Home is… where the cave is?

Two days before Christmas, we took a 30-mile road trip from our RV park in Pahrump, NV, to the old mining town of Shoshone, CA, established in 1910, and boasting a population of 31 people according to the 2010 census.

Shoshone is easy to visit if you’re touring the southern end of Death Valley National Park. If you’re coming from Nevada, it’s about an 80-minute drive west of Las Vegas; from CA it’s about a 2.5-hour drive northeast of the Barstow area.

The miners and prospectors who lived here back in the 1920’s didn’t have access to a lot of building materials, so they dug cave apartments into the surrounding clay hills. The guide we picked up at the local museum reports that this area, called Dublin Gulch, has been uninhabited since the 1970’s. It definitely felt a little spooky, and reminded me of my trip to California’s Bodie Ghost Town in July.

I’m gonna let my photos tell my story; if you’d like a little more history, go here.

Condos in the cliffs.
Hello, Fred Flintstone?

Close-ups of some of the doorways

This one had a little shrine outside, containing lots of objects that are full of sentimental value — and probably tetanus.

There was even a 1-car cave garage at the end of the row.

You can peer inside the abandoned dwellings. Several still contain old bed springs, rusted stove pipes, and other evidence of habitation.

The miners were messy. But I guess if you don’t have weekly trash pick-up, you create your own garbage dump by tossing your pork-n-beans cans out the door when you’re done with ’em.

Meanwhile, in downtown Shoshone…

Don’t blink because you’ll miss it, but do park your car and get out to explore. The museum is free (donations gratefully accepted), and the walking tour can be done in less than an hour, depending on how long you like to linger.

This old thing?
It sits in front of the Shoshone Museum, which served as the town’s general store and gas station back in the day.

This structure was built from adobe brick made on site, although the year is not given on the walking tour hand-out.
The original building, a restaurant, burned down in 1925, so it was sometime after that.
Now it’s used by the Inyo County sheriff and the BLM.

Heading east of town just half a mile, you’ll come to another canyon with a few more cave condos. Watch for the dirt pull-out on the north side of Hwy 178, and tread carefully, as the sandy-pebbly surfaces are a bit slippy.

This former home is called “Castle in Clay,” and boasts what appears to be two stories of living space. Potential real estate description: rustic 1BR, 0BA, EIK with sedimentary rock countertops, natural HVAC, no HOA, no need for lawn mower.

We thank our friends, Dan & Lisa, for alerting us to this place. They’ve got a blog too; check them out at Always On Liberty.

Looking into the canyon from the highway…

… and looking out toward the highway from the canyon

We were able to climb up the loose hillsides to peer into some of the caves.
That upright shrub below the cave is actually Tim on his way back down.

Of course our 19-year-old, who was visiting us on his winter break from UT-Austin, had to go to the tippy top. If you’re humming, “All by myself… don’t wanna be… all by myself, anymore…” I’m right there with ya.

To put it all in historical perspective, Fred Flintstone and his friends in Bedrock were out of production by 1966. Those caves in Dublin Gulch? Abandoned four years later. Guess it took a while for news to reach Shoshone that stone age living was no longer trendy.

You know you’re lazy when you explore only half a small town

Yeah, so we waited until noon to head out today, by which time it was 90+ degrees, which is way too hot for a walking tour of historic homes, so we drove by them in the BFT with the AC blasting, tried not to think about our carbon footprint, and then went to a bakery.

Castroville, known as the Little Alsace of Texas, is neatly bisected by Highway 90. We checked out the south side today.

Castroville, known as the Little Alsace of Texas, is neatly bisected by US Highway 90. We checked out the south side today.

First stop, Castroville Regional Park, for a hike up Cross Hill, so named for, well, you'll see.

First stop, Castroville Regional Park, for a hike up Cross Hill, so named for, well, you’ll see.

Something took a hell of a bite out of this cross.

Something took a hell of a bite out of that cross.

The view from Cross Hill (Per castroville.com: It is an old European custom for a village to proclaim its faith by erecting a cross in a prominent place, and the Alsatians brought the tradition with them when they came to the Medina Valley. Since then it has been called Cross Hill and was used by the Catholics in earlier times for pilgrimages and prayer petitions, such as Rogation Days. Today you can walk a path up to Cross Hill to enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of Castroville.)

The view from Cross Hill
(Per castroville.com: It is an old European custom for a village to proclaim its faith by erecting a cross in a prominent place, and the Alsatians brought the tradition with them when they came to the Medina Valley. Since then it has been called Cross Hill and was used by the Catholics in earlier times for pilgrimages and prayer petitions, such as Rogation Days. Today you can walk a path up to Cross Hill to enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of Castroville.)

I don't know who else would be up here, other than perhaps a grammar nazi who really wished she had some white paint in her pocket.

I don’t know who else would be up here, other than perhaps a grammar queen who really wished she’d had some white paint stashed in her pocket.

I do believe we are here at the peak of poppy season!

I do believe we are here at the peak of poppy season!

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Look. I tried three times for a poppy selfie. First shot: frowning Second shot: crooked Third shot: cleavage overload You're welcome.

Look. I tried three times for a poppy selfie.
First shot: frowning
Second shot: crooked
Third shot: cleavage overload
You’re welcome.

We stopped by the famous Steinbach Haus, built in France in the 17th century, shipped to Castroville and rebuilt in the early part of this century. It now serves as the town's welcome center.

We stopped by the famous Steinbach Haus, built in France in the 17th century, shipped to Castroville and rebuilt in the early part of this century. It now serves as the town’s welcome center.

Final stop of the day: Haby's Alsatian Bakery. It's kind of a big deal in these parts. That brown sphere on the right is a chocolate filled chocolate cupcake dipped in chocolate. The clerk made us buy it. I love how people in small towns look out for each other, don't you?

Final stop of the day: Haby’s Alsatian Bakery. It’s kind of a big deal in these parts. That brown sphere on the right is a chocolate filled chocolate cupcake dipped in chocolate. The clerk made us buy it. I love how people in small towns look out for each other, don’t you?

Tomorrow we’ll make up for both the auto emissions and the calorie count by starting earlier and biking the 4 miles into town to investigate the north side.

Walked our butts to the Butteville Store

From our site here at the Champoeg State Heritage Area just south of Portland, OR, we took a little trip back in time along the Willamette River.

Two miles out to the red 5, two miles back.  Yep, in the rain.  Because it's the Pacific Northwest, and if you don't get out and move, you'll mold.

Two miles out to the red 5, two miles back.
Yep, in the rain.
Because it’s the Pacific Northwest, and if you don’t get out and move, you’ll mold.

The bigger picture

The bigger picture

It was a gray and drizzly day...

It was a gray and drizzly day…

Oregon's longest operating store is closed for the season, which we knew before we headed out, but wanted to see it anyway.

Oregon’s oldest continuously operating store, established in 1863, is closed for the season. We knew that before we headed out, but wanted to see it anyway. Worth the walk to peer inside the wavy glass and see the old tables, chairs and countertops inside.

"But Emily," you inquire. "We know you hate mud. Why did you go hiking four miles on a rainy day, idiot?"

“But Emily,” you inquire. “We know you hate mud. Why did you go hiking four miles on a rainy day, idiot?”

Paved trails, bitches! I win.

Paved trails, bitches!
I win.

Nobody puts us in a corner. We’ll walk there our own damn selves.

Today’s adventure: the very outermost tip of the Olympic Peninsula, accessed by the Cape Flattery trail. It’s only 1.5 miles, round trip — easy for us. But we made the long drive because that little trail leads to a unique, wild, and beautiful spot: the northwesternmost point of the continental U.S.

Cape Flattery: the northwesternmost point in the continental United States

That’s it. That’s where we went.

From the Washington Trails Association, “Here, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific, Cape Flattery protrudes into a sea of tumultuous waters. A land of dramatic headlands, sea stacks, and deep narrow coves, Cape Flattery exhibits sheer rugged beauty. Scores of seabirds ride the surf and scavenge the sea stacks. Watch for whales and sea lions too… [from] the final viewing platform, teetering on the edge of terra firma.”

Other than a few of those seabirds, and 7 (seven!) bald eagles, the closest thing to wild animals we encountered on the trail was a pack of White North American Unwashed Hippies with one of their young. Wow. Reeking of weed would have been an improvement. All part of the adventure…

The forecast was not completely true. We got sunshine! Lots of it! But, that wind chill part was for real. Brrrrrr.

The forecast was not completely true. We got sunshine! Lots of it! But, that wind chill part was for real. Brrrrrr.

On the way to Neah Bay, we saw a bald eagle fly under this rainbow. It was indeed a harbinger of breathtaking scenes to come.

On the way to Neah Bay, we saw a bald eagle fly under this rainbow. It was indeed a harbinger of breathtaking scenery to come.

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Oh. Canada! (Those mountains across the water are on Vancouver Island.)

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Welcome figures at the Makah Museum in Neah Bay. We spent over an hour there, learning about the Makah tribal history. For nearly 4,000 years their people have occupied the Olympic Peninsula.

These figures welcomed us at our starting point, the Makah Museum in Neah Bay. We spent over an hour there, learning about Makah tribal history. For nearly 4,000 years their people have occupied the Olympic Peninsula.

$10 permit required to explore tribal lands, including the trails we hiked today. Seems a pittance, considering...

This $10 permit is required for exploring tribal lands, including the trails we hiked today.
Seems a pittance, considering…

At the Cape Flattery Trail Head, walking sticks provided by the Makah. Free for use-and-return, $5 to take-and-keep.

At the Cape Flattery Trailhead, we found a pleasant surprise: walking sticks provided by the Makah. Free for use-and-return, $5 to take-and-keep.

I chose one!

I chose one!

Next several shots: scenes from our hike along the Cape Flattery Trail. It's only 3/4 mile, but oh, where it took us!

Next several shots: scenes from our hike along the Cape Flattery Trail. It’s only 3/4 mile, but oh, where it took us!

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No tufted puffins today. Sorry, Maria. Wrong season.

No tufted puffins today. Sorry, Maria. Wrong season.

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At the end of the trail, which feels like it's at the end of the earth, we had a crystal clear view of the Cape Flattery Light, on Tatoosh Island, about half a mile from the coast.

At the end of the trail, which feels like it’s at the end of the earth, we had a crystal clear view of the Cape Flattery Light, on Tatoosh Island, about half a mile from the coast.

Here we are. Top left corner of CONUS. Check!

Top left corner of CONUS: check!

With Tatoosh Island behind us

With Tatoosh Island behind us

Since we finished at Cape Flattery by 1:30, we decided to make the most of the sunny skies (and our 3-hour drive to get there) by driving down to the Shi-Shi Beach Trail, which took us on a ridge above the Pacific Ocean.

Since we finished at Cape Flattery by 1:30, we decided to make the most of the sunny skies (and our 3-hour drive to get there) by driving down to the Shi Shi Beach Trail, which took us on a messy but really rather glorious walk along a ridge above the Pacific Ocean.

"Beach access in Olympic National Park is by steep trail." By which they mean there are actual ropes tied to trees to help you descend. At that point, we were short on both daylight and patience, so we skipped the potential cliff tumble and turned back.

“Beach access in Olympic National Park is by steep trail.” By which they mean there are actual ropes tied to trees to help you descend.
At that point, we were short on both daylight and patience, so we skipped the potential cliff tumble and turned back.

Two miles out, one mile of which was mud. Two miles back, same mud.

Two miles out, one mile of which was mud.
Two miles back, same mud, but tired feet.

I tried really, really hard to avoid it...

I tried really, really hard to avoid it…

But lost the battle on the way back to the trailhead.

It didn’t go well.

Yeah. That was a deep one.

Yeah. That was a deep one.

But definitely...

But definitely…

worth...

worth…

the reward.

the reward.

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We even saw a little frosty snowy stuff on the walkway.

Thank you, Makah tribe.
Your land is a treasure.
We showed it utmost respect by leaving only bootprints, and taking only memories.

I saw one ship go rowing out, on New Year’s Day in the morning

Tim, Alden and Karynna (Alden’s girlfriend) went rowing ’round the bay with the Sea Scouts this afternoon, while I took a walk along a teensy-weensy part of the 1200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail, which is one of our nation’s newest national trails (and not to be confused with the Pacific Crest Trail, which Tim hiked over the summer of 2013, to mark his transition from active duty to retired Navy life).

Because when your nearly 21-year-old son, who’s been living on his own in WA for 2+ years, asks if you want to go boating with his Sea Scout troop, on New Year’s Day, as per their annual tradition, in Port Townsend Bay, where the average water temp is 53 degrees in July, you pull out your long johns, grab gloves, a wool cap, and the warmest coat you own, and you go. There'll be coffee and a hot shower when it's over.

When your nearly 21-year-old son,
who’s been living on his own in WA for 2+ years,
asks if you want to go boating with his Sea Scout troop,
on New Year’s Day,
as per their annual tradition,
in Port Townsend Bay,
where the average water temp is 53 degrees in July,
you pull on your long johns,
grab gloves, a wool cap, and the warmest coat you own,
and you go.
There’ll be coffee and a hot shower when it’s over.

The excursion began at the Wooden Boat Foundation, where the sea scouts hold their meetings and store their gear.

The excursion began at the Wooden Boat Foundation, where the sea scouts hold their meetings and store their gear.

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Our boy and his girl (photo by Karynna)

Our boy and his girl
(photo by Karynna)

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Ready to row and sail onboard Bear

Watch them row, with cheers from the crowd on the pier:

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If you peer closely at the right hand side, you can see the gray-blue shadow of Mount Rainier behind our intrepid oarsmen.

Sea Scouts on the left, appearing to take on a Washington State Ferry.

Sea Scouts in the little boat on the left, appearing to take on a Washington State Ferry.

Not.

Not.

I saw three ships come sailing in...

I saw three ships come sailing in…

Mountain views from the bay were spectacular today. Mount Baker and the Cascades were to our left, the Olympics to our right, and shadowy Mount Rainier in the middle. Look.

Olympics

Olympics

Cascades

Cascades

Mt. Baker

Mt. Baker

Olympics

Olympics

Mt. Rainier centered beneath the sign

Mt. Rainier centered beneath the sign

Mt. Baker at sunset

Mt. Baker at sunset

Mt. Rainier at sunset

Mt. Rainier at sunset

The views from my walk weren’t too shabby either.

Looking south along the Larry Scott portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail. That's a paper factory in the distance.

Looking southwest along the Larry Scott portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail. That’s a paper factory in the distance.

The northward view, with chicken hat selfie. It seemed an appropriate way to greet the new year, and I got a kick out watching passing motorists say "Look at her chicken hat!"

The northeasterly view, with chicken hat selfie.
It seemed an appropriate way to greet the new year, and I got a kick out of watching passing motorists say “Look at her chicken hat!”

The West Marine mascot appeared to be just as bewildered by my hat as I was by him.

The West Marine mascot appeared to be just as bewildered by my hat as I was by him.

I warmed up afterwards with a perfect cuppa joe at Velocity, while I waited for the scouts to return.

I warmed up afterward with a perfect cuppa joe at Velocity, while I waited for the scouts to return.

2016, Day 1: hard to beat