Current Location: Whidbey Island NAS Cliffside RV Park 55 degrees F and raining
We had a good reason for taking a short trip to Seattle. Thinking that a single day in the busy part of Puget Sound would be plenty to do our business, it seemed that we should make the trip count with an additional few days in the San Juan Islands. I am fully aware that a short week isn’t nearly enough to really experience this magical place, but it is better than nothing. We figured it would give us a chance to dip our paddles and check out the area for possible future trips.
Then the business part of the Seattle day shifted and we actually didn’t really need to go to Seattle at all. By then, however, reservations were made, and a day in Seattle is always fun, right? Hmmmm.
When I say meandering quickly, I know that is an oxymoron. The meander part has to do with the route we chose, avoiding any freeways and enjoying some side roads we haven’t traveled previously. The quickly part has to do with traveling almost 400 miles on our first day.
Mo asked once as the day lengthened why we had planned it this way. I actually had forgotten, but then remembered, oh yes, it had to do with getting to Seattle for the business meeting and then still having time to play.
The meandering route took us north on 97, incredibly familiar, but north of Madras we turned west to follow Highway 197 through Maupin toward The Dalles. In all our years of traveling around Oregon, neither of us could remember taking this route. Even with smoky skies the views of the canyon of the Deschutes River with Mt Hood in the distance were breathtaking. Maupin (pronounced MOPin) seemed to be a cute little place, but we didn’t stop. Remember, we were meandering quickly. So quickly that I didn’t even manage any photos through the windshield.
At The Dalles, intersecting with Interstate 84, we decided to cross the river to the Washington side to Highway 14. As we approached Hood River on the other side of the Columbia, the winds picked up as usual and the famous wind surfers looked like so many wild dragonflies darting across the choppy water. Always fun to watch, I can’t really imagine how they stay upright at. As we watched, several didn’t stay upright in the strong winds.
Crossing at The Dalles turned out to be a great choice, because the bridge north across the river from Hood River is a toll bridge. Nice. We have traveled I-84 many times so it was a completely different view of the Columbia Gorge than we were used to seeing. At the tiny town of Carson we turned north toward Mt St Helens and the rest of the trip to our camp spot in Randle was narrow and winding.
After spending a large part of late summer in drought and smoke from forest fires, it was a treat to drive through rain and moist forests. The views were less than spectacular, however, because this part of the Cascades is thick with trees, lots of them, and most of the views are completely obscured by timber.
Along the southern part of the route especially, we were treated to the mosaic of timber grown and harvested as a crop. It isn’t a forest, not really, it is a timber farm, and I love that these timber farms exist. The private companies manage them much better than they did during the rape and run heydays of the 60’s, and as far as I am concerned it is wonderful to have highly managed productive timber lands that don’t tap into our wild old growth forests. We drove through huge even aged stands of Douglas-fir, and many patches of clear cuts that had regenerated naturally into thick young stands.
As we approached the St Helens Monument on the east side, we found a small roadside rest but only a couple of places where the Mountain was actually visible. We visited the mountain back in 2004 while it was in an eruptive stage. From the viewpoint I compared some of our previous photos and was amazed at how much the forest has regenerated on the blast devastated slopes in the last ten years.
We arrived at the Shady Firs RV Park in Randle just after five. A 400 mile day is an accomplishment on freeways but even more so on the winding side roads. Daughter Deanna passed on a Rand McNally trucker’s GPS to us (she has three types and didn’t need this one) and I spent the day trying to figure it out and by the time we stopped I was worn out and hadn’t driven a mile!
I learned to pay attention to Deanna’s advice: use the GPS, the Atlas, Google Maps, and some common sense. I discovered that the Rand McNally worked great if I knew exactly where I wanted to go and how to get there and programmed it accordingly. I did have to change the settings from “truck” to “car” because it kept trying to route me around things and send me a few hundred miles out of the way. So glad I am not a truck and our full 46 feet of rig and towed length isn’t hard to manage.
Shady Firs was exactly what it claimed to be; a quiet park under shady firs with hookups for fifteen bucks cash Passport America. I didn’t care at all about the rest rooms or the amenities because we only planned to stop for a night. The sites are on grass, the hookups were fine and the dump was free. There were just two sites with sewer, right next to the older trailer that housed a young caretaker. We opted instead for a site out in the middle of the park, without a single camper joining us that night.
It rained all night, a steady patter on the roof that was soft and soothing. The morning dawned with beautiful sunshine streaming through the clouds but within a short time the rain took over once again.
Our second destination was a mere 77 miles away. Mo asked again why it worked out this way and I could only reply that it had to do with finding a Passport America park on our route? Who knows. By noon we were settled into our new site.
Next up: Fort Lewis Military Family Camp and the joys of driving Puget Sound