Saturday, April 12, 2014

Home Sweet (snowy) Home

Hailey was ready to hit the road as we pulled up the hill and back onto the highway from our campsite at the John Day dam on the Columbia river.


The north shore highway on the Washington state side had light traffic as compared to the Interstate across the river on the Oregon shore.  We re-joined 395 and headed northward through Kennewick and Pasco, and crossed the Columbia one more time as it curves back to the north west.


From there, it was a couple hours of easy driving up to join I-90 and roll non stop through Spokane and into Coeur d’Alene.  No obvious and inviting camp spots were evident, and the border was in our sights.


It would have been wise to stop prior to the border because of all the deer and elk crossing the road and grazing in the narrow ditches, but we could smell home and carried on driving very carefully.

Donated some California firewood at the border, but otherwise the crossing was painless and quick. After a short visit with friends at the St. Mary’s River B&B, a coffee at Tim Hortons, and another quick stop to visit with friends at a hockey tournament in Invermere, it was on through Kootenay National Park, on the west side of the continental divide.  B.C. is somewhat like California with higher than average fuel prices, so I stopped near the divide to dump in my spare fuel to get me to cheaper prices back in Alberta.


It had a bit of a winter look there, but at least the temps were above the freezing mark.  Closer to home, I stopped to check my mail and was pleased to see that almost 6 months worth of mail still left plenty of room in my large box alongside the country road.


The last couple miles of gravel road had some wet sections, but at least the trailer did not get covered in ice and road grime like last year’s return.

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Getting near my house however, was a different story.  The entire driveway and yard had a between 2-3 feet of hard snow, and the stuff at the entrance was rock hard where it had been plowed off the main road.  After dropping Hailey and the rig in a nearby cleared parking area, the big GM made a few attempts to back in.  But the snow and ice was so hard that the truck stayed on top, before inevitably falling through and being hung up on the frame.  A regular snow shovel was no match for this stuff, and it took an hour or two shovelling with a spade to free the truck for several more attempts with the same result!

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I carried Hailey over the snow banks to get to the house, and I was pleased to find the house in perfect condition.  In no time I had the heat turned up, the water on, and a hot shower pending.  Hailey took a couple moments to realize where she was, then had a big grin on her face as she raced around getting re-acquainted with all her old haunts, hiding places and sunny windows.

After a couple days the snow plow guy felt sorry for me and brought in his tractor to cut a trail to the house.  Even his 4WD tractor had a hard time to move the heavy banks of snow and ice.


Luckily, the temperatures were warm and the sun was hot, so all the snow in the area has been melting very quickly.

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I had hauled my satellite internet and TV gear over the snow banks and set it up, so it was not long before I was back on the air, and enjoying TV on a rather large screen from a comfortable recliner.  My home desktop computer was in need of many updates of course, including the upgrade to Windows 8.1  It took many hours of downloading overnight (when my data is free) to download the 3.62Gb needed for the upgrade.  Windows was not very transparent about what it was doing, but overall the upgrade went well.  At least for now, I think 8.1 is a big improvement with a much more familiar look.  Prior to getting online, Win 8 was reluctant to connect to wi-fi and networks.  All the trouble shooting suggestions it has – involve getting help ONLINE!  Huh?IMG_3815IMG_3828  IMG_3860 IMG_3861 IMG_3864  IMG_3842

Various section of this blog’s setup are still not working and Google seems to have lost interest in fixing the problems with their blogger program …

Wheeling It has been enjoying their time on the lakeshore where I spent some time in November, and the Bayfield Bunch are enroute to their own snowy fate in Ontario.

Don & Donna, who shared my beach campsite on Lake Mohave have been all the way to the Texas coast, and the ocean beaches.

Just down the road at Dogpound north, John & Brenda have been doing their best to melt the snow after their earlier return from the Phoenix area.  Not sure if their horses have forgiven them yet.

It looks like I will be mostly relaxing around home for 10 days or so, before I return to my summer job, helping defend Alberta’s forests from fire.  Something tells me it won’t be much of a problem for a while yet!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Columbia River

Travel conditions were good and distractions few, so we made it all the way across Oregon in one day.  This brought us to the mighty Columbia river, and the boundary between Oregon and Washington.  We crossed the river at Biggs Jct, then just upstream, and just below the John Day dam is my favourite boondocking spot in the area.  There are more ‘civilized’ camp spots across on the Oregon side, but they are immediately beside the Interstate and the railroad, both of which create more noise than I want to deal with.  That said, there is also a highway and railroad on the Wa side, but both are further away and thus a bit less noise.  One thing I like about this spot is the river traffic going through the locks at the dam.  And they are literally within a stones throw from this bank as they enter and leave the lock.


The tug ‘Sundial’ is pushing four barges upriver.IMG_3743IMG_3744IMG_3746IMG_3750IMG_3747IMG_3751IMG_3753IMG_3754IMG_3755IMG_3760

Approaching the downstream side of the dam.IMG_3762

The lock gate opens …


The flotilla is all pushed inside..


And the gate closes …


After a while, the top of the tug is visible in the lock as it prepares to resume its upstream journey.IMG_3792

Across the river are some native fishing platforms, and the lower end of the huge fish ladder.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Moving–this time for real

Had a couple of visitors my last night at Stewarts Point. I don’t recall hearing any coyotes in the area, but this guy got blown through on a windy morning, encroaching on Hailey’s hunting territory.


I heard voices about 0400 and in the morning saw this 2WD pickup stuck up to it’s axle in the loose gravel.  The neighbour was coerced into helping with the tow, and I lent my tow strap to the operation to get rid of a small group of stoned and/or drunk idiots.  At least they didn’t bang on my door (at 0400), or otherwise disturb me.


And then we were on the road, after saying ‘so long’ to Nina & Paul who had the ‘beast’ parked just down the shoreline from me.


After a short back track on I-15 we headed over to Hwy 93 to begin the long trek northward for real.  Plans to stop again at the Pahranagat NWR were shelved when we arrived there around lunch time, so we just kept the wheels turning, turning left again onto the Extraterrestrial highway leading past ‘Area 51’.  A couple of alien craft disguised as dust devils tried to abduct us, but we managed to escape.

After re-fueling at Tonopah (and changing into jeans, with socks and a jacket, brrrr), we continued the northward trek, eventually pulling in to a lakeside rec area at Walker Lake.  This is just north of Hawthorne, which is surrounded by thousands of bunkers all over the desert … interesting!

(Check it out on Google Earth)


Walker Lake has the appearance of a half-empty reservoir, quite common in the southwest after years of drought, but it is actually the remains of a vast inland sea.  The water level is constantly going down, and they have posted signs where the water level was all the way from around 1880 to present.


Obviously, it is a challenge maintaining and extending boat launches here, much the same as at Lake Mead.IMG_3724

Ms Hailey heading home for some breakfast after a morning walk.


From there it was north again to join Interstate 80 towards Reno where fuel was added again to avoid having to pay California prices on the next leg of the journey.  Nice to see Nevada had a nice free dump station at the rest area along the way.


Temps were not that much above freezing along the way, and it was somewhat cloudy, but it was nice to get into some areas of pine trees, lakes, melted snow (!) and even some green grass!


We made it across the Oregon line before needing to fuel up again, and pulled over along the shore of Lake Albert for the night.