One thing we’ve learned about our RV lifestyle is to be flexible (also not a bad approach to life in general). Not making it to Banff or Jasper National Parks, for example, was disappointing. But not life threatening. We would survive because we always have a plan B (and sometimes a plan C and D).
Looking ahead we had friends to visit in Ellensburg, WA, Bellingham, WA, Victoria, British Columbia, Salem OR, and Bandon, OR. Also on our route list was to hook up into the North Cascades (friends said it would make up for our missing Banff and Jasper). There we would try and connect with one of the seasonal rangers we’d met while volunteering at Kartchner.
|Deer Park RV site, Spokane, WA|
|Yakama River RV Park, just a ten minute walk from the Yakama River|
In addition to John and his family, a former colleague of Tom’s from Lawrence University, Julia Stringfellow, had taken the position of University Archivist/Department Chair/Professor at Central Washington University. Coincidentally, John had just retired from CWU’s IT department.
|bullish on the farmers market and with Julia at The Tav|
|gittin' on in years and still just gittin' on|
|grilled peaches for John and Jane at our place|
|John's salmon to perfection, some local brew, Lucy and Tara well screened|
While we were in Ellensburg we spent a fair amount of time sorting out our route that included seeing friends in Bellingham and in British Columbia only to discover a few setbacks. Our British Columbia friends, it turned out, were not going to be home in their Victoria condo where we’d been invited to stay. They were still in their Ontario condo and wouldn’t be back in time to receive us. Either way, going to Victoria was going to involve a ferry ride and without a place to stay in BC, we would have had to take the RV which turned out to what would have been a very expensive ferry crossing. Just crossing with the truck was expensive enough but now, with nowhere to stay, we regrettably crossed off our trip to Victoria.
Meanwhile, repeated efforts to try and find a place to stay in Bellingham had failed. We texted our Bellingham friends that we would not be able to make it. And then, while looking ahead for places to stay in the Olympic Peninsula, without our having any advance reservations, it looked like we would have to bag that part of our journey as well. Given that we’d done the Olympic Peninsula in 2009, it wasn’t like we hadn’t never been there before. But missing a chance to see friends? That was a real bummer.
|taking a break along the Columbia River in Pateros|
|our site at Bend River RV Park along the Methow River|
Along the way we took a break at The SweetRiver Bakery (yum!) in Pateros along the Columbia River. Then stopped for an overnight stop in Twisp at the River Bend RV Park, just 164 miles away, located in the eastern foothills of the North Cascade Mountains along the Methow River, part of the Cascade Loop Scenic Byway.
Part of the reason for staying in Twisp was to allow time to visit the small touristy town of Winthrop. A fortuitous stop since this is where Carol discovered her best ever Margarita, served to us at the Carlos 1800 Mexican Grill and Cantina. A smooth combination of 1800 tequila with hand muddled lime, lemon and fresh oranges with a touch of orange liqueur. The burgers were equally as pleasing.
|heading into the Cascades from the east; our site at Alpine RV Park|
|Chelsea at the visitor center then later for dinner at Mondo|
|overlooking Ross Lake|
|hiking Thunder Creek Trail|
|our 'plan B' site at Don's in Bellingham|
Don was a most gracious host. Once we were backed into the property he showed us where the electrical hookup was and helped run a hose for water.
|Dave and Marty at Goat Mountain Pizza and the star, JJ|
But now, with Dave finally retired for the last time (he’d flunked retiring from FEMA several times), they were now off the road and in their remodeled Bellingham geezer hutch.
We met up with Marty and Dave at their home then headed out for a pizza at Goat Mountain Pizza - home fired pizza and local brews and discussion about local attractions they thought we should see while in Bellingham. The Farmers Market, a ferry ride out to San Juan Island, a visit to Fairhaven, an artisan village dotted with iconic 19th century style architecture, and a drive up the the Mount Baker Ski Area. They had even planned to host a party with several of their closest friends to make us feel welcome.
Given our tight schedule over the next four days, we wasted no time in planning a ferry ride for the next day. As walk-ons, no reservation was necessary but arriving early was recommended.
|San Juan Archipelago|
|...to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island|
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago located in the northwest corner of the United States between the U.S. mainland and British Columbia, Canada. Bordered by the Strait of Georgia to the north and the Strait of Juan de Duca to the south, the area now is known as the Salish Sea.
|always nice to have someone else do the driving|
We had a little over three hours to explore Friday Harbor which reminded us every bit of the small towns dotting the coast of Wisconsin’s Door County (including the crowds of tourists). Time enough to shop, browse art galleries, lunch at the Rocky Bay Cafe and make it back in time for our return cruise (which included a brief stop at Lopez Island to pickup more passengers).
|Bellingham Farmers Market|
|breakfast all day - happy wife, happy life|
|party spread including Dave's private stock of brew|
One of the party guests, Helen James, was a doctor who specialized in plastic and hand surgery. Marty had earlier mentioned to Helen that Carol’s arthritis in her right hand had been painful for the past several years so Dr. James took charge and performed a cursory inspection. She announced that she could quite possibly treat it. An arrangement was made for Carol to stop by Helen’s office the next afternoon. Like we said, these were incredibly warm and welcoming people!
|Mount Baker Artist Point|
|Mount Baker Artist Point|
The last few days in Bellingham were spent stocking up the larder, having breakfast at Marty and Dave’s and then it was time to move on to our next destination, Salem Oregon.
Our time in Bellingham was eye-opening to say the least. It’s a wonderful the area with everything we could hope to have in terms of culture, scenery, and community. We were thrilled that the Rehm’s could come up with their “plan B” and make it all possible. And thanks to Don (we dropped off a small token of appreciation, a bottle of his favorite Scotch, for his hospitality.
While we were in Bellingham we’d gotten a phone call from Dulce and Bernd Lackemann, the friends we would be seeing next, that the Phoenix RV Park where they were wintering, had ONE opening left for a week long stay and to contact them immediately - the office was holding the spot open but that there was another couple also wanting the spot. As we’d had spotty phone coverage we hadn’t gotten the message right away. Fortunately, Dulce had walked to the RV park office and convinced them that yes, we were indeed wanting the space and to please hold it so by the time we called the office, the site had been reserved due to Dulce’s diligence. Whew! Just more of the same panic and frustration at getting RV spots but this time it had worked out.
As with so many of our RV friends, we’d first met Dulce and Bernd while we were parked in South Texas. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, occasionally running into each other when our paths crossed. Their decision to winter in Salem was to investigate the area as a possible location for when they eventually retired from life on the road.
Salem’s average annual temperature is around 53 degrees F. The area does receive snow and frost but overall average temps in the summer are quite pleasant. Rainfall averages around 35 inches per year. We could see the attraction, weather-wise.
|our site and Ducle and Bernd site at Phoenix RV Park, Salem|
|a day out at Oregon Garden|
|at the merket and on the coast with Dulce and Bernd|
Alas, our time in Salem, just as it had been in Bellingham, passed all too quickly. We found ourselves wishing the Lackemanns well as we packed up and pointed our truck toward the Oregon coast.
|heading toward Florence, OR|
|chowder and rings at the Gracie's Sea Hag - we do love our chowders!|
|site at Jesse M. Honeyman SP|
|Oregon Dunes RA|
|Heceta Head Lighthouse and beach|
|chowder at MO's; Stellar Sea Lion at Sea Lion Caves|
|Don and Leslie at the Fish and Chips Chowder House, Bandon, OR|
|drinks, healthy snacks, and even healthier pizza at Don and Leslie's|
Then a drive down the coast to Port Orford RV Village where we got lucky bumping into other RV friends from California, Rollie and Chris who usually summer in Port Orford. And as long as we were so close, a quick visit to the Port Orford docks for some chowder at Griff’s on the Dock, watch incoming fishing boats unoad their catches, and glimpse whales off the coast.
|Chris and Rollie and their upgraded RV at Port Orford RV Park|
|fish and shrimp tacos; Face Rock viewpoint and beach|
|from the coast going inland|
|Valley River Mall site - with shade!|
|what looked like an easy back-in at Creekside Campground was far from it!|
|hiking Dee Wright and Common Merganser along Davis Creek|
We scoured Indian Ford Crossing, Cold Spring Campground, trails along Davis Creek at Camp Sherman (lunch at Camp Sherman Store and Fly Shop), the Lava Camp Lake Campground, trails at the Dee Wright Observatory, and neighborhoods in Sisters. We eventually found a single white-headed woodpecker at the Indian Ford Campground (after having whiffed where we usually see them at feeders outside the Camp Sherman Store). Compared to our last visit in 2010 earlier in the season, birding for this time of year was slow. In addition to the white-headed, we added 5 more species to our annual list: Williamson’s sapsucker, pinyon jay (a large flock coming to feeders in town), Clark’s nutcracker, mountain bluebird and sage thrasher. For a comprehensive where to bird in Oregon, checkout the online Oregon Cascades Birding Trail Guide which includes the three sisters area.
The 187,000 acre refuge consists of lakes, meadows, marshes, rivers and creeks, and upland grasslands, all playing a central roll in the spring and fall migration of waterfowl and summer nesting waterbirds. Fishing and hunting are allowed in designated areas. Hiking, bicycling and cross-country skiing attract visitors along with the 42-mile Donner und Blitzen River self-guided auto tour. Donner und Blitzen may conjure up visions of two of Santa’s reindeer but the river was actually named by soldiers who had encountered a severe thunderstorm with “donner und blitzen”, German for “thunder and lightning”. Birders in particular are drawn to Malheur due to the refuge’s impressive list of 320 bird species.
|Malheur NWR and Frenchglen menu|
It was while having breakfast that we heard about the Steens Loop Tour Route. The 59-mile loop includes the highest road in Oregon as it rises up from sagebrush desert to nearly 10,000 feet up Steen Mountain.
|Steen Mountain Auto Tour|
|Steen Mountain Auto Tour|
|Steen Mountain Auto Tour and short hike to summit|
This would be our last day in Oregon. Malheur had been on our bucket list for several years and in spite of the disastrous takeover, we’re glad we made the effort to visit. Our stop at Malheur also put us in a better position to visit a few other western parks that had so far escaped our attention: Great Basin and Zion National Parks.