Thursday, October 22, 2015

Patty's Place


      One of the days we were at Mom's we decided to make a day trip to Mount St. Helens.  It is only about 2 hours SE and makes a nice drive.  It was foggy early, but the skies burned off enough to catch some good views of the mountain (or at least what's left of it).  I get a bit sad visiting as I like to remember the mountain as it was when I was a kid playing around, camping, or fishing in the vicinity.  The devastation left by the eruption (now 35 years ago) is still evident and gives you reason to respect Mother Nature. 
      On the way home we decided to stop at this quaint little place we saw earlier.  Patty's Place is located at mile marker 19 on Mount St. Helens Highway (WA 504).  There are several large signs out front advertising their famous Elk Burger, Chicken & Dumplings, and Assorted Cobblers. The inside is rustically decorated. 
      Barb and I had our hearts set on a big, juicy Elk Burger, but after ordering several locals came in and ordered the Chicken & Dumplings.  Out of curiosity I turned and asked if it was as good as advertised and they said it is the best item on the menu and they had been eating there for years.  HINT #1:  ALWAYS LISTEN TO THE LOCALS.   The burgers came out looking quite tasty piled with meat, lettuce, onion, and pickles, but were at best......average.  The meat patty was very thick and at least a quarter pound of healthy elk, but there wasn't much taste.  It could have used more seasoning.  The fries were quite good as they were beer battered and done just right. 
      I left enough room so that I could sample the cobbler.  I'm a sucker for fresh baked goods.  There are 7 different flavors of cobbler and I selected the Wild Mountain Berry w/o ice cream.  The cobbler was warm and tasty, the wild blackberries, marionberries, and huckleberries delicious as well.  I think the crust could have used a bit more sugar as to 'crunch it up' a bit.  Overall it was a very good cobbler. 
      Patty's Place has a nice feel to it, especially after touring the Cascade Mountains for a couple of hours.  I would skip the Elk Burger next time, but am definitely already thinking about those Chicken & Dumplings!  


Friday, October 16, 2015

Yakima River Canyon Boondocking

      We arrived in Central Washington planning on relaxing a day or two and do some fruit/vegetable shopping at the myriad of local stands. We checked out a new boondocking location up the Yakima River Canyon, about 8 miles north of Yakima.  We first watered up at Exit 22 where Washington State has one of many rest areas with RV dumps and water fill.  Afterwards we exited at Washington Highway 821, just north of Selah, heading up the canyon.  The road is tight, high, and winds throughout the mountain ledges for about 5 miles to the first area. 

      There are 4 areas to camp during the length of this canyon.  These are all on BLM land.  We chose the first, Roza Recreation Area due to it's closeness to town.  This is a simple, but spacious setup with the entire parking area freshly paved with lines to delineate camping or parking areas.  There are 6 sites, each with a fire pit and picnic table and there are two very nice vault toilets.  There is no water, electricity, or cost. The sites do require some leveling on your part. 
      The next day we took a short drive further up the canyon to check out the other sites.  About 2 miles further up was the Big Pines Recreation Area.  This is the same type of area, but with 38 sites, many of which sit back into the large Ponderosa Pines with shade and proximity to the river.  There are also tent sites and walk in sites for those more adventurous.  Still no electricity or water, but no cost as well.  I do say that we would probably stay here next time and by the amount of campers already there I believe they share the same sentiment.  There is no cell signal within the entire length of the canyon.  One of the other recreation areas was smaller such as ours and the last was the most upriver and accessible only by river.  All the areas have access to plenty of sun which made our solar setup just the ticket. 

      The entire canyon is very scenic with plenty of wildlife, including a herd of Bighorn Sheep which reside on the western walls.  There are many opportunities for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking.  We had plenty of fun visiting markets, picking up some fresh corn, peaches, apples, and Barb even found some of her favorite Choke Cherry Honey.  This place stays on our list for each time we pass through. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Weighing Anchor 2015

“You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.”
                                              Charles Kuralt

      We had a fairly challenging summer at home, what with the myriad of insurance, home maintenance, lawn tractor, and RV replacement issues confronting us.  We did depart as planned, however, and begin to pursue our next chapter. 
      The first leg of our journey takes us west this fall.  Departing Kalkaska we made stops in:

Ironwood, MI, We had planned on boondocking at the WalMart, but it was laden with construction so we stayed overnight at the village campground.  Full hookups for a reasonable $20/night
Fargo, ND  Newly renovated campground full hookups $30/night.
Fallon Bridge, MT (boondocking/free) before setting up camp once again at Ruby Reservoir near Virginia City, MT.  Got a few Montana Moss Agates here....
      I did weigh our rig at a truckstop in Superior, WI.  Total trailer weight came to 7840, which is still 160 pounds below max with current tires.  I was carrying 1/3 tank of fresh water.  Cheapest diesel was at Christmas, MI $2.35.  We averaged 14.2 mpg during this leg.  Gas mileage can be quite the variable these days as I have discovered that keeping the fresh, grey, and black water tanks empty until just before arrival at a destination significantly improves mileage. 
      We camped at Ruby Reservoir back in April for 5 days.  The reservoir has been drawn down throughout the summer as the water source for many hay farmers throughout the Ruby Valley.  This time of year it exposes many more acres of terraced shoreline which in turn reveals increased opportunities to prospect for Garnets or their larger, purer cousins, the Ruby.  There is a free campground located on the NE side of the reservoir that contains a nice improved vault type toilet setup and camping is pick and choose wherever you like to boondock right on the shores of the lake.  The campground is located 8 miles south of Alder, MT where you can find any and all the supplies (water, groceries, gas, propane, firewood, bar, cell service, etc.) you might need. 
      As I was always the first out of bed with Roux in the morning.  I made it a habit to enjoy my coffee with some spectacular Rocky Mountain sunrises.  I love SW Montana! 
        Barb graduated to the role of experienced prospector finding Garnets of all sizes this trip.  In fact, she found about 3 ounces, including about 2 dozen gem quality stones that she can have faceted. 

       I took my own path to relaxation this visit as I gathered my camera gear and traveled the 20 miles further up the road to the end near Cottonwood Campground/Trailhead.  This is just west of Yellowstone NP and very close to the Idaho border as well as the Continental Divide in some of the most rugged country in the state.  This upper area of the Ruby Valley hosts some of the finest elk hunting in all of Montana.  I enjoyed looking at the scenery and the ranches for sale (none of which I could ever afford).  The birches and aspens are nearly at peak color along the Ruby River and I stopped several times to enjoy the beauty of fall, my favorite time of the year. 
      We stayed at Ruby for 5 days.  Heading west we boondocked at Lincoln's 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar & Casino in Haugan, MT for a night, where there is free camping with water/electric. This is one of our regular stops.  From here we traveled on to Hayden, ID to visit my favorite Aunt Lillian.  
      One of the finer things that should be enjoyed by anyone growing older is visiting those folks that made an impact on our lives as we grew up.  My Aunt Lillian is one of those people.   During my typically traumatic teenage years she and her husband Bob were people who I could talk to even when no else helped.  Lillian is in her 90s now...her husband, Bob, passed on about 13 years back.  Aunt Lillian remains as one of those folks that is a force in my life.  
       We head further west now, to sample the delicious fall fruits & vegetables available in Central Washington before we arrive at Mom's.   We look forward to trying out a new boondocking site along the Yakima River near Yakima.   Paved spots with picnic tables and vault toilets;
Plenty of sun in that Yakima Valley to power our journey.