Thursday, February 12, 2015

Columbia River Gorge

In late September, we arrived at the Columbia River Gorge.   

We turned east on interstate 30 toward Ainsworth State Park, our campground destination. The Columbia meanders slowly through a wide valley floor and the views are beautiful - waterfall after waterfall. Wow! There are 238 waterfalls in Oregon with 27 in the Columbia River Gorge area alone. We were in heaven!

We got to our chosen camp site late and found it busy and nearly full.  Even today, when we see campgrounds or other public lands full on a workday and during the off season, we ask ourselves, "Doesn't anybody work?" or "Why aren't these kids in school?" LOL

We had to disconnect the Jeep and back into our site - a rarity for us as we usually find pull thru sites. The site was not level and we used all twenty leveling blocks under the rear tires.  At least this time we didn't tear a mud flap like we did in Tok when we leveled the rear of the RV. Our neighbors, who were loud tent campers smoking weed, watched us try to level ourselves. Welcome to Oregon. After dinner, it got really dark and by 9:00 the crying baby and all the neighbors were asleep.

We awoke early as usual, drank one cup of coffee and had a quick breakfast. Kathy walked the dogs and we headed out on Scenic Highway 30.  Although it was cloudy, it was fairly warm and dry.  We rolled up on our first waterfall before 7:30 am, long before other tourists and sightseers were even out and about.  

A few pics and we moved on to Multnomah Falls, Joys favorite. We had owned a Bierstadt lithograph of these particular falls for years.  It hung in our Austin living room until someone mentioned it looked like a cross and it was promptly removed.  It was relocated to a TV room and then to our bedroom for staging purposes as we tried to sell our Houston house. Kathy wasn't fond of the dark fall colors and heavy wood frame so Joy eventually re-framed it and tried to sell it during the downsizing.  No luck and it was finally donated.  Joy always said that painting made her see God and she cried as we approached the actual falls.

Listening to the water, she felt God’s presence and she connected to her inner peace.  Even for Kathy, who won't have anything to do with that god business, found herself a bit emotional as she looked at the amazing site that she had seen in a print for so many years. She allowed Joy to enjoy her moment and then suggested a hike up to the top.

A trail invites travelers to hike a one mile trail consisting of 11 switchbacks to an overlook at the top of the falls.  Joy made the first 1/4 mile of the trail before having to stop due to its steepness.  Kathy was heading for the top with no water and no cell phone.  45 minutes later she finally made it back, meeting Joy who had kept plodding on at her own pace.  After walking back down together a hot dog and a coke from the snack bar was a great reward!

We drove on and eventually made our way to the Vista House - an observatory at Crown Point in Multnomah County that serves as a memorial to Oregon pioneers.

The scenic drive brought us to many different waterfalls and was simply yet another beautiful journey through this beautiful country we live in.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Washington State

Those of you who follow us in real life and/or on Facebook know that we are currently in New Mexico.  We are a few months behind in writing the blog but hope you are still enjoying our adventure as much as we are.

Here's our post regarding our visit to Ruth and Jim in September.  Enjoy!

Arriving back to the lower 48 was an emotional edifice - we were glad to be heading to see friends and family but the bustle of real life seemed to encroach on whom we'd become in Alaska.  Ferndale, a quaint town just a few miles from the border, is where our friends Ruth and Jim live.  They've been on virtually our entire journey as our consultants in our RV acquisition, mechanical advisers in our Jeep and tow kit purchase, and our "at the ready" technical help via telephone wherever we've been. Ruth and Kathy had gone through most of high school together and are best friends, soul mates and partners in crime.  

Although we came for the company, the Jeep was in need of a new front axle seal and the RV was in need of some maintenance and TLC.  Highly qualified to help, Jim and Ruth had owned a RV business for over twenty years in California before moving to the Austin area a few years ago.  Eventually they moved north of Austin to establish a farm and we moved east to Houston.  With the extensive Texas drought affecting their farm, Ruth conducted extensive research on the best locations for organic farming, water futures and political compatibility.  They moved to their current location near Bellingham, Washington.   

We parked in their driveway and got chauffeured around town by Ruth as Jim provided oversight of the RV and Jeep parts and service.  The list, compliments of our 4,000+ mile trip through the rugged Yukon and Alaska, included:

- two chips in the Jeep windshield
- broken day/night window shade string
- pin hole in the sewer hose
- Jeep rear window zipper separated
- front axle seal on Jeep leaking
- Jeep radiator leaking

We also need routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tire rotations.

Our first day there, we enjoyed driving a few miles to the coast and then visiting the aromatic gardens in Ferndale. The next day, we were joined by Evelyn, Kathy's mom and her best friend Sandy.  Both had flown in from Texas to see us and enjoy a Washington vacation.

While Jim worked, we five women drove around the Ferndale/Bellingham area.  We visited Mount Baker and hiked to a glacier view.  We enjoyed coffee downtown and drove south to Oak Harbor via the Anacortes Bridge.  We had a few great days laughing in the car, seeing sights along the coast and the coastal farmlands, eating seafood and being together.

Evelyn and Sandy are in the over sixty crowd that thrive on trying new things and traveling.  It was great spending time with them.  We teased about going to one of the legal marijuana stores but never had a chance before it was time for us to leave.  We announced we were going to be married in California and had an appointment to get our marriage license and needed to be in Placerville, CA by Friday.  

Leaving friends and family is difficult on a lazy Sunday morning but we had so much to see and an appointment on Friday miles away.  We drove straight through the rest of Washington.  We actually saw a little of Seattle when we decided to exit and find some gas - on a Sunday - during a home football game.  We ended up driving through a mixed business and residential neighborhood and getting back on the freeway without finding a gas station.  Then we saw the Space Needle and the arenas as cars were jammed trying to exit northbound lanes heading to the game.  We were glad were traveling southbound.

Further south we saw Mt. St. Helens in the distance.  Unlike Mount Rainier, it was very apparent through the wildfire smoke and smog that the top of the mountain is missing due to the massive eruption in 1980.  Smoke from the California wildfires clouded the sky toward the mountains and made the cities and ship channels appear smoggy. Ship channel after ship channel, port after port - the Washington coastline is a lively place with bustling businesses.

We followed the coastline into Oregon, where we planned to stop for our next adventure experiencing the Columbia River Gorge.