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Our trip begins June 20, 2005 after many months of preparation, wrapping up details that seemed to have no end. Finally, after tearful good-byes to our kids, feeling like escapees from a low-security prison, we turned the key in our rig and headed north, determined to spend the night in another state so we'd feel officially gone. Fortunately, we were less than 100 miles from the Oregon border!

We spent our first night in a state campground at Humbug Mountain on the rugged Oregon Coast, where we began training ourselves in the fine arts of walking our dogs on leash and picking up after them with plastic baggies, customs not practiced where we are from. We also actually purchased firewood for our site, another first for us. A month later, we still have some of this Oregon firewood, as it refuses to dry out and we can't bear to abandon our investment! Then to Cape Perpetua National Forest and a hike up a steep forest trail to a lookout with breathtaking coastal panoramas. We arrived just in time for Kathleen to interrupt a couple of boys about to roll a large boulder down the mountainside. We may very well have saved someone's life that day, partial payment for some of the dumb things we ourselves did as kids.

From there to Astoria,Oregon, at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, sight of the great Hudson's Bay Company post in the early 1800's. We drove by the Red Lion Inn, where Rus did a stint as a lounge musician/human jukebox in the '70's, and ate dinner at the Columbia Cafe, a place packed with character where it's best to leave some of your meal on the plate or suffer the consequences like Rus did the next day. Then we crossed that wide span of river into Washington and drove until we found a mosquito-infested camp at Cape Disappointment just as darkness fell. We seemed to be the only ones there. Anyway, we were too tired to be outside so the dogs missed their evening walk and the Cape lived up to its name for us this time around. I imagine it was named by Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery who, on arriving here in 1805, thought they had finally reached the Pacific Ocean only to discover it was the mouth of this great, wide river. Trapped by a storm, they spent several miserable days, hungry and huddled under whatever shelter they could find until they were able to complete their journey and stand on the shores of the Pacific.

Following the unending, calm and picturesque coastline of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, leaving oyster and crabshells in our wake (but picking up after our dogs) we worked our way around to the lovely old town of Port Townsend, arriving at the lowest tide of the year. We walked underneath the piers of the waterfront buildings, a feat usually impossible we found out from a local, and noticed that many of the pilings supporting them were rotten nearly through and seemed in danger of collapsing. While there we also had the luck to catch our friend Marc the day before he was leaving for a Grand Canyon river trip. Then onto the ferry, and a scenic cruise over to Whidbey Island, where Rus' brother Dave and his family live. We spent three nights with Dave and Kate, sons Jesse and Bryan, and very lovely girlfriends Jessica and Hannah. It had been many years since our last visit with them on their home turf, and it felt great to reconnect and to see their boys turned into fine young men.



Visiting family at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island

Leaving Whidbey Island, we spent a couple of days around Bellingham, a very cool college town with a wonderful food co-op, where we over-replenished our food supplies with delicious local organic fruits and vegetables, baked goods, cheeses and some good bottles of wine. Kathleen's travel bible is a book called Healthy Highways, which lists many of the stores and restaurants across the country which offer natural foods. She's been known to lead us many miles out of our way to find an organic food store, or even to make it our destination. We also had our truck's 10,000 mile oil change and check-up at a very good Ford dealership in Bellingham, Diehl Ford. We're finding that lots of Ford dealers won't service an RV built on their chassis, and to let them know our size before coming in.

Then down through the foothills of Mt. Ranier and and into the surrounding mountains, we spent two easy days exploring, hiking and throwing sticks of larger and larger dimension into streams for Ziggy, the ultimate retreiver. She is often not content with the sticks we throw for her. After a time or two she chews them up and sets off to find one that really pleases her, usually quite BIG! The picture below shows her grand prize so far, a log she wrestled over rocks and through current for maybe 10 minutes. We both let her try thinking she'd never bring it in.

Ziggy with her big one!


We found Forest Service campgrounds in this area of Washington that were spacious, inviting, and barely full mid-week. One we liked called The Dalles was wild, yet almost park-like, with moss and ferns and dainty woodland flowers carpeting the forest floor and the White River flowing fast and full a cut below. We were greeted in the morning by shafts of light streaming through the taller branches and the deep green of the shadows nearby announcing the glory of a fresh new day. Surely, this is God's country! Before we took off we met some old time RV'ers who wanted to share their experience and knowledge with us young 'uns. And we listened too, well aware that we have a lot to learn.

Our next destination was Yakima Valley, where we visited Rus' old friends and former room-mates Goeff and Kathy, and Geoff's new partner, Nancy. We spent a fine evening catching up, then got out our instruments and were able to remember a good many of the songs we used to play together more than 30 years before. We shared a two-bedroom shack in a tiny coastal community in California, at a time when our combined income was something like $300-400 a month. The rent, split 3 ways, came to $20 each. We ground our own flour, caught our own fish, scrounged for firewood to burn in our sheet metal stove, and made lots of our own music. We had no idea how deprived we were!

On to Mount St. Helens, where the effects of the eruption are still staggering more than 20 years later. It was somewhat of a relief, though, to see devastation on such a massive scale that human beings aren't responsible for! The view from windy Ridge shows the side of the mountain that blew apart in 1980, throwing gas, ash, rock and hummocks (big chunks of itself) for miles onto the land below. We continued south to satisfy our appetites for more of the Columbia Gorge, traveling eastward along the Washington side, which we've always wanted to do. Highway 14 is mostly just a two-lane blacktop, offers more panoramic views and allows a more leisurely pace than the busy Interstate 84 on the Oregon side. On July 4th weekend, we were amazed to be one of only two campers at a state-owned campground adjacent to Beacon Rock, a huge prominory on the riverbank, an ancient volcano core second in size only to Gibralter. We spent the evening of the 4th at a fun wine and blues festival near Stevenson, where we sampled some nice Washington wines, set up our chairs on the hillside and watched Oregon fireworks across the river at Cascade Locks. The night was topped off by the chance meeting of a fellow who stopped by to talk about the rig. He turned out to be the brother of a friend from home and their mother lives two blocks form our house in Arcata! Stevenson is a big windsurfing destination, and we sat on a grassy slope above the river and watched the wind and kite surfers racing across the water, looking from a distance like a hatch of mayflies.


Views of Mt St Helens

The bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's arrival at the Pacific Ocean is a big deal on the Columbia right now, and since they had to struggle through the entire Gorge to reach it, every town has a claim on some event described in their journals. You could almost traverse the entire length of the Gorge hopping from one interpretive plaque to the next, without ever touching the ground. Rus has been fascinated by the expedition for many years and still is, but even he found himself overexposed and beginning to burn out on it!

Around The Dalles, the Gorge gives way to golden bluffs, wheatfields, and orchard lands. We camped right on the water near Maryhill, where Ziggy could indulge her passion for retrieving sticks thrown into the river, and next morning visited the Maryhill Museum, high on the bluffs overlooking the Columbia. How a collection of furniture and memorabilia from a Romanian queen, the largest Rodin collection outside Europe, a collection of post WWII Parisian fashion miniatures, and an impressive collection of Native American basketry and artifacts can all co-exist in the same remote Washington museum is an amazing feat in itself.

Beacon Rock at dusk

A walk along the Columbia Gorge, kite surfers on July 4th

Maryhill Museum, Rus on the hill above Peach Beach Park, Kathleen at Maryhill Fruit sign. Hmmmmm! What delicious Ranier Cherries, peaches, and SWEET onions!

A replica of Lewis or Clark's tent from The Dalles Interpretive Center and, for our sons, the fishermen, (Hi Jamie, Jordan and Josef!) here's the kind of hooks they used 200 years ago and brought on their famous expedition..

I thought Kathleen wanted to go to Walla Walla, and Kathleen thought I did. So we went to Walla Walla. When we got there we discovered our lack of communication, but oh well, the book said there was an organic bakery there, so we tracked it down, only to find they were closed. We were low on drinking water, so stopped into Andy's Market next door to pick some up, and maybe a roasted chicken for Rus, before finding a campsite. We were amazed to find all sorts of wholesome baked goods, including breads from the place next door, aisles of bulk food bins with all kinds of grains, flours, granolas, and a huge selection of organic, vegetarian and soy-based foods just like our co-op at home, only much bigger. But the people shopping looked just like regular people you'd see anywhere, not college students or hippies, or even urban professionals! We couldn't figure it out until Rus went looking for his roast chicken, couldn't find a meat department, and then it hit us: these people were all Seventh Day Adventists! We couldn't resist oversupplying our larder, again. If you go to Walla Walla, go to Andy's Market if you're low on water, but don't go there hungry or you'll leave broke! While on the subject, Kathleen and I have re-discovered those delicious Walla Walla onions, so mild and sweet you can eat them like an apple (if you really like onions, that is).

We both love hot springs. A warm mudhole in the middle of the desert, or a retreat center with pools, massage, and yoga, we don't care as long as the water is passably clean, unchlorinated, and comes from the bowels of the earth. We've been to some good ones, and have added two more so far on this trip. Crystal Crane Hot Springs, in Southeastern Oregon on Highway 78, is a commercial spring with a large, natural mud-bottom soaking pond and several private rooms with tubs made from galvanized cattle watering tanks. The pond was closed the morning we passed through because they'd increased the temperature to kill off the biting flies and it hadn't cooled back down yet, but we took one of the private rooms for an hour and had a wonderful soak. No one else was there. Like many commercial springs, it looked like the owners at one time had invested in some major improvements which didn't quite work out. We never begrudge paying whatever they need to charge to stay in business; so far we haven't seen any fabulously wealthy hot springs owners. This one cost us a mere 10 bucks for an hour soak topped off with a cool, refreshing shower, something we appreciate more than ever now that we're on the road.

The second was Sierra Hot Springs, outside Sierraville, California, which we visited the next day. Sierra Hot Springs is the sister resort to Harbin Hot Springs in Middletown, California, our favorite, where we've spent many wonderful days. Sierra is also a retreat center, where people come to soak, relax, get their heads straight, or take workshops. You absolutely cannot have dogs at Sierra Hot Springs, even in your car, which presented a dilemma because we absolutely had dogs. But rationalizing that our vehicle is not technically a car but our home, we left Ziggy and Bubbo in our home while we luxuriated in the round sand-bottom hot pool, alternated with cold plunges, showered, then had a delicious dinner in their comfortable restaurant built into the basement of the original lodge. Then we beat it to a lovely and nearly deserted Forest Service Camp nearby. We often wonder why some places are so crowded, and others so deserted. Some of the most best places we've stayed have been the least populated, and not just for that reason, either. It continues to be a mystery.

Photos are of lovely Crystal Crane Hot Springs.


Travel Log, Past Entries: Click to read each one
Oregon, Washington June 2005
California  June/July 2005
Southwest July/August 2005
Midwest August 2005
Northeast/August 2005

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