Alpaca at Seven Star Ranch, Coeur d'Alene ID, 2018

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Coeur d'Alene, Hike, Alpaca Ranch, Boat Trip

Our summer tour of Oregon and Washington is over.

It is time to turn the wheels south again. But first we spent 3 days enjoying the Coeur d'Alene Idaho area. This was just a quick look-see. Someday we want to come back and spend a longer time exploring this area.

For some reason the 48 miles from Elk to Coeur d'Alene was quite exhausting. Maybe it was the traffic in Spokane. In any event, after a short rest at Blackwell Island RV Resort, we took a short hike on the Tubbs Hill Trail on Friday afternoon.

The trail starts at a harbor on the east side of Tubbs Hill and goes up and around the hill, overlooking the lake for about 2 miles. Some of it is a bit rough, but at the west end is another harbor and an easy street level route back to the beginning.

Here are a few pictures we took on the hike. No words are necessary.

TripAdvisor is a good source for top tourist attractions. If you only have a few days in a place, a quick look there can keep you busy.

On Saturday we went to the Five Start Alpaca Ranch, their top "thing to do" in Coeur d'Alene.

The $10 per person tour was wonderful!

After a sitdown talk about raising llamas and alpacas, and running a ranch such as this, we went out to the barns and pens to meet the animals. We started with some chickens and goats, and then as we walked through an empty barn, this alpaca peeked through the top of a stall from the outside to see what the people were doing.

What's not to love?

Next we went out to a large pen area where there were dozens of alpacas, llamas, and a few goats. They were all quite used to people, but we were told not to touch them.

I had fun taking pictures!

Each animal was delightfully unique.

This rather large goat liked Craig a lot and kept rubbing against him.

After awhile, our social time came to an end and the herd quietly gathered near one of the gates. They all knew that it was time for them to be turned out into a twenty acre pasture for the afternoon.

The exit was orderly, but I sure wouldn't have wanted to try to stop any of them. What a fun place to visit. I highly reccomend checking out the Seven Star Ranch if you are in the area.

One pleasant way to learn a little more about an area is to take a tour of some sort. Since the main feature of Coeur d'Alene is the lake, a boat cruise was a good bet.

Sunday was a beautiful day for a 90 minute scenic cruise. We learned a little history, but mostly heard about all the rich and famous people who have homes on her shores.

Big beautiful houses, 
   big interesting houses, 
     and big luxury hotels.

Coeur d'Alene is a playground for the rich, but it has plenty of room for, and welcomes, average people like us too.

We would have liked to stay for a few more days, but a Roadtrek rally is coming in on Monday.  

Many arrived and began filling the park on Sunday. So, on Monday morning we will travel on up to Sandpoint Idaho. Another place we want to see.

More to come ~

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fair Park RV Camping, and Visiting Friends

One often-overlooked camping resource is the many state and county fair parks that have RV hook ups, or simply allow RV dry camping. Except when their annual fair or other events are in session, they are often sparsely populated.  We stayed one night at the Grant County Fairgrounds, which is in Moses Lake, WA.

Although they are generally not beautiful nor luxurious, they are often inexpensive and available without reservations. 

So if you are looking for a convenient overnight stop, consider a fair park. 

But sometimes information about them is a bit hard to find.

I use a variety of resources to find our RV spots, including books and the web. As an experiment, I Googled "RV parks in Moses Lake, WA", and I got 22 listings including trailer parks, dispersal camping, and commercial parks. The Grant County Fairgrounds was not included. I then Googled "RV Camping, Moses Lake WA", and got five listings, also excluding the fair park. 

I found it while doing a search on the Allstays Pro app for a one night stop over, part way between Morton, WA and Elk, WA.  I also found it on the RV Parks Reviews site. Both are great resources. The pull-thru site at the Grant County Fairground was level, easy to get into, and had full hook ups, all for $20 per night. Not a destination, but a great place to sleep safely.

Visiting friends

One of the nice things about RVing is being able to visit friends  around the country. This week we were able to visit two special couples.

Last spring, while discussing summer travel plans with the ladies in the sewing room at Jojoba Hills, I mentioned we had not yet figured out where we wanted to be for Labor Day. (It can be important to plan holidays well in advance.) A lady named Kay invited us to come to their eight-member co-op on the banks of the Tilton River. 

Getting together with new friends at the Buck Snort restaurant in Morton

We had a delightful time getting to know each other better, having dinners both at the campground and in town.

One of the other campers' dogs kept Craig company

It was a very nice Labor Day weekend, away from the crowds in a beautiful place! 

From there we traveled east to Elk Washington, north of Spokane, to visit another friend. 

Before becoming a full time RVer, I spent forty years creating and selling my own line of animal head sculptures. In the early years my process was to crochet, without patterns, the animal head  "skin" and mount it over a paper mâché sculpture. 

In the 1980's a local Los Gatos CA pediatrician, Dr. Bennett,  purchased five pieces for his new office. At some point he moved his practice to Elk Washington, and again uses them in his office decor. A few years ago we reconnected, and when we went full time he invited us to visit if we came his way. This was the year we did.
Dr. Bennett and Merikay with some of the animal heads in his office

He told me his patients love them. It was a delightful experience for me to see my work from so many years ago still being appreciated.

While there, we spent two wonderful evenings with David and his wife, Luann, at their beautiful home. She is a great cook and served us two wonderful dinners. 

They have recently bought a Safari motorhome and are looking forward to traveling around the country, part time. They both had many questions and we shared what we have learned over the years.  

We dry-camped in a field on their land.

One morning we noticed a flock of Guinea Hens on the road edge. I hopped out of the Alfa, in my night gown, and took a few pictures.

They may not be "wildlife" but it was fun to be able to take pictures of them.

This has been a perfect wrap-up week for our Washington/Oregon summer. We hope to either visit again, or possibly meet up and camp together.

RV Life is Good

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Oil leaking from Wheel hub changes our plans

It's hard to believe it has been eight days since my last post. We are alive and well and are enjoying the cool weather on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. This should probably be two posts, instead of one long one.

We have just spent a week at the Forks 101 RV Park, but our next planned stop was changed from going to another park on the Washington coast, to a stop inland at the Freightliner Service Center in Olympia.

The front wheels on our Freightliner chassis have oil-filled bearings. When we were at the Sol Duc Resort, we noticed patterns of black material on the cover of the Alfa's passenger side front wheel. We couldn't tell if this was new or if it had built up over a period of time, but either way there would be no help for us at the National Park.

We knew our next stop, Forks WA, was only 40 miles away and figured we would be able to drive there. Craig took the following picture of the wheel.

Then he thoroughly cleaned the hub cover so we could see if there was any new material on it after our drive.

There was, but not much. Craig posted this picture on the new alfaSeeYa forum on groups.io, and got some helpful advice and offers to help. We have learned so much from following this group, and have tried to add information we have discovered over the years we have owned the Alfa.

[From Craig] I found the wheel cover nut wrench that came with our Alfa when we bought it used. It's a small flimsy thing, and I couldn't get the wheel cover nuts off using it. 

So I went to NAPA and bought their longest socket wrench and a 1-5/8" socket, plus some Blaster which I've read about for years.  Great stuff -- the 3 nuts that hold the wheel cover came right off.  The hub looked cleaner than I expected, but the oil level was a little low.  Called Freightliner and they said it wanted 80-90W gear oil.  So back to NAPA for that.  Turned out that the drain plug (which was positioned at the top of the hub) was loose. I added some gear oil to where the level was above the minimum shown on the hub window, and tightened the drain plug about as tight as seemed right for a plastic plug. I cleaned all the black stuff from the wheel cover before putting it all back together.

At this point we might have just kept an eye on it and had it checked out when we go in for our annual Freightliner service in Salt Lake City (scheduled for September 17), but we still have coverage from an Extended Warranty that expires on September 6. So instead of spending a few more days on the coast when we left Forks on Tuesday, we went directly to the Freightliner Service Center in Olympia. 

Our experience there was great in three ways. 

First when we pulled in, the service writer gal was efficient and scheduled an inspection ASAP. 

Second, after removal of the wheel to check the brakes, the evaluation was that there was no oil on the brake components and all was OK. The seals were also OK and the loose plug had caused the problem. Any new oil on the outside of the wheel cover was residual.

Third, the total bill was $37.75. A good deal for peace of mind!

Since Millersylvania State Park was only three miles away, we went there and were happy to get a nice spot. It is mid-week, so we were not suprised by the availability.

Now, back to our week in Forks:

We have been jokingly saying we feel we have finally outrun summer and the fires. Some of our afternoons were sunny, but on others the sky was overcast. It was hard to tell if this haze was smoke or marine influence. Sunny or not, the daytime temperatures were pleasantly cool, and our warm quilt was welcome at night. 

On Wednesday, we drove about ten miles west to Rialto Beach.

The tree line above the beach feels like a post-hurricane debris field, littered with stripped trees and bleached driftwood. I guess this is just the ongoing effect of the ocean winds and high tides.

The ocean and the coastline rocks were quite rough. There was some fog.

I wonder if this is the stump of a tree that grew here,  or it is a driftwood stump that washed up and happened to be roots down as the rock and sand washed in around it. Whatever its source, it was one big tree!

The beach itself was not sandy like some. All of the rocks were very worn and tumbled smooth.

Our next stop for the day was La Push. For anyone who has read the Twilight vampire books, this is where the Native American Indian "werewolves" lived.

Back-to-back signs at the town line:

The beach in the town of La Push is called "1st Beach." It is sandy and also littered with lots of large driftwood logs.

I can't imagine how old this tree was, and how many years have passed since it came down and washed up here.

Friday was a bit sunnier. We took a fairly long drive south to the Lake Quinault area for lunch at the big old lodge there.

Lake Quinault Lodge
President Roosevelt stayed there in 1938 when he came to see the area he would later designate to be set aside as Olympic National Park.

After lunch we headed back North on US 101. Along the way we took two detours to visit a couple of record trees.

There are Douglas Firs that are taller, but this was a record Red Cedar.  Quite a sight!

As I review the many images we take on each of our outings, I try to choose those that are a little different. The next three were taken on our walk at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center area. 

Club Moss drapes almost every twig and branch.

Several Gray Jays, also called  Canada Jays, flitted about keeping an eye on us. It seemed every time I got one in focus he would fly to the next branch. I would have loved to sit around quietly with a tripod.

I wondered if these trees both fell in the same storm.

It rained on Saturday, and was quite overcast on Sunday, so I took advantage of the time and did the wash and relaxed in the Alfa. We do love our time at State and National Parks, but it is also a treat to have a laundry in the park, satellite TV, a good Verizon connection, and a good grocery store just across the street! (I'm pretty good at keeping the larder stocked with everything we need, and making substitutions when necessary. But it is nice to be able to just run to the store when you run out of something while cooking.)

Monday was a perfectly glorious, sunny day for our drive up to Cape Flattery.

The road was good, and I was suprised to see several RV parks overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca. We also saw several small marinas. 

When we got up to Neah Bay we stopped at the Makah Tribe Museum to get the required $10 permit to go out to the Cape Flattery viewpoint. It is on reservation land.

No photographs are allowed inside the museum, but this is the front door.

Since the trail is an easy hike, there was a rapid turnover of people, and we didn't have to wait for the next parking spot to open up.

The path out to the Cape was well maintained. It was obvious that it could get quite muddy, and many parts either had rounds of cedar embeded in the path, or thick cedar plank boardwalks. There were a lot of up and down steps, so the path is not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.

It is incredibly difficult to choose only a few of the pictures we took, to share in this post.

Wild, surging waters are always a favorite.

Catching a splash is a fun photographic challenge. 

Going to a place like this reminds us of the relentless power of the sea and how it is not controlled by man or country.

This is our "official" image from Cape Flattery

There is always on ongoing battle between land and sea. This tree tenaciously fights the wind and rock.

Eventually the eroding power of water will win as it carves away at the cliffs, creating huge caves that will eventually colapse.

After having a small picnic lunch on a bench on one of the view point decks, we headed back up the trail to the car.

These are a couple of the last Olympic Peninsula pictures we took.

Craig found a natural tree while I rested on a bench near by.

Autumn is just around the corner. New places to go.  New things to see. 

Life is Good!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dosewallips State Park and Olympic National Park

Sometimes as I write posts for this blog, I remind myself that I'm doing it to record our travels, so that someday I can sit back and remember all of the wonderful places we've been. Although every day may not be eventful or exciting, as a whole they are precious and worth remembering. 

My posts are also a sort of "postcard" to my family and friends, and anyone who might want to know what we are doing.

In the third week of August we were at the Dosewallips State park on the Hood Canal. As you can see, the sites are large and fairly open. Unfortunately we had a little smoke haze, but overall the temperatures were pleasant and the sleeping was good.

While here, we went on a couple of nice walks from our site.

The Dosewallips River runs to the Hood Canal along the edge of the park. It was rather low, but we saw the evidence of much larger flows, probably from spring storm runoff.

We walked to and out onto the beach along the Hood Canal, when the tide was out.

As we walked the path through the wetlands at the edge of the beach, we notice what at first appeared to be a leaping fish sculpture in the distance. It seemed like a strange place for such a thing, but it was intriguing.

It turned out to be a large piece of driftwood. It's interesting how one's mind can transform things to explain what you're seeing.

The beach was very broad and composed of mucky puddles, coarse sand, and billions of clam and oyster shells.

The above picture makes it look deserted. It was not; there were many people out digging for clams. But none of the pictures I took of them were in focus, so I haven't included them.  Although it looks gloomy, there was some sun. The sky was grayed by the haze from the fires, not clouds.  

We chatted with several clamming families, who were digging their limits of 40 clams each. Since neither of us had boots or a rake and shovel, or wanted to dig in the muck, we decided to eat clams at a local restaurant later in the week.

Another of our walks took us up into the forested part of the park.

The Steam Donkey and Maple Valley Trails formed a three mile loop through replanted logging land. 

Most of the trail was easy, with just a bit of up and down.

Many of the larger (dry in summer) streams had little platform bridges across them. 

There was really only one place were the trail split and we had to decide which way to go, up or down. We choose up.

At one switchback turn shortly thereafter, I noticed this tree that seemed to point the way we should go.

It was correct. We think the downward path just went into the canyon below, but it wasn't on our trail map so we were glad we didn't take it.

I know three miles isn't a very long hike, but it has become just about right for me this year. I've been having a little knee pain, and was happy to rest with an ice pack when we returned to the Alfa for the afternoon. I hope it doesn't get worse.

On Thursday evening we went over to the Geoduck  Tavern for some local seafood. Readers who know about shellfish will recognize "geoduck" as the largest burrowing clam in the world.  We were disappointed that the restaurant didn't serve their namesake.

The patio seating overlooked the Hood Canal.

We enjoyed watching the swallows swooping over the wetlands to catch their dinner.

I had the clam chowder and a fish and chips basket, and Craig had an oyster sandwich. All was quite good.

On Friday we headed north to the Sol Duc Hot Springs campground, which is ten miles into the Olympic National Forest. 

Five years ago, at about the same time in August, we camped there while our realtor made the final arrangements and put our home on the market. Although it took some months for a final sale, I look at that time as the beginning of our fulltime RV adventure. We never again slept in our house, preferring to stay in the Alfa at Camp Driveway until we were free. 

What an amazing five years it has been! 

Image from the Web of Sol Duc Resort
We only went into the hot spring pools once while we were there. The above picture, while from the web, shows how crowded it can be. In fact, I think we shared it with as many people as are pictured here.  Plus the water was not very hot, and was a murky green with "stuff" floating in it. It just did not feel healthy, so we skipped further soaks.

However, the Olympic National Park did not disappoint. We went on a couple of nice walks through the forest.

The Ancient Grove area was magical. 

We were lucky there were no others on the trail when we walked it.

I will never stop being amazed by how tall the trees grow. It makes me a bit dizzy to try to see the tops.

On another day we walked to the Sol Duc Falls. There was a steady stream of other hikers, and we did have to wait a bit for a parking spot, but there was also an overwhelming feeling of awe and sharing. 

The National Parks belong to all, and all are welcome.

This time and this place is definitely "Merikay's Dream".