Seattle Area to Visit a Friend

I left the campground early in the morning and stopped a few places during my 3 hour drive to Seattle. I chose not to take a ferry so I could see the countryside …. more tall trees and the bay shoreline! Point Defiance Park was my first destination. It is a beautiful park with a 5 mile drive, a hiking trail through the park, a rhododendron garden, zoo, aquarium and Owen Beach.

Seeing various towns always makes me wonder, why do people live here? Some people love the crowded busy areas, others like the rural quieter placesI, and often there is someplace in-between! Some are water people and others are mountain people. This area is definitely for water lovers. I drove along the shoreline of Commencement Bay and stopped south of Point Ruston. And for us mountain lovers, here I got my first glimpse of Mount Rainier! No plan to visit it this adventure. Now I was arriving into more populous areas and traffic! The Port of Tacoma is an industrial-looking area as one looks at barges and cranes in the port.

Mount Rainier

It was wonderful to visit with a Seattle friend I had not seen in a few years. How could I not love relaxing, drinking wine, eating home-cooked meals, doing laundry, not driving, watching tennis on tv, and simply enjoying my friend’s positive energy. We visited Richmond Beach Saltwater Park and Carkeek Park; however, only the usual gulls and crows were around. And that was okay. Walking and talking, and not driving, had its value for me! My water-loving friend lives where she can sail her boat … perfect!

After a few days, I was back on the road driving across the state of Washington. From the cool temperatures of the Olympic Peninsula to 30 degree higher temperatures of Spokane Valley. The very tall trees were left behind to lots and lots of hay being grown in this state. Plenty of wind for the windmills I saw, and then more hay! I knew I was close to a large city when an Amazon distribution center was a short distance off the interstate. Welcome to Spokane! My campground was a few more miles down the road in Spokane Valley.

Part 3 of 3: To the NW edge of the USA!

Olympic National Park is huge and definitely needing more than 3 days to visit it all on our NW edge of the USA. On this day I drove to Cape Flattery. Between where I was camping and the cape, I stopped at a few viewpoints. The town of Sekiu overlooks the Strait of Juan Fuca. Many marinas, fishing boats and people out on the water, along with gulls and cormorants. 

There are eight Native American tribes associated with the park. For my visit to Cape Flattery I needed to purchase a recreational permit to park in the lots and hike in the area. The Makah tribe live in this area. There are many signs to remind visitors of the importance in purchasing a permit so the trails are maintained. From the trail head to the ocean is a .6 mile hike through tall trees, much vegetation and on wooden pathways in some sections. 

Tall trees and everything is green.
Along the coast at the cape.
Weathered limestone leaves sea caves under the cape.

There are gray whales, sea otters and a variety of birds along the NW edge of the USA: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The lands and waters are managed and protected by Makahs who work with the sanctuary to protect the waters and coastline.

I drove to ShiShi Beach further down the coastline. Arriving late in the day made me realize there was no way to hike the one way 2.5 mile trail to the ocean. I wanted to be back in daylight for my long ride to the campground. I had stopped between the cape and here which burned up time. Here are photos of the area. Many backpackers were about to start their hike to ShiShi Beach to camp for the night.

Coastline just north of ShiShi Beach

On my 3.5 hour drive back to the campground, I stopped at a couple of the Discovery Trail trailheads. If I had more time here I would have bicycled some of the segments of the trail. Eventually the trail will be 130 miles long from Port Townsend to LaPush. LaPush is the beach I visited a couple of days ago on the Pacific Ocean. Someday I will return and visit more areas of Olympic National Park. Tomorrow I am on my way to visit a Seattle area friend.

Remember the cougar info when back to bicycle ride in the area.

Part 2 of 3: Another Day in Olympic National Park 

After a leisurely start to this day, I was on the Hurricane Ridge trails in Olympic National Park. It is a beautiful drive up to this point with many viewpoints along the way. Crazy bicyclists ride up the 18 mile road and then speed down it … reminds me of the Mount Lemmon riders in Tucson, Arizona.

On the Meadow Trail, I saw my first black-tailed deer and then a young one as I hiked up to Sunrise Point. The trails are very easy to hike and the area is simply beautiful. Once upon a time there was an operating ski lift and skiing!

Mount Olympus in that range

Mount Olympus, I think the highest mountain peak here, was behind clouds most of the time. Glacier melt on some of the other mountains the past decades was very obvious according to the signposts and my photo.

Black-tailed deer
Gradual trail up to Sunrise Point

Next stop: Storm King Ranger Station.

From here I had more views of Lake Crescent and took a 1.5 mile hike to Marymere Falls which is also in Olympic National Park. I loved hiking through the very tall trees and seeing the falls, especially since water was flowing!

Marymere Falls

After food shopping in Sequim, WA, I visited the Dungeness Spit. There was a nice trail through the trees and then onto the spit. I heard birds in the woods, but not many easily seen. Many people were walking along the spit with its sand and driftwood on the shore. On my way back to my van, I walked with a family that just moved from Indiana to the Seattle, Washington area. Always interesting to hear another’s story.

One side of Dungeness Spit, Sequim, WA

Part 1 of 3: Visit Olympic National Park in Washington State!

There’s a long bridge between Astoria, Oregon into Washington state. As I drove across the bridge, I realized my west coast visit was continuing with misty fog into the next state! Is there any other weather happening on the Pacific Northwest coast? The good news: my front windshield is so clean!

Highway 101 is closer to the Oregon coast. Where fog lifted, I saw waves and shoreline, but not at Cannon Beach so I skipped that visit. In Washington, Highway 101 is further from the coast with plenty of trees between me and the coast. When along the shore, it is mostly mudflats. I visited Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge in Hoquiam, Washington. Walking the boardwalk with a couple from San Diego helped me enjoy and pass the time since few birds were in the area.

My first stop at Olympic National Park: Lake Quinault. There are 4 rainforests in the park and this is one. Here I visit the world’s record oldest sitka spruce tree. This tree is 1,000 years old and people standing at its trunk are puny compared to the tree’s girth. The branch that fell off the tree has been determined to be 400 years old, wow! 

1000 year old Sitka spruce tree
Branch fell off…it is 400 years old!

This park has 4 rainforests: Quinault, Hoh, Queets and Bogachiel. They are moderate temperate rainforests, different from tropical rainforests. When I climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro years ago, one of the biomes you trek through is tropical rainforest. Being close to the equator, it was a hot moist area with dense vegetation where rains fall year-round. The moderate temperate rainforests in the northwest USA coastal areas also have dense vegetation with milder temperatures and seasonal rainfall. Everywhere you look, there are beautiful, huge trees! The misty fog certainly provides moisture for these trees to grow. There are also many beautiful ferns, wildflowers, fungi and goatsbeard lichen which hangs from the tree’s branches. 

Goatsbeard lichen

My next stop was to be the Hoh Rainforest; however, it was not to be. With its small parking lot, park officials monitor the number of cars in the lot so there is no gridlock. I did not want to wait an hour or more hoping others would be leaving the area. I continued miles down the road to La Push Beach. With three beaches in this area, people park their vehicle, walk to the beach and I suspect many stay for the day. I went to First Beach and had my lunch after walking the area. Here are photos from this beach:

First beach at LaPush

Most people are stopping at various vistas and hiking trails as I am. For others, their visit is a backpacking or bicycling trip through the area. The hiking trails vary in their steepness and the road through the park is not the easiest to cycle. After few hour’s drive, I decided to stretch my legs near Lake Crescent. Amazingly I saw an American dipper playing around in the lake’s edge! This is a new bird for me:

American dipper

Highway 101 is right through Port Angeles, a busy sea port with ferry service to Victoria Canada. I checked out the waterfront and spent little time in the city. My campground was about 10 miles away and I was ready to end this day. I had been traveling 11 hours … driving and sightseeing all on the park’s west side. Already I am realizing I needed to plan more days to visit this park.

Time in Tillamook, Oregon

Two nights I camp south of Tillamook, actually in Waldport, and one “Harvest Host” night in Tillamook; I’ll explain. I chose the Waldport/Newport KOA to allow me to view the Oregon coast and bird watch. The next day I checked out the coast and bird watched north of the KOA. I drove about 45 minutes from the campground stopping at numerous locations. Oregon State Parks provide many waysides, recreational parks and viewpoints for viewing the coast and/or access to the beach. I stopped at many of them!

Three places I saw birds, I did record birds into eBird. At Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, I saw the 1870’s oldest Oregon lighthouse and a harlequin duck. Unfortunately it is not breeding season so sort of drab looking bird. At Yachats State Park I saw a surf scoter. I mention these birds because they were new ones for me. There were plenty of other birds on my list for eBird. Look closely as the birds in the photos below are 2 different birds… the challenge of bird watching!

Harlequin duck
A surf scoter bill helps identify this bird.
Oregon’s oldest lighthouse is in Newport, OR

I love cheese and ice cream!

The next day I drove just under 2 hours to take a self-guided tour at Tillamook’s Creamery, Tillamook, Oregon. All visitors received 3 sample cheeses before watching the cheese business from start to finish. You literally are watching the employees at the various stations completing the make the cheese to packaging to shipping process. There is also a video explaining the ice cream making process. This company is 80 farming families, thus a farmer-owned co-op. My research indicates the local happy cows are a small part of the milk production. The many cows Tillamook needs are at a mega-dairy factory farm in eastern Oregon …hmmm … interesting. I did enjoy my chocolate chip ice cream.

What’s Harvest Host?

My next stop was Bay Ocean Peninsula Park to bird watch. I did see 2 new birds: 3 California gulls and 2 Pacific wrens. Then I headed to Blue Heron Cheese Factory. I told you I love cheese so I bought cheese curds and a mini camembert cheese, plus other items. Blue Heron Cheese Factory is a Harvest Host.

I bought an annual Harvest host membership. This allows me to park my van on their farm field, or at any reserved Harvest Host location, and spend the recommended $20 per stay which may be only allow a night or two. Campers must be self-contained. There is no water, electricity, septic, and you need to collect your grey water and cannot cook outdoors. Basically it is a place to park for the night inexpensively. I spent more than $20 by the time I bought cheese, clam chowder soup and half a sandwich. Blue Heron’s property had farm animals, old tractors, and plenty of grass to accommodate 50 campers. It was quiet during the night. The rooster crowed at 5:30am. No problem. I had a long drive the next day to begin my exploration of Washington’s Olympic National Park. I was on my way by 6:00am.

Another note about Harvest Host: the host may be a winery, brewery, church, alpaca farm, lavender farm, many places. The membership includes a great website to book a reservation at the last minute or schedule ahead. This was my first experience and it was a good one.

Am I There Yet? The Oregon Coast!

Many miles to drive before I sleep to arrive at the Oregon coast. I am here days later from Arizona! While on the road, I stayed a night in Garberville, CA where many straight and tall redwood trees stand … wow … they are magnificent.

I did drive hundreds of miles, some on boring interstates and others on twisty, winding rural roads to finally arrive on the coast! Traffic jams are annoying  and I can never figure out what caused the bottleneck ahead of me. When I get to the supposed jam, there seems to be no reason for any back-up!

I try to stop every couple of hours, basically to stretch my body. Sometimes there is a photo-op, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the Lone Sailor statue, a half hour nap thanks to that bed in my van, or a chai latte and cream donut to bring on a sugar spark. I listen to audiobooks for a couple of hours, then music, then news if an interesting piece is reported.

Golden Gate Bridge

The photo below is the memorial, The Lone Sailor, at the northern end of the Golden Gate. It is here where every person in the Marine Corp, Merchant Marine, Coast Guard and Navy would see this spot as they leave and return from service. 

There has to be wildlife sightings:

Near the Benbow Historic Inn, I found an active pair of acorn woodpeckers. The pair were caring for young within the tree trunk.

Acorn woodpecker by entrance to nest within tree trunk.
Two woodpeckers at the nest and screaming young within.

Elk signs are everywhere and seeing them was a treat even if roadside:



I am looking out on the Pacific Ocean from the Oregon coast. The mist seems to hang all morning before the sun comes through. It is cool, very windy and beautiful. I am driving along Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Bike Route. A number of bicyclists are braving the hills, long distances between towns, and unbelievable wind. I say that because as I took some of the photos below, I could barely stand up! A bicycle with full panniers would be like a wall for the wind to push against and while the cyclist holds tight to stay upright. I notice the bike lane is available and sometimes wider on the coast side which makes sense since most cyclists ride north to south. Where the road is too narrow the north-bound bike lane is small or not there at all.

Van Conversion with New Ideas

Each time I travel with my RAM Promaster 1500 low roof van, I seem to think of new ideas or projects. If you missed my earlier blogs about my converting this cargo van to a travel van, click here.

Two easy things to do…

One of my easiest ideas: purchasing 2 YETI Hopper Flip 8 Soft Coolers. I store what I plan to eat within the next day or so in one cooler. It sits on one of my sliding drawers in the back of the van. Remember the day of installing the sliding drawers? Here’s that van conversion work at this link. The other cooler holds food I plan to eat in a few days. It sits in the interior of the van. As a result, everything stays cold longer. The big plus is not needing to buy ice so often! With both coolers I have a foil piece on the inside cover of the cooler (those you receive perishables in from some companies). I like the foil also to separate some items I do not need on ice, but still to be kept cool.

Cooler with foil piece

The other ridiculously easy idea was to dry sweaty stuff. I do have a clothesline along my bed’s edge and I can string another line from one part of the interior roof to another. But the small items like bike gloves and socks were always falling off the clothesline, until I realized another idea! I flipped my small camp chair over and hung items there. Perfect!

Small stuff dry here!

Other ideas combine here….

My travel van has no additional heat, air conditioning or electrical outlet and all of that is okay. I refer to my van as a “glorified tent” because my sleeping area is above where my bicycle is mounted and no tent could accomplish that. You may remember my sleeping area is screened in. If not, check this link.

I began to think about charging my portable power station: a Goal Zero Yeti 150 while at a campground since electrical hookup is available and I like to plug my electronics into it while out in the field. Yet I did not want to be carrying the 12 pound power station around just to charge it at the campground. Could I find a place to keep it in my van and still plug in at the campground?

I realized some nights are very warm in the van and I may even have hotter nights to come. How could I charge my Goal Zero and run a small fan to move the air across my sleeping area? After some thought and purchase of a fan, an electrical extension cord, and some small hooks, I had an idea. I would run the electrical cord under my bed, on the side of the van where most campgrounds have their electrical post, and connect with my Goal Zero. My power station will sit on the bench I built inside the van. The fan is velcro-ed to the wall of the van and plugged into my Goal Zero. My needs have been met!

Electrical cord along the side of van and blue bag holds the bulk of the cord.
The fan blows over the bed and its cord goes down to Goal Zero.

Do I have a trip coming up? Yes … on the road to northwest USA! Follow my travels here at or maybe I will see you down the road! Safe travels all!

Bike and Bird Watch!

When I travel, bicycle riding an area new to me is simple joy. This is the main reason I built an area in my van for my bicycle and gear. Plus, cycling gets me from one place to another faster than walking. The downside to cycling, especially when  birds are in the area, is to observe them while pedaling, especially those flying overhead. I often take time to slow down and observe them. So far, no bicycle accidents while birding!

(This reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a guy wearing the other day, “Sorry I am late, I saw a dog”. A shirt appropriate for me, “Sorry I am late, I saw a bird”. I wonder if anyone makes that shirt?)

Recently I was bicycling around Mission Bay in San Diego, California. The eleven mile bike path winds through parks and passes nearby housing and resorts so an 8 mph bike speed is recommended. Many people were at the beaches, the playgrounds, on the water in all kinds of watercraft, and also pedaling various wheeled vehicles on the bike path.

I like the bike rack!
Paddleboards and boats of all sizes were on the bay, plus swimmers at beaches.

Most of the bike path is not near the bay water’s edge; however, a short section parallels the San Diego River estuary. I saw 3 birds standing on a construction roll where bridge work was happening. The birds were the same type of bird but I could only say they were herons. I photographed them, identified them later in the day, and they were little blue herons! Another new bird for my life list!

They look like herons… but which species?
Little blue heron
I moved closer to photo this bird with hopes it would not fly off.

Most funny moment on this bicycle ride: seeing a jogger with his dog wearing large, sport, mirrored sunglasses! Important to protect eyes! What a fun bicycle ride with a new bird observed and photographed!

Black Oystercatcher Search; Yes, It’s a Bird!

It’s been more than a month since seeing a new bird for my life list. With my desire for cooler daytime air temperature, I headed to California’s San Diego area. Dreams of cool ocean breezes, riding my bicycle or walking the beaches to find a black oystercatcher were on my mind for this quick trip to the west coast.

Along the west coast are numerous beaches. Bird watchers reported seeing one or two black oystercatchers along the coast. The chances of me seeing the bird? Honestly slim when only one or two birds are seen!

Learn About the Bird …

Before the trip, I wanted to learn all I could about the bird. Where do they hang out? What do they eat? I sketched the bird so its body shape and colors were in my head. I cannot miss their long red bill and how they carry themself. Black oystercatchers eat mussels so I look for them too. These birds do not eat oysters, but in 1731 an English naturalist observed the bird eating oysters so named it so.

My sketch of a black oystercatcher

Where is the bird?

For a few days, I walked the beaches from north of Dana Point Harbor to La Jolla Cove area of San Diego. At some sites, I went a second time at a different time of day. Just by chance I was looking at a Google map where another person reported, via the eBird website, seeing 2 black oystercatchers a few days prior. It was a beach site, just a stone’s throw, south of my more southern area of observations. So I went there!

Everyone is at the beaches this summer. I’m the only one walking along with camera and binoculars so I am often asked questions: what am I photographing, what is that bird over there, what do I hope to see, and I hear their stories. One man and I were talking about the gulls acting like they own the beach. He told me of a young gull walking right into his hotel  room here by the beach. We laughed as he wished me luck finding a black oystercatcher.

The Search Continued for the black oystercatcher …

As I was heading back to my van, especially since a local person reminded me I can only park for 2 hours at the spot I was in, I thought it would be crazy for any bird except seagulls to be hanging around on a beach with all these people. So I walked even further from people when I noticed a body shape and color not like a gull. I thought I was dreaming, strongly hoping, wanting to envision the bird and in actuality it really did look like a black oystercatcher! 

Expecting most of my photos to be the beach, surfers and overall scenery, I did not have my longer telephoto lens on my camera. I walked slowly and with no flurry of activity as I took photos. Creeping ever so close to not disturb the bird, yet also making it possible for me to capture a photo worthy of some editing for a good final photo. I could not believe it, the bird looked one way and then another so I could take a few photos. When I looked down at my phone to drop a pin for location, the bird flew off. That was it! I had my observation, my photos and the bird was gone! Amazing luck!

Black oystercatcher!
Shellfish these birds eat

I saw the black oystercatcher at Cuvier Park, also called Coastal Boulevard Park, just south of the more popular La Jolla Cove in California where brown pelicans and seals are seen by thousands of visitors. No one else on this beach saw this black oystercatcher … I could not believe it … yet I saw it! My search is over. Someday I hope to see 2 black oystercatchers feeding on a mussel because I would like to see how they do it. Until then, I’m good!

Surfer was fun to watch
Black oystercatcher before flying off!

Desert Towns: Yuma & El Centro on I-8

First, a television report caught my attention: “1500 18-wheeler trucks leave here per day with produce”. Which desert town? Was it Yuma, Arizona or El Centro, California? Second, I had plans to travel to the San Diego, California area in search of a seashore bird: the black oystercatcher. I had never stopped in Yuma or El Centro when driving Interstate 8 to the west coast, so I decided now was as good a time as any to do so.

Learning about desert town: Yuma, Arizona

Attention speeding drivers: lesson learned without getting a ticket, but I saw others be pulled over. Watch your driving speed; 75 mph on the interstate in Arizona, but when close to Yuma it is 65 mph with plenty of police to catch you if you are speeding. Amazing the number of them I saw.

Guinness World Records listed Yuma, Arizona as the “sunniest city on earth”. Sunshine and warm temperatures 91% of the year is where thousands of RVers visit in the winter months! More importantly, ninety percent of all leafy vegetables are grown November to March in this county. When we eat a salad in the winter, the greens were grown here, the “Winter Lettuce Capital of the World”, Yuma Arizona.

While driving the interstate, even in summer, I saw local feedlots with as many as 120,000 heads of beef cattle. Date trees, especially Medjool dates, grow here along with over 100 other crops. Researching info for this post I discover kosher wheat is cultivated here since kosher rules dictate the wheat is not to receive additional moisture immediately prior to harvesting. Interesting; I never knew!

My arrival to this city is late in the day since I knew it would be desert dry heat hot. West Wetlands Park is on the Colorado River. My hope is to know something about it for future bird watching and/or need to take a driving break. People/swimmers at the river’s edge, on Centennial Beach, told me the water was cold. Compared to the hot air temperature it was refreshing. River tubing looked like great fun too! There is a hiking/biking trail for my future use. On this day, I only walked a short distance because of the heat and time of day. I still needed to get to El Centro.

West Wetlands Park in Yuma, Arizona

Learning about desert town: El Centro, California

Back on the interstate, a Border patrol checkpoint is at the Arizona/California border. At various places look south to see the border wall in the distance. A half hour from the checkpoint about 15 people apprehended by Border Patrol. The people were sitting on the ground probably to wait for transport since no way all could fit in 2 patrol cars. One Border Patrol person using binoculars was checking the hills. I have mentioned this before, it is not difficult to climb over the border wall. The difficulty is surviving in 100 degree dry desert heat! Getting found probably saves their lives.

While driving to Bucklin Park, I notice food processing places for the thousands of acres of winter vegetables produced in this area. This is an arid region, less than 3 inches of rain per year, with summer temperatures around 107 degrees Fahrenheit. I am escaping to San Diego’s mid-70 temperatures! 

Most visitors to this desert area ride off-road vehicles at Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in the winter months (some dunes are over 300 feet) or visit the Salton Sea area further north from here. I took a quick walk in the heat of summer at Bucklin Park. Few others, people or birds, were here. I’ll note the park’s location in case any interesting birds are reported to fly through here this winter.

Bucklin Park in El Centro, California

Driving Beyond El Centro to the San Diego area

It would be interesting to understand the geology of this varied desert landscape – some below sea level, or once bubbling now solidified rock formations, or the sand dunes. Solar panels cover acres of land, as do gigantic windmills near mountain passes. Road signs let drivers know gusts of wind and sand are possible even in areas where there are no windmills. At another place signs tell us to turn off our vehicle’s air conditioning so the radiator does not overheat. For those who do not, water stations are along that 10 mile stretch of road. 

Sand dunes

Finally near the San Diego area, plants are green and the ocean water is welcoming. I arrive … and so did everyone else … hotels and campgrounds are busy and roads are full off traffic, but we are all here for the morning fog, cool daytime temperature and ocean water … at least I am! (This blog post is not meant to tell you everything about Yuma or El Centro; visit each when you can. Happy and safe travels to you.)

West coast of the USA!