After spending a few weeks in Canada, it was nice to make it back to the lower 48 (and to the land of cheaper data and text messaging).
North Cascades National Park
We crossed the border easily and found a Jack In the Box for lunch (hooray America!). The drive out to North Cascades was pretty easy. We pulled into Newhalem Campground around midday and got setup. We loved this campground! No hookups at all, but the spaces were wide and covered in trees. Lots of privacy between sites, too. The best part was how few people were here mid-week! North Cascades is not a hugely popular national park, so we found it quite peaceful most of the week. We took lots of bike rides and walks around the area. The girls enjoyed an awesome junior ranger program on Saturday morning that taught them all about the trees in the area. Ruby now has an uncanny ability to spot two trees in the wild: Douglas Fir and Red Cedar.
Hidden Lake Fire Lookout
This hike deserves its own section in this blog post. Wow wow wow. This was by far my favorite part of our time in Washington.
After Ava got her own daddy/daughter backpacking trip while we were in Glacier National Park, I figured it was Ruby’s time to get used to backpacking. I picked what seemed was a moderate hike with an awesome overnight spot – a retired Forrest Service lookout atop one of the many peaks in the Cascades. But just before we drove off, Ruby’s lip began to quiver. “Daddy? Can Ava come with us? I’m going to miss her.” How could I turn that down? Ava had her bag packed in seconds flat and we were off, making the hour long drive to the trailhead.
Despite all the research I did on this hike, this was not a good idea for a 4-year-old’s first backpacking trip. 4.6mi and 3,200ft of elevation gain – it’s a lot harder than it sounds. After the first 2 hours, we found ourselves hiking switchbacks in the blazing sun. Ruby’s little legs couldn’t keep up and she asked to stop every 100 yards or so. I quickly realized this was a bad idea and told her we should turn back. Several times, actually. Finally, she gave me a ferocious look, stomped her foot and exclaimed, “No, daddy! I can’t miss this!"
So on we hiked. We reached the summit after 5.5 hours of exhausting hiking. We arrived at the fire lookout to find a young couple, cozied up on the only bed, listening to music and drinking Gin and Tonics. Crap. I knew we couldn’t hike back down the mountain to Hidden Lake (it was almost dark), but I politely asked (begged) if we could crash on the floor. If not, could we sleep outside on the rocks. At first, they begrudgingly agreed. Then, after we all ate dinner together, they did an incredible thing – they agreed to sleep in their tent farther down the mountain and give the lookout to us! We were incredibly grateful (the girls wrote thank you cards for them the next day).
The view at night was spectacular and it was a trip I’ll never forget!
Downhill From There…
And that’s about it for Washington. It was all down here from there, honestly. But I’ll give you the quick run-down on where we went and why it sucked. :)
We wanted to be close to Seattle and see friends in the area, so we opted for Flowing Lake County Park. It was a county park, so it was pretty busy when we arrived, but calmed down on Monday. We had electric and water and the site was pretty great. But unfortunately, we decided to bundle up a bunch of truck maintenance for this week, so I spent most of my time at repair shops. To top if off, we noticed a nail in one of our trailer tires the night we pulled in, so we added that to our list.
New windshield (crack from a rock), oil change ($$$ for a diesel [13 quarts] and after upgrading to 5w-20), and now a tire patch. We learned the hard way to never patch a trailer tire. On our drive to Port Orchard, we blew the tire on I-5. Thankfully, we were able to pull over quickly, but the shredded tire did some serious damage to the wheel well.
Then there was the suspension airbags. After dealing with the trailer dragging its butt around for months, I decided to add airbags to the rear springs of the truck. After hearing some good reviews from other full-timers, I opted for Airlift bags and took them to a local 4x4 shop to install them. Once we arrived in Port Orchard, I noticed one bag had a leak so I took it to a local tire shop to inspect them. They discovered both bags had leaks (manufacturing defect). After $325 in labor ($275 to install, and $50 to remove), I still had no air bags. I took the refund money and bought some Firestone Ride-Rites (easier to install) and did the work myself at our next campground.
Port Orchard, WA
By the time we tried booking state parks in Washington for August, most were already full. Those that had space couldn’t fit a 34’ trailer (save that bit of knowledge for later). So we went with the only one left: Manchester State Park in Port Orchard, WA. We couldn’t get a site with hookups, but we managed. The dense tree cover made us skip solar and run the generator quite a bit. The park itself was nice and had a nice little beach area where we roamed and took out the paddle board. But just like in Snohomish, the time spent here was mostly in doing repairs. We had to fix the blowout tire (replace it this time, obviously), get the spare back on, and deal with the defective air bags we had had installed in Snohomish. We had planned to take the ferry over to Seattle one day, but the air bag fiasco made us cancel that.
All that being said, the area was lovely and I’d love to go back and visit the penninsula again.
We left Port Orchard and headed down to Olympia, to stay at American Heritage Campground. There was a huge thunderstorm in the area as we drove. As much as I dislike towing in the rain, the kids loved seeing the lightning and the drought-stricker area definitely needed some moisture.
The campground was great! Lots of flat space for the girls to ride their bikes, a pool, and laundry facilities. As we pulled into our site, we knew things were looking up! Then, we neglected to pay attention when putting out our rear slide and pushed the dang thing into the water spigot on our site. This put a hole in the aluminum siding, but thankfully didn’t do anything worse. Sigh.
We shook it off and took advantage of our location. Though the drive to the Olympic Penninsula wasn’t something we wanted to do (3 hours), we found lots of fun things to do in the area including a lovely farmer’s market and a tour of the Washington State Capital building.
After a week in Olympia, we headed East to see Mt. Rainier National Park. We stayed at Alder Lake State Campground. Unfortunately, we stayed at the "Rocky Point” area, which put us right up against the major highway. This was a drag, but we made the most of it. I had to be in Houston this week, so I had to miss out on Junior Ranger badge number 10, which was a big bummer. We tried to sneak in an extra trip to the park once I got back, but we didn’t have the time since we had only two days to pack everything we owned into a 5x8 Uhaul trailer and get to Portland.
Wait, what? Yeah, you heard me. Crazy town.
“What’s that? You say you sold your 5th wheel? The one you just got last January?” Yup.
“So are you done living on the road?” Nope.
“So what’s next?” New trailer. New plans. That’ll be the next blog post. Stay tuned…
Photos from this leg of the journey can be found on Facebook