Welcome to Wandering Under the Stars! We have been traveling and camping since we met and we will continue until the Universe decides it's time to stop. We like all those out of the way spots-where you won't find the huge campfire party going or twenty wee ones racing around the campground. So our wanderings usually take us to those boondocking spots we all long for.
The suns’ position is starting to change in anticipation of summer solstice. That’s one of the many advantages of being outside the majority of the time-you notice all kinds of changes. In the short time we have been here we’ve watched small strawberry plants shoot up and watched their beautiful white blossoms unfurl.
The ones that are in the sun most of the time are starting to form their berries. I just hope the birds, bears and squirrels will share a few with us.
We’ve also watched the trillium leaves break through the forest floor with their beautiful dark green leaves and now they are flowering. The weather is feeling like summer but Mother Nature is reminding us it’s still Spring.
John & Jenny hosts from 2005-2010
Thanks to those hosts who left behind their books with pictures and descriptions of the native flowers I’ve discovered thimbleberries. They are growing as wild and as prolific as the blackberries do in Washington. I’ve been reading that they don’t have much flavor so I’ll be in search of sweeter berries around the property.
The clouds of what looks like dust that you see in the distance above the trees is actually spruce tree pollen.
The bumblebees have arrived and they are huge and the houseflies are small. I can live with that. Mosquitoes don’t seem to be a problem ,yet ! The spruce pollen is everywhere. A light wind will blow it off trees into puffs of green clouds. You can easily follow the path of the wind just by watching the pollen blow off of the trees.
It rained all day yesterday. The sky was filled with grey clouds. They covered Rainbow glacier and all her waterfalls. By the evening the rain had stopped, but it was cold and so windy. In spite of that we bundled up and went down to the beach to explore a wild flower path. What a challenge trying to take photos of wildflowers in 25mph winds.
But it was beautiful. The overcast sky intensified the colors of the flowers. The path was lined with lupine, wild roses, shooting stars, wild strawberries, violets, buttercups, geraniums and yellow flowers just starting to emerge. The wild irises were just starting to set their flowers.
It was a wonderful walk along the shoreline. The shoreline looked like an artist had dumped her yellow paints in the water-it was the spruce pollen washing up on shore. We came back to the cabin and it was so toasty from the wood stove.
The wind blew all night, I could hear it because my side of the bed is next to the west side door and that’s the direction the winds were coming from. This 40 year old cabin has so many sounds at night. The roof usually sounds like some creatures are running track up there! The huge logs creak like they are trying to bend and stretch old bones. This all usually happens around sunset, 10pm and lasts about an hour or two. We lay in bed and make up stories about what is happening out there.
We know when the cruise ships are in town because our visitor count at the cabin increases. It’s fun meeting folks from all over and sharing the beauty of Chilkat with them. And they love looking through the scope for eagles and bears.
Speaking of eagles we took a quick trip over to Chilkoot State Park to check out the eagles feeding in the river. I can’t imagine what the Chilkat Eagle Preserve looks like in November when about 3000 of these gorgeous birds arrive to feed on the salmon run .
I’m sitting here alone this morning looking at a cloudless blue sky and enjoying the quiet. KitKat occasionally interrupts with a little groan which usually indicates she’s snuggling into the blankets for her long morning nap. She has developed an affinity for the cabin and has made it her home. The last time we went into town she literally refused to get in the van and promptly turned around and waited by the door for us to let her back inside.
She loves all the different scents around the cabin and her latest interest is the Stellar Jay who comes to visit at the windows. When KitKat spots him she sits up at attention and watches every move he makes. We call him Rod after Rod Stewart because his crown is as crazy as Rod’s hair!
This weekend is Memorial Day and we are curious to see how many campers show up. Friday night we only had 6 of the 35 spots filled, so we shall see. It’s strange having the cabin, it’s down the road from the campground and we don’t know what’s going on in the campground until we take one of our frequent walks. When we camp-hosted in Moab we knew all the comings and goings as our camp site was in the middle of everything. Our campers can’t believe we get to stay in this cabin and every single visitor has asked us how we got this volunteer position. We send them to the Alaska..
We’ve been here just one week and we are overwhelmed by the beauty and magic of Haines and Chilkat State Park. We arrived a few days earlier than expected due to some issues with our camp stove. Turns out it was operator error, we were turning on the propane tank too quickly flooding the hose or something like that. Ben, a sweet funny guy who works at the propane shop quickly educated us and sent us on our way.
We tracked down our supervisor, Ranger Travis and he arranged to meet us at the cabin. As we took a quick tour through the campground Cow Winkle (our local moose)stuck her head out through the trees to welcome us, unbelievable.
When we pulled up to the cabin we were stunned. Apparently we had forgotten how utterly gorgeous this area is. We were awed by the glaciers, literally we were at a loss for words and just stood on the cabin deck wondering how did we get so lucky and blessed to be here.
We spent almost two hours talking and laughing with Travis. Once he left we started to set up our bed and cooking area in the cabin. We thought it was about 6 or 7 , turns out we hadn’t adjusted to the idea of 17hrs of daylight in Haines, it was 10pm by the time we sat down for dinner.
Snuggling under the covers, we both fell asleep gazing out at the mountains. After our first breakfast, my version of what I now call a Dawson City Omelet, we headed into Haines to meet the camp hosts from Chilkoot State park, John and Jolene. We met up at Travis’s office and went through a few hours of training and orientation-mostly bear safety and bathroom cleaning! Travis then took us on a tour of the “shop” area near Portage Cove .
This is where we would find our supplies, pick up mail, do our laundry and take showers. Once the tour was over Travis gave us the demo of how to clean an Alaska State Park outhouse! Now those of you who know me, know that I have said we would never take a camp host job where we had to clean bathrooms! To quote one of our recent visitors to the cabin, “this is a view and cabin that I would clean bathrooms for.” And I have to give my sweetie credit, he’s doing most of the work. I knock down spider webs, clean picnic tables and sweep the floors. I’m also in charge of the logs we keep on visitor safety, bear and weather information-much easier than suiting up to scrub toilets, lol. We are responsible for 35 campsites, a boat launch, a picnic/wedding pavilion and a trailhead. It sure beats handling 7 campgrounds, 3 group sites and an overflow area like we did in Moab.
Remember we took a trip to Arches to scout out some spots for photography ? We decided after checking the weather report and watching the skies that March 11th was a good day to try for sunset shots at Arches . So off we went. When we entered the park we saw some promising skies starting to get that late in the day glow. And the large white puffy clouds were encouraging too.
By the time we got near the spot we wanted to be , near Balancing Rock, those gorgeous clouds were turning into a memory. The skies were starting to streak with those clouds that look like a pre cursor to rain. Only a few puffy clouds, slowly disappearing.
We positioned ourselves so that we could watch the setting sun, crossed our fingers and prayed for some color in the skies. So far it was blue, yellow and just a tint of orange.
There were numerous photographers who packed up and left shortly after this shot. I keep sticking around, because you know just when you think the sunset is over, well Mother Nature does her thing and surprises you. But the longer we waited the longer things remained the same so we started to head back to our campground.
The entire time Jim was driving I kept looking in the mirror and when I spotted a hint of pink in the skies I had him pullover, took a shot and then said we need to go back-it’s turning-it’s going to be incredible.
As we climbed the hill to the plateau we just left we came around some boulders and there it was-the sky was on fire.
We couldn’t believe how fortunate we were to witness this- the most incredible streak of set me on fire sky !
As the sun quickly set I grabbed one more shot and then we headed home. Lesson learned, always stick around even if you think the show is over-it’s not !
So on March 11th we went to bed with visions of that fiery sky. On March 20th we decided it would be a good day to make the trip to Dead Horse Point State Park-about a 25 mile drive from our camp site. We got up really early and timed our arrival to just a bit before sunrise. As we worked our way to the overlook we could see the sky lighting up with those orange and pink sunrise colors. I jumped out of the van, grabbed my camera and tripod and took off for the cliffs.
Until this past week of March 10th we have been plagued with rain and cloudy skies. I should say really dark skies ! It would get so dark that I felt we were going to get hit with the mother of all storms. The rain would come down , create waterfalls along the highway and the mother of all storms never came to fruition !
Waterfalls created by sudden rainfalls, here today, gone tomorrow !
KitKat has enjoyed her time in camp- she is officially the camp host guard dog. She barks while she frantically wags her tail so she doesn’t scare anyone off ! Everyone is giving her so much love and attention it’s wearing her out. You can see her doing her daily exercises below. Ha ha.
We are also lucky to be in a spot where we are entertained by the climbers. There is a tower called the Lighthouse and the climbers love it. I really admire them but that is not a sport that has ever made me think, hmm I would like to try that ! One day we had two base jumpers (of course my camera wasn’t handy). They made the long climb up to the top of the cliffs, jumped off and opened their parachutes. They only reason I knew they jumped was I heard two people screaming with delight and when I looked up, there they were.
Now that the weather has cleared up we can cook and eat outside. How would you like some rigatoni with parmesan cheese and Trader Joe’s Tuscano Marinara sauce ? My favorite canned sauce ever !
We have met so many wonderful people and the college kids who have been here on Spring Break have inspired us with their positive attitudes, their politeness and their willingness to spend some time with us “older folks”. When you sit at home and see so much negative news you forget that there is a generation coming up behind us and from what we have seen we feel pretty good about them taking over the reigns !
One day while sitting in camp we had a white car drive by and behind the wheel was a sweet silver haired Texan. She pulled over into the day use area and walked up to our campsite. She said our smiles made her want to stop-sweet. Betty, a 6th generation Texan spent some time with us sharing her story, her fears and her new found love for exploring.
She told us the story of how unheard it was to be a 6th generation Texan and actually move from the state but she did. She originally headed to California then followed her son to Colorado. Betty eventually ended up settling in Grand Junction. She is 77 years old and just as cute as a button. I’m so regretting not taking any photos of her but I feel certain our paths are going to cross again. Just imagine Betty White but cuter and with a better hair cut. She’s about 5′ 3 , slim build, beautiful shiny silver white hair cut in a bob. Her makeup was light but perfect. And the red jacket she had on brought out a blush on her cheeks; and the red suede clogs made me think this lady is going to be fun. She is one of those people you just want to hug to pieces.
Betty told us she was checking out “the camping life”. She had been divorced for 13 years, lived alone and recently lost her son to cancer. I can’t imagine losing a child . Her son passed away 4 years ago-tears came to her eyes as she talked about him. She was so open and honest with us in sharing her loneliness and vulnerability. But yet here she was on a road trip that her friends in Grand Junction couldn’t believe she was making on her own. She has decided she wants to figure out a way to buy a little van or camper for herself that wouldn’t need any work and would be easy for her to handle. Everyone has convinced her she needs a man for that and we worked very hard to convince her that in the short time we had talked with her that she could do anything she wanted to do-on her own !
We exchanged emails and phone numbers and gave her some referrals for things she could do now to travel without a camper-you know Trusted Housesitters and Airbnb. We also promised to keep our eyes open for a little van for her. So if any of you know of a van that could be purchased for $6000.00 or less and is in good shape let me know and I’ll pass it onto Betty.
We were sad to say good bye to our new friend and there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about her since she left-wondering what she is doing and how she is doing. This is really one of the absolute positives about being on..
We finally made it to Moab ! Originally we were supposed to start camp hosting on the 15th of Feb. But with everyone’s schedule in the BLM office they asked us to wait until after Presidents Day and report for training on Feb 19th. So we had 4 days of free time at the camp host site. It was nice to know we didn’t have a “mission” trip any longer. No more rushing to get someplace on time. We sat back and enjoyed the sunshine.
Can I tell you how short-lived the sunshine was ? 1 day and then the snow hit. We had snow for about 4 days, temps in the teens at night and low 30’s during the day.
Thank goodness for the Espar diesel heater-kept us nice and toasty. And I really think the insulation I came up with helped keep the heat in. Our furnace would only go off occasionally during the night and our inside temperature ran about 66.
The weather gods teased us with more sunshine. They made us believe maybe winter was really behind us and we could start getting ready for Spring. No such luck, a little more snow. Not nearly as bad as everyone across the West was getting hit with but highly unusual for this time of year in Moab.
Teased by another few days of sunshine and then the downpour hit. Sideways rains-don’t you just love it ? It rained so hard there was a landslide just down the road from us. We were wondering why there wasn’t any traffic zooming by the road outside the campground and then some campers told us about the landslide. River Road, Highway 128 follows the Colorado River on one side and steep red sandstone cliffs on the other side. I’m surprised that landslides aren’t a weekly occurrence here in the Spring.
When we left Flagstaff our plan was to take our time and detour through Bryce, Capital Reef and Canyonlands. But when we arrived at Page, AZ we discovered most of the roads in Bryce were closed due to snow so it looks our decision on which way to go was made by the weather gods. We took the turn off to Glen Canyon Dam.
This Dam has been controversial since it was built. Environmentalist fought the flooding of Glen Canyon and the changes that would and have occurred to the area. It’s believed that if they tried to build it today it wouldn’t fly -Glen Canyon would be a National Park for hiking and exploring, not for flooding. This was our first visit-you can look one way and see a beautiful blue winding waterway emptying into the dam. Then you can look the other way and see the electric transmission lines covering the hillside and smokestacks on the horizon.
We spent very little time around the dam. Viewing creations like this aren’t our thing-while man can create some incredible things, nature can never be out done. We took off in search of some boon docking on Smokey Mountain Road. Our information indicated that there were many side roads off of the main road that we could take so off we went for our adventure.
We found this canyon and explored it until we couldn’t go any further !
Once we turned around and headed out of the canyon we returned to a spot we had scouted earlier. At a pull out we set up camp, surrounded by canyon walls and rolling hills. We only saw one other pick up and one lone hiker in car. Peace and quiet.
Kitkat loved the wide open spaces.
We stayed here a couple of nights and then watching the weather we decided it was time to move on. We were looking forward to driving through Monument Valley-we had never been there either. You would never know we lived in the Southwest for 5 years and yet never made it to so many gorgeous spots !
We arrived in Monument Valley late in the day with a storm quickly approaching so we started to look for a spot to settle in to for the night.
Snow, snow, snow and more snow all over the Pacific Northwest. It looks like we left Whidbey Island just in time! We are in “mission travel mode.” It’s definitely not our preferred travel mode – we take the quickest route to our destination; boon-dock sites are usually rest stops, Cabellas or Home Depot. When we have an appointment at a destination that can’t be missed -that’s ‘mission travel”. We rarely travel this way but if we have to we always try to make the best of it and enjoy ourselves along the way. This “mission” involved 2 destinations; Mesa,AZ for our CTEK installation on February 11th and Moab, UT for our camp host gig on February 18th.
Our first challenge was to make it over Siskiyou Pass before the snowstorm hit, and thank goodness we did. The road was fairly dry, the weather overcast and windy.
The ride down I5 through Oregon was uneventful, we’ve done that route so many times. We looked over our map and checked weather conditions and decided that taking 89 out of Shasta would get us off of the freeway yet not delay our arrival in Mesa. Hello and good bye to Mount Shasta !
Snowman’s Hill Summit
Highway 89 immediately turned into a Winter wonderland. No more semis blasting by like crazy ! The first spot we pulled off to for a leg stretch was Snowman’s Hill Summit. It was so pretty, there was a slight wind that was blowing the snow off the trees into wisps of sparkling diamonds-so magical. The sun was shining and there was no one else around. We let KitKat out to stretch her legs and discovered she is crazy about the snow. She was running all around and sniffing and jumping through it. I could almost hear her laughing and saying “snow snow snow, I’m in heaven “!
Her personality has really developed since we brought her home, she doesn’t even look like the same dog anymore !
Doesn’t her shadow look like one of the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz ? She absolutely loved running in the snow !
Snowman’s Summit has an interesting story-it used to be a very popular ski and sled run before WWII. Founded by a group called “Snowmen”, they built up the hillside and ski jumping became incredibly popular. Then when the war came, the hillside was deserted and everyone was off to war. Now it stands as memory to Winter fun from the past. From the tracks off the park lot it seems to be popular with cross country skiers, snowboarders and sled riders. Good that someone is enjoying a spot that brought so much joy to people in the past.
Heading through Lassen National Forest we had no idea where we would pullover for the night.
As we drove through Lassen National Forest we had our eyes peeled for a camping spot. Wait-what’s that campground on the right we just went past ? Cave Campground, directly across from the Subway Cave in Lassen. The campground is closed but the parking lot is large enough that we can pull off the road quite a bit and enjoy the snow and silence-so we did. It was freezing cold, about 16 that night, but again we were nice and toasty with the heat from our Espar diesel heater .
Driving north from Flagstaff I spotted the splash of bright pinks and purples. And then the posters and artwork. It whizzed by in a blur of desert colors. Turquoise, pink, coral all flashed by out of the corner of my eye. Jim stop,go back I yelled and he did.
The art out here in the middle of nowhere touched me more than any art I have seen in a museum. I’m sure if I ever return to this spot it will be changed in someway-the way an artist changes his or her canvas when they are looking to find something more.
I hope you take away something from the photos displayed here. I wish I could list the name of the artists, some added their signatures some didn’t. And I don’t know who is responsible for the photographic posters that were part of this desert gallery-I just know they touched my soul.
33 months on the road-that’s our plan. Loosey goosey that it is ! We kicked off this adventure with a good bye to family-a pizza dinner in Langley; pictures along the waterfront and a visit to the kissing ball of Langley.
It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day, perfect to spend with those we love and hold dear to us.
Excited that the road trip is a week away
Going to miss our sweet family !
The Kissing Ball is a must stop in Langley-it’s right in front of John L Scott Real Estate and just a short walk from Village Pizza where we had lunch !
After we said our goodbyes Jim and I headed home for the last 4 days of packing and moving personal belongings to storage. We found a lovely couple to entrust our home to while we are on the road- Lori an artist extraordinaire and her husband, Jeff , a musician extraordinaire ! We were looking forward to being done with cleaning and packing and hitting the road so the morning after we had the house deep cleaned we took off. We planned on one last visit with family and friends. First stop, Bellingham to say goodbye to my brother. While he was at work, we took a little trip to Edison and Bow. If you are in this neck of the woods please don’t miss visiting Bow and Edison. Edison was founded 1869 and they call themselves a Kindness Town and they really are.
Whole wheat Miche
We stopped at the main attraction-THE BREADFARM, I put that in caps because I want to shout that name from the mountains. If you follow me you know how I rave about Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland. Well after visiting the Breadfarm we no longer have to wait for trips to Portland for some of the most delicious and outstanding bread we have ever had. We bought a loaf of ciabatta along with a quarter chunk of the whole wheat Miche. Oh my gosh, this will be something to look forward to when we finally do return home-regular trips to Edison ! We also tried the ginger,honey,and cardamom shortbread and the vanilla shortbread-I highly recommend both.
We took the recommendation of the lovely woman at the Breadfarm and headed next door to The Slough Cafe. We ended up buying our lunch there: Sammish Bay Gouda , yummy; some freshly made cornichons and two sticks of Bavarian Meats Landjaeger. We met the owner, John, and got such a great vibe from him and his cafe-we definitely will be returning here many many times !
Once we had our goodies loaded into Ruby (yes we decided to call her Ruby like our previous Roadtrek-we couldn’t stop calling her Ruby since we got her, but she is Ruby the Wild Heart !), we headed out to explore the area looking for a picnic spot. We headed towards the water and were so blessed and surprised by the Sammish Bay Slough just west of town. Bald eagles filled the trees; herons searched the mud and shoreline for lunch; snow geese napped in the fields and a barn owl surprised us with a fly by ! What a wonderful way to say good bye to Washington.
What do you do when the road is washed out ? Art, that’s what you do !
We were lucky to spend my brother’s birthday with him that evening and in the morning we said our final goodbyes to him and his wife Martha and headed out for our next stop.
Heading to Monroe to visit friends who are more family than friends. We knew we wanted to boon dock one night before we arrived at their place. We wanted to ensure all systems on Ruby the Wild Heart were working as planned. We also knew it wasn’t going to be a jaw dropping spot for boon docking-just a spot to spend the evening, out of the path of civilization. We found a quiet spot near Money Creek Campground off of Highway 2 outside of Skykomish. It rained all night long so we were lulled to sleep by the rain on the roof. When we woke up we thought we had a leak in the door, the insulation drape I installed was soaking wet along the outside edge. But careless me, had closed the rear driver’s side door on an insulation drape and got it stuck in the crack so it was acting as a wick to outside rain. Whew, easy problem to resolve-no leak !
There was never a plan to return to Moab, but if you remember we had thought we were going to camp host for 3 months until Jim ripped up his rotator cuff. Since we didn’t spend a great deal of time in Moab , we decided to return. The fact that it was sunny and warmer than Wyoming didn’t hurt either !
We found an area of BLM land just past Lone Mesa Campground. We took Highway 313 off of Highway 191 out of Moab and drove about 5 miles past the campground until we found a spot we loved. We had an overlook of a small canyon and spent most of our time climbing rocks and exploring the area.
KitKat, our new furry family member, took to boon docking immediately. She was still skittish and afraid of every noise she heard, but she went crazy with all the scents she was picking up and the wide open spaces. We did learn she’s a little stealth and much to my chagrin loves to play hide and seek. Having had her for less than a week, I had a few small heart attacks when she wandered behind the rocks and I couldn’t spot her. But her first experience with us helped her get familiar with the van and she developed the habit of running up to the side slider, circling the van and returning to the slider door and plopping herself down until I caught up and let her inside the van. Her personality is slowly but surely coming out and her trust level with us is growing.
It was bittersweet remembering Hailey in Moab and how she loved sleeping outside at night in our pop up “Clam” shelter. And don’t even get me started on how much she loved wading in the Colorado River.
It was interesting camping here. We observed two different family dynamics. One family loaded down with dirt bikes, loud stereo, motorized toy trucks for the kids and two big dogs that roamed freely through our campsite without supervision by their owners. The other family, no loud stereo, no dirt bikes, obedient non roaming dogs. The dirt bike people didn’t interact much with each other; mom and dad were off on their own on the dirt bikes while kids zoomed the toy trucks around the campsite. The non dirt bike people hiked all around the area. The kids came running up to us while we were out hiking to point out a small snake they stumbled across while hiking. They were so excited and then began telling us about snakes and the wildlife in the area we were camping in. These kids were so excited and dad stood quietly in the background, obviously proud of these two explorers. Give me the explorers any day !
Loved watching slivers of the canyon walls light up at sunset-nature is just so amazing.