Thursday, September 13, 2012

2012-31 Columbia Gorge Oregon Continued... to Washington


Columbia Gorge Continued

Olympia Peninsula
Castle Rock Washington
Shelton Washington

a lazy summer afternoon

Campground:  Ainsworth State Park.  Columbia Gorge.  Full hookups, 30amp.  $20 per night.  Mostly pull-thru sites doable for big rigs in a beautifully forested setting.  Good location for touring scenic hwy 30 (but not with your RV of course) of Columbia Gorge and waterfalls area.  Note:  It is directly off of hwy 85 on hwy 30.  Over-air Tv reception available.  Verizon signal ok but no internet signal.

Campground:  Cedars RV Park.  Castle Rock WA. $20 per night.  Full hookups.  Most sites have perm residences in them.  Large cedar trees hugs the road tight loop.  Not recommended. Only spot available for big rigs in overflow in front.  Do not attempt to drive through park. Had a quarter tank of diesel stolen from my truck at this park.

Campground:  Elks Lodge.  Shelton WA. $15, Elect (30amp) and water.  Nice pull-thru sites.  Normally Elk members only but they will let a member sign you in for your stay.  Note: the camphost came over with a welcome basket of stuff and no one has mentioned my not being an Elk member.

Yikees,  First the a/c wouldn’t kick on, then I noticed the battery charger wasn’t working as the d/c powered lights were beginning to dim considerably.  Darn.  After further investigation, the main a/c unit wouldn’t kick on because the thermostat runs on D.C. power not A.C.  Sooo after further investigation I discovered  the battery charger on the camper is ca-put after all.  My friendly and I do mean friendly camp-hosts were able to loan me a battery charger so I can charge my camper batteries overnight before heading out tomorrow morning.  Since I’ll be heading out on a Sunday, I won’t be able to get to an RV doctor until sometime Monday or later since I’ll be on the road.

It’s all a matter of checking the batteries, then the charger as well as determining what runs on either a/c or d/c power.  On a camper it’s not always apparent.  On my camper the over head lights, the radio, the fridge, and the main thermostat all run on d/c power.  Even though the main air conditioner and the fridge run on a/c power (or gas), their thermostat controls all run on d/c.  So if there’s a problem with the d/c power, those electric appliances don’t operate.  It helps to isolate the problem before bringing the camper in for repairs or ordering parts. Not that there are dishonest mechanics, but sometimes they can install stuff one doesn’t need in the final analysis.

stopping along scenic hwy 30

Odd bits and pieces of information:

I’ve been looking at all those windmill generators on the tops of all the hills around here and wondered why some of them are not turning.  The locals tell me they are in fact turned off as they have more power than they need from all the hydro dams in the area and the wind turbines are only used to supplement power when needed.  Yet I know that much of the power in this region also gets sent to California and I’m pretty sure they have a never ending thirst for all the power they can get.  It does seem quite a waste of money installing all those wind turbines to not utilize them.  It must be costly to install them and just have them sitting there not generating electricity what in effect is free electricity.  Or are we as citizens of the U.S. paying to supplement all those turbines and to not use them. Not really sure but it seems fishy to me.

The winds have picked up greatly overnight and I’ll be heading out today.  Wonder how the camper will do in this situation.

The native Indians in the area have fishing rights and the use of nets to catch salmon this time of year.  The small Army Corp. site I’m at permits the Indians to camp out for free on the edges of the boat ramp parking area and they have a designated area on the river for fishing.  It’s odd to see them sort of segregated like that.  Off in their own world going about the business of catching a years worth of salmon during this fishing season.

When I was back in Echo Oregon, that tiniest of  towns over the Labor Day weekend.  I’d often take walks around the 3 blocks of the tired weary worn town, or in the other direction over the river towards the farms.  One day, I noted an old church steeple in amongst a farming community, peaking above a stand of trees.  As I walked over the bridge, past some irrigated fields of corn, I eventually turned to my left down an old dirt road past a lone horse standing in his paddock.  At the end of it, there was this old Catholic church with it’s fanciful steeple and castle like ornamentation.  All in a state of disrepair.  White paint pealing off the sides of the various cornices and plastered walls.  Stained glass windows could be seen behind a layer of semi-transparent glass protecting them.  I climbed up the weather worn concrete stairs and peaked in between the crack of the double doors with a simple paddle lock holding them closed.  A small vestibule and two more dark oak swinging doors were inside.  Through the crack in the second set of doors I could make out a large statue of one of the saints.  Very colorfully painted and preserved as he looked out in my direction.  The scene behind the saintly statue was also painted in many bright colors, through only that small slit of a crack between doors, I was left wanting to see the rest of the interior with its stained glass windows and drop ceiling hiding I‘m sure a most impressive high ceiling above.

Distance Traveled:  80 miles.

Back along the Columbia Gorge, I charged my batteries on the camper overnight and headed out in the morning.  The winds have picked up and are blowing at a good 35-40 miles an hour.  The truck and camper stood up well even with it being a head wind.  Hwy 85 which follows the Columbia River is a good road and travel has been no problem.

Being concerned about the camper not having a functioning battery charger onboard, I was able to stop along the way at a K-Mart store and purchase a really good battery charger for only $39.  A savings of $25 since it was on sale.  Knowing that I have a backup feels good.  Remember I can’t open or close the slide out rooms or raise or lower the landing gear without that battery power.  Along with all the other appliances inside the camper that rely on d/c power.

So even with the heavy winds, my travel seems brighter and I’m in a good mood for the next adventure on down the road.  The scenery has become one of thick forests.  So thick one can only see a foot or two into them.  Giant evergreens and cedars cover the mountains.  I had several state parks to pick from on my way towards the prettiest areas along the Columbia Gorge and I chose Ainsworth State Park in the end due to it’s great location.  It appears to be a first come first served type park.  With a self registration station up front.  I pulled into the first pull-thru site I came across and set up in no time at all.

Multnomah Falls is not far from the campground so after setting up I decided to not only go there for some great picture taking, but thought I may as well have lunch in the historic Multnomah Falls Inn.  Was I in luck.  Even with it being a Sunday and the parking lots were crammed with tourists lined up waiting to get a parking spot, I was able to get a spot with only once around the parking lot which sits between the highway itself.  Traffic whizzing by in both directions.  A short walk under the highway walking path and I was at the falls and Inn.  Being a Sunday, they had an all you can eat Sunday brunch with champagne included for $22.  Good food, good drinks and the waterfalls afterwards.  What more could one ask of a Sunday along the Columbia Gorge.  I just wish my Sunday brunch friends from Orlando could have been here to enjoy it with me.

Multnomah Falls are those famous falls that one sees on commercials occasionally with an old concrete bridge half way up the falls.  As the falls descend on two distinct levels with the bridge being a natural divider.  They’re some 600+ feet in height and should be on your bucket list of great places to visit.  Even with the crowds of people, it’s still a most spectacular sight.  Oh and I didn’t mention, but the restaurant in the Inn has plenty of seating and can accommodate large crowds.  Though it wasn’t crowded in the dining rooms as I relaxed under an all glass sun room.  Even with those hordes of tourists outside.  What a setting.

Multnomah Falls

I took in one last bit of an excursion to the Visa House Crown Point.  It’s this popular viewing center on top of one of those giant walls of stone jutting out above the Columbia River.  What’s fun is that there are vistas of the vista.  As the sight of this large viewing center on top of the rock outcropping is itself a spectacular site.  The building is octagonal in shape with green stained glass windows.  A small history display of the area and gift shop are on the lower floors, but it’s the views from this vantage point that everyone comes to see.

I had planned on driving the scenic hwy 30 back to the campsite, but the road was closed just past the Vista House and I could see why.  This section of historic hwy 30 has a very narrow winding drive.  As it runs along the very edge of a steep cliff, with it’s ancient stone and concrete guard rails, covered in mosses that lead to the Vista House is the most torn up piece of pavement I’ve seen in a long time.  My truck was dipping and bouncing and leaning to one side as I approached Vista House.  There were areas where the asphalt is cracked, sagging and sinking or should I say sliding down the hill.  I could only wonder when it will finally give way and continue it’s journey down that steep incline.  No wonder another portion of the road has already been closed for repairs.  I’m surprised I wasn’t more frightened by the condition of this section of the road.  But I did make it to the most awesome of views.  Amazing what I’ll do sometimes to try and get you all a great picture.

Caution to Rv’ers…. Scenic hwy 30 should not to be attempted with even the smaller class C campers.  I took that drive the following day as my campsite is right on the beginning of that highway.  With lots of waterfalls all along the way, the road itself is a narrow road often enveloped in shade by a canopy of trees over the highway.  I remember asking a person at a recent visitors center if the hwy would be ok to travel on with an rv, even giving a description of my 35ft camper.  The gal said she thought it would be fine.  Thank goodness I checked it out before trying it with a camper.  There were sections that were so narrow, I had to really slow down as opposing traffic passed.  Still it’s a nice drive and seeing all those waterfalls is pretty cool.  Including one of the tunnels that were originally a part of the scenic drive.  They included “windows” through the side walls of the tunnels for viewing.  Too dangerous and tight for today’s vehicles.

Columbia Gorge

Distance Traveled:  83 miles.

This was a short ride getting to Castle Rock Washington as it’s my drop of point to then go tour Mt St Helens.  After setting up at a small campground, which I don’t recommend to anyone do to it’s small size and it’s usually full up with perms, I was off to Mt St Helen.

The drive was along CR-504 and before I even got a few miles in, I realized I’d forgotten my camera back at the camper.  Some days just go that way.  So of course I had to go back and get it, delaying my start only slightly.  CR-504 though a county road and only the usual two lane road with a few passing lanes occasionally was an easy 55 mph drive to Mt St Helen though it takes a good hour and a half to get there.  The park is operated by the Forest Service and they have a wonderful newer building with a grand movie to start off with at the Johnston Ridge visitor center.  A park ranger provided a nice talk outside over looking the steaming crater of the volcano.  All pretty cool even with a slight haze enveloping the volcano due to forest fires many miles away.  All those bare mountains that were scarred from the blast in 1980 have been replanted with pines by the Weyerhaeuser company at a cost of $9 million dollars.  Harvesting of all that new timber is just beginning 30 years later.  Seeing a well established new growth forest is quite inspiring, giving hope that we can help our planet recover disasters.

Mt St Helen, with it's top blown off

Mt St Helen in the distance

steam venting from Mt St Helen

Distance Traveled:  75 miles.

What a journey, what a day.  I’m heading toward Shelton Washington which is my last destination before heading south for the winter.  I-5 being the only route into the western side of Washington and the traffic is a heavy testament to that fact.  Lots of cars and semi’s on the highway.  The bad thing is is that the highway constantly changes from two to three lanes then back to two.  I got caught in the middle between one of those big rigs on my right and a small van on my left with no place to go as the semi truck was inching over into my lane as his lane was ending.  I was able to finally squeeze over to the left at the last second as I had not realized the lanes were once again shrinking from 3 to 2 lanes.  So please be forwarded on this stretch of highway between Oregon and Seattle Washington and try and stay in the middle lane and be constantly on guard for merging traffic.

Now if you thought that was more than enough for one day well it wasn’t.  Just as I started my day heading north on I-5, I looked down at my fuel gauge and realized someone had stolen a quarter tank of diesel fuel overnight.  I know that because before heading to the campground the night before I had filled the tank up for the journey the next day.  $37 worth of fuel gone in the blink of an eye.  And this was one eye that was seeing red the next morning.  Read lots of nasty words said under my breath.

An hour and a half later and I was off the road and settled into my new temporary home behind an Elks club lodge in Shelton Washington.  Nice little campground with only three campers.  I’m visiting friends from the Washington area while hear and just enjoying wonderful fall weather here on the Olympia peninsula.

Tom and Christine stopped on by the first night and we sat outside having cocktails and enjoying the great weather.  The camphost came over and gave me a “welcome basket” of stuff just for coming and staying in their little park.  We were all invited into the lodge later for their steak night dinner.  Very welcoming and I didn’t have to cook that night.  What a deal.  $11 for a steak, fries and veggie.

I’ll be doing many chores around the camper, visiting friends and enjoying my last stop before my return south.  Next week will most likely be a short report on my stay here in Shelton Washington.

And of course more photos on PICASA.

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