Hermit Park to Pittsburgh to Westport, Washington

Trip Start Jul 24, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

I can't believe its been nine months since my last entry.  Where did the time go?  I think I got carried away with my philosophy of "why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?"
I think it was snowing in June when last we "talked," and we were settling in at Hermit Park.  Hermit is such a great place.  At the risk of repeating myself, Hermit is such a great place.  Almost 1400 acres bordering Rocky Mt. National Park of mostly open space (meaning undeveloped now and for the future). The cabins and campsites are primitive, meaning no water, electric or even bathhouses, but our weekends were usually pretty full.  It takes a different sort to want to primitive camp.  Our camphost spots had all the modern utilities like water, electricity and sewage.  We even had satellite TV which is about as primitive as I want to be.  My favorate song:
Yea, yea, yea,
Sky's real nice
moon's real big
stars' real bright
but still in all it's just not right that
I CAN'T WATCH TV!!!!!!!!!!

We especially liked our Sundays for, in addition to having donuts, we got out of the office to clean cabins and pick-up at campsites.  Most of the time, there was very little cleaning to do.  Hermit Park used to be owned by Hewlett Packard for the exclusive free use by their employees.   The only "catch" was they were to leave the sites in as good or better shape than they found them.  We found the cabins not only clean, but damp mopped, even though the water had to be carried.  The only time we had to do much was when the cabins were rented to folks that were not familiar with the routine.  Also renting to the ones that said "you're charging me $80 a night for a cabin with no electric, lights or bathroom and you want me to clean it too!!!???"  "You nuts???"  Hey, don't look at me, I have TV.

One Friday evening we checked in a young couple that were so excited about a cabin in the woods.  Two hours later they were back checking out.  We asked what could possibly have gone wrong in such a short period of time.  Hubby explained that they saw a bear. Ranger Rich explained that they were safe enough in the cabins and that how lucky they were to be among the fortunate few that get a chance to see a bear.  Their response was "we're outta here."  We were there for four months and never saw a bear.  Not even a little bitty one. 

Another beautiful Sunday morning we were on our way up the mountain to clean cabins when Jean says "stop!"  "back up".  There about 50 feet off the side of the road was a golden eagle sitting on a stump having his lunch.  We watched him for about 30 seconds before he got tired of the audience and took off.  What a thrill seeing him lift off with that seven foot wingspan. 

Brother Richard and wife Judy flew out in July to attend the wedding of nephew Gilbert to Allison.  They were able to stay with us for a few days and we had a great time.  Richard and I took a 2 hour horseback ride up into Rocky Mt. Nat'l Park.  You get to see things you usually can't from the roadway.  After 2 hours though, you really learn to appreciate the comforts of an automobile.  Ralph and Bev (parents of Gil) were also able to spend the afternoon.  The wedding took place near Golden, Co., so it was close enough to get in some visit time.  It was nice spending time together for something fun.  It seemed as though each time we were spending time together was to attend a funeral.  Too bad brother Roy and Vikki couldn't make it. 

Before we knew it, it was September and time for us to leave, even though we were invited to stay as long as we wanted.  I couldn't find a blanket large enough to fit around our camper.  Besides, I wanted to get back east to check in on daughter Mary.  She'd just gotten out of the hospital in August with Pulmonary Hypertension, congestive heart failure, enlarged heart and a few other things thrown in for good measure.  Very worrisome to say the least.    Here we are seven months later and she sounds sooo much better.   In retrospect, it was obvious she had been getting sick for quite some time because talking to her now is such a difference.  She sounds like Mary again.  She did well enough on her last doctor's visit that she only has to use her oxygen at night.  So nice to be able to walk around without being connected to a tank. 

While back east, we were able to visit with friends and family which is always a lot of fun.  The middle of October took us from Pittsburgh to Michigan to attend Jean's nephew's wedding.  Peter and Erin are the lucky couple.  Then it was back to Pittsburgh for some more fun visiting and for not so much fun with doctors' appointments.
Ginny and the grandkids were able to drive in from the Poconos for a visit.  I think the kids had a great time sleeping in the "camper."  It was also an educational trip for them.  I was able to show them what happens when you are pulling the camper down the road and you forget to lower the TV antenna

The first of November we were back in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado on our way to Washington.  Our idea was to spent the winter in Washington, then in the spring continue to Alaska.  Needless to say the economy didn't co-operate and we got cold feet. (Alaska? cold feet? get it?)  Besides, while we were waiting for Denali State Park to call us back for a workamper job, we got invited back to Hermit Park.  Jean is going to do the camphost position which gives us a free spot, and I'm going to work with the caretaker in a paid position.  Hopefully, next year we will be able to do the Alaska thing. 

So, here we are in Westport, Washington.  In exchange for our site (with all utilities, of course), we conduct tours of the lighthouse four afternoons a week.  The lighthouse is a lot of fun, especially when most of the visitors are so captivated by it.  It's a lot of fun answering their questions.  It's the tallest lighthouse in Washington at 107 feet which translates to 135 steps.  My record is seven times to the top in one four hour shift.  Of course, I stop a lot for the "comfort of our visitors."  It was constructed in 1897-1898 and still has the original 3rd order Fresnel lens although it no longer works.  Too expensive and it used to float in 20 gallons of mercury before they knew how dangerous the stuff was.  It's great fun being at the top when these winter storms blow through.  It's almost like you're on top the storm looking down on the rain.  You can also see the waves crashing on the beach. 
The lighthouse is closed during December and January 'cause they say it's too cold for the volunteers.  November, February, and March wasn't exactly what I'd call warm.  Once that concrete gets cold, it stays cold.  Anyway, during December and January, we worked at the maritime museum.  It's only about 2-3 miles from the lighthouse and our campsite.  They have a first order (most powerful) Fresnel lens on display at the museum.  It's 18 feet tall and weighs 8 tons.  It was removed from the Destruction Island lighthouse and the museum had to build a separate building to put it on display.  My main job was trying to keep people from touching the lens.
The museum and lighthouse are operated by the Westport - Southbeach Historical Society and the members were very nice to us.  We were invited to their houses for dinner and of course I can't say no to free food.  Seriously, we had a great time talking with new and different people.  We also met another couple at one of our dinner parties that were from Australia.  It took them 15 years to get their green card (which isn't really green)  They were buying an RV and were going to explore the US of A.  Our hosts thought we could give them some ideas.  Boy, could we!!

Once a month the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife test the toxicity levels of razor clams and if they are deemed safe they allow "clam digs."  That turned out to be a lot of fun, even though I wasn't so sure.  It usually takes Jean a while to talk me into doing things that don't have sleep associated with it.  I can be a real pain. It's just that you need to buy a license, and rubber boots.  Buy or borrow clam digging tools and buckets.  Bundle up as warm as possible because the gale force winds are blowing the rain/snow/hail sideways and your hands and lips are turning blue.  Meanwhile, back in town, you can get a big steaming bowl of clam chowder for a couple bucks.  I know, I know, this was more fun.  It was.  Really.  The clam digging tool is a piece of 4 inch PVC about 4 feet long with a "T" handle on top.  You walk along the beach looking for little dimples in the sand.  This is the location where a clam dug into the sand.  Then you take the tool, place it over the dimple, push down as hard and as far as you can, then pull the tool back up.  Look through the plug of sand you just dug up and hopefully there will be a razor clam in there.  It's easy to spot the experienced diggers.  They are the ones that can spot the "dimples" and dig up the clams.  Jean and I would walk around looking like we lost a contact lens.   We got a couple though and the couple that took us out to show us what to do gave us theirs.  We then had enough to make some great clam chowder.  Yea! It really was fun.  [Bob made the clam chowder and it was outstanding!]

Westport is pretty much removed from everything and it takes quite a while to get anywhere.  It takes one and one half hours just to get to I-5.  The scenery along the way makes it all worth while.  We made several attempts to get to Mt. St. Helens but it was "closed."  It's still winter up there.  The visitors centers are still closed and one time we had to turn around due to white out conditions and more accumulation than we were comfortable with.  What we could see though was pretty awesome.  Seattle  had an unusually rough winter this year. They had more snow than Denver. We didn't get very much snow out here along the coast and the temps didn't get much below the mid 30's, but elsewhere they got hammered.  Seattle had a law prohibiting the use of road salt because the salmon didn't like the taste.  After about two weeks of people unable to get to work, they rescinded the law. 
There was also a warming and raining spell that completely over ran the rivers.  There were places that flooded that never flooded before.  We tried to get to Tacoma to see the RV show.  The main road out of here toward Olympia was under water so we followed the detour.  That road had a mud slide, and we were beginning to wonder if we were able to get back.  We decided to go back home and try again another day.

I think the thing we're going to miss the most about being here is listening to the ocean.  It kind of sings you to sleep at night.  (that is when I can stay awake long enough the hear it).  It's also a lot of fun taking the dogs to the beach.  There's usually no one there or they're far enough away we can turn the dogs loose and they won't bother anyone.  They chase one another around and have a grand old time.  Caitie is too old to do much of anything but I think she enjoys it anyway.  She likes to eat shells then come back to the trailer and throw up.  Now we keep her on a leash.

March 31st and we will be on our way back to Colorado.  We need to get back to the high country so we can re-learn how to breathe before we start work. 
I'm reminded of an old song in part goes, "I've never seen a sight that didn't look better looking back."
I'm ready to say good-bye to Washington.
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