Tuesday, November 19, 2013

September 2013 Road-Trip...

Without going into great detail, I’ll mention that the summer of 2013 has been an unusual one for me. The first time in 36 years that I have not worked the fireline, with the exception of a type 3 wildfire incident I commanded in early May. My lower back was torqued during the Pack Test (45# / 45minutes / 3 miles). I passed the test but the subsequent injury has limited me to very light duty and no return-to-work clearance from my medical providers as of yet. So how the above plays into this next story is a bit unique, but leave it to say, I am not an ideal patient. Catherine had a bit of vacation time coming from Stonerose and needed a break from the care-giving role she found herself in with her mom. We decided on a stress relief, light duty week in the camper would suit us both well. And thus it was in early September that we embarked on a short road-trip heading to visit the Pacific Ocean via the Olympic Peninsula.  Our departure was September 5th. The day after my birthday and the day before Catherine’s. Usually we are on a month long sail cruise at this time of year but my injury took the option of the boat off the table – too much potential for less-than-light-duty activity.
The Washington State Highway 20 bridge over Early Winter's Creek.
The Hwy separates the campground into north and south areas.
We camped to the north and had that area to ourselves.
 Our first stop was Early Winter’s Campground in the Methow River Valley. The campground is located in the Okanogan / Wenatchee National Forest and even though Washington State still had a burn ban in place campfires were allowed in improved campgrounds on national forest lands.
Catherine pointing out where she and her family had set up an
extended camp when she was a teenager.  

Catherine enjoying a nice weather, quiet afternoon at
Early Winter's Campground and the nearby
creek. Unbeknownst to us at this time but this stream
was to undergo major changes during the night.

Burn Ban? What Burn Ban???
We knew there was a red flag storm warning for the North Cascade mountains with heavy rain and abundant lightning, remember I’m a fire manager and incident commander and have spent many years paying close attention to summer storms, but what Mother Nature threw at us that night was unprecedented in my experience. The lightning was phenomenal and near continuous with explosive cracks of thunder immediately in the wake of the strikes.

A significant change in the creek in less than 12 hours.

The next day N.O.A.H reported nearly 2,000 lightning strikes across the state and over 2 inches of rain in some areas fell in less than 6 hours. Here’s a complied image showing Early Winter’s Creek to the left at approximately 1900:hours on 09/05/13 with me doing a polar bear plunge and then a photo from the same location at approximately 12 hours later on 09/06/13. Pretty darn substantial change.

Backing up a bit: after enjoying a glass of wine at the fire we were sleeping in the camper when all of a sudden Catherine, Pinja and I were all awakened by a brilliant light and an explosion of thunder. "Wow! That was close!" was the general sentiment. Between the flashes of lightning and the blasts of thunder the wind was howling, causing the camper to shudder, and huge rain drops were pelting the thin roof inches above us. The storm kept our crew awake for a bit but soon with Pinja hiding under the covers and Catherine snoring away I was the only sleepless one.
And I was sweating. Hmm... Kick off some covers and go back to sleep - no go. Booms of thunder, flashes of lightning, pounding rain and camper-rocking winds. Hmm... My pulse is up and I've got a little bit of jitters. Howling winds and I hear a tree cracking and branches falling as the rain pounds our protection shell and the lightning flashes and the thunder cracks in crisp electric percussions. Hmm... is that a pain in my chest? And so it was I passed several hours of the night weighing the options: Do I rouse the crew and break camp and drive through the storm to seek help? There is no cell service in the campground. Do I drive until we can call 911 and make arrangements to meet the ambulance, telling them I have a possible heart attack - leaving Catherine to fend for herself in this storm. Probably better than her waking next to a corpse, but heck, driving a camper down the road at night in these winds with this much rain in such a storm isn't going to be easy for anyone. But I'm a fire chief, I'm medically trained - this isn't a heart attack. Is it?
Several self-assessments, a lot of deep breathing and a few hours pass. The storm abates to "normal" levels - so do I. Sleep finds me. Morning comes...
* * *
Happy Birthday Catherine!
Morning for our crew means COFFEE. I brew a pot, serve Cathy and decline one myself. She notices immediately. I tell her about my night.
“So, you’re going to an emergency room this morning,” she says whilst enjoying the fresh-ground brew I served. Although I’m feeling much better, with the exception of the pain in my lower back, I agree. We decide to cross the North Cascade Highway and find a hospital in Western WA. About that time our campground host arrives and informs us that North Cascade Highway is closed (again). Major washouts, mudslides, trees down. Mental note to self – glad we weren’t traveling at night, during the storm, over the mountains…
Long story short…
"Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday to you...
Happy Birthday dear Catherine... Happy Birthday to you"...

Yes indeed I did sing to her as Wenatchee Valley nurses and aids wired me up, checked me out, and after three hours in the E.R. gave me a clean bill of health.

So what was up? Well as the good doctor said, "we really didn't check you for what was wrong, but we did check you for a cardiac emergency. You are not, nor did not recently have one". What we determined was the likely cause relates back to the opening paragraph of this blog. "I'm not an ideal patient". I'd been neglecting to eat when I took the pain-meds for my lower back. Those meds wreck havoc on the stomach and it appears that I had a substantial bout of upper intestinal gas reflex. Add the hostile environment of the major storm and a few other stressors and, well there you have it. Three things good I can say about this situation is:
  1. Wenatchee Valley Hospital E.R. ROCKS! You folks were great.
  2. Catherine has incredible patience and a very positive outlook on it all...
  3. We got out in time to make the run over Stevens Pass in the daylight and managed to hook up in our friends driveway in the fine little city of Mukilteo, Washington...

Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival

Mukilteo's waterfront park deck-out for the celebrations.
 Once a year the residents of Mukilteo host a weekend long gathering of family, friends and visitors to this friendly sea-side village of twenty thousand people. In the language of the indigenous people Mukilteo means "good camping ground".
Our dear friend Liza and Catherine share the sunshine and a
smile on this fine afternoon.
 Located on the south east shore of Possession Sound this is the site of a Washington State Ferries terminal to Clinton, on Whidbey Island.
Waterfront seats, local brew, a glass of red, a late afternoon
sun and good friends. It has the making of a fine day.
To say "the weather was good" would be a total understatement. The weather for Western Washington State was great!
According to a bit of research Mukilteo is one of the most affluent suburbs of Seattle. In 2007, the city had a median income of $83,569.
Fireworks during the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival celebrations.
Based on per capita income, Mukilteo ranks 29th of 522 areas in the state of Washington. In 2011, Mukilteo was ranked as number 9 of Money Magazine's top 100 small towns of America to live in. Fireworks for the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival were primarily sponsored by Boing...

Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

During the annual Wooden Boat Festival the public wharf and waterfront of Port Townsend in Jefferson County, Washington State, gets rather busy.


As a crowd of appreciative spectators line the public wharf, this fleet of mixed watercraft is off the Port Townsend waterfront during the 2013 Wooden Boat Festival.

Boat designer and builder Larry Silva checking out some of this year's entries into the P.T. Wooden Boat Festival.  


 This bronze cast statue of three seals is found on the grounds behind the Wooden Boat Foundation in Port Townsend.

This contemporary plein air artist provides an insight into the activity of the waterfront on the morning of the 2013 Wooden Boat Festival.

 The Canadian Steveston Lifeboat was on display and open to visitors during this annual Wooden Boat Festival. The wooden vessel was built in 1944 by the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor and for a time used by Admiral Nimitz as his barge.
Nearly 40 years had passed since Bruce Tipton and I had crossed paths. Over the course of those years I had heard that Bruce was part of the Wooden Boat Foundation in Port Townsend but the winds had not brought us on the same tack until the afternoon pictured here. I had a weather eye out for Bruce but so many years is a long time to change a person. Still when I spotted this fellow earnestly discussing wooden spars his voice told me it was Bruce. Well met indeed.
Connie and Catherine, two nautically inclined, beautiful ladies to enjoy a hot, sunny afternoon with on the shoreside piers of Port Townsend. Connie and Larry took time off from their home construction project to meet us at the Wooden Boat Festival.
The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival fills the towns waterfront with vessels of all types and well as filling the streets with visitors and tourists. It is an active weekend in this Salish Sea community.
* * *
Olympic National Park
Bid farewell to our friends and the fine seaside town of Port Townsend and followed that windy Washington State Highway 20 westward to it's '0' mile marker.
We weren't sure where the evening would take us but we finally settled deep in the Elwha River Valley, inside the Olympic National Park. Where there were very few visitors. 
A couple of those few visitors we met the next morning when Catherine and I invited Tucker and Edward into our camp for coffee. Catherine is a southern girl at heart and be it camper, boat or home the galley is an important social setting. So it was that our two new biking friends were treated not only to the offered coffee but biscuits, eggs, a delightful sweet pineapple/habanero sauce and more coffee. Turned out we had a few of the tools the guys needed to tune their bikes and we saw them off in fine style later that morning. Seems like we are now the old folks in the camper whilst others are under the lean-tos and tents.
Mother, Mother Ocean...
Wandering down the windy road from Forks to La Push we noted a fog bank over the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean and soon the bright autumn sunshine of mid September was left behind. Our first item of business when arriving at La Push, the tribal home to the Quileute people was to visit the tribal center. About 40 years ago I was a young man living in this area. The native peoples were good to me and shared many fish without asking anything in return. This trip Catherine and I brought some homegrown beef that we left at the tribal center for some elders. Next we found a spot at the RV Park right on First Beach. And soon afterward we took a walk onto the beach. Mother, Mother Ocean...
Catherine and our traveling companion, Pinja, with the southern most portion of James Island in the foggy background. On First Beach La Push.

Pinja thinks she's a lab, loves the water and delights in being allowed to chase the gulls off the beach. Granted she is cautiously weary about those breaking waves plunging up onto the beach and has yet to get rolled by one of them...

Cakesosta and associated sea stacks form part of the point separating First Beach from Second Beach in the La Push area of Washington coast located in Clallam County.
Back in early December 2011 I posted in Foster's Sailing Blog regarding a very large drift log that washed ashore near La Push. It hadn't crossed my mind that a couple of years later I might take a photograph of that very same log, still located on First Beach near La Push, Washington. 
My lower back injury has restricted cycling this year. Where I normally get a couple of hundred miles a year, I've probably less than twenty during 2013. Catherine and I did hop on the cycles and did a leisurely tour of the La Push village and water front. That presented up an opportunity to speak with a young native lad who has taken up surfing. Appears some of the Quileute youth have become competitively at the sport. Good for them!
 And speaking of surfing. A good wet-suit goes a long ways along the North Pacific beaches. These guys were making the most of out of the small waves coming ashore this afternoon. Would have loved to have been out there with them...

To be continued: check back soon...

1 comment:

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