Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Casino Camping and Red Tailed Surfperch

The entrance to our campground.
The sounds were electronic, like walking into the area at the fair where the Whack-a-Mole resides. Colored lights were everywhere; flashing, blinking, trying to get your attention. But even more noticeable was all the smoke! Not the smoke from forest fires! Smoke from cigarettes. We were visiting the Snoqualmie Casino. I think the last time Linda and I were in a casino was in Las Vagas and we had just gotten off the Colorado River. The casino parking lot was to be our camping spot for this night on our road trip to Westport. The parking lots were well lit and looked safe.  Inside the casino, we were both not comfortable as we wandered around. We spent some time checking out the gaming area, stood and watched a few minutes, and then headed back to our camper. The smoke was just too much for us to handle. That brief half hour of casino life was enough for us.
Checking out the view.

Walking to our campsite located in a lower parking lot under a big street light, we noticed how clean the area was. This free camping might be something we could use more often.

Earlier that day, we had driven west leaving Post Falls and a little forest fire haze behind. Linda needed an ocean fix so we were dropping in to visit Don and Caroline in Westport, WA. As the miles passed the smoke grew thicker. The plan was to camp somewhere over by Vantage, WA, but as the miles ticked off and the smoke blanketed the Wheatland. We adjusted our plans and kept pushing, searching for smokeless skies.

We made it!!!
We crossed over Snoqualmie Pass and the smoke cleared, but finding a camping spot was a bit harder. Linda checked the Free Camping website and noted that the Snoqualmie Casino was recommended as a semi-quiet free spot so we headed there.

Once we parked and explored a bit we settled in and ate dinner. Our location was good in that we were parked in a safe zone. The light from the street lamp was very bright so it took some doing to get the camper dark enough to sleep, but we were successful.

Traffic was consistent and the gamblers came and went. Some folks stood outside and talked but all in all, it wasn't the worst spot we have camped.  In the morning we packed up and drove on.

Linda beach running with surf fishing happening beyond.
Just after hitting the road, I noticed that the check engine light had come on in the truck. Linda got out the truck operational manual and read about the indicator. It said that we could still drive the rig as long as the indicator didn't flash. With reluctance, we pushed on.

Traffic in the Tacoma/Olympia area was terrible! We spent most of our drive bumper to bumper crawling along. As we neared our exit to Aberdeen, Linda called the Dodge dealership in that city and they said we could stop there and get a reading on what the warning light was saying.

When we arrived we drove directly into their service entrance and a young fellow checked out the code. It had something to do with the transmission and so the first fellow went and got a crusty old mechanic who brought a bigger code reader box. He plugged it in and mumbled as he talked to himself.

Red Tailed Surfperch.
After reading the code and griping about life, he basically said that if the transmission was working ok, then he would drive it and we could probably make it back home. He said that everything read normal and that the code may have been a glitch. He reset the indicator and sent us on our way. He also said that if the light came back on and didn't flash, then we could probably make it home and get it repaired there. Then he huffed and said that he wasn't going to tear it apart on a Friday afternoon, that was for sure.

We thanked everyone and drove on to Don and Carolines, our truck showing nothing to be concerned about.

At Don and Carolines we relaxed, watched football and enjoyed our visit.  We really enjoy those two and love just being around them.  We laugh and talk about what's happening in the world. Don tells stories and we eat and drink.

Bennett at Bennett's.
Caroline and I went surf fishing for Red Tailed Surfperch.  We pulled on our waders and took our rods and reels in hand and marched into the waves. I used a Carolina rig with worm bait and Caroline used a pyramid weight and hook with clam bait. The first time we went to the shores the sun was out and the ocean was calm.  We caught a few, but nothing to write home about.

The next time we went out it was raining, windy and the surf was big.  I caught one fish on my first cast but that was all, we were not very successful.  I would say that we learned a lot about surf fishing, but not enough to brag.  We'll have to give it another chance when we visit again.
Almost bought one, maybe next time.

Caroline, Don, Linda and I went into Westport and ate dinner at Bennett's Fish Shack. They have some of the best fish and chips around so we all loaded up. Don's sons, Chris and Eric had been out fishing over the weekend and we were able to spot their boats in the marina across from the Shack. This confirmed that they were safe from the harsh seas that the weather was providing.

On Monday morning we loaded our camper and headed out. Don and Caroline were packing to go camping at Ft. Worden up by Port Townsend so we needed to get out of their hair and let them go.

We chose to drive home via highway 12. south of Mt. Rainier. We felt that this would get us past all the traffic and road work that we endured on our trip over and would only add a little time to our trek. The plan was to break the trip into two segments like we did on the way over and camp somewhere along the way easing the driving burden.

All was well as we veered south and crossed US-5. Then the check engine light lit again.  I made the decision to continue on because the truck was running like a dream, but I said we would drive home all the way today and get it in for repairs ASAP.

We were cruising and enjoying minimal traffic. Our route took us through Mossyrock and up to White Pass. We were making time and then came the construction. In one area, they were clearing up the results of rock slides. This cleanup stopped us several times for a few minites each time. We continued on.  At one point they detoured us onto a very curvy nerrow road thet led around Rimrock Lake. This detour took forever and we had to drive 25 mph all the way. By the time we reached Naches we were well behind schedule. The truck was running beautifully so we pushed on.

It was smooth sailing and as we approached Ritzville. We finished our book on CD and Linda picked up her phone to check Facebook for stories that she could read to me to entertain me as I drove. There was a traffic warning posted about some power lines that were stopping traffic on our route through Spokane. GREAT!

Linda watched the news feed as we approached our final traffic test. When we arrived everything was moving as smooth as silk heading east.  The west lanes were blocked by a huge wreck, it didn't affect us, but boy did we feel bad for everyone involved over there. We drove on into Post Falls and parked the truck. I was stressed to the max but the work was done.

We unloaded the gear, ordered pizza and watched America Ninja Warrior! Tomorrow I will get our truck into the doctor and get everything taken repaired.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

The Old Pipeline Bed Trail.
The next day was a traveling day. We all packed up and drove US-97 and US-2, which took us through Brewster, Lake Chelan, Wenatchee, and finally, Leavenworth to Nason Creek Campground where we were to camp for the final three nights.
As we neared Leavenworth the smoke from forest fires near the Cle Elum area filled the sky. For the next few days we were faced with smoke-filled valleys and at times, ash falling from above.

The following morning, everyone wrapped up in their jackets and hoodies and we drove back to Leavenworth and then out Icicle Road. We wanted to hike the Icicle Gorge Trail, but as we drove up the valley we noted that the smoke from the wildfires was super thick. We talked about options and decided to try this hike the next day in hopes that the smoke would not be as bad.  Changing plans, we drove back into town and up the highway to the Old Pipeline Bed Trail. This hike leads along the Wenatchee River. It starts by crossing the river on an old half pipeline.
Note the pipe creates the bridge floor. 

As we hiked we noticed that there were spawning salmon lining up in the pools, resting before they continued their journey up to Lake Wenatchee. We spent some time watching them Jump and circle as they hung in the pools.

Grant and rock.
We came to a rocky cliff area and decided to turn back. As we walked we all talked and laughed. We came around a slight corner on the trail and there was a small bear standing, looking over its shoulder at us. As soon as it saw us, it bolted down the trail. Grant gave a shout and I grabbed my camera. I was able to get two shots of the bear butt as it scampered off the trail. That was a very cool animal moment and it made our day.

Fish at rest.
We arrived back at the trailhead and jumped into the Jeep and drove back down to Leavenworth. In town we walked around the crowded streets, checking the shops and searching for a place to sit and eat. We stumbled upon the Blewett Brewing Company where we grabbed seats in the air-conditioned dining room. We ordered pizza and salad and enjoyed a delicious lunch. After lunch, we walked to the Gingerbread Factory and bought a couple of snacks to go.

Linda calls this one "Jumping Salmon."
We returned to the campground and we fixed dinner. After we ate we continued the championship and by the end of the evening the score was tied at six to six.

Morning arrived and we checked the sky. It was still smoky and looked to be another hot day. We drove down to the road that lead up to the Icicle Gorge Trailhead. This time we kept on driving on up to the trailhead parking lot. The smoke was bad, but we didn’t have the possibility of waiting another day for the wind to change and blow the smoke out.

Bear butt!
The Icicle Gorge Trail (River Loop) was a very nice, well-used hike that wound down along Icicle River, crossed on a foot bridge and then continued up the river. The trail system formed a loop and made for a very nice hike along the water’s edge. The hike was very nice, but it would have been spectacular if we could have been able to see all the peaks and crags of the high mountains around us. The smoke was so thick the mountain tops were just vague outlines in the distance.

After the hike, we were on a mission to get a brat and wound up at the Munchen Haus where brats were their claim to fame. We finished our visit with a stop at The Fudge Factory where we all purchased a little sweet treat. The drive back to camp was hot; ash from the fires dusted us as we snaked along the highway.

Our final evening was spent sitting down by the river. Ash fell on us, but by then we had become accustomed to it. We cleaned up and gathered to play our final evening of Skip Bo. Canada had a great final showing and took home the gold. I sang a very poor rendition of “Oh, Canada” (we gotta memorize that song) and we all retired for our final night’s sleep.

Next morning we all packed up and went our separate ways. It was sad to say goodbye, but we had a great few days with Jacquie and Grant. We look forward to more adventures with them. Hurry up and retire, Jacquie!

Down town Leavenworth.
Icicle Gorge and the bridge. 
Along the trail.

Jacquie and friend talk about the forest fire smoke.

Dams and All That

Chief Joseph Dam overlook.
Bridgeport State Park is a very nice small park located on the Columbia River, just outside of Bridgeport, Washington. This park is about 152 miles from Post Falls and takes about 3.5 hours via US 2 W and WA-174 W. We have driven most of the roads on previous trips and so our trip over to the park was a nice drive; uneventful but pleasant.

Grant and Jacquie at Grand Coulee overlook.
We arrived around 1:00 PM and set up in our site, #1. Within an hour Grant and Jacquie arrived and once again we were together for a bit of an adventure. We spent the first evening talking and laughing, ate dinner and then played several games of Skip Bo.

The next morning we loaded into Stinky Jeep and drove past Chief Joseph Dam. The weather was clear and very hot. You might say it was a hot dam day. 

The city of Grand Coulee and the dam.
At the Chief Joseph Dam information pull-out we read the signs at the overlook. It was interesting to read about how the dam was constructed. On to Grand Coulee, where we drove to the overlook and took some photos. 

We took some time to explore the dam visitor center where we watched a movie and explored.  It was very interesting and we learned quite a bit about the history of the lands around Coulee City and the building of the dam.

Creating rivers.
Part of our day's plan was to visit the dam and then drive down to Steamboat Rock and hike to the top of the basalt cliffs. Once we parked at Steamboat and started our hike, we noted the time and how hot it was and decided it might be in our best interest to cancel our climb and go try a different hike. The Northrup Canyon hike had potential to be in the shade part of the hike, so we drove there.

Northrup Canyon was about six miles back in the direction of Electric City We hiked the upper trail for about a three-mile round trip. The climb was in the shade all the way to an area of switch backs and we made that point our turn around. The hike gave us some great vistas looking back at Steamboat Rock and Banks Lake.

By the time we got back to the Jeep we were all famished and so we drove into Grand Coulee to the Pepper Jack Bar and Grill. We chose this place to eat based on several things. One, it was a Bar and Grill; two it was old, and three it was for sale.  How can you go wrong? We had a very good meal. Everyone got their fill of flavorful restaurant food, served by a nice lady in an air-conditioned old Bar and Grill.

Before and after our Steamboat Rock hike.
It was rather late when we drove back to the park so we decided not to have our planned meal and changed to an easier-to-prepare selection. After dinner, we played Skip Bo and of course, I started smarting off about the US beating Canada in the Skip Bo Championship. Everyone ignored me, but I could feel that the competition was elevated. We went to bed with the series tied 3 games to 3.
Tons of old cans from the dam builders camps.
View from the Northrup Canyon hike.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2 Minutes 10 Seconds

It was a very disappointing phone call from our friend Rayelle that gave us the good and bad news. The good news was that an unexpected surgery for her father-in-law had been successful. The bad news was that recovery was going to take longer than they first thought. Our good friends could not join us for our quest for the total eclipse of the sun.  
Our campsite at Fish Creek.
Our plans had developed a few months earlier when we were having dinner with Mike, Rayelle and Julia. They talked of this event, a total eclipse, that hasn’t happened in 26 years.  Linda and I were “in” as soon as they mentioned traveling south to try to get into the path of totality or what is called the "umbral cone".

Plans started forming. We would drive down together and find a campground where we could stay the night of the 20th of August and then the next morning get up and drive into the area of totality.
Breakfast of tater tot egg wheels.

Linda next to Fish Creek, I think.
Linda and I then took a trip to the coast and when we returned we drove through Oregon and visited some friends, Mark and Jerri Lisk, at their home in Adrian, Oregon. We were sitting around talking when Jerri asked us if we were going to view the total eclipse from somewhere. We said that we were planning to travel back down to chase the "umbral cone" and they suggested that we stay at their place. They would be gone during the event and we would have their entire driveway to ourselves. We accepted the offer and called the Andersons letting them know that we had a place that would play host to the eclipse-chasers.

That was our plan.  What turned out was quite a bit different. The Andersons had to stay home due to the extended hospital stay of Mike’s dad. Mark and Jerri had their trip canceled so they would be home when we arrived. By this point, Linda and I were so ready to get back on the road that we left a couple days early for the drive south.

The killer bunny that haunted our campsite.
Grangeville from the road leading down from the CG.
We left Post Falls at about 10:00 AM on the 17th of August. Linda had been looking over maps and we had decided that we should drive the beautiful yet winding highway 95 through Idaho.  A campground caught Linda’s eye. This spot was located just southeast of Grangeville. Grangeville was the halfway point of our trip, so this made the spot a really good choice.  On top of that, the campground was maintained by the Forest Service so with our “Geezer” pass we would only pay half price. Finally, the campground was named Fish Creek Campground so I could fish and we had visions of sitting by the cool clear water eating dinner and watching deer cooling off on the hot days of August. Yes, we are dreamers!

We arrived at the outskirts of Grangeville and Linda guided us around the town and up a steep grade into the National Forest. We passed the city-owned ski area of Snowhaven and turned into Fish Creek Campground. After a tour of the camp sites, we chose a very nice private one and set up our rig. Linda went and paid the $6.00 per night (Ya gotta love the Geezer Pass!) fee and we went for a tour of the area.

Mark celebrated our arrival with a small bonfire!
Map of Adrian and surrounding area.
The sun had set and the air was becoming cooler. We walked around the campground and followed a few trails. We found a very small creek, but it was too small for fish. Dusk had enveloped us so we returned to the camper and fixed dinner.  We sat outside and ate and then turned in early, reading until our eyes drooped shut.

Next day we explored more and found that the little creek we’d seen the day before was Fish Creek.  There would be no fishing; however, we did spook a small deer that was drinking from the trickling water.  We went for several hikes and explored the area. It was a nice quiet campground so we had a very relaxing two days at the halfway point of our adventure.

The chosen view at Snively.
Back on the road, we listened to “Following Atticus” a book on CD by Tom Ryan. Linda spent her time checking maps and drying tears as we drove and listened to a wonderful story about a man and his dog.  I truly think listening to books on CD is one of our favorite things about driving. Linda will stop the CD and we discuss what is happening or where the story might be going. It makes the day’s drive very enjoyable.  This book hit home in many ways. The author/dog owner told a story where both he and his dog made life changes so that each could live happier lives. I thought about our Kobi many times during the book and knew that we had made our dog much happier by providing him a stable life in secure surroundings.

Mark sets up his gear before the event.
Arriving in at the Lisks’ home on the Snake River, we set up and started the plans for viewing the total eclipse on August 21st.

Mark had some ideas so as we made barbecue ribs, we plotted our Sunday of scouting the best viewing spot. We talked about seeking totality and looked up what we thought the area around Adrian would darken down to, it looked like if we stayed around here we would get about 99.3% darkness. Traveling north to Weiser, Idaho would take us an hour. This would guarantee total eclipse but we really didn’t want to get involved with the traffic and trying to find a spot to settle down on. In the end, we chose to stay around where we were and Mark had a few ideas for good photography locations.

We had a great dinner of barbecue ribs. Jerri made her secret BBQ sauce that she acquired while on a spy mission.  Salad and quinoa topped the meal off. You couldn’t ask for a better meal.

The next morning we loaded into their truck and drove up the Owyhee River to the dam where we checked out the two campgrounds that were on the banks of Owyhee Lake.  On the way back, Mark pulled off the road at Snively Hot Spring. The area provided a great river view and if the sky was clear, a perfect area for viewing the eclipse.

Back at the place, Mark gathered his cameras, batteries and other photographic equipment. I did the same, but it only took me a minute and I was ready for the morning. We had another great dinner and went to bed ready for “E” Day!

The next morning we once again loaded into the truck. This time we had cameras, tripods, chairs, food and drinks and most importantly, six sets of special eclipse viewing glasses. We drove into Adrian and stopped to talk with the local welding crew at Martin Manufacturing.  Mark reminded them to wear their welding masks if they watched the eclipse and then just before he left he told them to take the day off.  The owner was standing right there and of course thought, Mark was pretty funny.

On to our site at Snively Hot Spring we drove. We laughed about all the photos we could take with different animals and people looking up at the sun with the special eclipse viewing glasses on. Dogs and cows were probably our favorite subjects, but nothing was off limits for this event.

We set up our chairs as Mark picked his spots and distributed his equipment.  He chose to capture the event with his digital camera connected to a special box that, from what I could gather, did everything needed for the post production of time-lapse video. He also set up his new GoPro Hero 5 and set it to capture a time-lapse of the event. Both cameras were set up on tripods and each was set to capture two total hours of the eclipse event.

When Mark finished his set up, I chose a rock, placed a sock carefully upon it, and then set my GoPro Hero 3 on it and leveled it to what my eye said was the right level.  At the precise time, I started the camera and then let it capture a photo every second for the next two hours. In all, I captured over 6400 photos that I later turned into a time lapse video of the eclipse.

With all three cameras set up and capturing photos, we settled in and started watching the event unfold.

Taken prior to totality.
As predicted by astronomers decades in advance, the moon shadow arrived with perfect accuracy and started making its way across the face of the sun. The event would last about 2 hours and 38 minutes total and we would be able to see about 1 minute and 23 seconds of 99.3% totality at precisely 11:25 am. (It is amazing what tools were on the internet that allowed us to gather these little facts.)

Taken during totality.
During the event, we watched through our special eclipse viewing glasses and followed the progress of the moon.  As the sun grew closer to the 99.3% totality, we were surrounded by an eerie darkness/duskiness and the temperature around us dropped significantly. Without a thermometer we figured it dropped more than ten degrees. It was so weird! 

Right before the total eclipse, little snake-like shadows appeared to slither across some white paper that Jerri had placed upon the ground. We danced in front of the paper and our shadows waved about. We poked holes in paper and watched the eclipse display half-moons of shadow.  Everything around us got quiet and Linda and Jerri said that they heard crickets chirping. It wasn’t completely dark, but dark enough. We stood there taking it all in, not really knowing what to say.
Notice the change in brightness?

The event ended as quietly as it had begun. We packed up the equipment and headed for the local watering hole, The Mirage. Mark entered the bar with his special eclipse viewing glasses on and got a good laugh from the bartender. We had a couple of drinks, ate some snacks and then wandered on across the river to home.

Hole shows the moon over the sun.
Mark and I started processing our time-lapse videos and Jerri and Linda fixed dinner. We were joined at dinner by a friend of the Lisks, Trudy. We talked and ate as the sun set over the ever-changing view of the Snake River before us.  Trudy left and we cleaned up and went to bed.

The next morning we said our good-byes, thanked the Lisks profusely and headed north. We drove 375 miles straight home with only a couple short stops along the way.  As we drove, we finished our book and talked about how great the whole eclipse experience was. Would we do it again? Absolutely! Setting our sights on April 8th, 2024.

Texting Linda's sister, the Andersons and Edwards.
Hard to work with these things on.
It took us a while to drive back home wearing these things!

Our hosts for the eclipse.