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Talkeetna and Whittier, Alaska

On our way from Denali to Anchorage we took a side trip over to the quaint little town of Talkeetna. It is reminiscent of a hippie-town where local artists and musicians congregate.

The town is a launching point for mountain climbers preparing to trek up Denali. We stopped by the Talkeetna National Ranger station where many of the climbers register. A video about the climb was playing. We found it very interesting. After the video we listened to a mountain guide who had climbed the mountain over 30 times. He noted that they frequently got winds over 100 mph up on the mountain. The tents would often explode from the inside out under such conditions. Hikers would have to be fully dressed and have all their gear packed and on their backs when the winds hit. If their tent exploded they had to quickly move to a fellow hiker’s tent. At times, they made shallow ice graves to hunker down in until the storm subsided. One thing I can say for sure is that you won’t find me hiking Denali!

Getting a lesson on hiking Denali, as if we were going 🙂 !!!

We had a great lunch at The Roadhouse. It is a historic restaurant and hotel. We ran into another couple from our Fantasy Tour group, Bob & Meg, and met a few new people, as seating is family style.

After our brief visit to Talkeetna we continued down the road to Anchorage, for a 4-night stay at the Golden Nugget RV Park. As a side note, we did not take our motorhome into Talkeetna, as there is not a lot of available parking and the roads are packed with people. We disconnected the Jeep from the RV at a gas station up the road and drove the Jeep into town.

While in Anchorage, we took a day trip to Whittier. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier takes you along the dramatic shorelines of Turnagain Arm. As you travel the Seward Highway you have the mountains on your left, while on your right you have the bay and the mudflats of Cook Inlet. In the distance you have mountains covered with glacier ice. It is a beautiful landscape. Unfortunately, we had low clouds and haze on our drive, but it was still pretty.

The mudflats look like an inviting beach. However, the mud is like quicksand and the tides change extremely quickly. People have gotten stuck in the mud and drowned as the tide waters rose.

For those that are curious, the name of Turnagain Arm stems from when the British explore James Cook was forced to “turn again” when the inlet did not have an exit. Cook was looking for a Northwest Passage during his 1778 voyage.

On the mountain side we spotted some cute Dall sheep.

In order to get to Whittier you must travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial tunnel. Both cars and trains must use the single lane 2.5 mile long tunnel. Cars are allowed to travel into the town of Whittier each hour on the half hour, while cars are allowed to travel out of the town each hour on the hour. Trains fit in-between those times.

Entering the Tunnel
Tight Tunnel

The town of Whittier is small. There are virtually no homes in the town. Most of the yearly residents live in the same high rise apartment structure, which once served as military barracks.

It is a port stop for many cruise ships
Looking back to the town, across Prince William Sound

We meandered through tiny shops and grabbed a snack at the Lazy Otter cafe.

Tiny little shops in the tiny town of Whittier

As you turn off the Seward Highway and head towards the tunnel to Whittier you pass glacier covered mountains, lakes, rivers, wetlands and waterfalls. It is stunningly beautiful.

Our next stop was Seward, covered in my next post.

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Denali

Wow! Just Wow! I LOVED Denali and the surrounding area. I finally felt like the long drive to Alaska was worth it when we entered the beautiful Denali National Park.

Denali was established as a park in 1917 for the purpose of protecting Dall sheep, which were being over-hunted at the time. They seem to be doing well now. We found some grazing high up on a mountain.

The park’s size and purpose grew over time. Today, the park is around 6 million acres. There is only one road in the park, running east to west. It is 92 miles long. With the exception of the first 15 miles it is a narrow gravel and dirt road. Parts of it are subjected to landslides during heavy rains.

This section of the road, seen on the upper right of this photo, is prone to landslides. We saw one area where last year’s road dropped down about 10 feet.

This very scenic road starts in a low, forested area and then rises and falls along mountain passes. The only way to travel on this road past mile marker 15 is via a national park service bus, with the exception of traveling into a campground near mile marker 30. If you are staying at that campground you are allowed to drive in, but then your car must remain at your campsite for the duration of your stay.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we temporarily broke off from the Fantasy tour group in Fairbanks so that we could have a few extra days enjoying Denali. We spent 3 nights at the Savage River Campground in the park. It is located near mile marker (MM) 13, which is the area where anybody can drive their vehicle, and it is paved.

The campground is rustic and there are no services (no electric, water or dump station). Getting through the campground with our 40′ motorhome was challenging at times, mostly because the tree branches hung out into the road far enough to scrape along the motorhome. Very nerve-racking. All sites are first-come, first-served. When we finally found the one and only site that could possibly accommodate us we spent at least half an hour maneuvering into it. Once we finally got situated we took a breath and looked at our phenomenal surroundings. We were in the wilderness of Denali and LOVED it.

Less than a 1/4 mile from our site was a path leading to the Savage River and the flat lands surrounding it. I couldn’t get over how beautiful the area was. Here is an early morning shot.

The park was especially beautiful this year due to the unprecedented fireweed bloom. There were purple flowers everywhere.

Wildlife roam freely throughout the 6 million acre park and simply ignore the busses traveling along the road. At times, the busses have to come to a standstill and wait for the wildlife to mosey on out of their way, like this caribou.

There is no shortage of wildlife. We spotted numerous moose.

I didn’t spot any bull-moose in the park though. However, here’s a funny story. While we were staying at the Savage River Campground Charlie was outside fiddling with the motorhome when the people staying in the spot behind us ran over to him and said “Oh My Gosh, look what you just missed.” They showed him their cell phone picture of the biggest bull-moose they had ever seen in their life. It crossed the gravel road right behind Charlie. It was so quiet though that Charlie never knew it was there. Sadly, we never did find it after that.

We spotted numerous Caribou in the park.

I loved the antlers on this one.

These guys were just chillin’, watching the busses go by.

And this was my favorite. We never did see his body, only his antlers moving around.

I had quite a scare on one of the bus rides. The bus was cruising along a section of road that had tall bushes along the right side of the bus, where Charlie and I were sitting. We were in the last row and I was against the window. All of a sudden a caribou came running out of the bushes at full speed, heading directly for me. I jumped and squealed, as he was just feet away from his end of life, and maybe mine, or not. The caribou skidded on his hind legs, made a sharp 90 degree turn and just missed us. Whew!

We saw grizzly bears, including cute baby ones.

We saw many adorable arctic ground squirrels. This one was enjoying a snack.

We spotted a few Willow Ptarmigan (pronounced as tarmigan). The Ptarmigan is Alaska’s state bird. It stands 14-17 inches high and is a ground-dwelling bird. We frequently spotted them along the road and hiking paths. The Ptarmigan feathers are light brown in the summer but in the winter they turn white.

Since we are on the subject of birds, I’ll share a couple pictures of some cute fellas I spotted near our campground.

On our first full day at Denali we took a transit bus to Wonder Lake. There are two different busses which you can take. One being the Transit bus which lets you get off whenever you want to take a hike. The Tour bus is one which you stay on and the bus driver gives you information about the park, etc. There is no getting on or off, except for restroom breaks, which are only 10-15 minutes long.

The round trip transit bus ride to Wonder Lake, at MM 85, takes around 11 hours. Yes, 11 hours on an old school bus. We caught our bus at 5:45am right outside our campground. We had great weather; high clouds and temps in the low 60s. Between the awe-inspiring landscape and all the wildlife you see along the way, the bus ride goes by quickly, relatively speaking.

For our second full day at the park we decided to sign up for a Discovery Hike. This is a ranger-led hike with a maximum of 11 participants. They are called discovery hikes because the ranger gets to select a hiking area in the park that is off-trail and has not been selected by any other ranger that year more than once. Our hike was with a wonderfully energetic young red-headed lady named Cinnamon. She chose a hiking location around MM 53. We had some discoveries along our hike such as when we got to the top of the mountain and found that our path down the backside was fairly steep and rocky. As a group we decided we could handle it and actually had a fun time getting down. The scenery from the top of the mountain was spectacular. After getting down the hill we walked along the riverbed back to the park road. It seems that no matter where you are in the park you can always see the park road. That gave me a little comfort while hiking off-trail. We ended up hiking about 4 miles with an elevation gain of nearly 1,000 ft. We enjoyed it so much that we signed up for another one a few days later. Here are a few photos from our first hike.

Hiking up the mountain. You can see the park road in the distance.
Finally made it to the top
The landscape behind the mountain we climbed was a surprise. You could not see this area from the park road. I sprinted up the last portion of the mountain, eager to see the scenery that awaited us. I found it to be just spectacular. I just love good Eye-Candy!
Getting down was a little tricky, as the rocks were very slippery
We had a great group of people hiking with us.
After we made it down the hill we walked along, and through, the river
The river eventually led us back to the park road

In addition to our transit bus ride to Wonder Lake (MM 85) and our two discovery hikes (both near MM 53) we took a Tour Bus ride with the Fantasy group after they all arrived in Denali. As a side note, bus driving in the park appears to be a coveted job. Many of the drivers have been doing it for over 20 years. I guess the scenery and wildlife never get boring.

Below is a gallery of photos taken during our time in the park. Click on the first photo to enlarge it and begin a slide show.

On a clear day you can see Denali, North America’s tallest peak, as you travel along the park road. It is 20,310 feet tall. They say only about 20% of the visitors to Denali get the opportunity to see the mountain in its full glory. We were very fortunate in that we saw it numerous times during our stay. It is spectacular.

Denali, as seen from the Old Denali Hwy
Denali, as seen from the Denali State Park

In addition to visiting the National Park we took a day trip along the Old Denali Highway. This is a 135 mile gravel road connecting Cantwell, AK to Paxson, AK. Much of the road lies above timberline so the views are phenomenal. We drove nearly 70 miles of the road beginning in Cantwell. We ended up at Alpine Lodge. This lodge is one of only a hand full of lodging places along the road. We dropped in and found that they offered a small lunch menu. As we ate lunch we chatted with a gentleman that helps out at the lodge and a young man that grew up there. We learned a bit about the area and life in the wilderness. After lunch we backtracked back to Cantwell. If you are ever in the area of Denali we highly recommend you take a side trip along the Old Denali Highway. It is one of the most scenic drives we’ve done.

Charlie captured some good photos with the drone.

…while I captured some photos with my camera.

Back on the Parks Highway we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant called 229Parks. Its name comes from the fact that it is located at MM 229 on Parks Hwy. There is not much around this restaurant and we almost passed it by.

We had heard that it was a great restaurant so we wanted to try it out, and we were not disappointed.

As a side note, getting around Alaska is pretty easy. There is generally one road to take from one populated city to the next. The George Parks Highway (generally referred to as simply the Parks Highway), runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

Aside from 3 nights at the Savage River Campground we also stayed at the Denali RV Park. That’s where we rejoined the Fantasy Tour Group.

That about sums up our stay in Denali. I can’t say enough good things about it! After Denali we headed down to Anchorage and then on to the Kenai Peninsula, which will be covered in my next post. Stay tuned……

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Skagway, Alaska

Skagway is a small town in southeast Alaska. It is a popular stop for cruise ships that travel along the Inside Passage. The town is comprised of gold-rush-era buildings which are preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad run vintage locomotives between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The train travels parallel with Highway 2, the only road into the town of Skagway. There are beautiful views of the mountain range along the highway and/or train ride. Unfortunately, during our stay in Skagway we were subjected to skies filled with a smokey haze due to a forest fire not too far away.

We spent 4 nights in Skagway at the Pullen RV Park. We were actually parked in the parking lot behind the park facing the cruise ships that were in port. Each day 3 or 4 new ships would arrive. Skagway’s population is only around 1,000. When the cruise ships are in port the population jumps tenfold, if not more.

I love how the buildings in the town of Skagway give you a feeling as if you are back in time. Even the sidewalk is made of wood planks.

Looking back the other direction you can see how massive the cruise ships are compared to the town. This was taken in the very early morning, before everybody disembarked from the ship.

The town has the most unique visitor’s center I’ve ever seen. The distinctive building has a facade covered in 8,800 pieces of driftwood. All of the wood was recently replaced or restored. The building was originally built for early pioneers and miners preparing to cross the Chilkoot Pass to reach the Klondike goldfields in the Yukon.

I loved the murals found on the buildings, each telling a historical story.

Panning for gold

We enjoyed learning about Jeff Smith, better known as “Soapy” Smith. He was a notorious outlaw. During the gold rush year of 1898 he and his band of robbers and con artists ran schemes to rob unsuspecting gold stampeders and intimidate the community. However, one day he robbed the wrong person and in the end, Soapy was shot to death in a gunfight. In 1935 Jeff Smith’s Parlor was turned into a home-spun museum with gold-rush era artifacts, folk art, taxidermy, and animatronic manikins. Today the museum is much as it was back then.

One afternoon we took a nice hike up to Dewey Lake. It was a steep walk up the hill to get to the lake, but once there the flat trail around the lake was very nice. We spotted a person swimming in the lake and we were surprised at how warm the water was.

We found a fisherman that had just returned from salmon fishing and was selling each large fish for $25. We bought two of them and got close to 9 pounds of filets out of them. I packaged them up and plan on enjoying them along our road trip. I did cook some up already and it was great!

Our esteemed fisherman sold all of his salmon

Just down the road from Skagway is an area called Dyea. It was once a town but is now a part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. During the gold rush of 1898 Dyea served as a port for gold rush stampeders. Dyea is has a very shallow port though, while Skagway’s is deep. Therefore, Skagway was a better long term solution as a port. The area is beautiful. We spotted a doe hiding in the flowers as we drove through the area.

We spent a bit of time watching these seabirds fish along the creek.

Beautiful Dyea area

On the way to/from Dyea you get a bird’s eye view of Skagway.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, the White Pass train is a popular tourist attraction. We joined our Fantasy RV group and took a ride on it. It was fairly hazy for much of the ride, but we did enjoy it and was able to get a few decent pictures.

The day we departed Skagway some of the haze lifted and we were able to capture some photos along Highway 2, which is pretty much the same route the train takes. It is a very majestic area.

That about sums up our stay in Skagway. We enjoyed it, although I wish the skies were a little less smokey.

After Skagway we worked our way to Fairbanks, and more importantly, Denali. My next post will be on that area. Stay tuned…….

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The long road to Alaska

Well, so much for trying to keep up with this blog while traveling through Alaska. I’ve been subjected to an overwhelming amount of ‘eye-candy’ since my last post. There is so much to see and do in Alaska! I’ll try to make this post as brief as possible. Although I think that will be tough!

To begin, we met up with Fantasy Tours in Ferndale, WA on June 24th. It is our first group tour, and our first time to Alaska with the motorhome. There are 25 RVs in our group. It is a “Your Way” tour so nearly all of the activities we choose to do are on our own, although Fantasy Tours has suggested a few group tours which we signed up for. We decided that it would be advantageous for our first motorhome trip to Alaska to be arranged by a third party and to be with other RVers just in case something happened.

Charlie and I spent a week in Anacortes, WA prior to meeting with the group in Ferndale. We were both pretty exhausted from our whirlwind trip home and our whirlwind tour through Vancouver and Vancouver Island, so we took it easy. Additionally, I was still trying to get over my cold and sinus infection. We did take a short ferry ride from Anacortes over to Friday Island one day, which is one of the San Juan Islands. We enjoyed a nice walk around the town there. The only other notable activity that we did was take a drive from Anacortes down to Deception Pass, which we really enjoyed seeing.

We stayed at the Fidalgo Bay RV Resort. Our spot was on the waterfront, facing Fidalgo Bay. Not far from the resort I found a fantastic fish market. It’s called Skagit’s Own Fish Market (https://www.skagitfish.com/). OMG!!! I visited this market a few times during our stay. Their King Salmon was out of this world fresh and for lunch we enjoyed overflowing lobster rolls. Aside from fish, I’ll note that the local Lopez Island Ice Cream is also out of this world. It is very creamy and delicious!

After Anacortes we hooked up with the Fantasy Tour group and began our long journey to Alaska, and I mean LONG.

Our first day of driving took us to Hat Creek Ranch RV Park in Cache Creek, British Columbia. We drove alongside the Thompson River for much of the day. It is a very pretty landscape, although nothing like I expected. It reminded me of the Southwest terrain, as it is very desert like.

When we got to Cache Creek we noticed that we were missing one couple from our group. Turns out they attempted to cross the border into Canada with a handgun. That did not work out so well for them. The gun owner, Gary, was hand-cuffed and interrogated for 5 hrs. On the positive side, he and Wendy were allowed to enter Canada after just a 24 hr period and a $2,000 fine. They met up with us in Prince George. However, they have been flagged as ‘gun-runners’ and will now be subjected to a full search every time they enter Canada. On this RV trip we go in and out of Canada frequently.

Our next day of driving took us from Cache Creek to Prince George. We got out of the dry area and into some rain. The landscape turned lush. In Williams Lake we stopped at the visitor center which has a fabulous historical museum. We unhooked the Jeep and drove into town where we found Margetts Meat Market. I picked up some Filet Mignon for dinner, which was fabulous! Before re-hooking up the Jeep we grabbed lunch at The Laughing Loon. Highly recommend it. Charlie got the burger and it was by far the best either of us had ever tasted. Turns out the owner of the restaurant also owns a ranch nearby and that is where he gets his beef. After lunch we mated up with the RV and continued down the road to Sintich RV Park in Prince George.

We woke the following morning to more rain. It remained overcast most of the day as we worked our way from Prince George to Dawson Creek. On the way we spotted a black bear grazing along the side of the road.

We spent a couple of nights at the Mile 0 Campground in Dawson Creek, where the Alaska Highway (originally called the AlCan Hwy) begins. The 1,390 mile long road was built by the American military during WWII to connect the contiguous United States to Alaska across Canada. It begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska.

We visited the Mile 0 Museum. We enjoyed learning all about the development of the road. The soldiers accomplished quite a feat building it in an enormously challenging environment.

In town I stumbled upon ‘The Butcher Block’. This has to be the best butcher shop I’ve ever been in. I bought quite a bit of meat and all of it turned out to be excellent. I wish we were going back through Dawson Creek on our return so that I could restock.

Just down the road from Dawson Creek is the Kiskatinaw Bridge. This curved timber bridge is one of the last standing original bridges of the AlCan Highway, although it is no longer used for major traffic.

From Dawson Creek we made our way to the Triple G Hideaway Campground in Ft. Nelson, BC. Nothing too exciting along this part of the drive. Although at the campground we discovered what Bannock is, and fell in love with it. It is a native fry bread. I think it is similar to an Elephant Ear. Yummy!! They predicted a severe wind and rain storm, but it did not materialize. At one point the sky turned dark and the winds whipped ferociously, but that was it.

After a one night stay in Ft. Nelson we continued onward to Liard Hot Springs in Northern Rockies, British Columbia. Fortunately, we had beautiful weather for this drive as the scenery was spectacular. We stopped a few times so that Charlie could put up the drone and snap a few photos.

We spotted more black bear along the road. It is funny in that I never thought I’d see a day when I’d see a bear and say, “it’s just another black bear.”

We saw bison walking along the road.

and Sheep

We stuffed ourselves with a huge breakfast, including a cinnamon roll, at the Tetsa River Services. It is a great little rest stop. Considering our breakfast indulgence we decided that we should take a hike. We stopped along the road at Tetsa Trail#1. It was a nice 1.5 mile up hill walk to get to a remote lake.

We made a quick stop at the Toad River Lodge, where we spotted a bull moose taking a swim in the lake out back. He was pretty far away though, so no great picture.

For the most part, the road conditions were good. However, we did run into areas of gravel which led to a high risk of getting a cracked windshield on both the motorhome and the Jeep. We faired well, but others in our group got cracks from minor to baseball size.

The landscape was beautiful along our drive. I was thrilled that we were blessed with clear skies.

When we arrived at our campground at Liard Hot Springs Lodge we learned that the leader of our group had an issue with his RV. When Lorrin and Nyla stopped at the Tetsa River Services for a cinnamon roll earlier in the day they discovered, upon restarting their motorhome, that Lorrin had accidentally filled it with gasoline, as opposed to Diesel fuel. He could no longer drive it and would have to wait a couple days for a tow truck to haul it back to Fort Nelson. The tail gunners, Charlie and Lorna, stepped in as the interim leaders.

The following day, while we were still at Liard Hot Springs, Nyla decided to drive the 120 miles from the Tetsa River Services to deliver some items to Charlie and Lorna, since it was unknown as to how long it would take to repair their motorhome. When Nyla got about 45 miles into the drive she blacked out and flipped her Jeep. She’s not sure what caused the blackout, but fortunately she was OK. The Jeep on the other hand was totaled. Amazingly, Lorrin and Nyla were able to rejoin us just a few days later, after having their motorhome engine flushed.

The Liard Hot Springs was enjoyed by a good number of people in our group. I’m not a fan of hot springs, or hot jacuzzis for that matter, so I declined to try it out. Those that went in loved it though. The boardwalk to the springs cuts across very pretty wetlands.

We had one full day to explore the area around Liard so Charlie and I back tracked in the Jeep to Muncho Lake.

We saw porcupines, bear and sheep along our short drive to the lake. We stopped for breakfast at the Northern Rocky Lodge, located right on the lake. We then took a hike along the Mineral Licks Trail. Remember when I mentioned that we were supposed to get a bad wind/rain storm while in Ft Nelson, but it never came? Well, it hit here. We saw the full impact of the storm along our hiking trail. You can see in the last picture how the tree was twisted.

When we got to the overlook we could see where a micro-burst or small tornado must have gone through. The trees are completely leveled in one section. Zoom into the tree area and see the big patch of downed trees.

Here is one final picture from this beautiful area.

From Liard Hot Springs we drove to the Downtown RV park in Watson Lake., Yukon Territory (YT). The notable event along this route was stopping for bison in the road. I felt like we were back in Yellowstone.

In Watson Lake we visited the Northern Lights Space and Science Center and watched their ‘Northern Lights’ panoramic video. It was OK. We spent a bit of time at the local library too, as we have found that the library is the best place to get good WiFi while traveling. We took a drive out to the Watson Lake airport and checked out their photo exhibit dating back to the 1940s when the airport was built. We really enjoyed the photos and the stories behind them.

We joined the group and put up a sign in the ‘Sign Post Forest.’ It is an amazing collection of signs dating back many many years.

One couple in our group, Tom and Judy, discovered that they had 4 tires on their motorhome that were just about ready to explode. He had a wheel alignment done on his motorhome back in Wisconsin, just before heading out on this trip. Either something was done incorrectly or he has a chassis issue. Either way, he had a serious issue. He could not drive on his tires any longer. Amazingly, there was a tire shop in Watson Lake, and I mean amazing as this town is a one stop-sign town, had 4 tires to fit his rig. They could not complete a new alignment though. He got the tires replaced and scheduled an alignment at a place in one of our future destinations.

We left Watson Lake and headed for the Pioneer RV Park in Whitehorse, YT.

We stopped for a short walk to Rancheria Falls.

We spotted a moose and 2 babies in Swan Lake along the way.

We spotted a coyote along the road.

And an eagle in Whitehorse.

And we almost hit a deer, as captured on our dashcam. We were cruising near 60mph. A little too close for comfort.

The road conditions got a little bad again and we ran into some construction delays, but no damage to the rig or the Jeep.

The RV park in Whitehorse was the least desirable. We were crammed in with shoehorns. The town of Whitehorse was nice though. It was the largest so far. We toured the S.S. Klondike, an old sternwheeler previously used to run freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City along the wild Yukon River. We visited the McBride Museum and found it to be very interesting. We got a good hike in along Miles Canyon before the smoke got too bad from a forest fire raging up the road in Dawson City.

With the group we toured the Muktuk Adventures Dog Sled company and enjoyed a nice home cooked meal of various wild meats.

The most humorous thing that happened in Whitehorse was that one of the couples in our group, Joedy and Rita, believed their car had been stolen from the Walmart parking lot. They called the police and truly believed it had been stolen for much of the afternoon, until it was found in another store parking lot, where they had actually parked it. All ended well and we all had a good laugh.

Our next destination was Skagway, Alaska! This was on day 15 of our tour. See, it was a LONG drive to Alaska :-). I’m going to cover Skagway in a separate post. Keep an eye out for that one.

After Skagway we headed back into Canada, towards Fairbanks, Alaska. Our first stop along the way was at the Destruction Bay Lodge & RV Park in Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory. It was a beautiful drive, especially along Hwy 2, after Haines Junction. In Haines Junction we stopped and went to the Village Bakery for lunch. Their lasagna was excellent. The bakery is off the beaten path, but very popular. I had hoped to spend some time around Haines Junction visiting the Kluane National Park. However, it was very hazy from the fires so we continued onward.

The Destruction Bay is in a fairly remote area with a population of 55 (2016 census). There is nothing to do in the area, but it is scenic along the bay. The owner of the campground cooked up a burger dinner for the group. He also sells hand made lightweight wood folding tables on behalf of a local citizen. They are really nice. Many of us bought one. I bought two since a friend, Jane, had wished she purchased one on her Alaska trip a few years ago, but neglected to do so. She asked if I’d pick her up one. It was a good find.

One of the couples in the group pulled into the park late. This was the same couple that got tagged as ‘gun-runners’ at the border. Well, on their way from Skagway to Destruction Bay they had an incident. Somebody was passing them on the road and when Gary looked at his passenger side mirror he happened to see his Jeep Cherokee. The tow bar had broken off and the car was now attached only by the chains and riding alongside his Newel motorhome. He did not have a braking system in the car but was lucky because the tow bar bent under the car and acted as a braking mechanism. Little damage occurred to the car and no damage to the motorhome. They were quite lucky. They were able to rig up the tow bar and get back on the road with the group by mid-morning. Gary noted that the Cherokee does not have the ‘Death-Wobble’ fix which was identified back in 2017, as he was unaware of it. He noted though that his Cherokee is constantly swaying rhythmically side to side behind the Motorhome, with significant intensity (the death-wobble). That probably contributed to the tow bar failure.

In the morning we moved onto Tok, Alaska. We were heading towards the fire, but it had rained steadily all night. We passed the fire area. Some spots were still smoldering.

Along the way we pulled over to let cars go by and I jumped out to take a photograph of the landscape. As I was getting back into the RV I noticed that the steps were not retracting. Fortunately within a few minutes Joe and Stephanie, from our group, drove up and saw that we had an issue so they pulled over to help. Joe had recently had a similar problem and he’s an RV mechanic. He helped Charlie get the steps tied up so we could at least get to the RV park and then deal with the issue. In Tok we had input from a lot of the guys in the group and came up with a good solution. Joe worked really hard and finally got the steps re-installed and in working order. Thank goodness!! Having all this help really made traveling in a group feel a lot better.

The last leg of our journey to reach the main land of Alaska was Tok to Fairbanks. This was on Day 21 of our trip. We stopped in Delta Junction to get a picture of the end of the Alaska Hwy marker. I’m not sure why it says mile 1422 when they say the highway is 1,390 miles long. Anyway……it was a LONG drive!

We found the roads to be horrible immediately after crossing into the United States. There were so many frost heaves, none of which were identified as they had been in Canada. There were pot holes, which we had seen none of in Canada. It was very disappointing. See how the white paint in this picture waves? Well, imagine rolling a 40′ motorhome over these constant waves. Not pleasant at all.

We spent a couple of nights in Fairbanks before breaking off from the Fantasy group and heading to Denali for a few extra nights. In Fairbanks we did a quick tour of the city, had lunch with a friend of Charlie’s, got educated on MuskOxen at the Large Animal Research Center and enjoyed a theater and salmon bake with the group.

Well, that sums up our long road to Alaska. I’ll try to post Skagway, Denali, Seward and Homer soon. Each deserves some emphasis.

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Vancouver, Whistler and Vancouver Island

As I mentioned in my last blog, Charlie and I took a break from RV’ing and flew back to Atlanta to visit friends and family.

Our time back East flew by. We celebrated this little one’s 6th birthday.

We celebrated this young man’s 15th birthday.

We took this little one (turning 2 in July) up for her first ride in Charlie’s plane. She loved it.

This was just after we took her to the Hot Air Balloon Jubilee in Decatur, Alabama. She fell in love with the balloons and anything else that flies in the sky. I’m sure she’ll be taking a ride in Charlie’s balloon before we know it.

We got to see our friends, Dave & Sarah, purchase their first motorhome. We inspired them into RVing.

And we took a quick overnight trip up to Mountain Falls Motorcoach Resort in Lake Toxaway, NC to see some friends and check on our coachhouse. We’ll miss being there this summer.

I just love this view, from our backyard at Mountain Falls

Lastly, I took a short trip up to Michigan to see my parents. My mom had not been well during the first 4 months of our trip. I was worried about her and wanted to check on her. I’m happy to say that she is doing a bit better these days.

The day we returned to Seattle from Atlanta we headed straight over to Vancouver, British Columbia. Getting across the border was a breeze. There was no line at all and we cruised right through customs.

US-Canada Peace Arch at the border

We stayed at a less than desirable campground in Tsawwassen, BC. We selected it as it was just down the street from the Ferry which we were going to be taking over to Vancouver Island. In the end, it wasn’t too bad, as we were rarely there.

We spent a day touring downtown Vancouver, which neither of us really cared for. We could not believe the significant number of homeless people in the city. There were a large number of blocks, between Chinatown and Gastown, with throngs of homeless people. I didn’t find it very safe. We did enjoy a drive around Stanley Park and a hike through Lynn Canyon.

In Lynn Canyon they have a great swinging bridge, which we discovered is quite common in the area.

Lynn Canyon:

We took a day trip to Whistler for Zip-lining. They have the longest and fastest zip-line in North America. It was a blast! It is over 1.2 miles long and it reaches speeds of nearly 62 mph.

The line ends just below the big flat brown patch area you see on the mountain top in the middle of the picture

I loved the village of Whistler. I had never been there before. I hope Charlie and I can make it back there sometime for ski season.

On our way to Whistler we stopped by Shannon Falls. It is a very pretty waterfall just off the road.

From Tsawwassen we took the BC ferry over to Nanaimo, BC on Vancouver Island. It was the first time we have taken the motorhome on a ferry. It went very well. No issues at all.

Once we got to Nanaimo we to Brown’s Bay Resort, just north of Campbell River. We had to drive a few miles down this dirt road to get to the resort. It was fairly well graded, and it had recently rained, so it wasn’t too bad.

We loved the views from the resort. We sat outside and watched a few cruise ships pass us by. The resort sits on the Inner Channel which many cruise ships take to/from Alaska.

In Campbell River we found a great little place to get fresh seafood, called Crabby Bob’s. We picked up some halibut. It was very good.

Our neighbors told us about a great little restaurant for breakfast, called The Ideal Cafe. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but the food and hospitality was excellent. It is a local’s kind of place. We enjoyed some very good Eggs Benedict there.

We took a short walk to Elk Falls. The falls was not very exciting in the middle of the day, with the sun’s reflection, but we enjoyed walking across yet another swinging bridge.

We took a short ferry ride, with the Jeep, over to Quadra Island. It was a very scenic ride.

We stopped by the visitor’s island and got some ideas of how to spend a few hours on the island. He suggested checking out the views from the Cape Midge Lighthouse, which we found very nice.

He suggested taking a walk around Rebecca Spit Marine Park, which we found exceptionally beautiful.

And lastly, he suggested having a bit to eat at the historic Heriot Bay Inn. We sat on the patio and enjoyed a nice meal.

After just a few nights at Brown’s we headed on up to the Cluxewe RV Park, just north of Telegraph Cove, where we were scheduled for a Grizzly Bear Tour the next day with Tide Rip Tours.

We arrived for our tour at 6:45 am. It was overcast, which was actually good weather for bear photography. The temperature was expected to reach maybe 61 degrees.

Bright and early in Telegragh Cove, BC

We absolutely loved the tour. You begin the day in a closed boat and travel for nearly 2 hours into Knights Inlet, up to Glendale Cove. In Glendale Cove you switch over to an open air boat so that you can get a good view of the bears. At times, we were as close as 50-60 feet away from the bears. They did not seem bothered by us at all. We also saw eagles up very close and from a distance spotted a humpback whale and a few orcas.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. Click on the first one to begin a slideshow.

The Cluxewe RV Park is on a beautiful piece of land. It has probably close to a mile of beach frontage and an estuary in the back part of the resort. They also have what the locals consider to be the best restaurant on the East side of Vancouver Island. We had dinner there and found it to be very good. It is not like your standard campground restaurant. It is more like a nice dining establishment with tablecloths and an ocean view. While eating dinner we saw an eagle fly by. We found the menu to be impressive, especially considering the restaurant’s location, and the food to be pretty good.

Cluxewe’s restaurant with a view

Our last stop on Vancouver Island was Victoria. We stayed at the Oceanside RV Park, as it was close to the Sydney ferry, which we were catching back to the US. One of my favorite things we did in Victoria was to tour the Parliament. They offer free tours on Saturday. During the tour we ran into Queen Victoria :-). The young lady played the part very well.

We visited Butchart Gardens. The gardens are just breathtaking. As a bonus we found an owl hanging out in a tree!

That about sums up our trip to the southern part of British Columbia and catches me up on the blog. I hope to not get so far behind in the future! I hope you have enjoyed the pictures and stories.

Oh, and I’d like to give a shout out to Charlie’s friends in Sydney, BC. We enjoyed a nice dinner with Dean and Leslie at the waterfront Rum Runner Pub. I enjoyed meeting them both, and loved the restaurant. We sat on the back porch and when it got chilly the waitress brought us blankets! Dean and Leslie live in Sydney, which was a good thing for me because they were able to recommend an excellent medical clinic for a Saturday morning visit. Since returning from Atlanta, I had persistent sinus drainage which finally turned into an infection. They recommended the Central Saanich Medical Clinic, just a few miles from our RV park. OMG! The office opened up 15 minutes early just because they were there, and why not. The check-in lady was exuberant and extremely kind and I absolutely loved the doctor, who reminded me of my grandma. Within 20 minutes I was in and out of their office with a prescription, and it cost me only $60 USD.

We are currently in Anacortes, WA. We’ll be here for a few more days and then we begin our journey to Alaska!

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Seattle, WA: May 2019

We arrived at the Cummins Service Center in Sumner, WA, just south of Seattle, early on Sunday, May 6th. We were having a small leak checked out the following day. We wanted to make sure everything was good before heading to Alaska.

Since we arrived early we parked the motorhome at Cummins and then headed out for a scenic drive up to Mount Rainier National Park.

Mount Rainier has an altitude of 14,410 feet and is considered the monarch of the Cascade Range.

We found lots of snow at the lodge. Everything was closed, as it was still off-season.

The temperature was rising though, so the waterfalls were flowing nicely. We climbed down a snowy, and icy trail, for a couple pictures of Narada Falls.

Narada Falls, and a rainbow 🙂
Paradise River bed with Mount Rainier in the background
The lovely Christine Falls, tucked under the roadway.

Christine Falls

On our way back from Mount Rainier we stopped by this small restaurant in Ashford. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and the restaurant seemed full so we figured that it must be good. We found it to be excellent, especially the homemade blackberry jelly and pie! http://coppercreekinn.com/history.html

The following day we got the motorhome checked out by Cummins and they assured us that the leak was extremely minor, more like a little seepage. We need not worry about it until well after our Alaska trip.

While we were in Sumner we met up with a friend of mine that I had worked with during my engineering years at Chrysler, back in Michigan. Susan now lives in the Sumner area with her husband and two children. It was great seeing her, as we hadn’t seen each other for over 10 years.

After lunch with Susan we moved the motorhome up to the KOA in Tacoma, WA. We did not care much for the KOA, but we loved its proximity to the city, and the fact that we could catch a bus just across the street to get to downtown Seattle.

We spent 2 days walking around downtown Seattle and visiting Bainbridge Island. We loved the city, the restaurants, the people, the beautiful views and most of all, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. OMG! https://www.starbucksreserve.com/en-us/locations/seattle

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

I LOVE this Starbucks!! They roast the coffee beans there, have wood-grilled pizzas, a bakery and a liquor bar so that you can enjoy your coffee with any way you choose. You can choose how you would like your coffee brewed. I didn’t realize there were so many ways. We were given a sample of their cold-brewed bourbon coffee. OMG! It was fantastic.

After Charlie pried me away from Starbucks we made our way to Pike’s Market for some people watching, and to watch the fish be thrown around. We enjoyed lunch at Von’s 1000Spirits, close by the market.

One of the many fish markets in Pike’s Market

We enjoyed sights of the city from atop the Sky View Observatory.

After our long first day of walking around the city we enjoyed a molten chocolate dessert at Hot Cakes. It was delectable.

We spent much of our second Seattle day on Bainbridge Island. It is a short, beautiful, ferry ride from downtown Seattle. We loved the views of the city from the ferry.

We strolled around the small town of Bainbridge Island and spent a little time in the Bainbridge Historical Museum. In the museum we learned that the sport of Pickleball was invented on the island. Apparently back in 1965 a few fathers got together and came up with the game so that their kids would no longer be bored. http://seattlerefined.com/lifestyle/pickleball-a-sport-for-everyone

The museum was very interesting; full of artifacts, stories and history. We were glad we took the time to visit it.

Just north of Seattle proper, across the Aurora Bridge, is the town of Freemont, WA. They have a wonderful waterfront park (Gas Works Park) where the locals seem to migrate on sunny and warm days. While we visited, in early May, it was a rare 80+ degrees and sunny.

While in Freemont, we took a wonderful tour of Theo Chocolates. I highly recommend you check this out if you are ever in the area. We found the tour to be very informative, and the chocolate samples to be plentiful and delicious.

Just west of Freemont, along the Salmon Bay River, are the Ballard Locks. We enjoyed an informative tour of this National Historic Site, provided by the National Parks for free. These Locks are the busiest locks in the nation. We saw quite a few boats going in both directions of the river. http://www.ballardlocks.org/

Unfortunately, the historic Administration Building was closed while we were visiting the locks, as it was the weekend. The building was completed in 1916 and tours are available during the week.

Historic Administration Building at Ballard Locks

We left the motorhome at the KOA and took Mo (our Jeep Wrangler) to the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth, along the Cascade mountain range. Leavenworth is about 2.5 hours away from the KOA in Tacoma. We could have done the trip in a day, but we wanted to take our time and enjoy the Cascade mountain range. We also had to make a stop in Snohomish, WA to sign up for RV storage, as we were leaving the RV in Seattle while we flew back East to visit friends and family.

On our way up to Snohomish Charlie had this great idea of stopping by a place called Maltby’s for the largest Cinnamon Roll he had ever seen. Everybody was raving about it on-line. Well, the roll was so large that we could not finish it in one sitting, and it was good! Now, you’re probably thinking that we should be huge by now, considering all the sweets we’ve been eating along our trip. Fortunately, we really don’t splurge that often and we try to walk and hike a lot to offset it :-).

After our sugar splurge and signing up for RV storage we started our journey to Leavenworth, via Hwy 2 through the Cascade Mountains. The scenery was spectacular. We stopped near Index, WA and hiked to Bridal Veil Falls, a 2 mile hike up the mountain, and 2 miles back :-). See, we were already working some of that cinnamon roll off!

Here are a few pictures from the Bridal Veil Falls area.

We stopped along the way to see Deception Falls. The water was rushing extremely fast and the creek seemed to be bursting at the seams. It was quite impressive. We kept our distance though, as I don’t think we would have survived if we slipped, considering the water’s current.

We drove along a small dirt road, just down from the Falls, and found this beautiful spot to capture a photograph of the creek.

The town of Leavenworth reminded me of other Bavarian-style towns I had visited, like Frankenmuth, MI and Helen, GA. Although, I must say, Leavenworth is my favorite. It is a pretty good size town with quaint boutiques and a lot of excellent restaurants, and it is surrounded by the Cascade Mountains. We loved our overnight stay at the Bavarian Lodge. The room was very spacious and clean, the bar tender was quite generous with the wine pouring, and the desk staff was very welcoming.

The manager at the Snohomish Storage place suggested that we eat lunch at München-Haus, if we wanted the best Brats around. She did not steer us wrong. The brats were fantastic!

(Click on the first picture to start a slideshow)

Further East along Hwy 2 is the even smaller town of Cashmere. We found a great Museum and Pioneer Village there. It opened in 1959 and is quite impressive. They have more Native art and artifacts than I’ve seen elsewhere. We loved the Pioneer Village as well. We highly recommend stopping by this place if you are ever in the area. https://www.cashmeremuseum.org/

Just outside of Cashmere we stopped to take in this beautiful view of the Cascades, with vineyards in the foreground.

On our way back to Seattle we took a short side-trip along the Old Cascade Hwy. It was very scenic, curvy, tree-lined road traversing along a river. We stopped along the way to take in the scene and listen to the rushing water.

After a great week in the Seattle area, and Leavenworth, we parked the RV up in Snohomish and made our way, in the Jeep, over to Gig Harbor.

Charlie’s friends, Kathleen & Erik, had offered to host us for a couple of nights and show us around their beautiful town of Gig Harbor, where they had both grown up and still reside.

We spent a little time in their local museum, which is done very well.

We enjoyed dining at some great harbor restaurants, and were treated to a fabulous homemade dinner by Kathleen.

Erik showed us around the Gig Harbor BoatShop and filled us in on its history. It is a not-for-profit organization perpetuating the local working waterfront. They restore, repair and build boats. I was most impressed with their Family Boat Building Program where a family can build a skiff in a weekend. What a great activity for a family to enjoy!

I found Gig Harbor to be a great town. If I lived in the Seattle area I think I would pick this spot as home.

After 4 months of non-stop adventure on the road we headed back home for a visit with friends and family. More on that in the next post.

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Washington State’s scenic Olympic Peninsula – Apr 2019

I’m going to apologize up front for this long blog. I am so far behind! We are currently in Anacortes, WA. Since my last post we have toured the Olympic Peninsula, spent a week in the Seattle area, checked out the Bavarian-style village of Leavenworth, flew back East for a few weeks, visited Vancouver, Whistler and Vancouver Island. Like I said, I’m REALLY behind on my blog.

Below is a post covering our visit to the Olympic Peninsula. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll do separate posts covering the Seattle area, our flight back east and our visit to the Vancouver, British Columbia area.

(As always, click on the first picture in a series to start a slideshow.)

Port Townsend

This was our first stop on the Olympic Peninsula. We camped at the Fort Worden Historical State Park, in a large campsite near the beach. This park is a gem. Fort Worden was constructed between 1898 and 1917. It was home to nearly 1,000 troops and officers training to defend the Puget Sound. We enjoyed walks along sections of the beachfront and high bluffs, all with spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The park has more than 2 miles of coastline, an Artillery Museum, Marine Science Center, a 1914 lighthouse, and a very unique tapas bar. Not only does this park have 2 campgrounds but they also run a hotel out of the old barracks and officer’s quarters. We highly recommend checking out this Washington State Park if you are ever in the area: https://parks.state.wa.us/511/Fort-Worden

It was a bit chilly while we were in Port Townsend, but we did see some sun. Temps were in the 30s – 40s with very strong winds. Brrr!!! We had to get out the winter jackets, hats and gloves for our walks along the beach.

As I mentioned, there is a great little pub in the park. It’s called ‘Taps at the Guardhouse.’ The name comes from the fact that the pub is housed in the building which once served as the Fort’s jailhouse. The pub architecture incorporates some of the old jail artifacts, including the jail cells. We loved the atmosphere of the bar. We enjoyed happy hour sitting next to a fireplace playing a game of Yahtzee, provided by the pub.

The town of Port Townsend is lined with historic buildings and situated on the waterfront. There are a good number of quaint shops and restaurants. We enjoyed some of the best mussels we’ve ever had at Doc’s Restaurant, near the town’s marina. Their seafood mix was also great.

I loved all of the old wood doors found throughout the town.

Our waitress at Doc’s suggested we check out a new Speakeasy bar in town. It is in an obscure location, located halfway up a staircase to another restaurant. Hence its name, ‘In-between.’ There’s no obvious signage on the door, but we did find it and enjoyed a couple of Old Fashioned drinks.

There is an old style movie theater on main street. It reminded me of the one that was in Petoskey, Michigan back in the 70s. I visited it numerous times as a young child.

We stopped by the historic hotel for a look-see. I imagine that the lobby isn’t much different than it was back in the day.

After a couple of days in Port Townsend we moved down the road to Port Angeles.

Port Angeles

The day we arrived it was cloudy, windy and chilly. We parked the motorhome at the Elwha Dam RV Park and then ventured off to do a short hike to Madison Falls, one of the many waterfalls in the Olympic National Park.

Our second day in Port Angeles was windy again, although the temperature was rising into the 50s, finally.  We decided to head to the forest for a hike to Sol Duc Falls. The old forest trees buffeted the winds and we enjoyed our hike. The waterfall was beautiful, as was a nearby creek full of moss-covered rocks.

We also enjoyed a beautiful forest hike to Marymere Falls.

We spotted beautiful Pacific Northwest Trillium flowers along the path.

A sunny and warm day was finally in the forecast so we decided to take a day trip to Neah Bay. This is the most northwestern point in the continental US. It is an Indian Reservation and you have to pay $10/car to drive through the village. Neah Bay is a couple hour drive from Port Angeles. We headed out early in the morning. The drive was beautiful, most of it along the coastline.

As we got close to Neah Bay we spotted a couple of Eagles high in a tree, just off the road. In the picture below you can just barely see the 2 eagles sitting on a branch, hanging out over the road. We pulled over so that I could get my long lens out and capture a few photos.

We arrived in Neah Bay in time for breakfast. We stopped at the first restaurant, and maybe the only one, in the small village. We sat at a table with a view of the marina. As I looked out over the water I could not believe how many eagles were around. One tree had half a dozen of them sitting on the branches. Many boats in the marina had an eagle on its mast. It was crazy.

After breakfast we got our car pass and made our way to Cape Flattery for a short hike to the most north western point of the continental US. The landscape at the point is spectacular. I could have spent the entire day there, just taking in the view. Charlie got some great pictures with his drone.

We got back to Port Angeles late in the afternoon and decided to head up to Hurricane Point. At the top of the mountain the temperature was 37 degrees and there was a lot of snow. Once again we had to pull out our winter coats. Most of the trails on the mountaintop were closed due to the snow coverage so we simply enjoyed the view.

After visiting Hurricane Point we drove out to the Ediz Hook Reservation, which is a strip of land that jetties out into the waterway from the town of Port Angeles. It offers great views of the city and the Olympic mountain range.

We spotted this ship loading tree logs from the water. I’m always a little sad when I see a logging truck or ship go by, as I know it means more trees have been cut down.

By the time we got back to our campground it was nearly sunset and we were exhausted. However, it was the first time we were going to have a good sunset in what seemed like months. I wasn’t going to let it go by without getting a picture so I dropped Charlie off at the motorhome and then headed over to the Salt Creek Recreation Area. I had heard that it was a nice spot for sunset. I’m so happy that I went, as the scene did not disappoint.

Sunset view from Salt Creek Recreation Area

We originally planned to stay at the Salt Creek Recreation Area campground while visiting Port Angeles. However, there were no campsites available for the timeframe we were there. I love the park. It sits right on the ocean with gorgeous views. It is about 30 minutes farther from Port Angeles, and the waterfalls in Olympic National Park than where we ended up staying though. So, in the end, I’m glad we stayed at the Elwha Dam RV Park.

Another picture from the Salt Creek Recreation Area park

The following morning we packed up the motorhome and headed down the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. We really enjoyed our stay at the Elwha Dam RV Park. The staff was very friendly. Its location to Neah’s Bay, Port Angeles and the Olympic National Park can’t be beat.  Don’t look for a dam though, as it was torn down in 2011, after two decades of planning, to restore the river’s ecosystem.

Elwha Dam Overlook

Our next stop along the Olympic Peninsula was the beautiful Kalaloch Beach Campground. There are only a couple of sites at the campground large enough to accommodate our 40′ motorhome. We were lucky to find one available. This was the view through our windshield.

We enjoyed sunsets at nearby Ruby Beach.

We took a hike through the Hoh rain forest.

As I turned around a corner on the path I came upon this elk. I was quite startled as I was nearly nose to nose with him.

We found some beautiful scenery on the drive to/from the Hoh rain forest.

The Hoh rain forest was about an hour’s drive northeast from the Kalaloch Campground. We found the drive to be nice, but were actually disappointed with the rain forest hike. We thought that it was not nearly as lush as the other areas we had visited.

We did find the Quinault rain forest to be extremely lush. It is about an hour’s drive southeast of Kalaloch. We loved our hike along the Quinault rain forest trail.

Since it was early spring, the flowers were starting to bloom. I found this gold mushroom to be quite interesting. It looked like it had been spray painted gold.

This flower stinks, and is appropriately called a ‘skunk cabbage.’

The Quinault rain forest trail guides you through a beautiful area of the rain forest and then ends up on a path along the scenic Quinault Lake.

The trail passes by the historic Quinault Lodge, built in 1926.

After we completed our hike we drove around the lake to the Kestner homestead, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A local person we met on the Quinault trail told us it was a beautiful area and that it should not be missed. He was right. The area is lovely.

Back at the Kalaloch Campground we enjoyed walks along the beach and celebrated my birthday dinner at the Kalaloch Lodge. The sandy beach is very expansive, and peaceful.

There are a huge number of logs along the beach.

We loved our visit to Kalaloch, but missed having cell service and Wi-Fi so after a couple of days we moved on to our next destination on the peninsula; Ocean Shores. We parked at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino. They have a huge parking lot for RVs to dry-camp. If was still off-season so we were about the only ones there.

We spent a couple nights there, just chilling. We then moved onto Shelton, WA, for no apparent reason. We had to be at the Cummins service center near Tacoma, WA Sunday evening and Shelton was on the way there. We stayed at the Little Creek Casino RV Park. They had full hook-ups and Wi-Fi. Charlie played blackjack in the casino and won nearly enough money to pay for our campsite. We enjoyed a couple more days of resting and catching up on some things. This was our last stop along the peninsula. We had a fantastic time exploring the Olympic National Park.

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Columbia River Gorge: 4/15 – 22, 2019

We recently enjoyed a week in Troutdale, Oregon. Troutdale is the western gateway to the Historic Columbia River Highway, a 75-mile long scenic highway between Troutdale and The Dalles, Oregon. The road was built between 1913 and 1922 and is noted as being the first planned scenic roadway in the United States. The road, designed by engineer Samuel C. Lancaster, was modeled after the great scenic roads of Europe. Lawyer and entrepreneur Sam Hill worked with Samuel to promote the road. Their goal was to make ‘beautiful waterfalls, canyons, cliffs and mountain domes’ accessible to all. They faced many challenges. I think this plaque, found on a statue of the two men, nicely sums up their great accomplishment.

This beautiful statue of Sam Hill and Samuel C. Lancaster was sculpted by Troutdale local, Rip Caswell. It is perfectly located, with the men looking down the historic road.

Across the street from the statue is where Rip creates his great works of art. We decided to check out the store on our walk into town. Once we got into the store we noticed the bronze sculptures and met Rip. It turns out that Rip sculpted the Nimitz statue we had recently seen while in Fredericksburg, TX, at the Nimitz Pacific WWII Museum. Rip allowed us to get a picture of his original clay sculpture, used to make the mold for the bronze statue.

And here is the picture I took at the museum back in Fredericksburg.

Across the street from the shop is a garden of sculptures, which Rip encouraged us to stroll through. It is used during the summertime for wedding receptions. Here is just one of the statues in the park.

What a lucky town to have such a great artist sharing his work with them. We were thrilled to have stumbled upon his workshop.

After visiting the art center we continued our short walk to Troutdale’s town center. We loved the quaint shops and restaurants along the short two blocks of this historic town. We enjoyed lunch at Troutini, a local restaurant decorated with an early 1900s theme.

We spent a day traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway, exploring all of the beautiful waterfalls and views.

Columbia River Gorge, as seen from the Crown Point Vista House
Looking back towards Portland, OR from the Crown Point Vista House
Charlie’s drone shot of the Crown Point Vista House, a historic rest stop along the Historic Columbia River Highway

And my favorite waterfall…

The Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is also beautiful. We crossed the river in The Dalles, OR and drove westward, along the Lewis and Clark Hwy towards Maryhill, WA. The road meanders through the Columbia Hills Historical State Park.

While on the Washington side, we decided to visit Panther Creek Falls. I had seen pictures of this waterfall and had a strong desire to photograph it. As we drove through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to get to the falls we came upon the national forest service busy removing trees from the road. The hard winter took a toll on this area. You can see these branches hanging off of a precariously situated tree.

Once we got to the waterfall we found that the area to get down to the base of the fall, for the best photographs, was washed out and closed. Bummer! I was restricted to having take pictures from the overlook.

Within an hour’s drive from Troutdale is the highest point in Oregon. Mount Hood stands at over 11,000 feet and can be seen from quite a distance. It is home to 12 named glaciers and snowfields. Below is a picture taken from of Mt Hood from Hood River, OR, 35 miles away.

For a closer look, and for the possibility of reflection on a lake, we decided to head to a little place called Lost Lake in the Mt Hood National Forest. Lost Lake sits at an elevation of 4,150 ft and we found it still covered with ice. Additionally, we found the Mt Hood covered with clouds. You can barely see the mountain in the photo below, off in the distance.

Considering this situation, we decided to try another lake. Trillium Lake sits at 3,600 ft. The road to the lake was closed due to deep snow so we had to walk 2 miles down to the lake and of course, the 2 miles back up the hill to the car. This walk was on soft, but deep, snow. Each step was a struggle. I felt like I hiked 15 miles by the time we were done, as opposed to 4. Anyway,,,,,the view of the mountain was beautiful.

Charlie put up his drone and captured this shot.

Here’s a photo of the road we hiked on to the lake.

After we finally made it back to the car we decided to stop by the Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood where I captured a few close-ups of the mountain covered in snow.

Mt. Hood is majestic and we enjoyed our various explorations of it.

Troutdale is just a stone throw’s away from Portland so we decided to visit the city for a day. We had lunch at Higgin’s with some of Charlie’s friends, we splurged on doughnuts at the famous VooDoo donut shop. We had to wait in line, in the rain, to get the doughnuts.

We visited the Powell Bookstore, dubbed Powell’s City of Books since it covers an entire city block. Most importantly, we visited Pro Photo Supply where I splurged on some new photography equipment. Oregon has zero percent sales tax and I decided that it was important to take advantage of that!

Well, that about sums up our week in Troutdale, Oregon. Our next stop is Port Townsend, WA, our first stop around the Olympic Peninsula. More on that later.

Where we stayed:

Sandy River RV Park in Troutdale. It is along the Sandy River, on the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is within walking distance to the small town of Troutdale and centrally located to the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, Mt Hood and Portland. We would stay there again. Tip for those who might also consider staying at Sandy River: spots along the river, in the northeast corner of the park, are subjected to a bit of train noise. We were in the mid section of the park, closer to the office, and didn’t have much of an issue.

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Our last stop on the rainy Oregon coast: Newport, OR

Remember the saying, “April showers bring May flowers?” Well, assuming it is true then the Oregon coast should be covered in wildflowers very soon.

We planned on a 4 night stay in Newport, Oregon but extended it to 5 after the weather forecast was gloomy for our original dates. Having the flexibility to change trip plans on the fly is definitely an advantage of RVing.

If you like beer, check out Rogue Brewery in Newport. I have never liked beer but since the weather was such that it was unpleasant to be outside we decided to go to the brewery. Charlie ordered a beer sampler and it turns out, Rogue beer isn’t all that bad. I won’t go so far as to say that I now like beer, but I didn’t hate our samples. Well, maybe I’d have to admit that the Double Chocolate was good.

We visited the Yaquina Head Lighthouse with hopes of taking a tour, but no tours were available the day we were there. That seems to be a theme with us. As a matter of fact, on our way from Bandon to Newport we stopped by the Heceta Head Lighthouse. They had just lost power due to a blown transformer and therefore, there were no tours available.

Anyway, I digress. Back at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse we did enjoy spending some time in the visitor center. They have a fabulous interactive center and museum.

There are also great tide pools just below the lighthouse. We put on our rain gear and checked them out.

Looking back at the lighthouse at high tide.

Later, during our stay, we returned to the area near the Heceta Head Lighthouse and noticed that the lights were back working. It is a beautiful lighthouse.

There’s a Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast you can stay at on the peninsula. That would be pretty neat. The views from there are gorgeous.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse resides in a beautiful area on the Oregon coast called Cape Perpetua. I had hoped to get a good photograph of Thor’s Well in Cape Perpetua. Thor’s Well is also known as the drainpipe of the Pacific. The well is actually a hole in the rock that appears to drain water from the ocean. The hole is estimated to be about 20 feet deep. It is an amazing sight to see at high tide. The best photographic opportunity is at sunset though, and between bad weather and tide schedules, we did not get a good opportunity to photograph it. We did visit it though. Standing close by the hole can be a little scary, and dangerous, when a sneaker wave crashes in.

Back in Newport, we discovered a unique shop called The Olde Telephone Company. This little shop has phones from the ages. We enjoyed checking them all out.

About an hour north of Newport is the town of Tillamook, home to Tillamook Cheese. They have a state of the art visitor center and a great restaurant. Of course everything on the menu has cheese on it. They also have a popular Ice Cream stand. I highly recommend visiting.

On the way back from Tillamook we drove over to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Of course it was closed, but the scenery around it was very pretty, even in the rain.

As we drove along the coastline back to Newport we were blessed with a break in the rain and stopped by a beach area. I just love how the rocks stand out in the ocean.

We tried out a few restaurants in Newport. We had halibut fish and chips at Local Ocean Seafood. It was fairly good. We had dinner at Georgie’s Beachside Grill. We really enjoyed this restaurant. It has great views, great food and a very friendly bar tender. The last place we tried out was a small joint just south of the city called South Beach Fish Market. It is more of a local spot and it was very busy. Their Halibut fish and chips were great and they sell fresh seafood. We picked up a pound of fresh Dungeness crab meat. I made some crab bisque and enjoyed it with a great bottle of Regusci wine from our recent stay in Napa Valley. We also bought fresh Halibut and made a Halibut Crab bake the next day. We ate well in Newport.

We stayed at the Pacific Shores Motorcoach Resort. Our spot had a beautiful view of the ocean and lighthouse.

Our last night in Newport, when the rain finally broke. It came back the next morning though!

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Bandon, Oregon

After another night of relentless rain in Trinidad, CA we packed up and made our way to Bandon, OR. The drive to Bandon was very interesting. Besides rain we were subjected to high winds and road construction, due to the road having washed away last month.

At one point, as we went over a bridge, it felt like the RV was pushed sideways by the wind. It was a little unnerving. When we stopped at an overlook near Gold Beach I found out just how windy it was. As I opened the door of the motorhome the wind slammed it open and forcefully pulled me outside. Imagine a funny caricature where a person is holding onto something in strong winds and their feet are off the ground as they are blown sideways and you’ll have a good idea of my situation. I was still determined to get a picture of the coastline though, for whatever reason in the wind and rain. As I walked away from the RV the wind blew my eyeglasses off my face and across the parking lot. That was the last straw. I made my way back to the RV and ended up taking a photograph through the windshield of the RV, just for memory sake.

We would have liked to stop by Cape Blanco State Park and tour its lighthouse, but as you can imagine, it was not a good day for that. We continued onward, along Oregon’s coast, to Bandon for a 4-night stay at Bullards Beach State Park.

After parking the RV in our spacious site we headed over to the historic downtown area of Bandon. It is small, but full of quaint restaurants and shops.

We stopped by a fabulous chocolate boutique called Chocolate Mist (http://coastalmist.com/). We usually pass by these types of stores but this one had been recommended by fellow travel bloggers Kevin and Laura from Chapter3Travels (https://www.chapter3travels.com/). We are so happy that we took their advice. All of the chocolate at this store is made on-site and everything we tried was fabulous! In fact, it was so good that we were compelled to revisit the store.

Their coffee, roasted locally, is also fabulous. During our first visit we tried out their signature chocolate dessert. It is absolutely divine! The chocolate mousse just melts in your mouth.

After our indulgence of chocolate and caffeine we drove along the coastline on the edge of town. There are numerous rock formations along Bandon’s coast. This is a primary reason as to why I chose this location for a visit. I was hoping to get some beautiful sunset photos. That was not to be the case though. This is what it looked like on our first day.

One evening we had a little clearing, but not a full sunset.

We also got a little clearing one morning so we spent a couple of hours walking around the beach area, amongst the rock towers.

We checked out the tide pools and found some colorful starfish.

If you are wondering how these rocks were formed, I’ll summarize a plaque that is located at the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint:  Scientists believe a history of earthquakes, volcanoes and erosion along the Oregon Coast contributed to the formation of these rocks. Rocks from volcanic activity moved along the Earth’s crust and were pushed deep underneath the continental plate. Under great pressure, they were uplifted and exposed. Certain rocks resisted erosion and formed these rocks.

Beautiful wildflowers were in full bloom along the coast.

Back at the State Park we drove down to the beach area. I’m amazed as to how many trees wash up on shore. I was wondering where they all came from until I looked up the river and saw a number of trees floating towards the ocean. I imagine there are always trees falling along the rivers, especially this year with so much rain and wind.

At the end of the beach is the Coquille River Lighthouse, built in 1896. I always enjoy checking out lighthouses, and the Oregon coast has a good number of them.

There were a couple of nice birds near our campsite.

One afternoon we drove up to Sunset Bay State Park. The coastline is gorgeously rugged in this area.

There is a fantastic hike along the coast, but with all of the recent rain it was extremely muddy. We tried to hike it, but gave up after sinking into the mud numerous times. Regardless, we enjoyed the sights we were able to see at the vehicle pullouts.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Bandon. It is a beautiful area that we hope to return to one day.

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