2021 is My Year for Bear!

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.

Sarah sketched some exercises for me

Yep, that’s a bear!

Fishing with Tad and Joe

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,

Campsite #6

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.

Brave Horatio, now with two nacelles side tables!

Tiny grill

We brought kabob makings to try out our silly little grill. Surprise! It worked great.

Practically perfect

Tiny fish

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.

Dusk on the Tucannon