16 September 2013

Olympic National Park, WA

Lindsay has always wanted to go to the Boeing factory which was only half an hour away. The place is gigantic as you can imagine and 41,000 people work there. 30,000 work on the day shift that starts at about 5.30am, in 6 minute increments. We got to see the new 787 which is made out of composite - carbon fibre; what Lindsay used to make his yacht masts out of 20 years ago. Qantas had one on the production line that will only carry about 200 passengers and will cost about 300 million. For obvious reasons you aren’t allowed to take anything in there that could take a picture or movie. While they sound like they are the only ones making planes and they do make a lot, there are other competitors out there. They have orders for the next 20 years and as you have to make a one third down payment at time of order, they must make a fair bit of interest on their customers’ behalf. The first night it rained but since then the days have been lovely, warm and sunny. The guide at Boeing said it was unusual as the rainy season was usually from the 31 August to the 1st of August, so pretty much all year round!

After the Boeing factory tour, Lindsay also wanted to visit the Museum of Flight, which he thought was fantastic. Me, I could take it or leave it. As this is south of Seattle, we did this on the way to the Olympic Peninsula.

When I first looked at Olympic National Park, I didn’t know where to start, the places to go are spread throughout the peninsula, so I emailed a friend that we met last year whom I knew would know the area to get some ideas. Looking at my Allstays app there was a pretty good chance that we wouldn’t fit into any of the camping grounds in the parks as they had a limit of 21’. Some of them said there were a few 35’ sites, but really who were they trying to kid?

Hurricane Ridge

Wednesday and Thursday were due to be fine, so we had set off on Monday to be near the park when the weather improved. Port Townsend is a pretty little town and we stolled along the streets. We used Port Angeles as a base to visit Hurricane Ridge in the NP, there is a ferry that goes to Vancouver Island, so we’ll keep that in mind for another trip. The first time we went into Olympic, the ridge was mostly covered in low hanging cloud. Other friends had suggested that we go there for sunrise, so we got up just before 6 to be up there at 7. Even though we had driven it the first day, we missed the turnoff and wasted precious time. The drive up to the ridge is narrow, twisty with the normal roadworks to slow you down. There were two trails to sunrise point which looked the same distance on the map. The one we took was incredibly steep and long. First thing on a cold morning when your muscles don’t want to work and your lungs are saying, hey we are at high altitude here; it wasn’t fun. I couldn’t carry anything; it just slowed me down too much. We arrived in time to set up the tripod and camera before the sun had risen. The morning was clear with no clouds in the sky whatsoever (bummer), but I’m sure if there had been, they would have been covering the mountains. The light was beautiful. As the sun came up behind us, it spread a pink light on the snow caped mountain range in front of us. The steep walk had been worth it. We took the other path back down, which of course was a lot shorter and not nearly as steep, so take the left hand track!

Next was a walk through a rain forest to Marymere Falls which was really pretty. The drive around Lake Crescent is also really pretty. Sol Duc was next on the list, but we will do that another time, it would have been a good idea to do it as a day trip from Port Angeles.

Olympic National Park

Across to the coast and we checked out Mora campground which is where we decided that none of the campgrounds would fit us. There were two RV parks in Forks, the first we couldn’t get around but the second was extremely spacious and even allowed Lindsay to wash the trailer for the first time since the carwash episode in Whitehorse. We knew it was going to rain, but rain doesn’t clean a dirty trailer and so at least it would be easier to keep clean.

We went out to Rialto Beach at sunset and while many people were photographing the sunset out to sea. I was photographing the light on the fallen dead trees that litter the beach. 

Rialto Beach

Onto the Hoh Rain Forest, which they suggested you visit when it’s raining and of course it was. There was a herd of Elk on the way in, but they were just grazing and we didn’t see any males with racks, so we didn’t even stop. I was planning on two walks there but one was closed off, so that left only the Hall of Moss, where moss grows on everything. The heavy rain held off to a drizzle while we did our walk and then started again as we headed towards the car which was perfect. On reflection, we both thought that the drive in was actually prettier than what we saw on the walk.

Hoh Rainforest
Lake Quinault was supposed to be pretty at sunset, but as it had been raining all day, there wasn’t any hope of that. The 31-mile loop drive around the lake would have to be the worst sign posted tourist attraction we have come across, we missed all but one of the waterfalls, we just didn’t see them. The grey day reflected grey in the water, so the pretty pictures we had seen in the map/brochure were nowhere to be seen. We came across a herd of Elk at the ranger station that kept Lindsay entertained for a while. There was one male with a rack that was having a great time digging his antlers into the mown grass and tossing it everywhere.


We were lucky we arrived when we did, a few days down the track and all the national parks are closed due to the government shutdown, not even their web pages are accessible.

The rest of the trip we met up with friends in Ocean Shores, Portland, Grant's Pass, Watsonville, Carmel Valley, Paso Robles and of course Yucca Valley. 

13 September 2013

Looking for Moose in Jasper

Unlike our previous trip to Jasper, the weather was divine. 27-29C with sunny blue skies and not many mosquitoes. The campground we had planned on staying in was closed as the summer season had finished and all the electric and full hook up sites were taken in the campground we had stayed in before. But as we are self sufficient we were able to take a non serviced site, which was really nice and even though we could have got another site on the third night, we decided to stay where we were. We got caught by the time zone thing again and didn’t realise until the second day that we had been putting our generator on at the wrong times the previous day. Jasper is in Alberta and we were another hour ahead.

We went looking for moose in a couple of places and even hiked the 3.5kms around moose lake, but you guessed it, no moose! The visitors’ centre has a book that people write wild life sightings in and there were a few entries for moose and bears but not many. We saw a coyote walking along the road, but it quickly went into the forest.

Back in British Columbia, back an hour on the clock and we start heading south to Seattle. We picked a spot just north of the city and by absolute fluke and not good planning, it turns out it’s just where we need to be. We had ordered new reading glasses for Lindsay in Fairbanks and had them sent to Marysville, WA. There was also a branch of the place we had originally bought the air bags from, so we took back the broken one and the rest of the new package and got a complete refund. The Seattle Outlet stores are next door and we go to our favourite shop Columbia.

7 September 2013

Glaciers and a ghost town

Stewart, BC & Hyder, AK

We had decided to take the Cassiar Highway instead of continuing on the Alaskan Highway just before Watson Lake. My original copy of the Mile Post had said it had 15% gravel roads, but my new copy said it was 100% paved, yay. We knew there were some long sections on the Alaskan Highway that had road works, with one being about 15 miles long, so we really wanted to avoid that if we could. We had also heard that there were bears down at Fish Creek in Stewart/Hyder, which was a big draw card for us. The Cassier is a lovely drive. The first 30km has permafrost and the forest hasn’t got over a wildfire that happened a few years ago, but it is still more interesting than the Alaskan Highway. On the second day we saw seven bears on the side of the road. We decided that we had come to the right place.

As soon as you turn off the Cassier to go to Stewart, you get to see one of the few blue glaciers in Canada right next to the road. Stewart (Canada) and Hyder (Alaska) are two towns right next to each other. Stewart has a population of 500, and Hyder has 100. Hyder is very run down and more like a ghost town that has no police station and no customs. The Canadians on the other hand have a customs stop which even the school bus has to pass through each day.

Bear Glacier
Fish Creek (on the Hyder side) attracts so many tourists that they built a huge walkway on stilts along the river so that people can watch the bears fishing. The best time of the year for this is mid-August, not mid September unfortunately, so there were no bears at all! A volunteer there said it was very unusual and the school of thought was that it had been a very good year for berries and the bears were eating them higher up in the mountains. Further along the road, an hour away is the Salmon Glacier. A formidable sight and well worth seeing. We would go to Fish Creek a couple of times a day to see what was happening or not happening as it turned out and therefore had to keep going through Customs, one time I forgot my tripod so we had to make an extra trip. Even after seeing you so many times a day they still look closely at your passport hoping to see something they didn’t catch before. One time we had to wind down our rear window so she could check what we had in the back seat as, apparently, they are worried about guns coming in from Hyder (via the sea I assume). 

Hyder, it's like a ghost town except that people do live there!

We took time out from waiting for bears to visit Salmon Glacier which is further up the road from Hyder but takes you back into Canada.

Salmon Glacier

One of the other photographers had told Lindsay that we would definitely see bull moose in Jasper at this time of year and as we haven’t seen one yet, decided that was worth a side trip.