Summer 2016 Road Trip, Day 1: The Road to Mazama

A late start, a free overnight stay.

I’m on vacation. After a 10-week cherry drying season that had the five pilots on my team flying more than 160 total hours (!), my last contract ended on Sunday, a beautiful cloudless day. Because I’m required to stay in the area for the entire season, I get a little stir crazy by week 7 or 8. I started planning a trip with my new camper, the Turtleback. I had some minor repairs and improvements made earlier this month and brought it home on Thursday. I began packing the next day. By Sunday morning, I was ready to go.

Kayak Blues

Or at least I thought I was. I still had one thing to get on board: my kayak. My trip would have me visiting lakes throughout the North Cascades, both in Washington and British Columbia (Canada). Clearly it would be nice to have my kayak along for early morning or late afternoon paddles.

The idea was the hang my kayak on the ladder on the back of the camper. My kayak isn’t anything special. It’s straight out of Costco and several years old. Plastic with a molded seat and storage space and a cup holder. Room for Penny to ride on the bow or between my legs. It’s the kind of thing that if it broke along the way, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. Besides, I have two of them that are identical, mostly so visitors can come paddling with me. For this trip, I only wanted to bring one.

But no matter what I did, I couldn’t easily hoist it onto the ladder rack. I’d wanted to leave town by 10 AM and by 9 AM I was sweaty, still needing a shower, and had a handful of other more important tasks to complete. And the kayak was still lying on the ground in front of the garage.

I showered, dressed, and headed down into town in my Jeep. I’d rig something up with pulleys and my electric winch. I’d already confirmed that the camper’s onboard generator could power the winch.

Then I got home, had lunch, and did those other things. I was waiting for shade in my driveway. By 12:30, there was some shade, but not quite as much as I hoped. Still, I climbed the ladder, rigged the pulleys, and built a sling for the kayak. I attached the winch and hoisted the kayak into place. It was a struggle. The ropes and knots and hooks kept getting hung up on the ladder. I tried to imagine doing it in a campground or lakeside up in the mountains, possibly with a handful of people watching. I couldn’t paint the picture. I imagined bringing along the kayak and never using it.

I winched it back down and pushed it into the garage. I removed the rigging and put away the winch. I finished packing and loaded Penny on board the truck. It was 3:00 PM when I pulled out of the driveway.

On my way out of town, I bought an inflatable raft and an electric air pump. That would have to do.

The Generator

I had one stop to make on my way north: a gas station in Pateros, WA.

I owned two generators. One was a 1KW Troy-Bilt that had been bought way back in around 2000 for backup power at the vacation home I owned with my wasband. The generator had been in my Wickenburg hangar when I moved to Washington, so I’d taken it with me. The other was a 2KW Honda I’d bought in 2010 for use with my old Mobile Mansion. I only needed one generator. (Heck, you can argue that I don’t need any generators because my new camper has one built in.) So I decided to sell the smaller one.

I had no idea what it was worth, but I knew you could buy a Chinese-made one at Harbor Freight for about $100. Surely this one was worth more. I figured I’d list it on Craig’s list for $175 and see whether I got any calls.

The calls started coming pretty quickly. One guy who seemed very interested was living in an off-the-grid cabin about 17 miles from Tonasket. Tonasket near the border of Washington and Canada — not exactly close by. He was willing to drive down to get it, or to see if he could talk a friend into picking it up. I told him I’d be heading his way on Sunday and offered to meet him. (Why not, right?) So after several phone calls, including one to say I’d been delayed and another to say I was finally on my way, I headed for the Chevron station in Pateros, which was about a half mile past where I’d turn up the Method River.

I got there around 5. I went in, bought a heavily caffeinated beverage and some chocolate covered espresso beans. Then I went back into the truck to wait.

And wait.

I was just getting ready to roll out of there at 5:30 when he pulled up in a pickup truck with a water hauling tank in back. He was around my age with really nice long hair covered on top with a sort of trail guide hat. He greeted me with a friendly handshake and I brought him over to the truck, where the generator was sitting on a blanked on the back seat. He pulled it out — it’s very heavy — and laid it on the tailgate of his truck. I pointed out the power switch, fuel valve, and choke lever. He set everything up and pulled the cord. It roared to life.

He asked me if I’d accept less. I guess that’s something you’re supposed to do. I told him not after I’d hauled it up here and waited a half hour. He understood, although I think he doubted I’d been there a half hour. He counted out $175 and I put it away. We chatted for a while about what I do in the Wenatchee area and what he does up in Tonasket. (He’s a “Jack of all trades, master of a few.”) He was an interesting guy and it would have been nice to talk to him a while longer. But I had a vacation to get on and I wanted to be parked for the night before it got dark. We shook hands again and I went back to my truck. He was gone before I even pulled out.

The Campsite

I had no idea where I would be spending the night. The original plan had been Pearrygin Lake State Park north of Winthrop, but I couldn’t see spending $30+ for a campsite I’d only occupy for one night, especially if I didn’t have time to take advantage of any of the facilities. So I drove north through Twisp and Winthrop towards Mazama with the idea of finding a quiet spot in the National Forest.

Twisp was relatively quiet — although I didn’t drive through the business part of town — but Winthrop was hopping. The town was full of parked cars with plenty of people out and about. I was pretty surprised — after all, it was after 6 PM on a Sunday night. I assumed the tourists would have gone home by then. But then again, it is still summer. I rarely vacation in the summer months because I want to avoid crowds, so I really have no idea how a typical summer week plays out.

I have to say that it was interesting to visit the area in the summer. I come up to the Winthrop area annually for Christmas — at least I have for the past three years — to do some cross-country skiing. The area is always covered with snow. Last year I drove through in the summer on a camping trip with the guy I was dating at the time and again in the autumn when I went for a weekend mushroom seminar at the North Cascades Environmental Learning center. (I’ll be back in late August for a nighttime photo class.) The hillsides were the same golden color they are around my home, but the valley was lush and green. There was one field with tall grass that had gone to seed; the wind whipped it around and the seed heads seemed to flow like water.

There was a recreation side at Mazama that indicated camping was available, so I turned in and headed north up Lost River Road. I didn’t remember any campgrounds up that way, but I did remember a parking area for a Sno Park. When I got there, it was big and flat and empty, surrounded by fir trees. The pit toilet was unlocked and was probably the cleanest one I’d ever been in.

By this time, it was after 7 PM. Sunset was in over an hour, but the valley was already in deep shadows. I could drive back to Mazama and continue up route 20. But I didn’t know how far I’d have to drive before I found a suitable place to park for the night. Do I leave a known in search of a suitable unknown? The answer was no. I’d had enough adventure for the day. It was time to kick back and relax.

First Campsite
Our first night’s campsite, just north of Mazama, WA.

So I parked the truck, opened the Turtleback’s slide and set about organizing my hastily packed belongings.

A while later, I had my portable grill out with a hamburger sizzling and two small eggplant from my garden grilling beside it. A sliced tomato from my garden completed the meal.

My only regret: I’d forgotten to pack a bottle of wine.

6 thoughts on “Summer 2016 Road Trip, Day 1: The Road to Mazama

    • It’s been interesting, that’s for sure. Seem like I’m going out of my way to stay off the beaten path, especially when it comes to campsites. Found a real gem for night 4.

  1. Good writing Maria, as ever.
    There is a residual decency in America, Trump excepted, which means the guy who wanted your Honda generator actually turned up.
    We would never trust to that sort of deal in the UK. Either the seller would not turn up or the buyer would phone to say he/she had just bought one cheaper elsewhere. But in the USA people still keep their word and folk try to help.

    We were lost in West Virginia a few years back, trying to find a little airfield for a jolly. Met two ‘good old boys’ in a Dodge pick-up who knew our destination but found describing the route too complex. They looked at each other and said “oh! shoot, follow us”. We followed for ten miles and they took us right to the airstrip.

    • There’s a lot of that kind of thing in this country, especially in rural areas. In cities, not so much — although it isn’t impossible. Craig’s List is huge here; I’ve been moving a lot of old stuff for free and and a fee. Very happy with the results.

  2. I’ve never seen anything like the Turtleback before. What a great idea. It looks in really good condition. It’s not clear from the photos if it uses the void in the flat bed of the truck or is it all above the top of the sides of the flatbed?

    • These are pretty common here and they come in all sizes. Mine is larger than average. It sits in the pickup bed and is quite roomy inside. Large bed over the truck cab, tiny bathroom, small kitchen and dining area. Refrigerator. Everything I need and I can take it anywhere I take the truck.

What do you think?