Saturday, August 30, 2014

North Cascades National Park

DSCN1192This was our final massive day trip from our base on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.  This time our destination was not on the Olympic Peninsula.  We took our car on the ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island and then on to the “mainland”.

North Cascades is one of the newer National Parks having that designation conferred in 1968.  The Park is sometimes referred to as North America’s Alps for its rugged and jagged mountains.  In the 1920’s the electric utility of the City of Seattle constructed three dams on the Skagit River which drains this mountainous region.  The dams back up lakes which are turquoise/green in color because of suspended particles of “rock flour” – bits of rock which have been ground by glaciers and deposited into the lakes.


DSCN1208A lot of the peaks of the Cascade Range of mountains are volcanic.  Although there are two volcanoes within the park, most of the mountains there were created by earth’s plates crashing into each other and uplifting ruptures.



Highway 20 which traverses the park was one of the easiest mountain drives we have taken in any of the many national parks we have visited – a good wide road with shoulders.  We didn’t have a whole lot of time to do much beyond the drive through the park and back but we did enjoy a nice picnic lunch and a number of spectacular vistas. Highway 20 is about the only road in the entire Park.  It is one of the toughest of all the National Parks to explore because of its ruggedness and its inaccessibility.


DSCN1253In was a day trip of more than 350 miles.  The ferry was completely full of vehicles on our return trip.

We took a few days off from our huge day trips and then moved our camp down to the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup from which we will explore a few other things in the Seattle area.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Junkyard Dog

20140731_121412-001I thought once we went on the road Gary would give up his junk yard habit.  He knew all the local junk yards before we left scoring such finds as an extra seat belt for the couch in the motor home and for the car the cross rails for the roof rack and the “window shade” cargo area cover, in addition to the alloy wheels from Craigslist.  But something happened that sent him back to the junk yard and once he started…….

One day we discovered that the lock on the right rear door of the car would not work.  It wouldn’t work with any of the auto buttons nor manually.  The lock was stuck open and absolutely would not move.  Sometimes we carry some valuable stuff in the car so we couldn’t be without a lock on one of the doors.  When we recently purchased new tires at a Ford dealer, Gary had them look at the lock.  The lock mechanism had failed and the quote for the new part was $180.  Figuring they would charge us an hour of labor, we were looking at a roughly $300 repair.  When Gary told me about the diagnosis and the cost of the fix, he also said, “I am not about to pay that much, I will find one at a junk yard”.

The temporary fix was to strap together the two rear door handles so that the right rear could not be opened.  Through Craigslist he found a guy parting out a Ford Focus.  The guy not only had the part, he tested it and installed it for us – $30.

DSCN1259He talked to the same guy about the driver seat of the car that had a couple holes in the seat cover and that the pad in one of the wings of the seat back was breaking down.  Gary told him that we had received a quote of $200 to repair the seat.  The guy told Gary about a junk yard where he could look for a new set of seats, preferably leather trimmed, which likely could be had for about $300.  But at the junkyard, lo and behold, they had the exact seat with the exact seat cover and were willing to sell just the driver’s one for – $100.  After a $25 install we had a “new” seat with no holes and good pads.


But that still didn’t satisfy the junk yard fix.  Some days later the rear view mirror of the car came off as I was adjusting it.  The little mounting plate on the windshield was still attached,  This mirror came apart at one of the joints.  I think Gary was actually thrilled to be heading to the junk yard once again.  It was becoming a grand challenge to effect repairs without the cost of new parts.  In about an hour he was back with a new rear view mirror fully installed and one that was slightly larger than the old one – total cost $10.

Between driven and towed miles, our car has crossed the 100,000 mile threshold.  I wouldn’t be surprised that he will be back at the junkyard a few more times in the coming month and years.  Maybe “junkyard dog” is a good nickname for him.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC, Canada

IMG_1431Gary was vaguely aware there are some noted gardens somewhere in Vancouver, Canada.  Upon further research, we became aware that there are very renowned gardens but they are not in or near the city of Vancouver which is on the mainland of the Province of British Columbia; they are on Vancouver Island, which is where the city of Victoria is, the capital of BC.


There is no bridge to Vancouver Island.  You either fly in or ferry.  In part we stayed on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State so we could take a ferry to Victoria.  Even from the Olympic Peninsula, it was another enormous day.  We were up at 5:30 a.m. and by the time we had driven an hour to Port Angeles, Washington, taken the ferry, ridden the city bus to the gardens, toured the gardens, bussed back to Victoria, seen a bit of the city, ferried back, and drove back to the motor home, it was after 11 p.m.


We chose to go to the Gardens on Gary’s birthday as somehow he had discovered that the ferry line gave free round trip passage on birthdays.  That was a $35 savings for us.  Quite the birthday present!.  But with my $35 ticket, our $32 tickets each to the gardens, the bus fares, parking, and some eats, it turned into an expensive as well as a long day but again was one that was totally worth the time and money.

CollagesThe Gardens were developed over 100 years ago.  The Butchart family owned a limestone quarry and made cement.  As the limestone became nearly mined out, Mrs. Butchart came up with the idea of repurposing the spent quarry into a garden.  There are many areas to the Gardens.  There are the sunken gardens in the depths of the old quarry, there is a rose garden, a Japanese garden, an Italian garden, and simply flowers, fauna, fountains and statuary everywhere.  The walls of the old quarry are barely seen as they are covered by ivy and other ground covers.

The Gardens still are owned and operated by the Butchart family.  Over a million people a year visit them.  Most sources rate these Gardens as the finest in the Western Hemisphere.


IMG_1575The greater metropolitan area of Victoria has a population of around 350,000 people.  Much of the activity of the city is around the inner harbor area where the ferries dock and the location of the capitol of the BC Government.  They have cute little water taxi boats that ply the harbor as well.  There are historic areas and buildings and lots of flowers in the city too.  We enjoyed the hospitality of Victoria

We are way behind on our picture albums, but we couldn’t post about the Butchart Gardens without providing a link to our pictures of them.  And if we say so ourselves, this is an album well worth visiting.

Out To The Pacific And The Hoh Rainforest

We are trying to see a lot of Northwest Washington State in a fairly short period of time and that is a tough thing to do.   We debated whether to move the motor home from campground to campground to shorten the exploration days, or whether to stay mainly in one spot and take long day trips in the car.  As we lose a lot of time with each move of the motor home, we chose the latter route   And these day trips are more than a bit draining.

This adventure was one of over 300 miles in a day in the car and we didn’t even cross the Puget Sound – it was all out on the Olympic Peninsula.  We followed the shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca – the body of water between Northwest Washington and Vancouver Island of British Columbia.  There are both National and State scenic byways on the way out to Cape Flattery, the Northwestern most point in the contiguous United States.  The forest rolls right down to the beach on this stretch of often foggy road interrupted by just a couple sleepy fishing towns.


Cape Flattery is located on the Reservation of the Makah Indians.  They have recently opened a new trail that leads out to this rocky promenade on the Pacific.


DSCN1167As long as we were out to the Ocean, we continued on the the far West side of Olympic National Park to visit the Hoh Rainforest.  This area receives around 150 inches of rain a year; it is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US.  In this area giant spruce trees dominate the tree tops just as the Sequoias did in Yosemite and the Redwoods in Northern Coastal California.  We strolled through the Hall of Mosses Trail which was more than a bit eerie with every surface heavily covered or draped in green moss.  Even an old phone booth was being overtaken.  And on our drive out we saw a small group of people standing along the sign of road pointing at something – a sure sign of a wildlife sighting.  Sure enough a bull Roosevelt Elk with his signature marking of a dark head was grazing down near the river.



It was a long day, but quite a rewarding one just the same.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Olympic National Park–Hurricane Ridge

One of the defining features of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State is Olympic National Park.  The Olympic Range is a cluster of mountains that erupted out of the forces that created the Puget Sound.  It is a huge park.  It has many features, but our first foray into the park was to see its most noted vista of mountains – Hurricane Ridge.  Reportedly it was named by a very early explorer who viewed these mountain peaks on a super windy day so he named the string of peaks Hurricane Ridge.



DSCN1116Heading up the road to the viewing area and up at the top too were many of these black-tailed deer a relative of the mule deer.  (Note the large ears.)  These were the least afraid of deer we ever had seen.  This one walked by the back of our car only about 10 feet away from us and they were quite the photogenic bunch for everyone at the Visitor’s Center.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


From Mt St Helens, we headed north into the Olympic Peninsula, across the Puget Sound from Seattle.  We are camped at Escapees Evergreen Coho RV Park.  This Park is not owned by the Escapees organization, but rather is owned cooperatively by the members of just this park.  If you own in one of the co ops you only can sell your lot back to the co op and then the co op resells the lot to the next person on the waiting list, who must be a member of Escapees.  They also have some spots to rent to transients and that is the area we are in.  On a weekly rate it is just under $20 a day to stay here which makes it a real bargain.

Our first trip out of the park was to make our first visit to Seattle.  We drove down to Bainbridge Island, still on the west side of the Sound and took the ferry to the downtown harbor.  It is a very dramatic way to approach the city as the skyscrapers, space needle, the shipping harbor and the football and baseball stadiums come into ever closer focus.



IMG_1374We got something of a late start to the day so we were only in the city for 5 or 6 hours, but it was a great time just the same.  We strolled the various piers in the harbor.  Gary bought a bowl of red chowder from Ivers, a Seattle restaurant institution.  And as shown in the picture, it was drip-on-your-shirt good.

From the harbor we arrived at Pike Street Market which is famous for its fish market where the workers throw fish to each other.  Unfortunately our point and shoot camera just wasn’t fast enough to allow us to capture a picture of a fish flying through the air, but at least you can see one about ready to be launched(lower left corner of first picture below – click on any photo to make it larger).  The vendors of the market sell all kinds of stuff, but fish and seafood and flowers are some of the biggest sellers.  The flowers were lovely and very reasonable, but it just would not have worked to carry them about the city and back on the ferry.



As the day wore on, the city became alive with all kinds of people wearing jerseys of the Seattle Seahawks football team.  It was the night of their first home preseason football game as the defending Super Bowl champions.  As long-suffering fans of the Detroit Lions, this was an enthusiasm we had never felt before for a football team (even if hope springs eternal every Lions preseason).  We stopped by a brewpub not far from the football stadium.  We kept noticing so many people wearing jersey number 12 which had the name Fan on the back on it.  Do the Seahawks actually have a player named Fan on their team.  Nope.  The Seahawks “fans” are collectively known as the 12th man of the team because of how loud they can become in the domed stadium when the opposing team is lining up to run a play.  They set a Guinness record with a sound level of 138db at one game last season.  That is as loud as a jet taking off directly overhead at an airport.

It was then back to the ferry and watching the skyline fade off into the distance as we steamed back to Bainbridge Island.  It was quite the first full day in the Seattle area.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mt St Helens

DSCN1081After 10 weeks we finally rolled out of the State of Oregon.  We headed north and crossed over the Columbia River and into Washington State.  We made a quick stop in the town of Vancouver, Washington and had our hydronic heating unit serviced.  Essentially, the heating system of our motor home is a diesel fired boiler and a series of radiators inside the the coach.  After the service and a quick repair we were on our way to an RV park near Mt St Helens.

And wouldn’t you know it, on our last full day in Oregon we washed the motor home and car only to have it rain as we headed north from Vancouver.  By the time we arrived at the park, we had a nice layer of road film and grime on our newly cleaned rig.

DSCN1084We had visited this area 15 years ago and only booked two nights at the RV park.  Unfortunately, the clouds that gave the the rain that dirtied our motor home, hung around for both days and once again you will have to use your imagination to view what is left of the peak of the mountain.


DSCN1108At least we took a picture of a picture to try to show the before and after of the mountain blowing its top.


DSCN1088We knew about the giant cloud of ash and the huge river of mud, but we really hadn’t known about the damage that the shock wave from the blast caused.  It knocked down thousands of acres of tree and literally splintered them as shown in this pictures of a couple of stumps left in its wake

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

International Rose Test Garden

DSCN1053Portland, Oregon has one amazing rose garden.  The garden was established in 1917 as a place where European rose growers could send rose bushes so they could be safe from the ravages of World War I.  Thereafter and until today, rose hybridists from across the US and from around the world send roses to the garden to be grown and evaluated along side all the classic roses of the world.  Some of the roses simply have names like X21 or some other experimental designation before they may be commercialized with names.  There are over 7,000 rose bushes of approximately 550 varieties in the garden.  June is peak rose bloom season, but there were still plenty of blooms in August.  In addition to the blooms we were also taken by how tall, healthy, and strong all the bushes were which made it very easy to enjoy the various aromas.  And without further adieu here are some of our favorites from our extended stroll through the International Rose Test Garden”":