Last you heard we were on the Beartooth Highway just north of Yellowstone, beating the heat at 10,000 feet. As welcome the sights and weather were high in the mountains, once we came down I began to hear complaints from the back of the bus. Before you know it, there was a plebiscite called, and I lost another close 2-1 election to the female voting bloc on whether we needed to head for the ocean or not. West it was.
On the first day we left the Livingston, MT area and headed up toward Glacier National Park on US 89. I have always enjoyed this drive because of reading Ian Frazier's book, Great Plains, in which he describes how the landscape changes as you come down 89 out of Glacier onto the plains:
A driver coming down this road gets the most dramatic first glimpse of the Great Plains I've ever seen. For some miles, pine trees and foothills are all around; then, suddenly, there is nothing across the road but sky, and a sign says “HILL- Trucks Gear Down” and you come over a little rise, and the horizon jumps a hundred miles away in an instant.
We spent three days doing dispersed camping in Flathead National Forest just south of the park across US Highway 2, but it was a little hot and buggy even at 5500 feet, and the noise from the back of the bus became louder the longer we stayed. Another long day on the road awaited the driver, whomever he might be, and we packed up again and headed west across the lowlands of Idaho, crossing the Flathead, Kootenai, Pend Orielle, and Columbia rivers and tried some dispersed camping in the Colville National Forest in eastern Washington state for a couple of nights. Again, too hot and buggy, according to the experts in the back of the bus.
ANOTHER long day of driving on Washington Highway 20 across the very top of the state through North Glacier National Park, where it was in the high 80s at the cascade summit, snowbanks on the side of the road notwithstanding, and we followed the Skagit River down to Puget Sound, but as we approached the Seattle metropolitan area we saw all this oncoming traffic – people headed to the mountains for the weekend. Well good, we hopefully say, maybe they all left and it won't be crowded. Nope, it's still crowded.
We try day camping in state parks along the beach for five days, and become increasingly annoyed at the crowds, particularly the busloads of children from summer programs. We bought a day pass from the state parks website which allowed us to stay in the parks, and spent the nights in the Oak Harbor Wal-Mart on Whidbey Island. It was indeed refreshing to get back to the salt air after being inland since February, but we were going to have to do something about all these people harshing our buzz.
The prospect of the long slog down I-5 through 75 miles of urban sprawl distressed us, so we hopped the ferry on Whidbey Island, and 35 minutes and $25 later were at Port Townsend, on the west shore of Puget Sound. In five minutes we were out of town – and there was nothing but trees. BIG trees. This was much better. We noodled down the shore to Shelton, near Olympia, where we overnighted again in a Wal-Mart, and hit the road the next morning, driving across the rickety bridge at Astoria down into Oregon, where we are now boondocking along US Highway 101 south of Yachats, OR.
There are no people – well, the campgrounds are full of vacationing families with kids, but we have solar and don't need to plug in, and you can boondock anywhere you find an isolated stretch of coastline for 12 hours at a time, according to state law. Harmony has been restored. We are happy – both the front and the back of the bus agree that this is the place to be.