Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ashford, WA to Sandpoint, ID

After yesterday's update, I made the choice to drive to the entrance of Mt. Ranier National Park so that way I'd be there and ready to go first thing in the morning.  Most of that trip was after dark - which is normally something I won't do when traveling this way.  I like to see where I am (and more importantly, what I'm missing).  Lots of dark and winding roads, a few deer on the side of the road to keep me alert, but otherwise a non-eventful drive.

Almost.

I was approaching the small town of Ashford from the west.  It was near or after 11:00 pm.  I noticed emergency flares and equipment from quite a distance up the road.  As I reached the flares, I was approached by a gentleman who told me that on the road just ahead, a tree had fallen and took out the power lines.  The lines were across the road.  They were waiting for the power company to come and cut the power so they could cut up the tree and remove it from the roadway.  I had the option to go back one town... about 15 miles back, or to pull over into the church parking lot at the side of the road to wait (he suspected it wouldn't be more than an hour to remedy the issue).  He informed me that the church doors were open in case anyone needed to use the restroom while they waited.  So, I waited.

The later it got, the more I wished I could just stay parked where I was for the evening and then finish the short drive to the park once I had gotten up.  Just before they cleared the road, I was talking to another lady and her daughter in the parking lot.  Conversation touched on how I was from out of state.  I happened to mention to her that I wondered if anyone would mind if I remained where I was parked for the night... and she informed me that the gentleman I'd originally talked to when I stopped was the pastor of the church!  Nice!  As the waiting cars filed out of the church parking lot, I walked up and explained that I was from out of state, unfamiliar with the area, and super tired... and I asked him if he would mind if I crashed in the Jeep until morning.  He was totally cool with it.  Gotta love small town folk sometimes.

Thank you!

I was up and rolling again by just a little after 7:00 am.  I think I was located way down in a valley, because this monstrosity of a mountain was nowhere to be seen.  And I started to become a little concerned with the clouds I saw off in the distance - I was afraid that Mt. Ranier was going to play the same game of hide-and-go-seek that Mt. Hood did earlier in the week.  But, I was already there and continued...


Fortunately, I was wrong and had been looking in the wrong direction.  It wasn't until just before I reached the first visitor center within the park that the mighty mountain came into view for the first time.

Pictures really don't do it justice... particularly cell pictures.

























I noticed as I made my way through the park that there were a very large amount of waterfalls here too... and it took a lot of restraint on my part to not stop and photograph EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them.


I can't decide what I stopped to photograph more of... the waterfalls or the mountain.



I made myself progress through the park, and I was out on the east side by noon.  Determined to make some distance, I hoped to get into Spokane before calling it an evening.

Some of my scenery along US Highway 2 - reminds me of the default Windows XP desktop wallpaper.

I arrived in Spokane by 6:30 pm, stopped at a truck stop along the interstate to get a shower, fuel and dinner... and then decided to push on since I still had some daylight left.

So tonight, I reside in the lovely town of Sandpoint, Idaho.  Tomorrow's goal is to get in, and through Glacier National Park. This includes a trip up to the Polebridge Mercantile and Kintla Lake... as well as across Going To The Sun Road.  It should make for a very full day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Long Beach to Forks to Tacoma (WA)

I left Long Beach, WA continuing north along Hwy 101.  I would be entering Olympic National Forest & Park for the first time, and was not sure what to expect.

The scenery changed the further north I traveled.  It transitioned from rock and sand to more prominent forests - very tall trees, very dense forests.


I arrived into the southwest corner of the park.  Much of this area was residential and campgrounds.  I couldn't find a definitive answer on how far the road I was on went into the park - I had read that all roads in Olympic were spur roads, and did not connect.  Knowing this, I only drove in about 12 miles.  The road ran parallel with Lake Quinault.  Fantastic lake views!  I did stop for a brief session to photograph a waterfall area.

This image does not do it justice - better images to come.

As I continued along the highway, there was an overabundance of parking areas for beaches.  These beaches were the ones that you often see in photos and movies... with the open water and the large rocks out in the middle.  I stopped at a LOT of these beaches on the way... I mean, a LOT.












































































I arrived into Forks, WA mid-afternoon.  I stopped off at the visitor center and got a couple of the area waterfall maps and the map for Olympic NP.  After driving through town, and stopping for fuel, I drove to the LaPush and Rialto Beaches.


























At the entrance of the LaPush boundary...

























The beaches at LaPush were more impressive than what I had seen earlier!






















































































































































Although the sky was very overcast-y, I decided to come back to Rialto Beach later and try to photograph the sunset.  In the meantime, I went back into Forks and had dinner at Pacific Pizza.

The sunset on the beach wasn't a complete bust... it wasn't breathtaking or anything, but there was color.  And I watched the Coast Guard helicopter patrol the beach and the water in that area.  Once most of the light had gone, I returned to Forks to park and sleep.

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I woke very early this morning - pre-6:00 am, which is quite early for me on this trip.  Instead of trying to go back to sleep, I stayed up and pushed on... in attempt to make up for yesterday's dismal distance.

I consulted the waterfall map that I got at the visitor center in Forks the previous afternoon, and decided to see if I could find the ones on/close to my route.

I ended up back in Olympic NP before 8:00 am for a short hike to find the Sol Duc Falls - a 2 mile round-trip hike from the end of the park road.  It was well worth the trip, and was probably the most impressive set of falls that I witnessed today.



I stopped and photographed a handful of other waterfalls (but this is the only other one I got with my phone).

I stopped off in Port Angeles to top off fuel and grab a quick lunch before heading up into Hurricane Ridge.


























What an unexpected contrast between the waterfall and forested areas and Hurricane Ridge!  I hadn't expected to see white-capped mountains within Olympic - it didn't seem right that somewhere so green and lush would also have these high peaks with snow on the ground.  But there it was, in all its glory.  And it was amazing!



















































I took the road from the visitor center toward Obstruction Point - an unpaved road that most people don't take.  It made a fantastic addition to the trek, and gave some alternate perspectives.


Eugene and I... we like it here.  :)

























After coming down from Hurricane Ridge, I thought it best to boogie along and get some miles in.  I'd lingered a lot today, and was out of the Jeep almost as much as I was in it.  I needed to make up some time.

From Port Angeles to Tacoma, WA - which is where I am now.  For now.  I was looking at driving down into Mount Ranier National Park tomorrow... but I think I may start that journey tonight.  That way I can be back into this area, hopefully, by mid-day tomorrow.  Then I'll jump on US Hwy 2, and begin the journey back eastward.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mt. Hood to Columbia River Gorge to Long Beach, WA

I drove out to Timberline Lodge on the foothills of Mt. Hood yesterday, in hopes of having a more up-close and personal experience seeing the mountain.  Not so much.  While the weather was pretty clear in Portland, Mt. Hood was a bit shy and did not want to show itself.  :(  I did see plenty of rain, snow, and clouds while I was there.

Minus the clouds, it should live right there in the center of this photo.

But the low-lying farms and orchards were kind of pretty.

























With Mt. Hood being a bust, I decided that a cruise through the Columbia River Gorge would be a suitable remedy.

Umm... whoa.

























By the time I reached the waterfall portion of the Gorge, night was drawing near.  I did get some pretty cool waterfall shots on the camera before it got too dark, but the cell camera couldn't handle it - so I'll post some of the actual shots once I get them processed.

I camped out near the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.


I camped out and got to it again early the next morning.  The weather wasn't as nice as the forecast had been predicting... but it was run-of-the-mill Pacific Northwest rain... and that was okay.  I got more photos of more waterfalls, but really enjoyed the scenic US Highway 30 route almost as much.  I've never seen anywhere quite so green before - it was gorgeous!

Multnomah Falls

Section of the drive...

I finished up in the Gorge, and decided it was worth one last trip to Voodoo Donuts before I left the Portland area.  This will serve as breakfast for the next few mornings.


























I drove SR 26 back out to Cannon Beach - where I originally came in from - to continue my trip up US 101 where I had left off.  There was a ton of beautiful shoreline, and I discovered a handful of beaches where it was legal to drive.  I drove the beach (instead of the road) between Seaside and Warrenton - approximately 8 miles.



















































I reached the end of the line in Oregon - Astoria - famous for the movie The Goonies.  :)  I hung around the water for awhile, getting photos and taking a break from driving.  Then it was time to cross over into Washington on the Astoria-Megler Bridge - an impressive span!





































































































I meandered north on the Washington coast - enjoying the beach driving wherever it was available.   I ended up stopping early for the day in Long Beach, WA.

I was on the beach waiting for the sunset colors when I noticed a lot of people around a mini-van towards the beach access entry.  Upon further investigation, the van contained a bunch of teenagers, their mom and grandmother (or so it appeared).  The van was stuck in the soft sand - the driver either "missed" the hard-pack sand runway, or just thought she could make it.  A couple of other people stopped to try and help them by attempting to dig out the wheels.  But once she started to drive again, she would only bury the vehicle further.  I offered to help them and strap them out.  After realizing she was making no progress doing it the way the other folks suggested, she was willing to let me try.  I pulled my recovery strap from the Jeep, and we threaded it through the passenger side control arm on the van.  After a couple of gentle tugs, she regained forward momentum and was on the hard-packed sand again.  They thanked me a million times over, and helped me put the strap away.

The only evidence was the aftermath...

And I was still able to get some last minute sunset photos.  :)
Not a bad day!  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Overnight to Crater Lake

Originally, I'd thought about taking an overnight away from the farm to go visit Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood.  However, after consulting with my friendly weather source, I reconsidered.  They were predicting rain/snow mix for both Thursday and Friday in that area.  As an alternative, I pulled the weather for Crater Lake NP - lo and behold, it was showing partly sunny weather for both days.  Change of plans!

Crater Lake NP was a 4-1/2 hour drive, each way.  I left Portland at 2:00 pm yesterday afternoon, and rolled into the park about 6:30 pm.  I was still well ahead of sunset - that seems to happen pretty close to 10:00 pm in these parts.

Tunnel on SR 58.


Arrival!

























The initial "whoa" moment once the lake came into view.














































There wasn't much tourist traffic, I assume, due to the time I came into the park.  It felt like I had the place mostly to myself.  I had read where the entire expanse of the park road around the lake was not fully open yet due to snow still on the road.  I chose to drive what I could find access to.

I also got out and hiked where I could, but there was a LOT of snow still on the ground in most places, particularly in lower areas.  There were many times that I got out to hike, and lost the path under the snow.  I chose not to continue with those trails as to not get lost.  However, on a few occasions, I could see where the trail resumed on the other side of a patch of snow - but not always.


Phantom Ship

A look at what I do... sometimes.  :)

This, on the good camera and not the cell, looks freaking fantastic!


I drove and hiked until the southern part of the park road ended - near the Sun Notch trailhead.  I learned later this morning that it was closed to the north at the Cleetwood Cove Trail trailhead.  The western 1/2 or so of the lake road was open.


I drove/hiked/photographed as much as I could while the daylight allowed, and once I was lacking, I parked the jeep at the Crater Lake Lodge to sleep.

I woke up to 2 fresh inches of... THIS.  Kinda reminds me of home...

And the view driving to the northern end of the park this morning:

























I hung around the park for a few hours after I got up, hoping that maybe there would be a break in the weather... but there was not.  So I decided to meander my way back to Portland - not rushing, but instead, taking my time to see the sights that I zipped by on the way out.

The weather was pretty stereotypical 'Pacific Northwest' weather almost all the way back to the interstate, so I didn't get out much.  But, I did decide to stop in and visit Eugene... in Eugene.  :D

From there, I stopped in Salem for lunch and new wiper blades for the jeep - my previous ones proved to be about toast in all the rainy and snowy weather.  And then from Salem, it was a straight shot back to "Home, Sweet RV."

I've decided, and confirmed with my farm hosts, that the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood can be done in afternoons... if I truly wanted to do it that way.  I think I will.  Potentially as early as Monday, I'll head out that way to do some exploration.