In the summer of 2014 we've been to Paradise and Hell, that is, the Paradise Visitor Center on Mt. Rainier and the Hells Canyon of the Snake River. For our summer adventure, we decided to go all the way to the West Coast. We picked Washington state, and applied to be volunteers in the state park system. We were chosen to be campground hosts at Ike Kinswa State Park in June, and at nearby Lewis and Clark State Park in July. The map at the right shows approximately where we were located, a little west of Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.

On our way west we stopped at Grand Teton National Park, crossing the 9,584-foot-high Togwotee Pass to get there. While in Washington, we also visited Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Monument, and Olympic National Park. We got to see the Pacific Ocean at Cape Disappointment and Westport. We also hiked in Pinchot National Forest.

Heading back toward Maryland, we took a 59-mile adventure cruise up the Snake River into Hells Canyon. Next we stopped at Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho, where we had volunteered in 2013. After that we headed for Kenora, Ontario, for a reunion of Al's cousins, but on the way Al had an accident in North Dakota that damaged our Moving House. Fortunately we were still able to proceed. After Kenora, our last destination before heading home was Iron River, Michigan.

Google map of western Washington state showing location 
               of Ike Kinswa State Park

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton Mountain seen from the Willow Flats Overlook
Grand Teton National Park has a great WOW factor, especially with snow coating the mountains. We had never visited this park before and were not sure what to expect. We enjoyed all of our four full days there.

We had joked before coming that we might have to wade through waist-deep snow and now found it was true, at least for some trails. When we asked a ranger at the Colter Bay Visitor Center about day hikes, he informed us that many of trails were under snow and inaccessible. But there were plenty of trails that were mostly clear, with snow only in shaded areas and even that usually had a hard crust from where other hikers had walked. During our four days in the park, we walked around the Lakeshore Trail on a peninsula sticking out into Jackson Lake, and on trails to Swan Lake and Heron Pond, to Christian Pond and Emma Matilda Lake, part way around Jenny Lake and to Hidden Falls, to Phelps Lake and to Taggart Lake.

We also took a two-hour scenic raft trip down the Snake River. We were the only customers on the 6:45 A.M. trip.

We saw plenty of wildlife, including our first grizzlies (Momma 399 and her two yearling cubs) and Al's first moose since Isle Royale over 40 years ago. On the Jenny Lake Trail while we were watching a marmot, a fox darted past carrying a dead marmot home to its den. We also identified 38 species of birds.

At Taggart Lake, elevation 6,902 feet

Snow remained in patches on the west side of Jenny Lake

Momma Grizzly, seen from inside our truck

Floating down the Snake River

Mount Moran and its reflection in Jackson Lake

Our moose on the Beaver Creek Trail

Fox hurrying to its den with a marmot for lunch

A strikingly, and comically, attired Ruddy Duck on Christian Pond

Ike Kinswa State Park

At our home for June, Gail holds Lucky Ladybug
Ike Kinswa contains mature Douglas fir, bigleaf maple trees western hemlock and black cottonwood trees, some with trunks three feet in diameter at the base. It also has thimbleberry bushes. They had blossoms when we arrived, but only two berries were ripe before we had to leave. They were sweet! The park covers seventh-tenths of a square mile on the north shore of Mayfield Lake, an artificial lake formed by damming the Cowlitz River just below its confluence with the Tilton River.

A camp host before us set up a hummingbird feeder and left us a jar full of sugar water, a recipe for more and instructions to "Enjoy". Well, these are voracious little creatures, feeding from 6 in the morning until 9 at night. To keep them satisfied, we were refilling the feeder morning and night. It was a big responsibility!

A beautiful day here starts off overcast, chilly and with a feeling of mist in the air. It stays like that all morning, but in the early afternoon the clouds burn off, the sky turns blue and the the day becomes warm. During our first 10 days here, that became our expectation of how every day is. Then a week of rainy weather with highs in the mid 50s followed. We were excited when better weather returned, but our experience of the first 10 days was never duplicated.

We kept up with the news via WNPR station KSWS FM 88.9 from Chehalis.

As camp hosts, we greeted campers, sold them bundles of firewood, solved minor problems, completed odd jobs, but mostly cleaned the campsites after campers left and before others arrived. One evening Al gave a tour of constellations and stars in the night sky to about 20 campers.

Looking up among the fir trees

A rufous hummingbird taking advantage of the free lunch

Campsite maintenance

For fine firewood at $5 a bundle, see the camp hosts

One of the many Columbian black-tailed deer, a subspecies of
the western mule deer, who entertain campers at Ike Kinswa

Mount Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier's summit seen from the Box Canyon of the Cowlitz River
We took three one-day trips to Mt. Rainier National Park. On our first visit, we went to the southeast corner in the Ohanapecosh River region. We followed a short trail to the Grove of the Patriarchs, a small grove of 1,000-year-old trees. Photos cannot do justice to the awesomeness of these giants. Next we hiked to Silver Falls on the Ohanapecosh River. Finally, we drove to the Paradise Visitor Center. All the lakes we passed were still covered with ice, and the visitor center still had nearly 13 feet of snow even though, at 5,400 feet, it is much lower than where we stayed in Grand Teton.

Our second visit was to the Longmire area in the southwest corner of the park. There we climbed the Rampart Ridge Trail, ascending about 1,300 feet in a series of switchbacks through 1.8 miles of cathedral-like forest. After lunch overlooking Longmire far below and Eagle Peak in the distance, we hiked another mile along the ridge to the Wonderland Trail. We followed the Wonderland Trail to Kautz Creek, where we were disappointed to find the spring floods had washed away the crossing, and so returned to Longmire, about 3 miles away.

The day was cloudy with light rain during our third visit. We hiked a short distance along another segment of the Wonderland Trail near Cougar Rock to see Carter Falls and Madcap Falls on the Paradise River.

Box Canyon of the Cowlitz, 15 feet wide, 180 feet down

On the trail to the Grove of the Patriarchs

At the foot of two 1000-year-old Douglas-fir trees
in the Grove of the Patriarchs

A Stellar's Jay exercising its rights

View from our picnic spot on the Rampart Ridge Trail

Mount Rainier seen from the Rampart Ridge Trail

Kautz Creek with a shoulder of Rainier in the distance

A bridge and fallen trees on the Wonderland Trail

Crossing the Nisqually River

Madcap Falls on the Paradise River

The view across Paradise River through low-hanging clouds

Mount St. Helens National Monument

For our first excursion to Mt. St. Helens, we only went as far as the Washington State Visitor Center on Silver Lake, just a few miles off I-5. We spent the afternoon looking at the excellent exhibits about the history and geology of Mt. St. Helens. We even walked the 1-mile nature trail through the wetlands alongside the lake. But we never saw the mountain because the low clouds obscured the distant horizon.

The first time we saw the mountain was when driving to a grocery store in Winlock. We could see both Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in the distance rising above farmers' fields. Impressive! Both mountains, and Mount Adams, tower head and shoulders above everything else in their neighborhood so they seem to stand alone.

We actually visited the monument on July 2, a day that began overcast but opened up in the afternoon. After driving through clouds, we had lunch at Coldwater Lake and then we hiked the Hummocks Trail, which lies on top of debris from the 1980 explosion lying seven miles down the valley of the north branch of the Toutle River. Small hills were formed of pulverized rock and ponds were formed where buried portions of the glaciers melted. Now all is covered by young trees, flowers and other vegetation. Next we went to Johnson Ridge, which has a magnificent view of the mountain and the crater left by its explosion.

Hummock and pond along the Hummocks Trail

Enjoying flowers along the Hummocks Trail

Stumps, shredded by the 1980 eruption, and flowers on Johnson Ridge

Mount St. Helens, its crater and the north branch of the Toutle River

Lewis and Clark State Park

Morning sun at Lewis and Clark State Park
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark never came anywhere near where Lewis and Clark State Park is located when they made their cross continent exploration, but many trees in the park were hundreds of years old then. In more recent history, the Civilian Conservation Corps had constructed some of the facilities of the park in the 1930s.

When we arrived at our campsite, we were greeted by a small, friendly and very hungry cat, apparently lost by an earlier camper (or strayed from a nearby farm). A hungry, domestic predator should not be in a game preserve. We fed her to reduce her interest in eating the park's wildlife and tried to find a safe place for her and the kittens she was expecting. On Bastille Day we found her a home with Kristin, an animal rescuer living in Portland, Oregon. Of course, we missed the little girl afterwards.

The character of Lewis and Clark State Park was very different than Ike Kinswa. Ike Kinswa is a "destination" park, where boaters and other campers would come to relax for a weekend or a week. Lewis and Clark had some campers who stayed here to enjoy the quiet and the forest, but it also had people who just pulled off the Interstate for a night's sleep on their way somewhere else.

In four years of camping, this was the first time that we had problems with mice. The campsite cat did not protect us from them. We killed three mice with a trap and stuffed steel wool into the hole under the sink where we thought they were entering the Moving House. That stopped them for two weeks, but then they were back and we killed four more.

The campsite cat

Was this picnic shelter constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps?

Cape Disappointment

Getting all the way to the shore of the Pacific competed our voyage from Maryland. It was far easier for us than for Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery, but it still was over 2 1/2 hours drive each way to Cape Disappointment from the Lewis and Clark State Park. The cape was named not by Lewis and Clark, but by an English sea captain who, in 1788, was disappointed at not finding the mouth of the Columbia River.

The Pacific Ocean - 9 July 2014 The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

North Head Lighthouse in fog

North Jetty and the cliff below the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

A mossy arch on the trail to Angel Falls
Named after the first head of the U.S. Forest Service, Pinchot National Forest stretches from Mt. Rainier National Park on the north, includes Mt. St. Helens and the west side of Mt. Adams, and reaches south nearly to the Columbia River. We hiked a short segment of a trail to Covel Creek to see Angel Falls and Curtain Falls.

If we had had more time in Washington, it would have been interesting to hike Pinchot trails at Spirit Lake and Windy Ridge on the eastern shoulder of Mt. St. Helens.

Angel Falls of Washington, 175 feet high but only a trickle

On the trail to Curtain Falls

Westport, Washington

We visited the ocean again at Westport, once a prosperous fishing village. But now the fish have been depleted and the boats mostly sit idle. Still we hoped to find a good seafood restaurant. Not to be. Fish and chips, or hamburger, anyone? We did stroll on the beach, and visit the Westport Winery with its inventive garden and the Westport microbrewery. As at Cape Disappointment, the day was cloudy even though there were clear blue skies 30 miles inland.

Some fishing boats at dock Surfers in the chilly water outside the jetty

A surf scoter

Grays Harbor Light Station, the tallest in Washington

Olympic National Park

Gail in the Quinault Rain Forest
We took an overnight trip to the Olympic Peninsula, and walked on trails in the Quinault Rain Forest (actually in the national forest, not the national park) and in the Hoh Rain Forest, and on the Pacific shore again. This may not surprise you but when we were at the rain forest, we got rain, not much in Quinault but waves of light rain at Hoh. It was surprising to find that both rain forests were more open than the forests at Ike Kinswa and at Lewis and Clark.

Clouds prevented us from seeing the centerpiece of the park, Mount Olympus. However, despite the rain and clouds inland, we actually saw sunshine when we visited the coastal segment of the park.

We did not make room reservations, thinking that it would not be hard to get a motel room in the middle of the week. Wrong! There are only two lodges in the park's west side and very few other places to stay. We wound up driving 60 miles north to the town of Forks, home of the Twilight series, and got the last room available at the Dew Drop Inn.

World's biggest Sitka Spruce, Lake Quinault
191 feet high & 58 feet 11 inches in circumference

Bigleaf Maple trees with clubmoss at the
Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park

Trees lined up on a nurse log, Hoh Rain Forest

Sun shining on Beach 4 in the park

A cloudy day at Ruby Beach

Rock with a needle hole (Gail is looking thru it)

Hells Canyon

On our way home, our first adventure was a journey up Hells Canyon of the Snake River on a jet boat. We started at the Hells Gate State Park in Lewiston, Idaho. The sides of the canyon are not as vertical as at the Grand Canyon, but the overall depth of Hells Canyon is greater. The name supposedly comes from the problems that boat pilots and railroad surveyors had with this canyon at the end of the 19th century. Nonetheless, this stretch of the river is very popular with rafters and kayakers floating down the Snake River and the Salmon River, which joins the Snake part way up the canyon.

We stopped for lunch at Garden Creek. After eating, Al harvested some apricots in the orchard and sampled blackberries while Gail swam in the river. Gail was nearly swept down river and hurt her knee so Al was the winner here.

Our transportation One of our first stops was to see petroglyphs,
created in the forgotten past by native Americans
A herd of Bighorn Sheep, with these youngsters,
came down to drink
Looking up the river
View of the river with rafts One of two Golden Eagles we saw on the bank of the river
Nez Perce crossing In the depths of Hells Canyon

The Accident!

Bent panel and damaged waste water pipe
of the Moving House
The struck car
While exiting the Interstate at Grand Forks, our last overnight stop before reaching Kenora, Al hit a car with the Moving House. The driver of the car had moved it into the intersection to make a left turn, but stopped there when the light turned red. Turning left onto the surface street, Al drove the truck around the car, but the trailer tracked to the left of the truck and struck the front of the car. Fortunately no one was injured. The Moving House still could be pulled and was habitable, but a side panel and the waste water system were damaged. The photos here were taken after we moved out of the intersection.

The First Annual(?) Cousins Reunion

Al’s grandfather, Victor, had immigrated from Sweden to Kenora, Canada, in 1909, where his sisters Maria and Anna lived and where his brother Carl later joined them. When Victor moved to Michigan in 1917, his siblings and their families remained in Canada. We stopped at Kenora to visit with some of Carl's and Maria's descendants.

Our cousins reunion began with dinner at Borrelli’s Restaurant on the Kenora waterfront. The next morning we toured the cemetery where our ancestor Adela Olafsson and the parents and grandparents of many of the cousins are buried. After the cemetery visit, cousin Linda took Gail and Al on a tour of old “Swede town” and then up Anderson Branch Road to where we now suspect that Al’s grandfather had land along the Winnipeg River in 1913.

Kenora is in a beautiful location. The main features are Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River, and there are a large number of smaller lakes scattered throughout the region. Hills (and islands) are formed of granite outcroppings with thin deposits of soil supporting white birch, pine, poplar and fir trees. We hiked along Rabbit Lake, and saw three pileated woodpeckers and a loon. The city also has a new microbrewery, which we visited.

Some of the cousins at Borrelli’s Rocky shoreline near where Al’s grandfather
bought 172 acres of rocky land for a farm

Iron River, Michigan

Iron County is home territory for Al and adopted home for Gail. While the scenery is not quite as spectacular as many of the places we visited this summer and no relatives remain there, we find it relaxing to visit.

Within a few minutes of our setting up camp in Bewabic State Park, a porcupine ambled along the other side of the road, pruning the bushes along the way. This was the first porcupine Gail had ever seen in the wild. The park has added kayak rental to its attractions so we paddled all around Fortune Lake.

Carl rode his Harley-Davidson down from Marquette and we had an enjoyable afternoon talking with him. We visited the Bernhardts - Al took a history course from Mr. Bernhardt in high school - and Al gave a presentation on exoplanets at the Iron County Museum, which the Bernhardts had founded.

Bewabic’s porcupine

Enjoying being on Fortune Lake

The reason for traveling is to see new sights and experience new activities. This summer we encountered a couple who stowed their Smart car inside their RV as they traveled from campground to campground. We met a woman who was traveling with four cats in her motorhome. While driving west on I-84 in Oregon, we experienced a 72-mile stretch of uphill road with no service stations; we ran out of fuel 8 miles east of Baker City. Al learned about cleaning fish when a family camping at Lewis and Clark State Park gave us six trout that the children had caught. We learned that every community in Washington, no matter how small, must have an Expresso drive-thru. We found people who were hiding out in the parks to avoid domestic issues. We talked to bicyclists on journeys to San Francisco, San Diego and other distant places. We ventured all the way to the west-most end of U.S. 12. We crisscrossed the route of Lewis and Clark's expedition, and both of us read Stephen Ambrose's biography of Meriwether Lewis. We had lunch at a rest stop in Idaho with a nice family from Taiwan, who were on a lightning tour of national parks and who were curious about what the inside of our RV looked like. We saw what purport to be the world's largest statues of an egg, a holstein cow, and a buffalo (bison), and we saw what may be the largest statues of a muskie, a black bear, and a whitetail deer. Not bad for one summer!
Mt. Rainier seen from Ethel, WA, about 50 miles away Near the Wind River in Wyoming
In Winlock, Washington Mt. Hood from I-84 in Oregon At Lewis and Clark State Park
Banana slug The Destruction Island Light Flower near Mt. St. Helens
Back at Bruneau Dunes State Park Loon on Rabbit Lake Fortune Lake

Webpage prepared by Albert Holm, 22 August 2014; updated 12 Aug 2016