened, it was misting to sprinkling once again.

A week ago, I had made the reservation for the one spot at the Fairgrounds with 50-amp power, water and a dump. All we had to do was dump the black and gray tanks and clean up for the trip home. When we reached the Fairgrounds, the office was closed for lunch and there was a trailer sitting in our space. So we bided our time until someone opened the office and she found a space for us with electricity. No water or sewer, but we can go to another area on the grounds tomorrow to dump. Whew! We weren’t looking forward to finding somewhere else to stay.

After rain all night, I was concerned about the drive home but it cleared up except for very light showers and there was no almost no standing water on I-80. The splashes made by passing semis can blind you when there’s a lot of water on the roadbed. We reached home around 1:30 and were happy to see our home after two months away.

Read Full Post »

We woke Monday morning to rain. We quickly found it was also quite windy. We had a 200+ mile drive to get to Mitchell, Oregon. Why Mitchell? It is the closest camping to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Painted Hills Division. I knew the roads I wanted to take; the Garmin had something else in mind. By the time we figured out that it had established a different route, we were 8 miles down I-84. In this part of the state, there aren’t all that many exits and it wasn’t worth going back all the way to Pendleton. We went with it. The result was 220 miles of windy, windy (that’s both meanings) roads. Most of it was quite pretty, but we went slower than we otherwise might have. We left around 10:30 and got to Mitchell at 4:30. That’s too much driving for me.

The small 4-unit campground at Mitchell is not a beautiful place. But no sooner had we pulled in than a flock of about 13 turkeys were dashing around the campground.

645mg6000mitchellturkeys 646mg6018mitchellturkeys 647mg6016mitchellturkeys

Our next entertainment was watching a big fifth-wheel try to fit into the small space next to us. Their slide out is about 5 feet from us. Then we watched as 4 little kids ran after the turkeys while Mom followed carrying a baby. Whew!

It was quite cloudy the next morning but with our usual determination, we got up and got out. We were prepared to do a lot of car sitting at the Painted Hills, waiting for the sun to come out, and that did happen.

650mg6044johndaypaintedhills 651mg6021johndaypaintedhills 652mg6046johndaypaintedhills 653mg6043johndaypaintedhills

While waiting for the main overlook to open up, sunwise, we checked out the other trails in the small monument. I was surprised to find two new trails had been built since our last visit. They were both very short but interesting. The Fossil Leaf Trail was not photogenic for me: a litter of rocks that contained fossilized leaves or seeds. Of course, you couldn’t walk among them to examine any closely. The Red Hill Trail half-circled, wait for it……a red clay hill! It was a very nice red clay hill. Part of it was olive green.

657mg6078johndaypaintedhills 658mg6070johndaypaintedhills 659mg6082johndaypaintedhills 660mg6090johndaypaintedhills 661mg6096johndaypaintedhills

Finally, after lunch, we could see breaks in the clouds and periods of blue sky heading towards us. We got out of the car and began to walk up the steep trail from the main viewpoint.

663mg6114johndaypaintedhills 664mg6126johndaypaintedhills 665mg6134johndaypaintedhills 666mg6138johndaypaintedhills 667mg6143johndaypaintedhills 668mg6154johndaypaintedhills 669mg6158johndaypaintedhills

And now the abstracts come out to play.

670mg6162johndaypaintedhills 671mg6164johndaypaintedhills 672mg6178johndaypaintedhills 673mg6180johndaypaintedhills

The sky continued to be dramatic.

675mg6199johndaypaintedhills 676mg6200johndaypaintedhills 678mg6216johndaypaintedhills 679mg6232johndaypaintedhills

We returned to another area of the park to catch the last of the sunlight.

680mg6249johndaypaintedhills 681mg6256johndaypaintedhills 682mg6260johndaypaintedhills 683mg6267johndaypaintedhills 684mg6269johndaypaintedhills 685mg6272johndaypaintedhills

We were pretty tired when we returned to the Lazy Daze, but it was a great day.




Read Full Post »

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.


Walla Walla

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

536mg5457fincharboretum 538mg5469fincharboretum 539mg5473fincharboretum 540mg5480fincharboretum 541mg5485fincharboretum 542mg5488fincharboretum 543mg5503fincharboretum

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.

545mg5511fincharboretum 547mg5517fincharboretum

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.

548mg5533manitopark 549mg5538manitopark

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.

550mg5540palousesouthwest 551mg5547palousesouthwest 552mg5551palousesouthwest 554mg5562palousesouthwest 555mg5583palousesouthwest

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.

557mg5599palousesouthwest 558mg5602palousesouthwest 561mg5621palouseswonechocemetery 561mg5628palousesouthwest 563mg5633palousesouthwest

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.

565mg5651southeast 566mg5681southeast 567mg5687southeast 568mg5702southeast

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.

570mg5710steptoebutte 571mg5718steptoebutte

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.

573mg5724steptoebutte 574mg5731steptoebutte

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

575mg5741steptoebutte 576mg5745steptoebutte 577mg5747steptoebutte 578mg5752steptoebutte 579mg5746steptoebutte 580mg5782steptoebutte 582mg5786steptoebutte 583mg5791steptoebutte 584mg5797steptoebutte

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.

590mg5800palousenortheast 591mg5805palousenortheast 592mg5806palousenortheast

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.

593mg5814palousenortheast 594mg5823palousenortheast

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

595mg5825palousenortheast 596mg5831palousenortheast 597mg5839palousenortheast 598mg5833palousenortheast 599mg5842palousenortheast 600mg5848palousenortheast 601mg5851palousenortheast

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)





606mg5861palousenortheast 610mg5862palousenortheast 612mg5880palousenortheast 613mg5892palousenortheast 614mg5895palousenortheast 615mg5899palousenortheast 616mg5904palousenortheast 617mg5907palousenortheast


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.

Read Full Post »

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.


451mg4993lakediablo 452mg4996lakediablo

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.

455mg4998washingtonpass 456mg5017washingtonpass 457mg5011washingtonpass

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.

460mg5022bluelaketrail 461mg5030bluelaketrail 462mg5049bluelaketrail 463mg5064bluelaketrail 464mg5046bluelaketrail 465mg5065bluelaketrail

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.

466mg5082bluelaketrail 467mg5080bluelaketrail 468mg5084bluelaketrail 469mg5094bluelaketrail 470mg5121bluelaketrail 471mg5113bluelaketrail

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.

473mg5135bluelaketrail 474mg5127bluelaketrail 475mg5131bluelaketrail 476mg5146bluelaketrail 477mg5088bluelaketrail

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.

479mg5155bluelaketrail 481mg5180bluelaketrail 482mg5198bluelaketrail 483mg5204bluelaketrail

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.

485mg5213winthropbeaverpond 486mg5214winthropbeaverpond 487mg5229winthropbeaverpond 488mg5240winthropbeaverpond

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.

490mg5241maplepasshike 491mg5246maplepasshike 492mg5248maplepasshike

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.

493mg5253maplepasshike 495mg5267-72maplepasspano 498mg5292maplepasshike

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.

500mg5303maplepasshike 501mg5299maplepasshike 502mg5306maplepasshike 503mg5313maplepasshike

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.

504mg5317maplepasshike 506mg5319maplepasshike 507mg5320maplepasshike 508mg5326maplepasshike

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.

515mg5357maplepasslakeann 517mg5393maplepasslakeann 518mg5397maplepasslakeann 519mg5392maplepasslakeann 520mg5394maplepasslakeann 521mg5395maplepasslakeann

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.

525mg5402maplepasshike 526mg5418maplepasshike 527mg5425maplepasshike 528mg5429maplepasshike

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.



Read Full Post »


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!

390mg4545dockbuttetrail 391mg4569dockbuttetrail 392mg4572dockbuttetrail 394mg4557dockbuttetrail

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?

395mg4585dockbuttetrail 397mg4598dockbuttetrail 398mg4628dockbuttetrail 399mg4588dockbuttetrail 400mg4645dockbuttetrail 401mg4656dockbuttetrail 402mg4646dockbuttetrail 404mg4636dockbuttetrail

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.

405mg4658dockbuttetrail 406mg4701dockbuttetrail 407mg4671dockbuttetrail 408mg4675dockbuttetrail

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.

410mg4749oldsauktrail 411mg4755oldsauktrail 412mg4759oldsauktrail

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.

415mg4764gorgecreekpowerplant 416mg4766gorgecreekpowerplant

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!


418mg4772gorgecreekpowerplant 419mg4771gorgecreekpowerplant 420mg4779gorgecreekpowerplant

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.

425mg4787skagitrivertrail 426mg4797skagitrivertrail 427mg4807skagitrivertrail

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!

431mg4826skagitrivertrail 432mg4832skagitrivertrail 433mg4845skagitrivertrail

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.

436mg4961saukmountaintrail 436zmg4860saukmountaintrail 437mg4869saukmountaintrail

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.

439mg4886saukmountaintrail 440mg4887saukmountaintrail 441mg4912saukmountaintrail 442mg4923saukmountaintrail 443mg4901saukmountaintrail

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!

445mg4941saukmountaintrail 446mg4945saukmountaintrail 447mg4948saukmountaintrail 448mg4957saukmountaintrail


Read Full Post »