Year 2 Days 290 to 293 Cruising the San Juan’s

A few days ago, we drove down to Bellingham with my brother, Don, and his wife, Debbie. They keep their 42-foot Grand Banks cruising trawler, Change of Latitude, at the marina there. We were off on another water bound adventure. Whoo Hoo! It would be the first time that Mary Margaret and I were returning to the sea since we sold our beloved Leu Cat, at year ago last August. (Except for our fun time in Michigan with our friends, Steve and Linda Hecker on the lake.)

Mary Margaret had suggested that we find some nice, remote island in the San Juan’s to sail to and explore. Don and Debbie decided the most remote place would be the small island of Patos, the northernmost island of the San Juan’s one can go to before entering the Canadian waters. I have posted a Google Earth photo which shows you its location relative to the Canadian border, as well as to Blaine and Bellingham, Washington.

Islands Near Blaine, WAPatos Island

The weather was just fantastic with nothing but blue skies and lots of sunshine. Apparently, a Pacific high-pressure cell was moving into our area and would be dominating our weather for the next week or so. It was bringing this beautiful weather for our three-day cruise. As we motored out of the marina, Mount Baker came into view. What an inspiriting sight: tall and majestic and all covered with ice and snow.

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Our cruise was about 25 nm and with a cruising speed of 8 knots, we approached Patos Island after just about three hours. Patos Island is a state marine park and has only two mooring balls in its small anchorage, called Active Cove. It got its name from when the winds blow from the north, the seas enter the cove, making it rather active with the swells bouncing any boats that are moored or at anchor.

At this time of the year, even with good weather, few people come to this remote island. Thus, when we arrived, the two mooring balls were both available. With Don at the helm, Debbie snagged a mooring ball and soon we were safely moored. We joined the Blue Herons, ducks, geese and seals which were making this island their home.

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We spent three days at this anchorage, enjoying the peace, beauty and solitude it offered. It also allowed the four of us plenty of time to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. We also lowered the dinghy and motored over to the island to explore. I will post the pictures I took, to let them “do the talking” regarding what we saw.

The island has a very old 1800’s era lighthouse that is still standing. I took a number of photos of it both during the sunny afternoon hours and during the foggy morning hours. I hope you enjoy them.20181017_15332720181017_153229

During our stay, a 36-foot C and C sailboat came in and snagged the other mooring ball. We invited the owners, Sue and Jim, over for sundowners and had a chance to get to know them. 20181017_153909Sue and Jim were Canadians, living near Vancouver, BC. They own their boat and have been enjoying sailing these waters for a number of years. They will be flying to French Polynesia in a couple of months to explore a bit and we are so envious. That area of the world was our favorite sailing venue.

During our stay at Patos Island we ate very well with Don grilling each night and Debbie and Mary Margaret putting together sides that paired well with each main. It all went down nicely with the various bottles of red wine that were in the boat. Ahhhhhh, now this is the life and we miss it so much.

During our last two days at Patos Island we had a thick, grey fog roll in during the morning hours and that brought the visibility down to just a few feet. When it did burn off, we were blessed with cloudless, blue skies and a bright, warm sun.20181018_184203

On our return trip back to Bellingham, we had to delay our departure until 1300 because of the thick fog. But, when it burned off, it was an easy cruise with glassy water and bright, crystal clear skies. 20181019_143220

Once we docked and cleaned up the boat, we then headed off to Don’s favorite Italian restaurant for pasta dinners and deserts. It was a great ending to a great time onboard Change of Latitude.

Year 2 Days 286 to 288 Oysters, Ice Cream and Houses

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This blog was written a number of days ago, before we went sailing with Don and Debbie.  While sailing, we anchored at a remote island in the San Juans where we did not have good Interest, so I was not able to post this blog.  Now that we are back on land and have Internet, I can post this belated blog.  I still need to write a blog describing our wonderful three days out sailing but it may be another day or so before it is completed.

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We are in the relax mode, one of our favorite modes of operations. There are no plans of action, no pressing schedules, no pressure to do anything. R-e-l-a-x-i-n-g…. ahhhhhhh.

During this respite period, Don and Debbie leisurely introduced us to their area. Blaine is just a little hole-in-the-wall town, supporting a spread-out community of about 8,000 people. As we drove first up and then down the main street, I saw more Canadian cars then local cars. The town is nestled right up to the Canadian border with the off ramp from the border crossing that enters the town.

One of the big reasons there are so many Canadians here is that they come into town to pick up their mail. Apparently, post box service is a big business here. I understand that the Canadians order stuff from the Internet and then come into town to pick up their stuff and then bring it into Canada. It appears that this is a lot cheaper than having it shipped into Canada. Go figure.

Don and Deb shared with us that there are a number of very good restaurants in town along with an ice cream diary store and not much else. We observed that they were right.

One of the highlights to our trip into town was a stop at Drayton Bay Oyster Company. Housed in an old narrow brick building, overlooking the harbor, they grow, harvest, shuck and serve oysters. Drayton Harbor Oyster CompanyOwned and operated by a young 30-something couple, whenever they run low of fresh oysters, they just hop in their little boat to get some more. They have a chalkboard on the wall that shows you how far away the oysters came from (today it was only ¼ of a mile away) and the time it took them to go from picking the oysters to the oyster bar (13 minutes). It just does not get any fresher than that!

I ordered their oyster stew, which was delicious, and complimented the stew with a half dozen grilled oysters. I slurped those puppies down so easily and sopped up the juice with pieces of warm sourdough bread. Yum!

Mary Margaret and Debbie opted to go next door to sample their sandwiches and hot dogs. Called “Just A Bite”, it shares the old, narrow building with the oyster bar. Mary Margaret and Debbie also enjoyed their lunch.

Afterwards, we all got together and walked over to the ice cream diary store and ordered double scoops of ice cream. Ooooooooh, so rich, creamy and good.Edaleen Dairy

With smiles on our faces, we returned to the car and Don and Debbie drove us around, offering us a tour of the area. If you have ever been to the Pacific Northwest and especially the Puget Sound, you can imagine the spectacular views we were presented. The skies were sunny and bright, not a cloud in sight. The water was like glass, since there was no wind. For the next 10 days or so, we will be sitting in a North Pacific high-pressure cell which is keeping the wet and cold weather up in northern Canada. How lucky are we!

The many evergreen-covered islands that make up part of the San Juan de Fuca Island group were sitting blissfully in the distance, with the dark blue water of the Sound between us and them. So remarkably scenic! As we turned from facing west, to facing east, we were greeted with snow-covered Mount Baker dominating the view. It was all very breathtaking.

For the last two days, with the delicious oysters and ice cream as just a memory, Mary Margaret and I have spent our time looking at houses that were on the market. We have been using a number of internet-based websites to tour various houses on the market. Now, with the help of a local real estate agent, we were able to personally inspect those houses which were of interest of us.

We were able to find a couple of houses that we are interested in and may end up putting in a bid. We will be making a decision before we leave the area in 10 days.

Tomorrow, Don and Debbie will be taking us boating on their 42-foot cruising trawler. This will be the first-time cruising since we sold good old Leu Cat last year. We are very excited.

Year 2 Days 283 to 285 Blaine, WA

Our drive from eastern Washington to the State’s extreme northwest corner went without a hitch. We had some concerns regarding the heavy traffic around Seattle but our timing was good and we were able to scoot by before the Friday afternoon traffic started. Our route was all on freeways so driving was stress free. While driving on country two lane roads is certainly more scenic and ascetically more enjoyable, especially with the unique ranches or farms and rangelands or forests dominating our views, it is much more stressful. With a big 25 ton, 40-foot-long, 9+ feet wide bus, driving the narrower country roads takes a lot more skill and attention to keep the bus “within the lines”. Thus, our stress levels are always higher whenever we drive LeuC down the more scenic routes. This means that when we arrive at that day’s destination after taking rural roads, we are more tired than when we take the wide, four-lane freeways.

When we arrived at the RV park that we will be parking LeuC at while we stay with my brother and his wife, we decided that we were so happy that we would be staying with them. The RV park was the pits, with a set up that required four RVs to be packed in together to share a common utility pedestal. This means that each unit is literally just inches from each other. Yuck!

What is surprising, is that this RV Park is part of Thousand Trails, a premium RV Park association that costs huge amounts of money to join. The parks within this association are all supposed to meet certain standards and they are supposed to be the “upper end” of the RV park spectrum. Well, if this park is representative of the other parks in the association, we question the value of spending big bucks to join.

After setting up LeuC we called Don and Debbie and told them we had arrived and that we would like come over in a bit. They were all excited and their enthusiasm had not diminished when we did arrive. During this last year they had retired and had bought their beautiful house, which looks out over the 7th fairway of Semiahmoo Golf Course.

After the tour of their lovely home, Don whipped up a batch of his very special Margaritas which were slurped down in fine style. Ahhhhhhh, this is the life!

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The rest of the day and well into the evening was spent catching up and enjoying each other’s company. A delicious meal of wild Alaskan salmon that Don grilled outside over a cedar plank was the perfect complement to a perfect day.

Yesterday was spent taking it easy and planning things to do while here. What is on the list is looking at some houses that are for sale, playing some golf, cruising around the San Juan Islands in Don and Debbie’s boat, touring some museums and just enjoying each other’s company.

Today, after a hot breakfast of eggs, toast and smoked bacon, Don and I were off to play some golf while the ladies spent more time together catching up. Debbie and Mary Margaret are the best of friends and they enjoy spending time together. It makes me happy knowing that my lifemate and Don’s lifemate so enjoy each other’s company.

The golfing was great as the course was absolutely beautiful and challenging. It was designed by Arnold Palmer and is rated as one the best courses in the Pacific Northwest. The pictures I took while playing should help convince you of the merits of this claim.

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Neither of us have played very much in the last few years but it did not show during our first nine holes. We each had our mojo working and scored a number of pars as we worked our way to a score for the front nine of 46 each. Whoo Hoo! Such fun!

Don kept his mojo working during the back nine, as he shot a 48, finishing his round in style by sinking a pitch shot on the last hole that was 30 yards from the green. Double Whoo Hoo!! I ended up fading a bit as my irons failed me on a couple of holes. I finished the back nine with a 54, to complete my round with a score of 100. Not what I had hoped for but I was pleased with the number of great drives I had on a course that I had never played before.

Tomorrow, we will be going to an oyster house to slurp down some fresh local oysters and then take in an open house or two. We are interested in checking out this area as a possible place to settle down in when our nomad days come to an end.

Year 2 Days 281 and 282 A Long Passage Nearing An End

We left Lansing, Michigan over 6 weeks ago, with a goal of crossing the northern states of the Midwest and Western US, arriving in Blaine, Washington. The journey would mean driving about 3000 miles and crossing the Mississippi River, the grassy plains, going over and through both the Black Hills of South Dakota and the northern part of the Rocky Mountain Range, crossing the scablands of eastern Washington, cresting the Cascade Mountain Range and then traveling along the roads that line the eastern shore of the Puget Sound of the Pacific Northwest, finally arriving in Blaine, literally abutting the border of Canada, just south of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Lansing To Blaine Route
Well, with luck, tomorrow we will meet this goal, arriving in Blaine during the mid to late afternoon hours. We still have a 5-hour drive ahead of us, covering over 250 miles with the worst part of having to fight the notorious Seattle area traffic. Ugh!

Our reward will be spending two weeks with my brother, Don, and his wife, Debbie. They have recently moved here to start Don’s retirement from his post as a distinguished chair at the University of Connecticut. We are looking forward to seeing them again: spending time catching up, playing a little golf, maybe cruising some on their 45-foot cruising trawler and touring the area they now live in. Both Don and I were born in Washington and we have many relatives from my dad’s side of the family that live in Washington. We do not believe we will have much time available to visit with our relatives since most live down in the Seattle area. However, Mary Margaret and I did visit with most of them just three years ago and it was wonderful catching up. Plus, we were able to see my cousin, Ken, and his wife, Karen, last October when they were visiting Scottsdale, AZ and we were camping a few miles away in Mesa, AZ.

I must admit, I am looking forward to Don’s killer margaritas. He has a special skill in making various versions of that nectar of the gods. Slurping down one of these is pure joy!

Year 2 Days 278 to 280 Exploring The Ginkgo Petrified Forest

We are in the desert area of the state of Washington. Called the Scablands, we are sitting in part of the Columbia Plateau, between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Cascade Mountains to the west. It is a hash and wild country, dominated by historic lava flows and repeated volcanic ash deposits. It is a geologist’s playground because of the remarkable geologic events that have happened here.

Not only were there numerous prehistoric volcanoes and their respective lava and ash flows covering the landscape but also catastrophic, very high energy floods that scoured the plateau, forming huge pot holes, gorges, basins that were carved out by tall and wide waterfalls, many times the height and width of Niagara Falls.

To provide you with an understanding of how and why all of this happened, I struggled trying to write reasonable but short explanations. Alas, I was not up to these tasks so I searched YouTube to find videos that presented this information so much better than I could. Therefore, I encourage you to first watch the video which presents information of the Ginkgo Petrified Forest by clicking here. Note that the petrified forest is actually found embedded in a layer of a lava that flowed into the shallow lake where the Swamp Cedars and other trees were located. The water protected the trees from burning up when the hot lava flowed into the shallow lake.

Also, I hope you enjoy the video on the repeated massive flooding that occurred during the last glacial age, about 17,000 years ago. Lobes of the thick glaciers blocked river valleys that formed huge lakes, including Lake Missoula. Lake Missoula contained more water than the current Great Lakes. Like a modern-day reservoir, the ice dam of the glacier backed water up river valley in the Rocky Mountains to an altitude of 4200 feet. Wow! It is speculated that all of this water drained once the ice dam broke free in just 48 hours. Double Wow!! Also, it is believed that the forming of an ice dam and the creation of a massive lake which eventually broke through the ice dam occurred a number of times. Each time scarring the landscape that is today’s scablands of eastern Washington. The video which graphically explains this can be seen by clicking here. Also, note the scenery contained in the video as it shows both the scablands where we are now and our last day’s passage down the Bitterroot Mountains of the Rockies.

What inspired me to write about the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and the scablands was today’s visit to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Interpretive Center and the Ginkgo Petrified Forest Gem Shop, which was near the Interpretive Center. There, we spent time talking with the Ranger, studied the informational boards and exhibits, watched videos and observed and touched numerous petrified logs which were inside the Center as well as outside. It was pretty cool.

From the Center, we then drove over to the Gem Shop. The specimens there were simply awesome, the best we have ever seen and so reasonably prices. Needless to say, we walked out with our arms full of wonderful pieces.

Here are some of the photos we took, showing what we saw.

Year 2 Days 276 and 277 Avoiding The Snow

We had hoped to drive to Rose Lake, Idaho yesterday, where we would dry dock at a pullout next to a boat ramp on the lake. Using Google Earth, the site looked perfect for a quiet last few days in the Rockies. Based on my analysis of the weather, the snowline was going to be more than a thousand feet in elevation above us and we would only be getting some rain. Rose Lake at an elevation of 2500 feet and I was anxious to squeeze some more time in these scenic mountains.

Thus, with this plan of action in the forefront of our minds, we said goodbye to our lovely campsite at Drummond, Montana. This time, we stayed mostly on the freeway, trying to make miles as quickly as we could. Previously, we had been trying to take the more scenic side roads but did mix in a fair amount of freeway miles to avoid the higher passes that the local roads tend to go up and over.

For most of this leg, our journey took us on the down slopes of the Rockies. We crossed the continental divide and started our downward drive. A number of times, the grade was steep and curvy, making us slow LeuC down to 50 MPH so we could take the curves comfortably. Thank goodness for engine braking. Otherwise, our brakes would have overheated going downgrade for so many miles.

Rose Lake is at only 2500 feet in elevation and when we pulled off the freeway to follow the local road to get there, the sun was out and the sky was clear. Looking just at the sky, one would not realize that a snow storm was going to be landing in the elevations above us in a few hours.

The side road we needed to take to get to the boat ramp area was a few miles down the road and when we got there, we gulped. There was no way LeuC could go down that narrow lane without the branches of the pine trees lining the lane scrapping off our side paint. We decided to continue on, looking for a second road that Google Maps showed as an option. Alas, that road was even narrower and was more of a cow path than a road.

Without a clear path to our night’s campsite, we decided to return to freeway and just drive down to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and find a Walmart to spend the night. Along the way we spied a little RV park tucked in amongst the pine trees and decided to check it out. Unfortunately, when we pulled in, we discovered that it was closed for the season and no one was there.

We finally found a Walmart in Post Falls, Idaho, just a few miles shy of the Washington border. As it turned out, it was a nice place to spend the night. The lot was huge and by evening mostly empty and quiet. For dinner, we just walked into the Walmart and bought a rotisserie chicken that we brought back to LeuC.

This morning we decided to continue on to a campground in the Columbia River Plateau about 30 miles south of Wenatchee, Washington. It is called the Ginkgo/Wampum Recreation Area and is located overlooking Wampum Lake, which is really part of the Columbia River.

We were not expected to arrive here until this weekend but given our efforts to avoid being in the Rockies during snow storms, an early arrival seemed prudent. This will give us 6 nights here. During our stay, we hope to explore the area since it is renowned for its petrified forest. Plus, we can rest up a bit from our long drives through the Rockies before our last leg of this journey to the Pacific Northwest. On Wednesday, we will drive to Blaine, Washington, to spend time with my brother, Don, and his wife, Debbie.

Year 3 Days 274 and 275 Clawing Our Way Over The Rockies

Yesterday morning we were greeted with a blanket of thick fog. There was no way we were leaving our site and driving almost 300 miles through pea soup. Fortunately, the NOAA weather site had issued traveling warnings for our route and they indicated that the fog would burn off between 8 and 9 in the morning. By 9, the valley where our campground was located in was clear of fog and the fog that was piled up against and tumbling over the mountains between us and the town of Cody had disappeared also.

Thus encouraged, we bundled up LeuC and headed down the road. To our surprise, when we dropped down into Cody, we discovered that it was still blanketed by the fog and we had to slow down to just 25 MPH to be safe. We crawled through Cody and crept up the rise on its far side. As we did, we worked our way out of the fog that covered that town. Whew!

We worked our way north, getting back into Montana without any difficulty. We then turned north, heading toward Bozeman. Our strategy was to go around the mountains as much as we could, instead of taking the high pass roads through the mountains because they were covered with snow. As we weaved our way between Absaroka Range to the south and the Crazy Mountains to the north, we noted the thick blanket of snow covering the mountains above us. It looked like the snow line was about 5500 feet and we were traveling mostly between 4500 and 5000 feet. At times we did go up to 5500 and we could see snow on the banks of the slopes we were driving past. Fortunately, the sun was out and the road was clear and dry.

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We finally arrived at Bozeman, Montana and were surprised at how large of a city it was. We crawled along its main street at 20 MPH since there was a fair amount of traffic with lots of stop lights, slowing everyone down. We finally worked our way through this town and continued on. Our campground was about 30 miles west of Bozeman, along the Madison River.

When we arrived, we were greeted by an idyllic spot to camp. The Red Mountain Campground is a BLM site with 17 campsites. No utilities are provided so it is a dry-docking site. We also did not have any access to the Internet because its location is rather remote and tucked down in a narrow river valley between the mountains were rising above us.

There were a few trout fishermen in the river, casting for trout. I took a number of pictures of our wonderful site and will share them below.

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This morning, the weather was unstable with dark clouds above us, threatening to rain. The temperature was in the 40s so we decided to press on. We know that a massive snow storm is predicted to move this way coming this weekend so we are motivated to continue west in hopes of passing through the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains before the snow comes.

We drove another 3.5 hours west arriving in the cow town of Drummond, Montana by noon. The town has a little park where people can camp next to their rodeo grounds. It has 3 sites that offer 50-amp power. We were the only one there so we snagged one of the sites with electricity. This meant that we would not have to run our diesel heater to keep warm and would not have to run our generator to keep our batteries happy.

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We decided to drive into town of dinner and stopped at Parker’s Family Restaurant. It was a cozy place and we were surprised at its menu. It offered over 100 types of hamburgers. It was the most comprehensive list of hamburgers you could imagine. I opted for the Mr. Holland’s Opus which was made up with two ¼ pound patties, a sausage patty, strips of smoked bacon, cheese, red onion, and lettuce. It was so big, I did not know how to eat it. Needless to say, I took more than half of it home to eat tomorrow.

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The same could be said for Mary Margaret’s burger. Hers was a more traditional bacon cheeseburger but was still huge.

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We so wanted to indulge in their deserts as the owner’s husband is a pastry chef and what we saw was absolutely amazing. However, we were so stuffed that we sadly have to say no. Sigh.

We would like to stay here tomorrow to go back just for the deserts but it looks like a snowstorm will be hitting this part of the Rockies come Thursday. Thus, by leaving tomorrow, we can reach the western part of the Rockies on Wednesday and drop out of the Rockies on Thursday morning before the snow starts. Our Fingers are crossed.