Saturday, May 29, 2010

Forest solitude

We are parked in a clearing for a power line on the Okanogan National Forest (map), just off a paved Forest Service road and a short ways from Washington 20, at Loup-Loup pass. Across the street is a large "sno-park" lot (permit required), and there is a developed Forest Service campground just half a mile up the road.

Yesterday morning found us at the Colonial Creek campground in the North Cascades National Park (map). We were completely under the trees there, and so we could not get on line. Even DirecTV was out, driving me to the DVD collection; thankfully, we had finally picked up a Blu-Ray player. We got a great spot right next to the creek, but it rained pretty much the whole time we were there, so we could not really enjoy much of the park or the campground.

Most of Colonial Creek and all of Newhalem Creek, which we passed a dozen miles earlier, had just opened for the season. In fact, when we stopped at the visitors center in Newhalem, crews were madly scrambling to get the loops open in the campground. The ranger allowed that they hoped to have things open by 6pm, prompting us to continue on up the hill to the next campground. This section of the highway, following the Skagit River gorge, is stunningly beautiful and mostly untraveled. Some of the scenery rivals anything you might see in, say, Yosemite, but without the crowds. The gorge is dammed in several spots for power generation, forming turquoise-blue lakes.

Colonial Creek was a relatively early stop for us. While we knew there might be some good and possibly free spots on the other side of the park, we were out of water, and the Park Service campgrounds had spigots. Knowing we had two long grades ahead of us, topping out over 5,000', we opted to just put in a couple days' worth rather than haul a ton of water over the hill, so we will need to be looking for water again later today.

We had the place mostly to ourselves when we arrived, but several rigs pulled in later in the evening for the start of the holiday weekend. In the small world department, one truck camper with a young family had "Nordic Tugs" stenciled on the windshield in the corporate font; turns out he works at the factory. They had remembered seeing Odyssey in Mount Vernon as well. Even more campers were arriving as we rolled out at the noon checkout yesterday.

We had laundry to do, and there turned out to be a convenient and modern laundromat in the town of Twisp along our route, so we stopped there for a couple hours yesterday afternoon. The spot where I had to park the bus was rather tilty, and I used up all the suspension travel on both sides trying to get level. That put the door a good foot or so above the ground, so I set up our little folding step.

It was a pleasant enough stop, and we were glad to have the laundry done. As a bonus, the laundromat had WiFi, and we enjoyed zero-delay Internet from the comfort of our easy chairs for the time we were there. Once we had the laundry put away, I zeroed out the suspension and started to drive away. Of course, I had forgotten completely that the step was still outside the door.

Those steps are really durable, but the 12,000 pounds of the right drive wheels was just a bit more than they could take, and we promptly turned the step into an approximation of a potato chip. Oops. Long time readers know that I always do a walk-around inspection of the bus before we start out for the day. I check all the lights, make sure the dish is down, inspect all the tires, and make sure there are no fluids on the ground. This is also when I catch anything we've left outside, like the solar garden light, or the step.

Usually, however, I don't do such an inspection at intermediate stops during the day, such as at rest areas, visitor centers, grocery stores, and the like. We never put the step out at those kinds of stops, either. Laundry is one of the few times we actually level the bus at a mid-day stop, and we often deploy the satellite dish then, too. So really, I should be doing walk-arounds after laundry stops as well, and you can bet I won't omit it at such a stop again. Now we need to find ourselves a Camping World or similar store to get another step; we humans can get by without it, but the dog absolutely needs it.

Between the slow grades, the laundry stop, and the step fiasco, yesterday was another short day. Our directories said there were two Forest Service campgrounds near the top of this hill. We pulled into the first one, "JR," just a couple miles from here, to find it completely empty. Most of the half dozen spurs were too short for Odyssey, but we found one long level one that had a couple of gaps through the trees in the general direction of the satellite. After ten minutes of searching the sky, though, we gave up and continued on. One night without Internet access is fine, but a couple nights in a row can put us well behind on email.

We passed this spot on our way to the Loup-Loup campground. This very large campground was less than 10% full, but after driving the entire loop I did not see a single space where I thought we could get a shot at the satellite through the trees. Besides that, it was $12 for dry camping (the smaller JR had been only $8), and so we returned here, where it's free and I knew the clearing would let us get on-line.

It's tempting to spend another night here, to avoid having to battle holiday crowds for a spot somewhere else tonight, and to get a few things done, but we are again out of water, and so we will continue east and downhill from here. We will be east of the Cascades and officially on the "dry side" of the state from now on, and we're done with high passes until we cross the Rockies in Idaho and Montana.


  1. It sounds as if you may be headed towards our campgrounds in Colorado before long! Poor Opal, how will she function!?! I know a couple of engineers that are working as steps now! LOL

  2. I feel your pain on the step. Last summer we stopped for a break and got out the water bowl for Roxy. Then we took her for a walk, got back in the car, and continued on our way. When we got to our vacation stop, it was a mystery--where is the dog's water bowl?? Apparently a couple of hundred miles back up the highway, where we left it.

  3. Hi Guys a little behind on my reading and commenting. I had to laugh out loud when I saw that picture!! A few days before you did, I ran over the same step with my bus. I did a bit of a salvage job and can use it if necessary.

    In the meantime, I put my plastic version into service and darn if I did not run over that one as well.

    Jim and Pat


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