Scablands with a Side of Phish

I like to camp with the family and couple friends we know as often as I can. Recently Amanda put together a trip to the Scablands and invited us all along. The trip being scheduled at the end of August so the weather was a crap shoot but it ended up being a perfect weekend. That perfect weather was put to good use with all the activities in the area. The cherry on top for me with seeing Phish at the Gorge Amphitheatre to close out a three night run.

Because I was seeing Phish on Sunday I drove myself. As typical for me when on vacation I got a lazy start to the day. By the time I had things packed and ready to go is already noon. I stopped at H Mart for some last-minute provisions and set out on the long drive to Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park in central Washington. On purpose I took the longer route to get there as I would be taking a different way home from the Gorge. I unfortunately got caught behind in a wreck and two construction zones. It was not until 7pm that I arrived at the park.

Halfway through my setup everyone else arrived at camp. One reason I drove myself was to setup my tent without distraction. Unfortunately I got a lot of hellos while setting up my campsite. I had to tell people to hold off till I was done. Just as the sun was starting to set I finished setting up camp. It was time to sit, relax, and say hello. After a long day of driving and the setup I could now relax and just enjoy central Washington. See what sort of display nature was going to put on tonight. It wasn’t long before we all turned in for the night to get some much deserved sleep.

Sleeping that night was rough but waking up the next morning in camp more than made up for the rough nights sleep. One thing I love most when camping is fresh ground coffee on a chilly morning as the sun rises. That crisp feeling to the air with the smell of fresh coffee just can’t be beat. Camp slowly roused but for the briefest of moments the world almost appeared to stand still.

The ancient river dredged a serious scare into the land.

First full day in camp and we got motivated. We started just a few miles away at the Dry Falls visitor center which has a really great view of the……..dry falls. These falls and the surrounding area are an ice age relic of Earth’s history. As the ice age ended and the glacial ice melted this created huge reservoirs of water blocked by seasonal ice dams. Eventually those dams broke in a rush of water scarred the land of wash of eastern Washington. Something like that. Some of this landscape scaring was the dry falls in front of us. The huge coulees at the base and the sheer size of the cliffs. Seeing this in the late morning sun with a speckled cloud cover, it’s pretty amazing.

From here we headed south for a hike at Lake Lenore Caves Trail. I had seen the sign for this on my way into the park and it was definitely on my radar. A very poorly marked trail starts in the parking lot which is right off the road. I figure it’s a little over a mile round-trip. As you ascend up the trail it cuts into the mountain side you soon come upon several caves used by humans long ago. At the end of the trail is you get a pretty good view of the small lake below and the cliffs on the other side of the road.

A large boulder pushed down river by the water. Must have been immense to push it this far down river.

One of the things you see a lot of is rocks. We were next headed to see the largest rock around. The size of the rock is not necessarily impressive. When you think about the amount of water and force needed to push it down to its final resting spot, that is what is amazing to think about. In fact when we turn off onto the dirt road we totally drove past it the first time. Its literally just a giant rock in an open field. We soon realized our mistake and turn around. Again, what is impressive is the amount of force need it to move it. Its just a rock.

Last item on today’s agenda was Summer Falls Day Use Area. This is a park at the base of a waterfall that is visible in the summertime as the name indicates. This park is run by the Bureau of Reclamation instead of the state. In the summer for a reason I do not know Reclamation bleeds off the reservoir and creates the falls that we see. The turn off is rough and unpaved but if you can manage the road its a great park to hang out at.

Saturday was the beach day. A day just hanging out doing whatever we wanted and I was excited about that. I like the water but I often just like being around it. Today was no different. Throughout the day everyone got into the water doing whatever. I spent my time onshore lounging and having my own fun. Smoked a cigar with Bobby, played some corn hole and did lots of people watching. As the afternoon went on and people cycle in and out of the water I had long conversations with the kids which was fun. They are inquisitive and I love knowing where their head is at.

Before heading to the Gorge I stopped back at Summer Falls to hang out, enjoy the beautiful weather and get some writing done.

Late in the afternoon we headed back to came to clean up. The shower was cold as shit but it felt so good. Third day so it felt good for so many reasons to cleanup. We were headed to Grand Coulee Dam. Tracy found they have a nightly laser show and that was interesting to all of us.

Steamboat Rock State Park Crown Point overlooks the dam and town which we thought would be a great spot to see the show. When we got there we explored a little and then Bobby, Tyson and I headed to a nice outcropping of rocks. Here we smoked a cigar and just hung out, really relaxing stuff. Since we were camping we brought gear to make chili dogs that night for dinner. Cigar, sunset, beautiful scene, a colorful sky, conversation and then food.

As night feel we got dinner going and waited for the show to start. We found the radio station for the audio but it was to weak for us to pick up. Tracy did some quick thinking and found a recording on YouTube. After a couple false starts she synced things up so we heard the last 2/3 of the half hour presentation. Really cool stuff. Goes through the history of the land and how it was turned into a dam to regulate flooding, generate power, and used for irrigation.

This spot in the park has a fantastic view of the dam and city. Just look at that sky as the sunset. Beautiful!

Almost as soon as things started it was time to go home. Another lazy Sunday morning getting up and getting out. Everyone else was headed home but I was headed to the Gorge Amphitheatre for the last night of a three night Phish run. I was so excited. Initially I decided against the show. I couldn’t make all three nights and it would mean burning another vacation day. As the camping trip got closer it became more important to me to see them and fuck the rest. A $250 camping ticket and another day off of work was worth seeing the show that night.

I had plenty of time before showtime so I headed back to Summer Falls Day Use to relax and get some writing done. It was another beautiful day and worth being outside as much as possible. The park has some covered picnic tables so I posted up and got to work. Had a good spot overlooking the small reservoir and water fall. It was a busy day at the park. Saw a multi-generational family come up and do some fishing for several hours, that was cool.

After a long time at the park I started making my way to the Gorge for my last hurrah before home. This was a great trip with friends and family. I love camping, I just don’t do it enough. Weather was pretty good and the Scablands is a great area to explore with lots of natural beauty. We spent three days there and I could do a week for sure.

South Coldwater Trail August 2021

Back in spring I hiked this trail but the weather prevented me from getting to far. This time I was back with better weather and a dream to get further up the ridge line. When I last checked the weather it generally was going to be good. However on the drive up I ran through a couple rain drops which made me nervous. Just like the first time I was determined to get outside this day and hike as far as Mother Nature would let me.

Could get a good look down the valley.

With better weather and a pretty late start to the day I was worried parking would be tight. Thankfully when I arrived there was plenty of space. This time around I didn’t have to sit in my car burning day light. I got ready and just started climbing up the ridge line.

Rather quickly I ran into the spot I hungered down in the rain. Not long after that you come to the edge of the trees and finally into open ground. I remembered some of it. I made it further than I thought the first time. Weather was playing along today with cool temps, cloud cover, and not too windy either.

After the tree line things really start to get exciting with the views. The lake below becomes smaller allowing you to see a wider view. And the clouds, all the clouds and fog I could see coming across the valley around me was really cool. Above me I could see the top of the ridge line and surrounding mountains covered in a dense fog. I was trying everything I could to get up to the fog and ascend into the clouds.

In this pretty open area there are two spots where you come across old tree harvesting equipment from when Mount St. Helens blew oh so many years ago. They are weather worn but you still get a sense of the destruction when the mountain blew that day. Each piece of machinery is buried in ash several feet thick.

Eventually the trail start wrapping around the mountain. Here there is a long section of thimbleberry at this highest elevation I got to. It was a great snack and felt like a reward for getting so far up the ridge. Not long after this I came to a fork in the trail. With the weather still decent but unsure for the future and knowing I had a 3 miles back I decided to turn around. I didn’t get to any peak but I did get much further this time.

Coldwater Lake

I headed back through the thimbleberry patch gathering a snack for after lunch. Coming up the trail I noticed a small pull out in the trail and at the end was a nice sitting rock. My back was to the lake but I had a great view of the valley below me while I sat and ate my lunch. It was cool to see the fog swirling around the valley, being forced up the mountain and over top.

After lunch I continued my journey back down. The weather was really starting too move in. The temps where dropping and the clouds where rolling up the valley. As I got to the open section of the ridge line the wind really picked up. It was a weird feeling. The wind was pushing the fog up the mountain and right past me. The mist was collecting on my skin and beard. It was refreshing but a harbinger of things to come. As I turned behind me the fog on the ridge was getting thicker and starting to come down the mountain side. I so wanted to turn around and walk through it but kept heading towards my car.

A really good day of hiking. For the most part the weather worked out. I could have hiked further but 6 miles for the day was a good start on this trail. The mist was great on the mountain and the views pretty amazing. I will try again to get higher and possible reach the summit of the mountain. If I attempt that I definitely need to get an earlier start. I will be back.

Spine of the Ridge

After a very awesome Saturday the week before in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument I wanted to go back. Checking the weather there was a chance of rain and it would be cold but I was determined to get out to the mountain. The scenery was just to good to pass up. Just sitting at the overlook after a good day at the park….amazing. I wanted that feeling again.

The weather in Portland was overcast when I left. For some brief moments on the highway it was raining. When I was getting close to the science center part of the pass was completely fogged over which was shocking to see so. I knew the weather was not going to play along for the day but I was going to the make the most of it. It is true that the weather can change quickly on the mountain.

When I got to the parking lot it was raining slightly so I sat around for 30-40 minutes waiting for the weather to clear up. I had gear for the cold but not the best equipment for rain. No matter. I would just wait it out. Things eventually cleared up enough that I could start my hike up the mountain. I was unsure how far I would get but that didn’t matter much. I just wanted to get as high and as far as I could along the South Coldwater Trail.

Less than a mile into the hike rain started to fall. Eventually it was so heavy I took an opportunity to sit under a tree and get out of the rain. I was going to wait it out and I couldn’t have picked a better spot. The tree I was under was dense enough that I never got wet. There was a perfect rock that was my seat so I didn’t have to sit directly on the ground either.

You can see more storm clouds are rolling in across the valley.

It was peaceful sitting under that tree listening to the rain fall. On occasion runners would pass me on their way down the mountain. They really got caught out in the rain but it didn’t matter. Each one of them just continued down like nothing was happening. I just continued to sit on the rock watching nature.

Eventually the rain stopped and the humidity picked up big time. I continued up the mountain but not for much longer. The skies cleared some but as I got higher up the ridge line I could see dark clouds rolling across the valley towards me. It wasn’t raining now but it was going to again. I got to a good spot, enjoyed the view for a few minutes and then headed back.

The mountain won this round but I am determined to come back. The trail follows the ridge line which is why I want to hike this trail. I figure some good views of St. Helens if I can get high enough and then just the valley and down across the ridge. Doesn’t hurt that Coldwater Lake is also at the base of the mountain. Something else to look at as you climb up the trail. I’m excited to see what this trail is like. I will be back.

Hummocks Trail May 2021

I have a regular Friday meal with the family and over dinner we discussed a hike. It was going to be a nice spring weekend and I wanted to get outside as did Tracy so we planned to head to Mount St. Helens for a hike. Tracy has done the Hummocks trail before and it was a good suggestion for relatively quick weekend hike around the park.

In under two hours we where at Coldwater Lake and the parking lot for the Hummocks. This is a small 2.5 mile loop on the west side of the mountain. This part of the forest got blown out when the mountain blew. This trail takes you around the area and shows you the destruction that occurred. As it meanders around the Hummocks you get some good views of the mountain and the creek below. It’s easy to imagine the volcanic ash racing down the valley destroying everything in its path. It has been many years since the blast and nature is slowly starting to rebuild from the destruction.

Since the hike wasn’t very long we headed down to Coldwater Lake for some lunch. The lake itself is rather large with a trail that goes completely around it. We parked and just headed down to a small dock they have. While there saw several boaters getting in and out of the water. Looks like you are allowed to have small human powered canoes and kayaks on the lake, nothing motorized. There is no beach but we settled in for some food and some good weather under the trees. There was a breeze coming off the lake that helped cool things off and really just make you want to kick back and relax.

It was just to perfect an afternoon and I didn’t want to head home just yet. On the way in I noticed a small pull out overlook that I wanted to head back to. It had a really good view of the mountain in the back ground. Windy as crap on the ridge but a nice time just relaxing. Managed to get some writing done and just enjoy the remainder of the afternoon in the park and in nature.

Spring is still here and right now the weather is just perfect at times. The sun will be out, the skies are clear and the temperatures are still crisp. Today was one of those days. Just a perfect afternoon outside enjoying nature and all she has to offer. Just have to remember to keep getting out this season. After such a long time being cooped up in my house it feels good to get out into nature.

Door County, WI with the Family

It has been way to long since I last traveled. All this was due to covid which is still ravaging the country. Despite that we booked a family trip back in the spring. Pat was really interested in getting everyone together since it has been so long. She decided on Door County, WI and this would be my first real vacation since this started.

Barge going up the Mississippi River just before sunset.

I planned my trip to arrive early and stay late. Flying from Portland I was upgraded to first class on the flight over. After getting the rental car I did some shopping for cannabis now that Illinois is a recreational state. I spent the night in Rockford, IL before continuing to La Crosse the next morning.

My planning and timing sucked for this portion of the trip. I never got to see David and Rose never came back to her room while I was there. The one thing I wanted to do I did accomplish. I smoked a cigar and had a long chat with my dad. I got lunch in downtown at Bodega Brew Pub and surprisingly next door was Deaf Ear Records a really cool vintage store with tons of vinyl. Scored records by Rufus and The Fifth Dimension both of which surprised me. That evening I saw the sunset from along the river.

That night I made my way back to Madison and got a hotel on the edge of town. Saturday was Eillen’s celebration of life which was good but somber as you would expect. Sunday we all drove to the house near Ephraim. It is located way out on the peninsula in some remote territory. First settled by Scandinavian immigrants long ago it became an outdoor playground for the rich at the turn of the century. Now everyone can enjoy what the county has to offer.

Monday started with an errand run for brisket. Bobby and I have been planning all summer to cook one and it was finally happening. Main St. Market in Egg Harbor who’s in-house butcher had a 7lb, not frozen slab of brisket for us. Later we caught up with everyone at Peninsula State Park. Most went to the beach while Bobby and I found a secluded spot along the lake to smoke a cigar.

Tuesday was totally planned out. I was cooking brisket for everyone and this has to be planned out. Kenny and his family were 15 minutes away on their own family excursion but came down for dinner which was awesome. Smoked two cigars and like always had a really good conversations with Bobby about life. Never left the house but doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good day.

Last full day and I was back at Peninsula State Park to hike after a wonderfully lazy start to the day. I probably hiked five miles before the rains came and washed out the rest of my hike. The weather eventually cleared for a pretty colorful sunset. We ate at the Old Post Office for a traditional fish boil. That was tasty and entertaining way to celebrate Annie’s birthday.

Everyone was headed home the next day but I wasn’t leaving till Saturday. We made all this effort to get here so why leave on Thursday? I stopped in Milwaukee for lunch with the Calizon’s at SafeHouse which was fun. After lunch I went exploring the city. Cool place. Eventually I got to Chicago and got my feet wet Thursday night out adventuring before dropping off the rental car. Friday was going to be a full day in the city.

John Hancock Center looms large along the skyline here.

I spent the day experiencing art throughout the city. Got up and out to the Museum of Contemporary Art for my first stop. I recently upgraded my Portland Art Museum membership for reciprocal entry so I could get in here. Smaller than I thought it would be. Main exhibit was Chicago Comics which highlighted the decades of work local cartoonist contributed to the art from the 60’s till now. Interesting but nothing that blew my mind. Just not much into contemporary art.

What a perfect day to be outside. Mid 70’s that afternoon. Cloudy, breeze coming off the water, and cool under the shade of the trees in Milton Lee Olive Park next to Ohio St. Beach. I really want to go to the beach next time I’m in town. Perfect place to relax and write. So much to look at.

Later my day was filled with jazz music. I ended up seeing two shows Friday night at two different venues across town. I started at Andy’s Jazz Club to see Marques Carroll. They offer dinner with the show which was awesome. Got some great braised short ribs and cheese cake to go with my jazz. This show ended in time for me to walk south to Jazz Showcase to see Donald Harrison. Both shows were really good but for me Marques Carroll was slightly better between the two. Never seen two different bands at two completely different venues on the same day. This was fun and I look forward to repeating it. If things work out it is possible I could do three shows in the same day.

This trip has been weird at times because of covid. Still not 100% comfortable with travel. It was amazing to see everyone that I did on this trip. So relaxing and a good recharge. I wish I could do this forever.