Travel Tips and Tricks

Cape Disappointment

Ilwaco, WA
Cape Disappointment State Park
Site 14

Located two miles southwest of Ilwaco, Washington in Pacific County, Cape Disappointment (formerly known as Fort Canby State Park) is one of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks. And it's anything but disappointing!

We stayed at Cape Disappointment for 5 days, and it wasn't nearly enough. Inside the park you've got two lighthouses, an Interpretive Center and a museum. The surrounding area includes a number of other historic interests from the Lewis and Clark journey; the cave rescue scene in The Guardian was filmed nearby (so you know how beautiful it is here); and there's 27 miles of stunning coastline to enjoy - most of which you're very likely to have to yourself.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

The hike out to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is a must. The lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known by then as "the graveyard of the Pacific." It is the oldest functioning lighthouse on the West Coast, and while the lighthouse itself is not open for tours, you'll want to take your camera at least halfway to the lighthouse for a few shots of Dead Man's Cove. Hike out to the lighthouse for some other nice surprises along the way.

The hike to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is, quite literally, uphill both ways. Of course, it's downhill both ways, too. The trails low spot is located at approximately the half-way point, leaving plenty of hill to climb both ways. And that trail can definitely be slippery with all the moisture this place gets - so watch your step!

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center stands high on the cliffs of Cape Disappointment State Park, 200 feet above the Pacific. A series of mural-sized "timeline" panels guide visitors through the westward journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition using sketches, paintings, photographs and the words of Corps members themselves. The center also features a short film presentation, which I found to be very enjoyable - particularly the story of nearby Dismal Nitch. You'll also find a gift shop and a glassed-in observation deck with fabulous views of the Columbia River, headlands and sea.

North Head Lighthouse

The North Head lighthouse is open to visitors and is just a short downhill walk from the parking lot. Tours are $2.50 for adults, ages 7-17 are free. They don't allow kids under 7 in the lighthouse, but we let our daughter (then 6) pretend she was 7 for the day and she did just fine. They did ask her age at the door, so if you're going to fib be sure to brief your kids ahead of time.

Closer to the parking lot you'll find the lighthouse keepers residence, a duplex, which may be rented for events. A wedding was in progress during our visit. There is a small store for souvenirs at the residence as well, and approximately half of those facilities are available for overnight stays. The facilities are quite nice, and that's reflected in the price. If you live within 500 miles and own an RV you'll do much better to camp at nearby Cape Disappointment State Park.

North Head is one of the windiest places in the United States. On January 29, 1921, winds were clocked at 126 mph before the instrument blew away. They have frequently been measured at over 100 mph.

Go fly a kite!

There's lots of wind on the beach, so much in fact that they hold a stunt kite competition here the fourth weekend of June every year. Despite all the fog and moisture I still had plenty of kite flying time. I even purchased my first stunt kite while I was there.

Of all the places I've camped at so far, Cape Disappointment currently sits at the top of the list of the places I'd most like to return to. Interestingly enough, it's also one of the places of the United States of America with the largest number of hours of Fog, 2552 hours (equivalent to 106 days) per year, hence the very comfortable hiking temperatures. So come prepared for pretty much anything with respect to the weather and you're certain to enjoy your visit as much as we did.

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Posted by Michael Worth at 02:16 PM on September 19, 2008 | Comments (0)" | TrackBack (0)"

Bruneau Dunes State Park

Bruneau, ID
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Eagle Cove Campground
Site 90

When I booked my reservation online, I was surprised to see that the Eagle Cove Campground was virtually wide open with just one reservation; while the nearby Broken Wheel Campground was nearly sold out. And that was perfect for me since I was taking a large group of campers with me, making it easy for everyone to make their own reservations and still have us all be centrally located on the same loop. I learned later why this campground was wide open, and the other nearly fully booked.

Bruneau Dunes has 82 serviced camp sites providing 15/30/50 Amp Power and water, and 16 additional standard sites. The free RV dump is conveniently located between the two campgrounds making it easy to dump either on your way home, or at any point during your stay.

Bruneau Dunes is home to the tallest single-structured dune in North America. Rising 470 feet above the desert and small lakes of the park, the dune covers about 600 acres and is estimated to have formed over a period of just 12,000 years. Activities at the park include fishing, birdwatching, camping, hiking, swimming, and my personal favorite: star gazing. Bruneau Dunes is home to Idaho's only public observatory, with star watching programs available most Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer months. The stars are just spectacular out here. There isn't a city light for many miles, and that makes for spectacular star viewing.

What I recently learned about the Eagle Cove Campground, and what you need to know about it, is this: It's HOT at Bruneau Dunes, and ALL THE TREES are in the Broken Wheel Campground. So if you find yourself camping at Eagle Cove, bring your own shade. Also, try to park in spots 94-97 to make best use of your RV & Awning as a sun shade in the afternoon and evening hours. Spots 73-74 are also oriented well for providing shade. It also tends to be quite windy at Bruneau Dunes, so come prepared for heat and wind (think convection oven) – and bring a kite!

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Posted by Michael Worth at 03:13 PM on June 27, 2007 | Comments (1)" | TrackBack (0)"

Three Island Crossing State Park

Glenns Ferry, ID
Wagon Wheel (Upper) Campground

The Oregon Trail was the scene of one of the greatest migrations of people in this country's history. Over 50,000 men, women and children (some historians say as many as 300,000) traveled over the 2,000 mile trail in search of a better life in Oregon.

History tells us that traveling the Oregon Trail was difficult. At what is now Three Island Crossing State Park, the emigrants had a difficult decision to make. Should they risk the dangerous crossing of the Snake, or endure the dry, rocky route along the south bank of the river?

The rewards of a successful crossing were a shorter route, more potable water and better feed for the stock. About half of the emigrants chose to attempt the crossing by using the gravel bars that extended across the river. Not all were successful; many casualties are recounted in pioneer diaries.

Mrs. Marcus Whitman, August 13, 1836:
"They were preparing to cross the Snake River. The river is divided by two islands into three branches, and is fordable. The packs are placed upon the tops of the highest horses and in this way we crossed without wetting. Two of the tallest horses were selected to carry Mrs. Spaulding and myself over. Mr. McLeod gave me his and he rode mine. The last branch we rode as much as half a mile in crossing and against the current too, which made it hard for the horses, the water being up to their sides. Husband had considerable difficulty in crossing the cart. Both cart and mules were turned upside down in the river and entangled in the harness. The mules would have been drowned but for a desperate struggle to get them ashore. Then after putting two men swimming behind to steady it, they succeeded in getting it across. "

Elizabeth Wood, August 21, 1851:
"We forded the Snake River, which runs so swift that the drivers (four to a team) had to hold on to the ox yokes to keep from being swept down by the current. The water came into the wagon boxes, and after making the island we raised the boxes on blocks, engaged an Indian pilot, doubled teams, and reached the opposite bank in safety."

Cornelia A. Sharp, August 9, 1852:
"This day we traveled five or six miles to the river. where we remained all day. Made several attempts to swim our cattle, but without success." August 10: "This morning we finally abandoned the idea of crossing the river; gathered up our cattle, hitched up our teams and took the sand and sage for it."

Emigrant Narcissa Whitman:
"Husband had considerable difficulty crossing the cart. Both the cart and the mules were capsized in the water and the mules entangled in the harness. They would have drowned, but for a desperate struggle to get them ashore. Then after putting two of the strongest horses before the cart and two men swimming behind to steady it, they succeeded in getting it over."

Emigrant Samuel Hancock:
"We lost 2 of our men, Ayres and Stringer. Ayres got into trouble with his mules in crossing the stream. Stringer, who was about thirty, went to his relief, and both were drowned in sight of their women folks. The bodies were never recovered."

Three Island Crossing State Park is located on the Snake River at Glenns Ferry. It is home to The Oregon Trail History and Education Center where visitors can learn about pioneer emigrants and Native American history.

Oregon Trail pioneers knew this spot well. It was one of the most famous river crossings on the historic trail. Pioneer travelers used the three-island crossing until 1869, when Gus Glenn constructed a ferry about two miles upstream.

The Glenns Ferry community sponsors a crossing commemoration the second Saturday of each August. Events often include living history presentations and historic skills fair.

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Posted by Michael Worth at 03:41 PM on July 22, 2006 | Comments (0)" | TrackBack (0)"

Crazy, Like a Fox

Donnelly, ID
Lake Cascade State Park
West Mountain Campground
Site 156

For the record, Site 156 is not the worst site in the West Mountain Campground; but it is easily the worst spot that is large enough to accommodate an RV, which explains why it was the only RV site not reserved a full 9 months in advance, and why we were able to obtain a reservation for that site on such short notice, on a busy Independence Day 4-day weekend.

We’ve been working very hard in recent weeks to make repairs to the RV, including replacing an entire wall, the water heater, some of the plumbing, and a couple of gas lines. We also recovered all of the upholstery, added XM Satellite Radio, an air purifier, and made numerous smaller repairs to the lighting and associated wiring. So we were more than ready to take a break and go camping, and Site 156 didn’t really look that bad in the pictures that were available on the Idaho Parks Reservation System.

Trees, a table, a fire pit and a BBQ were all visible in the available photos. The reservation system says there’s potable water available at the site, and it’s pretty much our only choice anyway. So we booked it, packed the trailer and went camping.

The weather was pretty much what you’d want on a July 4th camping trip. Clear and hot. Record hot, in fact, for our mountain location. The trees provided no shade for our trailer, and the trailer currently has no effective means to cool itself (something else that we’ll be fixing!). So the trailer baked us, and all of our belongings, to the tune of 100+ degrees all day. And the first week of July contains some of the longest days of the year.

But we had fun anyway. My 4-year old daughter enjoyed her first camping trip, something she’d been longing to do, and I enjoyed my first day of Downhill Mountain Biking for the season at Tamarack Resort. We got out and enjoyed the fruit of all our labor, and we learned what work still needed to be done to the RV when we got home. All in all a success, but that’s not what inspired me to post this entry.


As the sun began to fade behind the mountain, and the mercury finally began to fall in the thermometer, a Grey Fox came strolling into our campsite. He didn’t stay long, at first, but it turns out that this site is where he spends a great deal of time in the evening.

After searching the trash cans across the street, the fox returned and bedded down in the shade in our site for several hours, and stayed there at least until we went to bed for the night. He was gone when we arose the next morning, but showed up again the second night, right on schedule, for a repeat performance. We think he probably does it every night, and that he’ll probably do it for you if you can handle camping in a site with no significant shade.

So, if you find yourself with no other choices at West Mountain Campground, try site 156. It’s not perfect, but it comes with a friend that will leave the other sites envious. Just be sure to pack your own shade!

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Posted by Michael Worth at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2006 | Comments (0)" | TrackBack (0)"

Travel Tips and Tricks