Our fifth wheel and the truck

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Moving South - only a little way though!

Well as I predicted, the area around Roseburg, OR was my sort of place - well Norm’s too. We stopped in Tri-City for two nights and it was from here that we visited some lovely wineries.

Famous last words! Norm to Paula as we pulled in the first winery “ You know we can’t buy any wine, we don’t have anywhere to put it.” Well, we tried the wine and some of it was really nice so Norm walked out of that one with two bottles! We visited five on the day and Norm brought home about ten bottles in total. But they were really nice ones!!!!

What was really good about the day was driving through the vineyards with the autumn colours just everywhere throughout the whole area. Mind you I didn’t take too many photos - that sort of got lost in the other major activity - wine tasting!!!!

We drove to Crater Lake on Wednesday, unpacked and as it was still early we decided to go up to the crater and have a look around. It is just unbelievable! You drive up the road and don’t even realise how high you are ascending until you get a glimpse of this dirty great side of the crater and then you get out of the car and go to the edge and look over! It is absolutely breathtaking! The water has got to be the most unimaginable colour of blue and is just so still. The crater was formed when the volcano, Mt Mazama erupted 7,700 years ago and collapsed in on itself. There is no river or stream or spring feeding the lake, the water comes solely from the rain and the average snow fall of ….. Wait for it…. 44 feet of snow!!!!!

We drove all around the crater and got some wonderful photos including some of Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship - the only two bits that stick up out of the lake. As the day progressed and we made our way around the crater it began to get very misty and foggy and it wasn’t until we were about ¾ of the way around that we saw a huge bushfire. We were told it was probably a controlled burn but of course it was the smoke that was settling in the crater that was causing the misty appearance. The only good thing out of it was that when I took some photos of the Phantom Ship the smoky haze gave it an even more spooky look.

On Thursday we had a day of falls! No, not the splat type of fall but waterfalls. Around the Crater Lake area there are quite a few absolutely beautiful waterfalls so we spent the day visiting them. The Pearsony Falls were not high but were in an area more like a fairy glen with moss covered rocks and trees, fungi and shady trees. Just so beautiful and, as we were the only ones there, it was really peaceful.

Our next destination was Thompson Bridge and as we approached this very ordinary looking bridge wondering what was so special about it, we looked down and the most amazing waterfall, still ponds, beautiful autumn colours were evident. It was really lovely and as we explored - climbing over rocks, clambering under the bridge and pushing our way along a bush track, we were continually amazed by how beautiful it all was.

From there we made our way to the Natural Bridge which was gorgeous and pretty interesting for the geologically inclined (me). The river actually disappears into a ’lava tube’ at one point in its path and 70 feet downstream reappears out of the lava tube. This is how the bridge has been formed. The photos may give some idea of how beautiful it all is. The falls in this area are, for the most part, on the Rogue River.

We followed the Rogue River to the Rogue Gorge which was just stunning. Just upstream from the Gorge were more falls - again - so beautiful. The amount of water in this country blows me away. Coming from a continent as dry as Australia I can’t understand how America could ever suffer from a drought. I am sure there must be places where there is a lack of water but all the places we have been so far have certainly not appeared to lack water.

We continued up Highway 62 to Diamond Lake and although the weather had come over very cold and windy with rain threatening it was easy to see how it would be a wonderful place to spend the summer. It was the end of the season and the only people left were some hunters (now that is another story), some fishermen and the staff who were closing up for the winter. I would love to go back in the summer to just be able to sit and fish and cogitate. With the weather closing in we headed back to the park to pack up for Friday’s drive to north California.

And so much for sunny California! As we headed down through the redwood forests it became really cloudy and miserable. We did get a glimpse of some of these gigantic trees but I believe there are better to come. The California coast up here is a continuation of the Oregon coast so is very similar with craggy outcrops and today, a grey, angry ocean. Mind you, the first beach I saw had dark gray sand although they did seem to lighten as we moved a little further south.

Saturday was another grey, cloudy day so we took a drive down to the historical section of Eureka. Well that is where we planned on going but a missed turn saw us take a bridge to Woodley Island, just off the coast. Interesting island - I am sure at its uppermost point it must be all of 1 yard above sea level. Seriously! And the Tsunami warnings along the coast do not inspire a lot of confidence in staying! We had a lovely lunch on the island and then took a stroll around the Victorian inspired area of Eureka.

We are planning on staying around here for a few days or even a week as Norm is really keen to spend some time in the redwood and sequoia forests. He also wants to visit Ferndale - a town that apparently has managed to preserve itself as a town from the Victorian era.

Till the next episode in the chronicles of our adventure I will bid you farewell. If you do drop in, please leave a comment as we would love to hear from you.

Keep yourselves safe and well and hugs to family and friends. You are all so important to us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's week twelve already!!!!

One of the problems with our lives is that we spend so much time anticipating and looking forward to events and they come and go so quickly. It is amazing to think that we have been on the road in this wonderful country for three months.

As I said at the end of my last blog, when we left Kelli and Don’s the plan was to go to Olympic Nat’l Park for a few days then head south so we could visit Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens before heading down the west coast to the southern states for winter. Weeelllll we got on the road and before we even got anywhere we change our minds (mainly because the weather was not looking too flash) and decided to give Olympic Park a miss and head straight to Randle, WA which is halfway between Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens.

We headed to the Shady Firs RV Park and didn’t bother booking. We have discovered that all the RV parks in the north are either closed or closing for the winter or, if they are open all year they have lots of empty spaces. Shady Firs is a beautiful spot and had lots of empty spaces - in fact - we were the only ones there when we pulled in.

The weather on Monday wasn’t flash - lots of cloud around - but we decided to go to Mt Rainier anyway. We entered the park from the east at Ohanapecosh and headed west. Ohanapecosh has the most magnificent old growth forest. I almost laid on my back on the ground just to soak in the enormity of these giants. You will certainly get a crick in your neck looking up all the time. As it was the last day of the summer season for the visitor centre and the camp ground, the walks were extremely quiet and sort of surreal. We found ourselves whispering so as not to disturb the serenity of it.

We wound our way through the park as we headed to ‘Paradise' which is the closest that you can get by car to the mountain itself. Did you know that Mt Rainier has more named glaciers than any other mountain? Anyway, we arrived in Paradise after waterfalls, creeks, glaciers, beautiful autumn colours, majestic forests and breathtaking views, only to find that the summit was covered in cloud. Never mind, we had an incredible day and decided that as we had only seen one side of the park we would come back on again so that we could see the west side of the park and maybe get a better view of the summit - weather permitting.

That decision was one of the best that we have made because Tuesday dawned with amazing clear skies and was just a beautiful autumn day. Keeping in mind that the weather could change very quickly up there, we headed straight up to Paradise to take advantage of the clear skies. If I say that it was amazing, brilliant and breathtaking would that give you some idea of how absolutely beautiful it was. If I could add all the photos that I took, you may get some idea. And it doesn’t matter that I am not a photographer or that I have a little inexpensive digital camera, the views and sites are so amazing you would think I was a professional!! Seriously, the views are so lovely they make even me look good!

There are so many hiking trails in the park but I have to tell you, if the sign says 1.2miles then ignore the one and the decimal point because the trail will be at least two miles. And if it says 0.4miles then double that! We took the walk to Nisqually Glacier Lookout and then on the all down-hill trail to Nisqually Falls (oh yes and it is all up hill going back to the car!). But they are so worth the effort!

We had a very late lunch at the Lodge at the entry to the park and then enjoyed a leisurely wander through the ‘Trail of the Shadows”. We saw evidence of beavers, the hot springs and once again the most amazing old growth forest. Do I overuse the word amazing? I will have to expand my use of superlatives so that I can adequately describe what we see!

We come away from a day like today both physically and emotionally spent. There is just so much to take in that you end up with SOD ( for newbies to this blog that is the acronym for Sensory Overload Disorder) once again.

But, come the morning, we are up and eager to do the whole lot all over again as we planned on heading to Mt St Helens. It seems incredible that it is 30 years since the eruption.

The drive to the east side of Mt St Helens is truly lovely with beautiful forests and it isn’t until you get closer to the mountain that you actually come face to face with the results of that catastrophe.

There are areas that have been replanted and are beginning to cover the scars however there are significant areas that have been left and there is very little sign of recovery. One of the things that is hard to accept is that there are areas close to the mountain that appear untouched by the blast while other areas much further away were completely erased. Spirit Lake, which is on the north (?) side of the mountain, is just the most beautiful lake except that there are huge expanses of fallen logs floating - from a distance it was hard to know what was on the surface of the lake but as we got closer (and used the binoculars - oh duhh) you could see that they were dead trees. There are huge areas where the logs have just bottled-necked.

We sat in the shadow of Mt St Helens to have lunch and contemplated the amazing forces of nature that could bring such devastation to people’s lives and the whole area surrounding the mountain. Quite a sobering moment.

We have a new plan!! From now on we will take at least one day a week when we do not go sightseeing or rushing around. It is the only way I am going to get any ‘jobs’ done! We have realized that we have plenty of time and we don’t need to see everything right now!! I don’t know how long it will last but we will see!!!! Maybe just for this week, so tomorrow is the day.

It is Friday and off we go again! This time we are headed to the Oregon coast of which we have heard so many wonderful things. It will have to be good given that the beaches at home (West Aust.) are magnificent! I will attach a photo of a beach at Esperance (south coast) just to give those of you who haven’t seen a West Aussie beach, some idea of how magnificent they really are. The kid in the photo is our youngest son who was on a ‘road trip’ with one of his friends from Connecticut.

We are staying in Lincoln City, OR at a beautiful RV park on the banks of the Selitz River. It is the most gorgeous setting and is a good start to our exploration of the Oregon coast. We headed south to Newport and the following day went north towards Tillamook stopping along the way at some of the scenic outlooks.

Depoe Bay is the cutest place with its harbour. I don’t know that it is the smallest harbour in the world but it is cute. One thing I didn’t know was that Captain James Cook landed at Cape Foulweather on the Oregon Coast!! We stopped at some beautiful places and I actually saw a whale (from a long way away!) I think if I had to compare the Oregon coast I would have to say it was more like the Great Ocean Road in Victoria than the beaches of WA. It is certainly beautiful and some of the little bays, the huge outcrops of rock and the Sand Lake were stunning. The Tillamook Cheese and Ice Cream Company was a wonderful stop too. They have 38 different flavours of icecream. Yummy!!!

Our next move will be towards Crater Lake but I think we may do a small detour as I believe that around Roseburg there are some wonderful wineries!!! My sort of place is Roseburg. The only problem is, that unlike our visits to Margaret River (back home), we won’t be able to buy a couple of dozen bottles to take home with us. No room in the RV - bummer!!!!!!

Take care of you and yours and happiness and good health to all our friends and family.

Till the next, hopefully not so long, episode in this saga I will say ooroo and catch you again soon!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Week Eleven - Seattle

The plan for this week was to stay with Kelli and Don for a couple of days then to head down south as the weather cools. Well you know the saying about the best laid plans of mice and men!

Unfortunately I brought a cold with me off the cruise so we decided to hang around Seattle for a bit longer before moving to Olympic National Park however, Kelli and Don invited us to stay with them for a while. (No one had told them that that was a fatal mistake!!) As it turned out we stayed a week and had a fabulous time with two lovely people and two gorgeous dogs. Greta is a two year old St Bernard and Guinness is an eleven month old black Labrador. It was such fun!

Don and Kelli took us down to the locks on the river in Seattle on Sunday. We also visited Pikes Place Market which is pretty famous and has appeared in several movies including Sleepless in Seattle. Whatever you may want to buy you can just about guarantee you will find it at the markets. Norm bought a Chicken Hombow - interesting taste. The pastry is a bit sweet with the savoury chicken inside. Then we went for a stroll along the water front. Guinness needed some practise!

Monday, Kelli took us up to Snoqualmie (pronounced Snow-kwol-me) Falls just out of Seattle. A really lovely spot although the work being done to improve the hydro electric program was a bit of a mess and we couldn’t walk down to the bottom of the falls (can’t help bad luck)!

We had dinner with Sandra and Bruce (Sandra is the other Bruce’s sister - Bruce and Mary) on Tuesday night. Mary had forwarded all the books Norm had ordered on line to Sandra’s home so we picked all of them up. We had a lovely dinner and met their grandson Indy.

Wednesday night we had dinner out with Kelli and Don and their daughter Amy and five month old grandson Mason - gorgeous little boy. It was Amy’s birthday and we ate at Red Robin. All you Aussies out there if you get a chance to have a burger at Red Robin I urge you to do so. I have tried two of their offerings and their burgers are to die for!!! Just beautiful - you could call them gourmet burgers - they are sooooo good!

WOW!!! Kelli had agreed to feed Greta’s puppies for the breeder while they were away so on Friday Norm and I accompanied her. WOW!!! Greta had had two puppies about seven weeks ago and had adopted an Irish Wolfhound pup as well. The puppies were just gorgeous except for the wolfhound which is quite ugly really. Kelli and Don are keeping one of the St Bernard puppies for themselves when the pups are old enough. BUT the thing is that these people had three St. Bernard puppies, an Irish Wolfhound pup and ….. wait for it….. five full grown St Bernards and two small terriers!!!!!! Dedication with a capital D!!

After feeding the pups and ‘relieving’ the two ‘inside’ St Bernards and the terriers we set off for the Oktoberfest!!!! We visited the Puyallup Fairgrounds and had a wander around. Norm had a dark ale - he is really developing a taste for the stuff and we had some lunch. Norm and I weren’t game to try the sauerkraut and played it very safe with some clam chowder - not very German at all! But still very yummy!

And Don, you have really started something! Norm bought a pack of that 'Black Butte Beer' you gave him the other night! But he is still only allowed to have two in the fridge at any one time!

Saturday was the highlight of the week for me. Kelli and Don train guide dogs for the blind and Guinness is part of the program. I can’t remember where we went but it was somewhere in Oregon where there is a Guide Dogs for the Blind program. We had front row seats for the Graduation Ceremony - but wait - it is the graduation for the dogs.

It was a very emotional ceremony with the people receiving the dogs telling how they became blind and what it would mean to them to have a guide dog and then the trainers would speak. I have to say it was with a great deal of admiration for all these people that I sat there. To take a puppy and train it for more than a year and then to have to hand it on would be so difficult and I know they are being trained for that purpose but I would find it very hard to give up a dog that had been such a huge part of your life for that time. What the trainers have to do in that time is amazing. Don takes Guinness to work with him everyday! It is a 24/7 task to ensure these dogs are ready to work with a blind person. I have a new found admiration for the work these volunteers do in getting these dogs ready. They are an amazing and selfless group of people.

Anyway, Sunday Norm backed the fiver out the driveway while we stopped traffic both ways and we headed off to Olympic National Park. OOPS sorry changed that! Before we got to interstate 5 we changed our minds and decided to go to Mt Rainier National Park and Mt. St. Helen but that is next weeks episode so………

See you all next week for the ongoing adventures (or otherwise) of two very fortunate Aussies who are having the time of their lives.

And thanks to Sandra and Bruce and Kelli and Don for their hospitality and kindness.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

ALASKA !!!!!!

I have been hanging out for this week. Norm and I have never been on a cruise before so we are really, really looking forward to it.

Thanks to Kelli and Don who have so kindly offered to have the rig and the truck in their driveway for the next week and to take us to the pier and pick us up again. Such wonderful people.

Saturday morning Kelli dropped us off at the pier and we got all our luggage and stuff on board. We went for a walk around and then had some lunch. I love the ‘Free Style’ dining which means you can eat in one of four restaurants on board whenever you feel like eating. After sorting out the bags we went up on deck to watch the ship leave Seattle.

We went to the gym first thing Sunday morning and used some of the equipment. Sunday was spent at sea so we had lots of time to have a good look around. We made the mistake of going to the art auction and walked out with a fabulous piece of art. It will have to be shipped home as it is way too big to go on one of the walls in the fiver!

Monday morning saw us dock in the Alaskan town of Ketchikan. Amazing town - much of it is built over the water. We saw some salmon making their run up the streams and went to a native village where there were so many totems. I will have to post some of the photos when we get back - I forgot to bring the gizmo to download the photos from the camera to the computer. Although we went up the coast a bit to see bears none made an appearance so we lucked out there. Very wet and cloudy day today so it wasn’t a really good day for sightseeing. But who cares - never let the rain spoil an otherwise wonderful day!

We got up early on Tuesday morning as the ship was heading up a fioord to the Tracy Arm Glacier. What an incredible sight. The ship was able to get quite close to the glacier. We were surrounded by small (?) icebergs. The hot coffee (with liquor added) was enough to warm the insides very well! We proceeded north to Juneau which is the capital of Alaska and would you believe the only ways of getting into Juneau are by ship or air - there is no road in/out of Juneau!!

We spent the morning with our guide, August, as we did a trip around the town and then went up to the Mendenhall Glacier. Once again I run out of superlatives. The scenery is absolutely amazing. You take some photos and put the camera down only to find yourself lifting it to take more! The colours in the leaves are just gorgeous!

If we haven’t put on any weight on our holiday before we will certainly do so during this cruise! The Norwegian Cruise Line has what they call ‘Freestyle Dining’. It just means that you can choose to eat where and when you feel like it. No set tables or times! And the food is lovely - so many choices! I have tried to be good and eat salads but have to admit that I have slipped once or twice or thrice and it is only day three!!!!

Wednesday we arrived in Skagway in the morning and Norm and I took a tour with our guide, Missy, around town then went into British Columbia and then into the Yukon! Just magical scenery with snow covered mountains and pristine lakes. I can’t wait till Norm and I drive Alaska in the summer of 2012. Oh sorry forgot to tell anyone that this is now part of the plan!!!!

As the ship was leaving Skagway, we were farewelled by the locals in the traditional manner given to the last cruise ship of the season. Quite a few of them came down to the wharf to wave us off and give us the final goodbye BY MOONING the ship. For those of you who are a bit naïve (if there are any of you??) they lined up on the wharf, dropped their pants and bared their butts at us! It was just so funny !! I have some really good photos but they will need to be censored before I can put them on the blog!

A nice quiet day on Thursday with a late stop in Prince Rupert, British Columbia (Canada). An absolute gem of a town. We went for a walk around the town and then stopped at a park above the ship where some of the locals put on a performance for us. The singing was lovely and you couldn't imagine a lovelier setting. As the sun set, the water was like glass with a cruise ship in the background, it was just glorious.

We left Prince Rupert about 9.30pm on Thursday for the final haul back to Vancouver where we will disembark on Saturday morning. It has been an amazing experience that I will never forget and will just have to wait till 2012 to spend more time exploring Alaska!

From Vancouver it was a bus trip back to Seattle to have Kelli and Don pick us up - wonderful people!