Not a Bad Place to be "Stuck"

July 07, 2021

With temperatures reaching unprecedented heights, we found ourselves along the Hood River at Tucker County Park, Hood River, Oregon, south of the Columbia river.  As the temperature rose to 114 deg, we were riverside, in the shade with occasional swims/dunks in the swift-moving, cloudy with snow runoff, Hood River.  The river flows north from Mount Hood and dumps into the Columbia River at the town of Hood River.  We stay here for 6 nights (our longest stay anywhere) until the weather breaks to more reasonable (and expected) temperatures.  We stay because anywhere we have our sights set for is hotter than it is here. We have wonderful shade, a manicured lawn, sunlight to charge our solar and the beautiful coolness of the Hood River.  Also, Hood River (the town) is 4 miles away, right on the Columbia River Gorge, where the configuration of the Columbia invites winds that make for some of the best kite surfing in the world.  To beat the heat, we motorcycle into town and have lunch mid-afternoon at air-conditioned breweries.

We arrived at Tucker County Park from Ohanapecosh Campground, Mount Rainier National Forest, Washington State, where we had just hiked up into the snowpack (our highest elevation hike yet).  We spent 3 nights/4 days at Mount Rainier and did some wonderful hiking each day; seeing countless waterfalls as the snowpack continued to melt into crystal clear water, replenishing the land below.  There was so much snow that we had to turn back as we could not find the trail to keep going.  We are still in the land of giants, but instead of redwoods or sequoia trees, it’s western hemlocks, red cedars and Douglas firs.  Interestingly, the cherished maple tree of the northeast doesn’t stand a chance against these giants, as each competes for the sun’s rays high above.  Every maple we see is covered in moss and just holding onto life by a thread.

With school being out and so many people camping, it is hard to get reservations at any campground, except at first come first-served places, like Tucker County and Ohanapecoch national campground.  It will get tougher as the summer proceeds, but we will be in more wilderness with more opportunities to camp off-grid and dry camping with our solar panels is working out well.  We ran our fan all day and night during the scorching heat AND I worked daily with the laptop or iPad and the solar panels kept us charged up with electricity.  I have definitely eased into the off-grid/dry-camping way of living, more relaxed now that I KNOW the solar works really well.  AND wow, we are reading a lot of books, very enjoyable for us both; Sean still beats me in chess, 3 out of 4 games; I make up for those losses with winning in Backgammon.  With random stops at thrift stores, we exchange books to keep our library with choices of interesting reads.

We have fallen in love with both Oregon and Washington and have been going back and forth between the two states.  Initially, we entered Oregon via route 1, from California, first staying in Brookings, OR at Harris Beach State Park.  I think this is our least favorite campground on our trip.  Many campers, side-by-side right along the highway (route 1) and we can hear traffic all night; grateful I could only get one night’s reservation there.  We head north, up the coast to William M Tugman State Campground where we have full hook-ups and nice facilities on Eel Lake.  Good fishing and hiking here.  We find the Pacific coast is opening up a bit more and Oregon’s coast is a string of public / national parks, most are just day-use but all public, not private or commercialized as we have found on the east coast.  There are more inlets, harbors and consequently more boats than we have seen on the Pacific coast thus far.  Still a striking coast with dramatic topography. 

It’s the weekend again, so we find a first come, first-served county campground named Moonshine Park on the Selitz River.  What a beautiful spot; we are the only ones here.  We don’t have hook-ups but they do have nice clean shower facilities.  We walk around and explore in the rain and find a waterfall tumbling into the river.  Its rains over the next week off and on; explains why everything is sooo green and the trees are soooo big.  AND we are in the Willamette valley where they grow (and produce) THE BEST Pinot Noir grapes and wine.  We had skipped Napa and Sonoma grape growing/wine making valleys in California (as we hugged the coast), so we are ready for some wine-tastings.  I have loved Pinot Noir for quite a while, so I was very happy we found ourselves in this valley, LOL. Thanks to my sister Mary and friend, Dan Matthews; their enthusiasm for this valley was not misplaced on us.  We are now wine club members of the Compton Family Winery.

After a day of wandering through a small part of wine country, we make our way to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, right outside of Portland, where they have displayed Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose – in its entirety, along with early planes, modern jets and rockets, US and Russian.   This is a Harvest Host where we stay for free in their parking lot; we go to the museum in the morning and could easily make it an entire day.      

We proceed up the Oregon coast this rainy Sunday with another wine-tasting at a cheese place right on the coast.  We have a reservation for 3 nights at Fort Stevens State Campground in Astoria, Oregon, where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, a historically significant place.  Fort Stevens was used to protect and defend the West coast during the Civil War and WW II with Japanese subs striking the coast (without much luck) AND where Louis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery found the Pacific, wintering at Fort Clatsop (that they built), before heading back east.  We took a day to explore each fort and museum as well as the coast.  Here on the Pacific coast you can see whales migrating and feeding off the shore.  We see whales spouting (familiar to us) and a bald eagle.  From the museum we bought the book of journal entries from Louis, Clark and officers of Discovery Corps and have been reading as we follow and traverse the Columbia River. 

It’s midweek and we head into Washington state; the rain subsides and we find even more natural beauty.  In this southwest corner of Washington, farmland draws right up to the coast.  We are still on Route 1/101 and Sean wants one more swim in the Pacific before we head inland.  He says the water is “bracing”.  We head to Millersylvania State Campground.  What a little gem.  We have full hookups, we’re in the shade, the campground has a pub (!) lakeside, as well as kayaks, paddleboats and paddle boards to rent as well as some nice hiking trails.  We are right outside of the Seattle metro area and head into Tacoma for a Harvest Host stay.

We stay at 47 North Brewery for the night, in a suburb we find very much like home in Hull, called Bears Point.  We walk down to their non-functioning lighthouse via the low-tide, rocky beach and return through the neighborhood.  Then to the brewery for some adult beverages.  We have a peaceful night and take care of a few errands in Tacoma before heading to another Harvest Host that is an alpaca farm with hosts Jean and David. 

This is the nicest Harvest Host we have stayed at; it’s a beautiful farm named, La Vida Alpaca & Tahoma Vista Fiber Mill in Yelm, WA and our camping spot is grass littered with daisies.  Some of the alpaca get to roam freely around the fenced-in yard and we are always watched over by their Great Pyrenees dog named Snowflake.  He protects the herd as well as all inhabitants on the farm.  We enjoy a tour of the farm and different alpaca herds, we get to pet and I get to hold onto one of the alpaca’s by gently holding onto their long neck with the crook of my arm (as taught to me by David) and I don’t get spit upon.  We also get to see how they process wool for themselves as well as fellow alpaca farmers in the area.  I wish I could wear wool, so many nice things here, all handmade.

Its Sunday, so I’ve been able to make reservations at another county campground at Cowlitz Falls campground on the Cowlitz river in Randall, Washington.  Its full hook-up with super clean facilities just steps away from our campsite.  We have a very private space and stay for two nights before heading to Mount Rainier for more hiking and nature’s splendor and dry camping.

Thank you Dan Llewelyn for suggesting Ohanapecosh Campground, Mount Rainier National Park.  They have 10 first come first served campsites, and we get a wonderful, level campsite and hike each day we’re there.  Instead of the Avenue of Giants, here it’s the Grove of the Patriarchs, where the 1,000-year old trees reside.  Our last day’s hike is up into the snowpack; we have no idea that the “heat dome” is descending upon the northwest as we head south to Hood River, Oregon, via Yakima, WA.  This is the desert area of Washington State, where like Desert Palm, CA, they use irrigation to grow crops and fruit orchards; patches of green surrounded by desert.

The 6 days at Hood River, Tucker County Park, gives us time to re-assess our route east.  While we endure the heat, we do day trips (except the hottest day) to beat the heat and finish each day by the river.  We were planning to go south and hit the Yellowstone National Park, but re-consider given several recommendations, the summer heat and so many campers about, we decide to head north to Glacier National Park.  Together we make a plan to head North and east from the Pacific Northwest.

This beautiful area south of the Columbia river is fed by the melting snow from Mount Hood, and VERY hilly as it descends and feeds the Columbia River.  Like the many mountain valleys in Oregon and Washington, fruit orchards and vineyards abound amongst the hills and the land is sliced by roads into a grid. The first trip into Hood River we take a wrong turn and waze redirects us another way (like many times before), except we come to a hilltop where we can’t see the bottom, like a rollercoaster; Sean is grace and I look down, take a big breath and close my eyes with faith he will deliver us with ease.  A memory made, we arrive at Hood River and wander until we find a restaurant we like.  Many people are doing the same thing; at 2 pm in the afternoon, we still wait an hour for a table.  Grateful to find a good brewery that serves really good thin-crust pizza.   MMMM 

We head north from and its another holiday weekend -- 4th of July, and we (again) count on the kindness of strangers.  We find a wonderful county fair/park in Ritzville, WA on Friday, 7/2 and have reservations at another county campground, Liberty Lake, right outside of Spokane, Washington on Saturday, 7/3 (so I thought).  However, upon arrival, we find I have made a mistake and the reservations are really for the previous night.  Despite the campground being FULL, the camp-host not only finds us a campsite for the night, he finds us a premium RV site for 4th of July overlooking Liberty Lake, a fitting place to be on this national holiday.  Despite being far away from our friends, family and the people we love and ordinarily would celebrate the 4th of July with, this holiday has turned out pretty perfect.

Still enjoying the Journey,

With Love,

Sean and Kelly