Telluride and Montrose, Colorado

Telluride

I’ve always been curious about Telluride.  Over the years I’ve read about the great skiing and the many celebrities that have homes in the area.  Now I understand why. 

Telluride Pano

Telluride is a year-round paradise for outdoor activities.  It has a National Historic Landmark District with gourmet restaurants, boutiques and fine-art galleries.  Telluride, like many small cities on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, has its history in mining.  There is a wealth of colorful, Victorian houses and a charming main street lined with buildings with clapboard and brick facades.  Telluride’s history is equal parts refinement (translate to expensive) and Wild West.  Butch Cassidy robbed his first back in Telluride. 

A little known fact about Telluride is that in 1891 the world’s successful, long-distance transmission of alternating current electricity (AC) occurred at Ames, Colorado and Telluride became the world’s first city to be electrically lit.

Telluride is surrounded by towering mountains with the highest concentration of 13,000 to 14,000 foot peaks in North America.  The Telluride area is the best the San Juan Mountains have to offer.

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Hike above Telluride
Telluride Hike 3
Overlooking Telluride

I camped at Matterhorn, a forest service campground.  It was a beautiful, wooded campground located 10 miles south of Telluride.  I had a dry camping spot next to a creek for three days and then I was able to move to a full hook up site for the next four days.  This park has a seven-day limit.  I would have stayed longer, but for the limit.

I was only able to take one hike while in Telluride.  The altitude was kicking my butt! I hiked the trail to Cornet Falls and a portion of the Jud Wiebe trail that follows a ridge overlooking Telluride.

I took advantage of several of the wonderful restaurants and visited the Historical Museum that is located in the old military hospital. 

 

Telluride Historical Museum
Telluride Historical Museum

 

 

 

900 year old indian blanket
900 year-old Indian Blanket

 

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There are several mining towns in the area: some occupied and some abandoned. I drove to Ophir, a tiny mining town still occupied. The current residents (about 200) are often isolated in the winter due to avalanches for weeks at a time.  A rough dirt road passes over the Ophir Pass to Silverton.  Most of Ophir’s residents work in Telluride.

I visited Trout Lake and took the dirt road up to Alta Lakes, which passed through another tiny mining town, this time abandoned except for a small tribe of marmots. There is camping at Alta Lakes, but just for vans and tents.  The road up was rough and I had to put my CRV in first gear at times, but I made it with only scraping the bottom once!  I can see why many RVers like to travel with a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle. I’ve heard there are more dirt roads in Colorado than paved roads.  And, I have to believe there are more Jeeps in Colorado than all the other vehicles put together.

Trout Lake
Trout Lake
My cabin
Should I buy it?
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Marmot Family
Ghost building
Ghost Mining Town
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Ghost Mining Town
Ghost building 2
Ghost Mining Town
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Alta Lakes
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Alta Lakes
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Alta Lakes

While driving into Telluride I noticed something on the west side of the highway, down in a canyon.  I finally decided to stop and check it out.  I was surprised to see a semi and trailer upside down in the canyon.  Then I noticed the guardrail was missing.  Some poor trucker went over the side!  Someone placed a cross, so I knew the driver perished.  I inquired in town and was told this happens frequently in the area.  The trailer was full of sawdust and the first attempt to pull it up failed.  The day I was leaving the area, they were going to close the highway and try vehicle recovery once again with larger equipment.  I would love to have seen that!  To say I was overly cautious when driving the RV through the mountains to my new destination in Montrose is an understatement.

Semi
Overturned Semi
Trailer
Overturned Trailer

My last stop before leaving Telluride was the Elks Lodge.  The original lodge building is located on Main Street.  However, the building was sold and the rent raised so high that the lodge had to move to a new location.  It’s in a small building on a side street and is the cutest lodge I’ve seen to date.  I went in to have a drink and talked with the female bartender.  Shortly after I arrived, three of her girlfriends came in and I had a great time talking with the local women.  The most fun time I’ve had at an Elk’s Lodge yet!

Telluride Elks
Telluride Elks Lodge
Elk girls
Elk Women

I hated to leave Telluride…it is my kinda place! Nonetheless, it was time to move on down the road to Montrose.

Montrose

My next stop was about 80 miles down a beautiful mountain road to Montrose and access to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  My friend Debbie Hayward told me about the park that she had visited on her six-month trip around the country several years back.  I was not aware of this national park before that. I stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge for ten days.

“No other North American canyon combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness and somber countenance of the Black Canyon”, Geologist Wallace R. Hansen. The Gunnison River drops an average of 95 feet per mile and carves the steep canyon.  The walls are an average of 2,000 feet deep.  The rock walls are only 40 feet apart at “the narrows”.

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Black Canyon
Black Canyon River
Gunnison River which carved the Black Canyon
Black Canyon view
Black Canyon

I took the South Rim Road and stopped at each of the seven overlooks. The road ends at Warner Point and then I took the two mile round trip hike out to the point for a spectacular view of the canyon.

Another day I returned to the park to take the drive to East Portal and access to the Gunnison River. It’s a five mile drive with a 16% grade down to the river. The river moves so swiftly through the canyon that it is unsafe to swim at East Portal.  The Crystal Dam controls the flow of the river.

The Gunnison Tunnel is a Civil Engineering Landmark along with the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and the Durango and Silverton Railroad. It is an irrigation tunnel constructed between 1905 and 1909.  The tunnel is 5.8 miles long and diverts water from the Gunnison River to the arid Uncompahgre Valley and Montrose.  Pretty amazing! river.

Gunnison Tunnel SignGunnison Tunnel

Gunnison Tunnel 2
Gunnison Tunnel
Gunnison River
Drive to East Portal
Gunnison River Bottom
Gunnison River
Car at bottom of canyon
Perspective

Due to the fire north of Durango, I was not able to take the Million Doller Highway from Silverton to Ouray and Ridgway. I was able to drive to Ouray from the north.  Ouray is another picturesque, small mining town nestled in the rugged and towering peaks of the San Juan Mountains.  It’s located in the valley at 7,800 feet surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks.  Colorado is full of these cute mountain towns!  Ouray is also known for it’s sulfur-free hot springs.

 

Ouray Silverton Road
Thank goodness they’ve improved this road!

 

Ouray has a colorful history of mining, ranching, railroad and Native American history. It is a well-preserved historic town. Two-thirds of Ouray’s original Victorian structures are still occupied. The Ouray Historical Museum documents the history in 29 rooms in the old hospital.  The movie True Grit was filmed in nearby Ridgway and at the Courthouse in Ouray.

Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Courthouse
Ouray Building
Ouray Victorian Building

I visited the Box Canyon Falls, which was formed when the rushing waters of the Canyon Creek eroded a deep and narrow box canyon through fault-weakened limestone.  There is an easy 500-feet hike via a walkway and suspension bridge that leads straight into the belly of the falls.  The sound of the force of thousands of gallons of water a minute rushing eighty feet to the canyon’s bottom is deafening.

Box Canyon Falls
Walkway to Box Canyon Falls
Box Canyon
Box Canyon Falls

The box canyon is an important bird watching area.  It supports one of the state’s largest populations of Black Swifts (a protected bird), which nest in the canyon walls and overhanging rocks near the waterfalls.  These small birds fly from Brazil to nest in the box canyon in the summer.

Black Swift

 

I enjoyed my day in Ouray very much!

Then it was time to move on down the road to Gunnison. 

Until next time…

 

 

Durango and Cortez, Colorado

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Durango

I caravanned with Malia to Durango so that Malia could complete tests, get a diagnosis and decide on next steps.  I’ve always heard good things about Durango and was anxious to check it out.  I found out the good things were all true!

We stayed in a funky RV park about ten miles south of Durango on Hwy 550 for the monthly rate of $500.  Other parks in the area charged $1,200 a month.  We had premium sites overlooking a canyon and it was a good place to stay for the month.

Durango is a quaint, small historic western town with lots of shops, good restaurants and many outdoor activities. As with most small towns in western Colorado, Durango has its roots in the mining industry.  It is a delightful, small western town and we enjoyed wandering around checking everything out.

I stopped at the Durango Museum one afternoon and learned about the small town. The museum is housed in an old schoolhouse that reminded me very much of the grade school I attended in Detroit, Beard School.  Beard is on the register of historic buildings too.  I remember sitting at a desk just like the ones in this photo…and yes, we started reading with Dick and Jane!  My gosh, I’m getting old! 

For my teacher friends and family…take a look at these rules for teachers.  And the punishment recommendations!

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My friends, Mick and Deb were in the area too.  I’m always so happy when our paths cross.  They camped at Haviland Lake and Malia and I went to visit them for a hike and dinner. Malia and I had checked out the campground on our way back from Silverton and said, “We should stay here!” We hiked around the lake and it turned out to be more challenging than we expected, but we all made it!  We had a great dinner and then headed back to camp.  Mick and Deb stayed for a few more days and left the day before the campground was evacuated due to the 416 fire, just north of Durango, in the San Juan Forest.

 

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Mick and Deb on hike around Haviland Lake
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Haviland Lake

 

 

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416 Fire – I did not take this photo

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We visited Malia’s friend, Polly and her husband and had one heck of a good time and a delicious dinner. They have a gorgeous home in the mountains above Durango.  They are always concerned about fire breaking out in their area.

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Malia and I drove the 35 miles to Farmington, New Mexico for the Riverfest and stopped at Aztec Ruins National Monument on the way.  The national monument preserves ancestral Puebloan architectural and engineering achievements found in the northwest corner of New Mexico.  It is a World Heritage site and is part of the Chaco Culture World Heritage site. It is on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. There is quite a bit left of the structures and there is a reconstructed great kiva.  The ruins were built as a public ceremonial, economic, and political center around 1100 AD and remained occupied by the ancestral Pueblo people until 1300 AD.  No one really knows why the people left this location and many other locations in the Four Corners area, with Mesa Verde being the most popular.  I think this is one of the best examples of ancestral Puebloan ruins I’ve experienced.  You can walk through the ruins and go inside the kiva.  Don’t miss this great site if you’re in the area.

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Malia
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Riverfest
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Aztec Ruins National Monument

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The Kiva

We made the 60 mile drive to Pagosa Springs for a day of soaking in the hot springs. It was a wonderful, relaxing day.

 

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Soaking with cocktails at Pagosa Springs

 

Malia’s great grandtwins came for a visit and we went rafting on the Animas River.  What fun! Last time I went whitewater rafting was on the American River many years ago.  The Animas River had a few Class III rapids, but nothing like the American.  Nonetheless, it was a blast!  Everyone had a great time and then it was Mexican food afterwards.  I have to say, I was exhausted by the time we got home.  This old, grey blond mare, she ain’t what she used to be! 

 

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That’s me in the light green hat

 

 When I’m parked for some time I like to hang my hummingbird feeder next to a window so I can get up close and personal with the hummingbirds.  This was a great place to do that.  I had 6-8 hummingbirds feeding almost all the time and I had to refill the feeder twice a day.  I recently purchased a new camera (Canon SX60 HS) with a 65X zoom.  I was practicing with the zoom and got a few great photos of the hummingbirds.  I especially like the one bird with the beautiful purple throat.  I think it’s the black-chinned hummingbird.

hummingbird purple neckHumming bird green

By the time the month was up, I was ready to hit the road.  Next stop was Cortez, a whopping 57 miles.  I stayed at the Ancient Cedars RV park directly across the highway from Mesa Verde National Park.

Cortez

First thing Malia and I did was drive up to the small town of Dolores to visit the Anasazi Culture Center.  The center provides information about the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which preserves the largest concentration or archaeological sites in the United States, primarily ancestral Puebloan ruins and includes Hovenweep National Monument. Canyons of the Ancients is 176,056 acres and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  The Culture Center is a beautiful building with excellent exhibits and a great overview of the area. Definitely worth a visit.

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Anasazi Cultural Center
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Anasazi Cultural Center
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Artifacts found in the area
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Artifacts found in the area
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Uppity women are not a new thing

The next day I drove to the Four Corners area and to Hovenweep National Monument.

The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet.  It is the only point in the US shared by four states.  It also marks the boundary between two semi-autonomous Native American governments: the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Tribe.  I understand that the four corners monument is the legal point, but not the true geographical point.  Nonetheless, it was worth seeing for five minutes! 

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Hovenweep National Monument is  just a short drive from Four Corners. The towers of Hovenweep were built by Pueblo Indian tribes and were grouped at canyon heads.  Many dwellings stood right on the canyon rim, and some structures were built atop isolated or irregular boulders, not great for safety and access.  They have been vacant for 700 years.  Again, no one knows why the people vacated the area. Most likely drought and depleted resources. In the late 1200s the people settled in the Rio Grande valley in New Mexico and the Hopi mesas in Arizona. There is a two mile hike from the visitor center that circles the small canyon where the towers are located. Definitely worth the drive to see this fascinating area.

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And last, but certainly not least, I visited Mesa Verde National Park.  When Ralph and I did our Southwest tour a few years ago we visited Mesa Verde and did the Cliff Palace tour.  Cliff Palace is probably the most popular tour and it’s the cliff dwelling you see in all the photos of Mesa Verde.  However, there are several other cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde: Balcony House, Step House, Long House and Spruce Tree House (which was closed due to falling rocks).  I chose to visit the Wetherill Mesa (the quiet side of the park)  this time and did the self-guided tour of Step House.  Mesa Verde incudes over 4,500 archeological sites and over 600 are cliff dwellings.  It is truly a remarkable national park.

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Cliff Palace
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Pit House

A  Family Note

My great nieces, (Theresa’s daughters) both had significant milestones.  Arianna graduated from college and Chyann graduated from high school in May.  Arianna graduated from high school with an Associate’s Degree from college. So, it was only two years for her to get her Bachelor’s Degree.  At 20 years old she is married, has a new baby and graduated from college!  I guess she’s on the fast track through life!  Chyann earned a scholarship to the local college for the dance program. She is a beautiful, talented dancer.  We are so proud of these two wonderful young women.  I thank my dear brother all the time for having children.  They are true treasures of my life.

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Arianna and Ashtyn
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Chyann

 

This flower pot art was at the entrance to the RV park near Mesa Verde.  Made me smile everytime I pulled into the park.

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Next stop for me is Telluride.  I will be traveling sans Malia.  She is headed straight to Oregon.  I will miss her terribly.  Traveling with a girlfriend in her own rig has been an unexpected delight.  Who will I laugh with until we pee our pants a little???

 

 

 

Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

I seem to be drawn to Arizona.  Yet again this year I stayed longer than I planned.  I was in Tucson until April 30 when I headed to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley with an overnight stay in Rock  Springs, Arizona. I’m caravanning with my friend, Malia (Malia’s Miles blog).

Our first stop was the Rock Springs Café.  We found a great boondocking spot in their event parking lot north of the restaurant.  Rock Springs Café is known for their delicious pies.  It was Malia’s birthday and she got a free piece of pie and free beer!  It was a small oasis in the desert and  a great place to spend the night. Rock Springs was half way to the Grand Canyon.

 

Rock Springs Cafe
Rock Springs Garden Area – Malia’s Birthday

 

The next morning we left for the Grand Canyon and found a beautiful boondocking spot on forest road 688 just 10 minutes south of the south entrance to the Grand Canyon. We settled in for the evening and were very excited to visit the Grand Canyon (south rim) the next day.

I woke up the next morning about 5:30 and looked out the window and much to my shock and excitement there was four inches of snow covering everything! You know I’ve been gone from Michigan a long time when I get excited about snow. The snow stuck to everything except the road.  It was a very foggy day, which helped keep the snow around for a while and it was completely gone within 12 hours.

 

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That’s me on the left

 

Even though it was pretty cold (45 degrees) we decided to head to the Grand Canyon wondering if we’d see a layer of snow in the canyon.  We were very surprised to see the canyon totally covered by fog.  Both of us had seen the canyon before and knew what to expect.  When we couldn’t see anything we both burst out laughing.  I felt sorry for those there just for the day. We knew we were returning the next day so weren’t upset at all. So plan B…we went to the IMAX theatre and watched the Grand Canyon movie.  It had been a very interesting day with a couple surprises.  I do like days like that!

 

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That’s the Grand Canyon behind us!
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The tower
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Airplane crash over the Grand Canyon

 

The next day was perfect weather and we hiked the Bright Angel trail for a couple miles.  We stopped into the lodge for a cocktail and snack before heading back to camp.

Bright Angel Sign

Ro on Bright Angel
Bright Angel Trail
Ro at Tunnel
The first tunnel on the Bright Angel trail

 

 

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Malia on Bright Angel
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Just a big hole in the ground!  Ha!
Fireplace
Fireplace made with the same layers of rock as the canyon
Bright Angel Trail
Looking down on the Bright Angel trail
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Sharing the trail
Cork LIfe Jacket
Life vest made from cork

 

 

Storm
And then the rain blew in

 

Then it was off to Monument Valley, a bucket list item for me.  I was not disappointed!  We stayed at Goulding’s RV Resort nestled among the red rocks. Goulding’s Resort started years ago to support the movie industry in the area. They have a small movie museum that is worth a visit. 

 

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Goulding’s RV Park (that’s me on the left)
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Trail from the RV park
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Trail leads to a red rock arch

The Monument Valley in part of the Navajo Reservation.  You can take guided tours of the area, but we chose to take our own car and drive the Valley Road. That let us get down and among the mesas, buttes and spires.  The weather was perfect.  There are stops along the road with Navajo vendors for art, rugs and jewelry. Of course, we had to stimulate the economy and purchased a few beautiful items.

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Monument Valley
MV Sky
Monument Valley
MV fixed
Monument Valley
MV 2 fixed
Monument Valley
Malia and Me MV
Us on the Forrest Gump road
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I made it to Monument Valley !

 

Visitor Center Wall Painting
Wall painting in the visitor center

 

Our time in Monument Valley was short and very impressive.  I’m so happy that I finally made it there.

Our next stop is Durango, Colorado where I will spend a month exploring the area.

 

Rig on Road MV
And off I go!

 

Till next time…

Arizona, Jan – March, 2018

Yuma

I keep returning to a boondocking area just 17 miles west of Yuma, technically in Winterhaven, California. The BLM area is near the Ogilby exit off Interstate 8 on Sidewinder Road.  This was my fourth time camping on Sidewinder.  Sometimes alone and sometimes with friends.  Ralph, Mick and Deb were with me as we killed time before heading up to Quartzsite to meet up with other friends and attend the big RV rally.  Deb and I visited the Imperial Sand Dunes and took a few photos.  I LOVE sand dunes.  I don’t know why…I just do.

 

 

My nephew and his family, Kevin, Mariya, Mason and Kyle, came to visit and roast weenies.

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Mason, 5 years old
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Kyle, 1 year old

Quartzsite

When we arrived in Quartzsite we found a fairly flat area in the Dome Rock section about five miles west of Quartzsite.  I like to camp here because it is elevated and has great views of the Quartzsite lights at night.  You can see the sunrise and sunset right from this location and it is much quieter than camping in Quartzsite.   

Eventually there were five rigs: Deb and Mick, Cheryl and Jesse, John and Bill, Ralph and I, and one of my bookies, Lynn, who was on her maiden voyage with her new rig.  John brought a LOT of firewood and we had a campfire every night and even some mornings.  We all spent money at the RV Big Tent, went to the Desert Bar, looked for unique rocks and had a great time with wonderful friends. 

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That’s a “Mick” fire.  Those of you who know him will understand! 🙂

The frosting on the cake was the Blue Moon/Red Moon and total lunar eclipse. We got up at 5 am to catch the eclipse and also had a campfire and watched the sunrise.  What a unique experience!  Deb took some wonderful pictures.

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Blood Moon, Lunar Eclipse
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Lunar Eclipse

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We stayed two weeks and it went so quickly. Ralph hitched a ride back to Sacramento with Cheryl and Jesse, while Lynn and I headed to Martinez Lake to join a few of the Escapee’s Solos for the week.

Martinez Lake

Martinez Lake is about 10 miles north of Yuma on the Colorado River. Being near water in Southern Arizona is a rare treat.  Several Escapee Solos were also camped there, so we had a built-in social group.  Lynn did some work on her rig and Fred and I just hung out and visited.

 

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Martinez Lake

 

I had visitors every evening right after dusk.  Fred just watched them through the window.  I doubt he’d ever seen anything like this before.

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So cute and friendly.  I didn’t dare feed them. They would never leave!

 

I also crowned another Road Queen; my friend Lynn.

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The newest Road Queen, Lynn

 

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Freddy and Owen by the campfire

 

I was just getting ready to head to Tucson and spend a couple weeks with my friend Malia (Malia’s Miles blog) when I came down with the Shingles!  UGHHHHHH! What a nightmare!  First I had a lot of pain that I couldn’t explain and then the blisters broke out.  That’s when I realized what was happening. I went to a walk-in clinic and started the anti-viral meds, which worked to stop the virus in its tracks.  However, what was already there was bad enough. As of the date of writing this, I’ve had shingles for seven weeks. The blisters are gone, but,  I still have a lot of nerve pain.  I sure hope it goes away soon!

Instead of heading to Tucson, I went to my nephew Kevin’s house and parked in front of his house for another week. I stayed until I felt like I could handle the 240-mile drive to Tucson.  Kevin and Mariya took good care of me and I had a chance to spend more time with the little ones. Baby Kyle is one year old already. 

While in Yuma I took Fred to the vet for vaccinations, where they discovered that Fred needed a couple of teeth surgically removed. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of the end for our little buddy, Freddy the Freeloader.

Tucson

My original plan was to spend two weeks in Tucson with my friend Malia and then fly out of Phoenix to Florida to visit family.  However, after making the drive to Tucson it was clear that I was in no condition to travel to Florida, so I canceled my trip.  On top of feeling terrible, Fred was going to need surgery for his teeth.  Ralph decided to fly to Tucson to help Fred and me.  I was soooo grateful.  I had no idea what lie ahead for Fred.

We found a vet in Tucson and went in to have the pre-surgery blood tests complete.  This would tell us if Fred was healthy enough to survive the surgery.  When the vet opened the door he said, “I don’t have good news for you.”, my heart sank.  He informed us that Fred’s kidneys were failing and he could not perform the surgery.  He advised us to administer sub-cutaneous fluids for 14 days and return for another blood test.  Maybe this time he would be healthy enough to survive the surgery. After a few days of the fluids, Fred was a new cat!  He wasn’t sleeping the entire day, was very playful and wanted to go outside all the time.  I was so hopeful. 

When Ralph and Fred met up with me in Oregon, I noticed how much weight Fred had lost.  He was also drinking much more water and peeing a lot.  After Ralph left at the end of January, it was just Fred and me.  I could tell he just wasn’t himself.  He was hiding in the back of the rig, sleeping all the time and even vomited.  I now believe that his body was full of toxins because his kidneys were not working and he was close to death.

The vet told us that 65% of old cats die from kidney failure.  It was a surprise to us that Fred was an “old cat”.  Since he adopted us, we didn’t know how old he was.  We thought 7-8 years old.  The vet told us he was 11-12.  We lost 5 years with Fred overnight!  We also learned there is nothing that can be done to reverse or even stop the kidney failure.  Fred only had about 6 months to live and that’s if I gave him the sub-q fluids every day.  Ralph was leaving for Oregon to continue his house hunt and there was no way I could handle that by myself.  I couldn’t watch Fred die over the next six months, so we had to let our little Freddy go.  It broke our hearts and I cried for two days straight.  I cry every time I see his ghost in the spots where he always slept and on the back of the dinette next to the frig where he would perch and wait to be fed.  I miss his little face when he woke me up in the morning by touching his cold nose to my nose.

 

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The last photo of Fred

 

Fred was a wonderful travelling buddy and a friendly, adaptable cat that everyone loved.  Ralph said that Fred changed his mind about cats. I miss him so much.

After losing Fred we had to do something different. 

Our friends Mick and Deb we were at the Escapees Park in Benson so we decided to join them for a week.  It was only 51 miles and I knew Ralph would enjoy having someone to play with because all I was doing was lying around hurting and grieving.  The Escapees Park in Benson is a great park.  The sites are huge, the people are friendly and there are many activities.  They even have a workshop with equipment for the men.  Ralph was a hit with the ping-pong guys and shot pool in a couple of tournaments.  Deb and I went to a beading class.  Ralph and I even did some sightseeing and drove to Tombstone, Sierra Vista and Bisbee one day.  It was nice to finally get out and do something. 

Then it was time for Ralph to fly home.  We drove back to Tucson and I parked at the Diamond J RV Park.  I was finally going to get to spend a couple weeks with Malia.

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Lookin’ out my backdoor!
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Labyrinth in the desert

As of this writing, I’m still in Tucson and at some point I’ll head to Deming, New Mexico and begin my tour of the Land of Enchantment. I have Johnson relatives in Albuquerque and I am looking forward to spending some time with them.

Until next time…

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California

Continuing south on Interstate 5 from Medford, it was back to California.  I had come full circle!  The first stop was in Redding and a stay at the Redding Elk’s Lodge located on the Sacramento River.  It was still Fall and Redding was putting on a very colorful show. 

 

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The River Walk in Redding

 

From Redding, it was only a three-hour drive to Sacramento. Ralph is still with me and we were lucky enough to stay at my book club friend’s ranchette in Wilton.  This gave me a chance to take care of some health appointments, get my hair done, and go up to Saint Helena to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends.  The friends that hosted Thanksgiving were in the Santa Rosa fire area.  It’s a miracle their home and animals survived the fire when everything around them was destroyed.  There was plenty to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

 

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The view from the rig in Wilton

 

While in Wilton I was able to get together with my bookies (book club girls), whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. It was actually great to be back in Sacramento and see friends.

Monterey

Soon it was time to leave the Sacramento area and drive the three hours to Monterey.  Again, I stayed at the Monterey Elk’s Lodge.  This was a great location from which to explore the area and go to the Monterey Bay aquarium.  As luck would have it, friends Mick and Deb, who are also full timing, were in the area and we were able to spend some quality time together.  We attended the boat parade and the Monterey Bay aquarium.  I hadn’t been to the aquarium since my stepdaughter, Stephanie,

was about 12 years old.  That was many years ago.  I loved it then and I love it now.  It is truly a remarkable aquarium.  After visiting the aquarium, we had a delicious dinner on the wharf.  This short video is the aquarium in motion.

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Lover’s Point

 

Next stop was Pismo Beach and this time the Elk’s lodge was within walking distance to the beach.  I’ve always loved the central coast and was happy to be exploring the area.  I visited a loofa farm, downtown San Luis Obispo, and of course, spent time on the beach.

 

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Pismo before the smoke came
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Pismo after the smoke moved in
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A slightly smokey sunset

 

Did you know that loofas grow on plants?  I did not.  That is until I took a tour of the loofa farm!  A loofa starts out as a gourd.  What we recognize as a loofa is actually the inside of the dried gourd.

While in Pismo Beach the smoke from the fires in Los Angeles intruded.  I certainly had my share of smoke in the Summer and Fall.  First in Montana, then Idaho, then California.

Have you ever visited the gum wall in SLO?  I have!  Yuck!

 

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Yes!  That’s all chewed gum!

 

After Pismo Beach we headed to Desert Hot Springs for a week at Sam’s Family Spa.  We took full advantage of the hot water spa.  I drove into Palm Springs a few times to check it out.  We also took a short hike that led to an overlook of Palm Springs and right beneath Bob Hope’s house. 

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So proud of the use of renewable energy in California!  Wind and solar here in Palm Springs.

 

 

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Bob Hope’s house inn Palm Springs

 

After our week in Desert Hot Springs we drove further south to Borrego Springs where we would spend Christmas and New Year’s boondocking in the desert with our friends Mick and Deb.  We visited Borrego Springs a few years ago and it was nice to return to the area.  This time I did a little more exploring, hiking, and discovering desert art. 

 

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Christmas Dinner in the desert

 

 

 

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Christmas in Borrego Springs
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Christmas selfie…Deb was sick.
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Freddy, my little desert hunter
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The boys…just hangin!
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A little hike up and over the hill to discover the desert rock art.

 

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And no trip to the desert is complete without a Roadrunner spotting!

 

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Ricardo Breceda large metal sculptures – 130 of them in the Borrego Springs area

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This one crosses the road!

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Hiking to the palm canyon

 

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Slot Canyon Hiking

 

 

We stayed in Borrego springs until it was time to head to Quartzsite, Arizona for the big RV rally.  Several friends from Sacramento met us in Quartzsite. Stay tuned…

 

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This never gets old!

 

 

Portland, Sutherlin and Medford Oregon

I know it’s been awhile since my last post.  I’ve been very busy, but I’ll try to catch up.

It took two hours to drive to the Vancouver/Portland area  and the Elks Lodge.  The lodge is located right next to I205 and it was like sleeping on the side of the freeway.  It was the most noise I’ve experienced to date.  I chose this Elks Lodge because it was close to my friend’s house.

It was almost a near miss with my friend and fellow Michigander, Debbie, however, it did work out that we could spend the week together.

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Debbie and I at dinner

 We attended the Pompeii Exhibit, a Humane Society fundraiser and took in a movie.  It was great to spend girlfriend time with a dear friend that I don’t get to see very often.

The Pompeii exhibit was so interesting.  I knew that Pompeii was destroyed by a volcano eruption, but that was about it.  Here’s what I learned.

In 79 AD Pompeii was a commercial port and strategic military and trading city. Forgotten after  Mt Vesuvius erupted, the city was rediscovered about 250 years ago.  The exhibit features around 200 artifacts including frescoes, mosaics and precious items belonging to the citizens of Pompeii. The items were well preserved under the volcanic ash.  It was humbling to see ash body forms left behind as the volcano instantly covered everything in its path.  Check out some of the photos. 

I also visited the Pendleton Factory and took the tour.  I was a Clothing and Textiles major at Cass Tech so I found this extremely interesting.

Deb was off to Japan and I moved down I5 to the Escapees park in Sutherlin to wait for Ralph to drive up from Sacramento.  He sold his house and wants to buy a house in the Roseburg, Grants Pass or Medford area.  It was a nice, quiet two weeks in Sutherlin enjoying the area and the brilliant fall colors. I got a daily visit by jack rabbits and turkeys. 

While in Sutherlin I drove to the coast and visited Winchester and the Oregon Dunes State Park. I had been to both when we toured the Oregon Coast three years ago. It was a clear, sunny, warm day and I always love it when I have a chance to spend time by the ocean.

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You can actually drive on the beach.

I drove north about 60 miles to Eugene for the Saturday Market.  Eugene is a collage town with a great vibe.  Hills and many trees with brilliant falls colors surrounded Eugene.  I also visited the Cascades Raptor Center, a nature center and raptor rehabilitation center.  The center is definitely worth a visit!

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Eagle
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Ever seen a Turkey Vulture up close?
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Looks like a happy little owl!

Once Ralph arrived, we looked around the Roseburg area.  Roseburg is a small town on I5 surrounded by hills, rivers and farmland.  The Melrose wine region has surprisingly good wine. And there are many covered bridges in southern Oregon.

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Ralph didn’t find a house on this trip so we headed further south on I5 to the Rouge River State Park.  It was the perfect spot from which to check out Grant’s Pass, Eagle Point and Medford and the house search continued.

Ralph and I have friends that moved to the Medford area.  I was able to see two long-time friends Mary Joe and Alana, both Bay Area women I met when I first moved to California in 1979. Love spending time with my girls! 

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The newest Furtah, Eloise, with my nephew Michael and his wife Lauren

Since Ralph didn’t find a house, I invited Ralph to join me as I moved my way south through California.

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It was great to experience Fall in Oregon!

 

The Olympic Peninsula: Port Townsend, Sequim, and Forks, Washington

Port Townsend

It was a short, beautiful drive from Shelton to Port Townsend along the Hood Canal. Port Townsend is an historic town (population 9,113) located at the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula, known for its natural beauty and Victorian buildings remaining from its late 19-century heyday. Established in 1851, the founders called it the “City of Dreams” because of early speculation that the city would become the largest harbor on the west coast of the United States. That dream did not come true.  Port Townsend is surrounded by the Puget Sound and it reminded me of the small New England seaport towns in the eastern U.S.  I found myself saying, “I could live here….in the summer!”

The Port Townsend Elks Lodge is one of the few that takes reservations and I was lucky to get a reservation two days in advance.  When I arrived, the campground was fully booked.  The lodge is only three miles from the historic section of town and is very popular.

 Fort Worden Historical State Park was the first place I visited.  The park is a 434 acre multi-use park with more than two miles of saltwater shoreline and the Point Wilson lighthouse.  I returned to the park several times during my week stay.  It was peaceful, the weather was perfect and I could walk the shoreline along the Puget Sound.

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Fort Worden Beach
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Point Wilson Lighthouse

There are many things to do in Port Townsend.  The old town area has restaurants, galleries, shops and bars.  The historic Ruby Theatre shows movies and I saw Ingrid Goes West.  The story was about social media breaking bad.  It was funny, a little scary and very entertaining.  The best part was the seating configuration and the availability of great food and drinks while you watch the movie.

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Easy chairs and comfy sofas for the movie. The screen came down over the windows. Great food and drink delivered to your chair. Now that’s how to watch a movie!

I visited an Art Deco Lighting Museum located on the second floor of a lighting store.  I LOVE Art Deco anything.  Clothes, art, jewelry, furniture, ANYTHING!

Next, I took a cruise around the Puget Sound with the goal of seeing whales.  Orcas are very active in the Sound because there are two permanent resident pods.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any Orcas, but we did see a couple Minke whales, elephant seals, and lots of birds.  The Puget Sound Express was a great tour for many reasons, one being they serve Blueberry Buckle hot out of the oven!  They also provide a guarantee that if you do not see Orca whales you get a free ticket for another cruise.  The four-hour cruise was $99 and was definitely worth it!  I hope to use my free ticket next summer.

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Puget Sound smooth as a duck pond!
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A little wildlife
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Beautiful day on the Sound

The area around Port Townsend is agricultural with several wineries and cideries.  I visited two cideries and was pleasantly surprised with their products.  Cider drinks have become very popular and I understand they are an alternative for those who cannot drink beer due to allergies.  Of course, I had to bring a few bottles home!

One day I took a drive to Marrowstone Island and Fort Flagler State Park.  I also checked out the Escapee Park Evergreen Coho RV Park and the small town of Chimacum.  I also tried to take a ferry to Whidbey Island, but it was completely booked as they are down to one ferry this time of year.  Next time I’m in the area I will explore more of the San Juan Islands.

After one week in Port Townsend, I drove the 40 miles to Sequim where I would explore the north part of Olympic National Park.

Sequim

It was another Elks Lodge campground for the next four days.  While based in Sequim (pronounced like squid, but with an m), I visited Dungeness Recreation Area and Spit, Neah Bay, Makah Museum and Cape Flattery, Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake and several waterfalls. The Olympic Peninsula is awesome and I only had a little rain while in the area.

Dungeness Recreation Area is a national wildlife refuge and one of the world’s longest natural sand spits that softens the rough waves to form a shallow bay and harbor rich with marine life. The spit is five miles long with a lighthouse at the end. The spit sticks out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I did not take the hike to the end…10 miles is too long for me, especially on sand!  I did see the lighthouse when I took the whale-watching cruise from Port Townsend. 

The next day I drove into Olympic National Park for the first time.  Sequim and Port Angeles provide easy access to the famous Hurricane Ridge in the park. It’s 17 miles up to the 5,242 foot mountain top where you can view glacier–clad mountains that crown miles of wilderness rich with wildlife. As the name suggests, it is very windy!

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Hurricane Ridge
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The view from the top of Hurricane Ridge
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The mountains are above the clouds!
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Hurricane Ridge

The Olympic Peninsula has many lakes, rivers, creeks and waterfalls.  I visited Lake Crescent, a 624-foot deep glacier carved lake.  Legend has it that two well-matched dragons fought nearly to the death and whose hot tears of anguish created the hot springs.  This lends a magical touch to the Lake Crescent area.  There are many waterfalls in the area including Marymere, Madison Falls and Sol Duc Falls and Hot Springs Resort.  All lush and beautiful!

I chose a 70-degree day to venture out to the farthest Northwest point of the continental US, Cape Flattery. Access to Cape Flattery is from Neah Bay and the Makah Indian Reservation. Neah Bay is a very small town with the Makah Museum the highlight of the town.  If in the area, be sure to tour the museum and buy a pass to get onto the reservation and see Cape Flattery.  It’s a short drive from Neah Bay and a 20 minute hike to the Cape Flattery overlook.  Neah Bay is a two hour drive from Sequim, and it is definitely worth the effort to see the Cape. 

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Walking sticks provided by the Makah for use on the trail.
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The trail out to Cape Flattery
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The trail gets narrow
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The trail crosses creeks
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And then you arrive! Bits of Washington State broken off into the ocean
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That is British Columbia across the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Forks

After seeing everything I could from the north area of the park I drove southwest to Forks and stayed at the Fork Elks Lodge, but this time with a twist.  There was a resident Elk heard in the immediate area of the lodge! One morning I was awakened by an unusual sound.  I looked out the window and I was surrounded by a heard of Elk!  Of course, I had to grab my camera and head out the door to take photos.  Then I realized how large they are and how close they were to me! So I quickly snapped a few photos and ran back into the rig.  It was an awesome way to wake up!

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Parked at the Forks Elks Lodge…just the two of us!
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Elk at the Elks Lodge!
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Great view of Elk butt as they head into the forest.
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This sucker is huge!

Forks is a logging town as is the entire Peninsula.  Washington is not called the Evergreen State for nothing!  However, logging is a dying industry and many small logging towns are in a poor economic condition.  Forks was one of those towns until a series of books put Forks on the international map. If you don’t have teenagers, you may not be familiar with the Twilight books. The plot revolves around a group of young vampires living in the Olympic National Park and feeds on animals, not humans. The main female character lives in Forks.  The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer, has been a big economic boom for Forks.  I learned a lot from the visitor center.  Before the books, Forks had around 6,500 visitors a year.  After the books, 69,000 visitors a year!

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The Twilight crew and me!
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People from all over the US and the world!

While at the Lodge I met some nice people from Wrangle, Alaska.  We attended a fund raiser spaghetti dinner for Oscar, a local child with cancer.  The money was for his treatments in Seattle.  Before my new Alaska friends left they gave me a couple jars of smoked salmon they caught and canned. That was the best smoked salmon I’ve ever tasted.  It was bagels and lox for breakfast until I ran out of that yummy salmon.

There are many beaches along the coast and I visited several of them; La Push, Rialto, First Beach, and Ruby Beach.  I also had lunch at the popular Kalaloch (pronounced clay-loc) Lodge.  Such beauty along this rugged coastline!

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The beach
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Such beauty!
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Tide pool – Sea Anemone
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Tide pool-Blue Mussels

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Then it was time for the Hoh Rain Forest.  It is among the only protected temperate rain forests in the Northern Hemisphere. The rain forest receives 140 inches of annual rain, and condensed mist brings another 30 inches.  The record rainfall is 190 inches! Three loop trails from the visitor center provide a great sampling of the rain forest.  My favorite was the Hall of Mosses Trail.  Luckily, I didn’t have to visit the rain forest in the rain!  It was a beautiful, sunny day.

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Dripping with Spanish moss
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Hoh Rain Forest
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The trail through the rain forest
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All the green!
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Hoh Rain Forest

As the weather started turning for the worse, it was time for me to start heading south towards Oregon.  Honestly, I could spend the entire summer in the Puget Sound area and the Olympic Peninsula.   I loved it!

Next stop Portland area and a visit with a dear friend.

Did I say, “I love this lifestyle!” yet?  I do!

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