Vancouver Part 1

We arrived in Vancouver on the 25th July a few days ahead of Caroline, Rashied, Zaid and Zara as we were charged with picking up the car seats and the travel cot they had hired for their holiday in Vancouver at Tim’s house. It was lovely to meet up Tim again and meet his new

It also gave us time to get ourselves sorted out before the rabble arrived!!

We had booked a site at Fort Camping, on Brae Island, near Fort Langley about 26 miles out of Vancouver from Tim’s house. About a week before we were due to arrive an email arrived saying this


Mosquito Notice

We are currently experiencing a very high number of mosquitoes, not only here at the campground, but all along the Fraser River.


As you can gather we were not exactly looking forward to meeting them, but we had really no option as the booking was for 3½ weeks and no one else was going to fit us in for that period of time at such short notice!!

When we arrived we got even more worried as the booking office was covered in a huge mosquito net which did not bode well. Looked like we going to be wearing “L’Eau de Deet” for the entire stay. However, we pressed on and we had a nice site, but the mozzies descended and both of us got bitten setting ourselves up on the site, so we quickly retreated inside, although a few followed us in, where they met an untimely death!!

The next couple of days were spent sorting out various routes in and out of Vancouver and getting our supplies in from the local supermarkets and we also had a meal out locally with Tim and Emily.

Then Thursday 28th June arrived, the start date of the “Dirk Invasion” (the name of the Whatsapp Group we set up !!). Anne and I went and picked up the two car seats and the travel cot, taking them to Tim’s house, and from there Tim drove us to the Airport.

After about an hour wait, Caroline, Rashied, Zaid and Zara came through the doors into International Arrivals.

Zaid is just behind the buggy on his Trunki, you can just see his foot.
Someone looks a little tired.
Who are all these strange people?
Our Junior Crime Fighter modelling his new Canadian hat.

Caroline, Rashied, Zaid and Zara got in  a taxi plus luggage and we went back to Tim’s car to go to his house, where they had already arrived plus the mound of luggage. They were are determined to stay up as late as possible, so the toys Tim, Emiy and Anne had amassed were brought out.

Zara liked the bricks.

I took Zaid for a walk down to the Fraser river, because as per usual he was still going strong, and then we went to a local White Spot to get something to eat. At this point they were all beginning to feel the effects of the travel, so they all went back to Tim’s house for their first night’s sleep in Canada, and we went back to the RV.

The following day had been designated a shopping day by Caroline, so we met them at the Real Canadian Superstore near Tim’s house. They had already been there an hour when we arrived but it took a further 2½ hours to complete the shopping, at which point we all went back to Tim’s where later that day he cooked us a salmon dinner which came on a cedar plank. It made a very tasty meal, but the time difference and all that shopping had caught up with someone!!

Zaid succumbed to the time change and the shopping!!

Emily joined us on the next day as it was Saturday and we went into central Vancouver on the bus and the train to Waterfront Station. Walked down to Gastown and saw the steam clock where Emily had booked a sushi meal in a restaurant there for lunch.

The famous steam clock. the movement is a normal clock, the quarter, half and hour chimes uses the steam whistles to play a tune.

After lunch we took the SeaBus to the other side of Vancouver harbour to see the city across the water.

Vancouver from the Grouse Mountain side of the harbour. It was a bit grey and rained that day but weather gradually improved.
A Dirk family photo in Vancouver.

Grandad was volunteered to take Zaid on the tour of HMCS Calgary, a Canadian Navy frigate, that was docked here and they were doing guided tours of the ship. The rest of them walked around the market. Zaid and I had a great time looking over the ship.

HMCS Calgary’s badge.
Zaid in front of the 50mm forward gun.

We then returned to central Vancouver to see some of the cruise ships leave.

This one was absolutely huge!!
A slightly small and older one.
Zaid was absolutely fascinated by the flying boats landing and taking off.

Sunday saw us all going out to Steveston where there was big Canada Day celebration with the entire main street pedestrianised and turned over to all sorts of pop up demonstrations, food stalls, local stalls, beer areas and many other interesting exhibits.

Zara trying a smoothie!!
Father and son!!
Two veteran Mounties being given a lift.
A pop up with unicyclist on a 10ft unicycle. Here he has got three members of the public helping him get up on it.
Finally up and juggling!!
Rashied trying to persuade Zaid to run through the water cascade (he is carrying him!!).
One slightly damp father and son.
Zaid warming up on the concrete.
I thought I would sit here and eat the grass!!
Uncle Tim decided to help!! Zaid getting changed in the background.
Zaid ready to go again!!

After a long day in the sun we returned to Tim’s house for barbequed hot dogs, potato salad and salad.

Monday was a public holiday in Canada as Canada Day was on a Sunday, so we all went to Lynn Canyon Park to see the falls and cross the suspension bridge.

On the way down.
Warning sign showing the number of deaths and injuries to people tombstoning into the canyon.
Even so there were two guys jumping into this from 60ft up!!
The photo above the falls. Zara was more fascinated with roaring water. Anne decided she didn’t like the thought of the suspension bridge.
Walking the paths through the forest on the other side of the river.
Zaid had to be persuaded to go into a hollow tree, you can just see Tim in there with him.
He was much happier running along the boardwalk, grab him someone!!
The rest following along behind!!
Here we go crossing the suspension bridge. Hope the cables can handle all those people!!
Getting near the midpoint.
View of the falls from the bridge.

After the canyon, Zaid had spotted another water park on the way, so we ended up there.

Zara – I quite like this swinging!!
I am ready to go but it looks a bit cold!!
I’ve got a water cannon!!
Look at me up and crawling – backwards!!
Zaid is funny!!
Not sure what was going on here, but even Grandma thought it looked bad!!
Zara trying out the climbing frame, with a little help from her parents.

Had a nice meal in a Persian restaurant called the Casbah and then everyone went home after a long day.

Caroline and Rashied and family visited us in the RV the next day, after they had been down to the USA border to get their entry visas for their trip to see Julia and Michael in Port Townsend. We spent quite a lot of time at the pool and then adjourned back to the RV for dinner.

Zaid and I in Fort Camping’s pool.
Well we all fitted in …. just. Zaid had his own little table in the bottom right corner

They left so late that their car got locked in the visitors car park and we had to find the security guy to let them out!!

The next day was a swimming day as well, but this time at Stanley Park’s second Beach pool. It was a lovely day and almost everyone got in the pool at sometime during the day.

Zara is getting quite good at this waving lark!!
Finally got Zaid down a slide!!
Although there was no stopping his Mum!!
I think we are getting the hang of these family groups.
Grandma keeping Zara warm.
It was Caroline’s and Rashied’s  Wedding Anniversary. Grandad and Grandma baby sat with Tim and Emily’s help.

And the whirl continued the next day with a trip up Grouse Mountain on the Gondola.

At the bottom waiting to board the gondola.
Off we go.
Half way up passing the other gondola coming down.
Nearly there.
What’s all the fuss about? Can we get off now?

Lots to do at the top, so here are a few(!!) highlights.

The main area, first we had to feed the ravenous ones!!
Lovely views of Vancouver.
And another.
Huge wooden carvings.
Father and son.
Another carving.
Grizzly bears.
Say cheese!! Those aren’t bears!!


How big are the bears?
Unfortunately the bears were hiding from the sun.
We could just see some fur.
This is a bit of a cheat for Zaid. One of the bears when Grandad and Grandma saw them 5 years ago.
And this grizzly was on full show!!
After lunch it was the Lumberjack Show!! Not this pair, some proper lumberjacks.


Climbing a tree by inserting climbing boards in it.
Axe throwing.
Log rolling.
Somebody else got in on the act.
You’re not supposed to be up there!!
He’s fallen off but guess what he is attached to a zip wire!!
The cast takes a bow!!
Caroline, Rashied and I went up the chair lift to the very top of Grouse Mountain
Saw the aerofoil tandems taking off.
Up and away.
Still going up!!
It was at this point that Rashied dropped his phone!! Nasty crunch as it hit the rocks below but one of the operators at the top managed to retrieve it and although the screen was badly cracked it still worked!!
The view from the top.
An even better view!!
Vancouver way below.
Going down the mountain on a zip line.
Grandma was looking after Zaid and Zara.

We had a long queue to get down the mountain to the car park and Rashied was supposed to be picking up their hire car by 6pm for their trip to see Julia and Michael in Port Townsend.  Because we were late leaving we got stuck in the rush hour traffic and had to abandon that and find somewhere to eat instead. We ended up at Tony’s Fish and Oyster Café on Granville Island where we had a lovely meal.

Not bad this fish and chips!!
Grandad are you taking a picture of me…. pose!!

We then went our separate ways, Caroline, Rashied and the kids back to Tim’s to get ready for their trip to Port Townsend, and us back to the RV.

The next few days we managed to get some well earned rest, as chasing around after grandkids is exhausting. Tim and Emily had a college project they had to finish. However, we did meet up with them on Sunday night for an Indian meal at Thali’s restaurant in Surrey, half way for both of us.

Part 2 covering the second week and more of our Vancouver stay to follow.










Port Townsend

We drove along RT101 having already arranged with Julia (my sister Wendy’s daughter) that she would meet us on the edge of Port Townsend to guide us into our site at Point Hudson Marina and RV Park, as there was a lot of road works on the main route. She had investigated a couple of alternative routes, avoiding narrow roads (does such a thing exist in the USA?), and overhanging trees (remember we are 12ft 6in high just under truck height) and had chosen one that would work.

Julia was parked up on the edge of the road and we followed her in to our site. Wow not quite a front row waterfront site, but only one row back looking out over the Puget Sound which is around the Fort Worden Point from the Straits of Juan de Fuca and is the main shipping route into Seattle from the Pacific.

The view from the front window.
Our site.
The main channel into Seattle.
Lots of wildlife.
Point Hudson marina.
Sunset over the Puget Sound.
Sunset towards Fort Worden.
Marina at sunset.

We went out for a meal at Doc’s marina Grill with Julia and Michael in the evening where we worked out what we would do over the weekend. It was lovely to see them at last and after a very nice meal we went to bed that night with sound of the channel bell tinkling away in the distance.

On the Saturday it had been decided we would drive to Julia’s and Michael’s early in order to drive to Hurricane Ridge, but on the way stop for breakfast in Port Angeles at a place that Julia knew called Chestnut Cottage. After a lovely breakfast we then carried on up to Hurricane  Ridge, 5,242ft up in the Washington Olympic National Park. From here you get 360° views of the mountains inland to the south and Port Angeles, the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island to the North. There is also quite a bit of wildlife around, the deer especially just grazing peacefully yards from the visitors centre.

Deer grazing on the hillside.
Inland towards Olympic National Park.
Cloud covered glaciers. the weather gradually improved all day.
Even I had to put on a fleece as the wind blowing over the snow bank in the next photo was making it quite cold!!  Julia & Michael and the two Brits.
Straits of Juan de Fuca and a snow bank. Quite a few paths were still closed by snow and this is June 16th!!
Another view of the mountains.
Lots of flowers just beginning to come out.
View towards Port Angeles, Dungeness Spit and Vancouver Island.
Snow was still melting and causing waterfalls.
Dungeness Spit in the distance. You can just see the Lighthouse.
A tunnel on the main road to Hurricane Ridge.
Trees clinging to the bare rock above the road. I was amazed they didn’t fall down.

From here we went to Dungeness Spit in the above photo, a spit of sand that sticks out into the Straits and has a lighthouse at the end. Waves crashing in on the beach and yet more driftwood. An artist who used driftwood as their medium would not lack a supply for their art in Washington state.

Dungeness Spit Lighthouse a 5 mile walk along the spit. Needless to say we were not up to the 10 mile hike!!
The Spit with driftwood!!
Looking towards Port Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.
One of the many container ships going to and from Seattle.
Group photo on the Spit!
A deer just came walking past!!

We then returned to Julia and Michael’s house where we had a steak barbeque. The views from the front of their house over Discovery Bay are absolutely stunning especially when the sun sets through the trees.

Sitting on the front looking out over Discovery Bay.
A yacht in discovery Bay.
Hummingbird on their feeder.
Sun setting over the bay.
Almost gone.

The next day (Sunday) we set off early again from J&M’s house to go and see Lake Cushman, a snow melt fed lake in the Olympic National Park. The weather was now getting hotter and we arrived at the lake in brilliant sunshine.

Lake Cushman’s beautiful blue waters.
Look at those clouds!! A swimming and canoeing area.
Another view.
Mountains behind the lake.
Crystal clear water.
Snow still melting so it was still filling the lake.
One of the many boating and swimming docks on the lake.
Looking down the lake towards Olympic National Park.
You can get to the lake many ways, but your own seaplane helps!!

We then drove back to J&M’s for another barbeque and another look at Discovery Bay.

Another hummingbird.
Sun going down over Discovery Bay.
Nearly there.
The sun setting over the beach at the RV Park.

Monday was a work day for J&M so we just pottered around the RV Park and the Marina, but we returned the favour and cooked them a meal in the RV after they had finished work.

Got the table and chairs out on the camping mat and ate breakfast outside.
Who wouldn’t with this view.
This is the port channel buoy whose bell we could hear at night.
Loads of birds feeding as the tide went out.
Need a lift Sir!! Crane used to get boats into the boatyard.
Need a few $$$$ for some of these. The black hulled one to the left behind the car was $105,000 for a second hand yacht!!
A lovely dual masted yacht.

On the Tuesday both Julia and Michael had the afternoon off so we met them at the Spruce Goose at Port Townsend “International ” Airport. It is an International Airport as people fly into it from Canada in their private planes!! The Spruce Goose is renowned for its fruit pies and I can say with some certainty they lived up to their reputation. We then drove back to Port Townsend and we walked around looking at the sights. Pretty little town with some interesting shops.

A ship yard where they train boat builders.
Building a wooden clinker built boat. Out the back a steamer was steaming the wood ready for it to be bent into the hull.
Bronze Sea Otters.
The refurbished Town Hall. At one point it was threatening to fall, but it was carefully restored and the end piece to the left added to improve the structure.
One of the Jetties.
Beautiful yacht.
The original Fire Bell and the oldest in Washington State.
The Post Office (originally the Customs House).
The ferry we will be using at the end of the week.

We ate out in the evening at the Old Whiskey Mill.

On the Wednesday we decided to drive to Seattle to have a look round. Got caught up in a massive traffic jam where they were redeveloping the I5 at Tacoma, so it took us a bit longer than expected.

First we visited Pike Place Market, which sells almost anything you can think of but is also famous for a particular fishmonger that throws their fish around when creating a display.

Pike Place Market
The fish display at the fishmonger that threw the fish around. I was too slow to catch it (a photo not the fish). They had also fixed up a lever in the mouth of the monkfish and if you got too close it talked to you!!
Panoramic view of the harbour from a viewpoint on top of the market. The market is 5 stories high.
Circus shop where you can see some strange exhibits, like a shoe from the World’s Tallest man.

From here we drove to see the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. The Space Needle was partially closed because they were refurbishing it, but there were still some magnificent views. The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum was an absolute stunning exhibition of Dale Chihuly’s glass works.

View of Seattle from the top of the Needle looking North.
View of the Harbour from the Needle.
Seattle Skyscrapers from the Needle.
Someone trying not to look too worried as she leant back on the glass between her and a 605ft drop. Notice the left hand gripping the bench!!
Chihuly interior glass garden.
Lovely colours in these glass vases.
Amazing glass work.
Sea creatures based sculpture. This is an octopus.
Huge multi faceted glass sculpture, made from hundreds of individual blown pieces.
Detail from within the sculpture.
A complete glass garden.
Another view.
A closer look.
A boat full of individual blown glass pieces.
A blue chandelier.
Another chandelier the other way up.
A stunning blue glass bowl.
And an orange one.
A complete ceiling made up of individual glass pieces.
Another ceiling panel.
And another.
Glass sculpture in the garden.
Same piece with the Needle in the background.
Glass pieces in the garden looking like real flowers
This piece must have been at least 25ft tall.
Same piece, trying to get Anne and the Needle in the picture.
This hall was closed for a private function but I managed to sneak a picture.
Another tall garden piece.
A magnificent tall glass sculpture looking like plant in Avatar(the SF film).

Judy (Anne’s pen friend in Florida) had told us to visit this place and all I can say is if you get a chance to see it don’t miss it.

After eating our evening meal in Seattle we decided to go back to Port Townsend using the Bainbridge Island ferry.

The M.V Spokane our Washington State Ferry.
Seattle skyline from the ferry.
Sunset with people on the front of the ferry.
Sun setting as we approached the Bainbridge Island dock.

On the Thursday we had a rest day after the long day in Seattle, although we did manage to fit in a trip to Poulsbo for the mandatory Quilt shop visit. In the evening we went out J&M’s for a barbeque and the group photo!!

Magnificent view in the background, pity the foreground spoiled it :-).

And Friday 22nd dawned and it was Anne’s birthday. We first of all Skyped Alan and then Claire, although we missed Caroline’s call, so they could all wish her Happy Birthday. We had managed to find some clotted cream in Poulsbo the previous day so I made some scones from a packet mix in the convection oven, and we had a cream tea in the afternoon with Julia, after we had visited the Port Townsend Museum.

Carriages in the museum.
Statue that I think was on the top of the Town Hall before its refurbishment.

And then we went to a local restaurant called The Fountain for Anne’s Birthday dinner.

Anne’s Birthday dinner.
And when we returned to the RV the Ferry was caught in a rainbow.

Saturday dawned and we had to get up early to pack everything up, hitch up the Spark and get ready for our Ferry crossing to Coupeville at 11.45am. We had to be there 45 minutes before the booking time, and Julia and Michael came to see us off. We really enjoyed our visit to them and all they had arranged for us to do. We really liked Port Townsend and there house on Discovery Bay.

So at 11.00 am we pulled up at the ferry gate and got measured (50ft 6in long and well within the height as the ferry takes trucks).

We then paid our fare and waited in Row 1 for the ferry to arrive.

Here it comes!!
Two big trucks right on the front.

We were first on as we were the biggest vehicle on this trip and they parked us right at the front in the middle of the car deck, so we got a really great view out of our front window for the whole trip.

The ferry engine is running to keep it in the dock.
And off we go.
Cliff edges on the Coupeville shore.
Approaching the Coupeville Dock
Journey’s End, well not quite we need to get to Concrete.

Eventual destination is the KOA at Concrete / Grandy Creek which is only 50 miles from the US / Canada border but below the last Flying J / Pilot gas (petrol) station where we have to fill up as petrol is way more expensive in Canada than in the US.

Also gives us time to figure out what we can and cannot take across the border as everything we read gives a different story from “they will intensively search your vehicle” to “they will  stamp your passports and wave you through”!!

We arrived at the campground at about 2.30pm and parked up. Nice site, but obviously a Canadian / USA camping holiday destination as there are hundreds of children running around!!

Parked up among the trees.
Another photo.
We had a surprise visitor (our son Timothy) on the first night, who came to wish his mother Happy Birthday.

After we had sorted out our laundry and checked all that was in the fridge etc. on Monday 25th June we set off to the border.

The queue at the Canadian border.

After about half an hour we reached the border. The guy in the booth asked us if we had any Tobacco, Alcohol, Firearms and explosives, to which the answer was “No Tobacco, 2 bottles of wine, no firearms or explosives”, he stamped our Passports and said “Welcome to Canada, enjoy your stay” and waved us through. Next sign we saw was …….

And we then drove to our Canadian site for the next 3 weeks, Fort Camping, Brae Island, Fort Langley, British Columbia.

That will be my next post, our stay in Vancouver.












Forks, Washington

I had booked this site in complete ignorance that Forks was the setting for the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer which were later turned into the Twilight films. Luckily we did not see any vampires!! Of course our children thought it was a huge joke that the “parentals” didn’t realise the significance of Forks!!

To be honest we booked this site to give ourselves a bit of a rest after the guided tours of Bend and Portland (thank you Judy and Susan!!), as we looked at the guide books and it appeared that they were not many touristy things to do. That shows that you should never trust guide books as they might be coming from a different perspective from you. They were right about Forks itself as apart from a good Fabric/Quilting shop and a rather run down timber museum there was very little to recommend it. The people were friendly and the supermarkets were fine so that was all we needed.

The site we stayed at Riverview RV Park was really excellent. Good sites, not too busy, and really friendly owners.

All parked up.
Laundry and Shower block was brand new.

After a couple of days of doing nothing (bliss) we set off to take a look at a local seaport called La Plush. Amazingly pretty place, rather like a Cornish crabbing village but on a larger scale as you will see. Loads of wildlife including bald eagles and seals, plus a crab fishing fleet and numerous sport fishermen catching cod and halibut.

La Push restaurant and totem pole as the town is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation.
The port at La Push.
Halibut caught by a sport fisherman.
Cod caught by the same man.
A crab boat. Crab, as in England, has to landed alive, but they do it by having a 3,000 gallon tank built into the boat. No store pots required!!
The tank full of crab.
After 10mins of pumping you can see the live crab more easily. There was about a ton of crab. They call them Dungeness crab, it is like our edible crab, but with smaller claws.
A bald eagle perched waiting for fish.
Another picture.
La Push beach – never seen so much driftwood (or so I thought).
The channel into the harbour comes around the island and you enter between the jetty and the island.
The main channel into the harbour which is to the right. Beyond the bank at the top of the picture is Rialto beach.

A beautiful place made even more beautiful by the discovery of Rialto beach which is reached by driving down the road on the other side of the Quillayute River that runs into the port.

View down the Quillyate river towards La Push port.
Rialto Beach, crashing surf and masses of driftwood (much more than on La Push beach).
A panoramic view of the beach.
The forest comes right down to the beach.
Huge driftwood logs including huge trees still with roots that are apparently tossed up onto the beach by winter storms.

This beach is one of those places that takes your breath away and makes you sit back and just enjoy your surroundings, and it wasn’t even mentioned in the guide book!!

The next place we found was the Makah Cultural and Research Center at Neah Bay, which is on the Makah Indian Reservation right at the top left hand corner of Washington State. To get there you drive along RT 112 which winds along the northern coast of Washington State. Across the Strait of Juan de Fuca is Vancouver Island, our first sighting of Canada.

Vancouver Island across the really blue sea.

The road itself was really interesting as it was right on the edge of the coast and in some cases they had carved the cliffs out to accommodate it.

RT 112 hanging on the edge of the coast.
Cliffs carved away to get the road in.

The Makah Indian Museum was really interesting, with most of the artefacts in the museum excavated from an archaeological dig. The site of the dig was a Makah village further down the coast at Ozette that had been completely covered by a mud slide sometime in the last 300-500 years. A bit like Pompeii it was a sudden event, so complete Makah Indian longhouses had been engulfed and the people and cultural artefacts had been frozen in time. It is well worth a visit, but I can only show you external pictures as for some strange reason they wouldn’t allow photographs to be taken inside the museum.

The Makah Indian Museum
Carved figures outside the museum.
Museum entrance.

Neah Bay itself was an interesting place, with a small port and some shops.

Neah Bay and its port.
Sea lions had settled in on the dock.

Next day we had a closer look around Forks, still didn’t discover anything of interest except this (this is going to bore most readers except if you are a train buff!).

There was an example of a very unusual train that was used in the logging industry around this area. It is called The Shay Locomotive and it featured a steam driven, all wheel drive engine that could pull huge loads up very steep inclines and didn’t need steel rails, it could work on wooden rails.

Instead of a normal steam cylinder driving the front wheels like a normal steam engine, the steam was used to drive vertical cylinders which in turn drove universal joints geared onto each axle including the tender, which meant although they ran very slowly the tractive power was immense. It’s a bit like putting a transverse engine into a train.

The vertical cylinders that provided the driving power.
The series of transfer boxes along the side of the train that drove each individual axle.
The complete train with the vertical cylinders and the transfer boxes on the front AND back axles if you look carefully.

On our last day in Forks we went back to have another look at Rialto Beach on a beautifully sunny day (which boded well for our upcoming visit to Port Townsend). It was as wild as ever but it was lovely to just sit there and watch the Pacific waves crash onto the beach.

Sun shining on Rialto Beach.
The islands just off La Push.
Island way off the coast that used to be part of the mainland.
Power of the sea, a huge 70ft plus tree, plus roots just tossed up onto the beach during the winter.

The next day we drove to Port Townsend. More of this in the next post.










Portland and Fort Stevens National Park

The drive to Portland was quite short but quite complicated with all the bridges over the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Didn’t help that we met a bridge swing queue!! Also it was my last chance to put the RV through a truck wash, but it did look good afterwards!!

Here it is parked up at our site at Sandy Riverfront RV  and the river was right behind us.

Our site.
Sunset at the site.
The view behind us down the Columbia river.

We had come to Portland not only to see the sights but also to meet up with Susan Dean, Anne’s cousin. She promised to show us the sights in and around Portland, and she lived up to her promise.

On the Saturday we visited the Chinese Garden in Portland. The garden was built in 1999-2000 and was a collaboration with the Chinese city of Suzhou which Portland is twinned with. It was built by 65 artisans from Suzhou to a design by Kuang Zhen, with over 500 tons of rock including special Tai Hu rocks from Lake Tai in China. All the wood used was also imported and are from native trees of China. A very interesting and tranquil place, although when we visited it a Taekwondo demonstration was taking place, which made it a bit noisier!!

All the floors were made with individual stones formed into patterns.
All the woodwork was hand carved.
Hand made tiles and end caps.
The pavilions appeared to float over the central lake.
All sorts of flowers and plants throughout the garden.
An example of a Tai Hu rock carved by water.
The central lake.
Hand built patterned walls were everywhere.
The Taekwondo demonstration.
Some of the peonies grown in the garden.

From here we walked into downtown Portland where there was a Saturday Market and a Funfair.

One of Portland’s many bridges, but this is unusual as it has a central lift section.
The Saturday market.
A historical society group. The lady in the red Elizabethan dress had hand made the entire costume.
The Funfair. Wouldn’t catch me on that!!
Dragon boats ready for a race the next day.

We then took a trip on an aerial tramway to the hospital complex where Susan used to work (now retired), but it also gave you good views of Portland and its surroundings.

On the way up. The automatic ticket machines had failed so we got a free ride!!
View across Portland to the mountains from the top. Note the number of bridges!!
Not sure which snow capped mountain was we could just see (MT Hood perhaps?).


The gondolier and the view down the river.

The next day Susan took us on a scenic drive to see Mt Hood, via the Multnomah Falls and Bonneville Dam that Judy Goff had recommended because of the salmon ladder.

Prior to this we also stopped at a viewpoint that let you see the Columbia River Gorge.

The view up the Columbia river gorge.
Susan and I at the entrance to the Falls.
The Multnomah falls from far away.
Closer view with bridge that was currently closed due to last year’s forest fire closing the trails.
Two old codgers in the way of a nice view!!
The light playing on the falls gave it a very misty image.
The Bonneville Dam with lock gates (huge for really big ships) to the extreme left.
The spillway, wouldn’t fancy falling into that!!
Salmon on the ladder passing one of the viewing windows.
People count the Salmon as they swim up the river.
The Salmon ladder, tough going by the look of it.

Then we got to Mt Hood, and the Timberline Lodge. Some ski runs were still open in June, and the mountain still had quite a lot of snow on it. It is used as an Olympic skiing training centre as it has ski runs open all year round.

Mt Hood.
The lodge car park looking up the mountain. Notice the snow mobiles.
Snowmobiles dressing the ski runs.
People cross country Skiing.
Mt Hood statistics.
Still loads of snow.
The very impressive Timberline Lodge.

Keeping up the pace, Susan took us to see Mt St Helens the following day. This is the volcano that erupted in a huge explosion in May 1980, resulting in the top of the mountain being blown off, and one entire side collapsing leaving a horseshoe shaped caldera. The eruption killed fifty-seven people, and destroyed 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway. The elevation of summit of St Helens was reduced from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,363 ft (2,549 m) and it’s mass was reduced by 0.7 cubic miles which was spread over the surrounding countryside as ash and a pyroclastic flow avalanche which flattened an area of 230 sq. miles. An entire lake and recreation area called Spirit Lake was also destroyed with the remains of the lake containing hundreds of logs blown over in the explosion. It continues to erupt to this day, but not as violently, and is still an active volcano.

As you drive up to Johnston Ridge Observatory you see the ash fields and the trees that were flattened by the explosion.

Ash fields covering the valleys.
Flattened trees.
More flattened trees.
It was cloudy day but all of a sudden the clouds parted to show the caldera and the current volcano cone.
Mt St Helens with clouds obscuring the cone, but you can see the horseshoe shaped caldera.
A longer view showing the devastation in front of the observatory. It was here that a volcanologist David Johnston lost his life as the volcano erupted and he announced “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it”. His body was never found.
Even after 40 years it still looks like a moonscape with very little vegetation.

On the Tuesday the “Big Beast” had a first full service, which was required in the terms of our extended warranty, so we had to get up early, disconnect everything and hitch up the Spark. Susan was expecting us at her house later in the evening to meet more of Anne’s and Susan’s relations.

As is usual with the best laid plans of mice and men the service ran longer than was expected so we had to agree to leave “Big Beast” overnight, so we now had nowhere to sleep. Luckily Susan had a spare room and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer so we spent the evening meeting Anne’s relations and then stayed at her house. Susan’s son Orion (and his family) was one of those relations, plus some other very nice people we will someday figure out how we were related!! But it was a very good evening and we enjoyed meeting everyone, plus we also found out that Orion and his family would be at our next site, Fort Stevens, at the weekend and we promised to meet up with them.

So next day we went to pick up “Big Beast” after saying goodbye to Susan, we were due to move on the next day, only to find it still wasn’t ready and could we come back at midday. We returned as asked and all was well, so we drove back to our last night at the campsite.

The next day we moved on to Fort Stevens State Park, near Astoria in the top left hand corner of Oregon. We decided to camp there so we could see the rest of the Oregon coast down to the point of our trip North from Depoe Bay and the Washington coast north of the Columbia river which has a peninsular called Long Beach.

We had a very shaded but nice site in amongst the trees of the campground.

Our site.
Deep in the forest.
Big site with 8 camping areas.

Fort Stevens has 3 or 4 artillery bunkers that were manned in World War II. It is the only place in the USA that was bombarded in that war. A Japanese submarine came in close and used its gun to fire on the Fort. The battery retaliated  but the only damage caused on either side was a shell that exploded on the Fort’s baseball field!!

The southern arm of the Southern Jetty that together with the Northern Jetty protects the mouth of the Columbia river extends from the top of the state park out into the river.

Southern Jetty
Beaches looking down the Oregon coast.

The Columbia river entrance and sand bar is a very dangerous entrance to one of the main shipping rivers in the USA. Because of this the US Coastguard has their National Motor Lifeboat Training School based there as the sea conditions can be some of the worst on the Pacific Coast.

Nearby is the Astoria bridge that joins Oregon to Washington.

This is the bridge we will cross when we take the RV to Washington!!

As promised Orion, Caitlin and Rose and friends turned up on the Saturday and we were introduced to the delights of s’mores toasted on their campfire (American campers love their campfires!!).

Orion, Caitlin and Rose

If you can imagine a sweet biscuit with chocolate on one side with a fire-roasted marshmallow on top and another biscuit making the sandwich. It was one of the sweetest things I have ever tasted and set my teeth on edge. The Americans feed these to their kids on camping trips, no wonder they are so hyper!! Rose (Orion’s daughter) and her friend decided to go off and draw with charcoal on the camp road and very good they were too. Here they are holding the hands of their charcoal friend!!

Original artwork by Rose and her friend.

It was nice meeting them again, but I will give s’mores a miss next time.

On the Monday we explored the Oregon coast south of us. It was a mixture of a sort of US version of Blackpool called Seaside and more upmarket seaside towns with galleries and gift shops.

Seaside, the end of the Lewis & Clark trail, two early pioneers trying to find a North West passage. I doubt they would recognise it today.
Hotels behind the beach.
Somehow I thought we would find one of these!!
Apartments at the more upmarket Cannon Beach
Lots of driftwood artwork
Beaches are fantastic here as with the rest of Oregon.
Another scenic view!!
Imagine living in this house, what a view!! I guess the sobering thought is that it is slap bang in the middle of a tsunami zone!!
More miles of Oregon beach. How this state doesn’t have more tourists is beyond me.

We turned round at Manzanita the farthest town we had reached north of Depoe Bay.

Two kite surfers on Manzanita beach.

We got back to Astoria early in the evening on a lovely day and drove up to local landmark called The Column. It is a tower that you can climb up but it also has a beautiful painting all around it depicting the Lewis & Clark trail.

The Astoria Column
Looking towards the Cascades.
A panoramic view.
Looking towards Washington.

Next day we headed north into Washington to explore Long Beach. First stop was Ilwaco , a fishing port with a maritime museum with early lifeboats in it.

Ilwaco port.
Early lifeboat and life preservers through the ages.

Just beyond here was the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse with the US Coastguard practising helicopter cliff rescues.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
Coastguard helicopter.
Winching the winch man back up.
Further up the coast, there be whales!!

Long Beach as well as being a very long beach(!!) has a big oyster farming  area and there were mounds of oyster shells all over the place.

Oyster shell mound.
Oyster Boat
Someone else fancied a meal!!
Looking back to Oregon from the Washington side of the Columbia River.

On our last day we looked around Astoria. It has a very good maritime museum with an ex-Columbia lightship as an exhibit.

Astoria’s fortune was built on the Salmon canneries.
Picture of the cannery workforce
Exhibit that shows why the Columbia river mouth is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. Each dot is wrecked ship.
Five miles of Astoria bridge.
The Columbia lightship.
A trolley bus that runs along Astoria seafront.

The next day we left for Riverview RV Park  just outside of Forks Washington which will be my next post.

I should also point out that our RV Map has been updated all the way to Vancouver although the BLOG is not quite there yet!!