Category Archives: Washington

Visiting Family; Wenatchee & Leavenworth, WA — August 22-25, 2018

On our first night in Wenatchee Roberta & Michael and Barb & I met at Visconti’s Italian Restaurant for a spectacular dinner hosted by Barb’s brother Dan Carr & Candy Meecham, owners. What a special evening. Candy ordered several types of anti-pasta boards for the table, after which Dan & Candy described, in loving detail, the possible choices for the main course. When we had each given our individual choices, Candy suggested that we be served family style. Brilliant!  What  platters and dishes of delights we had. We all enjoyed it immensely; I thought Roberta was going to swoon and pass out!

We also spent a number of visits to another of Barb’s brothers: George and his wife Anne and their three children, Nancy and twins Josey & Maggie.  On one such occasion, Dan & Candy also joined us, so we were able to take some family pictures.  (See below.)

In addition to the Visconti’s in Wenatchee, Dan & Candy also have a number of other businesses.  They include ‘Fire’, at the Pybus Public Market, featuring wood oven pizza and wine, brats and beer, plus a full menu of salads and small plates. Right next to ‘Fire’ is ‘Ice’, also owned by Dan & Candy and also in the Market, featuring authentic Italian style gelato and crêpes and locally roasted Caffè Mela espresso.  And that is not all.  They are perhaps best known for their businesses in Leavenworth, where there is a bigger version of Visconti’s.

Although Leavenworth is a Bavarian Village, Visconti’s is not to be missed.  The first floor of the building has a Deli and a Gelato shop. The second and third floors have dinning rooms and also an outdoor dining space on the third floor.   In the basement, Dan creates the cured meats that are featured in the Deli and in the adjacent Leavenworth Sausage Garten and in Wenatchee’s Fire.

From promotional literature:

The Leavenworth Sausage Garten is the best place to enjoy two of the most important staples of Germany…Good “Wurst’ and “Bier”! WE MAKE OUR BRATS! Right in our own facilities located next door. We use only the finest ingredients to produce great sausages, such as Bratwurst, Bockwurst, and Currywurst and our signature Italian sausage. To compliment those wonderful sausages have some great regional micro brews and German imported biers on tap.

Just up the road from George & Anne’s home is an interesting Park called The Ohme Garden. We made a return visit; this time to show Roberta and Michael.

From the Park’s web page:

In 1929 Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Included was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the shimmering Columbia River valley. Herman and his new bride, Ruth, loved to stand on the bluff and dream of flourishing alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways where the hot, relentless summer sun allowed only sage and scrub desert growth. They set their minds on achieving that dream.

Small evergreens were transplanted from the nearby Cascade Mountains, native stone was hauled to form paths and borders, desert sage gave way to low-growing ground cover, and pools took shape adjacent to massive natural rock formations. It was hard work, done mostly by hand, and truly a labor of love. In the beginning, sustaining the Gardens meant hauling water in five gallon buckets from the river valley below, but eventually the Ohmes constructed an elaborate irrigation system that pumped water to the site.

Initially intended as a private family retreat, the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the Gardens to the public. The Ohmes continued to perfect the Gardens for 42 years, until 1971 when Herman died at the age of 80. The couple’s son Gordon and his family then assumed responsibility for the Gardens, and in 1991 Washington State Parks and Recreation purchased the Gardens and surrounding property. The Gardens are currently owned and managed by Chelan County.

Earlier in our RV wanderings, we had all realized that the fronts of our toads were getting chewed up from stones being thrown back by the RVs. So we ordered three “Protect-a-Tow”s and had them shipped to Dan. Michael and I installed ours while we were in Wenatchee on the eve of our separate departures. I am quite pleased with ours; the screen is stretched under the tow and reaches from the back of the RV to under the front of the toad, and appears to offer near-total protection from rocks thrown up by the RV.

Footnote: Only yesterday, 9/26/18, did X-ray reveal that Barb’s toe has finally healed enough that she can stop wearing the boot. Yippee!

Ocean Shores, Washington — August 18-21, 2018

Enough already! Enough!  Cough!  Hack!

We needed to get out of the smoke that blanketed most of Washington and Oregon. Our eyes were burning, and our noses were running.  Bill and Colleen were getting sick.

So we fled to the coast of southern Washington. Our first night we stayed at the low-cost RV park at the Quinault Beach Resort & Casino. No services, really just a glorified parking lot.  It was windy and cool, so we had minimal experience at the shore, but Bill, Roberta and Barb did take Bill’s toad for a long drive down the busy Sunday beach, and I think Mike & Roberta also did some beach walking.

By unanimous consent we moved about three miles to the Ocean City State Park, where we enjoyed the usual hookups in pleasant surroundings. We went to the Coastal Interpretive Center, a youth-oriented small museum featuring hands-on learning experiences, focusing on the natural and cultural history of the area.

We knew that our next destination would be Wenatchee and Leavenworth, Washington, back in the thick of the smoke. Bill & Colleen were not up for that, and so they broke from our group and headed back toward their home near Flagstaff, AZ.

The Hilbruners left the campground early in order to stop for fuel.  As I left a bit later, something bizarre happened. There was a large Dixie Dumpster parked just inside a tight 90 degree turn on a narrow exit road. As I negotiated the turn, the Dumpster suddenly, with no provocation, viciously attacked, leaving a horrible set of scratches on the side of the bus.  I am at a total loss to explain this behavior; Dumpsters are usually so passive.

Barbara, following me in our toad to a more commodious spot for joining the vehicles, has a somewhat different interpretation of the event, but lack of space prevents me from including it here.

Mount Rainier; August 16, 2018

On August 16 we three couples took two of our CR-Vs north up to Mount Rainier. Our destination was the area around Paradise Inn and the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.  Barb was still hobbled, but we took a short hike up through a gently rising meadow laden with flowers.  

On our way back toward our campground at Tower Rock U-fish RV Park, we stopped at the base of Mt. Rainier (still in the Mt. Rainier National Park) to walk the trail under the massive trees of the Grove of the Patriarchs.  It is an easy 1.5 mile nature trail through huge thousand-year-old growth Red Cedar, and Douglas fir trees that have been protected from fire by virtue of being on an island surrounded by the Ohanapecosh River.  Many of the trees are more than 25 ft in circumference, with at least one approaching 50 ft.  Barb wisely and belatedly sat this one out.

From Wikipedia:

Mount Rainier is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, and the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington. It is a large active stratovolcano located 59 miles south-southeast of Seattle, in the Mount Rainier National Park. It is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States and the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with a summit elevation of 14,411 ft..

Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice, Mt. Rainier could produce massive lahars that could threaten the entire Puyallup River valley, and poses a grave threat to the southern sections of the 3.7-million-resident Seattle metropolitan area.

With 26 major glaciers and 36 sq mi of permanent snowfields and glaciers, Mount Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states. Two volcanic craters top the summit, each more than 1,000 ft in diameter, with the larger east crater overlapping the west crater. Geothermal heat from the volcano keeps areas of both crater rims free of snow and ice, and has formed the world’s largest volcanic glacier cave network within the ice-filled craters, with nearly 2 mi of passages.  A small crater lake about 130 by 30 ft in size and 16 ft deep, the highest in North America with a surface elevation of 14,203 ft, occupies the lowest portion of the west crater below more than 100 ft of ice and is accessible only via the caves.

If Mt. Rainier were to erupt as powerfully as Mount St. Helens did in its May 18, 1980 eruption, the effect would be cumulatively greater, because of the far more massive amounts of glacial ice locked on the volcano compared to Mount St. Helens, the vastly more heavily populated areas surrounding Rainier, and the simple fact that Mt Rainier is a much bigger volcano, almost twice the size of St. Helens. Lahars from Rainier pose the most risk to life and property. Not only is there much ice atop the volcano, the volcano is also slowly being weakened by hydrothermal activity.



Mount St. Helens; August 14-15, 2018

Our next destination after the Columbia River was an RV park in the vicinity of Mount St. Helens.  There are oodles in the area, but most were already booked.  We were fortunate to be able to get in to the Tower Rock U-Fish RV Park, about 13 miles south of the town of Randle.  The downside was that it was a little out of the way down paved but narrow roads into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Portions of the road had partially fallen away and had then been overpaved without complete leveling.  The consequence was a number of significant dips that I evidently took too fast.  When we arrived at the campground and disembarked, we could hear a loud hiss in the vicinity of the right rear wheels.  After settling into our spot, Bill peeked under and announced that he saw the problem.  The left right air bag that provides cushioning for the bus was punctured and leaking air.  Furthermore, the shock absorber at that location had failed.  

We ordered parts from Tiffin, and then combined our sightseeing with removing the bad parts:  no small task since the relevant bolts were big and stubborn.  We originally considered contracting a mobil mechanic to come with a compressed-air impact wrench, but when the campground proprietor, Peter, learned of our plans, he offered his wrench and compressor and large sockets.  It turned out his compressor wasn’t strong enough, but that the compressor on the bus was JUST barely enough.  When we got the shock and airbag off, we revised our theory as to what had gone wrong.  Originally, we assumed that the bag had failed and the shock had not been able to handle the load.  But the condition of the shock suggested that it had failed first (since its interior was wet with rusty water) and that in failing it had disintegrated and when the bottom fell off the top half punctured the airbag.

We knew we should replace both rear shocks, but were surprised when the parts arrived to see that we had also been sent two airbags.  So we used Peter’s tools and replaced both shocks and both airbags, retaining the one good airbag as a spare.  

None of this would have been possible without the efforts of my favorite gearhead: Bill Bouchard.  And the friendly generosity of Peter.

We spent two smoky days visiting Mount St. Helens.  The first day we approached from the northeast, terminating at Windy Ridge and stopping at Miner’s Car on the way back.  Here is a description of the Miner’s Car, found on a Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument web site:

Three days before the eruption, Donald and Natalie Parker and their nephew Rick parked their green 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix about 8-1/2 miles from the volcano and hiked to a nearby cabin to inspect their mining claim.  They were in the designated “blue zone,” which was open to businesspeople who signed liability wavers with the state, which the Parkers did.  Volcano scientists were not as worried about people in the blue zone because they were expected to survive a typical vertical eruption.  But the initial eruption of Mt. St. Helens was lateral (sideways) not vertical.  The blast killed the Parkers and flattened and seared their car, which remains as a stark reminder to the 57 people who perished that day.

On the second day we approached from the west, where we also went to the visitor center at Silver Lake, viewing impressive videos of the eruption.  Pity that the visibility was so poor outdoors.

Excerpts from Wikipedia:

On May 18, 1980, a major volcanic eruption occurred at Mount St. Helens. It has often been declared as the most disastrous volcanic eruption in U.S. history. The eruption was preceded by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes, caused by an injection of magma at shallow depth below the volcano that created a large bulge and a fracture system on the mountain’s north slope.

An earthquake at 8:32:17 a.m. PDT on Sunday, May 18, 1980, caused the entire weakened north face to slide away, creating the largest landslide ever recorded. This allowed the partly molten, high-pressure gas- and steam-rich rock in the volcano to suddenly explode northwards toward Spirit Lake in a hot mix of lava and pulverized older rock, overtaking the avalanching face.

An eruption column rose 80,000 feet into the atmosphere and deposited ash in 11 U.S. states. At the same time, snow, ice and several entire glaciers on the volcano melted, forming a series of large lahars (volcanic mudslides) that reached as far as the Columbia River, nearly 50 miles to the southwest. Less severe outbursts continued into the next day, only to be followed by other large, but not as destructive, eruptions later that year.

Approximately 57 people were killed directly. Hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland, causing over $1 billion in damage (equivalent to over $3 billion as of 2018), thousands of animals were killed, and Mount St. Helens was left with a crater on its north side. At the time of the eruption, the summit of the volcano was owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad, but afterward the land passed to the United States Forest Service. The area was later preserved, as it was, in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Columbia River, Maryhill, WA & Peach Beach Campground — August 10-12, 2018

On August 10 we drove up to the Peach Beach Campground on the north bank of the Columbia River, near the community of Maryhill, population 98.

Liz Kinney visited us there, as did Hilbruner’s daughter Anna & her husband Craig & their little one Axel.

After Liz and the younger Hilbruners returned to their respective homes, the elder Hilbruners went off to visit friends, and Barb, Colleen, Bill and I went to see the Maryhill  Museum of Art and the Maryhill Stonehenge.

Culled from a variety of articles in Wikipedia:

Maryhill is named after the wife and daughter of regional icon Samuel Hill (13 May 1857 – 26 February 1931), who purchased land and envisioned a community there shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

Sam Hill was a businessman, lawyer, railroad executive, and advocate of good roads. He used his Maryhill property to build the first paved roads in the Pacific Northwest, the Maryhill Museum of Art (originally intended as a grand residence for the Hills), Maryhill Stonehenge, a monument to the World War I dead of Klickitat County in the form of a Stonehenge replica, and a planned community. Hill intended the Stonehenge replica to express that modern warfare (like Druid sacrifices as he understood them) was a form of needless human sacrifice.

He substantially influenced the Pacific Northwest region’s economic development in the early 20th century. He devoted much attention to advocating construction of modern roads in Washington and Oregon. In September 1899 Hill created the Washington State Good Roads Association which persuaded the Washington State Legislature to create the Washington State Department of Transportation in 1905. Hill’s land around Maryhill proved useful for his advocacy. From 1909–1913 he laid 10 miles of asphalt-paved Macadam road at his own expense (US$100,000). It was the first such road in the Pacific Northwest and Hill experimented over its length with seven different paving techniques.

In 1907, Hill persuaded the University of Washington to establish the United States’ first chair in highway engineering. He could not persuade the State of Washington to build a highway on the north bank of the Columbia River, but in 1913 Oregon governor Oswald West and the Oregon Legislative Assembly visited Maryhill to inspect his experimental prototype road. Subsequently, the State of Oregon built the scenic Columbia River Highway, which linked coastal Astoria, Oregon and The Dalles, Oregon.

Although his promotion of paved modern roads is possibly his greatest legacy, he is now best remembered for building the Stonehenge replica.

Maryhill Museum of Art is a small museum with an extremely eclectic collection. Construction was halted upon America’s entry into World War I. The unfinished museum building was dedicated on November 3, 1926 by Queen Marie of Romania, and was opened to the public on Hill’s birthday (May 13) in 1940. Notable in the Maryhill Museum collection are:

• Plaster and bronze sculptures and watercolors by Auguste Rodin
• European and American paintings
• American Indian art, including baskets and beadwork from the Columbia Plateau region
• Mannequins and replica stage sets from the Théâtre de la Mode
• More than 300 chess sets from around the world,
• Eastern Orthodox icons
• Palace furnishings and personal items that once belonged to Queen Marie
• Memorabilia associated with the dancer Loïe Fuller
• Art Nouveau-era glass
• A permanent exhibit about Samuel Hill’s life and projects
• An outdoor sculpture park containing more than a dozen works by Pacific Northwest artists,

We later met the Hilbruners and their friends at the Maryhill Winery, where we had wine and snacks and then played some bocci on their complementary professional bocci courts.  Quite an upgrade from the semi-improvised games we’ve played in the Caribbean.


Three Brothers — Wenatchee & Leavenworth, WA; June 30 – July 9, 2017

Of the five surviving brothers of Barb, three now live in Washington State: Dan, George, and Hugh.  We spent an enjoyable time visiting them and seeing some of the beautiful area.  Knowing that we intended to be in the area for some time, we had, three weeks earlier, arranged for the cracked left pane of the RV’s windshield to be replaced in Wenatchee.  Alas, the replacement windshield was delayed and had not yet arrived when we did.  No matter, the brothers and their families were attentive hosts, and that part of the world is gorgeous.  Early in our visit we took a side trip northward along the Columbia River to Chelan, where we visited the  Fielding Hills Winery before continuing on to Manson for lunch.  When we returned to Wenatchee, we joined the pool party/cook out in progress at the home of Dan and Candy (they also own a home in Leavenworth), already attended by the extended families of all three brothers.  George and Hugh have separate businesses in construction; Dan & Candy together own an Italian restaurant in Wenatchee and another in Leavenworth perhaps more well know:  Visconti’s.  I say only half jokingly that Dan must have some kind of hormone problem:  in addition to the two aforementioned restaurants Dan and Candy also have two additional eateries in Wenatchee in the Pybus Public Market — a Gelato and Crepe shop called ICE, and a Pizzeria called FIRE.  They also have several additional businesses in Leavenworth: a cheese and sausage shop, an open-air sausage “garten” a gelato shop, and, believe it or not, down in the basement of Visconti’s, a facility for making their own sausages, called CURED.  See what I mean about hormones?

George and Hugh seem similarly afflicted:  among other things they have each been buying homes and then renovating them for resale.  When we arrived in Wenatchee, George was just in the process of moving into his impressive new home which he almost entirely built by himself.

George’s new home, by the way, is on property adjacent to the beautiful Ohme Gardens.  From the Garden’s page on the internet: 

In 1929 Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Included was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River valley. Herman and his new bride, Ruth, began dressing up the bluff for the their own enjoyment.

Small evergreens were transplanted from the nearby Cascade Mountains, native stone was hauled to form paths and borders, desert sage gave way to low-growing ground cover, and pools took shape adjacent to massive natural rock formations. It was hard work, done mostly by hand, and truly a labor of love. In the beginning, sustaining the Gardens meant hauling water in five gallon buckets from the river valley below, but eventually the Ohmes constructed an elaborate irrigation system that pumped water to the site.

Initially intended as a private family retreat, the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the Gardens to the public. The Ohmes continued to perfect the Gardens for 42 years, until 1971 when Herman died at the age of 80. The couple’s son Gordon and his family then assumed responsibility for the Gardens, and in 1991 Washington State Parks and Recreation purchased the Gardens and surrounding property. The Gardens are currently owned and managed by Chelan County.

We had an enjoyable time in Wenatchee.  Dinner several times at the Wenatchee restaurant, visits to George and his wife Anne and their daughters at their new home, and visits to Hugh and his S.O. Patty at their isolated home on the edge of town up high enough to give a commanding view of the orchards below.  We also visited Hugh’s most recent renovation, located just two doors down from Dan and Candy’s home.  And the extended families all attended the July Fourth fireworks display on the waterfront in the Walla Walla Point Park, which we accessed by parking at the restaurant and then walking to the venue.

The uncertainty concerning delivery of the RV window pane restricted our ability to commit to extended time in either of the two near-by RV parks, consequently we were forced to make last-minute reservations that were hindered by unavailability.  So we found ourselves bouncing back and forth between the Wenatchee Confluence RV park and the Wenatchee County Park.   But both had their charms; Barb was happy to get some fit-bit steps while I focused on bird photography.

We took the RV up the scenic highway to Leavenworth, where we parked in Dan’s yard.  The town was packed with visitors there to enjoy the Bavarian theme that permeates the entire village.  Dan’s Sausage Garten was packed; understandably so:  the various x-wurst sandwiches, potentially garnished with any of approximately one thousand different mustards, and accompanied by German-style potato salad and locally-brewed cold beer, were delicious.

The Wenatchee River borders Leavenworth to the east; about half of that boundary is given over to a lovely park offering shaded walks along the river, which, on the day of our traversal, was filled with inner-tube floaters (featherless bipods) and ducks (feathered bipods.)

All told, we had a great time visiting warm and friendly people in some lovely parts of Washington.  We’ll be back.


Here are some of the birds seen during this time frame.