Fort Casey And The Ferry Show

September 4-5, 2018

We left North Cascades and set our sights on Whidbey Island Washington.  Years ago we took an Alaskan cruise and spent a little time in the Seattle area first, including some hiking on the island.  It made the list for a return visit, especially since we can bring the house this time.

Fort Casey State Park

So we get to our destination, Fort Casey State Park, and I whip out my planner to confirm that we’re in site 25.  A nice convenient pull-through site with a view of the ferry terminal literally right next door.  The high-fivin’ stops when we realize that site 25 has fab views, but no water, power or sewer and there’s not even a dump station in the park.  Somehow I neglected to note this important fact and we did not come with a full water tank.  In fact we came with very little water.  That’s ok, we’ll just fill up the tank at the spigot across the way…. And that’d be a no.  The faucet doesn’t have any way to connect a hose.  Ok, for the next 3 days we’ll just have to sacrifice and eat out to conserve water.  And we came clean, so we’ll just take spit baths.

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This is our view of the ferry terminal.  It’s a quiet boat and doesn’t honk any horns or make much noise at all.  You feel more than hear the pulsing engines when it gets close, but other than that, it’s great.  We’re calling it the ferry show.

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The next episode is about ready to begin.  A new batch of cars, semis and RVs are queued up to get on and we can see some trucks inside ready to get off.  They ran this thing like clockwork and we were mesmerized.

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The gulls screamed, the crows sqawked and we smelled that brisk salt air.  Temps were so nice that we didn’t miss AC at all.

In fact, we thought this was the perfect place, until the fighter jets from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station started practicing their touch-and-gos.  This went on for over and hour and was so loud that I could barely keep up with a phone conversation I was having.

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It really was a lovely location looking out on Puget Sound.

Fort Casey is an old fort from the 1890s, and one of three that formed the “triangle of fire” to protect the Puget Sound.  A few of the guns are on display, but I was more interested in beach combing.  Such fascinating beaches with smooth stones and only a little sand, plus pine cones and mussel shells.

Coupeville

The closest town was Coupeville, a quaint fishing village, good for strolling after dinner.

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We discovered the original Seattle’s Best Coffee building, now home to an ice cream joint.  Closed, much to Pat’s dismay.

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A mint green fishing trawler.  I love all things green.  Pat thinks it’s been converted to a liveaboard.

The tourist-grabbing sign, and the look back at the shoreline from the Coupeville pier.

Boeing Tour

In keeping with our factory tour habit, I signed us up months ago to visit Boeing.  We were truly enthralled with the Hyundai auto tour in Montgomery, AL and expected this one to be even better.

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It was pretty interesting and we enjoyed it, but they didn’t wow us quite like Hyundai.  Maybe because the auto tour was free and this one, well, wasn’t.  For $50 we were hoping for more.  You had to park all your stuff in a locker, so no photos allowed.  They did give us one picture made with a green screen in their aviation center, and we got a sneak peek at the very first 777X coming off the manufacturing line.  Pat thinks since we’re not the end customer, they don’t work it quite the same way.  You might just be convinced to buy a car, but a jetliner isn’t in the budget.

I remembered seeing the the Dream Liners at the Charleston airport back in my project management days with Abbott, so I asked why they were making those particular planes in a second location.  “We wanted a more international presence”, says our tour guide.  She did say a few other things after seeing the confused look on my face.  I don’t know about you, but nothing says “international” like South Carolina.

Anyhoo, we did enjoy the day since we got to drive the rest of the way down Whidbey Island, and put Bitsy on the ferry to Mukilteo and back.

Sunset On The Sound

On our last evening, we strolled around with Jackson at just the right time for my favorite pink and purple sunset shots.

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Those cloud formations were amazing and that one fishing boat posed so nicely for me.

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The boys enjoying the water view.

A few more with the lovely sky.  And Jackson.  He gets tired of me stopping so much for photos.  If he had more energy, he’d throw a tantrum.  Instead I get these doleful looks.

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I’ll leave you with one more of the shipping channel.

Will we go back to camp at Fort Casey again one day?  The answer is no.  After touch-and-gos that lasted after our bedtime one night, we’re against it.  But it was definitely worth the two night stay for the views.

Next up:  The Olympic Peninsula and fun with friends.  See you on the way!

North Cascades National Park

August 20 – September 3, 2018

Before we fled from the smoke on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, we called ahead to make sure our North Cascades campground could take us three days early.  They could, but couldn’t guarantee that the smoke would be gone.  If only.  Fortunately it was better and we were happy to be stationary after the long travel day.

Glacier Peak Resort & Winery

We landed at Glacier Peak Resort & Winery (we use that resort term loosely), a place we’d booked quite a while ago  to make sure we were set for the Labor Day Holiday.  Odd little campground, but it worked for us.  They had a no frills laundry, decent restaurant on site and practically a barnyard of animals.

Jackson got acquainted with five black pigs just a little smaller than him.  They poked their juicy snouts through the chain links and grunted up a storm.

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We also strolled every morning on the Slug Trail.  Not the official name of course, but you had to be careful of the slugs or take a slippery step.  Ick.

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Cows in the haze at the end of the slug trail.

The resident momma goat had a baby while we were there and didn’t like me looking in the barn window at said baby.  She gave me quite the look.  I believe glare is the correct term.  Rabbits were literally everywhere along with the evidence of rabbits which Jackson tried to eat.

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And lots and lots of blackberry bushes, mainly on the slug trail.  I remember blackberry picking as a child during our Alabama family reunions.  I also remember the wicked thorns.  Those bushes don’t give up their prizes without a fight.  I still like the taste of the berries, but don’t like all the seeds.  I made Pat try one and he just shrugged.

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On the other side of the road from the campground was this cute little chapel, complete with tiny pews.  This was on the way to the riverside tent camping spots.  I kept saying I was going to take pictures but never did.  Lots of old growth forest by the Skagit River with big trees growing out of even bigger stumps.  The stumps were covered with moss flowing down like melted candle wax.  Very lush and easy to tell that we’re in rainforest country here.

Backpacking – Will He or Won’t He

Pat’s plan for this stop was to try out a short backpacking trip and  break in all his gear.  With all the smoke the first week, we weren’t so sure it would be possible.  By this time the smoke was not only irritating eyes and throats, but also caused him to break out in a rash.  With rain in the forecast, we were cautiously optimistic that the skies would clear for him, so we made a reconnaissance trip to the trail head.

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Beyond those flowers is a narrow trail and marker in the distance.  Although the smoke was better on our side of Rainy Pass, it was still smokey here.  Still not sure he’s going to go.

Pacific Crest Trail

 

Pat decides to make the three day trip after two days of nice soaking rains.  If that didn’t clear the skies, nothing would.  He had to get a back country pass and bear canister for all his smellables (that’s a real technical backpacking term and not a Judy-ism).

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Here’s his canister crammed with three day’s worth of food and anything else a bear might be able to smell.

 

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There’s my happy man ready to hit it.  And here he is demonstrating his shoot-from-the-hip technique for the bear spray.

The Pacific Crest Trail has been in his sights for a while, and we’re in the perfect spot for him to hike a small portion of it on the North Cascades Bridge Creek Trail.  What’s that blue cooler doing there you ask?  Well, that’s ‘trail magic’.  Locals leave treats for through hikers on longer trails such as the PCT and AT as a little surprise.  This particular cooler had an assortment of beers and sodas ready for weary hikers.  It was Pat’s starting point, but many were ending here due to the fires foiling their final leg to Canada.

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Three nights, 25 miles, a few pack adjustments, and 5000 feet of elevation change later, he’s back!  Dirtier and limping, but happy with his hike.  There’s new trail magic in that cooler (wine and different beers), but his eyes lit up with my offering – a 20 ounce diet pepsi and two mini Snicker bars.

Backpacking Tales

Pat won’t write in this blog, so I have to tell the tales for him.  One campsite had a privy requiring a hike up two switchbacks to an open expanse with sweeping views.  And just to be clear, a privy in the back country is an outhouse without the house.  Hopefully no one is watching him sit upon his “throne”. He didn’t take a camera so we’ll just have to imagine – the views, not him sitting up there.  One night he heard what he thought was ear-flapping.  Do bears flap their ears?  What is that?!  And finally, it’s all good until a young whipper-snapper passed him on a hill about 2 hours away from the end. He overdid it on one of his knees trying to keep up appearances.  Just a strain and he’s healed up nicely.

Pat loved it and is ordering a few things to make the next trip better – camp shoes, a hydration tube for water, and his very own bear canister.  And it lowered his blood pressure.  Was that the hiking or being away from me and Jackson?

North Cascades Highway

A bit about North Cascades National Park.  It has mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, lush forests, and just about as much beauty as Glacier National Park in my opinion.  The drive through is not as hairy as Glacier and you’re still rewarded with spectacular views.  A hiker and backpacker’s dream.

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Of course if you can’t get out on the trails, the drive on the North Cascades Highway will do.  This shot of Diablo Lake was taken on our reconnaissance drive.  Still smokey.

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And here it is again after I dropped Pat off at the trail head.

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It’s so windy at the lake overlook that the trees have their branches blown permanently to one side.

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Rainy Pass trail head before and after that cleansing rain.

Mom & Jackson Pass The Time

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What did Jackson and I do with ourselves while the mountain man was away?  Well, I got a cut & color that I desperately needed, did laundry, bought groceries, made a wedding card, and puttered around the RV.  Jackson and I also took a sight-seeing drive.  Here’s Jackson posing so nicely by the Skagit River with majestic Glacier Peak in the background.  He’s sniffing that nice, clean air and trying not to lose his footing on the river rocks.

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My favorite mountain and river shot.

A few flower pics from Jackson’s car ride.  These are from the Cascadian Farms garden right off the North Cascades Highway.

Sauk Mountain

The lady that cut my hair suggested we take a drive up Sauk Mountain.  That’d be seven miles of steep gravel switchbacks in first gear.  Another episode of where the pavement ends, but a great idea from a local.

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I know, my eyes are closed, but it’s the best picture of me with my delightful patch of snow.  I was like a little kid when we rounded the corner and found this spot.  I’m guessing it never melts on this side of the mountain since it made it to August 31st and the temp has nowhere to go but down.  As this point, the driving part was over and we were on foot due to potholes the size of Bitsy.  We found car parts scattered about and didn’t want to risk it.

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So gorgeous looking down at the Skagit River Valley below.

Felt like we were walking around in the clouds up here.

Seattle Wedding

I mentioned making a wedding card during my down time.  Well, that was for a wedding we were invited to in Seattle – our friends Steve & Ann’s daughter-in-law’s sister’s wedding.  Say that three times fast.  Anyway, we were acquainted with the bride and it was a chance to hang out with our friends and enjoy beautiful views.

 

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They couldn’t have picked a lovelier spot for a wedding, right on the Seattle waterfront.

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Here we are with Steve & Ann.  This gave us a chance to dust off our dress clothes, too.  (Sorry for the heater growing out of your head, Steve!)  The ceremony was beautiful and we enjoyed a fabulous lunch reception.

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I’ll leave you with this one.  Pat’s first morning back from the wilds and I make cinnamon rolls.  He looks guilty, right?  Guilty of not sharing with that poor begging dog.

Next Up – Whidbey Island!  See you on the way.

Runner Up…Spokane

August 14-19, 2018

Spokane, Washington was our next stop to try the town on for size.  We did our best to enjoy the big city amenities and ignore the continuing smokey conditions.  This was a lot like our stop in Banff last year.  We gave up on doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff and enjoyed indoorsy stuff where the breathing was easier.

Riverside State Park – Bowl & Pitcher Campground

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Our campground for this stop was a state park “in town”.  The Spokane River runs through town with the park running alongside, making it a more urban experience.  And made for some tricky in town driving to get there.  We did manage to get out some, and this is the view from the park suspension bridge with all the odd rocks popping out of the water.

 

Our bridge, a look round the bend and a close up of those rocks.

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Then there’s these green berry clusters.  We wondered what they turned into until Pat found the light blue berry clusters.  They must be good eating since there’s a lot less of them.

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Jackson liked to drink from the calm wading area made by someone with a lot of time and a lot of rocks.  And there’s Pat with the prize.  Sometimes it’s a toss up as to which is the better deal – holding the dog or holding the poop bag.  As you can tell, lots of haze and not a lot of blue sky.

Downtown Spokane

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The river front area downtown is quite nice with lots of walking paths and green space.  While we were strolling the indoor mall one day, we ventured out since the skies were a little better.  A view of the downtown clock tower on the Spokane River.

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Downtown sculpture with running people in all shapes and sizes.

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The coolest kid slide ever in Riverside Park.

We rounded out that adventure with a nice long browse in a very hip bookstore.  Pat and I can lose ourselves in book stores, and we’re almost as bad with office supply places.  We texted each other the book titles and authors we found so we couldn’t forget.  We did buy something since we breathed quite a lot of their nice fresh air.  Dinner was at PF Chang’s.  Love me some salt and pepper prawns, and a town big enough to have one of our favorite restaurants!

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We also ventured downtown to eat at one of the restaurants in the restored Steam Plant.  This placed served as a functioning steam plant for 70 years before being shut down in the 80s.  In the 90s, it was transformed from an industrial eyesore into a National Historic Landmark.  As much of the machinery as possible was kept and, in fact, we dined in what used to be the boiler room.  The plant now houses shops and dining establishments, while offices occupy the former coal bunker.

More indoor activity was in order so we went to the downtown REI.  Pat picked up the rest of his backpacking wish list.  Really the only downside getting to all the cool stuff downtown was between there and our campground.  It was, shall we say, the seedier part of town.  But, every town has it’s rough side, and unfortunately we just saw that side first.

Final verdict on Spokane as our Winter “home”? We liked it, but it felt too big for us.  Pair this with Coeur d’Alene and we’d have it all.  The runner-up award goes to Spokane.

Canceling Reservations

People ask what places we’ve liked best so far and I immediately tell them Steamboat Rock near the Grand Coulee Dam.  Some of my favorite pictures were taken there last year and I really was ok if we never went any farther.  We had 3 days booked there again, but due to a fire in the area, we cancelled our stay.  Sad to see it go, but I didn’t want the awful smoke to ruin it for me.  We did decide to keep our weekend stay at Sun Lakes State Park since it was a spot we missed last year.

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The spot is just a little bit south of Steamboat Rock and boasts similar cliff views.  It’s just hard to enjoy the view when your eyes are burning.  Amazingly enough, the campground was jam packed despite the nearby wildfires.  We ended up with a less than stellar un-level spot right next to the bathrooms.  So close we could hear the flush.

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Walked the first night and it was smokey, but bearable.

The only fun we had here was watching the covey of quail. Scads of babies, and they ran all helter-skelter when we even looked in their direction.  We also saw bat condos on the lake.  I think even they were staying in.

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The next morning it was chokingly smokey and we packed up and left as fast as we could.  The cliffs directly behind us were invisible and the air had gone from blue to brown.  (There should be cliffs in that photo, but they’re completely hidden by the smoke.  And that’s the sun at 9am.) Burning eyes and throats and people were still sitting around roaring campfires when we left.  Crazy people.  Official sources called it “Hazardous” air quality, and they said no one should be outside breathing it.

Fleeing the Scene

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Out of our way!  We can’t stand it and leave this un-favorite campground a day early and head straight for our next spot.

That sounds good, but here’s how it really went down.  Pat and I did our first “hot swap” in Lucy, and I drove in the stop-and-go traffic for over an hour.  Then we found out the road we needed was closed.  So we pulled off to regroup and I got us into a spot where we couldn’t turn around…sigh.  We decided to walk to the nearby yogurt shop and rest.  Yogurt and/or ice cream always works.  It did, but while re-hooking up Bitsy, the auxilliary brake wouldn’t work.  Forget it – we’re going without it for the rest of the day since Lucy is perfectly capable of stopping the whole boogie train and our mountain driving is done.  After over 8 hours we finally got to our spot outside North Cascades National Park.  Whew!  We were whooped considering we only like to drive for 3 hours or so on a normal travel day.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.   And no, the smoke was’t gone, but was so much better.

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Our reward for making it through the day was ripe blackberries!  More about those at the next locale.

Next up – North Cascades National Park.  See you on the way!