Yosemite: Two Pieces of Advice

We got two very good pieces of advice before heading to Yosemite, both from friends who we had visited in the Bay Area the previous weekend. One piece of advice was more practical, the other more, shall we say, spiritual. The were both key to to a great, great visit to this gorgeous National Park.

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Spoiler alert: Yosemite is A-MAZING!

The first piece of advice was about winter access. Yosemite is in the Sierras. It snows there. If it snows, the park will be open, but you might not be able to get there with your Airstream trailer unless you have chains for your tires. They are very strict, gentle but firm about this. It is in fact the law. You can buy chains (which we didn’t want to do) or you can hope the warming trend coinciding with your itinerary will yield an upgrade of road conditions, allowing you to enter the park without chains. How will you know if the road conditions change? Call this number: 209-372-0200.FullSizeRender (3)

Some talented park ranger has to do a new recording every time road conditions change  – on the first night of our campground reservations (a Tuesday), the conditions were still “R3” closed to neophytes like us, people driving cars without chains.

So, like the pioneers when they faced similar challenges, we bided our time at a lovely winery. This Harvest Host, Vista Ranch & Cellars in Merced was perfectly situated just a few hours west of the park. In fact Merced was a jumping off point for tourist trips to Yosemite back in the day, and even today, those without a car (or chains) can take a bus from there, or even as far away as the Bay area.

The next day, Wednesday, temperatures were up, that snow was surely melting, and in fact when we called the road conditions line, all had been upgraded to “R2”!  You would only need chains IF you didn’t have four wheel drive (we did) and M + S tires (we did). Even still, when we arrived at the west entrance from 140, the so very helpful and sympathetic NPS staff at the gate (clearly reading off a checklist or some sort of matrix) told us that b/c our trailer had its own set of brakes, we would still need chains. Harrumph.

However, a ranger was quick to help us come up with a plan B: book a night at Indian Flat RV Park, about 8 miles down the road, unhitch and head IMG_3657into the park for the afternoon with just the truck. And, assuming all continued to improve, we’d surely be able to get in with the trailer the next day (Thursday). As with the 99% of other times when Plan A has failed, Plan B turns out to be as good or better. Because look who we got to meet at the Indian Cove RV Park? Tigger, the RV park cat.

We quickly unhitched and headed back to the park – we felt like we had been sprung from prison, FREE, as we rolled by the entrance gate, approved to enter with only our 4 wheel drive and M + S tires. We were free to explore for the few hours of daylight left.

Though I grew up in So Cal, I had never been to Yosemite. I had some sense of what to expect, but was not prepared for the scale of the mountains, their pure granite beauty, and of course the stunning minute by minute changes the rising and setting sun casts on them. Plus there was snow! Melting and slushy mostly, but quite icy in spots too. Happy tourist below – first time in Yosemite.

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Yosemite Valley is more or less a loop road – with free park buses that run a continuous loop to all the major sights and trailheads, so once you are in, you are encouraged to park your car and walk, bike or hop on the bus. Most trailheads, and even the Visitors Center don’t have parking lots. It took us this afternoon to figure this out.

But first, we made our way to the Pines Campgrounds, where our reservations, you may recall, had begun the night before. Despite the prominent signage saying “no refunds”, the ranger there was more than helpful in refunding the night we missed, and moving our reservations forward another day. It never hurts to ask.IMG_3630We stopped in the Visitors Center to do a quick perusal – watched one of the movies and came out to a completely altered night sky. Is this what it’s like every night? Wow.

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Back at Indian Flat RV Park, we rested up and hoped for the best on road conditions the next day. In the morning (Thursday), as we prepared to drop our quarters in the pay phone to find out, Ben ran into one of the rangers who helped us the day before – he came by on his way into work to tell us that indeed, they had changed the conditions yesterday. We were “R1” and good to go. How is that for customer service? Off season camping rocks.

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And we are in!

After pulling in to spot 151 in a nearly empty Upper Pines campground, we immediately set out on the Mirror Lake trail. Recommended by more than one ranger as a good “warm up” hike and one that would not be too icy. Nothing like snow to help you track the wildlife!

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Very suspicious. Seen near the dumpster in our campsite.

Note, there appears to be a Mirror Lake photo op, where you can hop off the bus, walk a few hundred yards to the Lake and move on. However the trail is longer, more meandering, a true suspense builder as you go.

IMG_3729-2But wait, here is where the 2nd piece of advice we received kicks in: from my friend Joan’s book shelf, she kindly let me borrow “Yosemite Valley: Secret Places & Magic Moments” by Phil Arnot. In his Introduction, he lays out some general tips for experiencing the park as more than just a tourist. One that we took to heart was to agree not to talk to one another for certain time periods. “Conversation is distracting,” Arnot explains. In order to have an in-depth experience of the Valley, silence and solitude are key. Now, Ben and I have had some really great conversations on some of our longer hikes on the trip so far, and I realized those conversations were in part borne of the time alone, the quiet, the serenity of the natural environment, the meditative quality of one foot in front of the other on the trail. It really did make me realize how much that same environment can encourage similar results, but within yourself. We were both game to try it and the Mirror Lake trail was perfect for it because there was tons to look at, the landscape was slowly but continuously changing.

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This is Ben, practicing non-verbal communication as a part of our pact to hike in silence. He is saying, “Don’t take my picture!”

Most of the first part of the trail was densely wooded alongside a river. Then it opened up into more of an open field (many trees had been toppled) and clear views of those granite mountains. Incredible! Because we had been quiet, I really noticed more. The mix of fall (leaves turning, browns and golds) and winter (icy snow, bare tree) struck me as well. We crossed the river and came back on the other side.

 

It was about a five mile hike and we were wiped, and it was getting late, toward sunset, and we wanted to squeeze in one more activity. We hopped on the bIMG_3779us and got off at the Yosemite Lodge (for hot chocolate) and walked to the Yosemite Falls foot bridge. It was nearly deserted, and though the iPhone pics don’t do it justice, a lovely way to see the falls.

On the bus again, we got off at our campground stop and the driver called out to make sure we had a flashlight. We did, thanks to Ben thinking ahead but still bumped around a bit among the loops to find our site.

The next day we set out to do a more challenging hike – Vernal Falls. We could walk to the trail head from our site and checked out the Mist Trail on the way- which I understand is packed during high season and was now completely empty. IMG_3696The trail to the Falls was quite icy in spots. We hiked alongside a group of 8th graders and figured if they could do it, so could we! The elevation gains were gradual enough so it wasn’t just a slog, and the views changed incrementally providing something new to look at at every switch back. Again, pictures don’t do it justice. Once we got to the falls, we were up for going a bit further so continued on toward Nevada Falls. IMG_3816We got just to Clark Point and the road closed signs were enough for us to call it quits there. Many other hikers, mostly fellows on their own, hopped the fence and kept going (they had better equipment) but so did a group of three women in their 50s from Korea – one of whom lives near Yosemite now and comes every few weeks to hike.

After hiking down, we explored Curry Village a bit. We saw dozens of people arriving to check in for the weekend. I bought some new sunglasses (I lost mine on the Mirror Lake trail but never noticed it – all that introspection can have its downside) and we found out we could NOT make a last minute dinner reservation at the Ahwahnee for dinner – the super fancy lodge dining option. Probably best as I am not sure what kind of outfit I could have scraped together.

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The dining room was closed for a private event but I snuck in and snapped this picture. I have yet to have a fancy dinner at a park lodge. 😦

We ate at their bar instead – it was nice to get out for the evening, but I would not recommend it – sort of like eating at a chain hotel restaurant, but worse. Sorry to end on this negative note, but gotta keep it real.

The next morning we gifted our new neighbors the Schmidts (tent

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We don’t know what to do with this.

campers who arrived from the Bay Area sometime around 130) the firewood that had been gifted anonymously to us when we arrived (we have yet to have a single campfire) and headed out to make our way to LA for Thanksgiving.

We took with us a fair amount of Yosemite mud on our hiking boots, and smiles for all the arriving weekend visitors who’d enjoy unrestricted access to the park roads and perhaps a few less road closed signs on the trails as the temps remained moderate for another off season weekend.

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Our (2nd) 10 day itinerary for Oregon

We have gone up, down, around, and through Oregon on this trip. 10 days on our swing north in September (read about some of that here,  here, and here, another 10 days on our swing back south in November. Though, embarrassingly, I included the first night of this second leg in Oregon in a post about Washington state. Sorry The Dalles!

Having visited Portland, Willamette Valley, and some of the coast about 10 years ago, we were pumped to revisit some of our favorites and find some new places to explore as well.

We’d been to Astoria before – a neat, real (not just a tourist) town on the coast, at the mouth of the Columbia River. Astoria welcomed us back with a beautiful rainbow!

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We stayed in Ft. Stevens State Park – and got lost looking for the campground, but as usually happens once you get past your annoyance at the GPS, our wrong turn led us to some beautiful sites and we took a walk around the jetty.

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The main thing we wanted to do this go round in Astoria was visit the Ft. Clatsop National Historic Park, where Lewis & Clark wintered over after completing their westward journey. The Corps of Discovery did not enjoy their time there — it rained a bunch — but we did especially because the park had been closed due to a fire when we here 10 years ago. We don’t have any pictures (!) but we do have this video we made there because our visit coincided with our nephew Carter’s birthday. It also just goes to show if you didn’t get that card in the mail on time, with a little creativity and the wonders of technology, you can do something cool to make up for it.

We rode our bikes to Ft. Clatsop – it was a little further than I thought it would be, on some busy roads too, but I would still recommend it. I don’t know if this is novel to anyone, but when I am low on batteries or data or coverage, I take a screen grab of my route and refer to that as I am able.

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The museum and site were very good. The replica fort (seen behind us in the video) was smaller than I thought it would be – you get a real sense of the Corps just hoping to – I dunno – maybe stay warmer by being so close together? Having less of an area to defend in case of an attack? I appreciated the attention to the long term fate of each Discovery Member in the exhibits, especially York. In the evening we treated ourselves to dinner at the the Bridgewater Bistro in Astoria. The food was only pretty good, but because the service and the setting were so spectacular, we’d recommend it. They let us combine two desserts into one – a chocolate brownie with coconut ice cream.  And the crab cheesecake appetizer was excellent.

On the way out of town, I stopped in the small but lovely Astoria Co-op, while Ben waited in a very long line to get his haircut at the Eleventh Street Barber. He passed the time by chatting it up with some local Coast Guard fellows, and I was amused by the proprietor who kept offering everyone cold beer from the mini fridge.

After a quick trip back to Seattle for some “admin” and a chance to visit dear friends in Auburn, we spent one more night in Washington – at an Airstream park, the aptly named Washington Land Yacht Harbor. The Park was pretty basic and they’ve opened it up to non Airstreamers (but if you are WBCCI members, there is a discount). There is also a fairly large brick and mortar home community surrounding the park – only requirement is that you must own an Airstream to buy a home there. We chatted a bit with one of the residents about the history of the park — folks with a common interest coming together to build a community — and the ways they are working to keep it going today. We made a quick stop at the Olympia Farmers Market (get the cinnamon bread from Wagner’s and any jam from Johnson’s Berry Farm) and the state capitol (pics below) before we recrossed the border.

On to Portland! My friend Tom and his wife Julia about 10 years ago got to pick anywhere in the US to live after many years in NYC – and they picked Portland. How hip they are! Tom may not have known what he was in for when he said “You can park in front of our house!” on one of my Facebook posts tracking our travels, but regardless, we were “all in” as guests (though they were lucky we had just done our laundry in Seattle!)

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Tom indeed had a lovely place for us to park in front of his house

After an afternoon of chatting and catching up we had a great dinner out – we wanted to go somewhere “Portland” and we knew Julia picked a good restaurant when the waiter assured us their pork come from pigs that are “pumpkin fed”. I couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant but just found it by googling all the things from their eclectic menu that I especially liked: “short rib sushi bread pudding” – and it was the first hit! Pono Farm Soul Kitchen in Northeast Portland. Yum.

We had a fortuitous meeting in Tom’s kitchen the next morning over coffee and cinnamon bread – his friend Stuart came by and once we realized he was a guru on Oregon travel, we asked and he gave us all kinds of tips on where to go, in what order, via what road, down to which Dairy Queen was the best in the state and how to work in a side trip to the town where some of Animal House was filmed. Not only that – he told us his mother grew up on a farm near Eugene, his sister lived there now, and would we like to park the Airstream there? Yes!

Following Stuart’s tips, we headed south to Willamette Valley, via Oregon City, the final stop on the Oregon Trail. The VC there is a bit pricey, and at this point we maybe felt a bit overloaded from other related sites we had visited but it provided nice closure to that theme of our travels and a good photo op or two.

We headed south into Willamette Valley, to our Harvest Hosts Kramer Vineyards near Gaston. Though they were having an event that night – they couldn’t have been nicer and more accommodating to make room for us. We arrived just in time to jump in for the heritage vertical pinot noir tasting – basically tasting the same vintage, but from six different harvest years. Their thoughtful placemats (below) explained some of the differences in the rainfall, temperature, harvest date, yield, etc of each year. The owners encouraged us to sip, take notes, let the wine breath some more, repeat. It was awesome – I appreciate good teaching and this was it! We were seated with this really nice couple who are wine club members there and were so generous as to cover our tasting bill as part of their guest allowance. I know this is not exactly like the kind of generosity Cheryl Strayed writes about receiving on the PCT when her 20 dollars didn’t arrive and she wanted a Snapple, but we were very appreciative nonetheless! We even bought some Pinot Gris to go – in a growler! – so though the wine is gone, we have a very nice souvenir of this visit.

 

Next we headed west to the coast, and an overnight at Nehalem Bay State Park, complete with another rainbow and the best walk on the beach yet. We made some excellent lentil soup here which we ate while watching “Waiting for Guffman”. (Not wanting to use our data to stream, we pick up old DVDs wherever we can!)

On the way south, we stopped to do the Cape Trail at Cape Lookout State Park. This trail is truly fantastic – gets you out, as the name suggests, on a cape, with gorgeous views of the Oregon Coast. The hike was fairly flat but with some difficult passages due to mud, rain, general dampness that was the weather for much of this leg of the trip. But fantastic hike – highly recommended for coast lovers. Before the trip, I had surgery to repair an ankle ligament tear and I take pictures like that in the lower right to send to my surgeon some day as a thank you.

On to Newport, where an excellent Wheelingit blog post about free or cheap(er) camping on the Oregon Coast led us to the Port of Newport Marina. We always enjoy a marina, though the dry site parking area was adjacent to the Rogue Brewery warehouse and a few semis kept their engines running while resting there at all hours. But the view (below) couldn’t be beat.

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Yaquina Bay Bridge just south of Newport, OR, in our dry camping spot at Port of Newport Marina.

We walked a hundred yards to have dinner at the Rogue Brewery Pub that night – the food was excellent! Try the crab kimchi sliders appetizer for sure. The next morning we walked a few hundred yards and forked over the big bucks to explore the Oregon Coast Aquarium – click on the link to see the best URL ever. We don’t begrudge museums entry fees, but it always feels a bit of a risk. In this case, it was well worth it. The Aquarium has more than a little bit of everything including live animal feeding demos, a walk through a shark aquarium tunnel, and thoughtful exhibits with volunteers and staff who were very good at their jobs answering questions, sharing what they knew and passing on a respect for the natural world.

We headed east to Stuart’s sister’s house – the Hurd family farm. The barn – 100 years old–was an awesome setting and we enjoyed our neighbors, sheep, chickens and rooster.

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The next day, I headed into Eugene. It’s always fun to check out a big college campus and University of Oregon was lovely. I checked out Hayward Field – home to track and field legends – and their art museum, which had a cool exhibit on post war Japanese prints. As I walked across the same type of criss-cross quads I traversed as an undergrad, I caught snippets of conversations among the students – worries about how to bring up a grade (this from someone on a cell phone), wishes to check out new restaurants (or food trucks), a mission to return some rain boots. Though so much has changed, so much is the same.

We finished off the state with a visit to Ashland, home of the Shakespeare Festival for most of the year, but not this month. I did a quick hit of their downtown to do a little shopping of my own, of course visit their very large and very goodIMG_3408 Ashland Co-op and scout out restaurants for before a concert we were heading to that night. As we winded down this first leg of our trip, it seemed we still had some work to do to check out the night life / cultural events in the places we visited. This (left) folks/bluegrass/orchestral mix of groups was right up our alley. They even had a hammer dulcimer! One of the leads, Emy Phelps, is from Ashland, so it was a homecoming event for her. A highlight was when they brought all the local (about 20 kids) young violin students up on stage with them to join in for one of Emy’s songs. The parents especially loved that because all those hardworking novices sounded so good in harmony with the professionals. The whole vibe was about collaboration and education, a mix of young and older, lots of smiles and great music! Culture and nightlife – check!

I’ll end with a scary story (with a happy ending) and a cautionary tale. On our drive to Astoria on I-84, we encountered what was without a doubt the scariest moment driving and the closest we’ve come to an (what would have been awful) accident. We are cruising along in the slow lane, and the first we saw anything, the semi in front of us came to a screeching halt and Ben reacted, braking hard, slowing us down, with one hand protectively on me (I think he was trying to keep me from screaming as much as from slamming into the dash) as he very very calmly and slowly said, “OK, I am not sure we are going to stop in time.” Yikes. Hold on, hold your breath and watch the road between you and the 18 wheeler in front of you slowly disappear.

We did stop in time though, with a few feet to spare, but then of course the worst was still to come as we waited with stiffened backs to see if any cars behind us would slam into us (and the Airstream!)

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This was NOT the truck/appliance that nearly caused us to crash

As Ben looked left, trying urgently – without success for a long minute or two- to look for a spot to merge into the fast moving traffic and get moving, I leaned right and saw what was up: someone had been carrying a range stove in the back of a pick up and I guess it wasn’t fastened down well, because they were now moving the oven from the road, back to their truck. Oh my gosh. And still we were at a dead halt on a four lane highway.

Once it was out of the road, the truck ahead of us quickly got going, and so did we, still worried about getting rear ended until we got some speed going. We thanked our lucky stars and made an appointment to get our brakes checked (though they got us out of this jam, just for peace of mind.) When I told my dad this story he asked if I got a picture of the oven in the road and I said – no, darn! – so I snapped this one  (above, right) on the road a few weeks later…pretty well battened down, but not something we’d choose to drive behind. So – watch the road for flying appliances (you probably are already, though).

 

 

Wandering Around Washington State

So it’s been a bit rainy here in the PNW. That’s my headline. Our laundry isn’t so much dirty as it is damp. But we’ve seen some cool stuff in the last week or so as we’ve hovered near Seattle knowing we’d have to return for some follow up errands.

Heading east toward Yakima and Walla Walla, we checked out the large small town of Ellensburg. It was the Friday before Halloween and businesses were handing out candy. You could get a real feel for the community spirit in this town as nearly every IMG_2903business in their large district was participating. The ROTC class from the local high school served as safety patrol (and handed out candy themselves.) They have a large county historical museum where I tried to learn how to pronounce the county name-Kittitas. I also learned there the town’s name used to be spelled Ellensburgh, but in 1890 The US Board of Geographic Names made every town with a “burgh” drop the “h” (apparently Pittsburgh rebelled.)

We thought it wise to park ourselves for the evening at a winery via Harvest Host, given Washington’s excellent wine scene. We picked White Heron Cellars partially because it is a bit north of where we were headed and would allow us to see a different part of the region, and partially because it was in Quincy, WA and I have a friend named Quincy! See hoIMG_2936w frivolous one can be on a year long trip? Indeed White Heron was beautifully situated on the Columbia River, though we had to take a circuitous route there. The winds were high and Cameron the proprietor said that there had been a fire previously this year adjacent to I-90 and trucks (and trailers???) just couldn’t travel safely–too many tumbleweeds. We loved all their wine and bought not one but two bottles, a red (a blend, Mariposa) and a white (Roussane). The next morning #visitorkitty got as far inside (which is to say just to the front step) of the Airstream as any kitty has thus far.

From there we headed to Walla Walla. When Ben and I got married, we had to look around for an officiant. A fortuitous serious of events led us to Rev. Jack Mathison – a World War II vet and otherwise amazing person who has remained a family friend. Jack trained as a navigator on the B-24 Liberator in Walla Walla, and we were headed there to see what we could see and share with him.

The excellent Ft. Walla Walla Museum had the goods. When we sent Jack some of these pictures, he replied saying he had spent some memorable evenings at the Marcus Whitman Hotel Café, and it’s where he started and perfected his Mark Twain yell:  “Mark .. TWAIN!”  Love him.

Jack told us about preprinted messages home like the one in the bottom of this pic. Easier to get past the censors! And it did take a while to get them home after the war had ended.

Jack told us about preprinted messages home like the one in the bottom of this pic. Easier to get past the censors! And for various reasons it took a while to get the troops home after the war ended. (For his part, Jack’s return home was delayed at least a month, as he had to spend time “fattening up” at Camp Lucky Strike in Europe following his liberation from a German POW camp, where he spent a hungry year after his B-24 was shot down.)

Walla Walla is deep into Lewis & Clark country as well. A local guidebook indicates that most of the places they camped or referenced were now hidden away under lakes and reservoirs created by the dams in the Columbia River. Oh what L & C would have done for a leisurely stroll across a lake! Of course the ensuing settlers and railroad and mining led the US government to negotiate, push, provoke, swindle and otherwise take land from the many Cascades Indian tribes, including the Walla Walla. Chief Peopeomoxmox, seen below left, actually stood up to the territorial governor and won some concessions in 1855; he secured additional lands, allowing more tribes to stay on at least some of their home lands (see the three reservations below, i.e. rather than one or two). In the scheme of things it was a small victory, but it stuck with me.

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Walla Walla is at the center of the lands of several Cascades tribes

Walla Walla has become quite the wine-focused destination in the last 10-15 years. We spent Halloween evening there – in the Elks parking lot bless their hearts – and it rained. Such a bummer for the kids! We loved the scenes of Walla Walla people and culture over time depicted in “Windows on the Past” – the carefully preserved Odd Fellows Temple sandstone façade. Did you know Adam West (Batman!) grew up here?! Pop culture is important to trace as well.

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After Walla Walla, we headed toward the Columbia Gorge town of The Dalles (still can’t pronounce it.) We visited the excellent Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and the folks there were kind enough to let us park and stay overnight in their lot. The area along the river there is also a trailhead for area walking/biking trails and there were lots of locals coming and going to make use of them. The staff person who oriented us to the exhibits, knowing we only had a short time, suggested we take a close look at the basket exhibit. She said of course you will see baskets at other museums, but in this exhibit she felt like she really learned and was surprised by some of their uses. (For example, upper right, those baskets were used as hats!)

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Scenes inside and out of the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

The next morning we did a quick hit on Hood River – daylight savings time had ended and we for oIMG_3037nce were up and out early – almost too early for any stores to be open. But we did see Hood River is home to one of our IMG_3039favorite beers (Full Sail, left).

And I browsed their local book store and saw this on sale – photographs taken by the excellent Molly Peterson, a good friend and former colleague of my good friend Pam. Kind of cool to see it out here in the wild! Any food picture taking tips I have learned from Pam, Pam has learned from Molly, so thank you Molly! And with that, I will leave you with a potato encrusted red snapper, which I believe I made in the enchanted forest adjacent to Mt. Rainier last week. Pam’s tip to me (and I assume Molly’s to her) is to zoom in, give your picture a focus, which I did below for the picture on the right.

To test my theory, I asked Grier, who is sitting next to me, which of the pics was more interesting/engaging and she said the right one BUT she noted she is not sure she can tell what the food itself is (eg fish, potato, etc). GooFullSizeRenderd feedback for next time!!!IMG_2875

 

Idaho Towns Round Up

What do Boise, Stanley, Ketchum, (and wild card) Driggs have in common? Are they index of town listed under Idaho in Lonely Planet’s USA? No! They are our itinerary of Idaho towns we stuck around in long enough to have some notes to share. And with the exception of Driggs, they are featured in Lonely Planet as well, so we’ll see what we can add to the well worn path…

Boise was the first big city we have set a spell in on this trip- and it was one we deliberately wanted to check out. We chose the Riverside RV Park because it’s adjacent to the Greenway, 25 miles of paths that go along the Boise River.

A piece of art depicting the Boise River, in progress of installation on a building downtown!

A piece of art depicting the Boise River, in progress of installation on a building downtown!

We planned to ride it into Boise the next day for an all day excursion, and so we drove into town our first afternoon to get a couple

Crowdsourced ideas for our visit!

Crowdsourced ideas for our visit!

bike parts and the lay of the land. I did a little crowd sourcing on Twitter – reaching out to Boise’s Visitor’s Bureau for suggestions – they replied! tagging others, which yielded even more ideas! Very cool.

Our main stop that afternoon was the Idaho state capitol building. It has been renovated in the last 5 years and literally glistened, it was so shiny and new. It was fairly empty, but there were some friendly tour guides, and a gift shop filled with potato-themed souvenirs. Reading the displays, you might come away thinking this about Idaho: they are proud of their early adoption of women’s suffrage; land and water rights are what gets the citizens and legislature riled up; Lewis & Clark went there. We were blown away that we could walk right onto the floors of both the House and Senate chambers – they weren’t in session, but still.

We are a little short on reading material – didn’t really plan ahead on all the time to read we’d have on this trip! So we went to The Redisovered Bookshop where we picked up a used copy of Undaunted Courage (very handy for our travels-Lewis & Clark have been everywhere) and a tip on where to go for a snack and what to get there. Indeed we very much enjoyed the Classic Poutine at Bittercreek Alehouse. The fried potatoes came with chunks of roasted turkey – my friends know well that I’m not scared of any carbs that come with a side of protein.

The next day we zoomed along the Greenway for the 10-mile ride intIMG_1340o town. The Greenway goes through neighborhoods,former industrial areas, under highways, a 9-11 memorial; even alongside a mini dam (see pic at right) that encourages kayakers and surfers to jump in and and catch some waves. We had to guess a bit as to where to “get off” but found ourselves exactly where we wanted to be: Boise State University, home of the blue turf. Ben has some PFGSD (post football game stress disorder) from some Fiesta Bowl when the Broncos beat his Sooners with a bunch of trick plays; nonetheless, we paid our tribute.

We roamed around the rest of the day – the history museum was closed, but the adjacent Rose Garden was lovely, we checked out the Basque block; the old (and hip yuppy) neighborhood Hyde Park where we very much enjoyed the dollar tacos at Parilla Grill. We checked out a few antique stores, picked up a few hooks, and this painting – our very first “art” for the Airstream. We just love it.

From a cool little store called "LA Junk"

From a cool little store called “LA Junk”

All in all, Boise was a very pleasant city – this view from the hill at Camel’s Back Park shows the inspiration for it’s name (French for “wooded”) and the beginnings of fall.

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On to Stanley – a cool little mountain town in the middle of the Sawtooth Mountains. Ellen at the Visitor’s Center steered us very well: we camped on the Salmon River just as the Forest Service was starting to shut down sites for the winter. Stanley apparently gets some of the coldest low temperatures in the continental US. (More about our campsite and an awesome day trip to Lemhi Pass in the next post…) IMG_1389Stanley had some well stocked outdoor stores, with sales that led to the purchase of this new hammock (left). We also had a culinary highlight – the Cowboy cookie (chocolate chips, walnuts, oatmeal) at the Stanley Bakery & Cafe, though their turkey sandwiches could have used a bit more meat. We checked out the Redfish Lake Lodge – which is a whole ‘nother world – kind of rustic fancy with a beach bar and scheduled activities. Not for us, but maybe you?

Ketchum and Sun Valley are just down the road from Stanley, an hour or so. We got a spot at the 10 dollar Forest Service campsite just a few days before camp host (crazy in a good way) Cathy heads south for the winter. We biked into town and explored a bit – disappointed mostly by the fancy stores selling the same overpriced coasters. Clearly the outdoors stores are gearing up for winter season – skiing and all. It took Lonely Planet to tell me Hemingway was buried here – his writing inspired

me to become an English major. Definitely a highlight of our visit to this city. Something that left us feeling UGH was the renovation of the Sun Valley Lodge – a historic building that now looks like any other Grand Hyatt. The concierge will emphasize how many treatment rooms the spa now has, however. Utterly stripped of personality. No picture will show the injustice. Will be interesting to see the reviews once the season starts.

And finally Driggs! On the eastern edge of the state (we were headed to Wyoming) the town is the home of the Grand Teton Distillery on the Harvest Host list. The Distillery was so kind to let us park overnight in their driveway. Though we missed tasting their vodka (you know it’s made from potatoes!) and whiskey, we will look for it out on the trail. Though it was cloudy and drizzly and we had just been to the store, we saw a farmer’s market on the way out of town. “Do we have to stop?” asked Ben. AS IF! Luckily he gave two Airstream tours while I bought the last of summer’s

tomatoes, cucumbers, as well as jerusalem artichokes and this cherry slab pie (pictured above, though we liked her peach scone the most!) Driggs, we really liked you! The woman who grew the artichokes told me she’d give me this sticker (above right) if we put it on our Airstream. Heck, yes! They are continuing with a Teton Valley winter farmers market indoors, I heard. Hooray! Don’t forget to list and use Local Harvest in your travels to find local and lovingly grown food. For lovingly restored historic hotels, I can’t help you, but we have high hopes for our visit to Grand Tetons coming up next!

California, Here We Go

After four months and two days in my parents’ driveway, the final phase of our Airstream restoration was finished and we hit the road! But not before putting the driveway (+ a few hitch scrapes) and garage (+ a few saws and glue stains) back in order. Our adventure officially began on the day after my birthday – pretty cool way to start the year.
Who are these nice people who let us park in their driveway for four months? My parents!

Who are these nice people who let us park in their driveway for four months? My parents!

After a so close but failed attempt to see my cousin-in-law in Santa Barbara (wrong area code in my ‘we’ll be in your neck of the woods at this time’ text to him! grr!) we continued up the road to San Luis Obispo and El Chorro campground, a county park. We found a sweet little spot, #13, and would definitely recommend this campground to those wanting to visit SLO or Morro Bay.
After setting up camp, including the unfolding, mounting, rope tightening, and “AHH”wning all over our our new awning from Marti’s Awnings, we enjoyed crispy time with our (not as comfy as what we see others using out there, but we are pretty sure) Civil War era camp chairs and milk crate table. The rug was a wedding gift 12 years ago from our friends David and Donna – originally supposed to be more of a beach blanket, but we love it for this purpose! We’ll use it every day this way!
After a good night’s sleep, we headed out for Morro Bay the next day, where we indeed saw the Morro Rock, kayaked in the Bay – who can resist seals and sea otters in the wild? We lunched at Taco Temple, highly recommend the sweet potato

Mandatory pic with rock

Mandatory pic with rock

enchiladas. Then we went right across the street to a deserted patch of beach on the Pacific where I jumped in because you never regret a swim, though it was a tad cold. On the way back to camp, we made a few phone calls in our ongoing search to find a bike rack and found Heacock’s in Arroyo Grande. Not only did they have a version of the product we were looking for, but we saw a school (?) of whales heading north as we headed south around PIsmo Beach. Really cool – and though we were on the highway looking down as we drove past could see them really well. Back at our campsite, we celebrated getting the fridge to work on propane and Ben spent a good portion of the evening hammering the bike rack onto the hitch. Meanwhile, I chatted up Bryan, kind

Ben hammering bike rack onto hitch. He really needed a sledge hammer.

Ben hammering bike rack onto hitch. He really needed a sledge hammer.

of a random guy I discovered in the park next door. He’s a scientist by vocation, BBQer by hobby, who was “practicing” cooking ribs with his massive grill in an empty park, by himself, while drinking Bud Light and playing bluegrass music on his stereo. I can’t really explain any more about what he meant by practicing – something to do with creating the exact atmosphere he anticipates when the BBQing is perfect (this includes monitoring barometric pressure, wind speed, cooker temperature, and of course, crowd happiness and appropriate music), but it was really interesting and cool, and it’s nice to know there are people developing their talents out there while I’m reading

We'd all enjoy ribs made with such precision

We’d all enjoy ribs made with such precision

Twitter and gnashing my teeth about the collapse of the Nats at the hands of the Mets. Bryan’s ribs smelled great but, alas, no offers of samples.

We are now landed about 200 + miles up the road, spending the night at a Harvest Host site, our first boondocking, in Lodi, CA: the Klinker Brick Winery where we received a warm welcome.
We arrived too late to taste, but not too late to enjoy sunset among the vines and a glass of Two Buck Chuck (which we would deny drinking if the Klinker people came wandering by). Think Red Zinfandel, those gnarly flat topped trees. (I’m half expecting one to start throwing grapes at me, a la Wizard of Oz.) It is hot here in the San Joaquin valley this evening, but lovely.