A Travellerspoint blog

September 2016

Through the Rockies on our way to the Pacific Northwest

Livingston, Anaconda, Granite, Coeur d' Alene, Spokane, Ellensburg

sunny 24 °C
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Our plan was to leave Yellowstone via the Northeast Exit and to drive along the Beartooth Highway. We had already gotten that recommendation from the French couple we had met in Loreto, once more from Ralf in Zion and it was also featured as a spectacular diversion in Janis’ National Park magazine.
Still, after looking at the map and realizing it would be more than a 200 mile / 300 km detour and factoring in that it was starting to rain heavily when we left Mammoth Hot Springs, we decided to skip the Beartooth Pass. I guess that with the over 9000 miles we’ve driven so far and Max still not being a real fan of long drives, we have gotten a bit more conscious about distances and the difference in mileage we can make on small windy roads vs. the interstates.
So the new plan now foresees to leave Yellowstone via the North Entrance, getting on the interstate in Livingston and heading due West via Idaho to Washington. This plan also results in skipping beautiful Glacier National Park in favor of having more time to spend at Mt Rainier and Olympic National Parks. Unfortunately, even with five months to spend in North America, we have to make choices and it’s simply not possible to see everything we’d love to see.
By the time we arrived at our beautiful campground at Mallard’s Rest 42 miles north of the park exit right next to the Yellowstone River, the heavy rain had stopped and there were only the clouds remaining.

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We hoped that by night time they’d be gone such that we could observe the Perseid meteor showers. And we were lucky indeed, around 11 pm most clouds had disappeared and we got to see significantly bigger and lighter shooting stars than so far on our journey – in fact the nicest ones both Sam and I have ever seen so far.
The next day no one of us was keen to leave. So we took it easy and enjoyed our lovely campground for a bit longer. Eventually hunger made us leave after all and Rosa’s Pizza in Livingston came just at the right time to help us out.
Sam had picked the Lost Creek State Park for camping this night via our map. As we pretty much did not have much network reception and internet since back in Moab, we could not check our usual resources. And as our mobile phone seems to have issues since the update to a newer version of the operating system, also our navigation system Scout let us down, as it did not find the downloaded maps on the SD card anymore. So with just the map as a guide, we did not really have high hopes in finding a campground when there was no camping signposted, just binoculars for wildlife watching. We turned around and rather headed to a national forest campground a bit behind Anaconda.
That way Sam also got to tick one more of the items on his bucket list: he wanted to see a ghost town and close to Philipsburg there was ‘Granite’ up the hill. Despite the recommendation to only go up the road with a vehicle with high clearance (which ours definitively does not have), we went up the 4 steep and windy miles making over 1200 ft / 400 m within that relatively short distance. The road was relatively good (much better than what we had encountered in Mexico around Coco’s Corner) and we made it without any issues.
There were still quite a couple of buildings around – all of them in more or less desolate states. After all, the main exploitation of the mine with more than 3000 miners living there had taken place already over 100 years ago. And since then nature was allowed to take over again.

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But as there was not too much to see with many buildings simply being destroyed over the years and probably some wildfires, we left again and made our way down the steep grade. And even though it felt like we had been sitting in the car already for ages, we only really started getting moving once we had reached the interstate.
As we were only going to pass a very short stretch of Idaho (less than 100 miles), we at least wanted to stay there for a night. The plan was good, the execution less so: what had looked on our famous map like a very short 10-mile detour from the interstate to get to a lakeside campground along Lake Coeur d’Alene, turned out to be a tiny windy road that did not end and did not get us to where we wanted. And after an hours’ worth of driving and seemingly just being half way of where we wanted to get to, we turned around with a bit of frustration.
At least we were lucky then to get a spot at the campground at Wolf’s Lodge – at a cheaper rate than the KOA in Spokane we had called and with better services. And the first activity was to use the WIFI and to install the Washington map again on the mobile phone, such that as of tomorrow we’d be able to do better planning again. And then we headed with Max to the kids’ puppet-theater and games evening. He had lots of fun and was really proud once he got his new football as a prize.
The next day I requested to spend a day in a mall. We’ve had enough landscapes and nature around us and this felt just like the right change in scenery and atmosphere. And so the Spokane Valley Mall was the perfect opportunity to see how many Americans spend their Sunday, but as well to get new sandals for all of us.
We spent so much time in the mall that we did not want to go much further to find a place for the night. So when we saw the signs at the interstate in Spokane towards the Riverside State Park, we simply took the exit and eventually got a space at the Pitcher and Bowl area of the park.

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So after having spent most of the day inside, we got the opportunity to hike a bit, to throw stones into the river and building some dams.
The next morning, we eventually headed on towards Western Washington. We were amazed – after weeks and weeks of having poor to no mobile phone reception, we suddenly had continuous excellent phone connection all along the highways even far from the next towns. The last time we were able to enjoy that luxury was probably along the densely populated stretches of the California coast. We used the opportunity to make some calls and research while driving. While I’d consider myself not necessarily dependent on a mobile phone, it still proves to come in very handy when trip planning. And it helps to save tons of money when being able to research free vs. governmental vs. private camping options. So it felt relieving to see that I had my planning tools back at my disposition again.
We eventually stopped in Ellensburg for the night. Even though we were a bit disappointed when we realized that the pool of the KOA was defect and closed, we consoled ourselves with the fact that we had a really nice location under big shady trees next to a very fast flowing river. A nice spot to stay and figure out where to go next…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:51 Archived in USA Tagged town shopping lake river mall drive ghost yellowstone idaho reception Comments (1)

Islands and Ferries in the Pacific Northwest

Everett, Whidbey Island, Orcas Island

sunny 24 °C
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We had made it all the way to Ellensburg an hour east of Seattle and Sam and I had to do some decision making: what would we like to see and do in the next couple of days and in which order. Mt Rainier vs. Seattle vs. San Juan Islands were the candidates. And after going through several options, we were clear on the base plan and I was able to go ahead and make reservations for accommodation and the ferry for the San Juan Islands.
So the next morning we passed the tempting looking Mt Rainier and drove towards Seattle and then north towards Anacortes to be well positioned for our ferry reservation the next morning. Instead of just taking the interstate north from Seattle, I figured we might as well take a scenic detour via Whidbey Island.
What I had not taken into account is that on the way to the ferry in Mutkileo, we passed directly by the Boeing factories. And it was simply way too tempting to stop at their ‘Future of Flight’ facility. While the museum did not tempt us too much – after all it seemed hard to top the experience we’ve had at the PIMA air and space museum in Tucson – we were very tempted to go on the tour of the production facilities. Unfortunately, Max did not meet the height requirement, so only Sam got to take the tour. Fortunately enough, the museum turned out to be very kids friendly and consequently Max and I did not have any trouble at all to fill the two hours until Sam was back.

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Even though it was much later than the original plan had anticipated, we still took the ferry over towards Clinton on Whidbey Island. We had to wait a bit to get onto one of the ferries and then enjoyed a short transit over.
Sticking to the main road along the island proved to provide us with lots of forest views and little else. So we took the turnoff towards Fort Casey and were rewarded with nice sights of Puget Sound from there. Walking along the battery with it's large canons, we could not resist to wonder how much energy was put into the defense of a place that in the end never got attacked at any stage.

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Our destination for the night was State Park at Deception Pass, which is famed as one of the nicest state parks in Washington. While for Sam the stay there was the ultimate experience and probably the best place we stayed at so far overall, I felt a bit deceived in fact.

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As we soon realized, the State Park is located less than two miles north of the airfield of a naval base. There were probably three F18 fighter jets which started their flight training at around 8pm turning in circles attempting to land at the base and then starting through again. And with every round we got treated in 1 minute intervals to about 20 seconds of unbelievable noise. We were able to see exactly the exhaust of the planes pointed in our direction in a distance of maybe 500 yards / meters. And just from the noise level it felt like they were running in afterburner mode.
With every round they made, Sam looked even more excited and soon got the binoculars out to watch even closer. Max was frustrated by the noise and was protecting his ears with his hands on every turn. And after realizing the noise did not seem to eventually stop with darkness setting in, I got quite frustrated. By the time I went to bed a bit after 10pm, they continued to make their rounds. And even when Sam went to sleep an hour later they had not stopped yet.
At least all three of us tend to sleep very well despite noise around us, so I guess we can call ourselves lucky in that respect. We were well rested when the alarm went off the next morning, had breakfast and headed to the Ferry.
We had made reservations to go to the San Juan islands. Given that it’s high season and all campgrounds I checked seemed to be full, I had booked a camping spot for us via Airbnb on Orcas Island.

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Once the ferry landed, we directly went to ‘The Lodge on Orcas’ where the owner David was waiting for us. We were thrilled – what a gem we had found: a nice secluded place. A couple of rooms and really nice spaces to be shared by all guests: a big and clean kitchen, nice sitting areas, several terraces and balconies and a large outside garden with an orchard featuring ripe Asian pears and a couple of hammocks. Wow!
It was an easy decision to just spend the day in the lodge without going anywhere else. Barbecue, hammocks, afternoon tea, a short walk to the beach and back, nice talks with other guests – what a great day!

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The next day we did explore the island a bit. Moran State Park is not far away and we did a bit of hiking to the Cascades and Hidden Falls before heading up to Mount Constitution. Up there we had an excellent view of the Puget Sound with the islands surrounding us, to Vancouver Islands, the Cascades Range with Mt. Baker and into the Vancouver area in Canada.

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Before heading back towards our lodge, we could not resist the temptation to stop at the shellfish farm in Bark Bay. We had lots of fun picking a dozen oysters, opening them and trying to distinguish the tastes of the three different kinds of oysters we had selected. In retrospect we should probably have skipped the fun – at least I would have felt much better the following day. Well, what should I say: no risk, no fun…

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That evening we enjoyed another barbecue before taking advantage of the large variety of games in the lodge to play some board games.
It was really hard to leave the lodge again and stayed pretty much as long as we could. Before heading off, we got to take a lot of food which Tom, Lina, Lilly and Chloe had left over before leaving the day before – thanks guys! But eventually it was time to say good-bye to David and to head into Eastsound – the nice little town on Orcas Island. It is very laid back, offers a nice variety of shopping opportunities and we enjoyed our time there very much. Still, we limited our shopping to ice cream (6$ for a single scoop) and ‘real’ bread (9$ for a small loaf), even though there would have been much else that that would have been nice to have.

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We had originally been considering to also visit some of the other islands of the San Juan archipelago, but taking into account the ferry waiting times and transfers, eventually had rather wanted to take it easy just on Orcas. Still, to get back, we did spend another hour waiting at the ferry terminal waiting for our turn to get onto the ferry back to Anacortes.

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This time we even played a bit of puzzle – what a nice idea of the ferry company to keep the passengers entertained – before heading off onto Fidalgo Island and eventually the mainland. We all agreed: It had been a fun trip to Orcas Island!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:07 Archived in USA Tagged island plane ferry driftwood jets boeing orcas battery production Comments (0)

Cultural and natural highlights around Seattle

Seattle, Muckleshoot reservation, Mt Rainier National Park

semi-overcast 22 °C
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The drive towards the Seattle / Takoma KOA where we had made reservations for the weekend was lengthy and we were happy to eventually arrive. We were not too impressed by the camping spot we got right next to a busy road, nor the facilities of the KOA. To quote Sam: ‘If this would have been the first KOA we got to, it would have been the last’. But the location of the KOA is good and the next morning the pool was also nice and clean, so we should not complain too much…
We had quite a plan what to do and headed off around noon for our first adventure: We wanted to see the Skopabsh Pow Wow of the Muckleshoot Tribe, which took place just half an hour away from the KOA. We got there just in time for the Grand Entry, placed our folding chairs in an excellent location in the shade directly next to the dancing area. It was very impressive – specifically for Max – to see the various groups of dancers enter the arena until eventually maybe 200 (?) dancers of all ages danced to the music.

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There was no entry fee or anything and we felt welcomed to be there. This being said, we were probably the only foreign tourists there and in general the number of non-Native American people was quite limited.

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The dancers were clearly proud of their cultural heritage and it seemed that for them like the most natural thing to preserve it. Seeing the pride of everyone who was in the arena was fascinating. And it made no difference if it was the little five-year-olds, the youngsters or the elderly ladies and chiefs.

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We enjoyed the event very much – the dancing, the drumming & singing, the dance contests, the food, everything was a lot of fun. It had been really worthwhile to attend the Pow Wow and we were very happy that we went.

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Still, eventually we left and headed into Seattle. We had wanted to go to a baseball game at some stage anyhow. And given that we still owed Max a celebration for not needing diapers at night anymore and that the Seattle Mariners were currently in town playing the Milwaukee Brewers, this was a great opportunity. So we headed to Safeco Field, got tickets far up on the View Level and soaked up the atmosphere.

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Max was given lots of baseball cards as he walked along with us. We then made sure he got his ‘first ballgame certificate’ before stopping at the playground close to the bleachers. After watching the first two innings of the game, it was time for hot dogs. A bit later, Max got to show his skills at throwing, running and batting at the kids’ corner. He also joined the Mariners’ Kids Club to get a backpack, ball and Badge with his name and picture on. And in addition to all that, it was StarWars night and consequently we even got to meet a couple of StarWars characters.

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We were simply amazed how many free activities there were to keep the kids (and their parents) entertained and happy. And we enjoyed the view and the fun of it all...

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Luckily enough we stayed until the end of the 8th inning to see a couple of runs and even some home runs. But by then it was pretty sure that the Mariners would win and with Max being beyond just tired it was time to head back to the KOA and to have a good night’s sleep.
The next morning was overcast and fairly cool – always a very strange thing to happen, as we’ve been spoiled by so much sunshine lately. But we stuck to our plan to go to Mt Rainier National Park and headed south east.
We still had an errand to run along the way: a stop at the Crocs store in the large outlet mall of Auburn. Sam had managed to rip apart his Crocs in Yellowstone and was in dire need to get new ones. Once he was the happy new owner of a pair of camouflage Crocs (yellow and orange were out of stock in his size) and lunch at a Philippine place at the local food court, we headed off.
Mount Rainier had been looming all along in the distance, raising up impressively over the rather flat area around it. As we got closer, we realized that it was actually not quite as flat as it had seemed and that from close up the mountain lost a bit of it majesty.
Once we got to the park, we stopped at the White River campground and got an excellent spot right next to the river between old trees featuring lichen that looked like long beards. There were warning signs advising us to retreat to higher ground in the event of and earthquake or loud noises coming from the volcano. After all, Mt Rainier is an active volcano and it's power should not be taken too lightly.

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Sam got the fire started and before too long we had a nice stew on the fire featuring beans, potatoes, broccoli, kale, onion, squash, tomato and corn - a nice combination of flavors that tasted really well. Together with our neighbors Kyle and Elon we roasted some marshmallows, got treated to some pop tarts and enjoyed watching the boys play with each other.
After a quiet and starry night, we got to enjoy the celebrations of a group of hikers who just completed the 94-mile wonderland trail around the mountain, hiked about 0.1 mile of the hike ourselves.

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As we did not feel like doing much hiking – despite having lots of great opportunities to do so - we took our car up to Sunrise to enjoy a much closer view of the mountain / volcano, it's glaciers and the sub alpine meadows.

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At that stage, we still were able to see the mountain. A bit later it was all covered in clouds until, eventually one had to know that there is a mountain hidden somewhere. So by the time we got to the reflection lakes which usually provide perfect picture opportunities of the mountain, we did not even bother to take pictures. But at least we found some nice waterfalls and a cute chipmunk.

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We camped outside the national park at the Big Creek campground, located in a nice forest right next to a small stream. And we even had a little neighbor visiting us on our picnic table.

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One last night with just the three of us – as for the next week Janis will be traveling with us.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:07 Archived in USA Tagged baseball volcano mountain indian river glacier dance drums seattle active powwow Comments (0)

Exploring the Olympic Peninsula with Janis

Sequim Bay State Park, Hurricane ridge, Fairholme campground at Lake Crescent, Sol Duc Hot Springs, Hoh rain forest, Forks

sunny 24 °C
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The next morning, we headed north from Mt. Rainier towards the Olympic Peninsula to meet Janis. Around noon we finally managed to get a signal on the mobile phone again and got Janis’ update that she had landed well and was already on the ferry looking forward to meet us at the reserved campground in Sequim Bay State Park. Just a bit later we pulled into the state park ourselves and there she was.
Wow – we’ve seen a lot in the almost four months since leaving her place in Chicago and had many stories to tell. And Janis had lots of things to tell us as well, such that we’d have enough to talk about in the coming week.
The state park was really nice with a view towards the blue waters of Sequim Bay. As we realized down at the small beach, we’d even be able to legally catch crabs there. Well, except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And in addition as it’s only allowed to take male crabs, we would have needed to know how to distinguish male from female crabs… So we just admired the view and had a nice barbecue for dinner. To do so we had to borrow the neighbors’ barbecue grill, as unfortunately due to the drought the county had declared a fire ban.
The next day we started to explore Hurricane Ridge - our first venture into Olympic National Park. The ridge offered not only sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the ocean, but also the view to one of the wildfires raging in the park. We were amazed about the sheer amounts of ash creating enormous clouds.

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As usual we popped up the roof of our camper when preparing lunch, which attracted the attention of people walking and driving by. And once again this resulted in a quick tour of the van and its multiple features. Once that mission was accomplished and we had created enough envy, it was time to explore some of the trails up on the ridge before enjoying afternoon tea (and cake) at one of Port Angeles’ skate parks.

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After one more night in Sequim Bay, we moved on to Lake Crescent. It was August 25th, the 100th birthday of the National Park Service and consequently there were several special activities taking place at the Storm King Ranger Station. Even though it was tempting to stay longer, we had a mission to accomplish: we continued to the western shore of the lake in order to set up camp at Fairholme campground. And we were lucky to still get a nice spot in what seemed to be an ancient forest adorned by giant Douglas fir, hemlock spruce, ferns and mosses.

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We immediately fell in love with the beautiful campground and it did not take long to decide that we’d extend our stay to two nights. And as it was just nice sitting at the lake shore and enjoying the view, we just moved our plan to go to Sol Duc Hot Springs to the next day.

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This allowed us to leave for Sol Duc still in the morning and before too long we found ourselves soaking in one of the hot pools. In an attempt of bravery, we went to the cool fresh water pool first, but it did not take long to realize that 72 °F is just a bit too cold for being comfortable. To warm up for a start we chose the coolest one of the hot pools at 97 °F, but before too long we also tried the 104 °F one. And yes, it was very pleasant soaking there in the sunshine in a wide forested valley.
And we even managed to take a hike along the Sol Duc River after our baths – even though we had already predicted that we might be too lazy and tired afterwards. While the hike we nice, it was not nearly as fascinating as the Grove of the Ancients Trail we on the way out of the valley. We were really impressed by the huge ancient trees – about 700-year-old sentinels mixed in with younger trees and young growth starting on the decaying trunks of fallen trees.

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After another night at Fairholme and discovering also the nice campground trail there, it was time to leave. Our next destination was Forks, the location of the ‘Twilight’ novel and movies. Presumably Forks is one of the wettest places in the continental United States. Not surprisingly, it was drizzling by the time we arrived and it was significantly colder than it had been further east.
We were not surprised – after all our day trip was to Hoh rain forest and quite obviously there needs to be a lot of rain to support a rain forest. Even though we had seen already quite a lot of ancient forests in the last days, the rain forest was really amazing: long mosses hanging down from the trees and lot of fern all over the place. Still it was most impressing to see how young trees start growing on the fallen 200+ ft. logs. What looks cute initially eventually ends with gigantic trees all standing side by side. Most of them feature big cave like openings underneath – proof for a long decayed host tree they started growing on hundreds of years ago.

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It was only after we had done our (quite expensive) shopping at the local Thriftway grocery store, that we found out two pieces of trivia about it: they claim to be located in the western most shopping center of the continental US and this is the place where Twilight character Bella works and shops.
Our next venture took us to the airport to check out the ‘Hot Thunder Night’ and were disappointed that there was absolutely nothing going on. As the BBQ place we wanted to go to did not admit anyone below 21, we had to go back towards the town center. And lucky us: otherwise we might not have realized that this was where the Hot Thunder Night took place. The main street running through town – the US 101 – was blocked off and as we approached the start of the detour, we already saw a car doing a burn out and producing big clouds of burnt rubber in the process.
We parked and had a look at this spectacle which seems to be taken straight out of an old movie scene.

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Anything from vintage car, hot rod, old pimped car, motorbike and modern pickup truck took the challenge to spin the wheels along main street under the cheer of the crowd. The excitement was big – especially for the kids who were racing towards the hot asphalt after each round.

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After we had seen enough and gaped at the donut one of the cars made instead of just going straight like everyone else, it was time to warm up and have food. We were lucky to get one of the window seats at the adjacent Chinese restaurant, such that we could continue watching the spectacle. It was a fun evening and accompanied by the sound of Queen’s ‘We will rock you’ we eventually headed home.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 07:41 Archived in USA Tagged rainforest springs park lake tree national fire hot out twilight ridge fern olympic janis Comments (2)

Some last days in the US before heading to Canada

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

semi-overcast 20 °C
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After a quiet night - without any vampire sightings - in Forks we headed for the Mora beach. We planned to have a hike along the beach and as it was raining by far more than just a mere drizzle, for the first time since early May we had to wear our rain jackets.
The so-called sea stacks and the significant amounts of gigantic driftwood along the stony beach created a somewhat mysterious atmosphere. And even though we’re usually preferring bright sunshine and heat vs. rain and cold, the weather somehow matched the landscape. As Janis rightfully said: this is the classical Pacific Northwest how one imagines it.

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After lots of stone collecting, stone skipping, stone stacking and stone castle building we longed for a hot tea and cake in our cozy van.

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A bit later we had found a nice spot at the Bear Creek Campground. The only challenge was the fact that while it was in principle free of charge, it required every vehicle to have a Discovery Pass. We had one, but Janis did not. After lots of research, we eventually found out that the online system was down and that there was no place close-by to buy one. So after a bit of thinking, we pitched Janis’ tent and parked her car outside the campground in front of the Bear Creek Café – a somewhat classical place to eat and drink in the middle of nowhere.
In exchange for the parking spot, Janis and I planned to get some French Fries to take away. After sitting at the counter and seeing the pies in the fridge, we ordered two bumbleberry pies as well, which as we learned consist of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. And to give Sam a chance to see the place as well, Janis offered to join him for a beer there while Max and I got to play Lego and eat the French Fries in the van.
As we passed Lake Crescent the next day, Sam came up with the great idea to rent kayaks. We enjoyed our trip on the lake very much. Max did an excellent job in helping Sam move their kayak while Janis and I trailed them and tried to keep up.

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As we took a break on a quiet beach along the shore, Sam discovered a large swing. It just did not seem to reach far enough out such that it would have been safe to swing into the lake. Still: it was lots of fun just to swing there. Both Sam and Max enjoyed that portion of the trip almost as much as the kayaking itself.

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After a dip into the lake and picnic, we continued towards Fort Townsend. After setting up camp, we explored a bit of the town and the Fort Worden state park. We liked the town a lot. With its hilly setting on the coast, old Victorian buildings and grazing deer, it was a very pleasant place to be. And the state park with the lighthouse and it's beach was very pleasant as well.

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So after exploring until it got dark, we ended up having a very late dinner back at our place and some final rounds of playing our new and favourite dice game with Janis – which she once again won. What a pity that it will take a couple of weeks before we’ll be able to ask for another round to finally manage to beat her.
The next morning, Janis was treated by Sam to Kaiserschmarrn (Austrian ‘scrambled pancakes’) before she had to head off towards the ferry and ultimately to her flight back to Chicago.
We took it easy and left a bit later to reach the Port Townsend ferry just before departure. The ferry ride was smooth and short and we had a déjà vu – after all we had been at the Coupeville ferry terminal and Fort Casey just two weeks ago already.

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This time we arrived there around noon and consequently had a bit more time to spend at Whidbey Island. Thus this time stops at Fort Ebey and later at Deception Pass Bridge were easily possible. Once again Sam and Max were happy about the F18s circling above the Naval Air Base and Deception Pass State Park.

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I guess both of them would have loved to stay there again. But I gave a clear enough veto such that eventually we continued our journey towards Canada - the next destination of our journey.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 09:27 Archived in USA Tagged rain beach kayak lighthouse wet ferry driftwood swing Comments (0)

Welcome to Canada

written by Birgit, pictures mostly by Sam

rain 18 °C
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Heading north from Whidbey Island it did not take too long to reach the Canadian border. The signs along the interstate had advised us already that the wait would be less than 5 minutes. That sounded much better vs. the more than one hour we had spent at our last border crossing from Mexico into the USA.
And it was so easy: The Canadian immigration officer had lots of sympathy for our travel plans and admitted that she had taken off a year for travelling herself already. So we were admitted without any further questioning.
A bit further the ladies at the visitor information center advised us to rather stay closer to the border vs. going all the way Vancouver as we might be stuck in traffic otherwise. So that’s what we did and soon were pleasantly surprised by the nice landscaping and gardening at Peace Arch RV Park. And despite the fact that lots of people had warned us about the high prices in Canada, it was much cheaper than expected and what we were used to.
The only downside was the weather: in the night it started raining heavily and after a bit of thinking what to do, we decided to just take it easy and to stay for another night.
Max was delighted to play LEGO, Sam used the opportunity to repair also the back door of our van which involved the de- and reinstallation of the air-conditioning unit and I finally managed to publish three long overdue blog posts. As a reward for a relaxing and still productive day, we had food delivered and enjoyed Greek food which we had not had since we had left Germany.

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Luckily enough, the next day the weather was much better. Lots of clouds, but at least no rain. So we headed into Vancouver, were a bit surprised about the heavy traffic even at midday and soon enough found ourselves at one of the many bicycle rental places.
Sam suggested renting a tandem and even though I was a bit reserved about not being able to steer nor brake in the back seat, I agreed. Admittedly, it did take a bit of getting used to in the beginning. But eventually I was able to relax and we had lots of fun doing the 10km stretch along the seawall surrounding Stanley Park.
Visiting the park on a bike was an excellent choice. We were able to stop multiple times, enjoyed nice vistas and got some exercise in the fresh air. Great!

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Leaving Vancouver during rush hour was quicker than expected and we easily reached the Eagle Wind RV Park, where I had made a reservation for the night. We had spotted the RV park in one of the camping brochures we had picked up at the information center. And while we could have also gone to multiple other places, this one had mentioned in the text that it was close to a drive-in theater. It seems there are only three such drive-ins remaining in British Columbia, so we keen to use this opportunity.
The Twilight Drive-In in Langley was just a couple of minutes away from camp and our plan worked perfectly: while we were enjoying ‘Pete’s Dragon’ and a bit later ‘The BFG’, Max was sleeping deeply in the back of the van. Still, Sam and I were quite amazed to see in the intermission between the two movies how many (young) kids were still up and had obviously watched the movie. We preferred Max sleeping in the back vs. us having to explain to him why things are happening and what each scene really means. Especially the BFG I could not have seen him watching at all. That would have been a guarantee for lots of bad dreams. Still, it was an excellent idea of Sam’s to go to the movies.
As we had gotten home to our RV park long after midnight, we did take it easy the next morning before heading east. We wanted to stop at the Chilliwack Walmart in an attempt to stock up on groceries again. Unfortunately, we were turned away due to a bomb threat. And quite frankly, with lots of police around and the employees all standing in the parking lot, it felt better to leave and shop at Safeway instead.
As we headed on towards the mountains, it started raining more and more heavily. In retrospect we could have saved ourselves the scenic but longer drive through Manning Provincial Park and taken the larger highway instead. After all, there was no real view to enjoy anyhow and it certainly would not have made any sense to make the detour to the Cascades viewpoint in the downpour we were in.
Admittedly, after passing Manning Park, we did have a stretch of road without rain and did get to see the enormous Copper Mountain. But soon enough we got into the next rain shower that lasted until our next campground at the South Shore of Penticton and long into the night.
Luckily enough, most of the clouds were gone by the next morning and we got to see a bit of our surroundings driving up along the lakes of the Okanagan Valley. The area is said to resemble a bit the Garda Lake region in Italy. And with the hilly surroundings, the vineries and orchards around we really liked it there.
Max liked it as well: he could have spent hours in the Kelowna skate park. At the same time, we enjoyed watching him and hoped that he’d wear himself out enough such that he’d be fine with us going for wine tasting – which is clearly not the most fun activity for kids. What should I say: specifically, as now the sun was out as well, so far all of us were quite happy to be in Canada.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:55 Archived in Canada Tagged rain valley bike movie lego seawall tandem drivein Comments (0)

Back home already? Germans everywhere

Lake Country, Barrière, Grey Wells Provincial Park

semi-overcast 13 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

We had happily arrived in Lake Country and picked a spot at the Wood Lake Campground. Even though it was Saturday evening of the long Labor Day weekend, we had no trouble at all getting a spot. So lucky us!
And we had already a plan in mind what to do: even though it had probably never occurred to us that Canada is a wine producing country, it is. And as we had not done so in any of the previous wine regions we came through, this time we wanted to go for some wine tasting. Our campground was ideally positioned for that plan, such that we only had to drive for a very short distance. After a very nice tasting session at Intrigue Wines and getting a bottle of their beautiful Gewürztraminer, we headed to Blind Tiger. While nicely positioned on the crest of a hill, we were neither impressed by the people there, nor by the wines.

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So we quickly headed on again: Arrowleaf treated us to an excellent view of the lake from their terrace and lawns and we also liked their Bacchus, but we kept the best for last: The Grey Monk Estate Vinery. They seem to be the oldest and most established vinery in BC, founded some 25 years ago by Germans. And also Heidi, the lady serving us our tastings, had German roots. We liked their wines best of all we had tasted so far, so once again got another bottle to take with us for a special occasion.

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Back at the campground it was already time for dinner. Luckily enough, with all the rain of the last couple of days the fireban had been lifted and we were able to light a campfire and have corn on the cob and sausages from the BBQ.
Max spent the next morning at the playground while we were getting the van ready to leave. When checking on him, I noticed a German family just next to the playground with a truck and trailer that did not look like the usual rental equipment. We soon found out that they’ve been living in Canada for the last eight years and invited them over to our van. While Max played with his new friend Aiyana, Carola and Uwe supplied us with lots of ideas and recommendations on where to go and what to visit. So our original plan of heading towards Revelstoke was dumped pretty quickly and we decided to head up towards Clearwater and the Grey Wells Provincial Park.
After a mandatory stop at one of the many produce stands along the road, we were stocked up with local fruit and vegetables and headed towards Kamloops and then through the very scenic North Thompson valley. Passing through the small town of Barrière we noticed a large sign along the road advertising the rodeo taking place on Labor Day weekend. We could not resist to change our plans once more and to have a look.
We were quite lucky: arriving at 4:15pm we did not have to pay an entrance fee anymore and still got to see quite a variety of rodeo disciplines. Initially, we were treated to ‘Junior Breakaway Roping’ followed by ‘Team Roping’. It was quite impressive to see how good people did in targeting to catch a running calf. And especially how hard it is in the team event to catch it both around the neck as well as around one of the hind legs.

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Next on the agenda was the bull riding event. I’m sure that I would never ever dare to get even close to one of these massive bulls – what a huge packet of muscles! While it was interesting to see, how excited the crowd around us got during the bull riding, I’m quite sure that I’d never get to be a fan of that discipline. After all, the bulls just looked really tormented in the process.

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The following chuck wagon races were much more fun. Seeing them race around the track and three of them coming next to each other around the corner, was quite a sight. The excitement and fun of the chuck wagon races was over way too quickly. And quite frankly, the heavy horses that followed – kind of a tractor pulling event with horses instead of tractors – was rather boring in comparison.

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So we headed out of the arena to check out the other entertainment provided, such as food: Sam went for mini donuts, I got a ‘haystack’ (which I’d have described as taco salad) and Max was excited about his multi-colored ‘Rainbow’ icecream. Last but not least, we stopped at ‘Hilde’s Sausage’ to procure some Leberkäse from the butcher who’s been providing German meat products in Canada for the last eight years. And despite the long distance to his former home, he could not resist having the discussion with me, if it is called ‘Leberkäse’ or ‘Fleischkäse’. I used to have the same arguments with the butchers in Crailsheim, so that felt a bit like home.
In the evening we were lucky to still get a campground in town despite the long Labor Day weekend and the rodeo taking place in town. Camping in Canada seemed suddenly much easier than in the US and more adapted to our traveling style without any reservations (which would not have allowed for any sudden changes in plan, as happened just again today).
The next morning, we continued the Wells Gray Information Center in Clearwater. After getting all information we needed, there was just one of those impossible moments. I suddenly stood right across from Kerstin, a former colleague of mine from Crailsheim who I had not seen probably for the last nine years. Still, despite those years we recognized each other at once with this incredible ‘Kerstin?!?’ and ‘Birgit?!?’. The world is just so small and sometimes you have to be nine time zones away from home to meet your friends. What an encounter!
So we obviously exchanged the latest news from the last years and found out that Kerstin and her husband Sven were headed into the same general direction were fortunate enough to cross paths again three more times during the next couple of days.

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Wells Grey Provincial Park did not make a big effort to impress us with it’s nice weather. Whenever it was not drizzling rain, it was heavily overcast and always looked like the rain might start again any minute. But both the Spahat Falls as well as Helmcken Falls did impress us. Admittedly, we have seen quite a lot of falls already in the last couple of months, but we liked the big bowl both waterfalls had carved behind them. Very nice!

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Given the weather and the fact that the road further into the park was not paved, but gravel only, we would have usually retreated to the campground. But as beginning of September is just the time of the salmon coming back to Clearwater River to spawn, we could not resist continuing to Bailey’s Chute, a small cascade of white water just a bit too high for the salmon to pass. Still, despite the fact that by then the salmon will have went upriver more than 600km and not eaten anything for more than 100 days, some of them have still the energy to try to jump the rapids. The Chinook Salmon is at 22kg one of the largest of its kind and it was really impressive to see them jump. Given the heavy rainfall of the last couple of days, the task was probably even harder than usual, but still enough of them tried fruitlessly in order to eventually give up and spawn a bit further downriver at the horseshoe bend.

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And for all three stops once again we felt surrounded by Germans. Seemingly with school starting again in the US and Canada, there were much less locals traveling than before. And the Wells Gray Provincial Park is probably just a bit too less known for those people doing Canada in five days.

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That evening we could not resist having German food and it was great to enjoy Leberkäse and Kartoffelbrei for dinner. In Germany we have a saying ‘Liebe geht durch den Magen’ which is probably not adequately translated by the word by word transcription of ‘Love goes through the stomach’ – still, there was a feeling of being home just right then and there in the middle of Canada. And eventually a feeling of ‘I’m so stuffed, I guess I should have stopped eating already a while ago’…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:42 Archived in Canada Tagged salmon lake waterfall germans rodeo produce vinery kerstin Comments (0)

Getting into the Canadian Rockies

Grey Wells PP, Tete Jaune Cache, Jasper NP, Icefields Parkway

overcast 10 °C
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Waking up in Grey Wells Provincial Park in a drizzling rain did not quite feel like this is how Canada should be like. Still, the rain needs to happen at some stage to keep all of the waterfalls in the park supplied with enough water. And Dawson Falls were a very nice sight indeed and despite the fact that they are just 4 miles upstream from Helmcken Falls, quite different.
Given the weather we were not really tempted to go further into the park for kayaking on Clearwater Lake and made our way back to the highway. Just after the crest of a small hill while still in the park, I was suddenly forced to slam the brakes: there was a bear mother standing in the middle of the road with two small cubs. Sam was quick enough to take a picture before the three headed into the forest, hiding so well from view that we have not seen them anymore even though they could not have been more than five meters from the road. That made us wonder how many bears (and other wildlife) we might have passed already without noticing them.

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After a round of shopping and enjoying salmon and berries on a ‘bannock’ (a kind of Indian frybread) the drive north was dominated by rain such that the mountain views were obscured by clouds most of the time.
Luckily, by the time we reached Valemount, the rain had stopped and gave way to even some bits of sunshine. Valemount’s salmon run is taking place two weeks before the one in Gray Wells, but we were lucky enough to still spot a salmon in the spawning area of the local creek – a female protecting her nest. What a different setting vs. the craziness of the Bailey’s Chute we had seen the day before.

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Sam and Max were at least as fascinated by the salon as by the truck and especially the one on its trailer across the road. They would trade in our van in to travel with that truck without any hesitation.

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That evening we followed Uwe and Carola’s recommendation of staying overnight at the campground of the Tete Jaune Lodge. And in fact the location directly next to Fraser River and the facilities were simply great.

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And at the risk of sounding a bit crazy: I was delighted to encounter what I consider ‘normal’ washing machines spinning around a horizontal axis. And yes: our clothes were clean after washing them – even Max’ stuff. Hooray!
The next morning it was quite obvious that it did not make any sense to stop at Mt. Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Given all the clouds, we simply passed by and were happy at every opportunity to see a bit of the landscape around us.

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Eventually we headed directly into Jasper National Park where we got a spot for the next two nights at Whistler Campground. To Max’ delight the friendly ranger at the gate had made sure we were located right next to a large playground.
After enjoying the pleasantries of our new home location, we headed off for a hike to the Five Lakes. Already on the way there, we were impressed by the nice vistas of rivers with the mountains in the back.

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And once we arrived at the Five Likes, not surprisingly, we had the impression that also there were more Germans than any other nationality. The hike was really nice and Max was even officially allowed to ride his bike on the trail – unlike in the American national parks where almost all trails were officially for hikers only.

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There had been a warning sign at the start of the trail to watch out for bears, as they like to come to this area during berry season. So we made sure to talk loud enough and consequently did not encounter any bears, even though they might have been close by. We did see lots of squirrels though and a couple of smaller animals and insects.

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We enjoyed the solitude of the five small lakes along the trail. At one of them there was even a pair of the red chairs located in especially scenic spots all through Jasper national park.

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On our way back to camp, we noticed a couple of cars parked along the road with people getting out to have a look at an elk. Even though it was a really large male elk and a beautiful sight, we rather stayed away and were even a bit worried about the people getting so close. After all, we had been warned by enough signs about the elk during fall rut season and were cautious not to get too close.
The next morning it was raining and consequently we did not feel like going for any sightseeing in the national park. Instead we took advantage of one of the activities directly at the campground and went geocaching. With a GPS we borrowed from the ranger station we headed off to find the 10 caches hidden all over the campground. And that took quite a while – after all the campground is enormous at 781 spots spread widely in a forest probably a mile long by half a mile wide.

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It was fun finding the locations of the caches and their hiding places. So maybe geocaching is something we’ll continue doing also in other places.
After hiking so much on a rather cool and partially raining day, we had promised to Max that we’d go to the local pool. As usual, he enjoyed being in the water, swimming, jumping and sliding with pure delight.
After dinner (Kaiserschmarrn) that evening Sam set off towards a meadow south of the campground to see if he’ll be able to see any elk during their rut. After a long time of hiding and watching, he eventually returned back to the van having seen no animals at all – not even squirrels. I suspect he had been watched silently by a couple of animals who were doing just as well a great job in hiding themselves, but we’ll never know for sure…

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 08:46 Archived in Canada Tagged salmon lake river pool hike bear geocaching campground rut Comments (1)

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