welcome to Alberta-1We drove East and entered Jasper National Park and, at the same time, Alberta.  The Jasper National Park sign (below) was the worst we’ve seen, it looked like a construction information sign.  Step it up Canada! 




welcome to Jasper National Park-1

tent camping-2It was clear when we got to the entrance gate that they should have had plenty of money to pay for a more interesting park sign. When the lady said $19 PER DAY we were floored.  And we thought US National Parks were a little expensive.  Well we ponied up and paid for two days and headed toward the town of Jasper.  We had seen that all the campgrounds were full except for overflow camping at one site so we headed there before it filled up.

black bear's butt-1When we got there we saw a giant field with people free-for-alling anywhere they could find a flat spot.  There were RVs everywhere. It cost another $15 to camp there. We pitched our tent and drove north to the Miette Hot Springs.  On the way we were stopped on the side of the road by people taking pictures of a black bear and her cubs eating on the side of the road.  You can see said black bear’s butt in this picture. Because of the no pets policy at the hot springs (this nicely seems to be an exception, Canada national parks seem to be pretty dog friendly overall, unlike US national parks) Em went alone for a dip in the springs.  Other than a kid pooping in one of the pools she had a good time, and the hot water helped loosen up her sore neck a little. The hot springs was one of the few things that didn’t cost an arm and a leg so far in Canada, only $6.

Jay stayed with Hoggle and went for a short walk to see the source of the springs, which were very sulphury.  Jay cooked dinner (tortellini) while Em was soaking and had a beer.  When she got back the pasta and beer made Jay really tired so he decided not to soak and we just headed back to camp.  We found when we got back that the place had filled with even more RVs.  But everyone was quiet, except the freight train, through the night.  Though the train wasn’t too loud where we were, this night. We set some traps up for the mouse before heading to bed in the tent.

We awoke to sunny skies, no sign of our friend/enemy Ralphie the mouse, and decided to head to Maligne Lake for a boat cruise.  On our way we stopped in town to pick up some groceries.  Jay talked to the info desk too and found that a boat cruise was $60/person and renting a canoe was about $90/day.  Not worth the cost to us, but we went to the lake anyway. 

Stitched PanoramaWe first stopped at Maligne Canyon, a narrow limestone canyon (slot canyon really) cut by the river.  We couldn’t go down there because of the river, but apparently in winter you can.  There is a tall loud waterfall in the canyon as well, pretty cool.


big horn sheep-3

On the way we saw some big horn sheep at a salt lick on the side of the road.  That backed up traffic a little bit.  At the lake we parked at a trailhead and explored the shore for a while.  The clouds had rolled in and the mostly cloudy sky put a damper on the nice color of the lake.  It was still pretty though. 



em and jon at lake maligne-1

jon on bald hills summit-2Jay trotted out alone to do the Bald Hills hike, which climb the ridge to the west of the lake.  It was a decently long and steep hike to reach the summit.  On the ridge line up to the summit Jay saw marmots (a different species it appears from the ones in Colorado), chipmunks, and the elusive and hard to photograph Pica (a type of mouse).  The partly cloudy skies and the cool wind made the hike a little brisk, but nothing shorts and a sleeveless shirt couldn’t manage.

marmots on bald hills-2chipmunk-1pika-3

lake maligne from bald hills-5

lake maligne sunset-6

Jay found the van locked up and Em missing when he got back.  He ran out of water with a couple of kilometers to go so he sat thirsty reading his book (which he managed to fish out of the open window of the van). 

When Em returned shortly thereafter, having taken Hoggle for a quick walk, we all packed up and headed back for the camp site. We saw an elk on the way back. Since it was well past when the guard leaves to check people in, we just drove into the “campground,”  aka field for free this time and found a nice spot under the trees with a picnic table. The place was all but empty this time.  Only a handful of RVs were there, as opposed to nearly 100 yesterday. Sunday vs. Saturday night we guess.

We ate some dinner and played chase with Hoggle around the van.  He was really into it.  Then we set our mouse traps and hit the hay.  And we fully discovered the camping next to a major Canadian Hwy and the most active freight train line we’ve ever heard wasn’t good idea. This road and rail were just through the trees, and when the trains come once every thirty minutes or so it’s loud.  You can’t ignore it loud.  The ground shakes a little bit.  It was noisy as hell. And even noisier in the tent than it would have been in the van.

Jay probably didn’t get to sleep until about 3am when utter exhaustion finally took over.  We both barely slept that night.  But we woke up at around 8am or so by Hoggle; so it wasn’t too too bad.  We were greeted by a park service worker telling us she was locking the gate at 11am so beat it.  So we did. The mouse took some of the bait, but did not get caught in any of the traps. Sly devil. We had only set about 8 of them, four different types, just to cover our bases. And we are no novice mice catchers – we’ve dealt with the little buggers before. This guy is good. And we were finding that he only seems to be active every other night, which means every night he takes bait and doesn’t get caught – it’s at least two more nights for us in the tent. Bummer.

We went back to Jasper the town to pick up some more groceries and then drove back toward Mt Robson park.   

UP NEXT: Same shit, different day.

The mouse ran up the clock

Then Em fell down and broke her crown

Whistler, Dickery, Dock

brandywine falls-1Jay and Em went to Starbucks in the morning for some more internet research and planning. Em decided that she is about ready to end this trip for herself. She and Jay talked the options over. Em was willing to rent a car and head down to Colorado solo, but Jay preferred for us to stay together through to the bitter end. So we came to the deal of two more weeks to explore the national parks in Canada, and then heading on back to Colorado after that. So we left the Starbucks and drove north on Hwy 99 toward Whistler Canada, a famous ski resort that hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010. The town and most of the highway is located in the Coastal Range of mountains. Jay pulled over at a short hike for Brandywine Falls. While the falls were beautiful, we’ve seen so many beautiful things in nature its starting not to register anymore for either of us.

whistler campground-1In town we stopped at a walk called the train wreck, where a train wrecked years ago and they didn’t clean it up.  Now it’s a canvas for graffiti artists.  But we didn’t even make it to the train wreck before turning back because it was farther than we thought, and we didn’t know how far.  Instead we went to the Whistler Brewery for a grapefruit ale which was a nice beer for a hot summer day.  And that was it, we found a place to camp on a British Columbia forest service road.  We had to cross the suspect rotten-wood topped bridge (pictured below) before we found a spot amongst the railroad tracks to take showers, cook dinner, and sleep.

As we were laying in the dark drifting off to sleep, Em felt something crawl over the top of her arm. She squealed a little and jumped up, startling Jay awake. He turned on the lights right away, and we looked around the van and in the bed sheets for any culprits and found nothing. Jay said, “There are some little small bugs up at the lights.” Em said, “No it was definitely not a small little bug. Possibly it could have been like a huge moth flapping its wings on me, but not a little bug like that.” We couldn’t find any moths or any signs of anything else. Em knew she had been wide awake and not imagined it, but she told herself maybe it was just something fluky and we went back to sleep. Or maybe she was just losing her mind.



The next day we kept heading north and stopped at Nairin Falls quickly.  Em didn’t even consider doing the hike, and Jay was ambivalent. He debated with himself about whether or not it was worth it for about five minutes after pulling into the parking lot. Em was no help, telling him it was fine with her either way. Ultimately he decided he couldn’t pass it up in case it was the most awesome waterfall ever, so he went to Brandywine falls. Jay did the 1.5 km one way to see the falls which was cool. He had to drag Hoggle the whole way there for some reason. This was a walk-in-the-park for him. Though people kept saying “he doesn’t want to walk” in a judgmental you’re-a-bad-dog-owner tone. No, he’s just being stubborn because his mom is back in the van. Though at the waterfall two little girls liked him so much they wanted a picture with him. Hoggle should be a Hollywood movie star. When Jay got back Em asked how it was, he said, “Eh. Pretty.”

lower joffrey lake-2But the main attraction for the day was Joffry Lakes.  We parked the van at the crowded trailhead, in the shade. Em went to the lower lake that was only a 1/2 km away (pictured to the right), but was not interested in doing the 6km (3.7 miles) one way hike up the steep valley to see more lakes. All of the lakes were a beautiful teal blue characteristic of most, if not all, glacier fed Canadian Rocky lakes. In the bright sunlight it was even more so. It gets that color for the dissolved grains of rock in the water that the glacier grinds off the mountain on its trek downhill.

After the first lake it was a very steep hike up to the middle lake.  Jay huffed it there and found another teal blue lake with the glaciers and the mountain peaks even closer in the background (Picture below).  Onward around the lake a little upward the final Joffry lake is reached, with the glaciated mountain towering above the lake surface.  It reminded Jay a little of the Rob Roy Glacier Trek where Em and Jay got married, but instead of a wildflower meadow there was a teal blue lake (pictured bottom left).  It was quite stunning.

middle joffrey lake pano (1)

upper joffrey lake pano (4)But as Jay was taking some of this last photos (at least it was good timing) the mirror on his NIkon D7000, really expensive camera, decided to stop working.  It was stuck in the up position and displayed an “Err” code on the LCD screen.  What the hell?  This is the second problem he’s had with this camera, the first was repaired under warranty.  Jay won’t be so lucky this time.  He expects much more from Nikon, and for anything that costs that much.  It’s only a couple of years old.  Jay’s dad has NIkons decades old that still function perfectly.  Jay’s older d40 that he got back in College still works great, even though he dropped it from waist height on to bare granite on the top of Blood Mountain, GA. Luckily Jay brought that old d40 with him so he has another camera to take pictures.

upper joffrey lake pano (6)

And on the way down Jay was still feeling soreness in his left knee that he’s had since backpacking in the North Cascades about a week ago. But it wasn’t too bad.  And with trekking poles it’s not a big deal.

When Jay got back to the parking lot the van was locked and Em was gone.  ?????  So as he was walking toward the first lake where he thought she might be she appeared.  How lucky.  We all went back to the first lake because Jay wanted to swim to get all the sweat off.  Hoggle did not want to go down to the lake again.  But Jay carried him half way until he figured he did want to go.

When we got there Jay found as Em had said that the water, at least on the shore, was not too cold.  As Jay was taking off his shirt and shoes the folks next to us seem amazed that he was going to get in.  Little did they know we’d be jumping in cold water for months now.  This was nothing.

But once Jay waded out into the deeper waters it did get colder, but not any colder than what we’d been in before. The people even watched him get in, wondering if he would actually do it.

The mouse ran up the clock…

Well, we walked back to the van and were off to find a campsite.  We found a great spot on the side of the road next to a river.  We made some dinner and went to bed.  As we were reading in bed, we heard some pots rattling in the back. Weird. Jay went back there and checked it out, saw nothing. Then we turned off the lights and went to bed. After some time had passed Em started hearing definite noises of something moving about near her.  We turned on the light to see a nasty big MOUSE crawling back into our kitchen cupboard and into the wall!!!!!!

And all of events over the past several days started making sense. The “bug” that crawled on Em’s arm in the dark the night before.  All the noises in the van lately that we wrote off as the van settling as it cooled down.  Hoggle freaking out at that camp spot when it was just him and Em, sticking his nose into the cabinet that this mouse this crawled into. We figured it must have hitch hiked with Jay into the van – he tent camped in a mouse infested spot about a week ago, right before we went to the North Cascades.  How could a mouse be living in a van with two people and a hound dog for a week?! Hoggle!!! We are disappointed in you! Aren’t you supposed to be a rodent hunting dog??

Well there was no way we could sleep in the van until that mouse was gone. Not with it crawling all over us at night. We’re aware that living with mice crawling on you is a reality for a lot of people in bad situation, but we’re not used to it or okay with it.  Em had a serious case of the heebie jeebies and jumped multiple times anytime anything touched her unexpectedly in the van (like Hoggle’s tail) as we got ready to drive off.  We’ve had mice in our rental houses before. But not in such close quarters. So we started driving to the next town, Lillooet, in hopes of finding a hotel that had a vacancy. During the drive Jay commented that maybe we should just drive the van into a lake when the trip is finished, “let’s just take it up to Horsetooth Reservoir and drive it on in.” Em found this prospect hilarious and couldn’t help but giggle elatedly for about it for several minutes. We got to Lilloet and found a “cheap” motel for $100 to spend what was rest of the night. Jay didn’t mention Hoggle – probably smart – so we had to sneak him in in his stroller. We checked in around 1 AM. The room was muggy and had painted cinder block walls, which Em found comforting. No mice were going to be crawling out of those. We turned on the AC, Em took a shower to wash off  and calm down her mouse heebie jeebies, and then we finally went to bed.

Em fell down and broke her crown…

We did take advantage of the hotel and took showers and washed Hoggle in the morning. We also got some lunch before heading out north.  While we were packing up the van, the 2×4 bed support board was propped up horizontally between the bench seats at knee height, but the bed wasn’t set up so the aisle was still open. Em was backing up to get the stroller into the van and she didn’t expect that board to be there. It immediately took out her knees such that she flipped backwards and caught her fall with the back of her head on the van floor. It happened so fast she didn’t even have time to make a sound or even try to slow the fall. She saw stars. All Jay saw was her feet suddenly in the air. It hurt; it definitely hurt. But more than that it just got to the core of her van living weariness. Jay went to get her some ice for her head. Laying on the floor, Em decided she was officially beyond ready for this trip to be over. Done. The van life has beaten her. She was giving up, waving her white flag – surrender, surrender.

But a deal’s a deal — Jay had one week and five days left, as agreed. Jay was ready to mush onwards, motivated by his strong desire to see more of the Canadian Rockies. Jay has admitted in the past that whenever he used to play the computer game “Oregon Trail” as a kid he would always set the pace at “Grueling” and all of his oxen would always die. Things don’t seem to have changed much since then, and Em could relate to those deceased digital oxen. She pulled herself up, dusted herself off (and found that she had been lying on top of Jay’s dirty underwear on the floor – super awesome), put the ice pack on the back of her head, and climbed into the passenger seat.

We continued on our drive northwards and found a store to buy some mouse traps. Jay was started feeling under the weather, with similar symptoms to our recent sickness with the body aches and nausea and such, so Em got him some Pepto and other “feel better” type things from Walmart and took over driving (part of the two week deal was that Jay would do the driving during those two weeks, but she wasn’t going to hold him to it while sick). Em drove for a couple hours, then we found a forest service road to camp. We set up our tent, unwilling to sleep in the van. Hoggle had a good time running around free of his leash, as always. We put part of our mattress in the tent so we had a comfortable bed at least. By that night Em’s neck muscles had all tightened up from her fall earlier and were very sore. Good times. At least Jay was feeling a bit better. We set all the mouse traps in the van, hopped into the tent, and hoped for the best.

welcome to mt robson-1In the morning our hopes were dashed, the mouse didn’t even touch any of the peanut butter we used as bait. More tent camping in our future. We packed up and headed north until we entered Mt Robson Provincial Park. The overnight backpack Jay really wanted to do was there, but the mouse complicated the situation. We only have one tent, and Jay would need it for backpacking. So instead we decided to head on to Jasper, which is nearby, keep trying to catch the mouse, and then come back later so Jay could backpack with the tent and Em could sleep in the mouse free van while he’s gone.

mt robson-2

IMG_20140805_203220464We arrived in Vancouver on our way to our old friend, the Walmart, in search of a place to stay the night.  What we found was a small, crowded, un-level parking lot unsuitable for camping.  And a Walmart that wasn’t open 24 hrs. Jay toured the inside and while a lot was the same, it just wasn’t the same as those old familiar friends back home.  So we left to find the internet at a nearby Starbucks to do some camper van living research only to find on our way a side street behind the Canadian Tire (a cross between a home depot and Walmart) with four or five full size RVs and a couple of campervans parked on it.  We had found a home for the evening. Nice!  Lucky us.

Well we did go to Starbucks and use the internet to research our plans, and then rolled down the hill and found a nice spot to camp.  Because it was hot, we left all the doors open as we ate dinner and watched something on the laptop.  A security guard and a police officer passed us and didn’t say anything. I guess they don’t mind anyone living on the road there.  That’s cool.

In the morning we headed to the Gastown district, where Vancouver  the city first started, for some lunch.  We didn’t pay for parking (you have to pay to park anywhere here) because we had no Canadian coins.  We figured we wouldn’t be paying in Vancouver parking tickets anyways. 

Em eating lunch vancouver-1We ate at the most dog friendly restaurant we could find, meaning it had a porch you couldn’t bring a dog on, but at least it didn’t have a head high glass partition so we were able to have him right outside the grated railing.  We ordered lunch and were finding out just how expensive it is here.  Even with the exchange rate Vancouver is really expensive.  Jay paid sixteen bucks for a burnt Turkey club sandwich. And that didn’t even include his side order of soup, which added an extra $2.  And this place was touted as “wallet-friendly” in the review we read. Yikes! Em had some grilled fish with vegetables for the same price. The serving size was so small that she was still a little hungry afterwards.  Well that’s the last time we ate out in Vancouver. That night we had Walmart-bought hot dogs for dinner with some Kraft mac-n-cheese. 

Em and House of MacLaren-1At least four people stopped to take a picture of Hoggle in his stroller at lunch. People really seem to love seeing that. We wonder if they are tourists, and think we are locals and that this is what the “locals do” so they snap a photo. That’s what it seems like. But he is the cutest and bestest dog in the world so it makes sense.  After lunch we strolled around Gastown, shopped at some tourist shops and an especially fine Fine Scottish Imports store.  We also saw the famous steam powered clock, built by early Vancouverites to prevent people from sleeping on the warm steam vents on cold days.  On our way back to the van we also stopped by the statue of Gassy Jack, a famous saloon proprietor in the early days of Vancouver. Em thought he was so named because of flatulence, but Jay looked it up and it was because he tended to talk a big talk, or was “full of hot air” so to speak. 


Stanley Park Totem Poles-1We then hit the road for Stanley Park, the big famous city park in Vancouver.  Once there we found out we had to pay to park, at a city park!  $3.25 an hour.  What the hell?  It’s so expensive to do anything here.  Well we didn’t pay for parking. We just said screw it, let the Canadian police hunt us down for their parking money if we get a ticket.  We took Hoggle for a stroll through the really nice park to some totem poles.  Along the way we had some wild blackberries and saw the skyline of Vancouver from the water.  The totem poles were pretty cool to see, but they were all made in the modern age.  All the old ones are in museums.  We didn’t get a ticket, yes! And as we pulled away we saw we were parked right by the park police station. Hahaha.


Vancouver Skyline - em and jay-1

Em and Hoggle - last time at Ocean-1Our last thing for the day was to go to Third Beach, at Stanley park, to see the Pacific Ocean for the last time.  

It was sunny and hot at Third Beach, plenty of people in the water, but not us.  We said our goodbyes and headed on. As we walked away we saw a sign that said “No dogs on beach, $2000 fine.” Damn Canada! People must be made of money around here. $2K for having your pup on the beach. Shit. Glad we didn’t get caught. We didn’t even know he wasn’t allowed. And get this – Vancouver is touted as one of the most dog-friendly cities in North America. In fact, it is Number One on several lists. Google it. Well, maybe it has dog-friendly components – but that was not our experience with Vancouver. Maybe other big cities are even less dog friendly.  San Francisco seemed friendlier to us, even with the whole Rosa Parks bus debacle.

After much discussion and research, we have sadly decided to forgo our trip to Vancouver Island, so that’s why this Third Beach excursion was our last Pacific Ocean viewing.  It was going to cost $170 round trip just to ride the ferry over there to Vancouver Island with our van. We bounced back and forth with a few ideas of not taking the van and trying to use public transportation, but ultimately just decided it wasn’t worth it to us to pay that much or deal with all those hassles just to get there, let alone the money we would spend once we were there. Em was really wanting to see Victoria, but the appeals of Victoria probably would have been hard to enjoy with Hoggle anyway. Bummer. Maybe another time. Not by van. Amazing how restrictive this life of nomadic freedom has turned out to be. If we had tons of money and no dog, we’d be good to go. 

After Third Beach we went back to our alley street behind Canadian Tire to bed down again and ate our cheap crappy hot dogs and macaroni from Walmart for dinner. We’re both getting pretty tired of all this business, especially Em who is pretty much over this trip altogether at this point. One bright point for Em though was finding out that the Canadian Walmart carries medium size cartons of juice – about one liter size – that don’t need to be refrigerated until opened. All the juice containers in the U.S. are usually single serving or too big for our van fridge so we haven’t had any for a long while. We bought like ten of them to stock up. Yay juice!!!!! It’s little victories in life… 

UP NEXT: We’ve picked up an unwelcome hitchhiker and so we try to kill him…

On a sunny hot day in August we entered Canada.  We were expecting a real hassle from the border guards. But we had our passports and rabies vaccinations ready.  We waited in line for about twenty minutes before Jay pulled the van up to the customs toll-booth like window and handed over our passports.  He was sweating bullets, his nervousness written as plain as day across his face.  A ten year old could tell he had something to hide. 

Well it wasn’t that big of a deal.  But when we pulled up the border agent did tell Em to take off her sunglasses so she could get a good look.  She asked where we were going and for what purpose and how long we’d be staying.  And if we had any guns (no, the truth), alcohol (“no”), weapons such as mace or tasers – “no” and so on.  When we said we had no guns she said “Well I mean no offense but you’re from Tennessee so you must own some guns.”  Em laughed and responded we do have a shotgun but from our last time we tried to enter Canada with it, and failed, we didn’t bring us with it this time.  We live up to the Tennessee gun toting stereotype!  Hell yeah!

Welcome to British Columbia, Canada - em and jon-1Well she let us pass and in we were! We stopped immediately at the visitors center and took our “Welcome to….” sign picture.  We met a man at the sign on a bike with a wiener dog in a basket on the back that told us “we should go to White Rock, eh?.  They have a promenade, eh?  And some other things, eh?”  We took his advice, eh. He was wearing a “I heart L.A.” t-shirt that was way too small and nearly showing his midriff. A great first Canadian to meet on our trip.

We drove down into the town and looked for about 15 minutes with no luck for parking until we spotted somebody leaving a spot in a small public parking lot.  As the car was leaving and Jay was pulling into the spot this man parked next to it pushed a wagon into the spot.  Clearly he knew we wanted it.  Jay rolled down the window and he walked all the way up to us and  said “my brother is coming to take this spot.”  Well we both respond, almost in unison “Well he’s not here now, and we are.”  With anger in his eyes he says, “he’s around the corner and will be here in a minute. It’s our spot.”  We both tell him “that’s pretty messed up.”  Jay wanted to fight for our spot but Em rightly said let’s move on.  But it got even worse.  Just to make sure we moved on, the man had his physically disabled, as-in confined to a motorized wheel chair, child to pull into the empty spot next to the wagon to guard it against us. That’s low. That’s even lower than pushing a disabled child out of a parking spot with your ‘97 Ford E150 bumper (which of course we did not do).  We couldn’t believe this guy, using his child’s disability to reserve a spot.  Jay yelled, not quite loudly, out the window with some colorful language that we didn’t think that was very right and left. 

Thankfully Em was there so Jay didn’t get in shouting match, or worse, within our first 20 minutes of being in Canada. The guy seemed like such an ass, there was no telling what he might do. His anger at us just for questioning him on his wagon move was super intense. We moved on and finally found a spot in the scorching hot sun.  We marched out to find a place to eat – Em was hungry.  To our dismay we began discovering that Vancouver and the surrounding area does not have dog friendly restaurant patios.  All the patios outside do not allow dogs in the area.  No where. The dogs can; however, sit outside of the patios. “Okay,” you’re thinking, “that’s not a big

Tall glass partition

Tall glass partition

deal.” Ah, but the patios are not your typical patios with the normal grated railings.  Almost all of them have full solid glass or wooden partitions. Tall fences, with no gaps to even attach a leash.  And many of the patios are raised several feet above the sidewalk as well. In fact, any patios that did have typical grated railings were raised at least 3 feet or more off the ground. So basically you are allowed to abandon your dog outside on the sidewalk to bake in the blazing hot sun and fuss and moan and jump and scratch trying to get to you while you eat. 

IMG_20140804_142015663_HDRIt was hot and we were hungry and now irritated.  What the hell Canada?  Well we decided to go back and get Hoggle’s stroller so we could chain him up outside of one of the patios for lunch.  At least he would be in some shade. It worked out. A poor lab was stuck outside the patio fence and jumping and barking and fussing at his owners all through their meal. What a dumb rule. We ate lunch at a Greek restaurant.  Em wanted to order an entire pitcher of Sangria, which we did.  But after drinking all that wine and sitting in the sun, we both were too tired to go anywhere after lunch so we just sat in the hot van laying around.

We finally went on our way toward Vancouver.  One difference between Canada and the U.S. is that you would never drive on a road named King George Parkway anywhere in the United States.  Which is what we did on our way to Vancouver. 

We spent about two months on the west coast of the US.  From the deserts of Southern California to the lush green forests of the Pacific Northwest.  We saw cacti, volcanoes, craters, waterfalls, lava tubes, wildflowers, ocean, rivers, lakes, streams, friends, as well as cites large and small.  We were hot, we were cold.  We were up high (as much as 11,500 feet), we were down low (in the ocean).  We laid on top of water, we jumped and dove into water, we swam in water, we drove through water.  We saw old friends and met new ones.  The west coast certainly has a lot to offer.

west coast 1   west coast 2

We both agree that while both Oregon and Washington State are beautiful, Washington seems to have more unique wilderness options than Oregon. But California may have them both beat in that regard. Hottest sun goes to the Colorado Desert in Joshua Tree National Park. Coldest rain goes to, well, we didn’t see much rain surprisingly, but it was chilly and rainy in Seattle one day.  Worst museum video goes to Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.  Best museum video goes to Maritime History Museum in San Francisco.  Best food also goes to San Francisco. Best lake goes to June Lake in California. Most impressive mountain goes to Mount Rainier in Washington. Best swimming hole goes to Opal Creek in Oregon. Best waterfall goes to Burney Falls in California.

But wait!   What about the Olympic Peninsula in Washington?  Well it is an amazing destination, and one we’ve been too before.  Because we were getting a feeling of seeing more things briefly and it is out there on a peninsula out of the way, we decided to skip it this time.  Plus we are planning to go to Vancouver Island where there are some other rain forests as well. 

gleason beach-3

Here is Joy at Gleason Beach, California

After North Cascades we headed west toward Bellingham. We intended to stop there just to get some groceries and run a few errands.  We arrived later in the evening and found our Walmart.  We took some showers in the quiet alley behind Walmart, which felt really nice, especially for Jay who had been hiking for days and had no shower for quite a while.

IMG_20140802_205113659Em had lost one of her shoes, it fell out of the van at some point, so we went to the shoe store at the mall to see if she could find another pair like them.  No luck, but she did get a lot of free food from Panda Express because they cookied too much near closing time and were unloading it.  Lucky us!  Here is Jay with our feast. Em also purchased two huge Cinnabon rolls. It was a feast.

The Walmart was chock full of RVers.  It was like an RV resort in the back of the parking lot.  The most we’d ever seen by far. Probably brings in a lot of business. We think they should start having a laundromat inside Walmart. They could really make bank off that, because we all know Walmart is in need of higher profits.

IMG_20140803_150615814The next day Jay had to return his hiking boots to REI because he got a defective pair. And he also had to replace the hat he lost on his backpacking trip. He was bummed about the hat; Em had given it to him about the time that they got together many years ago so it had a lot of sentimental value.  We’ve been losing things left and right on this trip.

IMG_20140803_160538538Well after our errands we went and explored the downtown area, which was pretty cool.  There are a lot of little shops and restaurants.  We stopped at the Spark Museum of Electrical History at Jay’s request.  They had a lot of artifacts and old equipment showcasing this history of electrical and radio devices.  They even had one of the those metal cages where they send thousands of volts through the air (via a giant spark).  It makes a lot of noise.  Hoggle didn’t seem to mind it at all in his stroller though. 

We then found some dinner at a place that makes Man Pies, essentially different kinds of pot pies.  After that is was back to Walmart for the night!  In the morning we woke up and headed for Canada. 

My Thinks Considered Em-PR:

Alright, deep breath. Don’t panic. Hoggle yelped and barked from the inside of the van. I hastily felt my pants pockets for a second time, hoping maybe I had missed the key on the first go ‘round. No such luck. Just my headlamp. So that’s where that thing went…

“Alright, let’s try this again. It has to work eventually,” I thought to myself.

“Hoggle!! Hoggle! Come here boy! Come get Mommy!!” I pounded on the window while calling to the dog. I could hear him jumping around in the van in a frenzy of nervous excitement. He jumped up onto the driver’s seat. “Good boy Hoggle!” I banged on the glass some more, “Bark, Hoggle! Get me!” I heard him scratching on the glass, trying to do as I asked, and then suddenly the mechanical sound of the door lock! For half a second I felt hope ignite, but it quickly extinguished when I recognized the sound as being the doors trying to lock again rather than unlock. I tried the handle half-heartedly anyway. Still locked. “Good boy Hoggle, you were so close!! You can do it!” clapping my hands to keep him excited and jumping by the window, “Get ‘em Hoggle! Ruff!”


North Cascades National Park-1After our time in Mt Rainier we headed north to North Cascades National Park.  The park, which borders Canada, is especially popular among hikers and backpackers.  Since we are feeling the need for a little time apart, Jay took advantage of the nature of the park and went on an overnight trip.

But first we went to the visitor center to check it out and grab a wilderness permit.  Then we drove through the park past one beautifully colored reservoir after another until we got to the Maple Loop Trailhead, a few miles east of the park itself. 

north Cascades-1Jay went on that loop hike, at about 8.5 miles while Em, having no desire to hike that long with Jay stayed behind for some peace and quiet. The hike was recommended in Sunset Magazine as the best day hike in the North Cascades.  It climbs a few miles up the the top of the mountain ridge to Maple Pass, where you get views of the nearby peaks, and the show and glacier covered peaks of the Glacier Peak Wilderness to the south.  All this with snow spotted alpine meadows to walk through.  It was a pretty hike. 

jon on Maple loop-1Maple Loop HIke-4

On the way down the trail passes by Rainy Lake and  giant waterfall feeding it.  When Jay got back we all jumped in the van and headed to Easy Pass Trailhead, where Jay would leave backpacking in the morning and where we would camp that night.  But before we left Jay got to see Em and Hoggle playing a game where Hoggle jumps around on the bed like a bucking bronco in circles.  I guess that’s what he does when there is no room to play chase.  It was really cute. 

Em’s Night Off

Em was seeking some tranquil alone time…and she got some initially. After doing a short easy walk to Rainy Lake (which was beautiful, but she took no pictures) in the morning, she and Hoggle IMG_20140801_154447670headed to another trailhead area to hang out. She stopped at one called Canyon Creek. There was a pleasant rushing creek, and a nice spot to hang the hammock. There was IMG_20140801_154546338_HDRalso a trail that Em and Hoggle walked on a little ways to see an old cabin from the 1900’s. It wasn’t very exciting. So they came back and Hoggle explored while Em read “Cloud Atlas” in the hammock in the shade.

The van was sitting out in the sun to get some much needed juice for the battery, which had been running low. After a good bit of time, Em packed up and headed back to the van with Hoggle to make some dinner. The battery was still a little low after dinner, so Em started up the van to charge the battery with the alternator now that the sun was getting lower. Since the engine tends to make the van get hotter, she jumped out afterwards to put the hood up to let some of the heat from the engine dissipate. Big mistake.

When she came right back to climb into the van for the evening, she found the door she had come out of was now locked. With a sinking feeling, she immediately suspected what must have happened. Hoggle, in his antsy excitement, had jumped on the door console and locked her out by accidentally pressing the lock button with his paw. Em quickly checked the rest of the doors, which unfortunately confirmed her predicament. This was something that we have known to be a risk with Hoggle as he’s locked the doors before. But up until this point, it has never been with us outside and no way to get back in. Normally Em brings keys with her, or leaves a door or window open if she is leaving him in there, but it totally slipped her mind this time.

Shit. “Okay, take a breath – you’ll figure this out.” Em checked her pockets knowing what the verdict would be. No keys. Headlamp though, been looking for that. 

“What are my options here?” Em ran through a mental checklist. “I could always bust a window with a rock. Yea, okay, but don’t want to do that, last resort. There is the key hidden under the van. But Jay has never shown me where it is or how to get it since he doesn’t think I’d be able to get it out myself anyway. But I bet If I have to I could probably find a way to get it out. Maybe I could use a rock or something to pry it out. Or flag down a car and get a tool from someone or something. Ohh, and I do have my headlamp, that would help me find it underneath there. Okay, I can try that if need be.” Em felt better that she had a few options if the Option A she already had in mind didn’t work. “If Hoggle locked me out, then it stands to reason he can let me back in.” Option A. Best option. Commence.

Em began pounding on the driver’s window and getting Hoggle amped up so that he would come hit the button again. At first it seemed to be working really well. He was right there on the door scratching at the window and jumping around, but he just wasn’t hitting it. Em tried a different angle, peering in through a crack in the window shade through the windshield. All the windows were covered up in reflectix, so Hoggle couldn’t even see her, and she couldn’t see him. He hit the lock button again at one point, but not the unlock. Then he seemed to give up. He was still in a frenzy, but wouldn’t jump back up onto the driver’s door. He was too frustrated maybe. Em could hear him pacing around and jumping on and off the bed fussing, but he wouldn’t come back to the window. Crap.

“Okay, maybe he’ll try again if I go to the other side.” Em went over to the passenger door and began her antics again over there. It worked! He jumped up on that chair and started jumping around by the window and then suddenly she heard it! That magical sound! Click! Em responded very quickly lest Hoggle accidentally hit it and immediately relock the door again. She pulled the door open, and poor Hoggle, who was propped up against it, came tumbling headlong out of the van. She did her best to buffer his descent, and fortunately he landed more or less on all fours. A bit of a stumble and face plant, but no worse for wear. She scooped him up and hugged and kissed him and praised him as the best dog ever. “You saved Mommy!!” He was so worked up, she had to let him down so he could go run around the parking lot.

Relief surged through Em like a shot of hard liquor. “It worked!” The whole ordeal had only lasted about 5 to 10 minutes, but those were a pretty tense few minutes.


We calmed down and the rest of the evening passed pretty uneventfully and soon we were off to bed. That’s when a bunch of folks started turning up in the parking lot, around 11 PM. People coming to camp at the trailhead like Em. Probably planning to do the 15 mile hike the next day. Three or four different cars showed up over the course of an hour, and the people were all very noisy while they settled in, keeping Em and Hoggle up. Irritating. Finally all that stopped, and they both fell asleep.

But then Em sleepily awoke while it was still dark outside to Hoggle wriggling around next to her. “Ugh, God, what on earth is that smell??” She turned on the lights. Hoggle was very very busy licking his butt and licking the bed. Em didn’t have to get very close to know what had happened. His anal glands had released in the bed, right next to her. For those readers who haven’t owned dogs – dogs have an anal gland that stores rank smelling fluid that typically comes out with bowel movements, but sometimes the fluid will expel at other times. Well, it had decided to expel in the bed, right next to Em, at probably around 4AM. Revolting. Poor Hoggle was doing his best to clean up after himself, but the only result was that he gave himself really foul disgusting breath in addition to the foul smelling everything else.

Em snapped into action. She picked Hoggle up and plopped him onto the floor onto his dog blanket. She then picked up the vinegar alcohol spray bottle and sprayed the crap out of the sheets. Then she lifted the sheets, and sprayed the memory foam underneath too. Then she scrubbed it with a towel, and put down every towel they had both on top and in between the foam and the sheets, covering up the offended spot. Now the van just stunk like vinegar and alcohol. That she could handle. She got some wet wipes and cleaned up Hoggle and then left him to continuing to lick his butt on his dog blanket, and fortunately was able to fall back to sleep.

Only to be woken up again, maybe about an hour later. A bit of daylight was just starting to stream in through the windows. And Hoggle was freaking out. This time, he was acting like there was some sort of critter in the van. He was back in the kitchen area, standing on top of the stove, sticking his head in the back of the food cabinet. But he had no interest in the food, he was acting like there was something back there. “Oh my God, am I ever going to get any sleep??” Em could hear something scratching around too. “Oh no! Could we have brought a hitchhiking mouse back from the campsite recently that Jay said was infested with mice?” Damn it! Em turned on the lights again, and pulled everything out of the food cabinet looking for any signs of a rodent hitch hiker. Fortunately she found none. No poop, no chewed holes in boxes. And the scratched sound had stopped. Hoggle settled back down and so did Em. She was just dozing off when…

A scratching sound started on the roof. “What the hell??” Hoggle jumped around excitedly. Em banged on the roof and yelled, “Get out of here!” to whatever it was. Probably some squirrel or bird or something from the tree she was parked underneath. The sound stopped, but the opportunity for sleep had passed. Em was up, and so was Hoggle. Ugh double ugh. One of Em’s big things with Jay is that she likes to sleep in and he doesn’t. Of course, on her one morning without him – this would happen. What a bust of a “break.”IMG_20140728_111806350

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Em did the usual morning stuff plus more cleaning from the night’s events, and then drove to Diablo Lake and hung out there for a little while. Pretty, for a dammed lake. Then she went to where Jay’s trail was to pick him up. Meanwhile…




Jay’s Backpack – Easy Pass

Easy Pass Trail-8Jay woke up early in the morning and hit the trail by 7am.  The trail climbs slowly through the green forest, up and up, until it hits the meadows below Easy Pass.  The trail keeps going and going, through switchback after switchback until you reach the pass.  It was a long climb.  While named Easy, the climb over the pass is not.  It gains 3,500 feet.  But it only starts at 4,000 in elevation, so there is no altitude difficulties to speak of nor are there any technical-like climbing sections.  So Jay would rate this as Moderate Pass. 

Jon at Easy Pass-1The views from the pass were awesome.  Huge Peaks, glaciers, snow fields, abundant wildflowers.  Easy Pass had it all.  It also had flies.  Massive swarms of flies.  If you sit still the swarm and cover you.  Jay had some all natural eucalyptus lemon bug spray crap that was completely useless.  There are fires burning in eastern Washington, so the haze in the mountains was definitely noticeable.

Easy Pass-3

Fisher Creek Basin with Wildflowers-2After all he could stand he packed up and headed down the other side of the pass, through switchbacks through more wildflower filled Alpine Meadows.  The trail on this side of the pass is well overgrown, almost like a glorified game trail in some places.  But he did pass a volunteer trail crew on the way down cutting down fallen logs and clearing some brush.  Snow was also still prevalent even in early August.

snow cave river-1

mossy woods-6The hike after the pass to the campground was mostly in the woods, hiding the mountains above.  But it was a pretty hike.  The trail is narrow and cuts through a thick carpet off moss and small bushes scattered about. 

Finally, after 15 miles he hit the camp.  It was a busy camp, four other groups there.  Jay found a quite place to place a tent and found stuff to make a fire.  He started it using the gold method as described in the scale above – he brought a flint stick, and used that with his pocket knife and some old-mans-beard (kindling) to get the incredibly dry wood started.  All the dry kindling and tender made it too easy. 

After dinner it thundered, lightning and rained for about 45 minutes.  But other than that time when he was huddled in the tent, Jay passed the time looking at the fire, somewhat bored, for about four hours before bed time. 

thunder creek-5In the morning Jay broke camp and headed down the trail toward Colonial Creek where Em was picking him up.  The ten miles that day where all through the woods, with only one small view of the massively tall and steep mountains, and the glaciers that cling to them, above.  The trail was pretty though.  And so was Thunder Creek, which the trail followed most of the day.  It has that light blue color that the dissolved glacier flour gives it.  The color of it contrasted with the dark green of the trees and moss was really pretty. 

And finally as he starts seeing more and more day hikers (meaning he’s close to the trailhead) he sees to his surprise Em and Hoggle come to meet him on the trail!  What a pleasant surprise.  Well Jay quickly learned that Em had a time of it on her night alone. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34 other followers