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Gems Everywhere We Go

We've been on a discovery tour for the last month. We left familiar territory at Coulee City, Washington. Traveling south we decided to stop in Yakima. The decision was more about taking a breather than exploring. We had arranged to have our mail delivered there and we decided to stay a week just to catch our breath and wait for a service appointment. So we played golf at one of the most beautiful golf courses we have ever seen. Apple Tree Golf Resort is a resort housing development in an apple orchard. You play a hole or two and then drive through the orchard to the next hole. You are encouraged to help yourself to an apple from their trees. There are fountains in the water hazards, a waterfall beside the 14th green, flowers everywhere and the 17th hole par 3 has a tee 60 feet above the green. But the 17th green isn't just any green, this one is surrounded by water and shaped like an apple with a leaf-shaped sand trap on the left top of the apple and a bridge to the green on the right top that makes a stem. So there is a gem we weren't expecting.

On the way to Yakima we stopped at a scenic overlook on the Columbia River. Information at the overlook mentioned two dams on the Columbia just below that area, Wanapum Dam and Priest Rapids Dam. It also mentioned Ginkgo State Park and petrified wood. So that became a Sunday outing for us. The first stop was Ginkgo State Park where a wide variety of trees were petrified in a shallow lake. Petrified logs were discovered by a geologist in the 1920s. During the depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) helped excavate the site and built a visitors center to display some of the logs. There are dozens of logs at the visitors center, many pieces of petrified wood inside and some logs left in place and protected that can be viewed by hiking over the area where they were found. It turns out that the number of tree species at this site are larger than at any other petrified wood site in the United States. There are also petroglyphs which were relocated to the park when the dams flooded the area where they were located. Gems on top of gems here.

We had packed a picnic lunch and ate that before hiking the 2 mile trail around the park grounds to veiw the logs that were left in place. Then we drove south to view the two dams. Wanapum Dam is named for the Wanapum Indians who lived in this area. Their fishing grounds were displaced by the dam and the visitors center highlights the tribe, its heritage and traditions. The museum is well worth a stop. The dam itself is undergoing remodeling and is not open for tours at the present time. Construction also kept us from seeing the Priest Rapids Dam from close range. Both dams were sending large amounts of water over their spillways. This only happens when there is much more water than they are able to hold back or send through the turbines to generate electricity. The scenery along the Columbia River in this area is spectacular, the Hwy 243 runs alongside the river which is in a steep sided coulee. Further south, Hwy 243 joins Hwy 24 which takes us past the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, site of one of the first nuclear reactors. Hwy 24 also takes us back to Yakima and gives us another surprise. As we approach Yakima we see huge fields of hops, a key ingredient of many if not most beers. The fields here are extensive, I estimated that there must be something like 8 to 10 square miles under cultivation here. Yakima was giving us surprise after surprise.

We left Yakima traveling Hwy 12 which runs between Mt. Ranier to the north and Mt. St. Helens to the south. A short scenic drive bring us to Chehalis, WA. Chehalis is a small town on I-5 about 80 miles south of Seattle. We wouldn't have thought to stop there but that is where Cummins NW has a shop which could do repair work on our generator and the chassis air conditioning. We've been working on the air conditioning repair for almost two months. The generator quit on us several weeks ago. We got an emergency appointment for the generator at Cummins in Billings, MT. They found the problem and patched up some burned wires but they didn't have time nor parts for a proper fix. We had the parts for both repairs sent to the Chehalis location and had an appointment for the repair. Trent welcomed us and got work under way. We had one of the most welcoming friendly experiences we've ever had at any repair facility. Trent kept us informed on progress and explained the repairs. Our stay in Chehalis before our repair appointment was at the Riverside Golf RV Park. We were parked backed up to the first hole with a screen behind us to stop stray golf balls. We played the course, it is almost 100 years old and a challenging course. We had dinner on the deck overlooking the ninth green. The campground is a parking lot type campground. There are full hookups. You park on sturdy, clean concrete pads with gravel between pads. There are no other facilities, no showers, no playground (unless you count the golf course) and no store. We had a nice view of the road and the Chehalis airport. Being a pilot I wasn't complaining about that.

After our day of repair we headed for the Glen Ayr Resort in Hoodsport. This beautiful resort is located on US 101 and Hood Canal which isn't really a canal. Hood Canal is actually a fjord, formed by a glacier, it is 60 miles long, several miles wide and as much as 600 feet deep. Our site was up the hill in the campground. From there we can see Hood Canal over the roof of the resort hotel. We are able to watch the boats and see the tides change from the motor home. We took a day to drive north on US 101 to the Walker Mountain viewpoint. You get a nice view of Puget Sound and Seattle on a clear day. Then we did wineries for a day. A scenic drive along Hwy 106 which borders Hood Canal led us to Belfair. We turned south to Shelton and then north again to Hoodsport. Along the way we netted a little over two cases of wine, stores for the winter. Olympic National Park is a primary objective of our trip and we finally made it when we drove from Hoodsport to the Staircase Ranger Station. A day hike with Ranger Jeff introduced us to the forest and streams of this wonderful wilderness park. Our last day in the area we drove to Olympia to see Paddle to Squaxin. This is a celebration and gathering of the Pacific Coast native Americans from Mainland Canada, Vancouver Island and the US. We watched as 94 ceremonial canoes arrived from as far away as southern Alaska. Rowing their large canoes for over three weeks, crews of 10 to 20 or more in a single canoe paddled into the harbor at Olympia for their final landing of the trip. The host tribe, the Squaxin people, welcomed the canoes with drumming, chanting and singing. The next four days there will be a Potlatch on Squaxin Island as representatives of many different tribes gather to renew acquaintances, much like an FMCA Rally!

After a week we moved further north on the peninsula to the town of Sequim. We left the motor home at the Gilgal Oasis RV Park and took the Blackball Ferry to Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. We have friends there and they showed us around the island for three glorious days. We visited art galleries and helped our friends open the art show sponsored by their art society. One day was devoted to a trip to the western side of Vancouver Island to see the Pacific coast. Along the way we saw lakes, mountains, forests and the town of Alberni which was partially destroyed by the tsunami from the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Our last day we visited the Kinsol trestle, a 1920's railroad trestle restored for the Trans Canada Trail. The wooden trestle built on a curve makes quite a spectacular sight. We finished the day in Parksville to see the results of the 30th annual sand sculpture contest. We ate well (perhaps too well) and had a great visit with friends. Our ferry ride back to Port Angeles led to our latest adventure. We drove west from Port Angeles to the town of Joyce. We enjoyed Joyce Daze and Wild Blackberry Festival in Joyce, Washington. A pancake breakfast served up by the Blackberry Princesses was followed by a tour of the history museum, visits to vendor booths and live music. We saw lots of classic cars but skipped the pie eating contest. We did conduct our own personal test of the blackberry pies and they were judged to be wonderful.

We are looking forward to at least another month here on the Olympic Peninsula. We've already had a spectacular summer. I wonder what the next month will bring.


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