Friday, June 23, 2017

Milestone

Well, we hit another milestone while in La Wis Wis Campground. We managed to find our 1,500th geocache – 1,500 that is since we took up the hobby.

The cache owner indicated that they had been camping at La Wis Wis for 35 years. Their favorite location in the campground was the Blue Hole, a deep, swirling basin in the tumultuous __ river that runs through the grounds. Apparently in the summer time it’s a favorite swimming hole. But right now, it’s both too cold and too swift for swimming.
We were able to walk to the cache location right from Colectiva. Kona came along as witness for the milestone. Bonus!
Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I fudged up!

We made it to Mount Rainier National Park and found the La Wis Wis campground managed by the Forest Service.

When I made the reservation on www.recreation.gov, the site told me they could accommodate up to a 42-foot motorhome on their H loop. On arrival, we clearly questioned their judgment! The first thing we encounterred was a long narrow bridge into the loop – literally only a few inches of clearance on either side of Colectiva. To add to the excitement, there is a 90 degree turn at the entrance to the bridge.
I really thought I nailed it. But I heard a little noise as we crossed that made me assume I misjudged a bit. Upon parking and setting up Colectiva I learned that I had missed center by maybe a 1/16th of an inch. While not overly intense, it still left a mark.
Mount Rainier National Park is magnificent. We stopped here on our way to Alaska, but that was in either late April or early May, and nothing In the Park was open. We only were able to drive on some of the low roads around the base. While snow still covers all the higher regions, 2 of the visitor centers are open and all the main roads.
There is still so much snow in the upper regions of the mountain that most of the visitors up here are doing one of two things. They are either snowshoeing (100% of the trails are under snow) or they are cross country skiing!
All in all, both the Park and the mountain are glorious. The waterfalls are spectacular as the massive snow cover is still actively melting. Despite the snow the crowds are still dense. Nearly every parking area we have stopped at are full. I am glad we had a chance to come back and see more.
Talk to you soon!

Monday, June 19, 2017

We found it!

On the way to Yakima we decided to check out Hanford Reach National Monument. And we think we finally found it! The National Monument with the least services available to visitors. There isn’t even a traditional sign anywhere that gives you a clue when you are in the Monument. You just have to trust Google, and read cryptic references to the Monument on informational signage about history in the area.

The Monument is the dead zone that was created by leaked radioactivity from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a reactor that developed material for the atomic weapons programs running in 1943. Slick designated the Monument in 2000. Because decontamination efforts remain ongoing, most of the land mass in the Monument is not open to the public. We did enjoy learning about the area’s involvement in the Manhattan Project, however.
We thought we got snowed out way too much in Oregon. We learned we had it easy there. We headed for Chinook Pass outside Yakima in order to hike a little of the Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses Washington State Highway 410 at the Pass. When we made the turn off US Highway 12 there was a lighted sign saying “410 now open.” Ominous! Well we got there, and not only was there snow completely covering the PCT but there were still snowplow drifts that were very clearly 30 or 40 feet high! When will it end?
We are heading to a Forest Service campground at the base of Mount Rainer, and then another in Cascades National Park for the next couple weeks, so we may have limited or no access to internet. So if I don’t get anything posted in-between, I will reboot the blog on the other end.
Talk to you soon!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

More Columbia River

We visited and toured the Grand Coulee Dam, a true multipurpose structure. The dam controls what used to be the annual flooding of cities along the gorge, has the second largest hydroelectric generating capability in the world, and provides irrigation for over a million acres of fertile land now producing massive agricultural crops that used to be barren. When completed in 1941, the Grand Coulee Dam was both the largest construction project and the largest concrete structure in the world. In 2012, it was surpassed by the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in China. Interestingly, we have also been to that dam as well.

We learned that despite its achievement, the dam was not built without breaking some eggs – lots of eggs apparently. 14 towns and thousands of settler’s homesteads were submerged when the basin behind the dam filled. Sadly, despite the assurances that the federal government would assist everyone in their relocation, apparently little or none of that assistance actually came. In addition, at least a dozen sacred native burial sites are now under thousands of feet of water. Finally, the natives north of the dam were totally dependent on the abundant salmon both for food and as their primary trading medium. Sadly, despite trying to install fish ladders, it turns out the dam is too high, no salmon can spawn above it anymore, and the population of salmon in the Columbia River plummeted precipitously.
Every night the Bureau of Reclamation along with other government departments puts on a laser light show that covers the entire face of the dam. The show was technically well done and was very interesting to attend.
We wanted to visit Kettle Falls, one of the more famous of the submerged towns. However, it was some 65 miles upriver, and after doing some research, learned that there is really no way to visit the former town. There are some remnants that residents had relocated as the rising waters approached. However we decided that there might not have been enough compelling to warrant the 2 hour one way travel investment.
Talk to you soon!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dry falls



We visited Dry Falls in Washington. Apparently at the end of the Ice Age, glaciers blocked the otherwise normal flows of many rivers in the northwest causing an immense lake of stranded water. When the water broke, it resulted in a monumental wash of the NW US with raging waters that eroded cavernous terrain and produced geologic features that were not recognized as being created by the existence of water until current years.


dDry Falls is one of those features not recognized until the 20th century. Toward the end of the ice age, it saw 10 times the water flow that now graces Niagara Falls. 3 times as wide as Niagara and over 400 feet in height, the flow here, believed to have been upwards of 300 feet deep, would have dwarfed what is the greatest falls in North America.

This intense glacial flood created ripples across the north-western US that, from the ground level, just look like rolling hills. But once we had the perspective of seeing the NW US from space, it was clear that these features were ripples just like those created on the floors of oceans and the great lakes.
While no water flows over the edge today, the ripples and carved canyons (called “coulees” by scientists) remain as evidence. We enjoyed the visit and the history lesson.
Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Friendliest city my a_s!


We’ve been traveling by motor home for some 10 years.  Before that, we camped in a travel trailer for 12 years with our kids.  Before that it was some 9 years in a tent trailer. Before that a tent and our instincts.

In all that 40 plus years of camping out we never experienced any crime. In Walla Walla, allegedly the friendliest city in the US, as we set up to head out, we found that the 3 packs, granted velcroid, not locked to our bikes, had been stolen. Not a great deal of money stolen, but the first time in our camping history that we had been violated.

The folks in Walla Walla may feel safe, but we ended up not feeling so much.

Talk to you soon!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Who knew!

So, it turns out that there are over 180 wineries in the Walla Walla River valley and at the base of the nearby Blue Mountains. We were pleasantly surprised to learn this – it was clearly obvious as we drove into town seeing vineyards dotting the highway.

While we would not typically pony up the scratch for a winery tour – we would just visit some on our own – a visionary entrepreneur changed our mind. A year ago, Jim and his wife decided to make Walla Walla their ultimate retirement location after reading how it was the friendliest town in the US. Wanting to establish his own business here, he bought one of the very first Model S Tesla fully electric cars to be his vehicle for conducting winery tours. What a genius!
So, we couldn’t pass up the chance to be chauffeured while experiencing what Elon Musk has created. Jim escorted us for 4 hours to several vineyards, most of which their owners were actually manning the tasting rooms. While shuttling us around, Jim gave us some really nice insight into the Walla Walla area and what makes it such a vibrant destination. In addition, he made sure that we got a chance to see what the Model S Tesla could do. The entire package was so compelling!
Jim made sure we saw how all the electronics kept you safe and sound in this very versatile vehicle. Literally a mean sports car in an SUV body, Jim configured his Model S with 7-person seating – 2 front seats, 3 midsection seats, and two more in the rear. Looking at the vehicle when it arrived I could not believe he was able to accommodate 6 guests – until I got inside and saw the unbelievably smart, innovative use of space.
Then Jim started to show off. When we hit a downtown tasting room, he deliberately found a single parking space between two other parked cars. He took his hands off the steering wheel and the Model S, assuming he wanted to park, lined itself up against the car in front, and let him know on screen monitor that it was ready to park. He hit the park button, and the Model S expertly backed itself in. When we got out, it was precisely in the middle of the parking space, and perfectly aligned near but not touching the curb. Jim admitted that he was fully capable of such expert parking, but chooses not to!
In the last demo, Jim took us out on Highway 12. He let go of the wheel again and hit a button telling the Model S to stay a set distance behind the car in front. As that car changed speed, so did the Model S, keeping the space between constant. The Model S uses a combination of GPS and cameras that read lane markings to steer itself precisely centered in the lane. At some point, Jim turned on the left turn signal, which alerted the Model S that is was OK to pass the car it was following. The Model S changes lanes by itself, centering now in the left lane. The Model S accelerated to the speed that Jim had originally told it, passed the car, and then by itself, changed back into the right lane once clear of the passed vehicle, using turn signals appropriately.
If you are ever in Walla Walla, we strongly recommend you check out Jim at Teslawinetours.com.
Talk to you soon!