Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Wanderer Has Returned!

Well, actually it was a couple of days ago, but I’ve been trying to catch up with a few things since then. HOO-WEEE!!! What a ride! We drove almost 6,000 kilometres in 6 states (2 of them twice) and saw lots of wonderful and amazing things. That was the longest time I’ve ever been away from home and I amazed myself by not thinking of it at all. I didn’t even miss my computer. (Poor thing.) I did have my Palm T/X and a car-type charger for it, but I didn’t use it all that much. I found out that although I could get WiFi in some of the campsites and rest stops, I would have to register and pay for the connection. Forget it. I had my trusty Travel Journal with me and that kept my blogging urges at bay. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even do as much knitting, beading or reading as I had planned because the journaling took so much of my time and effort and I found I really enjoyed filling in what I had done and saw and photographed each day. Actually I’m still working on it. I didn’t even get halfway through the pages so I can continue as long as I want.

We mostly followed the route we had planned, though a few places we stayed longer or shorter or skipped a possible campground. We also skipped San Francisco, opting instead to skim through Berkeley and head over the toll bridge to Marin County. We’ll go back another time, probably by air and stay in a hotel. Our van would be difficult to park in downtown SF. So where did we go?

Down the I-5 through Washington, first to Beads and Beyond in Bellevue which was unfortunately closed for the Labor Day holiday and then to Shipwreck in Lacey which wasn’t. We managed to put a real dent in the Visa there! We camped that night near Mt. St. Helen and the next day continued to Portland, where we went to Powell’s City of Books. I was a bit disappointed this time with the craft section. It seemed to be rather sparse in comparison to previous visits. It’s not like there aren’t great books being published all the time and there is actually a burgeoning interest in crafts in young people. Maybe they don’t buy books but get their information over the Internet? Maybe Amazon is stealing all the book sales? I do like to look at some of the books before I buy them, since my bookshelves are awfully full and I have to start being a little bit discriminatory. Of course, I still managed to spend money there! We also found a cute little yarn shop/coffee shop called Yarn Garden where I got a few more items including my first Trekking XXL yarn for a pair of T-Man socks, which I knitted later in the holiday.

After Portland we headed east along the scenic Columbia Gorge. The weather was really hot but our campsite above the river had a lovely breeze. Well, wind actually. We had to just about nail everything down or it blew away! Next we camped by the Snake River near the Oregon border with Idaho, where we managed to leave our mat behind, the one that sits outside the door where we wipe our feet before climbing in. No big tragedy really and we never replaced it. Heading diagonally through Idaho, we traveled along scenic byways in among the fields of sugar beets and corn and eventually through the sage brush and rubber rabbit brush of southern Idaho and into Utah. When we camped beside the Salt Lake where a dike keeps the salt water out making a fresh water fishing lake, we were searching all over for the goat’s head plant that had punctured our tires 9 years before. We didn’t know what it looked like, only the two-pronged prickles! Finally we found it and then located it in our wild flower book. Not surprisingly it’s in the Caltrop family! Ouch.

From there we headed south and east to what we both agree was the highlight of our trip, Capitol Reef. Yes, it’s even more amazing than that picture I posted last time! I had to keep picking my chin up off my chest as it constantly dropped every time we went around a bend. Red-red rocks in the most amazing formations as far as the eye can see. And then in the middle was a little valley where our campsite was located, in among orchards of fruit and nut trees that had been planted by the original Mormon settlers. They called it Fruita and it was — we picked the most delicious apples every day we were there to eat out of hand. If we had wanted more, we could pay and pick bushels of them using the park’s ladders and picking poles. An extra perk you don’t find in every campground! We went hiking on several of the trails, up steep switchbacks (huffing and puffing at the altitude of 5-6,000 ft.) and really enjoyed our stay.

Still in Utah, next we went to Bryce Canyon which, although busy with tourists from all over the world, was as gorgeous as ever. We just about killed ourselves hiking down into the Fairyland Trail (almost 2 miles downhill!) and then trying to get back up again. In the heat of the day and at an elevation of about 7,000 ft. Yikes! We made it back eventually and collapsed in the shade for the rest of the day. The next morning before we left we hiked down the Wall Street trail along with a zillion younger tourists, but you couldn’t go further because of a rock fall called appropriately “The Wall Street Crash”. It happened in May and luckily nobody was killed. They haven’t yet figured a way to clear it yet though.

Next we carried on to Zion where we went through the most spectacular part coming in from the east on the red road through the red rocks and the long 2 1/2 mile tunnel with the switchbacks down the mountain after it. It was ridiculously hot and you can no longer go up the canyon except on the shuttle bus which was very very busy (talk about Coney Island!) so we opted to relax in camp and left the next morning. Really early before the sun was up we started the long drive from Utah across Nevada, stopping only for gas and a lunch/pee break, and into California. After what felt like the longest day ever, we drove up and up the windy switchbacks to Tioga Pass at almost 10,000 feet. The campground at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite was pretty disappointing. It was very primitive and you had to take all your food out of your vehicle and put it in a “bear box” to keep the bears from tearing through to get at it. Talk about inconvenient! And probably completely unnecessary. It was also really cold, especially after the 90 degree F. heat of Zion we’d had the day before, and froze in the night. We decided not to stay another day and headed west again the next morning.

This was another full day of driving across California, down out of the mountains to the coast. We had to get back on the freeways as we got closer to San Francisco and they got wider and wider and more and more busy until there were 6 lanes heading in the same direction! T-Man got really tired because of the stress yet he characteristically didn’t stop for lunch thinking it wasn’t that much farther. It was. A lot further. We finally got into Berkeley and got gas and groceries and I made him something to eat before we went to Lacis. That was a most interesting shop/museum and I’ve wanted to visit it for many years. It’s quite large and filled with old and new lace and ribbons and trims and antique shoes and books and tools – everything you need to make lace in every technique imaginable. Yes, I bought a few things! Then we left to head over to Marin County north of SF to find Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This very long road winds through many different communities (and passed San Quentin Prison) before heading out into the country on the way to the coast and ending at Highway 1, also known as the Shoreline Highway.

We followed the Shoreline up and down and around and back all the way up the California coast. We ended up staying two days at a really nice state park called MacKerricher where we saw sea lions on the rocks and one on the beach that let us get quite close. The beach was hard to walk on because of the texture, like tiny little rounded rocks instead of sand, and lots of sea weed. If the tide had been out further we could have done more tide pool beachcombing. There was a nice paved walkway called the “haul road” that went for miles along to Ft. Bragg (except where it had been washed out by winter storms in one spot). It once was used for lumber shipments in the 1800’s. This park also had a lovely little marshy lake with a trail/boardwalk around it. We startled something as we came to the boardwalk part (nobody else was around) that splashed into the puddles and saw a “cat” on the boardwalk that looked suspiciously like a young bobcat, but the park people hadn’t seen or heard anything when we enquired. We thought it might have been “mom” who took off when we startled them.

Once we got back into Oregon we were in familiar territory since we’d just been there last September. We only had two nights there, though we managed a couple of long beach walks. The weather was a bit more iffy than it had been so far and drizzled in the late afternoons but cleared up by nightfall. Some haze and fog as well but it wasn’t really cold. We zipped through south-western Washington on our way back and stopped at Frantz Glass north of Shelton near the airport for T-Man to get his shopping fix. He surprised me this time by getting lots more glass than previously, some stringer (skinny rods) and some rare colours to play with. He surprised himself by the fact that it didn’t cost as much as he thought when it was all weighed up! The next day we stopped in Port Townsend before catching the ferry to Whidbey Island and I got to play in the triple-shop that includes Wynwoods beads and Diva yarns, plus a mixed area with trims and embellishments and magazines. The town was full of motorcycles and we were to see probably at least a thousand of them the next day as well, there for the 25th annual Oyster Run (whatever that is!). Some really cool vintage Harleys with vintage bikers to match!

There was no campsite available for us on Whidbey Island at either Fort Casey or Fort Ebey so we went to the municipal campground called Rhododendron that was almost empty (though it filled up more later). We left early Sunday morning to get through the border before it got busy and it was just as well we did. When we got there, the US Customs had a bunch of serious types (sniffer dog and all) going over every vehicle before they let them through to the Canadian side. However when we got to the Canadian Customs, there were only 2 cars in front and we zipped through without a hassle. Turns out later that a bunch of customs people walked off the job due to “dangerous” work conditions which caused huge lineups and hours of waiting. We totally lucked out! The US officials were looking for some killer guy or other and our side didn’t want to deal with it. They’re holding out for carrying guns, which the government has put off until 2008. Most people could care less. They just wanted to get home, I’m sure. Meanwhile we were all unpacked and oblivious. To celebrate our return, we went out for dinner at a Greek restaurant before collapsing in our own beds for the first time in 3 weeks.

Some pictures will be coming in subsequent posts and I will probably post them all to my Yahoo Photos page when I get them all turned around the right way etc. I mostly took scenery and “texture” shots of rocks and plants and sand and such. I regrettably missed a few things I would have liked to have had a picture of, but that was usually because we were driving where we couldn’t stop. The windscreen was too dirty to take photos through it! More details to come when I absorb what I’ve seen and experienced and figure out a way to describe it all.

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