We hope that all of you and those you love are staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. But we know it is likely not true for some of you. Our thoughts are with you.
We are fortunate that the known case count here in LaPaz county is still only 7. However, that may be because the county has only tested a handful of people. We are sure there are more infected people around, so we are taking as many precautions as we can when we go out, particularly when we have to go to Phoenix, which is the primary virus hot spot for Arizona.
We have moved from our winter home on the desert to the commercial campground in Quartzsite that Kathe mentioned in the last post. It is already quite hot (105 today, and even hotter tomorrow), so we may need to reconsider our plans to stay in Quartzsite for the summer. Time will tell—stay tuned. Thank goodness for “shore power,” so we can run the ACs; it still stays comfortable in the RV.
So… what to do? What to do? We’re riding our bikes around town, which is now constrained to the (very) early morning. We hope to build up our endurance, but for now with the shape we’re in and the heat, we’re limiting our rides to about 7 or 8 miles. I know…we’re pikers! Trying to get out most days.
Quartzsite has several miles of bike paths alongside the town streets . We use the paths where we can, and ride the quiet side streets when necessary. We’ve been able to do lots of exploring and enjoy the lizards and quail that often dart in front of us.
All of the street names in town are designated with a compass direction: North, South, East, or West. Part of this is probably to be able to visualize where a street is without checking a map, but c’mon. The town is just not that big. (We’re not in Washington, DC!)
But there is another reason. Being in the desert, the town is riven with washes, those paths that drain heavy rains out of the nearby mountains.
The very first piece of advice we got about camping on the desert here back in 2018 was, “Don’t camp in a wash!” Ya think???
Some roads cross the washes on bridges. Some roads just follow the terrain down into the wash and back up. “Do not enter when flooded” signs are a common sight in town.
But some roads… ummm… don’t. Some roads simply stop on one side of the wash and then pick up again on the other side. For instance, West Cowell isn’t connected to East Cowell at all. Pro tip: Not all in-car navigation systems are aware of this!
While we’re out and around biking the side streets we notice that lots of the plants are flowering. As we go past the same places with each day’s rides, we notice that bud to blossom to past is sometimes the matter of only two or three days. As always, click on a picture below to see a larger version.
We’ve also noticed that cottontail bunny rabbits are almost as abundant as squirrels are back east. They seem to be a lot more skittish, though. We haven’t been able to get a picture of one for the blog yet.
There is also a fair amount of “public art” around town. This is not commissioned art in parks, downtown squares (of which there aren’t any), etc., but art of various types put up by property owners.
There is a spindly cactus out here called an ocotillo; it has tiny leaves, which limits moisture loss through transpiration. Out at the edge of town on one of the bike paths there is an ocotillo made of rebar. (It loses even less moisture through transpiration!)
Kathe’s major activity for the past several weeks is helping to produce our Bar Harbor church’s streamed worship service. Each week’s process is getting more and more efficient as she becomes more familiar with the tools she’s using, primarily the Audacity audio editor and the OpenShot video editor.
Kathe is also quilting up a storm, taking several online courses enjoying learning about free motion quilting something she had never tried before.
I’m puttering at the computer (is that “’putering“?) to learn some new programming tools and some new photography techniques. Two of my hobby projects are writing a program to plot historical Covid data, and rationalizing about 15 years of backups. (How many copies of the Quicken database from 2008 do I really need?) I’m also reading a lot, generally alternating a new book with one I’ve enjoyed before, sort of brain “comfort food.”
We continue to watch a lot of streamed TV. Some of our new favorites are The Great British Baking Show and Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, and Blue Murder, Line of Duty, and Silent Witness on Amazon Prime.
If you’ve found (or rediscovered) one or more favorites to stream, please drop recommendations in the comments! We only have enough queued up to last us through 2022.
We know that we are very fortunate, since we are both healthy, continue to have an income, and have a place in which to shelter away from others. There are so many who don’t have those things right now. I’m probably even more fortunate since I’m an introvert. Social distancing—let’s make that physical distancing—is easier for me than it is for extroverts like Kathe.
So…what are YOU doing? And HOW are you? A wise person recently told me, “It is OK to not be OK.”
We’ll write again soon, even if just to say “same ol’, same ol’.” Keeping in touch is important, especially now.
Long time, no type. In some aspects it has been a quiet winter (you’ll be able to read about the not-so-quiet part in an upcoming post), so not much to write home about. We haven’t done any real traveling since we arrived in Quartzsite in October.
Recently Kathe had a “free motion quilting” class in Phoenix. I decided that I’d go with her to Phoenix, and find something to do. There have to be some nice trails there on the outskirts that I could wander on.
But it turned out to be a rainy day (yes, Arizona has them). So what to do? Hmmm… I’ll look at the web… Multiple “things to do in Phoenix on a rainy day” lists had the Musical Instrument Museum at, or very near, the top of the list. OK, let’s give it a try. Then I’ll grab some lunch somewhere and see something else in the afternoon.
When I told some of my grandkids that I had gone to the museum, Dean immediately asked, “Did you see the Octobass?”
The apparent size is accurate, not an artifact of perspective caused by having the instrument in the very close foreground. Note the platform to the left for the musician to stand on, and the fact that the top of the octobass is only an inch or two from the ceiling.
Dean had obviously read about the museum!
Spoiler alert: I never did go anywhere else. I hadn’t seen everything by the time I had to go pick up Kathe at 4:00. Phew! (And the lunch in the museum cafe was surprisingly good!)
The museum is organized in a few different ways; one is by geography. There are rooms dedicated to the instruments from these areas: Africa and Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America, and America and Canada. Within each room, the instruments from different cultures and regions are grouped for display.
Each display in the museum has a video screen showing related music making. Everyone gets a wearable receiver / headset that picks up the audio for the screen if you are within about five feet. This made it much more interesting than if there were simply static displays. Several of the pictures below show these video screens.
Here are a few examples of the regional displays.
Some of the displays contained traditional dress and ceremonial costumes.
Something that hit me quite strongly was the similarity of instrument designs used around the world, and the diversity of the music they produce when used in different cultures.
It seems that almost all the string instruments fall into the categories of “zither” and “lute,” which are then modified by how the string is caused to vibrate, for example, “strummed,” “plucked,” or “struck.” You’ll see some examples below.
There is also a room highlighting various famous artists—or should I say, the instruments used by various famous artists! Also a room for guitars, for mechanical instruments such as player pianos, music boxes, etc., and a room for playing (with?) a variety of instruments.
Guitars: plucked lutes
Guitars are one of the most widespread instruments; they are manufactured on every continent except Antarctica. Now there is an opportunity for the over-winterers! Be the first!
Here are a (very) few of the guitars in the guitar room. Click on an image to see a bigger version with some brief descriptive text.
Beside guitars, the lute family includes mandolins, ukuleles, and… ummm… lutes. But wait! There’s more!
Many cultures have what we would call a hammer dulcimer; the museum uses the more generic name “struck zither.” Here are a few examples from around the world. Again, click on a picture to see the instrument’s name and country of origin.
Other zithers were on display as well, both strummed and plucked. This family includes harps, and autoharps. Here are a few of the many on display.
The mechanical instruments room doesn’t include record players, tape recorders (am I dating myself?), or other similar machines. That is probably because they are music reproduction machines, not music creating machines. But there is certainly a wide range of the latter represented!
One of the interesting things about the combination piano and violin (above) is that it uses electric instead of pneumatic controls.
Despite the card calling this a “mouth organ” in the title, the fine print in the description calls it a “player trumpet.” Who knew?
Boy, that music box looks just like the one I had as a kid!
One item in the mechanical room that I couldn’t get a picture of (too big) was a “portable” many-instrument item. It was about 15 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It was designed to be moved, but had to be disassembled to do so.
Every RVer knows that Elkhart is the world capital of RVs, with more manufactured there than anywhere else by a large margin.
I was very surprised to learn that it also claims the title of the world capital of band instruments, manufactured by the Conn company and other Elkhart-based companies, many of which were started by former Conn employees.
Finally, a few special instruments
For various reasons, a few of the instruments I saw were special to me.
Back in the early ’60’s, my brother and our father built a Theremin from plans in Popular Electronics magazine. You may not know the name, but you have almost certainly heard a Theremin or derivative instrument. Think of the eerie varying pitched tones in grade B sci-fi movies. I never knew it was a legitimate instrument, used in concerts by Clara Rockwood. Here is one actually built by Lev Sergeyevich Teremin (a.k.a. Léon Theremin), and given to Clara.
The loop on the left and the stick on the right are antennas. One controls pitch, the other, volume. You control the instrument by moving your hands closer to or farther away from the antennas, without ever touching them.
Nashua First Church bell choir, you need these! This G1 is the lowest-pitched handbell currently in production. Using aluminum instead of brass for the larger bells cuts the weight by half.
Is this a cross between a violin and a trumpet? No, it is a cross between a violin and an old-style phonograph. The horn is for amplification.
This next one caught my attention because of the WHY??? factor. It is an electric steel guitar with FOUR fingerboards… OK, you musicians out there. WHY? Is there a human 2.0 option for a few extra pairs of arms?
And finally, one that had me close to tears. Children in Paraguay scavenge refuse dumps, to make instruments from the waste they find. Here a viola (bowed lute) from an old paint can, using a discarded fork for the tailpiece. The urge to create music is strong!
Only now do we realize how much we were in “vacation, ” or “tourist” mode for all of last fall. Go here, see that.
It was a wonderful trip down to the Arizona desert in 2018, taking about 9,000 miles. Hope you enjoyed traveling with us via our posts. But we’ve not made many posts this year (OK, this is only the second one). We have entered fully into “living” mode in the RV.
Having left the northeastern corner of the country for the indeterminate future, we had to decide what to do with doctors. We could keep our current ones, but that would mean returning to Maine and MDI moderately frequently–not the easiest place in the world to travel to. So we decided to create a new locus for our health care needs.
Our current expectation is that the longest period of time that we will spend in any one place for the foreseeable future is here in southwestern Arizona. So we decided to use the Phoenix area as our new medical “home.”
Being the fifth largest city in the US, and being a mecca for retirees, Phoenix has a plethora of doctors: doctors with expertise in the vicissitudes of aging (ageing for those of you outside the US and Canada).
So, much of the last several weeks has been spent starting relationships with various doctors in the Phoenix area. One of the advantages of trips to Phoenix is that it has a great ham radio store (and restaurants, well-stocked supermarkets, other stores, and…)!
Kathe had an unresolved issue while being treated in Maine when it came time to leave, so her doctor put us in touch with an appropriate specialist in Phoenix and suggested that we get there sooner than later. Kathe was able to get an appointment in the near future, so this trip south was very different from last year’s. We basically plotted a straight line from Indiana to Quartzsite, and boogied on down with mostly one night stops and a few two nighters. Not the way we normally enjoy traveling, but possible. That’s why there haven’t been pics taking you along as we explored new places.
So beside saying “Aaaahhhhh,” and following the instructions to “Look straight ahead at the white light,” what else are we doing?
Mostly it has to do with people. We are enriching friendships with people we met last year and those we met 30 years or so ago. And making new friends.
Kathe is getting back into quilting, and I’m starting (finally) to do some hobby programming. (I didn’t do ANY programming the first year of retirement, which stunned me.) We’ve gotten our bikes tuned up ready for some riding this winter. Kathe will be taking her first classes at the local Gem and Mineral Club in the next few weeks: silverwork, lapidary, and faceting.
We have also returned to an old favorite hobby: amateur radio. You may know it as ham radio. We are in the process of putting up some antennas that will make it possible for us to make contacts not only locally but also around the country and hopefully, internationally. Kathe made three contacts yesterday — her first in more than ten years!
This year’s site on the desert is a bit of a “neighborhood” — we’re camped next to our friends James and Gloria. We’re farther back from the main road which means far less dust. We’ve edged our large “sites” with rocks and the areas around the antenna poles (we both have one) are landscaped with white quartz rocks. After all, this is Quartzsite; there are plenty available!
Astronomy and night photography are very well-suited for desert skies. We are keeping better updated on meteor showers, etc. If we can successfully stay up late (always a challenge!) or get up during the night (even MORE of a challenge) to hit a the peak of a shower, we’re sure to be rewarded. It’s dark out here!
We also plan to do some exploring of the southwest this winter. We only did one local trip all of last winter, to Joshua Tree NP. We hope to do many more than that, and already have a trip planned to Death Valley in February.
Thank goodness for airplanes, cell phones, and the Internet. We’ve really felt the distance from family this fall and it’s been difficult at times. Fortunately, we were able to easily return to New England for some much needed family time last month. Before and after that visit, we’ve kept in touch throughout each day; the coverage here on the desert is pretty darned good right now. Distance is never insurmountable when love for family is of utmost importance.
As we look ahead to the holidays, it’s still kind of weird to see decorations available (including snowmen, icicle lights, etc.) at Lowe’s and Walmart alongside huge greenhouses spilling over with flowering shrubs, hanging baskets, and cacti—especially when the temps are in the high 80’s and low 90’s!
We know that the MDI area has been having some pretty spectacular sunsets recently, but this wouldn’t be a “Lobsters” post without one of ours.
OK… Without two of ours!
As always, we hope that this finds you well and enjoying life. Thanks for traveling with us, and keep in touch!
We’re finally reunited with Scarlett and Rhett! We were gone for exactly eight, very busy weeks, and it is good to be back!
With the help of friends, and through a combination of sales, gifts, donations to charities, and (many) trips to the town transfer station (no longer called a “dump”), our house on Mount Desert Island is completely empty and on the market. Do you want a house in great shape on the coast of Maine, right outside Acadia National Park??? Hey, you can’t blame me for trying. Both of our cars were sold.
A highlight of the “sale” part of cleaning the house was Kathe’s MEGA fiber sale! Imagine 40+ years of “stash,” for spinning, weaving, knitting, and traditional rug hooking.
We saw many of our Maine friends, but certainly not all that we would have liked to. To those we weren’t able to see, we’re sorry; we simply ran out of time. On September 19 we started our trip back to Indiana to get back to our truck and rig. Why Indiana, the world capital of RVs?
Well, we didn’t exactly blab about this at the time, although some of you know it by now. Back in late May, we had an accident with the trailer that damaged the left side pretty severely, but didn’t affect the driveability or operation at all. Since we had our Utah extravaganza with grandsons Graham and Dean coming up, we elected to defer repair until after their visit was over. Due to the extent of the damage, we asked the manufacturer, Grand Design RV, if they would put us in their repair queue. They agreed, so rather than leave the rig out west when we returned to Maine to get the house ready for the market as we had planned, we drove it to Indiana.
Repairs made, the trailer is as good as (actually, better than) new! We’re ready for more adventures!
When emptying the house, we were guided by the thought behind this strategy for de-cluttering. You may know it. Make three piles:
Things to keep,
Things to sell or give away, and
Things that should be thrown out.
All piles must be equally sized.
We did that, pretty successfully… But we were pretty aggressive—as if we had taken pile 1, and made three piles.
Some of the items from the small pile 1 we wanted to have with us, despite not having needed them over the past year—for instance, outplacing similar items we had acquired over the year when we noticed they were missing.
Other things in pile 1 were kept because we wanted to be able to save some memories for when we eventually come off the road and set up housekeeping in another “sticks and bricks” house. What to do with those? Fortunately, our son, Mike, agreed to store those at his family’s house. Thank you, Mike! So, rental van loaded, we started back to Indiana via Nashua, NH to see some of our “pre-Maine” friends, and Corning, NY to spend a week with Mike’s family (and drop off some of pile 1).
We’re going through the things we have in the camper, judging whether each has paid its “rent,” i.e., been useful / used enough to warrant the space and weight it has consumed. Books can be donated to the wonderful library in Quartzsite; we have our Kindle readers. Some fabric can be shared with the quilting group. We’re about to dramatically cull through our clothes, too; we’ve got much more than we need. It’s actually quite liberating to find ROOM in the RV as we get rid of things.
So here we are, heading back to Arizona for the winter even though the camper isn’t completely reorganized yet to accommodate the things we have bought with us but we’re making great progress. This brings back memories of our original game of RV Tetris.
Things are strange right about now. We’ve come off the road and are back on MDI, long enough to put our house on the market. (Anyone want a house on the Maine Coast, right outside Acadia National Park? Anyone?)
We’ve had a great time this past year and are looking forward to more adventures to come! But it is time for a bit of retrospection and possibly introspection.
How to describe the year? We can put some numbers on it:
359 days, door to door
858 hours of driving
27,851 total miles driven (Kathe has well over 25,000 of our miles!)
20,070 miles with the trailer. It is hard to believe that we roamed over 7,000 miles without the trailer. That was all day trips!
2 wonderful grandchildren for 3 weeks
28 National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, Monuments, etc.
30,206 pictures (And you thought we had posted a lot of pics!)
But those don’t really give a flavor of what we have experienced. If you have been following the blog you’ve seen many of the things we’ve seen, but not felt the impact of the openness of the west, nor had the many conversations we’ve had along the way.
The people we have met have been uniformly friendly, helpful, and as willing to share their journey with us as we have with them. Need a tool? Sure! Just put it on the table when you’re done.
Occasionally we’ve run across people who try to get into politics, but it has been very rare. Mostly, conversations have been about travel, enjoying the outdoors, families, rigs, and life experiences.
This country is huge! Having lived our entire lives in the Northeast, we had never known anything but the relatively dense population there. Once across the Mississippi river, you start to be aware that you’re driving for many miles without seeing any structure or other evidence of people.
Our country is beautiful, and varied (witness the 30,206 pictures)! We kept commenting to each other about beautiful scene after beautiful scene as we drove along . We had to be careful not to stop too frequently for photography, or we would have never gotten to our next destination.
When we started, we wondered what it would be like, to be sharing a roughly 300+/- square foot “house” with basically two rooms. We’re happy to report that it hasn’t been a problem at all.
When we started, we said that we’d live full time in our RV for a year before deciding whether to sell our house on Mount Desert Island. The six-month mark came, and we started to make those plans. Now that we’re at the year point and back on the island, we know that it is still the right answer for us.
We’re rattling around in our “large” (compared to the trailer) house, wondering why we ever thought we need so much space—and stuff. As we get ready to sell our house we have to part with things from our past. Most of that seems to not be a problem, but other things, like about 50 years of pictures… well, that is a bit harder. And as most men who have made this transition will tell you… “My tools!” Yeah, I won’t have all my tools! Being brought up with the viewpoint that it was important to have the right tool for whatever it is you’re trying to do, it is really hard to get rid of my tools.
Hard to get rid of in another way is all of our ham radio equipment. There’s just not much of a market for it. While we (especially Kathe) will still be involved in ham radio on the road, it will be done in a different way. Small radios. Small antennas (a bit of an oxymoron, that). There is no room in our 36′ trailer for a ninety foot plus antenna tower, and antennas that measure over 40′ by 20′ on top of the tower. So a lot to get rid of.
We know that we’ll need to come off the road at some point, determined either by health (no news there!) or by a yearning to settle down. But right now, that seems like a long way off. We’ve absolutely loved our past year and are looking forward to continuing for the foreseeable future. We hope that you’ve enjoyed traveling along with us, and that you’ll continue to share our adventure.
We’re still the Lobsters, but, for a while at least, we’re no longer “on the loose.” So we’ll take a break from the blog and pick it up again when we’re back on the road—probably in early October.
Arrive by 2:00 (or at least early enough to set up by late afternoon),
Stay at least two nights.
We’re retired, no need to push for long driving days. So when we plan our travels, one of the tasks is “Where to stop?” When we have a longish drive between two major stops, we have to break up the drive across multiple days. So we look on the map at “around” 200 miles, and see what looks promising.
When you notice the name, “Flaming Gorge,” the decision is pretty much made! We’re really glad that we saw that. And also that we decided on three nights!
Flaming Gorge was named by John Wesley Powell in 1869 during his exploration of the west. The name stuck. When you see the reds of the surrounding cliffs, you can see why. Flaming Gorge is one of five distinct gorges/canyons in this stretch of the Green River. This pic is actually just before Flaming Gorge, in Red Canyon.
The gorge area is only about 30 miles from our campground, but it is thirty miles of twisting mountain road. I didn’t realize how strong my fear of edges was until I tried to drive on these. Fortunately, Kathe’s shoulder has now healed enough that she was able to resume her driving duties! Phew…
Geology is big here; there are signs along the roadside giving the current rock formation / era, and sayings like, “Dinosaurs roamed here,” or “Ancient seabed, shells and sand dunes.” Because of the erosion over the millennia, we travel backward and forward through the history of the earth as we drive up and down (or actually, down and up) the hillsides.
Parts of these gorges have been flooded to create the ninety-one mile long Flaming Gorge Reservoir by damming the Green River, the Colorado’s biggest tributary. We were able to take a tour of the 502′ high Flaming Gorge Dam, going down into the turbine room, and out at the downstream base. Thank goodness for elevators!
The dam has of course changed the ecology of the river. Some fish previously in the river are gone. But the Green River downstream of the dam is now apparently a world-class trout fishery. There were lots of very large trout swimming in the eddies of the generating plant outlets, but fishing is not allowed in the immediate downstream area.
As is frequently the case, the top of the dam is a roadway, usually a two direction road except when something like this is trying to cross!
About an hour and a half away from our campground (again over the mountains) lay Dinosaur National Monument. What kid (of any age) can resist dinosaurs? Sure! Let’s go.
Dinosaur NM is quite large, but its gem is just inside the western (nearest to us!) entrance. The “Quarry Exhibit Hall” is an enclosed cliff face of what was originally the river bed of an ancient river. Approximately 1,500 bones are visible here, from ten different species of dinosaurs. The site is estimated to have been formed about 149 million years ago. It was discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass of the Carnegie Museum when he found eight tail vertebrae of an Apatosaurus (how can they tell???). Many of the fossils discovered here were shipped to museums around the world, but many remain.
Naturally enough, the cliff face and the fossilized bones are pretty uniform in color. This makes discerning the bones somewhat difficult, especially in pictures.
To make it easier to see the bones, I have enhanced the contrast and used edge sharpening in the remainder of these pictures. I should note that the National Park Service does the same thing on its website. (To a greater degree, in my opinion!)
One of the things that makes this site so different is not just the density of preserved bones (which of course are now fossilized, i.e., they are rock, not bone), but also the number of bones that are still articulated—attached to the bones next to them. It is very rare to find skulls still articulated to the cervical vertebrae.
Many species died here. In this picture are large bones from two different species. Across the top is an Apatosaurus scapula. Below it, going from lower left toward the upper right is a Diplodocus scapula. And from lower right toward upper left is an Apatosaurus femur.
Apparently, mostly complete skeletons are exceedingly rare. The NPS publication describing this part of the wall says, “Articulated Skeleton: Paleontologist’s Dream.” This picture is of a nearly complete Camarasaurus. I couldn’t see all of what they were describing, but then, I’m not a paleontologist!
And if I could be permitted a slight aside here, whatever happened to the dinosaur names that I learned as a kid? My grandkids (and this exhibit) and I speak a completely different “language” of dino names! I want my T-Rex back!
Aside to the aside: I really put that in for a bit of humor, but decided to do a little web searching and came across this. Apparently, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus (Thunder Lizard) were initially thought to be different species, but soon thereafter they were “determined” to be the same, with the animal identified as Apatosaurus being simply a juvenile Brontosaurus. Since the name Apotosaurus was published first, the name Brontosaurus was dropped from the formal nomenclature in the early 20th century, but not from many museum exhibits, nor from popular use. But wait! There’s more! In 2015, a new study “determined” that they are indeed separate species, and that there may be a third closely related species. So I guess I get my Brontosaurus back.
Whatever their names, some of the beasts were BIG! This is a Camarasaurus femur.
Notice that parts of that femur are dark and shiny. That is from the oil on many people’s hands. Most of the gallery is under a “don’t touch” policy, but in some places the kids (again, of all ages!) are invited to touch.
As part of the preservation efforts here, the wall is being monitored for seismic activity. There are strain gauges across many of the cracks, and there are other detectors at several places. I was not able to find a ranger who could identify what those were for.
Dinosaur National Monument is big; we only dipped our toes into the water, so to speak. We did go another mile or so in to “Swelter Shelter,” to see some 1,000 year-old pictographs and petroglyphs, created by the Fremont people. I learned the difference here; the terms are not synonyms. A pictograph is created by staining the surface of the stone, usually with red ocher (ochre if you’re a Brit). A petroglyph is formed by chipping or etching the stone. Both are present at this site, but most are petroglyphs.
Unfortunately, there were also etchings that were less than 1,000 years old. Why do people feel the need to carve their initials into irreplaceable sites like this?
For an “in between” stop in our adventure, this one had some pretty great stuff! Our countries are so full of fascinating nature, history, and people. We keep marveling!
We are about to join with our two oldest grandkids for several weeks, so get ready for some guest bloggers!
“All animals in Yellowstone National Park are wild and dangerous!”
“All wildlife is dangerous! Remain at least 25 yards from any animal. Remain at least 100 yards away from bison and bear.”
“Yellowstone is a Dangerous Place”
These and similar signs are all over Yellowstone. We need to be wary of all the animals!
We did see quite an array of wildlife in the park, in
addition to the chipmunk. We saw bison,
including some close enough to get good pictures of (but far enough to still be
safe). We also saw deer, elk, and an osprey.
No bear (of which I’m very glad), and no moose (of which there are very
few remaining in the park).
There are many dangerous things in the park, as in most of the National Parks. Their wildness is what calls many of us to go to them; it is what makes these places special. Being attacked by wild animals, driving off the edge of a narrow mountain road, or falling into a pool of boiling water are some of the things that can befall a careless or inattentive visitor.
We got a late start on our first day in the park, so we decided to just do the north part of the park (we were staying outside the north entrance). We’d go down the western side through Mammoth Hot Springs, to Norris, across to Canyon, up through Tower, and then back to Mammoth. Here’s a picture of the Yellowstone river near Tower.
We had visited Yellowstone eleven years ago after a service trip to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with our church. We were in a small rental car and enjoyed driving in the park. The roads on the east side of the park are quite mountainous, twisty and narrow—a challenge! Fun!
Driving them in a crew cab long bed dually pickup truck (basically, the biggest F350 that Ford makes) is an entirely different experience from driving them in a compact! White knuckle time. Through a good portion of the park, there were no guardrails. And it was hundreds and hundreds of feet to the ground below. We decided to not go to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Lamar Valley because they would have required retracing some of that route. But those were the only places we had wanted to visit that we missed. If we go back in the future, we may rent a compact car to make touring the park less terrifying!
The geysers and geothermal pools are, of course, Yellowstone’s calling card. The density of these features is unique in the world. They are unquestionably beautiful and awe inspiring, but you need to be careful. There are boardwalks in many of the dense areas of springs, pools, and geysers, and there are frequent signs warning people to stay on the boardwalks. The “ground” they traverse is often simply a thin coating over a hot spring, most of which will be fatal if a person becomes immersed.
On our previous visit, I watched two men ahead of me on a boardwalk. They came to one of the “Danger! Hot water. Stay on the boardwalk” signs, and one handed the other his camera, stepped off the boardwalk (right next to the sign), and had his friend take a picture of him and the sign. As a former boss of mine was fond of saying, “You can’t fix stupid.” But Darwin clearly missed an opportunity here.
This time, we saw many unattended small children on the boardwalks, some standing on the edge of the boardwalks (there are often no railings), or kneeling at the edge leaning over—presumably, “to get a better view.” As parents, it was very tough to see these situations.
But… these pools and springs are unquestionably beautiful!
The colors of the pools are caused by thermophyllic bacteria, also referred to as “extremophiles.” Different types of bacteria have different colors and live in different water temperature ranges: blue indicates the hottest temperatures, then yellow, then red.
I didn’t get a good picture of it, but the steam drifting above the Grand Prismatic Spring was tinged with the reds and blues of the water.
Quick: what was the Roman Coliseum built out of? Travertine. Didn’t know that myself until a few hours ago. Travertine is a type of rock made by the evaporation of mineral laden water. And it is all over Yellowstone, particularly in the Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Basin areas.
Over time, the travertine will envelop anything it encounters.
The pools and springs sometimes warn of their danger by
Others are quiet and appear inviting!
Geysers are the other thermal features most people associate with Yellowstone. Some are grand, but erupt unpredictably; others are small and erupt frequently. A few are large and predictable. Eruptions can last for a short time, releasing all their pressure quickly, or they can last for hours. We saw quite a few of the small geysers,
And what visit to Yellowstone National Park is complete without watching Old Faithful erupt?
We had the great pleasure of meeting a member of the Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue team who is now a law enforcement ranger at the Old Faithful District. We hadn’t seen each other since last July, and it was very good to see him again!
We finished our trip by hiking to the Morning Glory Pool. When we visited eleven years ago, it was about six weeks earlier in the year than we were here this time. On our previous visit, the Morning Glory area was closed due to grizzly bear activity in the area, feeding on several bison which had not survived the winter.
Morning Glory has a reputation of being one of the prettiest pools in the park and I was really looking forward to finally getting to see it this time. It was pretty, but I was somewhat disappointed.
It is widely reported that Morning Glory has been damaged by visitors throwing coins and trash into it, and the colors are reportedly not as striking as before; some articles refer to the name “Faded Glory,” The park is making efforts to try to repair the damage, but it is unknown whether it will ever be completely restored.
It was a real treat to be able to explore and enjoy Yellowstone again—it’s a real gem and should be on everyone’s bucket list.
We started out by camping in Sol Duc (Sole Duck), deep in Olympic National Park. The campground was run by the concessionaire, and was part of the Sol Duc Resort. We sort of lucked into this one via Sir Google; there are actually two campgrounds in Sol Duc that take RVs. The other one was heavily wooded and we would probably not have been successful getting Scarlet and Rhett in there. The one we had was small (about 15 sites), but wide open. The site was nestled in a grove of birch trees.
It was also a short walk to one of Sol Duc’s main attractions: thermal springs! We spent quite a bit of time soaking… The spring water is 150°, and is mixed with the river water to the desired temp for each of three pools. The hot one was hot enough that even I couldn’t stay in it for more than about 10 minutes—and I love hot baths! Just like in the Three Bears, the middle one (temperature) was just right.
Ummm. Sorry. No pictures; we were too busy relaxing!
You may have heard that the Pacific Northwest (PNW) gets a LOT of rain. There are several rainforests within the park. We were not in one, but looking around at the trees it sure looked like it. The older trees were covered in moss!
There are several trails leading out of the Sol Duc campgrounds; we encountered some deer browsing just off one of the trails.
We followed one of the trails out to the Sol Duc waterfall.
On the way back home (yes, the trailer really is “home”) we found another waterfall, albeit not quite as large.
Sol Duc is completely surrounded by mountains. Nice scenery! Lousy connectivity! For the first time ever, we had to send a text message out through the Garmin Inreach satellite communicator that we carry for back country emergencies. (It wasn’t an emergency…)
Sol Duc is southwest of Port Angeles, which seems to be the major town on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the northern boundary of the Olympic Peninsula. Crescent Beach is a little west of Port Angeles, but is on the shore of the Strait.
Being here made us appreciate Oregon’s beach access law. Directly across the road from the campground was “their” beach, but “don’t go past the rainbow pole! That’s not our beach and you’ll be trespassing.”
About 1/2 way toward the trees in the distance, the beach belongs to someone else, and campers can’t go there. Sigh.
Nevertheless, it was a beautiful setting and we enjoyed strolling on the sand.
Kathe normally beachcombs for sea glass, but we haven’t been successful finding any in the PNW. Here she was looking for…
We had a visitor.
But what are all those dark spots on the beach? Something is living in the sand (clams?). It leaves two kinds of markings.
Please leave a comment if you know what animal is creating these tracks and the… what shall I call them?
Sometimes I wonder about the people who lay out campgrounds. Who would think that putting the sewer connection at the highest point in the site would be a good idea? Remember: it flows downhill!
Crescent Beach isn’t part of Olympic National Park, but we went back into the park to visit Hurricane Ridge on the recommendation of a friend who is a former park ranger there. So, so, so glad!
Also we were so glad that we didn’t have our trailer hooked up to our truck for this one! The road up the ridge is steep and twisty. But the views are worth it. Down at sea level the skies were gray and cloudy, so we almost didn’t go. (Note to self as a future reminder… Always go!) Up top? Take a look!
Despite the name, the weather was quite mild with calm winds. We enjoyed our hike to the end of the currently open trail. The remaining trail to the peak of Hurricane Hill was still closed due to snow.
And there was still lots of snow on the ridge. Some people like to fight with Darwin’s attempts to clean the gene pool. The pictures below are at the top of a very steep slope down into the valley.
They are doing a lot of work on the trail up to Hurricane Mountain. It seems like they are widening it, and are using a lot of large rocks along the up-slope edge of the trail. I was quite surprised to see what appear to be ferns on this rock. I don’t know whether they are fossilized in the rocks, or somehow imprinted on the rock after it was split. I suspect the latter, but…
Unexpectedly, Fort Worden turned out to be the highlight of our time on the peninsula. Located on the northeast corner of the peninsula, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north and west, and Puget Sound to the east and south, it was the main one of three forts that guarded Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, and Seattle. The driving force for the creation of the fort was the shipyard, not the city! Fort Worden was built between 1898 and 1917 in the second wave of the Endicott Board forts; the first wave (of which Fort Stevens was part) was built before the establishment of the shipyard when defense of the Sound was not deemed critical. The fort was activated with the arrival of the first troops in 1902, and served in both World Wars I and II. The gun emplacements were never used; the guns were removed in WWI, for use in Europe. The primary use for the fort after that was training.
Reduce, reuse, recycle! Fort Worden is a poster child for reuse. Decommissioned by the Army in 1953, it was purchased by the State of Washington in 1957 to become “Fort Worden Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center,” for troubled youth. This center closed in 1971, and in 1973, Washington re-created it as the current state park. For a more detailed history of this fascinating fort, read Fort Worden: Rebirth Through Decay, by Peter St. George.
What makes Fort Worden special, compared, for instance, to Fort Stevens, is that a large number of its original buildings are intact. Most other forts of this era have had their (mostly wooden) structures torn down leaving only the foundations.
A Public Development Authority (PDA) was created by the city of PortTownsend, WA, to
The state still owns the property; the PDA has a 99 year lease on the buildings. The PDA is renovating the existing buildings to enable other uses. The base hospital is now a remote campus for Goddard College. Local businesses at the fort include two publishing / printing companies, a yoga studio, a massage therapist, the Port Townsend School of the Arts, and Centrum Arts Foundation. There are concert series, with some of the larger concerts held in the WWI-era balloon hangar!
The officers’ and NCOs’ residences and a dormitory are being refurbished and furnished with antique period furniture. These are available for rental, from 30 beds down to three or four. Apparently many family reunions and some weddings book there. We were taken on a tour by one of the PDA board members! We were so gobsmacked by what we were walking through that we forgot to take any pictures. (Us? Forget pictures???) But you can see some of the refurbished officer’s houses and other residences on the PDA’s website. (You can also reserve time in them on those pages, if you will be in the PNW.)
Finally, not all of the buildings remain. There are foundations here too, all that is left of some of the quarters. The PDA is in the process of building new structures there, within the original building footprints.
The state park also includes the remains of the gun emplacements, in pretty much the same state as those we found in Fort Stevens. However, we found some types that we didn’t see in Oregon.
The fort was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Being engineers, they were very detailed. Being the Army, meticulous records were kept. Here are some pictures of the plan for the three inch anti-aircraft gun mounts pictured above.
North 317.39 feet, East 231.25 feet. But from where? The entire fort was laid out from a single benchmark, which still exists.
The trees have grown in the many years since the fort was active, but in some places you can still see what the soldiers would have seen.
In other areas, you can’t.
We’re now over 20,000 miles into our adventure, and are still having a great time.
A long-planned highlight of our spring was our visit to Beth and Jon’s family in Vancouver, BC. Planned in two parts, it exceeded our already high expectations. We had a wonderful time!
The first part of our visit was a weekend joint camping trip to Alice Lake Provincial Park. We arranged for two adjacent campsites so that we would all be together. An idea that we haven’t seen in US parks is to have a subset of campsites set up as pairs, and reservable only as a pair. It makes family camp outs much easier to arrange.
Our plan was that Kasper and Nyssa sleep with us in the RV, and Jon and Beth would be in their tent. They had primarily camped in the summer before; we all found out that late April was not quite the same. EVERYONE ended up sleeping in the camper, to stay warm!
After our stay at Alice Lake, we all went back to Vancouver; we stayed at the only campground actually in Vancouver proper, just north of the wonderful Stanley Park, and about 20 minutes from Beth and Jon’s apartment via Vancouver’s excellent public transportation system. (We were not about to try to drive our truck, Scarlett, in Vancouver!)
Note to selves: Do NOT put your transit card, loose, in the same pocket with your phone in a sticky Otter case. We each lost a card when we pulled our phone out.
One of the things that we missed living on the coast of Maine was a variety of cuisines, particularly Asian. Vancouver has plenty! We had Japanese (Sushi) (twice!), Afghani, and several others. Unfortunately, we ran out of nights before we could make a dent in the variety.
Kasper and Nyssa spent two more nights with us while in Vancouver. For those who don’t already know it, one of a grandparent’s most important duties is spoiling the grandkids. We take our duties seriously! What better way to do it than by having chocolate ice cream for breakfast!
Kasper and Grandpa also shared some good time together, working on K’s first book of logic puzzles, e.g., “Rita married Joe, but not on Wednesday. Carla was married on Sunday on the village green. Who did Tess marry?” The major learning from this was that Grandpa needs to (re-)start doing these as well! I loved these as a kid, but I’ve lost the knack. We also worked on ways to present data… How to graph seven different aspects of each of 12 chapters in Roald Dahl’s “Danny the Champion of the World.”
We visited Science World, a must-stop on each of our visits. Their current featured exhibit is a hall of mirrors… No, you can’t just walk straight ahead in the picture below!
And Kasper got to be part of the presentation team in a chemistry demonstration!
Vancouver also has many playgrounds scattered around the city…
Kasper had a birthday very near our visit, and Grandma had a VERY special birthday present ready for him. A handmade robot quilt!
One of the (many) highlights of our visit was being able to attend Beth’s concert. Celebrating the director’s twenty years with the choir, it was titled simply, “Donna’s Favorites.”
In a surprise ending, a sextet from the choir gave the premiere performance of a commission using Emily Dickinson’s poem, “It’s All I Have to Bring Today” as the text. Set to music by Donna’s favorite composer, Larry Nickel, it is dedicated to Donna Brown.
Our visit ended all too soon; it was time to head to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
From Sequoia National Park, we boogied pretty quickly up to the Oregon coast. We wanted to encapsulate this part of the adventure into one post rather than sending several with only a day or two apart, so it is a bit long. Go get a cup of tea or other beverage of your choice.
Here’s what I really wanted the title of this post to be, but it is (way) too long!
Let’s get the “Weed” out of the way. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession in 1973, although it didn’t legalize recreational marijuana until 2014—two years after Colorado and California. There are “Cannabis Dispensaries,” “Bud Barns,” and “Pot Shops” everywhere you look. It seems every small town has one or two. No, we didn’t partake.
The Oregon coast is amazingly beautiful. We went up US 101, which runs near the coast—at times, right along it. There are many sea stacks (very large rocks out in the water), which together with frequent cliffs on the shoreline make excellent targets for the waves to crash against. It is frequently very foggy!
In the sections below, you can paste the latitude and longitude into Google maps to see where we camped…
Gold Beach: 42.536509 -124.396648
We had been advised to check out the area around Gold Beach by many people. We found Honey Bear RV Resort and Campgrounds a little north of there. As we drove in the campgrounds’s driveway, I noticed two small elk in a field. Cool! We decided to have dinner in the campground’s restaurant (is that what makes it qualify as a “resort?” I still don’t understand the distinctions…), and I was carrying my camera with me as I often do in new places. A man came up to us, and asked if we’d like to get some pictures of elk. Of course! Our order had just gone into the kitchen so we had some time.
We followed the man out of the restaurant, down the road a bit, and then he turned and said, “I normally don’t let campers in here, but this is the best place to get elk pictures.” He was the campground owner!
Kathe and I walked down to the beach just before sunset. Our first night on the coast…
Gold Beach is just past the north end of the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Coming north from California, we had decided that we would drive past the sights to get to the campground, and then return south without the trailer on our first day at Honey Bear to see all (OK, “some of”) the scenic pull outs the state has marked. We had divided the coast roughly into fourths, with the idea that we’d day trip up and down the coast from our campsites in order to see the sights. Rocks and water! The same draw that made us love Acadia so much.
Aside… Oregon has a crazy number of State Parks—255, to be exact. Incredibly, 93 of those state parks are along the coast! Granted, many of are very small with some being little more than a parking lot for beach or view access. But fifty seven of them have campgrounds, and we made use of two of them.
The Oregon Beach Bill was signed into law in 1967 and established a permanent public easement for access and recreation along the ocean shore seaward of the existing line of vegetation, regardless of ownership. A policy soon followed that provided for public access to the 362 miles of beach at regular intervals.
The next day we headed north on the coast for another day of sea-gazing… This brought us past three of the nine lighthouses on the coast, and many more spectacular shore vistas!
Florence: 43.922106 -124.113042
Dunes… The only sand dunes I had experienced were on the Outer Banks of North Carolina’s shore. They were big! Ummm… Not as big as Oregon’s dunes.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area stretches for over 40 miles, and encompasses 31,500 acres. For part of its stretch near Florence, it is bordered by the Honeyman State Park, our next stop. The dunes near Florence are not the tallest in this huge dune field, so where we saw them they weren’t as tall as in NC. Our particular campsite was backed by a steep, thickly vegetated hillside. I’ll guess it was 50 to 60 feet high. I found a nearby trail and went up. When I got to the top, the other side was sand dunes! We were right on the edge of the recreational area.
Kathe and I hiked into the dunes in another spot a few miles away. There, the dunes were heavily grassed, and the dunes went right down to the beach.
Depoe Bay: 44.860257 -124.04309
They advertise the Sea and Sand RV Park as “Camping on the beautiful Oregon Coast.” They aren’t kidding! Driving to our campsite we thought we were going to drive right into the ocean.
Come ride with us, and remember that we have over seven tons of trailer pushing us down the hill.
We had possibly the best space in the campground (94, if you want to book it). There were no more sites on our door side, so no neighbors there, and we were on the third of three tiers, about 60 feet above the ocean with a completely unobstructed view! Simply amazing. Apparently this site is usually booked a year ahead of time; we had called about a week and a half before, so someone must have just cancelled! Hooray for us! (As we were getting ready to leave, another camper stopped by to tell us that they had just booked the site for this same week, next year…)
There is a downside to camping this near the ocean. The waves make a lot of noise all night. I know… poor me.
Someone turn the waves off! I can’t sleep!
Tillamook: 45.428327 -123.937862
This was the least picturesque stop on our trip up the Oregon coast. There is a large dairy processing plant which produces mostly cheese but also ice cream and yogurt, known locally as “The Cheese Factory.”
“Are you going to the Cheese Factory??” “Have you been to the Cheese Factory?” Everyone in the area wants to know… Apparently it is The Big Thing in the area.
They have an interesting self-guided tour via a glass-walled walkway above the factory floor. I was surprised to learn that it takes less than 24 hours for the milk arriving in the tanker truck to be turned into a block of cheese ready for aging. According to a Tillamook website, the warehouse next door where they age the cheese accounts for about ten percent of the nation’s cheese supply. I guess it is a Big Thing!
Coastal scenery wise, there is a “three capes drive,” which held promise. But most of the time the road was behind trees, and the access to the capes was via hikes of a mile or more. It was cold and raw, and we decided to not hike it.
We did get to one part where we could drive to the shore. We almost got stuck one more time in deep loose sand! Fortunately, we didn’t have the trailer with us this time…
There at the beach we saw these folks having fun on the winds from the ocean hitting the dunes to give them lift.
In addition to the elk, above, we saw sea lions at several locations, as well as large colonies of birds.
Astoria / Fort Stevens: 46.181835 -123.965693
Fort Stevens is the farthest north state park in Oregon, and also the largest. We were in a very nice campground of over 500 sites, which actually had full hookups for RVs: 50 amps, water, and sewer. Sewer hookups are very rare in state parks! We saw another Solitude (our type of trailer) with a different floor plan and much more storage capacity. That—or something like it—might be a next camper… but certainly not this year. We’re just getting this one the way we like it!
The address of the park is on Peter Iredale Rd., which got me wondering… “Who was Peter Iredale?”
That was the wrong question. Not who, but what.
The Peter Iredale was a four-masted, steel hulled sailing ship around the turn of the 20th century that carried grain from this area to Australia. (Peter Iredale was one of the owners of the company that owned the ship, so there is also a who—but he’s not the reason that “Peter Iredale” is a common place name in the area.)
The ship was wrecked here during a storm in 1908. Much of her hull was cut up and sold for scrap, but the forward part was left on the beach. Nature will eventually reclaim her, but for now she is an interesting subject for photography.
The land currently occupied by Fort Stevens forms the southern portion of the mouth of the Columbia River, a vital, but very dangerous shipping lane.
The geography was constantly changing as storms moved the land, and deposited much of it on the bottom of the channel, increasing the navigational challenges. The area needed to be stabilized.
There were three jettys built by the US Army Corps of Engineers at the mouth of the river, of which the south jetty is one. It was started in 1885, and the whole project of controlling the mouth of the Columbia took 50 years.
The jetty is four and a half miles long and projected into the ocean one mile; at the time of its completion it was the longest in the world. To build it, they had to first build a railroad track on trestles out into the ocean to transport the rocks.
So why is this “Fort Stevens” State Park?
Fort Stevens was the primary installation of three forts guarding the mouth of the Columbia River. The fort saw duty in the Civil War, Spanish-American war, and World Wars I and II. It started as an earthen construction in the Civil War and was enhanced with large concrete installations for several batteries of ten inch rifles by the First World War. Improvements in ship construction (thicker hulls and steel decks) made those guns largely obsolete by WWII, at which point the river was primarily guarded by a mine field comprising up to 148 mines that were electrically controlled from Fort Stevens. (I had assumed that they were contact mines, but not so.)
Fort Stevens holds the distinction of being one of only two places in the continental US to be fired upon by a foreign power. On June 22, 1942, a Japanese submarine fired nine five inch projectiles at the fort. They landed without harm, and the fire was not returned from the fort. Later, the captain of the sub was quoted as saying that if he had known how many large rifles were at the fort, he would not have been anywhere in the area!
The guns are long gone and the emplacements are deteriorating, but some are still open to be wandered in and on.
We have one more stop before we cross into Canada, to visit with Beth, Jon, and the kids. Can’t wait to get there!
We’re starting to plan our travel after we visit with Beth’s family, and are starting to run into problems finding a campground with available space. We had heard about this, but hadn’t experienced it up until now. We’ve plotted our travels up through the second week of June, and now have to slot in the remaining two weeks until our grandsons Graham and Dean join us to visit National Parks in Utah! Lots of possibilities…