Point Robinson Lighthouse

City Lights

City Lights

As darkness settled over the still waters of Puget Sound I watched and waited for the lights on the far eastern shore to come alive. Twinkling like stars in a distant galaxy, the city lights danced across the water and refracted on my camera lens. Scrambling across the jumble of drift wood and beach logs presented it’s own set of challenges in the ever increasing darkness.  Finally, my position was perfect, the camera was mounted to my GorillaPod, clinging to a log, and the timer was set…beep, beep, beep, click.

I mentally checked off another one of the several dozen images I was hoping to capture on this very unique urban adventure.

Waiting for the ferry

Waiting for the ferry

Point Robinson Lighthouse

Point Robinson Lighthouse

This year Susan and I were presented with a very cool gift for our combined Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations. Our children and their families hooked us up with a 3 day mini vacation in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters at Point Robinson Lighthouse on Maury Island.

Way back some 40 years ago Vashon Island (Maury Island is connected to Vashon) was a very familiar home away form home for me.  My good buddy Dave lived there in a cool old country farm house on Dockton Road.  It was named Sunfield House, and many an epic adventure was launched from his barn or his basement.

Remarkably the islands have managed to hang on to their rural charm. Not so much for Sunfield House… The roof was undergoing some needed repair, the trees around the house had grown considerably in four decades, eliminating any evidence of why it was called Sunfield House in the first place.  And the barn was painted BLACK!  Who in the world paints a barn black?  Still, image number one on my checklist was to… Send a photo to Dave.  Done!

Sunfield House

Sunfield House

Perched on the porch

Perched on the porch

Our cottage at the lighthouse was delightful. Old and creaky wood floors, tall ceilings, 15 steep stair steps to the upstairs bedrooms, an antique range and oven -converted to electricity, and a marvelous front porch, adorned with a pair of matching rocking chairs, overlooking Puget Sound.

While we did drive all over the islands and go out to lunch everyday, most of our time was spent just hanging out around the lighthouse.  The actual lighthouse dates back to 1885 and sits on a low bank sand spit that pokes into the sound. It has always been a favorite place for salmon fishing, and the parade of trolling anglers passing in review confirmed that hadn’t changed. In the early years of human habitation, the native Americans used to stretch nets across the narrow channel between Vashon and Maury Islands to catch fish, and suspend nets on poles into the air above the channel to snag birds.  These days there is a land bridge connecting the two islands and protecting beautiful Quartermaster Harbor.

Tramp Harbor 24 Hour Fitness Center

Tramp Harbor 24 Hour Fitness Center

As we drove along the shore of Quartermaster Harbor I couldn’t help but be reminded of the sunny summer days where Dave taught me the finer points of small boat sailing in his Flying Dutchman Junior sailboat.  Or when we’d just dash down to Tramp Harbor with a shovel and a bucket, then return in a flash with a whole load of steamer clams.

Relaxing on the porch

Relaxing on the porch

Most of this story was typed while I was sitting on the porch watching the commercial ships steaming past and listening to the VHF radio, eavesdropping in on the bridge to bridge chatter of the skippers.

I’m pretty sure I must have been an ancient mariner in a past lifetime, because I’d be hard pressed to come up with a better way to spend a few days.

 

 

 

I can hear you humming a little bit of Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay

 

"Watching The Ships Roll In"

“Watching The Ships Roll In”

Here is a little highlight reel video I made of our adventure.  The movie was filmed on the trip and completely edited and rendered at the lighthouse… Just to remind folks what can be accomplished when you don’t have a TV :-)

… and here is a few sunrise images offered as an apology for the ukulele.  By the way, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye”, was a John D. Loudermilk tune from the 60’s.  The first version I heard was by The Casinos in 1966.

Good Morning Puget Sound

Good Morning Puget Sound

Red Sky In The Morning...

Red Sky In The Morning…

"Tell me you love me for a million years...

“Tell me you love me for a million years…

 

For Suzie and me, thanks for following along and much love and thanks to our family for setting this up.

Blustery Afternoon

Blustery Afternoon

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, that’s all for this edition of the Adventure Journal.  Till next time, one last image.  Kat

 

The END!

The END!

 

 

 

Posted in Music, Photography, Ukulele, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition

Ok, you’ve been warned.  Stand back.  I got a new GoPro Hero camera, and I’m not afraid to use it… Well, maybe I’m just a little bit afraid.

Here is my first effort:

Wow, for such a tiny camera there sure are a lot of buttons :-/

Thanks for hanging in there, Kat

Posted in Photography, Video | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Sun Lakes VanSlam

Rollin' out

Rollin’ out

We’re headed off again for a few days of camping and kayaking in the eastern Washington high desert area know as Sun Lakes.  Blue Lake to be exact.  Richie and his family have been visiting Laurent’s Sun Village Resort every year since they were little guys.  Happily that tradition has carried over to his little dudes, and of course, grandmas and grandpas get an automatic invite.

Leane and her dudes had already been there for several days of fun in the sun with family and friends, by the time Susan and I arrived on Sunday afternoon.  They had weathered thunderstorms at night, hooked a bunch of trout in the morning, and spent their days jumping off the cliffs into the lake.

We had out sweet little Marrs girls in tow, and Travis and his crew arrived about an hour behind us.  Enough setup already.  Let’s get right to the highlight reel:

Here are a few more photos from our adventure:

Travis and Cade on the slack line

Travis and Cade on the slack line

The Dudes camping in their new tent (Richie photo)

The Dudes camping in their new tent (Richie photo)

Movie Time (Richie photo)

Movie Time (Richie photo)

Pirate vs. Ninja - Epic Battle

Pirate vs. Ninja – Epic Battle

The Dawn Patrol, headed out to fish

The Dawn Patrol, headed out to fish

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

Kingston and Camille

Kingston and Camille

Fish fear my name

Fish fear my name

Return of the Dawn Patrol

Return of the Dawn Patrol

Cade and Booker

Cade and Booker

Fun in the sun

Fun in the sun

Cadence and me - messing about in boats

Cadence and me – messing about in boats

That’s it from Sun Lakes.  We had a marvelous time with our friends and family.  We love you all.  Next year when somebody says we’re going to Sun Lakes… I’ll hear the words “Fun Lakes” so count me in!  Kat

 

Posted in Camping, Dudes, Kayak, Music, Photography, Ukulele, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route

The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR)

Note: If you can’t wait for the video it is at the end of the story.

Wildfires Were Burning

Wildfires Were Burning

As I got ready to launch on the WABDR it appeared that the whole north end of the route was covered by massive wildfires. So it looked like my 6 day off road motorbike ride was gonna be about 3-4 days long.

Well, every journey begins with the first step, and my first step on this journey was a 200 mile slog down the I-5 slab to Vancouver WA, on the Columbia River.

From there it was a pleasant motor along Hwy. 14 to the “official” start of the WABDR, in the town of Stevenson.

Cape Horn on the Columbia

Cape Horn on the Columbia

 

Moto Parking

Moto Parking

I got settled into my home for the night at the Roadway Inn, and I was delighted when the manager invited me to just ride my motorbike right down the walkway, and up into a tiny private courtyard behind the office that was directly below my room.  Sweet!

My riding partner, Dan Knight called to let me know that he’d arrived and we made a plan to link up in the morning.  Dan was staying on the Oregon side of the Bridge of the Gods.  Crossing that bridge is the ceremonial beginning of the WABDR.

The Bridge of the Gods

The Bridge of the Gods

A quick check of the weather maps before bed had me dreaming of thunder showers and lightening bolts.

Yikes!  Is it really July?

Yikes! Is it really July?

Dan and Kat, headed out into the wilds

Dan and Kat, headed out into the wilds

As predicted, the rain was falling when I got up. Dan rolled across the river and we did the normal high-fiven’ white guys stuff before mounting up and heading out. Within a few miles we were climbing up thought the clouds on a never ending series of gravel roads. If there is one thing the US Forest Service is known for, it is making roads.  Our GPS’s showed us the track, and our paper maps confirmed some of the finer details, and for the next 6 hours we motored along.  Sometimes on well maintained fast gravel roads, sometimes on rough rocky overgrown tracks, and for a few glorious miles in the middle of nowhere, on silky smooth champagne asphalt that was like having your own private Moto GP track.

Motoring along the USFS roads

Motoring along the USFS roads

In the ice cave

In the ice cave

We had an interesting side trip to the Guler Ice Caves.  It was really just like walking down a slippery staircase into a frozen basement.  About three steps down the hole and the temperature dropped 20 degrees… As if it wasn’t already cold enough. We poked around in there for a while, but we had many miles to go before the end of the first leg…

 

 

Icicles

Icicles

Big Springs Creek

Big Springs Creek

Eventually we putted into the tiny mountain town of Packwood. We came to rest at the Packwood Inn, a funky little motel/RV park.  Everything in town had kind of a skiing theme, except our grand motel room which had a 1950’s wood panel look, decorated with Native American designs… And a toilet that ran all night to give it that “sleeping next to a mountain stream” effect.

Hamburgers, milkshakes, gear cleaning, and story telling… In that order.  Put a fork in us we were done for the night.

 

Once again I awoke to the sound of rainfall. Checking our weather maps on the almost non-existent hotel WiFi we found ourselves in the center of a real bone shaker of a storm.  Thunder, lightening, and sheets of rain dumping out of the sky. We called an official rain delay and dashed over to the diner for breakfast. Dan was watching an aviation site for his weather updates (he’s a helicopter guy) and predicted a brief break in the deluge at 1030 hours.

From my FaceBook post

From my FaceBook post

Well, that never really materialized but at some point it was time for us to stop acting like a couple of Nancy’s, tuck our skirts into our armored riding pants, and swing a leg over our motorbikes. As we blasted up Hwy. 12, and across White Pass, I was just about as happy as I could be.  The rain was letting up, I had my heated grips cooking away, and we were popping in and out of the clouds.

We had long ago decided to take the easier route up and over Bethel Ridge, and there was no chance we were gonna change our minds on this wet day.  FS road 1500 was a dream to ride.  A little washboarded in places but really the kind of route your motorbike dreams about in the garage at night, after you plug in the battery tender and turn off the lights.

Sheep blanketed the hillside

Sheep blanketed the hillside

At one point we rolled up on a giant flock of sheep, ranging through the timber below the road.  There were several working dogs patrolling the perimeter of the flock.  They gave us a quick look and then just went back to work.  I was standing in about two inches of wet sheep poop so it seemed like the perfect place to change into dry socks.

The Bethel Ridge road leading down into the tiny town of Nile was just marvelous.  Again, like our own private Moto GP or Isle of Mann TT track.  Smooth winding sweepers for over ten miles.  We stopped into the Nile country store for a cup of coffee and stayed a bit to visit with the locals. The nice lady running the place actually grew up in Everett about two blocks from my house.

Oak Creek Wildlife Area

Oak Creek Wildlife Area

Next up was a climb up through the Oak Creek Wildlife Area, and the steady rain fall was not helpful with that stretch. Let me explain why you’re not seeing any video or pictures from that leg of the route:  It was the gnarliest, wickedest, butt-kickin’est, OMG most evil piece of trail I had ever had the misfortune to pilot a motorbike on.  It was not possible to imagine how difficult the riding was.  Oh, and did it get better when we were going down the other side?  Not a chance, if anything it just kept getting harder, and harder.  Dan said it best when we paused for a second along the ridge top, “today I had the very best road I’d ever ridden…. And the WORST”.

Thankfully we found a little relief when we got down to the Wenas Road.  There was still lots of slippery mud to deal with but we managed to see some bluebirds along the Umtamum road and arrived in Ellensburg with nothing more than some sore muscles and really dirty motos.

Washing up

Washing up

The really dirty moto problem was solved with the use of the hotel’s garden hose… But actually all we did was transfer about a cubic yard of sticky mud from our bikes to the parking lot, so I wouldn’t called it “problem solved”… more like problem transferred to somebody else.

Morning arrived with the welcoming warmth of the sun through my east facing window. Dan and I got an early start and motored north into the mountains. The sun held out as long as it could, almost 10 miles, then it moved behind the dark ominous clouds to hide from us. Our ride up FS 35 was another asphalt sliver laid down by heaven. Switchback turns, connected by “S” turns, and some long sweepers.   We even had a couple of majestic views open up in spots.

As we navigated our way up to Table Mountain it was socked in with a wet fog and really gusty winds. At about 6200 feet elevation the air was thin. Some of the old burned timber and fresh wild flowers, backed by a grey misty fog, were like a real life impressionist painting.  Unfortunately it was so wet I was reluctant to ride with my little video camera strapped to my chest for too long.

Wildflowers in the Mist

Wildflowers in the Mist

Wildflowers in the Mist -Part II

Wildflowers in the Mist -Part II

While we did encounter a few nasty rocky sections along this leg of the journey it was nothing like the rock hopping we faced on the Oak Creek section.  Most of our day was blessed with beautiful roads.  Not the least of which was a detour section along the Old Blewett Highway.  I’ll just let you watch the video and judge for yourself.

High-Fiven' White Guys

High-Fiven’ White Guys

Eventually we pulled over at the junction of Hwy. 97 & US 2, the point where Dan was heading east to Idaho (away from the rain) and I was turning west, into the eye of the storm, to Everett. More high-fiven’ white guy stuff and then I was on my way.

Ok, as promised here is our highlight reel movie.                      Hope you like it:

 

Not much to report about the ride back over Stevens Pass other than:

A: 50 miles of high elevation blasting rain will clean a lot of dirt off your bike, and

B: when the going gets tough, the tough pull out ALL their dirty clothes from their panniers and layer them on under their riding suits.

So here are some final notes: The StrikeForceMoto ran like a charm.  For every inch of the 675 miles it was the perfect motorbike for me.  I got about 67 MPG all along the route, and my 3.1 gallon tank had more than enough range for every stage.  The 295 pound wet weight was about all the bike I’d ever care to wrangle over those nasty sections.

And a huge shout out to my riding partner Dan Knight.  Dan was the perfect easy going companion.  He was riding a BMW 650 Sertão.  That capable machine, and Dan’s skilled technical riding made his progress look easy.  When you watch the video, and see Dan and the Sertão flowing through the fast twisty sections, you will be thinking “Poetry in Motion”, just as I did.  Thanks Dan for the great ride.

That’s it for now.  Kat

Posted in Motorbike, Photography, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Big Sur VanSlam

“Well my bags are packed, I’m ready to go”…. Or so the song lyrics go. Of course I’d been packed and ready to go for days.

So here is the basic idea: Suzie and I link up with Leane, Richie and the dudes, for a couple of weeks of traveling in our VW camper vans down the Pacific Coast, with a turn around point at Big Sur California.

Note: The video highlight reel is at the end.  So if you just can’t wait, scroll down there and give it a click.

Last winter we’d planned out an itinerary, and made reservations for a string of state park campgrounds along the way down. We shared that info with Lexy, Charlie (and Nalu) so they could drive north from Venice Beach in their VW camper, and rendezvous with us in Big Sur.  Launch time was set for the very minute that the dudes got out of school for summer vacation.

Our first bit of fun came with the crossing of the Columbia River into Oregon. We escaped from the I-5 slab and followed WA Hwy 4 to the town of Cathlamet. A short bridge took us onto Puget Island where we boarded the last remaining small ferry, still working the lower Columbia.

Crossing the Columbia River

Crossing the Columbia River

On the south side of the river we continued west to Astoria and made a quick stop at the Goonies’ house. A few miles father west we came to rest in our first camp at Fort Stevens State Park.  Our evenings entertainment was punctuated by a bike ride to visit the wreck of the Peter Iredale, and a ranger’s presentation about the Graveyard of the Pacific.

The Peter Iredale

The Peter Iredale

This is very disturbing...

This is very disturbing…

 

Sand Carving

Sand Carving

The next morning we were up and out, and rolling south. We stumbled into Cannon Beach where the sand carving contest was getting set up.

 

 

 

This is where I need to take a moment and tell you about this wonderful little dude:

Cadence

Cadence

So I have loved this beautiful little dude, with all my heart, since the very first moment I laid my eyes on him almost 8 years earlier. He never ceases to amaze me with his humor, intelligence, kindness… But on this day, as we were walking along the beach, I see Cadence just reach down and pick up a bunch of nasty trash, and then he carried that with him for 15-20 minutes until he found a trash bin to throw it away properly. Now nobody asked him to do that and he didn’t say a word to anyone about it. He just took it upon himself to be a good ocean shepherd. I was so choked up I almost couldn’t speak. A new word came to my mind to describe this marvelous little guy: RESPECT!  Cade, you’re my hero. I love you pal.

 

The Three Capes Route

The Three Capes Route

We followed the three capes scenic route and were rewarded with stunning ocean views the whole day.  Camp for the night was at South Beach State Park.  We all hiked out to the beach where the dudes went crazy rolling down the sand dunes.  Life on the road was pretty good… Even the over officious park ranger-electric plug nazi lady couldn’t harsh my mellow when she pulled up and told me we couldn’t have two vans plugged into the same power station. I kid you not, this old bat bails out of her ranger truck with her ticket book in hand, to march up and lecture me on the park rules.  Forget about the fact that all through the camp there were giant RV’s sucking down 20 times the amps we were. Ridiculous!

Bullards Beach near Bandon OR was our next camp. We arrived early in the day and made a fairly long hike out to a beautiful deserted beach. The waves were pounding, the wind was screaming, and the dudes looked like sugar cookies in about two minutes.

In the sand dunes

In the sand dunes

 

Sugar cookie face

Sugar cookie face

Of course no trip down the Oregon coast would be complete for me without a stop at the massive sea stacks in Bandon, OR.  The rest of the crew humored me with a few minutes of uninterrupted bird glassing time.  I truly could sit on those cliffs all day and watch sea birds.

Bandon, OR

Bandon, OR

We crossed into California and rolled through the redwoods.  Our next camp was Elk Prairie Redwoods State Park, and as the name implies we had a whole herd of elk visit us around dinner.

Elk arrived for dinner

Elk arrived for dinner

The next day included more elk, lots more giant redwood trees, and corkscrewing our way along CA Hwy 1, down the lost coast to MacKerricher State Park, just north of Fort Bragg.  Our now routine hike to the beach took us across beautiful patches of ice plant, and out to a point where dozens of seals were hauled out on the rocks.  Truth be told, our campsite was just a dirt pit under some trees, and the restroom gave a new definition to the term “sh!thole”, but we met some really nice people in the next campsite with two adorable little kids, and the dudes played in the dirt till well after dark.

Ice Plant

Ice Plant

Seals

Seals

Point Arena Lighthouse

Point Arena Lighthouse

We awoke to that customary pacific coast summer sea fog, and thick damp air.  Our whole day was spent twisting and turning down CA Hwy 1.  The fog gave a couple of fleeting glimpses of the sky, but it was really just a tease.  Along with the fog came the wind… Lots of wind in some places.

The Point Arena Lighthouse provided a welcome diversion for the day.

 

 

 

View from the lighthouse

View from the lighthouse

We pressed on down the coast toward our intended campsite at Wrights Beach on the Sonoma Coast.  But just when I was contemplating how epically brutal our beachside campsites were gonna be in this 20 knots of windy, wet fog… Richie’s van decided to have a flat tire.

We found a little sliver of shoulder on the side of the road and Richie went into full-on NASCAR mode with a tire change. Ok, admittedly I don’t know JACK about NASCAR, but he had the tire swapped out before I had a chance to take a leak… That seemed pretty fast.

Now the plan was to drive past Wrights Beach into the tiny town of Bodega Bay and see about getting the flat tire fixed.  Nobody wanted to be stuck on the lost coast without a spare tire.  Towns are few and far between, and there was zero cell phone coverage.

No tire shop in Bodega Bay so it was time to call an audible play.  We headed inland to Petaluma… Land of Big O Tire, Best Western Inn (with a pool) Pizza, Laundry, and a perfect staging point for our next day’s exploration of San Francisco.

Pool Time

Pool Time

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

Initially my plan was to ride my bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, but as we approached it was absolutely blanketed in a thick cold fog.  As the saying goes, “The coldest winter I ever spent, was the summer I spent in San Francisco”.  Scrapping that plan, we pressed on to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Remarkably, we found some on street parking and bailed out for some touristy sightseeing.  And as luck would have it, the fog pretty much stayed clinging to the bridge… The sun was shinning on our part of the SF bay, affording us peak-a-boo views of Alcatraz.  The Rock!

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Bloody Mary Time

Bloody Mary Time

We had a really fun lunch of sourdough bread bowls filled with clam chowder at Boudin Bakery Cafe.  Apparently this was the place where that whole idea of cutting your loaf of bread into a bowl was “thunked up”.  We even wandered through the sourdough museum and watched the process in the big kitchen viewing windows. Then on to conquer Ghirardelli Square where just about everybody in the VanSlam crew ended up with ice cream dripping off their faces and hands.  Hum?

 

 

 

Suzie

Suzie

Our home for the night was our only pre-planned hotel stay on the trip. Nick’s Sea Breeze motel and restaurant at Rockaway Beach was like being in a time machine, and landing back in the 1930’s.

With the ocean right out our doorstep it didn’t take long before all 3 dudes were soggy and sandy.  We ate our dinner while watching brown pelicans plunging into the surf for their dinner.  Oh, and a note about the tiny little double bed in our room… It too was from the 1930’s. I woke up thankful that the next few nights I would be back up in the top rack of our VW camper van.

We rolled south from Rockaway Beach on CA Hwy 1, in a blanket of heavy fog. Our first stop was the tiny harbor town of Pillar Point, where we drove out to the point hoping to catch a glimpse of the world famous Mavericks’ surf break.  But alas, the fog did not cooperate, the entire ocean was just a big mass of grey.  You couldn’t even see where the sky stopped and the water began.

Big Sur Coast

Big Sur Coast

Eventually we did catch some blue ocean views.  All along the Big Sur coast the views were breathtaking.  Naturally we (well, really just me) had to stop and shoot some video and photos at the historic Bixby Creek bridge.  They say it is the most photographed site along CA Hwy. 1.

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge

 

Rockhopper on Hwy. 1

Rockhopper on Hwy. 1

Fernwood Resort was the bottom end of our route.  So don’t let the name “resort” take your mind’s eye to some vision of a fancy spa on the cliffs high above the Big Sur crashing surf… This was just camping in the dirt again, but with a few little conveniences like a power hookup, and a nifty little creek behind our camp.

 

Fernwood was where we rendezvoused with Lexy, Charlie, Nalu, and as a bonus, they brought along Charlie’s best pal Dan (all the way from Chicago).  The Chexy crew (as they are affectionately know around the world) drove up from Venice Beach in their VW Westfalia camper van after picking Dan up at LAX.

 

Lexy & Leane

Lexy & Leane

I guess if one was going to try to trace back and find the roots or the birthplace of this whole VanSlam idea, you wouldn’t have to look too far past the fact that as little cousins growing up Leane and Lexy logged thousands of miles with Susan and me in our van on road trip adventures all over North America.  Bringing everybody and their extended families back together once or twice a year is a marvelous way to keep the tradition alive.

 

We spent a few days at Frenwood enjoying the Big Sur River.  The dudes all got floaty tubes, so after using every last puff of air from my lungs helping Richie blow the tubes up, I jumped on the Rockhopper and headed further down the coast.  Now the term “down” the coast is a bit of a misnomer because the granny-gear-grind up out of the Big Sur river canyon was as long and hard as those 3 years I spent in the 8th grade.  But the views, once I did get back over to the actual coast were spectacular.  I was on high alert for California condors, but after a dozen or more miles it was all turkey vultures… No condors, so I turned around and headed back to camp.  Some type of shift in the Teutonic plates, or a seismic anomaly caused the road surface to shift and it turned out to be uphill both ways.  And here is a “Pro Tip” for northbound cyclist on CA Hwy 1 – That almost imperceptible shoulder on the southbound side of the road, is totally non-existent as you head north.  But if you spray chain lube all over your left shoulder to help the RV’s slide by you’ll be fine.

Ukulele time

Ukulele time

The dudes were still in the river when I returned and in fact stayed in the river all day.  Kingston had to be physically extracted for dinner, kicking and screaming all the way. We had a great night of campfire tales, story discs, and music with the Chexy crew, and what may have been the highlight of my trip… I had the dudes, one-two-three, in order, fall asleep in my arms.  Duke was actually conked out before the s’mores were done… But he got his second wind and worked through about half a s’more before he nodded off in mid-bite.  Kingston was next up for snuggle time.  We got him in his PJ’s and I tucked him into my coat.  He laid across my lap, watching the stars until he couldn’t hold his eyes open any longer.  Then, just before he was out for the night, in a quiet moment he said…”Grandpa, I love you”.  (I’ll give you a minute to go get a tissue.)

Cadence was up next and wasted no time in snuggling into my coat.  We talked about our trip so far, and made a plan for the next day.  So Cade didn’t actually fall asleep in my arms but we sure went to cozy level 5 before I passed him off to Richie for the transfer to his bunk.

The VanSlam crew

The VanSlam crew

The next morning, Sunday, I think, team Chexy was up early and fixin’ to roll out. They hung out at camp with us for a while, and Richie made all the “real” grown-ups Bloody Mary’s.  The elaborate process involved several different steps and a picnic table full of ingredients.  The dudes and I broke out our bushcraft skills and made hand carved skewers for every one’s olives, bacon, and cheese.

Our entire days’ entertainment was only a few steps away in the river.

The Lazy River

The Lazy River

Monday it was time to pull up stakes (metaphorically speaking) and head north, up into the Napa wine country for a couple of days.  As soon as we cut inland from the coast it started to get pretty hot.

We looped around the east side of the Bay Area through the San Jose megatropolis.  I think we did pretty good passing through during mid day and missing most of the traffic, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say it was pretty “yucky”. Brown grass, brown road surface, brown water, brown sky, and I’m sure lots of brown air came into my lungs.

Poison oak

Poison oak

We rolled into Bothe-Napa State Park in mid afternoon.  The heat was kind of crushing, but there were lovely shade trees everywhere and with a whisper of a breeze, it was kind of manageable.  But CAUTION was the word of the day.  The woods were absolutely blanketed with poison oak.  I mean every place a little dude would walk and explore was thick with poison oak.

The decision was made on the spot that this camp site was going be a “one night stand”.  Suzie booked us hotel rooms (with a pool) for the next night, 134 miles up the road in Corning.

So here’s another Pro Tip: Bothe-Napa, although beautiful for a grandpa dude to sit in his favorite camp chair reading a book, was not a great place for 3 adventuresome children.

Author’s Note: the temperature as I typed this paragraph at Bothe-Napa was 82 degrees F. at 1754 hours. Just for fun I also checked the temp at Shasta – 106!

Ouch!

Ouch!

So this was where the trip took an interesting twist.  About 2000 hours Suzie reached up to close the roof vent on our van, slipped and gashed her finger in the hinge.  I was standing right there saying, “hey, I’ll get that”…. I’m gonna stop with any of the gory details of the cut right here because it traumatizes me just thinking about it.

But let me tell you this part: I did a quick assessment and some first aid on the spot.  We folded up the camp and shot off to the St. Helena ER.  They got Suzie in the exam room and cleaned the wound (the cut went all the way to her tendon). She got 10 stitches and some shots, and a splint on her finger… Dude, this was her trigger finger too.  And them bam!  Right back to camp.

Wholly crap, grandma Suzie is a tough as nails total bad ass.  You know in my past life I had seen a lot of trauma, heck, I’d inflected a lot of trauma… But Susan was as hard core as any SWAT operator I’d ever worked with in my 25 years as a SWAT guy.

Even before the the finger incident we’d made the decision to escape the poison oak forest and skip our last day at Bothe-Napa and head north a ways for a hotel (spelled pool) for a day.  Corning, CA filled the bill perfectly.

Another day, another camp.  We motored up to the top of Lake Shasta to the Lakeshore RV park and campground, in Lakehead, CA.  It was hot, for sure.  But really (I can’t believe I’m saying this) only 90 degrees.  The camp was pretty kid friendly.  They had a pool, so the dudes were set for the next 3 days.  As far as the lake was concerned it was in typical “July” mode… A little river, hiding 300-400 feet down steep red dirt embankments.  But up on the bank where we were camped we had Western scrub jays and acorn woodpeckers to entertain us.

Regarding the people camped next to us:  all I can say is “Stella”!  Suffice to say that some people are just not cut out to be campers… Or parents, for that matter.

So what do you think would happen if you gave 3 water happy little dudes unlimited access to a swimming pool (in 100 degree heat) for a few days.  Well, their swimming skills would skyrocket!  Both Cadence and Kingston started actually working on technique… And Duke, holy cow, he turned into a swimmer.  Of course the downside to that was he now needed a dedicated water assistant full time, because he was already absolutely fearless around the water.

More pool fun

More pool fun

We spent a scorching Independence Day (day) and a rockus Independence Day (evening) at Lakeshore Park and then, the next day…”Like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway”.

Happy Birthday Cade

Happy Birthday Cade

We motored up to Salem, OR for the evening.  The Red Lion hotel (with a pool) was a welcome refuge from the heat.  The next day was Cadence’s 8th birthday so a big day was planned around stopping in Vancouver, WA to see the new Transformers movie.

 

 

 

 

Headed home

Headed home

As promised, here is our video:

 

Quality time

Quality time

That’s about it for this one.  We’re already making plans for the next VanSlam.

Thanks for following along.

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Trout Lake

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area

Just 60 short miles from my back door.  That’s where I was as I stepped into the wilderness today.  A little over an hour on the motorbike, and about 1/2 mile of hiking trail had me immersed in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, headed up to Trout Lake.

There are actually several access points to designated wilderness areas much closer to my door, Boulder River Wilderness Area is probably more like 30 miles away. It feels a lot closer because I’m looking at it as I type this story.

But today the plan was to hike up to Trout Lake.  I strapped my trekking poles to the Strike Force Moto and headed for the hills.

Trout Lake

Trout Lake

I think my first hike to this picturesque little mountain jewel was back in about 1970.  Since then I’ve returned many times.  It has been interesting to see the way mother nature has rearranged the river valley over the years.  Back in 2006 a massive flood wiped out the trail and smashed the sketchy log bridge that crossed the Foss River.  Some adventurous souls (Travis and me among them) found a route across the river in 2007 by “poodle scooching” along a fallen tree.  Today I’m pleased to report that the trail was in great shape and there is a new bridge.

West Fork Foss River

West Fork Foss River

Bunchberry

Bunchberry

Red-brested sapsucker

Red-brested sapsucker

I had a bunch of red-brested sapsuckers buzzing around my lunch spot at the north end of the lake.  I initially thought they were yellow-bellied sapsuckers… but after further checking I realized my error.  But not before I titled them incorrectly in this cool little movie.

Have a look:

 

 

 

Thanks to Van Morrison for lending me his 1979 tune “Bright Side Of The Road”

One of these guys...

One of these guys…

... is the author

… is the author

 

 

 

Till next time.  Kat

 

 

 

 

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Troublesome Creek

Troublesome Creek

Troublesome Creek

In the fall of 2006 massive flooding along the north fork of the Skykomish River wiped out the Index-Galena Road in about 8 different places.  Ever since that day the road has been closed to motor vehicles, and a couple of really cool little NF campgrounds have laid neglected, inaccessible, on the upper stretches of the road.

There was a “work-around”.  Forest Service Road 65, the Beckler River Road could be used as a backdoor to the camps, adding another 40 miles or so, but there was another gate at the top end, and I’d never seen it open in all my recent travels, and hiking trips to the area.

Until today!

North Fork Skykomish River

North Fork Skykomish River

Today the gate was open, and a more perfect road for the WR250R has never been carved into the earth.

Index-Galena Rd.

Index-Galena Rd.

I was delighted to see the tiny campground at Troublesome Creek was open, and in tip top shape.  Man that is exactly the kind of stuff I want my tax dollars to be spent on.

Blue Pools

Blue Pools

I parked the moto and took a little hike up the creek.  There are several places where one can stare down into the beautiful clear blue pools of water.

The trail was in great shape and there was a new foot bridge since my last hike here a decade before.

Enjoy the images, Kat

 

Foot bridge

Foot bridge

 

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