Thursday, September 30, 2010

Confluence State Park, Wenatchee, Washington

Backroads Destinations-Wenatchee, Lewiston, Missoula, Chico and Eugene

This post is about re-supply towns.  Those cities that provide enough in services and gorgeous setting to spend some time re-supplying, fixing things, and enjoying the culture and restaurants in the area.  For full-time travelers it is also a place to visit the dentist, doctor, and repair the vehicles.  The town  must be small enough to easily get around.

Our poster child for this posting is Wenatchee, Washington.  Wenatchee is our home base.  But it is also a great re-supply town.  It is large enough to have all the services like Costco,  good restaurants, outstanding health care facilities Wenatchee Valley Clinic and a great campground with bike path access into town.

If you look at the picture at the top of the blog.  The wooded area in the middle of the photo is all parkland and the campground is located at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers.  Here is the link to the State Park:  Confluence State Park.  There is a bike trail through the campground that heads to downtown Wenatchee and the Mall in East Wenatchee  Bicycle Trail.  Here is the map of the bicycle trail: Bike Trail Map.  The bike trail is currently being extended both north and south on the Douglas County side.  It will go north to Lincoln Rock State Park which is 5 miles north of Wenatchee.

If you are into the outdoors there is lots to do in Wenatchee.  Within 30 miles of Wenatchee you can go from desert to glaciers hanging on mountain peaks.  For more on non-motorized recreation check out this site:  Wenatchee Outdoors.  This web site lists the recreational activities within ONE hour drive of Wenatchee.  It is a full-time job just visiting all the recreation opportunities.

Wenatchee has lots of great restaurants.  One of our favorites are Visconti's.  Visconti's has made the Wine Spectators 100 best list.   Downtown is Inna's.  Inna's is a favorite for obvious reasons.  Whenever, I need a fix of Ukrainian food this is where I head.  Good food, make sure to leave room for desert.   Here is a guide to all the restaurants in Wenatchee Wenatchee Restaurant Guide.

There is a RV dealership that offers supplies and repairs just north of town on Highway 97A.  All Seasons RV at 509 663 6551 at 4182 Chelan Highway 97A North, Wenatchee.   They were more than helpful in getting our new trailer to fit our truck. 

For transmissions we recommend Wilder's Automatic Transmission at 1601 Pine Street, Wenatchee 509 662 6733.  After getting estimates of three thousand dollars from other dealerships on two different transmission repairs our costs at Wilders for the two repairs was $50 and $10.  Well, with the $10 bill I did go and get them a box of donuts the next day so the cost was a little higher.  Ten dollars covered coffee, but you really need donuts to go with coffee.

Other towns that we enjoy visiting include Eugene.  A college town with a Grateful Dead feel to it.  Great town to visit.  Here is a campground close to town:  Armitage County Park.

Lewiston, Idaho has a Costco and a campground just south of town, but linked to it with a bike trail.  Hells Gate State Park.

Chico, California is a great stop just off the I-5 madness.   We camped on the other side of the valley at Black Butte Lake.  This is a Corps of Engineers campground.

Missoula, Montana is another great spot.  There are National Forests campground some distance from town.  Our campsite, however, was here about 40 miles east of Missoula.  Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Area

So those are our current picks for towns.  What are your favorites??

Oh, we forgot to mention that it is steelhead season on the Wenatchee River.

After a hard day steelheading this is one of our favorite "soft places to fall".  Here is the review:  LaFuma Review.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pearrygin State Park, Winthrop, Washington

Well, this does not look like the typical boondocking spot with all the lawn and picnic table.  However, Pearrygin State Park Pearrygin State Park is a pretty full service state park just a couple of miles north of Winthrop.  We covered Winthrop earlier this year in the blog  Chewuck River.  That blog entry covered all the boondocking sites up the Chewuck River which is just a few miles north of the state park.

Here is map that shows all the boondocking locations on the Methow Valley Ranger District.Methow Valley Ranger District Boondock Locations.  Remember this map is six megs in size.  Pearrygin Lake is shown towards the bottom of the map.  So if your looking for boondocking locations there are plenty around the area.

If your looking for full hookups the cost is 28 dollars a night.  Half-price for those with a state parks disabled permit.  Here is a typical campsite.  This is unit 96 in the west half or the older campground.

Our recommendation is to avoid the state park between the last Saturday in April (fishing season opener) and Labor Day.  Just across from the state park is a commercial RV park:  Silverline Resort.  You can see the resort just across the lake at the top of this blog entry.   It is a popular place since there are so many things to do in a very small area. 

This trail is fairly typical of the trails in the area.  For most trails you need one of the federal national passes or there is a five dollar fee per day for parking at the trailhead.  You can use more than one trail a day for the five dollars and you can also buy extra passes keep them in the glove box and date them when you use them to access a trail

So if waterfalls, lakes, or mountain tops are your favorite trail destinations there is a large variety of trails to chose from in the area.  Plenty of easy trails and very difficult trails.

Do NOT attempt to hike the Easy Pass Trail unless you are in great shape and ready for a challenge.  However, the view from the top of the Easy Pass Trail is one of the great viewpoints in America.  Only four miles and 4000 feet straight up.  Complete story here:  What's in a Name?

In the previous blog entry we talked about the small town of Mazama.  Well, just past Mazama is a one lane road that leads to Hart's Pass.  Check with the Methow Valley Ranger District to make sure the road is open.
Here is the information on Hart's Pass and wildflowers in the area.  Hart's Pass.

Now you need to be forewarned on Hart's Pass Road.  The Forest Service has been fixing the road for years.  I first drove it in the late 1970's with my little red Datsun Pickup truck and wended my way through the rocky roadbed.  It has now been repaired that sedans can drive up the road.

What has not changed is the 3000 foot drop off the edge of this one lane road at Deadhorse Point.  No guard rails to mar the view.  Tioga George said it was the only road in the United States that scared him.  I took a National Park Service Ranger down the road and as he looked out from the passenger seat and saw only air I saw him visibly blanch.  So if your scared of heights pass on this road.  No trailers for obvious reasons.  There is a nice tent campground up high and lots of trails including the PCT for hiking.

We have had many posting on this special area around Winthrop. Winter is coming soon.  Both Hart's Pass and Highway 20 get snowed in fairly early.  Highway 20 reopens in late April or early May.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Highway 20, Mazama, Washington

Backroad Destination-Highway 20, Mazama, Washington

There are few great mountain highways in the United States.  The ones that stand out for me is the Going to the Sun Highway, Beartooth Highway, Tioga Pass Road, and Highway 20 which cuts through the North Cascades Region of Washington State.

We previously covered the lower portions of the highway here: Highway 20, Twisp, Washington.  Other near by areas were also covered:  30-Mile Memorial and Chewuch River.

The North Cascades Highway from Mazama west is a great drive and offers many short wonderful hikes.

Near the top of the pass  is Rainy Lakes trail.  This is a paved handicapped accessible trail that goes to a pretty high mountain lake.   There are benches for resting and paved trail does meet grade requirements for wheelchairs.   The trailhead requires a parking pass or a five dollar fee.  However, your Access or Senior pass left on the dash also works. 

Rainy Lake is a typical high mountain lake.  It shows why people get addicted to wandering the mountains of the west.   The waterfall at the end of the lake and crystal clear water, while in the spring the snow hangs in the cirque basin.  There is also a  longer trail to Lake Ann from the same trailhead that goes through some very pretty larch trees that turn golden in the fall.

There is ample parking and a loop making it easy for trailers to park and use the facility.

Don't miss this short walk!

Little farther down is the Washington Pass Overlook.  That is the location that the top picture of this blog was taken.  Sorry, the light was not perfect, but it does show why this is also a must stop location.

Now politicians like to take credit for all their "good" deeds.  So here are all the plaques with names and dates showing the politicians involved in building the North Cascades Highway.

The Forest Service tried to do its best to hide the markers.  Four markers in a small space.  Hopefully, in the future the native vegetation will completely cover the markers.

Washington Pass Overlook is also the site of an award winning design for a rest area.  Those people that are responsible for maintaining white elephant buildings would like to have the award recinded and the architects license revoked.

This "state of the art" building housed two toilet systems that did not work.  The building had solar panels on the roof with the "batteries and inverter" for the solar system stored in the basement.  The snowfall here is measured in feet and all that snow fell off the roof in front of the basement door!!  Leaving the door incased in ice while the remainder of the site was free of snow!  And as a taxpayer, you don't want to know what those supports cost you to repair.  But a few of the guilty names can be found on those markers the Forest Service tried to hide!

Down below Washington Pass is the Cutthroat Lake trail.  This is a fairly short, typical Forest Service trail to Cutthroat Lake.  This lake is not as pretty as Rainy Lake, but it is a nice hike easy hike.  Fido will enjoy the hike.  On most Forest Service trails dogs are allowed off-leash, but must be under voice control while hiking the trail.  Horse users do use this trail, so know how your dog will react when you encounter horse riders on the trail.  Rodeo's on the trail system are no fun for all concerned.

The short road to the trailhead is single lane with inter-visible turnouts.  There is a loop turnaround at the trailhead.  You must have a parking pass just like the Rainy Lake trailhead.  Those passes are good for the day so you can do several hikes in one day.  Hint: if you do not have an Access or Senior pass you can keep extra passes in your glove box and date them as you use them.

Now Mazama is the last stop for gas prior to going over the pass.  However, there are other reasons to stop in Mazama.  The country store has ice cream, wine with Lost River being the local winery with good reds, and all the other important stuff like lunch.  They are sort-of-kinda like a country store from the 19th and 21st century.  Thankfully, they must have missed the 20th century.  Here is their web site:  The Mazama Country Store.

Camping.  There are Forest Service campground at Lone Fir, Kilpchuck, and Early Winters.  Like all Forest Service campgrounds spurs are fairly short, but you should be able to find something that will "fit".  There are dispersed campsites on the road to Hart's Pass.  We will cover them in our next posting. 

Early Winters is a very small campground next to Highway 20, but it is on the Methow Valley Summer Trails so you can bicycle back to the Mazama Country Store for the second helping of ice cream.  For more information on activities in the Methow Valley, try this link: Summer Trails Magazine

Highway 20 is closed by snow in the fall and opens usually in late April or early May.  So plan your trip with that in mind.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, Odessa, Washington

Backroads Destination- Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area. Odessa, Washington

Once at a Forest Service conference the speaker asked everybody to describe their "home landscape".   The landscape that they felt was part of them.  My answer was any area affected by the Ice Age Floods.  I first drove across eastern Washington in my early 20's.  The landscape so moved me that I stopped and just looked.  Yes, I know for a Forester it is very light on trees, but there is just something special about this landscape.

Here is a link to a blog about the Ice Age Floods:  Ice Age Floods Blog.  Interesting reading.  This is part of the area affected by the floods.  It is similar to the  Quincy Wildlife Area, Seep Lakes and the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge covered in previous blog entries.  It is larger, more isolated, and wilder than those areas.

The Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area was purchased by the Bonneville Power Administration for the restoration of Sharptail Grouse habitat.  The BLM has been acquiring and trading parcels of land to block their holdings in this area.  The Wildlife Area is 21,000 acres while BLM has a similar acreage.  Twin Lakes Information. and Coffeepot Lake Information

There is no camping at the Swanson Lakes Wildlilfe Area and you must have the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department Parking Permit to use the area during the day.  Here is that link:  WDFW Parking Permit.

The BLM has a campground at Coffeepot Lake.  Six very small units that are geared for tent camping, but you can get a smaller trailer into one of the sites.  There is also a trailer parking area, where a larger rig would fit.  Here is a picture of the campground.  There is no fee, but the only service is really the toilet, tables, and fire rings.  As you can see the tent is blown over.  This area can get windy!  Coffeepot Lake is a game reserve with no hunting so it could be a good spot if you are a non-hunter during October.  The lake closes to fishing on September 30th.

Twin Lakes is also a pretty spot to camp.  You can get much larger rigs into Twin Lakes.  The access road is narrow, but fairly short with one steep stretch down to the campsite.

Lots of small lakes scattered throughout the area.  You can walk the trails or explore on your own across the grass and sage covered land.  Be sure to take a compass with you.  On a cloudy day it is easy to get turned around in this country without easily visible landmarks.  Those cliffs are the result of volcanic flows.  Think Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

In the spring and fall keep one eye open for rattlesnakes.  In the spring, ticks are prevalent.  These pictures were taken Labor Day weekend and as you can see crowds were light.

The small towns of Odessa, Wilbur, Creston, and Davenport are worth visiting.  There is a good lunch spots in Wilbur.  There are also the classic hamburger stands from days gone past.  Odessa has a nice nine hole golf course and some RV units next to the clubhouse.

This is backroads country.  If your looking for big-time trees, national parks, and tourist shops pass on this area.  Here are the GPS coordinates to Twin Lakes Campground:    47 31 50.87N   118 30 24.57W

Here is the Google Earth image.

The area is just a short drive from Spokane and Grand Coulee Dam.   So come visit  Eastern Washington....the Sun and Sage State.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Blog Summary--BackRoads Information

Blog Summary--Backroads Information

This is the quarterly summary of previous blog postings.  I am going to split it into several logical sections so you can easily follow the multi-blog postings.  The links are active so all you need is to click on the link.

Personal.  These are those personal blog entries that are somewhat related to boondocking.  If your not interested in learning more about Vladimir just skip this section.

The Kindness of Locals

Destination: America

Swakane Wildfire

Swakane Fire Final Update

The Toughest Thing About Retirement

Backroads Information--More than you wanted to know about Government Agencies

A Short History of Boondocking

Go Ask Alice........

Rules.....Who Needs Stinking Rules!!!

How Long Can I Camp?

Forest Service Boondock Locations

Driving Backroads!

Maps...the tool for exploring backroads

Backroads Information--Cool Information

When is the Best Time to Visit a National Forest or Park?

Free Fishing Spots

Boondocking and Birding Trails

Waterfront Boondocks

The Art of Seeing in the Outdoors

Living on the Edge

What's in a Name?

 Backroads Information--Finding Boondock Sites...the Process.

How to Find Boondock Locations--Part One

How to Find Boondock Locations--Part Two

How to Find Boondock Locations--Part Three

Well, that takes care of another quarterly summary.  We will go back to our regular posting schedule.  If there are specific topics or areas that you are interested in finding more information.  Post a comment or e-mail me at 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010