Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia and Alberta

In the morning at the John Day dam it was raining, so that helped formulate the decision to move on.  I consulted GasBuddy on the iPhone to determine the lowest price of fuel in the direction of travel.  That turned out to be Hermiston, on the Oregon side of the Columbia.  My iPhone, with the help of Google Maps suggested the route on highway 14 on the Washington side, while Tomtom preferred the southern way on I-84 on the Oregon side.  Normally, I prefer the smaller roads, but I had seen the Washington route in November, so I went with Tomtom on the south side of the Columbia.  There are some impressive tree farms along the way, with huge tracts of tree fields in various stages of growth.  After a late start, and spending a long time online outside a McDonalds to catch up on some blog updates, it was another easy decision to move over to the camper-friendly Walmart lot immediately behind it.  The customer service staff suggested a remote, isolated corner of their parking lot that would have been a great spot were it not for the semi truck in the same lot that idled all night.  That was not as bad as the reefer engine that would start up regularly and noisily.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t!

Heading north through Spokane, my eagle eye started picking up some disturbing sights.  What is that white stuff on the rear of that car?

CIMG5405And, further north, it got worse.  There was fresh snow on rooftops, and soon in the ditches and even the road shoulders.


Luckily, the snow cover lessened by the time we saw the ‘Canada’ sign in Sandpoint, Idaho.


I may have stopped in that area for the night, but I wanted to visit with my friends who built and operate the St Marys River B&B near Cranbrook, across the line in British Columbia.


So I ran the gauntlet of the deer along the highway while there was still daylight to improve the chances of avoiding collision.  There was no hassle at the border crossing at all, and soon I was parked in the yard of the B&B.

In the morning, I could not go by the first Tim Horton’s without stopping for my first ‘double double’ in almost 6 months.  On through Kootenay National Park, my old stomping grounds, there were at least 3 serious looking snow squalls trying to convince me to head back for Arizona.  But the roads were only wet, and soon I was back in Lake Louise.  There, I retrieved about 15 pounds of mail that the post office is nice enough to store for me when I am away.  After picking up some more mail and pay cheques at my old office, we retreated to the campground, where only sites plowed free of snow are available.  Although the average snow depth in the bush appeared to be between two and three feet, all around the village there are banks 8-10 feet deep where it has been moved off the roads.  In spite of the snow, the temps were pretty decent.

I spotted this Siberian Tabby Tiger lurking in the snow banks in the campground.


Getting back has seen a few changes.  I slept in my regular house under a regular roof for the first time in almost 6 months, my first Tim’s coffee, my first shower where the water stayed on between lather and rinse,  went online with a 22” monitor and a real keyboard, and walking around in – SNOW.

On the final leg of the trip, we passed close by Dogpound north, where John and Brenda are now starting to observe the tops of their fence posts emerging from the snow, while they become accustomed the the realities of life back at home on the farm.

Hailey is having a great time racing around the vast reaches of the house and basement, made more interesting (for her) by the piles of boxes and furniture left over from my move last fall.  She’s also looking forward to getting re-acquainted with a new crop of mice outside, while keeping watch out for Wily Coyote.

Once again, my thoughts go out to Al, Kelly (and Cora) of the Bayfield Bunch, who are mourning the loss of yet another member of their furry family. Now Max has joined the recently departed Checkers in the big dog park in the sky.image

Now that I am ‘home’ for a while my blogging will likely slow up somewhat, unless there are interesting photos or events to relate.  I know I won’t be blogging as often as the Bayfield Bunch, but probably more than Wandering Willy, who tends to blog rarely when he is at home.

I suspect however that I will soon be bored of cutting grass and building shelves, and painting, and moving boxes from one place to another, and will find a good excuse to hit the road again in either the 5th wheel or the truck camper.

Till then, keep your batteries charged, wheels between the ditches, and pray for cheaper fuel.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Barging on the River

The Columbia river, that is.

We had stopped near the Bonneville dam not too far upstream from Portland, then moved on to the John Day dam further upstream. 


On the trip down in November, I had stopped on the lookout high above this dam and thought it looked inviting as a possible boondocking spot, but did not have the chance to check it out further.  I stopped again at the same spot, and then went down to check it out further.  On the way down the hill, we almost caught up to this paraglider.


As we got further down the hill a number of RV’s parked on the river bank came in to view – always a good sign! Turns out it is actually a COE park; free camping, 14 day limit! 


We were soon set up and out went the slides and up went the dish, for the first time in almost 2 weeks!


Most of the other RV’s appeared to be fishers, and both banks of the river were lined with platforms, used by native fishers when the fish are running.  None were in use now.

And for barge watching, this was a front row seat, literally a stone’s throw from where they came by to enter or exit the locks.


I caught a glimpse of the elusive Columbia river cougar, hunting for a snake in the grass.


She really wanted to climb that tower!CIMG5378

The next day was looking pretty good, so it was an opportunity to check out the camping options and scenery on the other side of the river.  We had to backtrack about 6 miles to the bridge to get to the other side of the dam.

There we are – camped just to the left of the tower in the photo.


There were a few informational plaques on this side, but no visitor center.  There was free camping on this side as well, much of it in paved parking lots, but I preferred the far side where we were.  Plus this side was right by the interstate, which might be audible above the river noise?  Either way, there are railroad tracks on both sides of the river and the barges are fairly frequent, so there is always something to watch.  It was starting to get a bit breezy, so out came the guy-lines for the tripod!


And finally, from the archives (well, a photo from a few weeks ago anyway), this unknown bug perched on the outside of the window, and I took this photo from the inside.  I was surprised what detail my point and shoot camera produced.


to be continued  …

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A River Runs Through it

The dam, that is!


But this is actually a photo of the John Day dam, the next one upstream from the Bonneville dam, and dam access road from the last post.

There is a Corps of Engineers park along the river below the Bonneville dam, but it was signed and patrolled as day use only.


So we did that. We hung out on the river bank, and watched the tugs and barges fight their way up the very strong current to the locks at the dam.  At first I didn’t realize that there were actually two tugs pushing this group of barges, and even so, they were barely making headway against the strong currents below the dam.  When they got the barges safely into the lock, the second smaller tug unhooked and went back downstream.


As well as various bird life along the river, I caught occasional glimpses of a sea lion feasting on the fish, and way across the river on the Oregon side, and way up on this cliff face, I spotted this black bear sow and her two little brown cubs.


In the morning, we went to the dam visitor center and had a look at the power plant and the fish ladders and counting facility.


Some of the fish from the hatchery have rfid ‘pit’ tags inserted in them.  These monitors in the fish ladder record their passage upstream.  As well, all the adult fish are directed past this window, where a real person sits, and counts all the fish by size, species, and whether the fish is  wild or hatchery stock!  It was fairly slow the day I was there, so I was able to chat with the fish counter lady.CIMG5301CIMG5304_thumb[1]

Some of the fish are fitted with radio collars.  Well, not collars actually, but transmitters inside that are monitored by these detectors on the river banks.


When she wasn’t ‘driving’, Hailey kept a sharp watch on the river as we drove between dams.  Until she got tired!


Next, ‘barging’ at John Day dam …