Out of the Frying Pan…

For the past month or so, we’ve been circulating in the Northwest, waiting for news about whether Canada would open their border to US tourists. The first announcement, on June 21st, said they would remain closed and they would re-assess the situation on July 21st. So we waited for that date, thinking that if they opened the border then, we might still have time to make it to Alaska and spend three to four weeks there before heading back before the weather turned cold there.

But last week Canada announced that they would open the border on August 9th. This means that on that date either:

A. There will be a mad rush to Alaska, clogging the border crossings and booking all of the campgrounds. (Note: I’ve already checked; the campgrounds in British Columbia are already mostly booked solid, just with Canadian tourists.)


B. People will decide that heading to Alaska during the second week of August doesn’t leave enough time to fully enjoy the state before having to return.


C. All of the above.

Presently, we’re of the opinion that it may be too late to ride to Alaska just to turn around and ride back after only a couple of weeks there. But I still want to tour British Columbia and Alberta, because I’ve been there three or four times already on a bike, and (IMHO) the scenery and wildlife are hard to beat in North America, at least this close. So we’ve got another week or so to wander around this part of the country and decide whether we can make it to BC, via one of the smaller border crossings.

While we’ve been in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve received multiple emails from friends saying the same thing: “How are the fires there?” or “It looks like you’re surrounded by fires.” We actually were on the coast and away from the fires, so we hadn’t noticed them for the most part. Until now.

We left Tacoma late on a Sunday, and spent the night at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, just east of the Seattle-Tacoma area. This is a nice park on the Green River, with nice swimming and kayaking areas. The next morning we packed up and left Kanaskat and took Highway 2 across Washington, stopping at Snoqualmie Falls as we left the campground.

These 268-foot tall falls are best known for their appearance in the television show Twin Peaks.

As we continued east, we stopped for fuel in Leavenworth. This entire town is made to look like a Bavarian village, right down to the McDonalds and the signage on the Starbucks.

A little bit of Bavaria in central Washington.

After Leavenworth, we continued east through Waterville (“Home of the Shockers” — still trying to figure that one out) to Sun Lakes State Park just outside of Coulee City, Washington. This place was, well, different, to say the least. This part of Washington is pretty much just desert, with some farmland thrown in. There’s a lake here, and the State Park is on the lake. The camping is considerably different from what we’ve become accustomed to; up until now, we’ve been camping in forests and lush areas. This park is all green grass with trees. None of which you are allowed to pitch a tent on. You must place your tent on the edge of the road, basically on a rough gravel/paved surface, which can be difficult to differentiate from the road itself. What looks at first glance to be the parking area for cars is actually the tent pitch. The picnic table is also in this parking area; heaven forbid you might want to sit on the grass.

This is our campsite. Not the grass behind it, but this parking extension on the side of the road.

Nowhere on the State Park reservation system does it show or mention that you camp on the road, not on the grass. This is the first notice you get of that.

We pitched our tent clear of the grass, fixed dinner and went to bed. About 5am, we awoke to hear the wind blowing the trees fairly strongly. It smelled like someone left their campfire burning (campfires are not allowed due to the severe wildfire danger). As I climbed out of the tent, it was clear that we were very close to what is now known as the Sunnyslope fire. The sky was dark and brown with smoke, and you could smell and feel it. We packed up quickly and left in the early dawn smoke.

From Sun Lakes State Park all the way across eastern Washington and the Idaho panhandle, the sky was smoke and haze. The temperatures also climbed back up into the upper 90s. Eventually as we made our way into Montana the smoke lessened (though never went away), and the temperatures came back down to the upper 80s and lower 90s. We rolled into Columbia Falls, Montana, near the entrance to Glacier National Park, and met our hosts for the next week.

2 thoughts on “Out of the Frying Pan…

  1. Looks awesome Pat!
    I hope you make it up north and ride until the road ends.
    That T7 looks great! thanks for posting all your travel gear too

    • Thanks Curt! The T7 is doing great, even though we’ve asked it to be a mule with a house worth of stuff on it. Will update the blog in a couple of days with info on whether we’re headed north, and how far (it’s getting late in the season!).
      Hope all is well. Keep in touch.

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