Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 10, 2009 - Downtown Seattle & Alki

It has been several weeks since we have been able to have an outing, due to illness, job changes and weather. This time we stayed in our own backyard and just checked out downtown Seattle and Puget Sound. We had a wonderful day, the weather was beautiful! We took the top off the Jeep and cruised around all day long.

From Downtown Seattle Alki

We stopped for lunch in Alki. We dined on fish and chips as we looked across the water to see the Space Needle.

Got lots of pictures to play with in Photoshop, Pam's new passion. She has been taking classes for working in Photoshop and she is really enjoying learning. This picture of the seagull is going to have to go through the Photoshop mill to see if she can fix it so that both the bird and the background are in focus. We will post an update to the picture if she is successful!

From Downtown Seattle Alki

We love the ocean, but everyone keeps telling us that the Sound is not the ocean. Who cares! It seems like an ocean to people who recently moved here from Arizona. We love it!

We really enjoyed downtown Seattle. It looked like there was so much to see, but we weren't feeling up to getting out of the Jeep and walking around. Maybe on another day. It was perfect weather for this type of outing. It is starting to look and smell like fall here in Seattle.

From Downtown Seattle Alki

See all of our pictures from our trip today.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 24, 2009 - Mountain Loop Highway Trip

We got a late start yesterday, as I (Mike) had to spend sometime at work before we could head out. When we finally got on the road, our goal was to find a camping spot close to my place of employment. We wanted to find a place where we could go out Thursday night and stay all weekend, and I could just commute from our campsite, as I have to work on Saturday and Sunday.

For our trip today, we headed north to Marysville, Washington, and then over to Arlington, Washington, where we took Hwy 530 to Darrington, Washington. We had a terrific lunch in Darrington at the Glacier Peak Cafe. We highly recommend this little cafe. We started our trek on the Mountain Loop Highway from right in the center of Darrington.


It was a beautiful drive, and we found several campgrounds that would serve our purpose. Some of them had campsites that backed right up to a river. The rates ranged from $14 to $20 a night. We made note of some of campsite numbers that we would want to reserve when the time comes. You will definitely want to make reservations before heading out for one of these campgrounds, as most of the campgrounds were already full on a Friday afternoon. There may not have been people in the sites yet, but all the sites were marked "Reserved".

The first campground we came to was Squire Creek Campground, a county park. There are many campgrounds on the Mountain Loop Highway. Some of the campgrounds that we checked out and decided were to our liking and appeared to have a low bug rating were, Gold Basin, Verlot, Turlo. And we made note of specific campsites within each of these campgrounds in the pictures that we took today.

On our way home, we discovered Lake Stevens. We are just amazed by the number of streams and lakes here in Washington. We are thoroughly enjoying out new home in Washington State. What a beautiful summer we are having. We loved Arizona, but we are so happy to be escaping the Arizona summer heat!

View our pictures for Mountain Loop Highway Trip

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17, 2009 - Gold Bar, Washington

Mike had a severe cold last week that prevented us from going for our weekly trip. He has been back at work since Monday, but still feeling a little under the weather. So our trip this week was a short one. We had to go up to Everett, Washington, for a specialty item we needed. Then we headed out to look for a campground fairly close to Mike's work location. Our thought was that if we found something close by, we could go camping on our days off, and stay out over the weekend. If we were close enough to his place of employment, he could just commute from our campsite.

I don't know that we accomplished our goal, but we had a nice (short) drive. We drove up Hwy 2 to Gold Bar, Washington, and visited Wallace Falls State Park. The website for this park says that it rents cabins and has only two walk-in tent sites right off of the parking lot for the nearby trailhead. The location just did not appeal to us as a potential camp site. We are assuming that you can possibly pack in and camp at other locations (not sure). It is beautiful country, but it just wasn't suited to our camping style.

So we took a side road and ran across Gold Bar Nature Trails Camping Club (GBNT). It looked interesting, so we went in and registered for a tour with a salesman. The park is apparently about 35 years old and has about 1,200 sites. The only sites that are for sale now are member resales. There is no lake or stream within the park or on its borders, but the park has amenities such as a adult clubhouse and pool and a youth clubhouse and pool, baseball field and covered pavilion with full kitchen.

The sites all have metered electric hook ups, septic tanks and free water. It is a park with few restrictions on the rigs (which has advantages and disadvantages), and the owners can occupy the site for 9 months (270 days) out of the year. RVs may remain on the campsite year-round. However, they have one rather strange requirement, members themselves must vacate the premises once every thirty days for 24 hours, but their rigs can stay at the site. And you cannot have your mail delivered to the park. You must maintain a mailing address outside of the park, which could easily be accomplished by using a Mail Forwarding Service.

The sites and rigs are not as manicured as those parks we are used to seeing in Arizona, but the prices seemed extremely reasonable to us. One lot was priced at just $4,900. We were told that you do not actually own the land (the dirt) but the space above the ground. We were also told that the property is transferrable, and upon your death becomes part of your estate. You can have your rig, an Arizona Room, a Gazebo, and a shed on your lot. At any rate, it seemed like a very interesting place to us.

We thought this camp/park would be ideal for the typical snowbirds who go to Arizona to escape the northern winters. The main park that we are familiar with in Arizona was called Happy Trails, and I would guess that lots there start at around $60,000. Of course, there you really do own the ground, and there are monthly membership fees. At GBNT there is an annual membership fee of $940, which is invoiced quarterly. The park maintains the septic tanks and electrical lines, not the members. But for the price, what a great way for someone to escape the Arizona heat for several months out of the year.

After our tour, we headed back toward Gold Bar to get some lunch. We split a "Special" cheeseburger at Zeke's, which is located just east of Gold Bar. After lunch, we just decided to head towards home to try to catch up on our rest for the work week, in the hopes of kicking Mike's cold.

We look some pictures of the Camping Club that we will post when we get home. The GBNT website has a listing of the lots that are for sale, the listings include pictures of the lots. Some of the lots come with various improvements (shed, gazebo, park model or RV).

On our way home we also stopped in and checked out Snoqualmie River Campground & RV Park in Fall City, Washington. This is a very nice campground that is right on the river, and there is a beautiful golf course,Twin Rivers Golf Course, adjacent to the campground. We were told by the attendant that the campground closes on October 31st, due to frequent flooding of the river. However, their websites states that the park has has "limited services" from November to March. We are not really sure what that means. It was interesting to see how they elevate the electrical hookups.

Until next time we are out on the road . . . Happy Trails to you!

See pictures from our trip

Saturday, June 27, 2009

June 19, 2009 - Cooper Lake, Washington

Last week we set out to search for a camping spot that was fairly close to home and that had a place to do some fly fishing.  Our son-in-law, Brett, is an avid sportsman and fly fisherman, and is determined to teach Mike how to use a fly rod.  Brett had talked to us about Cooper Lake, so we thought we would check it out for a future adventure.

We stopped to check out several other campgrounds along the way.  Just in case we needed something a little closer to home.  We drove through Denny Creek Campground and Lake Easton State Park.  We both really liked these campgrounds.  That is a plus.  You must understand that Mike and I (Pam) have very different ideas about camping and campgrounds.

I like to stay fairly close to civilization, as I always imagine the worst, like one of us having some kind of medical emergency.  I also would like our daughter and son-in-law to accompany us.  They have a one-year old daughter, who is just learning to walk and has trouble sleeping at night at home.  I worry that my daughter won’t want to go camping if our campsite is too far from home.  And of course, what if the baby has a medical emergency (You can tell I am lots of fun to take camping!).  I could go on, but you probably get the point: I'm really more of a
"glamper" than a "camper".

Mike, on the other hand, has no such worries.  The farther away from civilization, the more he likes it.  And I would imagine that our son-in-law, being from Montana, has a similar philosophy.  I don’t really know my daughter’s preference, but given the fact that she is my daughter, I am guessing that she is more like me.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to go camping, that is if I can take a shower, wash and curl my hair, and feel safe.  But I know I am a pain to take camping. . . so why doesn’t the man just get me a motorhome!!!

Denny Creek Campground was more rustic, but it was a well-maintained campground.  Lake Easton had camping sites with or without utilities.  Of course, I liked the utility sites (then I don’t have to plug a converter into the Jeep to use my curling iron).  I could be in camping heaven here, even in a tent!  There is a beach and the place is close to home.

I really have no need to continue the journey to Cooper Lake to find a campground, this will do.  But Mike insists we continue the journey.

We had lunch in a city park in Roslyn, Washington, a charming little town with lots of small inns.  The next town on the map was Ronald, Washington. Most of the rest of the trip, our travels take us right alongside the Cle Elum River. It was a gorgeous drive.

There were several more campgrounds along the way to Cooper Lake.  We didn’t stop and check any of them out, until we were on our way back.

If you haven’t been to Cooper Lake, you have to go, if for no other reason than to see the view from the Cooper River Bridge looking back upstream to Cooper Lake.  The view is awesome.  It is like looking at a postcard.  That view alone made the drive worthwhile.

We continue our trek to check out the Owhi Campground and the boat ramp.  The campground is “walk-in” only.  It doesn’t look like a very long walk to the lake, but if you decide to use this campground, keep in mind that you will have to carry your gear to your campsite.  The lake is beautiful.

But our journey is not over.  Mike, who loves to drive, doesn’t feel like he has gone for a ride unless he drives over 400 miles, so we can’t turn around and go home yet.  We journey on to Tuquala Lake (sometimes spelled Tucquala – and this lake is also called “Fish Lake") and find the end of the road at the Trailhead to Deception Pass. There were lots of “no fee” camping areas along the way.

On our way back, we stopped and checked out some of the “fee area” campgrounds.  There was Wish Poosh Campground and Salmon La Sac Campground.  I think the Salmon La Sac campground was our favorite.  It was one of the best maintained campgrounds we have seen so far.  However, we are still undecided about where the next family camping outing will be (I am still leaning towards the one close to home with electricity!).

Besides the picture taken from the Cooper River Bridge, my next favorite photograph taken on the trip is the one of the “water log”.

See all of our pictures from this trip>

Rainier Trip - June 12, 2009

We are a little behind in getting this article to press.  Another week has already past, and we have already made another two trips.

Our trip was to Rainier was interesting.  One thing we noted was how few campgrounds there were in the park itself.  And the few campgrounds that we did see outside of the park were still closed.  Their closure did not appear to be because of snow.

In the state of Washington, it appears that there is a focus on providing recreation for hikers.  Trailheads abound.  There is usually plenty of off-road parking provided at the numerous trailheads.  We were surprised that there wasn't more  emphasis on campers. Many of the campgrounds we have seen have not been very well maintained.  We found the same thing on our North Cascades trip last week.

We saw lots of beautiful country.  Having recently arrived in Washington from Arizona, we are constantly amazed by the vast resources of Washington.  There are so many trees and so much water here, both of which are in such short supply in Arizona.

On most of our trips we have been amazed at how little wildlife we see.  However, on  this trip we saw a herd of elk just outside of the park.  Because of distance and dense brush, we were only able to take pictures of a few of the cows that had strayed from the herd.

Because we didn’t get to check out any campgrounds, because they were all closed. Our turn around point was Yakima.   The most memorable part of the trip was the last part.  Perhaps that is because I am trying to write this article two weeks after the fact.  And it is also very possible that the last part of the trip was so emotionally charged that it just overshadows the rest of the trip.

On our way home, we were going west on Highway 90.  We took a small side trip to have a look at Kachess Lake.  It was gorgeous, and we took some beautiful pictures.  Then we got back on the freeway.  Something you should know about us (Michael) is that whenever we can, we prefer to get off of the freeway and take side roads.  So when we saw what looked like a side road that would take us around the backside of Keechelus Lake, we took it.  It looked like we could go over Stampede Pass and come out on the west side of the lake.  One problem, when we got there the pass was closed with mounds of snow.

We backtracked and thought we saw another road that would get us around the lake.  We found NFD 5480 on the map.  It looked like it went right by the shore of the lake.  Mike was hesitant to take it, which was unusual, because this is the man who in the past would take our Cadillac four-wheeling.  I (Pam) love the water, and so I encouraged him to take this route, which again was unusual, because I usually want to take the shortest route and get back home.  This was probably only one of a few times in Mike’s life that he has ever listened to me, and it wasn’t too long before I wished he hadn’t.

While the road must have been fairly close to the water at times, we never saw the lake.  The road turned into a Jeep trail.  That shouldn’t have been a problem, after all, we were in a Jeep.  But the road just kept getting worse and it was getting late.  There was one place where we came to the top of a hill with huge power line towers and were able to walk up to a point where we could see the lake.  The view was beautiful.  We could see the whole lake and all of the traffic over on Hwy 90 (the well-traveled route that we had been trying to avoid).  We took lots of pictures.  And then we resumed our trip on 5480, and the road continued to get worse.  By now it was too late to turn back.

We came to a creek that ran across the road.  It was pretty deep and was running very fast.  We usually like to take a picture of the Jeep in the middle of creeks that we are fording.  Not this time!  There was no stopping in the middle of this stream.  We hit bottom, but we made it to the other side.  We have been on lots of rough roads, but it sure was a relief when we found a well-maintained gravel road that led us back into civilization.  After the white knuckle experience we had just been through, the "nice and easy" gravel road seemed somewhat boring.

The next week when we went through our pictures, we were somewhat disappointed.  The views we had seen from the high point at the back of the lake just didn’t seem to reflect the breathtaking grandeur we had experienced when we took the pictures. Perhaps our fear of not being able to get out of there increased our appreciation at the time.  Needless to say, we would not recommend this route to others, stick with Hwy 90 on this one.  While the view was tremendous, you get to see more of the lake from the highway and it is much less traumatic for the wife.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Free Days at North Cascade Environmental Learning Center

We recently posted a story about our North Cascades trip and mentioned the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.  Just saw a news release from the National Park Service (NPS) stating that the Learning Center is  providing four free days at the center this year  (June 6, July 19, August 2, September 27).  There will be three activities that you can sign up for on a first-come, first-served basis:  Forest and Waterfall Hikes, Naturalist-led Hikes and Diablo Lake Voyager Canoeing Trips.  Sounds like a great adventure in a beautiful setting.  Check out the details at Volunteer opportunities in North Cascades are posted at the top of the same release.  In order to see the news release about the free days, scroll to the bottom on the article.

See the photos of our North Cascades Camping trip.

Read the article about our North Cascades Camping trip.

Another Mobile Wi-Fi Solution

I just saw a website where you can purchase an application for your smartphone that turns you phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, providing wi-fi service for up to 5 other wireless devices.  It is available for a $24.99 one-time fee for lifetime access.  You must have an unlimited data plan on your phone.  I see that it is not available for Verizon Wireless customers.  Sounds interesting!  Check it out at

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cooper Lake

Today we are off to check out Cooper Lake in the Cascade Mountains of Washington for a future family camping adventure. You can follow us on our adventure by clicking on the link – Follow Me – Our GPS Location on the right. We will try to post pictures and blog more on our experience later in the day if internet is available.

Google Map of Cooper Lake

Map of our GPS route to Cooper Lake

Click Here to see Pictures of our Journey to Cooper Lake and Beyond