We were able to visit the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County in March 2019 while the “superbloom” was happening.
A superbloom in the desert happens when there is a wet winter. All the wildflowers in the desert bloom and it’s a spectacular display! The desert is usually shades of gray and dull green, but during a superbloom there are yellows, oranges, reds, purples everywhere! And lots of caterpillars and butterflies too! We have a couple of pictures showing the large black and yellow striped caterpillars and they have a long spike out their tail ends! Unfortunately the butterflies were too quick to get any good pictures of them.
We went on a Monday knowing that the weekend would be crazy with traffic. Even on a Monday in March the Anza Borrego area was pretty busy!
Jeff found a map provided online by the Anza Borrego Desert State Park that showed a few good areas to see the flowers. One was quite a ways down a dirt road but it was worth the trip!
Here are pictures we took of the area, the flowers and a couple showing the hillsides covered in yellow!
We had planned to spend a week in the San Francisco area to see some sights and visit friends. Our visit was changed though because of the devastating fires going on at the time in the Sonoma and Napa areas. We were staying south of the bay and the fires were north, but we still had lots of smoke. Here’s one of the many news articles about the fires: (click here)
While we were staying on the Olympic Peninsula, we took a drive to the western side of the mountains to see the rain forest.
It was a long but beautiful drive, 3 hours to get to the rain forest area. But, along the way we say 2 bays of the Strait Juan de Fuca on the northern side of the peninsula and drove past a few gorgeous lakes.
Once you pass Port Angeles on the northern side of the peninsula it’s very sparsely populated. A few small towns but no large towns or cities. The people who choose to live out on the peninsula sure do have a commute if they work in the city!
It was quite apparent when we left the eastern/northern side of the mountains and entered the western side, even before the rain forest. Where the grass is brown on the eastern side and there’s scrub similar to southern California, once you get to the western part it becomes green and much more lush, with large ferns all along the side of the road. Then, as we entered the rain forest it got dark and damp. We drove along a wide river that was the only open area. The trees got much larger and taller too.
The Hoh Rain Forest Visitors center was closed on the day we visited, unfortunately, but there were some trails that we walked along.
We were in Chimacum on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington for a week, and that gave us time to take a few drives to see the peninsula. I had hoped to see lots of shoreline, but we found that much of the shoreline around the peninsula is either private houses or very primitive with dirt roads and some of the roads are only passable at low tide (yipes!). Also, to drive the loop highway that encircles the peninsula would take over 12 hours!
So, instead we went to a few specific spots. One was the Hurrican Ridge Visitors Center which is near the center area of the peninsula and is ringed with high mountains! The visitors center was at about a mile high, and several of the mountains are in the 6,000 ft range. One, Mount Olympus, is over 7,000 feet high! Some of the higher mountaintops are covered in glaciers, which we were surprised to see so close to the ocean.
We learned that the peninsula is separated into three distinct climate areas. The first is the western slopes of the mountains which is rain forest. The mountains are so high that they stop many of the rain clouds, so all the rain falls on the western side giving that area over 13 inches of rain annually. The eastern slopes of the mountains and the eastern area are quite dry and while there are pine and spruce trees, the farmers have to irrigate.
The third is the mountain area itself, with glaciers and alpine meadows. Really beautiful.
It was cool on the Olympic Peninsula, so on our drive to the Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center I wore sneakers and socks and had a light jacket. At the visitors center in the early afternoon it was 37 degrees! Brrrr! My outfit wasn’t warm enough, so we didn’t spend that much time outside. We walked around a little bit and saw the mountains, then hopped back in the car!
While in the Olympic Peninsula we drove to one of the harbors, Port Townsend. It is at the northeastern tip of the peninsula.
It has a cute little harbor town, just what you would imagine. It also had some very nice beaches and an old fort where several of the buildings had been turned into a museum. There was an RV park right on the beach and if we weren’t getting such a good rate to stay in an Escapees park here on the peninsula we would have liked to stay there!
While we were staying in Nine Mile Falls which is in the eastern part of Washington, we took a drive through the area. There’s a lake nearby called “Long Lake” that is very pretty.
The lake has a dam at the western end to create the lake and provide electricity for the area. The dam was interesting to me as it isn’t shaped like the usual dam, rounded like an arch to provide the best defense against the massive weight of the water behind it. This one is shaped with a 90-degree corner facing outward instead of inward.
While we were at the dam we met a group of guys all in red shirts that were a maintenance group – during the summer they fight fires when needed and the rest of the year they provide maintenance at several state locations, the dam being one. We spoke to the foreman who told us about the fires they had fought that summer (Washington had several fires along with Oregon, Montana, Idaho and B.C.). He also said they had recently cleaned and upgraded the dam.
Yet another mishap with our axles – what is going on?!?
Oh no! About a half-hour after we left the Vancouver area headed east towards the windy mountainous road that is Hwy 3 a truck pulled alongside us and pointed at our rig. We knew that meant something was wrong so we pulled to the shoulder and were horrified to see that a third wheel was smoking badly. That meant we had another bearing that was failing and would lose our wheel shortly. It had already happened twice this year!!
So we sat in the truck and looked for a repair shop in the nearby town of Langley. We are once again SO LUCKY that this happened near a large town instead of up in the mountains where we were headed!
We found a place that specializes in springs and axles and called them to say what had happened and we were on our way to them. We limped down the highway shoulder and off at the next exit and had to go about 10 more miles to get to the repair shop.
We didn’t bother calling a tow truck because the previous two times the tow truck said there’s nothing they can do except escort us limping to a repair place. So, we limped on our own this time. About half-way to the repair shop, on a suburban road, the wheel fell off and we had to stop so Jeff could go retrieve it. We held up traffic a bit but there wasn’t much so they were able to get past us.
With wheel retrieved we limped the rest of the way at about 20 mph and finally pulled into the repair shop. Gerry, the owner, said they weren’t real busy and he could get right on it and we should have it back the next day.
However, shortly after we left the trailer with him and went in search of a motel he called. He was very unhappy with the way the previous repair shop had ‘fixed’ the rear axle (this time was the front axle) as they had lengthened it with a welded ‘sleeve’. He said this was not good as the axle couldn’t flex like it should. We headed back to the shop to get a better explanation and ended up replacing both axles. He did replace both with higher rated axles, the originals were 5200 pounds each. The rear axle was raised to a 6000 pound. Now we have two 7000 pound axles!
So, we got a cheap motel for the day, hung around and got the trailer back late the next day. We stayed at an RV park in Langley and headed out the next morning. So, our trip was delayed by 2 days but it could have been so much worse!
I didn’t take pictures this time, but the two previous stories about our wheel problems, here and here, include pictures.
We crossed into Canada at the Roosville station, north of the Kalispell MT area. Our original plan was to enter Canada here close to the Banff, Yoho and Glacier National Parks of Canada, then travel to Vancouver and cross back into the US at Washington.
But, shortly before we crossed the border we learned that it’s not hard to bring handguns into Canada, it’s almost impossible. Citizens in Canada cannot carry guns, and the process to bring a gun into Canada takes at least 3 months, has to be approved by a provincial official and may still be denied if you don’t have a good reason. So, we decided to put our guns into a mini-storage unit in Kalispell while we were in Canada.
This meant that we had to travel back to Kalispell to get them. So, we decided that from Vancouver we would travel east on the Canadian “Crow’s Nest Highway”, Hwy 3, which runs very close to the border and is very scenic.
Our trip along Hwy 3 took 2 days, partly because we don’t travel for over about 5 hours in a day and partly because it was a windy mountain road so for long parts of it we were going much slower than 100 kmp (60 mph).
It was a beautiful drive. Very scenic, first we went through forested areas, up and down the mountains. Then we entered a beautiful valley that was like a fruitbasket. Tons of apples, peaches, plums, pumpkins, fruit stands, fields of corn and wheat. Our first night was in Osoyoos which is near the Columbia River that runs through this valley. It was a beautiful RV park, lots of trees, right on the river! I wished we could stay a week!
The next morning we drove to Crestin where we planned to cross the border the third morning. We got up into some summits that were about 7,000 ft and noticed they had recently had snow. There was some along the road and all through the mountaintops nearby. Beautiful, but cold! I think it got to the low 50s along that drive, mostly was in the 40s. In September, brrr!
The third morning we crossed into the US and headed back to Kalispell. The night before we crossed I had a nightmare that when we crossed the border they wouldn’t let us in unless we swore loyalty to Trump. Argggghhhhh! NNNNNNNNNNooooooooooooo!
Luckily it was just a nightmare and we crossed without incident!
I tried to take a few pictures with my phone but in a moving vehicle they didn’t turn out. Here’s a picture of the snow:
We’re staying in Surrey while visiting Vancouver, and we drove around Surrey to run errands and drove through Vancouver to see the city.
As we drove through the downtown section of Vancouver I noticed first the vast number of people walking in the city. Large numbers of people at every street corner and walking on every street. I mean large, much more than I ever saw in San Diego, and even more than I’ve seen in downtown New York. And, in the bad part of town there were so many homeless people…dozens of them on every block! I even looked down one alley and saw probably 20 or more people sitting down or walking around. I’m sure I even saw a drug deal in just the second or two that I could see down the alleyway. I’ve seen segments on Canadian TV news shows about the fact that the city is unaffordable for many people and that it has caused a huge homeless problem. Yep, I saw that!
This is a very densely populated city! Lots and lots of highrise apartment buildings, both in the downtown area and in a couple of the suburbs. Burnaby, a close-in suburb, had over 15 buildings that were at least 20 stories high.
Another thing that struck me is the ethnic diversity. As we drove around we saw very few black and hispanic people and lots and lots of Asian people. Many, if not most, of the store signs both downtown and in Surrey were in both English and some Asian language, probably Chinese. We also saw a lot of Sihk men wearing the turbans, both walking and driving around. In one neighborhood of Surrey we saw so many that I looked up ethic demographics of Vancouver. Less than 1% black. Less than 1% hispanic. About 25% Asian and about 11% ‘South Asian’ which includes the Sikh people. Only 52% are Caucasian. The article I read even mentioned the exact neighborhood we were driving through, saying in that particular neighborhood there was the largest concentration of Sikh people, at about 76%!
Vancouver is a very pretty city, with the mountains to the north and east and several harbors and inlets. It’s actually kind of isolated on the coast because just a bit further north along the coast are a mountain range that isolates all other coast communities except by boat. The Trans-Canada Highway is the only way to get east, and the Al-Can (Alaska-Canada) Highway follows the Trans-Canada Highway for several miles east before it turns north.
The weather is about what we expected for September, not too warm during the day but not too cold yet at night.
We are enjoying our stay here in the Vancouver area!
One of the things I wanted to do in Vancouver was take the ferry over to Vancouver Island and drive around there to see the sights. But, the cost of going over on the ferry for a vehicle and 2 people was over $50 – one way! Yipes! That was too much money, I felt.
So, instead of that, we took a sightseeing cruise around the Vancouver harbor. It was real interesting, and we learned quite a biabout Vancouver and Canada. The harbor is really large and is home to a very large drydock for repairing ships. There are several Canadian Navy ships docked there, there is a container ship area where huge container ships from the Asian ports get loaded and unloaded, and there is a seaplane dock as well as lots and lots of private ships, boats and a rowing club.
Vancouver also has a very large park in the midst of downtown and right along the harbor that is larger than Central Park in New York. The tour guide had a fun story about the Vancouver park – it had no squirrels, and when New York heard about that they shipped 2 pairs of gray squirrels to the city of Vancouver so their park could have squirrels. Well, now there are apparently way too many since there are no predators, and the tour guide said if you visit the park you’ll see that all the squirrels still have their New York accent. He also said if you visit the park and a squirrel throws an acorn at you, thank the city of New York. LOL
Back during the depression the Canadian government had lots of projects to keep men employed, just like the U.S. did. One project was to build a seawell along the downtown park where it was on the coast, to keep erosion down and provide a safe place for people to walk, jog or bike around the perimeter of the park. Also during that time, a wealthy family, the Guinness family of the beer fame, privately funded building a bridge from the downtown park across the mouth of the harbor to the north Vancover area. For several years there was a quarter toll to cross the bridge until the family was repaid, and since then it’s been free to cross and maintained by the government. It is a problem now though, since several large cruise ships use Vancouver as a base of operation and the largest ships cannot get under the bridge. So, the city is debating whether they need to replace the bridge in order to get the largest cruise ships into the harbor.
This busy harbor is home to lots of harbor seals and we saw several. We also saw several jellyfish swimming around in the harbor.
The day was beautiful and warm for our harbor cruise and we had a great time. Here are some pictures: