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Travelogue -- Hiking in Washington State

Monday, July 25, 2016

On Saturday, July 23, our return East officially (and slowly) began. Weeks ago, we'd set July 23 as our turnaround day, although we also thought we'd be in Montana, so it's fair to see we were already behind schedule by being in Aberdeen, WA. We hadn't gotten the best night's sleep in Walmart, and we were all a little cranky and distracted. 

Todd had driven five miles or so when he noticed something was wrong with the tack, and Diane said, "Uh, this might be a dumb question, but you did switch back over to the main batteries, right?"

And Todd said, "Shit," and pulled over.

You see the Big Rolling Crate has two sets of batteries: The main batteries that crank the truck and the auxiliary batteries that provide power to the cabin. The auxiliary batteries can be used in lots of cool ways. They recharge either via solar panels on the roof or by plugging in at a camper like an RV and they provide power via some USB outlets and an inverter. So far we've had far more electricity than we've needed. We could have had a TV or a small fridge with all the juice we've got. 

But the one thing we're never supposed to do is start the truck on the auxiliary batteries. Never, ever, ever. There's a switch that you can flip to shut off the main batteries, and if you do that and you try to start the engine, it will crank on the auxiliaries, and that's what happened. 

The good news was the truck actually did start and no harm seems to have come to the auxiliary batteries. Todd flipped the switch, restarted us on the main batteries, and we continued on.

We decided to skip Seattle because A. There's no such thing as a quick trip to a major city, B. There's be lots of traffic, which is no fun in a car, let alone a 10,000 lb ambulance, and C. We'd already decided we aren't really doing cities on this trip. So we took a road that allowed us to bypass the major city traffic, and as soon as we did, Todd began to feel regret.

We'd come so far! Seattle looked so cool on a map! We were missing it! 

So we got off the highway and deliberated. Diane took over driving and offered to drive us back--it was only 40 miles--but Todd wasn't sure what to do. Eventually he concluded it was too late and made up his mind to pout and be sad that we were neither going to Seattle nor Mount Rainier, since there was no easy drives to Rainier and no easy hikes there anyway, and we just didn't have time.

The weather was so overcast that even though we were right near Rainier, we never even saw it. At least when we were driving into Oregon we saw Mount Hood and had nice views of it, but Rainier makes its own weather (as all big mountains seem to do), so we didn't even get a look at it.

While Diane drove, Todd did research and found a state park right off the highway with a trail to a waterfall, and everyone agreed I needed a good walk, so we stopped, but the experience was frustrating from the start. 

The park was called Ollalie State Park, and we were planning to hike the Twin Falls Trail. We had to pay a day-use fee of $10, and the only way we could make ten and not overpay was by paying with quarters and dimes. Diane filled out the envelope and tried to put it in the self-service box, but with all those quarters and dimes, it wouldn't fit in the slot no matter what she did. Finally she gave up, set the envelope, money and all, back with the unused envelopes and a note that said, "Make the slot big enough for change," and hoped no one stole our fee and got us in trouble, because we really did pay.

Todd read some info about the trail and learned the waterfall got 5-stars so we were excited. The trail review also said not to bother going up above the bridge because the trail up there wasn't interesting  and there was too much highway noise. That was fine with us because as we understood it, to go to the bridge would be a 1.2 mile hike, so round trip it would be nearly 2.5 miles, plenty on a warm, humid day, especially because it was a pretty steep path.

We followed the trail markers from our parking area and quickly realized we were on the wrong end of the path. In fact we had to do the boring parts to get to the good parts, and our hike would end up being more like 4 miles round trip. Oops.

The other problem was that trail was pretty crowded. We expected it to be a lot like the waterfall hike we did in Oregon, where there were other people, but not too many, but this was much more full of people, which was hard on me because I get so nervous, and then you add in other dogs, and oh boy. It was rough. I had to be carried a few times, which is terribly shaming.

The waterfalls were very cool, but because most people had come up the easy way, it was mobbed full of people and I was really very scared. Nonetheless we went on to the bottom of the falls, and I was so happy to get to swim. I was hot and thirsty from all that straining against my leash.

Todd took a lot of pictures and then we made our way back up and out of the waterfall area and up the long boring stupid trail we hadn't meant to take to get back to our car. Along the path were tons of berries which Diane discovered to be salmonberries. Todd and Diane tried them and found them to be weird, like big, soft, tart raspberries. There were also very pretty wild flowers and great big trees.

After our hike, we were all very hot and sweaty and hungry. None of us had eaten much. Todd decided we'd find somewhere nearby to eat and we got back on the road. Right away the highway began climbing through a mountain pass and the Big Rolling Crate rapidly came up to a temp of 210, which is our pull-over temp, so we got off the highway again and discovered we were near a ski area in a place called Snoqualmie Pass. 

There was a road that paralleled the highway with some restaurants, so we took that road and came to a place called Iron Horse State Park, which is basically a rail trail. The area where we stopped included Snoqualmie Tunnel, which was only .4 miles down the trail, and Todd really wanted to go see it because he thinks it's good to do things that scare you sometimes. Even though we were hot and tired, Diane and I went along.

The tunnel is really long. We aren't sure how long exactly, but if the scale on the trail map sign is to be believed, more than a quarter mile.

A cold, musty air blows out of the tunnel and a sort of mist hangs in front of it. The tunnel isn't lit and it is very dark and frosty inside. We have headlamps but hadn't thought to bring them, but we walked in anyway.

It didn't take long before the dark made Diane very creeped out, and she told Todd he could go as far as he wanted, but she was getting out of there. Obviously I had to stay with Todd as it is my sworn duty to protect him from all dangers, real and imagined, but I wanted to turn back, too.

Todd and I only went a little ways further before we turned around and I was relieved.

Before we left the state park, Diane stopped at the ladies room and got a happy surprise: There were coin-op showers! Diane and Todd were starting to smell a little funky from our beach day yesterday and sweaty hike that afternoon, so they were excited for a nice hot shower. They'd planned to go to a truck stop, but there we were at a very clean state park, so they took the opportunity that had presented itself.

When we finally got back on the road, it was all downhill driving and the Big Rolling Crate was thankful. We were all starving, so we stopped at the first town where there were food signs, a little place called Cle Elum. Diane finally got what she'd been craving since Boulder: Mexican Food.

I never knew how yummy taco meat and enchilada fillings were until that night, but let me tell you, they are pretty darn good.

After dinner, Todd was sleepy so Diane drove and he dozed in the back with me while Diane drove us almost all the way to Spokane. She stopped in Ritzville about 40 miles or so from Spokane because we were almost out of gas, and she confessed that she had been pretty nervous that there wouldn't be anything in Ritzville and we'd run out of diesel altogether because the last hundred miles had been as desolate as can be. Todd and I slept through all those boring miles, but we were pretty glad she hadn't run us out of fuel.

Todd drove us the last few miles to Spokane and another Walmart, which we would call home for the night. As we drove, the moon rose yellow and startling over the Spokane airport. It was beautiful. When we got there, Diane got another thing she'd been craving since Boulder: A delicious vanilla milkshake.

In case you are unaware, Carl's Jr makes amazing milkshakes. I know, because I shared Diane's, and I could have eaten the whole thing myself if she'd let me.

Now you may be wondering why Diane had to wait weeks for a simple vanilla milkshake. That's a great question. I mean, you can get a vanilla milkshake at every McDonald's. But Diane didn't want a McDonald's milkshake. She wanted a real one. In Lander, she could have had one, but she was too full of burger. She did get one at another place in Wyoming and when she took a sip it was so disgusting she refused to drink it. It was like they'd dumped extra sugar in or it was made out of mostly cool whip.  Anyway, when she saw that Carl's Jr makes real milkshakes, she didn't care that she was full of Mexican food, and as far as I can tell, she still has no regrets about that decision.

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