Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘States’ category

Seattle

October 1, 2017

Poor Martha. I just had to go see the fish hatchery in Issaguah. It’s October and the salmon should be running. Sure enough, these big fish were frantically trying to get over the dam or up the fish ladder. They open and close them at different times, harvest the eggs, then return them to the stream. Issaguah is a cute little town on the edge of Seattle.

We had a great visit with our friends, Becky and Dick Dudley in their beautiful home on Mercer Island. They are from one of our favorite places, Abingdon, Virginia. Becky was a hygienist who worked with us back in the late 70’s. It was great spending time with them and their family. Becky brought out some old pictures. One was of Martha holding Mac when he was a baby. We took a picture of Martha holding Mac’s baby, Bronson, who is just 10 days old. It was so cool to see Mac and Si and their families. Mac is a lawyer and Si is an orthodontist who just opened a new office in Issaguah. Becky and Dick fixed a great dinner of Salmon, mixed vegetables, spinach balls, potatoes, and a wonderful fruit pie. We so enjoyed old memories and new. Thank you so much Becky and Dick, for being such great friends. I hope we can get together again in the not so distant future.

Hike Squirrel Cache, Bike to Ralph’s for a Milkshake

September 29, 2017

As we got ready to hike Squirrel Cache Trail, Ken and Ruth came over. We had spoken last night as they were cooking dinner because they have a new 19’ Bambi. They are from Spokane and wanted to get their new Airstream out. They knew all about the campground and the area. Previously tent campers, this is all new to them, but Ken is an avid reader of the Airstream Forum. As we stood there talking, another couple came up. They too have an Airstream, a 23’. Both couples were very nice and interesting to chat with.

The Squirrel Cache hike was an easy hike, even though we made a wrong turn somehow. I keep looking at trees with holes all through them for a baby owl to be sitting in the opening.

After lunch we rode the bikes into Bayview and Ralph’s for ice cream and WIFI. Riding the Lynx Trail over gravel, rocks and tree roots slowed things down quite a bit. It makes it interesting for a while, but we rode on the road coming back. Bayview is really a nice, little town in a beautiful setting with big mountains surrounding a beautiful lake. I ordered a double scoop chocolate cone, while Martha went for the Huckleberry milkshake. Both were outstanding. I’m going to miss Ralph’s. He is sponsoring a fishing tournament this weekend and had 78 entries.

Back at camp, Martha cooked salmon, potatoes and brussel sprouts over an open fire. She is very good at cooking this way.

Lewiston

September 20, 2017

On a rainy morning, we went to the Hell’s Gate Visitor’s Center and watched an excellent movie about Lewis and Clarke’s crossing the Rockies in Idaho. Then we read the plaques and pictures throughout the center and looked at a big relief map showing their incredible journey through these huge mountains in the snow. They never would have made it without Sacagawea or the help of so many Native Americans along their whole journey. It would be fun to ride horses along their route. I don’t know how they made it in 11 days, but they almost died.

We went to the very nice Lewiston Library to post and pay bills. It is worth the trip just to see all their art and statues. We had sandwiches at the Stax Restaurant, which was quite good, then went down the block to the Nez Perce Museum. I was disappointed that only a small part was about the Nez Perce Indians, but realized this is Nez Perce County, so it was more about history of the county. The Nez Perce were instrumental in saving Lewis and Clarke’s expedition only to be persecuted by the Army years later, stripped of their lands and forced to cross the same treacherous mountains in spring high waters to a reservation in Montana.

On a rainy, cold afternoon, we took the afternoon off, read and watched a movie.

McCall to Lewiston

September 19, 2017

It is a beautiful drive with a variety of terrains along Rt. 95. At Riggins it follows the great Salmon River. Riggins is a cute little village with a bunch of river guiding companies. It was cold and rainy, so we opted not to stay in Riggins and float the Salmon. Maybe another time. The river takes one side of the mountain at White Bird to turn and join the Snake River, while the road continues north to Lewiston. Big rain clouds were in the distance. We had rain earlier, but all of this is so welcome. The whole northwest has been plagued by tremendous fires all summer, smoke covering the whole area. Makes you wonder – fires here, hurricanes in the east and a big earthquake in Mexico.

We pulled into beautiful Hell’s Gate Campground just outside Lewiston. We are on the Lewis and Clarke trail. The visitor’s center has all kinds of information and a movie about their crossing of the Rockies in Idaho and the terrible time they had in the Bitterroot Mountains.

We were setting up camp when Carol came over from the adjacent campsite. She and David are on their way to McCall, so we traded information north and south. Dave came back over later with a drink. We talked about travels and the troubles you have fixing things. You just have to learn how to work on all kinds of problems, because it happens to all of us. He was a Ford mechanic for years, so that really comes in handy. He told us about a bike trail that goes along the Snake River and through Lewiston. Clarkston is on the other side of the river. This is the area where the Clearwater joins the Snake River on its way to the Columbia. Lewis and Clarke followed the Snake into the Columbia River to winter at Fort Clatsop, near where I met my friends at the mouth of the Columbia. I have not followed the Columbia through the United States, but have seen its origin, fished it there and as it leaves British Columbia south of Castelgar, and have crossed that monster bridge at its mouth. With beautiful rivers flowing into it, like the Snake, the Clearwater and the Salmon, it is a heck of a river. It is nice to know about the hatchery in McCall, Idaho that hatches millions of Chinook Salmon, and that they can find their way to the ocean, returning five years later all the way back to McCall. Fish ladders allow them to make their way over four or five dams.

Fishing The Bitterroot River with David Hufman

September 9, 2017

We drove 30 minutes to the Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop in Missoula to meet our guide at 7:00. We met David Hufman and did all the paperwork in the shop and put our rods in his Toyota truck. We drove south about 45 minutes to the Bitterroot River. We thought we were going to fish Clark Fork, but David said the Bitterroot was fishing better. We talked about the fires as we headed toward Lolo National Forest. He said the smoke acted like a cloud cover for the river, keeping it cool and making fishing better. I asked about his beautiful Boulder boat. He said it is the third one he has had. A client had given him this one! He has guided this man on many fishing trips. He is a very wealthy man, now 90 years old, and still comes fishing with him. He had bought the boat and wanted his aid to learn how to use it and to take him fishing. That never quite worked out, and it sat in a shed for two years. One day David got a call from the man’s aid, who said, “David, this is your lucky day. Mr. … is giving you his Boulder boat. He is going to have it shipped to your house.” The drift boat is a light, thin-walled boat that slides easily over rocks.

We learned that David grew up in western Pennsylvania. His best friend moved to Montana and kept telling David he needed to come join him guiding fishing trips. Finally, he came, and now he has been guiding for 18 years. By the time we got to the river we learned David is a bright guy with tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm for his profession. After pushing off into the river, he put tippet and different hoppers on our lines. Then he gave us some instructions on how he wanted us to fish. We told him we were here to fish, but also to learn, and we welcomed any instruction and coaching. You might think we know how to fish, and we do to some extent, but a great guide, like David, is fishing every day. He talks to other professionals, and he spends every day with fishermen and women, talking and watching techniques. He knows where the fish are, what they like to eat and what time the hatches are. Even if you had a boat like this to float the river, we would just start fishing flies we thought might work, but we would likely make the wrong choices, the wrong colors or the wrong presentation. We would probably catch some fish, but we would not have the kind of day we were about to have.

David coached constantly, in a soft, positive manner all day. It was like going to a clinic with a great expert. We started catching fish from the start – big, strong cutthroats, rainbows and a cutbow, which is a cross of the two. The biggest fish of the day was a 19-incher Kelly caught. He almost made the 20/20 club, where you catch a 20 inch fish with a size 20 fly. That is a very tiny fly! After about an hour and a half the Trico hatch started. These are tiny little flies that hatch, spawn and the males die. David said they must be like cocaine for trout, because the love them, and while feeding on them, they will ignore everything else. We watched a real bug float over feeding fish, and they ignored it.

In one area, they had put old cars on the bank to try to stabilize the river banks. It didn’t work so well, but it makes great cover for fish. It also makes a great place to break your line and lose fish. It doesn’t look like these old car frames will do what they wanted. David said the powerful river moves every year, washing these sandy banks away. In one  area the river will likely go up and over the banks and take an entirely new route.

We have seen feeding trout before, but never like this. Big noses poking out of the water as they sipped Tricos. They were schooled-up in certain areas with 10-15 fish feeding. David called them pods of fish. He could tell the big ones by the size of rings they made in the water. Sometimes you would get a glimpse of the tail or the whole fish sipping tiny Tricos, 3-4mm in size. Looking into the water by the boat, you could see hundreds of dead males floating by. Similar to salmon, they hatch and mate. Then the males die while the females live on. This river is full of food for fish. The trick, and it’s a demanding trick, is to pick out a ring where a fish is feeding and cast the tiny fly one foot above it with absolutely no drag from the line. You have to drop the fly right on the target, not a foot in front or behind. Why would the fish move when the food just keeps coming down the river. You have to drop the tiny fly so gently, it looks like it has a parachute on. The fish then has 100 options, one of which is your fly. If he takes it, you must wait for him to swallow it. He has his big mouth open and if you jerk the fly, it just comes out of his mouth before he has a chance to close. This is a whole, new level of fishing. There were so many fish feeding that we managed to catch some of them. Big, powerful, hard-fighting fish that and take 15 minutes to land. Even then it takes an expert lunge of the net by David to finally land the fish.

After a while, we went back to hoppers and kept catching fish. We agreed this was the best day of trout fishing we have ever had. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful river with a great guide and coach. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Fernie to Hungry Horse Reservoir

September 3, 2017

We got off to a leisurely start. Taking the trash and garbage to the disposal area, we found a man sorting recycling into different bags. Kelly struck up a conversation with this lean gentleman, probably in his 60’s named Holmes. He is an retired engineer, who had to go back to work because his pension wasn’t doing well enough. He comes to sort recycling, takes it to a center and then gives the proceeds to a senior center charity.  Once I told him I was from Charlottesville, like everyone else we meet, he went on about how we were still fighting the civil war. I had to set him straight. He is from Newfoundland, and talked extensively about its politics and history. I told him that is where I would like to go next summer. We probably talked for an hour before we left. It would have great to talk more over cocktails as he is s very interesting guy with a great sense of humor.

Then we went by Elk River Guiding Company to buy some flies. They have a huge collection of beautiful flies. Leah helped us and told us to stop at Larry’s Fly Shop in Columbia Falls, which is owned by a girl named Hillary, and to tell her hi. We thanked her, headed out and picked up a Starbucks coffee for the road.

Smoke clouded the mountains as we drove south toward the border. The grasses were dry and brown. There were only two cars in front of us at the border, and the crossing was easy with a nice young man telling us where the fires were – all over, but we should be OK at Hungry Horse Reservoir.

In Columbia Falls, where there are no falls, we found Larry’s Fly Shop, went in and again bought a few flies. Disappointed Hillary wasn’t there, we talked to a nice fellow who gave us some good information. Spotted Bear River was really low, but the Flathead was fishing good. We thanked him and after crossing the dam, drove a rough road for 45 miles.

We found a beautiful campsite next to the reservoir. Once we got set up, we took a drink down to the lake as the sun sunk behind the mountains. The water was crystal clear as small fish broke the surface. To the south was a huge grassy plain. I searched for bears or elk, but didn’t see any. It’s a little spooky, but cool at the same time to be in a remote place all by yourself with bear warning signs all around. As the evening went on, a full moon lit the smokey sky.

Too Hot! Move to The Coast

Thursday, August 3, 2017

It was 112 degrees at Valley of the Rogue Campground yesterday afternoon. Oppressive, horrible heat. The campground was thinning out. A gentleman next door came over to see the pickup pack. They are from Arizona and came up to escape the heat. His wife is from Grant’s Pass, so they know the area, and were visiting family. Now they figured they might as well go back home.

I packed up and headed out. Cursing at the nearly worthless GPS in the truck, I set the iPhone for Ludlum Campground in the National Forest about 15 miles from Brookings. I studied a couple of campgrounds in town, but they were packed like sardines. I set out through Grants Pass, picking up Rt. 199 west. It wound through the mountains and dipped into California following the Smith River. This is a gorgeous river, although dry and relatively low. There are apparently a lot of rivers in this area. I might have fished this, although it is heavily traveled, being the only road going through here.

I whizzed past Redwoods National Forest before I could think about stopping. It wasn’t going to be so far from the campground, and I wanted to be sure I could get a spot. I turned on 101 north toward Brookings and turned right on Winchuck Road. It follows a beautiful stream with pretty houses lining the road. I will have to go back and get some pictures. Then a left turn on a dusty gravel road, which I had read about. About a mile up the road, a truck pulled over to let me pass. He looked at me like I was crazy, and I thought I might be. There might not be a place to turn around if this didn’t work. The iPhone ran out of service, but amazingly still gave me perfect directions. It’s a tiny campground with only 7 sites and a camp host. The circle through the campground was small, but I could get through. I got out and looked at one empty spot, but didn’t think I could get in. #7 was empty, and I thought I could squeeze in there. The trouble was there was no room to swing the truck out to he right. I was going back and forth when a nice guy came over to help. After about 8 times of starting and restarting, I made it. I shook hands and thanked Cody from Louisiana. He is camped across from me and presently out of work. He came back to borrow my trash can to wash his clothes in. There is a big water pump on the corner. He was fired from his last job for criticizing the boss. A sociology major, he has been traveling and looking for work. A $10 campground helps stretch what little money he has left. He said he would move on Monday, as it is really hard to find a campsite on the weekends.

I settled in, walked around the campground and took a look at the stream. It is probably fishable, though low and crystal clear. It was a delightful 65 degrees. Since there is no cell service, I tried the InReach, but it couldn’t get anything either. I needed to tell Martha where I was, so I drove into Brookings. It’s a small harbor town with 6,500 people. I stopped at the harbor to look at all the boats. Steve said the harbor is loaded with sardines. The boat harbor was loaded with dead sardines. As I drove a road along the river on the south side, seagulls were munching something, sardines I suppose. I looked for a place to get down, but couldn’t find one. I drove up the north side with the same result. There are lots of campgrounds, some very fancy. All were full. I was lucky to have a spot – a great spot!

I drove all around town, trying to find a seaside or harbor-side place to get a beer or glass of wine, but couldn’t find it. There was an Irish pub that was full, but it was right on the main road. Driving north of town, I found a Harris Beach State Park and went it. The nice campground with generous sites was full. There is a beautiful beach below. Huge rock islands dotted the bay. People were walking the beach, laying in the sun and building things out of driftwood logs washed up on the beach. Pelicans and other birds perched content on one island. Probably had their fill of sardines. I took a few pictures and texted Martha.

Heading back into town, I stopped to call Kelly. He was going to call me, but since I had no service, I thought I should let him know. He has lined up some guides for our fishing trip in 2 1/2 weeks, and reserved some campgrounds. He also booked two guided trips, and was very excited about fishing in Montana on the way to pick up the girls.

As I hung up, I noticed I was in front of a pretty big post office. I checked to see if I could find WIFI, but there was none. I searched for a library on the phone. It was one mile away. Nice library! With a fishing section! Steve corrected me on my post and I wanted to change it. There are no Dolly Varden on the Rogue. They were cutthroat. A very pretty librarian, who didn’t want to talk to me, showed me the WIFI password that was tied around a little bear statue. I corrected my mistake and quickly read emails, then asked the cordial lady where the fishing section was. She asked what kind of fishing. Um, all kinds. “Look in 799 in the tall stacks.” There were some interesting books. The hiking and kayaking sections were just to the left. I would have to come back and explore, perhaps on a rainy day.

It took about 25 minutes to get back to camp. I was startled by a big elk cow standing beside the small road. She was startled too, and scurried back down the bank toward the river. I love my campsite, surrounded by tall ferns, it seems secluded. A little raised flat area behind me with a massive picnic table and fire pit. I’m on for four days. Steve might not come for another week, and I would love to fish with him again for salmon in the bay just off shore, but there is so much to see and do.

Lost Creek Lake

July 24, 2014

There are two Lost Creeks and they are appropriately named. Neither had any water in them, or I could not find an access to the one on the east side of the lake. Lucky I didn’t. Loggers were working above it. Way up on the top of a vertical mountain right above the stream. Let one of those trees go and you are done for! It was fun to explore the area in the morning. By the middle of the day, it gets too hot for much activity. Too hot, too much dust, I washed the truck and returned to the trailer. Think I’ll head back to Collier State Park.