Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘National Parks’ category

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sunday, October 7, 2018

It was 48 degrees with a 12mph breeze, but we bundled up and went on the Pictured Rocks Cruise. It is usually a 2 1/2 hour cruise, but they said if it gets rough, they would turn around. I had been on this cruise maybe 10 years ago on an absolutely perfect fall day. This time it was cloudy, breezy and chilly sitting on the top, open deck so I could get pictures. I was surprised to see Martha come up top and more surprised that she stayed there the whole time. 

John, a retired National Parks ranger, who now works the cruise, sat down to look at my new Nikon 200-500 lens. He grew up in Wisconsin, but traveled all over with the parks, living in Harrisonburg while working for the Shenandoah National Park. He had visited Charlottesville many times. 

The captain come on the speakers suggesting if you get seasick, you might want to get off. I get seasick, but I was guessing it wouldn’t get too bad. He introduced Grand Island on our left that helped protect Munising from the weather. The small town is at the top of Munising Bay, named by the Indians meaning near the Island. Grand Island is 49 square miles, larger than Manhattan, population 47. 

As we cruised out with two Cummings diesel engines at 15mph, the captain told us about the park, which is 40 miles long. Water seeping through the rock cliffs makes different colors and designs on the cliffs. Iron, copper, manganese and limestone play their part. Water, ice and time carve cliffs to look like an Indian chief, a battleship or a castle. The fall colors were gorgeous, even though the sun wasn’t lighting them up. As we rounded a corner, the waves got bigger and the captain said we were heading back. We went along Grand Island on the way back. Some executives bought the island years ago and stocked it with game as their hunting preserve. There was just one problem. When winter came, the whole bay froze, and the deer, caribou and moose walked off the island. As we entered the harbor, the captain invited us to come to live in Munising. We should like snow sports as they get 272 inches of snow a year, and the bay freezes over. However there are hundreds of miles of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails. He said the bay is filled with ice fishing shacks in winter.

After warming up in the Airstream and some lunch, we went to see several of the 11 nearby waterfalls. We stopped in Open Wings Art and Fine Crafts for a look. It’s a very nice store featuring arts and crafts by local artisans. Wooden bowls and vases, knitted gloves, paintings of wildlife and Pictured Rocks, ceramics, photography and many other things were neatly arranged. We walked out with a bag full of things. Then back home for some split pea soup Martha made in the slow cooker – perfect for a chilly day. 

North to Traverse City

Sunday, September 30, 2018

We went up to the Visitor’s Center in Sleeping Bear Dunes. There were nice displays and a movie telling the history of the area. Sleeping Bear is a great park. We left a lot undone, but we had a great visit. There are many pleasant streams to float, a great bike trail, lots of hiking trails and miles of beaches. A through-hike in this park would be great.

Hooking up, we headed north on Rt. 22 to Traverse City.  After some trouble leveling the trailer in soft sand at Traverse City State Park Campground, we went downtown to cruise the shops and get Martha some warmer clothes. She found some gloves, hats, sweat pants, but couldn’t find the shirt she wanted. We found the world’s best Mommers hand-made ice cream at Peppercorn, a kitchen shop.

Next up was the Peninsula Drive to the light house, stopping at one of the many roadside fruit stands and bought Honey Crisp apples and plums. Beautiful farms growing grapes, fruit trees and vegetables are on both sides of the road. I have never seen apple trees trimmed to grow like grape vines. The road follows a ridge, so you see Lake Michigan on both sides. Heading back down on the west coastal side, we passed a little restaurant, the Boathouse, right on the water. After some discussion, we turned around and went back for dinner. The prices and cuisine are suited for yacht and wealthy homeowners, but it was excellent.  Driving back down the coast as the sun set, it was fun looking at the beautiful houses. With side roads going everywhere, there is much to explore here. When Ed and Diego and I were here last summer, Diego ran a marathon out this road for a beautiful run. 

Back in camp, Martha was happy to have TV reception. She watched her “Buff Boys” (NCIS LA) as I fell asleep.

Scouting Betsie and Platte Rivers

Thursday, September 27, 2018

It was a chilly, blustery morning with dark, fast-moving clouds. The Platte River is a perfect river for us to kayak, so we went to check it out. It is a beautiful, free-flowing, clear stream that travels 26 miles into Lake Michigan in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. The trouble is the salmon are running and the river is lined with fishermen. We met a nice young couple locking their bicycles to a tree so they could ride back to their truck after kayaking. He said he grew up here and the fishermen are used to kayakers, and you just try to stay out of their way. We talked with two fishermen who had been roommates in college. Now in their late 50’s maybe, they had been here three days and were heading home. Seeing my camera, they suggested going to the weir where we would see Coho salmon jumping up the rapids and weir. 

I love to watch the salmon run, so we drove to Benzonia, took a left at the McDonalds and followed signs for the Betsie River Dam. Above and below the dam, fishermen lined the stream. Somehow hundreds of salmon ran the gauntlet, rested holes and then jumped the steps up the dam. Not always successful, they would just miss the top and get washed back down. Some jumped sideways and some backwards.

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At check-in, the ranger said it might be better to float the Betsie River, so we drove some crazy roads to check it out. It is a much longer river, and also beautiful. Put-ins and take-outs are a little more remote. Since we don’t have two cars, we were hesitant to float it. I’m sure there are people who will take you and pick you up, or even guide you. This is a beautiful river winding through varied terrains flowing with a pretty good pace (3-4mph).

Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park

August 7,8, 2018

Martha was having 12 ladies over for bridge. We have a small house, so I decided to retreat to the mountains in the Airstream. I am embarrassed to admit I have never been to Big Meadows, and why pack up all that stuff and only go for one night, so I signed up for two. It was 91 degrees, and I worked up a good sweat by the time I got everything packed up. It’s a beautiful drive from Stanardsville on 33, then north on the Skyline Drive. We have had great rains, and everything was so green and lush, with flowers blooming everywhere.

A very nice lady, Elizabeth, checked me into the campground. I chose a site that was a foot too short. They don’t like you to have a tire on the grass, so it took me a while to wiggle the truck into a reasonable spot. I was backed up to the forest with some tent sites, but no one was in them. This is a big campground and it was busy, especially for a Tuesday, but it was a good 10 degrees cooler at 3600 ft. I explored the campground and went to the Visitor’s Center. There is a good walk-through history of the making of Shenandoah National Park. On the other side is a huge picture window looking over the meadows across the parkway. I wandered out on the porch looking for what animals might be out there. I poked through the adjacent camp store, which was big and well-stocked.

I was tired by the time I got back to camp, so I built a fire in my new Solo Stove. It worked great, as advertised. All the holes around the top and bottom allow the fire to burn efficiently and hot. Sitting around a campfire is great on a perfect night. Looking into the fire is mesmerizing. However, the smoke is another thing altogether. It seems to chase me around the fire. Move my chair and it follows me. Often I have to close the Airstream windows so the smoke doesn’t go in.  Try to cook over or in it is a unique, smoke-filled challenge. The Solo Stove, as it is advertised, burns more efficiently, so there is less smoke, and it goes straight up. On this night, I am happy to report, it burned as advertised. By the time I finished dinner and the sun went down, the temperature dropped quickly. Somewhere in the night, I pulled the blanket up……in August……in Virginia!

By 6:00 in the morning, I was parking the truck next to the meadows and loaded my camera gear. I was late! There were already five people walking up the road, and two serious photographers setting out ahead of me. One was a lady with a nice Cannon camera and lens, the other a man with a tripod, big telephoto lens, long pants and rubber boots. I tried to follow him, but he was gone before I could get ready. A path led left into the field, and I followed it. There were deer everywhere. On the other side of the road, people were taking pictures of them. Soon there were 15 bucks grazing ahead of me. I approached slowly, but it was soon evident they were used to people, and hunting is not allowed in the park. I eased my way until I was within 50 feet of them and started shooting pictures. It seemed they were all 8-point bucks with fuzzy antlers, and they were all fat and healthy-looking. Trouble was they were so engrossed in eating, they rarely lifted their heads. I could see they were watching me out of the corner of their eye as they grazed along. Soon the two photographers joined me, then went ahead. The lady said she had been following them for an hour. She inched her way ahead of them until she was within 15 feet. They couldn’t care less.

In between shots, I looked down and around me. There was so much food, it was amazing – blackberries, blueberries, other berries, and a wide variety of flowers. Butterflies twitted around, sometimes zooming past for long distances. With all this food, I wondered why they were traveling so far. It was partly cloudy, which kept the light perfect for a long time. After several hundred deer shots, I continued up the trail until I saw the gentleman with his tripod set, obviously looking at something. As I approached, he pointed and whispered, “Bear.” I just caught a glimpse of his butt as he walked around a corner. The photographer and I talked for a while. He loves to come here. Living in DC, he got up at 4:00 to get here by 6:00. He said the young bear had walked around for a while, then stood up in front of him, probably checking him out. He spoke to the bear to let him know he was there, and the bear went on eating. As we were talking, the bear walked around a big bush and down the hill. The gentleman said he was going to look for birds along the trees. I followed the bear.

For about an hour and a half, I followed the bear. Same problem though – he was eating so much, he rarely lifted his head. Every couple of minutes, he would briefly check out the surroundings before resuming the buffet. He kept his eye on me, and I on him, but gaining courage, I crept closer. Then he went into some tall stuff, and I couldn’t see him. This made me a little nervous, but it must have made him nervous too because he soon stood up to look around. I clicked off 8 shots before he went back down. A doe walked down the hill before spotting the bear. She turned toward me, walking along the side of the hill, always checking the bear. I was standing still watching both. She walked within 5 feet of me as I clicked off shots. She had a big tag in her ear.

I picked up another trail heading toward the parking lot. Not concerned with wildlife now, I was amazed by the amount of berries and flowers. Then I was walking in water. The middle of the field was a wetland, obviously the headwaters of a stream, probably the Rose River. I went back to the trailer, fixed a cup of tea and downloaded pictures, too many pictures. Thinking I had downloaded all the pictures, I closed the program and reformatted the cards. An hour later I realized there was no standing bear! I had stopped the program too soon! Grrr!

That night while packing the truck, I saw a young bear right behind the trailer. I grabbed the camera and got off a few shots before a ranger came up with an air horn, quickly chasing him off. He said they had to cite two campsites for leaving food out. Brian was his name, and we chatted a bit. He told me the best places to look for bears.

I went to McLean, Virginia on Thursday to visit Sue and Jim Keith. I couldn’t help but stopping at the meadows for a brief walk. It was late in wildlife terms, 8:00. It was sunny, warm, and there were no deer, but butterflies were everywhere. I took a brief walk in the opposite direction of yesterday. I wanted to continue, but it was time to go. I hadn’t driven ½ mile before I saw a young bear cross the road. I stopped and put my emergency lights on. That little rascal scrambled right up a rock cliff and ate berries from a bush half way up. Three bears in two days! That’s pretty good, or were they all the same young bear?

Elizabeth, Brian and another nice gentleman make a great crew at the campground. They are so patient in a busy place with 200 campsites. Lots of Appalachian Trail hikers come to pitch their tents and get a good meal. I want to go back and explore those meadows a bunch more. Wonder when Martha is having bridge again.

Redwoods National Park

 

October 29, 2017

We stopped at Bakery by The Sea and got a muffin and some scones. Soon after we got there, a long line developed in this tiny shop. Then we headed south on 101 to the Redwoods National Park. A young ranger gave us suggestions of where to go. We drove the Howland Hill Road, a gravel road winding through the forest. We hiked “The Stout Grove” for an hour or so. Huge, beautiful trees standing along the Smith River were so impressive.

 

Somehow we chose the Hungry Clam for our last seafood dinner before heading home. We were early, so we disregarded the absence of cars in front. It was awful. As we drove away, we passed a pub and another restaurant packed with cars.

Hoh Rain Forest

October 25, 2017

We visited the Hoh Rain Forest on our way to Kalaloch Campground and walked the “Wall of Moss Trail”. It was spectacular. It had rained all morning, but we were very lucky to get a break for our walk. The Hoh River runs along the road leading to the Visitor’s Center. Despite chilly weather and a steady rain, we saw four drift boats fishing the river. As we stopped to watch, one guy raised a large, beautiful salmon.

We continued our drive to Kalaloch Campground that sits above a beautiful beach. We were lucky to get a campsite in this small campground. Those lucky enough to have a site next to the beach had great views and sunsets. We went down to Kalaloch Lodge and had dinner sitting beside a window as the sun set. A very nice couple sat beside us. I couldn’t help but overhear them talking about a trip to Alaska. They come here every year for a few days. It is no doubt a great spot with cabins sitting on the cliff’s edge.

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View from Kalaloch Lodge restaurant

Sol Duc Falls, Salmon, Move, Beach, Second Beach

October 24, 2017

At 8:30 in the morning it was too early for the sun to reach across Olympic Mountain and into these dense forests, but it was just peeking through the trees in those cool, smoky beams of light. It’s a short hike to Sol Duc Falls, but the rain forest is beautiful. My pictures are inadequate for this beautiful spot. It is small, but a long, cascading decent over lush, green logs and rocks, moss and fern. Silently we walked up along the side of the stream and every stop was beautiful. On the way back we passed a serious photographer with his backpack and tripod. Surely he would get the right light, and it would be even more spectacular.

Yesterday we saw two salmon come into the tiny, shallow pool beside our campsite. Driving back into camp Martha said to stop by a pool a couple of sites down from us. Two ladies were gazing over the edge of the creek as we walked down. They said, “Come look. salmon are swimming into the pool”. Sure enough a salmon splashed its way up a shallow riffle, around a log and into the shallow pool. We watched a few more come in. The ladies then told us we MUST go to The Cascades down the road where the salmon are jumping through them. One said, “It’s National Geographic moment. You are going to love it”. I couldn’t wait! I have been looking for this the entire trip. We thanked them for showing us the fish and directing us to the falls

We hooked up the trailer and headed just 5 miles down the road. Lots of cars were there, but we found a place to park the truck and trailer. Crossing the street with two cameras in hand, we could see the falls. Martha yelled, “Look at them! One, two three all at once”. I was looking at the stream near me and saw nothing. She was looking 150 yards ahead at the falls. We hurried along the wet, slippery trail to the falls finding a spot to see. Sure enough salmon continuously launched themselves into the falls, and then I think were washed back down. Big ones, small ones, all leapt into the rushing waters. Two little pools along the side held many fish in the only resting places. You couldn’t see any at the top of the falls, but we know some got up, because they were in our campground.

Two photographers were in a great spot shooting away. The woman was sitting and was really focused on the fish. I was looking at the man’s hat that said something about fly fishing when he pointed to my hat from Misty Mountain Fly Shop. We struck up a conversation about the salmon running, and that these were wild Coho salmon that start their run in July and August. They can make 20 or 30 miles a day. Fishing has been banned this year as there weren’t so many running because of warm El Nino waters. He talked about the hatcheries that clip the adipose fin to distinguish them from wild salmon. All of these had adipose fins, which is a rare thing today, but happens a lot on this river. His accent didn’t sound local, and I asked where he was from – New Hampshire. He loves to fish and he loves this area. He and his wife shoot pictures for the park, but they donate them. They had just returned from Alaska shooting polar bears. That too was something they do for free. Always looking for a way I might pick up a buck or two in my travels, I asked point blank, “How do you make a living”? They own a family golf course in New Hampshire, which his brothers manage.

 

Then he mentioned something about artwork. Their names are Ken and Mary Campbell, and they do wood carvings and nature photography. He has a wildlife degree, his first job being as a marine biologist. We were getting an education on summer-run salmon, winter-run salmon and steelhead. He said you have to be tough for the winter steelhead run in February, but it’s something. He likes to fish the ocean and lakes. The locals say it isn’t like it used to be, but what is? You can catch a lot of big fish in the lakes. “If you come back, call me. I’ll take you fishing”. Sheez, what a nice and knowledgeable guy. He said if you like spring and fall, you will like it here. They don’t get much snow. Yes, it’s gray and rainy for five months, but you adapt. He heard there was a bobcat at these falls last week, but it hasn’t been spotted this week. Surely it would like a nice salmon meal. Now that the fish are getting to the campground, the bobcat probably has easier fishing spots. I could talk with Ken all day, but we had to get down the road. We exchanged cards. It would be great to come back and go fishing with him.

We didn’t have far to go to Mora Campground on the coastal part of Olympic National Park. This is unusual for Martha, Usually a 4-night planner, we were now on the 1-night schedule, but it’s working great. There was no one in Mora, so we could pick our spot. Then we went to James Pond, which is a marsh caused by beavers. We couldn’t find the trailhead, but a gentleman getting out of his car pointed us in the right direction. It’s a pretty spot where a fallen tree provides a walkway into the marsh. Perfect mirror reflections showed trees in better color than when looking directly at them. The gentleman and his lady came out onto the log, and we chatted a few minutes. He has lived here for 40 years and gave us tips on where to go.

We walked back, then drove to Rialto Beach. This is an impressive, beautiful rock beach with powerful Pacific waves pounding the rocks. With such a beautiful beach on a perfect, sunny day, lots of people were enjoying it. A couple brought chairs and sat reading their books. As we looked around, we saw our new friends and went up to say Hi. We talked for a bit, admiring the scenery, and we exchanged taking pictures of each other. As we left, I saw them sitting on a fallen tree, talking and relaxing in a gorgeous spot. He grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. Rialto Beach was Martha’s favorite beach of the trip.

The next stop was a hike to Second Beach. As we gazed from an overlook on the road, a man stopped on his bike. He is a surfer, but these waves were too big at about 12 feet, and one after another. He would wait for a better day. We walked down the trail to a beautiful, black sand beach with “sea stacks” in the cove. Fortunately Martha checked the tides, a very important thing when walking beaches. We have heard a harrowing tale of a couple getting caught on a beach when the pounding Pacific tide came in. They were lucky to be able to climb up a rocky cliff far enough to safety, but then had to wait for the tide to go out again. You could walk on this beach a long way. We walked a bit, then sat on a log and enjoyed the scenery. A hiker came by asking about a campsite on the beach. We hadn’t seen one, but the only likely place was around the corner in a deep cove. There was still no one in the campground when we returned. Sometimes that’s a little spooky, but we didn’t have any trouble sleeping.

Move to Olympic National Park

October 22, 2017

With a 7:30 start we got to the ferry terminal before 9:00. Fortunately we had a reservation, because it was full. We parked in the designated lane and waited till 10:00 when they came around to check passports and a few questions. It’s an hour and a half beautiful ferry ride across Juan de Fuca Straight to Port Angeles. A bit cold and windy on deck, I got used to it after a while. It’s fun to wander around checking the views and the people, but I had to go in a few times to warm up. We had a nice conversation with a gentleman from California who went to Victoria to look after the grandchildren while his daughter was in a conference. He had some good suggestions about the ways to travel south.

As we approached Port Angeles, Olympic loomed large, covered in clouds with sun trying to peek through. Snow covered many of the mountaintops. Several whales were spotted in the distance, Arriving at port, customs pulled all the campers over to search them. We were the last ones, but the guy was very nice. We found County Aire Natural Foods that had high ratings and ordered some a Hunter sandwich with turkey, pesto, pepperoni, onions and something else and some chili, Both were very good. One should not grocery shop while hungry.

Then up to the Visitor’s Center for some suggestions and information, and on to Heart of the Hills Campground. It was a beautiful day while we were in town, but by the time we settled in camp, the rains returned. We were happy to relax for the remainder of the afternoon. I was happy to have time to sit and read my book, “The River of Doubt”.

Wild Pacific Trail

October 9, 2017

We walked the Wild Pacific Trail central section in Ucluelet. It is a beautiful trail along the rocky coast with benches to sit and admire the beauty. Eagles, blue herons, sea gulls lots of small birds inhabit the area, along with some wolves. Keep your puppies close warned a sign. There are stunning views around every bend. We took a little loop through an ancient cedar forest. I had no idea cedars could grow so big.

We cruised the little upscale town, but it is Thanksgiving holiday, so all businesses were closed. We were surprised by the number of vacation houses, hotels and resorts. Bike paths went through town, and hiking trails went along the coast. It’s a very pretty area that is probably very busy in summer.

At 52 degrees, it was a great evening to sit by a big fire. Martha made a great split pea soup and bread warmed over the fire. We walked down to the beach for sunset. It is a beautiful beach with a lot of character – rock outcropping, trees and pounding surf.

Move to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Sunday, October 8, 2017

I made buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Love those things! We started to pack up to move to Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of the island whenBrian was getting ready to walk the dog. He had all kinds of suggestions of places to go. I asked about a campground around Victoria, and he had a good suggestion for that as well. Soon Leslie came out in her PJ’s with a list she had made for us last night. Geez, what nice people! They teach at Brentwood College prep School in Mill Bay where students come from all over the world. They get 100% acceptance to college and 85% get their college of choice. Everyone has to be involved in academics, athletics and art. Some go to UVA, and rowing is a big sport. We enjoyed talking for almost an hour. I gave Brian my blog card as he left to walk the dog. He was quickly back as he read my last name was Wall. His is Carr, but he has a lot of relatives named Wall, some in northern Virginia. We’re going to have to do some research on this. We could be cousins!

I took a few pictures of our excellent campsite overlooking Strait of Georgia. Then we set out for Pacific Rim. I knew the road wound through the mountains and was an old logging road. It was fine until the last 20 miles when it got really bumpy and rough, but it was OK. Just had to go slowly. Stopping at the information center, Martha got some maps and brochures. A lady spoke to us as we were leaving. She was from the island, but moved to Ontario and was just returning. She also had suggestions of where to go and wished us well. We found our way to Green Point Campground and stopped at the gate. The ranger said a bear had been visiting the campground, so we should keep our site clean and to store all food. Fortunately there are no Grizzlies on the island.

The campsites are huge and very private in a dense forest on a bluff above beautiful Long Beach. Although a generous site, the entrance was a bit narrow, and I had to do a lot of finagling to wiggle the trailer through. Once set up, we walked down the trail to the beach. The tide was out, but the Pacific Ocean was crashing onto big rocks and to the wide, sand beach. We walked to a rock outcropping and climbed up to a beautiful view.

It was a perfect evening to sit by a fire, have a glass of wine or beer and watch the sun go down over the Pacific. Leftovers are nice for such an occasion. Just heat them over the fire.