Monthly Archives: May 2014

In and around Washington’s coastal North Cascades

100_2746.JPG We found a lot of interesting things to do in and around Mt. Vernon. Although it was too late for the tulip festival we visited the RoozenGaared bulb company which is nationally recognized for its flower bulbs. Although we missed the tulips the irises and rhododendrons are in bloom and are beautiful. The grounds are lovely and there is a gift shop. We also stopped by Discovery Garden, a project of Washington State University Extension Skagit County. There are three types of gardens full of various flowers and raised beds to educate people about gardening.

PHOTO_20140516_155948.jpg We also drove out Highway 11 to Taylor’s shellfish farms. Although the tide was out we could see where they farm the shellfish they sell. The road down to the farm is an adventure in itself – very steep and picturesque.

Another day we drove to end of Samish Island which is near Bow, WA. There are lots of beautiful homes and you can see the bay. We were disappointed when we found no place to park and no public access to the water.

P5189480.JPG A local park named Little Mountain Park wonderful has a view of Mt Vernon, WA and the Skagit valley. We could also easily see Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. There are several hiking trails but we opted to drive to the top to the main viewpoints. It was a sunny day and several groups were enjoying a picnic with a view.

100_2781.JPG We took a day trip to Seattle using public transportation. We Drove to Everett and caught the bus to Seattle. We walked just a few blocks to Pike Place Market and also wandered around the shops in the area. I enjoyed visiting original Starbucks. It’s a remake of the very first walk through Starbucks and located right across from the market. It’s easy to find because of the line of people out the door! I also found a cute chocolate shop as well as a tea shop selling loose tea and teapots etc. When we were ready to sit a few minutes we stopped at the Sisters Bakery and enjoyed some very tasty apple fritters. We left the Market place and started walking toward the train station enjoying window shopping along the way. I couldn’t resist revisiting the main public library which is an awesome building by itself.

100_2794.JPG From there we walked on to the train station and figured out how to buy tickets from the machine. Riding the Sounder commuter train was great! We went to the upper deck and enjoyed the ride right along the coast back to Everett. The view of the Bay and beaches along the way is a real treat. I recommend the trip to Seattle by public transportation and hope to do it again.

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Campground review: Mt Vernon Thousand Trails, Bow, WA

photo 2.JPG The drive from Ellensburg to the Washington coast was beautiful and interesting – taking us up and over the Cascades. There are some fairly steep grades, mostly downhill, when heading west. For some reason the GPS got me off the freeway at one major interchange near Seattle and we had a few miles of narrow road, winding through the country and up and down over several hills before we finely made it onto I5 and began the final leg of our journey.

PHOTO_20140525_161119.jpg Getting to Mt Vernon Thousand Trails at Bow, WA is a bit of a leap of faith. You exit I5 onto Bow Hill Road and make your way to the campground without a single road sign. Not only that, but you turn at what appears to be only the entrance to the Skagit Casino. The road is marked as the entrance to the casino, there’s a “dead end” sign, and you basically drive a road that is part of the casino parking lot. At the northern end of the parking lot, you continue down a road marked “no thru way.” It looks for the world as if you are headed for an overflow parking lot for the casino. Then, at the end of that road, low and behold, you’ve arrived at a large, “hidden,” campground.

100_2774.JPG The roads through the campground are wide, gravel roads that are in pretty good shape. Many of the campsites are both deep and wide, big enough for most any rig. Many are cut into the woods, providing a great deal of privacy (but making it nearly impossible to get a satellite TV signal). There are some sewer hookup sites on the western side of the campground. They are pretty popular but there’s a price to pay for using them: not only will it be a challenge to get satellite TV at most of them, they are also situated quite close to the busy and noisy Interstate.

100_2775.JPG The eastern side of the campground is quieter with no sewer connect but RVers in one section in particular (nicknamed “satellite row”) have a better than average chance of getting a satellite signal. Some of those sites are more crowded together than those in the rest of the campground. It’s quieter on the eastern side most of the time. The exception is Saturday evenings. Just below the campground is a raceway that’s in full swing on all but winter Saturday nights. The noise of the cars and announcers is very loud. Happily, this is just a Saturday night thing. We at least got to enjoy the fireworks they shot off on Memorial Day weekend!

PHOTO_20140523_120152.jpg The campground has a nice Activity Center and large, heated pool. These are out near the entrance – quite a walk from most of the campsites. We saw people swimming even when the outside temps were in the mid-50’s. We decided to let them enjoy it without our joining them!

100_2767.JPG We heard reports of people having low electrical voltage, in fact, we had the same problem our first night. Because of that, plus low water pressure and a failure to get a satellite signal, we moved to the “satellite row” area after our first night’s stay. After that, we had no water or electrical issues for the rest of the time we were there. I had a decent 4G cell data signal but it was having problems. It would work for a while and then throughput would just stop. The only way to get it back was to turn on “airplane mode” on the phone, then turn it back off. Things would work fine for a while and then I’d have to jump through that hoop yet again.

We like Mt Vernon Thousand Trails although the lack of sewer hookups might be a big enough deal for us to go elsewhere, or at least plan for a shorter stay, in the future.

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Shortstop: Yakima River RV Park, Ellensburg, WA

bphoto 3.JPG The drive north on I84 and I82 from west-central Oregon to south-central Washington was our most challenging and interesting yet.  We drove through treeless mountains into pine covered mountains and soon found ourselves in the fertile Yakima valley with it’s vineyards and apple orchards.  Along the way we drove up and over “Dead Man’s Pass” and then, after leaving the city of Yakima we drove up and over Manastash Ridge.  Dead Man’s pass is rated as one of the toughest trucker drives in America with mile after mile of 6% downhill grades.  Then, as we left Yakima we began a long steep climb followed by a steep descent, then “repeat” and then “repeat again.”  The truck handled it fine, although we heard the whirlybird sound of the high speed cooling fan kick in on the uphills and worked the tow-haul mode on the transmission pretty hard coming down the steep grades.

We were happy to arrive at Yakima River RV park in Ellensburg, WA – exiting I82 right at the base of the final of the three big down hill’s between Yakima and Ellensburg.

PHOTO_20140514_151723.jpg This campground has a country feel with horses and cattle at pasture just the other side of the fence.  If the campground was full you’d have some close neighbors, as the sites are set up so one camper is facing one direction and the next the other.  You could potentially have “door to door” neighbors!

photo 5.JPG There’s no bathhouse or facilities of any kind but most of the sites are full hookups.  The campground provides good WiFi and our cell signal is quite good too.  We met the owner, a nice lady who had lots of advice about the area.  Alas, this is the last of what will be three one-nighters in a row for us.

Tomorrow we head west on I90, up and over yet another mountain, and then skirt Seattle and head north just a short distance.  We’ll be back in the Thousand Trails system and our short stays and longer drives will come to an end for several months to come.  Our deluge of blog entries should slow down a bit as our pace slows.

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