The Meaning of It All

by Ann Ulrich Miller
© 2011 (all rights reserved)

An article from the AUGUST 2011 issue of THE STAR BEACON.


In June my partner Doug and I embarked on a month-long road trip to Washington state. Both of us felt the urge to move about a year ago. The northwestern part of Washington was an option we needed to check out. I had never set foot in the state of Washington before, although I had lived for 10 months in the Pacific Northwest in 1984-'85. I remembered that Corvallis, Ore., was green and appealing.

Our little 2004 Subaru Outback was packed to the hilt as we headed west through Durango on Monday, June 6. Passing through towns where Star Beacon subscribers reside became a game for me. Ursula Mayer lives near Bayfield, Colo., and Anne Carter lives in Durango. We cruised through Cortez, home to Claudia Sanderson and Aileen Garrouté, and northwest into Utah, catching a small portion of Monument Valley and passing through Moab and Green River.

Since we never seem to get a very early start anywhere we go, I didn’t expect us to get very far our first day. I left the driving to Doug, who is a skilled and experienced operator behind the wheel. Doug drove non-stop through Salt Lake City, Ogden and Brigham City before I begged him to stop for the night in Trementon, a town not far from the Idaho border.

Kaye Studstrup lives in SLC, and my son Scott Ulrich spent a couple of years there after graduating from college. (He’s now in St. Paul, Minn.) Thad Brown lives near Sandy, which we cruised by in Doug’s rush to put big city traffic behind him. Doug never drove through Denver, which I think has worse city traffic than SLC, and I’m convinced now that he won’t be wanting to go to our state’s capital anytime soon.

On our second day, June 7, we took I-84 all the way across southern Idaho into Oregon. We took the route through the Malheur National Forest, which was gorgeous. We ended up in Redmond, Ore., that night, home of Carol Elek, who writes Teotwawki Living. I was unable to reach Carol, who apparently was working that night. Our most memorable breakfast was in Redmond on June 8, at the Black Bear Café. We then continued west through the beautiful, lush Cascade Mountains into Corvallis, so I could have another look at that one place I lived. Much of it seemed to be the same.

We reached Newport and the coast by mid afternoon. What a delight it was for me to see the ocean once again. And for Doug, who lived at sea for so many years during his Navy and Coast Guard career, this was the first time in almost three decades for him as well. We just couldn’t resist going to the Coast Guard station. There we were given a tour and I boarded my very first USCG search and rescue boat, the 52 ft. Victory.

That night we had seafood (fish and chips) at Tillamook, Ore. -- only about 50 miles from where subscriber Gayle Walker lives, in Beaverton. Then Doug drove, hoping to get to Astoria, along Highway 101 up the coast in the dark. Finally, without my nudging, he pulled over at Seaside where we got a motel and a good night’s rest.

The next morning, June 8, we had breakfast in Astoria, Ore., and then crossed the bridge into Washington state. Astoria is an interesting old city and the morning was damp and foggy. Doug wanted to stop at Cape Disappointment, where he’d gone to heavy weather school at the beginning of his Coast Guard career. We stopped at the US Coast Guard station there, but they were too busy to give us a tour, so we continued on north with a stop at Ruby Beach near Queets. In my opinion this was the most beautiful beach in western Washington. At that point I took over the wheel and drove through Forks and east toward Port Angeles, where we had a vacation rental waiting for us.

Our hosts, the Ellefsons, live outside Port Angeles on 23 acres, with a breathtaking view of the Straits from their house and from the upstairs apartment over their garage, which is where we stayed. Our initial fear of staying in a place too small for the two of us to get along for 30 days was soon dissolved when we saw how cute the place was. The little apartment reminded us of a doll’s house. The bed was very comfortable and we enjoyed drinking our coffee in the mornings while cruising the Straits with our binoculars on the balcony. Port Angeles is an international harbor at which all kinds of ships come in and out at any given time of day or night. Unfortunately, some tall red cedar trees blocked our view of the Coast Guard station out on Ediz Hook. But we had plenty of chances to go visit the station during our stay.

Friday, June 10 we got to tour the US Cuttyhunk, a 110 ft. Coast Guard cutter. There are three others plus a medium endurance cutter at the PA station. It was fun checking out the PX and getting acquainted with the town of Port Angeles. Our host and hostess had a barbecue for us that evening with freshly caught salmon and halibut. What a treat!

On Sunday, the 12th, we drove up to Hurricane Ridge, part of the Olympic National Park, and it was an overcast day to begin with. The higher we climbed, the snowier and foggier it became. There was snow at the visitor’s center and it reminded us of being in the Colorado mountains.

On Tuesday, June 14 we drove to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, which is the most northwestern point in the mainland United States. We loved the drive. We stopped along beaches on the way and noted the quaint little community of Joyce, just west of PA. We saw whales spouting near Shipwreck Point, but we never actually saw the whales. Cape Flattery was more beautiful than we had imagined. Doug was surprised to discover another Coast Guard station at Neah Bay.

We walked the mile-and-a-half trail through a mossy, wet rainforest so that we could view Tatoosh Island, where there is a lighthouse station (automated nowadays). Doug was impressed and said this was the first time he had seen Tatoosh from the land side. I was impressed by the orange colored starfish clinging to the caves as the surf crashed against the rocks.

On the way back to PA, we stopped at a park called Salt Creek, outside Joyce, to eat our picnic supper, and discovered coastal artillery concrete bunkers used in World War II. You can drive and walk through the bunkers, and they have a display board in the park, telling about the history and showing photographs of the soldiers who were stationed there. It turns out that Doug’s father was most likely one of the men in the pictures taken in 1944 or 1945, when he was stationed there. We had to come back the next day and explore more and walk along the beach.

After a few days, we decided to check out Forks, a small town about 20 minutes from La Push and the western coast. Forks is the setting for the Twilight series of novels by Stephenie Meyer and the popular teeny-bopper movies. The chamber of commerce in Forks has promoted Twilight for the benefit of the town’s merchants. There are tours in the area for Twilight fans, who arrive in droves. We liked what we saw of Forks, for the most part, and checked out a couple of properties that were listed with a real estate agency. We ended up going back again to look some more. Nothing was decided, of course.

We drove out to La Push, which is on the Quillayute Indian Reservation, and we stopped briefly at the Coast Guard station there. Then we drove over to Rialto Beach, north of La Push, and enjoyed that beach so much that we came back a couple of more times during the week. I miss Rialto Beach and the smell of the salt air, the crash of the waves, the multi-shaded gray skies and the rock formations along the shoreline. While we were there, I saw a seal and some porpoises in the ocean.

During our final days in Washington, we visited Lake Ozette and then the Hoh Rain Forest southeast of Forks, part of the Olympic National Park, which -- as you can imagine -- is huge and wild. There are very few roads into this park, and it would be a challenge to hike anywhere. Lake Ozette was different. Maybe the reason I wasn’t impressed with Lake Ozette was because of the mosquitoes and the fact that you couldn’t really see anything unless you were a backpacker and took a day to hike to the coastline. I did get some video footage of a river otter that day.

We loved Hoh Rain Forest. It was overcast and drizzly when we were there, but we never minded the climate -- which is quite different from the sunny Four Corners area. We took a walk in the Hall of Mosses and stopped to take pictures of some Roosevelt elk, including a nice bull along the road on our way out of the park.

Emma O’Brian, another reader, lives in Port Angeles, and we connected by phone but I was unable to go see her this time around. We drove out to Sequim, the town just east of Port Angeles, a couple of times, where subscriber Helen Pacheco lives. There are several TSB subscribers who live in Washington state, most of them in the Seattle vicinity. Kanai Callow lives north in Bellingham, and Rod Dyke resides in Bainbridge Island. Then there are Ken and Jackie Rebane in Shoreline, Wash., along with DJ Welch (in Sumas), and Suzanne Ward, near Vancouver. I would have loved to have met Suzy, who channels the Matthew Messages and is the author of the Matthew Books and the beloved Amusing to Profound — My Conversations with Animals, which was excerpted in the July Star Beacon. We did drive close to her town on our way home, along the Columbia River Gorge, but for many reasons just could not stop. Perhaps our next trip.

We left Washington on Friday, July 1, and headed east, then south along the Hood Canal and through Olympia, where Lilian Mustelier (a woman of “high strangeness”) lives. We felt we needed to check out other parts of Washington state, because we have decided we definitely want to live there. So far the Olympic Peninsula has won our favor.

The Columbia River Gorge was spectacular, but the appeal didn’t last long. Soon we found ourselves in the desolate eastern part of Washington. Powerlines and wind turbines were everywhere and I felt tired and slightly nauseous. We ended up in Kennewick that evening and almost didn’t find an available motel because of the holiday weekend.

The next day, Saturday, we drove into Lewiston, Idaho, and had lunch at a great restaurant (Shari’s). I took over the wheel for the second time on the whole trip and drove most of the way across mid Idaho, following the course of the Clearwater River, which was beautiful. Of course we had to stop several times to take pictures. Near Lolo Pass we saw a mother black bear with two cubs along the roadside.

When we reached Missoula, Mont. -- what a surprise! We were impressed with Missoula, and almost wanted to change our minds and move there. However, we remembered that Montana has some bitterly cold winters, and that’s one thing we’re trying to get away from, not to mention being at sea level (I fell in love with the ocean).

From Missoula we headed west toward Bozeman and decided to try to get a room at Livingston and then head south into Yellowstone the next morning. When we arrived in Livingston, there was a thunderstorm in full force and the motels were filling up fast with tourists. We decided to go back to Bozeman after we found out the price of motels on the Fourth of July weekend. It was worth going back and then seeing all that beautiful scenery of the Absaroka mountain range again the next day. Subscriber Louise Bowman resides outside Livingston.

Monday, the Fourth of July, we drove through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Not far away is where Star Beacon columnist John Cali lives in Cody, and subscriber Sheri Gould in Buffalo. We stopped to take video of wild buffalo with the Grand Tetons as a back drop. Then we spent the night in Jackson. Motels were gouging people there as well, but we had to pay the price like everyone else. We did get to see some fireworks from the parking lot.

The next morning, July 5, we headed south through Pinedale and Rock Springs. We then discovered the beauty of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area before you drive into Utah. Perhaps one day we can spend some time enjoying these natural beauties on Mother Earth.

The drive into Vernal, Utah and eastward into Dinosaur, Colo., and Rangely was uneventful. We drove over Douglas Pass and finally reached Grand Junction, where we rested that night before taking the final leg of our journey home. Subscriber and handwriting analyst Polly Cady resides in Grand Junction.

The next morning we drove over Red Mountain Pass and home to Pagosa Springs. Our vacation was wonderful. We saw a lot and drove more than 6,100 miles (with 98 percent of the driving done by Doug). The Subaru was the perfect car for this long trip and it kept us safe and comfortable, along with our guides and angels -- thanks, guys!

A special thank you goes to two people who helped keep our gardens and our house plants alive, along with Jessica, my black cat. Thank you, Dan McCamman and Heidi Moller, both subscribers, and also to Iwetta Luckhaus, who collected my mail for me. It’s a comfort to know you can go away for a whole month and rely on good friends.

Really, there wasn’t anything paranormal about our trip. The only strange thing I noticed was that daylight came around 4:30 in the morning in Port Angeles and lasted until 10:00 at night. Because the location is so far north, it all has to do with the position of the sun at the time of year.

We didn’t find Bigfoot, but I did buy one of his T-shirts in the Hoh Rain Forest. Again... maybe next time we’ll be able to visit him (or her). And yes, there will be another trip to the Olympic Peninsula. Perhaps the next time we go there, we’ll stay.




This page updated August 7, 2011


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