A near disaster for Betsy, a waterfall and lava tube – Hat Creek, CA

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We were excited to move on to our next stop at Hat Creek, CA as a home base to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park.  This was our second attempt, since heavy snow had turned us away the first time in 2016.  As we were humming south on I-5, we forgot that we were crossing into California and had to go through an agricultural checkpoint.  But our lemons and other fruits passed muster and we were waved through – for sure it was nothing like the stress of crossing a U.S. border!

Welcome to California, where you must show the fruits and vegetables you’re taking into the state

Along the way we admired the volcanic beauty of Mt. Shasta, and got a brief look at Mt. Lassen:

Mount Shasta as seen from I-5

A peek at snow-covered Lassen Peak

About 50 miles short of Rancheria RV Park on highway 89, alarms started sounding on the dashboard and the “Stop Engine” light illuminated.  Steve diligently monitors engine conditions while driving, but this alert showed the engine had overheated rapidly, indicating something had gone seriously wrong.

After quickly shutting down the engine we walked back to discover that the lower radiator hose had come off, emptying all of the engine coolant in seconds.  Fortunately, the clamp was still on the hose.  Although the strength of the clamp was in question (part of our annual maintenance includes checking all hose clamps) Steve was able to re-attach it.  We had no choice but to fill the system with 10 gallons of tap water without coolant – me fetching the water and him pouring it in – thankfully we had just enough in our fresh-water tank!

This was all of the coolant that remained after blasting out of the radiator to cover Betsy’s butt and the car

We were very happy that we had enough water and the needed tools onboard to get us back on the road 🙂

My mechanic got right to work…

Many cars and 18-wheelers roared by, inspiring us to complete the job as quickly as possible

Onward we went to our campground after a one-hour delay.  I followed in the car so I could give Steve a heads-up if I saw any signs of water leaking or pouring out.

I also kept glancing at Mount Shasta behind as we drove on

At the campground, Steve spent the afternoon and the next morning purchasing a new clamp and the coolant we needed so he could drain and refill the system again.

We considered this a near-disaster because we were concerned that the turbocharger or engine could have been damaged by the overheating, but everything seemed to survive OK.  Being over 40 miles from the nearest town on a Sunday and in an area with no cell signal didn’t help, but that’s a given, right?  And thinking about Betsy having to be towed was really scary, as we know that large motorhomes can incur a lot of damage from tow operators who don’t know what they’re doing.

Steve checked the coolant PH with a test strip and found that we were good to go. Whew! Now with that episode behind us, we focused on exploring the area and have some fun!

Burney Falls

We didn’t know about this place until we read the RV park’s brochure.  The centerpiece of McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, it’s one of the most spectacular waterfalls in California.  It can be viewed from near the parking lot, but we also followed the Falls Loop Trail to the foot of the falls, then over a stream and behind the falls before descending to the valley floor:

Snow melt from Burney Mountain 15 miles upstream feeds the falls.  The main falls are two large streams cascading from the top with sheets of water streaming over the cliff face,.  They are fed from underground springs and create a curtain of water.  It was still gushing this time of the year, and we imagined what it would be like in springtime with the snow just starting to melt.

My photo doesn’t do it justice, listening to the thundering water and feeling the mist make you feel the magnificence

The trail led us along Burney Creek, through Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, and a variety of oak and basalt talus slopes:

Basalt talus slope along the trail

Viewed from across the creek

The creek reflects the hues of autumn leaves

Subway Cave

About three miles from the campground was another unexpected pleasure to explore.  It’s an easy third of a mile walk through the underground world of a lava tube where we viewed the effects of volcanism.  If you don’t like caves or darkness this isn’t for you.  But we enjoyed it, and it was FREE!

With flashlights in hand, we entered the tube

In terms of geology, this tube was created less than 20,000 years ago during volcanic eruptions near present-day Hat Creek.  The lava on top, exposed to the air, cooled and formed a hard cap, while molten lava continued to flow beneath.  Eventually, the molten lava drained away leaving a hollow cave, and this is what we explored in the dark:

Although no lighting was provided, we were able to read interpretive signs with our flashlights

It was a chilly 46º degree in the cave, and we enjoyed our haunting exploration

Exiting the cave

The above natural attractions were unexpected bonuses to our main reason to stop here, which was to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park.  And that’s what’s up next…


Next up:  Lassen Volcanic National Park


Southern passage through Oregon on I-5

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Our next stop heading south was Wilsonville, Oregon, the halfway point between Portland and Salem.  Steve was due for his quarterly doctor visit in Tucson, AZ and months ago he had chosen Portland as his getaway airport.  It was an uneventful rainy day while he was away, but a very happy day upon his return when he told me his oncologist won’t need to see him again for a whole year! 🙂 Continue reading

A state capitol visit and reconnecting with friends – Olympia, WA

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We were hoping to see some sunshine when we got back to the good ol’ USA on Sept 15th (my, that was a long time ago!), but it seemed like we had brought the same foggy dreary days that we experienced in Victoria, BC back with us.  I know, I know, there’s a lot of that in the Pacific Northwest 😉

Having emptied our refrigerator of all fruits and vegetables for the border crossing, our first order of business was grocery shopping and then we hibernated in Sequim as a storm passed through.  We were quickly overwhelmed by cabin fever and headed out for a 6-mile hike at Slab Camp Trail #838.  It was lined with a variety of mushrooms that seemed to love the wet weather:

From Sequim our southward migration continued to Olympia, the capital of Washington.  As you may guess we took time for a guided tour of the state capitol building.  We learned that it’s unique in that it was intentionally formed as multiple buildings on a “capitol campus”; it faces Capitol Lake, Puget Sound, and the distant Olympic Mountains.  It was intended to be seen from afar as a single large structure supporting the dome of the Legislative Building at its center:

The Legislative Building and Justice Building as seen from Capitol Lake

The state is named after the first president of the United States, and no doubt he would be pleased that the state seal featuring him is found not only on the rotunda floor but throughout the building as decorations on railings, doorknobs, furniture, and curtains.  It lacked the historical artifacts and striking works of art we’ve seen in other capitol buildings, and our tour guide advised that a simplistic, sparse atmosphere is exactly what was intended.

The rotunda holds four statuesque fire pots in its corners that replicate ancient Roman signal lights, with the state seal and a bust of George Washington overlooking it

All the original lighting designs inside and out were created by Tiffany, including an ornate 5-ton bronze centerpiece chandelier made by artists in New York and shipped via railroad.

Looking up

After the tour we followed paths around Capitol Lake while viewing the colorful urban setting of downtown Olympia and its wooded hillsides surrounding the capitol building.  We ended our walk at Percival Landing.

View of Capitol Lake as seen from the hilltop campus

Can you spot the tourist?

That evening we were invited to dinner at Ed and Sharon’s beautiful home.  We first met them by chance at Tybee Island, GA last fall and at that time they invited us to visit them should we happen to be in Olympia.  Here we were a year later, happy to see them and enjoy a wonderful meal…

…and the view from their home!

The Capitol Building at the south end of Budd Inlet

I was flabbergasted upon seeing Mt Rainier from their backyard!

We had a delightful happy hour and dinner while getting to know them better.  This is what makes the RV lifestyle so awesome, meeting people on the road and forging friendships along the way.  We had a wonderful time, thank you Ed and Sharon!

Sharon, Steve and Ed

We also connected with my old friends Erwin and Estrella.  Erwin is a friend from college, and Estrella and I were co-workers at a bank in the Philippines.  What’s really heartwarming is that Erwin asked me in advance what Filipino food did I crave that he could cook and bring with them on their visit.  I haven’t seen this guy since my college days, and now he’s bringing us food – not one, but two potfuls of deliciousness!  He’s a great cook, and our tummies were very happy that night.

It was so good to see them again and spend several hours reminiscing about good old days back in the Philippines. “Daghang Salamat, magkita na pud ta puhon.”

All that good food prompted us to search for a trail to burn off some calories.  Tumwater Falls Park was a few miles from our site at American Heritage Campround.  We followed a scenic loop trail along the Deschutes River and three cascading waterfalls, with interpretive signs featuring images that illustrate the history of the area.  The Olympia Brewing Company was built at the lower falls in 1906, and they claimed to brew the best beer on the west coast.  The waterfall we saw during our hike was displayed on their cans for decades:

Tumwater Falls

Olympia Beer – there’s the waterfall!

The final stretching of our legs on this stop was at Millersylvania State Park, nestled in broad stands of old-growth cedar and fir trees.  The Miller family gave the 842-acre property to the state in 1921,  stipulating that it must forever be used as a park.

Buildings such as this one were constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, almost entirely by hand

Old-growth fir trees were plentiful

Millersylvania means “wooded glade”

And with that we continued on to Oregon!


Next up:  Yet another state capitol visit and new friends


What a Hike! Maple Pass Loop Trail – Washington

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What an absolutely stellar hike we took here!  We both agreed Maple Pass Loop Trail was our favorite hike so far this year.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

At first I was just going to lump this hike with my previous post about Winthrop, but this hike was so amazing that it deserved its own space.  But first some stuff about the national park… Continue reading

A Small Town With a Western Flair – Winthrop, WA

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Our destination in north-central Washington was the little town of Winthrop, located in the northern portion of Methow Valley along North Cascades Highway 20.  It’s surrounded by incredible vistas, ranch lands and soaring mountains.  Our one-week stay was at Pine Near RV Park, only a stone’s throw from downtown Winthrop.  Once we got hooked up it was time for a walk there to check it out:

Continue reading

Blazing Across Eastern Washington

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Exiting Oregon, we crossed into eastern Washington on a new-to-us route.  We loved the COE (Corps of Engineers) Plymouth Park even as we were setting up camp.  It’s well managed and maintained, spacious and quiet with level sites – nice!  The folks at the gate were so friendly that we had a chat with them each time we passed through.  They suggested some things to do in Washington, but also pointed across the Columbia River with advice about places to visit back in Oregon. Continue reading

Breezing over the Oregon Trail – Eastern Oregon

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Like the emigrants before us, we continued our northward trajectory and crossed into eastern Oregon.  We wanted to stay at Baker, close to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, but due to a rally event all campgrounds were fully booked. That seems to be happening more and more often these days…

So instead, Betsy hauled us up onto Flagstaff Hill, where the center itself was located with lots of parking. Continue reading

Breezing Over the Oregon Trail in Southwestern Idaho

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Crossing into Idaho from Nevada, the scenery quickly changed from mountains to acres and acres of farmland.  The local spuds had welcomed us back to their state.  While here, our home base for a week was at Three Island Crossings State Park, where we immediately noticed their amazing grass-watering regimen.  A lady there was strictly dedicated to the task of managing sprinklers throughout the park all day long, and she did a wonderful job! Continue reading