09-25-2014 North toward Whidbey Island

Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon, gorgeous fall weather clear skies 79 degrees F

Deception Pass SP (1 of 73) After two days of exploring traffic patterns in Puget Sound, we were definitely ready to travel north toward something a bit less crowded.  After thoroughly reading everything Laurel and Nina had written about getting around in the San Juan Islands, I decided that traveling north via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Kitsap Peninsula and taking a ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville was our best route.

To the left is our original planned route, 114 miles, to the right is the alternate route, 195 miles and 5 extra hours!

rerouting to Whidbey Island original route 114 milesEven with a ferry trip, it seemed better than dealing once again with the traffic on I-5 north to Mount Vernon and accessing Whidbey Island from the north.  I went to the Washington State Ferry website and made a reservation for the MoHo and the Tracker, where the fare was calculated to be something in the vicinity of 67 bucks for both rigs.  Seemed reasonable enough.

The drive north was uneventful, with clouds parting a bit for lighter gray skies and even a bit of sunshine here and there.  I was a bit sad because I knew that Port Townsend was a great destination, and with our ferry reservation, we probably wouldn’t get much of a chance to see it.  Fate stepped in, however, and as we approached the terminal an hour in advance, as recommended, I was surprised to see large red CLOSED sign at the gates.

Seems as though the bridge to land from the ferry on the Coupeville side had somehow broken, and the ferry had been turned around.  I can only imagine how all those folks felt!  The ferry was cancelled until the bridge could be repaired.  We could return via Tacoma and drive north along I-5, or we could drive back to Kingston and catch the Edmonds ferry there.

to Fort Lewis (58 of 97)Rather than worry about it, we decided to take a bit of time and enjoy walking around the downtown picturesque portion of Port Townsend where we had a good parking place for a few hours.

Port Townsend was as magically lovely as I expected, with wonderful shops and a vibrant feeling of both tourism and locals.  We found a sweet little cafe where the cappucino was not only tasty, but pretty, with a little window table to sit and enjoy watching the changing and somewhat chilly weather outside.  With the weather cool enough that Abby could wait in the MoHo, we enjoyed a leisurely walk through town, going in and out of interesting shops filled with color, art and creativity.  I was completely enthralled with a shop that celebrated the fiber arts with quilting, knitting, and beading as a focus.  I do love color, and the displays of fabric, yarn, beads and notions, all creatively jumbled together by color had me oohing and ahhing.  I did manage to keep my wallet intact, but it was a challenge.to Fort Lewis (71 of 97)to Fort Lewis (77 of 97)After deciding that we definitely will come back to spend more time in Port Townsend, we reluctantly traveled back south toward Kingston.  In line for the ferry with time to spare, we coughed up the 86 bucks for the MoHo and Tracker to cross the sound toward Edmonds.  The crossing was uneventful, and I didn’t even bother to try to get up top for the view.  By the time we reached Edmonds, it was mid-afternoon and the drive to Mukilteo wasn’t terribly difficult.  In line once again, and coughing up another 56 bucks for another ferry, we waited as the sunshine came out and illuminated the sound and the islands in the distance.

to Fort Lewis (81 of 97)to Fort Lewis (89 of 97)to Fort Lewis (93 of 97) We again enjoyed the ride, and this time I went top side to get some photos while Mo relaxed with Abby in the MoHo with a glass of wine and a good book.  However,as the day progressed we were getting a bit concerned about our arrival time at Whidbey NAS.  Google was telling me so many minutes, and we had a few less than needed to get to the Porter Gate where RV’s are allowed to enter the base.  We made it with just 3 minutes before closing.  It wouldn’t have been too awful if we had been late, as there is a special phone number to call and security will open the gate for you after a short wait.

to Fort Lewis (95 of 97) Once on base, we tried to follow the written directions from the website, and managed to get a bit lost before a nice guy in a car and a Navy uniform offered to lead us in to the Cliffside RV Park.  Of course, after being on base for a few days, it was so simple, but that first time in was a bit goofy. 

Deception Pass SP (13 of 73)  It was approaching early evening as we checked into the south loop of the park, where the manager had told us by telephone to go if we arrived after six.  He came down to meet us as we settled in, saying it was no problem for us to come to his office the following morning to settle up our camp fees.  I must say that the view from the campground was incredible.  After being in a deep dark forest at Lewis McChord, it was a delight to be camped on a high bluff directly above the sea with a 180 degree view of sky and water and islands in the distance.

Deception Pass SP (6 of 73) The sites were level and the lack of shade completely irrelevant in the cool, cloudy skies of this part of the northwest.  Full hookups and a spotless laundry right across from our site were added benefits.  Just below us was a fitness trail, paved for bikes and used by runners and walkers of all sorts. The beach was just below the path a few hundred feet and was littered with beautiful weathered driftwood and covered with tiny pea gravels rather than sand.  I think it was the nicest Family Camp we have ever experienced. 

Deception Pass SP (16 of 73)One of the sweetest benefits are the flowers!  A camp host is a dahlia fan, and he plants more than 1,000 dahlias in the campground.  Dahlias love that moist air and mild sunshine and they were in full bloom.  At the campground office, on a table outside the door, are a large selection of vases filled with dahlias for each camper to take to their rig.  Just return the vase when you leave. Without a doubt we will return for an extended stay to this camp. In a great location for exploring the area, at $30 per night it was a good deal for this part of the west where decent campgrounds are hard to find.

Deception Pass SP (30 of 73) We originally planned to visit Lopez Island on Friday, but with the rainy weather predicted for that day, and the sunshine predicted for the next day, it seemed smarter to deal with Saturday ferry traffic and stay close to Whidbey  and our home on Friday.  Waking to misty rain, I read about visiting Deception Pass State Park and after our leisurely morning, we jumped in the Tracker to explore.

Deception Pass SP (70 of 73) Deception Pass State Park covers more than 4,000 acres on two islands.  The islands are connected by  the Deception Pass Bridge, spanning the salt waters of Deception Pass 177 feet below.  There are annual kayak races through the pass, but watching that swirling current and the incoming tide, you couldn’t pay me to drop a kayak into that water.  In fact, much of the San Juan Islands and surrounding area require a more seaworthy kayak than our sweet flat water boats. 

Deception Pass SP (35 of 73)Deception Pass SP (43 of 73) Deception Pass SP (47 of 73) Deception Pass SP (48 of 73) Deception Pass SP (54 of 73) Deception Pass SP (57 of 73) With the pass just minutes from the campground, we had the entire day to wander out to Rosario Beach and walk the trails on Rosario Head and then back toward Bowman Bay.  At Bowman Bay there was a beautiful CCC interpretation center, but it was closed for the season.  There was also a perfect kayak launch site and with better weather, it would have been a lovely paddle.  We would have loved to have a bit more time to hike out to Lighthouse Point, but decided to save that hike for another visit.  One could spend many days hiking around this beautiful park.

deception pass map As I have often mentioned, I live in a forest.  I do know that forests are often shaded and quite dark.  However shaded and dark is a mild description of the depths of darkness in the thick forests of Deception Pass State Park.  The firs and hemlocks are huge and the understory is impenetrable. The shades of green are beyond counting, but most of them are in the darker range of shades, and the deep blues of the water and gray skies added much to the gloom.  It was a beautiful gloom, just not one where I would want to spend any great length of time.  Beautiful to visit, but I wouldn’t live there.  I need more light!

Whidbey Sunset SP (1 of 30)Whidbey Sunset SP (8 of 30)Whidbey Sunset SP (18 of 30) Light arrived in full force just as we returned in early evening to our camp.  The sun burst below the cloud cover over the water to the west just a bit before sunset, turning the grass green gold and lighting up the skies.  With Abby on her leash, we walked south on the trail, waiting for the sunset. High over the water, we found a perfect viewing bench.  No green flash, but the light and the color was a perfect end to a wonderful day.Whidbey Sunset SP (23 of 30)



08-10-2014 North toward British Columbia

Current Location: home in Rocky Point…but you already know that right?

As soon as it was decided to have the Oukrop reunion in Spokane, Mo and I were thinking, “Yes!  A chance for another trip to Canada!”  Especially nice was the idea that we could dip into Canada without having to purchase very much fuel while we were there.   

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (15 of 71)The Kootenay Lake loop north from Bonners Ferry and back through Nelson to Spokane can be done in a long day.  I used to do it back in the days when I lived in the area.  Some of my favorite photos (remember I have been scanning old photos for a month now) are from one of those trips back in the 70’s.

1985 Sue and Maryruth833 1985 Sue and Maryruth834

Sue and Maryruth Girl Time at Destiny Bay 1985

In the mid 80’s I took my grandmother on a road trip over the same route to Kaslo, staying in a little motel there for a night before returning.  It was one of the last long trips I took with her.  In the mid 80’s Maryruth and I celebrated my 40th birthday at the fabulous Destiny Bay Resort, no phone, no TV, just two days of girl talk and a trip to Ainsworth Hot Springs.  Ahh, such great memories!08-75 Kootenay Lake

Two of my girls on Kootenay Lake 1975

It was a place I was excited to share with Mo.  We often try to get to places that neither of us have seen, but that is getting harder and harder to accomplish.  This time the Kootenay Lake Loop was my idea and it turned out great.  Mo loved Kaslo and the entire area.kootenay

When we left Spokane at the 1:00 PM check out time for Riverside State Park, it was hot.  Surprisingly, the farther north we traveled the hotter the temperature!  We took the familiar route north along Highway 2, one we have traveled several times, and in spite of the beauty of the Pend Oreille River and the little town of Sandpoint, we were not inclined to stop and linger.  Not only was it hot, but the skies were so smoky from fires in the Okanagan and the Colville Reservation area I took no photos.

With no solid plans for where we wanted to stay, I pulled up CampWhere and AllStays, and we decided that a free night at the Kootenai River Inn was a good choice.  We could offset some of our travel expenses with a free boondocking night, and be ready to cross the border early the next morning.  What we hadn’t considered was that the temperatures would still be in the high 90’s as the sun set. 

With permission from the front desk, we parked out in the far end of the lot, no jacks down, and we left the slide closed.  Started up the generator to run the air conditioner and settled in to relax a bit.  I had planned to cook up some quesadillas for supper, but instead, with the heat, we ate some of Wynn’s leftover lasagna she so kindly packed up for us the day before.  We had a moment of trouble with the generator providing enough juice for the air conditioner, but discovered that if we took the fridge off automatic and put it on gas only we had no problem.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (1 of 71)I walked around the parking lot trying to get some photos of the August 10 supermoon, but almost everywhere I walked there were telephone lines and houses.  Even down along the river by the hotel I couldn’t find a place to set up a shot.  Oh well, I still got to look at it, and with the smoke in the atmosphere it was bigger and redder than I expected. 

Only a minor glitch to mar the evening was easily remedied.  An older RV pulled in front of us, and actually backed up so that their rig was just feet from our front bumper.  Then they turned on their generator.  It was loud and it was old and the fumes were so bad we couldn’t breathe.  By this time we had ours off and the windows open, so it was getting too hot to close them.  I hemmed and hawed a bit, and then in my most sweet possible face I walked over to the rig where folks were playing cards and very nicely asked, “Are you planning to run your generator long?  If so we will move”. 

The guy was a bit taken aback at first, I guess he had no idea his fumes were so bad, but then he was kind and actually moved his rig far enough forward that we could breathe with the windows open.  Nice interaction, although a bit scary for me at first to do that.  In addition, the railroad route runs right along the parking lot, and those horns were loud!  Maybe none came by during the night because I had no trouble sleeping after we turned off the generator and turned on the fantastic fan for some air.  It was a hot night!

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (6 of 71) We had planned to enter Canada at the smaller Porthill crossing, but I somehow missed the turn (remember I mapped soils here and supposedly KNOW the roads), and ended up going in through the 24 hour Eastgate crossing.  Highway 3 exits west toward Creston just north of the border, and the drive was lovely so it wasn’t a problem.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (4 of 71) The crossing was incredibly simple.  The guard looked at our passports, checked Abby’s rabies certificate and asked if we had any produce or firewood.  “Half a head of lettuce” and he didn’t care a bit.  I do think he asked our destination and if we had been in Canada before and where we crossed.  The whole process took maybe 3 minutes. 

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (5 of 71) Once over the border, we headed west toward Creston, stopping at an ATM to withdraw some Canadian cash.  Creston is nothing like I remember.  What was once a dingy little place now boasts cute shops, restaurants, a nice looking downtown, and even murals!  We passed by a couple of RV parks that we had considered for the previous night and were perfectly happy with our casino docking choice.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (25 of 71) Kootenay Lake is incredibly gorgeous.  Creston is at the southern end of the Canadian part of the Kootenay Valley (it is Kootenai in Northern Idaho) and the lake is long, narrow and deep lying between the Selkirks and the Purcell mountains, which extend northward in British Columbia and southward into the US. The waters of Kootenay Lake end up eventually in the Columbia River at Castlegar.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (18 of 71)The mountains range on both sides of the lake get higher and more rugged toward the north, but the road that parallels the lake is an easy route.  There are lots of places to stop and check out the views, and in spite of the smoke I tried to get some photos. 

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (12 of 71)There is a small tourist attraction along the lake called the Glass Bottle House.  I had been there many times, the photos of my kids above were taken there, but Mo wasn’t all that interested in doing the tourist thing, so I simply took a few photos from the outside.  It is interesting if you feel like stopping and paying for the views and the story.

The main destination for us and for a lot of other folks was the ferry that crosses the lake to the little hamlet of Balfour.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (27 of 71) This ferry is part of the BC highway system and doesn’t cost a penny.  During the high season, the ferry runs about every 50 minutes between Kootenay Bay and Balfour, with a second smaller ferry put into service during peak times.  We were lucky enough to snag a trip on the big ferry, sharing our ride with some very big logging trucks and a lot of RV’s.

Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (37 of 71)Check out the MoHo tucked in with those logging trucks

The wait at the ferry wasn’t long at all, and as the vehicles lined up to load I was sure we wouldn’t get on.  I was totally amazed at the load that ferry could carry. Not only did we get on the first trip, another two lines of vehicles next to us got on after we did.  I still can’t quite figure out how they fit all those rigs on that boat!Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (38 of 71)

The crossing is beautiful, taking just 35 minutes, with gorgeous views both north and south on the lake.  Once the ferry landed in Balfour, we were unloaded quickly and in minutes were on our way north on Highway 31 toward Ainsworth Hot Springs and the little town of Kaslo where we had reservations for the next three nights.  Kootenai Lake and Kaslo (34 of 71)

Next:  Four Days in Kaslo