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…

Lazy Days at Steelhead Provincial Park

Steelhead Provincial Park is a small park in the town of Savona BC, on the banks of Kamloops Lake, just where it empties into the Thompson River. We stayed at Steelhead for 17 spectacular days. Spectacular for the good times with dear friends, for the views of the lake, for the maintenance of the park by the staff, for the cleanliness of its facilities (hot showers and flush toilets), and for the friendliness of the park staff and the fun we had with them.

Power & electric sites in the foreground, lakefront sites beyond.

Since we were there from the end of May to mid – June, we experienced the lake and the river while they were at their highest levels. Once, twice and some days even more, we walked to the lake’s edge to check the markers we had established (small sticks pushed into the sand) to check the water level. Most of our time there, the water level of the lake went up, often washing away our markers.

Driftwood & debris washed ashore.

Steelhead from across the lake.

Close – up from across the lake.

We stayed in two different sites. The first site was in an open meadow with lots of trees, chosen because we were able to set up a group camp area with our friends. In addition, it was a bit more sheltered from the winds and fewer people chose to camp there, choosing instead the lakefront and water/electrical sites (of which there were only 8). We ‘dry-camped’ there for 12 days which gave us a good feeling about the capacities of our grey/black tanks as well as the amount of time our batteries would last.

The second site was right where the lake narrowed and curved into/became the river. We stayed at that site, on our own, for the next 6 days, continuing to ‘dry-camp.’ There is no sani-station at this park so at one point we did pack up and drive to Juniper Beach Provincial Park which had a coin-operated ($5) sani-station, to dump both tanks and which was the closest at only 5 miles or so north of where we were.

The current was very strong and the water level was so high that many of the trees normally on the banks were deep in water. This attracted many birds and the odd beaver too. It was here that the almost full-time bird-watching started. We had a spectacular view; no sooner did we get ourselves seated, either inside or out, than a bird would appear. We got to know them and to understand some of their habits.

Bullock’s Oriole

Eastern Kingbird

Lewis Woodpecker

Magpie. Curious as ever.

Meadowlark with such a sweet song.

Northern Flicker

Starlings in a tree just beside our fifth wheel.

Merganzer & babies – we counted 18 one day and 23 the next!

We also enjoyed a paddle or two with the kayaks but since we were at the end of the lake the wind would funnel down the river canyon from either end, creating strong winds and white caps. I’m a fair weather kayaker and enjoy the peace and calm accompanied by the warmth of the sun that come with that kind of kayaking.

We explored the area west to Walhachin;

On the south side of the Thompson River looking west.

On the south side looking east towards Steelhead.

The bridge we crossed to get to Walhachin.

Osprey nest which has been added to over the many years its been there!

Close-up of the osprey nest.

Crossing back over on our way home.

and east towards Kamloops to see the amazing but little known Balancing Rock.

The hike to get to the balancing rock.

The view.

The Balancing Rock.

Close up.

Notice the small figure of a person in the foreground to get an idea of the size.

The time finally came for us to head south towards Osoyoos and the border crossing at Oroville.

OLYMPIA & THE NISQUALLY WILDLIFE REFUGE

Packed up and ready to leave by 10, we headed out of our spot….oh so carefully….I watched while Mike pulled out….all A-Okay! No encounters with trees. I hopped back in the truck and we headed down the road to “dump our load” at the sani-station before hitting the open road. As we were driving on the main road out of the park, we heard a funny noise. I barely heard it; sounded like the splash of water hitting the road. I thought it was water from the roof, or maybe elsewhere, that was set in motion with the driving. Mike thought it was the bikes but we kept on going until a car driving behind us flashed its lights. The driver told us a tree had reached out and grabbed our antenna. It pulled it right out by the roots and let it fall to the pavement where bits and pieces of plastic broke off. Thankfully the park rangers happened on the scene and drove back to get the antenna while Mike drove to the sani-station, fuming with anger at Arctic Fox and their major design flaw. I was upset too, not angry….but then….I wasn’t the one that would have to fix it. It had started to rain again which didn’t make the fixing job any more pleasant for Mike. While he got busy fixing, I gave our contact details to the rangers who promised to fill out an incident report for their own purposes as well as ours, for insurance purposes.

By the time we got going it was 1130. Once again on this drive, I was another “Nervous Nellie” until we hit I5. The new Rand McNally GPS made major mistakes twice!! First in Longview and then again nearer Olympia where it took us past where we should have exited and had us take the next exit, go over the I 5 and then right back on the I5 heading south again. After that though, we had no problems finding the Landyacht Harbor RV Park, where they were very friendly and welcoming. It’s a great park and very quiet while we were there. The only problem was that all of the connections were at the back of the trailer which meant the electrical cord had to stretch all the way out – first time for that….and the black/grey water hose was stretched to the max. Thankfully we had an extra section of hose.

The next day we met Mike’s cousin at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge which was the highlight of our visit. Beautiful! Spectacular! Phenomenal! We walked, took pics, talked, met a photographer who had taken some great pics of the baby great horned owls (it took him 8 hours of sitting patiently waiting but his shot was well worth it) and who showed us the tree where the owlets were (they didn’t appear for us). He also pointed out a peregrine falcon, and a nest that looked like a weaver bird and a hummingbird nest. He was very quick to spot birds.

Goose IN a nest!

Goose ON a barn roof!

Goose IN a tree!

Goose ON a tree!

Colorful lichens.

We were up early the next morning as it was a travel day….a BIG travel day in our perceptions as we had to drive from Olympia through Tacoma, Seatac, and Seattle. We had everything ready and were on the road by 915.

The first part of the trip, there wasn’t too much traffic but through Tacoma it was heavy but then thinned out again. Not for long. Soon, we were caught up in bumper to bumper traffic pretty much until after Mercer Street in downtown Seattle when it at least started to flow a bit faster. We’d been inching along for a long ways.

The border crossing was a bit hairy but only because of our size and trying to fit through the gates. They asked a few questions but before long we were on our way. No sooner had we gotten back on HWY 99 and we had to turn on 2nd Ave. That turned out to be the “Fast Track” for the commercial trucks. Our turn came right after. Reached the park easily, registered and got into our site, a pull-through. Nice park but we are very close to one another….can almost see into the windows of the rig beside us and behind us. The best thing about this park was its proximity to a splendid little bar called Bennett’s Pub….a five minute walk!

NEHALEM BAY STATE PARK OREGON COAST

Our dream was a reality. We had arrived at Nehalem Bay State Park on the Oregon Coast. Our site was great. We were treated with several visits from the locals.

We couldn’t wait to get to the beach for our first views.

We didn’t walk too far that first day but far enough to see a huge bald eagle just as it took off from its unseen perch on the beach.

On the second day, we tried to cycle into Manzanita but we were too out of shape. After a few very steep ups and downs, with lungs working like bellows and quads feeling like rubber, we returned and took the truck instead. What a lovely quaint little village with lots of cute shops, restaurants, an organic food market and more.

Every day we walked the beach, either north or south, depending upon the direction of the wind. We quickly learned to walk into the wind at the beginning of our walks, giving us the added bonus of the wind at our backs walking back home when we were tired.

Walking southerly towards the town of Tillamook, the beach ended at a driftwood jetty on top of which sat….our immense bald eagle.

As I sat and rested with my back against a log, Mike went to take pics. When he came back he asked, “Did you see the seals? They’re surfing in the waves!” I looked and did see them playing where the waves were the tallest – where they were cut by the jetty. What a sight! Found some whole sand dollars; all the way there we’d seen lots of broken ones but in this one spot we found some whole ones. We also found several dead “sea creatures” and one live one. Never did discover exactly what it was.

My favorite birds (in addition to eagles and hummers) are the sandpipers. I love the way they scurry about on the sand, forming a line to stay just ahead of incoming waves, then breaking rank again to see what delights the ocean wave has brought them, heads bobbing up and down with tiny bills poking into the sand – just like mini-drills.

On one day, we woke up to an expected sunny day. Beautiful blue sky. We’d planned to spend the day on the beach here but we both were in the mood to explore. Originally we had tried to reserve at Cape Disappointment up the coast across the Columbia River, in Washington but it was booked for the times we wanted.

Cape Disappointment State Park is indeed beautiful and we enjoyed the time we spent hiking up the trail to the interpretive center and lighthouse followed by a long walk past the North Jetty along the beach. We stopped briefly to bathe in the sun and once again were treated to an even better performance of two seals surfing in the waves. When a wave gets ready to curl and become a breaker, the top third becomes translucent. This time, for just a moment before the wave curled, we saw the clear, unmistakable forms of two seals right there in the centre of the wave, seal shadows in the green translucence. Spectacular!

On the way back: we were dive-bombed by some black-headed gulls who didn’t like us invading their space; and we saw a huge big crab, barely alive and wondered why none of the birds had found it yet.

All in all it was a great day topped off by dinner at the Sand Dune Pub in Manzanita.

The final few days there were typical west coast days; days of endless, drumming rain. It was time for us to leave.

The Maiden Voyage of the Arctic Fox

The long-awaited license plate for our Arctic Fox finally arrived. By 10 am the following morning, after we had packed, cleaned, hitched, measured our height, loaded the bikes, and taken pics of our new set-up, we hit the open road.

For this, our maiden voyage, we loaded very thoughtfully and carefully. While getting the current Reese hitch checked, we had discovered the truck had suspension airbags so we spent time measuring the height with the truck unloaded and then loaded and adjusted accordingly with air; Mike had done a pre-flight check the day before, torquing all the nuts and bolts on the trailer hitch and wheels as well as the truck wheels….we felt confident and safe. We were ready.

The truck performed flawlessly – so happy with it – it just chugged up the hills. Absolutely marvelous. The trailer too….followed the truck like rats following the Pied Piper!!! We had invested in a new GPS, Rand McNally, because I was terrified that the tunnels on the 101 would tear away something atop the the trailer or even take off the whole roof!!! This GPS is meant for RV’s. You can enter your height and length and it will route you the best way…..and it did…..all too well!

Leaving Pasco, WA, we followed I 84 to Portland – heavy traffic (after all, we were traveling on Good Friday) but all went perfectly. From Portland we followed US 26 NE to NW Timber Road. It routed us that way because there was a tunnel further along on the 26 with an unspecified height…I didn’t want to chance it. Mike’s thinking was that if it’s on a major highway, then we shouldn’t have any problems. But…not wanting to risk anything, we decided to follow this Timber Road. As soon as we turned off we thought OMG we’re in for some excitement and sure enough, narrow, barely 2 lanes, and hairpin curves like you’ve never seen. Our saving grace was that no one else was stupid enough to drive this road so we could take up the whole road! Besides, it was only for 10 miles. No shoulder, drop-offs on the passenger side (of course). But….my Michael was at the wheel and handled it all like a pro. After that hair-raising detour, we made it back onto US 26. But….soon enough, (there being another tunnel between Seaside and Manzanita on US 101), our trusty GPS took us off US 26 onto OR 53. This time, much the same kind of road but rougher, the hairpins not quite as tight, and double the distance at 22 miles. When we finally got here to Nehalem Bay State Park, the camp host was astonished at what we’d done. He said, “Hell, I wouldn’t drive that road unloaded, let alone fully loaded!”. That made us feel pretty proud.

We had reserved ahead of time. There are two loops here: A,B,C loop for reserved campers, and D,E,F loop for first come first served. They all have water and 30 or 50 amp electrical service. We couldn’t fit into the one they’d reserved for us because there was no maneuvering room. We went for help to the camp hosts who lived up to their name. They helped us find the perfect spot in D loop. Michael backed it in first try and we got the trailer unhooked.

Starting our arrival procedure, after leveling the rig, we went to plug in and….???? Not a fifty amp service – only a 30 amp. Our plug was only for a 50 amp. plug. The reserved spot had had a 50 amp. Oh well! Again the camp host helped….sent us off to Fred Meyer in Tillamook, a 20 mile drive. He even called ahead to make sure they had one and had them hold it for us. Off we went, oooohing and aaaaahing at the splendid views of the ocean and dreaming of a fresh crab dinner. Got to Fred Meyers and sure enough, they had it, we bought it, and set off back to camp.

By this time we were starving, it being almost 8pm. We stopped at a restaurant perched oceanside called ‘The Pirate’s Cove.’ They were still open so, postponing the crab for a later date, we shared some fish and chips. Came home…..Mike plugged us in….let there be light! There was!

Stepping into the trailer, Mike on my heels (to help move one of the recliners so we could put the living room slide out) mayhem greeted us. I had packed our printer in one of the upper cupboards, not even really thinking about it. When preparing for travel, I had considered putting some kind of binding/elastic around the knobs, just in case, but for some reason didn’t. With all the jostling of the rough roads and hairpins, the cupboard had opened, the printer had fallen out and landed on one of the dining room chairs (they lay on their sides when traveling) smashing it. (Mike thinks he can fix it!) There were also bowls all over the floor….not broken….thumbs up for Corelle!! That cupboard had opened as well. We moved the slide out and went to do the bedroom slide. When I opened the clothes closet, all of our clothes had fallen in a neat, organized pile on the floor. The rod holding the clothes had come loose from its attachments and had collapsed onto the floor!!!!!

We were exhausted and just a trifle sad. But the good news is that the printer still works and Mike has the closet fixed enough so we can at least use it…..and we had 2 extra chairs! As a dear friend would say, “It’s all good!”

Homeless!

March 24th was our last day at Travolta Ave in Indian Palms country Club. As we were madly doing our last pack, Mike at the truck loading the kayaks, bikes, and U Haul trailer; me in the house washing the mattress cover, duvet cover, pillowcases and clothes, awaiting the arrival of J&D Movers who were supposed to arrive at 9am but didn’t come until 10, our realtor called at 10:58 to tell us that the house had closed. It was no longer ours. Shortly thereafter, we departed, all our worldly possessions in, on, and behind our truck.

Finally! After much anticipation, we were on I 10 headed north. We stayed on I 10 until we turned off on I 215 at Redlands, next onto I 15, CA 58 at Barstow and finally, at Kramer Junction, onto US 395 to Bishop. Spectacular drive along the foot of the Sierra Nevadas, a first for us. Towering into the clouds, covered with snow, we were driving in temps of 74 degrees F.

After checking in at the Red Roof Inn in Bishop, CA we asked about a local pub for dinner – they recommended the Mountain Rambler – a local brewery which was “hopping” with families, friends, skiers, and climbers – a superb recommendation.  We found a spot at a table shared by two women and ordered a salad and some Thai meatballs. Delish! We loved Bishop and hope to go back and explore some day.

Next morning, after fortifying ourselves with good strong coffees from the popular ‘Looney Bean’ in downtown Bishop, we set off. Tooling along, enjoying the scenery and listening to Harry Chapin, I felt the giant hand clenched around my solar plexus loosen just a bit. Strange, because I hadn’t been aware it was there but now, in retrospect, not all that surprising I guess.

Turned off the 395 to Tonopah and headed on US 360 to Hawthorne. Not a single other vehicle in sight. Discovery: This is what we need to be doing every day….exploring new places, new vistas….just passed Marietta Wild Burro Range – must check that out on a return visit. On US95, I mistakenly saw a “legal brothel!!” No mistake. Apparently, Mike informs me, brothels are legal in Nevada!!!??? I 80 to Winnemucca and then went back onto US95 for a short distance through Idaho. Thought we were going to stay somewhere in Jordan Valley but there were no motels – proceeded to Ontario OR for the night.

The scenery has been spectacular. At first, in Oregon, we passed through miles of yellow grass valleys. Then it changed to sagebrush and finally to grass covered mountain/hills with outcroppings of basalt – spectacular.

We stayed overnight at The Quality Inn in Ontario, Oregon. It was a good room – 2 queens and included breakfast for around $100 but I couldn’t sleep for the life of me. Too excited.

What a spectacular trip from Ontario to Durkee….green, green and more green covered mountain-hills. We followed the I84 as it wound its way around and over the hills. Travelled for a short while beside the Snake River which has overflowed its banks – very reminiscent of Kamloops during a heavy runoff year. Stopped at a rest area just past Baker City, checked that the bikes and kayaks were tied down tightly and then continued on, arriving in Pasco at noon.

I can’t even begin to describe these past two months, from the point at which we made the decision to go full-time RVing to now. During the first few days of the new year we found ourselves casting about for places to go. Before we knew it, we had decided we didn’t belong in a Country Club and needed to go traveling in our fifth wheel trailer. It was magical, how the decision seemed to make itself and how everything seemed to fall into place. It seemed like every time we turned around, there was a new affirmation that what we were doing was the right thing – from the house going on the market, to selling within a month, to getting rid of all of our stuff  (selling, giving away and consigning), to re-establishing Wyoming as “HOME” and feeling so good about being “from Wyoming” again, to finding the truck and fifth wheel of our dreams ……we never looked back once.

Was it stressful? Absolutely! Almost every day I would wake up at 1, 2 or 3 am, mulling over all that had to be done and not sleeping another wink until the next night. We even made it down to Al Godones, to Nava Dental for one last lovely visit (for me to get a crown). To top it all off, as we hummed on down the highway, we got a notification from USAA that the money had been deposited in out bank account….earlier than expected….! A cause for great celebrations.