We woke up about 7 after a snug night’s rest. Our ferry reservation was for 9:50, so we didn’t have to rush. I started coffee and heated up the 5 Bs bakery cinnamon rolls in the dutch oven. Bill took down the purple batwing.
We had a last leisurely island drive into Friday Harbor, parked in the standby lot and got coffee at the convenient stand across the street.
There were a grand of 18 vehicles and two e-bikes on the Chelan as we left Friday Harbor. The e-bikes got off on Lopez Island and 17 more vehicles boarded, including a small school bus. I thought our boat over was empty–this one was ever so much more so.
I like signs and ferry signs do not disappoint.
I have a habit of obtaining maps after they’re needed. I’m always better prepared for the next time out. The map from the realty office served us well, but I wanted a larger map that showed all the islands in some detail. The kind lady at the Anacortes Visitors Center directed me to Marine Supply & Hardware. This is my kind of store…and they had the perfect map!
I explored the map and looked up information about Deception Pass State Park. I’m thinking about Bowman Bay. If I’m lucky we’ll reserve site 280. I’ve got an alert set on my phone to make the call. Fingers crossed. (I don’t really like to plan so far ahead. Figuring out the exact time to call to reserve a top spot is not my thing, but I’m going to try it this once.)
The whales we saw were likely the transient T2C pod minus T2C4. The Center for Whale Research reports an encounter same day, same time, same general location. Apparently these four Orca had been hunting a lone minke whale, but gave up that chase prior to our sighting. (We did hear about others who saw a minke whale a bit farther south.)
This family of Biggs Orca includes Tumbo (T2C2). Tumbo has scoliosis. His family takes care of him–bringing him dinner and circling back to make sure he doesn’t get too far behind. One of Tumbo’s aunts had a condition that caused partial loss of pigmentation and an uncle had a malformed jaw.
It makes me happy to know the names of the whales we saw. I’d still like to see some of our Southern Resident Orcas (now down to a total population of 73 individuals).
Sara Shimazu, one of Maya Legacy’s captains, shares marvelous photos and information about the Orcas of the Salish Sea through patreon, instagram, and facebook. Sara is a great photographer with a vast love for Orca.
I wish someone would create baseball-like cards for Orca. I’d like to be able to flip through them to see if I could ID individuals. (If you know where to obtain these, please let me know.)
The whales were a BIG highlight to the day, but it was great in other ways too.
I took my coffee, boots, the wine guys, and a canoe I found on Deadman’s bay down to the tiny beach below our campsite. Bill joined us with his camera. Wine guys off on an adventure!
Looking for Orca
Bill and I usually spend between 5 minutes and 15 minutes at viewpoints. This morning we `resolved to go to Limekiln prepared to observe. We loaded coffee, cookies, scope, binoculars, camera, a waterproof blanket, and field guides into packs and walked down to the lovely observation point.
Limekiln is one of the best places for spotting whales from land. Whoever laid out the picnic tables did a stellar job. They are scattered along the trail. Not obtrusive for trail walkers and offering great views of Haro Straight to table sitters.
I would have been proud of us, even if we didn’t see whale. We stayed and watched for several hours. We met Victoria Obermeyer, videographer and co-producer of Co-Extinction a documentary about Southern Resident Orca. AND we saw whales!
Suffused with the beauty of the world, I took a short solo walk down the little path off the south end of the meadow. I exchanged hellos with the couple smoking their picnic and walked to the point above the larger bay (Smallpox bay, poor thing). It’s a short, but beautiful walk. A perfect little piece of calm after watching Orca.
As I wandered back to camp, I was pondering the benefits of hot cocoa versus tea versus decaf. I put the kettle on and reached for and didn’t find my mug.
I did a quick search of Brave Horatio’s galley, the picnic table, and the camp. No mug.
It slowly dawned on me that I’d brought my coffee to the beach to launch the wine guys on their adventure. I couldn’t remember having it when I returned. Oh no!
I slowly walked to the meadow and down to the tiny beach. This morning the rock on the beach was high and dry. Now it was surrounded by water to at least knee-depth. The tiny beach was super tiny, just a little crescent of dry. No mug in sight.
I walked back up to the meadow and around to approach the tiny beach from the rock side. I could just see the silver glint of my mug nestled under the water among bladder wrack. Sadly it was maybe waist deep and a couple yards offshore. Luckily, it looked to be constrained by a little curve of rock.
Back at camp I shared the sad plight of my coffee mug with Bill. He asked if I thought I could get it with a stick. Nope.
A few minutes later Bill got that look on his face–the one that means he’s thinking strategically. He started taking down a tarp pole.
Bill doesn’t talk while he’s thinking. He often doesn’t talk when he’s putting his plans into action. You have to ask.
He was thinking of sacrificing a roasting fork–to make a hook to gaff tape to the end of a loooooong tarp pole–to use as a coffee mug fishing pole. I suggested using one of our many tent pegs. Some have nice size hooks.
I convinced Bill to construct the super long pole after we reached the fishing point. I didn’t want to do the walk of shame past our camp and meadow neighbors. Conspicuous weirdos off to fish for a mug.
Bill’s boots are higher than mine and he’s got way better hand-eye coordination. He carefully stepped into the bladder wrack and extended the tarp pole hook (about 10 foot of it). A few seconds later my mug was safely home!
Shopping San Juan
It’s still mid-Covid and also, we’re camping, so we didn’t explore many stores in Friday Harbor. The bookstore was pretty fantastic, the co-op too. I, however, was on a search for honey. Wherever I go, I look for local honey. I love the variety of flavors from different locales. Honesty stands are also one of the joys of my life (people TRUST me…there’s hope for the world). I also enjoy talking with and buying from farmers.
We pulled into Amaro Farms in search of honey and stayed to talk to xxxx about Flat Hat Distillery and Amaro’s Valais sheep. The restored barn that Flat Hat shares with the farm store is so gorgeous. They didn’t have honey, but we left with some tea and a small flock of stuffed lambs for our grandniblings.
Fine dining Brave Horatio style
San Juan Island Food Coop provided us with 5 Bs bakery cinnamon rolls for tomorrow’s breakfast, a frozen chicken pot pie for tomorrow’s dinner, and a Brown Bear Bakery gluten free boule for tonight’s for crab feast.
We found the best seafood market down on the Friday Harbor docks. It welcomed us in with bright painted fish and flowers and friendly staff.
When deciding on whole crab or crab meat, remember only about a quarter of the weight of a whole crab is meat. Multiply the cost of whole crab by four–and think about what you will do with the aromatic remains at your campsite. We popped for pre-picked crab–quite a lot of it.
It was raining when we got back, but it finally eased off then stopped. While we were waiting out the rain we got new neighbors, a Sprinter van decked out for camping and shared by a bunch of friends from Santa Cruz.
The weather finally cooperated and we heated our bread and a little pot of butter over the campfire. We had a beautiful dinner with Michael and Jan last week that included a bottle of Michael’s viognier (very nice!). Michael gifted me with a bottle of his Roussanne for this trip and I was excited to try it. Roussanne is not a wine I’m familiar with. It was soft and lovely and perfect for the evening. Thanks Michael!
We sat by the fire in our camp rockers dipping crab meat in the pot of warm butter. Warm butter dipped crab alternated with warm bread and sips of nice `wine is an amazing way to end an evening!
We woke up to a bit of rain and decided to leave the batwing battened down and head into town for breakfast. That’s one of the joys of camping at this county park, Friday Harbor is just 20 minutes away.
The Rocky Bay Cafe on Spring Street proved to be a great choice. Everyone was masked and respectful. The staff were cheerful and engaging. They were looking forward to a cafe staff trip to Las Vegas the next day. Kind of cool!
I had eggs benedict over hash browns (I almost always have eggs benedict if it’s an option) and Bill had eggs, bacon, and toast. The food was good and the coffee hot and frequently refilled. We sat at a window seat and watched the soft rain. Warm and comfortable.
The rain dropped to a mist and we headed to the farmers’ market. We picked up a really nice map outside Coldwell banker on our way.
Of course we looked for whales, but we looked while we walked the third-mile trail to Deadman Bay. It’s a nice trail right along the headland. Deadman Bay is beautiful–a sheltered sunny spot on this unexpectedly fine fall day. (some of our camping neighbors let us know that they had big hiking plans, but took a three-hour nap on the beach here instead.)
We walked back from Deadman Bay and continued on past the lighthouse. All the while keeping our eyes out for whale.
We didn’t spot whale, but our camp neighbors saw a pod heading north just off the county park. (We had great camp neighbors, including a UW professor who studies raptors in the Amazon and teaches classes about crows–Hi Ursula! Hi Todd!)
After lunching on toasted ham and cheese sandwiches back at Brave Horatio, we headed to the north end of the island and English Camp. Totally different situation from American Camp. This end of the island is low and forested. English Camp is on the beach meadow of Garrison Bay and the adjoining uplands. Garrison bay has only a narrow opening connecting it to the rest of the Salish Sea. From Haro Straight you take Mosquito Pass and the small opening into Horseshoe Bay, turning before Bell Point into Garrison Bay.
It’s a pretty idyllic place, beautiful and bountiful.
The emphasis on disputes between colonizers and the ever larger houses on the island remind me that I am on the traditional lands and waters of the Coast Salish people, including Lummi, Saanich, Samish, Semiahmoo, Songhee, Sooke, and Swinomish. These nations, current and historic, care for and harvest this land. I honor their inherent, aboriginal and treaty rights passed down through generations.
I guess Sarah and I used a bit more propane than I thought on our Ozette Lake adventure. Our chubby little tank ran out at lunch. We had several smaller bottles, but decided to see if we could fill chubby back up. We took a detour to Roche Harbor.
I love the road to Roche Harbor. I love the airstrip where planes share space with geese. I love the sculpture garden. I do not love Roche Harbor. It’s a bit too twee, a bit too privileged, a bit too buttoned up. As an antidote, it also has some nifty history and art.
We poked into the Company Store and they explained how to get our propane fill (meet guy by the old generator plant and pay down at the fuel dock). Don’t plan to buy hardware here–they have lots of wine though.
Evening at the park
San Juan County Park is a beautiful place to camp. Site 10 is just off the high meadow. Their is a tiny beach just below us accessed by a path just around the corner. On the other side of the meadow is a trail out to the point of the larger, but still small, bay. Beautiful.
The weather moved between mist and clear so we started a campfire. We’d picked up some drier wood at a stand outside the park so tonight’s fire was easier to start and didn’t need attention every few minutes. We opened some wine enjoyed the flames while we waited for coals.
We grilled our dinner of steak and asparagus over beautiful coals. A couple of asparagus spears leapt into the fire, but we had lots, so no worries. We ate in the dark warmed by the fire. In lieu of a birthday cake, we enjoyed San Juan Island Se Salt honey caramels purchased at the Farmers Market this morning.
We planned on a Friday–Tuesday long weekend, but the federal case Bill testified for last month ended in a hung jury so he needed to testify at the new trial. Not much we could do about the court schedule, so we’ll head back on Monday. I’ll miss our extra day on the island, but having a whole day to unpack, do laundry, and dry out the batwing will be nice.
We got up at 3am in order to get kayaks on Freya, do some final food packing, and make our 9:30 ferry reservation.
There was a surprising amount of traffic, but it mostly moved right along. We got to Anacortes in time to board the 8:30 boat. Nice!
Such an empty ferry
I’ve never been on a less crowded ferry. Tomorrow the ferry system is going to remove some boats because of lack of riders (and maybe labor shortages). We were between a dump truck bringing gravel to the island and a state patrol car. Most of the other lanes were empty.
I love ferries!
One interesting thing about Covid is walking around on the car deck while the ferry is underway. They usually discourage this—it’s a little Covid perk. I like the interesting new perspective on the water and islands.
We drove through Friday Harbor in a gray drizzle—not cold, just gray.
San Juan is one of the larger of the San Juan Islands, but it’s not very big. There are lots of routes that get you to the County Park. We arrived via Beaverton Valley, West Valley, and Mitchell Roads.
Preparing for a gale
We camped at this park in August a couple years ago and enjoyed great weather and an even better Maya’s Legacy whale watch excursion. The weather forecast for this trip was quite different. We were expecting rain every day and gale-force winds starting at about 5:30 this first evening and lasting for 24 hours.
We spend some time deploying the purple batwing to accommodate our evening cooking and figuring out how to batten it down for the night.
Then we left for a lunch of shepherd’s pie in Friday Harbor. It was reasonable, but not great. We poked around Friday Harbor for a bit. Wandering the docks and buying Christmas gifts as the excellent Griffin Bay Bookstore.
Our last trip to San Juan County Campground was a hurried weekend centered around a marvelous whale watch excursion with Maya’s Legacy. (They’re great! If you can afford it, take one of their tours. The boats are perfect and the people knowledgeable and friendly.)
On this trip we planned to explore the island more.
Off on a ramble
We drove to American Camp on the South end of the island. The exposed headland prairie was beautiful and standing on the redoubt echoes with shadows of indigenous people gathering camas and the early American soldiers who pushed them out.
I spotted a fox and we watched it for awhile as searched for dinner on a grassy hill. Gorgeous. San Juan Island foxes are all Vulpus vulpus (red fox) though they come in many colors).
We drove back to camp via False Bay and stops at several viewpoints. This island is full of beautiful spaces.
So many birds
A kingfisher was perched on a twig on the beach near the park store. Great blue herons were on the hunt, and a red tail hung pretty close to our camp site. As we were starting our campfire, we heard an almighty racket and followed it to the meadow overlooking Haro Straight. A large group of seagulls, loons, and grebes were feasting on something right below our feet. We never spotted it as it was wedged into a rock crevice, but we could smell it. We sat on the bank and watched them enjoy themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many loons in one place. There must have been a couple dozen of them.
So many boats
San Juan County Park is on Haro Straight, a busy shipping channel. The hour and a half long ferry ride also winds among boat traffic. There were plenty of opportunities for Bill take pictures. Here are some of my favorites.
The gale hadn’t yet materialized, but we expected it at any minute. We changed our dinner plan from campfire grilled steak to warmed up white beans. In the end the gale held off long enough for us to warm the beans over our campfire.
There were difficulties with both beans and fire. The beans were still frozen and, since I froze them in a jar with a smallish top, they were pretty hard to transfer to the dutch oven. The firewood was a bit wet, it took considerable kindling and acting as human bellows to get and keep it going. We persevered and prevailed with both. Eating piping hot beans with warm French bread next to a cheerful campfire was worth the effort.
The wind picked up as we washed dishes and brushed our teeth. We lowered the batwing, tied it taut and retreated into Brave Horatio.
As always, I slept soundly. My kids say that I could take home the gold if there were a napping Olympics and that skill extends to overnight sleeping. I took a lovely mid-night walk under clear, clear skies to the bathroom. (At Ozette Campground the bathrooms are pretty posh; they flush and there’s soap available at the sinks. They are a little bit of a hike though…outside the small campground and a short way down the road toward the trailhead.) The stars were out in all their glory and it wasn’t cold, just crisp and clear and beautiful.
Back in my nest, I curled back to sleep. I heard Sarah open the door at what I thought was still the middle of the night and the next thing I knew there was a knock at my door. I couldn’t figure out how Sarah managed to lock herself out. The doors lock from the outside unless you shoot the deadbolt, which I hadn’t done.
There was Sarah holding out a steaming cup of coffee!
Sarah has Raynauds. Pretty severe Raynauds. She was pretty pleased to have been able to make that coffee. I was pretty pleased to be on the receiving end.
Sarah had also started a beautiful campfire. We ate a last breakfast of bacon, eggs, and polenta; lazed around gathering bits and bobs slowly; and generally enjoyed the morning.
We managed to hoist the kayaks onto Freya and get them snugged down. Sarah learned to work Brave Horatio’s cunning locks. Brave Horatio’s marvelous theft prevention technology consists of a removeable hitch (attached to about 30 inches of tongue). We just take out the locking pin and toss the hitch in Freya. Our locking pins (hitch latch and removeable tongue) share a common key. I think they’re amazing. You put the key in and turn it like a screwdriver until the pin separates into two pieces. Neat!
We chose to head home via the top of the peninsula–highway 112 through Seiku, Port Angeles, and Sequim. Port Angeles offered gas and some pretty nice lattes. Sarah napped, I drove, and we got home safe and sound.
One of our goals for this trip was to hike the Ozette Triangle. We read different accounts of this hike and it looked doable. It’s a loop (more of an equilateral triangle really) so we could always just turn around at any point less than half-way.
Fueled by a campfire chilaquiles breakfast and plenty of coffee, we finally got started about noon (high tide was 11:30 ish, so this was a reasonable time to start).
Sarah shouldered her new, fancy, REI daypack with it’s water reservoir (apparently the marketing folks decided “bladder” wasn’t helping their sales). I buckled on my old, trusty waist pack with water bottles on each side. We headed over the arched cement bridge onto the trail.
We decided to take the north path toward Cape Alava. It was great. There were so many beautiful mushrooms and so many beautiful plants, we had to remind ourselves that we had miles to go and didn’t pack flashlights.
A lot of the trail is a series of wide (two or three-step) boardwalk stairs. There are stretches of gravel path and stretches of flat boardwalk too. It leads through forest and marshy meadow.
Gentian was blooming in great abundance in many places and we met two women gathering Labrador tea, so I can ID it now. (They were indigenous women harvesting on their traditional lands–please don’t pick plants in the Olympia National Park unless you specifically have that right.)
At some point on this trail you start to hear the surf. It’s such a powerful, beautiful sound and it lets you know that you are nearing the end of the first leg.
Emerging from the forest and getting our first glimpse of the ocean was lovely. The path is on a small bluff at this point and you wind down a narrow footpath to the rocky beach below.
I wasn’t prepared for this beach. The seastacks and islands and rocky reefs and beautiful. The beach itself is made up of rounded rock that varied in size from softball to basketball. Everything was covered with a four to six inch layer of sea wrack. It was beautiful and quite difficult to traverse.
There were a couple other small groups on the beach. Most were commenting on the smell. To me it just smelled of life. Maybe growing up in Bandon gave me an atypical reaction to rotting sea wrack.
We were happy to take a seat on some handy driftwood and break out our mid-afternoon lunch…pork tenderloin, brie, and grapes are the perfect mid-hike meal.
We watched the brown pelicans, mergansers, cormorants and other assorted sea birds, filled up on electrolyte water, and started down the beach.
It was tough. Sarah had a treking pole and, despite her unstable knee and ankle fared better than I did. I’m not graceful, but am generally quite stable. That sea wrack was slippery, especially when layered over various size round rock. I slipped twice–skinning my knee a tiny bit (I hike in a skirt, so my knee was bare.) Oh well. Onward.
A couple headed toward us let us know that they decided on an out-and-back because there was a bear around the next little point. They described it as far enough away to be safe so we headed around the point to see.
The bear was fully engaged in eating something big enough that it needed to be pulled apart in chunks. It was a good distance away. Near enough to see pretty well, far enough to feel reasonably safe. Sarah edged forward, I didn’t.
It’s funny. I would have said that I didn’t feel anxious, but all of my photos are of a bearless rock. It’s not even in the same zone of beach as the bear. Clearly I was more anxious than I let myself realize.
I was concerned that Sarah was closer than me and looking to edge closer. (She was still a good distance from the bear and, though the bear clearly knew we were there, it was focused on it’s meal.) I asked her (quietly) to finish up with her picture taking so we could retreat. (Sarah’s pictures actually have the bear in them.)
We backtracked and walked back to our original trail with the couple who warned us of the bear (and later sent us nice bear pics–thanks Mark!) . We talked for awhile before heading back. They live in Anacortes where Shannon works as a computer programmer for a company in Maryland and coaches the local robotics team. We talked about data sources for the resident Orcas (we suggested the Whale Museum and Orca Network), robotics, toxic waste cleanup sites (Sarah’s day job), and other mutually interesting things. They invited us to share their campfire that evening. Nice interlude.
I slept soundly and woke up refreshed. Sarah struggled through my snoring and got up a little more haggard. Oh well.
Our bacon, egg and polenta breakfast perked Sarah up and we had a leisurely morning drinking coffee, straightening camp a bit, and getting the kayaks off Freya. Freya is TALL but we prevailed.
On our walk to the lake to scout launch points and conditions we went past a group of white front geese. There were about a dozen, all but one juveniles. They looked quite at home on the grassy part of the campsite across the road and around the bend from us.
The adult speckle belly moved by hopping on one leg. As we got closer we could see her other leg held up and at an odd angle. It looked like it ended at the ankle. We named her–Wanda the one-foot speckle belly seemed to be doing just fine.
Ozette campground has one picnic-only spot right on the lake. It’s a nice kayak launch point. We shouldered a kayak each from site 7 down to the lake and launched without even getting wet.
We stayed on the east side heading south, discovered that there’s cell coverage once you’re out in the lake a bit, and paddled steadily on. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring binoculars.
It was cloudy but calm and what wind there was came from the south. Ozette campground is at the north end of the lake and the Ozette river flows from that end. Perfect conditions for kayaking.
Sarah spotted a lump on the east shore and headed toward it. I headed toward a point on the west shore. Out in the middle I realized I’d forgotten to put in the large sponges we use to bail, I was pretty much in the middle of a deep cold lake, and was putting more and more distance between Sarah and I.
Sarah was heading toward me by this time, so I turned and headed back toward her. We met and headed to the point together.
The small swells were perfectly perpendicular to our line of travel. It was fun to cut through them. The one other boat we saw was fishing toward us. They dropped to their trolling motor when they saw us. Super nice.
We were nearing Eagle Point when my phone rang. Such a strange thing in a huge area with no cell coverage. Bill and I talked for a bit as I drifted then I hung up and joined Sarah on Eagle Point.
We took pictures, enjoyed some huckleberries, chose a few pebbles to take home, peed, ate our snacks (Sarah’s honey zingers were excellent!), and wandered the point. I especially liked watching the wind and current make a swell pattern that curled around the point from South to North.
The sky was darkening a little so we kept the west-shore relatively close on the return trip. I love the way the lake surface appears to curve from the middle down to the edges. I don’t think we saw a single bird and I only saw one fish splash. The boat fishers seemed content slowly making their way north. They were usually just within our sight.
Ozette Campground to Eagle Point and back was the perfect paddle for us. We were tired enough to bring the kayaks back to camp in two trips sharing the weight using the front and back loops instead of each of us shouldering our own kayak.
While Sarah warmed up with dry clothes, I made us cocoa. We brought lots of cocoa…instant and Ibara…also a container of those little dryish marshmallows which you can get at US Foods Chef’s Store (formerly Cash & Carry).
Our dinner of pork tenderloin, warm quinoa with onion and dried cherries, and an avocado and tomato salad was excellent.
Sarah is a fantastic fiddler but on this trip she left her fiddle at home and brought her tenor guitar. She’s learning it so my muddled whistle playing was right at home. We had a good time playing by the fire.
All summer I’d wanted to camp with Sarah at Lake Ozette. Summer flew by hot and dry for Olympia. October was coming up fast and we finally decided to go.
Brave Horatio has never been anywhere without Bill. Bill does most of the driving and, until now, all of the backing up. There’s a first time for everything.
I got a short lesson in coaxing Brave Horatio backward. Turn the bottom of the steering wheel the way you want BH to go. Move the vehicles very slowly, but the steering wheel quite a bit. Don’t do too much at once.
It was odd to plan and pack without Bill. He helped with grocery shopping and getting the kayaks on their racks, because he’s nice like that, but planning and cooking was my gig this time.
Usually I wake up to the sound of Bill making camp coffee and starting breakfast. Sarah has pretty severe Raynaud’s, so I knew that early mornings and anything cool or cold would be my responsibility.
I chose to put off some packing until the morning of. I thought I’d pick Sarah up about eight and we’d have breakfast. By the time we got to Hash, it was almost eleven, so the second part of the plan worked out great. We didn’t really have a deadline and everything was fine.
We finally got going about noon, full of corned beef hash and coffee.
We decided to approach Lake Ozette via the bottom of the peninsula.
We took a short detour near Quinault Lake lured by a signpost to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce and bladder pressure.
We followed the first available restroom signs into a nice little pullout with a short trail through the forest to some big trees. It was a pretty trail. Pretty creek, pretty ferns and other plants, pretty big trees….but the worlds largest Sitka Spruce was down the road a bit.
World’s largest Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis)
A mile or so down the road, past Lake Quinault Lodge and Rainforest Resort Village we parked across the street from the trail to the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce. A short walk later the trail opened up and the Spruce stood ancient and beautiful across the creek.
Heading back to Freya and Brave Horatio, we lingered on the bridge over the creek enjoying the sun and the slowly running water. We noticed a wooly bear in the middle of the creek. At first we were a bit sad, poor little caterpillar in the middle of all that water. But as we watched we noticed that the wooly bear was swimming!
It didn’t lead with its head or its tail or any part really. It slowly undulated, mostly, but not totally sideways. It wasn’t just drifting with the steam and when it had the chance to climb a stem into the dry it swam on.
The wooly bear finally made it under the bridge and I turned to go. Sarah explained that it was a bit like Pooh Sticks and we needed to wait to see the caterpillar emerge from the other side. I thought that might take hours.
We made a funny site kneeling on the bridge deck with our heads stuck out and under the bridge urging the wooly bear on. Several people stopped and stayed to see if we were nuts or not.
The wooly bear made it! It didn’t even take that long–maybe five minutes, which must be some kind of swim-speed record for a caterpillar. One lady named him Louis. Louis joined my list of heroes. He didn’t care, he just swam on toward Lake Quinault.
Upset on behalf of numbered beaches
Back on the road, I considered the gas gauge. We definitely had plenty to get to our campsite and back to Lake Quinault, but I wanted to make sure. I asked Sarah to help keep an eye out for a gas station just as we sailed past one. Farther on a road sign alerted us to a gas station in 1/4 mile. Sailed past that one too. Decided to gas up in Forks.
Just past Queets, Highway 101 moves over to the coast. I don’t know who was in charge of naming the beaches along this stretch, but they had no imagination and should be ashamed of themselves. Beach 1, Beach 2, Beach 3….really!
As we drove by these disgruntled (I would be) beaches I may have gotten a little vocal.
Really people. Name your beaches with descriptive or funny names. Name them after nearby geographic features or your old graunt (that’s great-aunt for those not in the know). Name them after other beaches if you must. Do not just give them a number. Poor beaches.
They looked lovely. Long stretches of sand. They deserve better names.
More big trees
Sarah saw a sign and we turned off in search of more big trees.
Freya thought we were offroading.
So many mushrooms!
The Olympic Rainforest is mushroom mecca. So many colors, sizes, and shapes!
All terrain is working hard to get to the beach
Highway 101, like all Pacific Northwest coastal roads, is trying to go to the beach. The abundant rainfall makes for super saturated soil and wet soil slips. This leads to unusual traffic controls, like this stop light from nowhere.
Setting up camp
Our first glimpse of Ozette Campground was a very welcome sight. What with our late start and lazy journey, it was getting on to evening. We’d stopped at a firewood honesty stand a couple miles from the campground and bought some bundles of smallish branches (small was what they had). After setting up camp, we backtracked a 1/4 mile or so and bought some bigger stuff from Lost Resort (the store was closed, but they had an honesty box).
Ozette Campground has an odd site layout. It’s nice, but different. There are 15 spots. Some, like site 7, have some privacy. Others would be excellent for people camping with friends. Some site’s are accessed by driving up and behind others, or angle off side access roads.
Next time I’m going to try for campsite 2. It’s access angles off between site 1 and 3 and ends up behind site 1, screened by brush. It’s right on the lake. I also liked site 3. Both were occupied this trip and site 7 is great. Off the lake is probably a good choice in October as the wind gets knocked back a bit.
We grilled steak and roasted dutch oven potatoes over a terrific campfire (thanks Sarah!) and finally went to bed about 11 pm.
For many years Bill went on an annual fishing trip with Tad and Joe, friends from law school. Joe’s father (also Joe) was an avid flyfisher and lived in Waitsburg near the Touchet and Tucannon, beautiful little rivers full of rainbow trout. So they’d head over to Waitsburg and camp up the Tucannon with Joe senior. They fished both rivers and had at least one dinner with Joe’s family in Waitsburg.
I joined them a couple times, including one memorable trip when Bill and I neglected to bring poles for our tent. (How the heck do you forget tent poles?) We bought a cheap tent at the KOA campground down the road, used its poles for a saggy setup, and gave it away later.
Tad is a dutch oven expert. He served up many tasty meals and deserts during these trips. Joe senior was by far the best at fishing. The others would fish all day, catching and releasing little trout and, sometimes, bringing a larger one home to cook for breakfast the next day. Joe released everything he caught. He knew that he could wake up, walk to the river, and reliably catch his breakfast while the coffee brewed.
Joe and Tad fished consistently every year but Bill had more and more conflicts. This year we cleared our calendars and headed east.
Heading into the heat
The weather forecast was incredible. Predictions for Waitsburg were for 100+. That’s not unheard of for that area, but its still hot. The amazing thing was that Olympia was slated for heat too.
Friends and relatives worried that Brave Horatio might turn into an easy-bake oven. We weren’t worried. We sleep with the windows and roof vent open. It wasn’t going to be any hotter inside than out.
We headed toward Highway 12. The sky to the south was ominous. Piles of dirty brown gray clouds. I thought we might get thunderstorms, but no such luck.
We drove east into the clouds, dipped down to a clear view of Mayfield Lake, then back into the clouds–over the Cowlitz River, past miles and miles of Christmas trees, and up into the sun near Riffe Lake.
It was beautiful to drive out of the clouds. Little bits of mist necklace the hills. The sun was so bright and sky so blue. Daisies and foxglove everywhere.
We checked out Taidnapam Park for a potential future adventure. The campground at this Tacoma Power-run park is beautiful. We especially liked sites 19-27.
Brilliant mountaintop snowfields greeted us along the way, Mt. Adams near Randle and Mt. Rainier near Packwood. Beautiful.
We passed a bicyclist just before the summit. Wow!
Mt. Rainier shone in our rear-view mirrors as we headed down the east side of the pass. The mountains are on the move here. Rumpled pavement, bare scree, and entire Doug Fir trees uprooted and daggering toward the road. These mountains are working hard to become plains. Powerful.
We tasted wine and ate our sandwiches at Bonair Winery in Zillah. Their Petit Verdot and Gewürztraminer-based port were our favorites. We stopped for gas in Tri-Cities and continued on through the beautiful rolling hills to Waitsburg.
Lewis and Clark saw bears too
Lewis and Clark State Park is convenient to both rivers, but they didn’t have any cancellations. We could’ve made it work by moving camp from #18 to #8 after the first night but that sounded like a hassle and #8 is pretty exposed. We headed for the Umatilla National Forest and Tucannon Campground.
A small brown bear was just lolloping on the side of Patit Road. It scooted up the bank right quick as we approached and disappeared. So cool!
So many beautiful birds
Farther along, on Hartsock Grade Road a hawk and an osprey were harranging each other , swooping and diving. I wonder which was the transgressor?
We saw so many beautiful birds during this trip and so many of them were on Hartsock Grade Road. If you drive it, consider driving it s-l-o-w-l-y stopping often to scan the brush for movement. We saw Lazuli buntings, mountain bluebirds,
We pulled into the Tucannon Campground and immediately felt at home. The air was cooler than in the valley, the lovely sight and smell of mock orange was everywhere.
Site 6 is toward a back corner. We tucked in nice and snug.
Some people brag about their fishing prowess adding extra inches and considering a fish caught if it is hooked. I just like waving my rod around and trying to place my fly somewhere near the spot I’ve picked out. To each their own.
Before bed, we headed out to check the river. It’s a beautiful little river. We saw several likely access spots and tried out a couple. I landed my smallest fish ever. I was using a pretty tiny fly and this little trout was only about twice as big. It it stretched it might have reached two inches.
I quickly removed the barbless hook and he swam away right quick.
I woke up to a beautiful birthday morning on the desert.
We said goodbye to the Alvord Desert and headed to Fields, Denio, Highway 140 and Medford.
My mother-in-law and I share a birthday. Bill and I balanced our wish for an unhurried day with some time to explore with our wish to share a birthday dinner in Medford.
We enjoyed driving by a flying saucer on 140, the Sheldon National Antelope Refuge, and the opal mines beyond the refuge headquarters. Nothing was open, which was helpful for our itinerary.
There are some spectacular grades on this route (complete with curves and abrupt, immense drop-offs). We saw a sign warning of wild donkeys and got excited. We didn’t spot any.
Other signs left us baffled.
We made Medford in time for a leisurely, lovely dinner with Bruce and Jo. (Did I tell you that I have the best in-laws?)
When mom called later that evening, I thought it was just for birthday wishes, but it was much more somber. She let me know that dad had only 24-48 hours to live.
My dad underwent chemo and radiation for esophageal cancer more than a year ago. It was a tough couple months, but the outcome was more than a year of pretty vigorous life. He’d not been feeling well for a month or so, but still. It was a shock.
Dad lived for another month, cared for with great love by mom, my siblings, and his grandkids. He enjoyed sharing stories right to the end.