Sunday, 12 April 2015

Day 23: Kennewick, Washington to HOME!

326 Miles / 525 Kilometers

With the thought of reaching home TODAY we make quick work of breakfast.  And, because this was another one night stop we had not unhitched.

Today we pointed the Gypsy Wagon north and travelling north means we are close to home. The highways were small and not very busy.  It was a pleasant drive on a slightly different route than when we came south.  We left it all up to 'Fifi' our GPS. Driving north along Soap Lake and past Sun Lake Dry Falls State Park was exceptionally pretty.

I guess I am ready for home because we do not stop to take pictures. This is a little canyon like valley with small linear lakes that remind me of Vaseux Lake.  A perfect place for lazy kayaking and birding. Maybe I will have to come back here some day.

We pass over the Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River and soon we are nearing Omak, WA.  This is where we did our first, and only,  Walmart 'camping'. One last gas up and we are ready to hit the border.

I have a Duty-Free fail not once but twice.  On Day 1 I purchased 1.5 L of wine for a whopping $8.00; however, I never actually opened it. I get to the Duty Free thinking of purchasing a nice bottle of Crown Royal for the neighbors who looked after my home but realize no, that's 1.5 L of wine OR another bottle.  First fail.

My second fail was not pitching the wine out the back door of the Gypsy Wagon and getting the Crown Royal anyway.  I would have still been way ahead.  Unfortunately, I had to show up at my neighbors with the wine and confess my Duty Free fails. . . .so, you nearly had some Crown Royal but here is a cheap bottle of wine instead because I am not smarter than the Duty Free.  Sigh. Next time!

We get through the border with ease after sounding suitably sorry for bringing my small potted fern plant (your plant, Renata) along on the adventure; however, Micha is physically turned back to get rid of the small box of firewood that we have left over from our one fire in the desert at Lake Powell.  They will not just relieve you of your firewood, you must get rid of it.  So, Micha drove back into Oroville and dropped it off at the lakeside campground in town. We pull off and hang tight for 30 minutes waiting for Micha and Alex to return.

Driving through Osoyoos and Oliver is nothing short of magical.  A rain shower has recently passed through so all of the trees bursting into flower are glistening in the late afternoon sun.

Home is pretty good, too!

Our second to last gas stop in Washington.
Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River. 

Working on his bubbles while we wait for Micha to bring his firewood away. 

Lake Okanagan, driving north but looking south near Hardy Falls. 

Day 22: Twin Falls, Idaho to Kennewick, Washington (Tri-cities area)

420 miles / 676 kilometers

When we checked into this campground the night before, the camp host was very adamant that we disconnect our water hose before turning in for the night due to an overnight frost warning.

I have to admit I was rolling my eyes to myself in my head as I dutifully said, "Yes, I will disconnect . . .. "  Because this was a one night rolling stop I had not planned to hook up the water anyways so it was easy to comply.

Well, wasn't I surprised to wake up to a thick covering of frost on the hood of the truck and yesterday's water bottle left in the cab frozen clear through. It was -6 degrees Celcius. They were not kidding about that frost warning!

Today is Good Friday and we have two fast leaking tires to deal with.  This is not a holiday in the US so the tire store was open and ready for business bright and early.  All I can say is $20 and 20 minutes later we were on our way.  Those tires were on and off the trailer so fast I didn't have time to get all of my e-mail messages read. Talk about service!

We had a long drive ahead of us so this unexpected quick start to what could have been a sad delay was gratefully received.

We pointed the Gypsy Wagon northwest and off we went.  We made a lunch stop at a park in Baker City, Oregon.  We stopped here to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive center on our way south. This time we turned into town and pulled up to a grassy park with many tall shade trees.  Let's just say the park squirrels were super-sized and just a little bit aggressive!  They were ready to have our lunch for us.

Back on the happy highway for another few hours of smooth rolling highways on our way up into Washington State.

We are getting closer to home!

At dinner time we arrive at the Pasco KOA near Kennewick, Washington.

This KOA is large but there is plenty of room for two over-nighters.  They have an indoor pool, nice! The wind is brisk so we get the corners down quickly and off we go for a swim.  Dinner means more chicken.  Micha BBQ's it all up as we cannot take raw chicken products north over the border. I boil up the rest of the eggs, too.

We are amazed at how many units in this KOA park appear to be long term stays as they are located right beside a very loud highway.  Maybe these people are hard of hearing?!  I think I will be hard of hearing if we stay too long.  Despite the traffic noise we are glad to be off the road, plugged in and cozy for what we hope is our last night on the road.

Dominic is blowing to see his breath but the camera just does not catch it.
Glad we got to use the winter gear at least for one day!

The tire shop had the Gypsy Wagon cranked up and the tires off
so fast I almost missed it.

I hung out for a little bit while the boys made their way to McDonald's, one of just a handful
of 'eating out' meals. 

Pascoe, Tri-Cities KOA near Kennewick, Washington. 

Dominic thought this was an 'old people' pool.  No jumping, no horseplay, no diving
and the pool was very shallow from one end to the other.
Yes, it was not the most inspiring pool but it was better than no pool!

Cooking up the eggs. No more egg donations to the border guards. 


Monday, 6 April 2015

Day 21: Moab, Utah to Twin Falls, Idaho

450 miles / 724 kms

Goodbye red rocks!

We are officially heading homeward.

Today's drive started off feeling like we were in a bit of a moonscape cross sand box. Sorry Utah but this section was not overly exciting.

I felt like we were in a semi-trailer sandwich as we passed through Salt Lake City.  90 minutes of white knuckle fun.  During this part of the drive my sister Marianne manages to call my american cell number and lets me know that Grandma VanSpengen (my Mother's Mother) has finally passed away.  This is welcome news and an answer to prayer as she was suffering in her last months.

We pulled over after we passed Salt Lake at an equally bustling rest area where we piled into the trailer for some lunch.  Hail, snow and wind. Nice!

Back on the road heading north west.  We climbed up a few mountains and drove straight into a headwind complete with rain and snow.  My slow leaking tires on the right side of the trailer have evolved into fast leakers.  We are becoming professional air pump locators at gas stations every 90 minutes.

Later we enjoy warm sun, blue skies and white fluffy clouds.

Dominic manages to sleep until Papa calls "Welcome to Idaho" over the radio. . . .

Dominic looks around and goes back to sleep. So, I amuse myself taking one handed pictures out my window unsuccessfully trying to get a three trailer Fed Ex truck which we seem to see travelling in the other direction every 5-10 minutes. Too many online shoppers I guess!

At the top of one summit we pull off and poor Dominic promptly gets a nose bleed.  We get that sorted out quickly and see that we need air. .. . . now.

Next we see dust dirt devils on the horizon.  What next?

Arriving at the Twin Falls KOA means that we have now completed our 'loop'.  Tomorrow will be the first time we are heading back on highways that we have already traveled.

Although the sun is out the wind is brisk and cold.  We are glad of a hard-sided trailer with an excellent furnace.

This was not one of our more fantastic days on the road but we are safe and cozy eating pancakes and sausages in the Gypsy Wagon.

Goodbye, Moab!

Not super scenic.  Kinda like driving through a sand pit. 

Dust dirt devil. 


Grandmas Pancakes for dinner. 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Day 20; Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, Utah.

After our early start yesterday we enjoyed a very leisurely morning.  I worked and the boys plugged into Pokemon on the DS.  They have not played with those devices in years.

We set out north about 20 miles to Canyonlands National Park.  While this park is only about 10 miles east of Arches the topography is completely different. It is like a mini Grand Canyon but just as beautiful. It is not as deep but seems wider.  Maybe that is just my impression.  Layer upon layer of rock. 

This morning it is very windy and the distant sky is full of haze.  We are told that this is dust.  We feel badly for those who were looking forward to clear canyon shots today.  Because we have just come from the Grand Canyon we are OK with the diminished views.

Our first stop is the Mesa Arch which is just moments away from the parking lot.  With few people we are able to take our postcard pictures with ease.  What makes this arch different from yesterday is the staggering drop out the back side and the view of the canyon.

Next we hike up to Upheaval Dome. This formation is thought to have been the result of either a meteorite impact or a slow-moving salt dome. Who knows?  It is a like a small mountain inside of a crater.  I was glad the stiff wind was blowing us away from the edge of the cliff. 

A few more miles drive around the rim of the canyon takes us to a nice picnic pullout complete with covered cabanas.  I can only imagine how hot this place is in the summer.  Here we enjoy our lunch.  More bbq chicken wraps.  Chicken breasts are extremely inexpensive while ground beef is priced like filet mignon.  So, chicken it is!

We stop at the aptly named Grand view to see east and south across the canyon.  If you look carefully you can see a few mountain bikes and the odd jeep navigating the middle plateau layer. 

Yesterday we kept running into an elderly couple with a young aspiring photographer in their care at each lookout. On one of our last stops today we had a good laugh as we saw them yet again pull in as we pulled out.  We are being followed!

We make a quick stop at the Canyonlands interpretive centre for me to get a magnet.  It is better to get the magnet after seeing the sites so that I can pick a meaningful one.  This is becoming a serious business!

As we drive back out the way we came in, we come to the turn off to our very last park of this trip, Dead Horse Point State Park.  This is a high island peninsula that juts out above the river.  Wild horses would be driven through the narrow neck (30 m) and out onto the high point so that the best horses could be selected from the group.  With the sheer drops this made a natural pen.  It is said that one time the remaining horses were corralled on the point and barricaded in but left to die of thirst and starvation hence the name, Dead Horse Point.

Yet again we are peering over amazingly high cliffs, watching a good documentary video at the interpretive centre and hopping in and out of the truck at various viewpoints.  Oh, and don’t forget the magnet, Mama. 

We are told this is Jay Lenno's jeep. So, like everyone else we take a picture. 

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park.

Let's not sit too far back because this arch drops away to the canyon far below.

A natural safety wall. 

So many textures. . .. 

Cryptobiotic soil. Following information from interpretive centre sign.
 'This word is derived from the Greek kryptos for "hidden" and bios for "life"
meaning hidden life.  This soil is  a community of living organisms whose members include cyanobacteria, algae, lichen, fungus and moss. It grows very, very slowly and is extremely important here in the desert. It forms a protective sheath around the soil to help hold it together and keep it from washing or blowing away

It was very windy here, fun to play in!

Picnic areas come complete with a personal parking pull out and a covered cabana.
The chipmuck was just waiting to get in there for our crumbs. 

We are getting used to no guard rails. 

Throughout this area we are amazed at the thick, seemingly dead tree trunks that
sprout life.

The 'neck' of Dead Horse Point.  Hmm I think 30 feet is more like it. 

The horseshoe bend looking down from Dead Horse Point. 

This is our VERY last scenic stop of this trip.  Tomorrow we begin the three day drive back to Kelowna, BC. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Day 19: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Today we woke the boys at 5 am in order to see the sun rise at the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.  There is a very small parking lot at the trailhead so in order to ensure a parking spot this was  the suggested strategy at the Moab tourist information centre.   

Due to our remote location the stars shone bright as we drove up and up the switchbacks into the park.  We pulled on jackets and grabbed our flashlights to hike the 1.5 miles up to the arch.  There were others there but certainly no crowd.  We could see a few lights bobbing up the trail in the distance.  We saw the dark form of a small vole or shrew running along a wooden bridge early in our trek - nice!  After a while the dirt path disappears and it is slickrock marked with a few inuksuks to guide the way.  Stay away from the dark gullies boys. 

Alex kept looking in the shadows of the rocks wondering if Big Foot was there.  

We made it to the top in plenty of time for the sunrise despite the longer than expected distance to the arch.  It was rather cool and windy so after sitting still for half an hour things were chilly.  The boys did well though. 

Apparently getting pictures of the Delicate Arch with no people in your picture is a rare thing reserved for early birds. 

It was interesting to people watch on our hike back down.  Oh, those families with toddlers. .. . really?  How do you think this is going to end if they are fussing 200 m from the parking lot?  Love the eager parents but some things just are not worth it. 

We warmed up in the truck and continued on deeper into the park on the out and back road. We stopped at almost every pull out and were pleasantly surprised to have the Sand Dunes and Broken Arch all to ourselves. 

At the end of the road is an area called Devil's Garden.  There are about 8 kilometres of trails; however, we were content to hike in about 2 kms to see the Landscape Arch - as tall as a 9 story building and 309 feet (100m) wide. In the 90's a large chunk fell out of this arch so you may no longer walk right up to it.  Sounds good to me!  Needless to say, these pictures are nothing compared to actually being there. 

By lunch time we have lived a full day.  We drive out of the park feeling rather smug that we are all done and the hordes of vehicles of every size and shape crawling up the hill to the arches will be hard pressed to park at any of the look-outs. 

At the entrance to the park we stop at the Interpretive Centre - gotta see the movie, you know.  And, get a fridge magnet.  With this trailer I have opted to collect magnets instead of bumper stickers. 

Back at the trailer there is an afternoon dust storm. We all impersonate sloths inside the trailer and I get around to some marking.  

Later the boys play some pitch and putt. 

The Big Dipper on its side. It is a magical time.

Hmm, so where is that trail?

Too dark to take good pictures yet but we have reached the goal. 

Here comes the sun!

Something beautiful in an unlikely place. 

Sand Dune arch.  Walk through these upright fins to see the
arch in the picture below. 

Sand Dune arch. 

Once out of the Sand Dune fins we head down the path ten minutes to Broken Arch.

Broken Arch from the back.
Not a soul in site.
Broken Arch from the front. 

This was a bonus arch that was not on the map.
We pulled over in a jiffy and hopped out.
  This arch is massive which is hard to
tell because we are actually about 300m in front of it yet.
We figured the view was good from where we were ....
This arch is at least 60 feet tall in the centre of the opening.

Pine Tree Arch. 
Landscape Arch.  9 stories high and 100 m wide.
So hard to tell that from this picture.
There is a bonus arch near the top right.

Balanced Rock.  By this time, we were arched-out.
So a drive-by picture would just have to do. 

The Windows. Apparently the back drop to one of
the Indiana Jones Movies.  You can walk up to these multiple, large arches;
however, by this time of the day they were crawling
with people and we were DONE :). 

Look what we missed on the drive up in the dark!

A perfect way to end off a day at Arches National Park, with another arch.