Posted by: glenswatman | October 1, 2007

200709-2-September 2007 USA Washington Oregon California

SUNDAY 16 SEPTEMBER – It’s noticeably colder
when we wake up as could be expected when sailing in Glacier Bay National Park.  A Parks Ranger and a naturalist board the
ship and give commentary from the Crows Nest whilst we explore the area.  The Bay is surrounded by numerous glaciers
in various stages of recession but once we turn into Johns Hopkins Inlet we see
better examples and are finally confronted by the 120’ high foot of the John
Hopkins Glacier itself.  Surrounded by
icebergs complete with basking seals it is amazing.  I brave it out on the bow, it’s drizzling but the hot pea soup
helps to cheer the spirits.  Few ships
are allowed into the park (most cruise liners are too big) so we are alone and
it’s wonderful to be beside the glacier for 1-hour eating lunch whilst watching
and listening for signs of the ice calving. 
We’re both feeling the effects of over indulgence so I make use of the
“subway” style sandwich bar but Steve can’t resist the main hot foot
buffet.  Back track out of Glacier Bay
and take the opportunity to have an afternoon nap before catching the 3pm
“Oceans Thirteen” movie.  It’s a chef’s
special evening and we all have chefs’ hats to wear.  The meal is served procession style with the waiters all dancing
around the restaurant.  They just about
finish their show when we hit rough seas and are soon being tossed around; so
much so that we see someone has recycled their dessert on the carpet outside
the restaurant.  Australian comedy
magician “James Galea” does the early evening show but has to tailor his
performance to take into account the rolling ship but is good non the
less.  A chocolate extravaganza by the
pool rounds off the evening.  I just
about manage to fit in a few fruits coated under the chocolate fountain.



MONDAY 17 SEPTEMBER – After a rough night at
sea we arrive late in Ketchikan, Alaska’s first city.  Our hosts Dave & Jacquie are waiting for us and we are soon
getting acquainted whilst heading up the coast in their car.  They have a motorhome and spent last winter
in Mexico so we get lots of good info. 
At Totem Bight park we meet up with their friends Larry & Cathy and
wander around together.  The gift shop
is a revelation with a back room full of stuffed animal parts and old guns, not
in glass cases but just lying around including one from the 1600’s.  Also in the shop is an old car but behind
the store and down by the beach we discover a whole garage full of vintage
motors.  Walk along the shore to the
beach, a narrow slither of grey slate gravel. 
There are some amazing long pieces of seaweed and strange creatures in
the rock pools.  Clambering up the bank
into the park we see excellent examples of totem poles and a traditional wooden
meetinghouse.  Larry & Cathy leave
us when we return to the city with Dave & Jacquie.  En route to Ward Lake we see a large back
bear beside the road but he’s to quick for a photo and hastens off into the
bushes.  Ketchikan is inaccessible by
land so we are surprised to see so many RV’s and camping spots.  Dave drives us on the city by pass for views
then we head into town to explore Creek Street.  The attractive street has wooden houses hanging out over the
creek and was once the red light district. 
Today people are drawn here to see all the salmon in the river; at this
time of year there are almost as many dead on the rocks and it smells terrible.  Most of these salmon are on their last legs
and a seal taking a chunk out of its back, yuk, has hastened one along.  Enjoy a lunch of the local halibut and chips
before Dave & Jacquie leave us. Complete our tour of Ketchikan with a
wander around town and a visit to a few shops. 
There are 2 other ships in port and both the Norwegian Star and the
Celebrity liner dwarf ours.  Back on
board there’s time for a nap before our formal night.  Amazingly our clothes still fit us so perhaps we haven’t gained
as much weight as we thought!  Learn from
our fellow diners that there was a nasty accident at the port today.  Amphibious Ducks were on the dock to take
people on tours and ran over a 59-year old passenger from the Norwegian Star
and killed her.  Dessert of the day is
baked Alaska served after a ceremonious march around the dining room by waters
with serving trays and sparklers. 
“Spiderman 3” movie keeps us entertained afterwards and we are pleased
to stay awake as the vast majority of the other people nod off. 



TUESDAY 18 SEPTEMBER – We wake late as we are
back in CANADA and clocks have gone forwards 1-hour (BST – 8 hours).  It’s a day at sea so only shipboard
activities to occupy us.  There have
been on going problems with a faulty alarm outside our room meaning we have had
interrupted sleep for the whole cruise. 
The ships was full so we could not move to another cabin therefore they
offer us compensation and part of it is to take lunch in the Pinnacle Grill
without paying the $15 (£7.50) surcharge. 
We opt to sit with the ladies from a nearby cabin who have had the same
problem.  One of them has sailed 8 times
with HAL and says this is the worst trip she has had!  At 3pm we go to formal afternoon tea, today Indonesian themed and
very nice too.  At our evening meal our
waiter “Rizal” hears us saying that it is Steve’s birthday already on UK time,
shortly after he appears with a birthday cake and we get the usual
serenade.  Watch “Premonition” at the
cinema before our last show – a compilation of all the acts. 



birthday which gets off to an early start with our alarm call.  Leave the ship at 8.20am and make great
connections with the skytrain to arrive back at Janice’s in New Westminster at
9.30am.  She has another couch surfing
guest Eric, from America, staying. 
Janice decides to give work a miss in order to spend the day with us all
so we pile into Eric’s car and head down to White Rock beach.  It’s a glorious day and it’s nice to be out
in the hot sun again.  Take lunch of
fish & chips at a café overlooking the ocean before walking along the
pier.  Auntie Joan used to live here and
her ashes were scattered from the pier so it’s quite a poignant walk for me.  Next we go up to Iona Beach via the airport
with another fix of lying back watching the planes fly overhead.  Although very near the city Iona Beach feels
quite remote and has lots of wildlife. 
Heading back we detour to catch the last of the sun in a park on the
banks of the river. Janice invites her friends Adam & Darren to join us in
celebrating Steve’s birthday with a curry meal that I cook.  An unexpected but most enjoyable day. Eric
is keen to check out the Vancouver chicks and heads off out when we are all
ready to go to bed.



THURSDAY 20 SEPTEMBER – Eric returns in the
early hours and we all have a bit of a lie in. 
Janice has to go out and do a few things so I take the opportunity of
doing my post cruise washing and catching up with E-mails.  She gets back mid afternoon and Eric drives
us all over to White Rock back to our motorhome.  Eric & Janice seem very impressed and keen to join us in it
later.  No sooner have they left than
Raoul arrives to pick us up.  He is
another host who offered us accommodation but didn’t have space to park the van.  Having been to school in Stafford England he
expressed an interesting in meeting so has invited us to his place for a
chat.  His wife Flo is also English and
over a sandwich and coffee we exchange views and info during a lovely evening.



FRIDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – Time to hit the road
again and we point Harry south towards the sun.  The truck border crossing has been recommended but we want to go
into the first US town of Blaine so go for the Peace Arch border.  Big mistake.  There are 3 lanes of traffic, the right one for locals with fast
track NEXUS passes, the rest for everyone else.  Having crawled along for about 1 hour we reach a point just
before the customs booths where vehicles over 12’ high are directed into the
NEXUS lane to avoid the low canopy ahead. 
We believe we are 12’ exactly but not keen to take chances so do a last
minute lane change.  At the booth the
customs officer queries whey we did this and in spite of our explanation about
the signs he says we would have fitted under. 
He seems to be inferring we switched with ulterior motives and slaps an
orange sticker on our windscreen and orders us to pull over and enter the
customs offices.  We have to go in a
long line and read on the orange sticker that we have a NEXUS violation!  Standing in the queue I am not sure whether
they are going to fine us or what but tell Steve that I will deal with it, as
he is already getting stroppy.  We
understand that the American officers can refuse you entry without any reason
at all so we must be humble.  Luckily we
get a sympathetic interviewer who questions us then stamps our passports and
actually thanks us for taking that lane as he has had people get stuck in his
with big motorhomes.  We are now back in
USA in WASHINGTON state and proceed to the small town of Blaine to get fuel and
do some banking.  Just north of
Bellingham we have been invited to visit a host who lives at Lummi Indian
Reservation, he is not a Native American but their home is on Indian land.  Tom meets us a nearby casino and leads us to
his beautiful waterfront home on Puget Sound. 
After a couple of chainsaw modifications to the driveway trees we soon
have Harry settled onto a perfect RV spot complete with power and dump point.  Tom’s retired but his wife Kathy works from
home, writing books to teach teachers how to recognise maths skills in
youngsters, but breaks off to chat to us. 
It’s quite a miserable cold and rainy day so we all take an afternoon
snooze then join them for a ride into Bellingham for a Mexican meal.  It’s a nice journey in, mainly along the
waterfront, and in town we are confronted by a rally against war amongst other
things.  The restaurant is café style
but the food is good and we find that we have suddenly regained our



SATURDAY 22 SEPTEMBER – After a stormy night
we are pleased to wake to a fine day. 
We breakfast with Tom & Kathy then spend lots of time chatting.  This year

Tom has had a motorcycle trip around Europe and another to
Alaska whilst Kathy has stayed at home working.  He’s keen to travel much more but can’t persuade Kathy to pack in
work yet, sounds very familiar to us. 
Early afternoon they suggest a drive pit and begin with a visit to the
Farmer Market in Bellingham where we pick up snacks for lunch.  Afterwards Tom drives us along Chuckanut
Drive round the coast of Puget Sound with superb views out towards the many
islands.  Wind up in the attractive town
of Anacortes with some interesting cut out murals.  The bridge at Deception Point spans the turbulent waters of a
gorge deep below and in his childhood Tom completed a dare to walk across under
the bridge. Crossing the bridge leads us on to Whidbey Island where Kathy’s
Jannan & her husband Jack live. 
Pick up at pizza on the way back and eat it whilst watching a movie
until almost midnight.  What a great day



SUNDAY 23 SEPTEMBER – Late morning we join Tom
for a ride out to Costco, a kind of bulk buy supermarket for members only.  Most things are in too large a quantity for
us but we can’t resist their bulk meat packs to freeze.  There is a café in the front of the store
with incredibly cheap snacks, $1.50 (75p) for a hot dog and refillable soda
drink.  In the evening neighbours Jim
& Hui-Ying and Toms motorcycling friend Joe join us all for a meal.  Afterwards we all settle down to watch Ewan
McGregor’s epic journey “The long way round” on DVD.  Sadly we only have time to view the first 3 episodes.



MONDAY 24 SEPTEMBER – Kathy leaves early for
work then Tom joins us heading south so that we can drop him off in Seattle to
pick up his motorbike.  I5 is an easy
drive but busy and boring.  By passing
Seattle it has 7 lanes in each direction with an expressway in the middle and
still it is busy.  At one of the rest
areas we stop for a free coffee and a man in the booth grabs our
attention.  He has an assortment of old
implements and challenges people to guess their use.  We fail miserably but have great fun in the process.  Cross into OREGON State at Portland and
easily follow directions to our host Rita’s house.  She lives in a northwest suburb with her son Sasha and we can
park on the street outside her home. 
They welcome us with a glass of wine followed by take away pizza.  Rita spent 4-years living in Romania and has
also been on the Trans Siberian train so we have lots of questions for
her.  She is only the second owner of
her house; her original land sale deeds are signed by Abraham Lincoln
himself.  Before retiring she briefs us
on how to get into Portland and what to do.



TUESDAY 25 SEPTEMBER – It’s a short walk to
the bus stop where a $4.25 (£2.15) day pass can be bought on board (correct
change only).  Next we change to the Max
streetcar (tram) to take us right into the centre at Pioneer Courthouse Square
where the tourist office is situated. 
There are no outstanding highlights mentioned for Portland but we begin
exploring on foot and find many nice buildings.  Taking the streetcar out to Moody and Gibbs junction we are able
to take the tram (cable car) up to the hospital, $4 (£2).  Opened this year it saves hospital staff and
patients a 20-minute drive up to the hospital. 
By default it has become an unknown tourist attraction giving fine views
over the city and beyond.  Within the
hospital there is a corridor full of art and a viewing patio with
sculptures.  Back in the city we enjoy
the $7.95 (£4) buffet lunch at Indian House before making our way, via a number
of fountains, to the waterfront.  For
some reason we both have bad headaches so after a brief exploration of the
seedy feeling Chinatown we return to the van. 
Get back at 3.30pm and both head to bed.  Wake up around 7.30pm when Rita returns but both still feel bad
so make our apologies and return to bed.



WEDNESDAY 26 SEPTEMBER – We’ve managed to get Harry
booked in for a service at Gresham RV Center so set the alarm to enable us to
get there just after 8am.  We’ve waited
until Oregon as they have no state tax but also this dealer only charges $70
hour as opposed to $90 at most other places. 
They are amazingly efficient and quick and we are soon paying the $77.72
(£38.50) bill and ready to leave.  We’ve
been recommended the Columbia Gorge scenic by way and easily find it off the
I84.  After a steep climb we do get
superb views and enjoy exploring the unusual octagonal Vista House.  The road was built about 90 years ago to
take in the views and combine much of the natural scenery including many
waterfalls.  A short walk from the road
takes us to the narrow high drop of Latourell Falls.  Further on Wahkeena Falls are wider and different again.  Backing out of the angled parking spot Harry
has his first rebellious moment when he kicks up his heels and clips a
car.  We stop immediately and discover
minimal damage to ourselves as it is the bumper that has done the damage but
the car has a big of a ding in the bumper and rear corner.  There is no one around so we write out all
our contact and insurance details and a passer by also makes notes.  Final scenic stop Multnomah Falls, the
highest at 620’ and very attractive. 
It’s lunchtime so we detour to Bonneville Lock & Dam.  Before we can enter a security guard checks
inside the motorhome saying it’s a precaution since 9 11.  Park up by the river for lunch and decide we
should phone our insurance company. 
We’ve just fried chips for lunch and can’t wash up, as the oil in the
pan is too hot to drain so head off walking towards the visitor centre.  We are soon stopped and told that it is
forbidden to walk around the area and we must return to our vehicle, seems to us
that people are becoming a bit paranoid about security.  Anyway we do as we are told then drive to
the visitor centre and phone our insurance company.  After giving our policy number we find they ask us most
frustrating questions but miss the obvious but eventually we get them to
understand the situation.  Within the
visitor centre we see a fish ladder through a glass viewing area and listen to
a ranger explanation about the salmon life. 
At Hood River we had hoped to overnight at Wal-Mart but they have numerous
signs forbidding camping and overnight parking.  A car park attendant tells us people dumping waste in the car
park has brought on the ban.  Pick up
the Mount Hood road with fine views of the snow-strewn mountain.  Just about resigned to going onto a pay
campground when we see a seemingly abandoned forest camp right by the
river.  We are now above the snow line
so wrap up for a cold night.



THURSDAY 27 SEPTEMBER – It was very cold in
the night so although this is a great free camp we opt to press on.  Get more fine views of Mount Hood as we
continue through the attractive forest with colourful autumn foliage.  Cross the 45th parallel, half way
between the equator and North Pole, and then drop down towards Madras.  We could easily be in the other Madras it is
so hot, in the 80’s.  This area is a
thin slither in the middle of Oregon known as the low desert but still
surrounded by forest with snow capped volcanic mountains on the skyline.  Pause to use the Internet for following up
the insurance claim.  Stop for lunch at
P.S. Ogden overlook a splendid viewing area of the gorge with Crooked River in
the bottom.  It’s a very short detour to
Smith Rock State Park, $3 day fee (free with pass).  This area is a real geologic wonderland full of staggering rock
formations in different colours and textures. 
Make our way to the rim of the gorge and descend to the trailheads
below.  We cross the river and take the
trail to our left along its banks.  Rock
climbers favour this area and we often stop to watch them.  Spot a couple of deer in our path and Steve
thinks he sees a rattlesnake but it’s too quick for him to photograph.  Make our way around the rocks to the point
where we view aptly named Monkey Rock. 
You can climb up over the rocks at this point to shorten the walk but we
favour backtracking to complete our 2-hour hike.  Wow what an unexpectedly impressive area that we knew nothing
about until we arrived in Oregon. 
Nearby is the town of Redmond complete with a brand new Wal-Mart where
we can stay overnight and of course shop. 
We read in the newspaper the Wal Mart opened 16 new stores last week so
they are growing fast. 



FRIDAY 28 SEPTEMBER – We both sleep badly, not
only can we hear the trains rumbling past but also we are close enough to feel
them.  It turns quite cold and we
finally get up to a rainy morning with the temperature down to 45F.  The next big town is Bend where we plan to
spend some time but traffic is horrendous and signs for the visitor centre and
library are non-existent.  Coupled with
a pathetic town map we end up driving the Summit Road but at least get some
good views and an indication of the spreading of the fastest growing city in
Oregon.  When we do find the visitor
centre there is no parking anywhere near for a motorhome.  Wal-Mart was our planned overnighter but
becomes a brief lunch stop as it is sandwiched between 2 mains roads and Bend
has truly drive us round the bend and onwards. 
South of town is Lava Lands Visitors Centre, $5 (£2.50) for a 3 day pass
for all parts of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument Park, but free with
our annual pass.  We do the walk through
the volcano and get fine views of the recently snow capped surrounding
mountains.  This is the place where the
astronauts came in 1964 and 1966 to test their moon landing gear and it
certainly looks like a moonscape.  A
little further down highway 97 is Lava Cave. 
Armed with our torches we set out to explore the 1-mile long lava tube
cave.  After a steep descent we are in a
cool tunnel and this narrows and lowers as we venture further.  Signboards point out rock falls and the
point where we pass under the main road. 
Unfortunately we arrived here late and must be out of the cave by 4.30pm
so don’t have time to walk to the end where we believe you are doubled over to
keep walking.  However we have very much
enjoyed the bit we have seen.  Again
armed with the poor local maps we make a number of mistakes before reaching the
National Forest Big River campgrounds near Sunriver.  It’s a very pleasant small spot on the banks of the river and
should be quite peaceful.  Needless to
say we have another cold night.

with pass).


SATURDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – It is so cold that I
get up in the night and put the heating on and re heat my hot water
bottle.  We are not the least bit
surprised to find frost at the roadside when we make our morning
departure.  Newberry National Volcanic
Monument main park is our destination and as the road climbs higher we enter an
area covered by the recent snow.  It’s a
very short walk to Paulina Falls (pronounced pull eye nar) and they look really
pretty surrounded by the snow clad fir trees. 
A bit further and higher up in the park we turn off along the lightly
snow covered road to the Big Obsidian Flow. 
The moment we start hiking we are impressed by the shiny black glass
rocks around us.  Reach the first
viewpoint where we speak to a couple of lads who recognise our English
accent.  One of them is a Liverpool fan
working over here so football is the language for the next 5 minutes.  Climbing higher we are alone on the track
and enjoy the solitude and most fantastic views enhanced by the clear blue sky
and early morning sunshine.  It really
is spectacular and we take way too many photos. Returning from the loop walk we
meet many more latecomers starting the hike. 
The road ends at East Lake, a great coffee stop overlooking the second
lake.  Heading out of the park we check
out Paulina Lake but it is not so nice. 
We can’t find McKay campground but stop by the road for lunch before
returning to the main highway south. 
Just north of Chemult we turn off to Walt Haring Snopark and free
camping site but can’t believe how busy it is. 
Steve spots a gathering of people around a carcass hung from a tree and
goes over to find out more.  Apparently
today is the first day of the 10-day deer-hunting season.  People enter a kind of lottery and if they
are lucky they get a permit to hunt in a certain area.  These people set out in the early hours of
this morning and soon killed the small deer that they are now butchering.  It’s mid afternoon and quite warm in the sun
so we make it our stop for the day. 



SUNDAY 30 SEPTEMBER – It’s a bit like the
Wacky Races when the hunters all rev up their quad bikes to head off into the
forest but it quietens down soon after. 
Klamath Falls drives us round the bend with poor signs to the visitor
centre and everything else for that matter. 
End up on the wrong side of town, finding a visitor centre that doesn’t
have the info we need then doing a big cross country to get back on track.  Just over the state line in CALIFORNIA we
reach Lava Beds National Monument ($10 but inc in pass).  The road goes through the park to the
visitor centre but en route we stop at Fleener Chimneys, towering piles of
rocks with big holes in the centre. 
It’s only a short walk for us to explore Balcony Cave, 885m, with a
balcony lava flow running along a ledge beside the tunnel.  Adjacent is Boulevard Cave, 231m, a very low
cave with a smooth floor that gets lower the further you crawl.  We only have our small torches so don’t
venture too far but enjoy the part we see. 
It seems amazing to us that in a country like America, where everyone
sues for the least little thing, you are allowed to amble around and explore
this potentially very dangerous area alone. 
The visitor centre do a free loan of flashlights and with them we set
out on the cave loop.  One of the least
challenging Mushpot Cave, 235m, is the tourist show cave.  Lit up walkways and interpretive signs make
it easy to learn about these lava tubes. 
Bump hats are recommended for the more difficult caves but we make do
with our woolly hats!  Moderately
challenging Golden Dome, 679m, begins as a single tube but then becomes a
figure of eight making it easy to get lost if you don’t stay aware.  Walking is difficult on a river of lava
rocks but there is only one small section to duck under.  The nearby Garden Bridges are attractive
areas where tunnels have caved in leaving mini gorges with lots of
bridges.  Hopkins Chocolate Cave, 428m,
is in the “most challenging” class so we only explore a short way to admire the
dripping plain, milk and white chocolate rivulets coming down the wall – just
like a chocolate fountain.  We crouch to
go through a low narrow gap divided by a rock like a giant boot coming through
the roof.  On the other side it looks
like you are emerging from a nostril, in fact exploring these caves feels rather
like you are going through the arteries in a body!  Sunshine Cave, 142m, requires a bit of stooping but has a couple
of collapsed areas with vegetation. 
Sentinel, 1000m, is one of the least challenging caves and the only one
with two entrances and seems less interesting than the others. Drop the
flashlights back at the visitor centre, as they must be returned by
4.30pm.  Pause to watch their video
about the Modoc tribe and the wars fought on this land as well as about the
lava caves.  Double back to the recommended
Skull Cave, 177m, named after the numerous animal plus 2 human skulls found
when it was first explored.  It’s an
enormous cave with huge rocks everywhere but an easy flat path and ladders to
guide us through and down to the lower level cave with its perpetual ice
floor.  One of the caves we missed on
the way in, Merrill Cave, also used to have an ice floor at the bottom of the
cave, so big that people used to floodlight it and use it as a skating rink.  Heading back on the side road we can’t resist
the sign to Big Painted Cave and Symbol Bridge.  It’s almost a mile to hike in to the cave and the pictographs are
very poor so we give up on Symbol Bridge. 
A shame as everything else we have done has been brilliant.  About 5 miles from the park we see a road
junction and as we are now in the Modoc National Forest we know it is legal to
free camp.  Take a right turn for ½ mile
to reach a lovely clearing surrounded by pine trees.  I calculate we must have walked about 7 or 8 km through caves so
reward our feet with a nice soak before tackling our evening meal.  An excellent park and the best of the many
lava caves that we have seen. 



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