Enchanted

Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a vast expanse of wilderness in central and northern Washington. Headlining the region is, as you can guess, Mt Baker- a 10,000 foot glaciated volcanic peak.

We’d been up there last time we were in Seattle, and were itching to return. With a few days off, we loaded our gear and our Charley into Archie and rode I-5 northbound toward Bellingham, cutting northeast and into the Cascade range. We found a dispersed camp site near Artist Point, a jump off for several day hikes around Baker and the surrounding forest.

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Here for a bit, home for a bit

August 16-Sept 1

We tried to get out camping on our next few days off.

The Olympic Peninsula is a wild place. Remote, rugged, and wild. With rocky shores, mountains and glaciers, and a temperate rainforest, it checks all the boxes. On this trip, we’d stick to the national forest land, as again we had Charley and she isn’t allowed at the National Park.

We went on a tough but short hike to the top of Mt. Ellinore, after finding a campsite across the road from the trailhead. It was a perfect setup.

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Seattle, the sequel

Over a month has passed since our last post. That’s a lot to cover. So to avoid rambling, we’re covering the essentials. The meat and potatoes, if you will. The main events and experiences. Only the most important aspects of our first 5 weeks here. Not a lot of fluff.

Already rambling.

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PNW

June 3-9

Leaving Crescent City and the Redwoods was sad; it’s a special place. You can find big mountains in a lot of places, but the redwoods of Northern California are a unique sight to behold.

We set our bearings toward Bend, Oregon, as we climbed further into the Pacific Northwest. Crater Lake National Park was nearly on the way, adding only an hour to our trip. So we made a stop around lunchtime at the impossibly blue lake. We’d visited it once before, on our last northbound trip to Seattle a couple years ago. It’s very cool to see, but in our opinion, unless you’re camping or backpacking there, it’s not worth the hefty detour you’ll likely have to take to get there. It’s rather isolated in Oregon.

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Mountains, oceans & trees

May 29. Waking up after an excellent night’s sleep, it was time to move on. We slept til 7, prepared oatmeal, loaded with peanut butter, mixed berries, granola and honey, 2 mugs of coffee.

“Where should we go?”

“Head toward the coast and up?”

“Sure”

Be skated westbound from Yosemite and the Stanislaus Forest. Route 1, riding the coast northward, would be our initial destination. I figured we could pop the roof tent on any of the number of pulloffs along the highway overlooking the Pacific. Two slowly realized issues to this thought: 1- it’s not legal, and 2- its very very windy in those spots, anyway.

We began to (slightly) regret our decision to take Route 1, instead of the inland US 101- very beautiful in its own rite. Every mile we continued along the coast got us farther from any possibility to get back to 101. Every campground sign along the coastal byway: FULL. Every inn along the coastal byway: NO VACANCY. Memorial Day weekend, probably the worst time to be improvising a road trip with no reservations for lodging or campsites.

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“Forever I will move, like the world that turns beneath me”

May 26-28

Waking up Wednesday morning at our June Lake campsite, we already knew our plans for the day. Yosemite. We cooked up some breakfast sandwiches on the stove as the campground yawned and folks rose from their tents around us. It was a beautiful clear morning, brisk and fresh. Birds were singing their morning songs, all was well. Then, of course, somebody’s car alarm chimed in. Half a minute later it ceased. Then again. And again. Five times in all, as we wondered what the hell could possibly be keeping the campers from figuring it out. There goes our peaceful morning.

We have a morning ritual that includes unzipping all four windows to Nancy the Nest and letting the air rush in. Condensation inevitably fills the interior plastic roof with water droplets from our heavy sleep breaths. After about 30 minutes, while we make breakfast, the tent dries out.

We hit 395 again, heading north. We’d be saying goodbye to California’s scenic interior highway, cutting west on CA 108 up and over the Sonoran Pass in the Sierras. Rocking out to the latest Black Keys album, Delta Kream, Jamie played captain and steered us up winding routes that had Archie struggling to maintain 15mph.

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If I ain’t got you, I ain’t got nothing at all

We awoke early Friday morning and prepared to start our camping journey (for real, this time). With the wind at our backs, we loaded up Archie with our duffels and dog, set our heading toward the Alabama Hills, and were off. But not without a stop at Four Paws coffee shop in Palm Springs, the same spot we stopped at on our way out of town two years prior. 

The whole wind thing? Turns out we were not nearly finished with it. Pulling out of Palm Springs towards San Bernardino, the gusts blasted us, bucking the roof top tent and forcing me to keep the needle no higher than 60mph. The wind turbines were thrilled, spinning gleefully as their lifeblood whipped through the valley floor. Wind advisories flashed on the highway all along I-10 and up US-395 a we began the trip northward along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada.

As we approached Lone Pine we could make out the  Alabama Hills, a massive outcropping of bizarre granite and volcanic rock. From there we took in the distant storm looming over the Eastern Sierra. Seemingly only miles away in the craggy horizon, it was dumping snow in an aggressive fashion. Though to us, near the floor of Owens Valley, it was a slow motion procession.

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May it last.

May is a great month. Not just because my birthday sits at the beginning, but in the northeast, it’s the first real glimpse of the promise of finer weather to come. In Arizona, May is quite the opposite. Cactus flowers have already hit their stride and are shutting their doors for the fiery summer to come. The state tree, the Palo Verde, has already beautifully bloomed and subsequently shed their horrible buds of pollen, to the detriment of everyone with a sensitive allergy profile. Sunny days are now accompanied by an ever-present haze that disrupts the clarity of the distant mountain ranges.

So it was a perfect time to head home to the northeast, to see family and to watch our friends Joe and Olivia tie the knot.

We wrapped up our contract at Chandler Medical Center, said goodbye to coworkers, now friends.

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April, in a nutshell.

My apologies as we’ve gotten away from our usual ~2 week blog post drop. Things have been busy, lots of moving parts, as we enjoy our last month here in the American Southwest and plan for the next location.

But let’s get to it.

The Mogollon Rim makes up the southern escarpment of the Colorado Plateau, and spans much of northern and northeast Arizona and into New Mexico. Its a dramatic climb from 4-5,000 feet above sea level up to around 7-8,000 ft. Tall stands of pine blanket the area, a sight seemingly surprising to those not familiar with the varied geographies of the 48th state.

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Little trips, big adventures

February 19-March 12

Over the next week or so, Jamie Charley and I spent most of our time working (or going to daycare) and doing local things in the valley. We did a couple evening hikes, both in the Superstitions and at South Mountain, checked out a gym offering a free month membership to healthcare workers, ran the nearby trails and roads, and grabbed dinner with our friends Maggie and Brandon. We kept busy, but didn’t make any trips out of town.

We’d picked out a camping spot near Roosevelt Lake for Monday the 27th, about a 2 hour’s drive northeast of Phoenix. Taking an off-road route about 30 miles through the Four Peaks Wilderness, we passed countless mounds of crumbled rock, hundreds of feet high, and broken saguaros, ripped apart by the aridity and baking in the relentless sunshine. We skirted the trailhead for Brown’s Peak, the tallest of the Four Peaks that make up the Valley’s eastern horizon.

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