Category Archives: Active Adventure

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.

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.

The Similkameen… Trail

An overcast day… threatening rain. In fact, the forecast was for rain later. If you wait for the days to be perfect then a lot of perfect days disappear. This was one of those days.

After a most beautiful day kayaking the day before…  we decided to give our weary arms a days rest and hike the Similkameen Trail. When completed the Similkameen Trail will run to Nighthawk – a small incorporated community and a border crossing into Canada. So far, it is approximately a 7 to 8 mile round trip up the Similkameen River from Oroville, WA to the Enloe Dam… an old rail bed converted to a hiking trail.

It was a perfect temperature 72 F (22 C). A breeze was blowing and the partial cloudiness moderated the sun’s intensity.  Good thing too, because I had forgotten my sunscreen. I have a good base tan but still am leery about sun damage. Sunshine can be healthy helping your body to produce vitamin D…too much sunshine is not. The forecast said to expect some rain later in the afternoon, so we included our ponchos in our daypacks. Nothing can make a pleasant hike more miserable than ignoring a forecast or forgetting rain gear, wind breaker or warmer piece of clothing. Tis better to have and NOT need than to NEED and NOT have.

We walked almost 2 miles to the Taber access (where a truss bridge takes the trail across the river ) before we saw another person. A family was wandering back from the bridge to the parking area. The trail left the rail bed and wound around a private vineyard. Unfortunately, the farmer had decided (even though the wind was blowing  >10mph the upper limit point for spraying) to spray his crop. We timed our crossing of the wind born spray area to avoid exposure… even so we got a few whiffs of pesticide and I am sure, a light covering of the stuff on our exposed skin. It seems impossible anymore to avoid some sort of contamination from modern agricultural poisons.

 

Crossing the bridge we strolled up the trail to the Enloe Dam, listening to the gentle roar of the river rapids below us and the birds singing above

The return trip was pleasant as like the ascent, we met nary a soul descending. We arrived back at our starting point 4 hours after we started. It was a great day and we felt tired… for me the best memory…

DEAD HORSE POINT STATE PARK

Today was supposed to be a ‘laundry, library, get-ready-to-leave’ kind of day, but as chance would have it, I went for a much needed hair cut and picked this salon that appealed to my sense of ‘funkiness’. What a great choice of places to go!!! It was called “Laura’s Hair Safari.” Laura, the sole proprietor and hair dresser, has been a resident of Moab since she was in the 9th grade (she had to have been in her mid to late 60’s at least.) Not only was she a good talker, she had a friend visiting her so I was regaled by tales of death, doom, and destruction as well as some little – known history of Moab and its residents and by advice of what I MUST absolutely see before leaving. The result? A trip to Dead Horse State Park, close to Canyonlands. They call it the “Grand Canyon of Utah”, a well-deserved name. “Dead Horse Point” is a natural canyon where wild horses were herded across a narrow, so-called ‘bridge, onto a wide plateau overlooking the Colorado River canyon. The horses couldn’t escape and legend has it that when they were left there without water and they smelled the water of the river below, they jumped to their deaths! It’s a great story….but….like many stories, not quite accurate.

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20 Miles – 2 Days Paddling the Colorado River

1st day – 1st paddle – 1st rapids

We began 10 miles up river from Moab UT.

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Tilly got her initiation to running rapids at the Big Bend Rapids.

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I had not told her there was any kind of rough(er) water on this paddle.

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Tilly – “I AM SOAKED… a wave rolled over the cockpit! You didn’t tell me there were RAPIDS on this trip!”

Reply – fearing I might be in a bit of trouble – “What did you think it would be like?”

Tilly -“Calm and placid like the South Thompson.”

Reply – hoping to extract myself from blame – “Would you have come IF I had told you?”

Tilly -“Thankfully you didn’t tell me… I didn’t have time to worry or even be scared… that was neat! But I’m soaked”

It was only a class 2 at best … but still a confidence builder

A few days before we had decided to kayak the Colorado River and made arrangements, with Kathryn at Wild West Adventures in Moab (a most excellent choice, as she turned out to be a wealth of information and assistance), to shuttle ourselves and kayaks 10 miles up river from Moab and then the next day shuttle our truck 10 miles down river from Moab. That way we could leave our truck on the river at our end point(s) each day. Once dropped off, we could proceed at our haste or leisure… again we were unscheduled.

I have to admit, I was a tiny bit apprehensive. It had been at least two decades since I had last floated a river and/or rowed (an inflatable raft) through any type of rapids. Still being a novice kayaker I was unsure of technique for navigating rapids – even small ones. Turns out that much of what I knew about rowing a raft through rapids returned quickly and strategy with a kayak was pretty much the same. I was able to pass along a variety of hints and suggestions to Tilly that helped her navigate the river.

You have to be aware of the currents/eddies when rowing a raft, but vigilant when kayaking. I had forgotten that how powerful the current and eddies can be, so the first time the front of my kayak entered an eddy I was almost tipped over as I spun around my center of gravity. Even so after that first encounter it became a delight to circle back upriver to see Tilly following along.

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Tilly ran 3-4 more sets of small rapids with hardly a hitch. UNTIL

dscn4040“I HIT A ROCK!”

 

Despite her scare Tilly made it through like a trooper!

 

 

 

Our Day one paddle was spectacular drifting along the canyon walls

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We disturbed a number of Candians (geese) and a duck or two.

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and our day 1 adventure ended as  we pulled out at the boat ramp next to Lions Park in Moab. We looked forward to the next day’s events.

 

2nd day – 2nd paddle – 1st mishap:

Experience Gained – Lessons [Re-] Learned.

Day 2 paddle began where day 1 left off- the boat ramp on the edge of Moab. Another 10 miles of river to explore. Plus we were going to float through the wetlands preserve. We were hoping to see a variety of wild birds, but our excitement was to come from a very different angle. It was a day for important lessons. It is said -”Good Judgement comes from Experience (lessons learned) AND Experience comes from Bad Judgement”. I need to add “Refresher Experience comes from forgotten lessons.”

The entrance to the channel through the preserve was mostly blocked by a variety of logs, branches and driftwood; making the turn from the main river channel challenging. But I did not think it more challenging than the rapids of the day before.

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I counted on my athletic ability to push my was through it – and it was challenging. However I did not think about Tilly… critical to steering rapids is setting up your angles. Tilly tried to cut too sharp around a rock and hung up sideways to the current mid kayak AND over she went, dumped out. I watched and as she rolled over I paddled hard to intercept her and her kayak.  She responded perfectly, hanging on to the kayak AND putting her feet down river. Reaching the shore, she lifted the front of the kayak – draining the water from the cockpit and flipped the kayak back upright. She was back in shortly after I rafted up with her kayak. But she was soaking wet. The worst case had happened and she had handled it all magnificently

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AFTER it was all over, I remembered a (forgotten) basic, most helpful and important hint left out of my variety of hints and suggestions for navigating rapids and river currents.. LEAN INTO the rock NOT away. If Tilly had known she most likely, having leaned into the rock, would have spun backwards around it. But, she did what normal people do – leaned away and the force of the water turned her over. I felt a bit guilty. Lesson 1  learned by Tilly and re-learned by me.

 We paddled through the wetlands and back into the main channel of the Colorado. I looked back at a no-longer smiling Tilly. I asked how she was doing and she said, ‘OK, but I’m shivering all over.’ We had wrung out her clothes, but she had not put on anything dry. Once again I had forgotten a BASIC outdoors lesson. Hypothermia can happen even at 50-70 degrees IF there is wind and wet.

Quickly, I spotted a beach and we paddled to it. I dug out my pair of dry pants and wind jacket from my dry bag. Tilly quickly got out of her wet clothes and into her dry fleece shirt, my pants and put the wind coat on. After 30 minutes of soaking up the sunshine Tilly was warmed up enough to continue.  Lesson 2 – specifically: get out of cold wet clothes and into dry ones, say something when you are cold and shivering AND watch your partner closely after a dunking… learned by Tilly and re-learned by me.

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Lunch was served a few miles down the river. After that the wind came up and we paddled a not as much fun as the day before- uneventful slog- final section to our take-out point. We had gotten our taste of river kayaking – the Colorado River, learned (and relearned) some important lessons.

Definitely – We’ll be back!