Raven and Chickadee

Navigation Menu

Cape Disappointment And The Long Beach Peninsula

Cape Disappointment And The Long Beach Peninsula

Posted by on Jul 8, 2017 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Washington | 34 comments

Leaving Fort Stevens and the delightful town of Astoria, we bid farewell to the Oregon Coast and drove a short 25 miles to Cape Disappointment. Located at the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula in the extreme southwestern corner of Washington, we arrived to gray skies, wind, rain, and a state park with zero internet connection.

But despite our less than enticing welcome, we extended our original two-day stay to five days. What kept us here was our desire to bike the Discovery Trail along the coast (but not in the rain!), our interest in Lewis and Clark National Historic Park (this is where they ended their epic journey), and a craving for oysters in historic Oystertown, at the far northwestern end of the peninsula.

Cape Disappointment really deserves a more appealing name. The gloomy moniker was bestowed in 1788 by British explorer John Meares, who was peeved when he failed to find the mouth of the great river reputed to be just around the cape. “No such river exists,” he declared. Imagine his embarrassment when just a few years later, American merchant sea captain Robert Gray sailed across the bar into the river. Gray claimed the land for the U.S. and named the river Columbia, in honor of his ship.

Cool Stuff on the Long Beach Peninsula:

• Lewis and Clark National Historic Park: Here, on the banks of the Columbia River and on bluffs and beaches overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the story of Lewis and Clark is brought to life. The 33-member Corps of Discovery arrived here in November 1805 after an arduous 4,000-mile journey from St. Louis to the Pacific. Their journey was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, who said: “Find a route to the Pacific. While you’re at it, draw good maps; discover and document plants and animals; establish relationships with the Indian tribes you meet; and get there before anyone else can lay claim to it.” (I’m paraphrasing here, but this was pretty much the essence of their mission.)

We started our explorations with the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, located high on a bluff in Cape Disappointment State Park. It kept us busy for several hours, with absorbing exhibits of their arduous journey, the many discoveries they made, and accounts of their interactions with the native peoples who lived along the Columbia. It was a perfect way to spend a rainy day.

“Your mission…the Pacific Ocean.” Coffee in hand, he’s ready to go.

A replica of the plant presses used by Lewis and Clark in their journey

The enormous replicas of Chinook canoes caught our attention at Middle Village/Station Camp. Just a few miles from Cape Disappointment, this marks the last camp the Corps made in its journey west; it was here that they decided where to spend the winter. Arriving in late fall, the Corps assumed it to be a deserted Native American settlement. But in fact, it was a summer fishing village for the Chinook, who had called this area home for thousands of years. The park at Middle Village/Station Camp focuses on the Chinook Indian Nation history, as well as telling the story of the Corps and the town of McGowan that was later founded here (hence, the church). We found the stories of the Chinook to be especially fascinating.

Middle Village/Station Camp with replicas of Chinook canoes

The river provided a natural water highway for the Chinook—they were far more skillful at navigating the unpredictable waters than the Corps. The abundance of the region, including salmon, shellfish, elk, berries, and tubers, sustained hundreds of villages along both sides of the river. Were it not for the food and other help provided by the Chinook and the Clatsop Indians on the opposite side of the river, the Corps would not have fared nearly as well.

With winter nipping at their heels, the Corps crossed the Columbia to set up camp, where elk were reputed to be plentiful. They built Fort Clatsop, named after the local Clatsop Indians, and spent the winter replenishing food supplies, making buckskin clothing, working on journals and maps, and preparing for the long journey home. When they left in the spring of 1806, they gave Fort Clatsop to Chief Coboway, who had been a helpful friend to the expedition.

A replica of Fort Clatsop, where the Corps spent the winter

Bigger than our trailer, but not as comfortable

• Biking The Discovery Trail: This multi-use trail is about as perfect a bike path as you’ll ever find. The Discovery Trail covers 8.5 miles of gently rolling terrain, from Long Beach to the North Beach Lighthouse in Cape Disappointment State Park—that last mile or so to the lighthouse is an uphill climb, but worth it. We had a blast cruising along the crest of the dunes, enjoying the ocean views and the interesting sculptures along the way commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition. It’s a great 17-mile round-trip ride.

Biking the Discovery Trail; doesn’t get any better than this

A monument to Clark along the trail (with a sturgeon and a random bouquet)

Local school children’s artwork protecting birds along the shore

• Visiting the Lighthouses: Cape Disappointment overlooks the Columbia River Bar, AKA “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” It’s such a treacherous area that it requires two lighthouses, both still in operation, and both within the state park.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, built in 1856, is perched on a cliff, a three-quarter mile uphill hike through layers of lush green forest. It’s a fading beauty in need of restoration and not open for tours, but nonetheless photogenic. And the views from the bluff are wonderful.

North Head Lighthouse, built in 1898 on the northwestern spur of Cape Disappointment, is generally open for tours, but it’s currently closed while the park restores it to its original glory.

On the trail to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach

Cape D Lighthouse with a bit of color provided by a visiting school group

Looking across the bluffs to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Bald eagle enjoying the view

• Exploring the towns: Well, it’s certainly not Astoria, but we found some interesting little towns to explore. Long Beach is the poster child for a touristy beach town, but the long stretch of sandy beach is beautiful and the boardwalk along the dunes is lovely for a stroll. (The boardwalk parallels part of the Discovery Trail, so you can explore many of the cool sculptures from here.) We bypassed the shops along the way but couldn’t resist a quick visit to Marsh’s Free Museum. It’s stuffed full of a bizarre assortment of oddities, from taxidermy to vintage peep shows to antique arcade games.

Lovely boardwalk through the dunes in Long Beach

Downtown Long Beach and Marsh’s Museum of Bizarreness

I admit, we had some good laughs in here

The little fishing village of Ilwaco was much more to our liking. The harbor is picturesque, there’s a nice little farmers’ market on Saturdays, and we continued our seafood binge at Ole Bob’s Seafood Market—we came away with fresh mussels, cod, shrimp, and salmon. So good!

Picturesque Ilwaco Harbor

Ole Bob’s Seafood Market, the place to go for seriously good fresh seafood

Other local meanderings included the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, a very local, old- fashioned museum (free on Thursdays). There’s lots of intriguing stuff here, including a life jacket made of corks from 1904 that is way more interesting than the vest I have for kayaking. I’m going to start saving our wine bottle corks. We also enjoyed happy hour at Salt Pub, overlooking the harbor, where we had a delicious North Head IPA (named after the lighthouse) from North Jetty Brewery. We were wishing we’d stopped by the brewery for a tasting of more of their offerings.

A collection of life vests at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum

The Salt Pub in Ilwaco

Local steamers and local IPA (and cranky because I want to take a photo before he can eat)

Oysterville was the final stop on our wish list, at the northwestern end of the peninsula. Built on the rich harvest of oysters from Willapa Bay (one tiny oyster brought as much as one silver dollar in San Francisco in the mid 1800’s!) the oyster boomtown is now a quiet village of well-preserved homes from the era. The smoked oysters and smoked salmon dip from Oysterville Sea Farms are among the best we’ve had, and their deck overlooking Willapa Bay is lovely.

Oysterville church, circa 1892

Oysterville Sea Farms; great smoked oysters and smoked salmon dip

Feeling pretty relaxed after those oysters (oh yeah, and a beer)

About the campground:

We had only two nights reserved at Cape Disappointment State Park and were unable to extend our reservation. But we found a wonderful spot to hang out for several more days just a few miles down the road at River’s End RV Park. We moved into a spacious site with blazing fast internet, and just across the river, Cape Disappointment lighthouse winked at us. (As an unexpected bonus, it was less expensive than the state park.) It was a great find, but unfortunately, the property has been sold and will no longer be an RV Park.

Cape Disappointment is a fine state park, though. We enjoyed our two nights there, even in the rain. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, lighthouses, and hiking trails are all conveniently within the park. The campsites are arranged in spokes, offering plenty of privacy. We liked our site in Loop A, with the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep at night. Full hookups, paved sites with picnic tables and fire pit, and absolutely no internet or cell connection whatsoever.

Our backyard for a few days at River’s End RV Park

Some of the bounty from the seafood market (Thai curry mussels)

 

 

Read More

A Charming Maritime Town: Astoria, OR

A Charming Maritime Town: Astoria, OR

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Oregon | 34 comments

From the first moment we saw Astoria, we were captivated. It’s a picturesque town, with hills of colorful homes overlooking a Victorian era downtown and working waterfront. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to describe the town as a miniature San Francisco.

With beautiful natural surroundings, plenty of outdoor recreation, seafood right off the boats, a wonderful farmers’ market, craft beer, and friendly folks (and only 10,000 of them), I think—“oh yeah, this would be an easy place to live.” And then I remember that Astoria gets an insane amount of rainfall each year.

This is a wild place, at the confluence of the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. The weather was tame and sunny while we were there. But it’s not always that way, as Lewis and Clark would attest. This is the place they ended up in their epic journey down the Columbia River in November of 1805. I’ll bet they would have enjoyed their stay more had they arrived in summer instead of winter.

With the arrival of Lewis and Clark, Astoria became the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Of course, they weren’t the first people here—the first were the Chinook Indians, who had villages up and down both sides of the Columbia. I’ve often thought that if I were to be plunked down somewhere and forced to survive off the land, I’d choose the Pacific Northwest. With an abundance of salmon, shellfish easy for the taking, and bountiful harvests of berries, there would be plenty to eat.

From the Chinook to the Coast Guard

Astoria has a rich maritime history. Here, the convergence of the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean creates one of the most treacherous harbor entrances in the world. With 2,000 vessels wrecked along the coast and 700 souls lost, this dangerous stretch of water has long been referred to as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

To enter or leave the Columbia River, any ship over 100 feet must relinquish the helm to a bar pilot. This elite group of ship captains undergoes rigorous testing to qualify for the job—one of their many exams includes drawing a nautical chart of the bar from memory.

The Columbia River Bar Pilots credit a one-eyed Chinook Indian chief named Concomly as the first bar pilot. A skilled navigator and savvy trader, Chief Concomly would paddle a dugout canoe across the bar, providing ships safe passage in exchange for blankets, fishhooks, and tools.

Today, the river bar pilots use speedy pilot boats and sometimes helicopters to board the ships—both involve swaying rope ladders and a risky descent (and ascent). Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is always standing ready to rescue boats of any size that run into trouble on the bar.

For a fascinating immersion in the maritime history of the Columbia, don’t miss the excellent Columbia River Maritime Museum. We spent half a day there and were completely captivated by the history of the river, the salmon fisheries, the bar pilots, and the Coast Guard. Watching the videos of the bar pilots and the Coast Guard in action is terrifying.

More Cool Stuff in Astoria

• The Waterfront: Interesting historic buildings, breweries, cool shops, fisheries, and the maritime museum are all located along the scenic waterfront. We walked five miles of trails along the water, and hopped on the historic red trolley for a ride back just so we could listen to the entertaining conductor regale us with the history of the waterfront.

• Northwest Wild Seafood Market: This was a fabulous find! It’s a little hole-in-the wall seafood market with excellent seafood and a beautiful dock with a view of the Columbia and the Astoria-Megler Bridge. We enjoyed a bowl of steamer clams, and took home smoked tuna, fresh salmon, and fresh Pacific cod.

• Sunday Market: Covering three city blocks in the attractive Victorian downtown area of Astoria, the Sunday Market offers up local produce, arts and crafts, and music from 10 till 3. If you’re there in early June, expect lots and lots of asparagus. I wanted to bring home the miniature goat at the goat soap stand, but Eric said no.

• Fort George Brewery: Astoria boasts half-a-dozen craft breweries; that’s a lot for a small town, but hey, we’re not judging. We chose Fort George out of the bunch, and loved everything about it—the upstairs location with a view of the waterfront; the organic, local food offerings (we enjoyed delicious chop salads with grilled chicken); and the tasty beer. As always, the IPA’s and the stouts were our favorites.

• Blue Scorcher Bakery: In the same building as Fort George Brewery, the Blue Scorcher Bakery brews excellent organic coffee and knows how to make perfect almond croissants. We started off our Sunday market tour here, and also treated ourselves the morning of laundry day. It always helps to have a treat on laundry day.

• The Astoria Column: Built in 1926, the column is the tallest point in Astoria, at 660 feet above sea level. There’s a steep winding staircase to the top, and it’s claustrophobic and dark and dank inside. The views are great, but honestly, I think you can see just about as much from the viewpoints near the parking lot. It’s worth paying the $5 fee to get into the parking area, but I wouldn’t bother making the trek to the top of the column again.

About the campground: We spent five nights at nearby Ft. Stevens State Park, just across the bridge from Astoria. The campground is gorgeous, with five miles of hiking trails and nine miles of biking trails that lead to the beach, the 100-year old wreck of the Peter Iredale, and to the historic military fort. We loved being able to bike everywhere in the park on dedicated trails.

Fort Stevens guarded the mouth of the Columbia River from the Civil War through World War II. There’s a small museum, and an interesting short tour of the guardhouse with memorabilia from WW II.

This is an enormous campground, with at least 500 campsites. We loved our site in loop N; we lucked out with a corner site with neighbors only on one side and a big grassy lawn area on the other. There are many sites in the campground that would undoubtedly be more private, but would also be unbearably dark and dreary on a rainy day. In early to mid-June, the mosquitoes are frightening—there are lots of wetlands for them to breed. We weren’t bothered during the day, but come dusk, we were safely inside. All of the sites are paved, with water and electric hookups (some loops have sewer), and Verizon coverage is uniformly terrible.

Ship And Old Cannery On The Waterfront

Picturesque Downtown Astoria

Vintage Trolley On The Waterfront

Waterfront Murals Of Days Gone By

View From The West Mooring Basin

Steamers At Northwest Wild Fish Market

The Megler-Astoria Bridge

View From The Top Of The Astoria Column

Gorgeous Views On A Clear Day

The Columbia River Maritime Museum

Full Size Fishing Vessels In The Museum

A Retired Coast Guard Rescue Boat

The Columbia, A Floating Lighthouse

The Astoria Sunday Market

He's Little, He'll Fit In The Trailer

Roosevelt Elk Along The Roadside

There's A Bakery And Brewery Here

Starting The Day Right At Blue Scorcher Bakery

Beer Tasting At Fort George

Enormous Vintage Hardware Store

Antique Wooden Floats And Other Interesting Stuff

Battery At Fort Stevens

Inside The Guard Station

The Wreck Of The Peter Iredale

Biking The Trails At Fort Stevens

So Many Choices Of Trails

Our Backyard At Fort Stevens Campground

Serenaded By Wilson's Warblers

Ship And Old Cannery On The Waterfront
Picturesque Downtown Astoria
Vintage Trolley On The Waterfront
Waterfront Murals Of Days Gone By
View From The West Mooring Basin
Steamers At Northwest Wild Fish Market
The Megler-Astoria Bridge
View From The Top Of The Astoria Column
Gorgeous Views On A Clear Day
The Columbia River Maritime Museum
Full Size Fishing Vessels In The Museum
A Retired Coast Guard Rescue Boat
The Columbia, A Floating Lighthouse
The Astoria Sunday Market
He's Little, He'll Fit In The Trailer
Roosevelt Elk Along The Roadside
There's A Bakery And Brewery Here
Starting The Day Right At Blue Scorcher Bakery
Beer Tasting At Fort George
Enormous Vintage Hardware Store
Antique Wooden Floats And Other Interesting Stuff
Battery At Fort Stevens
Inside The Guard Station
The Wreck Of The Peter Iredale
Biking The Trails At Fort Stevens
So Many Choices Of Trails
Our Backyard At Fort Stevens Campground
Serenaded By Wilson's Warblers
Ship And Old Cannery On The Waterfront thumbnail
Picturesque Downtown Astoria thumbnail
Vintage Trolley On The Waterfront thumbnail
Waterfront Murals Of Days Gone By thumbnail
View From The West Mooring Basin thumbnail
Steamers At Northwest Wild Fish Market thumbnail
The Megler-Astoria Bridge thumbnail
View From The Top Of The Astoria Column thumbnail
Gorgeous Views On A Clear Day thumbnail
The Columbia River Maritime Museum thumbnail
Full Size Fishing Vessels In The Museum thumbnail
A Retired Coast Guard Rescue Boat thumbnail
The Columbia, A Floating Lighthouse thumbnail
The Astoria Sunday Market thumbnail
He's Little, He'll Fit In The Trailer thumbnail
Roosevelt Elk Along The Roadside thumbnail
There's A Bakery And Brewery Here thumbnail
Starting The Day Right At Blue Scorcher Bakery thumbnail
Beer Tasting At Fort George thumbnail
Enormous Vintage Hardware Store thumbnail
Antique Wooden Floats And Other Interesting Stuff thumbnail
Battery At Fort Stevens thumbnail
Inside The Guard Station thumbnail
The Wreck Of The Peter Iredale thumbnail
Biking The Trails At Fort Stevens thumbnail
So Many Choices Of Trails thumbnail
Our Backyard At Fort Stevens Campground thumbnail
Serenaded By Wilson's Warblers thumbnail

Read More

Biking, Brews, And Covered Bridges: Eugene, OR

Biking, Brews, And Covered Bridges: Eugene, OR

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Oregon | 32 comments

At the risk of completely confusing everyone, I’m going to post a couple more “catch up” blogs from last fall, just before our travels and lives were temporarily derailed by Eric’s surgery. Next month, we’ll be back on the road. But for the sake of completion—and so that I have some hope of remembering what we’ve done before we start adding to our stash of travel memories again—let’s return to early October, and our visit to Eugene.

With abundant biking opportunities, cool neighborhood brewpubs, an epic farmers’ market, tasty local foods, and a liberal vibe, Eugene offers up our idea of fun. At only 178 miles from our hometown of Ashland, Eugene is a convenient stop for us as we travel the I-5 corridor. Even though we’ve visited many times, there’s always something new to discover, as well as “favorites” to return to.

This time, we took a little field trip 20 miles outside of town to bike the Row River Trail, which originates in Cottage Grove, the “Covered Bridge Capitol of the West.” On a pretty fall day, we biked 30 miles of the scenic trail that travels along Dorena Lake, through pastoral farmland, and past several of the historic bridges. Oregon possesses one of the largest collections of covered bridges in the country, and the most extensive collection in the West. Did you know the picturesque structures protect the timber trusses from the damp Oregon climate? (One of these days, all of these little tidbits of information are going to come in handy.)

After a long day of biking, we recovered at the award winning, eco-friendly Ninkasi Brewing Company, named for the Sumerian goddess of fermentation. Their Total Domination IPA is one of Eric’s perennial favorites, but all of their beer is tasty. The neighborhood beer garden with live music and food trucks makes for a good time hanging out with the locals. Another evening, we made our way to Sweet Cheeks Winery, about 20 miles west of town on a winding, beautiful country road. Gorgeous views, decent wine, and a beautiful patio with cozy fire pits—and they don’t mind a bit if you bring a picnic.

The Row River Trail is a good ride, but our favorite biking in Eugene remains the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System. We never tire of biking the scenic 14-miles of trails that meander along both sides of the Willamette River, with a variety of interesting diversions along the way, including the lovely University of Oregon campus, the Owens Rose Garden, and wildlife ponds.

A visit to a salad bar might not be high on your list of attractions, but we never miss stopping at Provisions Market Hall in the Fifth Street Marketplace in downtown Eugene. We often make a detour when we’re biking on the Riverbank Trail. The salad bar offerings are creative and delicious (roast chicken, marinated cauliflower, pickled red onions, French potato salad, kale salad), they have yummy homemade soups and wood fired pizza, and you can enjoy a glass of good wine with your meal at their lovely wine bar.

Although biking and eating and sampling beer and wine consumed most of our time in Eugene, we did manage to feed our minds a bit at the small but excellent University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. It’s a gem of a museum, and worth a visit just to admire the beautiful architecture and the wonderful sculptures of salmon, bear, and other Pacific Northwest critters that adorn the building.

Finally, we plan our visits to Eugene so that we can spend time at the lively Saturday Market—as the country’s longest running outdoors market, it’s been a happening event since 1970. We loaded up our shopping bags with an assortment of organic and locally produced foods, browsed the wonderful crafts (I’m always looking for travel sized treasures), listened to local music, and had fun people watching. There’s a reason Eugene was voted the “hippiest city” in the country. If you enjoy a laidback counter culture atmosphere, you’ll like Eugene. We certainly do.

About the RV Park:

We always stay at Armitage County Park, just a few miles outside of town in Coburg. The sites are spacious and green with full hook-ups, good Verizon coverage, and an excellent laundry. There’s a lovely, although rather short, walk along the river. If you plan to visit in the fall, check the University of Oregon football schedule—the campground is booked far in advance for the Duck’s home games.

Next Up: Ashland In The Fall (and then we’ll be caught up!)

Currin Bridge, circa 1925

In Cottage Grove

Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way

On The Row River Trail

Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920

Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market

Pastured Eggs At The Market

The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene

Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery

Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery

Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery

Excellent Beer At Ninkasi

Fifth Street Market In Eugene

Delicious Lunch At Provisions

The Willamette River Bike Trail

Philosophical Truth Along The Trail

Lovely Owens Rose Garden

The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History

That Giant Sloth Was Creepy

Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth

Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture

Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene

Armitage Park In Eugene

Currin Bridge, circa 1925
In Cottage Grove
Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way
On The Row River Trail
Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920
Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market
Pastured Eggs At The Market
The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene
Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery
Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery
Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery
Excellent Beer At Ninkasi
Fifth Street Market In Eugene
Delicious Lunch At Provisions
The Willamette River Bike Trail
Philosophical Truth Along The Trail
Lovely Owens Rose Garden
The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History
That Giant Sloth Was Creepy
Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth
Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture
Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene
Armitage Park In Eugene
Currin Bridge, circa 1925 thumbnail
In Cottage Grove thumbnail
Sweet Little Farmstand Along The Way thumbnail
On The Row River Trail thumbnail
Mosey Creek Bridge, circa 1920 thumbnail
Fall Abundance At The Eugene Farmers' Market thumbnail
Pastured Eggs At The Market thumbnail
The Empathy Tent, Only In Eugene thumbnail
Love The Logo For Sweet Cheeks Winery thumbnail
Beautiful Afternoon At The Winery thumbnail
Cool Neighborhood Microbrewery thumbnail
Excellent Beer At Ninkasi thumbnail
Fifth Street Market In Eugene thumbnail
Delicious Lunch At Provisions thumbnail
The Willamette River Bike Trail thumbnail
Philosophical Truth Along The Trail thumbnail
Lovely Owens Rose Garden thumbnail
The Museum Of Natural And Cultural History thumbnail
That Giant Sloth Was Creepy thumbnail
Tribal Dress Decorated With Elk Teeth thumbnail
Counterculture Immortalized: Ken Kesey Sculpture thumbnail
Fall Colors In Downtown Eugene thumbnail
Armitage Park In Eugene thumbnail

Read More

Another Summer On Lopez Island

Another Summer On Lopez Island

Posted by on Nov 2, 2016 in Biking, Birding, Friends, Gallery, Hiking, San Juan Islands, Travel, Washington | 37 comments

As of mid-October, we’re back in Ashland, Oregon, taking care of a myriad of things that need to be completed before we can again resume our travels. This is a challenging part of fulltime RV life—there’s always a mountain of stuff to deal with when we return to our hometown each year. It’s no different than what any other grown-up person has to deal with in life—traveling or not. But it feels a bit daunting when we’re compressing a year’s worth of necessary evils into a few weeks. (The wonderful part is that we’ve also rejoined the tribe of our dear Ashland friends.)

We’re in the midst of trailer repairs, medical and dental appointments, taxes, maintenance tasks on our Ashland home, rooting out our storage unit, trailer home-improvement projects, and more. Last but not least, I have a blog to catch up on. So without further ado, I’m going to whisk you back to mid-June and our summer on Lopez Island.

As the ferry churned through the cold waters of the Pacific and chugged past the maze of islands that make up the San Juan archipelago, we leaned over the railing, anticipating our first glimpse of the small island that would once again be our summer home.

This year, we spent two-and-a-half months on Lopez Island—our longest stretch yet. From mid-June until early September, we were once again temporary Lopezians, immersing ourselves fully in the unique culture of Pacific Northwest island life.

We fell in love with Lopez the first time we visited, almost a dozen years ago.

Six of the past seven years, we’ve spent part of every summer hosting at beautiful Spencer Spit State Park. We contemplate spending time other places, but each summer finds us once again on the ferry to the islands.

I don’t think life gets any better than summer in the San Juan’s. The weather is near perfect, with plenty of sunshine, low humidity, and temperatures in the 70’s. (This makes up for long, long winters of gray and chill and rain—one of the primary reasons we don’t seriously consider living in the islands year-round.)

The scenery is idyllic—pastoral farmland, deep green mossy forests, secluded coves, and rocky cliffs plunging to sapphire seas. Small wonder that the first European settlers to the island described Lopez as a paradise.

Perfect weather and idyllic scenery aside, the strongest draw for us now is our community of friends on Lopez. In our six summers on the island, we’ve developed enduring friendships that transcend time and distance. We gather often with friends for delicious meals, evenings of music, and a variety of island adventures, from biking and hiking to art openings, concerts, and wine tastings. Each summer, we also delight in sharing Lopez with friends visiting from Ashland and fellow full-time RVing friends we’ve met in our travels. To add to this year’s fun, our grandson Findlay sailed to “Camp Lopez” to stay with us for a week.

We’re fortunate to have a hosting position that fits perfectly with our interests. This was our fourth year teaching Interpretive Programs for kids and adults, including the Junior Ranger programs. We teach about native plants, birds found on Lopez, and the traditions of the Salish tribes who first inhabited the islands. Making hundreds of copies of the Jr. Ranger’s booklets gets tedious, but teaching never does. We often come away from a morning of teaching feeling uplifted and inspired by the brilliance, inquisitiveness, and hilarity of the kids we teach (a lot of the adults are just as much fun).

We’re lucky, too, in that the staff at Spencer Spit is terrific. Each summer when we return to the park, we feel like we’re returning home. Our relationship with Lopez and the community of wonderful people on the island continues to deepen—for this, we are deeply grateful. Thanks, Lopez and friends, for another delightful summer. We’ll be back!

I’ve written in detail about our Lopez adventures over the past several years. If you’re interested in reading more, type “Lopez” in the search box and you’ll find lots of posts and photos. Here’s a post with some basic information, should you be interested:

Living Local On Lopez Island

Next Up: Adventures On Orcas And San Juan Island

Another Summer On Lopez

Arriving On Lopez

Rustic Cabin On Spencer Spit

Peaceful View Across The Marsh

Fledgling Rough Winged Swallows On The Beach

Early Morning At Spencer Spit

Art On The Beach

Findlay And My Hat

A Map Of The Island

Peaceful Island Biking

Biking To Town

It's All Picturesque

The Beautiful Herb Labyrinth

Watching Peregrines At Watmough Bay

Magical Mossy Trails Above Watmough Bay

A View Of Mt. Baker

Shark Reef In Late Afternoon

San Juan Island From Shark Reef

Baby Harbor Seal

Barred Owl On The Trail

On The Trail To Iceberg Point

Endless Views From Iceberg Point

Biking To Fisherman's Bay

Overlooking Fisherman's Bay

A Beach Walk With Findlay

Kayaking One Of Many Bays On Lopez

We Have Company

Delightful Purple Sea Stars

In The Fields At Horse Drawn Farm

Our Favorite Farmstand

The Wonderful Lopez Library

It's Cozy Inside And Has Internet!

Peace Train At The Fourth Of July Parade

Saturday Farmer's Market

A Friendly Farmer At The Market

Our Home On Lopez

Our Outdoor Classroom

Teaching About Native Traditions

They Chose Wolf Totems

Birding For Kids

Findlay Earned His Jr. Ranger Badge

Coffee With The Birds Program

Visitor To Our Campsite (Pacific Wren)

Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker

Violet Green Swallows

Our Cohosts Stan And Georgia

Ranger Tina And Findlay

Meghan At The End Of A Long Summer

Dinner With Lopez Friends At Our Site

An Evening Of Music Around The Fire

Bruce And Sheila At Home

Music Evening With Nick And Susie

Michael And Ann In Her Studio

Del And Cindy At Vita's

Ashland Friends (Linda, Steve, & Family)

Traveling Friends Henry, Loretta & Jessica

Traveling Friends Perry And Beth

Ashland Friends Dick And Viki

Last Glimpse Of Spencer Spit

Until Next Time

Another Summer On Lopez
Arriving On Lopez
Rustic Cabin On Spencer Spit
Peaceful View Across The Marsh
Fledgling Rough Winged Swallows On The Beach
Early Morning At Spencer Spit
Art On The Beach
Findlay And My Hat
A Map Of The Island
Peaceful Island Biking
Biking To Town
It's All Picturesque
The Beautiful Herb Labyrinth
Watching Peregrines At Watmough Bay
Magical Mossy Trails Above Watmough Bay
A View Of Mt. Baker
Shark Reef In Late Afternoon
San Juan Island From Shark Reef
Baby Harbor Seal
Barred Owl On The Trail
On The Trail To Iceberg Point
Endless Views From Iceberg Point
Biking To Fisherman's Bay
Overlooking Fisherman's Bay
A Beach Walk With Findlay
Kayaking One Of Many Bays On Lopez
We Have Company
Delightful Purple Sea Stars
In The Fields At Horse Drawn Farm
Our Favorite Farmstand
The Wonderful Lopez Library
It's Cozy Inside And Has Internet!
Peace Train At The Fourth Of July Parade
Saturday Farmer's Market
A Friendly Farmer At The Market
Our Home On Lopez
Our Outdoor Classroom
Teaching About Native Traditions
They Chose Wolf Totems
Birding For Kids
Findlay Earned His Jr. Ranger Badge
Coffee With The Birds Program
Visitor To Our Campsite (Pacific Wren)
Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker
Violet Green Swallows
Our Cohosts Stan And Georgia
Ranger Tina And Findlay
Meghan At The End Of A Long Summer
Dinner With Lopez Friends At Our Site
An Evening Of Music Around The Fire
Bruce And Sheila At Home
Music Evening With Nick And Susie
Michael And Ann In Her Studio
Del And Cindy At Vita's
Ashland Friends (Linda, Steve, & Family)
Traveling Friends Henry, Loretta & Jessica
Traveling Friends Perry And Beth
Ashland Friends Dick And Viki
Last Glimpse Of Spencer Spit
Until Next Time
Another Summer On Lopez thumbnail
Arriving On Lopez thumbnail
Rustic Cabin On Spencer Spit thumbnail
Peaceful View Across The Marsh thumbnail
Fledgling Rough Winged Swallows On The Beach thumbnail
Early Morning At Spencer Spit thumbnail
Art On The Beach thumbnail
Findlay And My Hat thumbnail
A Map Of The Island thumbnail
Peaceful Island Biking thumbnail
Biking To Town thumbnail
It's All Picturesque thumbnail
The Beautiful Herb Labyrinth thumbnail
Watching Peregrines At Watmough Bay thumbnail
Magical Mossy Trails Above Watmough Bay thumbnail
A View Of Mt. Baker thumbnail
Shark Reef In Late Afternoon thumbnail
San Juan Island From Shark Reef thumbnail
Baby Harbor Seal thumbnail
Barred Owl On The Trail thumbnail
On The Trail To Iceberg Point thumbnail
Endless Views From Iceberg Point thumbnail
Biking To Fisherman's Bay thumbnail
Overlooking Fisherman's Bay thumbnail
A Beach Walk With Findlay thumbnail
Kayaking One Of Many Bays On Lopez thumbnail
We Have Company thumbnail
Delightful Purple Sea Stars thumbnail
In The Fields At Horse Drawn Farm thumbnail
Our Favorite Farmstand thumbnail
The Wonderful Lopez Library thumbnail
It's Cozy Inside And Has Internet! thumbnail
Peace Train At The Fourth Of July Parade thumbnail
Saturday Farmer's Market thumbnail
A Friendly Farmer At The Market thumbnail
Our Home On Lopez thumbnail
Our Outdoor Classroom thumbnail
Teaching About Native Traditions thumbnail
They Chose Wolf Totems thumbnail
Birding For Kids thumbnail
Findlay Earned His Jr. Ranger Badge thumbnail
Coffee With The Birds Program thumbnail
Visitor To Our Campsite (Pacific Wren) thumbnail
Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker thumbnail
Violet Green Swallows thumbnail
Our Cohosts Stan And Georgia thumbnail
Ranger Tina And Findlay thumbnail
Meghan At The End Of A Long Summer thumbnail
Dinner With Lopez Friends At Our Site thumbnail
An Evening Of Music Around The Fire thumbnail
Bruce And Sheila At Home thumbnail
Music Evening With Nick And Susie thumbnail
Michael And Ann In Her Studio thumbnail
Del And Cindy At Vita's thumbnail
Ashland Friends (Linda, Steve, & Family) thumbnail
Traveling Friends Henry, Loretta & Jessica thumbnail
Traveling Friends Perry And Beth thumbnail
Ashland Friends Dick And Viki thumbnail
Last Glimpse Of Spencer Spit thumbnail
Until Next Time thumbnail

Read More

On The Way To Lopez Island

On The Way To Lopez Island

Posted by on Oct 6, 2016 in Biking, Food, Gallery, Travel, Washington | 25 comments

On one of our first journeys to the San Juan Islands, we discovered the tiny hamlet of Edison, in the Skagit Valley of western Washington. With a population of only 133, it doesn’t seem like there could be much worth stopping for.

True, Edison is little more than a wide spot in the road. But this particular wide spot has a disproportionate number of seriously fine eating establishments and unique art galleries. Edison embodies the farm-to-table, healthy (with a side of local pastured bacon), environmentally conscious, creatively quirky ambiance that infuses much of the Pacific Northwest.

Leaving Winthrop and our adventures in the North Cascades, the drive along the North Cascades Scenic Byway and through the pastoral farmland of the Skagit Valley was a beautiful one. One hundred and forty miles later, we pulled into our favorite campground in the area—Bay View State Park, overlooking Padilla Bay. At only nine miles from the ferry landing in Anacortes, it puts us on the doorstep of the San Juan Islands—and it’s also perfectly positioned for a visit to Edison.

It’s an easy six-and-a-half mile bike ride along the bay and through acres of blueberry fields from Bay View State Park to Edison. Our destination is always Tweets, a former gas station turned café. (There are more good choices; this just happens to be our favorite.)

The big garage doors roll up Friday through Sunday, revealing a rustic interior with a charmingly eccentric décor of roughhewn wood tables, local artwork, random trinkets, and a twinkling chandelier. The food offerings are equally eclectic, prompted by what’s in season in the neighborhood (including eggs from the proprietors’ chickens and vegetables from their garden). The food is delicious, the atmosphere casual and relaxed, and the coffee excellent.

The two-block town is worth a leisurely exploration, including locally made treasures from reclaimed materials at the Lucky Dumpster; curiosities at Shop Curator that rival a small natural history museum; and lovely cheeses and wines at Slough Food. Even though breakfast is more than satisfying, we can never resist picking up a couple of bite-sized cocoa nib shortbread cookies from Breadfarm. (It’s also worth biking an additional mile to the even tinier hamlet of Bow; we’ve enjoyed both the Rhody Cafe and their sidekick Farm-To-Market Bakery.)

In the never-ending cycle of new adventures that traveling fulltime brings, we’ve found that we appreciate the familiarity of favorite places that we return to time and again. Stopping at Bay View State Park and biking into Edison has become something of a small tradition for us—a couple of days here gives us the opportunity to catch our breath from our long cross country journeys, and eases us into the laid-back island life that awaits.

About the campground:

At only nine miles from the ferry landing in Anacortes, Bay View State Park is perfectly located for a journey to the San Juan Islands. The best sites for RV’s are sites 1-9, which have partial hookups (water and electric) and also happen to be nearest Padilla Bay (the end sites even have views of the bay). There’s a nice biking/walking trail just a mile from the park that wends around the bay. Verizon coverage is good.

Next Up: Summer On Lopez Island 

Farmstand In The North Cascades

Heading West From Winthrop

Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway

Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand

Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison

Tweets Cafe

Inside Tweets Cafe

Slow Food On The Slough

The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures

Baby Barn Swallows

Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery

Breadfarm Bakery In Edison

Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm

Biking To The Rhody Cafe

Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe

Biking Around Padilla Bay

Low Tide At Padilla Bay

RV Site At Bay View State Park

In Line For The Ferry To The Islands

Here Comes The Ferry!

Heading For The Islands

Sailing Past Mt. Baker

Arriving On Lopez Island

Farmstand In The North Cascades
Heading West From Winthrop
Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway
Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand
Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison
Tweets Cafe
Inside Tweets Cafe
Slow Food On The Slough
The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures
Baby Barn Swallows
Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery
Breadfarm Bakery In Edison
Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm
Biking To The Rhody Cafe
Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe
Biking Around Padilla Bay
Low Tide At Padilla Bay
RV Site At Bay View State Park
In Line For The Ferry To The Islands
Here Comes The Ferry!
Heading For The Islands
Sailing Past Mt. Baker
Arriving On Lopez Island
Farmstand In The North Cascades thumbnail
Heading West From Winthrop thumbnail
Along The North Cascades Scenic Highway thumbnail
Organic Treats From Cascadian Farm Stand thumbnail
Blueberry Fields On The Way To Edison thumbnail
Tweets Cafe thumbnail
Inside Tweets Cafe thumbnail
Slow Food On The Slough thumbnail
The Lucky Dumpster Recycled Treasures thumbnail
Baby Barn Swallows thumbnail
Part Curio Shop, Part Gallery thumbnail
Breadfarm Bakery In Edison thumbnail
Yummy Cookies At Breadfarm thumbnail
Biking To The Rhody Cafe thumbnail
Inside Cozy Rhododendron Cafe thumbnail
Biking Around Padilla Bay thumbnail
Low Tide At Padilla Bay thumbnail
RV Site At Bay View State Park thumbnail
In Line For The Ferry To The Islands thumbnail
Here Comes The Ferry! thumbnail
Heading For The Islands thumbnail
Sailing Past Mt. Baker thumbnail
Arriving On Lopez Island thumbnail

Read More

Family Fun In Pullman, WA

Family Fun In Pullman, WA

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Biking, Family, Gallery, Hiking, Travel, Washington | 26 comments

Located in far eastern Washington is a handsome countryside of rolling agricultural land. Fields of wheat and lentils are a verdant green in spring, fading  to gold in late summer. Blue sky and clouds provide the backdrop; a few barns here and there add a bit of vertical interest. This is the Palouse.

It’s a place of bucolic beauty, and a photographer’s dream. But the big draw for us is family, and that’s why we once again found ourselves in Pullman in early June.

Our daughter Amanda, her partner Armando, and our grandson Findlay have been living in Pullman for a year now. It was a big adjustment for them, coming from San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington. (And honestly, an adjustment for us, as well. We were accustomed to having them as our next-door-island neighbors during our summers on Lopez Island.)

Amanda is in her second year of graduate school in ethnobotany at Washington State University, and Armando is working on his PhD. Findlay just started first grade. As you can imagine, they are all very busy with their various educational endeavors. We planned our visit for a window of opportunity when they all had a bit of free time, and we spent a wonderful week hanging out together, catching up, sharing meals, and exploring the area.

We biked the wonderful trail between Pullman and Moscow a couple of times (an easy 14-mile round trip ride through rolling farmland), enjoyed a morning at the Moscow Farmers Market (with an essential side-trip to the toy store on the plaza), and hiked up Kamiak Butte (the only real hike in the area, but a worthwhile one). And for a bit of art and culture, we visited the Dahmen Barn, a 1935 dairy barn turned into artists studios, with a unique fence made of 1,000 antique rusted wheels. Viewing art from the perspective of a six-year old is always enlightening.

It was a wonderful week. The only problem is that it went by far too quickly.

About the RV Park:

The only RV option in Pullman is the city park (Pullman RV Park). It’s not a resort by any means, but it’s a fine place to stay, and centrally located for walking to the beautiful Washington State University campus and pretty neighborhood parks. Full hook-ups, excellent Verizon coverage, and remarkably quiet at night (as long as you don’t plan your visit during a WSU home football game).

Next Up: Finally! The North Cascades

Family Fun In Pullman, WA

The Scenery Around Pullman

At The Moscow Farmers Market

Hooping At The Market

A Study In Radishes

His Current Passion

Counting Up His Life Savings

A Hiking Adventure

View From Kamiak Butte

Hiking Buddies

Having Fun

On Top Of Kamaik Butte

A Sweet Moment

Biking Trail From Pullman To Moscow

Mostly Farmland Along The Trail

Armando And Amanda

Enjoying The Botanical Garden

Cooling Off On A Hot Day

Neighborhood Park In Pullman

The Dahmen Barn

A Pair Of Art Critics

Antique Iron Wheel Fence

Mustard In Bloom

Pullman RV Park

Family Fun In Pullman, WA
The Scenery Around Pullman
At The Moscow Farmers Market
Hooping At The Market
A Study In Radishes
His Current Passion
Counting Up His Life Savings
A Hiking Adventure
View From Kamiak Butte
Hiking Buddies
Having Fun
On Top Of Kamaik Butte
A Sweet Moment
Biking Trail From Pullman To Moscow
Mostly Farmland Along The Trail
Armando And Amanda
Enjoying The Botanical Garden
Cooling Off On A Hot Day
Neighborhood Park In Pullman
The Dahmen Barn
A Pair Of Art Critics
Antique Iron Wheel Fence
Mustard In Bloom
Pullman RV Park
Family Fun In Pullman, WA thumbnail
The Scenery Around Pullman thumbnail
At The Moscow Farmers Market thumbnail
Hooping At The Market thumbnail
A Study In Radishes thumbnail
His Current Passion thumbnail
Counting Up His Life Savings thumbnail
A Hiking Adventure thumbnail
View From Kamiak Butte thumbnail
Hiking Buddies thumbnail
Having Fun thumbnail
On Top Of Kamaik Butte thumbnail
A Sweet Moment thumbnail
Biking Trail From Pullman To Moscow thumbnail
Mostly Farmland Along The Trail thumbnail
Armando And Amanda thumbnail
Enjoying The Botanical Garden thumbnail
Cooling Off On A Hot Day thumbnail
Neighborhood Park In Pullman thumbnail
The Dahmen Barn thumbnail
A Pair Of Art Critics thumbnail
Antique Iron Wheel Fence thumbnail
Mustard In Bloom thumbnail
Pullman RV Park thumbnail

Read More