Deep South

Friday, October 1st. Easy drive today from Edisto Island, SC to Savannah, GA. Back on I-95 again for the first time in 6 months! We are staying at a Boondockers site. 8 acres under ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Our host has 2 large, untrained rambunctious golden retrievers who jumped up on the truck door and scratched it to welcome us. When I got out they jumped on me too and almost knocked me down. Also the electric hookup works only sporadically and it’s hot and humid here in the Deep South so no AC! But it’s a beautiful, familiar, overgrown, weedy (Bidens alba galore!) landscape and we enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Saturday, October 2nd. Wash day at Savannah Coin & Laundry. Taking advantage of the AC and WiFi while waiting for our laundry to be done. We are the only 2 masked patrons in this establishment. Such has been the case since we crossed into South Carolina and continued on to points south. After the laundry we drove to the Savannah Botanical Garden. Pleasant, mostly shady stroll under the oaks. Just across the street from the Boondockers’s place is a public boat ramp on the Vernon River. We walked out there and back, admiring the ancient giant oaks and plantation style homes along the River.

Sunday, October 3rd. Got out by 9 – early for us – to beat the heat for the 5 mile drive to Skidaway Island State Park. This is the park where we couldn’t get a spot because this weekend was the local Airstream RV club rally at the park. We discovered this in talking to Scott Falkner, our Boondockers host in Awendaw SC, who has an Airstream and was planning to attend. In fact, as we drove into Skidaway this morning, who should be driving out? We stopped and exchanged brief hellos but I’m pretty sure he had no idea who we were. Out of context!

This is a lovely park with several trails through salt marsh, marsh hammocks and barrier island. We took a one mile loop and enjoyed the many familiar plants and insects.

There’s a nice new visitor center with a display of a giant sloth skeleton. They lived mostly in South America but also in this area for 2 million years until they disappeared about 10,000 years ago.


Northward bound?!

Wednesday, September 22nd.
We made a temporary diversion from our generally southeast trajectory and departed Asheville heading northeast. Our destination: Rocky Knob campground in Blue Ridge Parkway National Park. Linda C., an acquaintance from Master Gardener and Florida Master Naturalist classes has been camp hosting here for five years and had raved about the location, eight miles south of funky Floyd, VA, a foothills town where there is bluegrass music in the streets every weekend. Also, we have friends in Blacksburg and have been planning a visit for a few years. Now’s the time!
It was a white-knuckled drive from Asheville in wind and rain with a constant stream of tractor trailers blowing by. Once we got off I-77 at Fancy Gap onto the Blue Ridge Parkway it was a different story. There was still the wind and rain but no other traffic and breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge plateau to the east and west under a brooding sky.

Thursday, September 23rd. Sunny, breezy, cool. Perfect! Talked to camp host Fred, Linda’s husband. Linda’s back in Palm Beach County caring for her ailing sister so Fred’s holding the fort. Got some good tips from Fred. For example, the Floyd Bee Sanctuary has an open house today! Called to find out their hours but learned that they canceled the open house because of a dramatic Covid spike in Floyd county. Walked around all 3 loops of the mostly empty campground.

Drove into Floyd and walked around the town. Went into the Country Store and was tempted by the menu special vegan curry so shared a dish for lunch, sitting inside and eating restaurant food for the first time in over a year. Note to self for next time we’re tempted: Not worth the anxiety of going maskless indoors.

Drove 45 minutes north to Blacksburg and onto the campus of Virginia Tech. Found the Hahn Horticultural garden and wandered around for an hour, congratulating ourselves on finding the only visitor parking on campus When we got back to the truck we found a warning citation – it’s visitor parking but you still have to pay using a mobile app?! Then it was time to visit N and family at their beautiful home just a few blocks from the campus where N teaches. They have chickens and a vegetable garden in their lush backyard, including the scotch bonnet plants I had started from seeds of the peppers at Mounts. Out front there are tomatoes and native wildflowers. E. drove to an Ethiopian restaurant in Radford for take-out dinner so we had lovely injera with a variety of veggies and lentils on the back deck. N sent us home with fresh eggs, green beans from the garden and those incandescent habaneros!

Friday, September 24th. Another gorgeous day. Set off on the Rock Castle Gorge hike. This set of loops and trails hugs the ridge, dives up and down through Forest, connects to wonderful picnic areas and overlooks, with expansive views in all directions. Much to look at… many mushrooms of all types..deer…changing trees; most impressive were the tremendous variety of granite and quartz boulders and shelves, in every shape and orientation; some running water… parts were on the Old Appalachian trail, including an old shelter of stone, restored, perched over the ridge. Along the 7 or so miles, we met a few couples and single hikers. Perfect weather and one of the all time most pleasant of this trip!!

Saturday, September 25th. Sorry to say Goodbye to the Blue Ridge! And sorry to get back on the interstate! I-77 out of Virginia, through North Carolina and into South Carolina where I got the first perceived stink-eye of the trip while wearing my mask inside the South Carolina welcome center on I-77 when I asked the attendant for a map. So much for the famous southern hospitality. Shortly thereafter, the second stink-eye was in a gas station convenience store on our way to Chester State Park in Chester, SC. Maybe just my overactive imagination …?
This park is lovely, wooded and quiet with a small (16 sites) campground on Chester Lake. We took a walk around the lake to a spillway constructed by the CCC! Made refried beans for dinner using 1/2 of one habanero. Much coughing and eye-watering ensued. Surprisingly it didn’t set off the fire alarm but it was the hottest pepper we ever tasted!

Sunday, September 26th. Peaceful Sunday morning! Got a slow start and by 11:30 we were in the truck for the 5 mile trip to Walmart for some supplies. For lunch had those 6-alarm refried beans with rice on tostadas. During the heat of the day (yes, we’re back in the South!) we rested up from all that intense activity. Later when it cooled off a bit we walked around the lake in the other direction past the boathouse to the fishing bridge and back. Lazy day, but so pleasant!

Monday, September 27th. Today’s drive was a straight shot south on I-77 to Columbia and then southeast on I-26 to our Boondockers host location, “Bugtussle,” in Awendaw , a suburb of Charleston, SC. This is a beautiful rural (but soon to be suburban) location within a 20 minute drive from all amenities important to us, including Costco, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, and oil change where we used the WiFi to post our blog entries.

Tuesday, September 28th. Busy day! On the road by 8 am for that much- needed oil change. Got fuel, then drove to Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge boat launch and ferry dock. Met a fellow Master Naturalist at the end of the dock. Larry Price (photographer) and his late wife Rosie wrote & illustrated a book about the blackwater Edisto River. Met a couple setting up their new inflatable Sea Eagle kayak. Only 40 lbs! They highly recommended it! Then we drove up the road trying to find the NWR visitor center without success. We did find the Shell Ring Trail in the National Forest. Love this beautiful South Carolina Low Country! So similar in flora and landscape to our familiar South Florida stomping grounds!


Wednesday, September 29th. Found the NWR visitor center but it’s closed due to COVID-19. Also, it’s called the Seewee Environmental Education Center. Walked along the nature trail but soon realized we were on an unmarked and unmaintained track in Francis Marion National Forest.

Golden silk orb weaver (Nephila clavipes)

Walked through innumerable spider webs stretching across the path. We think they were golden silk orb weavers. Finally turned back and found the boardwalk through the swamp with a spur leading to a blind overlooking the endangered red wolf habitat.

Edisto Island State Park. Back on the Atlantic side of the continent!

Back to Bugtussle by noon and on the road for the short (76mile) drive to our next campsite at Edisto Island State Park. Walked down to the beach after lunch. Hot here in the Deep South!

Thursday, September 30th. Drove to the beach for sunrise.

Later, went into all the little beach gift shops but it was all the predictable, generic stuff made in China. Drove into the town of Edisto where there is a lovely bookshop. Good browsing!

Eastward Bound: Effigy Mounds, Iowa – Illinois – Indiana – Kentucky – Tennessee – North Carolina!

Tuesday, September 7th. We had read The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams, an unconventional, personal and political travelogue of several national parks and monuments, including Effigy Mounds. This was our inspiration to visit.

Some of the mounds are conical, and some are effigies shaped like bears or birds. The shapes are best seen from above, as in this satellite image. You can walk to the Mounds, but not on them, out of respect, as they are mostly low burial Mounds. The park service mows the grass around them, but lets the weeds grow on the Mounds so the bear shaped ones look like shaggy bears. At the Visitor Center there are the usual excellent exhibits, including one explaining how the sunrise and sunset align with one of the conical mound groups on “cross-quarter days” – a concept new to us: a cross quarter day is the day halfway between the solstice and the equinox.

We took a hike up the bluff behind the Visitor Center to the Little Bear Mound group and the Great Bear Mound Group, and back down. Light rain on and off. We had the trail mostly to ourselves!

About 7 miles south of Effigy Mounds, our campground at Pike’s Peak State Park has a good network of trails branching out from the picnic area day use parking lot and the dramatic scenic overlooks on the bluffs with breathtaking views of the upper Mississippi River and its braided estuaries where it meets the Wisconsin River. Across the River we could see the town of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, with matching bluffs rising behind the town.

We took a short hike to Bridal Veil Falls and back to the campground.

Wednesday, September 8th. We noticed on the Wisconsin end of the bridge over the Mississippi a sign for the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, so decided to explore. There is a trail along the River and through the woods to an overlook. Completely deserted. We saw an eagle!

Did our laundry in Prairie du Chien, then headed back to the Visitor Center and took a short walk along a boardwalk to a site on the Yellow River where the original inhabitants had a seasonal village. From reading The Hour of Land, we knew that a former Superintendent of this park had been fired because she had a boardwalk built without the required tribal approvals, and it apparently destroyed some burial sites. We asked at the Visitor Center whether this was the boardwalk in question. The ranger said no, that boardwalk had been dismantled and replaced by the existing, re-routed boardwalk. We had another question. On the park brochure map there is a cryptic note: “Ask at the Visitor Center about other areas of the National Monument that this map does not show.” So, we asked. Turns out that there is a separate unit of the park, called the Sny Magill Unit, located several miles down the road from our campground, past a bridge, around a curve and sharp left on an unmarked dirt road. There is a public boat launch at the end of the road, and a closed gate with a National Monument sign. Pedestrians can get around the gate, so we did.

SL: A pretty but unexceptional quarter mile meander through woods made us think we might be disappointed. It opened to a park like setting along the River. We could sense the tranquility and low Mounds were strung like flattened pearls along a slightly elevated ridge; the mound were not marked, but the caretakers had mowed around each. We walked the entire length, perhaps a half mile or less, before spotting anyone else, as the water broadened into what seemed like a still lake. It seemed more like a sacred place, as opposed to a tourist site, and so easy to imagine a now forgotten people here, honoring their loved ones, giving them rest amid the overhanging trees. A truly beautiful spot and yet, as with so many of the dozens of First Peoples sites we have visited, heavy with loss and thoughts of the ignorance and cruelty of those who came after… We lingered and walked and celebrated in silence the aura of the place, and those who protect it. The NPS does a good job, but I think that what remains of such places might be better served by returning these lands to local tribes.

Our last evening here we took a sunset walk to the overlook, got overtaken by a sudden cloudburst, and then rewarded by a spectacular sunset!

Thursday, September 9th. A scant 200 miles on backroads through eastern Iowa into Illinois. Our Boondockers hosts the Godsils have named their site “Impressive Sunsets,” but what was most impressive was the size of their outbuildings, housing an immaculate antique fire engine, various farm equipment as well as their own large motorhome which was at that moment at the “Fly-in” in nearby Galesburg, IL. The Godsils are heavily involved in organizing and managing the Fly-in which caters to owners and pilots of pre-WWII Stearman bi-planes, originally built in Witchita, KS as US Army Air Corps training planes. Likely a rich man’s avocation, and another interesting subculture we previously knew nothing about! We didn’t unhitch but just availed ourselves of the 50 amp electric and water hookups and took off at the crack of ten the next morning.
Friday, September 10th. On our way to our Boondockers location in Arthur, IL, we took a wrong turn and took a secondary road back to the correct route. On the way, we noticed a sign for Dickson Mounds State Museum. It was only 2 miles out of the way, so we made a stop. This is a very impressive, world-class museum with displays curated by the University of Illinois. The story is that in 1927 chiropractor Don Dickson started excavating the burial Mounds on his land. Over time, the human remains have been removed from the museum and repatriated to the relevant tribal authorities, but many artifacts remain. We didn’t have time to explore the surroundings, which include a large burial complex and various burial Mounds on a low bluff overlooking the Illinois River near Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. This interesting place suggested two possible themes for future trips: Mounds and National Wildlife Refuges. Due to this unplanned stop, we were later than anticipated at our next Boondockers site, but were warmly welcomed by our (Mennonite?) hosts the Millers nonetheless. This was another easy back-in to a level, graveled spot with water and electric hookups. We had great conversations about their family, community, farming and travels. We were amazed to hear that “no-one in Illinois needs to irrigate.” We got the impression that many farmers are actually real estate investors as much as they are farmers. They have a house in Sarasota, FL so they are snowbirds. One of their sons was an early investor in Bitcoin so he retired early and now lives in Sarasota.
Saturday, September 11th. Took backroads again through the beautiful farmland of Illinois into Indiana. We marveled all along from Nebraska, through Iowa and Illinois at how lovely is this verdant, rolling, expansive agricultural landscape. When we remarked on this to our hosts, they said “Shhhh!”

Our stop for the weekend was Hardin Ridge Recreation Area in Hoosier National Forest south of Bloomington, Indiana. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and a football game was in progress at the University of Indiana. The traffic was hellacious, churches were charging $20 for parking across the street from the stadium, and hundreds of RVs were lined up for tailgate parties in the stadium parking lot. No one was masked.But we found our campground and campsite and set up handily. The sites are spacious and wooded and pleasant walking trails connect the various loops with the beach and picnic area at Lake Monroe that is the primary attraction for local fishermen. Took some walks, relaxed and recovered from the succession of days of driving interspersed with cross-country one-night-stands.
Monday, September 13th. Back on the interstate: I-65 to I-64 to good old I-75 south into Kentucky and our Boondockers hosts B+P in the big little town of London, KY. In advance of our arrival P sent me a 4 page PDF document with precise directions, the long and short versions, and detailed listings of local amenities and attractions. As I read it, I thought to myself, I wonder if this lady is a librarian. Sure enough, when we pulled in, she was wearing a public library T-shirt and it turns out she recently retired as director of the local public library. We had a good time chatting about library careers and shared interests. This was a rest stop of sorts; we did chores like laundry, shopping (Walmart, Kroger’s) and CVS (no dice with Scott’s Rx). We did take some time to explore the local Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park, with it’s beautiful old mill and “Library of Mountain Millstones.” We learned more than we could have imagined about how millstones were made and “dressed.” Took a short hike on the “Boone Trace” trail – ostensibly following in Daniel Boone’s footsteps!

Wednesday, September 15th – Saturday, September 18th. Cade’s Cove Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Wednesday: Cades Cove famous Loop Road is closed for resurfacing so the campground is a lot emptier than it probably would otherwise be. Took a walk around the campground along Abrams Creek making a loop around and back to the ranger station.

Thursday: Drove 25 miles east along the lovely, winding Little River road to the Sugarlands Visitor Center. People lined up outside waiting to get in because of social distancing requirements. At least everyone inside had to be masked. In search of old growth, walked the Cove Hardwoods nature trail. Saw some big tulip trees. Planned to drive up Newfound Gap Road up to Clingman’s Dome and do more hiking BUT!!Traffic on Newfound Gap Road!!! Turned Back!

Friday: Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. We get through the morning routine and walk up Crooked Ridge, starting at the riding stables just a quarter mile from the campsite. It is overcast, nice temps, winding uphill through open field, through ultimate forest environments, skirting next to the flowing water. Deep ruts from running rain and thousands of boots, quite a few hewn steps; winding, pretty steep, but doable. Passed 3 couples on the trail, one of which said they heard tell of 6 bears up on the Ridge. Saw Bear scat but not the rumored six pack. We traveled mostly vertical for nearly 3 miles when early Fall started a conversation of stiff breeze and misty droplets. So, we headed down, passing a young family with 4 children near the stream. They pointed out a copperhead curled up among the rocks near the trail. We reached camp just as the serious rain commenced. A cozy unplanned PM of soup and sandwich and good reading closed out the day.

Saturday: back to Visitor Center to buy books, drove out of the park through Gatlinburg to the Greenbrier entrance and the trailhead for Ramsay Cascades hike through old growth. Gatlinburg: the Coney Island of the Smokies! Unbelievably crowded, touristy, dense traffic including many vintage cars and trucks with giant mufflers. Scott saw this bumper sticker: “Admit it: You love the smell of diesel.” Multistory condo-type buildings marching up the mountainsides above town. Ramsay Cascade: Parking at trailhead too crowded, plus got rained out. Drove back through Pigeon Forge to avoid Gatlinburg. But the crowds and traffic in Pigeon Forge were worse! Dollywood plus every franchise known to man. On the road back to Townsend, saw amazing rain clouds sitting over the mountains, moving closer, and then the deluge caught up with us. So grateful to be back in the quiet, nearly empty campground. We found out where the WiFi router is located near the concession store and used the strong signal there to catch up on email, etc.

Sunday, September 19th. Gridlock on I-40 but otherwise a pretty drive from Tennessee into western North Carolina and Lake Powhatan Recreation Area in Pigsah National Forest outside Asheville. Old friends from St. Croix Cynthia and Roger live here and unbeknownst to us our beloved older friends Jake and Louise were visiting them. They all came to visit us at our campsite on Sunday afternoon and we had a great time catching up after over 30 years apart!

Monday, September 20th. Went to the nearest CVS and miraculously, they were able to fill Scott’s Rx for eyedrops. Later, Cynthia, Louise and I went to the NC Arboretum just down the road from the campground, while Scott and Jake stayed at the campground and continued to rekindle their 40+ year-old friendship.

Tuesday, September 21st. Made a run to the Whole Foods Market for miso, etc. Walked around the campground and down the Beach Trail to Lake Powhatan fishing pier and dam and back. Had tentatively planned to get together with C&R and J&L again but this didn’t pan out so had a quiet, pleasant rainy afternoon here in solitary splendor.

Eastward bound: Wyoming – Nebraska – Iowa

Thursday, September 2nd. Covered 273 miles across Wyoming past the towns of Billings, Bozeman and Butte, with wild, hilly, sparsely populated country in between. Stopped at a rest area in Powder River Country with a livestock exercise area in addition to the usual pet exercise area.

We ended up at Trail Ruts Campground in Larson town park in Guernsey, Wyoming. Right across the street from the campground is the Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site, where the hundreds of thousands of wagons heading west along the Oregon Trail carved five foot deep ruts in the sandstone. Years ago we went hiking south of Pendleton, Oregon in search of these much vaunted ruts, to no avail. But here they are, to our surprise, an easy stroll from our campsite.

Lovely campground except for overly zealous mosquito spraying at nightfall.

Friday, September 3rd. Guernsey, Wyoming to North Platte, Nebraska, and a surprisingly pleasant commercial campground just off I-80.

Saturday, September 4th. From North Platte on the western edge of Nebraska to Ceresco on the eastern edge, just north of Lincoln, home of the Iowa State University Cornhuskers! Our Boondockers host, wearing a Huskers tshirt and helpfully guided us to park on the grass verge between their house and the street in this tiny town surrounded by cornfields and grain silos.

Sunday, September 5th. Cambridge, Iowa – another hidden gem. The little farm towns here in corn and soybean country are picturesque and immaculate, unlike the sad, derelict little mill towns or mining towns of the rust belt or Appalachia or the south east. Just goes to show what government price supports and farm subsidies can do. “Socialism” at work, despite the predominance of Trump signs throughout the region!

We avoided all political discussions with our delightful, welcoming Boondockers hosts, Monte and Carolyn. Monte’s family has owned this farm for over 150 years! We had water & electric hookups on a perfectly level gravel pad under a tree. There is a rails to trails bike path just up the road and we had a pleasant sunset stroll along the path, into town and back.

Monte had a grand time showing off his restored tractors to a willing audience!

And we all had a grand time swapping travel stories!

Monday, September 6th. Happy Labor Day! Wish we could have stayed longer in Cambridge, IA but we hit the road again keeping to back roads to northeast Iowa, Pikes Peak State Park on a bluff overlooking the upper Mississippi River, and just a few miles from our destination, Effigy Mounds National Monument. Granted, we arrived at the end of Labor Day weekend and the camp hosts and staff must have been very busy, but our campsite was strewn with trash and likewise the fire pit. ☹️ Worse yet, the site was lumpy and bumpy, making it impossible to level our rig. Otherwise, it’s a nice park in a good location, but avoid site#11 if you can!

Tuesday, September 7th. At long last, Effigy Mounds!

Eastbound: Paradise Bay to Wyoming, or 🎶🎵“Smoke Gets in your Eyes”🎵🎶

One of our last projects at Paradise Bay: helping Charles mount this beautiful painting of an Orca on the address post at the driveway.

Sunday, August 29, 2021. We crossed the Cascades over Snoqualmie Pass, descending into the Palouse, a gently rolling agricultural area in eastern Washington. We discovered that there is a 250 mile Rails to Trails project called the Palouse to Cascades Trail, running from the western slopes of the Cascades to the Idaho border. Someday we’ll come back and hike part of it… Our first stop was at a Boondockers Welcome host site on a working farm. The owner texted us a couple days before our arrival to say that he had tested positive for Covid-19 (despite having been vaccinated) and they were in 10 day quarantine. Did we still want to come stay? We could stay out in a field behind the dairy barn away from the house and could avoid all contact? OK, we’ll do it! When we arrived, they did come out to say hello but we stayed within shouting distance. After that, all was peace and quiet in this cornfield oasis!

Boondocking in the cornfields

Monday, August 30th. As we continued east, the patchy smoke thickened and soon the distant mountains were just a faint blue silhouette. We stopped for the night at a commercial campground 30 miles west of Missoula, Montana, right on the Clark Fork River of osprey webcam fame! There were some steps leading down to the river from the campground and we did see some osprey floating above!

Scott wearing a mask for the smoke, not the virus!
Smoky haze over the hills

Tuesday, August 31st. We’ve tried to plan this part of our trip so we drive no more than 250 miles in a single day, so the driving has not been grueling so far. Today was a light day – only 200 miles to Three Forks, Montana and Missouri Headwaters State Park, a small (17 site) campground near the confluence of three smaller rivers (the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin) which meet there to become the Missouri. Lewis and Clark camped here, and this is also the home of their guide Sacajawea, who we learned was not paid for her efforts! We enjoyed hiking some of the many short riverside trails from trailheads right in the campground.

Wednesday, September 1st. Our longest day so far: 287 miles. But pretty easy driving on I-90 across Montana into Wyoming. Stopped for the night at Lazy-R Campground in Ranchester, Wyoming, taking advantage of the full hookups including WiFi!

Summer’s End: the last 6 weeks

We are winding down to our last week at the cabin after three glorious summer months here on the Olympic Peninsula. Here are a few reminders of our action-packed, fun-filled sojourn.

Summer Project (one of many): Scott and Charles built a remote controlled lawnmower
Words with Friends: Helen and Elaine played together on opposite coasts through the summer, maintaining a years-long streak! “FIQH” – good Scrabble word to remember!
Charles and Scott on the lawn at Concerts in the Barn: free live classical music concerts every summer weekend in Quilcene, WA.
July 27th: we bought a couple bales of hay to make a compost pile in Charles’ garden.
August 5th: took a mini-vacation at Scenic Beach State Park in Seabeck, WA, just 9 miles west of Silverdale. One of the nicest campgrounds ever! Spacious, quiet, private sites. At sunset there was the distant sound of a child practicing a classical violin piece. Our neighbors had a “Teach Peace” bumper sticker. We took a short hike up the road from the park at Guillemot Cove.

Top: views of the Olympic Mountains over Hood Canal from Scenic Beach SP. Bottom: the marina at Seabeck, and the Guillemot Cove trailhead.

August 6th: Clear cutting up Andy Cooper Road just up the hill from Charles’ cabin! One good thing: we had an unobstructed view of the night sky for watching the Perseids!
August 13th: Friday night is pizza night!
August 14th: another summer project- constructing a ramp up to the new tool shed.
Ini’s dahlias coming back after weeding and mulching.
August 22nd: KIM CHI!! My first successful batch, thanks to Emmymade YouTube instructions!

Six weeks later…

We arrived at the cabin nearly 6 weeks ago. Here’s a photo diary of our time here so far.

June 2nd. We took the Bainbridge ferry from the Peninsula to Seattle for Ini’s celebration of life.
Taking flowers from Ini’s memorial to a neighbor before leaving Seattle and returning to the Peninsula.
Taking one of several truckloads from the Seattle house to Goodwill.
June 9th. On the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry back to the Peninsula.
June 14th. Rainbow at Salt Creek Recreation Area campground.
Sea stack at Crescent Beach where Salt Creek runs into the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
On Crescent Beach at low tide.
June 20th. Wearing laurel wreaths to celebrate Summer Solstice.
Summer solstice bonfire.
June 24th. In anticipation of the heat dome before it clamped down on the Pacific Northwest- sign posted at the Poulsbo Home Depot.
June 25th. On the beach at Admiralty Inlet, Fort Flagler State Park, Marrowstone Island, with Mount Baker shining over the horizon.
Scott takes the plunge!
July 4th bonfire. Wild party!
July 5th. Welcome to Dosewallips State Park!
On the Maple Valley Trail at Dosewallips.
A side stream of the Dosewallips River.

July 7th. Crossing the dry streambed of Phantom Creek on the Maple Valley-Steam Donkey Loop trail, Dosewallips State Park.
Forest bathing.
Local History.

Memorial Days

Thursday, May 27th. Chilly and damp our last evening at Sunset Bay. In preparation for our long (238 miles, steep up and down, winding) drive to Fort Stevens we left early this morning and continued north up the Oregon Coast on Highway 101.

Fort Stevens is a huge (500+ campsites), sprawling park with great historical (Lewis & Clark, 1906 wreck of the Peter Iredale, WWII battery, Civil War fort… ) and recreational resources. It’s packed on these days leading up to Memorial Day weekend. Surprisingly buggy here in the woods near the dunes and the Pacific Beach. We took a 6 mile hike from the campground on a network of fantastic paved bike trails – as usual we were the only humans on the trail – over the dunes to the beach and the wreck of the Peter Iredale, extremely windy and dramatic.

Over the dunes
Scott running down the empty beach
Wild, beautiful dunes at Fort Stevens State Park. Reminiscent of the dunes at Truro on Cape Cod!

Friday, May 28th. Got diesel and groceries at Fred Meyer in Warrenton, OR. After lunch we drove to Parking Lots A, B and C where there are trails over the dunes to the beach again, with excellent birdwatching opportunities. We saw Canada geese, least terns, Osprey, semi-palmated plovers, various sandpipers, common murres, unidentified ducks, possibly a group of wimbrels flying overhead, and a rumored red knot which we did not see but which we heard about from a photographer on the beach. All along we were amazed that although the campground was thronged, the trails and the beaches were empty! We started to take a 2 mile hike around Coffenbury Lake but the mosquitoes drove us away!

Astoria-Megler Bridge crossing from Oregon to Washington

Saturday, May 29th. Fort Stevens State Park north to the cabin on the Olympic Peninsula, over the bridge at Astoria passing into Washington State, past some beautiful estuaries, unceded Chinook territory, oyster hatcheries, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, and at first rather light traffic on this Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Traffic picked up a little as we neared the Peninsula, but kept moving until 4 miles south of Hood Canal Bridge where we ground to a halt and then inched along for about 45 minutes until we passed the choke point at the traffic light at the entrance to the bridge. From there it was only a few more minutes to the cabin and a fond reunion with Charles; all of us missing Ini terribly.

The Coast is Clear!

Friday, May 21st. We head north today from Humboldt Redwoods to Humbug Mountain State Park, continuing north on Highway 101. But first, we drove south 9 miles to the town of Miranda, CA, and the nearest diesel station. On the way there we realized the date, May 21st, our 47th anniversary!

Beautiful, hilly drive with on and off views of the Pacific. Before we left the campground our neighbors warned us of a landslide ahead just south of Crescent City on 101 with 2 hour delays expected. Oh well, there’s no alternative, so we forge on. When we got to the landslide, there is a single lane open and a flagwoman stopping traffic. We were first in line so we struck up a conversation with her. She lives over an hour south of this area in Eureka with her 88 year old mother who has Alzheimer’s. This landslide happened in February and road crews have been working on it since then. The delay was more like 45 minutes than 2 hours, so that wasn’t bad.

We got to our campground before 5 despite the delay and walked from the campsite to the beach via a trail under the highway bridge. What a location!

Highway 101 underpass from Humbug Mountain State Park Campground to the beach

Saturday, May 22nd. There is a nice selection of trails accessible right from the campground. Today we took the Humbug Mountain Loop Trail 2.6 miles straight up to the 1765 foot summit, and 2.8 miles straight down again. It was brilliantly clear and sunny with temps in the 50s and 60s. In the afternoon there was the “onshore flow” as Charles would say, and it gets cloudy and windy.

Hummingbird photobombing our picture at the summit of Humbug Mountain

After lunch, we drove 6 miles north to Port Orford for fuel, and checked out the campground and the beach at Cape Blanco State Park.

Sunday, May 23rd. Slept almost 12 hours! All that fresh air and exercise! Walked down to the beach again and all the way to the north end. After many snacks and lunch, we took a steep 1/2 mile spur trail from the campground to old highway 101 which is now part of the Oregon Coast Trail. Great views of the Ocean to the southwest and northwest. Back to the trailer for more snacks.

Old Highway 101 trail

Monday, May 24th. Checkout time at Humbug is 1 p.m. and check-in time at Sunset Bay State Park, our next stop, is 4 p.m., and it’s only 55 miles away! So we drive into Port Orford to do laundry and then putter around cleaning the trailer until it’s time to go. We drive as slowly as possible which isn’t hard since 101N here is steep and winding, and then we turn off onto Beaver Hill Road that turns into Seven Devils Road to connect to Cape Arago Highway, narrower and steeper and more winding still. But beautiful and interesting. No problem getting into our campsite at just before 3 p.m. As with many other campgrounds we have known, this one has the RV sites with hookups crammed quite closely together with limited privacy between spaces, but the RV and tent sites with no hookups are spaced further apart, some deep in the woods and clearly less popular since the parking pads are covered with moss! But these are the most lovely. That’s our trade off for the convenience of water and electricity hookups.

There are many trails in this vicinity, so we start with the nearest one – the trail from the campground that passes under the highway and lets out onto the beach at Sunset Bay. It’s raining so we get to see this part of the southern Oregon Coast at its most atmospheric, dark and brooding. Chilly! Four people are actually getting in the water, but don’t stay long!

Beach at Sunset Bay in the rain

Tuesday, May 25th. We start looking at maps and start thinking we might want to drive straight north up the coast on 101 instead of taking an east-west connector inland to I-5. We had planned to do this because we originally had reservations at Mount Rainier National Park but cancelled them in order to arrive sooner at the cabin. This way, we avoid most of the interstate, especially the traffic around Portland. We drove into Coos Bay, fueled up, and drove down to the public boat launch where there is good cell reception, and was able to make reservations at Fort Steven State Park at the very northern tip of the Oregon Coast, outside Astoria, OR, at the same time cancelling our Boondockers Welcome reservation in Sherwood, OR.

On our way home, we stopped and explored Bastendorff Beach County Park and Campground. Very wild and beautiful! Back at the campground, we decided to take another of the hikes that start from within the campground, this one next to site B-19. This is the Bastendorff Beach-Yoakam Point 1.5 mile hike. It climbs steeply through forest with moss and fern understory, and then drops down to the road which you cross to pick up the trail on the other side, continuing near private homes to Yoakam Point, another spectacular headland with a rope handhold to help climb down to the beach. Scott did this. I did not. We walked back to the Sunset Bay beach and campground along the road. Still cool, damp, cloudy.

Love those mosses!

Wednesday, May 26th. First stop: Simpson’s Reef Wildlife Viewing Area. Saw California and Steller’s Sea Lions, Elephant Seals and Harbor Seals. Next stop: Cape Arago State Park and 3 spur trails: North, Overlook, and South. Last stop! Shore Acres and formal gardens, former site of magnate Louis J. Simpson’s mansion. Saw golden eagle, several whale spouts. Sun came out!!! Spectacular!

Overlook at Cape Arago State Park

After lunch we started to drive into Bandon to visit the Washed Ashore gallery but as soon as we drove into cell coverage, we discovered that the gallery is closed, so we headed back to Charleston, a picturesque (especially when it’s sunny!) fishing village where the University of Oregon has a Marine Science Research Station. We had good connectivity here and were able to receive a call from Phyllis so we chatted as we sat in the Boat Basin parking lot.

True North

The further north we go, the better we feel. After driving through the Bay Area over the weekend, we were exhausted and demoralized by the congestion yes, but also by the omnipresent graffiti and trash along the roadside, and especially the shockingly extensive homeless encampments. It took us a couple of days to decompress at our Boondockers site, aptly named “Bay Area bliss,” blissful mostly because the Bay Area is 50 miles away and we’re heading in the opposite direction!

Monday, May 17th.
We left Fairfield for Lakeport after debating whether to take the Napa Valley Route (Scenic and more direct, but probably more trafficky) or the alternate route (more twists and turns on 505 to 16 to 20 to 29, but probably less trafficky). We decided on the latter and were pleasantly surprised. We drove on two lane roads through small agricultural communities, where almonds, olives and grapes have not yet been replaced by suburban subdivisions. Then the road climbed into the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and the scenery became very steep and expansive. Then we dropped down along the north shore of Clear Lake, which we had never heard of, but which is the oldest natural lake in the New World, and it’s huge! Many small ticky-tacky touristy settlements crowd the lakeshore but when we rounded the north shore and came south along the west shore on CA-29 into Lakeport, we found a very appealing town with beautiful views of the lake and across the lake, there are the typically Californian golden hills dotted with oaks. Temps in the 70s, cool breeze off the lake, crystal clear air and vivid blue skies.

Boondockers Welcome, indeed!

With only a little confusion we found our Boondockers site called “A Little Bit Country” — leafy hilltop acreage where we were met at the gate and helpfully guided by our host Pat to park on a level gravel pad under a metal RV shelter with a view of old oak trees out our trailer door. Pat recommended that we go to Library Park in downtown Lakeport for a walk.

Library Park, Lakeport CA

This was a bucolic scene of small town America- a lakeside park with a bandshell and a boat launch (with a free public dump station!) and a playground. We walked up the block to the ice cream shop, bought a cup of vanilla and shared it on a bench at another park in front of the Old Courthouse Museum where a couple of guys were playing catch. We walked down Main Street, picked up some real estate brochures and discovered that properties in this area are relatively affordable for California!

Tuesday, May 18th. We read the Chamber of Commerce magazine that Pat had given us, and decided to take some hikes in local parks. As we drove out around their cul de sac, our other host Wally came out to say hello. As Pat told us last night, Wally “has a lot of words.” He’s a great talker, and very friendly! We were planning to walk at Rodman Slough County Park, and Wally also recommended the Lakeside County Park and Clear Lake State Park, voted Best Family Park in California 3 years ago, according to Wally who is a huge booster of Lakeport and environs. They have lived here for over 40 years!
Rodman Slough is undeveloped, a bit sketchy and malodorous, either because it’s on a wide, muddy, marshy shore of the Lake or because there is a homeless population here too, or both. We saw a lot of birds but there are no trails, so we didn’t stay long here, but continued down the road to the County Park where there’s another boat ramp, playground, dog park, and ball fields. A nursery school class was here on a field trip. But not much in the way of walking or hiking trails here either, so we continued to the State Park. Now, that was a gem!

Clear Lake State Park
“Here we go on another excellent adventure.”

We parked in one of the Day use picnic areas on the lake shore where there is a swimming area and families having picnic lunches. We walked along Kelsey Creek on a boardwalk which borders one of the several campgrounds in the park. Then we took the Dorn Nature Trail Loop to the highest point in the park. At one of the lookouts, we could see vineyards below, the bright blue water of the lake, and those golden hills beyond, and we felt we could be in the south of France. Imagine a promontory with a sharp climb to about 1500 ft. After the climb, it follows a meandering path through scattered oak amid straw colored grasses. The path goes through some extraordinary tent campsites, mostly empty, and overlooks an arm of Clear Lake on one side, and the checkered patterns of small vineyards and tree and fruit farms on the other. The sky was blue, a light breeze, perfect temperatures. Hardly anyone else on the path. A loop near the end takes us to two overlooks with a bench at each… eyes closed or open, it was quiet, with stunning views.

On the way home, we stopped for fuel and supplies at Grocery Outlet. When we got back, Wally stopped by to invite us for tea/coffee and home-baked scones tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. before we take off.

Wednesday, May 19th.
Scones with citrus glaze were delicious! Our hosts were friendly and gracious, and we spent a pleasant hour sharing stories of camping adventures past, present and future. They have a Class B+ Plateau-XL Pleasure Way (?) camper with a Mercedes engine. Wally showed off the space efficiencies of the Murphy Bed but admitted the storage limitations compared with their previous camper, a fifth wheel. They are about to take off on a 2-3 month trip cross country, and are having solar panels installed on their house before they leave. Time to go…Scott was able to maneuver our trailer around their house so we didn’t have to back out. Pretty impressive!
We drove downtown to use the free public dump station at the boat launch, then headed north on 29 to 101 where the scenery got wilder, greener and grander as we drove out of Lake County and into Mendocino County on our way to Humboldt Redwoods State Park Burlington Campground.

Here, we are camped in a redwood grove where Scott backed the trailer handily into a seemingly challenging spot. Burlington is a gorgeous campground with no utilities so we are hoping that enough sun will penetrate the deep shade so our solar panels will charge our batteries enough that our slide-out will slide in when it’s time to leave.

We took a walk down to the Visitor Center and across the road to the Eel River and back through another stunning redwood grove.

We might be starting to relax into this trip! Nature starts to work its way into our bodies. It is amazing, as we travel the length of California, how each day brings with it an entirely different eco zone, and generally, we feel better as things get cooler and it seems as if there is enough sweet air to breathe and enough water to live. We begin to leave behind the high deserts; they are seductively beautiful, with magical effects at dawn and dusk. But the heat, the lack of water, the dust, the wind… not likely to return, and onward and upward to pastures greener and more supportive of life.

Scott in the Forest Primeval

Thursday, May 20th. We decide to do the Avenue of the Giants Auto Tour and to take every hike at every stop on the tour. Details to follow:
Visitor Center and Gould Grove
Garden Club of America Grove and River trail
Bolling Grove
Weott flood marker
Mahan Plaque
Dyerville crossroads to Mattole Road
Giant Tree Loop
Bull Creek basin & Rockefeller Forest Loop

Mahan Plaque : Woodsman, spare that tree!

After a while we realized that cell phone cameras can’t convey the enormity of these groves!

Garden Clubs of America Grove
At Weott the Eel River high water mark – 35 feet high!