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.

Trying to embrace the beauty of a PNW winter, but mostly just drinking more

Scenes from our soggy week, with unmitigated gratitude for in-laws who share wine.

Our campsite overlooks Padilla Bay, with a view of several of the San Juan islands. Every 25 hours, it turns into something like 8,000 acres of mud flats. I literally can't even.

Our campsite overlooks Padilla Bay, with a view of several of the San Juan islands. Every 25 hours, the tide goes out, and the bay turns into something like 8,000 acres of mud flats. Mud. Flats
I literally can’t even. Also, nobody would buy shoes called mud flats.

Regardless, I stepped into my big girl boots (Not my cowgirl boots. OMG, not for this), and took a walk down to the shore when the tide was in. This is a typical Washington beaches in winter. Want to know what it looks like in summer? Keep staring.

Regardless, I stepped into my big girl boots (Not my cowgirl boots. OMG, no. Not for this. For this I’ve got an old pair of snow boots.), and took a walk down to the shore when the tide was in.
This is a typical Washington beach in winter. Want to know what it looks like in summer?
Keep staring.

I kept staring. And as if to slap me with a big old neener-neener lesson on life, Mama Nature rewarded me with this bit o' magic. Sorry, Puget Sound. I get it now. Again. Temporarily.

I kept staring.
And as if to slap me with a big old neener-neener lesson on life, Mama Nature rewarded me with this bit o’ magic.
Sorry, Puget Sound. I get it now. Again. But probably only temporarily, I’m thinking.

Later that day, look what else I found!

Later that day, look what else I found!

But the sunshine shut down 15 minutes later, and once again I was back to, "Seriously, why did I even bring these?"

But the sunshine shut down 15 minutes later, and once again I was back to, “Seriously, why did I even bring these?”

That's fine. We get it. If I had to clean a public restroom, I wouldn't allow pets in there either. But...

Meanwhile, back at the park: a common sign to which I have no objections.  If I had to clean a public restroom, I wouldn’t allow pets in there either. But…

... look what's conveniently located outside! Now *that's* dog friendly. I wish more public places would offer hitching posts for pets. Thanks, Bay View!

… lookit what’s conveniently located outside! Now that’s dog-friendly.
I wish more public places would offer hitching posts for pets. Thanks, Bay View!

We have no Christmas tree inside. Plenty outside, though! And thanks to Tim's mom, we've got a string of lights there across the front of the house. All is calm. All is... OK, mostly it's *gray*, but the twinkles help. A little.

We have no Christmas tree inside. Plenty outside, though! And thanks to Tim’s mom, we’ve got a string of lights there across the front of the house.
All is calm. All is… OK, mostly it’s gray, but the twinkles help. A little.

First I was going to die of I-5 traffic. Now I am going to die of mud.

But then that’s what happens when you spend a week traveling up the 5, all the way from San Diego to just north of Seattle. ‘Twas dry and warm and overcrowded at the bottom; and it’s sopping wet and chilly but slightly less crowded at the top.

The ground is saturated here in the PNW, so wiping muddy boot and paw prints off our little entryway now makes for a full-time hissy fit job.  But we saw more people we love along the way, and we are parked for a good 3 weeks surrounded by even more people we love — including our big boy! — so it’s all good.

On Dec. 11, we drove from Escondido to Travis AFB. Other than the rainbows, the journey up the 5 was really rather unpleasant, and we do not intend to take on LA traffic in an RV ever again. Ever.

On Dec. 11, we drove from Escondido to Travis AFB. Other than seeing rainbows, the journey up the 5 was really rather unpleasant, and we do not intend to take on LA traffic in an RV ever again. Ever.

Took the wrong exit for Travis AFB, but lookit who we ended up behind!

Took the wrong exit for Travis AFB, but lookit who we ended up behind!

We spent two nights at the home of Tim's cousin Kim and husband, Rajiv, in Lafayette. She fed us, shared wonderful wine (it's her job), and let us borrow her car to drive into San Francisco to visit even more cousins. Four stars!

We spent two nights at the home of Tim’s cousin Kim and husband, Rajiv, in Lafayette. She fed us, shared wonderful wine (it’s her job), and let us borrow her car to drive into San Francisco to visit even more cousins.

The view from Kim's kitchen

The view from Kim’s kitchen

Across the Bay Bridge we went, on the dreariest possible day.

Across the Bay Bridge we went, on the dreariest possible day.

Parking in San Fran: Mercedes, Mercedes, Audi, potty

Parking in San Fran: Mercedes, Mercedes, Audi, potty

Family time! This is my cousin Mark's wife, Claire, and their son Ryan. Mark was out of town, but we'll catch him next time. Hadn't seen these two for 20 years!

Family time! This is my cousin Mark’s wife, Claire, and their son Ryan. Mark was out of town, but we’ll catch him next time. Hadn’t seen these two for 20 years!

Claire and Ryan took us to their favorite place for crepes...

Claire and Ryan took us to their favorite place for crepes

... and then down the street for a smidge of ice cream for dessert. A smidge!

… and then down the street for a smidge of ice cream for dessert. A smidge!

Ryan gave Tim a demo of Google Glass. Those two tech-heads are a lot alike!

Ryan gave Tim a demo of Google Glass. Those two tech-heads are a lot alike!

On Dec. 15, the mountain passes between California and Oregon looked clear and thus safe for travel, so we headed northward and enjoyed fantastic views of Mount Shasta from the valley.

On Dec. 15, the mountain passes between California and Oregon looked clear and thus safe for travel, so we headed northward and enjoyed fantastic views of Mount Shasta from the valley.

Hello snow in Oregon!

Hello snow in Oregon!

On these mountain passes is where I learned to use the manual shift mode on the BFT. Nothing like learning while doing, by necessity, according to that man I married and who coached me through it. Really, it's a wonder we're still married. And not at the bottom of a cliff.

On these mountain passes I learned to use the manual shift mode on the BFT.
Nothing like learning while doing, and/or by necessity, according to that man I married and who coached me through it. I may or may not have shouted something about STUPID, STUPID MECHANICAL THINGS during the process.
Really, it’s a wonder we’re still married. And not at the bottom of a cliff.

Dec. 15: We spend 16 hours on the road. Dec. 16: Lola gives me this look when I strap her into the truck, again, for the umpteenth time. Not. Fucking. Again.

Dec. 15: We spent 16 hours on the road.
Dec. 16: I got this look when I put her back in the truck.
Not. Fucking. Again.

Today, we finally arrived at our Christmastime destination, Bay View State Park. Family surrounds us in Mount Vernon, Port Townsend, and Bellingham, and Dane will fly up from San Antonio to join us next week. We get both sons with us for Christmas this year, and that is a gift!

Today, we finally arrived at our Christmastime destination, Bay View State Park. Family surrounds us in Mount Vernon, Port Townsend, and Bellingham (too far north to fit on this map), and Dane will fly up from San Antonio to join us next week.
We get both sons with us for Christmas this year, and that is a gift!

Our view of the bay, from our spot at Bay View

Our bay view, at Bay View

And someone is very happy to be not-in-the-truck.

And someone is very happy to be not-in-the-truck.

Happy all-the-holidays, y’all!

SoCal is SoUnusual. (This from the chick using a coffee canister to hold her spatulas)

We arrived in Yuma, a final stop in AZ before crossing into CA, to one happy surprise (The Goodmans! With wine!), and one unhappy one. The piece of Polish pottery I’d been using as a utensil caddy for ten years had taken a leap out of its storage cabinet en route, and it did not survive. Nothing like finding wooden spoons, spatulas and the ice cream scoop strewn across the kitchen and dining areas. I started to place the remains of my crockery in a plastic coffee canister we were about to discard, and realized… I’d found a temporary, not to mention unbreakable, solution.

We hit a bump. And by "we," I mean "I." And by "hit a bump," I mean "failed to negotiate a curb correctly, and drove the RV tires over it."

We hit a bump.
And by we, I mean I.
And by “hit a bump,” I mean “failed to negotiate a curve correctly, and drove the RV over the curb.” That tends to cause a certain amount of… upheaval.

This is the utensil caddy in our younger son's apartment, so I guess now it's a family tradition?  Also, never send your husband into Walmart to buy a utensil caddy. Especially if you tell him it's for spatulas and big spoons, and "kind of like a big cup."

This is the utensil caddy in our younger son’s apartment, so I guess now it’s a family tradition?
Also, never send your husband into Walmart to buy a utensil caddy. Especially if you tell him it’s for spatulas and big spoons, and “kind of like a big cup.”

These two, Joel & Louise, are family friends and RV travel experts who inspired our own decision to take up this lifestyle, so imagine our delight to find out they were parked in Yuma right as we were passing through, and they had a space for us with hookups!

These two, Joel & Louise, are family friends and RV travel experts who inspired our own decision to take up this lifestyle, so imagine our delight to find out they were parked in Yuma at the same time we were passing through, and they had a space for us — with hookups!

Next stop, California. We didn’t realize we had so many people here! We’ll need to come back through to hug all the ones we missed on this trip.

Also, we remembered — twenty years after being stationed in Monterey — that it’s kind of weird here. Most of the time it’s a rather wonderful and benign weirdness, but sometimes it’s a bit frustrating. “That is Very California” is our new catch phrase.

Very California, exhibit A It's difficult to see, but this guy is taking his two dogs for a golf cart.

Very California, exhibit A
It’s difficult to see, but this guy is taking his two dogs for a golf cart.

Very California, exhibit B

Very California, exhibit B

Very California, exhibit C

Very California, exhibit C

And we are going all the way from the southern border to the northern border.  Thanks, CA.  Whee.

Very California, exhibit D: We are driving all the way from the southern border to the northern border.
Thanks, CA.
Whee.

Escondido meet-up: Rohrer family friend, Ellie, fed us a a beautiful, healthy and delicious dinner, and let us do laundry too!

Escondido meet-up: Rohrer family friend, Ellie, fed us a a beautiful, healthy and delicious dinner, and let us do laundry too!

San Marcos meet-up: two of my Navy wife "sisters", Rachel and Paula, for coffee and catching up.  We've got five sons between us, all of whom attended Larchmont Elementary School in Norfolk, VA.

San Marcos meet-up: two of my Navy wife “sisters”, Rachel and Paula, met me for coffee and catching up.
We’ve got five sons between us, all of whom attended Larchmont Elementary School in Norfolk, VA.

Newport Beach meet-up: We spent this afternoon and evening with our friend, Robert, who was Tim's roommate at Oregon State.

Newport Beach meet-up: We spent this afternoon and evening with our friend, Robert, who was Tim’s roommate at Oregon State.

Arriving at the ferry landing was a bit of a GPS surprise, but not an unpleasant one. Being told the BFT is too FB to board, and having to make an 18-point turn to get out of the ferry line? That made it unpleasant.

Arriving at the ferry landing was a bit of a GPS surprise, but not an unpleasant one.
Being told the BFT is too FB to board, and having to make an 18-point turn in a dually to get out of the ferry line? That made it unpleasant.

 

Balboa Ferry selfie with Robert

So we went on as foot passengers. Ha! Showed them!

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We read that Balboa Bars are a must-have when visiting Newport Beach.  So we did.  Before dinner. No regrets!

We read that Balboa Bars are a must-eat when visiting Newport Beach.
So we did.
Before dinner.
No regrets!

Not a cheap place to live, Newport Beach.

Not a cheap place to live, Newport Beach.

Beautiful Balboa

Beautiful Balboa (The beach, not the bird. I don’t know if the bird even has a name.)

Landmark of the Balboa Fun Zone, rather like a west coast Coney Island

Landmark of the Balboa Fun Zone, rather like a west coast Coney Island

Next stops: central and northern CA, where we’ll meet up with some cousins and watch the weather in the mountain passes, to figure out when best to traverse Oregon.

The stars last night, were big and bright …. and we got mashed potatoes!

It was a big deal! Like, galaxy-sized!

Here’s how it happened: Our younger son is a physics and astronomy major at UT. UT runs the McDonald Observatory in far west Texas. At a recent luncheon for parents of science majors, we met a gentleman who works for the observatory, and he comped us tickets for a tour, a Star Party, and dinner in the cafeteria where the actual astronomers eat, instead of at the cafe in the visitor’s center. See? Stellar deal.

Here are scenes from our daytime guided tour of two of the three giant telescopes: the 107-inch Harlan J. Smith atop Mount Locke, and the Hobby-Eberly on nearby Mount Fowlkes.

Map of the observatory compound, complete with my notes on what to pack for the star party. Temps were in the 30's!

Map of the observatory compound, complete with my notes on what to pack for the Star Party. Temps were in the 30’s!

The Harlan J. Smith and Otto Struve telescopes

The Harlan J. Smith and Otto Struve telescopes

Inside the dome housing the Harlan J. Smith telescope. (Random guy from our tour group for comparison)

Inside the dome housing the Harlan J. Smith telescope.
(Random guy from our tour group for perspective)

The Hobby-Eberly telescope

The Hobby-Eberly telescope

We did not get to tour the Otto Struve Telescope, so we took a selfie in front of a model of it instead. You're welcome.

We did not get to tour the Otto Struve Telescope, so we took a selfie in front of a model of it.
Regrettably, my head is blocking the teensy little figurine of Mr. Struve.

Highest road maintained by TXDOT...

Highest road maintained by TXDOT…

... and the stunning view behind that sign

… and the stunning view behind that sign

The Astronomers Lodge, where visiting researchers and special guests stay while working at the observatory, is that low yellow building there below the Harlan J. Smith Telescope. (Home of the famous mashed potatoes!)

The Astronomers Lodge, where visiting researchers and special guests stay while working at the observatory, is that low yellow building there below the Harlan J. Smith Telescope.
(Home of the famous mashed potatoes!)

Our view from the dinner table: the sun is setting, and it's almost time for the Star Party!

Our view from the dinner table: the sun is setting, and it’s almost time for the Star Party!

The Star Party began at 7 p.m., and conditions could not have been better: no moon, the darkest spot in Texas, and skies so clear that we could see the Andromeda Galaxy just by looking up. OK, so it was a little blurry, but considering it’s 2.3 million light years away, that ain’t bad!

Another thing that made the evening special: there were only about 70 of us there. Last Tuesday? They had 7-hundred-70 people in attendance at the Star Party. This meant a lot less jostling in the dark, and very short wait times at the telescopes, from which we were able to view Uranus, the Ring Nebula, Globular Cluster M15, and the Andromeda Galaxy.

No photos were allowed at the Star Party, so as not to interfere with the dark skies. So here's a picture of my scarf, gloves, blanket, and party sticker. Visit to the McDonald Observatory: highly recommended

No photos were allowed at the Star Party, so as not to interfere with the dark skies. So here’s a picture of my scarf, gloves, blanket, and party sticker.
Visit to the McDonald Observatory: highly recommended

(Disclaimer: I don’t do science, so I’ve kept details to a minimum here, so as not to get stuff wrong and sound like an idiot. Sorry, sciency people. But I’ve included links to reputable sources of information, so that you can read more.)