Posted by: Talie Morrison | November 14, 2011



As summer was winding down in Crested Butte, I headed off on a road trip to the West Coast of the USA.   Almost 8000 miles (that’s 12,874 kilometers for the people who live in the “real” world!) and 2 months later I am now back in Crested Butte.   I have often said that I must have been a long distance truck driver in my previous life – cause I sure do love to go on a road trip!!

First stop was Bishop, California (Mile: 873).  I had joined up with friends, Skip, Ruth, Tom and Chuck, to do a backpacking trip in the Sierras.   We shouldered our packs and headed up the trail to Bishop Pass and then over the top down into Duzy Basin.   Beautiful mountains, beautiful lakes, great trail – what more could you ask for?

Bishop Pass in the Sierras

The others were planning on climbing several 14,000-foot peaks (that’s 4,267 meters) but I was only going along for the hiking and camping.   I love climbing mountains, but I think I am past wanting to go somewhere that I need ropes, harness and helmet!  The first two 14,000ers were not as accessible as they had hoped and both days they got turned back.  Meanwhile, I was doing day hikes to different lakes in the area, taking photos of the flowers, and just totally enjoying myself!   Tom and Chuck took off at 3 pm one afternoon to summit the 13,000-foot peak that was near our camp. They got caught in afternoon rain and fog – and had to wait for it to clear and the moon to come out before they could get back to camp.   Of course, Skip, Ruth and myself were picturing death and destruction when they didn’t get back before dark!   That was a bit scary for all of us!   We headed back to Bishop one day early and went across the valley to climb White Mountain (another 14er).   Since it was just a “walk-up”, I went along on that one.

On top of White Mountain Peak: 14252'

Next stop was Santa Barbara (Mile:1418) to visit with Craig and his family.  I had a lovely time with them. Craig and I took the train to LA to pick up his new car.   A whole new world has opened up for me between Santa Barbara and San Diego:  The Train!!    The last night I was in Santa Barbara, we went to hear Dakota’s band play.  Not exactly my type of music, but they sure are talented!

Craig figuring out how his new car works!

From there I went just south of Yuma, Arizona to visit Levi Jackson (a man who is in prison who I have been corresponding with and visiting for about 10 years).  I found a casino on one of the Indian reservations that had a special parking lot for RVs.  So I just pulled my little Gray Jay in and we pretended to be an RV!  🙂

Then I went to Tucson, Arizona  (Mile 2147) to visit with my friends Kathy, Alice, Dodie, and Jan.   I had great fun going out in the early mornings and riding my kick bike around Tucson.   By mid-morning it was too hot outside to do anything but jump in a swimming pool.   Luckily Kathy has a lovely pool!   Dodie, Kathy and I did go up to Mt. Lemmon where it was a bit cooler at altitude and it was nice to do a bit of a hike!    I also had some great Tucson Mexican food while I was there!

Bring on the Margaritas!!

Next stop (Mile 2712) was beautiful San Diego to visit Steve and family.   Again I got some great kick biking in while there!   Steve, Gates and I went to an air show and got to see lots of exhibits (planes, tanks, guns, etc).   But the real attraction was the Blue Angels!   Amazing flying formations at those speeds.

Kick Biking in San Diego

Steve and Gates at the Air Show

From San Diego, I went North and my plans were to follow California Highway 1 all the way.   Now I was on my own schedule for a while and took plenty of time to enjoy beach walks and kick bike rides.

Camping on the California beach as the sun sets in the West

Highway 1 starts just south of Los Angeles and ends near Leggett in Northern California.   It was a beautiful drive!   I stopped in Santa Cruz to visit Alison who went to highschool with me, and then I kickbiked over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco!

I got lots of comments from the other tourists on the bridge!

But I have discovered that California State Park campgrounds are expensive!!!  At Big Sur, I was charged $40 for a site with no electric or anything  (of course I don’t need anything – so I usually get a “tent site” that doesn’t have any hook-ups – so $35 or $40 is a bit much! But then I guess they will say “location, location, location”)  And the “senior discount” at those campgrounds was $2 – good grief!  I was glad to get to Oregon where the camping fees were a bit more reasonable.

California Coast

The Oregon Coast was spectacular, as always! (photos of that later in the blog…)  I drove up about ½ way across the state then I headed inland to visit Pat Hopson in Salem Oregon (mile 4167).   We had a wonderful time reminiscing on old times in Crested Butte! After a quick night with Pat, I headed to Corvallis (mile 4200) to see my niece Heather and her husband Grady.   We spent the weekend on the other side of the Cascades in their RV.   I love camping in Gray Jay, but I will admit it is pretty nice to have a sink, stove and toilet 🙂 ) We hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail,

On part of the PCT with Heather and Grady

and hiked around the Tam McCarther Rim, and then on Sunday we hiked around Smith Rock.  We had some rain and some sun – so that is pretty good for Oregon in October!

Next stop was Seattle (mile: 4474) with my friends Karen, Tighe and their daughter Anna.   Karen and Tighe and I were friends from Antarctica.   We had a lovely time taking Anna (age 2) for walks in some of the beautiful parks in West Salem.

Karen and Anna - 2 year olds sure do love to swing!!

On October 19th– Joni Windsor from Crested Butte joined me for the rest of the trip.   Joni had been in Whitefish Montana visiting a friend and she took the train to Seattle.   Our first night in Seattle we managed to get a parking ticket and get totally lost trying to navigate back to Karen and Tighe’s house.   But we did have a delicious fisherman’s platter!  That’s enough of the “big cities” for us!

That was an expensive dinner if you add in the cost of the parking ticket!

We headed across the channel on the ferry – and drove up the Olympic Peninsula to Port Angeles (mile 4638).  We found a campsite in the Olympic National Park.  We parked GrayJay and I started to flip the top up – but “CRACK” and the gear/rod to raise the top broke!!!!   Wah!!!!   So for the rest of the trip, we had to move all the packs and suitcase from the back of GrayJay to the front seats – then we could sleep in the back.   In the mornings, we moved the gear back to the back.   Well – it’s not ideal, but it is doable…  And Joni was a great “sport” about it.   (And camping is certainly cheaper than motels!)  The next morning we got on a ferry to go to Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island.   We drove up to see the beautiful Buchart Gardens – which were lovely in the fall colors.   There were some flowers blooming  – it being so very maritime that there was plenty of greenery too.

On the ferry to British Columbia

Buchart Gardens with some of the fall foliage

Back to The Olympic Peninsula, we headed to Sol Duc Hot springs in the National Park – only to find that it was closed for the season – bummer!   We were totally looking forward to a good soak in the hot springs! So we camped nearby (at least that one was free!) and we took off early the next morning while the rains were still dripping on our roof!

Now we are definitely in the mode of “go where the mood strikes us” travel.   So we headed out the Olympic Peninsula to the western most point in the continental United States – Cape  Flattery.   At the cape we saw a whale cruising around in the ocean right below our lookout!

Cape Flattery - the western most point in the continental US

We spent that night in the Quileute Indian Reservation at La Push.   We were expecting rain, so I rigged the tarp over the back of GrayJay which (of course, Murphy’s law) made the weather clear off and no rain!

Believe it or not: GrayJay and a picnic table and our bikes are all under the tarp!

Love the hanging mosses

Love the hanging mosses

The rest of the way around the Olympic Peninsula took us to the Hoh Rainforest.   We went for a hike under magnificent trees with ferns and fungus and it was about the only place that it wasn’t raining on us!

In the Hoc Rainforest - amazing trees!

Beautiful beaches along with the rainforest!

And then there is the fungus - beautiful!

The rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula is beautiful (I want to come back and do some backpacking in this part of the world!   Better be sure to bring my eVent raingear! Sure is different from Crested Butte!)

A small piece of driftwood on the beach!

We followed Highway 101 down the Washington Coast and stopped at one of my favorite campsites of the trip:  Kalaloch, where we were overlooking the beach.

Cocktails at Kalaloch - notice the demise of our wine glasses - we went from plastic glasses to coffee mugs and finally ended up with plastic milk bottles! 🙂

Then on to Lake Quinault and the Willapa Wildlife Refuge. We went for a walk in the wildlife refuge and out in the middle of nowhere we found a labyrinth!

Labyrinth in the middle of nowhere! Of course we had to take a few meditative moments and walk it.

That night we camped at Cape Disappointment State Park and decided to stay put for a day! (What a concept!)   It was nice to have a bike/kick bike ride along the sand dunes,

Kickbiking along the dunes - I loved this sculpture of dolphins.

It was a perfect day to take a "day off" and enjoy the sand dunes and the beaches!

some relaxing, and cocktail hour at the lighthouse.

Cocktails at sunset next to the local lighthouse

There were some sneaky raccoons in the campsite, one of which stole our leftover ham right off the top of the picnic table while I was 2 feet away.  He instantly disappeared with it!   Sneaky!

Cape Dissapointment is just above the Oregon Boarder, so the next day we said good-bye to Washington and continued South into Oregon.   Oregon’s beaches are famous for beauty and they should be!   Lots of beautiful coastal waters crashing onto the rocky beaches!

Some of the "locals" enjoying the rocks!

We stopped at the Tillamuck Cheese Factory in Tillamuck and did a tour of the factory (and sampled the cheeses for lunch!)  We found a campground at the state park in Nehalem, Oregon,  and we decided to splurge and we rented a Yurt (which wasn’t that much more than a tent site for Gray Jay)  It was nice to have electricity, heat, a table and lights.   We still had to cook on our camp stove outside.  But we were able to watch a “chic-flick” on my computer that night! – luxury!

GrayJay was glad to have a night off while we slept in a yurt

We went to the Newport Aquarium – it was lovely, but I think I could have skipped that part.   The best thing about it was that I saw live sand dollars and the sea horses were pretty cool.

On our way south from there we came upon a great blowhole – at Devils Cauldron – as we were there just at high tide.

A way-fun blowhole at high tide

We didn’t stop at the Sea Lion Caves because it was high tide and all the sea lions were out feeding!  But we saw so many beautiful Oregon beaches!

Rocks, waves, and sea gulls - I guess that says it all!

We found another botanical garden at Cape Perpetua.  And while we were wandering in the gardens we could hear the sea lions barking on the beach. So we wandered to where we could look out, and there were hundreds of sea lions and seals.

What looks like piles of rocks are actually piles of seals and sea lions! It was quite noisy!

We tried to rent another yurt at Bullard’s Beach, but it was Friday night and they were all full.

We left early the next morning and had breakfast in Bandon – a lovely little beach town.   It was pretty funny as we walked into a little café and joined in with all the early morning locals.   In Bandon we found a fresh fish market, and bought some fresh King Salmon!   Most of the rest of the beaches on the Oregon Coast we saw through the clouds and rain – but I guess that is to be expected.

Beautiful Oregon coastline even in the rain.

But what was really funny is that the rain stopped almost exactly at the California boarder –  now how did the CA chamber of commerce arrange that?  We enjoyed the CA beaches and drove into the Avenue of Giants (mile 5750) where we camped among the redwoods for the night!   I think I could feel the energy of those beautiful trees!

Sunshine as soon as we hit the California boarder - how did they do that?

GrayJay on the Avenue of the Giants

The trees are just SO amazing!

Next stop was California wine country (mile 5906).   We had planned to go to the Napa Valley, but we got sidetracked and ended up stopping in the Dry Creek Valley.

Wine on the vine!

There were plenty of vineyards, wineries, and some great biking/kickbiking to be had!   We headed of on our bikes for a little loop (which ended up being 24 miles! That’s not bad on a bike – but I was a tired puppy from my kick bike!)  Not so tired that I couldn’t stop and buy some wine!

Kickbiking through the vineyards

From the wine country – we are now on our way home.   We stopped for the night in Grass Valley, CA, and had a lovely night at Jaye Webber’s home there.   Jaye wasn’t home, but her hot tub was on – sweet!!

The next night on our way home was in Battle Mountain, Nevada.   The only campground we could find was a Circle J truck stop/campground.   The lady said that it would be $25 to camp there – and when I said we didn’t need any hook ups or anything – she said “just park on this side of the fence and it is free”.   So there we were parked alongside all the trucks for the night.   Very funny!

Fixing dinner in "truck land"

See if you can find GrayJay - she is in the center of the photo to the right of all those big trucks!

Across Nevada and into Utah, we saw the Bonneville Salt Flats. We stopped Park City (mile 6829) for a walk on a beautiful bike path then went on down the road to Rockport State Park and camped by a beautiful lake.

Cocktails at Rockport State Park - it's great until the sun goes down!

Camping has been great but we are having a couple of issues:  It gets dark really early, so we have to spend a lot of time sitting in GrayJay reading or sleeping.   And the weather has turned and things are getting pretty cold! There is ice on the inside of the windows when we wake up.   Burr!   It was 8 degrees when we left that campsite at 6 am!   We stopped at a little store and got 2 coffees.   The man at the counter said it was only $1 – we were pleasantly surprised and then he said, “Ain’t no cup of coffee worth more than 10 cents!”.

We continued on Interstate 80 across Utah and Wyoming till we got to Cheyenne Wyoming (mile 7264).   Wyoming was full of snow and even though the roads were mostly clear, there were patches where the snow was blowing over the road.   We saw three semi trucks flipped in the median.   A bit scary!   But we made it through safe and sound (thank goodness I had bought GrayJay new tires in Ventura CA!).   We arrived at Jim and Sue Dean’s that afternoon, and went out for a lovely dinner with them and their granddaughter.

Dinner with Jim and Sue, Erica and Russ

We had planned to make one more stop in Avon, Colorado, but the weather predicted a storm coming in, so we decided to go on to Crested Butte one day earlier.   So down from Wyoming to Denver (mile 7382) where we stopped at a “greasy spoon” for a great burger and milkshake!  Now I am on familiar roads back to Crested Butte (mile 7595).

I am so appreciative of my lovely GrayJay – she may have 240,000 miles on her, but she is still driving like a champ!   Now I’ll see if I can get the FlipPac fixed and we will be good to go for the next road trip!!!  And 36 hours after getting  home, I’m back in the backcountry of Crested Butte:

Back home to snow country - and off to Lily Lake for a Sunday afternoon ski!



  1. What an amazing :Road Trip: This will slot into your book nicely. The photos are great – black & white beach shots look amazing. Good luck with the skiing.

  2. Love reading this adventure and it is close to home. Reads the same… great pics, fun, relaxation, meeting friends 🙂 The kick bike is a great new addition!

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