Tuesday, September 30, 2008

South Fork, Rhododendron and Brown Creek Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Little did we know that Redwood National Park is actually made up of national park areas connected by several California state parks. In Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park we did a three mile loop hike that included the South Fork, Rhododendron and Brown Creek Trails. We started by following the South Fork trail. This trail takes you up many switch-backs through groves of giant redwoods. Once on top of the ridge we took the Rhododendron trail which provided beautiful views down into old growth redwoods and then connected to the Brown Creek Trail. This trail heads back down into the valley and follows Brown Creek most the way back to the road and trailhead. This trail provides views of dense stream side vegetation as well as fantastic views of mature redwoods.

At several places on these trails, we had to scramble under and around huge trees that had fallen across the trail. These trees are literally too big to cut and clear so new routes had to be forged. This made the hiking that much more interesting and gave us more of an appreciation of the size of these incredible trees. During this hike we stopped several times and each time commented on how serene the forest seemed. Another observation that we had was when we would look out into the forest we would scan from top to bottom and notice how the tree tops covered the sky with the forest floor being carpeted with thick vegetation and ferns. It seemed between these two plains, the huge mostly bare trunks were there to keep these two worlds separated. We never experienced a forest with this grand of separation.

If you want a hike on the short and less strenuous side, but want to get up close and personal with a beautiful redwood forest then we recommend this loop hike.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Klamath River RV Resort, Klamath, California

We’re staying at the Klamath River RV Resort for 8 nights; we found it via our RPI membership. It’s a nice RV park right on the Klamath River in the middle of the Redwood National and State Parks – it’s clean, well taken care of, has a nice laundry room, a nice club house with a book exchange, TV and puzzles. They have WIFI for an additional charge, as well as cable. The sites are a bit on-top of each other (not so bad since they’re not full), but open and grassy, many with river views, and there is river access if you bring a boat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Musuems, Seattle, WA

Today we visited the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum. It is located in downtown Seattle at the foot of the Space Needle. The EMP contains rare musical artifacts, instruments, and galleries devoted to Jimi Hendrix and Seattle's own rich history of musicians and rock 'n' rollers. If you are a Hendrix fan then this museum is a must. In addition, the EMP has many hands-on exhibits where one can actually play an electric guitar, play a set of drums, experiment with a mixing board, and participate in each aspect of recording a song in a studio. We enjoyed this area of the museum the most. In one studio, Suzanne and I were the lead vocals on a Nirvana song and in another studio we had a jam session with Suzanne on electric guitar and me on drums. I couldn't keep up with her guitar licks.

Included in your admission, you also can tour the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame which is connected to EMP. So to give our fingers a break, we went and did a quick tour. Science Fiction is not our deal, but we found it interesting to see all the exhibits containing the captain's chair from the television series Star Trek and other props from the Star Wars movies. We were amazed how cheap the props seemed in person, but how effective they were in their respective movies.

The Revolution restaurant inside EMP was very good. It offers a diverse lunch menu including a full bar. Parking is right across the street and cost us $6. Everything you need for a fun and enjoyable afternoon is conveniently located and well done. One final note - every person we met who worked at the the museums and the restaurant was friendly and professional - this only added to our experience.

Tip: The admission fee is $15 per adult, and there are $3 off coupons for each person up to four to be found in the Favorite Seattle Attractions Pamphlet.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA

The Museum of Flight south of downtown Seattle made for an interesting, educational and fun afternoon today. The museum is located adjoining The Boeing Company's Red Barn® —the original manufacturing facility. The museum contains real planes from the beginning of aviation to present day aircraft. You really see and learn about the history of aviation and how it's evolved in a relatively short period of time. The museum has a dedicated area for WWI and WWII aircraft which includes planes from most nations involved in these wars. In addition, The Boeing Company's Red Barn® is part of the museum and really shows how The Boeing Company got it's start. The Red Barn® shows how the early wooden planes were constructed by hand. This was all very interesting (OK, I think Suzanne was bored out of her mind), but the highlight was being able to walk aboard an old retired Air Force One plane that used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. It was very fascinating to see their accommodations and the technology available back then. It was amazing the history that was made in this plane. Suzanne actually liked this part. Next to this plane was a Concord that we were able to board and look around as well. These two planes were the only ones in the museum that you are able to tour. The museum also includes a ton of information about each plane and how they were used. Lastly, there is a area devoted to space travel which contains actual artifacts that you can examine up close. I enjoyed this area more than I expected. Plan to spend several hours to see and experience it all. But don't worry about going hungry for they have a cafe (run by McCormick & Schmick's Restaurant) that we found was pretty good and reasonably priced.

Tip: The entrance fee is $14 per adult, but they honor AAA discounts, and there are $2 off coupons for each person up to four to be found in the Favorite Seattle Attractions Pamphlet.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fall City Grill, Fall City, WA

We had dinner at the Fall City Grill, recommended to us by a few people in the campground. The food was okay to good, depending on what you ordered - Brad's steak was very good, but Suzanne's burger was just okay. The service was very good, and the people friendly, so that was a bonus.

Here's a bonus tip ~ we used restaurant.com and saved 50% of our food bill, about $12!! This was our first foray using restaurant.com and it was quick and easy! (So here's the deal - if you decide to purchase gift certificates on restaurant.com, we'd love it if you would use the link on the left ~ thanks!!)

And that was Sunday..............

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tall Chief RV Resort, Fall City, Washington

We're staying at the Tall Chief RV Resort for a few days; this is also an RPI park. It is very nice - they have a large, clean outdoor pool and (indoor) jacuzzi, nice adult lounge and game room, clean, large restrooms, a dining hall and welcome center, as well as large, treed sites. The sites only have water & electric, so they offer "honey wagon" service twice a week, for $10 each time. It's a large park, and the staff has been very friendly. We would definitely recommend this park, if you're in the area.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Biking in La Conner, Washington

It was another sunny, warm day today, so we decided to take our bikes out and tool around La Conner again - this time exploring a bit further than when we walked a couple days ago. We first found another letterbox at Pioneer Park, and then continued to meander, enjoying the beautiful boats as they sailed/motored by in the Swinomish Channel. We enjoyed lunch at the La Conner Fruit & Produce Stand(where we had dinner a couple nights ago), again, overlooking the water and sea lions. Oh, and their cinnamon rolls....nah - no cinnamon rolls today. :-)

To sum up La Conner ~ definitely worth a stop for a couple days - it is a charming town.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Whidbey Island, Washington

The weather today was clear and sunny so we decided to tour Whidbey Island. Our first destination was Deception Pass State Park to find a cluster of Letterboxes .(As I mentioned in previous post, letterboxing can take you to great places you might not normal seek.) The search for five letterboxes had us hiking through the campground and along the coastline which provided great views of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and of the Deception Pass bridge. The beaches in this areas are covered in small smooth rocks and contain a lot of interesting driftwood. The hiking trails in this area are rough enough to warrant wearing more than sandals, which Suzanne quickly found this out the hard way. After finding three letterboxes, we headed to the town of Coupeville. This is an old ocean-side town on the east side of the island about midway down. This town has a small preserved main street full of small interesting shops and restaurants which are right on the bay. We were really fortunate today on two accords; for one it was sunny and clear so we had great view of Mt. Baker across the bay and second, we found the best lunch spot. The restaurant is called Knead & Feed. It’s actually underneath the shop of the same name which is located on the main street. This restaurant serves up terrific sandwiches made with thick slices of their homemade bread which can be accompanied by their homemade soups. I had the clam chowder and Suzanne had the broccoli & cheese, and both were terrific. The best was yet to come for they also make homemade deserts (see the trend here) which includes pies and sweet various rolls. We chose to split one of their huge cinnamon rolls. It was amazing. We’re glad we saved room or at least convinced ourselves we had room. This is a must-stop restaurant. Great cinnamon rolls two days in a row now, maybe we are starting our own trend.

From here we continued south (or down-island as they say here) to Fort Casey State Park. Here there is a nice Lighthouse and several WWII cannon bunkers to explore. This park also gives you great open views of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and of the Olympic National Park in the distance. Next we continued going down island to the town of Langley. This town’s main area is somewhat larger than Coupeville’s but offered its own unique selection of quaint shops, restaurants and terrific views to the east. Still full from our lunch and desert we didn’t seek out a restaurant. You will have to let us know what you find and recommend.

It was getting late so we started our journey north or up-island. We missed the Lavender Wind Farm coming down so we stopped on the way up. This farm is located in the northern part of Whidbey Island and looks out at the Olympic National Park past the Strait of Juan De Fuca. This view is a bonus to this wonderful lavender farm. Here you are free to explore their lavender fields and their fish pond (which is also used to store rain water from the roofs of the property buildings). You can chose from an assortment of great lavender based items. We were fortunate to be able to watch the owner distill lavender oil and to ask questions. The owner was very graciously and welcoming which made this stop even more special. You will definitely want to stop here.

See more photos of Whidbey Island.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The town of La Conner, Washington

We were surprised to find the town of La Conner quaint and teaming with a diverse assortment of restaurants and shops. The town is situated along the Swinomish Channel near Whidbey Island, and we strolled and window shopped for several hours. This, of course, made us very hungry!

Lunch was at the Calico Cupboard restaurant ~ lunch for Brad meant a giant cinnamon roll. Direct quote from Brad: “This is one of the best, if not the best cinnamon roles I’ve ever had.” So if you’re in La Conner, and like cinnamon rolls, The Calico Cupboard is obviously the place to go. As far as “real” lunch food, it was all good, the staff friendly, and reasonable priced.

Dinner was a local favorite – every Wednesday the Kiwanis offer (for $10 per person) ribs (pork or beef) or salmon, Cole slaw, baked beans, corn bread and a drink at Caf├ę at the Market. We sat outside on the patio, overlooking the channel, and while we watched a sea lion play, we ate a great meal.

Now we’re full!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Potlatch RV Resort, La Conner, WA

We decided to stay at the Potlatch RV Resort since it was an RPI park, and in an area where we want to spend a few days. Quite honestly, this is our least favorite park so far in our trip, and we can’t really recommend the park if you’re coming to the area. Although clean, the sites are a bit on-top of one another, the grass is minimal between sites, the sites are small (so much so that trucks and toads (toad = car pulled by large motor home, for those not in the know) need to be park off-site on the street), and the staff has yet to be the friendliest we’ve met. There is no WIFI, no book exchange, no cable, and the place generally needs some updating (i.e. recover a few things, rather than the current duct tape motif). On the positive side, they people we’ve met staying at the park have been very nice, and it’s by a large marina with some beautiful boats.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Canada ~ some travel tips

Tomorrow we will head south of the border – back to the US. We compiled a lit of some “tips”, should you decide to head up this way to Canada. It is by no means complete nor exhaustive, and feel free to post a comment or email us if you have some tips to share.

1) The daily entry fee for Canadian National Parks is expensive – for example, Jasper was $8.90 per person per day – ouch! They do sell a year-long family pass, for about $132 CA. Here’s a big tip – e-bay! The park passes are sold on e-bay for a fraction of their cost, and with a little patience and perseverance, you can save a few bucks. When we came to Canada two years ago, we purchased the annual park pass at the park, for $125 (2006 rate), and sold it on e-bay for $71 when we returned home. This year, we decided to buy our park pass on e-bay, and purchased it for $60.. We actually sold it again for a few bucks when we left the national parks for good! (It expired 9/30/2008, so there was little time remaining.)

2) The National and Provincial Parks provide all the firewood you want – however you need to purchase a “fire permit”. It costs anywhere from $7-10 per day. (In fact, you’re not allowed to bring barked fire wood into Canada - bark beetle issues - so this works well.) If you plan to spend a few days in one park, you can buy a fire permit per day – you do not need to buy one for your entire stay, unless you plan to have a fire everyday.

3) If you’re heading into National Parks try and stock up on as much food as possible in the surrounding towns – we were flabbergasted by the hike in grocery prices in the parks! $6 for a small bag of chips – no kidding!

4) Private campgrounds often charge for additional people over two-adults, including children. No tip here, just be aware.

5) If you’re staying near the Canadian/US border, ask locals about going over the border to get gas (and beer). We saved about $30/tank when staying in Creston, and – no kidding – about the same for a 12-pack of beer. (In Jasper, Brad found a 12-pack of, what he would call “bad beer”, for $42. He hasn’t stopped talking about it since!)

6) Speaking of gas, if you are hunting for low gas prices, we found that Save-On Foods and Extra Foods have “gas bars”, where after you fill your tank, you get 5.5% of the amount you spent on gas as a coupon to use in their stores. They seemed to have the lowest gas prices in the areas we visited, and their food stores were large, clean, stocked and reasonably priced.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gray Monk Winery, Okanagan Centre, BC, Canada

Today we had a much slower day, but we did manage to go to the Gray Monk Winery for lunch. We had heard from several people that this was the place in this area for lunch and we were not disappointed. The winery and restaurant are perched mid-way up the mountain that overlooks the lake. All the seats in the restaurant have great views of the lake and mountains to the west. The menu had a large selection so even a picky eater could find something wonderful to eat. Included on the menu are recommended wines for each item. Brad went with their suggestion and sure enough it was a great accompliment to his meal.

The winery also provides complimentary tasting up to four wines. It seems they select the four available for tasting but are more than willing to substitute with other wines if they have an open bottle. In addition, the person providing us the tasting was very nice and helpful. I would highly recommend this winery for either the wines and tasting, or just the restaurant or do what we did...we enjoyed them both.

Tip: It's probably a good idea to make reservation at the restaurant, as it was very busy when we were there.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mission Creek Park, Lavender Farm, and Wineries, Kelowna, BC, Canada

Lots of stuff today, too!

Letterboxing at Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna – Today we began our touring and sighting by seeking out a Letterbox at Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna. As we’ve experienced with finding other letterboxes, it’s taken us to areas that we might not visit – this time we found out that the Kokanee salmon were spawning in the park’s creek. These guys spawn in September so were lucky to be here. We quickly found a calm pool in the creek and watched the salmon. The salmon that we saw had already changed to a reddish-orange color and had the hooked jaw. Kokanee are lake locked sockeye salmon that migrate up creeks and rivers that feed the Okanogan Lake to spawn. If you are in the area in September, definitely check this out.

Okanogan Lavender Herb Farm – We’ve enjoyed the lavender farms in the Sequim, Washington area, and were looking forward to this experience. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as we expected. There is a farm – grapes, with a couple rows of lavender from where there used to be apple trees. They charge $3.00 per person to tour their lavender farm, and $7.00 to pick a bunch of lavender (above the $3 you need to pay to get to the farm to pick it.) Needless to say, we left. Our recommendation - You’d be better to spend your time elsewhere.

Quail’s Gate
& Mission Hill Vineyards – We then moved to Quail’s Gate Vineyard to do some more wine tasting. This vineyard has very beautiful grounds and has great views of the Okanogan Lake from the west side. The person that help us with the tasting was very nice and helpful; you are able to taste 3 complimentary wines. Although we did not eat here, they had a seemingly lovely outdoor restaurant.

Just right down the road from Quail’s Gate is Mission Hill Winery. This is an old mission set on top of a peak overlooking the lake. The views and facility alone are worth a visit. Although they charge a fee for tasting (anywhere from $2-5), they do offer a complimentary wine tasting of a predetermined wine each week (i.e. Pinot Gris one week, Merlot another week, etc…) They also have a variety of tours of the facility, but they are not complimentary. As with many other wineries in the area, Mission Hill had a nice deck and restaurnt. The people here were very nice – friendly & most helpful. In sum, Quail’s Gate & Mission Hill would be two wineries to go to, if you’re basing your experience on the people, as well as the wine.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nut Farm, Parrot Island, Wineries & Thanksgiving Dinner, Kelowna, BC, Canada

We did lots of stuff today~

Gellatly Nut Farm Provincial Park – Today we started our touring of the area with a visit to the Gallatly Nut Farm Provincial Park . Our expectation was that this was a working nut farm which included the tasting and purchasing of various nuts. What we found was the remnants of an old nut farm containing many varieties of nut trees that is preserved as a provincial park. There are paths throughout the park where you can see the various nut trees. The entire park is right on the Okangan Lake and is a great spot for a relaxing picnic lunch. The only nuts to taste are those that fall on the ground.

Parrot Island – Our next stop was Parrot Island in Peachland, BC. This is a privately run facility where sick, unwanted or neglected birds are rescued, or the parrots are brought in by people who are no longer able to care for their birds. We toured the facility ($5 per person)and found that all the birds are very well taken care of and loved by the proprietors of the facility. They have an interesting program which loans a bird to a single senior citizen (usually recently widowed), and the parrot becomes their companion. This is a win-win situation for both – the person has a purpose in the love and care they provide the parrot, and the bird has a new home full of love and care. Once the human passes away, the bird returns to the rescue, and may again become a companion for another person (keep in mind that parrots can live well beyond the lifespan of humans - their average lifespan is 140-150 years ). This facility is not a showy tourist attraction, but rather a working bird rescue that you can tour to view the birds under their wonderful care and be educated to help reduce the need for such places. It is a place of hope for all the birds.

Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery – Next we stopped at the Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery. There is a tasting fee of $5.00, which is applied to the cost if you purchase a bottle. We tried a couple of whites and reds before deciding to purchase a nice Chardonnay. The staff here was not as enjoyable as we experienced at other wineries – in fact, we do not recommend visiting this place, in lieu of the other wineries you can enjoy in the area.

Thanksgiving dinner at Holiday Park – We concluded the day with a wonderful Thanksgiving themed dinner at the Holiday Park Eagle’s Nest restaurant. The meal consisted of all that you would expected from a Thanksgiving dinner…turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, sweet potatoes, salad and several homemade pies. We both greatly enjoyed the meal and walk away from the table in normal Thanksgiving fashion – stuffed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summerhill Estate Winery, Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan Inc., Kelowna, BC, Canada

It was mostly sunny today in the Okanagan valley, so hey why not try one of the area's many wineries. So we visited Summerhill Pyramid Winery which is south of downtown Kelowna on the east side of the Okanagan Lake. This winery has amazing views of the lake and has...yes a very large pyramid. We took the short tour (maybe 1 hour)which took us past the fermentation tanks and into the pyramid where their wines finish the aging process. This vineyard believes the perfect geometry of the pyramid improves the quality of their wine. You will have to be the judge. Also during the tour we learned that this vineyard produces strictly organic wines and won several international awards. At the end of the tour we were provided a tasting of their sparkling wine, Gew├╝rztraminer, Merlot and an ice wine. All their wines were very good and came with excellent information provided by our tour guide which added to enjoying them even more. This winery is worth the visit.

What goes better with good wine than good cheese, so next we headed to Carmelis Goat Cheese dairy. This is located further south along the lake in an area of a forest fire that occurred a couple years ago. The dairy is situated on the side of a steep hill overlooking the lake and the city of Kelowna in the distance. This dairy produces many specialized cheeses and as well as goat milk gelatano. We tried several cheeses starting with the lighter and mildest (more spread like)and continued to their hardier aged cheeses ending with their Gorgonzola. This cheese was not as strong as most Gorgonzolas and had lots a great flavor. This was my favorite. Next we purchased a small cup of their gelato which was very creamy and good. In addition, they also offer tours of their cheese making facility so you get to see the whole process from milking to aging the cheeses. Although the person helping us was not very friendly, if you like unique cheeses and, of course, gelato or you are interested in the cheese making process, then I would recommend a visit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Holiday Park Resort, Kelowna, BC, Canada

We drove to Kelowna today and are staying for a week at the Holiday Park Resort, which is fantastic! This is an RPI park, and the best we have stayed so far! It's a large park (very clean!) with over 400 large sites, it has three swimming pools, a couple hot tubs, three restaurants, a golf course, an adult center, a family center, full hook-ups at all sites with cable, free WIFI, two laundry centers, a wonderful library with great book exchange, a lake with boat rentals, lots of activities, and more! We are very impressed - the staff is friendly and nice as well.

Today we grabbed a quick bite at one of their restaurants, the Country Store, and had a great, quick meal of soups and sandwiches. They make their own muffins, sweets, as well as the chicken salad (which we both liked). AS with the rest of the resort, the staff in the Country Store was very friendly.

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