Sunday, May 22, 2016

Smiley and Cheerful

"Are you really that happy?" queried a friend.  "Your blog photos always look so smiley and cheerful."
"Yes," I said, "I mean no, well, not always."

Living in 80 square feet, depending almost entirely on one another for almost everything can definitely be a challenge. As we roll along in Thistle stress can ooze up from the cracks in the road. We never know where we will be camped at night or what will unfold around the next bend. Maneuvering around the dog or each other in such a tiny space, just to cross or uncross our legs, is challenging.

When stress joins us I can get testy, and sometimes downright grumpy.  Stress for Ed puts him into an unresponsive mode, which can morph into grumpy too.  There you have it, one testy person running headlong into one unresponsive person, with two-speeds of grumpy nipping at their heels.

Freshly on the road, mellow seems to be on hold until we reestablish our habits. "Where the heck is my toothbrush?" "Pleeeeze, don't make route decisions without me." "Yikes, dog hairs are even in my coffee!" Then we move into the easy space of our on-the-road routine and embrace our nomad life. The miles mellow us!

So, in the name of full disclosure, yes, we can be discontent and frustrated but mostly we're not. Mostly, we love our traveling life, one another, the dog and our adventure and that puts smiles on our faces.

September we hope to hit the road again…


"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

~Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, May 16, 2016

Long Into the Future...

Often we look at losses and bemoan not having done something.  Something like saving our clean water before it's polluted, not protecting an animal before it goes extinct or not saying "I love you" before a loved one dies.  We can surround ourselves in regrets and the sorrow of loss.  Or we can flip the coin.  We can create and be grateful for triumphs in our lives.  For saving something remarkable.  For preserving something that will be shared and loved and enjoyed long into the future.  Naturally, wondrous historic buildings and national parks fall into these categories and right here on Whidbey Island we have numerous examples, including Saratoga Woods Preserve.

Returning home from our winter travels is returning to the things we love and Saratoga Woods is one of those things.   But it's not just the beautiful property and fabulous trails, it is the process of living in a place, participating, and being involved in a community effort to protect what we cherish.  It's the friendships made along the way.  It's memories!

Several years ago the neighbors near 118 acres of land on Saratoga Road were alerted to a proposed planned unit development.  There were to be houses.  Lots of houses.  Activist hats were put on and Save the Woods on Saratoga was formed.  Initially we were a fierce group of three women -- Diane Kendy, Betty Azar and Fran Abel -- quickly expanding to our spouses and other community members.  We were becoming a "force".

No project to save land from development is easy.  Constant political vigilance is required.  As activists we were concerned about wildlife habitat, water overuse, bluff stability, noise,  traffic and all the many issues that can accompany a very large development in a quiet rural neighborhood.  Our  first action was to drive to Seattle and hire ourselves an attorney, David  Bricklin.  Naturally, that resulted in the need for dollars so fundraising was begun, along with brochures, meetings and very full calendars.

Beautiful glacial erratic rock.
Photo by Laughing Stump Photography

Interesting bent trees on Bent Tree Trail.

It is probably long forgotten that the very first Saratoga Chamber Orchestra was begun as a fund raiser by and for Save the Woods on Saratoga.  It was spearheaded by Diane Kendy and Michael Nutt and was performed in the home of Dick and Cynthia Tilkin.   We had a packed house!  Our group was also behind the formation of the first Whidbey Island Garden Tour, setting it up to benefit an environmental cause, and to provide a "hit" of money.  Save the Woods on Saratoga was the first beneficiary.

Many contributed in so many ways to initially blocking a housing development; then a resort; and lastly, a timber harvest.   Finally the words, "If we want to save this property into the future, we must buy it." were uttered and then acted on.   With great effort the dollars were raised, the land was purchased and the land's ownership was turned over to Island County as a preserve, protected under a Whidbey-Camano Land Trust management plan.  Saratoga Woods is now a  maze of trail delight, open for walking, biking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.   With the generosity of neighbors granting an easement it links to Putney Woods.  The combination of Saratoga Woods and Putney Woods provides about 800 acres of trail paradise.

Trail signs denote plants or features one can see on the trails.  

As the years have passed members of our team have passed as well.  Wanting to remember them, we received permission under the property's management  plan to plant a tree for each deceased person.  Knowing a grove of Sequoias would develop and last for generations to come, that's the tree we selected for our grove.  The first tree we planted was for Dick Tilkin,  1939 - 2006.

The second tree was for Michael Nutt, 1933 - 2008.

Michael at Saratoga Woods

If you drive by Saratoga Woods, on Saratoga Road, you will see three Sequoia trees in the meadow near the pond-wetland.  One for Michael, one for Dick and the third in reserve for the last member of our group to die.  The rest of the Saratoga Woods Preserve team will have a memorial tree planted as well.  Our hope is that the grove of Sequoias, and the entire preserve, will be kindly treated, enjoyed and cherished…long into the future.


"Saving the world requires saving democracy.  That requires well-informed citizens.  Conservation, environment, poverty, community, education, family, health, economy--these combine to make one quest:  liberty and justice for all."  

~ Carl Safina

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

We're Home!

On Saturday we were in Twisp camping in the Okanogan National Forest, biking on the Twisp River Road and planning a leisurely drive back to the island…  

We thought we'd take about five days to cross the North Cascades, camping here and there.  Do a little biking and hiking, poking along, as is our style.  Then Sunday morning arrived, Mother's Day, and our plan didn't seem quite right.   Ed and I were enjoying breakfast at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery, when visions of these two popped into our heads… 

Off to Whidbey we headed, flying across the North Cascades, beautiful as they were, as fast as we could…

Home with Yessi and Brad was the perfect place to be.


"You can devise all the plans in the world, but if you don't welcome spontaneity; you will just disappoint yourself."

~ Abigail Biddinger

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Boondocking Paradise

After finishing the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene ride and wanting no part of big highways, noise or speed, we selected Idaho 209 north, to connect with Highway 20 and our intended route for crossing Washington. On our map 209 is referred to as a "Major Connector". Despite the major connector designation, this pleasant little road, following the Little North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, soon turned to gravel. Ok, we're good with gravel.

Then we encountered winter slides and downed trees with only space enough to allow one-way passage.

Ok, we're still good. Our destination campground had been hit with downed trees leveling signs, tables and completely blocking the entry. We shrug our shoulders and continue on. Ed and I love exploring like this so are unfazed.

A few more miles and we find our camp site. Benton shows his approval by running around like a mad dog...

After all the bumps and hurdles along the way, it's boondocking paradise we've found...

The next morning, after leaving our boondocking paradise, we continue on, on 209. As we drive the road gets narrower and narrower and the downed trees more and more frequent. Then 209 suddenly ended in a complete clusterfuck of wind fall. Not being of the mind to give up, we detour onto forest service road 385. Another road barrier suddenly presented itself -- snow -- but we persisted. Finally, up ahead was a Forest Service truck and a man wielding a chainsaw. Ha, information about road conditions at last.

Ken, with a sweet smile, said, "No way through up ahead. I have a 4-wheel drive and barely made it through the snow." We told him we'd tried 209, but had to detour onto this road because of blockage. He kind of gave us a perplexed look, as he said, "Highway 209 has been blocked for almost ten years." When we pulled out our 2015 Idaho Delorme Atlas & Gazetteer which showed 209 listed as a major connector, he just shook his head and with that same sweet smile, helped us turn around.

Hum, $22.95 for an up-to-date map of Idaho, not so up to date...

Retracing our steps, we find ourselves at the Snake Pit once again, for the fourth time in that many days.  Dessert, after our ordeal, was definitely in order!!

Tonight, finally, after striking out on our back road adventure, we're in Washington camped at Lake Leo on Highway 20. Both Ed and I are feeling itchy as our homing pigeon feathers are starting to grow. We know home is nearby, it's raining.


"Travel does not exist without home....If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world."

~ Josh Gates, Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter

The Trail of the Coeur d'Alene

#2 - Enaville to Mullan

More historic interest in the second section of the trail but not so scenic or peaceful as the first, and less wildlife to observe. In fact, here's a photo of our entire wildlife experience...

The towns we pedaled through, in five words or less:

Enaville: The Snake Pit.

Smelterville: The name says it all.

 Kellogg: Dave Smith Dodge Trucks.

Osborn: Where we camped.

Wallace: The Big Burn. (Do read The Big Burn by Timothy Egan)

Mullan: Trails End.

I've always romanticized trains and both Ed and I had railroad dads so we share a fondness for our nation's once very fine railroad system. It is with joy, but sadness too, that we ride the Rails to Trail bicycle routes. Our preference would be that these rails were still carrying trains. In the absence of trains though, biking and walking paths are a wonderful reuse, and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene is top notch.

Formerly this trail was the Union Pacific Railroad beginning operation as the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company (OR&N) in the late 1800's.

In December 1889 the first roundtrip passenger trip from Wallace to Spokane was offered for $6.50, including a dinner stop. The description of the meal reminds me of present day airline meals.


"...The butter was vilely rank, the biscuits like cobblestones, the coffee made from corn husks roasted and cold meats tougher than the kids who grew up without parental restraint."

~ Wallace Free Press

Trail Greetings!

"This trail will ruin my life!"

I was reading an article about the East Sammamish Bike Trail, a Rails to Trails conversion proposal, when this woman's words jumped off the page. She was claiming her life would be ruined if the trail was built. Really?

I've thought about that woman and her words often. When I ride the Burke Gilman trail I remember all the rage from those who opposed the trail. Biking or hiking trail, it doesn't matter -- the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene, the Pacific Crest Trail, South Dakota's Mickelson Trail, the Spokane River Centennial Trail, California's American River Trail -- there are always those who support and those who don't.

Once a trail is built the land owners along the trail display their positions. The folks not liking the trail build tall fences with locked gates and security cameras. They post "guard dog on duty" or "no trespassing" signs. Conversely those who embrace the trail build pathways from their homes to the trail for access. Kids sell lemonade. Tiny produce and fresh egg stands appear. Charming little hand lettered messages of welcome are hung on trees. Trail angels provide a bench to rest on or cold water to refill bike bottles.

The divide of "it's mine" or "let's share" runs deep in this nation. We see it everywhere we go, and our political battles often can be broken down into this simple, but profoundly different philosophy. As a trail user I try to be respectful of these differences but I do find myself feeling saddened or pleased by a trail's shunning or welcoming stance.

Early in our ride on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene we saw a number of "we don't want you" signs posted by property owners as we approached Harrison, a sweet little historic town. It's off putting, but the town wins us over despite the lack of welcome along the trail. By automobile the welcome couldn't be clearer...

Businesses welcome us as well. They make their establishments charming and deliver cheerful greetings when we enter. The Tin Cup in Harrison provides not only espresso and free internet but outstanding home-baked pastries, along with warm smiles. I had a right-out-of-the-oven cranberry-orange scone to die for!

Later in the day we stop, based on a local recommendation, at the Snake Pit in Enaville. My dark, cold beer was called Moose Drool. Our chicken sandwiches were thick and full of good stuff, including grilled green peppers. And the next day, after 15 miles on the trail, Ed ordered a most lavish dessert for lunch --- a steaming warm brownie, topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce, topped again with whipped cream, with a cherry plunked on top, naturally. The following day we returned again.

Further up the trail, in Kellog, we ride by an old train station that's been converted into a charming bike shop, Excelsior Cycle and Sport. We put our tandem in reverse. Ed buys a new biking shirt as we chat with the owner.

Continuing east we experience non-stop Idaho friendliness, delivered with hellos and smiles and a country graciousness.

Thank you Trail of the Coeur d'Alene! The ride is sweet!


"Good Morning! Good Afternoon! Good Night! These are not just mere greetings. They are powerful blessings, setting the best vibration for the day. Hence, whether it is morning, afternoon or night, make sure that you say your greeting right!"

~ Franco Santoro


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Trail of the Coeur d'Alene

#1 - Plummer to Enaville

This 75 mile trail is a biking jewel. We rode it a few years ago and are back for a second go. Plummer and Mullan make up the bookends, with several historically interesting towns, and more beauty than we can describe, along the way. Because we are not yet bicycle fit for the season, we will take a few days to complete the ride. Plus we need to ride the trail both directions to rendezvous with Thistle. I50 miles it is!

We start in Plummer at a beautiful Coeur d'Alene Tribe war memorial...

The first miles of the trail are up and down through woodlands. Wild flowers are just coming on and we spot a couple favorites --Trillium and Shooting Star. After about eight miles the ride flattens out for a winding route through wetlands, sloughs, rivers and lakes. Along the way we cross an amazing bridge. See how it flattens out between up or down grades? Totally easy to ride a pretty steep incline...


There are birds galore and we've seen moose twice -- once yesterday and another today. The first viewing was far, far way. Can you see her? Way across the water, feeding on the edge...

The second viewing was pretty close to the trail...


We see lots of deer and elk along the trail and turtles. Turtles strung out on logs sunning themselves, and then turtles on the trail, like this guy...

A bit alarming are the environmental warning signs along the trail...

Back in the early mining days, the mines freely released heavy metals into the environment plus the rail line hauled heavy metals with little concern about spillage. And worse, the rail bed itself was built with mine tailings. Once the mining ended and the train stopped running, pollution issues came to the forefront.

In an unique agreement the Union Pacific Railroad, Federal Government, State of Idaho and Coeur d'Alene Tribe combined forces to mitigate the damage. Using asphalt and gravel barriers to isolate the metals, especially lead, the old track bed was covered and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene was born.

As we ride we enjoy spectacular scenery which mostly displaces our environmental unease.


"Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty."

~ John Ruskin