Trail of the Falls

No rain this morning, hooray!! After the weather we’ve seen thus far I didn’t hold out much hope that it would be a good day, weather wise. We dressed in full rain gear and carried an extra poncho . . . just in case. I had hoped that the falls would be spectacular because of the amount of recent rainfall and the warming temperatures bringing on the snowmelt. We were not disappointed AND the countless lower woodland wildflowers were beginning to show their colors.

Wildflowers along the Falls Trail

The weather was perfect for hiking so we walked the mile from the campground to the Trail of Waterfalls and started out on the Canyon Trail to pass under the beautiful 171’ South Falls, an awesome feeling to walk under this fall of water spilling over a rock cliff high above. Hiking down the canyon next up was Lower South Falls a 93’ cascade that we walked behind to continue on the trail, breathtaking! Another mile through the canyon to Lower North Falls a short 30’ drop but a wide falls, beautiful. From here there is a short spur trail that takes you to Double Falls 178’ drop in all with a second cascade starting about 2/3 of the way down. Still no rain! We stopped here and sat by a bridge at the top of Lower North Falls for a rest, a little snack and to enjoy the sound of the water pouring over the falls. Next came Drake Falls a mere 27’ this one with a viewing platform over the edge of the river. Middle North Falls was next, another stunning 106’ cascade and where we had to decide to continue on the last loop and three more falls or take a short cut back along the rim trail. We opted for the rim trail but first Winter Falls spilling 134’ in a spectacular cascade off the rim of canyon. The rim trail took us through quiet forest marks of downed trees here and there and scattered branches everywhere but the trail was actually in good condition save for one muddy stretch where a large tree had made it’s mark on earth, landing across the path.

South Falls

Lower South Falls

Drake Falls

Lower North Falls

Middle North Falls

Winter Falls

By the time we reached the van we had logged 7 miles, a bit much for our first hike but the falls are seductive and keep you moving.

The Canyon Trail is not a difficult trail, mostly flat with a few ups and downs and there were spots that were quite muddy this time of year, turning some of the tennis shoe hikers back. We also slogged through areas where there had been a lot of trees downed in the Friday windstorm but otherwise it was good hiking.

We took our time along the trail and stopped often for shots of the different falls and, of course, the wildflowers. I was pretty tired by 6 miles but we still had a mile back to the campground and a light rain had just started. I put my camera away and protected my pack, we arrived back at camp tired and a little damp but stimulated and inspired by the gorgeous hike and breathing in the fresh, clean air, thinking why don’t we do this more often?

Caution signs on a bike trail

All in all we felt extremely lucky to have a mostly rain-free day with the exception of the last mile and happily we had dressed for the mud and rain so it was not a big deal. Great day!

Back at the van we were pooped but not too pooped to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne to celebrate being back on the road again and to celebrate a beautiful day of hiking; I wonder how I will feel tomorrow . . .

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On the road again . . .

On 9 days behind schedule but we finally pulled out of the driveway around 1:00 p.m. heading to points south with a goal of Yosemite National Park. We have until the end of the month before we need to be home and this first week the weather does not promise to be much more than rain, no matter whether we take the coastal route, go straight down I-5 or even head to the eastside of the Cascades which also threatens rain/snow. For now we opt for the shortest distance, straight down I-5 as far as Salem or Roseburg and then look at the weather forecast.

 

It was a little disconcerting to see two of the campgrounds along I-5 south of Olympia closed but Seaquest State Park, gateway to Mt. St. Helens was open so that’s where we decided to go, only 5 miles off the freeway it would be easy enough to turn around if we didn’t like it. As we pulled into the camping area we noticed a lot of tree limbs and branches scattered about in fact we backed out of the first camping loop because of the amount of debris on the roadway. A ranger was clearing one of the roads so we stopped and talked to make sure the campground was open for business. He said they had experienced 60 mph winds on Friday, lost 7 trees and countless limbs large and small. He had one section of the roadway cleared so we opted to camp the night in the full hook-up area where it had been cleared.

We set up camp and took a walk through the destruction, what a mess! Exploring one of the closed loops you could barely see the picnic tables. I wanted to see if we could get to the lake without running across a busy highway and sure enough there was an underpass that led to a beautiful walkway through the marshes with a great view across the lake to snow-capped Mt. St. Helens. I had not brought my camera but tried to capture it with the cell phone, not the same.

Water Lily

The Visitor Center was closed by this time but we may stop in the morning and I saw a group of trillium that I would like to shoot with my “real” camera tomorrow.

Trillium

Back in camp another trailer had arrived and we stopped to chat, a nice couple of Mukilteo out on their maiden voyage with a brand new trailer. They invited us over but by the time we finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen it was getting dark and had started to drizzle, maybe we will see them in the morning.

Hell’s Canyon

Neither of us has ever been to Hell’s Canyon and since we are close it seemed like a good time to take a quick look before we head into the Palouse.

As it happens, we met a couple in Central America who live in Clarkston WA, just across the Snake River from where we intend to camp, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company while south of the border so I contacted them before leaving home to see if we could get together for a drink or dinner. Our timing was good, they were in town, available and graciously invited us to dinner at their house even though they were busy getting ready to leave on an extended family trip to Africa in a few days.

It was such a fun evening, lots of reminiscing, lots of laughing, good wine and a fantastic meal.  It’s too bad they live on the other side of the state but we are hoping that they will stop by this summer en route to Mt. Rainier.

We camped at Hell’s Gate State Park in Lewiston Idaho, literally right across the river from Patty and Tom’s house. It is a nice park that runs along the river and connects with a nice 9-mile bike trail that runs back towards Lewiston. It felt good to get out of the van and pedal a bit more although my derriere needs more conditioning before I can sit for a long ride on a bicycle seat; I was a tad sore after the ride.

Hell's Gate State Park ID

Hell’s Gate State Park ID

Bike Trail

Bike Trail

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In camp we listened to the roar of the jet boats heading up into the canyon for the day and then their return in the late afternoon and early evening. We had decided to pass on the boat trip this visit but will likely do it if we come back; I am sure it is worth the money and the time at least once. I was ambivalent about it this time and have ridden up the Rogue River in years passed; the idea of sitting in a boat all day just didn’t appeal to me this time.

Osprey

Osprey

On our bike ride we stopped at the Visitor Center near the campground and noticed a large nest and two occupants so we returned with the tripod to see who was home.  There wasn’t much in and out activity so we think the eggs have not yet hatched but both parents were very attentive.

Ohme Gardens

It was early in the day when we arrived and rather than go directly to the campsite we detoured to the Ohme Gardens. We’ve seen the sign to the gardens for years as we passed through Wenatchee heading north to Lake Chelan or the Methow Valley but have never stopped and I was always curious to find out what Ohme Gardens was all about, today is the day.

On a high bluff over the Columbia River Herman Ohme and his bride Ruth purchased forty acres of land for an orchard in the 1920’s.  The tract included a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River valley. The Ohmes dreamed of alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways. They set their minds on achieving that dream and thus began a 42-year labor of love.

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Stone paths, all placed by hand, lead through the gardens, around boulders, up and down hillsides carpeted with flowers to quiet sylvan pools amid tall fir trees transplanted with care by the Ohmes.  It is beautiful, peaceful place to spend the afternoon, we will be back.

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After that lovely diversion we checked into the campground and waited until the coolness of evening to take our ride along the 10-mile long Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail.  From the campground the trail runs along the Columbia River, crossing the Wenatchee River where it joins the Columbia and on the west side passing through four riverfront parks while the east side is wilder, running along the bluffs, through the Porter’s Pond Nature Area, crossing ravines on tight hairpin turns and short 6% grades.

Neither one of us had much energy so we stuck to the west side this time, it was just too hot to ride but for more on the trail and photos from our last visit check out our April 13, 2014 entry on the Apple Capital Loop Trail.

Gardens along trail

Gardens along trail

Skateboarding monkey on the bike trail.

Skateboarding monkey on the bike trail.

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Eurovans Unite

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We missed the European annual campouts the last three years for various reasons, but this year we loaded the bikes, packed up the van and headed over Stevens Pass to Lake Wenatchee for this year’s get together.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass looking good

Uh oh dark clouds amassing

Uh oh dark clouds amassing

No sooner had we pulled into our campsite than we had a kick-ass thunder and lightening storm; this the start of a 10-day camping trip and rendezvous with the NW Eurovan Group. It’s been over a year since our last outing in the van so, of course, we had to relearn how we do things, where we store things and what we forgot to pack.

Eurovan Lane

Eurovan Lane

Once the skies cleared campers began to emerge from the safety of their vans, as did we. Walking up the hill I counted 9 vans already in camp joined by 3 more as we stood talking to some fellow campers. We introduced ourselves to some folks and remembered one lady, Lydia, which we met at the first NWEVC outing three years ago.

This looks to be a fun weekend.

The hosts, Don and Marianne, were camped near us and as we learned from them the schedule for the weekend was pretty simple, do what makes you happy and gather for a potluck Saturday night; it’s a pretty low-key group and I like that about it.

We did get together at the host’s campsite, around a campfire, Friday night for wine, hors d’oeuvres and a little conversation, talking until late. We will have plenty of time to get better acquainted tomorrow and then gather again for the potluck Saturday night. Sleep came quickly.

Eurogroup

Eurogroup

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I awoke from a deep, very peaceful sleep to clear blue skies, bird songs and the promise of an interesting day, what could possibly be better than that on a morning in camp? I always seem to sleep really well in the van and usually have long involved dreams, must be all the fresh air.

No group activity planned so we just had a leisurely breakfast, visited with Lydia a bit and then walked down to the lake to see what was going on. Did I mention it is a gorgeous day! There were some folks sunning themselves on the beach and a couple of kayaks on the water. We walked along a lakeshore trail, found surprisingly few wildflowers but no shortage of mosquitoes!

Lake Wenatchee

Lake Wenatchee

After a walk we kicked back and spent the afternoon reading and visiting until time for happy hour and the evening pot luck.

It was quite a spread, all kinds of salads, homemade soup, enchiladas, fruit and even special brownies yum yum.

Huddling around the food

Huddling around the food

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Looks serious

Looks serious

Campfire conversations

Campfire conversations

This is a diverse and interesting group of people and I look forward to getting to know them better in the years ahead.

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We gathered in the morning to share favorite camp spots, van modifications and to decide on a location for next year.  No firm decision was made but a couple of popular options will be presented to the entire group early next spring among those present Newhalem Bay on the Oregon Coast seemed the favorite.

Folks loaded up to head home, most to Oregon or the Seattle area, but first the requisite circling of the vans for a group photo.

 

2015 Euro Camp

2015 Euro Campers

2015 Eurovans

2015 Eurovans

We are moving a just short distance down the road to the Wenatchee Confluence State Park for the night so we can ride along their beautiful 10-mile long Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail that runs along the Columbia River.