Itching To Get Out

The advent of Spring has left us dying to get out; maybe go on a hike on solid soil. My husband and I love the outdoors and we live in the woods but we’d like to see some different trees.

Morel season is quickly approaching but not fast enough so we settled for a drive up the road to DNR (Department of Natural Resources) land near us the other day (more on that in the next post). The DNR owns a ton of land near us that they manage for recreation and various other commercial and governmental type uses.

This area is well laid out with dirt roads threading through forested hillsides and mountains. There are a couple of silver mines, plentiful sources of wood that some hardy locals take advantage of to make a living (they are a special breed), and hidden huckleberry patches known only to some inhabitants. We’ve been promised to be taken out to pick but have been warned that the bears love huckleberries also. We’ll be sure to bring our bear spray as we always do The Man, the Bear and the Truck.

While in town the other day I stopped by the Colville station of the Colville National Forest for some advice as my husband has been chomping at the bit to go on some overnight backpacking trips. I asked if there were really Grizzly bear in Washington state and in Stevens County and the answer was “yes”. The ranger said they hung out closer to the Canadian border and at higher elevations so I think we’ll stick to the lower. I was instructed to spray our bear spray in a half-moon pattern horizontally to create a sort of wall in front of us before the animal gets close if we are unfortunate enough to have an encounter with a predater. Good advice. I would have just sprayed straight ahead.

I asked about Morel hunting in previously burned areas of the forest. The staff warned of hidden holes and falling trees as dangers so I think we’ll stick to safer places. There’s plenty out there as it is.

When I asked about road conditions the ranger recommended a phone app called Avenza  which is free but you can download road and recreation maps of various sections of the national forest in addition to being able to navigate off-line. We could have used that a couple of years ago when we got lost in the Snoqualmie National Forest Lost In The Woods; Twice In One Day.

There is wild asparagus coming up although I have yet to find a single sprig, and crawfish waiting for my pot although I have yet to learn the spots they like here locally. We knew the other side of the mountains fairly well (except the time we got lost) but here is a new story. We’re still plying the locals for their secrets; more like begging.

Lastly, I have gold fever again and have been all over our property crushing and breaking promising looking rocks and I dug a hole right into what, to the best of my knowledge, is a geological fault. Our own private one. How’s that for a selling point?  Our property has the perfect geology for possible gold and comes with natural springs . Couldn’t get any better for a geology/nature fanatic! Take a look at the map I found showing the fault. The photo is crummy but you get the point.

 The back of our SUV is crammed with gold panning/prospecting stuff just in case; classifiers, my pan, my sluice, a shovel, the Fish and Gold Pamphlet required by the state to have in our possession so there are no excuses should we be caught out in the field breaking the law. 🙂

Tinkham Campground

We spent about four months on the road living in our 20′ Jayco Lite travel trailer after we sold our house in Snoqualmie Washington. We lived on the road for about four months, mostly in the Snoqualmie National Forest, while we looked for property. It was a memorable summer.

We spent the first month or so up the Middle Fork Road just outside North Bend but you’re supposed to only camp for two consecutive weeks at any time in the national forest so we were under pressure to keep moving. Still, the Sheriff did their jobs pretty well and it was tricky to keep two paces ahead of them. We were forest bandits.

We had to spend a week at the Summit At Snoqualmie Motel for awhile just to get out of the national forest for the prescribed time before we could go back. It cost us an arm and a leg but it was nice to be able to shower easily and be more comfortable.

We spent a couple of weeks at the Denny Creek campground near Snoqualmie Pass but it was under the control of Darth Dunder. He was an older gentleman who took his job way too seriously; and he was simply an asshole. I wrote about him in a previous post.

After spending a couple more weeks in another open camping area, we moved into Tinkham Campground for almost the last month on the road.

Tinkham was a breath of fresh air in that the hosts were super friendly and didn’t administer the camp like a internment facility. It was located about halfway between North Bend and the pass. As we were still “living” and working near our old home, we could still commute back and forth to Snoqualmie with relative ease. A quick drive up the forest service road to the freeway entrance and we could blast down I-90 in about twenty minutes. It was a beautiful commute.

We found an open spot on the river side of the campground with our own semi private trail to the river. I can’t remember if it was the north fork of the Snoqualmie or another river. Denny Creek fed into it just a mile or two up the road and was known for having gold.

We were at the river often to get water, prospect, or just to play around and throw rocks. The beach was extremely rocky and I noticed that someone had begun to build a trail of sorts from the tree line to the river’s edge. I seized upon the idea and spent many hours over the following weeks continuing with construction of the trail. I treated it like a patio. I would find the flattest rocks, dig shallow holes for them, put down the rock and fill in between them with sand. It looked pretty cool in the end.

Working on “my” trail became one of my favorite pastimes. It became somewhat symbolic to me. It was a contribution of sorts to those that would follow; an easier way to the water other than the ankle twisting journey one would normally have to take. It was an invitation of sorts to come and enjoy. It was a testament to the small dedication of one person to create something ordered out of chaotic jumble of stones lining the river. I hoped it would be enjoyed for months, maybe years ahead. I hoped other people would help to maintain it. I would like to go back and see if it’s still there.

The great solar eclipse happened while we were there. When the event happened, the shadows deepened in a surreal fashion. The light dimmed, and we headed to the beach, me with my camera, my husband with three pairs of sunglasses, to view what we could of the show.

I wanted to capture the eclipse on camera but although I could see the shadow of the moon creeping across the face of the sun, I couldn’t capture it on film. We all ended up taking turns putting on the multiple pairs of sunglasses to see what we could. It turned out to be anti climactic but was memorable all the same.

We went prospecting up at Denny Creek but had the usual bad luck in finding any gold. With the weeks I spent prospecting there, I realized just how difficult gold really is to find. Being so heavy, it sinks down to the bottom of the gravel and sand and you have to be experienced and have the right equipment in order to recover anything. Lessons learned though. Sometimes it’s learning how not to do something that teaches you how to do something. The process of elimination.

We were able to pull off more than the usually prescribed two weeks stay because the season was coming to a close for the winter and the hosts, being an older couple, were quite open to the idea of having us clean up the firepits. We worked over the course of about three days to finish all fifty or so campsites.

We found the property we were looking for and the negotiations finally went through in the last couple of weeks of September 2017. Winter was approaching and we now had somewhere to go. Somewhere to call home. It was time to go.

On the evening of September 17th of the year 2017, we loaded up the trailer and hitched it up to the truck in the pouring rain. We pulled out of our spot and stopped on our way out to say goodbye and say thank you to our hosts.

We pulled onto I-90 knowing western Washington was now behind us, most likely for the remainder of our lives but a new adventure awaited us ahead.

 

The Great Outdoors: A People Magnet

Settling into our new life on the road and the people we met.

People are drawn to the woods.  People of all kinds.

I don’t know what it is exactly but it’s different for every person.

Some reasons people to go to the woods:

  • The simple beauty and serenity
  • A brisk 30 mile hike to some peak starting at 5am while training for the decathlon
  • To get stoned and totally enjoy nature
  • A place to forage for wild mushrooms to sell at the city market
  • To ditch and burn a stolen vehicle (I’ve seen that)
  • A place to get naked and go swimming or soak in a hot spring
  • To hide a body (Gary Ridgeway or Ted Bundy)
  • A place to live when you’re homeless
  • A place for target practice with your antique musket and your rifle
  • To take the dogs out for a nice romp
  • A simple camping trip or picnic
  • For gold prospecting or to hunt for gems

The point is, everyone has their own agenda. For us it was a mixture of some of the above (- body dumping, ditching stolen cars, getting naked outside – unless we are alone, and the decathlon thing), and it was a place to live for the summer between homes.

We had the trailer parked at the Taylor River campground along the Snoqualmie River for our first few weeks on the road. Wherever we parked the rig was our home for the months ahead. Once that home was even on the side of the road for two nights while we waited for our truck’s rear tires to be replaced.

We were just getting used to our nomadic life in the woods and to our RV. We’d also just bought our trailer and my son and I were both learning the routines and procedures related to living in a camper trailer. I was proud of how he’d picked up on things and was there to help with everything from leveling it, to lowering the pop-outs on each side. My husband would be joining us in a couple of weeks.

The first few days we lived like royalty on battery power and it was great. The third day, however, something in the trailer began to emit a long beep and we couldn’t figure out what it was. When the lights went out, we made a connection. Batteries.

I’d never actually lived in a recreational vehicle before. I don’t know what I was thinking when I didn’t give a second thought to where the power was coming from. We’d lived carefree on just battery power for that long (which, looking back on it, wasn’t so bad), before the batteries finally drained.

Not being experienced in such matters, I took them in and bought new batteries. I must have had some reason to believe they were bad and couldn’t be charged. I bought two new ones and from then on, planned on charging them with our truck. I wasn’t familiar with using a generator at that point although I bought a small one about a week later.

Lessons learned. I feel like half an expert now as opposed to then. So knowledgeable. I still have my head crammed into You tube or somewhere else on the internet almost every day learning how to do something for the first time.

At any rate, we were just settling in to our new routine when one day, I saw a limousine driving down the seriously pot-holed road. It was so bad there, you had to maneuver from side to side through the worst part in order to avoid bottoming out on the edge of an especially deep pothole.

I cringed as the long black vehicle approached the “hole” but to my surprise it glided through unscathed. It was the end of the navigable road however and it slowly pulled to a stop.

A stretch limousine fifteen miles down a narrow dirt road, forty five miles from the nearest city. Weird. I tried to look busy and watched out of the corners of my eyes.

It pulled over and a man got out, then another. The second man was dressed in what looked to me like yachting attire. The first man appeared to be his help of some sort. The man in the boat clothes just walked around for a few minutes and had a look around then they got back into the limo, turned around, and drove off, back up the road the way they came.

What?

Then one day the motor home pulled in.

It was kind of junky looking but nothing unusual for out there in the woods. Every kind of people came out here from the city folk with their Subarus to the teenagers from the burbs out for a wild night of partying and barfing by the campfire. Some people lived out here (like us) but I don’t think they had any choice. We saw people out there who were clearly living there. It felt sad to me.

The people in the motor home turned out to be colorful folk. It was an older gentleman, probably in his sixties, his wife, and their daughter and her boyfriend and kids. One dog too. I didn’t get the impression they were out for a weekend camping trip. The motor home had a definite lived-in look.

One or more of them liked the bottle. Colorful became vivid when they drank. I don’t remember what it was about but the first time they had at it, they had at it. Yelling, throwing things, slamming things, and at some point, the younger couple got the boot. They sped off with their kids down the road.

That was the first time. It became a pattern. We began to dread the now expected daily skirmish. We moved to the other side of the road or across the bridge to get away from them. Then one day they were gone. Thank God. The quiet of the woods was now upon us again.

Back to the usual city dwellers with their pooches, Birkenstocks, and ergonomically designed hiking poles mixed in with the pickup truck driving, gun toting types and their lab/retriever/hound dogs.

The woods seem to be the great melting pot of society.

 

On The Road

Eluding the forest police.

We were on the road in our little trailer from sometime in May to September 19th of 2017. At first it was just me and our son but my husband joined us about 2 weeks into our great exodus along with quite of few other residents of King County. We’ve met a surprising amount of people from our old neck of the woods who have come here for mostly the same reasons as us; fresh air and some room.

We spent most of the time in the Snoqualmie National Forest on the west side of the Cascade mountain range. You’re only supposed to spend a total of 2 weeks at a time camping there but, sue us, we bounced around for a couple of months. Not just us either. We met quite a few people who made the forest their temporary home. Ours was by choice. I don’t believe their’s was.

The areas are well patrolled by sheriffs and we had to play a kind of hide and seek to keep them at bay. We ended up staying at an inn at Snoqualmie Pass for a couple of weeks to burn up our “not allowed” time before we returned to camp.

We camped in designated and undesignated sites (which is allowed) and moved from the north side of I-90 to the south side to keep a low profile.

Camping was the cheapest and most viable option for us. The hotel cost us an arm and a leg. We were actively looking for property and going out to look at them a couple of times a week. We wanted property that was away from town but not so remote that we would have to home school our son and cut off most human contact.

Until we found something though, we were living on the road.

It seemed like it was getting expensive and at one point I began thinking “we gotta find a place so we can pump money into there, not into living on the road. I don’t know what our biggest expenses were but I wanted the money to go into our destination, not the road.

When we finally found a place, some paperwork got lost in the mail and things dragged out for weeks longer than we anticipated. Our agent got pissed at us because things were taking so long. I reminded her that someone else lost the paperwork. I was pissed at her. I still consider her quite a battle ax but we are in touch every now and then because we’re still thinking of buying the lower lot. It’s one of those semi tense relationships that you have to maintain in your own best interests. Thanksgiving or Christmas with her….noooo.

We stayed at a couple of improved campgrounds. The first featured an ogre and his wife. The kind who watches every move you make from his RV. He would literally look at his watch when we would come to pay for the day, as if he was counting on us to be late. He was just a rude asshole. I felt sorry for his wife.  The second hosts were very friendly and we actually worked out a deal with them to do the final cleaning of the fire pits in trade for a few days of accommodations. My husband and I scooped and cleaned out about 30 to 40 fire pits for the close of the season.

In general, we kept the lowest profile as possible until we could get out of the forest and to a place we owned where no one could tell us how long we could stay or what we could do.

And I could dig as many holes as I wanted at any time of the day I wanted. 🙂

The Man, the Bear and the Truck

If that man had woken up…..

The bear had been seen along a forest service road on the south side of I-90 close to Snoqualmie Pass. Warning signs were posted throughout the area warning campers.

We were camping off that road ourselves during the summer of 2017 while we looked for land to call our new home. We were living in the little trailer we’d bought after selling our house in the city of Snoqualmie (not to be confused with the pass)

My husband and I were taking this road back to camp when we spotted a truck parked just off the road with the tailgate down. No one was in sight and a bear was ransacking the occupant’s camp circle at the end of the open tailgate.

Since we didn’t see anyone we were worried about the owner of the vehicle. We pulled over and the bear took off. I very carefully crept up to the truck hoping I wasn’t about to see a blood bath. I got close enough to peak into the back and into the shell.

There was a man asleep but very much alive in the back! His feet had been mere inches away from where the bear had been destroying his goods. I woke him up and told him what had happened.  Can you imagine if he had woken up? No where to go as there was a canopy on the bed. How lucky was this guy?

Our family has camped in the Snoqualmie National Forest for over 20 years and have indeed run into a bear who repeatedly came in to our campsite to raid our supplies; even after the first encounter after which we stored our food in our car.

The morning after we put most of our food elsewhere, we still had some canned goods in our campsite. The bear came and bit into a can of spaghettios and sucked all of the juice out of it through the tooth holes. They’re not stupid when it comes to goodies. We reported the bear to Fish and Game and I believe they may have relocated it.

Bear will do anything to get at food; even inside a car. I heard a story recently about a bear who ransacked a guy’s rental vehicle. I mean trashed it after he’d been warned not to store food inside.

We now carry bear spray wherever we go for protection from cougar also. There was a recent story about two men who were mountain biking near North Bend, not far from where we used to camp regularly. They were attacked by a cougar, one of them ran, and he was killed by the animal. This was just months ago.

Cougar Attack

We now live in an area where we never know what might come up to our door step. We live in their space now. A neighbor had a bear attack her dog in their carport a few years ago.

The lesson to all this? Bear will search and destroy to get to your food.  We don’t go into the woods any more without a can of bear spray. If those cyclists had been carrying some, the end of that story would most likely have been different.

 

The Beginning Of The Journey

Living as gypsies for the summer between selling our house and moving east.

pexels-photo-696680We sold our house in May 2017. We needed to close before we could make a decision on a new place to live. We didn’t know how much cash we would walk away with after everything was said and done at the old place. I cruised craigslist for a couple of weeks looking for a trailer to live for the summer. Little did I know we would end up living in it for an entire year.

I saw one that caught my eye. It was a 20′ Jayco Lite with 2 canvas fold outs. It seemed sound to me, and had a few amenities we liked so we bought it. My son and I picked it up one evening and slowly pulled it out for it’s long adventure over the mountains to a new home.

I hadn’t pulled a trailer in years. The last time was with a 1962 Shasta hitched to a tiny Ford Escort with nothing but a chain-on hitch. That was a nightmare. It was me and my previous husband with 2  friends in the back seat. At one point the car began violently wavering back and forth along with the trailer behind us. Everyone yelled “pull over, pull over!” at once and I’m at the helm trying to gently coast the contraption slowly over to the side of the road. No sudden turns here.

I don’t know how we got that thing home. We took it on many a camping trip up the local county road to the national forest where we were mistaken repeatedly for meth cookers.  One time, we had been in town and were heading back out to camp with our supplies when a bunch of Sheriffs drove by fast. We were used to the routine at that point and I think we may have turned around and gone home until the smoke blew over.

Another time, I was taking a nap in the Shasta with my 6 month old baby and 8 year old son when I heard “I know you’re in there. Come out”. I got up and went outside with my infant in my arms and my son. Robocop was there with a man who seemed really embarrassed for the cop. He stood sheepishly near the squad car. Probably a ride-a-long.

Upon seeing the obvious threat we were, the cop proceeded to reem me a new one for having a BB gun leaning up against a tree stump. Apparently, the barrel was slanting slightly too far towards an adjacent abandoned camp site. Ooooooh. “Breaking the law breaking the law”. He asked for my ID while I kept stealing looks at the poor guy who had accompanied the sheriff as he almost visually winced at the “fail” factor on the cop’s part.

After running my ID and finding no evidence that me and my children were cooking meth, he proceeded to chew me out for having a messy campground.

Well, I didn’t take to kindly to the robo-incident and complained loudly to the sheriff’s department the next day when I went into town. I happened to run into the robotard going the other way while heading back to camp. I waved him down and let him know I’d complained. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. What an asshole. I don’t like authority figures who abuse their positions and scare the crap out of 8 year old children.

The Shasta finally met it’s demise after we began storing it in an unofficial yard where, ironically, meth cookers moved in next to it and trashed it. We hauled it down to an RV reclamation site down south. It was a good little trailer. 🙁 I won’t miss the busts though.

Back to new trailer. I was a little nervous hauling a rig for the first time in quite a while so both me and my son kept looking out the back window to make sure it was still behind us. It became a joke, saying “it’s still there”.

Out away from town and into the foothills near our old home we drove. Trailer still behind us. There was a truck stop near the entrance to the county road we followed to get to where we were setting up house. It had showers for only 14.00 a pop, a laundry, and a sort of gift shop setup with everything a trucker might want to ease their travels.

We stopped and “watered” the trailer before we headed out for the last leg of our day’s journey. It was getting dark and we wanted to get this rig out to where we were going to settle for the next couple of weeks before late.

The county just happened to be paving the dirt road out and had these annoying little red cones right smack in the middle of the entire length of the narrow road. I had to maneuver the damned trailer carefully around every single one of those things. We took a couple of them out. By accident, of course.

At one point we came to an already very narrow bridge that had been turned into a one-lane. I slowly rolled up to it, sizing the situation up in my head. It looked like I would have about 5 or 6 inches to spare on each side of the trailer. Some skill would be needed. Or stupidity. What if we got the rig stuck halfway over the bridge? I didn’t want to think about it and rolled forward, my son cheering me on. Gritting my teeth with my fingers breaking the steering wheel, we moved forward at a moderate speed. I figured if we had a little momentum, if we scraped maybe we’d be less likely to get lodged in place. Yes, speed would help us in a jam. Can you imagine if we’d funneled into the far end of the bridge? Oh my God. Better not to think about it.

Somehow we did it. We made it. As I recollect, we opted to pull into a regular campground that first night just to make things easier. Backing up the rig…I’m not so good at that but it happened.

Tucked in for the first night on the road to a new life.

I’m beginning to realize that there is so much to write about, I’m going to have to continue this in another post. Many many many strange and unusual things seem to happen with our family. I’ve been told countless times I should write a book. Again, a blog will do.

Next in “The Beginning”

  • Camping neighbors from hell.
  • Are you sure that’s the cat?
  • The limousine.
  • The glass menagerie.
  • The bear and the guy in the pickup.
  • Teenage drivers.
  • Crystal hunting!
  • Hopping campgrounds and really grouchy hosts.
  • Bartering with the really nice campground hosts.
  • Panning for pyrite.
  • The rocky beach trail.
  • I realized with horror one evening that we were going to be dealing with freezing temperatures and snow with canvas pullouts.