Here We Go, Again…

Dreams & fires are alike ….some are extinguished  … some burn out… others die out, smolder… then some new fuel and a breath of air and they reignite.

It’s been almost 2 years since our ‘shakedown’ walk in Switzerland on the Jakobsweg… 100km in a week. A test of our desire to walk the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James). We discovered that not only was walking the best way to see and experience the countryside and people but, we really enjoyed the challenge of carrying all our necessities on our backs 20+ km each day to stop at a hostel populated with others with similar intentions.m shakedown . And so, OUR dream/plan became –  work one more year save [Our lives are bound by one financial stricture – absolutely  NO DEBT. Saving up rather than ‘borrowing’ is our mode…]  and prepare for the three month walk from where we left off in Switzerland through France and Spain to the Compostela de Santiago in Spain, a 2300+ km journey. BUT, when in early 2016 we had to commit to another year teaching at a dysfunctional school, the stress on our physical & mental health was a price higher than we were willing to pay.  We retired from teaching and returned home.

We thought the dream extinguished,… but, it was merely smoldering until a breath of air and some added fuel changed everything. For Tilly and I the ‘air’  was the question ‘if you had only 30 days to live… what would you do?’ Both of us immediately  thought of the Camino journey we had abandoned.  Our fuel was the follow-up “ IF those things are so important WHY NOT do them NOW?” The fire was re-kindled.

Our first question wasn’t “Can we afford it?” but rather “What do we do to make it happen?”  I jumped into “RESEARCH” mode… within a day I had a spread sheet detailing the daily expenses, travel costs and associated costs (storage for our 5W and truck). We could consider 30 days, 45 days & even up to 60 days. But the three month journey that would take up where we left off in Switzerland would have to wait until we added a few more $ to the travel fund.

When your plans don’t fit your circumstances THEN it is time to take the hint and alter the plans. If we started in France, we had the perfect window of opportunity … Late Sept – October and November …60 or so days. We could use our accumulated air miles to lessen the cost – although in the end it only saved us 20% or so as we jumped through hoops & miscellaneous expenses of transferring and purchasing the extra air miles to make it all work. Having used all our air miles; next time I will just hunt the cheapest flights online… less work and certainly less aggravation.

So 10 days after the decision to go… only first nights hotel and the flights are booked. If it had not been so prohibitive cost wise I would not have booked a return fight home…. then we would have had no deadline. So I booked our return from Paris 67 days after our arrival… almost twice the time most folks take to complete the journey… alleviating the ‘deadline factor’. Once we arrive in Paris – we can be like the pilgrims of old …take it one day at a time… accepting what comes.

In the last few days though, I have come to realize that our ‘journey’ doesn’t start when we first put our feet on the trail in France. It began nearly 3 weeks ago when we committed our selves to this – our “Pilgrimage” or just a very long walk?  What’s the difference? A Pilgrimage to me, implies a journeying with an spiritual or religious intent. My interest is not in seeking enlightenment or an life altering epiphany. It is merely to walk a long way and see what happens…. it is about ‘being’ moment to moment in the now…

But I think my easy explanation to anyone who asks WHY, will be  “Because it’s there” (George Mallory’s reply when asked why he wanted to be the first to climb Mt Everest.)

A MASS OF MOZZIES – Exploring Green River Lakes, WY

Originally, we intended to spend two weeks ‘boon-docking’ at Green River Lake – a destination 50 miles from the nearest town – in Wyoming. However, our one and only grand-daughter’s second birthday in Laramie, family members to visit in Lander, and a good monthly rate at the Maverick RV Park in downtown Lander caused us to re-evaluate our plans. After settling into the RV park and after several visits with family, we finally set off to explore the Wind River Wilderness.

In Lander, we are on the eastern side of the Wind River Range. Our exploration required us to cross the range and get to the western side. We didn’t want to do that pulling a 33’ fifth wheel trailer so we packed our camping gear and headed off ‘trailer-free.’ We took HWY 28 out of Lander, over South Pass and headed for Pinedale. Crossing South Pass put us on the western side of the Wind Rivers. We could have continued on paved roads all the way to Pinedale but in the spirit of adventure, we decided to take the turnoff to Big Sandy which put us onto a well-graded gravel road winding through range country. We saw lots of trucks pulling travel trailers of all sizes and types. We could easily have pulled our fifth wheel-oh well! The day was sunny; the scenery spectacular; snow-covered peaks, miles of meadows/grasslands/wild flowers, and numerous ranches. Wyoming produced……we saw cowboys on horseback moving their stock from one range to the other!

Where we turned off.

Following the signs.

What we look like.

Views along the way.

All too soon, we reached Pinedale, a quaint, western-themed little town.

A bit of history.

Stopped for lunch at the Wind River Brew Pub.

Great place.

Mike had always wanted to revisit Fremont Lake a short jaunt north of Pinedale and check it out for boon-docking and kayaking possibilities. We followed the road up and up and up some more to an elevation of 10,000’ at the end of which was a small state campground. This time we were happy not to have the 5W as the road was narrow, rough, and climbed so high. We could get the 5W to the top but there was no easy access to the lake; the only access we saw was at the bottom south end of the lake, before we started climbing. There were some possibilities for dispersed camping lower down.

Small “ranger station” at the top for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to get maps and advice.

View of Freemont Lake from the top and of the storm brewing.

On the way back down, there seemed to be storms brewing all around us and sure enough, as we returned to Pinedale and were leaving the gas station, it started to rain. We headed first west and then north, towards Cora, on HWY 352. The rain turned into a driving hailstorm, making it impossible to have any kind of conversation inside the truck.

After the storm – hailstones everywhere!

One moment we could see the mountains and the next….

…they disappeared behind the clouds.

We entered the Bridger-Teton National Forest where the road turned to gravel once more.

Entrance to the park.

On the road to Green River Lake.

No sooner had we crossed the cattle guard than the road meandered through meadows along the Green River. The landscape lived up to its name….Green, green, and more green! There are many opportunities for dispersed camping all the way through the park from beginning to the end along the Green River. We saw lots of RV’s parked along its banks and started to feel a bit sorry we hadn’t brought ours too.

We reached Green River Lake Campground at around 4pm and spent the first hour looking for, finding, and setting up our ideal camp. It was at this point that we started to seriously regret not bringing the 5W…..you guessed it……MASSES OF MOZZIES….. TRUE MOZZIE MISERY! I have never experienced mosquitoes like this before. I was covered head to foot with homemade bug spray which worked well previously on other mozzie attacks. But, these Green River Lake pests were more determined than any I’d ever experienced before so we pulled out and applied the second line of defense….packets of bug repellent-soaked towelettes containing DEET, which we rubbed on our clothes….to no avail. They bit us anyways. Thankfully I’d prepared dinner before leaving home…foil wrapped packets of veggies and salmon in parchment….so we quickly threw them on the grill and tried to sip a Happy Hour drink while cooking.

Our campsite for the night.

Covered in beach towels for protection!

We had to sit inside the truck to eat and by then, I couldn’t have cared less whether I ate or not, I was so miserable. We cleaned up and decided to go and see the lake. It lived up to its reputation for beauty. Not only was it wildly beautiful, it was also sunset time so everything was bathed in the orange light of the setting sun. We felt vindicated, even as we were being eaten alive.

First view of the lake.

To the south.

To the southwest

Southeast

East

8 o’clock rolled around and we had no choice but to crawl into the tent to escape the tormenting mozzies. We read for a while and then fell into an uncomfortable sleep (not used to sleeping in sleeping bags on pads) waking up often to roll over and commiserate with one another between bouts of scratching ( I know … you’re not supposed to scratch) mozzie bites. Once we woke up to the howling of wolves….that was really something to hear! There we were, in the middle of the night, discussing how cool (or not) it was to hear these wolves and about the fact that there never used to be wolves in this area – that their population had exploded right out of Yellowstone.

Next morning, our plan was to kayak to the end of the lake but a poor night’s sleep, the prospect of having to deal with mosquitoes….well….plans changed. we headed home. Safely insulated from the bugs in the truck, we enjoyed the drive back to where we had entered the Teton – Bridger Wilderness area.

At this point, we decided to explore further, taking the Union Pass Road over the Wind River Range.

We came from the road to/from Green River Lake on the right in the pic and and followed the sign to the left.

It was a very rough road but worth every bump. It was gravel all the way and wound through ranch-lands, open range, and mountain meadows (where we hoped to spot a grizzly but saw only deer and antelope.)

We headed across this beautiful direction towards the left of the mountain and started climbing.

Another sign – great names. We did NOT stop at Mosquito Lake!

Beautiful views all along the route.

Even the cycle tourists like this road.

Meadows filled with flowers….no wildlife though.

In one area the meadows were covered with blooming thistles.

No wonder we didn’t see much wildlife – they are so well camouflaged.

At the top of Union Pass….

Spectacular views in all directions!

Still snow in mid July!

Heading down the other side into Dubois….

A beautiful trip. I got to see parts of Wyoming many travelers to the state never get to see.

THE SAGA CONTINUES AND…..CONCLUDES….COINCIDENCE?

The phone was lost on Friday; we bought a new one on Sunday afternoon; and by Wednesday we had put the whole experience behind us and were happily exploring Boysen Reservoir. This reservoir stretches in a north-south direction between Shoshoni on the south end and Thermopolis on the north end with the spectacular Wind River Canyon joining them. Mike wanted to see as much of the reservoir as was possible, the roads around it, and any potential camping spots we might be able to pull our fifth wheel trailer into.

We started on the west side of the reservoir, heading in the direction of Lake Cameahwait which is very close to Boysen reservoir…you can see the reservoir when you drive into the lake. This time though, instead of turning right onto the road to Cameahwait we went straight…the road was paved for a lot of the way but eventually turned into a well graded gravel road. We stopped often and turned into every side road we saw to explore….beautiful and remote-feeling.

Eventually the gravel road (turned out it was a loop road) became pavement again. Continuing along, we drove directly past the spot where we had gone fishing and kayaking exactly 7 days prior! No sooner had we passed “THE SPOT” and noted the absence of the fishermen and their fifth wheel trailers, than my phone, the new one that is, started to ring. It was a woman asking to speak to “Michael.” I put it on speaker and it turned out to be “Heather” calling from the Verizon store in Thermopolis to tell us that she had our phone!!!! We were gob-smacked….astounded….amazed…..couldn’t believe it…..asking each other “Now What?” COINCIDENCE? I always have believed there are no coincidences but this???? Hearing it had been found when we were in almost exactly the same spot we’d lost it???

At that point, we were near the south end of the reservoir, heading around to the east side where there are a lot more campgrounds to check out. We were already half way to Thermopolis so we headed directly there, deciding to investigate all the campgrounds on the return trip.

Arriving in Thermopolis, we located the Verizon store and met Heather who turned the phone over to us. Oh how we wished that phone could talk!!! She told us that the phone had been turned in by their ‘mail lady’ whose husband had found it floating not in Lake Cameahwait but at “Tough Creek” (Boysen Reservoir). Floating….probably it had been; close….but not where we’d been fishing and kayaking. It had been turned in a few days prior and Heather said she’d kept waiting for someone to call for it. We’d checked Shoshoni, Riverton, and Lander but hadn’t considered Thermopolis! She’d finally looked up the ID# on the back of the phone and had seen it belonged to us and called us. All the way back, we conjectured about what had happened because the facts didn’t match but finally, knowing we’d never get an answer, we stopped “scenario-izing” and simply were grateful for getting the phone back. That gratitude was amplified tenfold when we were informed by Heather that we would be able to return the new iPhone we’d purchased.

A huge thank-you goes out to the Verizon staff in Riverton, Lander and Thermololis who were so helpful; to Verizon, the company; to the fisherman who found the phone and to his wife who returned it to the Verizon store!

LAKE CAMEAHWAIT SAGA – the best of days; the worst of days!

The BEST part of the day was kayaking around Lake Cameahwait (also called Bass Lake by the locals), a 55 mile drive on HWY 26/789 from Lander towards Shoshoni. It was hot and sunny – thankfully we had left Lander early in the morning around 715, arriving at the lake by 830.

The drive to the lake provided beautiful views of grass covered hills, free-ranging cattle and antelope with mountains forming the background. The road was paved and mostly straight until just before the lake.

I was out on the lake by 830. I circumnavigated it in a very leisurely manner, pausing often to snap pics of birds, dragonflies, bullrushes, and a white, fragile-looking feather floating in the water which captured my imagination.

As I paddled, I enjoyed the many views of the lake from the water.

Fishermen camping and site of shaded picnic area.

Along the way I was startled several times by a wild thrashing in the water nearby. There are a lot of wide mouth bass in this lake (hence the name Bass Lake) and apparently they sometimes school up to chase prey into the the shallows. When it gets warm they get aggressive, the biologist I was about to meet, informed me….

Arriving back at my starting point, I checked out the time to see if Michael and his Dad might be heading back for lunch. Earlier I had taken off my PFD (to apply sunscreen) and, enjoying the resultant freedom and greater air circulation, stuffed it under the elastic straps criss-crossing the bow of my kayak. I like to have my iPhone, keys and camera with me when I’m out on the water. I keep my camera in a waterproof box velcro-ed onto the surface of the kayak right in front of the cockpit within easy reach. (I have been known to stuff it down my front for faster picture snapping.)

I keep my iPhone in a plastic dry-bag made specifically for that purpose and store it in a pocket in my PFD where I can get to it quickly. I keep my keys in another pocket. Why all the detail about where I keep my “stuff” you are probably asking? Well, as you shall see, the plot thickens.

As I was bobbing peacefully in my kayak, a few meters from where I had originally started, I reached into my PFD to get my iPhone to check the time. It was almost 11 am. As I looked up to search the lake for Mike and Marvin, I saw them a little ways off. Mike gestured towards the shore signifying that it was time for a lunch break. I still had my phone in my hand and it was at that point that I lost full awareness of where my phone was. I’m guessing I stuffed it down my front and am having faint memories of thinking “I must remember it’s there otherwise it might drop out when I stand up.” (That’s happened before with my camera but thankfully, on land-I obviously I didn’t learn my lesson well enough!) I paddled towards the small sandy beach where I had ‘put in’ and ‘beached’ my boat. Clambering out, I saw a man in a red shirt with the Wyoming Game and Fish logo walk towards me. He was very pleasant, asking if I’d had a good morning paddle which started a conversation about the lake and the fish. Soon Mike and his Dad joined us in the chat until finally, hunger pangs sent us to the sheltered picnic area. I brought my keys, picked up our lunch bag from the truck and headed off, any thought of my iPhone long forgotten!

We ate lunch rapidly because of all the mosquitoes. They were TERRIBLE. At first we planned to go back out but it was so hot and we were tired. The decision was easily reached to call it a day and head for home. I gathered up our stuff and went to get my kayak ready for loading. In no time Mike had it in its rack on top of the truck, Marvin’s boat was loaded, and we were on our way, madly scratching at all the mozzie bites.

And now, the WORST part of the day started to show itself. As we were unloading Marvin’s boat back in Lander, I started digging for my keys. After pulling everything out of the tub where we keep our kayaking equipment….no keys appeared. We put everything back in its place. Then it got worse. I remembered all the pics I had taken with my camera. I had the camera but sometimes I take pics with my phone too, which made me think about my iPhone. Again….tub, purse, and bags were meticulously checked and the truck was searched….glove box, floor, crate…..no phone. We leaped back into the truck and raced the 55 miles back to the lake.

When you are in a boat on this lake, you can clearly see the road leading to the lake from many miles away. As we stopped at the boat launch, a boat was being driven at high speed towards where we were standing on the ramp. It was a fellow fisherman we’d met while we were having lunch. He and his buddies were camped at the lake in their fifth wheel trailers. He’d spotted us coming (hard to miss a bright yellow kayak perched atop a truck). Before we could even say a word, he shouted out across the water separating us that our keys were on the table but that the guy who found them AND the phone, took the phone, saying he would try to find a number to call us and would drop it off in town with the local law enforcement. We asked a few more questions but he seemed to want to go so we thanked him and headed into Riverton, thinking that must be the “town” he was referring to.

Long story short….we went to both the police and sheriff’s offices in Riverton without luck. We called and called my phone. At first, we would hear it ring 3 or 4 times before going to voice messaging but after the 6th call, no more ringing; it went straight to voice message. Whoever had it, had turned it off. We went to Verizon who listed it as “lost or stolen” which would ensure that whoever had the phone would not be able to activate it with ANY carrier. The manager there was also able to see that he had removed the sim card. With that information, Mike immediately recognized ‘the thief‘ had no intention of returning the phone. After searching on Apple’s site, Mike discovered that if we kept the phone as a device on our Apple account, no-one would be able to use that phone ever as it’s registered to us. We made the painful decision to erase all the data on the phone, changed all our passwords and accepted the fact we’d never see the phone again. Such a pity as now, an expensive piece of electronic equipment was worth nothing to anyone; even if it was sold, the unfortunate person buying it might not understand that the phone, although less than 2 years old, is virtually useless.

And so, Tilly’s “Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” ended.

THE SNOWY RANGE – Wyoming’s Wilderness Playground

Whenever we drive from Lander to Laramie, we take the Snowy Range Road. The Snowy Range is one of Wyoming’s most beautiful wilderness playgrounds. It is a spectacular drive on HWY 130/Snowy Range Road out of Laramie, climbing to 11,000 feet at its highest point at Libby Flats.

I believe the drive is steeper on the Laramie side of the range. Views of the range tantalized us all the way to Libby Flats where we stopped to check out the Keystone fire which had started the night before and which is now up to 375 acres.

Also took some pics of the views in all directions.

We met a couple at the top who told us they’d been there two weeks previously and had to slog through melting snowdrifts. We were lucky. Instead of snowdrifts we were treated to the sight of abundant wildflowers at the height of their bloom. (There many more species of flowers and I did take pics – lesson learned – don’t format your card until you’ve checked all of the folders!!)

Along the way we stopped to check out one of the campgrounds, Brooklyn Lake Campground. On the way we found a sweet little outdoor chapel, saw a moose foraging in a meadow, encountered melting snowdrifts across the road with tire tracks to follow through the mess, and a jewel of a lake where the campground was situated. Good thing the campground was closed….not sure if it would be wise to bring our 33 foot fifth wheel there, but we’d sure love to camp there.

On the way down we stopped for lots of pics which I inadvertently wiped off of my card – so sad. Near the bottom, before entering Saratoga, we turned off onto a well graded gravel road and took the back way in to Saratoga, past beautiful ranches and an equally beautiful, apparently highly exclusive golf course.

I highly recommend this drive for anyone traveling in this part of Wyoming!!!

SACAJAWEA HERITAGE TRAIL IN THE TRI-CITIES

It has been pretty hot here in the Pasco area. We have been wanting to do the Sacajawea Heritage Trail (SHT lol) since we first came to this area on March 26th to take possession of our new Arctic Fox FW. However, weather (too cold and windy during our first visit and too hot now, end of June), and “TO DO LISTS” kept us from exploring the trail. Finally the other day, we got up early enough to escape the mid-day heat, loaded the bicycles into the truck, and drove to Chiawana Park, Pasco, on the north side of the Columbia River. We headed west, the sun at our backs.

Chiawana Park

Starting out!

The trail as it passes through Chiawana Park.

The trail is 19 miles. No sooner had we started than we spotted a pelican, standing on a rock in the river, close to shore. We had to stop and take pics. In the process we met an elderly gentleman (a 30 year resident of the area) who said that 10 years ago there were no pelicans here. It’s just in the past 10 years or so that they have moved into the area. They are such ungainly creatures but so powerful and graceful in flight; serene-looking as they float in groups down the river.

We continued on, heading west, along the river. On this side of the river, the trail often stayed beside the river offering spectacular views but in places turned inland a bit to pass behind gated mansions perched riverside. We crossed the river over the 182 bridge and continued by the river in an easterly direction, the sun now on our faces.

On this side, we stopped often to take pics or just to admire the scenes.

Heading east along the south side of the river after crossing the bridge.

A short stop for a rest, a snack on some cherries (’tis the season after all), and to watch the river go by.

A “goose crossing” sign. Now I’ve seen them all….flamingo, camel, donkey, ostrich, frogs ….

…and here’s the reason for the sign….a waterfowl refuge with flocks of geese, both white and grey, all honking at each other; a goose cacophony ….  protecting their young? territory? food? who knows?

Continuing eastwards towards (and under) the blue bridge.

Continuing east towards the cable bridge which we crossed to get back to the north side of the Columbia River.

On the north side getting ready to pass underneath the cable bridge, looking for a place to stop and have our lunch.

Heading back under the Blue Bridge to Chiawana Park, our starting point.

This is the route we took:

… and this is the map we used and some more info about the trail:

 

OROVILLE WASHINGTON

We are getting more and more comfortable with our Arctic Fox. It’s easy to tow; easy to hitch especially with the new Curt hitch; easy to level with the 6 point automatic leveling system, and now that we have a routine, easy to store everything in its allocated place, safe for transport to wherever we happen to be traveling to. In other words, we love it more and more every day.

The trip from Steelhead, BC to Oroville WA was uneventful. The drive was as beautiful as I remembered from last year. We took HWY 1 to Kamloops, HWY 5 to Merritt, HWY 5A to Princeton, and HWY 3 through Hedley and Keremeos to the Osoyoos border crossing. There was no wait, not even one other car in front of us. After a brief ‘Agriculture Inspection’ where they took away my limes and lemons and asked several times if we had any pets (we don’t) we were through and on our way to Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park.

Last year we stayed in the parking lot at Princes which has now been taken over by new owners who have shut down their facilities. It is still possible to park there for free but we preferred this time to stay at Veteran’s Memorial Park. It is a beautiful park, well maintained with power and water hookups, as well as shower and toilet facilities, right on the shores of Osoyoos Lake. Most of the time here for us it has been very quiet with few campers. However, July and August will be fully booked as is always the case here. As a matter of fact, today, (Friday) there have been quite a number of campers arriving at the park.

View of our campsite & Arctic Fox from the water.

Boat launch.

We’ve spent our time here:
Visiting with friends;

Making a beer run!

Close enough to walk for groceries.

Kayaking;

Great beach to take off from.

Birdwatching is so rewarding from a kayak.

The lake was like glass.

Our new ‘wheelie cart’ attracted a lot of attention & questions. Works great. Bought it on Amazon for about $40.

Birdwatcher extra-ordinaire in action.

Red necked grebe and her babe.

Hiking the Similkameen Trail which we learned is one small section of the Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail;

The Taber trailhead halfway along the trail for a shorter hike.

Mikal on the old train trestle.

Visiting a most amazing outdoor museum in Molson and driving the scenic 9 mile road with signboards explaining the historical significance of the area;

Some history!

More history of the area.

The old Molson School museum.

Visiting local eateries. We went out for brunch once to Eva’s Diner & Bakery, and to dinner twice. The first time to a Mexican restaurant called ‘Rancho Grande’ and the second time to ‘Pastimes’ a local pub/eatery well known for its burgers (elk, bison, beef, pulled pork). Both places were excellent.

The food was excellent but we were initially attracted by the colorful benches outside. All the furniture inside is of the same style.

Great food & prices. Favorite of bikers.

We ended up our visit to Oroville with a concert at the local Alpine Brewing Company. They featured a group called “Hippies on Vacation” while serving great brews and wine (which they only sold by the bottle – poor me!!).

Great venue outside on the patio – waiting for the concert to begin.