Olympic Peninsula

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Having last left you as we crossed the Cascade Mountains, it is high time I brought you at least partially up to date. Our destination was an RV resort in Sequim on the northeast side of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. In the past, we have always been frugal when traveling by motorhome but we had a smaller RV and were touring as opposed to actually living full time in an RV. We thought that just for once we would stay in a nice RV resort, take it easy, and sit a while with full hookups, cable TV, and wifi. Or so we thought.

We had made a reservation back in April planning to stay in an RV park for five weeks. However, due to the Lavender Festival that Sequim, Washington holds the middle of July each year we could only reserve 18 days, then had to check out for three days, and come back in for two more weeks. Gilgas Oasis RV Resort is a nice little park and so clean and tidy that you will not find a weed or spec of dirt anywhere. However, it is cramped and our views on each side and the back were of another RV close by. We were situated next to one spot where someone new came in every 2 or 3 days and we were awakened early most mornings to their rummaging in outside compartments and subsequent departures. We were ready to leave after just a few days and having the separate reservation for after the festival was a blessing because we were able to cancel it. For the privilege of having neighbors on top of us we paid $709 for 18 days for an average of $39.39 per night. So now it is back to our former method of travel that was more fun and definitely less expensive!

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Nope – this is not for us!

On the plus side we were right in Sequim, a town that receives the same low amount of rain per year as Los Angeles, 16 inches; whereas 40 miles away it can rain over 100 inches a year. This northeast part of the Olympic Peninsula has what is known as a rain shadow where the rain coming in from the Pacific Ocean cannot get over the nearby high mountains. Some people say that Sequim has a blue hole which it really does have as we saw day after day. There would be dark clouds and rain all around us whereas a big circle of blue sunshine appeared almost every day over Sequim. Sequim’s climate has been compared to Provence in France.

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A blue hole in the area of Sequim as seen from Hurricane Ridge

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Sequim or Provence?

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Or is this Sequim?

There is enough to see and do in this northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula that we could have been somewhere different every single day.  For now, I think this is my favorite part of the U.S.  There is something about this area that feels so cozy and safe.  If I had a lot of readers I don’t think I would even mention having gone there because I want it to remain rural and uncrowded and just plain nice.

The town of Port Angeles is about 20 miles west of Sequim.  One of the first trips Steve and I took about 20 years ago was here. It is in a great location on the Strait of Juan de Fuca just a 90 minute ferry ride across from Victoria, Canada. We actually thought about moving to this area but felt the town looked too dreary and slightly shabby.  It has been spiffied up considerable since then with nice restaurants and a tourist friendly waterfront.  Actually the downtown is right there at the ferry port so it is all very convenient for parking in one spot and doing everything in one day.

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You can see a glimpse of Canada in the distance

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We went to the waterfront in Port Angeles more than once. Cloudy, sunny, rainy….it didn’t matter.

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The easy drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge (elevation over 5,000 feet) in the Olympic National Park begins in Port Angeles. 

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There was a path on Hurricane Ridge lined with masses of these little plants, all with drops of water in the center that looked like diamonds.  This is one of those times I should have carried my bigger camera and not a point and shoot.

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The weather was mostly very overcast on the peninsula so we were lucky this day on Hurricane Ridge when we could see the strait and Canada beyond.

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Another cool town is the old victorian town of Port Townsend in the farthest NE corner of the peninsula. It is surrounded by water on three sides making for some splendid views.  

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Fort Worden lighthouse in Port Townsend is fenced and not accessible. 

After our 18 days we were on a mission to make up for paying so much money for what is not our cup of tea. That’s not to say we won’t stay in RV parks again for one reason or another. Mexico for instance is a place we always want to be in an RV park. Or maybe we will come across one that has more than postage stamp space.

Many people do not like casino camping but if the conditions are right, we sure do. The main condition is that we want it to be quiet and we don’t want to be parked where we must listen to generators hour after hour.

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The view out one side of the RV from the Seven Cedar Casino.  

Seven Cedars Casino is conveniently located between Sequim and Port Townsend and they even have free electric outlets for RV’s to use. There are also a couple of water spigots. How nice is that? We managed to get a spot back in the corner with a view of a meadow next to us with horses and nice landscaping and then country behind us. All for free and no gambling required but I can’t resist the buffets.

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Crescent Lake

After more than a month in the northeastern part of the Olympic Peninsula we drove farther south, this time taking the Pacific coast route past Crescent Lake, the second deepest lake in Washington. It is 11 miles long.

Our next lucky find was a national park services campground called South Beach on the Pacific Ocean side of the Olympic National Park. This is a really small no reservation park with no hookups. The only way to get a site here is to start driving through in the morning as people checking out must leave by 11. The big downside to this park are the campfires. The wind blows constantly from the north to the south part of the park and so it is one big smoke pit in the evening but usually not for long thank goodness. Luckily the wind makes for ocean waves and that beautiful sound partially masks the generator noise.

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Two Austrian girls

Shortly after arriving at the South Beach campground these two girls came up to us to ask how to register for a spot to park their rental car. They had just arrived in Seattle and this was their first night to car camp in what was going to be a 6 week trip around the western US. I told them all the sites were full but we had room for them to park their car on our site. At the same time I recognized their accent as being Austrian and after asking where they were from learned they came from a small town not far from where I was born. When I told them I was born in St. Marien they were astounded because they were under the impression they would never meet an Austrian in the US and then to meet an American that was born in a farm town not far from them was over the top.  Also, one of them had birthday that day and the other the next day so we had a little celebration that evening in our motorhome.

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South Beach NPS Campground

Next week we will have wifi at a city RV park for the first time in almost two months and I shall try very hard to catch this blog up. Until then, Servus! (Goodbye in Austrian).

Wyoming to Washington

After leaving the Flaming Gorge in southern Wyoming, we cut over to the western most highway in Wyoming to make our way north.

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Western Wyoming is evidently receiving more rain than usual.

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An old abandoned house where the property seems to be semi-maintained.

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Sure wonder about these old structures and who lived here how long ago.

We spent one night in the quaint little town of Cokeville, sight of a school hostage situation by the town’s former marshall and his wife back in the early 1980’s. Last night Steve noticed a movie on Netflix called Cokeville and we plan to watch it for the whole story.

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I thought it was a mirage when we saw a Flying J Truck Plaza, normally located on busy interstate highways, in little tiny Cokeville but here it is. Great place to spend the night as the trucks are on the opposite side of the station and there sure isn’t any traffic here. When we woke up in the morning there was a young couple sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags beside our motorhome. Guess they felt safe and unseen there.

Alpine, Wyoming is another small town in a pretty setting of meadows, mountains, the coming together of three rivers, and a huge lake called Palisades Reservoir. There are many new houses and businesses going up and soon the town won’t be so small.

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Alpine, Wyoming in the distance

We stayed three nights in an RV park in order to have a base to visit Grand Teton National Park. It’s a short, very scenic drive across a mountain range and along the Snake River to Jackson and the park.

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The magnificent Tetons. I stood on top of the Jackson dam and took picture after picture on this perfect day. Steve and I were in this spot 19 years ago but it was overcast and drizzly and I didn’t see what was so Grand about the Tetons then.

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Still standing on the dam, we can turn around and see the headwaters of the Snake River.

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This is one of the few times that we wished we didn’t have a dog so that we could take a boat ride on Jenny Lake and take some nice walks. It was too hot to leave Molly in the car, we didn’t want to leave her clear back in Alpine in the motorhome for a long day, and dogs aren’t allowed anywhere in Grant Teton NP except the parking lots.

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This is an Elk refuge between Jackson and Teton NP. I can’t resist photographing reflections.

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We left Alpine and followed the 18 miles long reservoir, which the Snake River flows into,
towards Idaho Falls where we had an appointment to get the leveler repaired. The RV repair facility told us the leveler had to be replaced as the shaft was broken and the cost to replace would be about $1500! Steve already knew he could install a new one himself and we decided to just order one when we got situated for a period of time. At least they didn’t charge us for the diagnosis.Idaho Falls has a pretty little park along the Snake River that allows 24 hour RV parking with a free dump and water. We did stay our allowed 24 hours but would not do so again as it is a gathering place for sketchy looking characters staying in tents and derelict motor homes. The police patrolled continuously and made one arrest that we saw.

Continuing on the next day, we drove north on the beautiful highway 93 in Idaho. Actually it is more than beautiful, it is breathtaking! There are not many cars driving this route and the going is slow but we were not rushed for time. Mackay is another quaint little town with free RV parking in a little rest area with water and dump and with straight on views of the highest mountain in Idaho, Mount Borah. It is almost 300 miles from Butte City, ID to Missoula, MT on highway 93 but every mile was so pretty.

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Mount Borah, highest mountain in Idaho. I had to laugh at the Main Street sign in this otherwise remote looking setting.

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Along highway 93.  Just can’t get away from power lines and signs.

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The Salmon River along highway 93

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Once in Missoula, our two lane highway driving days were over for a while. We stayed the night in the Walmart parking lot in Missoula before heading on to Washington the next day. We still had some time until our expensive RV park reservation on the Olympic Peninsula would begin so we decided to be extra thrifty and stay at a casino on the westside of Spokane. The Northern Quest casino has marked off RV spots and allows a free stay of up to 7 nights. There is a gas station right next door with dump and water and we were all set to not spend any money for a while.

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The Northern Quest Casino has many restaurants. We especially liked the buffet and the Asian restaurant.  That is our little blue tow car – 13 years old and still like new.

But first we had to register with security. Steve wanted a beer which meant we had to go into the casino part. They had a no smoking room of machines and so I got a complimentary soft drink while Steve drank his beer. The only place to sit at was at a slot machine. What the heck! Seven free overnights and free non-alcohol beverages; I might as well give the casino $10 in the penny machine I was sitting by. That $10 turned into $150! But wait, there is more. Instead of the machine spitting out coins or cash, it gave me a ticket worth $150. The cashiers cage in the non-smoking room was closed and I didn’t want to go into the huge smoking part of the casino just yet. I held onto it until the next day to cash in but on the way to the cashiers cage stopped at the same two side by side penny machines and my $150 ticket turned into a $446 ticket! Wow! Okay, next day, I can’t possibly win again. But I did, and on the same two machines. The $446 became $782!! Day 4, I didn’t go to the casino. Day 5, I lost $130 of my winnings. Day 6, I lost $25. We had one more free day coming but I told Steve we had to leave before I lost even more. $627 ahead, not bad at all!

Finally, the day I had been waiting for so long to come was here and that was crossing the Cascades. The east side of the Cascades are brown and dry but slowly and surely the brown gives way to a greener and wetter scenery along with the allergy killing climate I crave. There are four or five highways that cross the Cascades in Washington. We had been across the three most northern ones but this time took the least traveled, two lane highway 12.

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Getting closer to the Cascades and our windshield is bug splattered but I liked how the lighting reflected on this bridge. I could edit like crazy but if I had to do that I might never get a post done!

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Nearing the top of the pass to cresting the Cascades, we came across a beautiful lake that was so still. This is actually the smaller part on my passenger side of the motorhome.

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On the fly, no choice but to take this through my screened window. I sure miss small and nimble Tulip sometimes because there was no place to pull over with our big motorhome towing a car.

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Such a pretty lake

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Mt. Rainier, highest mountain in Washington

We have driven to the Northwest from Colorado many times but by far this was the most scenic and enjoyable trip of all. You can’t beat the two lane roads.