Friday, November 14, 2014

Cool photo frame!

Meghan and I chose Rebecca's birthday gift at a small shop in Tofino, BC (on Vancouver Island). It's a great, handmade picture frame in the form of a VW Bus. We finally got around to getting the pictures chosen, printed to the right size, and put into the frame just last night!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The numbers! (you knew I was going to do this, right?)

The pic of the Garmin above tells a lot. We kept it on basically whenever we were moving 'forward' on our journey. For example, it was not on when we were running back to town from a campsite or otherwise exploring and not 'traveling'. It was not on during our numerous ferry rides totaling about 700 miles.

So, here we go:

Miles driven: 9,463
Hours driven: 197
Gallons of gasoline: 631 (approximately)

Camp nights: 55
Hotel nights: 3
Friend's house nights: 3

Days between showers: 3, on average

National Parks: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff, Jasper, Denali, Kenai Fjords, Kluane, Olympic, Mt. St. Helens, Redwood, Dinosaur.

State / Regional Parks: Sinks Canyon, WY, Holter Lake, MT, Inga Lake, BC, Liard Hot Springs, Eagle River, AK, Captain Cook, AK, Porcupine Creek, AK, Prudhomme Lake, BC, Green Lake, BC, Cal-Cheak, BC, Sequim Bay, WA, 

California to Colorado and Home!

It seems like the last few days of the trip went by very quickly and we were suddenly at home. There was not even that many photos taken. Here's the best of them...

Mount Shasta in northern California.'s a fine example of windshield tourism. We didn't even stop the van for a good look. Maybe that had to do with the nearly 100 degree weather.

We spent three days with our friends Brian and Celestine at their home outside of Sacramento. Pretty much we just spent time relaxing, enjoying sleeping on a real bed, and enjoying the great company and good food. These folks have been great friends over the years and we always enjoy the time we get to spend together, which thankfully has been fairly plentiful over the past few years!

Our plans to head south and visit Yosemite were dashed by a wildfire that had closed access to Tioga Pass to go out of the valley to the east. It would have been a long out & back adventure, adding maybe 300 miles to our planned route to do this. Yosemite will have to wait until next time. So, we headed east and stopped to explore a bit around Lake Tahoe on the California / Nevada border. We bopped around south shore a bit, then headed up to Emerald Bay to camp. We were treated to some great views, and ended up doing a very nice hike.

Lake Tahoe basin from Echo Summit on US 50

Emerald Bay of Lake Tahoe

Proving to Meghan that even an old man can climb a tree!

Our hike gained a bit of elevation from the campground just above the lake!
The weather forecast called for a relatively mild day across most of Nevada, so we decided to get an early start and beat any potential heat wave we might have seen later in the week. We crossed the 400+ miles of Nevada in a single day and camped for the night in Wendover, on the Nevada / Utah border. Meghan decided if she never sees the inside of a casino again, that will be too soon. The smoky and/or 'perfumey' was really unpleasant, and the anti-kid thing didn't play well either. Though they had penny slots in Wendover, and we had A TON of pennies from the center console, I decided they'd look better in my penny jar at home than in the casino bank account. I guess I'm not much of a gambler.

Meghan 'straddling' the Nevada / Utah border in Wendover
The next day we took a brief detour to the Bonneville speedway on the salt flats. No, we decided not to do a speed run in Byron. Then proceeded east to Salt Lake City to explore a bit at our 3rd Olympic venue of the trip. They were having some dry-land ski jump competition, and had quite a few activities around the training pool, including freestyle ski jumping into the pool, and a rock climbing wall over the pool (no ropes required!)

Bonneville Speedway

Salt Lake Olympic Park
Climbing wall above the pool

Freestyle ski jump practice

The dryland ski jumps, for training in the summer
For our final camp night of the trip, we stopped at Dinosaur National Monument in our home state of Colorado. It's situated along the banks of the Yampa River. They have built a viewing center over one of the excavation sites at this park, and many of the fossils are still in the rock. 
Meghan and Willow chilling out in the Yampa

Oh, and me too!

This excavation site is inside a large viewing center where you can get pretty up close / personal to some amazing fossils.
From Dinosaur, we continued our journey along US 40 through northwest Colorado, eventually parking for the night at our condo in Winter Park. While it was real beds in a house that belongs to us, we were still not home. Our journey officially ended on 03-Aug-2014 when we pulled safely into our driveway in Boulder, CO. 

Nine-weeks on the road gave all of us memories that will last a lifetime, and for that I am grateful because those can never be taken away. I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to do this, with the two people I love the most in the world, and that they had the guts and patience to make it happen. 

A summary of stats from the trip will be posted shortly, and may be a bit of a work in progress as I find notes or tidbits to add.

Thanks for checking out our blog this summer. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Back in the USA! Washington & Oregon

After catching a fairly early ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington (Back in the USA!), we began our exploration of the Olympic Peninsula, and particularly Olympic National Park. 
One comment on the ferry service--those folks are absolute masters at the art of fitting vehicles onto a ship! We were #14 on the stanby list and when they squeezed Byron into a space that I was amazed at, they still fit on something like six or eight more vehicles, including one that arrived ~5m before the ship departed.
OK, this was actually done on Vancouver Island, but I decided to add the pic to this post.  Nice work Meghan!
After clearing Customs and picking up some groceries, we proceeded into Olympic National Park. This was the first time in this park for all of us, but it was long on our list of places to check out. With so much rain, so much elevation change, and the volcanic history, scenery was sure to be great. In a continuation of our tradition of checking out hot springs, we decided to camp at Sol Duc Hot Springs within the park. It is a really neat setup in that the operation is effectively self-sufficient, with geothermal and solar for power/heat, huge green houses for restaurant supplies, etc... 
We were reminded of just how wet the area is though, because the mosquitoes were relentless!

Sol Duc Falls, Olympic NP
In a continuation of our 'lands end' visitations, we drove out of the park to Cape Flattery, WA which is the northwestern most point in the continental USA. 
Cape Flattery lighthouse

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery
On the drive back to Port Angeles, we realized that the weather was looking pretty good and perhaps we should see what things looked like up on Hurricane Ridge back in the park. We stopped at the visitor's center and checked the cam and it looked good, so we headed up. It was definitely worth the drive for some great views and a nice loop hike, including the 'ski area' atop the ridge.
A clear day, or hour, at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic NP

The patrol shack at Hurricane Ridge
For our last night on the Olympic Peninsula, we stayed at Sequim Bay State Park. Though right off of the highway, it had a nice beach area and was well forested with trees bigger than we typically see at home. 
The next morning, we caught a short ferry across Puget Sound and proceeded to the home of a college friend of Rebecca's, Bernie Thompson. Meghan immediately headed to the trampoline in the back yard to jump for a while...that got out some good energy! 
Later that afternoon, we caught a bus into downtown Seattle to explore a bit. We first headed to Pike Place market and saw the vendors throwing fish, visited the Gum Wall, Rebecca stood in line at the original Starbucks to get a collectible mug for her growing 'You Are Here' collection. We then walked over to Seattle Center to see the space needle and lots of other stuff around there, then had dinner back near Pike Place. Overall a great day in Seattle!
The 'Gum Wall' at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Curious, and sort of disgusting.

Cool outdoor art at Seattle Center. It was really a beautiful day there!

This fountain is timed to the music and shoots to some amazing heights. Think Belagio, but smaller, and you can play in it!
The Space Needle was one thing that Meghan wanted to visit. Unfortunately, when we arrived, they were selling reservations for ~6:30pm elevator rides, last ride at 7:00pm...and we'd be joining the end of the line for tickets. We settled for views from the ground and a visit to the gift shop.
From Bernie's we crawled along through Seattle / Tacoma traffic for a while heading toward Mount St. Helen's. This would be Rebecca and I's (grammar???) second trip to the mountain, but this time the weather actually looked like we might get to see it! 
Mount St. Helen's Crater from the new visitor center

This ridge is well behind the visitor center, maybe 5 miles from the crater. The 'blow down' trees are still there from the 1980 eruption, and a clean line where the energy of the blast was sent upwards at the ridge line. Wow!
From St Helen's, we proceeded south and west toward the Oregon coast. It was Saturday and it quickly became clear that every good Oregonian goes camping on nice weekends, for ALL the sites from Astoria south were already taken for quite a distance. Even hotels, motels etc... We started looking for another illegal / bootleg site when we finally happened upon an RV park that was officially closed, but the owner saw us start to turn around and came running out to say we could stay. Thanks!
Pics below are from our trip down the Oregon coast.

Meghan found this cool depression in the rock that led to this big 'cave' where the waves were crashing through from the other side. It was quite a scramble to get down in the hole, but really cool!

We all really enjoyed the drive along the Oregon coast. I'd highly recommend taking the time to do this and explore some of the scenery and many little towns, each of which seeming to have a unique character. After a long day of driving and exploring we found ourselves 'between' any state & national parks again. Luckily, we found the Secret Camp RV Park in Gold Beach. It is situated along the south shore of the Rogue River and offered some nice amenities and reasonable seclusion in our 'Honeymoon Site'.
After a restful night, we headed out to cross the border into California where some big redwood trees awaited in Redwood State and National Parks. While we didn't have a ton of time, we took the scenic byway through the park, stopping to do a hike where we saw and touched some amazing trees. Interestingly, this route ended up taking us out the east side, and significantly north...back into Oregon, where we caught I-5 to head south toward Sacramento where we would reunite with the Carey's (who were with us at the beginning of this adventure). 

This does not do justice to how tall these trees are!
That's a BIG root ball on a fallen tree!

How many of us would it take to join hands around this one?

Wrangell to Victoria BC

After a couple of great nights in Wrangell, we again boarded a ferry for a 15 hour trip out of Alaska to Prince Rupert BC. The unfortunate part of that journey was a 1:45am arrival at PR, where we had to clear customs and then find someplace to camp for the remainder of the night. We got lucky in that the first provincial campground outside of town did not close the gate at 11pm as the Milepost indicated. We found a spot, and got a few hours of sleep. In the morning, we found that the propane tank on the van was out after 19 days, and our fridge was quickly warming up. Most importantly, Rebecca could not make her morning coffee, so we were in full crisis mode. We made a quick trip back into Prince Rupert for propane, and some Tim Horton's coffee & breakfast sandwiches. All was again good in the world...we were off toward Prince George. 

After some haircuts and shopping in the big city of Prince George, we camped at a provincial campground with a nice lake. Meghan and I took advantage for a morning dip..refreshing!

We worked our way down to Whistler where we checked out our 2nd Olympic host city of the trip. Great place that looks like a nice resort city and would have been lots of fun during the games.  Of course, the official host city was Vancouver, but Whistler was home to the mountain events. 

The Olympic cauldron.

An amazing rooftop tree in Vancouver!

We took a day in Vancouver and explored Stanley Park and saw the rose and other gardens, beach area, and took a long walk around part of the park. We then went to Chinatown for a meal and some exploring. I think that Meghan was a little scared by the smells and some of the fish and dead animals in the markets. We also went to Granville Island and picked up some gifts in the public market and enjoyed the ambiance and chaos. 
From there, we caught the ferry to Vancouver Island and arrived too late for a campground. After a bit of driving toward our destination of Tofino, we "bootlegged" a camp on a beach. Clearly illegal, but we really didn't have a choice. We cleared out pretty early and got back on the road to Tofino. 

Still chilly on the beach headed for Tofino, but beach time is beach time!

The beach had several structures built for shelter that looked like fun to hang out in, so we did.

Some folks we met on the ferry to Wrangell told us we had to go to Tofino, that we'd love it there. They didn't say why. Turns out, there were lots of VW vans of various vintages all over the area! Byron felt very at home, and we got lots of the vibe like Byron Bay in Australia...Byron's namesake.

The walkway to one of the beaches in Pacific Rim NP.

The water is pretty cold up there, and Willow still didn't think much of the waves.

Meghan built her own version of the structure we saw on the beach!

And Willow enjoyed the warm sun and sand.
We spent the day exploring the beaches south of Tofino that were all part of Pacific Rim National Park. Beautiful coastal forests give way to sandy beaches with lots of driftwood, hermit crabs, surf waves, and very few people.
Surf Junction campground made use of old car tires as shingles for their shop building. While not the most attractive thing I've seen, they get an A+ for re-use!

Lighthouse at Ucluelet.

Meghan 'inside' a big Douglas fir tree.

Cathedral Grove is pretty near to the center of Vancouver Island on the way to/from Tofino and houses some of the worlds largest Douglas firs. It felt very much like being among the big redwoods in northern California.
Yep, that's GOATS on the grass roof near the Coombs

Our GPS sent us on quite a 'scenic' route to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. It wasn't quite 'Top of the World Highway' caliber (see earlier post), but it was quite a narrow winding road. When we arrived, the staff were amazed that it sent us that way, for the easy route was right off the highway.
Oh well, it was an amazing visit, as you can see from the photos above...All taken by Meghan, who took over camera duties for the visit. Nice work!

Victoria was out last stop in Canada before catching a ferry the next morning to Port Angeles, WA. Sadly, the ferry schedule did not allow us to explore the city. It gives us a great excuse to come back, for we have a feeling there's lots more great stuff to see all over Vancouver Island.