Posts Tagged With: Washington

Wow, what a view

Wednesday my friend L and I did something we’d been wanting to do for a long time.  We went up to Crystal Mountain Ski Area, and we rode the gondola, which is open to sightseers in the off-season.  It cost twenty bucks, but it was worth every penny.  I really had no idea how far we’d be able to see from up there.  I’d been to Crystal to ski several times, but that was fifteen years ago, and even then I’d never gotten that high on the mountain (the easiest trail down from the top of the gondola is intermediate, and I never got much beyond high beginner trails the entire decade or so that I skied regularly).

Anyway, the day was about as clear and dry as it gets in the Pacific Northwest (and hot — 90+F in the lowlands, which broke records for this time of year, and in the upper 70sF even at almost 7000 feet at the top of the gondola), and the views ranged from Mt. Adams, clear down by the Columbia River, all the way to Mt. Baker, all the way up by the Canadian border.  And Mt. Rainier looked as if a person could reach out and touch it.

The only view even slightly obscured was down towards Puget Sound, where haze hovered over the water, blocking our view of the Olympics and of the cities down there (I bet the nighttime view in clear weather of those cities must be absolutely amazing).

There’s a fancy restaurant up at the top of the gondola, but it was beyond our price range, so we’d packed a picnic (actually, we’d bought our picnic at a Subway on the way), and we had plenty of chipmunk company while we ate.

All in all, it was a seriously spectacular trip.  If you happen to be in this part of the world on a clear day, don’t miss it.

Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola.  That's the White River down below.

Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola. That’s the White River down below.

That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.

That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.

Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.

Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.

Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.

That little white triangle on the horizon towards the righthand edge of the photo is Mt. Baker.

That little white triangle on the horizon almost dead center is Mt. Baker.

Lunch company.

Lunch company.

Really brave lunch company.

Really brave lunch company.

Headed back down the gondola.  Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.

Headed back down the gondola. Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.

Just a reminder, the Time in Yellowstone series: Repeating History, True Gold, and Finding Home, and the story “Homesick” (including chapters from all three novels, and only 99 cents for the e-version), are now available as ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords, and Repeating History is now available as a paper book from Amazon and CreateSpace, with the other books coming in paper editions very soon.

Categories: "Homesick", animals, books, exploring, Finding Home, flowers, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, Repeating History, travel, True Gold, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My 20th? annual trip to Sunrise

Actually, it may be my 19th.  I moved here twenty years ago this month, but I don’t remember if I went up there that year.  I know I’ve gone up there twice in a summer at least twice, so does that count?

I love both Paradise and Hurricane Ridge, and I’ve been to a lot of other wonderful wildflower hunting places (including Yellowstone, which doesn’t seem like a likely place to find a lot of wildflowers but most certainly is, and an incredible little state park in Indiana called Clifty Falls, which is absolutely amazing in April), but my favorite wildflower hunting grounds of all time are at Sunrise at Mt. Rainier National Park.

The Mountain from Sunrise.

The Mountain (as it’s referred to locally) from Sunrise.

This year I was slightly late getting up there — my beloved alpine phlox was all but over except in a few favored places — but I still managed to rack up 36 different kinds of flowers.  That’s my best total this summer!

One of the really neat things that the rangers do up at Sunrise (and at Hurricane Ridge) is put little signs near clumps of blooming plants that tell you what they are.  I also have a couple of ID books, and I take photos of everything I see, so I can examine them better when I get home.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw today:

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Partridge foot.  I don't think I've ever ID'd this one before.

Partridge foot. I don’t think I’ve ever ID’d this one before.

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron).

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron) and one of those nifty park service signs.

Magenta paintbrush -- see, they're not endemic to the Olympics!

Magenta paintbrush — see, they’re not endemic to the Olympics!

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

Jacob's ladder, aka Polemonium.  One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

Jacob’s ladder, aka Polemonium. One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it's happiest.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it’s happiest.

Elephantella.  The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Elephantella. The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

White rhododendron, which doesn't look much like a regular rhody to me.

White rhododendron, which doesn’t look much like a regular rhody to me.

Cusick's speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica.  I didn't see Betty.

Cusick’s speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica. I didn’t see Betty [g].

 And here’s the list, pretty much in the order I saw them:

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus), pink and yellow

Small-flowered penstemon

Pearly everlastings

Broad-leaved and dwarf lupines

American bistort

Potentilla

Gray’s lovage

Thread-leaved sandwort

Common yarrow

Partridge foot

Subalpine daisy

Cascade aster

Pale agoseris

Fan-leaved cinquefoil

Pasqueflower seedheads

False hellebore

Sitka valerian

Spreading phlox

Paintbrush, scarlet and magenta

Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder)

Broadleaved arnica

One lonely Columbian tiger lily

Sickletop lousewort

Elephantella

Beargrass

Harebells

Pink heather

White rhododendron

Cusick’s speedwell

Mertensia

Newberry’s knotweed

Mountain ash

Pussy-toes

Oh, and I saw a bear!  In all the times I’ve gone hiking up at Sunrise, this is the first time I’ve seen a bear.  It was at the Sunrise Camp, which is an ex-auto camp that’s been turned into a backpacker’s camp about a mile and a half behind Sunrise visitor center.  There were about twenty of us watching it browse from a safe distance when I was there.  It obviously knew we were there, and it equally obviously couldn’t have cared less.  It was a bit closer to the trail than I was comfortable with, so instead of making my usual loop, I went back the way I came, along by Shadow Lake.

The first bear I've ever seen at Sunrise -- the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

The first bear (photo taken with the zoom) I’ve ever seen at Sunrise — the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

And I saw this bird.  It’s got some blue on its back and rust on its front, and it’s about 6-8″ long, maybe?

A bird I'm hoping my friend will ID for me.

A bird I’m hoping my friend Katrina will ID for me.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A trip to Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is in Olympic National Park. I don’t get up there every year — it’s a bit farther than it is to Mt. Rainier — but I did combine a trip up there with a stop at the annual quilt show in Sequim, Washington, which in turn is associated with Sequim’s annual lavender festival. All in all it makes for a terrific, but very long day.

I’m going to concentrate on the wildflowers I saw, like I did with my last post about Paradise. The lavender festival was a bit earlier than usual this year. It’s usually the last weekend in July, but this year it was the 19th through the 21st. This meant that the flowers I saw were a bit different than those I normally see on this trip, because summer progresses so quickly in the mountains.

Most of the flowers I actually saw this time were on the Hurricane Hill trail, the first mile or so of which is along a south-facing slope. The meadows above the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge itself were mostly not quite in bloom yet, especially the lupine, which can turn whole sections of the meadows blue.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of photos of what I saw, with the full list after.

Columbia tiger lilies -- literally dozens of them.  I've never seen that many at one time before.

Columbia tiger lilies — literally dozens of them. I’ve never seen that many at one time before.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland.  How can they be of Scotland if they're here?

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland. How can they be of Scotland if they’re here?

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

Scalloped onion.  I'd never seen this one before.

Scalloped onion. I’d never seen this one before.

Rockslide larkspur.  The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Rockslide larkspur. The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

Nootka roses.  I don't think I've ever seen them here before.

Nootka roses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them here before.

Broad-leafed lupine.  I had a hard time finding any that weren't just in bud, but these were lovely.

Broad-leafed lupine. I had a hard time finding any that weren’t just in bud, but these were lovely.

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that's the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that’s the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

And here’s the list:

Western wallflower

Broad-leaved arnica

Yellow monkeyflowers

Alpine phlox

Nootka roses

American bistort

Columbian tigerlilies

Paintbrush, magenta and scarlet

Harebells

Hawkweed

Yarrow

Woolly sunflowers

Pearly everlastings

Cow parsnip

Avalanche lilies

Thread-leaf sandwort

Thistle

Saxifrage — not sure what variety exactly, sometimes it’s hard to tell

Scalloped onion

Fireweed

Leafy peavine

Rockslide larkspur

Broadleafed lupine

Mountain heather

Asters

25 in total.  Not quite as many as I saw at Paradise, but a credible day.  I wonder how many I’ll see at Sunrise next week?

Categories: exploring, hiking, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, quilting, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

counting wildflower species

Can be quite the process on Mt. Rainier this time of year [g].  I spent the day up at Paradise (including a short jaunt down to Stevens Canyon) today, and counted 28 wildflower species that I could identify, and at least one that wasn’t in my book.  Not bad when you consider that there were still two and three-foot snowdrifts around and about at Paradise.  Instead of showing you the usual tourist pictures of the mountain for this trip, I thought I’d pull a Katrina (a birder friend who posts lists with accompanying photos) and show you some of what I saw.

Avalanche lilies -- if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise.  I did time it right this year.

Avalanche lilies — if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise. I did time it right this year.

One of the few I haven't been able to ID yet.  This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

One of the few I haven’t been able to ID yet. This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car.  Thse were growing down near Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car. These were growing down near Longmire.

One of the two kinds of penstemons -- these are Davidson's penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

One of the two kinds of penstemons — these are Davidson’s penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

Rosy spirea.  This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Rosy spirea. This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise.  They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise. They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Jeffrey's shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Jeffrey’s shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road.  I think this is the first time I've ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier.  I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier. I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they're basically identical -- repeat until memorized [wry g].

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they’re basically identical — repeat until memorized [wry g].

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

I love summer, and mountain wildflowers are a big part of the reason why.

Oh, and here’s the list of everything I saw today that I could identify:

Goatsbeard

Mertensia

Potentilla

Avalanche lilies (white)

Glacier lilies (yellow)

Violets

Pasqueflowers

Spring beauties

Red heather

Mountain ash

Alpine phlox

Sitka valerian

Mountain bistort

Columbia red columbines

Beargrass

Serviceberry

Pink spirea

Jeffrey’s shooting stars

Two kinds of penstemon, Davidson’s and one not in my book

Lupine

Two kinds of paintbrush (magenta and scarlet)

Clover

Veronica

Columbia tiger lily

Cow parsnips

Ocean spray

Oh, and one more thing, or, rather, two.  I saw a dipper at Myrtle Falls (at least I think it was a dipper — it was too far away for a formal ID, but it was acting very much like a dipper, which is pretty distinctive, at least I’ve never seen any other kind of bird that dives into pools just above waterfalls).  And a pika skittered across the trail in front of me on my way back from Myrtle Falls.  He was too fast to get a photo.  But you can hear the pikas everywhere up there this time of year.  They sound very odd.

That’s it.  I think [g].  It was a gorgeous day in Paradise, what can I say?

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Two weeks ago, Day 9

My last day on the road, alas.  I got up and out early, and drove north from Seaside to Astoria, where I had an appointment with the curator (the librarian was on vacation) of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

But that wasn’t until later in the morning, and in the meantime I wanted to visit the Astoria Column.  I’d seen it in the distance any number of times on trips through Astoria, perched up there on its hilltop, but I hadn’t ever actually gone up there.  So Kestrel (my car) and I crept up the steep, narrow streets — Astoria is much smaller than San Francisco in every aspect but its hilliness — to the top of the highest – peak may be an overstatement, but you can certainly see forever from up there.

It was eight in the morning, clear as a bell, and the shadows were dramatic.  I’d had it in my mind that I was going to climb to the top of the tower, but I should have known better.  I always forget about my fear of manmade heights.  I don’t mind natural heights.  I’ve stood at Glacier Point in Yosemite, 3200 feet above Yosemite Valley, a direct drop below, without a hint of trepidation.  But when I visited Chicago I took one look at the then-Sears Tower and said, no way.  Absolutely no way.

Then there’s the whole claustrophobia thing, which I do not forget about.  I am very uncomfortable inside a plane if I’m not in a window seat, because I need to be able to see out, for instance, and I really do prefer my elevators to be glass, although I can manage regular ones if I have to.  But caves don’t bother me, so I guess it’s the manmade thing again.  Odd.  At any rate, the inside diameter of the Astoria Column is about eight feet across.  No windows. 164 steps to the top.  I took about ten steps up and could just feel it closing in about me.

So I came back down and decided I would a) be satisfied with the views from the hilltop, which really were spectacular, and b) take my pictures of the column from the outside, which was much more interesting, anyway, with its mural about exploration.

And here’s the photographic evidence.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

The Astoria Column, backlit.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column.  That's the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

Towards the northwest from the base of the column. That’s the Columbia River, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which I would cross later that day.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

A view of the column and its spiraling mural.

To the southwest from the base of the column -- those clouds mark the coastline.

To the southwest from the base of the column — those clouds mark the coastline.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

A close-up of the very top of the column.

By the time I was done at the column, it was almost time for my appointment.  The Columbia River Maritime Museum is on the waterfront, appropriately enough.  It’s a fabulous museum, and I highly recommend it to anyone with even the faintest interest in western or maritime history or boats or lifesaving, or…  But today I was there to do research, so I headed back to the library, where I met with the curator.

He was a very nice man, and it was a very nice library, but the library was not his area of expertise.  He was persistent, though, and finally produced the main item I was there to see, a thesis written by a student of American Studies at, of all places, the University of Utah, on lighthouses and their keepers on the Oregon coast.  She’d done a lot of field work on the coast, and research, and interviews, and one of the three lighthouses she focused on just happened to be Heceta Head.  Gold mine.  Even though the museum’s copy turned out to be missing its bibliography.

The curator also found me a number of other interesting items, and I had a very productive morning.

But after a beer-battered scallops and chips lunch at the Wet Dog Café, a place I’d eaten at before and loved (and which, unlike Mo’s, more than lived up to my memories of it), it was time to head home.

It was only a three and a half hour drive.  But it started with being stopped near the very top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge by bridge repairs.  I did mention my fear of manmade heights, right?  Well, I managed to distract myself during the wait by taking photos from the car.  I bet I’ll never get any from this vantage point ever again.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Stuck at the top of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

The Columbia River and Washington shore from the top of the bridge.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

Down, down, down we go, to Washington.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge.  I suspect William Clark is the culprit, but there wasn't anything there to explain it.

The very oddly-named rest area near the Washington end of the bridge. I suspect William Clark is the original culprit, but there wasn’t anything there to explain the origin of the name.

When I arrived home, it was to find that the condo hadn’t burned down and that the cats were just fine, and that was the end of this year’s “long” trip.  While I had a good, and productive, time, here’s hoping next year’s holds more new territory and lasts longer.  Sigh.

Categories: cats, exploring, food, Ghost Light, highways, history, museums, outdoors, parks, research, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two weeks ago today

Was the beginning of my annual road trip.  This one wasn’t long, unfortunately, nor was I ever more than a day’s drive from home, so I wonder if it really even counts.  But I had my reasons, first of which was that I was doing research for the new novel, which is set on the Oregon coast, and second of which is that I’m sort of saving up for another long trip in a year or two, I hope, so this trip was shorter than normal.

The morning mostly consisted of a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Portland, Oregon, in the pouring rain.  This late in the spring downpours of that duration aren’t usual, but it could have been worse.  It could have been hailing (our hail is more properly called graupel — pea-sized blobs of slushy ice — not real solid-ice hail with rings if you slice it open), or it could have been booming and crashing.  Spring is, after all, when we get our rare thundershowers.  So my windshield wipers got a workout.  No big deal.  If I let the rain stop me from doing things in this part of the world, I wouldn’t do much, that’s for sure.

I arrived in Portland in the late morning and made my pilgrimage to Fabric Depot, which is one of Portland’s stores on steroids and the biggest fabric store in the U.S.  Over 1.5 acres, or so their website says (they’re housed in an old Fred Meyer, which is the local answer to Target or Walmart).  This was by no means my first visit there — I usually make a Portland run at least once a year to hit this store and Powells (the other store on steroids, about which more in a minute) — and I usually time it to hit one of their sales.  Which I did this time.   I won’t go on about it anymore lest I start sounding like a commercial, but I will say just two more words.  Quilter heaven.

In the afternoon I hit my other store on steroids, the above-mentioned Powells, which is another biggest-of-its-kind store in the country.  To say that Powells sells books is to say that Microsoft has this little operating system.  Their main location, in downtown Portland, is a full city block and four stories tall.  They hand you maps at the door, in lieu of breadcrumbs, I suppose.  The rooms are color-coded as well.  I wonder how many customers they lost before they started doing those two things.  They sell new and used books, side-by-side on the shelves.  I’ve never been to any other bookstore that does that, although I’m sure there are some out there.  At any rate, I spent most of the afternoon there.

I spent the night at the Hawthorne Hostel in southeast Portland.  I like hostels, although they’re few and far between in this neck of the woods.  This one is in an old Craftsman-style bungalow with a great many “green” updates.  Part of the roof, for instance, is covered with growing plants, and they have a cistern, which runs the non-drinking water water things like toilets.  A lot of hostels are run by what my father used to call “those hippies.”  I rather like it.  It makes for a nifty ambiance.  And it was right on a bus line that ran straight to downtown, so I didn’t have to fight traffic the next day.

I didn’t take any pictures this first day, nor did I two weeks ago tomorrow, which I mostly spent at the Oregon Historical Society Museum library, and exploring downtown Portland.  I promise you that starting with two weeks ago day after tomorrow, I took more than enough photos to make up for it.  Really.

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autumn in the Pacific Northwest

Lots of places in North America are well-famed for their autumn foliage.  On my Long Trip, which took place in the fall of 1999, I started seeing the birches turning bright yellow in Minnesota in late September, and it was late October after I finally left the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina before I was back to green leaves again.  A whole solid month of following the peak of the foliage across the Great Lakes to New England and down the eastern seaboard, and I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it for the world.  Another terrific place to see fall foliage is in the mountains of Colorado, where the aspens turn a glorious gold every year.  And I am particularly partial to the golden larches of the Cascades and  northern Rockies, conifers which turn bright yellow in the fall.

Here in western Washington state, the foliage is a bit more subtle.  Or maybe that’s not quite the right word, when the predominant shade this time of year is school bus yellow.  That’s the shade the bigleaf maples turn.  They are, along with the red alders, which really don’t turn at all, alas, the predominant species of deciduous tree in this part of the world.  We have one other species of maple, the vine maple, which is basically the North American version of a Japanese maple, but it’s an understory tree that grows up in the mountains.  The bigleaf maples, so called because their leaves are about the size of your average dinner plate, are everywhere, from along the Sound up into the foothills of the mountains.

A couple of weeks ago, when the trees were just starting to turn, I took a drive up into the foothills of the Cascades towards Mt. Rainier, out to Ohop Lake and the small town of Eatonville, and back by way of the little country lane called Webster Road.  And here are some examples of fall foliage, Northwest style.  Complete with the gray skies typical of this time of year, and the rain, of course.

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Categories: exploring, outdoors, plants, weather | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 43

just south of Eugene, Oregon

Saturday, July 28, 1973

From British Columbia to about halfway through Oregon.  We drove south through Hope, BC, then crossed the border for the sixth and last time back into the U.S., into Washington state, where we picked up I-5 and simply booked.  Through Bellingham, Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Salem.  463 miles, according to Google Maps.

We stopped at a KOA campground, our first of the trip, as I noted in my diary.  When we visited parts of the continent less remote than Alaska and the Yukon, KOA campgrounds were something we looked for about every third night.  They’re sort of the Motel 6s of campgrounds, or they were back then.  Dependable but not fancy, with the same hookups and facilities from campground to campground.  In the days before we had the trailer with its own bathroom, we always counted on KOAs for showers and that sort of thing, too.

Little did I know when we spent the night near Eugene, that when I was in my twenties I’d end up living there for several years.  Not in the campground, of course, but in Eugene.  It sits at the head of the Willamette Valley, nestled in the evergreens with mountains ringing it in every direction but north.  At the time I lived there, just after the height of the spotted owl controversy in the mid-80s, it was sort of the hippie equivalent of the elephant’s graveyard.  Also sort of like the Island of Lost Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  If you didn’t fit in anywhere else, you’d be fine in Eugene.  I really loved Eugene.  I’d probably still be there if it weren’t for a set of circumstances too convoluted to be described here, although it’s not the same place it was back then.

It was hot when we got there.  Fortunately, the campground had a swimming pool, which I enjoyed that evening.  Also fortunately, the electric hookup allowed us to run the trailer’s air conditioning.  We went to bed early to get an early start the next day and ran it all night long.

True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

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Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 4

 Spence’s Bridge, British Columbia

Monday, June 18, 1973

We crossed the border into Canada on day four of our trip.  It was the first of six border crossings we made on that trip, back and forth between Canada and the U.S.  It wasn’t the first time I’d been to Canada — a few years before we’d spent several weeks exploring the Canadian Rockies, Banff and Jasper and all, and then gone down through Vancouver and across to Victoria, where we went to Butchart Gardens and saw dahlias as big as my head.  I’ve been back to Victoria several times as an adult, and even took my mother there once on one of her visits to me, but in the nineteen years I’ve lived three hours from Vancouver, I’ve not been back there.  I ought to get my passport renewed and do something about that one of these days.

 The ironic part of the whole thing is that in the twelve years we lived in suburban Los Angeles, we visited Canada twice and Alaska once, and never did get to Mexico.  I still haven’t been to Mexico.  It’s another thing I ought to do someday.

 Anyway.  The highlights of the day according to my diary appear to have been going through customs and visiting a large grocery store where you had to write the price on your items yourself with a grease pencil.   Between the two stops we only made 340 miles that day.  Daddy was slacking :-).  But at least Canada would let us fill the entire gas tank at a time, even if it was even more expensive — and sold by the liter.

 We drove past where I live now, near Tacoma, and on up through the traffic of Seattle, which appears to have been pretty bad even back then, and Everett, then we cut across from south of Bellingham to the border crossing at Abbotsford, then up along the Trans-Canada Highway through Chilliwack and Hope.  All of a sudden things seemed much further apart, because they were measured in kilometers rather than miles. 

 That night’s campground was next to a river, I remember, and my father and I walked down to it after supper to see what we could see, which wasn’t much but a lot of cottonwoods and a nice riffle.  But for the first time, we were off of multi-lane highways.  The next freeway we drove would be I-5 again, five weeks later.

 True Gold, a novel about the Klondike Gold Rush, is now available through Amazon and Smashwords

Categories: Alaska trip, exploring, outdoors, travel, True Gold | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting a volcano

 I firmly believe that if at all possible, everyone should have a chance to explore his or her surroundings.  And I tend to use the word “surroundings” loosely, generally meaning within a day trip, or, for some exceptional destinations, perhaps an overnight or a weekend. 

 I think this was brought home to me most profoundly by a woman I used to work with when I lived in a small, rather remote (when asked where it’s located, I usually say “thirty miles east of Idaho, eighty miles south of Canada”) town in Montana about twenty years ago.  She was in her forties and had never been more than thirty miles from home.  Given that the nearest city of any size was ninety miles away, and the only other town within that thirty mile limit was about a quarter the size of the one she lived in, that meant her boundaries were circumscribed in a way that I could never imagine.

 I was born in New Orleans.  I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco.  My parents always made a big deal of exploring and getting to know the area around us every time we moved.  Since then I have lived in Oregon, another part of Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Montana, and Washington state, and I have kept up the tradition of exploration.  Any circumscription of my boundaries is pretty well stretched to the point where it won’t snap back.

 Anyway.  A few years ago I discovered that my best local friend, whose father and husband were both military and so is even more well-moved than I am, had never really had a chance to explore once she moved here.  Kids and a full-time job just didn’t let her.  So I started a campaign to take her someplace she’s never visited before at least once a year.

 This year’s jaunt was to Mt. St. Helens.

 It was a beautiful, almost too warm day.  Classic Pacific Northwest August sunshine.  It also happened to be the first time I left the kittens to their own devices for the entire day; as it turned out, they managed just fine and didn’t even destroy the house. 

 But I digress.  We packed a picnic and drove the two and a half hours down I-5 and east along the Toutle River, first to Coldwater Lake, where there’s a trail/boardwalk along the lakeshore with signs telling about how the lake was formed by the 1980 eruption, and a picnic area, and a restroom that looks like a bunker for surviving nuclear war.  Now that I think about it, maybe it’s designed to help anyone stranded there survive another eruption.

 After lunch, we drove up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, where we listened to a ranger talk about the eruption and went through the exhibits, where, among other things I jumped up and down on a platform to create my own tick on a seismograph.  My inner ten-year-old liked that a great deal. 

 There’s a pleasant trail leading up the hillside above the observatory, where plenty of wildflowers were in bloom.  It leads past a viewpoint, and a memorial listing all of the names of the 57 people who died in the eruption.  The views from the top are quite spectacular, but there aren’t many views in the monument that aren’t.

All in all, it was an extremely satisfactory “taking L somewhere she’s never been” day.  I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did.

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Categories: exploring, museums, national parks, outdoors, philosophy, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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