Kalaloch and Mount Baker road diary: July 18 - August 1

    Saturday, July 18
Leave Oakland 10:10, cross Martinez Bridge, head north-northeast.
Central Valley dry and brown; many fields lie fallow.
I-5 traffic seems lighter than usual today.
1 PM; stop in Corning at Olive Pit for lunch; a nice independent family place.
The liquor store across the street no longer advertises that it accepts food stamps.
Leave Corning 1:30, head north on I-5 some more.
North of Lake Shasta (or what remains of it in the drought), pass an auto carrier with 6 Mercedes on it, headed for some prosperous town in southern Oregon.
3:30, reach Mt. Shasta city, get gas; 37.5 MPG, even with A/C running, pat self on back.
Have dinner at the Original Black Bear Diner; chain began here.

    Sunday, July 19
Guests' breakfast buffet at Mt. Shasta's Treehouse motel is varied and good. This place has become our default first-day destination when we are heading north on I-5.
Hills and fields north of Mt. Shasta are dry and yellow.
Stop at Ashland for coffee; walk around town.
See an appealing motel; the lack of them has kept us from staying here, after unpleasant experiences with grasping B&B owners.
Moving north, begin to see green fields, irrigation around Canyonville.
As we approach Eugene, hills are greener and more forested; creeks and rivers look full.

    Monday, July 20
Leave Eugene ~10:30.
Our hotel (The Inn at the 5th) has no Gideon Bible, but instead a card labeled "Spiritual Menu".
Available from the front desk are (from memory, I have probably forgotten some): the King James Bible, the Torah, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, a book of Scientology, and the Four Noble Truths.
Begin to see yellow harvested hayfields north of Eugene, and logging trucks.
Also numerous cranky-Christian fundamentalist billboards, some with a political message.
Sign on back of truck: "Construction vehicle - Do not follow". We don't.
At Salem, pass 45th Parallel and head toward Arctic Circle.
Drive through Portland - very confusing maze of highways and exits on left, we nearly end up on a downtown street from which we would never get out - then onto US 30 and leave freeways behind for a week.
Follow the south shore of the mighty Columbia River.
Pass a "Growler station" at Scappoose; growlers very popular in the northwest.
Stop at St. Helens Oregon, walk around old part of town, have lunch at Dockside Restaurant as we did ~5 years ago; still good.
West of Portland on US 30, see return of green, right up to roadside.
The town of Rainier has a "Grocery Liquidator" store; I imagine a giant blender.
Piles of loose hay line the roadsides, blown off bales by wind as trucks carry them.
Town of Clatskanie has a cafe called Latte Da.
Reach Astoria, check in to Cannery Pier Hotel almost under the (four miles long) Megler Bridge across the river.
Dinner at Bridgewater Bistro, short distance from hotel. Top recommendation. Good service, perfectly cooked ahi, oysters, asparagus wrapped in grilled prosciutto. Also cranberry-walnut salad. Mmmm.

    Tuesday, July 21
Leave Astoria and drive into Washington State via the 4+ mile long Megler bridge over the mouth of the Columbia River.
Aberdeen and Hoquiam look dejected and depressed; I begin to understand Kurt Cobain.
Pass through South Bend; stop for coffee and roll; then up to amazing 1910 Pacific County courthouse.
Lie on courthouse floor to photograph stained-glass dome ; fortunately no one was around.
Then tiptoe into courtroom (having left my 2-inch Swiss Army knife in the car, on the advice of the Federal bailiff at the Yosemite courthouse), till an official says "No problem, come right in".
The court clerks even stand in the doorway without my asking, so I can get a better photo.
We joke about how the contents of the book-lined walls can now be contained on a chip the size of a fingernail.
On way out, pick up brochure for "Northwest Home Monitoring: Serving Western Washington's Alcohol, Ankle, and GPS needs."
Stop at Lake Quinault Lodge for lunch: chowder and flatbread (a cross between pizza and bruschetta). We love the LQL.
Reach Kalaloch around 4:30, check in, find our cabin.
No phone, no TV, no Internet; sounds good to us.
Dinner at lodge; salad, sole, berry tart.

    Wednesday, July 22
A misty morning; wet without rain, but mild.
Breakfast at Kalaloch Lodge: salmon hash & eggs.
Walk down to beach, meaning to hike north to Brown's Point.
Oops; Kalaloch Creek is in the way.
Go back, up to highway, and over to inland nature trail opposite campground.
Spend a wonderful hour or so in the rain forest; does not appear much affected by drought.
Then back to beach north of creek.
Discover margarita-flavored Shot Bloks in food bag; not bad.
At bottom of trail, reach barricade of million or so beach logs thrown up by the surf. Foiled again.
Decide it is time for lunch; go to lodge for fish & chips and quesadillas.
Then drive up to Ruby Beach. Walk down to and along strand without difficulty.
Hike up to Abbey Island and look out at Destruction Island, sinister graveyard of unlucky ships.
Take many photographs, especially of picturesque "sea stack" pinnacles.
Tide rising fast, take high road back to car.
Shower, nap.
Dinner: halibut.

    Thursday, July 23
Leave Kalaloch (reluctantly) and drive north on 101.
At Forks a.k.a. Vampireville, stop at Timber Museum and take in the local history.
Follow the nature trail through the forest behind the museum.
Watch as a Twilight Tours van makes a stop on its circuit of themed places.
Drive on, past the adjacent towns of Sappho and Beaver, always good for a chuckle.
Reach Lake Crescent, check in to old lodge where FDR stayed, have lunch in dining room.
Our room is small and old, really more suitable for one person than two; but in a quiet corner of the grounds, surrounded by old-growth hemlocks and other forest trees.

    Friday, July 24
Misty, rainy morning; Joan buys a rain-shell jacket at lodge.
Drive to Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge.
In P.A., the sign for the Dynasty Chinese Restaurant is partly blocked, so it appears to be the "nasty Chinese Restaurant".
On road up through clouds to HR, see doe with fawn; also fireweed, foxgloves, ocean spray and wild roses.
Hurricane Ridge is socked in solidly; can't see more than a few yards away and rain is increasing. So much for big hike.
Go to visitor center. Ron buys a rain-shell jacket.
Have lunch at visitor center cafe.
Joan retreats to car for nap; I hike in mist, protected by rain-shell, on trail at top of ridge.
See yarrow, pearly everlasting, daisies, campanula; but no bistort which used to be very common in the area.
Head downslope, pause at viewpoints to watch clouds blow past the hills.

    Saturday, July 25
Morning hike up to Marymere Falls . Then further up Barnes Creek trail.
Then lunch. Then nap.
Afternoon hike is Spruce Railroad trail on north side of lake.
(RR bed was laid down during WW I to harvest strong light spruce wood for warplanes, but war ended first. Now a trail.)
Miles of ferns. Lake water very blue. See scuba divers getting ready to jump in the lake.
Back to lodge, where big outdoor wedding and reception are about to start.
Return to our room, rain arrives, do not want to see effect on outdoor wedding.

    Sunday, July 26
Time to pack up and leave Lake Crescent Lodge. I will have to rate it "poor" on TripAdvisor for a number of reasons, but the location is not one of them; it is magnificent. Afterwards, we both observe that getting away from the LCL was a real mood-brightener, like breaking out of jail.
Port Angeles has lovely courthouse and some nice older homes, but most of the city is commercial and unattractive.
Some interesting signs, though:
    "Recliners - sofa love we deliver"
    "Hidden Bush" (we did not see the place, appropriately)
Billowing clouds above Highway 101, occasional rain on and off into Port Townsend.
East of PA, lavender farms everywhere.
Rain heavy at Discover Bay, but dry at PT - for about fifteen minutes after we arrive.
Check in to Ravenscroft Inn B&B in uptown PT.
Lawns here are brown, reflecting lack of rain.
We stroll over to Chetzemoka Park, one of our favorite spots in one of our favorite cities.
Wander around park, visit the Gunneras, walk east on beach. View the seascape of Admiralty Inlet . So different from Kalaloch, breakers here are about 4 inches high.
Then downtown and into the Silverwater Cafe, another favorite. OK OK, we have a lot of favorites around here, PT is our kind of place.
Return to Ravenscroft, find our room is ready, lug suitcases upstairs.
Later repair to Silverwater for dinner. Parmesan-crusted halibut. Also "Washington apple salad", a sort of NW Waldorf with tomatoes and bacon added. Reflect over ale on paucity of good seafood restaurants in the East Bay.

    Monday, July 27
After breakfast at Ravenscroft, we drive to the Port Townsend ferry terminal for the 10:15 boat to Keystone.
We are first in line, and get to watch the 9:30 boat pull out.
Wander around the dock, take pix of PT from new viewpoint.
10:15 boat arrives, we board. The vessel is the "Kennewick", which has a few associations for me.
Get out of car, go to upper deck, watch PT shrink and an aircraft carrier cross paths with a destroyer.
Arrive at Keystone on Whidbey Island in about 25 minutes; disembark.
Stop and walk around Keystone jetty where I spent many happy hours scuba diving.
Head north on WA 20 to Coupeville; walk through town.
Formulate theory that city centers evolve from useful functions like car repair, machine shops, etc. to boutiques and ice cream stores.
Stop at Deception Pass; 1935 DAR sign says current runs up to "5-8 knots per hour", defines a knot as a unit of distance.
Continue north; pass a roadside sign for 'self-serve eggs'; not sure what that means.
Into Anacortes; make beeline for Rockfish Grill; order fish and their wonderful 'waffle fries' and 1/2 pint of Vienna Ale, 4.8% ABV and a mere 18 IBU.
Waddle out and around town, pass ship-building operation; not sure what kind of ships they are building.
Drive east, take back road through little town of Edison (where Edward R. Murrow grew up). It has a second-hand store called 'The Lucky Dumpster'.
A nearby farm stand offers 'blueberry for sale'; must be a large one.
Up scenic Chuckanut Drive into Bellingham.
Check into Fairhaven Village Inn; same desk clerk as three years ago, who suggested a view of Mt. Baker from the south when the northerly approach was snowed in.
Fairhaven a prosperous area with a youthful vibe; independent bookstores, cafes, few empty storefronts and seemingly little turnover. We like it.
Have dinner at Skylark Hidden Cafe, same as last time; chowder, fried oysters, rockfish provencal with quinoa/rice pilaf. Very good.

    Tuesday, July 28
Mt. Baker day arrives! We are going to try to view the mountain from the top of the MB Highway; tried 3 years ago and were stopped by snow short of the ridge from which it is visible.
Up I-5 and east on Mt. Baker Highway.
Pass 'Seniors Shag Center'; sounds interesting.
Pass sign for 'Camel Safari'; in Bellingham?
Road sign: 'Mt. Baker Highway closed'; moment of despondency.
Then 'Follow Detour'; whew.
Detour is through scenic back country; not a bad alternative.
Stop at Picture Lake for classic shot of Mt. Shuksan .
We make it all the way this time up to Artist Point about noon; much easier than walking up from the ski area 3 years ago, esp. through snow.
Mt. Baker hidden by clouds; blast it. Try to conceal disappointment, maybe it will appear before we leave.
Hike to Huntoon Point on what our guidebook foolishly calls an easy trail.
Check Mt. B continually; different clouds from time to time, but always some obscuring the summit.
Don't think I want to try again a third time.
Return via 'easy' trail to Artist Point, check mountain, no luck, though there is a tiny gap slowly approaching the top.
About to return to car, take one more look. Yes! Triumph! Exaltation! Wordsworthian raptures! The summit is visible.
See other tourists running up with iPhones extended to catch the scene.
Take about thirty shots in 5-minute period from a variety of locations before the clouds close up again.
Return to car happy. (Actually I got some pretty good photos in that brief window.)
Drive down off the mountain, gas up, return to B'ham. Victory dinner at Skylark's.
Walk about town (8 PM, it is still light out).
Outside a bar on the sidewalk is a piano; a young man is playing the Ode To Joy theme from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
On the village green, a group of middle-aged women on folding chairs are playing ukuleles and singing 'Midnight Special'.
An interesting place, this.
We walk up the South Bay Trail to the northern boundary of Fairhaven (it was once a separate city) and turn around. A nearly full moon is hanging in the southeast sky.

    Wednesday, July 29
After breakfast, walk the Larrabee Trail (named for a copper king and city benefactor) through a wooded park.
Leave Bellingham ~10:15, south on I-5.
At Mt. Vernon, pass piles of lumber stacked outside the 'Carpenter Training Center'.
Mt. Rainier becomes visible at Everett. North side is snow-covered.
I-5 very slow through Seattle and again through Tacoma. Northbound traffic also, all without visible cause around noon. Crawl for miles at about 20 MPH.
See two fighter jets looking like Blue Angels take off from Boeing Field.
Reach Olympia about 3 hours after start; next time we leave Bellingham, will approach Olympia via Wenatchee, is probably faster.
At Oly, head straight for Antony's Homeport restaurant and a salmon salad.
Joan orders a 'peach slump' for dessert: cooked fresh peaches, biscuit crust, vanilla ice cream. I chivalrously help her with it.
I-5 clear & fast south of Olympia; reach Blue Heron B&B in Castle Rock ~4 PM.
Walk nature trail on old RR bed behind the Mt. St. Helens visitor center.
Go to Parker's Steakhouse for dinner; have had enough fish for today; order steak & baked potato. And an IPA.
Return to Blue Heron and watch moon rise over Mt. St. Helens.

    Thursday, July 30
Breakfast at a communal table; guests are chatty, except for a couple who speak German to one another in low voices.
I think they are scouting the area for an invasion.
Afterwards they check out, leaving on their balcony an empty Corona bottle with a soggy cigarette butt in the bottom.
I-5 today seems like a racetrack; everybody is in a hurry.
Take 205 around Portland; much lighter traffic than through the city center. Probably should have taken 405 around Seattle.
Pause at a rest stop south of Salem between an immense pumpkin patch and the Santiam River.
The Willamette valley around Corvallis is very hazy; smoke or dust?
Pass log trucks carrying narrow little trees, no doubt headed for a toothpick factory.
A van passes us with a bumper sticker proclaiming the driver 'World's Angriest Mom'. We let her get way ahead of us.
Arrive at Eugene, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, check in to icy room. Try to adjust A/C, go out for brief walk.
See a 12-person-powered "Pubcycle": [http://pacificpubcycle.com/]
Return to hotel. Room colder than before. Put glasses on to adjust thermostat this time, have better luck.
Go out for dinner. Menu follows (brace yourself):
- fresh figs stuffed with mascarpone, topped with prosciutto and a touch of mint
- mixed charcuterie (mousse, head cheese, country pork pate)
- chickpea flour crepes filled with ratatouille
- grilled salmon

    Friday, July 31
A day mostly dominated by smoke from the Canyonville fire; we leave Eugene and head south on I-5 into it, hoping the fire will not close the road.
Extremely smoky at Canyon Creek Pass, maybe 500 feet visibility.
Still bad at Stage Road Pass, a little lighter at Wolf Creek (the historic tavern where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard stayed is closed for renovations), then worse again. No wisps of smoke, just solid and dense.
Begins to ease at Merlin and Grants Pass.
Stop at Ashland for lunch. Headline in paper reads
"Fire east of Canyonville balloons to 6,000 acres".
Into California, where Mt. Shasta is barely visible from the "viewpoint".
Then, rain! Storm cloud plainly visible east of Weed, though little reaches the ground.

    Saturday, August 1
Last day on the road; have enjoyed it but will be happy to return home.
Head out at 8:45, earliest starting time yet; want to get through hot Central Valley before 1 PM.
Impressed by car's A/C efficiency; at freeway speeds with it on, get ~40 MPG.
Lake Shasta looks about as low as but no lower than earlier years; have photos from 2008, 2012, 2013 to compare.
Valley is surprisingly cooler than western Oregon; 80 degrees in Redding compared to 101 in Eugene.
Pass animal farm; wonder if a baby Alpaca is called an Alpacino.
Drive, drive, drive, get home and put champagne in fridge to cool; today is our 45th wedding anniversary.

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