On our way to Texas

On our way to Texas

On January 24, it was -7 in Cranbrook and a clear morning. The snow from the day before had been cleared (or so we hoped), so we headed off on our next adventure. Our plan this time was to drive to Big Bend National Park in Texas to do some birding. We had planned to take our time getting south; allowing for possible weather delays.

All went well. Once we were past Spokane, the ground was snow free. We stayed the first night in Ritzville, WA, a choice we won’t make again. We were happy to have a 6 degree temperature, but not so thrilled with the mud that we encountered in the RV park.

The next day, we checked into an RV park in White River, WA (just over the Columbia from Hood River, OR.) Wendy was really glad that she wasn’t driving over the toll bridge because the lanes were 9 feet wide and our 5th wheel trailer is 8 foot 6″. Luckily when smaller cars see a big rig approaching, they move over. We had time to go for a hike in the afternoon. It was great to be warm enough to walk in short sleeves. There is a lot of basalt along the Columbia Gorge and you can see a good example in the bluff behind Doug in the photo below.

Doug_hike

We walked below Coyote Wall on the old highway, before we headed onto the trail. The light was perfect when we returned to the truck.

Coyote-Wall

The next day we drove to Grants Pass, OR where we planned to stop for a few days. Grants Pass was enveloped with fog, but Crescent City, CA was only a two hour drive away and the forecast was for sun, so we did a day trip. It was worth it for the views.

Crescent-Beach

We hiked up to a headland and enjoyed the sun on our faces. It was about 16 degrees and no wind. Paradise! We had visited Crescent City in March on a previous trip and been much cooler.

Doug_beach

You can fish the rivers in California in January, like we saw this group on the Smith River that goes through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. We stopped to take a walk among the redwoods and came across a trail along the riverbank, with a good view of the river.

Fishing

We had time to visit a few brewpubs. This one in Ashland, OR had the cutest succulent “mini-planter.” Their beer was good too. Doug enjoyed the Oak Street Amber and Wendy had “Darth Vator.”

SSBrewing

Next stop, Lodi, in Central California. Sunny skies! Life is good! We were glad we had planned a couple of days here.

Doug_Lodi

It turns out that Lodi, California is in the Pacific Flyway, so there were lots of birding opportunities. We started at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve. The Northern Mockingbird posed nicely.

Sign

Here’s a better view of the Northern Mockingbird, when he was on the ground.

NOMockingbird

We were at the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve, so we had hoped to see some cranes. We had seen a couple of dozen in a field a long ways off, so we were thrilled to see these fly over. The light wasn’t great, but it was still pretty cool to see them.

We also caught a view of a Snowy Egret.

SNEgret

We were confused at first with this hawk, because it was spiralling upwards. We’ve usually seen the Northern Harrier flying low over fields with its white rump patch visible. This time we could see the underside of a male.

NOHarrier_male

Later that day we saw a juvenile Northern Harrier perched in a tall tree.

NOHarrier-Juvenile

Our second birding spot was at Cosumnes River Preserve. There were paved pathways close to the river and also out at the wetlands.

Wendy_bino

Here’s a White Crowned Sparrow.

WCSparrow

Doug thought the Marsh Wren was singing, “Please take my picture!”

MAWren

There were plenty of Golden-Crowned Sparrows, which were a new bird for us.

GCSparrow

Another new bird to us was the Greater White-fronted Goose, a bird you would not likely see in British Columbia. There were hundreds of them.

GWGoose

We enjoy watching Black-necked Stilts anytime we see them. This photo hides his distinctive red legs.

BNStilt

Doug got a photo of a Northern Pintail, just as he emerged from the water. He spent most of his time with his head under water.

NOPintail

From California, we’re heading east to Arizona. Look forward to photos of cacti and warmer weather!

Sisters Folk Festival and an Okanagan Tour

Sisters Folk Festival and an Okanagan Tour

Last year’s folk festival was cancelled because of smoke, so we were looking forward to it this year, on the weekend following Labour Day. Many of the artists that were scheduled for 2017 would be coming so we were anticipating some good performances.

We started our trip on the Sunday of the Labour Day weekend so that we had time to visit friends in the Okanagan. We arrived in Oliver around lunch time, got set up and headed out to the bike and walking path along the irrigation canal. Most of the trail is paved, but we rode south past the pavement, then crossed over the canal and rode north on the access road, past vineyards. (Where this photo was taken)

The next day we met Kath and Jeff and their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter for a birding excursion along the same watercourse. Here are the birders all trying to get a better view of a black-headed grosbeak. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant at Hester Creek winery.

The next day we headed south and chose to break the drive into one longer day and one shorter day. We had made reservations in Maryhill State Park, which is on the Columbia River in Washington, just across the bridge from Biggs Junction. The sites are well spaced apart with plenty of trees. It was a bit loud, however, with the sound of trucks coming down the hill and the trains barreling past all night; but that’s what ear plugs are for.

Next we were in Sisters, Oregon. As usual, we stayed at the Bend/Sisters Garden RV Resort. Since we had an extra day before the festival started, we had time to ride Doug’s favourite mountain bike trail in Bend. We started at the main trailhead at Phil’s Trail Complex and worked our way gradually uphill for about 12 kilometres, so we could experience Doug’s favourite section of the trail. The “Lower Whoops” is a flowing downhill interspersed with short rises and drops. Here’s a photo of Wendy on the upper part of the “Lower Whoops” before the more exciting bits.

We spent Friday morning walking beside the Metolius River at Camp Sherman. There was just the beginnings of fall colour in the bushes.

The Sisters Folk Festival is different from many other folk festivals, because it takes place in eleven venues around town. For Friday night and Saturday afternoon, we chose to see the performances in the tent at Village Green.

Village Green had a beer garden and a brass band to entertain us while we waited for the show.

We lined up early so we had front row seats on the side for Dar Williams (photo below) and Robbie Fulks. We left before the final performer, in order to pace ourselves and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Saturday’s daytime shows started at noon, so we found our place in line around 11. It was worth sitting on the grass for a bit in order to have front centre seats. We were impressed with the first performer, a young woman from the Portland area, Haley Heynderickx. Her songs told authentic stories with beautiful melodies. The next show was Amy Helm. She has a powerful voice and put on a very up-beat performance. The band sang close together for a rendition of a song by Amy’s father, Levon Helm. (See photo below)

We headed back to the trailer for a rest so we could be early for the Saturday night concert at the Arts Centre Tent. We ate our dinner while we waited in line and got close to the front again. First on the program was Susan Werner, whose catchy songs were full of humour. She had the audience singing along to many of her tunes. We also saw Justin Townes Earle who gave a more subdued performance and while he did have some fans, he seemed indifferent to the audience and many people chose to leave.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to the performance space in the yard behind Angeline’s bakery. The strategy for this venue was to try and stay in the shade, since there were “sail-like” sunshades and you needed to predict where the shade would be as the afternoon progressed. We stayed for all three performances and each new performer was our “latest favourite.” First up was Anna Tivel from the Portland area who sang ballads of heartbreak, even though she had a positive energy on stage. Next was Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, a husband and wife, who took turns sharing songs from their individual portfolios and some of their collaborations. Finally we listened to Amber Rubarth perform her unique folk songs.

The next stage of our trip was at Lake Chelan, Washington. We stayed at Lakeshore RV, that is operated by the city. We got what we think was one of the best sites, with shade and an unobstructed view of the lake. The only downside was that shortly after the following photo was taken, we realized that the squirrels were busy harvesting acorns from our shade tree. One acorn hit Doug on the leg before we retreated to our patio beside the trailer.

We went mountain biking twice on the trails at Echo Ridge. The area had burned in August of 2015. The colourful fireweed and stark trees made an interesting backdrop to our biking photos.

We rode in the mornings which left the afternoons for wine tasting. Here’s a photo of Wendy in front of one of the posher wineries. Our favourite winery was the smaller Chelan Estate, which we had visited twice before. Most wineries or tasting rooms were not very busy, so we had good visits with the servers.

The weather was so warm and the lake was so clear that we were enticed to go swimming. Wendy paddled out to the float then followed Doug’s lead and swam back to shore. She remembered how much she liked swimming in lakes. Maybe next year we’ll do it more often.

We travelled north to the Canadian Okanagan. We stayed at the Nk’mip RV Park on a lakeside site. Sometimes it was a bit breezy, but there were beautiful views. Wendy’s sister and brother in law joined us for two nights.

We did some more wine tasting, both in Osoyoos and Oliver. We were impressed with Bordertown Winery in Osoyoos and the quality of their wines. Here’s a photo of us taken from their back patio.

After two days of wine tasting, we needed some exercise. We had perfect weather for the hike to McIntyre Bluff. The trail starts at the Covert Farms tasting room and winds it’s way uphill, past Rattlesnake Lake, and continues up to the edge of the bluff. The views from the top were amazing. The second photo below shows the view to the north, overlooking the highway and Vaseux Lake. Looking southward, we could see the entire town of Oliver.

Back at camp, Doug enjoyed the last of summer.

We had a calm evening to enjoy the view beside our fire: the perfect end to a great trip.

It’s been about three weeks since we’ve come home, and now the blog post is finally done. Our trailer is now cleaned and winterized to be ready to go next year. So we’ll be posting again in 2019!

Escaping the Smoke in Red Lodge, Montana

Escaping the Smoke in Red Lodge, Montana

Our original plan for August was to go off in our camper into the bush close to home, but the smoke from wildfires made us change our mind. We stayed in Cranbrook until Wendy took her “house trailer endorsement” road test. Here’s a photo of her doing the pre-trip inspection during her test. The road test went well, even through the mid-day summer traffic and she is now certified Class 5 with 07 endorsement. We left town immediately after the test for Montana, where we hoped we would be out off the smoke.

We stayed an hour east of Missoula, at Bearmouth for the first night. The next day we drove through to Red Lodge, Montana and stayed at the KOA. We chose Red Lodge because of its proximity to the Beartooth Highway, a engineering marvel. The road goes up to Beartooth Pass at over 10,000 feet. Here’s a photo of a postcard showing some of the switchbacks.

We had a perfect day. Here’s a photo from one of the viewpoints.

We drove over the pass and into Wyoming to the Island Lake campsite and trailhead and set off for a short hike. The flowers were past their prime but still beautiful. The fairly level trail goes by a number of lakes. It’s was wonderful to start a hike at 9,500 feet. No trudging uphill to get to the views!

The next day, we went up to the Beartooth plateau again and tried our hand at fishing. We went to Hauser Lake which is about 20 minutes from the highway. The first photo is of Doug, the second of Wendy. It’s kind of hard to tell us apart, since we have the same fishing clothes. We caught a fish each.

For our fifth day of the trip, we drove about an hour and a half to Cody, Wyoming. Cody is a true tourist town, since so many Easterners travel through it on their way to Yellowstone National Park. We found some good deals at Sierra Trading Company, then enjoyed an amazing lunch that included some of the best fries that Doug has ever had. After lunch, we visited the local quilt shop and were pleasantly surprised at their fabric selection.

Back to fishing: this time after buying some recommended flies and a hiking guidebook that described the route to Upper and Lower Sheepherder Lakes. The first photo is the “follow your nose” route to Upper Sheepherder and the next two are at the lake. It was a beautiful lake, but with no fish action, so we headed back down to the lower lake. Doug caught a fish on one of his first casts and enjoyed catching and releasing several. Wendy was happy to catch and release a little brook trout, especially because she had improved her cast enough to get her fly out to where the fish were feeding.

Red Lodge was a great base camp for us and it was even better when we discovered they had their own brewery. Red Lodge Ales is celebrating their 20th Anniversary this year. We visited a number of times and liked every brew that we tried.

We stayed at the KOA in Red Lodge, which was comfortable but rustic. The saving grace was the new shower room, which we enjoyed because we didn’t have sewer hookup.

On our final day up on the plateau, we hiked to Hauser Lake again, fished from the other side (no luck), then hiked to three other small lakes to make a circle tour. It rained for a few minutes before we made it back to the truck and we could tell the weather was changing.

On our way down the Beartooth Highway, we drove through a thick bank of fog. It was colder on the valley floor than it was up on the plateau. It rained hard that night and was still chilly the next morning as we packed up. The weather improved as we headed north. We chose to try out a new route home and stayed east of the Rockies, going through Great Falls to stopping in Shelby, Montana for the night. The Shelby RV Resort is connected to the local Comfort Inn and has spacious pull-through sites.

Our “travelswithafox” mascot has gone through another change. We hung the new wall-hanging in the trailer above Wendy’s chair; which you can see in the photos below.

Stay tuned for our next post from Sisters, Oregon (folk festival this time) and the Okanagan (for wine-tasting).

Oregon: Deschutes River, Sisters and Camp Sherman

Oregon: Deschutes River, Sisters and Camp Sherman

It was time for our annual trip to Sisters, Oregon for the quilt show and workshops (and fishing, hiking and biking.) We planned to stay a few days at Deschutes River State Park. We booked a beautiful site that had plenty of shade, which was important because the temperature reached 35 degrees (C) both days we were there.

Both days, we set the alarm 6:00 am, had a quick breakfast and rode from the campsite along an old rail bed that has been converted to a gravel trail. We had good views of the Deschutes River the whole way. Most of our riding was in the shade, except for a few sections, one of them allowing us to get a good photo. We rode for about two hours and covered about 20 kilometres.

In the hot afternoon, Wendy set up her quilting studio in the trailer. We also cooled off by using our pool noodles to float a few hundred metres down a slow moving section of the river.

Next stop was Bend/Sisters RV Resort. Because we had a bigger unit we needed to change to another site. This one had good shade and pleasant neighbours.

Doug hiked up the Tam McArthur Rim to Crater Lake under Broken Top Mountain, farther than he had gone on previous trips. He felt pretty good completing the 20 kilometre hike on a warm day.

While he was hiking, a flock of butterflies flew over the ridge. The air was so thick with them that he had to keep his mouth shut so he didn’t swallow one. Here’s a photo of one that was resting for a few minutes.

While Doug was hiking, Wendy was taking a art quilt class called “Creativi-tree.” She fused fabric to the backing, and added paint and stitches. Here are the small pieces (11×14″ and 10×10″) “in-progress.”

Tuesday for Doug was a “rest” day but was filled with washing the truck and RV, getting groceries etc. On Wednesday, he headed up to the same area that he had hiked, but this time he took his float tube. While he was fishing, he could look at the ridge that he had hiked a few days before. He hiked the whole skyline in the photo below (and further.) He caught and released four rainbows. There’s a photo of one of them below.

Wendy took a two day class from Jean Wells, called “Simply the land.” It was a design class and similar to a class she took from Jean three years before, so it helped to consolidate her learning. The photo below shows Wendy’s “fall grasses landscape” in progress.

On Thursday, Doug was raring to go again and took his bike from the RV park up to Peterson Ridge, into Sisters for lunch, then back to the camp for a total of 40 kilometres. He met some nice horsewomen near the top of the ridge who took his photo. One of the Three Sisters is behind him in the photo.

Wendy took another class of a new technique, which was interesting but slow, so no pictures. She was quite tired when Doug picked her up from class, but perked up after beers and dinner in Bend.

Saturday was the famous outdoor quilt show in Sisters. Wendy took over a hundred photos throughout the day. Here’s a small sampling. The photo below is of the side of the Stitchin’ Post quilt shop.

Wendy toured the quilt show with Linda, her friend from Cranbrook who also took some classes.

Fishing is big in the area and so are fish related quilts.

Quilts are hung all over town, and the organizers work hard to group the quilts so each one complements the others.

After our week in Sisters, we drove to Camp Sherman, about an hour northwest. We stayed at the Cold Springs Resort, where we had stayed previous years. This time we had a different site, right beside the creek. It was hot during the day, but cooled off nicely each evening.

We discovered a bike trail that we had overlooked other years, that went from our campsite at Camp Sherman to Suttle Lake. We enjoyed it so much that we rode it twice. The first photo shows a portion of the trail around Suttle Lake; the second one is of the forest section and the third one gives the statistics that were collected using a mountain biking app that assumed we were at the ski area, hence the title.

Doug had a great time fishing the Metolius, and caught (and released) his biggest fish: a 13″ rainbow on a #14 Golden Stone.

And the birding was excellent as well. Here’s a cedar waxwing with a Saskatoon berry, taking right at our trailer, a rufous hummingbird that posed on the overhead wire, a young American Dipper and one of a pair of young Common Mergansers that were cavorting in the current.

Jjkkkk

Most of our readers know we’ve been home awhile. Oh well, at least this post is written before we head off again!

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

This will be a quick look at our few days in Amsterdam. We stayed in North Amsterdam in an area that used to be industrial and is now quite residential. We were on the second floor of the “bluish windows” building.We overlooked a canal. When the weather is hot, as it was when we were there, people head out on barges and party. They can be a little loud in the middle of the night!We walked around old Amsterdam and had a good view of the Oude Kerk (old church).. Views of the canals.The first day we had a beer at the brewery that was beside this famous double windmill.Shopping for dinner.The next morning we visited a tiny cheese museum and Joanne posed as a Dutch milkmaid.We visited the Anne Frank House. Joanne had made our reservations back in April. It was really interesting and organized so that there weren’t too many people in the tiny rooms at a time.After lunch, we took a canal tour on a boat similar to the ones that you can see here. The central station (for trains, buses, metro and ferries) is in the background. It has an ancient facade, but is very modern in the back.A view from the canal tour.Here are the “Dancing Houses,” named for how crooked they are, seen from our canal boat.Next was the Maritime Museum (Hep Scheepvaartmuseum). You can see the kind of boat we rode on our canal tour just passing the sailing ship.The next day we walked around old Amsterdam some more. This statue was of a founder of the nearby Salvation Army,which was located in this leaning building.Doug and Wendy had a quick visit to the free part of the Amsterdam Zoo. Here’s a photo of a stork. Joanne and Bill did a bit of shopping.We decided to meet up at the Delirium Cafe, expecting that a cafe would be open for lunch. But it wasn’t. It was more of an afternoon and evening place. So we ate our apple and regrouped. Luckily the “Little Delirium,” was at Central Station so we stopped there for a beer.Next was the Rijksmuseum. We had to see Rembrandt’s famous painting: “Night Watch.” It was the size of a mural and was full of amazing details.We had reservations at the Van Gogh Museum at 4:30. Fascinating! Doug posed for a photo that was set up to automatically take your photo and email you the result.That night, Joanne and Bill’s neighbours who are living in Amsterdam for two years, welcomed us to their home and indulged us with a delicious home cooked meal.The next morning, Joanne and Bill had to fly to Edinburgh to get their return flight. Wendy and Doug had another day to tour. First up was the open air market at Albert Cuyp,then the zoo. This area is meant for the white pelicans (which can’t fly away) but it is also the chosen home of many cormorants and grey herons. The photo below that is of an ibex. It was great to be among some greenery after so much pavement and cobblestones.Here are two views of Montelbaanstoren, a tower on the bank of the Ouchescfuland Canal. The original tower was built in 1516 to defend the harbour; the top decorative half was added later. The first photo was taken on our last day in Amsterdam, and the other on our first.We took the passenger and bike ferry back to our home base. It’s a free ferry and well-used on a Saturday afternoon. Cars and buses take the tunnel across to North Amsterdam.And then we (Doug and Wendy) were on our way home. Doug was able to book us a first class ticket with points. Here’s a view of our cabin with pods for our Amsterdam to Toronto flight.So if you’re reading this in real time, you probably know we’ve been home for a couple of weeks. We’ve been busy getting ready for our next trip. Stay tuned for scenes from Sisters: quilting, fishing and hiking, (and some birds of course.)

Magnifique II – our floating hotel

Here are some views of our “boat.” It was built especially for tours such as ours, based on the design of the original “Magnifique,” which actually was a working barge before being converted to a floating hotel.

It’s upper deck was one of the outdoor lounge areas and had lounge chairs, a hot tub and tables.

The stern area was another outside lounge area.

There was an inside lounge area that we used a lot, but we don’t have a good photo of it. Here’s a view of the dining area, with the group at our final dinner.

The chef was amazing. You can see a little bit of his tiny kitchen behind him.

Our last night’s entree was Guinea fowl. The other photo was of our first night’s dessert.

The bar was made of an old mahogany sail boat. You had to be careful where you placed glassware because of its sloped sides. They had two beers on tap: Heineken and a Belgian blonde beer called Affligem. We usually had the blonde.

Here’s a photo of the whole crew and the guides. The chef, Michael (service), Chris the captain, the “sailor” (he basically did a bit of everything), our guides: Hester and Sandra, and Lana (service). They all worked hard to make sure everyone was happy.

Here’s a group picture of everyone who worked as a “sweep.” Our group was well represented with three of us volunteering. Doug was “sweep support” a couple of days.

Here’s another view of the “Magnifique II.” It was wonderful to see so much beautiful country with a floating hotel. No packing and unpacking involved. Since taking our fifth wheel trailer on a trip like this is out of the question, this was a great alternative.

Boat / Bike Tour #3

Monday (Day 5): Dordrecht to Vianen

We started our day with a short bike ride to a waterbus (for pedestrians and cyclists only) that took us and our bikes on a 20 minute cruise to Kinderdijk. Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for the nineteen windmills that were built around 1740. Nineteen families worked together to drain the polder and through their efforts, the Netherlands gained valuable land. Unfortunately we had cloudy skies, but it was still an impressive site. We spent a bit of time at the windmills then rode on the bike path right beside them.

We rode for about 25 kilometres to another water crossing, this time on a short ferry. Here’s a view of the ferry unloading shortly before we got on. It was about a five minute ride.

Soon we were in the town of Schoonhoven, riding on the narrow roads.

We had some time to wander around town, but most shops were closed on Monday.

The boat docked in Schoonhoven and Joanne chose to sail instead of ride. Wendy, Doug and Bill carried on. Our guide kept a brisk pace, so although we were travelling through pleasant scenery, we had to keep our wits about us and couldn’t stop for pictures. The hot and humid weather was draining our energy, but since we were travelling faster than the boat, we took a detour and rode another water taxi over to Vianen. Vianen was a beautiful quiet town.

We made it to boat at about 5:30, just as it was docking north of Vianen (and on the other side of the canal). Joanne had the experience of going through locks on the barge. That evening, we sat in the shade on the lower deck. Soon a table was moved over and we realized that we had scored the best table for the barbecued dinner.

Tuesday (Day 5): Vianen to Amsterdam

During breakfast, we set sail for Breukelen. We set off for the Willegen cheese farm. After sampling coffee and freshly made pie, the owner took us on a tour of their cheese operation. They made cheese from their own unpasteurized milk and did everything by on a small scale. Here’s a view of their house and coffee shop and store. Notice that it looks traditional, yet is modern with opening windows in the roof. Below this photo is a close up of the roof, which is made out of reeds.

They store the cheese for a length of time depending on flavour. The “x” is on each cheese so that they can turn them equally.

We took a meandering path via Muiden to reach Amsterdam. It was about 10 kilometres longer than the short route, and more interesting than riding along a land bridge. We passed this working windmill, which was having repairs done.

Lunch was in Muiden, on a bench by the canal. There’s an interesting castle there too, but we didn’t have time and it had an expensive entrance fee.

We walked around town a bit and followed a sign for the WC. This one cost 20 cents, which we luckily had the change for. Here’s Doug out in front.

We were getting closer and closer to Amsterdam! Unfortunately, one of the bikes got a flat tire and the guide was unable to repair it. We were still 15 kilometres from our boat. Luckily we had a marathon runner in our group who willingly agreed to run the distance. Our guide rode her bike one handed, while dragging the other one beside her. We slowly made our way into town.

As we got closer to the city, the bike paths became busier. We had a few lights to negotiate. You had to be ready to go as soon as the bicycle-shaped light was green, because it wasn’t very long and sometimes the whole group wouldn’t get through. There also were scooters and motor bikes in the same lane.

The Magnifique II moored on the waterfront, near to where the cruise ships come in. We had one last dinner which you will see in the final post about the ship. The next morning we checked out and headed out to explore Amsterdam for a few days. More about that soon.