Blue Lake VanSlam 2015

Milkshakes at the 59er Diner

Milkshakes at the 59er Diner

So we’re headed off again.  This time to the annual Sun Lakes summer bash with family and friends.

Our departure day was a scorcher with eastern Washington temperatures in the 100’s and a nasty layer of smoke blanketing the normally cobalt blue skies.

So, without any further delay, let’s just have a look at the video highlight reel:

Leane and Hendrix - Photo by Kingston

Leane and Hendrix – Photo by Kingston

Other than a hurricane force wind and dust storm on Friday night the weather was just about perfect, mid 80’s during the day and low 70’s at night.

If it seems like I glossed over that wind storm it is because I didn’t want to dwell on the fact that it smashed up our canoe, and demolished several tents at the camp.  Oh well, that canoe was pretty much destroyed when I brought it back from the dead last winter… I guess we’ll just have to fix it again.

Here are a few photos from our adventure.

The fishing party

The fishing party

Playtime in the "Octagon"

Playtime in the “Octagon”

The "Fun Universe"

The “Fun Universe”

Now for some cliff diving excitement:

Leane and Amy

Leane and Amy

Duke Danger and Richie

Duke Danger and Richie

Uncle B

Uncle B

"Hey, I can fly"

“Hey, I can fly”

We had the sweetest little neighbors camping next to us

We had the sweetest little neighbors camping next to us

Camden... Truly a free spirit with NO fear.

Camden… Truly a free spirit with NO fear.

I gotta say this little guy captured a piece of my heart.  He didn’t realize he was only 3 years old and figured he could do just about anything a big kid or an adult could do.  One minute he was headed out into the lake, bobbing around in his life jacket, the next he was riding his strider bike down the boat ramp… much to the astonishment of his dear mother, who could barely keep up with the little dude.

 

 

 

The smoke from the wildfires made for some epic sunsets

The smoke from the wildfires made for some epic sunsets

Baby nap time

Baby nap time

That’s about it for this episode of the Adventure Journal.  I could keep typing words all day but I would never be able to really describe how wonderful it is to be blessed with some many wonderful friends and a beautiful loving family.

Thank you all.

Kat

 

Posted in Camping, Canoe, Dudes, Kayak, Music, Photography, Ukulele, Video | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

WABDR Round II

That's me... Photo credit: Kevin

That’s me… Photo credit: Kevin

About this time last year, my buddy Dan and I were riding the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route from south to north. After one day of sunny weather (riding the I-5 slab down to Stevenson, WA) it rained everyday… It rained HARD everyday. But in spite of the rain the whole north end of the route was basically on fire, and most of the trails were closed. Wisely we chose to call it quits after 3 days when we reached Cashmere, WA. Dan headed east to his home in Idaho and I plowed through the pouring rain over Stevens Pass to my cozy little home in Everett, WA.

109 degrees!

109 degrees!

It was an automatic fact that we were gonna start again where we left off, and complete the rest of the route the next year.  Dan and I made a plan to link up on August 1st in Leavenworth WA, for Round II.  One year later and man what a difference.  Day one found me headed to a campground in Leavenworth, and the temperatures were scorching, up over 100 degrees, and that was torturous for a coasty boy like me. Also joining us for this years ride would be Dan’s pal Kevin.  I got my camp set up in the mid-afternoon heat, and sent a text to Dan to let him know I’d arrived. Dan and Kevin rolled in for a quick meet up and planing session. They would be staying in a hotel in town for the night.

Dan with his new knife

Dan with his new knife

We talked routes, camping, weather, and various other logistics. We made a plan to meet in the morning at the Safeway parking lot at 0800 to begin the ride.  Before they left I presented Dan with the little Mora bushcraft knife that I made for him.  You can see more about the knife build here: The Morakniv Project

The rest of my day was spent keeping my camp chair in the shade and waiting for the sun to go down.

 

Day Two

Remarkably I did manage to get a little sleep as it cooled down to 90 something during the night. We linked up at 0800 and were quickly on the road.  We made a steady climb up toward Chumstick Mt. The views were great, and trail was manageable. The dust… Yikes!  The dust was legendary.  At one point we rolled through a logging area and the road turned into deep ruts filled with a fluffy talcum powder type dust that just billowed out from beneath our motorbikes.  I can’t go into too many gory details about how awful it was because my two riding partners were motoring through it on bikes that weighed 2-1/2 times more then my little StrikeForceMoto, and they are gonna read this and know what a big baby I am.

Kevin roosting along the trail

Kevin roosting along the trail

Actually I can admit that this was a tough day for me.  The heat, the dust, the loose angular rock on the trail, all demanded constant attention. As we dropped down into the Entiat valley to the little town of Ardenvoir we started to see the first signs of smoke.  The smoke got pretty thick in spots and we were unsure if this was from a new fire, or one the forest fires that were already burning several miles up the Lake Chelan basin.  There was a USFS fire crew training at Mad River where we stopped to chat with a couple other ADV riders, the fire crew informed us that there were no new fires in our intended path, and the other riders told us that the town of Chelan was totally choked in thick smoke.

We took a break at the little store in Ardenvoir and reconsidered our plan to camp at 25 mile creek on the shores of a Lake Chelan.  Dan and I were thinking of motel camping in town.  Kevin was still considering camping somewhere and then linking up with us in the morning.

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Map of the fire

Well, by the time we climbed over the last ridge and started working our way down to the lake it was really nasty.  There was a smokey haze hanging in the sky, and it was  starting to burn my eyes.  The normally beautiful S. Lakeshore Drive was a grey hazy mess, and the lake itself was mostly hidden in the thick blanket of smoke… Every so often we’d get a glimpse out on the lake and there were still people out there on boats and jet skis.

After a fuel stop I led the boys up to the Apple Inn.  I’d stayed there years ago on a KLR trip where I  visited the Hawk Watch site on Chelan Ridge.  Kevin apparently had choked down enough smoke by this time he had convinced himself that a motel was a good idea, so he decided to stick with us.

I made a feeble attempt at cleaning some of the dust off me gear before I tossed it all in the room.  We all got cleaned up and spent the evening telling stories and talking about the days ride.

Day Three

A new day but the same old smoke… We walked a few doors down to the Apple Cup Cafe’ and scarfed down a big breakfast. The rising heat and acrid smoke were testing our patience as we got loaded up and on the road. As soon as I had some airflow blowing through my jacket my outlook on the world improved dramatically.

Riding through the fireweed

Riding through the fireweed

Our route took us along the north shore of the lake and up Copper mountain. Like all of our morning starts we were treated to another marvelous stretch of fast mountain twisty turns. But soon enough we were scrambling up another dusty, rock strewn gnarly hill climb.  We followed a wonderful trail through an old burned area.  Blackened trees, bleached silver pines, and gorgeous fireweed had us stopping frequently for photos.  At one point Dan gave us a temperature check… 69 degrees!  Now that’s more like it.  But I noted that we were above 6000 feet elevation and that certainly helped.

I was delighted to recognize the outcropping way up on Chelan Ridge where I visited the Hawk Watch crew at their raptor migration counting station years ago. Back in 2010 I’d ridden my KLR up there to spend the afternoon with the bird counters.

Eventually the trail led us down into the Methow Valley to the little “town” of Carlton. We stopped at the Carlton Mall, which was really only a general store and gas pump on the outside.  But on the inside it was a treasure trove of cool outdoor stuff, catering to the legions of fly fishermen that come to the area. I can honestly state right here, “That was the coolest mall I’d ever been to”.

Our route had a detour due to a washed out section of forest service road up in the Benson Creek area.  The bypass was pretty straight forward, north in WA158, east on SR20 where we’d pick up the WABDR again at Loop Loop road. Now for some of the more dedicated off-road riders out there this may have been an inconvenience, but we enjoyed a very “spirited” mini Moto GP blasting through the sweeping bends along marvelous North Cascades Highway.

Loop Loop Canyon road was just the kind of place ADV motorbikes were designed for.  The trail wound its way along green meadows and heavy forest.  Scenery straight out of a Touratech catalogue.

We made a quick inspection of China Wall.  This place was pretty cool, I made a mental note to do some further research on the origin of the name and a bit of its history when I got home.

And then it was down the Ruby Grade.  Reading other trip reports I’d learned that the Ruby Grade was a steep downhill with lots of ruts and big boulders that led down into the old mining townsite of Ruby.

I lead the way down and within about 50 yards I had the little StrikeForceMoto sliding down into a deep rocky rut. The bike stopped abruptly and launched me forward. I did an over the handle bars dismount, snapped the kill switch off as I landed on my feet.  Then I grabbed the the bike upright and jumped aboard, just as Dan was coming around the turn and toward the rut. I shot out of the rut in a flash, as Dan was thinking he’d have to stop and help me get my bike out of there. I later told him my hasty exit was to avoid him getting his bike stuck behind me, but truth be told it was more in an effort to snatch my bike up before anyone realized I had gotten in a little bit of a pickle. No harm to the moto, and since there were no pictures… Well, maybe it never happened.

We paused for a bit to read some history at the Ruby townsite. It wasn’t long before we were cruising up to the gas pump at the general store in Conconully .  The state park in town was a welcome home away for home for the evening.  Real green grass to place our tents on, and…Showers!

Night lights on in the tents

Night lights on in the tents

We got camp set up and later that evening the boys walked up to the Sit & Bull tavern for some grownup beverages.   Dan and Kevin met the mayor, and a local named Joe…(every town has a “Joe”, right?)  In speaking with Joe, Kevin confirmed that the name “China Wall” came from the similarity with the Great Wall of China. The site was built as a silver ore concentrating site, but in 1989 the price of silver dropped dramatically and the project was abandoned. So there you have it, research complete.  Thanks Joe

Day Four

This would be the perfect place to insert the highlight video… It might save me from writing stunning beautiful epic & awesome a whole bunch of times.

Nighthawk Border Crossing

Nighthawk Border Crossing

We arrived at the Canadian border at about 1030 hours.  For Dan and Kevin it on into Canada, headed east on Hwy. 3  Then they’d drop down into Idaho.  For me it was a wonderful mini Iron Butt ride across Highway 20 through the gorgeous North Cascades.  It certainly reinforced the idea that my little WR250R is capable of far more then I will ever be able to demand of it as a rider.

Kevin - Dan - Kat

Kevin – Dan – Kat

Finally a shoutout to my two great riding partners, Dan and Kevin.  You guys made the trip an adventure.  Thanks, Kat

 

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

The Morakniv Project

The raw materials

The raw materials

I decided it was time to try my hand at fabricating a little bushcraft knife.  So, I bought a Morakniv blank and got busy putting it all together.

Left over pieces and parts from other projects made up most of the build.

Of course the funny thing is that my old trusty Morakniv only cost about $3.00 more than the Morakniv blank that I bought to begin the project… But that’s not really the point now is it?

 

If you can stop laughing for a minute…

The video pretty much tells the whole story:

After the glue up

Before the glue up

The finished project

The finished project

A personal touch

A personal touch

I presented the knife to my pal as we began a motorbike camping trip.

Dan with his new knife

Dan with his new knife

 

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Schools Out VanSlam

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls

Holy cow, where do I even start.  As many of you will know, heading out for an extended camping trip on the last day of school has become a bit of a family tradition.  This year that tradition continued, although with a little less advanced planning than in past years.

After grabbing the Dudes from school we rolled out eastbound towards a beautiful little lake in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.  Soda Lake has been a favorite camp site of mine for many years… Imagine my disappointment when we arrived to new rules.  No camping signs slapped me in the face and forced us to call an audible play.  Potholes State Park provided us with an alternative, albeit  dusty, home for the night.

The next morning found us bouncing though the NWR to view the Drumheller Channel Scablands and continuing down into the Palouse country.  I was a bit overwhelmed by the crowds at Palouse Falls… Apparently rolling in on my motorbike, for a visit mid-week in April is different then a sunny, summer Saturday.  (Thanks Susan for pointing this out to me).

Touchet River

Touchet River

That evening found us camping at Lewis & Clark Trail State Park near the town of Dayton.  The Touchet River provided the afternoon entertainment for the Dudes and we began to fall into a peaceful routine – drive, camp, play, eat, sleep, repeat.

The next day was the beginning of the coolest bit of VanSlam adventuring that any one of us can remember.

KLR on the prairie - June 2010

KLR on the prairie – June 2010

I first explored the Zumwalt Prairie on my motorbike back in June of 2010.  Ever since that trip I knew I needed to return with the VanSlam crew for some further exploration.

The Zumwalt Prairie is a 330,000 acre native grassland ranging between 3,000 to 5,ooo feet elevation. It is located in NE Oregon at the edge of Hell’s Canyon.

We followed a dusty gravel road for over 33 miles, up to a dot on the map called Buckhorn Camp.  Along the way we enjoyed some of the most amazing views of the grasslands, and we topped it all off with an evening hike to Buckhorn Lookout, where we had spectacular views of Hell’s Canyon.

Buckhorn Camp

Buckhorn Camp

Archery Lessons

Archery Lessons

Still hanging in there... Time will eventually get this old barn

Still hanging in there… Time will eventually get this old barn

Hell's Canyon

Hell’s Canyon

We camped at about 5,000 and had a few sprinkles of rain, but it was a marvelous night in the wilderness.

The NRS store

The NRS store

The next day we headed north into Idaho. Since we were passing through the town of Moscow, I thought it would be interesting to visit the Northwest River Supply store.  NRS had been supplying my family’s sea kayaking gear for decades.  I think I’m on my 3rd or 4th NRS wetsuit, and they all just keep getting better and better.

It was kind of a pilgrimage really.

The days rolled in together at some point.  Hepburn State Park near Plummer ID, Steamboat State Park, near Coulee City, WA …

Steamboat State Park

Steamboat State Park

The Dudes playing Story Discs

The Dudes playing Story Discs

We had an aborted hike up into Northup Canyon.  The mosquitoes were ravenous, and sent us scampering for the relieve of the triple digit temperatures of the vans.

With the wind blowing at Steamboat State Park the mosquitoes didn’t interrupt our session of story discs.

I just love to listen to the Dudes’s imaginations as they concoct a tale of danger and adventure based on the random selection of wooden discs with symbols and words drawn in them.

Speaking of concocting stories, this might be a good place for me to insert my video highlight reel:

Photo by Kingston

Photo by Kingston

I’ll tell you what, it won’t be too long before all the Dudes, and especially Kingston take over the photo and video tasks for many of our Adventure Journal stories.

I’ll be left to just dressing like an unmade bed and waving to the camera.

I guess before I go I’ll share one more image from the fabulous Zumwalt Prairie.  And for my motorbike pals reading this, I know you’ll see the similarity between my photo and an iconic image that first sparked my interest in motorcycles many decades ago.

The Zumwalt Prairie

The Zumwalt Prairie

Iconic Steve McQueen image from the Great Escape - 1963

Iconic Steve McQueen image from the Great Escape – 1963

Thanks for following along on our adventures.  Come join us next time.

Kat

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Booker and Remy’s Beds

Way back last December my daughter-in-law, Teresa, sent me a photo of a kids twin bed from some place like Pottery Barn, and asked, “Can you make two of these for Booker and Remy”?

IMG_0651

The Catalog Image

The Blueprint Photo

The Blueprint Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course I said yes after nothing more than a casual glance.  Then I studied the photo for a while and kind of “built it in my head”.  Next I came up with a materials list and a rough estimate of the cost.

Teresa said she would buy the materials and added, “if you have to buy any special tools, add that into the cost”.  What a sweetheart!  I instantly thought of a dozen things that I “needed”.  (Just kidding).

I was definitely gonna need a proper jig saw… for years I’d been getting by with a $10.00 Harbor Freight piece of junk, that pretty much cut where ever it felt like drifting.  It was impossible to control, and those curved headboards were going to demand some precision.

I came up with a rough estimate of the cost for two beds, including a jig saw, and it was still far less that the price of the store bought ones.  Which come to find out were no longer available, even if one did want to buy them.

Hauling home the material

Hauling home the material

So fast forward 6 months and as soon as Teresa sent me a text saying she had the money for the beds, Susan and I headed for the lumber store.  I got the exact measurements for the twin mattresses Teresa had selected as a starting point, but other than that all the dimensions and approximate measurements for the beds came from me just making calculated guesses based on the photo.

The new jig saw

The new jig saw

Gluing up the legs

Gluing up the legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remarkably, everything just kind of fell into place perfectly.  Not to say there wasn’t a few “Goldilocks” moments requiring multiple trips to the store… “These bolts are too long… These bolts are too short… These bolts are just right”.

IMG_0250

 

Initially the plan was to apply some wooden veneer edge banding along the “unfinished” edge of the birch plywood headboards.  But the combination of really nice plywood and a super smooth cut from the new jig saw left me re-thinking that plan.  I fixed the one small flaw in the edge with a mixture of wood glue and sawdust and then sanded the headboards smooth.  The edges were just too nice to cover up with veneer.

Staining and varnish

Staining and varnish

So after some dark walnut stain and several coats of varnish it looked like the beds were ready.

The finished bed... waiting for a mattress

The finished bed… waiting for a mattress

We had a little bit of a puzzle figuring out how to transport the beds in one trip, but we managed thanks to our kayak racks.

The image to the left is Booker’s bed, just waiting for a mattress.

Kat

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Crescent Beach

Duke - styling

Duke – styling

Here he is.  Duke (#danger) is five years old.

We just got back from another VanSlam camping trip.  This time to Crescent Beach along the Straight of Juan de Fuca, in Washington State.  Our adventure was filled with riding waves, hiking the beach, exploring tide pools, flying kites, and a little ukulele music.

Remarkably, we spent 4 days on the coast and didn’t encounter any real rain.  The wind was our constant companion, but NO rain!

Have a look at the highlight reel:

Fun on the beach

Fun on the beach

Fun in the kayaks

Fun in the kayaks

Beautiful Sunsets

Beautiful Sunsets

Every evening we were treated to another beautiful sunset.

#danger

#danger

One picture that is worth 1000 words.

Rock it baby

Rock it baby

A photo that words can’t describe

Sharing the sunsets

Sharing the sunsets

… and finally, a photo of the person I love to share the beautiful sunsets with.

Kat

Posted in Camping, Dudes, Hiking, Kayak, Music, Ukulele | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Jack’s Pass

San Juan Camp

San Juan Camp

Here is a quick little video I made heading up to Jack’s Pass and the North Fork of the Skykomish River.

Mostly it was just a test to try out a GoPro mounting system I made for the WR250R.

But as it turned out, I also got a chance to examine several potential motorbike campsites.

So what do you think about the mount?  Not too much vibration, and I can start and stop it with the wireless remote.

Ram Mount

Ram Mount

Geekin' Out

Geekin’ Out

Here is a little something so you will all know what a geek I am… As if!

That’s it for now, thanks for following along.

Kat

The north fork of the Sky

The north fork of the Sky

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