Sunday, September 30, 2012

Avenue of the Giants – Humboldt State Park

I woke this morning and took my time as my last morning in my redwood grove of the past 3 days.  I stopped in Eureka at the coop for some groceries,  and they had free wifi,  so,I hung out there in the parking lot for a while and got pictures posted to the website.


Then headed south to the Avenue of the Giants to see even more redwoods.  Avenue of the Giants is a scenic drive that parallels 101 for an incredible drive through the redwoods for 31 miles. This one is paved, and just a nice relaxing drive.  I stopped by Founders grove, and was able to see one of the giants that fell in 1991 due to wind.  It was something else to be able to walk the length of one of these fallen giants and understand how big and tall they really are (over a football field in length)


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Redwoods Day 2. – Hiking by Truck

I stayed in the same site,  and got up a leisurely pace again,  just enjoying my surroundings.  I decided to explore more of the park, by truck this time.  First I stopped at “The Big Tree”.   This is only one of many (I saw many of these on my hike), but this one is near the road,  so there is a little park next to this one.  This particular tree is 304 ft tall, 21.6 ft in diameter,  68 ft in circumference, and over 1500 years old.


Next I did the Coastal drive Loop.  Most of these roads say no RV’s or trailers for good reason.  But they are fine for the truck camper.   This would have been a really nice drive with coastal view,  but because of the fog,  all I really got to see was the road,  at one point I could barely make out the surf.  Maybe next time.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Redwoods National Park

Last night I made it to the redwoods just before dark.  I pulled into the Prairie Creek State Park Campground (also part of Redwood NP) and found my own little piece of heaven in a campsite (a nice change from hell a couple days ago).  The campsite was in the middle of a redwood grove and I was able to park right next to a bunch of these magnificent trees.  Two were 6 feet from the camper.  I say this is heaven for me because one of my favorite places on earth is Muir Woods National Monument just north of San Francisco.  I hiked Muir Woods as often as I could with my numerous trips to San Fran over the past 17 years with work.   But I was never able to spend the night in a redwood grove.


This morning I woke up looking through the skylight above my bed and could not believe that I was able to sleep among these ancient giants. (pic to the right-->) If you have never experienced redwoods, you should make it a point to go and spend some time in one of these groves.  It is really hard to comprehend these trees; pictures can’t even capture the feeling or size of these trees.  They can be as tall as 370 feet  ( or more, longer than a football field)  they can have a diameter of over 22 ft (longer than the truck and camper)  and they can over to 2000 years old.  To me,  it really shows how insignificant we as humans are.  We live (if we are lucky) only 0.5 % of their lifetime.  We are only 1.6 % of their height,  and only 0.02% of their weight.  But we, as humans, have destroyed 95% of them in the past 100 years.  Luckily most of the rest of them are now preserved in parks.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Whiskeytown Lake

Last night I found a little pullout at Whiskeytown lake.  I was on the back side of the lake, just as it was getting dark,  and found a semi flat spot that I decided to call my home for the night. Very few cars went by during the night,  and there was no knock on the door.    

I woke up this morning with a great view of the woods and lake.  I took my time and got ready and to head out of the park.  Well,  I didn’t make it very far.  About a mile there was a parking area with a great view and no one there,  I backed up the camper to have the best view, opened the door and all the windows and decided to get some work done.  I was there for a few hours till it started getting pretty warm.  When I got back in the truck it was already up to 90 degrees!  Last night at Costco in Redding it was 96.  I had not been that warm for a while (since Texas), so it was time to get out of there and head towards the redwoods and the coast.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Last night after coming down from Mount Shasta I headed towards Lassen Volcanic National Park.  I found the Manzanita Campground right inside the park gates at about sundown.  This was my campsite for the night.


This morning,  I liked the feel of my no rush yesterday morning,  I got up,  did some reading, some blogging,  and took my time before heading out to see the park.  I decided, I would take a slow day and enjoy the park.  I turned out at every turnout, just to look at the difference in the landscape of this park.  There was a large fire in the park that was 100% contained (put out) in August.  The devastation of this fire was amazing,  huge old trees were just left in charred ruins,  while others remained standing (and alive).


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mount Shasta

For some reason I was drawn to this mountain,  I heard about it for years and really wanted to see it,  but I’m not really sure why.  That was until I got here, and then I understood.   Last night as I was driving,  I could see the mountain for basically the whole drive.  I started seeing it over 100 miles away even with the smoke from the fires.  The north side was still covered in a lot of snow.   The base is around 4000 ft,  and the top is over 14000. It really stands alone without any other large mountains near it.

As I approached, I saw a sign for the Mount Shasta wilderness roads (in a national forest), So I decided to see if I could find a nice place to camp (for free) along this road in the shadow of the mountain.  About a mile in (the very rough road) I found a pullout that was a landing spot for hang and para-gliders.  It was level with a nice view of the mountain last night. 


Monday, September 24, 2012

Crater Lake Day 3

I got up for sunrise and headed towards the east side this time for a different perspective.  I backed up the camper and waited for the sun to wake up before I stepped out into the 36 degree cold with wind.  As I sat in the warm camper, there were at least a dozen other people outside with their tripods setup,  parkas on, and freezing;  waiting as I was for the light.  ( I like the camper for these moments).  It was a nice sunrise.

Today,  the wind was down some and it actually warmed up to be a nice day.   For my last day around the crater,  I decided to take my time and go the entire way around,  stop at every pullout, and see what the lake had in store for me today.

I wanted to go down and actually see and touch the lake.  There is only one spot around the whole crater where you can do this.  At Cleetwood Cove Trail,  there is a trail down over 700 feet to the lakes edge.  This is also where you can take a boat ride (when in season,  unfortunately, last weekend was the last time they took out the boats)   I would have liked to take a boat ride to see the crater and lake from that perspective, but maybe next time (I know I will come back here!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crater Lake Day 2

I got up this morning and went to the same point on the west side as I did for sunset last night.  I was able to back up the camper and have an amazing view.  I got some sunrise pictures and decided to stay here for a while and just watch the lake change as the sun rose through the day.  I got some breakfast (and even took a shower),  caught up on some blogging and picture downloads, all with a view, out of the wind, with heat.   
I ended up staying at that one spot for over 8 hours.  I had lunch here too.  Here is a shot of the view while I was nice and warm in my camper!  The wind was so really blowing, and it just didn’t seem like a good day to go hiking or exploring. (but what a view!) It was interesting to watch all the people come and go,  most freezing, and only stay for short periods of time, not sure if any of them even had a clue that I was inside.  One guy even walked all the way around it twice checking it out (I looked out the front and he was in a truck camper too)


Time for a random musing…  Fire… it has turned into my TV.  It is one of the reasons I don’t mind paying for a campsite ( I don’t build fires when I’m stealth camping in a parking lot) ,  as long as there is a fire ring I’m great,  that’s really all I need from a campsite.  I pull out my foldable reclining chair (with footrest) and just watch the fire grow and turn into coals.  There is nothing like finishing out the day with a fire; its calming, soothing, warm,  and gives a great chance to have a glass of wine or beer or margarita and just reflect on the day. 

Some nights I cook over the fire too.  One of my new favorite meals (that I learned from a friendly couple at Mount Rainier)  Is to cut up potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, onions and bratwurst with a little olive oil, salt and I use herbs de Provence.  This is all put into a foil packet and placed on the grill over the fire.  Yum! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crater Lake NP

I woke up in the morning, and it was a good thing I got the propane working last night because it was 31 degrees.  The heater was working great!  Got some breakfast and headed towards Crater Lake National Park.  I came in the north entrance, and the first stop was the Pumice Desert. Probably not everyone’s first stop, but was interesting and the first turnout I came to in the park. 

Then on towards North Junction,  This was my first view of the lake! I had never been here before and my first reaction was to just sit and stare in amazement; the sky was clear and the lake was a color blue I had never seen in water before. The last time I remember doing this was in the Canyonlands NP in Utah a long time ago.   The lake is over 1900 feet deep and about 6 miles long (at the deepest and widest points).  The drive around the rim is about 33 miles.  The blue color is because the lake is deep and probably the purest water on earth.  No rivers or anything else feeds it,  only rain and snow.  It stays at about 38 degrees year round.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mail… and Propane leak

About 2:00 in the morning,  I get woken up by, what I thought at the time was the Co2 detector,  I had forgotten to crack a window and the vent.  I was wondering what type of dream I was having to breath so much, but nothing like getting waken up by a screaming alarm to knock whatever chance I had of remembering the dream right out of my head.  I hope it did not bother the neighbors too bad.  I finally got it calmed down and 5 minutes later,  off it goes again.  I vented the camper, and turned off the propane (just in case because it is a dual Co2 and Propane detector) and eventually went back to bed.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oregon Coast

This morning my streak of seeing sunrise over the vineyards was broken by fog, and lots of it (at least I got to see sunset!)  Got up early from my vineyard spot, and decided to leave before the tasting room opened.  So I was off to Dallas, OR for breakfast at the North Dallas Bar and Grill  (nothing like a taste of Texas home… at least the name sounded like it)  I had a great breakfast and the people working there were very nice and helped me plan the day.

On to the coast,  which was also covered in fog.  Oregon has state parks and viewpoints everywhere on the coast. 
So I picked one, and backed the camper up, and this was my lunch spot for the day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Oregon Wineries

5 days after I put the Willamette valley into the Garmin (back on 9/14)  I am actually made it to Oregon Wine country today.  It’s funny how things just work out on this trip,  but the incredible thing is having time to explore those little diversions that occur along the way,  and how much fun they end up being.

I started the day with Firesteed,  I have had their wines before,  but I did not know about the Citation line.  Wow!  Deb was a great host and she helped me pick a route for the day.  The picture of the Pinot Noir grapes are from their estate vines.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Silver Lakes State Park

I woke up this morning and looked at the Silver Falls State Park hikes and decided that was a great way to start the day.   The park has 10 waterfalls on a hiking loop.  About 9 am I headed out to hike and photograph some of the falls.  I have included pictures of a couple of the falls.  I decided to hike about 5 miles just taking my time to enjoy the falls and the hike before  I headed back to camp.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Today was the day for waterfalls,  and lots of them… Old scenic Hwy 30 runs along the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, and has hiking,  waterfalls and amazing small gorges.  The first waterfall I came to was Horsetail falls,  This was right off the road, and a wonderful falls to start the day with.

It is time to give a plug to the guys at Really Right Stuff tripods.  I would not have been able to get the pictures today without the setup I got from these guys.  Photo hint… to get a picture of a smooth flowing waterfall,  you need as long of an exposure as possible.  This is can NOT be done hand held,  most of the pictures today had exposures of over 1 second and some as much as 5 seconds.  This causes some amazing results,  but sometimes can cause interesting ones too (I will tell you about the ghost later…)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

More Wineries

I woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise over the vineyards, the orchards and the Columbia River.  I could really get use to views like this after a day of wine (just like in BC).  The sunrise had some haze from the fires in Idaho,  and the sun was a bright orange glow as it came up in the morning.

Maryhill did not open for tasting till 10, so I just stayed in the parking lot till they opened enjoying the views.  I went back to do a proper, unrushed tasting this time, and enjoyed a number of their wines.  I purchased their Barbera which is an incredible wine (it’s sister grape is sangiovese).  Their white and red blends are very nice (got a bottle of each) and I picked up one of their ports.   Jess was very helpful  and told me a number of places and wineries to stop for the day. I’m going to have to be careful,  or my truck is going to be loaded down with wine before I even get to California...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Columbia River, WA Wine country

Today was another one of those unexpected days,  where things could not go this well if I planned it; which I don’t (plan that is…I kind of have a general direction and see what the road brings me).  I woke up in a gorgeous campground “Crow Butte Park”  This is  a great little park on the Columbia river that previously was a State Park, but is now managed by Port of Benton.  When I got there last night,  The Port of Benton manager, and the camp host were incredible,  Even though all the signs said full both were very helpful in finding me a spot to camp.  The next morning, the camp host said if I needed a place tonight,  she would find me something.  It is always so nice to come across friendly people like this.

I took my time getting ready this morning because the wine tastings did not start till 11.  And I didn’t need to start drinking (sorry, tasting…) before that.  At the suggestion of the Columbia Crest Ladies,  I first went up the road to the Alexandria Nicole (at Destiny Ridge Vineyard). 
They were closed to tastings,  but I poked my head in, and Matt (the Assistant Winemaker) gave be a brief tour of the winery.  It was so nice of him to take the time because it is in the middle of their busy season, and he was dealing with some winery issues.  He even gave me some wine to “taste” later.   Please visit their website at and buy some of their wine!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Drive West

I got up this yesterday morning at sunrise to take pics over Lake McDonald  The sun was coming from the mountain side, so the sunrise was just okay.   When sunrises/sunsets are just OK, I try to find some way to make it more interesting (not a bear this time…)  I started skipping rocks towards the mountains to see what I could catch on camera.  I thought I would call this print “Skipping to Sunrise”.   It was not a bad way to wake up and to say goodbye to Glacier NP.

Yesterday and today was for the drive west,  not many pics or much exciting to talk about so I am going to combine the last 2 days.   Yesterday,  I mainly drove from Glacier to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, somewhere over 300 miles,  I really did not keep track.  The only thing really interesting along the way was  being able to drive by Flathead Lake,  I did not even know there was a lake that large in Montana.  I must have driven the shores for over 35 miles.   At Misssoula, MT  the air was all smoky, and I found out there were a lot of fires in Idaho the way I was going to go on US 12.  So,  I changed direction and got  on the highway to Coeur d’ Alene.  There was a Toyota dealership there and the Tundra needed it’s 20K maintenance.  I called and they said they could get me in first thing in the morning if I got there early.  I arrived that night and slept in the Toyota Dealers parking lot.  (still nice to be able sleep anywhere!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I decided to drive the east side of Glacier NP today.  I have now been everywhere, in the parks except for the southwest corner (maybe another time).  The East side is very different than the west side of the park.   The day started by going through where there had been fires a few years back.  It was interesting to see how everything had recovered since then, but there was still a lot of dead burned trees across the landscape.  I decided to head up towards Bowman lake for the day.  I got to Polebridge and started the very rough 6 mile road to the lake.  After about a mile,  the road was so bumpy,  I decided not to shake my whole house to pieces anymore and I turned around.  The Tundra would have done fine,  and I’m sure the camper would too,  but I have many more miles to go, I  decided not to chance it this time (it was really rough).

On the way back I stopped for some blackberry wine and a burger at “Home Ranch Bottoms” up near Polebridge.  If you are every up the east side, its worth a stop here.    Then I headed back to reserve a campsite for the night.

Well by now you’re probably wondering why the title of this post is “Maids”.    Well I decided it needed to be cleaning day!  No, I did not have maids,  and why would I with only 100 square feet.   I did need to give the place a good cleaning and do laundry though.  It has been a couple weeks since I let dad off,  and I needed to do all the sheets towels and all my clothes.  Between everything,  I ended up having 5 washer loads  (I took too many clothes so I didn’t have to do laundry that often….)  I had not been to a laundromat for years,  and it was kind of nice to get it all done at one time.  (I don’t remember it being $2.50 per load though).  So now everything is clean (sheets, towels, and clothes) for the next part of my trip!  But how many places do you get a laundromat with a view?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Many Glacier and Going-to-the-Sun Road

I got up this morning to go take sunrise pictures,  the storms had passed, and thought I might get some decent pictures (and maybe see another grizzley or two).    The campgrounds seemed a little cold but kind of mild.  I got to the point where the Grizzly was the day before and had a nice viewpoint of the lake and the mountains where the sun was going to rise.  Sunrise can be beautiful,  but sometimes it is also the coldest part of the day.  Today was one of those days,  it was 36 degrees (per the Tundra) and on the ridge there were 50-60 mile an hour winds.  It was cold.

I took my pictures,  and then went back the Hotel at Many Glacier to get some pics from the deck.  I noticed a number of people on laptops, ipads, etc… and thought maybe I could get access.  This place had the tightest security for wifi I had ever seen.  You could only get a code from the front desk,  and only if you had a key.   I got talking to one guy, and he let me try his, but each card was different, and allowed one user.  After a while I gave up and decided to go down to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road through the middle of Glacier National Park.  Sometime things work out,  if I would have had access,  I probably would have stayed there and worked on the computer all day….

Monday, September 10, 2012


WIND… Did is Say WIND… holy crap… The camper as rocking like a boat on high seas.  So much for the peaceful night I had the night before in the parking lot.  By about 1:00 in the morning I had had enough,  I had to move.  One nice thing was that I actually could!   I forced the door open and barely got out of the camper without it slamming on me…  Went to the front of the truck, and barely was able to hold onto the truck door as I was opening it;  I was afraid the wind would rip it off.   (ok first thing I have found bad about a truck camper… you actually have to leave the back to go to the front to drive!  But I can live with that).  So,  I went down to the park below the hotel that I had taken the sunrise pictures for yesterday… I tried to hide the camper in the corner of the lot behind some trees,  because it was actually posted that I could not camp there…
Ok,  I made it through the night (in the new spot),  and actually got some sleep…  I awoke in time for sunrise, (because it was so incredible the day before),  well this sunrise didn’t quite compare,  but was still nice.  It was the other thing that happened at sunrise that was interesting (maybe not to some of my bear phobic friends…)  I went out to the dock and was waiting for the right moment to take the sunrise pictures.  I had done this the day before and just looked and took pictures for a good half hour.   Keep in mind the wind is still pretty strong, and the waves coming off the lake are making a pretty good noise… and I keep watching the sunrise.  All of a sudden two women from Holland come running up,  saying we’ve been yelling at you (from the parking lot).  I heard nothing with the wind and water…  they said “didn’t you see it”  I said,  “What?” ,  They said “the black bear that walked down the shore and just a few feet behind you!   See there he is!”  he was on down the shore a little ways.    I am glad black bears are not interested in humans (with all the berries in bloom).  OK,  I admit it,  this was not the smartest thing I have ever done, But I learned 3 things.  One,  keep an eye out all the way around you  (or as the lady’s said “watch your back!”).   And two a bear can be anywhere!  Next to a hotel, in town, on a dock…. anywhere.  And Three,  ALWAYS carry bear spray in bear country (it was in the truck…). 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Waterton Lakes National Park.

After a long day of driving yesterday and a belly full of good food and beer,  I slept like a rock (in the parking lot in stealth mode).  No one bothered me, or even knew I was there.   I got up a little before sunrise to take pictures, and to go look for wildlife.  I stopped at a park overlooking the lake for an incredible sunrise.  From there it was up Red Rock road to look for wildlife and to figure out some hikes.    I didn’t see any wildlife on the way up,  so,  I took the hike at Red Rock Canyon.   After that I hiked to Blackinston Falls.  I did carry my bear spray,  even though I hadn’t seen one yet,  it was bear country.

 After that I drove for a while and decided to hike to Crandell Lake.   It is interesting to see what people put on the guide posts.  See attached photo.

I know,  everyone asks why I would hike towards a lake with warning  like this ( sighting of  3 bears from the day before)… I also get responses from friends like “Crazy Gringo!”… BUT if my goal is to take wildlife photographs,  don’t I need to go where the wildlife is?

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I got up early and saw to see the sunrise and the Osprey and the eagles coming down to fish.  What a wonderful way to spend the morning before a long drive to Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada side of Glacier National Park).  I got up  and packed up camp,  went to the dump station, and was on my way to catch the ferry for the 45 minute ride to the other side of the lake.  Really not too much to talk about today,   so I thought I would talk about all the different smells of the day,  I know strange topic, but they were prevalent in my day today.

 On to the day of smells:

 1 – Sunrise – as I said above, and incredible way to start the new day… fresh clean mountain air, every day should start so fresh and clean.

 2 – Smoking -  After the fresh morning air, I go back to my site and all I smell is cigarette smoke,  REALLY,  some of the cleanest air on earth, and not only do they breath in smoke,  it’s so strong that it bothers the neighbors (me!)…  time to leave the site.

3 – Cattle truck-  Driving down the highway with the window down enjoying the fresh air,  and all of a sudden I thought my black water tank had backed up.  It was awful,  I had not seen any animal farms and I could not figure out what was going on for a number of kilometers ( In Canada you know.. Eh) …Then I see 2 cattle trucks in front of me on a long stretch of road.  I ended up behind them for many kilometers and drove along with my eyes watering.  Finally I pulled over to let my eyes clear so I could see again.

4 – Old Pub – I pulled into a small town and found an old pub that was part of an old hotel.  I thought some pub food at this point sounded pretty good!  I walked in and it smelled like an old pub,  but with a twist!?!?  To my surprise,  the only thing on the menu was SUSHI…  Never expected that one. 

 5 – Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes NP -  I walk in and it smelled distinctly British hotel – Now this is what I expected when I walked into a British pub.  The menu had Shepard’s pie, Lamb Stew, and Fish and Chips (which were wonderful).  The smell of good food and beer was a good way to end the day of smells.

The weather has been incredible all the way across BC.  Because it was so nice,  and it was Saturday (should have known better) there was not a campsite to be found,  or a hotel to check into.  So… oh well,  time for stealth mode for the camper,  I was already at the expensive hotel for dinner, and the parking lot was pretty level, so this was my place to sleep for the night… Who needs a campground?

At the end of the 300 mile drive (over 9 hours),  I finally made my destination across Canada to the first National Park on this leg of the journey  in only 8 days and about 1100 miles later (I thought it would only take about 3!)   It was a wonderful journey through BC Canada, and if you couldn’t tell,  I really enjoyed my trip!