1966 Airstream

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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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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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July 29 Mt. Revelstoke

After a day at Glacier National Park, I was eager to drive the “Meadows in the Sky” Parkway. This is the name of the road up Mt. Revelstoke in Revelstoke National Park (Revelstoke is a very fun word to stay. It makes me want to revel! And give me a fire so I can stoke it! ) . In some stroke (stoke) of good fortune, our National Park admission from the previous day was good until 4:00 PM the following day. We entered , started the 20 something kilometer drive, and pulled over to check out this view of Revelstoke and the Columbia River:

view

You are required to park your car 1 kilometer from the top (When in Canada, I try to embrace the Metric System. It is hard. Very hard.), and there is a shuttle to take you to the top. On top, there are a network of short trails and some longer hikes. We wandered around the shorter trails, looking at wildflowers and according to my husband, admiring the National Bird of Canada (The Mosquito). The Ranger who drove the shuttle (the same cheerful guy who warned us about the Mama Grizzly), positively explained that the mosquitos pollinate the wildflowers. I was thankful I had brought the mosquito repellent. Simply on the premise that I would be highly irritated if we needed some and it was back in the Airstream. And need it we did. We had many sightings of the National Bird of Canada, and I got to share with others (even the cheerful Rnager asked for a squirt). The highlight of Mt. Revelstoke was the wildflowers in bloom.

flowers

We were surrounded by Mountains. There were mountains in any direction that you looked. In Canada, there are so many mountains, that a group of them visible from the Fire Lookout was designated “The Unnamed Peaks.” Might I propose the following names: Anonymous, Jane Doe, John Doe, TBD, and Unknown.

Glacier and Mt. Revelstoke are smaller National Parks that must live in the shadows of Banff and Lake Louise. I found these parks to be under-appreciated jewels. This was good luck for us. Neither was crowded. We saw about 8 people on our hike at Glacier National Park.  Mt. Revelstoke was busier and more easily accessible. Our shuttle van to the top was full, but I wouldn’t describe it as crowded. I also appreciated the fact that there were no gift shops or things for sale. This is much different than that National Parks I have visited in the USA, where there are gift shops everywhere.  Though I really wanted a sticker for our Airstream.

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Side Trip: Revelstoke

On the way home from the Glacier hike, we drove through downtown Revelstoke. Our first drive through had been before the hike, when we realized we needed some gas to get up to Roger’s Pass. I noticed a Visitor’s Center near the gas station, and walked over to collect a stamp (two more until I get the prize!). I chatted briefly with the staff, and got a map of Revelstoke. I don’t know how this happened, but our family started watching a Discovery Channel show “Gold Rush”. Because of this, my daughter plays with toy excavators. Anyway, Revelstoke was featured in an episode when Todd goes to collect a trommel, which tumbles and separates rocks and dirt from gold. Or it does when it works. So I asked. The young woman at the Visitor’s Center remembered the filming, and knew the location of the trommel-maker (there must be a better name for this profession, but I do not know it. Mining Supplier?) On our way home, I had the Canadian drive by the industrial park where the trommel was made. He was a little underwhelmed by this suggestion but he did it anyway. Something else was being made in the garage. And the trommel-makers (friends of the elves and the Shoemaker, no doubt) were still at work at 5:30 PM. I snapped this photo:

trommel

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July 28 Glacier National Park

“The Columbia Mountains are steep and the valleys narrow, allowing for only a few easy hikes and a good number of challenging ones” read the trail guide picked up from the Roger’s Pass Visitor’s Centre. With an energetic, solar-powered seven year-old boy and a backpack to carry our two year-old daughter, my husband and I decided that we were up for the Glacier National Park challenge. We headed to the Illecillewaet Campground, and selected the Mt. Sir McDonald trail. We were encouraged by a cheerful Ranger who insisted that the Mama Grizzly and her two cubs spotted in the area would not be much of a danger as long as we stayed in a tight group and made noise. “Sing!” he suggested. I caught his both his optimism and his warning, and proceeded to sing almost every song I know. Our hike began on a wide, flat trail that followed along the ruins of the Glacier House Hotel. Here my concert began, a camp song describing how “The Other Day I Met a Bear.” The trail was formerly a mountaineering route laid by Swiss guides for guests of the hotel. We crossed a bridge at the confluence of the Asulkan and Illecillewaet Rivers. My singing continued “Flea, Fly, Mosquito.” The forested trial continued uphill along the river, not too steep but enough to get my heart pumping. My son scurried, his movement steadily ringing the bear bell on his backpack. We arrived at a sign stating that we were entering an avalanche path, prime grizzly bear country. We proceeded, following the cairns that led us through the boulder field. Hiking, singing, and breathing in high altitude requires a lot of oxygen. I just have a feeling that perhaps, that day was the first time the words to “Oklahoma” rang out in that valley. We declared a stream in the boulders our turn-around spot. The descent was quick, we never met the bears, and the kids happily posed for a picture at the end of the trail. Hiking: if the kids are happy, “Everything is awesome.”

Roger’s Pass Visitor’s Center: I was very happy to find out that Canada has a “Little Explores” program akin the the Junior Ranger Program in the USA National Parks. One of the activities was on “scat”: identifying which animal made the poop on a display in the visitor’s centre (yes, I spelled it the Canadian way. The rangers who greeted me with “Hello. Bon Jour just put me in that sprit) . You will be happy to know that the scat was made out of rubber. I was going through the activity with Shay, and one scat (moose, I believe) was described as looking like a cow pattie. Shay looked at me and said, “What is a cow pattie?” Yes, through the Little Explorers Program I made the horrifying discovery that my son did not know what a cow pattie was nor what it looked like.  I had failed him as a mother some how. I had failed as an Oklahoman raised by Texans.  I had failed as a person who likes clean-ish shoe bottoms.  I knew what a cow pattie was and how to avoid stepping in one by the age of 7 (Thanks Dad, it was probably you who taught me this).   The ranch neighboring the Ranch we were staying at Sicamous houses cows in the winter, so the Canadian was able to point out an old, stepped-on, cow pattie but not a fine specimen. I am on the hunt! No photo on the internet will do. This is field learning, my friends.

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July 25 Border Crossing

We started the morning with a quick trip to downtown Coeur D’Alene. The kids and I got dropped off in a park while Dad packed up the camper. We played on the beach and saw part of the moose trail, that recreates a children’s book about a moose and a mouse.

We drove to Post Falls, Idaho to cross the border into Canada. Interestingly, they have appeared to cut a straight, thin, clearing through the forest and across the mountains that must indicate where the actual border is. I had to deposit our uneaten because-they-froze-in-the-camper-fridge apricots into a chest freezer because they were not allowed across the border. Thankfully the rest of us were. The drive to Kaslo, BC included the longest free ferry ride in North America across Kooteney Lake:

We stayed at the Mirror Lake Campground near Kaslo. The Mirror Lake Campground contained a lakeside vintage playground and a floating dock that you could swim out to and jump off of. I took my first teeter-totter ride with my son and daughter. Reminder: He who weighs the most works the hardest on the see-saw.  I pushed them on a metal merry-go-round (and hopped on) It was always big responsibility, being the pusher who had to hop on. We got what I consider the best site in the campground, right by the lake and by the playground. It was an electrical-only site, and that must be why we got it, since every other trailer/motorhome seemed to be loving their sewer connection (the stinky slinky). It pays to simplify. Our bathroom system still doesn’t work.

mirrorlakecampsite

 

Site 185

 

vintagemerry

 

Ride the Vintage Merry Go Round.

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July 26 Kaslo “Switzerland of the Americas” to Sicamous

switzerlandofamericas

 

We spent the morning in Kaslo, “Switzerland of the America’s” alongside Kootney Lake surrounded by mountains. I was looking for chocolate and a yodeler, which are things I associate with Switzerland. Also, Ricola cough drops. I didn’t find any of the above, though I expect I could have found some chocolate. However, I did find some delicious garlic. I bought it at the Kaslo Saturday market. the It was $2.00. I even think the farmer gave me a discount. I was feeling a bit ripped off until I actual cooked with the garlic. The “Quebec Northern” was lovely, fresh and delicious. I wish I had taken it’s picture, and had a way to thank the garlic-growing farmer.

My family toured a boat with Victorian antiques while I spent some time in the visitor’s center. I picked up BC Parks Passports for us. You gather stamps at visitor centers and provincial parks for a prize! After our morning in Kaslo, we left for our final destination: Sicamous, BC. This trip included a stop in New Denver (visitor center stamp!) and second free ferry ride at Galena Bay. We arrived at the Shuswap Guest Ranch in Sicamous, BC, and were joined by what came to be our favorite evening dinner guest: a screech owl who hunted in the garden on the ranch each evening. The ranch owners told me that it was screech owl, and I believe them, but we never heard any screeching. Perhaps camping with a 2 year old and a 7 year old make us immune to those things, and it doesn’t make sense to screech while hunting anyway. He was very silent while he hunted.

 

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