Greetings from sunny Wells Gray Provincial Park in Clearwater, BC, home of the 4th largest of BC’s provincial parks!

Our original plan was to stay in the Jasper area until Sunday but this rain nonsense is getting old. We are fair-weather campers. The Canadians, on the other hand, have no problem sitting outside, jacket-bedecked, in the cold drizzle drinking Labatts Blue around a smoky campfire. They are tough. We made the best of it—walking around town, dinner at Jasper Brewing Company (good beer!), breakfast at Coco’s, and a stop at Jasper’s fancy Fairmont Resort to see if we could break into the hot tub area (we couldn’t), but we decided that we needed to leave for warmer climes.

So we did. Said goodbye to the nicest, most helpful park rangers EVER and headed south along Canada’s Yellowhead Highway. Creepers—it is stunning! Reminds us both of the CA Sierras (but with much bigger mountains, fewer towns and bigger vistas).

It is a Friday, and we have found a terrific campground where all the sites are private and wooded. We have sat in the sun playing guitar and reading books, watching a few clouds drift overhead. (recall: this far north, the sun sets late in the summer). The campground is filling up with weekend warriors. If you car camp, you know the drill: scream into a non-reserve campground, get a fee envelope, do a first pass, write down all the sites that look good—is it flat? is it too near the bathroom? is there another site too close?— do a second pass if need be, and then come to a screeching halt in your space for the night. Beer in hand, we are watching folks do their own scream around the grounds and settle. We also notice that it is always the men who back up the rig and the women who guide, walking backwards, hands in the “keep coming, lots of room” motion, with an occasional, “Swing right. No. Other right.” and then yell, STOP, STOP, STOP            !

Next stop: we head for the border and camp in Washington, probably in Okanogan National Forest. Canada has been wonderful; we have a better understanding of our Canadian friends in the US—they are the nicest people. The entire country seems to breed lovely people. They certainly have some of the more gorgeous scenery in North America. We are so glad we decided to detour towards Canada.

We jump for joy at the sun; Dudley once again has use for his resort wear!

Caribou, Mud and Mosquitos!


[We’re too cheap to pay for cellular service in Canada so we are reliant on free wifi where we can find it, hence the lag in postings. ]

We stayed two more nights at Waterfowl Lakes campground. There is lots to see through the clouds and rain and intermittent sun. We hiked around Bow Lake to see the glacier up close and the falls pouring off it. On the way back we fast-walked-it to the van in a failed attempt to beat the rain. We got a little soggy. After returning to our campsite to dry off and regroup, we took the hike-of-the-day to Chephren Lake. Mosquitos! And mud. But it was worth it. The lake was that beautiful green color that all the lakes seem to be.

Because the next day was a traveling day, there were alarm-setting negotiations. Dudley wanted to wake up at 6am. Laura was appalled and figured he was joking. He wasn’t. He laid out his logic: it’s 100 miles to Jasper. It’s a Thursday, the beginning of the weekend when campsites are more difficult to come by. There’s a lot to see! He sweetened the deal: Maybe we can stop along the way!   We compromised to 6:30.

Dudley was awake at 6:00 staring hard at Laura. She refused to budge. We tried to break camp as quietly as possible out of respect for our sleeping neighbors. Then Dudley honked the horn with his head while reaching for his shoes on the driver’s side floor. Oops. Laura was appalled again.

Onward to travel the rest of the Icefields Parkway. It was glorious. The vistas went on forever, and we saw our first big animal: 2 caribou!

We did, indeed, find a good campsite for 3 nights just outside of the town of Jasper. Yesterday two bears wandered through the campground; we hope to see one! (from far away!)

The theme of this vacation has been…. rain. Because of a nearby forest fire, there has been a campfire ban that everyone says will be lifted soon due to the recent rain.   Hope so; it’s cold. We are in a café waiting out the rain, but soon will be putting on our appropriate all-weather clothing and heading out for a hike. Or…go to the local historical museum. Or go see Terminator at the 2-movie-plex. Or head to the Jasper Fairmont for drinks. This is the fun.

Crow on Icefields


Bow Glacier 

[Apologies for our intermittent postings; wifi is tough in the Canadian Rockies!]

It has been a full couple of days. Sherry showed us around beautiful Sandpoint: Gorgeous lakes, big sky, cumulus clouds, adorable downtown. Sherry is president of the Community Action League, which, among other things, runs Bizarre Bazaar, an upscale resale shop. Dudley walked out with a new piece of resort wear. Laura bought a cute sweater. We had lunch at a floating restaurant (really! It is perched on the water and bobs about as you eat.)

Later in the afternoon, another Coastsider group drove up in their camper rig, and the 5 of us had a delightful evening of cocktails, dinner, laughter, and watching a herd of quail cruise the street.

We had a terrific stay in Idaho, but it was time to visit our friendly neighbors to the north!

It was a long driving day and always a little tense because we need to find a campsite. We keep murmuring something to each other about “it’s the journey,” but sometimes that platitude doesn’t work well at 3pm after 6.5 hours of driving.

Success was finally had and we found a good site at Waterfowl Lake on the Icefield Parkway. We may stay a few days. The Canadian Rockies are unreal: glaciers, cerulean lakes, mountain peaks that rise straight up from the valley floor. Today’s hike to Helen Lake had a wildflower show that was riotous; we have never seen anything like it. Columbines, Indian Paintbrush, purple daisies, white yarrow. No animal life so far, but a couple of hoary marmots. We hear that much of the bear population has left the vicinity, as it was blisteringly hot during May and June and they emerged early, ate berries, and left. The weather is to be expected: fairly clear in the morning, clouds gathering in the late morning and afternoon, and threats of rain from 3pm onward. It rained last night, but we were safe and happy in our cozy van. We are glad not to have the 89 degrees that covered the area the last couple of weeks.

A few tidbits we have learned from the Canadians we have talked with:

*Alberta is the youngest province in the area. Average age is 36! (Alberta has a tremendous amount of oil and young people are flocking to make money from it.)

*Canadians are well-equipped for hiking. Huge packs with who knows what inside, bear spray, poles, adventure pants, loads of camera equipment. We felt slightly unprepared and intimidated while suiting up in the trail head parking lot, Dudley in his Thailand resortwear and Laura in her running shoes. What are we thinking?!

*Canadians are funny. To wit, a joke about hikers’ use of bear bells (on some trails, it is by law that hiking groups must be in groups of 4 and carry bear spray/make noise to dissuade bears):

“What’s the difference between grizzly and black bear scat?”

“I don’t know. What?”

“Grizzly bear scat has bear bells in it.”

Bon soir from Canada!


400 Miles to Sandpoint, Idaho


We cannot out-think the weather. We give in. After all that gnashing of teeth and wringing of maps last night, The Answer came at 8:30am in front of the Shell Gas Station in Estacada, OR: Enough of this meandering around; we need to get to ID asap so we can hang out in that part of the world. Most people would decide where they are going before they leave on vacation; we do that, too; we just do it the first 30 minutes at the start of every day.

Our friends our very flexible: Sherry in Idaho was expecting us next week sometime. We text her at 9:00am and ask if we could show up at 5. Sure, she says. What a trooper. Travel vision completed, we earn our coffee and tea at Barbara’s Flower Shop and Café in downtown Estacada.

We settle in for a 3-state driving day: OR, WA, ID (Laura got to drive! View the photographic evidence!). We follow the Columbia River to the town of Hood River where we unexpectedly stumble onto the start of the Kiteboarding 4 Cancer charity event. Almost 200 kiteboarders fly around with only a few tangles and wipe-outs.

We head back to the van and continue to follow the Columbia River past the John Day and The Dalles dams, feats of engineering that, in the case of The Dalles, flooded the longest continuously inhabited settlement in North America (15,000 years).

We arrive in Sagle, Idaho at the home of Sherry. Oh, we both have a wonderful history with her. As the history and ESL department chair at Half Moon Bay High School, she hired Laura in 1990 and, a few years later, hired Dudley. (Sherry would say that she spent several years hiring competent, attractive men for then-single Laura. She hit the jackpot with Dudley.) After retirement, she and her family moved to Idaho. It’s so great to see her!We and van rest under big skies, glittering aspens, and warm quilts.Driving

Hallelujah for Sun!


The rain did not stop. We did not have that campfire. We are kinda done with Crater Lake.

In the car by 7:12am. Back to the Lodge. Do we go east or north? Check the weather. What does the radar say? Go north! So be it.

We snake our way along the stunning Cascade Lakes Highway (big shout out to PHK for that suggestion!), hook around Mt. Bachelor and head for Bend. SUN! We almost weep. We cruise around Bend. What a nice town, and the surroundings are so lovely and perfect for all sorts of outdoor activity. Could we live here?

Dudley clearly needs supervision when he outfits for a trip, as he packed as one who is taking a resort trip to Thailand: shorts and t-shirts. Warm hat? Fleece? Long underwear? Nah.   So we find an REI in Bend and outfit him with the clothing he already owns 700 miles south of here. He is now the proud owner of at least 4 pairs of long underwear that have been gathered from various trips because, as he says, “this always happens.”

As we are walking back to the car with our purchases, he notices a Gap. “Hey! I only brought one pair of jeans. I can always use more.” So in we go. We are out in 6 minutes and onto a fabulous lunch downtown before bidding adieu to Bend. So much for roughing it.

From Bend, we drive through the town of Sisters with its impending weekend quilting festival. Although the three Sisters Mountains’ 10,000+ height are somewhat obscured by clouds, we can tell they are majestic. We follow the Santiam River through lush gorgeousness (and a few areas devastated by fire. The West is so burned up. At this writing, there are at least 9 fires blazing in OR and WA). We picked up the Clackamas River and felt lucky to get the last site at the Rainbow Campground in the Mount Hood National Forest.

The weather has held wonderfully tonight, we have watched vultures circle overhead and took a nice trail walk along a tributary of the Clackamas. There has been reading and guitar playing by the river.

Where we go next is dependent solely on the weather. We have a rough plan for going north (Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier) or east (beeline for Glacier). We will find internet access tomorrow morning and decide. Onward!Trubador

In Which We Throttle Crater Lake and Crater Lake Lodge

Goodbye Crater Lake

Great day! It was a 3-hike day: 9.75 miles and probably 2000 feet elevation gain. Cloudy yet wonderful views from Mount Scott, Garfield Peak and the Rim Trail.

Because Laura learned so much from Ranger Brian at the amphitheater last night, she had to wax both poetic and insufferably about climate change and pikas, the white-bark pine, destructive pine beetles, phermones, Ranger Brian and his sense of humor, decreasing average snowfall at Crater Lake, and increasing lake temperature, no one got to sleep until 11:00pm, which means that slumbering ceased at the late hour of 7:00am.

Threatening clouds gathered sometime after our first hike’s decent, around 11. We decided to risk a 2nd hike, reasoning that “the heavy stuff wouldn’t come down for a while yet.” We gambled and won. After #2 decent, the rain started to spit and we took a lunch/blog break at the Lodge. We essentially squatted there for so long that we got to know the wait staff. Turns out this historic hotel is essentially staffed by college students, both US and international, for the season, which runs through October.

Crater Lake has a 33-mile ‘Rim Drive’ with scenic overlooks. After a late lunch, we thought to take a drive around the lake. We walked out to the car and saw mountainous dark purple clouds coming from the southwest.   We gambled again, this time with a short, easy walk around part of the Rim Trail, which skirts the rim of Crater Lake and proffered new views of familiar landmarks. Rain could be seen nearby. Closer…. Closer…. Retreat!!

We were barely in front of the crowds back to the Lodge once the hail and rain started. The crowds scurried like those iconic movie rats leaving a sinking ship. We nestled into a window table to watch the storm show.

Bruised clouds, thunder and lightening over the lake make for a stunner end-of-day. It’s cocktail hour now, and once the rain lets up, we will head back to the campsite, wash off 2 days’ worth of dirt and sweat, hopefully have a campfire and then curl up, safe and dry in the van.

We were heading east tomorrow, but a quick check of the weather reveals that it will be unsettled and thunderous there, so we plan to meander our way north towards Mount Hood, via the Cascade-Lakes Scenic Highway and other scenic byways.

Goodbye, Crater Lake! We had a wonderful stay!

Rain, Wedding Bells, Craters, and Nutcrackers

WizardKind of done with Lassen.

24 hours ago:

Fixing dinner under a tarp, duct taped over the back van doors, as the rain pelted down upon our little cul de sac in the tightly-packed Lassen campground. Wet dirt and pine needles on the sheets. Note to selves: some sort of rubberized doormat needs to be purchased. It’s wrong to be mad at the rain, but now is not a fun time.

We needed to change channels and get out of the Lassen.

We headed northward at the crack of dawn, stopping at JJ’s Café in Old Station, CA for breakfast, drove through the horrible devastation of the Hat Creek fire in 2014 and through meadows and farming equipment, cows and horses. We stopped at the WalMart Superstore in Klamath Falls for a few essentials – lighter fluid, a bell pepper, couple bananas, and a doormat. Never seen so many funny- looking people.   Rain spit on us, and we knew the weather called for scattered thunderstorms. There are only two campgrounds at Crater Lake. Dudley, concerned always for our accommodations, fretted. Lunch was eaten in the car: nuts and seeds.

We entered Crater Lake in the late afternoon. It has all worked out: Crater Lake is stunning. The kind of stunning that makes you catch your breath and almost weep for its beauty and serenity: an aqua that must be found mostly off South Pacific shores or in a Bombay Sapphire bottle. As we walked along the rim of the crater, ooh-ing and ahhing, we passed a couple just as he handed her a small jewelry box, she opened it, and said yes.

Tonight, we write with drinks from the balcony of the Crater Lake Lodge, which overlooks Crater Lake. The crater was created when a 12,000 foot volcano exploded 7700 years ago. The breeze is gentle, the balcony solemn and uncrowded, and the appetizers reinvigorating. Clark’s Nutcatcher birds preen. Someone on the balcony spotted an eagle over the lake. Our campsite, despite being with 200 others, is exceptionally private and quiet. The weather has held, and we see stars. Tonight has been our first campfire. Laura got her inner geek on and went to the ampitheater to hear Ranger Brian discuss to what extent climate change is affecting Crater Lake, its water, flora and fauna. (Spoiler alert: It may be.)

The Fun is still fun when the weather is bad, but it’s so much more fun when it’s not.

We love Crater Lake. We are never leaving.

(Forgive our odd posting hours; finding internet access is challenging.)

bird wizard