Not a footstep in California

I still remember right before our return to the US when we were still onboard in Panama, sweating out the 90+ degree temperatures Tate asked me what I wanted to see most on our RV trip (this was before we even knew what we would travel in) and I answered “Why, the giant Redwoods in California of course!” Being brought up in the south where the largest trunked trees are short (albeit beautiful) Live Oak trees the idea of seeing some trees, hundreds (or more) feet tall with trunks as big as a house, was enthralling and something I’d drive across the country to the northwest point in California to see them. But in the end we skipped the Redwoods and actually all of California.

We spent basically a month in South Dakota, a month in Montana and a month in Washington State. This is a much faster pace than we enjoyed while sailing (typically 3 months in one port was our “fill” moment) but still slow when you have a truncated timeline. Really our only hard schedule this whole trip has been the arrival of Tate’s Dad (Mr. Logan who also came to visit us in Isla Mujeres, Mexico on Sundowner in the March of 2015) in Flagstaff in early September. Now that it was getting to be the middle of July that left us with roughly 6 weeks before we needed to pick him up in Arizona. 6 weeks, holy smokes that’s nothing!

We thoroughly enjoyed our wet but fire laden time near the rainforest and when we departed we fully intended to go south through Oregon and high tail it to the Redwoods National Park. BUT once we actually got on the road I pulled out our old trusty Atlas (yes, a real PAPER map) and calculated the distance to the Redwoods and possible other stops in California before continuing onto the deserty areas and found that it would be 700 miles “out of the way” to go to the Redwoods before heading back East and so we really had some thinking to do.

The high costs and difficulty (impossible in most places) to free camp in California has been preached to us from a variety of sources since South Dakota…We all know that California is one of the most expensive states in the country and that they tend to be more “rule happy” than the rest. This really doesn’t bode well for our kind of lifestyle, one that is on a budget.

Even though we were always stead fast on going to California (I mean how could we NOT we are RIGHT here) the apprehension has built until finally in Portland, Oregon I made the call to instead head back East.

I said you know…we have seen a lot of trees. I mean the last few months have been in forests really. We’ve seen some pretty big trees in Glacier, Snoqualmie National Forest and the Hoh Rainforest (Olympic) and I honestly have gotten my fill of the giant things. I’m always in awe of the living Giants but is it worth all the expense and time to go see the Redwoods. In the end is was not. We go where the wind takes us and the wind was taking us to the desert, a landscape we haven’t yet got to enjoy on this trip, which is ending in a couple of short months.

I know California is a BEAUTIFUL state with so much to offer in terms of Parks (Redwood, Sequoia, Sierra Nevada just to name a few), food, wine, beaches, mountains etc. The list goes on and on but for me California is sort of like Europe. It’s probably better for us to see all of what these places have to offer later in life when we have more money to truly enjoy it. I’d love one day to take a couple of weeks and go to the Redwoods and also Napa Valley and maybe San Francisco. It would probably take years to see the whole state and well we just don’t have that right not. So we skipped it.

We turned east at Portland, not really knowing where we would go. We stopped at a Flying J for a couple of nights on the East side of Oregon and then headed into Idaho and to a few camping spot about 20 miles West of the Crater’s of the Moon National Monument which is an area created by old lava flows and explosions out of the Earth’s crust (ages ago) so it’s full black volcanic rock looking stuff with HUGE craters in the Earth’s surface that look like a bomb went off. Very interesting place, though it’s in the middle of nowhere Idaho.

The drive through Oregon and into Idaho was Beautiful! I have to say that the driving portions of our trip have been some of the most enjoyable for me. The scenery is usually breathtaking and it’s like a hike without all the work. The giant windows in our Class A RV have really paid for themselves in spades. The view only is definitely a pro when considering buying a Class A. Class C’s are basically the same as a Class A of the same size but with truck windows. We are up high in RA and enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the Country as we drive along.

I NEVER get tired of seeing the Pacific Union trains cross back and forth along our routes.

We are always treated to spectacular views of water and mountains.

Our campsite near Crater’s of the Moon monument was really dusty and kind of noisy near the road but I did a couple of jogs around the area and found the scenery on top of a nearby “hill” to be stunning. I loved seeing the farmland at the bottom of the mountainscape.

Crater’s of the Moon itself did not disappoint and Tate and I went on a 1.8 mile hike called the “North Crater Trail” which was just incredible in terms of varying conditions and surfaces on which to hike. A very very sad thing happened though. After all the footage was taken, both video and photo, I accidentally deleted most of it when transferring it to the computer. We only have the first 20 mins or so of a few hour hike and the end of the hike was the most spectacular. Oh well…lesson learned and hopefully I don’t destroy any footage moving forward.

We only stayed in the Crater’s campsite about 3 days before checking our Atlas again and finding that the Grand Tetons National Park was only 4 hours away…Of course we had to go check it out. But that is for next time.

The days keep ticking down on the RV trip. Both Tate and I talk frequently about the boat, what to bring back with us from the States and what we need to do once we get back (bottom job and some rigging) and how we can’t wait to arrive once again to the Swimming Pool in the San Blas Islands while we wait out our time for the Panama Canal crossing and eventual Pacific crossing. Our next “big sail” is going to be the Pacific, estimated to be 4,000 from Panama to the Marquesses. I think it’ll be a good thing being super refreshed from our time in the States. But who knows..with the way we change plans nothing is certain, except that we’ll be back in Panama before the end of the year.

Check out our shift in plans and visit to the Crater’s of the Moon Monument in Idaho in our new video!
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The Hoh Rainforest

Leaving Port Angeles was quite an ordeal. It seemed that everyone in the area had some personal idea of where we should go and how we should get there. Maps were consulted. The Internet was consulted. And finally even gas station attendants who brandished more maps at us. We went to fill up the RV with gas and this guy saw our motorcycle on the trailer. He steamed out of the store shouting things about the “best” roads. Dani was enthralled. I thought the whole process was dubious. It was a bewildering time attempting to escape. But in the end I fell back to my old patterns and simply left one morning on the motorcycle and went for a long ride.

I usually don’t take Dani with me when it is time to go scout out new campsites because it is a lot easier to turn the motorcycle around on dirt roads without two people on it. But it also gives me time to think and to ride a little harder than I would have otherwise. I cruised past beaches and campers in their jam packed pay for camp sites. Some of them I can understand, like the ones on the beach. I mean there is no other beach spot, but some I don’t, like the RV parks. I headed down as close to the Hoh rainforest area as I really could and just started darting down National Forest Service roads in search of a nice and quiet spot to park the RV.

I went down some really long and beautiful back roads before I found a nice big level spot that used to be a gravel pit but was totally surrounded by the forest. When we left Port Angeles in the RV, this is where I knew I was headed. It was flat, huge, secluded, and close to the places we wanted to visit. I zoomed back to say our goodbyes to Gary and Sheila (SV Irish Rose Westsail 28) and then the next day we set off to occupy the found spot.

Getting the RV to the campsites I find is not always easy. The roads on the Olympic Peninsula are very winding but worse, they go up and down slightly but constantly. This means a lot of braking as you ride into corners too fast on a slope. This means going slow. This means stopping from time to time to cool the brakes or downshifting and riding with the engine revved way up. It isn’t the RVs fault, we were probably the biggest vehicle on those roads most of the way and anything with our weight would be having a little discomfort. But we pulled through. The RV was fine in the end and while I was fighting the road, other drivers, and “adventure bikers”; Dani was lost in her personal wonderland with her face pressed up against the windows and her camera rolling. She loved that road as we sped past Crescent Lake. She loved it so much I just knew I was going to have to windex her nose print off the side window. Luckily she opened the window during the latter half of the journey.

Most of our RV trip has been driven by my desires. I wanted to go back to the Blueridge Parkway. I wanted the Natchez Trace. I wanted to see Montana again. Etc. Dani hadn’t even heard of many of the places we went to. But over time my desires dwindled and I experienced a “dark” period of wanting to be back aboard Sundowner. As though I’d had enough of this road trip. At that point, I divorced myself from the idea of trying to come up with “stuff” to do and told Dani that we could do whatever she wanted. This could have been a great decision or one of the worst mistakes possible. Giving Dani control of a trip is like disabling the brakes, but my energies were spent and I needed new eyes to draw me to things I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. And this is how we ended up passing the beautiful Crescent Lake on our way to the Hoh rainforest, which Dani told me were going to see.

We arrived at the spot I had picked out. No one had taken it while I was away. And no one really ever came by the whole time we were there. It turned out to be a great spot for peace and quiet. Well, at least from people. There were some birds that would sing to us at sunset when we built campfires. Dani called them the super sonic birds because their songs accelerated and pitched upward in inhuman ways that we cannot even attempt to replicate. They were the only birds we really saw or heard there except the occasional crow or hawk that went over.

We built a great many fires. It was chilly. It was wet. It was beautiful and calm in the evenings and we hadn’t had camp fires in a long time. The forest was piled with old dead wood and it made it easy to build fires. I didn’t have an axe though and so some of the later fires were a little wild looking. I would just drag a dead tree out of the forest, lay it over the fire ring and burn the middle out before dumping each end back into the fire ring. We stayed up late. Cooked marshmallows. Looked at the stars. And Dani would dance around the fire. In all, it was an extremely peaceful time. My inner aches to be back on the water dulled and I was able to enjoy the forest again.

I thought everything was good. I thought we’d found peace. I thought all we had to do would be to visit the Hoh. No. The map brandishing gas station attendant came back to haunt me. He had infected Dani’s mind. Told her the best beaches weren’t the ones right down the road from the campsite but instead were down some obscurely marked road where (as he told me in a hushed “man” voice) you can go triple digits. Now I like to ride fast but my bike isn’t doing 100mph anytime soon. Anyway, his geas was upon Dani and so off we went down some back road in the middle of no where to see a beach. A Pacific beach.

The ride was alright but the beach wasn’t. It had been closed due to some sort of shell fish infection. Infestation. Something. Dead birds marked the path down onto the cool, wet sands. The sights were pretty but it was not my idea of a beach. Maybe I’ve just been too spoiled by sailing all the tropical islands. I expect to see palm trees. Waves. Warm waters. Dani in a bikini. Instead there were strange people wearing all black milling about in the full sun as a constant light fog rolled over the sands. Hell, it was bringing back all those thoughts of longing for Sundowner. I needed a drink.

Dani made the most of it. We filmed it and she went back and forth over dinner if she liked it or not. We found this little town along the way back that looked like something out of Florida or Alabama. I suppose beach side towns are the same the US over. You know the one. Vacationville. Open 3 months a year and dead as a doornail the rest of the time. But it was high summer and so we found a place open and willing to serve us cocktails. I recovered from the beach. Dani still maintains we didn’t see it at its best.

As harsh a critic as I am of the beaches, I will say that I have become a great fan of the forests in Washington. We waited and waited. We prayed and did weather dances. We invoked Indian and animal spirits. Finally, about a week into our camp, the sun came out fully. The rainforests get 130+ inches of rainfall a year. As you can imagine this doesn’t leave a lot of time for the sun. Being sailors we know that time, tide, and sunlight wait on no mortal, so we, like everyone else, jetted off to finally see the Hoh rainforest.

Things started bad. The forest turned out to be so far off the main road (20 miles off!) that by the time we got there I realized I would have to seek gas immediately after our hike. The speed limit into the place was slow and we were on the tail end of a huge traffic snake. In the park, the parking lot was FULL! Thank God motorcycles can park just about anywhere.

This turned out to be a non event though. Once we started down our chosen trail, the people became sparse and the nature became rich. When most of us think “rainforest”, I believe we think of the dense tropical jungles nearer the equator. This forest was of an altogether different nature. It had huge trees draped in moss and it was carpeted with soft ferns and lichens. It was cool, breezy, and close to sea level.

The Hoh rainforest really was another world. All the fantasy shows you’ve seen with elves living in trees or hobbits under a hill could have been true here. The size of the forest seemed to make us smaller than we are, and its comfortable weather and nearby blue watered river gave it an inviting aspect. It was full of flowers highlighted by beams of sunlight that penetrated the canopy. We found berries and mushrooms. We saw owls and butterflies. The hike passed in just a blink of an eye.

We had ventured out to 5 mile island (appropriately five miles away) and back. I don’t think either of us will ever forget that hike. I can’t really fully describe it but please check out our video of the forest if you can.

We didn’t stay in the camp site too long after visiting the Hoh. We headed south with big plans for Oregon and California. Check out our new Vlog with live action! Until next time…

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Cape Flattery

Just as in our Cruising life our RV trip has afforded many fast hellos and quick goodbyes. I could have spent another couple of weeks getting to know the Little Cunning Plan folks, just enough time to weasel in a sailing trip aboard 47′ Galapagos, but alas time is moving and we have to keep moving maximize our traveling time before we head back to Panama this fall.

We left Tacoma with a Mount Rainier sail under our belt and new friends that we hope to meet up with out on the water. The next stop was Port Angeles, Washington, a little waterfront town off Hwy 101 on the northern shore of the Olympic Peninsula, which is where the Olympic National Park is centrally located.

Along our travels we have reached out to those in the sailing community, especially the tight knit Westsail community. Some people compare Westsail owners to cult members (minus the poisoned kool-aid) with owners being SO INTO the Westsails and the now very old boats refurbishments. Sure there are other boats that sail and handle better and are much cheaper to maintain but something about the design, lines and history of the Westsail draws people, like us, in. It’s similar to old car enthusiasts.

As fortune would have it a fellow Westsailors, Shelia and Gary, owners of W28 “Irish Rose” had a nice piece of property right outside of town with space for the RV and the offer to stay as long as we wished. This sure beat trying to find a place along one of the many steep logging roads that cover much of the Olympic National Forest on this side of the Park. We took them up on it and proceeded to spend 5 nights nestled in the forests on their expansive property right next to SV Irish Rose and also their mini RV Sprinter Van.

SV Irish Rose, while having been sailed extensively on the Port Angeles coastal waterway of the Straits of Juan de Fuca was in need of some repairs and so sat quietly in their yard. It was neat to see the Westsail 28 out of the water as opposed our Westsail 32. It’s a miniature of our boat essentially and loved by many for it’s blue water capability, slightly lower cost and same gorgeous old world styling. The Yoder’s from the blog Yoder’s Afloat sailed the Westsail 28 SV Siempre Sabado (Always Saturday) down to Mexico where they lived and sailed aboard for many years.

The Westsails are all nearly 40 years old now and with the amount of work they need their beautiful appearance is motivating. Similarly our boat has been out of the water now for SEVEN MONTHS (where did the time go!?) in a Panamanian marina on the Caribbean coast. They are now full blown into the “rainy season” where it POURS about everyday (I used to catch 40 gallons in 20 minutes) while maintaining highs in the 90’s. We are hoping Sundowner is staying watertight for the most part but ask the marina to pump the bilge every month or so to try to prevent too much moisture in the air (read mold), as well as put mold killing packets in the boat every three months.

Seeing SV Irish Rose has made us miss our boat a bit more and we are excited that we’ll get back to her this fall though I’m a little worried about what we’ll find once we open the companion way for the first time after nearly a year in the rainy tropics. That should make for some interesting video/pictures.

But back to the story at hand…

We visited with Shelia and Gary, along with their son and grandson and a bunch of chickens where they get fresh eggs everyday (SO jealous). They were so hospitable and fed us as much as we would eat, not to mention coffee from a VERY nice espresso machine. They had an interesting property where the house sat on land about 50 feet higher than the creek that ran below. The Olympic Peninsula gets lots of moisture from the Pacific Ocean and nearly everything is just dripping with life. Really beautiful and similar in ways to some of our Louisiana marshland.

We went out one evening in Port Angeles with Tate’s friend from high school (Catrina) and her husband Jordan, the same folks we met on the Seattle Beach for a fire, as they were traveling through to Victoria Island to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Both being involved with the movie industry they gave us invaluable tips on how to film better and have more interesting content. It felt like we were back in college, hitting up the local bars and listening to booty shaking music. Also I don’t know if it’s just me but since we’ve been in Washington where cannabis is legal more people seem high, like all the time. At work, at the bar, wherever. I feel like I’m on another planet.

Since the Olympic Peninsula has so much to offer we had to pick and choose how to spend our time. We were planning to move the RV to the west side of the Peninsula to visit the Hoh Rainforest but from Port Angeles there were many things we could have gone to see. Instead of visiting the famed “Hurricane Ridge” (a road on top of the Olympic Mountains) we instead decided to visit Cape Flattery which is the northwest most point on the mainland USA.

The Cape is pretty much out of the way from anywhere. You have to drive along Hwy 112 80 miles, which takes 2 hours, to get to it. There are little, and I mean LITTLE, towns along the way including a few American Indian communities. We took the motorcycle along Hwy 112 which hugged the coast of the Straits of Juan de Fuca the entire way before meeting up with the Pacific Ocean.

The ride was incredibly scenic with coastal views lined with multicolored wildflowers as well as GIGANTIC, and I mean GIGANTIC (hundreds of feet tall with 10 foot trunks) Spruce, Cedar, Maple and Oak trees. Bald Eagles perched in the trees so low and close that we could make out the striking details on their faces.

Truly a breathtaking ride thought extremely hilly and twisty. We are really glad we didn’t have to drive the RV to the Cape, honestly I’m not sure we could have and there was definitely nowhere to park it when we got there.

We actually visited the Cape on the 4th of July (‘Merica!) and enjoyed looking out over the 5 various viewpoints set up along the short trail to the coast. We were blessed with partially sunny weather, (did I mention it rains around here?), and nice temperatures, only a light jacket was needed.

It was interesting to see how the mighty Pacific has carved out the rocky northwestern coast and it was really thought provoking and awe inspiring to be actually standing on the northwest most point. If you keep going you get to Asia. A lighthouse stood on an island a bit off the coast. It was definitely worth the 4 hour round trip motorcycle ride and is one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Our next stop is the Hoh Rainforest!

See the story in action in our new video below!

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Not quite retirement age

One of the coolest things about our RV trip so far is the number of “virtual friends” we’ve ended up meeting in real life. Every few weeks it seems we get in touch with or are contacted by people in the locations we travel to that we have only know over the internet. Fellow bloggers, long time blog readers, and simply folks out there who like our Vlogs and Blogs who are either living the adventure through us or are planning their own adventure. Just recently we had a great experience in Tacoma Washington meeting Mike and Melissa from the blog Little Cunning Plan!

*We somehow had way too much fun and left Mike out of all the group pictures:( Sorry Mike.

I was SOO excited to finally meet these two fellow boat refitters. It seems unlikely but we’ve been following each others journey for nearly 4 years from ocean boat ownership to refit to preparing to leave to actually cruising from opposite sides of the country. The waters they sail in Washington State are so foreign and totally different from the waters we learned to sail on in Louisiana. They are also a bit older with kids grown and out of the house.

When we were in the midst of our heavy refit for Sundowner in 2012 we delighted in watching them sail their Cal 34, SV Moonrise, so carefree around the beautiful waterways and islands in the Pacific northwest corner of Washington. Each year they took a 2 or 3 week vacation aboard which consisted of anchoring around the various beautiful rocky island spots.

Once they were dead set on sailing farther distances, like down to South America (and Galapagos) and perhaps the South Pacific and New Zealand they took a leap in the right direction and put Moonrise on the market.

Unfortunately boat markets are a funny and finicky thing and after 2 YEARS of Moonrise not selling they went ahead and bought their “for real” cruising boat, SV Galapagos, a 1975 47 foot Olympic Adventurer (Ted Brewer design). So for a time they actually owned TWO boats..that can be a REALLY scary thing but luckily great new owners soon came and took Moonrise to new pastures.

It was then that we were in the same boat so to speak. We were both refitting our boats (they also replaced their old engine with a new 60HP Beta Marine Engine, ours is a 38HP) though we were ahead of them in terms of leaving and finally in 2015 we wrapped up our refit and set sail in early January to the Caribbean and shortly to beyond. Now their goal is quit their jobs and set sail from Tacoma to start cruising indefinitely in 2017!!!

SV Galapagos

We never lost touch and I always found their story so compelling. Two people who aren’t quite the traditional retirement age, foregoing the security of the last working years to realize their lifelong dream of sailing to distant shores. They have the means through a lifetime of working and saving to take off cruising for five years or so. They don’t want to wait too long to realize their sailing dream because as time moves on unexpected thing can happen in life and in health that prevent cutting the dock lines.

You can read their story here at Little Cunning Plan.

After our time in the Snoqualmie National Forest (45 miles east of Seattle) we packed up the RV and headed to Tacoma Washington to Mike and Melissa’s (M&M) driveway and stayed a couple of days. We hit it off instantly and I’m not sure Melissa and I stopped talking for the 2 days we were there.  I LOVE their house, it’s so beautiful and has so much character. You can tell that it has been loved and there’s no question why M&M are apprehensive about leaving it.

Chihuly Glass Museum, Tacoma Washington

Leaving the dock usually isn’t easy…there are ALWAYS reasons to stay and work just a few more years. We’ve heard countless stories of people who waited until retirement age to go sailing or “add lifelong dream here” and find themselves unable to actually make it happen due to health or other life mishaps.

In our case it was VERY scary (for me at first) to leave a great paying job, one I had worked so hard to get, to travel for many years. Now that we are 20 months into our trip I don’t regret the decision at all. We hike all over the place now on this RV trip and snorkel, spearfish and sail the hell out of our boat back in the tropics. It’s easy enough for us in our health. Of course there are Plenty of retired cruisers doing just fine out there as well. To each their own.

After having been away from the working world for this time I’m able to step back and view employment differently. Tate and I have our careers still to come back to if we want but we also see another way in life. There are many flexible traveling jobs out there that we research from time to time whenever we have to go back to work.

Maybe we’ll be long haul truckers, or open a business like an RV Park or Marina, or find jobs in our fields that are in WAY outta the way places for shorter time frames so that we can work a couple of years then travel a couple of years. Who knows where life will take us.

I can’t wait to read the post where Mike and Melissa take off from the dock that final time.

We got to see their new boat Galapagos, which is BEAUTIFUL and gigantic to my Westsail 32 eyes. I’m envious in a way of all that space. Their boat was built in Greece but sailed to the Pacific Northwest sometime later, which is how M&M got a chance at her.

They also invited us out sailing with the normal Wednesday night racing crew aboard SV Blue Moon, a 1980 C&C 40′ sailboat in Commencement Bay out of Tacoma. The race committee called the race off due to light winds though we simply motored out a bit and went for a little sail, spinnaker and all.

What is it with race committees? Why couldn’t they have just, oh I don’t know, MOVED the course to be in the wind. It was literally a 5 minute motor. We had similar experiences with the Race Committees back in New Orleans on Lake Pontchartrain (Yep Glenn, I’m looking at YOU!)

Sailing on the Bay was INCREDIBLE!! Mount Rainier towered over the horizon the entire time and we watched this beautiful 1960’s era Columbia 50′ slice through the water with ease. There was even a fiddle player on the bow. The weather was perfect, only needing jeans and a light jacket from time to time. The water here, as in Montana, was mainly flat even and it takes the slightest breeze to get moving. Lake Pontchartrain was usually pretty choppy with 1-2 foot seas at high frequency.

After the sailing, meeting and eating WAY too much we said goodbye to our new friends. It felt pretty much just like it does when you meet people you hit it off with out cruising. You feel the connection then proceed to spend as much time as possible together until one of you sails off over the horizon to your next port, maybe never to be seen again. It can be sad knowing that you may never see that person again.

BUT…the REALLY special part comes when you actually DO get to see that person again, which happened time and time again for us and the crews of SV Nimue, SV Tango, SV Motu, SV LaLuna, and SV Seawolf just to name a few. Reuniting with fast flames is somehow even more incredible than the first meeting and I hope we get to meet up with M&M perhaps out in New Zealand if we both end up there (there’s a chance!).

Tate and I made the drive from Tacoma to Port Angeles to stay at some fellow Westsailor’s house on the Olympic Peninsula. We visit the northwestern most point in the US, Cape Flattery and also the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. But that is a story for next time.

Check out our new video for some live action of the above.
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