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September 16

We headed to Mt. Rainier National Park on Sunday. For some reason we’ve never spent more than a day here and neither one of us remembers doing a hike here. The park is enormous and we are only going see a small part of it.

We ended up at Ohanapecosh Campground. There are no hookups but we’re not complaining for $10 per night, courtesy of the Senior Parks Pass. The campground is quite a distance from the places we want to see but at least it’s in the park. It’s in dense forest, very pretty and pretty dark. Dave put up the mobile solar panels but they’re on a sun starvation diet. Since it was still showering when we arrived, we stayed in camp, figuring we wouldn’t see the big hill with all the clouds.

September 17   Paradise!

We were up and out early on Monday morning. We were headed for Paradise, 22 miles away. Paradise is the most-visited place at Rainier and I really wanted to do the 5.5-mile Skyline hike that leaves from there. It was foggy, cloudy and sunny along the road. Peering into the drop from the side of the road was like looking at a murky heaven down below.

After ten miles or so, we came around a bend and caught our first glimpse of Mt. Rainier. Wow! It’s pretty amazing. It doesn’t look so commanding in this image but the map of the national park looks like it has a large white amoeba in the middle of it.

The foliage was adding bright notes on the cliffs and canyons.

Stevens Canyon is almost as enormous going down as Mt. Rainier is going up (14,410 feet).

Further up the road, I made a panoramic shot of the Mount.

After a few more miles, we came to Reflection Lake, named because it perfectly captures images of Mt. Rainier. The best times, of course, are sunrise and sunset. Ain’t gonna happen when we’re camping 20 miles away. But it is a beautiful spot. The first lake view I found to focus on was not too dramatic.

But then…

I often like abstract images better than the clear ones.

We eventually reached Paradise and prepared for the Skyline Trail hike. It was warmer than I expected so I dressed lighter than usual despite the fact we might rise 1700 feet if we got to the highest point of the trail. There are all kinds of connecting trails in this area. We didn’t have to do the entire 5.5-mile Skyline Trail and in fact we only hiked 3.5 miles but we did get all the way to the top of the Skyline Trail, 1700 feet higher. The first part of the trail was paved, but seriously uphill. We were not acclimated to the elevation and I steadily panted for the next two hours.

In the shade, it was chilly enough in the shade for plants to still have ice.

About 15 minutes into the hike, we reached the first viewpoint and saw our first marmot. It was laid out on the rock like a furry rug. What was amusing is that there were people right above it and they were so focused on watching Mt. Rainier they never noticed the creature below them. The marmots seem to be unafraid of people, probably because they have chosen to reside on the busiest trail in the park.

We took a lot of pictures because it is rare to see a marmot (or so we thought at the time). The trail continued its steady rise.

At one point, we could see the trail on which we would eventually descend. But we had more ascension ahead of us.

As we labored upwards, we came upon a smaller marmot, waiting for we humans to go by so he could cross the trail. He had a mouthful of grasses, either for a hibernation stash or nest.

We kept seeing more and more marmots.  It was unbelievable. And many of them were very active, grazing and chowing down. Our marmot encounters on previous trips usually involved them sunning themselves and not moving.

As we rose, the slopes of Mt. Rainier came closer. Clouds kept dropping and rising, obscuring parts of the landscape.

And more marmots.

A portion of Nisqually Glacier.

We selected a popular viewpoint for lunch and spent the time chasing off an aggressive chipmunk, while watching other hikers come and go. It was quite an international crowd.

After tripping over 6 or 8 more marmots, we hit snow level. Most of it had occurred from yesterdays rain. It was spotty and mostly melty but enough to bring out the hiking poles to help over the icier areas. It was at this point, we saw the alpine toilet. It was in a nice stone building, large and wood-lined with a toilet paper stand. Nice! Having found relief, I slushed on upward. The trail just kept rising, the views getting better.

Not a marmot!

We finally started to descend and had to pick our way through some snowy spots in the trail. Amazingly, there was little or no wind so it was not cold at 6800 feet. Lots of other hikers were on the trail, some unprepared for the hike. One young couple stopped by us as we were taking a break and the guy mentioned to the woman that he had run out of water and felt dehydrated. I offered him some of my water and noticed that his hands were shaking as he gave me his small, empty water bottle to fill.

We eventually descended below snow level and were now negotiating a steady, gentle descent. We reached the junction with the Golden Gate Trail that shortened a 5.5-mile hike to 3.5 miles. There was no doubt in my mind – that was the way for me. I’ve been having trouble with my feet. I have a stress fracture in the ball of my foot but that doesn’t even hurt. It’s the other side of my foot that’s hurting. And various toes. I’m using bandaids of all sizes, moleskin and other things. As long as I can hike, I’m going to.

We began to descend a steep hillside meadow, crisscrossing on lengthy switchbacks. It was glorious. Even though the flowers were almost all done, the foliage was gorgeous. The marmots thought so too. We saw one after another, munching away. A silvery stream ran down one side of the trail. The scene was very Heidi-like but I didn’t break out into song.


As the meadow bottomed out, the stairs began. Oh, they weren’t steep stairs but there were so many of them! I would rather have gone up them but that wasn’t an option. So we trudged along until we came to Myrtle Falls. Inundated with people, it had a nice view of the mountains.

It was a short trudge back to the parking lot. I was amused by one group of tourists who had all stopped to marvel at a chipmunk. Are chipmunks unique to the U.S.? We finally reached the end of the trail, at the Paradise Inn, a very nice lodge. I went to the snack bar, looking for a decaf coffee (it was after 4 p.m.) and accompanied it with some really good truffles. We sat on a bench, warmed by the sun, eating chocolate and watching Mt. Rainier. Does it get any better?

September 18       Mt. Rainier Sunrise Area

We were both very tired after our Skyline hike and our calves hurt from all that up and down. The Sunrise area of the park was only 17 miles away and we didn’t want to do anything more than a short walk. We headed out in late morning.

The first stop was Tipsoo Lake, famous as another surface reflective of Mt. Rainier. Sunrise is the time to be there to catch alpenglow if you can. No alpenglow for us. Just pleasant sunshine and ripples on the lake that didn’t reflect Rainier very well. We enjoyed circling the small lake.

After that mild exercise, we ate lunch in the warm sun and continued the drive to Sunrise. There was a nice peninsula with a big parking area and a panoramic view. The light wasn’t great but it was another pleasant spot.

We eventually wound our way to the Sunrise area and went on a short walk to a viewpoint of Emmons Glacier and the White River. The afternoon light was harsh and glary. It was still a great sight.

On the drive up, Dave had noticed an interesting basalt formation so we stopped to photograph it on the way down. It’s like a miniature of the Devils Postpile National Monument in eastern California.

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September 12-13   Moving on

Wednesday was moving/chore day. We headed to a very nice KOA in Castle Rock, next to I-5. Got the laundry done and I drove off in a rain shower to do the grocery shopping. It was nice to have phone and internet after 5 or 6 days. We planned which way to go next (east on WA-12) and where to stay (Cascade Peaks Campground), halfway between the eastern side of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier National Park to the north. Intermittent showers are almost permanently in the weather report but that’s the way it is in the mountains.

September 14 Norway Pass Trail, Mt. St. Helens NP

We got up early on Friday and drove about 35 miles to the Norway Pass Trailhead. Only 2.25 miles one-way with a 900 foot rise, it seemed a doable hike. I was uncertain about what to bring because it might be humid and warm or windy and cold. It was a long drive to the trailhead, about 40 miles, most of it along a skinny, windy road with a lot of broken pavement. As we rose, the clouds were very low and added interest to the views.

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The Garmin was showing a grey sky that we thought might indicate it recognized fog or heavy clouds. We’ve never noticed this before.

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We finally arrived and began the hike. It was very pleasant, milder than I expected and no wind at all. The path went uphill at a steady clip but wound along the edge of the hill with great views. Some of the foliage was brilliant orange against a green backdrop. Dead tree stumps added visual interest. This area was well within the blast zone when Mt. St. Helens erupted.

We had driven past a small lake on the way in and now it lay beneath us. The views were really opening up.

We saw a lot of bushes and plants with berries – red berries, white berries, orange, pink and blue berries. They were brilliant.

The trail was narrow and the healthy growth around it made it even narrower but it was soft walking. We eventually rounded a bend and a new valley opened up.

After a little over 2 miles, we reached Norway Pass. A short left turn took us to a great viewpoint that focused on Mt. St. Helens with Spirit Lake underneath. Spirit Lake was very close to the volcano and the eruption permanently raised the lake 200 feet, drowning all the camps and lodges around its edge. This is where Harry Truman’s lodge was and it was where he died because he refused to evacuate.

Spirit Lake still has thousands of bleached logs floating around its perimeter. It’s a bizarre scene. We stopped for lunch there and could hear the horrible screeching sound of elk off in the distance.

After waiting a while to see if the clouds would life off of Mt. St. Helens, we turned back to the trail. It was an easy downhill cruise. We hadn’t seen a soul on the way up but on the return passed two couples and a woman carrying a baby. It never showered a drop on the hike, which was nice.

September 15-16  Rainy weather

Rain set in the next couple of days so we mostly stayed at home. It was quite pleasant. We got a little walk in around the Cascade Peaks Campground. It’s quite large and runs by a river. We saw lots of elk droppings but didn’t see any elk. The campground is memorable to me as having one of the largest camp libraries I’ve ever seen with a lousy collection of books. Ninety percent of them were romances. How can people read one after another of them? The campground was also notable for wonderful carvings and the best refuse center I’ve ever seen.

Saturday was rainy too, so we drove 8 miles to Randle for breakfast. I had breakfast in a bowl, with the scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese all spread out over the hash browns. It works.

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August 4-5   Visiting friends

We headed north on Tuesday. It was going to be a busy day. We were meeting an old Customs friend, Jim Fischer near Dallas, Oregon. Jim worked in OAS in Portland for some years. He retired in 2003 and started growing grapes. His son sells the wine under the name Fossil and Fawn. We found a bottle of “Do Nothing” (a great name for us) and found it to be earthy, yet a little effervescent.  We met Jim at the Left Coast Cellars and he treated us to some wine tasting and a nice lunch of charcuterie and foccacia. Unfortunately, Jim’s wife had hurt herself the day before and we didn’t get a chance to meet her.

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After our thanks to Jim we headed to see my old college friends, Roger and Noreen Consorti. They have a beautiful home in Dallas, Oregon, west of Salem. We observed a flock of turkeys on their lawn, met 3 of the 4 resident cats and I met the chickens. Roger and Noreen made a wonderful dinner and we sipped on various liquors afterwards including IRRL, a Scandinavian minty liquor. They have a variety of good-looking hens and Noreen cooked us a beautiful collection of their colorful eggs in the morning. We made our farewells and headed for Silver Falls State Park.

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August 6-7  Silver Falls State Park

Noreen and Roger told us Silver Falls State Park was worth visiting, so we headed out there. It is in the middle of farming country. It’s a very pretty park and our space was surrounded on three sides by a high hedge so we had privacy. We relaxed after we got there and planned a hike for the next day. We had to do it the hard way – there was no phone service at all except at the lodge café when it was open. The park has many waterfalls but we selected a 4-mile loop that covered 4 or 5 waterfalls. We took off pretty early so the weather was still fairly cool and the light was very nice.

The first falls we ran into to was South Falls. It was running pretty good and we could walk behind it which was neat. The trail goes down near the water then rises up and goes through green, green forest. It is not dry here and it’s a pleasure to meander through the ferny greenery. The maple trees are a vibrant, spring green color that glow in dappled sunlight.

The next waterfall was Lower South Falls. (I think they just ran out of names for all the waterfalls.) As we walked under the overhang, the weirdness of the ceiling impressed me.

We eventually reached Lower North Falls and Middle North Falls, but turned around before reaching North Falls. It was an excellent hike.

August 8-11 Mt. St. Helens West Side

We reluctantly left the next day, heading for Mt. St. Helens. The Garmin took us on a rather tortuous route along several small back-country roads. We bypassed Portland completely and hit I-5 in Washington, not far from where we turned off to head towards the big volcano. Once on the road, we had some internet access and went to the Silver Lake Resort, next to Silver Lake. We had no trouble checking in for a few days but we had bright orange wristbands attached to our wrists and were told to wear them while we were there. “I’m supposed to shower with this on?” I asked. “Oh, you’ll get used to them” I was told. It was like a two-day, high-security concert, only it wasn’t. When we tried to back into our space, it was the narrowest site we’ve ever been in. And it’s right next to the highway. And it’s $44 per night. And they don’t have good ice cream in the office store. Nuff said!

On Saturday, we set off later in the morning. Our first stop was the Seaquest State Park Campground, very close to Silver Lake Resort. It had a nice campground but didn’t have a lot of spaces available.

The Silver Lake Visitor Center, a Washington State Park enterprise, is across Highway 504 from Seaquest State Park. It charges a $5 entrance fee and is worth it. The history of the volcanic eruption is presented extensively and well. The film is excellent. The power of the primary eruption is utterly amazing. The damage done by the mudflow, when the mountain exploded and the glaciers melted, was terrible. We visited the area in 1982 on our way to Alaska. We couldn’t go very far up the road because the damage was still significant.

We stopped to photograph Silver Lake with all its wetlands and water lilies.

Once past that blue lake, we started to follow the Toutle River. This was the river that received most of the mud and debris from Mt. St. Helens. It was totally altered. Now the water runs in a very narrow stream through the middle of an enormous valley. It isn’t pretty but it sure reinforces the power of what happened. The eruption also caused Spirit Lake to move and become larger and shallower. It created two new lakes, Coldwater and Castle.

The next stop on the road was the Science and Learning Center. Their name isn’t on it but it seems to at least have been funded by Weyerheuser. The eruption destroyed 150,000 acres of forest, some public, some private. Weyerheuser owned a lot of the land in the blast zone and spent two years salvaging the wood from a lot of trees blown down by the eruption in 1982 (enough trees to build 85,000 3-bedroom homes). They also hand planted 18.4 million seedlings (that’s mind-boggling!), figuring out that to live, the seedlings must be planted in the soil below the inches of ash. The earliest they would be able to harvest some of the trees was 2010.  There are slopes covered with orderly rows of trees that are a little dizzying to look at.

Much further up the road, when we reached Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument, the terrain changes. The monument doesn’t do anything to regenerate growth – it just lets it happen. At the Loowit Viewpoint, we followed a narrow trail that provided a great view of Mt. St. Helens. Clouds shrouded the top of the mountain but kept rising and falling. The valley below was spectacular. There was no wind and it was pleasantly warm. It was perfect.

The road ends at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. We took a quick peek inside the building and loved the scale model that used LEDs to show the direction and scope of the tree blowdown and mudflow.

It was getting late so we didn’t spend much time there. We will have three more days to check out the area. We drove home and taped our orange wristbands back on our wrists.

Sunday we took it easy and moved 13 miles up the road to the Kid Valley Campground. It’s pretty rustic but the sites are set right against solid greenery. It is only $25 per night for water and electric and it’s 26 miles less, round-trip, to drive to Mt. St. Helens National Monument. Once settled, we took off in the afternoon to do the Hummocks Trail.  We stopped to photograph the dizzying expanse of farmed trees that are so regularly spaced they blur.

Only a 2.6-mile loop, the Hummock Trail goes up and down the hummocks, areas where the hills broke apart and created recessed areas that fill up with water.  The trail goes down into very green forested areas and rises to dry, grassy slopes.

It began to shower on Sunday night and continued right through Monday. So we spent the entire day ensconced in the motorhome. It was pleasant and relaxing. We have virtually no phone service and there’s no WiFi in camp so little got done to figure out our next move.

It was showering again on Tuesday morning and we decided to go back up the road again. We stopped and took a little walk to the Sediment Dam. Supposedly, it reduces the sediment flowing down the Toutle River, but doesn’t explain how.

We continued up 504 and again got entranced by the trees. The several bridges that we cross provides a birds-eye view of the trees, not something we usually see.

Once again, we took the narrow trail at Loowit Viewpoint. The clouds obscured the top of Mt. St. Helens but made what light there was very dramatic.

We returned home and decided to head out on Wednesday.

 

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Trot to Hot (Post #1)

August 26-30  RV Glass Solutions, Coburn, OR

I made a really weird batch of chocolate chip cookies for the trip – they look like brown flying saucers with chocolate mounds in them. Mary P. augmented our cookies with a GREAT batch of oatmeal cookies. (Thanks, Mary) Hers and mine together look like Mutt and Jeff. We said our goodbyes, loaded the RV and headed north on Sunday morning.

We have 2.5 days to get to Coburg, Oregon, a little north of Eugene. We are going to replace 4 of the windows in the motorhome; they are double-paned and have developed a fog in between. Friends have had work done by RV Glass Solutions on their Lazy Daze and recommended it. Our appointment is for Wednesday and Thursday. It’s about 550 miles from S.F. to Eugene.

We stopped in Corning, CA on Sunday, 50 miles south of Redding. I originally planned to stop at Redding but wasn’t sure what parts of it were burned down. It was somewhat smoky at Corning but not too bad. Monday was a lot of driving. We drove past Lake Shasta and Mt. Shasta and were horrified by the thick blanket of smoke that covered everything. On both Monday and Tuesday, we kept going through smoky areas. We reached Coburg at 2:30 on Tuesday. They have three 50-amp outlets in their parking lot to let their clients park their motorhomes overnight so they are ready to go at 8 a.m. the day of the appointment.

It was very warm and we appreciated the air conditioning. It was strange parking in a lot that was empty when everyone went home for the night. But the moon came up and things cooled off so it was pleasant.

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We got a couple of surprises the next day. They had asked Dave to measure the thickness of the windows so they ordered the proper thickness of glass. It turned out our measurement was 1/16thoff so they couldn’t use the tinted glass that matched our windows. The glass they had available was clear green or green green. We chose clear green which means people outside the RV can see inside more clearly. Didn’t like that. We can get it tinted some other time but that will be an extra expense.  Later in the afternoon, they called and told Dave that there would be an additional $400 charge because they had to cut the glass out of larger pieces. That should have been included in their original estimate.

Neither of us had slept well so we took advantage of RV Glass Solutions’ customer lounge and napped a while. Then we headed for Mount Pisgah Arboretum in Eugene. It’s a pleasant area that has trails along the Coast Fork of the Willamette River. It was warm in the sun but pleasant in the shade. Dave suggested leaving the cameras behind and I’m glad we did. (These are iPhone pix.) We meandered along fields with their bales of hay harvested, past old barns, through a grove of Incense Cedar and back to the car. It was good to be on a trail again, though short it was.

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Then it was time to find a motel. We opted for an inexpensive one – Motel 6. Having gotten there early, we had to wait for our room by the pool but we lounged in the shade while 3 kids enjoyed the pool. The room was a bit of a shock. It was obviously recently remodeled and was clean and basically okay. But….no coffee maker, one side of the bed didn’t even have a light or a shelf to put things on, no shampoo or hair dryer. Two little soaps, three plastic cups, a bible and an ice bucket were the amenities. We had a very good dinner at Café 440. I opted for the special: seared King Salmon with little rainbow potatoes in a wonderful sauce. Dave had a very good hamburger with very good fries. The rest of the evening consisted of lounging on the bed, watching not-very-scintillating TV.

Breakfast at nearby Shari’s was great. In addition to the ordinary stuff, there were “stuffed hash browns”. The stuffing was cheddar, bacon bits, sour cream and scallions. That’s all I had for breakfast and that held me until a late lunch.

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We decided to see Mission Impossible at the Cinemax 17. Our first shock was the price for seniors: $11. That’s not for one senior, but two! Most films in San Francisco are between $8 and $10 so we were pleased. Next surprise: the theater complex served beer and wine, although not at the time we entered. It also had a children’s party room so you could have a birthday party and then see a film. What a great idea for families! We weren’t too hungry but we stopped for a light lunch at the Roadhouse Grill. If it’s a chain, it’s a good one. Dave enjoyed eating peanuts and flinging the shells on the floor. Their chicken curry soup was spicy and homemade.

We received a call saying our rig was ready.  When they were explaining the bill which was $700 more than the estimate, we showed them the estimate we were originally given which was for $1510. After reviewing that, the lady realized that the estimate was incorrectly low but stood by the incorrect figure and took $300 off our bill. That was an honorable thing to do and we were pleased. We got a tour of the work done and it looked impeccable. We then drove it back to the parking spot next to RV Glass Solutions and settled in for another free night of camping.

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Wow! There was so much light coming in! It was a different world. The only downside is we will have to use the shades more when we’re not fully dressed. If we don’t like doing that, we can add tinting to the windows later.

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August 31-September 1

We moved to Eugene Kamping World, one mile away from RV Glass Solutions. Pretty bare bones, but a big library. We feel lucky to have reserved a place in advance for Labor Day Weekend. The Oregon State Ducks play their first game on Saturday and all the RV parks fill up for the games. Didn’t do much after settling in. Walked over to Camping World to check out camp chairs. Ours are pretty worn out. We were advised by one couple there that Dick’s Sporting was cheaper so we may check that out while we’re in town.

The next morning we went to Eugene’s Saturday Market. It’s a 4-block extravaganza that reminded me of the old hippy days. Lots of booths with tie dye wear, pottery, nice jewelry, fancy glass bongs, and organic food. Mellow live music. The peppers were gorgeous as were much of the other vegie displays. We ate great fish and chips from a booth and I tried spicy Ginger-Cider ice tea.

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From there, we drove to Alton Baker Park, stretched out along the Willamette River. We chose that park for a walk, not knowing it was right next to the Oregon State U stadium where the Ducks were playing their first game of the year. People in yellow and green were walking across the Willamette for the game. They were tailgating all over the place. Luckily, we avoided having to pay $40 for parking by telling the gate people we were there just for the park. They had a separate area set aside and just believed us when we said we were there for a few hours.

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After a nice leg stretch in the park, we headed home to refresh ourselves for the Emerald Art Center opening that evening. Dave entered but didn’t make it in this time. The work was okay but nothing really grabbed me.

September 2-3

The next morning we lounged for a while before doing the 60 miles to go on the Tamolitch Blue Pool Trail. (Thanks for recommending it, Sheila) As we headed east into the mountains, the smoke grew very thick and there were signs warning that fire-fighting equipment was entering the highway.

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Eventually, we were back in clear air. We tucked ourselves into a very small space and hiked up the 1/2-mile road to the trailhead. We expected a lot of hikers out on a holiday weekend but we were amazed at the number of families and people with dogs. Going up the two-mile trail, I figured we passed groups of hikers coming down 2 times per minute. We saw people carrying their babies and kids. We saw one guy carrying his dog in a backpack. We saw 6-year-olds hiking in flip-flops.

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The forest was beautiful. We hadn’t hiked in one for quite a while. The trail goes along the McKenzie River (I think) for 2 miles. The rise is only 300 feet. We ended up at an overlook, gazing at a shallow, green-blue pool. There were quite a few people at the edge of the pool and occasionally, someone would jump in. Then we saw a scuba diver. Who would carry scuba gear for two miles so they could explore a fairly small pool? Someone, I guess. We rested a while at the overlook, listening to a guy talk about his drone, then descended. It was very warm but relatively painless. We got back to the car in time for coffee and cookies and drove the 60 miles back to our quiet campsite.

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Labor Day was chore day. (Not quite labor.) Groceries, laundry, pharmacy, Camping World. The highlight of the shopping was finding a bottle of Fawn and Fossil Do Nothing Red Blend. Jim Fischer is an old friend from Portland OAS and we are getting together with him and his wife tomorrow. His son, Jim Fischer, produces Fawn and Fossil wines and Do Nothing seems like the right red for us.

 

 

 

 

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The July 13 ballgame at San Francisco’s AT&T Ballpark was a wonderful experience. It was our first of game of the year, between the Giants and the Oakland A’s. We got off BART at the Embarcadero and walked to the ballpark. It was one of those half-foggy, half sunny days, not cold and not hot.

San Francisco has one of the very few ballparks where a ferry delivers fans directly to it. The only issue for a fan is that when a game goes into extra innings, the ferry won’t wait it out.

A 2007 image of McCovey Cove

We got there early to get our usual California Cookout Polska Kielbasa. A 10-inch sausage rests on a totally inadequate bun, topped with onions, peppers and sauerkraut. Then you add the other condiments you desire. We decided to eat them at a table because they are messy! My method is to nip off the top of the kielbasa sticking out. In order to lift the remainder, I try to wrap the paper around the huge concoction like a small blanket around a big baby. I was full the rest of the night.

We got to our great seats (thank you Kevin and Sue) behind home plate. Our area seemed to be half Giants fans and half A’s fans. But everyone was pretty mellow and nobody was overtly drunk or swearing constantly. Madbum (Madison Bumgarner) was pitching and I had a Friday-the-thirteenth feeling the Giants were going to win. As usual, swallows or swifts flitted around as the game started, apparently dislodged from some rooftop nook in the park.

The first three innings were scoreless. That gave me a chance to look around. Almost all the seats in the Club sections have spectacular views of the Bay. As the daylight dims, the stadium lights come on, giving the field an unearthly brightness. Green grass under pink, blue and gray sky. The fog continued to drift inland.

The Giants broke out with 5 runs in the seventh inning and we Giants fans were jubilant. It’s rare these days to see that kind of scoring in one inning. In the meantime, misty curls of fog were twirling over the top of the stadium and disseminating before it hit the field. It was magical.

The game was in the eighth inning and the score was 7-1. The usual crowd of sea gulls started to fly overhead, reminding us that they were waiting for us to leave so that they could scavenge the leftovers in the stands.

We decided to leave before the game ended. Light rail streetcars stop in front of the stadium so we crowded onto one of them, listening to people rejoicing or bemoaning the game. As we trundled along the Embarcadero, the Bay Bridge came into view, lit by thousands of led lights moving in abstract patterns. What a great place we live in.

2015 The arrow on the Embarcadero

2015 The Bay Bridge lights

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April 28-30   Driving and Oceano

We weren’t sure where we would spend the night but it was going to be a long drive regardless. It was pleasant though. We took I-15 for quite a way then regassed in Barstow and started the familiar leg on CA-58, through Blood Alley (a part of the highway that has a treacherous crossroads at Kramer Junction) and on  up to Tehachapi.  I was hoping to spend the night there because we never have never been to the town. (I visited Donna Vetromile there once in the 70’s.) But it was very windy and we would have had a cold, gusty evening. So we continued down to our go-to place in Bakersfield: the Desert Palms.

After that 250-mile drive, we drove another 150 miles on Sunday. CA-166 was astounding. We drove past more than 20 miles of what we guessed were orange trees. The “groves” also went miles to the north and south of the road. After that, miles of grape vines. We saw lots of ground prepared for planting as well. The amount of water needed for this is frightening to contemplate.

When we reached Carrizo Plains, a protected area, the terrain reverts to its natural state – mountains and grasses. Then, once past that, back to huge farms and finally to Oceano State Beach Campground. It’s very expensive ($42) per night but it does have water and electricity. There was construction going on so it was not the quiet, peaceful haven we had hoped for. But we did get a walk on the beach the next morning.

We tried a drive east to look for good stands of mustard, the only wildflower seen on most of the terrain. We saw many ranches and gated properties but little in the way of mustard.

Looking on the coast for a good coffee spot, we ended up driving on the beach for coffee. The wind was really strong and we saw about 8 windsurfers in the distance really scooting. Quite a few seagulls were huddled near us; it was too windy to fly.

May 1-2   Paso Robles

It was a short drive up to Paso Robles. Once again, we benefitted from the large parking area across from Tobin James Cellars. As wine club members, we can dry camp there, saving $50+ per night. So of course, we reciprocated by visiting the tasting room and buying 4 more bottles of their great wine. I want to say “Thank you!” to Mom, who ends up receiving our spring and fall shipments of Tobin wines because we always seem to be on the road at that time. Each shipment contains a gift of some kind and we have Tobin floor mats, a Tobin cheese boards, a Tobin clock, barbecue tools and more. It’s all been useful except a huge pepper grinder of the sort they use in restaurants.

There was time to visit one more winery and we headed for Graveyard Cellars at my insistance. They have a chocolate dessert wine that is mind blowing. They were closed and my mind wasn’t blown. We ended up at the Brochelle Tasting Room, recommended as having good Zins. We sat down on a comfy couch to taste and I found myself staring out at Paso Robles Ford, the place we had the RV towed to in 2016 when a tire almost fell off the rig. Not a happy memory. The wine was good but not mind bending. We purchased a couple of bottles and called it quits for the day.

I had written to friend Susan Miller to see if we could get together while we were in Paso. She and Fred tucked us into their busy schedule. We met for lunch at AJ’s Café (great omelet’s) and then and then went for a hike in the Three Bridges Oak Preserve in Atascadero. It is a wonderful trail, created and maintained by the Atascadero Land Preservation Society. The morning overcast had dissipated and it was a glorious afternoon. We saw more wildflowers there than we have anywhere else this trip and views just kept getting better as we went up 700 feet in elevation. The grasses were thick and green and dappled in sunlight. Susan and Fred spent quite a bit of time identifying birds and flowers, which left enough time for Dave and I to photograph to our hearts content. A great final hike with good company.

Thursday, we arose to a heavy fog but by the time we headed down to Joe’s Other Place in Templeton, it was already lightening up. We slurped up the coffee with hash browns and eggs.

After breakfast, we wandered our way back home, forcing the Garmin to take us on back roads and in one case, a road that disappeared, leaving us in someone’s front yard. But we always have fun doing this.

May 3-5    The last days on the road

We eventually returned to the LD and took off for Lake Nacimiento, a very large resort with lots of dry camping as well as hookups. We found a nice spot and were entertained by a Western Scrub Jay and a squirrel, both hoping we would throw them some food. We don’t do that.

We woke up to fog, but it broke up. After dumping, we started the 200 miles back to San Francisco. I was driving on a rural road leading back to CA-101 north, when a wild boar decided to run alongside the rig for a second and then ran under it Big mistake for the boar and I had killed one of God’s creatures. I felt bad but there was nothing we could do. Later, as we were slowly rounding the entrance onto 101, a bird thumped into the motorhome. Hopefully it didn’t get severely injured because we saw no sign of it.

The ride home was as easy as driving 200 miles can get. We reached home around 2 p.m., got a spot in front of the house and started to unload. We got most of the stuff out, called for a pizza and started reading the mail. Oh boy, I was up for jury duty in a week. What next?

Never a good thing, I had a notification from the DMV. Oh boy, my drivers license was going to expire on my birthday on Monday, 3 days away. To easily renew, the form told me, I could expedite the process by filling out the form and mailing it with $35. Of course, they would never receive it in 3 days. Then what? I’d be driving with an expired license.  I looked up the DMV info and found it was open on Saturday.

Saturday morning, I was out the door by 7:30 and made the short drive to the DMV. Funny, the gates to the parking lot were closed. I joined a line of about 20 people. Eight a.m. rolled around and the doors didn’t open. Then a woman walked by, talking on her phone, saying the door says the DMV was closed on Saturdays. I looked up the DMV website that confirmed it was closed. My mistake was looking at the first screen that comes up next to any business that I Google. It’s a Google screen and it was flat wrong. In the future, I will go to the actual business website.

Anyway, there’s a happy ending. I went online and managed to renew my license electronically. Better yet, we are going to see Rosanne Cash and Ry Cooder perform Johnny Cash songs tonight at the S.F. Jazz Center. Thank you, Mary and Rick, for getting us tickets. Tomorrow night, we celebrate Dave’s mom’s 91stbirthday. Now…..if I can just get off jury duty next week……..

 

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April 22-25    Lost!

I will update the blog on this section, including Sunset Crater, at some other time. Although I had been faithfully updating our old laptop often, it died on April 29 (RIP). Nothing Dave can do has brought it back to life. I had written my blog entry but hadn’t backed it up. So look at Dave’s blog for Sunset. (Most of our images are similar anyway.)

April 26-27   The Ivanpah Solar Project

We packed up and took off on a long, fairly pleasant drive from Flagstaff. As we drove west, hundreds of motorcycles were driving east. We later found out there is an annual Laughlin River Run for motorcycles. I certainly would not want to be in Laughlin while that was going on.

We wanted to camp near the Ivanpah Solar Array, the largest project of its kind in the world. Instead of lots of solar panels picking up sunlight and transmitting power individually, this project has lots of solar panels reflecting light to a central tower. Dave wanted to look at it for his Into the Anthropocene Project. I didn’t think much about it until we came over the hill from Searchlight, Nevada and saw three huge towers surrounded by a sea of solar panels. It reminded me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Entranced, we pulled into Nipton, California, ostensibly a town but really a collection of ragtag buildings and what looked like a rundown RV park. Nosing around, we found the office in the Trading Post, a funky wooden building full of munchies and marijuana paraphernalia. The overnight rentals were in a nicer space than the long term and we looked out on a plethora of tepees for rent. Peeking into one revealed a cot and a rough table on a dirt floor. Not for me.

After hooking up the blessed air conditioning, we waited a bit until 2:30 and then headed towards the installation, about 12 miles away. Dave drove and I stared; it was fascinating. Each tower looked like the tower in Lord of the Rings surrounded by thousands of minions facing it. Only it was blindingly white, casting a penumbra against the dark mountains behind. There was a road that went right into the solar array. And then, we ran into the 8-foot chain-link fence. Not literally, but photographically. We shot through the fence and climbed balustrades and the Rav to get above the fence. No good solutions.

The light was getting lower so we went to a hill a mile or so away and watched the towers as the sun set. I was curious to see how they would change as the light went off the solar panels reflecting to them. They went dark slowly, partially. No drama there. The mirrors still reflected bright white after the sun had set. It was a great visual experience.

We got back to camp late and decided to have dinner in the cafe. As the only customers at 7:30, the staff consisted of a waitress and a cook. The young waitress asked what we would like to drink. “What kinds of beer do you have?” She thought a moment. “I don’t know. I’ll have to check.”  “Do you have any wine?” I asked. “I’ll have to check.” Hmmm. Not been waitressing long, I thought. She returned and said we could buy drinks at the Trading Post and bring them back.

Then she asked us what we wanted for dinner. “Fish and Chips” I said, disregarding the likelihood of fresh fish in the Mojave Desert. “We’re out of that.” “Okay, a hamburger.” Dave ordered the High Desert Hamburger. When our dishes arrived, my hamburger was a good 6 inches high. I had to deconstruct it and use a knife and fork. Dave’s burger and accompaniments were wrapped envelope-style in a tortilla. Strange, but both tasted good. Later, we heard someone else asking for the soup. “We’re out of that” she said.

The next morning we rose at 5 am to catch sunrise on the array.

After that, we drove closer.

Dave wanted to drive around the entire project. I think we drove about 3 miles north before turning west where the road petered out. But Dave found the ideal hill from which to photograph. My hip was hurting pretty bad so I wasn’t willing to climb all the way up there. I stuck to the spaces in the fence.

I managed a lower hill that provided me with some good shots.

After finishing with the 3 towers, we decided to go into Primm, Nevada for breakfast. Primm is a town that consists of 3 casinos with adjoining hotels, a retail outlet, and very little else. Since I-15 runs between the casinos, there is a monorail that runs over the Interstate but it wasn’t open. We found a Denny’s inside one of the casinos and had a good breakfast, trying not to look at Trump news on the large-screen TV.

Coming out of the casino that was encircled by a yellow roller coaster, I marveled at the ugly, huge barn-like hotel looming above the parking lot. The entire effect was kind of horrifying.

We returned to Nipton and had a quiet day. We sat outside in the gathering dusk, watching all the activity going on in the compound. There was some type of yoga activity going on and we saw a line of people heading for a tepee. Some type of construction going on generated noise until late that night. Although very funky, I liked the vibe of the place.

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