Our Return to the Pacific Northwest

After our long Eclipse Weekend in Madras, Oregon, our plan was to spend seven or eight weeks hanging around Washington and Oregon. Besides missing the upper-left coast, we needed to catch-up on some of the necessities of modern life (annual medical appointments and I had some VA stuff to take care of). Our intentions were to stay in Oregon through the end of August and then venture into Washington on September 1st.

We left Madras, Oregon on August 22nd and drove southwest through a lot of wildfire smoke to a small AirBnB outside Eugene, Oregon. When Anna’s family heard about our eclipse plans, they jumped onto the bandwagon and headed to Oregon. Everyone was meeting at a farm rental near Eugene, where they had yurt and cabin reservations and we had a reservation to park our rig between the two. Based on the description of the property, I had my own reservations! Regardless, we spent two nights hanging out at a hippy-dippy farm equipped with 25+ free-range chickens, several rescue horses, and an old flea-bitten barn dog. We spent two nights hanging out with Anna’s family and the rental farmyard menagerie, before heading north on I-5.

Earlier in the summer, during the SolarFest planning phase, we hatched a scheme for a post-eclipse beach rendezvous with the Alumalarkies near Astoria, Oregon. We were meeting them on Sunday and had no real plans for the weekend between Chickentown and Astoria. Eventually, we stumbled upon an open site at Mt. Hood’s Lost Lake Campground. We scooped it up.

Owen Lost Lake and Mt Hood

We gave Lost Lake a Thumbs Up!

Located on the flanks of majestic Mt Hood, Lost Lake Campground is nestled among huge cedar trees on the shores of a beautiful mountain lake. Although a National Forest campground, the Lost Lake Resort is operated by the same concessionaire that runs the lake’s general store, kayak & SUP rentals, and several yurts and cabins. The end result was the most expensive but nicest National Forest campground of the Big Big Trip. We spent two wonderful days exploring the lake and enjoying an internet-free weekend, disconnected from the Washington, D.C. epicenter for the political and cultural gyrations shaking the country. The only downside to our stay was our arrival. We approached Lost Lake from Eugene via I-5 south of Portland and somehow, both Google Maps and our truck’s GPS managed to steer us wrong.

We got lost on the way to Lost Lake...luckily, we had Mt Hood to guide us!

We got lost on the way to Lost Lake…luckily, we had Mt Hood to guide us!

We were routed to the campground via U.S. 26 and Mt Hood Village, before turning north on Lolo Pass Road. What started out as a paved and fairly well maintained county road, quickly degenerated into a virtually impassable (at least with our Airstream) National Forest Road. Ten and a half miles from Mt Hood Village, maintenance on Lolo Pass Road stopped and deep washouts began. We made it a quarter-mile down the unmaintained section, before Anna and I agreed that going further would be a recipe for disaster. We spent the next 20-minutes backing our way down a narrow and winding, deeply rutted mountain road.

Our Airstream campsite at Lost Lake on Mt Hood.

Our campsite at Lost Lake was one of our favorites. Low on amenities, but high on beauty!

Luckily, through the kindness of some Canadian tourists we happened to meet at this desolate nexus of national forest crossroads, we found our way. Our new Canadian friends instructed us to take a different and unmarked National Forest Road (NF-18) as it was supposedly the new route to Lost Lake. We didn’t see any posted signs, but trusting the honesty of our Canadian friends we sallied forth. After 45-minutes of snaking through the Mt Hood National Forest on sketchy gravel roads, we eventually came across the Lost Lake Road. Huzzah for the kindness of Canadians! After an interesting and slightly stressful beginning, we enjoyed a completely relaxing weekend at Lost Lake, before saying goodbye to Mt. Hood on Sunday the 27th of August.

 [Ed. After referencing the Lost Lake Resort’s webpage, I discovered some directions to Lost Lake from U.S. 26 and they clearly reference the N.F. 18 route that we somehow missed. I guess the lesson here is to do your research, but that isn’t how we roll!]
Eno Hammock Lost Lake Campground Oregon Mt Hood

Lounging around at Lost Lake

After navigating through the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge, the curse-inducing Portland traffic, and the winding backroads of Oregon’s coastal mountains, we pulled into Astoria’s Fort Stevens State Park in the mid-afternoon. About an hour later, the Alumalarkey Tribe parked across the street. Over the next four days we hung out with some of our best full-time Airstreaming friends.

The Big Big Trip and Alumalarkies were here! They call the "Deuce and a Half" the Beast and we spent an hour riding in the back touring Historic Fort Stevens.

The Big Big Trip and Alumalarkies were here! They call the “Deuce and a Half” the Beast and we spent an hour riding in the back touring Historic Fort Stevens.

The wreck of the Peter Iredale rests on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park.

The wreck of the Peter Iredale rests on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park.

Owen and the Alumalarkies getting sworn in as Lewis and Clark National Historic Site Junior Rangers.

Owen and the Alumalarkies getting sworn in as Lewis and Clark National Historic Site Junior Rangers.

Beachtime fun at Fort Stevens State Park [Astoria, Oregon]

Beachtime fun at Fort Stevens State Park [Astoria, Oregon]

Investigating a musket at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Site outside Astoria, Oregon

Investigating a musket at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Site outside Astoria, Oregon

Anna and I in front of the Astoria Column

Anna and I in front of the Astoria Column

On top of the Astoria Column

On top of the Astoria Column

Airstream Big Big Trip Alumalarky Fort Stevens State Park Astoria Oregon

Hanging out with the Alumalarkies at Fort Stevens State Park outside Astoria, OR

We played on the beach, climbed on the wreck of the PETER IREDALE, explored the Lewis and Clark National Historic Site, rode a Deuce and a Half around historic Fort Stevens Military Base, tried to do the Truffle Shuffle at the Goonies House, and just basically relaxed after a hectic few weeks. This was the Alumalarkies’ last West Coast hurrah and our first return to the Pacific since early 2016. On Friday, September 1st after a wonderful week at the beach, the Alumalarkies began their trek east and we turned north to Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula for Labor Day Weekend—we planned to ride out the holiday moochdocking in the driveway of our old and dear friends, Maria and Jim.

Climbing on the wreck of the Peter Iredale [Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria, Oregon]

Climbing on the wreck of the Peter Iredale [Fort Stevens State Park, Astoria, Oregon]

Owen and an Alumalarkey playing in the surf at Fort Stevens State Park [Astoria, Oregon]

Owen and an Alumalarkey playing in the surf at Fort Stevens State Park [Astoria, Oregon]

Owen Climbing on the Peter Iredale [photo by Shannon Able of @mr_alumlarky]

Owen Climbing on the Peter Iredale [photo by Shannon Able of @mr_alumlarky]

It seems like we’ve have known Maria and Jim forever. In reality though, we first met them about 10-year ago. As freshly arrived new arrivals to the Pacific Northwest from Norfolk, Virginia in the fall of 2007, we bumped into Maria and Jim at a local Port Orchard watering hole. One thing led to another and we ended up leasing their waterfront rental for two years. Maria and Jim quickly assimilated us into their circle of eclectic and eccentric friends and over the years they have become like family. Owen always enjoys haggling with Jim during tense Matchbox Car trade negotiations. Not wanting to impose too much, we limited our moochdocking to the weekend and on Monday we moved to a nearby Washington State Park.

Airstream Overlooking Sinclair Inlet and the Olympic Mountains - Moochdocking in Port Orchard, Washington

The sun beginning to set over Sinclair Inlet and the Olympic Mountains [Port Orchard, Washington]

Hanging out with old friends in Port Orchard, Washington

Hanging out with old friends in Port Orchard, Washington

Scenic Beach State Park in Seabeck, Washington was supposed to provide a picturesque Hood Canal home base while we attended to our medical and VA appointments. In execution, however, Scenic Beach didn’t pan out the way we planned. While it was close to the Seattle ferry and our doctor’s appointments, our Scenic Beach stay was rather strange and more than a little stressful.

Our Airstream in her densely wooded campsite at Washington's Scenic Beach State Park [Seabeck, Washington]

Our densely wooded campsite at Washington’s Scenic Beach State Park [Seabeck, Washington]

Airstream We fought the wildfire ash all week at Scenic Beach State Park [Seabeck, Washington]

We fought the wildfire ash all week at Scenic Beach State Park [Seabeck, Washington]

Riding the Bremerton to Seattle Ferry

Riding the Bremerton to Seattle Ferry

Regardless of the reason for the trip, no visit to Seattle is complete without a stop at Top Pot Donuts.

Regardless of the reason for the trip, no visit to Seattle is complete without a stop at Top Pot Doughnuts.

Oysters at Etta's in Seattle

Oysters at my favorite restaurant, Etta’s in Seattle

There was an unusual weather pattern during our week at Scenic Beach that made for several uncomfortable warm and muggy nights. Thick smoke from the wildfires burning throughout the Pacific Northwest cast an eerie orange’ish hue to everything around us, as well as masking the beautiful scenic Hood Canal views. Ash precipitating from the sky conspired with Scenic Beach’s dense tree cover to render our solar panels unusable, forcing us to rely on our generator. And, most importantly, we had received word that my Stepmother had passed away.

Airstream Yamaha Generator Our 650 Watts of Solar was no match for the clouds, smoke, ash, and trees of Scenic Beach State Park [Seabeck, Washington]

Our 650 Watts of Solar was no match for the clouds, smoke, ash, and trees of Scenic Beach State Park [Seabeck, Washington]

Upon getting the news about my Stepmother, we considered a quick flight to Michigan to attend the funeral, but trying to coordinate the schedules of two large blended families proved too daunting. With our full schedule of medical and VA appointments, we weren’t going to make the funeral. After serious and lengthy deliberation, Anna and I decided to attend to our Seattle-area commitments and appointments, ditch the rest of our plans for September and October, and return to Michigan for an extended stay with family. So, in between a stressful and chaotic week of appointments and last minute shuffling of commitments, we finished up at Scenic Beach on Friday, took Saturday for ourselves in Port Townsend at the Wooden Boat Festival, and then began our journey east on Sunday, September 10th.

Owen painting a fish for his Fish T-Shirt at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival [Port Townsend, Washington]

Owen painting a fish for his Fish T-Shirt at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival [Port Townsend, Washington]

Owen manning the helm at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival [Port Townsend, Washington]

Owen manning the helm at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival [Port Townsend, Washington]

 

 

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