Reflection Lake, Mt. Rainer National Park 2018

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Doeswallips State Park and Olympic National Park

Sometimes as I write a post 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, they are precious and worth remembering. 

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

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, and unfortunately we did have 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 over 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 turened out to be a large piece of driftwood. It's interesting how one's mind can transform things to explain what it is you see.

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 didn't include 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 were a three mile loop  through regrown 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 discomfort, 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. 

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 sandwitch. 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 begining of our fulltime RV adventure. We never again slept in our house, prefering 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 even more people than 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". 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Millersylvania State Park, Another relaxed Week

It's been a quiet week for us. We moved on about 58 miles to another Washington State Park, Millersylvania, which is eleven miles south of Olympia.

Since we have visited the Seattle and Olympia areas in the past, and since the weather continues to be quite hot during the daytime, we did not feel particularly inclined to go to the cities or do much other than relax in the campground, reading and napping as the mood struck us. 

Our space was in a fairly open field area surrounded by very tall trees. I choose it by looking at Google Earth hoping to get satellite reception. But, even with the open field, there was at least one tree that blocked the signal.  Not a big deal. The soccer World Cup is over.

The trees were so tall that compared to them, the campers on the far side of the campground seem like toys.

On the first day we were here, I noticed some more blackberry bushes heavy with ripe fruit. I picked some more, and now have a full freezer!

We did do one "touristy" thing this week: we went into Olympia to visit the state capitol building. We have been to many state capitols and enjoy the grandeur and history. A free tour is aways appreciated! The volunteer guides seem to love giving the tours.

Looking Up

We were able to get a better view of the chandelier in the picture above from one of the upper level balconies.

One interesting fact I learned is that the funds to build and maintain the capitol building are derived from lumber sales off public land dedicated to that purpose.

Renewable resources!

After freezing lots of blackberries on our first day, I kept thinking about all the ones that were still out there.

So, on Wednesday, I picked more and made a blackberry pie. We ate it warm with Tillamook vanilla ice cream. Yum!

The weather report for Thursday was for considerably lower temperatures, so we planned on getting out for a walk early in the day.

There is a wonderful network of trails in and around the park where we enjoyed the towering trees overhead.

And, some cozy tunnels through the green. I'm not sure why, but there were no mosquitos. I aways carry a couple of bug wipes, but we didn't need them. Although the forest was green, the state has experienced drought conditions for the last couple of years.

The trip took us to "Deep Lake". On the opposite shore were some pretty nicely landscaped homes.

The fishermen in the boat above were the only ones we saw on the lake that day, but is was a weekday not a weekend.

Speaking of drought, on Saturday it rained quite hard several times in the afternoon, but it cleared in late afternoon and all the campers and kids came back out. The rain cleared the air and dropped the temperature quite a bit.

Rainbow at the end of the day.

On Monday we drove another 70 miles North, but that is for the next post.  

Life can't be much better!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Making Reservations vs. Stopping When and Where We Want

We stayed over a week at Mossyrock Park, which is run by the Tacoma Power District.

 Evening at Riffe Lake, Mossyrock Park

This was the first year I made reservations, mostly at State and National Parks, for all of our over 90 nights of summer travel, before we left Jojoba in Spring. In other years I have made reservations for special places, like when I made reservations at Florida State parks in the Keys eleven months ahead. But I mostly have relied on making online reservations a few days or week ahead. I found this only worked part of the time and I sometimes ended up calling commercial parks as we traveled. These were mostly one night stays, that I picked  out of the Passport America book or used the Allstays site on the web. I do try to look at some of the reviews, but if it was same day, it was hard. Personally, I find hunting for a park or even a Walmart quite stressful while driving on a travel day, and we often want to stay in a place for several days. 

Cost and security are both very important to me. We do not use the big golf courses or other amenities that are included in the cost of some high end commercial parks. Nor am I comfortable with the tight spaces found at some of the old, and often NOT less expensive, commercial parks. 

Even with the reservation fee charged on State Park reservations, I find that we average a savings of $10 or more per night. Which comes to at least $900 for the summer! We put that into our fuel budget, and get to stay at some of the prettiest, friendliest places in the country. Of course we could save even more if we boondocked, but that is not our way.

Our rig is a 35' class A.
Some state and national parks have size limits of less than that, or have only a few larger spots. Some have no size limits. The upper area of the Mossyrock Park, called the Birds-Eye area, had no size restrictions. Ours was probably the only spot with two big trees, but we were still able to get satellite below the branches.

Getting a spot in most State parks during the week is no problem.
But we have found they are usually quite full on weekends, with more local people just getting away for a few days, or camping with their friends and families.

We see many groups on weekends. 

This friendly couple was "holding down the fort" for the others in their large group, who were out on the lake.

Their group of 40 reserves the same adjacent spaces every year, months in advance. Lots of kids, lots of bikes! Unfortunately they cannot have a campfire at the center of their large circle of chairs because there a burn ban went into effect two nights ago.

So, since we are retired and camping full time in the summer, reservations are required if we want to stay for the weekends at State Parks.

We do not have a boat, nor do we fish, but we like lakes, and it really doesn't take much to amuse us. 

One evening we took a ride down a small road  had a sign that read "Dam Viewing Point".
At the end of the road was what felt like a forgotten little park. It had a moss encased information sign that told us this dam was the tallest in Washington, and that it generated 40% of Tacoma Power's electricity. 

Ah! Summer Vacation!
We also came across this group of happy looking teenagers. We noticed they were not smoking anything, and only seemed to have a 12 pack of Mountain Dew.
 But remembering our own youth, we wondered what they might be putting in it! 

Later in the week we stopped a roadside pull out from which we could see the other side of the dam. I thought this picture tells the story: big dam, perfect summer sunny day, boy fishing. 
There were several other people fishing, but he seemed to have the best seat.

While at Mossyrock, we took a 75 mile round trip Jeep ride to see the "other" side of Mt. Saint Helen.

East side of Mt. Saint Helen

 We viewed her from west side last year.

A farther ridgeline in the blast area

It was interesting to see the difference between the areas that have been replanted by the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, vs. natural regrowth. 

Trees in the blast zone all lie in the same direction.

Before the eruption, Spirit Lake had several Boy Scout Camps and private lodges along its shores.

One man famously lost his life, when he refused to leave his lodge on the lake before the mountain blew. The white edges of the lake, in the image above, are huge floats of logs washed down since the eruption in 1980.

There is a steep trail down to the shoreline, but there is no public access to the waters of Spirit Lake now.

There was some haze from distant fires, but we were able to see Mt. Adams from the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. We could not see Mt. Hood, which can be seen on a clear day, but got a glimpse of Mt. Rainier on the drive back.

As we looked at Mt. Saint Helen, I noticed something that looked like a cloud rising from a ridge.

Using the zoom on my camera, I was able to see it better and decided it might be a volcano vent.
It was all rock, so it couldn't have been a wildfire. 

She is still active!

We did do other things while at this park, including visiting our  new friend Kay from Jojoba, where we will be camping during the Labor Day weekend, and going to the local diner for a fish fry.  

Live music was being played
We heard about the local Blueberry Festival that was held in town over the weekend, and decided to stop in. As a previous exhibitor at Art and Craft Festivals I had great sympathy for the vendors at this one. It was almost deserted. 

But, all in all it was a quiet, relaxing, long week, just living the life.

Moving on Monday.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mt. Rainier National Park Day Two

We were up early Friday to get an early start on our 100+ mile, round trip drive to the Sunrise Visitors Center and back to the rig. 

We were relieved to be able to drive without endangering the bike racers, and stop at many of the view points along the way. 

We were able to get a good look at the blue ice of the glaciers on Mt. Rainier and the White River, which is the runoff  from  one of the glaciers.

As I watched Craig make his way across the rocks at the edge of the wildly churning ice water, I wondered if this might be the last picture I would have of him.

Of course it was not, he got up close to the waters. He could have done the same with my 25X zoom lens from above. But this was more fun.

There were many wildflowers growing along the roadside. 

We first learned about this kind (Fireweed) 
on our trip 
to Alaska last year.

The leaves turn brilliant red in fall, and look like small fires along the road.

Looking away from Mt. Rainier

Who needs to go to Alaska? Between the glacial-runoff rivers, fireweed wildflowers, and rugged peaks on the horizon, many of the landscapes were similiar to those we saw last year in Alaska.

There were many trails that start or go through the Sunrise VC area.
We walked one of the shorter ones and got a good view of the Edmonds Glacier on this side of the mountain.

This is a close-up of a crevasse that's visible in the Emmons Glacier above. We have no reference to know how big this feature was, but its size would probably surprise us.  

I think the river in the image above is the White River. 

Later in the afternoon we noticed some large cumulus clouds rising high in the clear blue sky to the east. The posted weather report at the VC said there was a chance of thunderstorms by evening.

Needless to say we were concerned, because while rain is welcome, lightning strikes start wildfires. As it happened the clouds blew away.

On Saturday morning, we were out of the park by about 9:30 am. We noticed a lot more traffic coming in on the road to the park entrance than we had seen in the two days before. 

image from web


I watched my odometer as we drove past them at the entrance. There was a back up of almost a mile and more coming.

The best time to see any National park is during the week, preferably not in the summer months. I think we will be back another time, it was so beautiful!