1966 Airstream

Restoring aluminum on an iron chassis

November/December: Penrose Point State Park

My son and I decided that 2014-2015 was to be the year of the monthly camping trip. We have done well on our family promise, if you count November and December as one month. Between the end of soccer season, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, that is all we could work in. The day after Black Friday, we woke up to snow in the Northwest. The streets cleared by noon, so snow didn’t deter us from heading over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Penrose Point State Park. Nor did the “Severe Sidewinds” sign flashing before we drove over the bridge. I had a flashback from Honors Algebra: the “Galloping Gertie” black and white footage that illustrated the principle of harmonic motion depicted by the collapsing Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I decided to ignore my Central Mid High education and we made it across the bridge without incident. When we arrived, we saw a ranger! And it appeared that we would have the entire campground to ourselves! We did.

All alone at Penrose Point Campground.

All alone at Penrose Point Campground.

The campground host site was available for $29 and had electrical and water/sewer hookups. We brought nothing to plug in, so took an “economy” site. We took a walk near the water, and beat the darkness back to our camper by getting in it at 4:00 PM. We had skipped lunch, and were very hungry for the cabbage pancakes that my husband was going to make. Except I forgot the cabbage. This has been a camping theme lately, forgetting a major meal ingredient. We reheated the homemade Cream of Celery Root soup I had brought for lunch the next day, and depleted the hot chocolate and decaf tea supply. My husband was ready to bake Christmas cookies, part of our “what to do in the camper when it gets dark at 4:00 plan”, but I had forgotten the sugar as well (but remembered the cookie cutters and the rolling pin: there must be points for that careful planning). I brought the Christmas cards to address, so that little holiday job got done. I wished for some of those ridiculous-looking down booties because the floor was very cold. We watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and bundled up to go to sleep. It was probably only 9:00 PM at this point. The predicted overnight low was 27 degrees. I had a mother-panic that my kids would be too cold. So I put them both in the front bed with me, toddler in the middle flanked by a seven-year old and Mom. We were actually pretty cozy.

We awoke to a rare sunny December day and took a 3 mile hike around Penrose Point. It was a perfect family hike through the forested areas with occasional glimpses of the water.

View from Penrose Point to Mount Rainer.

View from Penrose Point to Mount Rainer.

 

There was enough uphill to feel like you got a bit of exercise without totally wearing out my 3 year old daughter. The day use area had fantastic fire-pits with benches right next to the water. Since we never unhooked, the pack up went quickly and we headed to Gig Harbor for my favorite pizza at Pizzeria Fondi (since we had already eaten our lunch for dinner the previous night).

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Shutting Down Ohanapecosh at Mt. Rainier

October 4-6 was the final weekend the Ohanapecosh Campground in Mt. Rainier National Park was open. We arrived Friday night, in the dark, and took what appeared to be one of the few remaining sites on the final weekend. I have taken many day trips to Mt. Rainier, probably at least 25, and done some tent camping at White River and Carbon River campground (before the flood destroyed the road to the campground), but this was the inaugural visit of the Airstream to the National Park in our backyard.

Saturday morning we woke up and drove to Naches Peak at the top of Chinook Pass, to do a favorite hike that is relatively flat and family-friendly, about a 3 mile loop around Naches Peak. The hike is so family-friendly we ran into another family that we know on the trail. It is fantastic hike during wildflower season and also for fall color.

 

Fall color on Naches Peak Trail.

Fall color on Naches Peak Trail.

On Naches Peak Trail.

On Naches Peak Trail.

 

We returned to the campground for some exploratory play around the river and for a campfire.

ocampfire

 

Sunday morning we hiked around the Ohanapecosh campground and visitor center. There are actually hot springs, and ruins of a resort that used to exist. You can feel some heat from the water, but there are no areas for soaking.

Feeling very ambitious, we visited Sunrise on the way back, and dropped the Airstream at the bottom of the road to Sunrise in a parking area. We had a picnic in the picnic area surrounded by short pine trees and chipmunks. I find the area quite fairy-tale like and looked for a gnome to jump out from behind a shrub. We took a short hike on a gloriously sunny October Day. The mountain was as snow-free as it gets, and the glaciers appeared dirty and gray since it had been months since a fresh fallen snow…the impending winter must has arrived shortly after our visit.

A sunny day at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park.

A sunny day at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park.

 

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September: Camping and Soccer

As the school year started, my son and I made a family commitment to go camping once per month. We didn’t want summer to end. Then I looked at the calendar and realized we had a soccer game every Saturday in September, the earliest one starting at 2:00 PM. I hatched a plan to book 2 nights at a campground (Saturday and Sunday), and leave Sunday evening. So, feeling rather adventurous we drove the Airstream to the soccer field, and then to Alder Lake Park for a night of camping. Alder Lake Park is run by Tacoma Power and is located on a dam. The park is large and there are numerous sites, loops, and playgrounds. We have previously visited the campground in March and saw a salamander. Saturday afternoon there was time for Dad and the kids to have a swim in the swimming area while Mom made dinner. We spent Sunday at Paradise in Mt. Rainier.

 

Truly a day in Paradise.

Truly a day in Paradise.

 

It was a sunny day to attempt an ambitious hike with two little troopers. We still have the Kelty backpack to carry our two year old, but each time I use it I promise myself it will be the last. That’s me testing to see if I still have the ability to lift my arms.

 

My arm still works!

My arm still works!

 

We hiked until evening, reunited with the trailer, and drove back home in the dark.

 

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Lake Easton State Park

One of my favorite “zones” of Washington is the area slightly east of the Mountain passes, but before you hit the desert area of Eastern Washington. There are still trees, but the climate is drier and normally there are sunny, blue skies. This part of Washington reminds me of Colorado. This in mind, I was very excited to check out Lake Easton State Park, just about 7 miles past Snoqualmie Summit off of I-90. We arrived in late August in the dark, and woke up to discover that the campground is adjacent to the lake, and the lake has a nice, beachy area.

Lake Easton at sunset.

Lake Easton at sunset.

 

The state park is near a trail that runs on an old railway line. The trail begins in Snoqualmie, WA and goes to Yakima. Or somewhere. Apparently there is a seven mile tunnel along the route, for the non-claustrophobic head-lamped type. It would be a good campground to bring along a bike for every member of the family. We spent a good portion of the day hiking along the trail, which had various signs directing us to Iron Horse State Park, which must be nearby.

I had an experience where my background knowledge heavily influenced my interaction with the present. Santa Claus approached our campsite, and invited us to a presentation on firs of the Northwest. I was excited to learn about pine trees from the Christmas tree man himself. He was dressed in a red knit hat, and had  a lumberjack shirt and a large belt. He was definitely the forest version of Santa Claus but we were, after all, in a forest. We finished dinner and made our way to the amphitheater. Displayed on a table were various furs: beaver, fox, etc. The presentation was on furs of Northwest. I still wondered why the man was dressed like Santa. My husband said they he knew he was dressed as a fur trapper all along. The Canadian had, in fact, dressed as a fur trapper himself for Winnepeg Trapping Days. Oh, the importance of background knowledge and where it can lead you.

 

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Flashback: The Eagle River

On the Eagle River near Sicamous, BC we spent the last day of our four-day stay at the Shuswap Guest Ranch just hanging around our 1966 Airstream and exploring the very local sites. After a breakfast of campfire potatoes, baked in last night’s campfire coals and sauteed with garlic and whatever was left in the fridge, we “suited up” (lifejackets, sunscreen, swimsuits, and hats) for a paddle boat ride on the Eagle River. The goal was to simply get across the river so we could spend some time on a sandy beach located on the other side. It sounds simple, but the current was quite swift.  We paddled the boat upriver first, hard and furious, like we were in some sort of recumbent spin class. This provided just enough speed to keep the boat in place. No progress was being made. Shay found a floating stick and used it as an oar. With a combination of paddling, propelling ourselves with sticks, and grabbing onto any strong looking vegetation on the bank for some forward momentum, we slowly made it a half a kilometer up the river. It was time to aim for the other side. With some frantic paddling and a successful grab for some riverside vegetation, and we crossed the river, our only task now to do some gentle steering as we were pushed along by the current to our beachy destination. We arrived at the beach area and got out of the boat. My husbands first discovery was some bear footprints on the beach that would make our last night in our Airstream all the more exciting, the noises outside just that much more thrilling. A fallen tree that had floated downriver provided a perfect buffer between the beach and the swift moving current, and doubled as a diving board for anyone brave enough to jump in the cold water. Shay was this brave. I was not. After our beach fun, Shay hopped in the river and towed our boat slightly upstream so that we could aim for the dock on the other side of the river.  Derek told the story that his Mother’s ancestors were “river folk” who came to Germany from Austria to work transporting things up and down the Rhine. He said that they used a combination of horses and human power to tow the boats back up the Rhine after they had floated downstream.  Evidently, this is where Shay has gotten his rather considerable skill at river towing.  We had lunch and tried to get our kids to nap in the coolness and shade of the willow trees. Nobody napped, so we abandoned this plan and headed to the D Dutchman Dairy for some ice cream.

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Labor Day

When you begin searching to reserve Labor Day trailer sites in mid-August, there is not much available (Restorable Iron tip: reserve sites early on popular camping weekends). I wished we owned lovely rural property. I wished for friends that owned lovely rural property. I got something just as good: friends that plan ahead and book sites at Lake Chelan National Park. Tent sites! We have not camped in a tent in 3 years. In fact, my daughter had never camped in a tent. Preparing for camping without the Airstream felt like I was going to be leaving a member of the family at home.  As I pillaged it for things we might need, I leaned close and assured it that I still loved it.  And face it, packing up the car for camping is a bit more work than preparing the Airstream for the weekend. But we got reacquainted with our Jet Boil and Thermarests. We got dressed/undressed without standing up.  It was great.  Some Highlights: Hiking Little Bear Trail, friends and lots of kids to play with, looking at all of the fantastic tent sites on the beach (really, some of the most awesome car camping sites I have ever seen) , swimming in Lake Chelan, visiting Chelan Estates winery, and visiting the cute and delicious Local Myth Pizzeria selected by a friend with great taste in restaurants.  In fact, she proposed a great camping idea for meal planning, pack breakfasts and lunches but go out for dinner. Lake Chelan State Park is a 10-15 minute drive from the town of Chelan, WA and this was an excellent plan that cut down on some of the prep work around camping.  Especially the work required when camping without the 22 foot long, silver member of your family.

 

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Family Camping: A Top Ten List

Most of our airstreaming is done as “Weekend Warriors.” I love taking a longer trip during the summer, but during the school year we are pretty much limited to weekends. For a weekend trip, I find it ideal to leave Friday night, thus giving us the entire day of Saturday to play, explore, and if we are lucky, relax. Sunday morning there is time for breakfast and a walk, and then we head home. This schedule, however, comes at a cost: the late-night Friday arrival with two amped-up children, ages 7 and 2.  I am convinced that we might have a reputation. The vintage Airstream towed by a maroon Toyota 4 Runner, rolling into the campground after dark with two screaming children, disturbing everyone who managed to somehow, leave home earlier than us. When we arrived much in this manner on a Friday night in August, I had only one thought: We shall overcome. My husband and I surely have the children skills and camping skills to make our late-night arrivals peaceful ones. So, in the spirit of helpfulness,  I wrote the following “top eleven” list for Peaceful, Late-night Campground Arrivals With Children, in the dark, at 10:00 PM:

1. Dress them in their jammies for the car trip. One less thing to do when you arrive.

2. Serve a soothing dinner full of tryptophan. We usually do a car picnic for the ride to the campsite. (Sandwiches, fruit, chips, or a run to Subway if I just can’t get it done.) De-emphasize sugar and emphasize protein and whole grain carbs. In fact, a full Thanksgiving turkey dinner normally makes everyone want to sleep. Do this.

3. Bring a change of jammies because they are bound to get messy during the Thanksgiving car picnic. Nix the cranberry sauce next time.

4.Have the beds in the camper ready as possible to slide into. There is usually a bike strapped to one of our beds. Just put a helmet on your kid, put them to bed, and sort it out in the morning.

5. Have jobs for everyone to do upon arrival. Screaming and hanging out the window are not good jobs. My seven year old son is as good/better at directing the Canadian to back up the trailer in the dark as I am. But we don’t want him to get run over so he screams and hangs out the window.

6. Forget the jobs. Pay extra for a pull-through site.

7. Pack favorite beer and wine. For the parents. This is glamping after all. Pack more than you think you will need.

8. Glance at the map of the campground before your trip when you feel serene. Note your site and the location of the restrooms. I am pretty sure that I wandered through people’s yards at a very urban RV park in Benton City, WA.

9. After arriving, parking, and settling in, The longer you leave the lights on the wilder and more amped everyone gets. Turn them off!

10. Wear your own Jammie’s on the car trip, because it is pretty much guaranteed you will just collapse into bed at some point! Ouch! Was that a handlebar.

11. Sweet dreams. They’ll be up at Sunrise. Make sure your favorite coffee and tea are stocked.

anotherfreeferry

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End of the Road: Sicamous to Chiliwack

The last day of our trip involved a big breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and one last Sicamous garden cucumber followed by a busy morning of packing up.  I think we left by noon. Near Sicamous we passed through a city called Salmon Arm, and after leaving Salmon Arm we traveled several hours through mountains until the town of Hope, British Columbia.  We were fortunate to have a great friend allow us to leave our Airstream in his driveway in Chilliwack while we took a side trip to visit family on Vancouver Island. After all, an Airstream enhances the neighborhood. 

tripmap

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Our Last Day

At the Shuswap Guest Ranch near Sicamous, BC we spent the last day of our four-day stay just hanging around our 1966 Airstream and exploring the very local sites.

last day

After a breakfast of campfire potatoes, baked in last night’s campfire coals and sauteed with garlic and whatever was left in the rv rv fridge, we “suited up” (lifejackets, sunscreen, swimsuits, and hats) for a paddle boat ride on the Eagle River. The goal was to simply get across the river so we could spend some time on a sandy beach located on the other side. It sounds simple, but the current was quite swift. So we paddled the boat upriver first. The Canadian and I paddled hard and furious, like we were in some sort of recumbent spin class. This provided just enough speed to keep the boat in place. No progress was being made. My seven year-old son found a floating stick and used it as an oar. With a combination of paddling, propelling ourselves with sticks, and grabbing onto any strong looking vegetation on the bank for some forward momentum, we slowly made it a half a kilometer up the river. It was time to aim for the other side. With some frantic paddling and a successful grab for some riverside vegetation, and we crossed the river, our only task now to do some gentle steering as we were pushed along by the current to our beachy destination. We arrived at the beach area and got out of the boat. The Canadian’s first discovery was some bear footprints on the beach that made our last night in our Airstream all the more exciting, the noises outside just that much more thrilling.

morebeartrax

A fallen tree that had floated downriver provided a perfect buffer between the beach and the swift moving current, and doubled as a diving board for anyone brave enough to jump in the cold water. My son was this brave. I was not. After our beach fun, my son hopped in the river and towed our boat slightly upstream so that we could aim for the dock on the other side of the river. We had lunch and tried to get our kids to nap in the coolness and shade of the willow trees. Nobody napped, so we abandoned this plan and headed to the D Dutchman Dairy for some ice cream. We visited the farm animals and indulged in coffee ripple, and cotton candy flavor ice cream. We returned home, and cooked our final “glamping” dinner: veggies from Carrie’s garden (potatoes, cabbage, beet greens, a few cherry tomatoes, yellow squash) , sauteed with eggs, and rolled up in a tortilla burrito-style. I believe the formal name is eggeritos. We served it with beer from the Mt. Begbie Brewery in Revelstoke. As with any camping meal, it was the best we ever had. Food always tastes good when you are camping.

food

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July 29 Part Deux: The Enchanted Forest

 

Seventeen years ago, my husband and I sped past the Enchanted Forest. He wasn’t my husband then, but I do believe he asked me if I wanted to go. By the time I answered, he had left it in the dust (PS, I kind of wanted to go, but I remember it being dark and it must have been closing time. ). Now we have a 7 year old with just enough reading skills to determine that this is a place he must visit. So we did. I was expecting a Roadside Attraction. With the exception of the Big Texan in Amarillo, I haven’t been to many Roadside Attractions so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. In a forest that looks like it belongs on the West side of the Mountains (ferns, big trees, etc), concrete figurines of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters are displayed. Allegedly, the figures were made without molds, which seems like a very challenging thing to do with concrete. It is not clay. Some of them looked a bit scary in the way clowns are scary, but we had a good time.

kittens

Poor little kittens.

Most impressive, as my husband pointed out, were the fairy tale houses: Little houses constructed out of real wood, stone, brick, and wood shinglest hat were just the right size for my two year old daughter. As the Canadian said, if these were at Disneyland, they would be made of styrofoam or plastic, and probably wired for internet. But in British Columbia, it is the real thing. I expected Frodo Baggins or at least one of the seven dwarfs to step out and say hello.

fairy houseshoe

A hobbit house and The Old Woman who lived in the Shoe.

After a one hour walk through the enchantment, we headed back to the Nature Trail to take a swamp boat ride. The swamp was impressive: no bugs and it was not smelly (Ahh..this is the swamp for Disneyland). It was about 2 feet deep, and you could see to the bottom so the water was quite clear. We put on some ancient life jackets and paddled around for a bit.  We walked back via the nature trail and were delighted to see another vintage Airstream in the parking lot. A “Bambi” sized one.

 

 

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