My Solo Wanderings of the West

kennyj

Explorer
The next day I was back on route 2 and on into Idaho, through Moyie Springs and Bonner’s Ferry. I went up some side roads into the Kaniksu National Forest but I didn’t continue very far; it felt a little like I was heading to the Cahulawassee and some very strange looking back country.

I ended up in Sandpoint and drove around to check out the area. This is on the long causeway across the Pend Oreille.




There is a beautiful city park near downtown with a beach area.




In the distant mountains I could see smoke from a wildfire, and I saw this water-bomber flying in that direction. It was getting late in the day so I went to a Walmart to park for the night.




The next day it was a short drive across to Newport, Washington where I turned north on state route 20. The route follows the Pend Oreille River, flowing north toward Canada. At the little town of Tiger I left 20 and continued north on the river route.




After the town of Metaline Falls I continued to Sullivan Lake in the Colville National Forest, in the far northeastern corner of the state.




I stopped at the Sullivan Lake ranger station to get maps; a ranger suggested an area for remote dispersed camping. I drove even further north to Slumber Mountain Road.




I found this really secluded spot to back into; early in the evening I had a visit from a Border Patrol officer that was patrolling the forest. My spot was only about a mile from Canada and I believe he was convinced that I was up there to meet someone coming over the border illegally.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The next day I took another side route to see the Border Dam which supplies most of the electric power all the way across the state to the city of Seattle. It was pretty amazing as the generating equipment was all housed deep in tunnels in an actual mountain.




The view of the Pend Oreille from Metaline Falls, above the dam. The river actually flows north to Canada where it joins the Columbia River before it enters Washington.




Another river view looking south from Metaline Falls.




With a weekend approaching I wanted to find a really secluded spot to hang out for a few days. I drove back south and rejoined sr20, just a few miles west of Tiger I found this great spot where I didn’t see anyone for the next three days.




After the weekend I continued west, stopping for supplies in Colville, then on to Kettle Falls on the Columbia River. This is the northern end of Lake Roosevelt, formed by the Grand Coulee Dam some 130 miles downstream. The Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area is run by the NPS and has many National Park camping areas.




I got this great spot on the water in the nearly deserted campground.




After seeing this sign I actually thought that maybe sites 22 - 49 in the campground had wifi…




…forgetting that the symbol was actually for the amphitheater. I also think the sign above was mounted upside down. :sombrero:

 

kennyj

Explorer
I visited the ranger station in Kettle Falls for maps and suggestions of areas to visit. On their suggestion I continued across the river and just a few miles to turn north to the Trout Lake area. I found a great campsite to stay for a few days with hopes of doing some hiking into the wilderness.




From Trout Lake, hiking trails continue to other lakes, and to Hoodoo Canyon. Unfortunately the temperature while I was there was in the high 90s so I did more exploring on the bike than on foot.




It seemed like my batteries weren’t charging as well as they should; I was able to find a bad solder connection in the junction box of one of my panels. An easy repair once I isolated the problem!




Moving a little further west on sr-20, I hit up the ranger station in Republic where they recommended the recreation area a few miles south, at Swan Lake, Ferry Lake, and Long Lake. I took a campsite in the deserted Ferry Lake campground, overlooking the water.




I took off on the bike to explore the lakes area; after getting slightly lost on the forest roads I rode quite a few more miles than planned!




It was a really beautiful area with some really nice, easy lake hikes. I really need to figure out how to carry a kayak!
 

kennyj

Explorer
The next morning the sky had a very strange overcast, I realized that smoke from wildfires somewhere was coloring the sky this strange color.




I drove west to Tonasket, then turned south toward Omak. Along the route I could see fire smoke; at one point north of Omak I could see flames burning across a hillside.
I stayed in Omak that night; the air was thick with fire smoke all night.




The next morning skies had cleared somewhat. It was the time of the Omak Stampede and the fairgrounds were full of tipis and campers.




Even next to the road the tents and campers were crowded together. I heard that the Omak Stampede is a controversial event; it’s held on reservation land and the main event is the Suicide Race, where horses and riders run down Suicide Hill, a 62-degree slope that runs for 225 feet to the Okanogan River.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_Race




At Okanogan, state route 20 turns west. Approaching Twisp I could see this giant plume of smoke rising to the south, I believe from the terrible Chelan fires.




I arrived at the busy tourist town of Winthrop. Again, I checked in at the ranger station to get maps, but also now to learn of areas that were closed because of fires. My plans to go to Mazama and the Hart’s Pass area changed as the road to Hart’s Pass was closed due to fire. In fact, earlier in the day a lightning storm had ignited half a dozen fires in the nearby forest and smoke-jumpers were deployed to fight the fires.




I left Winthrop going north into the National Forest, there are several roads that continue far up the valleys; I headed up Eight Mile Creek road and found a nice dispersed campsite.
Later I took the bike on a long ride far up a switchbacked mountain road.




I got my first good views of the craggy peaks of the northern Washington Cascade range.

 

chet6.7

Explorer
A kayak would be nice,l am trying to figure out how to carry one too.
That sign made me think wifi as well. Do you carry a Delorme inReach or something similar?
Thanks for another very enjoyable update.
 

crazy joker

New member
Thanks for another great update. I really enjoy living vicariously through your travels (I'm sure many others do as well). Some day I will be able to at least temporarily escape the 9-5 life.
 

skypix

New member
Kayak Suggestions

Hey Kenny::

Thanks for the updates. The new camera works great-may have something to do with the artist.

In my Canada-Key West-Desert Southwest van wanders, my terrier and I enjoyed an inflatable kayak.

This one has good reviews, travels in a small package and only costs $70. Get a good paddle.

http://tinyurl.com/p8fgtgs

NH Don
 

kennyj

Explorer
A kayak would be nice,l am trying to figure out how to carry one too.
That sign made me think wifi as well. Do you carry a Delorme inReach or something similar?
Thanks for another very enjoyable update.
Thank you, Chet. I looked up the sign for amphitheater and that one was hung upside down; I think some park service employee didn't know what they were doing when they put up the sign, or maybe they thought it really was wifi. :sombrero:

I do not carry an Inreach or Spot, although I have researched them many times, I still can't seem to justify the subscription price. If I was to get anything it would probably be a simple personal locate beacon. One thing I do is keep my family updated daily, cell service permitting, with a GPS text app that lets them know where I am; if not my exact location at least my intended destination.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Thanks for the update Kenny. Enjoyed the photos and report as always. Continued safe travels sir.
Thanks for another great update. I really enjoy living vicariously through your travels (I'm sure many others do as well). Some day I will be able to at least temporarily escape the 9-5 life.
Thank you fortel, and crazy joker...

Recently I was not feeling very motivated to work on updating the report, but I went back and reread a lot of my own thread, and something that really stood out to me was how much support I've gotten from you guys, and everyone else, over the last two years. All your great feedback and comments really means a lot! That got me fired up so I've been working on a bunch of updates and I hope to be caught up on my travels pretty soon.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Hey Kenny::

Thanks for the updates. The new camera works great-may have something to do with the artist.

In my Canada-Key West-Desert Southwest van wanders, my terrier and I enjoyed an inflatable kayak.

This one has good reviews, travels in a small package and only costs $70. Get a good paddle.

http://tinyurl.com/p8fgtgs

NH Don
Thanks, guys! I like the suggestions. I would really love to get one of the inflatables but I'm afraid for now my little Astro van is maxed out. Besides the Yamaha and all the gear that goes along with it, I've been accumulating some hiking and backpacking gear. I'm starting to think I need a trailer for all the toys!
 

kennyj

Explorer
On with the updates... As of now I've got some catching up to get up to date, and if you followed the news of some of the events you will know how far behind I am. :Wow1: But I've been really busy sorting photos so I hope to be current in the next week. Thanks for following along!


I had to move to a campsite further up 8 Mile Creek road; the first was nicely shaded but too shady for solar to recharge the batteries. This new spot was sure to get good sun!





I took the bike out on a long ride where I could get some good mountaintop views. On the way up i got this incredible long view of the valley down to Winthrop and a distant Pearrygin Lake.




My destination was Sweetgrass Butte, a high flat-top with great 360 degree views.




The road coming back down Sweetgrass Butte.




The last morning of camp at 8 Mile I was awakened by a cow bumping against the van. A small herd was grazing nearby; a very strange wake-up call!




I had gotten information that the fires around Hart’s Pass were out and the area roads reopened. I made the short move over toward Mazama and turned up the road to Goat Peak. I found a nice dispersed camp site, then took the bike up to the end of Goat Peak road.




The view from the Goat Wall overlook high above Mazama, looking east at the Methow Valley.




With the fire danger so high these signs were being posting everywhere. Campfires were prohibited even in developed campgrounds.


 

kennyj

Explorer
The next day I moved up past Mazama and found a nice meadow site near the start of the road to Hart’s Pass.




I did this same ride last year; I liked the area so much I wanted to revisit and explore it some more, including riding over the pass and down to the site of the old mining town of Barron.




Last year the road was really rough, this year it had been graded and was a really smooth ride. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through the area and just below the road I saw thru-hikers on the trail; the end of the trail at the border to Canada is less than 30 miles.




A couple miles beyond the pass is Slate Peak. This last stretch of road is gated and it’s a steep walk to the top of the mountain.




In the Cold War 50s the military lopped off the top of Slate Peak, building a road to the top, and built a radar station to watch for unfriendly aircraft. The radar station is long gone and the original fire lookout was replaced, rebuilt at a height to match the original peak.

 

kennyj

Explorer
While I was enjoying the views from the top of Slate Peak a haze was moving in which I realized was actually smoke.




Looking back down the road from Slate Peak. All around the mountains were clouding over with smoke from some wildfire.




In the short time since I had ridden up the mountain the smoke was getting really bad; I was worried that a fire near my campsite could threaten my van, so I cut the ride short and headed back down. This is approximately the same view as the picture of the sunny ride up just 3 hours earlier.




Back at my campsite there was no sign of fire in the area but the visibility was so bad the sun was nearly blocked out. I decided to ride toward Mazama for a phone signal to learn the source of the smoke. The first report I found was of a new fire to the west, in North Cascades National Park, causing the closure of route 20 to the west of Mazama.




I rode the rest of the way to Mazama hoping to get more detailed fire information; I arrived to find a run on the only gas station in town. Area residents were being evacuated and buying gas so they could leave town. I learned there was another new fire burning between Winthrop and Twisp, and the whole Methow Valley was being evacuated.




I had to backtrack 12 miles up the valley to fetch the van; it was a long ride as I was very anxious to pack up and get out of there.

With route 20 closed to the west, the only route to evacuate was back through Winthrop then down to Twisp, with the burning area just to the west of the highway.
I passed through Winthrop; the normally busy downtown was deserted, it looked like a ghost town.




The road between Winthrop and Twisp was crazy with emergency vehicles. The town of Twisp was also evacuated and on the east edge of town firefighters and equipment were gathering in a shopping area.




I found a place to pull over to take this picture toward the burning area I had just driven past. While I was parked a full sized jet aircraft roared past just overhead, a tanker carrying retardant to drop on the flames.
Checking the internet for news I learned that 3 firefighters had died and one was critically injured that afternoon in the Twisp fire.




My travel plan had been that after Mazama I would continue west through the North Cascades, then north to Bellingham. Instead I was traveling east, then south, beginning a 275 mile detour. I followed the Columbia River on route 97, past the fires burning near Chelan, and continued south towards Wenatchee.

 
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