Camping in November?

Bouchon Roast Turkey

Who in western Washington State goes camping in November? I am sitting in the John Wayne Waterfront Resort in Sequim (pronounced squim for the uninformed). The park is mostly full with only a couple of spots open for this evening.

Winter in western Washington is noted for its dreary, wet, gray weather.  Sequim, however, touts that it has 200 days of sunshine a year and today is one of them.  On my last camping trip in September, when driving through Sequim, it was not one of the two hundred and it was coming down in buckets!

Finding camping locations any time of year is becoming more difficult as there are more and more full time RV’ers, as they are termed.  They move from campground to campground extending their stays to the full limit of days allowed by each location. Some locations can let them stay as many as one hundred and eighty days while state parks limit your stay to eleven.  One private campground company will allow only a certain number of days in a row and you must locate to a non-membership campground before you can return to the membership ones.

Consequently it takes a lot of finessing to be a full time camper.  You need an enormous of patience to be an occasional camper.  We camp about once a month, sometimes for a few days and sometimes for a week and half. It has now become necessary to think nine months in advance.  That is as far ahead as you can reserve a state park site in Washington State.  No last minute camping trips anymore.

So here we are sitting under blue skies in November on the Olympic Peninsula.  It is the second year in a row that we have decided to spend Thanksgiving camping in our trailer in Sequim. Gorgeous sunrise this morning.  Cold but no frost yet.

In years past, and when we were younger, we always went someplace for Thanksgiving.  One time we cooked a turkey over a fire on San Juan Island in the Straights of Juan de Fuca.  The wind blew so hard we couldn’t get any heat on the turkey.  Finally upended a couple of picnic tables to create a windbreak so the turkey would cook.

One year we slept in the back of our Volvo station wagon and just about froze as the frost outside was white and an inch deep.  Luckily it was a two dog night and we happened to have two which we invited to share our space to keep us warm.

We have had many horrific storms in the Pacific Northwest on various holidays, The Valentines Storm, The Columbus Day Storm and, yes, The Thanksgiving Day Storm.  We were barbequing a turkey on Orcas Island that year. Before the storm started, we went for a walk and when we returned, the barbeque had blown away and we never found the turkey. We ate beef stroganoff for Thanksgiving. When we returned to Whidbey the power was out for eight days.  We hadn’t lost power on Orcas, however.

Another Thanksgiving on Orcas, the metal sign outside our cabin blew in the wind all night long making a screeching sound that did not permit sleep.  We didn’t know what it was until we could see it in the morning daylight when it was swinging in the wind.

Thanksgiving is the last camping trip for the year.  We usually do not go out again until about April which means camping in the rain.  Then we try to go monthly throughout the spring, summer and fall, even if just for a couple of days. We don’t sleep on the ground or in the back of a car, or on a picnic table in our older age.  We have a fifth wheel trailer with most of the comforts of home.

Because of the potential for heavy frost, we winterized our rig in September when we returned from two weeks camping.  So we have most of the comforts of home except water.  Winterizing entails removing the water from all the waterlines, the hot water heater and the water pump.  It’s a little more like real camping to haul a bucket water in to heat and wash dishes or to take a “spit” bath.  This campground has the luxury of a HEATED bathroom with a shower that has real hot water, so I braved the cold morning sunrise to walk the block or so to the shower and indulge in a nice hot one.

Camping isn’t sleeping on the ground and cooking over a campfire for us anymore.  I think the clincher was when I awoke to the feeling that a vampire was sucking on my neck in the middle of the night.  It turned out to only be a Western Washington banana slug. Yuk!  No more sleeping on the ground.

Hobbies

“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.” (Joseph Addison)

I am not sure that I have had time for hobbies in my life.  Gardening was always for food, not much of a hobby.  Cooking gourmet meals is just a way of life.  Camping? It is getting very difficult to locate places to stay when I have time available. Reading?  Probably.

What is a hobby? The dictionary says it is an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation, not as a main occupation.  Well cooking and gardening? Too much work and not enough relaxation or pleasure.  Gourmet cooking can take a lot of time and the pleasure of it is consumed in moments.  Gardening, real work with a nice outcome, but not much pleasure in the process and it is back breaking as well.

Camping used to be a pleasure for us.  Now, with so many snowbirds, the parks are crowded and you must plan six months to a year in advance to camp in your favorite place, which also happens to be everyone else’s favorite too.  I don’t buy green bananas, how can I plan THAT far ahead?

Reading.  I guess I would say that by the strictest definition of the word, my hobby would be reading. I spend a goodly amount of time doing it and I enjoy it and it isn’t part of my work, therefore it qualifies as a hobby.  I read about one hundred fifty books a year, sometimes more, reading most evenings for a couple of hours.  Since it interferes with work I should be doing, it really seems more like an addiction than a hobby.

Writing.  Writing is probably a hobby for me too.  My original goal in starting to write  was publishing books about my life, memoir.  I have written and rewritten and belabored the subjects ad infinitum. Am I any closer to my goals….NO! I have enjoyed doing it and it does give me satisfaction.  It does take some of my time though not as much as reading.

Overall, I guess I am such a busy person that hobbies have not really had much place in my life.  A sad thing.  One should have “an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation.” as the definition required.  I still prepare gourmet meals, garden, read and write, but that is about the extent of non-work activities in which I participate.  I guess I need to find a good hobby.

Good Food

Recently we went camping and one of the places we were sure to stop on our way down the coast was Westport, Washington.  Westport is a key charter fishing port.  There are tons of charter fishing boats as well as private fishing boats, crabbers, ones who fish for salmon, halibut and much more.

This is a very small town which has only a small business district with lots of restaurants for fisherman who are staying there to eat.  We were there once when we had a medical emergency and we would have had to travel a very long distance to get help according to a local clinic.  Either we would have had to go to Pt. Angeles or Astoria.  We decided to deal with it ourselves.  This tells you that the services in this town are skimpy and mostly related to charter fishing.

There are however several places here for the gourmand. One of the best is a seafood shack for purchasing oysters, scallops, mussels, all kinds of fish and more is located here.  We purchased our usual pint of yearling oysters and ate oysters for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a couple of days.  These quarter size delicacies are extra ordinary.  Doused with a little panko and lemon zest and fried in browned butter there is nothing better.  For breakfast, fried bacon, onions and oysters in scrambled eggs with home fries on the side you are really eating high on the hog.

The other place that is near and dear to our hearts is Bay City Meats.  These folks are the best source for sausages and meats.  We bought Mulligans, linguisa, chorizo, breakfast sausage, landjager, and more.

We have been home for about a month now and we broke open the chorizo for dinner tonight.  It was exquisite! Spicy with just the right amount of fat.  The stuff they sell locally is about 75% fat. Yuck.  This was just perfect.  I made chili sauce with guajillo chilies by roasting them in a little oil and then blending with boiling water, garlic and grilled tomatoes.  I put the chorizo, chili sauce and grated cheese in tortillas and spread with sauce and cheese on the top.  Just the right amount of heat and aromatics to make a dinner that was over the top.  I can still taste it and the house has this wonderful aroma.

Luckily we still have tortillas, sauce and some fried chorizo left to make migas for breakfast.  Our version is to take the chili sauce and poach eggs in it.  I will fry tortillas, dip them in the chili sauce, place the poached egg on top and cover with chorizo and more chili sauce and cheese.  Boy I am hungry already and it is still evening.

When we were on this camping trip we also found in Twisp, Washington a source for elk burger, so we had elk burger spaghetti and elk burger pastitsio last week, but those are for another blog.

Take care and enjoy.

A Celebration of Life

IMG_4323For the past several weeks we have been glamping in our trailer, traveling down Washington state, through coastal Oregon and down to the Redwoods.  This is a trip we have taken, with purpose, twice before.  The first time we made this pilgrimage was for our honeymoon and a celebration of my just having finished a three month round of radiation therapy for breast cancer.  We did the trip in our car, staying in motels along the way.  The second time was five years later with our small travel trailer.

 

This time we have a larger trailer, though it is the same length, it is a foot wider and the “slide” is two feet wider than the one on the old trailer.  We are “glamping.”  You can look this up on the internet, or you can read an old blog of mine.  We travel with a kitchen that is well stocked and sleep in a comfortable bed.  Remember that now I am twenty-one years older than the first trip, I have survived breast cancer a second time and am six years out. This is definitely another celebration.

 

This evening I am sitting on the shore of Soap Lake, Washington, enjoying a beautiful sunset of cerise, rose, gamboge, and cerulean.  (Can you tell I am a painter?) It is warm and dusky and the sky is beautiful.  I have one more night after tonight before I must return to my usual regimen.  I used to come to this lake when I was a little girl.  We would stay in one of the fifties funky motels here which featured a tub with two sets of faucets, one with fresh tap water and one set with hot and cold water from the lake.  This lake is known for its “waters.”  We have carried the waters back to friends for such things as eczema, colitis, hair loss and more.  It was famous around the turn of the last century (1900) for its healing powers.  Tonight I have seen a woman dressed in attire which appeared to be from Pakistan or India approach the water, bow and wash her face in the waters.  Children slash unconcerned about the medicinal qualities and note that they can float better here.

 

I guess that we choose to revisit these waters as it is a pleasant basin in which to relax and enjoy a little R & R.  We had a picnic of cheese curds, landjager, pepperoni, cheddar, asiago and spinach French bread, grapes from my student’s garden, tomatoes from my garden and more with a glass of French wine, while watching the sun set over the far hills, reflected in the waters of the lake.

 

It is dark now, but the sky is clear and the city park where we are camped is quiet and the stars are reflected in the waters.  The breeze has picked up and by morning it will probably be forty degrees though it was seventy this afternoon.  No matter, the crisp morning only serves to make the waters more beautiful. I am thankful to be here twenty-one years after the first celebration to celebrate again.

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Soapy surf the next morning as the wind blew from  the north and frothed the “soap” (read minerals ) in the lake.

 

 

Dining in Middle America

IMG_4321Today we were traveling through north/central Oregon on our way home from camping.  We stopped to have lunch not far from the Washington/Oregon border.  Many of the small towns in this region are dying away. This was really brought home to me while I “dined” in the local cafe.

 

This town had one main street which was the interstate highway.  Most folks just blazed through without taking in the local color.  Since I am a painter of “vanishing rural America,” I take in everything.  This means every derelict truck, tractor, falling down barn, abandoned gas stations and more.

 

It was one o’clock and my husband thought that we should stop for a bite to eat.  This town included a diner which probably had fifty feet of frontage on the main drag, a market which has a sign painted on its side that says, “Last Market for 67 miles,” and a post office.  There was also a rock shop to purchase stones from piles of plastic boxes stacked in the yard full of rocks.  We went into the diner.

 

When we drove up an older gentleman also arrived on his lawn mower and parked beside the front entrance.  I can only assume that he either didn’t have a car or a driver’s license.  He took one of the ten, or so, stools at the counter.  There were three additional tables for four people each.  We chose a table by the window so we could watch the world drive by.

 

Not long after our arrival, another man pulled out of an alley between two buildings across the street, but since he was headed the wrong way, he went around the block and pulled up out front, well away from the sandwich sign which stated “open.”  No use blocking the information that indicated any signs of life in this little burg.

 

We ordered from a VERY limited menu, but had not received our food when three elderly folks drove up.  There were two women and a man who had trouble exiting the vehicle.  I noticed that the waitress already had the coffee or dishes ordered up and almost ready when the various customers arrived.  One she asked, “Will it be the usual?”

 

Once the group of three where located at the table next to us, the conversations began.  “Where are you from?” “Oh, I have (insert one of many relatives) from near there.”  The conversation continued in a very one-sided way telling us all about things that happened there, how long the man had farmed, how he could no longer farm, how Social Security and the local hospital managed to keep them out of the poorhouse and mostly well. One told how many times she had been married and how it wasn’t happening again.  She had outlived those husbands and wasn’t going for a third try. We got quite a tour of the local gossip and their lives, bless their souls.  They were kind-hearted and probably excited to have someone other than a local to tell their tales.

 

Not long after that a couple in their Mercedes pulled up, obviously out-of-towners as were we.  They sat at the opposite end of the bar stools from us at the third table for four. The two ladies working the kitchen and the tables took their time in the local fashion.  The menu, being limited, meant that there were little complications in producing the requested menu items. I had ordered one of the hamburgers on the menu with a cup of soup. The soup of the day was tomato basil which turned out to be heavenly.  I wished I had ordered a bowl instead of the hamburger which was just a diner burger.

 

Well, it certainly was a view of middle-America.  Looking out the window at all the derelict buildings and thinking I could spend a month here painting “Vanishing Rural American” in this town, I was happy to know that the big houses, shopping malls, and overspending ostentatious public had not found this place yet.  Though the locals had trouble meeting their hospital bills (which were forgiven by the hospital) and the town only had three of its original (out of dozens) storefronts active, I found an amount of peace here talking with folks who had grown up here, attending one room schools, raising wheat, and growing old in the local cafe with their friends.

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Camping in November

An out of focus photo of Ft. Warden Light near Pt. Townsend Washington.img_3466I probably should say that we went glamping as we stayed in our travel trailer and out of the cold, inclement weather.  Since I didn’t have to work on Veteran’s Day, I had a space of five days free and we decided at the last minute to travel to the Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington State.  For us this entails a ferry ride since we live on Whidbey Island.

Early on Thursday, my first day off, we headed to the Keystone Ferry in the middle of Whidbey.  This ferry takes us to Pt. Townsend, one of my favorite towns in Washington.  It has an 19th century charm that is going though restoration off and on, but still in keeping with the National Historic District status.  Beautiful three and four story brick buildings with Victorian flair.

We stayed at Pt. Hudson our last night and visited the town, but the first day we headed for Sequim (pronounced SQUIM).  John Wayne owned a substantial piece of waterfront on Sequim Bay many years ago where he moored his yacht, The Grey Goose, when he was in the area.  The land was donated to the county and is now a beautiful marina, campground, boat launching area and more, well protected by the long spit that juts across the mouth of the bay.  Calmer seas prevail here as the spit almost encloses the bay with a small passage out to the Straits of Juan de Fuca outside the passage.

Kingfishers, herons, seagulls and crows love the beach by the RV park.  I love watching the kingfishers dive into the water, coming up with small fish. Their turquoise and green iridescence makes them spectacular.  They look a little crazy with such big heads and small bodies.

Next we went to Joyce, Washington to stay at Salt Creek State Park.  This park has a very rocky precipice overlooking the Straits.  Waves crash on the rocks below the cliffs.  The park is a fairly steep hill which has been terraced for the RVs.  We backed into a space in the highest tear, thus having an unobstructed view of the straits and the shipping lanes there.  I love to watch the ships go by and I can do it from my dinette table inside.  We saw oil tankers, car carriers, and container ships interspersed with the minuscule fishing boats. The two lighthouses on Vancouver Island were visible flashing their lights after dark.  They were hardly visible through the fog and moisture in the air during the day.

We took a day trip to Forks and LaPush and had lunch one day.  Hiked around the campground another as it is an old fort from WWI.  The neighboring bay, Crescent Beach, was packed with surfers, though there wasn’t much for surf the day we watched. Cougars had been sighted in the region and they suggested you keep you children and pets on a short leash.

We did see some seals out in a large bull kelp bed.  Picked up some shells and beach glass while wondering beaches.

It was warmish, with the temperatures in the mid 50s.  Sunday, however there was a gale that made it hard to push open the door of the travel trailer to get out.  We were glad to be in Pt. Townsend and not at home that night.  (Our home is situated in a treed area and often we need to leave home if storms are to dangerous.) We were only staying one night, but we unhitched as it was difficult to walk against the wind to downtown, many blocks away.  Had a great dinner, once again, at The Fountain Cafe.  They never fail to please us and we are very hard to please.

Mostly, this was a relaxing trip.  We took our time, did a lot of reading in the evenings, slept late, and were generally lazy.  We didn’t have to be anyplace and any particular time and we just wandered, a great way to spend a little time off.

 

 

 

 

Camping or should I say Glamping

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(the photos are not my rig, but they Are beautiful)

In recent times, the term glamping has come into use in the U.S.  This is a combination of glamour and camping.  No more cooking over a fire (good most summers when there are severe fire restrictions, as right now).  No more sleeping with the slugs crawling over you.  No more freezing nights when you have to wear everything you brought with you in order to keep warm. No more going without washing for days on end.

I participated in all of this for years, dirty body, dirty clothes, half washed dishes if washed at all.  The dog can do a better job of washing the dishes than a paper towel any day and what do I do with the dirty paper towel, I have to carry it out.  I have slept on picnic tables to avoid rattlesnakes cuddling up with me for warmth, I have had my sleeping bag soaked and not drying for a week. I have had slugs sucking on my neck. Yuck!

I am now a glamper.  I think at seventy-one years old I have earned this right, paid my dues.  I also think that my age and my physical condition probably would be best camped a little closer to civilization rather in the hinterland somewhere.  I miss those wild, remote, private places, but I can still enjoy the fresh mountain air, the walks in the woods around the campground, and the smell of bacon cooking in the fresh morning air.

Yesterday nine deer walked up to the area where my travel trailer is sitting at Curlew Lake State Park in Eastern Washington State.  One of them even followed one of the other campers back to her rig, probably hoping for a handout. Today they have come down from the desert above to eat all the fallen leaves on the grass.  The park attendant will not have to rake leaves as they ate every one of them.  Cleaned it up beautifully. Perhaps there is a mineral or vitamin they lack in their usual environment.  I did notice that they do not eat the lush green grass around the campground, preferring the dry brush and grasses up the hill.

I have been painting crows recently and am looking to get more reference photos for my work.  Crows visit all campgrounds and there was a murder of crows consisting of fifteen sitting in the shade of one of the deciduous trees just up the hill. I try to entice them with the “old maids” from last night’s popcorn when I can snap a few photos.  They are very camera shy.

This campground seems devoid of chipmunks and squirrels, but the last one in the higher elevations had many gathering last minute foodstuffs for their winter’s sleep.  Fat and furry, they were almost ready as some areas have already had their first frosts.

Bears, rattlesnakes, poison sumac, ivy and oak are some of the hazards of camping, even at this easier form.  Bears are attracted to the goodies left around by careless campers and can ransack a sight while your back is turned, even in broad daylight.  Squirrels and crows can do almost as much damage as the bears.

In this area we have seen black bear and moose, both which you should avoid.  Haven’t seen any snakes as the nights are in the low 50’s and they are probably far outside the bustle of the campground.

Fishing is a big past time here, but we haven’t participated in that in recent years.  I used to be a worm dangler with a good book and my husband a fly fisherman, but our differing styles don’t make for compatible fishing.  Now I just like to watch the turtles sunning themselves on deadheads (floating dead trees in the water) in the lake.  Sometimes they come inland and you might scare them when walking through tall grass and mistake them for a rattler.

Glamping means I can cook in my usual style, which is gourmet extravagant.  With a three burner gas stove, oven, refer, and double sink, I can cook almost anything I can make at home.  I have a shower with hot and cold water.  Some glampers even have clothes washers and dryers, but that is a bit much for me.  I have a soft bed with real sheets.  I also have heat for the cold nights in the mountains.

Glamour camping, glamping, may have its drawbacks, it may seem extravagant, it probably seems silly to the hard core, but at my age I can still enjoy the scene and the wildlife around me without the hazards of needing to be airlifted out if I fall and break something.  I can still enjoy the great outdoors and be comfortable.glamping