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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - August 2015

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Cloudland remote Cabin Cam (from our July road trip) - ship wreck (the Peter Iredale) after sunset, Ft. Stevens State Park, Oregon

JOURNAL UPDATED 08/04 - days SEVEN AND EIGHT of our western trip

08/01/15 - We are almost back home from our trip West and I wanted to begin sharing a few notes from the road. I'll add a day or two at a time until I get all caught up. Hope everyone has been able to find COOLNESS back home!

DAY ONE. Getting stuck on the mountain, and relief in Kansas. (really, Kansas?). This trip has been many years in planning, and we finally got enough ducks in a row to be able to be gone from home for more than a week. Pam has been training Amber to process and ship all of the individual orders made through our online store (we left Amber a pile of autographed books to ship). And Pam's dad is now certified to process and ship wholesale orders, so all dealer orders will go out right on schedule while we're gone. Cousin Joseph has moved into the basement of the cabin and will look after the place - and feed the cats - while we are gone. He is used to hot and miserable weather and kind of enjoys getting out of the city and away from all that noise. (i.e., he works CHEAP!)

As we left the cabin we realized that the road out to the mailbox was so bad we just hoped we could make it that far. We did. But Cave Mountain Road was much worse. MUCH. It had rained during the night, and all the clay the county had been putting on the road was a mess. The first time we encountered a patch of clay the tread in our snow tires filled with clay and the van nearly slid off the new culvert into the ditch. By the time we reached the top of the big hill headed into Boxley, we wondered if we would ever make it to the bottom.

As we sat there not knowing what to do, a pickup appeared coming up the hill - it was the grader operator from the county. He said the was so bad that we probably could not make it down the hill. One of our neighbors was stuck down there and had to call and get someone to drive her truck down to the bottom. The road was bad, really bad. Then the grader man offered to go get the grader (a couple miles away up on top of the hill) and blade off the layer of clay in front of us as we drove down the hill - and that is what he did - we would probably still be slid off on the side of that mountain if not for him - THANKS!

Then we headed north to deliver all the needed book processing a shipping supplies to Amber - she actually will be processing orders early each morning before heading off to her fulltime job - could we have asked for a better kid? (I never asked how much we was charging us...) Then we continued north through Kansas City and then turned WEST for the long hot drive across Kansas. We ended up stopping early in the evening at what would turn out to be an amazing campground - ON A LAKE! Pam picked it on a lark since it was named after one of our puppies - Lake Wilson. We parked at the far end of the campground and almost had the place to ourselves. Our RV van takes on whatever name seems to suit it at the time (Bookmobile, Photomobile, etc.). Since my lovely bride will be painting a lot during the trip (mostly pastels), and I will be taking photos, we have now dubbed the van "Artistmobile" until we get home.

We were able to plug the van into electric service at the campsite and run the air conditioner on the roof to keep the inside cool. In fact the AC ran all night. At one point during the night I got up and wandered around and could see a zillion stars - Kansas has some pretty dark skies! The main thing was that we were ON THE ROAD, finally headed west.

DAY TWO. The hike, then on to Colorado. Oh my goodness, who would have thought this would happen in KANSAS??? I got up early and switched off the roof AC, put leases on all the pups, and was all ready to head out the door when a little mouse under the covers whispered - GOOD MORNING BUNKIE! My lovely bride was up in a flash and ready to headed out the door down to the lakeshore to begin painting. So the entire family made the short hike to the edge of the lake, where Pam set up her easel. Dawn was in full progress, and both the sky and calm water were filled with beautiful colors. It was cool and the air was oh so sweet.

The puppies and I left Pam behind and started hiking along the shoreline - the lake was low and the shoreline was sand and rock and easy to hike on. For the next couple of hours I enjoyed what had to be one of the greatest hikes of my entire life! But in Kansas, in the middle of summer? Yup, I was thrilled and so were the puppies. I turned them loose and they ran and played and splashed as I hiked along trying to keep up - all the while the colors of the day grew brighter and more intense. It was just delightful! We went on and on and on, and never saw another soul. There was no trash, the water was clean and clear, and the air remained sweet. All of us were in heaven. I don't know quite how to describe it, but there was freedom in the air, adventure afoot, and it was just so great being there!

After a while we turned around and hiked/romped/played back to where Pam was just finishing up her first painting of the trip. I have no idea how you artist people do it, but she made something pretty spectacular out of a blank piece of pastel paper! Photographers can't do that - no fair!

So we've bookmarked this lake and campground in our memory, and plan to stop again.

There was intense heat through the rest of Kansas, but we were again struck at how lush and green everything was. The heat got worse in Colorado, and as we were leaving Denver the temp got up to 98 degrees. Our original plan for this trip was to head west via the northern route through Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho, but it seemed too hot up there so we decided to get to the mountains as quickly as we could. We found relief in Estes Park (and also a great salad at McDonalds!), and spent a couple of hours touring Rocky Mountain National Park - in my many visits to the John Denver state I'd never been to RMNP - I tend to avoid crowds.

The temps up there in the high altitude through the park were cool - in fact downright frigid with the howling winds above timberline. It was the middle of the week but the road was PACKED with cars - bumper to bumper. There were almost no places to pull over, and most small parking areas were full. The scenery was great of course, we loved the cool, but it was not the most pleasant experience (and, of course, like all national parks, the dogs were not welcome). Once we dropped down the western side things got better and the forest all around was lush and beautiful. We stopped for the night in a forest service campground on the south end of Grand Lake at the edge of a field of wildflowers. The day ended with a trout flying overhead, being held within the talons of an osprey - turns out this was a great place for osprey viewing!

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Colorado wildflowers

DAY THREE. Colorado to Utah. I was up and wandering around at 3am this day, seeking wisdom from the zillions of bright stars overhead. It was a clear night (after the moon went down), but I was unable to find an interesting subject to photograph with the Milky Way, so I just looked up in awe and wonder. It seemed a wee bit chilly but it wasn't until we were up eating breakfast that I saw it was 37 degrees outside! Turns out the hottest (98) and coldest (37) points in our trip were in Colorado, and with 24 hours.

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Wilson and Mia do NOT like waiting around - they want to always go, go, GO!

Pam found a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers along the lake shore to paint while I ran around with the puppies. That cool early temp got toasty in a hurry, and soon we were off, headed through Steamboat Sprints and on into northeast Utah (normally we would stay in Colorado a while - one of our most favorite states - but we were just there to get some relief from the heat, so had to move on.).

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My lovely bride working on her pastel

There's a sign in Colorado somewhere that warns the "last gas for 61 miles" - I notice these things, and counted 11 gas stations open in that stretch. Humm.

And speaking of false advertising, when we decided we were not going to be able to drive up into the High Unitas to camp for the night, we called around and found a state park that had two campsites left - "right on the water" we were told. The park was quite spectacular - sort of a miniature version of Lake Powell in Arizona with stunning rock formations rising up out of the lake. Unfortunately someone didn't understand how to design a simple campground. There were no campsites on the water - in fact there were no campsites at all - only a grassy hillside with picnic tables all clustered around each other. And the parking spaces were nothing more than a parking lot, hot and steaming upwards of 90+ degrees. We had to run the AC in our van just to cool down a bit, but the onboard battery system only lasted an hour before it died. We were able to run the engine and charge the batteries up again, but then only another hour of AC (there were not electrical sites at this campground). Anyway, we sweltered away and survived the night, but got out of there as fast as we could the next morning. That campground goes on our NEVER VISIT AGAIN list!

DAY FOUR. Out of the oven and into the frying pan. We escaped that miserable campground and had a nice drive through the corner of Utah and on into Idaho, but the temps remained above 90 and the landscape all around in both states was brown. Funny that Kansas was so GREEN while these states were so parched.

I have no idea why, but we thought it might be a good idea to camp in the desert during this hot day in July - and next to SAND DUNES no less! (Our original plan was to drive 20-30 miles up into the Sawtooth Mountains to camp.) It all sounded like a great idea - we had electricity so could run the AC until temps got lot during the night. But the AC in our Roadtrek van could not keep up with the hot temps - it was 91 degrees inside the van even with the AC running for an hour - yikes! We tried to hike around a pair of lakes at the base of these beautiful sanddunes, but the lakes were low and the banks so grown up that neither we nor the puppies could reach the water. It was another hot and miserable night. (One of the reasons we choose this campground was the fact that I'd be able to photograph the Milky Way rising behind the sanddunes and reflecting in one of the lakes - but since I couldn't get to the lakeshore, no Milky Way photos either. Bummer.)

BUT, there was one bright shining moment this day. Heading into the Idaho desert to camp next to sand dunes (who knew there was such a thing in IDAHO!?), I demanded ice cream, so we stopped at the last outpost before heading into the state park. There wasn't much selection in the freezer, and I ended up picking up a couple of ice cream bars that looked kind of funny and I'd never heard of. The man at the counter said "$2, and those will be the BEST ice cream bars you will ever eat!" I took his word on that and laid down a crisp $5 bill and got three more out of the freezer. OH MY GOODNESS - he was RIGHT! I need to dig out the photo I took of the wrapper, but these were indeed the very best ice cream bars I'd ever ate - and I'm a pro at ice cream bars! In fact my poor bride only got one of the five - oops, sorry honey, but you know how I LOVE ice cream!

DAY FIVE. From the frying pan to the Gorge. We took an early hike through the park near the sanddunes this morning, then hit the road headed for the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. On a lark we stopped and filled up with fuel at the last stop before the price of fuel shot up about 30 cents a gallon (the high-price gas was in the Bosie, Idaho area) - I usually fuel up at the most expensive place by accident!

It was great to finally be motoring into Oregon, although the temps remained pretty high and the landscape parched. I don't think they'd had much rain this year. We both cheered out loud when we first came alongside the Columbia River - one of the main targets for our trip that was so long in the making. We found cheap fuel again in Hood River and filled up, visited a very disappointing Wal Mart there, but had some pretty good Hawaiian BBQ for a quick dinner - our main goal for the day was to find a CAMPSITE for the night.

Knowing the gorge was most likely crowded we were not hopeful, but on a lark the first place we turned into had ONE campsite available - a little forest service campground called Wyeth. The price was a little steep though - $5 with our agency access pass - YIPPIE!

We could not believe the magical, mystical forest we stumbled upon, with our campsite right in the middle of it all. There were GIANT towering trees all around us, and the forest floor carpeted with lichens and ferns and all else lush. There was a creek, and hiking trails that led up the creek to a really neat foot bridge, and on up into the hills beyond. We breathed a giant sigh of relief not only to have found such a great place to stop for the night (to be able to find ANY place to stop), but also so happy to be out of the intense heat of the past six days. This little intro to Oregon was perfect.

DAY SIX. WATERFALLS!!! We were up and out early, stopped by a couple of incredible waterfalls and were the only people there. Then we made it to the granddaddy of them all - Multnomah Falls. We pulled right into an empty parking lot, then strolled up to the main viewpoint right in front of the giant falls - again, no one in sight - YIPPIE COYOTE! I've seen thousands of pictures taken from this spot, which is one of the most famous of all waterfall images in the US. Knowing we'd soon be sharing this moment with a crowd, I motioned for my lovely bride to scamper on up the trail and out to the middle of the bridge in front of the falls, while I looked around for the perfect vantage point - which happened to be on top of a rock wall behind the main viewing area. I climbed up there and set up my big camera just as my lovely bride appeared on the bridge. WOW, it was everything I had expected and more - an epic moment for me. By the time I joined Pam on the bridge, we could see dozens of people gathering below and the parking lots beyond were filling up. It would be this way for much of the rest of our Oregon trip.

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Pam at Multnomah Falls (above), and Horsetail Falls (below)

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We tried to visit some other famous waterfalls, but there was just too many people and cars, everywhere. We did get to visit the fish ladder at Cascade Locks, and I filled my belly on some of the largest and SWEETEST blackberries ever there! Then we made an escape plan, returned to Hood River for supplies, then headed on up the Mt. Hood Scenic Highway, hoping to find refuge for the night at a campground that was not even marked on most maps.

When we arrived at Trillium Lake we discovered that everyone else had already beat us there, and all sites were booked up far into the future. Nice campground, with some of the sites being right on the banks of this beautiful mountain lake. The main attraction - wonderful views looking right into the face of majestic Mt. Hood. "There may be an empty site on the far end of the campground." the camp host told us, so we hotfooted it over there and grabbed the last of those campsites.

The wind blew pretty good and there wasn't much in the way of a reflecting Mt. Hood, but still the mountain showed off its beauty as the sun dropped low in the west, lighting up the mountain. I had not been to the area since 1995, and was surprised at how little snow the mountain had. Back the it had the only ski lift that ran in the summer in the US, and was a popular place for summertime snow sports. It is also the home of what most folks consider the place where they filmed "The Shining" - but really the only part of the film that was shot there was the opening aerial scenes - the rest of the movie was shot on a set in England, which did contain a replica of the outside of the hotel.

Having a little bit of faith that winds might die down, I set up my big camera and tripod near the end of the dam near our campsite, and using a technique I figured out a couple of decades ago I shot pictures of the mountain for the next hour. Turns out that sometimes when you want a reflection but don't have much of one (because the wind is blowing and causing ripples on the water surface), a really long exposure can capture part of a reflection by averaging out those ripples (I often shoot 1 to 5 minute-long exposures to make this effect happen). I shot until the very last glow left the mountain.

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Then I grabbed Pam and the puppies and took a quick hike on a trail that went all the way around the lake (almost two miles) - perfect to stretch our legs after a long day in the van! It had been a GREAT DAY, and we were thrilled to be in the mountains at Trillium Lake!

DAY SEVEN. Trillium Lake and Timberline Lodge. We moved to a different campsite and our new one was surrounded by towering trees that were covered with moss and it was just all delightful. Our little corner of the world was sunk into the forest about ten feet, and when looking out we could not see anything but forest, nor could anyone in the campground see us. We could head out the back of the campsite and hike for miles in the deep woods - it was perfect for us!

The winds were calm at dawn, so I returned to the end of the lake and photographed the break of day and the first rays of the rising sun with Mt. Hood reflecting. I made long exposures and the sky colors mixed and created new ones! It was a frantic few minutes as I tried to capture my elation of the moment. And then the sun appeared and it was all over. Since I often hold my breath while photographing a scene like this was, I was out of breath, and hoped one of my pictures turned out. As I packed my camera bag and headed back to camp, droves of other photographers began to arrive. Hum, I think they missed the best part.

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Later on Pam found a scene that she had been hunting for and spent some time doing her third plain air painting of the trip - 'twas beautiful, of course!

Later one we drove up to Timberline Lodge - many folks think this is where they filmed "The Shining" - but the only part of the film that was shot there was the opening aerial scene - the rest of the movie was shot on a set in England, which did contain a replica of the outside of the hotel. It is a grand hotel for sure - we wandered around admiring all the giant log beams, and the craftsmanship the workers used to put it all together. It was built in the 1930's and dedicated by President Roosevelt.

Back down at the lake there was another beautiful sunset, but this time probably 100 other folks were lined up along the dam to watch the show - this was during the week and the place was packed! We went on another hike around the lake, then retreated to out sunken camp in the woods - roasted hot dogs over coals, and had a great night's sleep.

DAY EIGHT. 476 campsites and magic at the ship wreck. After sunrise we packed up and headed to Government Camp to do some much needed laundry. My bride confessed that she had never been in a laundromat before - she walked out stating that this one had to be the "smallest laundromat in the world!" And I believe it was - there were only two washing machines and two dryers, no chairs. But that was all we needed so it was great.

We hit the road leaving Mt. Hood behind, passed around Portland and across the Columbia River into Washington for a few miles, then turned southwest and crossed back over the Columbia River and finally ended up in Astoria, where we camped for the night at Ft. Stevens State Park. We had reserved a site the day before - one of only 4 sites out of 476 in the park - we were NOT looking forward to this CROWD much, but that's all that was available.

As we drove into the campground we were shocked at how small the place felt - yes, there were a couple dozen campers in our loop, but there were many loops and so campers spread out over a wide area, and with all the trees and vegetation, it really didn't feel crowded at all - a nice surprise. And there was a hiking trail literally ten steps from our campsite! So we took it for a long stroll of several miles, then drove down to the beach - our first look at the ocean on this trip - YIPPIE!

Many beaches in Oregon allow dogs to run free and unleashed, including this one. We were kind of reluctant to do so, but found a spot a ways off with no other people around, and turned them loose. WOW! The puppies thought they had died and gone to doggie heaven! They ran and played and splashed in the ocean and over and over and over. Amazing how much energy they had. Of course, they have basically been locked up in the van for more than a week.

When the sun began to drop low in the west, I grabbed my camera gear and went over to one of the main attractions in the park - the bow of a ship that had been wrecked in 1906 (the Peter Iredale) was sticking up out of the sand - little more than the skeleton of the bow were all that were left. It had been mobbed by people all day, so I wasn't sure I could get any photos without people in them. And in fact after sunset there were still people inside the bow climbing around, but I found a composition that I liked and just waited. As darkness arrived and the light faded, so did all of the people - I eventually had the wreck to myself - YIPPIE! But the tide was low and the wreck was completely out of the water - the more I shot the more I wanted ocean around at least some of the old steel, so I waited.

The sky began to turn some really nice colors, and the surf started to pick up and more and larger waves came crashing in - eventually reaching the old wreck. A couple of times the surf engulfed me and my tripod - YIKES! I had already moved my camera bag farther up on the shore so it didn't get drenched. As I shot, I realized that when a really strong surge came up, part of the wreck would be reflected in the wet sand after the wave retreated - but the reflection only lasted for a few seconds before the shine soaked into the sand. And the sky was getting so dark that I had to really boost the ISO of the camera sensor to be able to record the entire scene and get the reflection at the same time. And then I realized it was 9:55pm and the park closed at 10pm - I looked up and saw that Pam had moved the van and the lights were on - she is really good and keeping me out of jail! Then a park ranger drove by. But I had to be there to get this ONE picture, please? A big wave came in, coated the shore, I made my picture, then gathered my camera gear and ran up the hill to the van, then we sped off to the gate and made it out just in time - time to breathe again! Mission accomplished...

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