Under the Salish Sea

Sea anemone at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

June 19

The weather warmed up quite a bit yesterday.  I woke up yesterday morning at 4:30 to watch the sunrise.  Dart joined me.  The water was calm and the sky was clear.  I saw a sea lion swim by and a few seals.

Sunrise over Puget Sound June 18.
Sunrise over Puget Sound June 18.

Later, we rode our bikes a couple miles to visit the Port Townsend Marine Science Center to get a look at the animals you can find under the Salish Sea.  They had microscopes set up so you could view the life in the drops of water taken from the Puget Sound.  I could have spent hours watching the zooplankton swimming around.

Sea anemone at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.
Sea life at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

We almost died riding our bikes.  We had to ride up a long hill to get to the Center and I couldn’t do it.  I was very proud to get up the first part of the hill.  When I rounded the corner and saw that I was no where near done, I gave up and walked.  It was exhausting.   There is a big difference riding in flat Florida compared to riding these steep hills.

Ferry crossing Puget Sound on June 17.

Last night we got quite a thrill.  There were over a dozen river otters moving through the water together.  They may have been feeding.  They were lots of fun to watch.  They hung out together in a tight group.  I am happy to have a good pair of binoculars that work well in low light conditions.  We could hear the otters making noises.  Sometimes they would all pop up their heads at the same time, chitter to each other, then go under the water at the same time.  We watched them for at least 20 minutes before they got too far away.

Dart and Coco. Dart is a Shetland Sheepdog and Coco is a Bedlington Terrier.

I tried some sunrise pictures this morning and the sky was not as clear.  There is some cloud cover coming in.  The sunrise lacked some of the warm colors I saw yesterday.  (The best colors are always before the sun rises.  The best sunset colors show up after the sun sets.)

Sunrise over Puget Sound June 19.
I believe this is an immature White-Crowned sparrow.


Rhododendron bloom on Mount Walker.

June 5

We spent the day exploring the west edge of the Hood Canal. We set out in search of Eagles and found some. Mostly, the Eagles were soaring over the side of the mountain but one adult sat in a tree nearby and one Juvenile did a fly by.

Immature Bald Eagle.

We drive to the top of Mount Walker and there were lots of rhododendrons in bloom. When we got to the top and had to walk a short way from the car to the viewpoint, Regis had to point out that he saw more rhododendrons in bloom in that short space than our entire 3 mile walk the other day. The blooms are beautiful. There are foxgloves blooming and some yellow flowers beginning to burst into bloom everywhere. Spring is a lovely time to be here.

View south from Mount Walker.

From the south viewpoint, we could see Seattle in the distance. From the north viewpoint, we could see Port Townsend, Whidbey Island, and Mount Baker. It was pretty cool to get a view from above of the places we will soon be visiting.

View of Seattle from Mount Walker.
View of Mount Baker from Mount Walker.

While Dart and I were walking today, we found an injured mouse. The mouse’s leg was broken. I called my friend Melody who knows how to rehabilitate wildlife and she told me how to help the little mouse. Regis and I were going to have to perform surgery, but we had the tools to do it. We never got that far. I tried to give it water but it was so weak by then, it couldn’t drink it. Sadly, the little mouse didn’t live long. The mouse may have had internal injuries. I’m guessing it was hit by a car.

Rhododendron bloom on Mount Walker.

Dart’s Favorite Hike

Dart resting in the snow during a hike.

We hiked on the Mt. Ellinor Trail #812 today. We went to the upper trailhead to get us closer to the top of the mountain before starting out. There is a summer route and a winter route. The Forest Service information kiosk said hikers should take the summer route but there is snow. This hike is 1.6 miles to the top with a 2,444 foot change in elevation. As we started, a young couple passed us carrying ice axes. I was concerned.

Dart was able to walk off leash. In this National Forest, your dog does not have to be on a leash as long as they are under your control. Dart does much better off leash. He is not anxious and is very friendly. He handles people and other dogs very well when he is not on a leash. He doesn’t chase animals and easily sticks to the trail. When we are all trail walking together, Regis is usually in front and I lag behind. Dart feels his job is to keep us together. He likes to hang out with Regis in the front but gets concerned when I lag too far behind and stops and waits for me. I’m sure he wishes I would keep up. Part of my problem is that I’m not as fast as Regis, but the other problem is that I stop to look at interesting plants and other things along the way.

There was snow at the higher elevations and I think some folks were still taking the winter route which required some climbing gear. We had good boots on so we attempted to make some progress through the snow. As soon as we got to the snow, Dart went nuts. He ran around, jumped up and down, and barked. He was ecstatic. It’s been years since he’s been in the snow and Regis and I can’t remember him acting this way. I guess he misses snow. I got a short video below.

Dart and Regis taking the summer route on the Mt. Ellinor Trail in the Olympic National Forest.

We made it to a beautiful lookout and stopped to rest. Dart was very happy. He laid in the snow and took in the view before concentrating on the trail and looking for other hikers. The temperature was in the 50’s which was very comfortable for Dart. Regis and I were happy with it also.

We could see Mount Ranier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens in the distance. We saw the Hood Canal and Puget Sound. It was a little hazy, so the mountains in the distance were barely visible. The view was astonishing.

The highest point we reached on the Mt. Ellinor Trail. Regis is getting Dart a bowl of water but he preferred to eat the snow where he was resting.

We decided not to go further up the mountain because it was mostly snow and we didn’t have walking sticks or ski poles to help keep us from slipping. Dart had no trouble. It was harder going down. A sled would have come in handy. Dart kept going down so fast that he would crash into Regis.

View of Mt. Ranier in the distance from Mt. Ellinor.

When we got back to the campground, the temperature was in the upper 60’s so we decided to go kayaking on the lake. We left Dart in the RV to sleep. When we got back, Dart could hardly move he was so stiff. I know what that feels like. Once he got moving though, he was okay.

But, what comes with melting snow is mud. Dart got very muddy. And, he just had a nice bath a few days ago and he looked so good. I stuck him in our tiny shower and washed his feet and underside. Tomorrow, I plan to trim some of that beautiful hair so we don’t have to bring so much of the mountain back with us to camp when we hike on muddy trails.

Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon

(This post was written Friday June 1 but couldn’t be posted until we drove to town today to get internet access.)

We accomplished everything we set out to do while in Portland. I wound up buying 14 books when I went to Powell’s so I had to leave before I got out of the first room or I would have had to take out a loan to get out of the store. After purchasing too many books, I went to pick up the donuts and the line was amazing. Nevertheless, I hung in there and got Buttermilk, Horchata, Creme Brulee, Meyer’s Lemon and Key Lime, and Sugar and Cinnamon. I didn’t want Regis to fight with me over the Horchata, so I gobbled it up before he could see it was an option. Yum!

We took a side trip to Cannon Beach on the Pacific Coast. It was lovely and I tried to take pictures of the birds on Haystock Rock. Just as I got started, ALL (probably several thousand) the Common Murre’s on the rock decided to depart at the same time. It was amazing to watch. We had know idea there so many birds up there. I’ve included a picture below showing a closeup of the rock and then I enlarged a small section just so you can see how densely packed the Murres were.

Birds on Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Common Murres close-up from the middle right of the picture above.
Common Murres leaving Haystack Rock to head out over the Pacific Ocean.

After the trek on the beach, we had lunch at an amazing restaurant at an inn. The food was incredible. We visited Cannon Beach many years ago and all I can remember is the food. This is why. Cannon Beach has the best food.

What Regis had for lunch at Cannon Beach.

We stayed on an island in the Columbia River that was part of Portland. I never heard a bird. I heard planes, trains, and toots from boats. It was a busy place. It was ok for a few days but I prefer to listen to the birds instead of the planes, etc.

We are now on the eastern side of the Olympic Mountains but west of the Hood Canal. It’s more remote than I expected. We arrived on Thursday to a mostly empty campground nestled in the woods next to Lake Cushman. We have no cell phone service at the campground. Lot’s of the land west of us is wilderness area.

It’s in the 50’s during the day. We can launch kayaks from the campground but I’m still not ready to kayak in cold weather. I have a wet suit, so we’ll likely do it before we leave. Regis says he has no intention of getting wet, so he doesn’t need a wet suit. I want to make sure we go out on a calm lake to minimize our chance of getting into trouble.

The other thing that is intimidating is the mountain that is right across the lake from the campground. Although the picture below has it almost hidden in clouds, you can still see the snow.

Snow capped mountain by Lake Cushman on the Olympic Peninsula.

I heard owls last night, not planes!!! And, today is Friday and the campground appears to be filling up for the week-end. The ranger went around putting reservation signs up and they are on almost all the sites.

I’ve already come up with a longer list of things to do than the days we’ll be here. We picked out a hike to the top of a mountain that is supposed to have meadows, forests, and nice views. Plus, we can take Dart since it is in the National Forest, not the National Park. We think it is either next to that snow covered mountain or is that snow covered mountain. There is a winter route and a summer route. I think because of the time of year, we’re in the middle of the two. If we can’t take the summer route, we’ll likely not go the whole way. The weather status at the ranger station included an avalanche warning, so the winter route is out.

We’ve walked Dart through the campground several times and with so few campers, it has been a breeze. Dart has the placed scoped, so now any changes will bother him. I tried to take him for a walk this afternoon after some new campers showed up and he was not happy they were there. He barked and growled. They weren’t there last time so they do not belong as far as he’s concerned. Jeez! With all these reservations showing the new folks coming in, tomorrow morning is going to be a disaster.

Where’s Dart (2018-3)?

Where’s Dart (2018-3)? River and mountain.

Where’s Dart?  Can you name the river and the mountain? This little dog is quite the traveler!

Note:  Last year we purchased an unlimited data plan from Verizon and it has made our traveling life so much better.  Most campgrounds that offer WIFI do not offer a service that is useful.  Unfortunately, we have used enough bandwidth this month that Verizon has slowed us down, but it’s still workable.  At this campground, I can’t get logged onto the campground WIFI option and we have a VERY weak cell phone signal (outside a BIG city).  Regis purchased something to boost the signal.  It is working well enough.  I won’t be doing much internet browsing in this campground, but I can do what I need to do.


3,117 Miles So Far

Dart relaxing after a long day driving. I don’t think he sleeps when the motor home is moving.  

We have driven 3,117 miles in the motor home since leaving St. Augustine, Florida and have about 600 miles to go before we can start exploring more than driving.  Wahoo!  I’m sure Dart will be happy also.

Janene mentioned in a comment about how beautiful this country is and we thoroughly agree.  There is beauty in almost every place that we go.  This country is fun to explore because there is so much diversity in the landscape, wildlife, flora, and people.  It’s hard to imagine you could ever be done exploring.  Canada is also beautiful and when you add the U.S. and Canada together, I won’t live long enough to see it all.  But, I intend to enjoy every bit of what I can explore.

We drove through part of the Rockies today so there was a lot of driving slowly up a mountain to careen (well maybe not careen but sometimes it felt like it) down the other side.   It is more unnerving to me to go down the steep mountains in a motor home pulling a tow vehicle than it is in a car.

We arrived at the Missoula KOA campground at 12:40.  They charged us an extra $20 for checking in early.  In four years of camping in the U.S. and Canada in commercial and public campgrounds, no one has ever asked up to pay a fee to check in early.  The campground was mostly empty, so it was aggravating.  I guess it is something I should pay attention to, but it has never been a problem to us.  I am thankful that 99% of the campgrounds we go to are not a problem or it would make our traveling much more complicated.  Had I thought about it, we would have driven to the local Walmart for 2 hours and caught up on our grocery shopping and then come back to check in.  This is our 3rd and last time at the Missoula KOA.  They certainly have a right to charge, but after driving almost 300 miles and being ready to stop for the day, it’s discouraging.

Dart, the motor home, and the Jeep desperately need baths.  We hope to get everything cleanup once we get to Vancouver, Washington.  We want to look our best when we see our son Jason again.

Devil’s Tower

Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.
Dart at Devil’s Tower National Monument.

Dart was at Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  It was a beautiful drive from Rapid City, South Dakota to Devil’s Tower.  The grass was very green so it looked lush.  We saw Pronghorn’s and Deer on the way.

We have a great view of Devil’s Tower from our campsite.  After we set up and got lunch, we drove to the Tower.  Dart is not allowed on any of the trails, so there wasn’t much we could do besides stop and look at the Tower from different angles.  We saw several climbers.

Climbers on Devils Tower. There is one (orange) just to the top right of the Tower and another one (dark clothes) half way down.

We stopped at the Prairie Dog town on the way back from the Tower.  These Prairie Dog’s look much healthier than the ones we saw in the Badlands.  I was hoping to see some babies but I guess they are in the burrows or haven’t been born yet.  This one female looked like she’s been nursing or is getting ready.

Female Prairie Dog at Devil’s Tower. Notice her long toe nails.
Prairie Dog at Devil’s Tower.

We spent a major part of the afternoon watching the climbers from our campsite.  You need some optics to see them.  We have a scope, so Regis set it up and gave me updates on the progress of each of the climbers.  They were named by the color of their clothes.  I occasionally watched with the binoculars, but mostly just enjoyed the weather and tried to identify the local birds.

Climbers at Devil’s Tower as photographed by a cell phone through the scope.
Flowers at Devil’s Tower.

We have to be in Vancouver, Washington (just north of Portland, Oregon) by Sunday so there will be no dallying between here and there.