A Good Trip’s Smoky and Social Conclusion

Sixteen days ago, I-5 was a route out to new things; the turns, the views–despite the annoyances of Interstate driving–were pointing outwardly. Now, on return, everything seems lighted differently. I-5 is now a route of utility, and in some ways relief. Vacations have endings, and that’s when you want the driving to stop, and to sleep in your home again.

But we’re not ones to miss appreciating the Siskiyous or Shasta, though they are smoky. Once south of Red Bluff, the sights are pretty much gone, and we start to notice how saddle-sore we are.

I get ahead of myself. The penultimate day, Saturday, had pleasures that carried no shadow of dread for it being nearly the end. How well-spaced a trip that we had the satisfaction of seeing a national park on nearly the last day!

Crater Lake provided smoky views, thanks to regional fires, but was a treat nevertheless. It’s what the great wonder of the US’s deepest lake looks like when there are fires, and today we get to see it that way. Crater Lake does not owe me a post-card view. It’s like the people in your life–there are good days and bad, and I like them (mostly) as they are. The lake could have dressed up a bit more but we love her and enjoyed the visit.

We tried to find the spot where, years ago, John terrified Tessa by pretending to push her over the rim. Funny how old memories stay as slight filters to your vision of a revisited place.

Films, displays, overlooks, a stop in the shop, a drive on the rim and more smoky pics. The wind picked up in the afternoon and the view seemed to clear slightly.

Our evenings camped in Lemolo, 30 miles from Crater, were blessed with the social cheer of being with bro Greg and Marcy’s friends. Twenty or so of their long-standing pals from a former newspaper gig gather annually for a time of campfires, eats, hikes and water sports. Good folks. And we got to tag along and get a bit more Greg/Marcy time in the deal.

Folding down the pop up, I still revel in how cool it is to travel this way. Sleeping comfortably in the woods, having a refrig, stove, heater–a home! And then we pack up and move on! And even when delivering the trailer to storage it seems to be waiting to go again, as if the hitch, pointing north, is suggesting a return trip.

We are home, resting, Monday approaches.

(The pic here is during our smoky visit to Crater Lake on Saturday)

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Low and Wet to High and Dry

Thursday, Friday

The land tells stories. And it’s fitting that, for once during our stay at Hoh Rainforest, it rained as we packed up to leave. The low valley down which we exited directly faces the Pacific storms as they track in, and the Olympics wring all the wet from them.

With a bit of background understanding of weather, geography and history, you can see more stories in the 500+ miles of these two days. Logging, reservation land, remoteness–western Washington. Quaint, charming Astoria and Fort Clatsop–in some ways it looks like Europeans only recently settled this land, which is actually true considering that it’s been barely over 200 years since Lewis and Clark wintered here.

As our route took us beside Mount Hood and then to the easy side of the Cascades, the pines are still there but sparser, drier, less underbrush. A foot race, a team relay called “Hood to Coast,” is going on while we head SE.

Bend seems athletic to me, but it’s been described that way to me before so I’m prepared to see it. Still, as we stop for food there, it’s hard not to notice that nearly all cars have racks, and everywhere are bikes, rafts, kayaks, etc. Everyone in the Trader Joes looks dressed for the cover of Outdoors Magazine.

Near Crater Lake, at a smaller lake called Lemolo, we meet Greg, Marcy and all their pals lodged/camped there. We set up for a 2 night stay and then join their evening campfire. In higher mountains away from the coast, a bit more in a rain shadow, the air is crisper.

The waxing moon is setting larger and later each evening now. Time marches on and this trip’s end is near. We visit Crater Lake tomorrow and return to Roseville Sunday.

Pic here of the Washington Coast, fresh from a summer shower, on our way south.

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Whoa! Hoh! A Crayola 64-box Study Just in Green and a Scientist-Philosopher Ranger.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Repatriating to the US was a breeze. Up early to make the 10:30 ferry, we rolled to the dock at the required 60 minutes beforehand. Once the rig’s below we lock it up and bound above deck like we’re deeply experienced at this. Coffee and harbor views, then a light chop in the Strait, and soon we are on home soil.

We hit the market for a re-stock of eats and drive the rest of today’s 104 miles to Hoh Rainforest. 1st-come, 1st-served site selection and we find a good one, #44.

Whoa. Hoh. All the many shades of green that exist in the world are here in this valley. The people who invent names for slightly differing shades of paint (“heather sunrise,” “ascot downs,” etc) would be speechless here. The textures of the mosses, ferns, lichens, grasses and Sitka Spruce can be almost felt with the eyes. Every 10 minutes it all changes because the sun has a new approach or is hiding behind a new branch.

An evening campfire program, then our own fire, then another day, Tuesday. Blissful with rest, slow brunch, river hike, chapters of progress in a book, barely one late ray of sun that varies a gray day. Visitor center. A conversation with the young couple camped at site 46. A sighting of Barred Owl. Campfire, Seinfeld, sleep.

The great thing about Wednesday in the Hoh Rainforest was it being the second consecutive non-driving day, not even to other local sights. Just stay put! Also no connectivity. 66 degrees. The sun shone a bit more. Some campers moved on, creating even more quiet than the considerable peace already present.

The park ranger for the 2pm interpretive walk on the Hall of Mosses trail was quite something. Scientific, well-read, a pleasant and also quirky woman with a low center of gravity and high IQ. Absolutely fascinating. I had just finished a book that discussed things like group-level selection in the evolution of cultures (societies that adapted for cooperation and altruism succeeded over ones that did not). It turns out the lit in the natural sciences are noting this also, to hear this ranger talk. Example: Algae that somehow strike up a relationship with the trees to increase the roots’ efficiency, to the benefit of the whole forest.

Indeed, this forest gives the sense of being a whole macroorganism. I’d swear you can sense it breathing.

The three of us lingered to talk after, she going into how science is more open now–Ranger talks like hers, for example, used to isolate myths and stories on the one hand, “but science says” on the other. Now they have shed Cartesian shackles and consider “stories” as other means to convey truth, even scientific truth, just from a different frame of reference. Hmmm. When have I ever before discussed Descartes with a park ranger? Another first.

On our stroll back to 44, Nancy distilled all that science and wonder to the most sensible form: Living things adapt to survive.

Don’t we all.

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From Camping to Afternoon Tea at the Empress

Friday, Saturday, Sunday. South Vancouver Island / Victoria. These three days illustrated how to get different kinds of experiences inthe same trip. It’s easy to show variety from one trip to another, which we also like (a cruise last Fall, camping this Summer).

But even within the same trip, or the same stop on a trip, we like different. Like what?

Like taking a campground shower last night to get fire smoke out of our (uh, I mean Nancy’s) hair, then this morning putting on nice clothes and going to St Andrews Pres in Victoria for worship followed by Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel.

Like a nice restaurant in Duncan yesterday for a Turkey Panini followed by a drive through an abandoned expanse of forest, miles without a soul, and a return to camp for hot dogs.

Like a walk through a river bed to a 179-ft waterfall one day, a walk through the manicured Butchart Gardens another; like a campfire one night, a Seinfeld episode on the laptop another.

These days have mostly been about camping near a city and its sights (we drove 268 mi in all while touring away from our base camp); next week while in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic NP, we will be much more on the rustic side.

One additional note about Canadian manners. My admittedly limited impression is that these folks are the most polite and friendly on earth. We saw nothing of the “coarsening of culture” we lament in other places, we did not hear parents yell at their kids, we saw what seemed to be idyllic tableaus in the public parks with croquet, lawn bowling and petting zoos. And we have never before stayed in a cleaner or quieter campground.

Did Canada receive some classic English propriety from their history in the British Commonwealth but were spared all the hooligans? O that’s right–Australia was originally the penal colony; the polite people were sent to Canada, ey?

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On New Experiences, Apple Cores and Our Role in International Good Will

Thursday. Nearly every sight and experience this day was new: The Olympic Mountains, Peninsula, and National Park, Port Angeles, taking a car and trailer across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into another country and finally–having a 10 minute conversation with a Canadian Customs Officer about our illegal apple. (A word on that later).

The Olympics are a most curious cluster of mountains, unlike the ranges round them, i.e. not volcanic like the Cascades. They’re a rumpled carpet of sea floor scrunched up from subducting tectonic plates. It’s almost tacked on like God had an extra mountain range left over and put it, oh, here. Now it’s a peninsula to nowhere, a cul-de-sac. You have to intend to go there.

Once there, I feel cheated not to have seen them before. OMG what a startling gift to the senses. Admiring them from the east, after leaving Jeff and Dave’s, we then drive into them from the north. From a bare ridge we admire the deeply folded valleys, the hazy glaciers, the scalloped peaks. We turn around to the north and see the Strait we will soon cross to Canada.

Which we barrel down the hill to do, putting car and trailer on the Black Ball Ferry to Victoria. Driving onto the flat lower deck, behind another trailer, cozy beside a semi, we do not have to sit in the car but are able to scoot above deck for the 90 minute ride.

We meet the uniformed Canadian customs officer in the little booth when driving off. Of her many questions is the one about fruit which we answer truthfully, yes, one apple. She must have liked our honesty for she did not require us to fork over the forbidden fruit but instead asked us to save the core after eating it and pack it back out of the country when we return to the US. Fine then.

Mark this as another first: That we will, if we obey, actually save our old apple core in a baggie and thereby also save our northern neighbors from all the hideous infestations that would have emanated from our Fred-Meyer-bought Granny Smith.

We emerge from the docks in the late-afternoon sun and turn onto Victoria’s Douglas Street. The Canadians we pass are cheerfully unaware of the danger lurking in the Californians’ car and trailer. In our possession is an apple nearly radioactive with danger! *music swells* . Who knew? On our return this Monday the repatriated apple core will become a symbol of international cooperation. *Oh! Canada!*

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Connectivity Restored

Tuesday-Wednesday. Were we glad when we finally got a cell signal after days of being off-line? In a way, yes, but also no. The easy cool morning process of folding the trailer down, a side visit to a little museum in Longmire, a drive down toward Ohanepecosh and a stroll in the Grove of the Patriarchs there–all of these pleasures capped 3 days without a ringtone or alert, and no viewing of mail. Nice, actually. Afternoon at White River Entrance, on the road to Sunrise Area of the park, the phone lit up like a resuscitated electrical demon. It bore good things, yes, like notes from the kids and notices of Elly nominations. Then it immediately sucked away 30 minutes of our lives, thumb typing into our glass slates.

The road to Sunrise reminded us of Colorado’s Trail Ridge Road with viewpoints that seemed equal height to distant peaks. Cascade ranges are darker than the Sierras, full of darker lavas, pointed peaks, green matting on the soil up to the ridge lines. Fields of lupine, stinging sun and thin air.

The best connectivity is human, and that was our blessing with Jeff and Dave on Tue eve and Wednesday. Yes the visit provided the practicals: a trip to get new brakes on the Santa Fe, a run to the bank and Fred Meyer, but the main deal was time with them: Lollipop steaks Tue night, chowder and salmon Wed night (at iconic Ivar’s on the waterfront), a ride on the Seattle wheel, time to chat, drink Chard, laugh and rest …

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A Quieter Paradise

On Mondays there are fewer people in Paradise. It’s as if the volume was halved, not only in numbers but in sheer noise and bother. I had a pre-dawn 3-mile hike to Longmire, just me and my thoughts. Nancy and I found a 2.5 mile hike to glacial-cirque-nestled lakes in the Tatoosh Range south of Rainier, which we took at noon. Here were Cascade beauties, lakes and meadows, that may be overlooked because the behemoth mountain bullies for top attraction. And when you look back over at Rainier again, which you must, he is now far away enough to be appreciated fully without having to crane your neck. The afternoon was tired, big chairs in the visitor center and a cold beer, kids (like me) pushing buttons on museum relief maps to make the little lights go on. We visit Narada Falls and head for home, nap, dinner and a fire.

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