Roadtrip 2015 – Day 17

Oct-31-2015
Day 17
It rained in the night so all the curtains were soaking wet, at least those parts of towels and pillowcases hanging outside of the windows. The inside parts were damp so it must have rained pretty extensively. I’m glad I made the last-minute decision to keep the dogs in the truck or they, and their fleece beds, would have been soaked. At any rate, I was up early this morning. I wanted to get an early start to see Crater Lake National Park before it got busy. Sadly a lot of it was covered in cloud but I still managed to see the better part of it, including Wizard Island.

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Driving from the north entrance, around the west rim was a little hairy due to limited visibility, no guard rails, steep drop-offs and very narrow roads. At one point it felt like I was driving into oblivion with the road hidden in the mist ahead of me and completely obscuring the few trees on that littered the steep drops on either side. It truly felt like a road to nowhere.

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From Crater Lake NP I headed to Bend, Oregon to stock up on supplies, and on what must have been the straightest road in the county, before heading to Madras.

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Madras was out of my way but it also holds a very emotional attachment and I wasn’t going to pass up my one opportunity to stop there and make sure I had a souvenir. It was nothing special but a couple of cheaply-made trinkets, but it was the message both trinkets had on them that made them worth what I paid. I won’t go into too many details but it was a pretty emotional stop for me, and I think I cried both on my way into and on my way out of town.

From Madras I truly began my trek back east. It began to rain pretty heavily and I was glad to have removed my pillowcase-curtains a few miles back. I really hoped to find a quiet and dry campsite where I could spend some quality time with the dogs. I love this part of Oregon for its open spaces and pines, and found a beautiful and secluded spot in the mountains, surrounded by pine trees and open space!

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In Bend I had bought some ribbon to attach to the bottom of the curtain for my back window. When I had originally had the curtain made it had hung just perfectly to the top of the back seat. Somehow, over the last year or two it has shrunk slightly, both length ways and width ways and now lets in light at the bottom. So with some 3″ black ribbon and some hemming tape I managed to re-lengthen the curtain to where it needed to be. I also used some Liquid Stitch to seal the frayed ends of the ribbon. It was only then that I realized I had attached it to the wrong side of the curtain if I wanted it to look nice. Oh well, it’s only supposed to be functional not pretty…it is in my truck after all! I also attempted to repair the scratch in my new camera but to no avail…guess I’m just going to have to live with the results of my clumsiness.

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The one thing I do need to buy are some wider towels for the front-door curtains (so redneck I know) as the ones I have just aren’t quite cutting it. It was definitely going to be a cool night and I wasn’t sure what the weather was going to do. I had really wanted to have a fire with the really cool temperatures, but that was unfortunately a lost cause with the fire ban in effect statewide.

I hate to keep the dogs in the truck at night since they spend so much time in it during the day (AC etc) but I also don’t want them and their blankets to get wet either…or have to get up in the middle of the night to put them in the truck if it DOES start to rain. Such a conundrum.

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Roadtrip 2015 – Day 16

Oct-30-2015
Day 16
Kye alerted me to something she didn’t like at 5am this morning. After pulling out the flashlight AND the night-vision monocular, and watching for 15 minutes I determined it wasn’t an animal but rocks constantly fall across the the river. I’m sure nothing ever happened but I just couldn’t stay in a place where the risk of a landslide, small or large, was a possibility…Kye awoke me for a reason and I listened. I drove a mile or two up the road and parked on the side.

I got another three hours of sleep, I think, before I woke up. Unfortunately I had been parked slightly downhill on the left side of the truck which meant I was head-down-hill. At the time I hadn’t cared much and thought I was fairly balanced but the way my back felt this morning (where I had already had a compression fracture and compressed disk) told me otherwise. That was pretty uncomfortable for a while.

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My initial thoughts on road travel, despite the gorgeous scenery, turned out to be a supremely long route and it took me almost 10 hours to travel 250 miles. I discovered some interesting red-barked trees that are gorgeous and unique, called Madrones, on the drive, and was also rewarded with a view of the South Umpqua River Falls which are unique in their formation, but also the river’s contribution to salmon spawning grounds and passageway from the Pacific Ocean.

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I honestly never thought I was going to find a campsite for the night and was getting less and less picky as I traveled towards Crater Lake NP. The only highlights of the drive, after the falls, were the owl who took flight in front of me…and then disappeared a second before I hit the camera shutter button…and the fawn.

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The campsite was less than perfect but it was welcome and much needed, and the dogs and I played ball for a while as I figured out a rough plan of action for the next couple of days. Although I am not ready to go home, I am fed up of all the driving I am doing…I don’t seem to have a short day at all, which would be very welcome. I don’t have to be home for another 10 days so I need to try and shorten my driving time up quite a lot.

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I found some mosquito coils left in the dirt by a previous camper and am making use of them tonight. The ‘skeeters aren’t as bad as the first night, but one got me on the butt while I was answering the call of nature…and that just SUCKS!

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 15

Oct-29-2015
Day 15

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Finally awoke to some typical PNW weather…clouds, some drizzle and fog along the coastline which sadly meant almost zero visibility for the few miles I actually got to drive next to the ocean today. I did stop at the Sea Lion Caves which was really cool. It is the largest sea cave in the US and there were at least 75 sea lions in the cave, resting on the rocks or swimming. In the cove, on the beach there were probably double that. It was all very interesting to hear the males roaring and see the interaction and fighting between the males. The pups were pretty cute but from my understanding they don’t suckle from their mothers very long and are quickly weaned at 3-4 weeks.

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The PCH soon turns further inland and the view of the coast is lost for a while…at least for the rest of the time I was on it. After studying the map I made the decision to try and make it to Agnes in the Siskiyou National Forest. My GPS wanted to take me one way, which I thought was odd but followed the directions. After realizing it was taking me the long way round I found the initial road I had thought about taking, along the Elk River…and what an amazing drive that was.

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While I hadn’t planned on this route, due to timing and miles, I am thoroughly glad that I initially followed my GPS route and then ignored it. I found a fabulous campsite along the river, out on a shelf of rocks, next to the water. It wasn’t quite in the rock-walled canyon that I was hoping for, but it was still beautiful and serene.

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The water was incredibly clear and perfect, although bitterly cold. I found some very interesting rocks…one a heart shape, one a broken-in-two heart and the third had been scored by other rocks in a really odd manner. I found one other brightly colored rock that I crack in two and, in typical logic for me, managed to put a minor scratch in the LCD screen of my brand new camera!! I am so aggravated at myself for that, but it was honestly something that I could not have foreseen happening, but still super irritating. I will see it I can find something to fix glass scratches when I am next in a store. I believe it is plastic so I might have better luck than if it was glass…guess we’ll see.

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The weather remained cool all day and I hoped it would continue into the night. My plan was to head inland again the next day and so I was expecting to lose the cooler coastal temperatures by then…or the day after. The dogs played in the water and Cody spooked himself by getting a little over excited over a stick so he ended up swimming. Both Kye and Cody can swim just fine, Kye better than Cody, but they hate to get into water deeper than they can stand in. So, being the loving dog owner I am, I put on shorts and waded out into the middle of the azure blue pool to encourage them to come…ha ha, yeah, it didn’t work so well! Kye and Cody sat on the beach while I stood thigh-deep in cool water. It was actually very pleasant and I got a thorough foot cleaning by the little fish. If it had been a warmer day, like really hot, I probably would have been swimming in it. It was just so perfect.

As we wandered and explored the area we found more blackberries, and some very odd looking millipede-type creatures that I just had to get a picture or two.

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Well my perfect camping spot turned out to be less than perfect since I had invasion of three campers with old trucks and old campers. It seemed really rude and inconsiderate to camp next to someone else, even if there is “space” and a “campfire ring”. They were loud, had dogs and played music, plus they left at 9pm and didn’t get back until midnight. I hate people…and certainly don’t want to be sharing a campsite with them!!!!!!

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 14

Oct-28-2015
Day 14
I would say I had a really good night’s sleep, but I didn’t. It probably would have been decent if I hadn’t been awoken to Kye barking and growling at something in the dead of the night. Since I generally trust my dogs’ instincts over my own I spent a good five minutes searching out of the back window with a flashlight and my hand on my gun. After Kye settled back to sleep I was still high on adrenaline so it took me a while to doze back off again.

So I was up at 8am and got on the road quickly. I knew it was going to be a long day driving so I wanted to get an early start; unfortunately I didn’t realize just how long it would be!

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I returned to the Columbia River Gorge via Carson again but this time traveled west towards Portland. I crossed the Bridge of Gods into Oregon and on a whim took the scenic OR 30 Hwy. I was extremely glad I took this route as it led me by Horsetail, Multnomah and a variety of other waterfalls. Multnomah is the second highest, continually running waterfall in the US and it really was breathtaking.

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So after this short detour I rejoined the interstate towards Portland and promptly avoided the annoying voice on my GPS that wanted to take me straight into the city. I even think I cussed at her once!

We did a little back-roads exploration and I got my first taste of how gas stations work in Oregon…service to your door. It was a little odd but kind of nice. From there we joined the PCH at Lincoln City and stopped at Depoe Bay to take some pictures.

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There were a couple of nerve-wracking bridges to cross over the harbor entrances (I don’t mind the height; it’s the water underneath that bothers me) that we had to brave before stopping for beer and ice in Yachats and being directed to the nearest national forestry road access.

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It took us quite a while to find a place to stop for the night but I found a nice grass-filled clearing, halfway between the road and a nice, clear creek. I saw two owls on my way through the forest but unfortunately I wasn’t in a position to stop and take pictures (think really steep grade and narrow road).

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There was a tiny little path through some thick undergrowth to the creek and it really reminded me of some of the paths back home in England, which was nice but slightly sorrowful and nostalgic. I loved the greenery and moss and the deciduous trees…it felt so English.

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The one thing that had hit me pretty quick once I got close to the coast was the rapid drop in temperature. From 80 ́ in McMinnville to 69 ́ in Lincoln City which dropped to 64 ́ as we went south. I had no idea what the current temperature was while I was writing, but with the cool air and the breeze I had to put on my hoodie for the first time, in the evening, since the first night I spent near Cooke City. I was really liking the temperature difference and actually had to use a second blanket during the night.

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The dogs enjoyed the new tennis ball I got sometime during the day (the last one was lost while playing with Steve and Breann’s dogs at the lake last Thursday) and enjoyed the solitude. I really had no desire to go back home, although the driving did get wearisome sometimes, as did knowing how many miles I HAD to drive to go home. I was thinking that the next should be a much shorter driving day and I was hoping we would be able stop at the beach and a couple of the ocean-side towns to explore and see somethings.

It was definitely a quiet evening but we were surrounded by a whole lot of interesting plants, and I even risked eating something I was 99.9% sure were wild raspberries. They looked like raspberries, smelled like raspberries and tasted like raspberries so pretty darned sure I was right. They sure tasted delicious. The blackberries weren’t ripe yet and there were only a handful of raspberries, but it was a cool experience to recognize wild plants and actually get to eat them. (I found out later that the berries were actually thimbleberries).

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Roadtrip 2015 – Day 13

Oct-11-2015
Day 13
Great night…cool and slept well for the most part. The bed can be extremely comfortable once you get used to it, and it is just big enough to be comfortable for someone with my 5’5″, 120# frame.

I got an early start this morning and headed towards Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens. The drive was pretty and the volcano is both awe-inspiring and ever-so-slightly nerve-wracking with knowing its history.

Before I came on this roadtrip I watched a couple of documentaries on Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens:

Knowing the immense power that lies beneath these mountains, and what kind of destruction they have caused before, and will again, makes you feel extremely insignificant and fragile. Being in such close proximity to these volcanoes I was a little nervous (despite living in the same state as the super volcano known as Yellowstone). The closer I got to Mt. St. Helens the easier it was to see the destruction of the eruption, even though it had been more than 30 years. Information boards along the road, in pull-off areas, helped to explain the distances the pyroclastic flow, ash and lava traveled, and exactly what effect they had on the landscape.

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From Mt. St. Helens I headed south to Carson, WA and found the most perfect camping spot…and would have stayed if it hadn’t been 11:30 in the morning and I hadn’t desperately needed an internet connection. Of course I wouldn’t have found it at all if it hadn’t been the day for wrong turns and many miles of excess driving and fuel consumption.

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We spent a few minutes in the creek to rest and take a much needed break before continuing many miles the wrong way. Thankfully it was a mostly-paved road and I didn’t travel 10 miles on rough dirt roads, and back again.

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Coming down from Mt. St. Helens I got some great views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood (the highest point in Oregon, and also looks like the Lonely Mountain from the Hobbit movies which gave me goosebumps). From Carson I traveled east a few miles, along the the Columbia River. I had crossed this river once after I passed through Kettle Falls. It had definitely grown in size since that point. I stopped briefly to watch the para-sailors and wind-surfers on the water just down-stream from the Hood Bridge. It was definitely fun to watch.

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I got fuel and McDonald’s (again, hungry and it was the only drive-through in Bingen or White Salmon) before I headed north again, through Trout Lake to look for a campsite for the night. Another wrong turn that lasted for a few miles before I finally got on the right road, back towards Carson. I learn quickly that I was following the McClellan Trail and stopped at an ice cave and some natural bridges, all along the same system of lava tubes and formations. The ice cave was bitterly cold and it was a nice reprieve from the 90 ́ weather at the surface. I didn’t go too far in as my flashlight wasn’t great and I was alone, but it was definitely cool to see. A few miles down the road were some natural bridges, although the information about the creation of these structures wasn’t very well explained.

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You can learn more about the ice caves, natural bridges and the McLellan Trail here.

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I continued on to Goose Lake, which was also part of the McClellan Trail, and found a nice, shady campsite a short hike from the lake. After I parked, the dogs and I took a walk to the lake and played for a while. The fish were jumping a good 6″ out of the water to get the fresh hatch of flies that seemed to be abundant. I saw at least a dozen fish jump within a 40 second period…it was crazy, and how I longed for my fly rod and to be fishing at that moment.

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We returned to camp and I took a picture or two of the lava beds/ formations that lined the trail, as well as of another great campsite that would be ideal for anyone tent camping.

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Sadly I had a neighbor in my camping area, although they were through the trees a ways, but they had kids and weren’t the quietest group of people in the world…although at least they weren’t wild party revelers.

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Having neighbors and being a little closer to the road than I would have liked meant that I had to keep a closer eye on the dogs that I usually would. It cooled off quickly so the hope was that it would be another great night for sleeping.

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The family left but my new neighbors were some guys in a white logo’d van. They tried pulling in where I was parked but left quickly to the opposite side of the road. They were been pretty quiet so I hoped that were are decent folks. The rest of the evening was gorgeous and uneventful, and my neighbors remained quiet and kept to themselves. We played in the creek for a while and I took some pictures, still learning about the controls, capabilities and limits of my camera.

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 12

Oct-26-2015
Day 12
A slow start today but got a couple of loads of laundry done before I left Steve and Breann’s place; I wanted to have as much time as possible between today and the next time I have to stop to do laundry at a laundromat. I think everyone finally got out of the house by noon.

I put about 3 hours worth of driving in today, stopping at Walmart to pick up diet Pepsi, ice and beer before following the same route we took on Saturday towards Mt. Rainier. I turned off before I reached the park and headed south towards the infamous Mt. St. Helens; the volcano that erupted in 1981 and caused massive devastation to the local area.

I tried one pull-off for a campsite but only succeeded in scratching up my truck through the insane undergrowth; I don’t think that Forest Service road will be open to vehicles much longer unless they clear some of the low-lying shrubbery. I was hoping it would end up in an open space and give me a view of Mt. St. Helens, and it kept looking promising but it never delivered…not even after 5 miles of torturous driving and beating up my truck.

 

 

 

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Thankfully, only a few miles down the road I found a suitable campsite, not far off the highway but far enough to be quiet and suitable for the dogs to run free without worrying about traffic. It was buried in the trees and at high elevation, both of which keep it cooler than surrounding lowlands, and also keep the truck cooler and in the shade in the morning when the sun comes up.

 

 

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Unfortunately I couldn’t find level ground in the direction I needed and will be sleeping backwards tonight. I don’t think the dogs care, but I don’t enjoy sleeping with my head downhill.

 

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The dogs played and explored while I fought flies, cooked dinner and drank a couple of beers on the tailgate. As I write today’s entry there are snapping and poppings of twigs that keep making me jump. I am not in a secluded place but I am alone except for the dogs, but I figure if they don’t alert to something then it probably isn’t anything to worry about.

Went to bed and watched the first part of the second Hobbit movie before I crashed. I actually spent all night under the covers as it finally cooled off for a change.

Roadtrip 2015 -Day 11

Oct-25-2015
Day 11
Wedding Day!

We were all up at a decent hour preparing things to go to the church and reception hall, and the house was chaotic. I left a little later than everyone else, heading to the church with all my camera and video equipment to video the ceremony.
After I was ready I spent some time photographing the bride as she had her makeup and hair done, and then put on her dress. She looked incredible and I knew Steven would have a hard time not showing some kind of emotion as she walked down the aisle.

Breann asked me to take some pictures of her dad as he saw her in her wedding dress for the first time…the look and emotion on his face was priceless and, although I only managed to capture a couple of pictures, she was really happy with the
result. She was pretty emotional before coming into the sanctuary and Steven looked the same; it was like they were getting married for the first time rather than renewing their vows with a proper wedding ceremony (which they didn’t get the first time due to Steven’s deployment in the Army).

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I was all set up to film the whole ceremony, and captured the whole thing but unfortunately the “official” photographer kept walking in front of the camera which really pissed me off!!!!! (To top it all off he didn’t even take official wedding pictures of the couple or stay for the cutting of the cake). I also managed the capture Steve and Breann’s first dance and the daddy-daughter dance on video. When I get home I will be putting a wedding video together of the whole thing, including the slide-show and some
extra wedding pictures.

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It was a long day and none of us were in bed before midnight. I was glad to be there as Steven had only myself, his cousin and wife, and his father there from his pre-Washington life; I know that was hard on him but I know he was glad an old friend could be there to share his day and to reminisce about the fun times we had one great summer!

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Roadtrip 2015 – Day 10

Oct-24-2015

I was up early this morning, forgetting I was with people on pacific time. We took a little time to get going but eventually Steve, Breann, Sam, Melissa and I left the house at around 9am to go to Mt. Rainier National Park. I was glad I had suggested Steve recharge the AC on his car as it was quite the group of five people in a Toyota Camry.

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We drove the road to the visitor center, paralleling the Nisqually River, and stopped to take pictures of the mountain, Crystal Falls and a few other interesting things along the way.

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The glaciers were impressive up close but the effect of the mountain is really from further away when it is the lone peak in otherwise low lands.

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We bought some Rainier cherries on the way back which were delicious. We also stopped at Steve and Breann’s old house topick up mail but unfortunately we all picked up a few fleas from the carpet which had us all creeped-out and itching. It was a good thing to notice quickly so we didn’t bring any back to the new house. Sadly, this flea infestation was after the house had been bug-bombed already and Steve decided he would need to call in a professional exterminator.

We spent an hour in the pool when we got back which was cold but refreshing. Breann’s aunt and uncle arrived with their two kids. One of the kids was pretty well behaved and pleasant…the youngest of the two, however, threw food on the ground twice which completely unimpressed Steve who had spent a good while cooking the discarded ribs.

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A group of people worked on wedding preparations outside while some of us (mostly the guys and myself) watched a few MMA fights on TV. We celebrated the day with a few fireworks and an American flag ice-cream cake (which was REALLY good).

It was a fun day but I was burned out by being around so many people and went to bed around 11.

Roadtrip 2015 – Day 9

Oct-23-2015

A decent night’s sleep in a real bed was awesome. I ran errands with Steve and Breann and helped her with the final fitting and picking-up of her wedding dress for Sunday. We relaxed at the house for the afternoon, watched TV and then went to Walmart, got my first pedicure and picked up the parts needed to fix my truck.

Steve’s dad, Sam, and his friend Carl arrived late in the evening with Steve’s cousin Sam and his wife Melissa. It was a very busy house and I retired to bed around midnight.

It was a pretty uneventful day but it was a nice break from the constant driving. The only photographical evidence of the day were some pictures of a swallowtail butterfly that was hanging around.

 

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Roadtrip 2015 – Day 8

Oct-22-2015

Unfortunately I woke up in the wee small hours of the morning with paranoid thoughts of bad men and me in a remote location. I always lock my doors and leave the keys in the ignition, just in case something happens, but at 3am these things don’t always help the illogical and darkness-tampered mind. I managed to get back to sleep and didn’t wake until a decent hour. I took time packing camp this morning as I didn’t have far to go and I wasn’t sure when to arrive at my friends’ house. The drive along 410 just got prettier the higher I went until the highway curved over the pass and you could look straight down the valley. Just over the crest of the pass Mt. Rainier came into view; a beautiful, snow-covered peak that it as impressive as it is unique.

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A little blurry, but a beautiful panoramic shot of Mt. Rainier from the east side as I came over the pass on 410.

I circumnavigated the national park to the north and came into Buckley to fill up with gas. From this point on, and until I stopped at Walmart for a couple of necessities (a new camera and some oil), I didn’t have any power to speak of. This concerned my greatly for I was a long way from home; the saving grace that if something needed fixed I wouldn’t be needing my truck while staying with my friends for the wedding.

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Kye amused me while she was dozing in the front seat and enjoying th air conditioning of the cab:

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With a call home I was told that my truck problem was probably just a need for a fuel filter replacement. An easy fix we managed to do in 5 minutes as well as topping up the AC refrigerant. I arrived at my friends’ house (Steven and Breann) an hour before they did which gave me some time to play around a little with my new camera, a Canon Powershot super zoom. It is a lot more technologically advanced than my dead Panasonic Lumix, and the 50X zoom is incredible. My only concern was the inability to shoot in monochrome (black and white or sepia) which is a very important feature for me. Eventually I figured it out and all was good with the world.

Steve and Breann showed up after a while and it was really great to see my old work friend, Steve, again. We had worked together for a summer at Aspen Canyon Ranch in Colorado in 2008 and it was one of the best summers we had both ever had. It was a group of people who have continued to stay in touch and remain friends throughout the years…a feat rather unusual in the guest ranching business. Steve was one of only a couple of members of staff I had not seen since that summer and I was excited to see him again. I had not yet met Breann, his wife of two years, but we had conversed a great deal on Facebook and it was awesome to finally meet her in person as well.

After getting cleaned up and taking the first real shower I have had in a week we drove out to Lewis Lake which is on a public access part of the local military base. As we drove I was beginning to wonder if I should have signed a waiver with all the “live artillery” and “danger” signs lining the road to the lake. Still, it was a fun hour and the dogs all got to know each other.

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With the dogs well worn-out we let them sleep and went out to dinner for Mexican. It was a pleasant evening, well-spent before we returned to the house for a little bit of Yukon Men on TV (a rare treat for me since I don’t have TV at home). A real shower and a real bed awaited me, and it was something I was really looking forward to after a week on the road (despite the fact that I actually do sleep on a mattress, with sheets and comforter, in the back of my truck).