2014 Adventure Wrap-Up

We’ve now wrapped up our 2014 Adventure. Our destination was the great northwestern United States with a focus on the Pacific coast. It was a wonderful trip – really, everything we hoped it would be. Early in our journey we found southeastern Utah to be a pleasant surprise. We’ve heard so much about the vicinity of Moab; especially Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. These were even better than we expected and some of the most beautiful spots we’ve ever been.

We spent a couple of months visiting different places along the Washington coast and then another month along the Oregon coast. We loved it all and I especially enjoyed the splendor of the Oregon coast. If a person loves nature they will love that area.

We continued into northern California and soon moved inland to the Sacramento area and points east and south. After wearing jackets and even needing heat in the camper the warm temperatures were a shock to the system. Still, camping along the whitewater of the American River and then staying in the high country of Yosemite was a real pleasure.
It was with some sadness that we turned east and headed for Arizona because that meant we were now winding down our big Adventure.  Still, we’re talking about Arizona here; long one of our favorite states.  We spent a month there, working our way from the northwest corner of the state to ultimately exit at the southeast corner.

Before long we were back in Texas – enjoying the splendor of the state’s southwest.  We’ve always liked the Texas State Parks and it was a pleasure to visit three of them, especially Davis Mountains State Park, as we worked our way east.

After almost seven months we’ve now arrived back where the Adventure began: Lake Conroe Thousand Trails. We towed the 5th wheel about 6300 miles and then drove about the same distance sightseeing and “just living.”  We stayed in about 40 different campgrounds, generally for a week and a half at a time with several shorter stays when we were in “repositioning mode.”  In January I’ll release our budget figures but we pretty much stayed on target through the year.

It was a great trip and I’m already looking forward to return visits to and through these areas.

Campground review: Long Beach, WA Thousand Trails

Our stay at Long Beach, WA Thousand Trails included the Independence Day weekend so we saw the campground at its fullest. And full it was. This campground is crowded at best with sites laid out like a parking lot for RVs. The water and sewer hookups are clustered for four hookups. Two of the campers have regular, driver’s side hookups and two must run their water and sewer hoses under the camper. Electric is better with each pedestal being shared by two campers. One plug is 50 amps and the other is 30 amps. First come gets first choice.

Again, our stay included the busy 4th of July weekend and that meant every site was full. The camper behind us was backed in within a foot of our back window. The camper to the right of us had their awning extended to about four feet of our 5th wheel and the camper to our left was just a bit farther away but our windows pretty much matched up.

Such an arraignment could be the recipe for a miserable campground stay but that would mainly be true if people were discourteous in some way. That wasn’t the case with our stay. Our “neighbors” were nice folks who just wanted to enjoy the campground and, while we would have preferred a bit more room, we felt we had an acceptably good stay given the circumstances. I confess that having arrived early and getting a “normal hook up” site with 50 amps electric probably added to that positive feeling.

The real draw here is the great Pacific beach which is just a five minute walk down a trail. We enjoyed the beach and the view of nearby Cape Disappointment very much, taking many walks along the beach. There’s also the paved Discovery Trail that runs near the water and provides great walking/biking opportunities.

The pool is quite small and we never tried it out but it got lots of use. We enjoyed good Verizon 4G and had no problem getting our satellite TV signal. I don’t know how often it is a problem, but mosquitoes were really bad from early evening till after dark.

We had one bad experience. As we returned to the park we found the gate, which normally has to be opened by punching in a code, standing open. I hesitated because I was concerned that it might close on me as I entered the park but then decided to drive on in. Because of that, I came into the park just a bit faster than I normally would drive, I’d estimate I was going eight mph rather than the speed limit of five. Before I could even get through the gate I heard someone yelling and looked to see a fellow waving at me. I waved back and then realized he was yelling in an angry way. I confess that it startled me and I speeded up to get away from him. It was then that I realized he was yelling “slow down, slow down.” I was away from him by then, so I looked at my speed and it was down to seven mph. I proceeded to my campsite and was surprised to see he was now chasing me with his golf cart. He then bawled me out for driving too fast. So far as I know this fellow has no credentials, at least he never identified himself as an employee, and has appointed himself to be keeper of the gate. Knowing I was somewhat guilty of driving faster than the five mph I decided to let it go. However, I’m sharing it here because I do think people who consider visiting this campground might want to warned about this apparently semi-permanent unofficial and rather belligerent traffic cop. Hopefully, he isn’t dangerous.

All in all, in spite of the above incident and the crowded camping situation I think we’d return to this campground. My advise is to avoid arriving on traditionally busy summer weekends and, if coming for a holiday arrive early and be prepared for close quarters.

Long Beach, WA and surrounding area

The best part of being in this area near Cape Disappointment is watching the surf roll in and crash on the rocks. We’ve spent a lot of time walking the beach and enjoying the view.

There are also several farmers Markets and we enjoyed the one at nearby Port Ilwaco on a rainy Saturday. In spite of cloudy skies there was a vegetable/fruit stand along with other food and craft vendors along the marina. We enjoyed looking in various shops including a bookstore with new and used books.

Just a few minutes from our campground is Beards Hollow Overlook. There is a great view of the beach along with some historical information. After that we visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment. We took the self-guided tour with pictures along a historical timeline. There were many exhibits showing types of clothing, boats and equipment used on the expedition and a short documentary film. The hike to Cape disappointment Lighthouse was strenuous but we enjoyed our picnic lunch on a bench by the Coast Guard building. This lighthouse is not open for tours so we backtracked to the parking lot and drove a few minutes to North Head Lighthouse. A short .25 mile walk took us past restored buildings to the lighthouse itself. Again, I am amazed at the beauty of the ocean and size of the waves coming in.

We took a driving tour of the peninsula, driving as far as historic Oysterville, WA. There are several restored homes and a beautiful Baptist Church built in 1892. On our way back we stopped at the Cranberry Museum and Gift shop. There we enjoyed seeing the antique equipment and learning about raising cranberries in this area.

We took a day trip to Astoria, OR and visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum. It is well worth with the $12.00 entry fee. The exhibits tell the history of fishing and shipping on the Columbia. There are excellent short videos as well as hands on projects for children. Included in the museum is a self guided tour of the Columbia WLV-604 it served as a floating lighthouse from 1951 and was decommissioned in 1979. Also of interest was 20 foot boat that was lost in Japan during the 2011 Tsunami that was and washed up on the shore nearby. From the museum we drove over to Fort Clatsop a National Historic Park. This is the site where the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805-1806. The visitors center has historic Exhibits and a place for children to do hands on activities. We enjoyed walking through the replica of Fort Clatsop seeing the small space in which they spent that winter. There were activities going on all day with people in period dress explaining how they lived that winter. There are also a variety of hiking trails that can be walked.

Another interesting part of the time here is just getting here. The Astoria-Megler Bridge,
stretches 4.1 miles from Astoria, Oregon, across the mouth of the Columbia River, to Point Ellice, Washington. The bridge’s main span is 1,232 feet in length, the longest “continuous truss” in the nation.

We also enjoyed the Kite Museum in Long Beach, OR. The collection includes kites used in WW II and kites from around the world. We saw kites used to train anti-aircraft gunners, a kite to use with emergency rescue equipment and a mail kite used in Alaska so airplanes could get mail without landing. The beauty and variety of kites from around the world was amazing. Some of the fighting kites are huge! There are several videos available to watch about the various kites.

Being here on July 4th was an experience. We knew the city of Long Beach provided a fireworks display that could be seen from the beach by our campground. We began hearing lots of fireworks being shot off by early afternoon and by the time we went to the beach the crack of fireworks was non-stop. There were thousands of people shooting off fireworks – many were big ones, loud, high, and colorful. For about 2 hours we sat and watched fireworks up the beach as far as the eye could see. The city fireworks were impressive but people kept on shooting off their own all through the show. It was an amazing event.

There’s a lot to see and do here in the southwestern tip of Washington and the northeastern tip of Oregon. I guess you could say we weren’t disappointed at all in Cape Disappointment!

Campground review: Chehalis, WA Thousand Trails

One might consider Chehalis Thousand Trails the “double your pleasure” campground. There are two big pools – family and adult-only, two activity centers – again family and adult-only (plus WiFi in each), and two big mountains to see from different vantage points in the campground – Rainier and St Helens.

The campground itself is about 20 minutes east of Chehalis and about 15 minutes from the interstate. It feels quite rural. Both Mt Ranier and Mt St Helens are reasonable and rewarding day trips.

Sections F and especially G are popular with the big rigs. This is at the top of the hill and is a bit more open than the other areas of this big park. There are some full hook up sites in these sections and scattered around other areas of the campground but be aware that, like most Thousand Trails, sites are being sold to annuals and they like having sewer hookups. When we came in on an early Monday afternoon we found only one full hook up site available. Many of the sites in this area have enough of a view of the southern sky to get satellite TV. Unfortunately for us, we had to decide whether we wanted sewer or satellite. Since we were staying a week and a half we opted to forgo satellite TV for our second campground in a row. Our 4G Verizon internet, though, was excellent.

By and large the facilities here are well cared for. The pools are very nice although we found the adult pool rather cold (they made up for it by having the spa so hot that we could only take it about 10 minutes!). We tried the mini-golf which could be one of the better ones we’ve seen at a Thousand Trails but, sorry to say, it is in great need of TLC.

There’s a laundry, game room, and store. We enjoyed some good ice cream – and at no charge, a special beginning of summer treat courtesy of the campground. We also walked a very short trail to visit the little chapel, nestled in the forest.

Chehalis is the very first Thousand Trails and one can’t help but wish all the Thousand Trails offered the camping experience it does. While we saw things that need attention (for instance, one section is closed to all but small campers and tents due to electric problems) we would rate Chehalis as one of the better Thousand Trails we’ve visited thus far and look forward to returning in the future.

Mt Rainier – Mt St Helens and area

This is such a lovely area in the state of Washington. Our campground is near Chehalis, a friendly town with all the amenities needed for a pleasant stay. The town is well marked so it is easy to find the Post Office and other major buildings. Walmart and other shopping can be found along the freeway but we found a couple of other shops we enjoyed. One of the unique places called Yardbirds is an indoor flea market. Walking around we saw antiques, used books, old stuff, old electronic gear like reel to reel tape recorders, and craft booths. There are several vegetable and fruit stands open for those who want to shop there. I purchased some cherries that were very good.

In the National Monument we visited the Johnson Visitors Center. There are displays, movies to watch about the eruption/blast, and Ranger talks. The view is spectacular from the Center and the trails nearby. After we watched the movie we walked from the visitors center up a paved trail to several overlooks of the volcano as well as views of the devastation that is just now, after 34 years starting to recover. At one point a volunteer had set up his telescope and showed a small herd of elk in the valley far below. There were a variety of wildflowers growing which give color and contrast to the overall grey left by the blast. It was and educational and fun day although I admit it left me a little leg weary at the end of it all. These are places I would come to again if we come back to this area.

We’ve enjoyed our “mountain themed” stay here near Chelalis, WA.

2014 La Conner and surrounding area

Our campground for this stay is near La Conner, WA – an area filled with interesting things to see and do. La Conner, itself features a beautiful Rainbow Bridge which we crossed on the way into town. This is a nice town set up for tourism. The walkway along the river has shops and restaurants with a view. There are many other attractions in town. Pioneer Park, named in honor of Lousia A. Conner is a day use park on the edge of town near the river. Be sure to check out the trail that goes under the bridge.

Saturday we attended the Anacortes Waterfront Festival which featured a variety of food and craft booths along the riverfront with ongoing music. There was a Corvette show going on and we enjoyed looking at all the beautiful cars. The waterfront theme was taken seriously: the local Kiwanis had boat kits they were giving to the children. There was a place to assemble and sail the boats. The adults as well as the children were having fun. Not too far away a full size boat building competition was taking place. The builders would take them out onto the water and race them the next day. People were encouraged to pick their favorite team to win. Nearby was the Saturday Farmers’ Market where we bought local cheese and fresh bread for lunch. The town itself has a variety of shops with something for everyone.

After attending church on Sunday morning we purchased Subway sandwiches and went to Campbell park where we drove the loop road. We stopped at an overlook and enjoyed our meal then continued on around to another overlook where we had an enjoyable time on Face Time talking with family and letting them see some of the wonderful view.

Monday we drove to La Conner to check the mail and then took a farm road and followed directions on the sign advertizing strawberries for sale. We followed the road to a farm house with a fruit stand. There is a sign directing shoppers to put their money in the red box. We followed directions and then enjoyed some excellent, fresh strawberries for a few days.

Another fun trip was our Ferry ride to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We parked in the lot and walked onto the ferry. Our hour ride was enjoyable with beautiful scenery to watch as the ferry took us through the Islands to the town of Friday Harbor. This is a friendly town that mixes tourism with everyday life. We found a bakery and had coffee and scones. Cell service was excellent so we took time to update our email and Facebook. One of the attractions is the Whale Museum — a very educational stop for a family. There are several whale skeletons for viewing as well as videos and posters showing the various Orcas and their markings. Several places in town offer whale tours if that is what you are looking for.

Another day we drove to Whitbey Island. We stopped to look at the bridge and water at Deception Pass which is the most famous spot on the island. We we also spent some time at the overlook of Ebey’s Landing, an original homestead that is now a National Historic Preserve. We could see the open prairie land where they farmed for many years with a glimpse of the Olympic Peninsula across the water in the distance. Nearby Coupeville is a lovely little town with buildings built by the early settlers. We found many places of interest. I especially liked the Dutch shop offering lace, glass, chocolate and other items of interest as well as the Lavender shop with lavender-based health and beauty products and also a small bakery. On the pier is a cafe and a coffee shop with indoor and outdoor seating.

We’ve enjoyed this area and we know we’ve barely scratched the surface of things to see and do. We’re looking forward to returning on future trips to the northwest coast of Washington.

Campground Review: La Conner, WA Thousand Trails

Our move from Birch Bay to La Conner took about an hour. As is often the case, how a person feels about this campground depends on what campsite they get. There are many water/electric sites nestled in the woods. They feel like a lot of the campgrounds in this part of the world. However, there are some sites that are right along Skagit Bay. These are, of course, the most popular. In fact, during busy times there’s a waiting list for them and at 10:00 each morning some happy campers can check in at the ranger station and be told that they can move to one of these sites. The very best, in my opinion, are near the Activity Center. They don’t have sewer hookups, but they make up for it with great views. I noticed that several motorhomes pull into these sites head first to take full advantage of the views. There are several sites with full hookups. Most are woodsy sites but a few have nice views of the bay. We spent the last week of our time here in one of those sites and enjoyed it very much. Supposedly, we could get a satellite TV signal there as well, but I had no luck on that front.

La Conner Thousand Trails is all about the water. The view from the Activity Center is available to all and is simply wonderful. One evening Jackie and I especially enjoyed watching some sea otters. Also, we had a good time looking at an eagle perched high in a tree overlooking the water, master of his domain.

My Verizon phone was iffy at best with 1 or 2 bars of signal strength. Using a signal booster I could get a reliable cell signal and even manage a slow, but usable, data connect at least part of the time. Another reason to hang out at the Activity Center is that it has WiFi. It’s not great WiFi but with a little patience a person can get their internet fix there.

The sunsets here are breathtaking, but cold as the air starts moving up off of the water. I can see why so many people love La Conner Thousand Trails – I really like it here myself.

Peace Arch and Vicinity: Blaine, WA – Vancouver, BC

On the USA side

After riding the bus back to our stop we went to a large downtown Dollar Store. I liked looking at the variety of things on sale there. It was time for a break so we decided to find a place to get some coffee. We’d heard a lot about Tim Horton’s and we were pleased to see one nearby. Tim Horton’s lived up to it’s billing and we enjoyed some excellent coffee. While drinking our coffee, we enjoyed watching all the hustle and bustle of the city as rush hour was winding down. We then caught the train back to our stop and headed back toward the USA. Since we had some Canadian money left we decided to stop in one of the towns along the freeway to eat dinner. To our surprise we realized there was no way back onto the highway! We got an extra tour of the town of White Rock, BC as we searched for a highway entrance. We now know, for instance, where the local Walmart is! Before long, though, we were waiting in line to cross the border back into the USA. We sat in a long line of traffic for about 20 minutes right beside the Peace Arch waiting our turn to show our passports and answer a few questions. By the time we made it back to our campground it was about 9:30pm (not quite dark here in the northwestern United States).

We had a lot of fun visiting Vancouver and I recommend it to you.

In and around Washington’s coastal North Cascades

From there we walked on to the train station and figured out how to buy tickets from the machine. Riding the Sounder commuter train was great! We went to the upper deck and enjoyed the ride right along the coast back to Everett. The view of the Bay and beaches along the way is a real treat. I recommend the trip to Seattle by public transportation and hope to do it again.