When I opened the blinds this morning one of my neighbors had already departed. By the time I emerged from my RV home after lingering over my breakfast coffee the campground was almost empty. The type of use this park gets continues to confuse me. I would have expected many of the people that came in on Thursday and Friday to stay for the holiday week, but this park seems to draw mostly weekenders from the nearby area. During the week people show up for a night or two, but most of them have Washington license plates. If they are travelers they haven’t traveled very far.
I finally made a run for food supplies this afternoon. One of the excuses I gave myself for not shopping yesterday was a concern for big crowds on Saturday afternoon. I don’t know what the crowd was like yesterday, but this afternoon the Walmart was packed. The aisles were full of shopping carts and most of the checkouts were open with two to three people waiting. I’ve noticed that shopping patterns vary with the region and I can’t begin to guess what drives the differences.
My two weeks at this campground are up tomorrow. I’m going to move to a commercial park about twenty minutes from here for the next week. The goal is to get by the holiday week. There aren’t a lot more things I want to do and see in this area, but getting a reservation in a more touristy area proved difficult. The fact that I could get a reservation for the holiday week should have been a clue that this isn’t a great tourist area. The good thing is that there are two fireworks displays that I should be able to see on Independence Day.
With such a short distance to travel, I plan to slow roll my departure. I need to be off the site by noon. I’ll spend some additional time at the dump station and then hooking up the towed car in the Day Use area parking lot. I still might be pushing the 1PM check in time at the Tri Cities KOA.
It was a beautiful sunny day with a high temperature in the low to mid eighties and a gentle breeze. I was very comfortable sitting under the awning or one of the big trees in the park.
The only plan I had for the day was a little grocery shopping, but the lazy atmosphere of the park changed that plan. I spent the day just enjoying the park and all of the revelers. The campground was full and the day use area was very active as well. The beach area along the river had all manner of water craft. I saw kayaks, canoes, tubes, floats, a peddle boat, and paddle boards as well as all kinds of power boats. The only thing missing were sail boats. I guess the long and narrow nature of the water isn’t that great for sailing.
This Corp of Engineers park is located on an old dairy farm run by the Hood family. It provided milk to the area during the first half of the twentieth century. When the Corp of Engineers started to dam this area of the Columbia River the farm lost some of its area along the river. The property was turned over to the government and eventually became a park.
It rained a little off and on over night, but by morning it was a nice sunny day. The temperature eventually reached the mid seventies.
Today I went in search of the site of the powerboat races in Richland this weekend. I found Howard Amon park on the banks of the Columbia River, but didn’t stop. I was already past the entrance road before I saw the park sign. This is not the first time I’ve been confounded by missing or poorly placed signs in this area. Many of direction signs are small and located on the corner beyond the intersection. I would expect them before the intersection so you could prepare to turn. Even on the Interstate Highways that have to conform to particular standards the signs in Washington state are less helpful than some. They seem to want to use the name of the road and not the assigned route number.
In general I’ve noticed that each state I travel in is a little different. It takes some time to get used to the characteristics of each state. I tend not to use a GPS until I’m frustrated or “lost”. My normal approach is to look at a map ahead of time and memorize route numbers or important intersections. If I’m driving the RV, I might write the key information down so I can refresh my memory on the fly. My threshold for using the GPS is also a little lower when I’m driving the RV. Truthfully, I never really consider myself lost. I just fail to find my desired location or get to explore the area longer before I arrive at my destination.
The campground continued to fill up for the weekend. It occurred to me that I am surrounded by real campers. There are more tents in this campground than I’m used to seeing. Many of the weekenders seem to be from nearby. They aren’t here for the destination, but for the experience of being with friends and family under the stars. So far there haven’t been any wild parties.
It was raining off and on when I went to bed last night and the pattern continued this morning. It was not an outdoor kind of day until afternoon. The sun finally broke through around 1PM. Looking toward the west, north and east there were big banks of clouds on the horizon. The south was the only area that was clear. Luckily that was the direction the weather was coming from.
The gloomy start to the day lead to another slow day. I spent the rainy part of the day reading with the TV on for background noise. Once the weather cleared up I walked around the park a couple of times. Campers were lined up to check in for the weekend. It made perfect sense to me, I thought it was Friday all day. It wasn’t until I tried to find Friday night TV programs that I realized it was Thursday. TV programs are the only real calendar structure in my life.
The campground shows signs of being a real party place this weekend. Most of the sites are already full to overflowing. There are a couple of sites that have three or more tents surrounding a trailer. I’m surprised that this campground doesn’t have the RV and one tent limit that other campgrounds apply. In other areas of the campground the groups are spread out across several sites with all of the picnic tables gathered at one site for communal meals. I’m sure that more weekenders will arrived tomorrow.
I got another slow start to the day this morning. Unlike Tuesday I pushed my self to get through breakfast and out of the campground. Today I went across the Columbia River to Columbia Park in Kennewick WA. The park stretches for 4.5 miles along the south shore of the Columbia River. This is the same bank of the river that would be on the west side of the north south portion of the river and the north side of the river when it is flowing west toward the Pacific Ocean. In the tri cities area the river swings to the east before returning to the south then swinging to the west as it enters Oregon.
The park is a green area of the city between the railroad and the river. There is a big playground for the kids, a golf course and a disc golf course. I enjoyed a walk on the trail along the river. My walk was interrupted when it started to rain. By the time I got back to my car the rain had stopped, but I was already wet. I returned to my RV home to close the vents and make sure the rain wasn’t coming in the windows.
The area was under a Severe Thunderstorm watch all afternoon. A lot of interesting cloud formations passed through the area, but I never saw any lightening and only heard thunder once. With the exception of a few sprinkles the rain held off until night fall. A few showers have come and gone in the two hours since sunset. The storms have managed to drop the temperature from the high seventies to the low sixties.
Yesterday’s long day trip to Mount Rainier slowed everything down. Last night’s supper was late, I posted my blog entry later than usual and I got to bed late. No surprise that I got a late start this morning.
Today turned into a do nothing kind of day. I did some reading, some TV watching and walking around the campground. My little Canon Point and Shoot camera is always with me. Tonight’s blog entry is a few of the pictures I took today.
After breakfast this morning I set out to visit Mount Rainier National Park. It was about 80 miles northwest on Intestate 82 to Yakima WA then another 80 miles west on US 12 through the Cascade Mountains to get there.
Interstate 82 follows the Yakima River northwest. The valley is home to a lot of Washington States fruit crops. I drove through large grape vineyards, apple and cherry orchards. It was a nice drive. Along the way off in the distance to the northwest through the haze three snow topped mountains stood out from the rest. I believe I was looking at the three volcanic mountains Mount St Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. I never got a clear enough view to be more certain.
The drive west from Yakima climbed steadily to White Pass. On the climb the grassy desert landscape gave way to tall green trees. The forest continued to thicken as I descended the west side of the pass. The change from the rain shadowed side to the rain forest side was very apparent. Along the way down from White Pass I got my first good view of Mount Rainier. Unlike many places I wanted to stop, this one even had a big turn out viewing area. The top and bottom of the mountain were visible above and below a layer of clouds.
I entered the Mount Rainier National Park at the Stevens Canyon Entrance about 2000 feet lower in altitude from White Pass. The mountain was not visible through the dense tall old growth trees. It was at this point that my day trip started to go south. All of the parking areas and turnouts I came to were full. Several cars were hovering waiting for any available opening. I drove deeper into the park climbing all the way. Near the top of my climb I found a wide spot on the road to stop and consider what to do. To really see the park you need to hike in from the road, but all of the parking areas seem to be full. The road I was on was heading deeper into the park toward an eventual exit on the Seattle side of the mountain. I didn’t have enough gas to safely take that route and the last station I passed was fifty miles back. Combined with the fact that I was only prepared for a short hike, I decided to head back toward home.
The distance from my current location and Mount Rainier is to great to properly enjoy the park. It wasn’t a total failure. My drive was very scenic and enjoyable. To really explore Mount Rainier National Park, you need to be close enough to get an early start and be prepared to hike several of the trails. I don’t know what it takes to actually explore aspects of the mountain. While I didn’t expect to climb the mountain, I never saw it while in the park. Maybe that was further on the road I did not take.
I got back to civilization and filled the gas tank before I ran out. It was after five before I got home. It took three plus hours to get there and another three plus to get home. All for less than an hour driving in the national park.
I managed to get up in plenty of time to get a good start on touring, but my energy level, ambition or both weren’t up to the task. Knowing that I’m in this area for another two weeks allows me to procrastinate. If I was only planning to be here for a few days I’d be more active.
The early part of the day was sunny and calm. It made it very easy to spend extra time over breakfast and my morning coffee. By early afternoon waves of clouds with strong winds moved through the area. It would get darker and the wind would blow hard for a twenty minutes to an hour, before the sun returned. This pattern repeated several times before darkness arrived.
The campground emptied out quickly this morning. RVs started passing my site on their way out before eight this morning. At the noon checkout time the park looked to be about two thirds empty. Later in the day new arrivals brought the occupancy up over half full. I suspect tomorrow will be another day with a lot of turn over.
I got a slow start this morning. It was nearly noon before I left the campground to see more of the sights in the area. Because of the late start I didn’t wander a long distance from the tri cities area. I followed the roads along the east/south bank of the Columbia river back into Oregon. It goes from farm lands to deep canyons within a few short miles. Eventually the terrain returns to rolling hills. The river is wide and calm behind the McNary Lock and Dam. Traffic and unmarked turnouts made it impossible for me to stop, but it was a pretty drive.
The campground is very lively this weekend. There are many multiple site groups with lots of kids running between sites. A very family oriented atmosphere prevails. There was even a Saturday night movie for the kids at the amphitheater. Tomorrow morning is likely going to be very busy with people trying to beat the noon checkout time.
I hope to get a better start tomorrow morning so I can travel further away on my touring. The temperature is forecast to be a little cooler on an overall cloudier day.
After a little more overnight rain it turned into a cloudy first two thirds of the day. The clouds didn’t allow the temperature to climb very high. Late in the day the clouds started to break up and the high temperature of the day in the low seventies was reached. Tomorrow is forecast to be closer to normal high temperatures in the eighties.
The climate in the Tri-cities area of Washington is very arid. It is located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains. Most of the area is very brown and dusty. The exception is areas that are irrigated. One example is this park on the side of the Snake River. It has many big mature trees that draw water from the river. The park staff also makes liberal use of the river water to run sprinklers that keep much of the area lush with green grass. The area to the east and north of here roughly parallel to the rivers path is also well irrigated.
On a drive to the east I passed acres and acres of farm land. I’m not great at recognizing crops, but the grape vineyards were easy to identify. Across the road from the rows of grape vines were well manicured and controlled fruit trees. I think they were apple trees, but might be something else. The fruit was still small and not really identifiable. There were also acres of plants that appeared to be potatoes. As I got further from the rivers path the crops changed to ones I would assume require less water. This area was dedicated to grass and grains. All of the planted acreage had more kinds of irrigation equipment than I could ever imagine.
The campground is full for the weekend. Almost everyone is from Washington state with a few Oregon thrown in. I think I’m the only traveler in the park this weekend. My neighbor asked what someone from Florida was doing in this area. It turned into a weird conversation. I don’t think he ever considered that someone from another part of the country might want to visit his home area. Maybe I’m unusual, but this is the type of campground I like. Going a little way out of my way to stay in a nice Corp of Engineers Park on a river is worth it to me.