Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WA -- Tacoma area, 24 Nov-1 Dec 2017



One week in Tacoma, Washington…

Why we came…

To visit friends!

The campground…

Camp Murray Beach was okay.   It’s in a central location to the military bases and dense humanity along the I-5 corridor.  While outside our trailer, the steady noise of I-5 was obvious, but we were glad not to hear it inside.  Other than military folks revving up their vehicles early each morning, the place was peaceful.  The camp sites were wide with plenty of space to park our truck next to our trailer.  The sites were gravel and a bit unlevel.  There are a few sites out in the open along the lake, but most of them are tucked under tall trees making satellite nearly impossible.  We had full hook-ups, no wi-fi, and a reliable 2 bar LTE Verizon signal.  The bathroom and laundry building appeared to be recently renovated and well maintained.  There were two reasonably priced washers and two dryers.  There was also a nice trail along American Lake that we walked a couple of times each day.

Like many military campgrounds, the place felt like a trailer park.  Most of the sites are taken by residents living there.  They cram two vehicles, an RV, and a bunch of junk into their sites.  It’s sad that many military campgrounds have turned into low income housing.

The positives out way the negatives and we would stay there again.  Overall, we were comfortable and liked the convenient location.

Tacoma area WA2-24 Nov 2017

We were comfortable at Camp Murray Beach RV Park

Nearby towns…

Lakewood and DuPont are the closest towns, but Tacoma to the north and Olympia to the south, are both easily accessible.  Seattle is a 45 mile drive to the north through the very congested I-5 corridor.  There are plenty of things to see and do within a day’s drive.  There are also tons of stores, restaurants, and services nearby.


Visiting friends…

Arleen’s final military stint was at McChord Air Force Base. Even though fellow members of the 62nd Operational Support Squadron have been retired from the Air Force for a few years, Arleen was very excited to spend time with individuals who were once co-workers but are now good friends.

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62 OSS reunion at the Fish Tail Brew Pub in Olympia.  Back row from left: Joyce, Roger, Arleen, Tim & Rebecca, Jon, Juanita    Front row from left:  Sean, Lisa, Les, Elizabeth

My last military tour was with the 1st Weather Squadron at Fort Lewis. I worked with Rob almost three of my last four years. Since retirement, he has gone on to a totally different career as a locomotive engineer. We had a great time catching up with him and his wife Lisa. We had so many questions for each other that dinner stretched five hours!

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We had a great conversation with Rob and Lisa at The Ram in Lacey for FIVE hours

I had a hand in some of the design ideas of the new 1st Weather Squadron building. Construction began shortly after I left the area over six years ago. I was excited to see the new facilities.

We have both worked with Malik, the current superintendent, in the past, so he was happy to give us the full tour. It is an amazing facility that allows the busy, mobile squadron to fully function.

Surprisingly, only one person was left from my time there. It was nice to see John again.

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My old unit at Fort Lewis WA  /  Throwing a medicine ball with Malik in their sweet workout room

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Me and John  /  Malik humoring me with a cheesy pose

Arleen and I lived in a home in the Tacoma area for four years. We spent much of our free time making creative changes to the half-acre yard and were curious to see how things changed. Most importantly, we wanted to see our wonderful neighbors, John and Cindy.

It made us feel a little wistful as we drove into the old neighborhood and parked near our old driveway. John had talked to the new owner and they kindly guided us through the yard to see how much it had changed. It was fun to see how a burning bush, a holly tree, and a juniper we had planted had grown.

John, Cindy, Arleen, and I went to our favorite restaurant, Amici’s. It was just as good as we remembered. We had a wonderful time catching up with our old neighbors who have always been great friends. We look forward to seeing them again next year!

House-Oct 2010    Tacoma area WA14-27 Nov 2017

Our house in Oct 2010  /  Thanks to the new owners for letting us wander around!

John and Cindy were our neighbors and are two of our most favorite people on the planet!

Rick was Arleen’s right hand man for four years at the McChord Weather Flight. Tracy was an indispensable Phoenix Spouse for the Flight and the Squadron. More than that, they were both our friends and we looked forward to a reunion with them.

We were glad that they were able to find time from their very busy schedules to meet us at our go-to breakfast place, The Country Rose Café. The yummy Hobo Hash was just like we remembered.

We had a great time catching up with Rick and Tracy on what they have been up to as well as their boys and grandchildren. We always enjoy following them and all the aspects of their busy lives.

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We enjoyed breakfast at the Country Rose Café in Spanaway with Tracy and Rick

As Air Force Weather Forecasters, Arleen and I both had assignments and deployed with the Army, who does not have its own weather support. Most people are not aware of that. Even fewer realize that the Air Force has a Special Operations team of parachuting weather warriors involved in tasks with the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

Our friend Mario was one of those special individuals. You would never know it from his welcoming and warm personality. The master chef graciously invited us to his home where he prepared an incredible spaghetti dinner plus a yummy tiramisu.

We had a wonderful time visiting with Mario, his wife Sarah, and their beautiful kids. They’ll be good fun to watch as they grow up.

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Mario and his beautiful family treated us to wonderful dinner at their home  /  We really liked the Patriot Wall in their house

Dawn and I worked together at Fort Lewis for four years.  I always respected her and was eager to see her again.

She, too, is retired from the Air Force now.  She’s busy with her second career and doing other great things.  It was good to hear how her family is all doing.  Hopefully our paths cross again soon!

Tacoma area WA26-30 Nov 2017

We had a nice dinner with Dawn at the German Rhein Haus in Tacoma

Fort Steilacoom…

The 340-acre Fort Steilacoom Park is Lakewood City’s largest park. It has a dog park, remote-controlled aircraft runway, picnic shelters, 5K running trail, several soccer fields and baseball fields. There is also a nice paved path all the way around Waughop Lake.

The area was a homesteader's farm in the 1840s. It became Fort Steilacoom in 1849.

In 1868, it became the "Insane Asylum for Washington Territory". “Hospital residents grew crops and orchards in the park area, and planted many of the poplar trees that line the lake shore. A lot of the original farm buildings are still standing. We wandered around the concrete curb that serves as a memorial to the people who lived and worked at the Hill Ward Hospital.

We enjoyed our walk around Waughop Lake. Then we walked by the large dog park. It was good fun to see dogs playing fetch and chasing each other.

Finally, we checked out the cute Fort Steilacoom kids play area. If there had not been children already there, we could have spent some time there!

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Walk route around Fort Steilacoom Park  /  The entrance to the kids’ park

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The farm buildings were built in the 1930s


We are in Sequim WA.  We will spend the rest of the winter here and then head to Alaska next summer!

Parting shots…

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Still clinging to fall in the Pacific Northwest  /  Presbyterian Church of Tacoma under a full moon


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

OR -- Fort Stevens State Park, 17-24 Nov 2017



One week at Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon…

Why we came…

To explore Fort Stevens and Astoria and maybe find some mushrooms!

The campground…

Fort Stevens State Park offers a lot.  It has a big campground with 174 full hook-up sites, 302 water and electric sites, 6 tent sites, 15 yurts, 11 cabins, a few hiker/biker sites.  All but one of the TWELVE loops has a bathroom building and most of them also have shower facilities that are all well maintained.  The large state park has five miles of hiking trails and seven miles of paved bike paths.  The trails lead to long beaches, historic military areas, and a couple of lakes.  The lakes have decent fishing too.  Though there is plenty to do in the Park, there is also a ton to explore within 25 miles.  Fort Stevens makes a great base camp!

We had a long back-in site with full hook-ups.  The sites are paved and mostly level.  Tall trees make satellite nearly impossible from most of the sites.  There was no wi-fi and we had an inconsistent 2 bar LTE Verizon phone signal.  There is a laundromat right outside the state park entrance. 

With roughly 500 camp sites, yurts, and cabins, the place would be a zoo during the busy summer months.  During our stay, it was mostly empty and very peaceful.  We like Fort Stevens and we like the area and would gladly return.  Especially during the off season.



Fort Stevens State Park campground map

Fort Stevens OR4-18 Nov 2017

Tucked under the tall trees

Nearby towns…

Warrenton, population 5,469, is about four miles southeast of the campground.  It has a good selection of services, restaurants, and stores including a big Fred Meyers and a soon-to-open big Walmart. 

Astoria, population 9,802, is about 10 miles east of the campground.  It has even more services, restaurants, and stores.  It has a cool history and sits in a cool location.  It also has a cool vibe.  We like Astoria! 


Exploring Fort Stevens…

We arrived at Ft Stevens State Park on our first beautiful sunny day after almost two weeks of clouds, rain, and wind. We eagerly got up early to get out and enjoy the day.

“Fort Stevens is a 4,300 acre park offering exploration of history, nature, and many recreational opportunities.”

“Camping, beach-combing, freshwater lake swimming, trails, wildlife viewing, a historic shipwreck, and a historic military fort make Fort Stevens a uniquely diverse park. The park also has a network of nine miles of paved bicycle trails and six miles of hiking trails that allow for exploring a variety of habitats including spruce and hemlock forests, wetlands, dunes, and shore pine areas.”

We started the day by walking the mile trail to the beach. We let our minds wander at the remnants of the Peter Iredale.

The Peter Iredale was a four-masted sailing vessel that is one of the many casualties of the mouth of the Columbia River. It ran ashore October 25, 1906, on what is now the Clatsop Spit. The remaining bits of the hull still remain after 111 years.

Later in the day we visited the Historic Military Site. “Fort Stevens was once the primary military defense installation in the three-fort, Harbor Defense System at the mouth of the Columbia River (along with Forts Canby and Columbia in Washington). The fort saw service for 84 years, from the Civil War to World War II.”

“Throughout the year, you can enjoy displays ranging from the Civil War to World War II at the military museum and information center, visit the only Civil War era earthen fort on the west coast, or explore the many turn-of-the-century, concrete coast artillery gun batteries.”

Later in the week, we went on a mushroom foray. We explored the multiple unmapped trails between the beach and Coffenberry Lake.

We wandered into woods with high confidence. We had more than ample moisture the week before. The flora habitat was perfect!

However, our self-assuredness was deflated when we spotted a few mountain bikers who were obviously looking for porcinis too. We could tell by how slowly they were pedaling while peering too closely into the undergrowth. Plus, they were wearing empty backpacks. Sigh…

So we cut off the trails and into the deep thicket. The going is so much slower that way. Plus, we still did not find any King Boletes. But it was the first time we had struck out on the coast. We’re hoping one of our favorites, Hedge Hog mushrooms, will fruit soon.

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Hike route in Fort Stevens State Park  /  Walking through a tunnel of shore grass

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The Peter Iredale ran aground on 25 Oct 1906  /  Stuck permanently in the sand, the bowsprit was removed in 1960 for safety

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This is what remains of the Peter Iredale today

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Fort Stevens was opened in 1863 to protect mouth of the Columbia River

That ship better watch out!

Exploring Astoria…

Astoria has always been one of our favorite towns! It is a special place with a lot of outdoor attractions and an interesting history.

First, you can usually visit the sea lions near Pier 39. If you are not sure where the pier is, park at the Safeway and walk towards the sound of the loud dog-like barking. It will lead you right to them.

Astoria was Oregon’s first port city. Its history is steeped in the fur trade and fishing. The majority of homes in Astoria were built in the late 19th century in the Victorian style. A walking tour along the steep residential streets is a walk back in time and good exercise!

The home featured in the Goonies’ movie is one such home. It is a private home and they ask that you not approach the home or take pictures.

We originally visited the Astoria Column nine years ago but were not able to go up. We climbed it this visit!

“Standing above the city–600 feet above sea level to be exact–the Astoria Column unleashes an unrivaled view of Young’s Bay, the Coast Range, the mighty Columbia River, and in the distance—the Pacific Ocean.”

“Modeled after the Trajan Column in Rome, the Astoria Column features a hand-painted spiral frieze that would stretch more than 500 feet if unwound. It was designed to celebrate three historic events: the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray; the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; and the arrival of the ship Tonquin.”

          Fort Stevens OR11-18 Nov 2017          Fort Stevens OR10-18 Nov 2017

The 125 feet high Astoria Column was built in 1926  /  A large ship moored in the Columbia River

Fort Stevens OR8-18 Nov 2017

View from the Astoria Column

The Columbia River Maritime Museum tells the stories of the Columbia River Bar, one of the most dangerous passages in the world. It is often referred to as the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.

“Mariners agree that the combination of high seas, a mighty river, and shallow, shifting sand bars make the Columbia bar one of the most dangerous crossings in the world. Since 1792 approximately 2,000 vessels including over 200 large ships – have sunk at the Columbia River Bar, and more than 700 people have lost their lives to the sea.”

We have passed the museum many times but had never visited. A rainy day at Fort Stevens was a perfect time to visit this huge and informative center.

First, we visited the Columbia Lightship which sits in the slip behind the museum next to a Coastguard ship.

WLV-604 was built in 1950 at the cost of $500,000. The ship measured 128 feet in length, had a beam of 30 feet, and was powered by an eight-cylinder diesel engine providing 550 horsepower.

The vessel had an illuminating apparatus of an electric lens lantern on the foremast, rated at 15,000 candlepower visible for 15 miles and twin fog signals with a five-mile range.

WLV-604 served the Columbia River until November 1979 when the Coast Guard replaced with an automated Lighted Navigational Horn Buoy (LNB) ‘CR.’”

Inside, we watched a thought-provoking 3D hurricane film with incredible footage that was based on a compilation of several storms. The overall message was that hurricanes cause a lot of destruction but at the same time they do help in the rebirth for the ocean and islands.

The 44,000 square foot museum is very impressive! “It has a national reputation for the quality of its exhibits and the scope of its collections and was the first museum in Oregon to meet national accreditation standards.”

The interactive historical exhibits allow you to “experience what it is like to pilot a tugboat, participate in a Coast Guard rescue on the Columbia River Bar, and live in Astoria during the height of salmon fishing.”

Of particular interest to us were the displays on weather. There were old hand-written weather logs, instruments, and a fun area to practice our TV weatherperson skills.

There were also outstanding exhibits on the early explorers mapping and navigating the Northwest, military defenses, whaling, shark fishing, and items that washed up on the beaches such as canons and a Japanese boat from the tsunami.

The cost to get in the museum was a little steep but we highly recommend it.

Fort Stevens OR33-22 Nov 2017    Fort Stevens OR34-22 Nov 2017

Entering the Columbia River Maritime Museum  /  A Coast Guard ship and the Astoria Bridge

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We enjoyed exploring the Lightship Columbia which was in service from 1951 to 1979

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Map of just a few of the estimated 2,000 vessels that have sunk at the mouth of the Columbia River since 1792

    Fort Stevens OR37-22 Nov 2017    Fort Stevens OR46-22 Nov 2017

Impressive and informative displays

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Old weather instruments  /  Your future TV weather lady!

Exploring Fort Clatsop…

We initially visited Fort Clatsop nine years ago. However, since that time we have traced more of Lewis & Clark’s route including Pompey’s Pillar, Lolo Pass, the mouth of the John Day River, and Cape Disappointment. We knew we’d have greater appreciation on our return visit.

Fort Clatsop is where the Corps camped in the winter of 1805–1806, after reaching the Pacific Ocean. The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park includes the visitor center, replica of the fort, memorial to Thomas Jefferson, Netul Landing, Salt Works and the Fort to Sea Trail.

At the visitor center we got the obligatory sticker and stamp for our nearly full Passport book. Afterwards, we wandered around the camp. Although the summer season period actors weren’t there, the early winter conditions helped us sympathize with the Corps as they struggled to survive the cold and damp conditions. If only they could see how things have changed in the last 200 years!

Afterwards, we wandered around on the trails to Netul Landing and returned on a portion of the Fort to Sea Trail. The trails were in great condition, layered with small gravel so the footing is decent even in the wettest of conditions.

We kept an eye out for our mushrooms and only saw a few massacred chanterelles. Technically, you’re not allowed to hunt in that area. In the area where you can forage, you can only keep a pint!

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Modern day Lewis and Clarks!  /  Another stamp in her National Park Passport book

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Hike route around Lewis and Clark Historical Park  /  Near the start of the 6.5 mile long Fort to Sea Trail

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About to enter Fort Clatsop

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Lewis and Clark’s crew spent a tough winter here Dec 1805 to Mar 1806

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Interesting fall vegetation along the trail

Catching up with friends…

Chaz was one of our Air Force Guard augmentees at Fort Lewis. He and his wife Lynn now have three beautiful children and live in the area. Chaz has a sense adventure and has been faithfully following us on our journey.

We met for lunch in Astoria at the Baked Alaska, which has a perfect waterfront location. It was good to catch up with them and swap stories of adventures.

I worked with Mark during my time at Fort Lewis. I remember his wife, Christilee, from the Azores where she worked at the veterinarian office where I would take my dog. We both had Portuguese Island pound pups.

Mark and Christilee now live in the Seattle area but they were headed south to spend the Thanksgiving weekend at Cape Disappointment. It was a wonderful opportunity for Arleen and I to visit one of our favorite coast locations and to meet up with old friends.

We spent Thanksgiving morning reminiscing, sharing adventure stories, and plans for the future. We had a great walk out on the beach and posed in front of the pretty North Head lighthouse. Sadly, a rain shower cut our walk short. We look forward to seeing Mark and Christilee this winter when they visit us in Sequim for a trip to Victoria!

We were mildly surprised to hear that the full hook-up campsites at Cape Disappointment were totally full. When we returned to Fort Stevens, it was about 75% full.  Pacific Northwesters like their winter camping!

For our Thanksgiving meal, we had Arleen’s famous Tipsy Turkey Legs and porcini-cauliflower stuffing. We are very thankful for all our family and friends. We are thankful for each other, our health, and this life of exploring our beautiful country that the Lord has blessed us with.

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We had a nice lunch with Chaz and his family  /  Being goofy with Mark and Christilee at Cape Disappointment

Previous visit…

We spent a week here six years ago.  Here is the link to that blog:  http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2011/10/or-fort-stevens-state-park-1-10-oct.html


We had a busy week in the Tacoma WA area and are now in Sequim WA, where we will spend the winter.  Then we head to Alaska next summer!

Parting shots…

Fort Stevens OR13-18 Nov 2017

We were surprised to see the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (on right) from the Astoria Column

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Sea lions at the East Mooring Basin in Astoria  /  No mushroom picking at Cape Disappointment…boooooo!!

Large elk herd near Fort Stevens State Park