Leef Peeping VanSlam

Fall colors along the Old Blewett Pass Hwy.

For anyone even remotely interested in photography, the beginning of autumn in the Cascade mountains means the start of a glorious feast for the eyes.  The rich warm saturated colors, the cobalt blue skies, and the cool nights, signal its time to go camping.

Ok, we really didn’t get those cobalt blue skies until the last day… but everything else was right on track.

Peshastin Creek

Peshastin Creek

Susan and I picked up Duke and headed out ahead of the rest of the campers for this adventure.  I wanted to include a trip across the Old Blewett Pass Highway as part of the route to our weekend camp at the Blu-Shastin RV park.  I’d ridden my motorbike over this crumbled, unused, historic stretch of “road” last summer and I had pegged it as a great place for a return visit to enjoy the fall colors.  You can read more about that ride here: WABDR

Since there was NO traffic on this old road and since Duke was 4 years old, it seemed like the perfect place to let him drive.  Let’s have a look at a little highlight reel:

The theme of the weekend was just “chill”.  Once the rain stopped on Saturday morning we   spent hours sitting around the campfire telling stories, playing music, and playing with the dudes.

Home Sweet Campsite

Home Sweet Campsite

As a special treat we had a couple of honored guests camping with us this time.  The Great Aunties, Lona and Vicky (Richie’s aunties) pulled their chairs up to the campfire with us this time… and what a delightful pair of campers they were.  Oh, and if you’re one of the little dudes, and you are camping with your grandma and grandpa, as well as your two great aunties, well… Let’s just say you are pretty much SET!  Nuff said.

The warm glow of a comfy camp

The warm glow of a comfy camp

Happy camper

Happy camper

We didn’t get too far from the campfire or the creek.  Those two places provided all the entertainment we needed.

As the fire died down we all scrambled to the warmth of our camper vans and got tucked in for the night.  The two eldest dudes bunked in with the aunties in their RV, and had, I’m sure, a wonderful little slumber party.

Sunday morning had the aunties breaking camp early, and headed to watch a football game.  While we were on our way up Stevens Pass for a hike along the Iron Goat Trail.

Wellington Trailhead

Wellington Trailhead

Duke and Suzie

Duke and Suzie

Well that’s about it for this edition of the Adventure Journal.  We certainly had a marvelous time.  The fall colors were spectacular, the aunties were delightful, and the dudes… Well they’re just the happiest little campers ever.

Thanks for following along.  Kat

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Evergreen Mountain Lookout

Evergreen Mt. Lookout

Evergreen Mt. Lookout

A beautiful fall day, 5000 feet up in the Wild Sky Wilderness.  Washington’s Cascade mountains put on a wonderful show.  Here are a few photos and a video highlight reel.

The newest wilderness area

The newest wilderness area

Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-Boo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hike up was fairly short but pretty steep!

Looking SE

Looking SE

The last little scramble to the top

The last little scramble to the top

360 degree views

360 degree views

Inside the lookout

Inside the lookout

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous Views

Fabulous Views

Blazing red fall colors

Blazing red fall colors

Spend a minute with The Allman Brothers Band as they take us through this video:

GoPro on the Strike Force Moto

GoPro on the Strike Force Moto

 

DCIM999GOPRO

So with my Ribz front pack stuffed with camera gear and a few snacks, I spent a wonderful afternoon wandering around the mile-high alpine meadows.

Thanks for following along.

Kat

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North Cascades VanSlam

Oso Slide

Oso Slide

So we were home for about one day and then off again.  This time headed for the North Cascades to link up with family and friends at Pearrygin State Park.

On our way we drove by that massive mud slide in Oso WA.  Traffic was still limited to one way with a pilot car so it was hard to get much of a view of the damage, other than to say it was catastrophic.

We headed up the North Cascades Hwy.

Diablo Lake Overlook

Diablo Lake Overlook

Yep, that’s the real color of the water.  We stopped off to scramble around the lookout trail at Washington Pass.

Suzie, on the trail

Suzie, on the trail

We rolled into camp about 1400 hours and Leane and her dudes, as well as Uncle “B” and Auntie Ray Ray, were all set up and waiting.

The rest of the weekend was spent just goofing off and clowning around with the dudes.

Let me share a few images:

 

 

Goofing Off

Goofing Off

That GoPro camera with my iPhone remote was a huge success.

Watching the video monitor

Watching the video monitor

Ray and B brought these two Sumo wrestler suits… As fun as they were we felt we were teetering on the edge of disaster the whole time they were battling in the suits.

Bam!

Bam!

Crash!

Crash!

We did some hiking…

The old Graves ranch

The old Graves ranch

Weathered barn boards

Weathered barn boards

The weather was great right up until the morning we left.

Pearrygin Lake at sunset

Pearrygin Lake at sunset

Duke and Richie did some swimming

Duke Duke, this guy is a true waterman

Duke Duke, this guy is a true waterman

The huddle

The huddle

On our final morning we were treated to a visit from a herd of deer.  The deer were obviously used to humans walking around “their” park because the dudes and I walked through their midst.

Part of the herd

Part of the herd

How many can you count?

How many can you count?

Little buck

Little buck

My deer spotting crew

My deer spotting crew

Suzie snapped this image as we were headed for home.

Park overlook

Park overlook

GoPro Ninja Skills

GoPro Ninja Skills

We rolled out on Monday morning and headed down toward the town of Pateros, WA and got a first hand look at all the damage from this summers wildfires.  It was remarkable how one complete hillside would be totally incinerated and then the next would still be green.

To any backcountry motorbike riders reading this… I think this area is going to be one big charcoal mess for many years to come.

Ok, that’s it for now.  Thanks for following along.

Kat

 

 

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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 are 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!

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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

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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

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