Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Independence Day

Lyle and LInda at Cape Flattery
So the 3rd of July rolls around and now my brother and his wife come over on the ferry from their palatial mansion on Whidbey Island, making us a healthy sized group of eight.  That's semi-cousin Ruth and her hubby Paul,  my sister Laura and husband Tom and now Lyle and Linda, the Whidbey Rains.  Oh, and Vic and I of course.  L&L got off the ferry at about 8:30, picked Laura and Tom up at their B&B, met the rest of us out at some desolate spot on the highway and, packed into two cars, we headed west.

West from Port Townsend means back out US Hwy 101 to Port Angeles.  Then, where 101 turns south we switched to state Hwy 112 which continues along the north peninsular coast.  It is a nice drive with roads getting progressively narrower as you get farther from civilization.  We were headed for the town of Neah Bay, the main metropolis of the Makah Indian Reservation (pop. 865) which occupies the northwest tip of the United States. 

The Makah tribe has a web site here that can tell you all about their traditional culture, how they were at one with nature and lived in perfect peace and harmony, all the usual stuff.  None of that helped them when the whites arrived.  There were no major fights, but they apparently never quite managed to become one with the parts of nature that included small pox, measles, diphtheria and whooping cough and their numbers were thoroughly decimated.  Afraid the newcomers would take everything, they signed a treaty that preserved their sealing, whaling and fishing rights in exchange for 300,000 acres of Olympic Peninsula land they didn't really need anymore seeing as how there were only a few hundred of them left.  The tribe currently has a little over 1200 members who mostly make their living fishing supplemented by fairly limited tourist trade.  They still claim their right to take whales, but the last official whale hunt was in 1999.
Neah Bay
We planned to have lunch in Neah Bay.  Linda had picked out a cafe called "Linda's Cafe", entirely a coincidence I'm sure.  When we got inside it turned out to be mostly a pizza joint.  Linda (the owner) was friendly and answered our questions which gradually revealed that about half of the things on the already limited menu she was out of.  We ended up having salmon pizza, which was pretty good but could have used more salmon.

From Cape Flattery looking north toward Vancouver Is.
After pizza, we drove on out through the reservation to the northwest tip of both the Olympic Peninsula and the Continental United States, an area known as Cape Flattery.  Cape Flattery is the oldest permanently named feature in Washington state, being described and named by James Cook who wrote: "... there appeared to be a small opening which flattered us with the hopes of finding an harbor ... On this account I called the point of land to the north of it Cape Flattery."  Last summer when we visited Maine, we went to the northeast tip of the continental US and found the Quoddy Head Lighthouse there.  Cape Flattery also has a lighthouse, but it is located on Tatoosh Island, a couple of hundred
yards off the tip of the Cape.  The tip is reached by a 3/4 mile trail which, for most people, is apparently and easy jaunt, but for me the trail seemed pretty steep and the approximately 1.4 million wooden steps were pure torture.  I eventually made it, about an hour after the rest of our group, and took a few pictures to justify the trip.  Then I faced the prospect of retracing all those steps back to
Tatoosh Island
the top.  This was so overwhelming to me that I just laid down right there and died.  No, wait... that's not right.  It's hard to believe, but I actually made it back to the parking lot with much help and encouragement from my travel mates.  I'll never forgive them.

Fiddle concert at Fort Worden
The next day was July 4th and we had big plans.  Since 1977 Port Townsend has hosted an annual Festival of American Fiddle Tunes which is a one week symposium that draws fiddlers (as opposed to violinists) from not only all over the US but these days the rest of the world as well.  There are daily workshops (about which I know nothing) and evening concerts.  Linda, our tour planner, had gotten us tickets for the "Fiddles on the Fourth" concert, which took place in the afternoon to leave the evening available for pyrotechnics.  The venue was an old blimp hanger at Ft. Worden.  This is the building where Richard Gere and Louis Gosset, Jr. pummel each other at the end of An Officer and a  Gentleman.  It has been converted into a largish concert hall where a number of Port Townsend's many summer music festivals draw in the tourist trade. 

The show we saw was comprised of about 8 acts with fiddlers ranging from 6 years old to a 94 year old lady who still played well but seemed to have lost her sense of when it was time to stop.  There were fiddlers from Scotland and Denmark as well as all over the US.  We had a good time and so, apparently, did everyone else.

After the concert we went back to Chimacum and I smoked salmon for everyone while Paul grilled corn and Ruth made up a fancy salad.  Our rig, while spacious, does not really have dining space for eight, so we commandeered a table under the gazebo next to the Evergreen-Coho clubhouse and had a feast worthy of a Rains reunion.  There were supposedly fireworks out over the bay at Port Townsend, but we didn't drive back to see them.  It gets dark so late during the northern summer that they didn't start until after 10:00.  We just sat around the motor home and jawed until people got tired and wandered off to their various sleeping quarters.

Vicki explores gun implacement at Fort Flagler
The next day we did a little sight seeing across the bridge on Indian Island and at Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island.  Fort Flagler was an army artillery base established in 1899 and represented one leg of the "triangle of death" protecting the entrance to the Puget Sound.  It never rained death down on any enemy ships but served as a training camp for the Army until 1958.  It was sold to the state of Washington and the barracks and officer housing now serve as vacation accommodations for kids' summer camps and for individuals and families  There are a handful of RV hookups for volunteers who come and do park maintenance.  We talked to a couple of them and they were adamant that they were "volunteers", not "work campers".  Looked about the same to me.  There is a little museum at the entrance that has a slew of artifacts and a short video that runs you through the history of the fort.  It was a nice way to spend an hour.  Most of the group hiked around the tip of Marrowstone Island in the afternoon but my poor legs were still recovering from Cape Flattery, so I sat on the beach with Tom and watched the boats go by.

That evening Laura and Tom drove back around the Puget Sound to SeaTac airport.  They would spend the night at a hotel, then catch a plane back to Michigan in the morning.  Lyle and Linda had some things they had to do, so they caught the ferry back to Whidbey, but they would be rejoining us in a few days.  In the meantime we settled down with Paul and Ruth to relax at the Evergreen Campground for a couple of days.           

Bonus Pics

Looking south down the Olympic Peninsula from Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery

Spotted along the road

Cape Flattery Lighthouse

Old barracks at Fort Flagler

Fort Flagler officers housing with Mt. Rainier in the background

The group heads off around the island...

...while I watch the boats go by.

Ruth finally gets to see her bear.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Family Gathers

When we arrived on the Olympic Peninsula one of the first local news reports we saw told us there was a fire in the national park.  It had apparently been started by a lightning strike and smouldered away out in the brush for 2 weeks before anyone spotted it.  By the time we arrived it had consumed a couple thousand acres and was continuing to spread because there was no very good way to get to where the fire was.  There were also a number of fires scattered around nearby British Columbia.  All of these fires were far from us and of no immediate concern, but by the end of our first week in  Washington, things were getting pretty smokey.  This wreaks havoc on outdoor photography.  It is somewhat correctable, but I'm no Photoshop wizard and my results are marginal at best.

For example, above is a photo of Mt. Baker taken from the top of Mt. Walker.  Below is the same photo after some modest fiddling.  Better but not great.  Keep this in mind if the pictures seem a little odd.

Ruth and Paul
On the 30th of June, Paul and Ruth Bay arrived at our campground in Chimacum.  Those of you who have been following the blog a long time (yes, both of you) met Paul and Ruth a couple of years ago when we went to Cody, Wyoming.  Ruth is my second-cousin-once-removed, so we are vaguely related.  They live in Renton, near Seattle, so it was just a hop, skip and a 2 hour drive for them to join us here.  We felt kind of bad for them.  Here at Evergreen-Coho RV if you stay a month, like us, they stick you in an empty shareholder's site with lots of space and 50 amp power in hopes they can sucker you into staying long term.  If you are a short term guest they have sites just for you with close packing and only 30 amp service.  Since this is the hottest summer in recent memory here with temps going into the mid-80s, 30 amps was sometimes not enough for comfort.   So we kind of felt bad.  But not enough to trade places with them.

Paul is a retired engineer and Boeing executive.  They bought a used Country Coach a couple of years ago which is Paul's ongoing hobby.  He's much more interested in fiddling with it than living in it.  Pay attention.  This is the kind of person it takes to be an engineer and a Boeing executive.  Paul keeps a list of all the problems in the coach.  Not just the current problems... ALL the problems.  The top of the list shows the problems that have been fixed, how and when they were fixed and what to do if they recur.  It is in blue.  The middle of the list shows problems he is currently working on and what he has tried.  It is in yellow.  The last part of the list shows problems that are low priority and haven't been worked on yet.  It is pink.  It is not enough that he can pull these up whenever he wants and look at them on his laptop.  He has them printed out on actual paper for quick reference, in triplicate I'll wager.  Whenever something gets fixed, he throws away the old lists and prints out new, updated ones.  That's why he was a big executive and why MY motorhome is going to gradually decay into dust.  I don't have any lists.  We had a couple of lights out in our coach and Paul came over and fixed them.  Then he gave us a couple of spare halogen bulbs for future use.  He has 4 dozen of them, just in case, along with 10 of every type of fuse known to man.

The day after they arrived, we took an excursion with them, starting with a drive up to the summit of
the previously mentioned Mt. Walker.  This is a mild peak, only about 2800 ft high, but it is the only mountain facing the Puget Sound with a road to the top.  There is also a foot trail up, but you know I'm not messing with that.  The view from the top is spectacular, or at least it would be if we weren't surrounded by smoke. 
As it was, the view across the sound to Mt. Ranier looked like this.  Seattle is off to the left somewhere, burried in the muck.  This is from the south viewpoint, the photo of Mt. Baker at the top of the page was from the north viewpoint.

More of a creek
After admiring the haze, we went down the hill and drove out the unlikely named Dosewallops River Road until the pavement ran out and then some.  The Dosewallops River is really less a river and more of a nice creek meandering down the peninsula and emptying into the Hood Canal.   At a secret point along the road there is an unmarked trail, known only to a select few that leads to Rocky Falls, a lovely waterfall that looks like this...

Rocky Falls
At the bottom of the falls is a moderately deep pool where a group of the select few (they don't actually look all that select to me) were swimming and jumping off the rocks.  They appeared to be having fun and we would have joined them if we had thought to bring bathing suits.  Oh well.

That evening my sister arrived with Tom, her hubby.  They live in Michigan and have also shown up
Add caption
before on the Rainsbow Road.  Like here for example.  Their kids (both in their 20s) stayed in Michigan, not wanting to spend a week surrounded by old fogeys. We met them for dinner at a southern style place that was not one of my best ever restaurant picks and will remain un-named in these pages.  Then the next morning, the six of us packed a picnic lunch and drove over to Port Angeles and up the road to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park.  This is a gorgeous area we have visited before, but with the heat and low rainfall this year, there was less snow than we have ever seen and the smoke, of course, was ever present.  Still, it was a pleasant day, a deer tried to joint us for our picnic and most of the group had a pleasant hike while Tom and I sat in the ranger station and enjoyed the furniture. 
Hurricane Ridge
Manressa Castle
That evening we had reservations at the Manressa Castle.  This was originally built as the home of Port Townsend's first Mayor, Charles Eisenbeis.  It sat empty for 25 years after his death, was turned into a monastery by the Jesuits in 1927 and eventually got fitted out as a hotel in 1968.  It has changed hands a few times since then but seems like a fairly elegant hostelry with rumors of being haunted just for good measure.  We were dismayed when we heard that the proprietor of Laura's bed and breakfast wouldn't have recommended it and concerned when we walked in and found ourselves the only party in the rather largish dining area.  But the food turned out to be pretty good and the ghosts didn't bother us, so we considered this to be a good selection.  Unfortunately, if they don't rustle up some more business it may not be there for you to try when you come to Port Townsend.

Monday, July 13, 2015

First Days on the Olympic Peninsula

Greetings from lovely Chimacum on the Olympic Peninsula, just south of Port Townsend, WA.  The town bills itself as "a historic farming community" with the motto "We grow food for you".  There are about a dozen farms in the area but you would be hard pressed to tell if you didn't get directions to them.  They specialize in foodie stuff - grass fed beef, "organic" fruits and vegetables, the sort of thing they can sell locally at a premium price to keep themselves afloat.  That's fine, but they aren't going to solve world hunger any time soon.  Sure, they grow food for YOU, but only if you live nearby and not on the scale of California or Nebraska.

The town is home to the Evergreen-Coho SKP park, which is the main reason why we are here instead of at Hudson Point up in Port Townsend.  The park is quite nice and the infrastructure problems don't seem to be nearly as bad as you may have been led to believe.  We are in a vacant share-holder site with 50 amp service and full hook ups and have not had any problems at all so far.  Howard and Heart McQueen  from Jojoba are here and have leased a lot, planning to make this their primary home base rather than Aguanga (although, given their history, that could change at any moment.)  We met them the day we arrived and have shared a couple of meals with them.  They took us to the local Elks fish fry which was interesting since I had never been in an Elks Lodge before.  The food was good and the bar well stocked, which I guess are the main requirements for a lodge.  A very gung-ho Elk gave us a tour and showed us the inner sanctum (but not the secret handshake).  They seemed like a nice bunch.  I would tell you the whole McQueen story but it's probably not my place to do so.  They have a lot of big plans but they seem to be fairly... labile.  Anyway, they'll probably be back to Jojoba before we will so if you are there you can ask when you see them.

Boat riding low in the water
We had lunch the next day at the Bayview Restaurant out on the patio.  It was pretty good food and we were having a pleasant conversation when I peaked over Howard's shoulder and saw a rather unusual boat heading south into the sound.  I guess even next door to the Bangor Naval Base it isn't all that common to see a nuclear submarine cruise by.  I'm pretty sure this is a fast attack sub, not one of the big missile boomers that carry much of our nuclear arsenal (thanks to Tom Clancy, I know all the lingo).

Residents of the lagoon
Our plans for our visit to the Port Townsend area early on revolved around visits from family members, but we had a few days to ourselves before they were expected to start arriving so we did a little exploring on our own.  Port Townsend is somewhat unique in having a lagoon situated in the middle of town.  Well, I say "lagoon" but the difference between that and a swamp is sort of in the eye of the beholder.  The entire area of Port Townsend was called Kah Tai by the local natives before Capt. Vancouver showed up and renamed it after his buddy, the Marquis of Townshend. He saw the indians erecting poles hung with nets that would entrap waterfowl as they came in for a landing in the swa... er, lagoon.  The current Kah Tai Lagoon is what is left of a much larger wetland that was a nuisance to get around in the early days of the town. Back in 1964 the town wanted to expand its boat building area and get a decent road around the muck, so they dredged the harbor and funneled the mud and sand into the lagoon to create some more dry land.  This irritated the local environmentalists and the 200 acre wet land was reduced to about 80 acres.  In the 1980s they wanted to fill in the rest, but the local citizens revolted and demanded it become a protected parkland.  Currently there are a dozen varieties of duck that call the lagoon home as well as numerous other critters.

We saw a few of these at Kah Tai.  This is a Ruddy Duck.  They were on the far side of the lagoon and could just be made out with our binoculars.  The white cheeks, red backs and blue bills of the males make them easy to identify but at that distances we did not have any lens that would adequately capture one, so I stole this photo off the internet.  The site it was on was in French, so if there was any copyright notice there I couldn't make it out (my french is only marginally better than my Swahili).  After looking at herons and red wing blackbirds in Oregon and ducks here, Vicki has decided we are now officially "birders".  Yeah, we'll see how much time she spends bird watching over the next 4 months.

Fort Worden
Fort Worden, on the outskirts of Port Townsend,  was built from 1896 to 1901 and was an active Army base from 1902 until 1953.  It was one of three forts built at the opening of the Puget Sound that were supposed to create a "Triangle of Death" for any invading ships trying to attack Seattle and Tacoma.  In the end, they never fired a shot in anger and their dozens of artillary pieces were dismounted during WWI and sent off to Europe where they were hoped to be more useful.  The fort was used mostly as a training facility and provided the sets for An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982.  Down the hill from the fort is Wilson Point where a lighthouse has guided ships through Admiralty Inlet for a century.
Wilson Point Light

We drove along the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula visiting Sequim (pronounced "Squim") and Port Angeles (pronounced "Port Angeles")  These were just kind of scouting trips.  We mostly left the rest to do after the various relatives started arriving in a couple of days.  We just hunkered down and awaited the onslaught.
Port Angeles, at the foot of the Olympic Mountains
Container ship entering the sound (no, not the yellow one)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On to Washington

Hmmm...  kind of a long blogging hiatus.  We've been busy with family for the last couple of weeks, got some catching up to do.

When we left Waldport we drove over hwy 20 to get to the I-5 north and spent a night in Woodburn.  There is a campground there just off the freeway and adjacent to the outlet mall which is the town's main claim to fame.  So it's great if you want to go to the outlet mall, which we did not.  We havent got anyplace to store any more stuff, so anything we buy new means getting rid of something and we didn't have anything we were just dying to get rid of. 

If you are not going to the outlet mall, the Woodburn/Portland RV Park mostly resembles an extended outlet mall parking lot but with hookups.  They failed to mention to us that due to road construction, it was not possible to turn left out of the campground and head back to the freeway the way we came and there was no convenient way to drive "around the block" to get ourselves turned around the right way.  Fortunately, our GPS routed us through the farm country for about five miles and got us back on the freeway at the next on-ramp.  So, we carried on to our next stop which was in Kelso, WA. 

The campground in Kelso was bounded by a dyke that channeled a large irrigation canal through town with a path at the top of the dyke you could walk or bike along.  A lot of folks bicycled by about 5 feet above our windshield.  We went out to a Mexican restaurant called Fiesta Bonita at the Three Rivers Mall.  This was Father's Day but it was only moderately busy.  The food did not taste like California Mex, nor did it taste like Tex Mex, nor yet did it taste like New Mexico Mex but it was quite tasty none the less.  I guess we need a new category called Washi-Mex.  We remember the days when we were doing our internships in Tacoma (MANY years ago) and there were only three Mexican restaurants in the whole Puget Sound area and all of them were terrible.  Back then there was no decent Mexican food north of San Francisco.  Now I guess Mexican culture and cuisine has spread all the way to the Canadian border.  Do NOT try to see if the same applies to eastern Kentucky.  We had some of the worst "Mexican" food we've ever eaten just west of the Cumberland Gap a couple of years ago.

The next day we only drove 75 miles and stayed at the Little Creek Casino near Shelton.  They have a small RV area, about 25 slots, with level asphalt pads and grass in between.  Pretty nice for a casino.  The RV lot is about 100 yds. from the casino doors if you want to gamble, which we did not.  There was a pool we did not swim in and a gym we did not exercise in.  What we did do was eat at their buffet restaurant.  All you could eat for 15 bucks, and the food was actually pretty good.  Good enough that we went back the next morning for the 7 dollar breakfast.  I don't get a lot of  bacon, but when there is a whole pan full just sitting there begging to be eaten, who am I to resist?  So a bunch of bacon, scrambled eggs, french toast, sausage, fruit.  A respectable meal to get us back on the road.

We drove another 75 miles up the last little bit of US 101 (on which we had driven all up and down the Oregon coast), past the Hood Canal to finally arrive at Port Townsend. 

In all that traveling we saw not one sight that cried out "photograph me", so this is a text only entry.  Oh well, we'll make up for it at some point.  More about the Olympic Peninsula next time.