Saturday, August 19, 2017

Old Molson Museum Ghost Town

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   In 1898 George Meacham and John Molson founded Molson as a base for gold mining in the hills. The gold didn’t pan out and the town went bust in 1901. A few people stayed on and settled down to homestead. 1904 brought welcome news of a railroad line coming right by Molson and the town experienced another boom. More change, unwelcome this time, came when the townsfolk discovered that JH McDonald, owner of the local stage line, had quietly bought up the town site acreage. In 1909 McDonald kicked everyone off of the land and the town was moved 1/2 mile north. Trains stopped running past Molson in 1935 and the population dropped again. There isn’t much left of either old or new Molson today - just a few house along the streets of New Molson, a schoolhouse, an old store building, vacation homes, ranches, and the Old Molson ghost town.

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   Buildings have been moved to the original town site to form a small town. Farming and mining equipment and other artifacts are displayed on the grounds and in the buildings. The brick schoolhouse, which had over 100 students in the 1950s, is now a museum.

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The main floor of the schoolhouse is accessed by a stair lift. The basement and top floors are accessed by stairs only. The basement displays can be seen from a viewing window cut into one of the entry floor walls. A paved path circles around some of the displays at Old Molson but the buildings do not have ramps so access to very limited.

There aren’t any services in Molson however dry camping is permitted in the pull offs along Sidley Lake, just a little over a mile north. This is fish and wildlife site where a Discover Pass is usually required to park or camp but since there are no signs about a fee I think it’s okay to camp here without the pass.

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The parking areas at the schoolhouse and Old Molson, and at the pull offs at the lake are all large enough for RVs.

  Thank you Gary and Sharon for coming to visit us!

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Molson   48.97611, -119.19979

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Waiting for the Eclipse

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   Experiencing a total solar eclipse is a once a  lifetime thing so we didn’t want to miss it. With all of the news coverage of the expected crowds we decided to find a quiet spot on BLM land and hang out until Monday. This is a great spot! We’re just a few miles off of the interstate but we can’t hear or see it. The skies are clear blue, the temperature is about 80 degrees, a cool breeze blows through our camp, and the plains stretch in all directions.

  We’re sharing the spot with our friend Suanne. We are just west of Dubois, Idaho so if anyone else is in the area and wants to join us let me know.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

North Cascades National Park

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  The 504,781 acres of the North Cascades Park were granted some protection in 1897 when they were designated a Forest Reserve to be managed by the US Forest Service. Many people believed that they would be better protected as a national park and the issue was debated several times over the years. In 1968 the area was finally given national park status. 93 percent of the park is wilderness with access by trails only. 

  With so much of the park wilderness we thought that we would  just be driving through but surprising a number of short accessible trails are located right off of route 20 which bisects the park. All of the accessible features are listed HERE with sort descriptions of each. They are in order starting at the west end of the park and going east. We did not visit all of them but of the ones we did this is what we found:

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Visitor Center and Sterling Monro Trail – very short boardwalk, completely accessible, a low railing at view point. Haze from forest fires obscured many of the views during our visit. The visitor center is accessible.

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River Loop Trail – excellent one mile long loop, wide, hard packed surface. The off shoot trail that goes to the visitor center is steep and most wheelchair users will need assistance.

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Linking Trail – hard packed one mile trail.

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Rock Shelter Trail – short, steep, gravel surface. Most wheelchair users will need assistance. Not much to see at shelter.

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Newhalem – paved paths in town area with interpretive signs. Follow the town road or drive to the parking lot to see the power house. Newhalem is a company town built by Seattle City Light in 1917. The Gorge Dam power plant began providing electricity to Seattle in 1924. It and two more hydro- electric dams on the Skagit River, built in 1930 and 1940, supply 20 percent of the city’s power.

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Trail of the Cedars – short loop, half wide and gravel, other hard packed dirt and crushed stone with one hill. Wheelchair users may need assistance.

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Gorge Overlook Trail – the first section, steep but paved, leads to an overlook.  A crushed rock and packed dirt trail completes the loop. Most wheelchair users will need assistance.

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Diablo Lake Overlook – very good, paved with interpretive signs.

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Happy Creek Forest Walk – very short loop of boardwalk and gravel. Slight uphill.

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Rainy Lake Trail – excellent, one mile long paved trail that ends at an alpine lake. Slight grades. Wheelchair users may need assistance.

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  We stayed at the Newhalem Campground in the accessible site in loop C. The site is very good - wide, level and paved with an extended top on the table and a fire ring with high sides. The paved trail to the restroom is used by other campers. Back in so your outdoor area is on the opposite side.

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   The visitor center, overlook, and all of the trails except for Happy Creek have plenty of parking for RVs.  Park  48.66599, -121.26845

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Harbor History Museum

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  Croatian and Slavic settlers came to the east coast of the Olympic Peninsula in the 1860s to fish in the bays. They were soon joined by Scandinavian immigrants and settlers from the Midwest who started farming and logging.

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  There were few roads and until 1940 when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built almost everyone took the ferry or rowed themselves across the bay to Tacoma. The bridge cut automobile travel distance from 90 miles down to 7.  However the design of the bridge caused the deck to move up and down on windy days earning it the name “Galloping Gertie”.  Four months after it opened it was hit with 40 MPH winds. The deck started swaying side to side as well as up and down, adding a twist which broke cables and towers. Fortunately everyone managed to get off the bridge before it collapsed.

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  Labor and material shortages due to WWII meant a new bridge could not be built until 1950. They got it right the second time. This bridge is still in use although a second bridge was added in 2007 to carry the increase in traffic.

This excellent small museum covers the history of the Native Americans who lived here first and the immigrants and their means of making a living. Besides the museum galleries, a one room school house and the Shenandoah, a fishing boat that was used from 1925 to 1967 and is being restored, are on the grounds and opened to tour.

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   The museum is accessible but to get to the second level which contains the bulk of the museum it’s necessary to go outside where the Shenandoah display is located and up a long ramp. The exhibits are accessible but some of the video screens are hard to see. The schoolhouse is accessible. The interior of the Shenandoah is not accessible.

  The parking lot is small. Large RVs can be parked on the street.

Museum  47.33722, -122.59349

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Vancouver Island - General Information

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  After exploring Vancouver Island for three weeks we realized that we hadn’t seen half what the island has to offer. So a bit of advice to future visitors – plan a long visit if possible! We drove Route 1 and Route 19 from Victoria to Port Hardy and made a loop starting on Route 1 in Victoria, going west and north on Route 14 and east on Route 18 and back on Route 1 at Duncan but didn’t take any of the paved roads to the west coast or any of the many gravel roads. We stopped at both small out-of-the-way museums and popular attractions, sought out short, easy trails, and enjoyed nature in the provincial parks but we missed many potentially interesting places. The next time we visit we’ll spend more time in Victoria, drive to western port cities, and look for camping spots along some of the gravel roads. We had a chance to spend time with our daughter and son-in-law who came for a few days and to see our rubber tramp friends who live on the island or were visiting. Great to see everyone! Thanks for sharing campsites, front yards, meals, and conversation.  : –)
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  Getting to the Island
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  If you want to take your RV the only way to get to the island is by ferry. From the US you can take  Washington State Ferries from Anacortes or Black Ball Ferries from Port Angeles. Both accept oversize vehicles. BC Ferries leave from Tsawwasen, south of Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver. BC Ferries have other routes from Vancouver Island to smaller islands if you want to explore more. I believe they all will accept oversize vehicles. Reservations are a good idea on any of the ferry lines. If you need room to deploy a wheelchair lift make sure that the ferry crew are aware of this when you are given a place in line.  We took the ferry from Port Angeles because it was the shortest, most convenient trip. The Black Ball Ferry line does not have an elevator to the passenger deck so anyone who uses a wheelchair or needs to borrow one is loaded first with help from the ferry crew.

          Roads
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  Touring on Vancouver Island almost always involves driving to the end of a road, turning around, and driving back to your starting point unless you want to spend a lot of time on gravel roads. Route 1 is the main road at the south end of Vancouver Island. It becomes Route 19 at Nanaimo. Route 19A offers a parallel route through the coastal towns. Route 1 and Route 19 are limited access at times but have traffic signals when passing through towns and populated areas. Fortunately all of the traffic signals have warning lights a good distance ahead so that traffic can stop safely. Route1, 19, and 19A provide access to the east coast of the island. The only road on the west coast is Route 14 at the southern tip of the island. The rest of the coast is broken up by numerous inlets and channels. Four paved roads extend from the east coast roads to harbors on the west coast but for traveling anywhere else you’ll be on gravel roads, ferries, float planes, or private boats. All of the roads that we drove on were in very good condition but don’t expect to get anywhere as fast as you normally would.

  Weather
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   We had excellent weather - between 65 and 75 and sunny most days. The island was experiencing a drought so it may not always be that nice.

  Camping
IMG_5873   We camped a five different provincial parks. All of the parks are very well maintained and all follow the same basic design standards. All have level, roomy sites with sturdy picnic tables, metal fire pits, and abundant vegetation. Some have sites that are spaced farther apart than others but none feel crowded. Amenities determine the prices which range from $20.00 to $35.00. The cheapest have pit toilets and drinking water. The most expensive have flush toilets, showers, drinking water and a dump station. Everyone, including campers, pays a $5.00 fee to use the dump station. Many of the campgrounds have an additional fee for an extra vehicle which I believe extends to towed vehicles. Reservations should be made well ahead of time for coastal campgrounds and campgrounds near the cities. Sites at other campgrounds can be reserved but are readily available first come/ first serve.

  None of the campgrounds have electric hookups. Generator hours are limited and solar panels don’t get enough sun to provide power. The sites seem like they’re large enough for class As but most of the other campers were in tents, pop ups, trailers or small RVs.

  We camped at two free campgrounds managed by Western Forest Products. One appeared to have been a provincial park at one time. It had standard sites with good tables but the sites in the other were randomly scattered and many were missing tables.

  This is a very good website that includes all of the public campgrounds including free ones - All US and Canada Public Campgrounds. I downloaded the campgrounds to my GPS as POIs. There's also a phone app.

  We stayed at one private campground, Thetis Lake, near Victoria. It’s small and the roads are narrow. It’s a good place to stay convenient to the city but not designed for large RVs.

  Boondocking and Overnighting
  The island is thickly forested and most of the dirt roads are logging roads. In the southern half of the island almost of the dirt roads are gated so it isn’t possible to scout for boondocking spots but we did find a few large pull offs that will work for a night.  Boondocking opportunities increase north of Campbell River but since we stayed at free Western Forest campsites we didn’t look for any boondocking spots. I believe that most of the island is crown land which is managed like US national forest land but I can not find a map that shows crown land.
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  Few of the Walmarts allow overnight RV parking. Try other big box stores but keep in mind that they may prohibit parking overnight too. Many of the rest areas allow 8 hour parking, however, they may be very small and close to the highway. The rest areas north of Campbell River are larger and set back from the highway.

  Phone and Internet
  We did not switch our phone and internet plan to one that worked in Canada so we relied on free WiFi. All of the information centers have WiFi. Only one charged us a small fee. WiFi is also available at Walmart, other big box stores, and fast food restaurants. Our friends who had Canadian phone service could not get a signal whenever they traveled more than five miles from the main road.

  Border Crossings
   In both the US and Canada you’ll pass through customs as you leave the ferry. The process is very quick and we were asked few questions. We ate most of our fresh product before entering Canada just in case.

  Accessibility
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  Victoria is very accessible. Access in smaller cities and in the country is not as good but still manageable. Most of the provincial parks have accessible sites. They may not be marked as such but they are listed as accessible on the online reservation site.

  If you have any questions I’d be happy to try to answer them!
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Beacon Hill Park and Waterfront Trail

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    The land for Beacon Hill Park was set aside as a protected area in 1858. It includes woodland and shoreline trails, two playgrounds, a waterpark, playing fields, a petting zoo, tennis courts, many ponds, landscaped gardens, and what was for a time (erected in 1956), the world’s tallest totem pole. We took a short stroll through the eastern edge of the park and walked/rolled along the Waterfront Trail.

   We didn’t spend enough time in the park to give a comprehensive review but the trails we used were accessible.  We went about one mile east on the Waterfront Trail. It’s paved, smooth and accessible. Able bodied visitors can access the tidal pools at Clover Point.

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IMG_5776  Short RVs will fit in the two parking areas along Dallas Road. It may be possible to park larger RVs parallel to the road. It’s easy to access both the park and the Waterfront Trail from the eastern most lot. There’s also parking inside the park.The center of Victoria is about 1 1/2 miles from Dallas Road making this a good location to park an RV and see the city.  Park  48.40794, -123.36022

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