WheRVe we been? Our travels, 3rd quarter 2018

It was summertime, and the living was busy, and holy hell did we put on some miles. We really need to stop saying things like, “Sure! We can be there by Tuesday.” Somebody please slap the truck keys out of our hands next time we do.

Here’s a summary of our 3rd quarter travels, mapped with a little help from Google.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 5711.

Our starting point in July was Coeur d’Alene, ID.
From there, we headed east across MT and ND to MN, then back to Coeur d’Alene via SD.
After that, we spent a little over a month traveling around western WA, and concluded with a cannonball run back to Texas.
(Actual route varied. Source: maps.google.com)

Coeur d’Alene, ID, June 22 – July 7, and July 22-31: The third quarter began where the second ended, and was interrupted by a two-week jaunt to Minnesota and back (coming up next). While in CDA, which is where Tim’s family lived for a few years in the 1980’s, we spent a lot of time doing outdoorsy stuff with family and friends, to take advantage of the area’s lakes, mountains and rivers. One of Tim’s old high school buddies owns all the best toys, and he treated us to both 4-wheeling and kayaking!

– Biking the 15-mile Route of the Hiawatha
– That day one 4-wheeler, 1 dune buggy, and 3 adults got covered in what felt like all the dirt in Idaho
– A much cleaner day, renting a pontoon on Lake CDA (photo by Tim’s dad)
– And another day on the lake, this time in kayaks

Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota & Wisconsin, July 7-22: Tim’s got a cousin in the Minneapolis area. We’d made tentative plans to visit last year, but for one reason or another, we didn’t follow through. So this year, we committed to making it happen. Granted, MN isn’t really right around the corner from ID, but at 1300 miles, it was as close as we were going to get in 2018, so off we went on Mad Dash 1. Cousin David made it well worth the time and expense by taking a few days off from work to serve as our tour guide, and even helped Tim fix… ugh, I’ve already forgotten, so… whatever the hell was broken on the RV or truck that week.

We covered a lot of ground.
– Went down the WI side of the Mississippi River, and back up the MN side, stopping to explore along the way
– Visited another one of Tim’s old hometowns, the charming Prescott, WI
– Drove up to Duluth and took in Gooseberry Falls and the historic Split Rock Light House

On the way to MN and back, we
– Ran under a rainbow in North Dakota
– Dropped in on the cabin Tim built as a teenager in Montana
– Paid our respects at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in MT
– Spent our 26th anniversary hiking at Custer State Park in SD, including a trail that offered a distant view of the backside of Mt. Rushmore. (No butts. I was disappointed.)

Western WA, Aug. 1 – Sept. 1: Despite having spent most of April, May and June in Washington, there were still more things we wanted to do and people we wanted to see there, so we went back! Ahhh, freedom. We started with a show of Tim’s father’s photography at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op in Mount Vernon, then skipped from fairgrounds parking in Enumclaw, to golf course parking in Chehalis, to a private RV park in Hoquiam, and managed to squeeze in not one, not two, but three backpacking trips — one from each location. Wild blackberries were at their peak, and I could not turn down all that free dessert, so do not judge the amount I’ve still got stashed in my freezer. Come on over, and I’ll make you a cobbler. Maybe two.

– The work of Doug Rohrer, photographer, and co-op artist of the month for August 2018
– I only picked 7 or 8 quarts, but only because our freezer is so damn small
– Stared in awe at Mount Saint Helens, and we highly recommend a trip through the exhibits at the Johnston Ridge Observatory (photo by kind stranger who said we looked very picturesque sitting there)

One of the reasons I decided to give backpacking a try was to be able to see places that can be accessed only by long-distance hiking.
We hiked 13.5 miles to get to this scene: the Enchanted Valley Chalet in Olympic National Park.
Worth it.

Port Townsend, WA, Sept. 1-8: A big draw for Tim, the annual wooden boat festival, opened on Sept. 7. But we needed to be in Austin, TX — 2200 miles away — by Sept. 13. Our older son and his girl live in Port Townsend, so we’d get to hug them again, and we’d also gain the chance to see some Navy friends who’d just moved back from Germany, if we could just. make it. work. To make a long story very short: where there are wheels, there’s a way. We just had to spend some really long days on the road.

– The Steamer Virginia V, photographed because we once lived in VA, and because our son, who is a licensed captain and festival volunteer, got to drive her!
– Father, son, and sailboat bonding
– Please note that my headband, by Tavel Designs, has little sailboats on it. I’m so nauti!
– Our boy and his girl
– Military family friendships endure through miles and years of separation. The last time all of us were together, the three “kids” in front were a second grader, a preschooler, and a toddler.
Heart: full

And then we made Mad Dash 2, from WA to TX in four days.
Although I don’t recommend it, and I hope we never again make choices that would cause us to repeat it, I will say that we prepared well, and that enabled us to handle the trip well.
And by prepared, I mean we stocked up on healthy, easy-to-grab road foods; we were honest about when we needed to stop for breaks; we treated ourselves to one restaurant meal per day; we shared the driving, and set reasonable limits; and we steeled ourselves mentally and emotionally beforehand for 4 days that just wouldn’t be much fun.
(Source: Apple Maps)

But we’ve had a lot of fun since our arrival!
– Snarfed more than the recommended daily allowance of breakfast tacos.
– Made a trip to the beach, where we met my brother’s family‘s newest kitten
– Put our arms around our younger son and took the “starving” college student out to dinner
– enjoyed a happy hour that turned into six hours of food and fun with our friends, Marc & Julie of RV Love (photo by my mom)
Also, we’ve both been poked, prodded and prescribed during our twice annual round of medical visits here in San Antonio. All is well, and we are grateful.

We just don’t get views like this here, though. Washington’s waterways win.

Where to next? Ummmm, not sure yet! The roads are as wide open as our calendar, from late October until next spring, when we’ll return to Texas for more family time, more medical appointments, and two big graduations. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go!


We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

2Q 2018     1Q 2018      4Q 2017        3Q 2017        2Q 2017        1Q2017        2016

I was not bare in bed, but a bear sure came *near* my bed!

“Remember now. What’s the first thing you do if you see a bear on the trail?”

“Take its picture!”

It’s a silly little ha-ha routine we do each time one of us goes hiking without the other, and it never gets old, because we are total derps.

But when it finally happened, we were on a backpacking trip together, and the photo came second. Maybe even third.

I’d just crawled into the tent and zipped myself snugly into my sleeping bag, while Tim was still outside buttoning down our campsite for the night.

Thump. Whump.

The noise came from the brush about 40 feet from our tent, and Tim walked toward it to investigate.

The perpetrator had gone at a large tree stump, probably in search of grubs.  Tim locked eyes with him for a hot second, then turned toward me and said, “It’s a bear!” And that was enough commotion to make the bear rethink his position, so he started moving away at a pretty good clip, which is when Tim finally followed directions, and took a picture.

A bear!
For real, y’all.

No, we do not know for sure that the bear was male. We based our assumption on information we were given at the ranger’s station when we registered for our camping permit that morning. There’d been reports of a mama bear and two cubs in the area, as well as a lone juvenile male. Guessing ours was the latter.

So that’s the introduction to our most recent backpacking trip, August 27-29, in Olympic National Park. Of the three we’ve completed this month, this one offered the most jaw-dropping scenery, and the most wildlife sightings too!

Let’s go.

(Source: Google Maps)

Day 1: Orange path from Graves Creek Trailhead (A) to Enchanted Valley (B)
Day 2: Pink path from B to C and back
Day 3: Green path from B to A
Total mileage: about 40 (As usual, Tim’s app differed from my app, and the trail map gave us yet a third total, so we’ve guesstimated. Next time, maybe we’ll go old school and use our pedometers.) 
Read this for a thorough description of the trail between A & B.

There are camping areas along the way to Enchanted Valley, but we chose to hike it all in one go, and even went beyond the 13.5-mile mark to find our home for the next two nights.

Along the way, we saw a herd of elk…

… and several Sooty Grouse.
Wow, it’s a wonder these birds have survived. They are slow and they seem kind of dumb, and I think a person with a quick arm could probably just reach out and grab one.
Anyone who brags about hunting them really has nothing to brag about!

If a tree falls in the forest, and your husband stands in front of it, does it still… OMG look at the size of that tree!

We’d hiked more than 13 miles, I was exhausted and hungry and had lost faith that we were ever going get there.
And then we stepped out of the thickest part of the forest and realized immediately why it’s called Enchanted Valley.

This chalet was built in the 1930’s, and has served as a travelers’ hostel, a WWII aircraft warning station, a ranger’s station, and a hikers’ shelter. In 2014 the chalet was moved 100 feet from the rapidly encroaching Quinault River as an effort to save it from destruction, and it has been closed to the public. Its future is in doubt.
The most recent official document I could find on the subject is here.

We set up camp here. See our green tent there on the left? And Tim sitting against a rock, wearing his black jacket?

Our water source, the Quinault River

My peaceful view, just before bedtime. Which was bear time!

On Day 2, we hiked out of the valley and up toward O’Neill Pass.
That’s the face I make when there’s a lot of up.

But lots of up usually pays off in views like this…

… and this. The feet are mine. The snow patch is what remains of Anderson Glacier.

And look at me rocking the crossings this time!
(I had to crawl across one last time.)

 

We put in almost as many miles in two days as we’d put in over three days on our prior trips, and we still had about 15 miles to go the next day, so I spent some time with my feet up.
Way up.

Tried to work a little Ansel Adams magic with the trees.
Guessing my way’s easier than his was.
Click. Tap. Done.

Sunrise on our final morning, as we were breaking camp

As we were heading out, this team of pack mules was heading in.
The ranger was on her way to help a field crew of 5 Washington Conservation Corps workers pack out of the Valley.
We’d spoken to one of those kids the day before; they’d been doing trail maintenance for 6 months as part of their AmeriCorps service.

One last look back, hoping that someday we’ll go back.


Descriptions of our other two Washington backpacking adventures:

Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. A *lot* of smoke.

This week it was time for my second backpacking trip, another 2-night 3-day adventure.

Did you miss the first one? It had a regrettable ending, but hey, the photos were great!

Despite knowing that Western Washington would be congested with wildfire smoke during our outing, and that it would worsen each day, we opted to go anyway, knowing that if we waited for the perfect circumstances, we’d miss our window entirely. In only two more weeks, we’ve got to head back to Texas for our usual autumn round of visits.

We were hoping that we’d have cleaner air and better visibility once we got some elevation beneath us in the Mount Adams Wilderness, but as you’ll see below, that was not the case.

Mount Adams is right there. Get yourself about halfway between Portland and Seattle, then head east.

Day 1: Orange path from A to B
Day 2: Pink path from B to a point just west of The Hump, then back up to C
Day 3: Green path from C to A
Total mileage: 28.5

Point A: Killen Creek Trailhead, which we found after winding our way over a ridiculous number of bumpy forest service roads. The road that provided the most direct route was closed for construction, so we had to take a very elaborate detour.

The 12,280-foot peak of Mount Adams is right behind us, I swear.
The trail we were on was at about 6,000 feet, so it should have been imposingly visible.
Damn wildfire smoke.

Oh, there it is!
The air cleared just enough for a shadowy glimpse on our first evening.
The following two days? Not so much.

Campsite #1

Sunrise through the smoke, on Day 2

We filter our drinking and cooking water from clear, running streams.
Remember this for comparison.

This is a rushing river of glacial run-off, and you can see that it’s full of dirt particles and who knows what-all else that makes it murky. We could filter it and drink it if we had to, but… ew.

And after the river, an immense boulder field.
Wow, Mother Nature.

Evidence of death; evidence of new life

A hiking hippie chick showed me that wild blueberries were growing right next to the trail.
I ate about a dozen, and they were the blueberriest blueberries I’ve ever tasted!
Also? I have a feeling that hiking hippie chick could have shown me many other things I’ve never tried.

At the end of Day 2, I needed a rinse.
(OK, what I really needed was a hot bath with lots and lots of soap.)
This was yet another creek full of glacial runoff, but truth be told it was cleaner than I was, so I gave myself a quick splash-n-suds to the most offensive bits, and called it good enough.

And then I hung my clothes up to get some fresh air, convincing myself that the pines loved this chance to feel like Christmas trees.

A tale of two river crossings:
On Day 2, heading south, I crossed slowly, but upright until the very end, when I had to lean forward and brace myself with my hands for a few steps.
On Day 3, heading back northward, I lost my mojo. I knew I had to get across. I also knew that my confidence in my ability to maintain my balance was low.
So I got low.
And Tim — the only person around who could have helped me if I’d gone in the drink — made sure there was evidence. My hero.

We met this guy, trail name “Lost,” on Day 2. He’d been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail northbound since the end of March, from its start at the CA-Mexico border.
And he’d had enough of walking in smoke, which has been horrible for PCT hikers this season, ruining their views and clogging their lungs from northern California, all the way through Oregon and Washington. That’s about 1500 trail miles of misery, y’all.
In fact, parts of the trail have been closed, including the final stretch to the northern terminus.
We encountered many dejected northbound thru-hikers, trudging onward, knowing they will likely not be able to complete their journey the way they’d hoped.
“Lost” — who has also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and Camino de Santiago — was looking for a way to get off the trail and re-evaluate his options.
We told him we’d be heading back toward civilization the next day, and would happily give him a lift if he wanted to meet us at the trailhead where we’d parked the BFT.
He took us up on the offer, and even beat us to the parking lot the next morning!
And that’s when we learned that he’s also an Army veteran, wounded twice in combat (legs shattered by a suicide bomber; shot in the head) and medically retired after 10 years of service. #Hero
We know he’ll be just fine, and we’ll be following his Instagram just to make sure.

That would have been a perfect place to close… but then I rediscovered this hilarious evidence of my own hiking history.

Come with me back to 1979, for a rainy hike along the C&O canal with my Girl Scout troop in Frostburg, MD. My mom thought to take before and after photos, and look at my face.

The quality of my outdoor gear and attire has definitely changed for the better, but I still make that hopeful “Off we go” face when we set off, and the “Poor, pitiful me” one after a long or stressful venture.

Ah, the 1970’s.
That track suit was pure polyester, the canteen made whatever was in it taste like metal, and let’s not even speculate about my backpack and shoes. I’ve got way better gear now!

Coming up next: We’re relocating to the Olympic Peninsula today, and we hope to squeeze in one more (less smoky) backpacking trip in Olympic National Park before we point our nose back to Texas.


Descriptions of our other two Washington backpacking adventures:

A virgin no longer: Emily’s first backpacking trip

I really didn’t think I’d ever do it.

Day hikes? Yes, please.

But… carrying all that extra stuff on my back and cuh-cuh-cuh-camping out? Overnight? With no shower at the end of a long hiking day? And having to… you know… in the woods?

I don’t think so.

Say hello to our backwoods poop kit.
1. Dig a hole at least 6″ deep. (That’s dirt on the trowel, y’all. Just dirt.)
2. Poop in it.
3. Use TP/wipes as needed.
4. Bury the human waste and biodegradable paper products.
5. Bag any non-biodegradable paper waste and carry it out.
6. Use hand sanitizer.

Backpacking has always been Tim’s thing. He’s been sending himself on long-distance walkabouts almost every year since he retired from the Navy in 2013, starting with a 3-month trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. He’s also done the entire John Muir Trail, parts of the Appalachian Trail, and a Grand Canyon down-n-up, among others.

I’ve always been the support person for these adventures, providing drop-offs and pick-ups at trail heads, mailing supply packages, and taking care of all the other things that need to happen when one’s spouse is temporarily living off the grid.

What made me change my mind? A combination of three things.

  1. Being in Washington for an extended period of time, with access to fantastic trails in both the Cascades and Olympics, during prime hiking season;
  2. Realizing that other than a proper pack for me, we had enough gear & supplies needed to outfit both of us safely; and
  3. Reminding myself yet again that life is short, so maybe I should fix my pony tail, set my squeamies aside, and find out what I’ve been missing.

    This.
    This would be one of the things I’d been missing.

So we bought me a big-girl pack, and we planned our first excursion: 3 days, 2 nights, about 27 trail miles.

Come along with us. The easy way.

Day 1:

We started there at the red pin, Tipsoo Lake, on August 6.
Thought you might like to see a map that shows where we were in relation to someplace you might recognize. Like Seattle.

Day 1 (orange): Parked at Tipsoo Lake (A) and camped for the night at Sheep Lake (B)
Day 2 (pink): Pacific Crest Trail to camp at Basin Lake (C)
Day 3 (green): Basin Lake alllll the way back to our Point A
Mileage by map: 23.4
Mileage by tracking app: 29.1.
Average of the two: 26.2 (Can I count this as my first marathon?)

Our home for the first night: Sheep Lake
Popular place.
We were definitely not alone. Lots of other campers, due to the fairly easy 2-mile hike from a main road.

We arrived mid-afternoon, and refilled our water containers from the stream that feeds the lake.
This is my “dirty bag” for collecting water, which I then filtered into…

This!
Delicious, cold, fresh and safe

That stream made for a good tootsie soak too, but only for a few seconds at a time. Icy!

One-pot dinner, served in…

… multi-use cup.
After a few minutes standing in hot water, that formerly dehydrated chicken breast looked and tasted like… dry chicken.

Home sweet tent.
It’s model name is Hubba Hubba, and we have made all the jokes.

Zipped in and ready for bed, yes, while it was still light out.
That 40-degree rated mummy bag? Nope. I got cold, even wearing jammies, and temps probably hovered around the mid-50’s.
We have since replaced it with a warmer bag.

Let’s start Day 2:

The best part of waking up is not exactly instant coffee in your cup (which is also used to hold your oatmeal, sports drink, rehydrated dinner, etc.), but it’ll do for the short term.

We trekked northward…

… and Mount Rainier watched over us.

That which we worship protects us …

… but we can’t always protect that which we worship.
This was our first evidence of recent forest fires.

Our first view of our home for Night 2: Basin Lake
We arrived at about 2:30 p.m., and had the entire basin to ourselves. There may or may not have been afternoon skinny dipping, and we didn’t even encounter anyone coming in as we climbed out the next morning!

Home sweet tent, this time with the rain fly added for warmth.
I missed seeing the stars through our roof, but I slept far more comfortably than I had the night before.

OK, put your boots & pack back on, and pick up your poles for Day 3:

We found our way through this haunting scenery.
Following the trail was difficult, with fallen trees and ash obscuring the route in places.

Found later on a live, still standing tree: one very old trail marker!

I took this screen cap at what might have been the highest elevation point on our trip.
Based on topographical maps, we probably hit about 6500.

Wanna watch how slowly I hike? Sometimes I cover a whopping 2 miles per hour. Oh, and you can probably tell I didn’t know Tim was taking video. Derp.

We made it back to our RV park by late afternoon for long, hot showers.
Look at my dirty pants!
And herein lies a shopping lesson.
These are boys’ REI brand mountaineering pants, priced at $39.95.
Comparable pants in women’s sizes started at $64.50.
The boys’ version fit me perfectly, and my psychological barrier to purchasing clothing marked XL instead of S was completely obliterated by my excitement over the money I’d saved!

And then we went out for a big, calorie-laden, non-dehydrated dinner, and I ordered a wild boar sandwich for the express purpose of being able to post, “I was so hungry, I ate a boar.”
And that is when karma made its move against my sense of hubris.
The boar attacked within about an hour, and I spent the next 2 days battling and recovering from food poisoning. That sandwich was the one and only item I took in that day that Tim didn’t, so we’re sure it’s the culprit.
Message received.
And no boar for me again, ever. Even pork is gonna be an issue for a while.

The illness was unfortunate, and I wish — really wish — it hadn’t happened, but it did not ruin backpacking for me.
I’m ready for more of this.


Descriptions of our other two Washington backpacking adventures:

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