Pattys Most Excellent Adventure – Part IV

I can never forget our trip to Tennessee in 2006 with Susan and Kai.  We went to see the Smokey Mountains and to visit with some friends that I worked for in Mississippi, Fred and Pat Boatner of Bal-Boa Company.  We flew into Knoxville and then drove all over that state.  First we went to Nashville to pick up Susan and Kai and to see the Grand Ole Opry at the old Ryman Auditorium.  Can you believe that we saw Little Jimmy Dickens and Porter Wagner?  I remember watching them with my folks when I was a kid; then on to Memphis and Beale Street.  This was soon after Katrina hit New Orleans so Southern Comfort was holding their annual music festival in Memphis instead of New Orleans.  We had Southern Comfort straight, Southern Comfort slushies and finished with Southern Comfort in our hot cocoa.  I don’t think I drank Southern Comfort before that but now I can’t drink hot cocoa without it.  And of course we went to see Graceland and that was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.  Back to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Dollywood which is an amusement park owned by Dolly Parton.  Jack was bummed because they didn’t have Dolly Parton pillows; he thought they were really missing a good bet there. And finally we went hiking in the Smokey Mountains and they are beautiful.  Our friends took us to see Cade’s Cove which is an actual historic village in the Smokey Mountains that has been preserved, it was pretty cool. Another great vacation; retirement gets old without a few great vacations thrown in to liven things up a bit.

June of 2007 was my first volunteer vacation in the San Juan Islands, recommended by Diane. This time there was no backpacking and we camped in a park with outhouses and tables and all the comforts of home, well sort of. We worked in several locations on Lopez Island and went one day to work on Patos Island. Patos Island is the northernmost island in the San Juans and it is uninhabited. There was an abandoned lighthouse and seven campsites and you can only get there by your own boat; no ferries to Patos. We met some local people, Lopezians, who were interested in fixing up the lighthouse and partnering with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open it for public tours and as a museum. The next thing I know I am on the board of a new non-profit group, Keepers of the Patos Light, and return each year to clean the beach around the island and work on the trails.  Read “A Light on the Island” by Helene Glidden and you will understand the draw of this island. Our webpage is,, check it out.

July of 2007 I volunteered to work on the Iron Goat Trail which is an ADA trail near Stevens Pass in Washington.  It’s part of the national Rails to Trails project and in this case is the old and infamous Great Northern Railroad track over Stevens Pass.  This was different because we stayed in a ski lodge and did have the comforts of home and fabulous cooking.  One of the crew leaders was a retired chef who stayed at the lodge and prepared our meals.  My really memorable experience on this trip was meeting Parvin from Iran.  Everyone there was nice but Parvin is one of a kind; a fabulous chef in her own right and she prepared the vegetarian meals.  We went out each day and worked on the trails; I helped with the rock work this time.  This is a thankless job but a labor of love since the work we do seems always to be destroyed the following winter by landslides or flood.  On our day off some of us hiked into Lake Valhalla high in the Cascades and spent a wonderful day just enjoying nature.

In Aug I returned to Eagle Cap Wilderness; I was so sure that I could improve on my backpacking experience with all my new camping skills.  It didn’t quite work out that way; one thing I hadn’t learned was to leave the jeans at home.  As we started hiking, a light mist began to fall and it felt so refreshing I didn’t bother to put the rain cover over my backpack.  This year we were going to hike in and up about 8 miles to set up camp but we didn’t quite make it that far.  After about six or seven miles the rain had increased and hypothermia was setting in, a new experience for me, so we found a new campsite with lots of wood for a warm fire to dry out our clothes.  We set up our tents in the rain and I discovered all the gear in my backpack was wet.  I went to bed in wet clothes and couldn’t get my jeans to dry by the campfire for days.  It rained for two days and we worked on the trails but we were wet and miserable.  Finally, the sun returned and we got dried out before we decided to mutiny.  This time on our day off we hiked to the top of Eagle Cap and what a view it was.  This area is called the Oregon Alps and includes Eagle Cap. Sacajawea and the Matterhorn, named after its Swiss cousin.  Like the Swiss Alps, the glacier-carved valleys are deep and U-shaped. The peaks are sharp; one of the tallest is the 9,826-foot Matterhorn which we could see from the top of Eagle Cap.  At least I got along better with the mules this time until the last day.  We were trying hard to finish the work that Sweyn, our poster-boy forest ranger, had scheduled and so I decided to speed the mules up a little bit  while returning to the trail with side-packs full of dirt.  Sweyn said the mules were close to rebelling when I started jogging with them back to the trail to get another load of dirt, but we finished it all with their help.  That day my friend Diane hiked all the way to our worksite to bring us wine and fresh gazpacho made from her garden.  What a treat; one of the things you miss most on these trips is fresh vegetables.  That was one of the best meals ever.

Just one more fun activity for this year; I talked Jack into working with me on a Saturday on the Iron Goat trail and then I wanted to show him all the neat places I had seen on Lopez Island so we headed over there for the rest of Labor Day week-end.  Some people I had met on Lopez, Linda and David, own a 20 acre barley farm on Lopez and we stopped by to say hey.  They were in the middle of a crisis; the barley was ready to harvest but the harvester was broken.  Some fellow Lopezians offered the use of equipment from the early 1900s but needed additional hands for the job.  We decided to give it a try and what fun we had.  The thresher was driven by a steam engine owned by a dot com millionaire who made it big with Netscape and he ran the machine and pulled on the whistle to liven the place up.  The barley was cut into sheafs which we picked up and loaded on a truck.  Other volunteers, mostly college girls, showed up to help and we were introduced to the wonderful community spirit that lives on Lopez Island.  The volunteers helped with the harvest to get the barley straw to build Lopez Community Land Trust houses.  You wouldn’t think work could be so much fun.  Linda and David fed us and let us camp out in their backyard in exchange for our working and we have been great friends ever since.  I also work with Linda on Patos Island; in fact, she was one of the primary movers for that non-profit project.

In 2008 I returned to my favorite volunteer vacations, Lopez Island and the Iron Goat Trail.

I guess I should mention my other volunteer work that takes up part of the year; AARP Tax Aide.  After I returned from Am Samoa I started volunteering to help prepare tax returns electronically for the elderly and low income.   I worked with this group when I was with the IRS and it seemed a natural progression.  The work is enjoyable and seems to be appreciated.

My really fun work is quilting.  Something I put aside in 1985 when I started college.  Recently I finished a quilt, all by hand, that I had started in about 1982 before we moved from Fowler, CA.  And I completed a small version of a quilt that I started for Susan in 1984; I turned it into a wall hanging since she no longer has her room decorated in pastel pink, blue, and lavender.  I wrote a poem about her and stuck it on the back so she can’t just throw it away.  It was so nice to complete those projects that were always nagging at the back of my mind.  I now do most of my quilting on the machine but it is still fun.  Something left over from watching my mom and grandmother as a kid.

I think I forgot to include a trip to Hawaii with my friend, Terry, from work but since I did that again in 2009  I’ll just include it here.  I have a friend that owns a timeshare in Maui and needed someone to go there with her.  What can I say; I’m always there for a friend.  We spent a week on Maui at her timeshare and a week on Hawaii at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC).  On Maui we drove the road to Hana and to the top of Haleakula; on Hawaii we hiked in the Volcanic National Park and visited Rainbow falls.   On Maui we discovered Maui Brewing Co. and on Hawaii we discovered Kona Brewing Co.; both are worth the trip.  Her digs at the Ka’anapali Beach Resort were quite a bit more luxurious than my digs at KMC but we had fun at both.

Oh my gosh, I’m only up to 2009; I don’t know how I ever had time to work.  After the tax season ended I started off the year with a volunteer vacations in Hells Canyon along the Snake River.  I signed up for this with my friend Diane and drove to her place in Walla Walla, Washington.  We drove to the Idaho side of the Snake River and were driven up the river on a jet boat by the park service to a campsite on the Oregon side of the river.  Everything seemed fine, the weather was good, the crew members were friendly and no problems setting up camp.  The problems began when we went to check out Temperance Creek and noticed that the water was a little high from the snowmelt.  Temperance Creek Trail is a horse trail that wanders back and forth across the creek and works its way up the canyon.  In order to do trail work you have to wear good hiking or work boots, a hard hat, long pants and long sleeve shirts.  In order to cross a stream you have to wear water shoes and roll your pants up.  So, we would work a ways up the trail, change our shoes, cross the stream, change our shoes and work some more.  On the return trip to our camp we pretty much followed the same procedure.  As we worked each day, the stream seemed to get a little wider and a little rougher; first up to our knees and then mid-thigh in melted snow runoff.  Another lesson I learned; crocks are not good for crossing mountain streams and always keep your wool socks on for warmth; forget about rolling up your pants because you are probably going to slip and fall in the water anyway.  The first day we crossed the creek 6 times up and six times back to camp.  The second day we had to start out by crossing 6 times to get to our work area and so on.  During the 3 days we worked that trail we counted 74 crossings.  OMG!   Besides that there was poison oak or ivy or whatever about 6 feet high that we had to cut and one day I looked where I had been cutting and a rattlesnake just looked back at me all coiled up waiting for me to get a wee bit closer.  What a vacation!  Diane and I laugh about it every time we get together.  You can’t buy fun like that.  On our day off, the park ranger picked us up in the jet boat and we cruised up and down the Snake River, explored ancient Indian hieroglyphics and basically had a fantastic day.  The rest of the week we just worked along the river trail and tried to thaw out our feet.

In August, I spent a week on Patos Island with five other women.  There is no fresh water on Patos so we had to haul in all the water we expected to use for the week plus all our gear, food and tools.  Patos does have a couple of outhouses but no other amenities like showers so we had to set up a camp shower and adjust.  If you’ve never spent a week on an almost deserted island with a bunch of friends you are really missing a treat.  We cleaned the beach, cut blackberry vines, sawed fallen trees, bushwhacked the trail and generally had a great time.  Parvin was there to help with the cooking and camp life was great.  We ended the week with a birthday party for the lighthouse and were joined by about 20 people with ties to the lighthouse; some were prior coastguard members who had served on Patos.

August continued with my next volunteer vacation to make up for the one on the Snake River.  This time I headed to Maui.  But first Jack and I spent a week on Kauai exploring that island.  We rafted along the Na Pali coast, drove up to Waimea Canyon, and just generally enjoyed ourselves.  I went on to Maui and Jack headed to Oahu to wait for me while I worked at the Hawaii Nature Center.  The center is an educational facility for school kids of all ages to learn about the way Hawaii used to be.  We worked on old trails, built new trails, removed invasive plants, and built a Taro pond.  Building a taro pond is kind of like stomping grapes I think though I’ve never done that.  I remember an ‘I Love Lucy’ episode where she stomped grapes and it looked similar.  You start with a clean dug out area with a little creek water running through.  Then you add back clean fresh dirt and mix it with your feet until you have very thick mud.  You plant the cut off tops of taro and the water just kinda flows over the mud pond. This was the best volunteer vacation ever.  The crew was wonderful; we had bunks to sleep in, showers and best of all we worked on island time.  And even our meals were catered by a local health food restaurant.  One evening after work some of us drove up to the top of Haleakula at sunset.  We were on one side of the crater watching the sun set and then ran to the other side to watch a full moon rise.  Have you ever run across a volcanic crater at 10,000 feet?  That’s not so easy, let me tell you, but great fun anyway.  I’m still Facebook friends with the great people I met on this trip.  When the week was done I joined Jack on Oahu and we relaxed in the hot tub and ate breakfast at Koko’s Café.  I know it’s tough but someone has to do it.

The end of 2009 brought another surprise.  My daughter Susan asked me to go with her to France.  Susan had been to France about three times but I had never been; I thought I would need to wear designer clothes to visit Paris.  Susan said jeans would be ok but no white tennis shoes.  Well, this trip turned out to be a thrilling experience and Susan is about the best tour guide ever.  We went to Arles first to visit the sites of Van Gogh’s paintings and to other parts of Provence to see the Roman aqueducts.  Then on to Paris all lit up for Christmas and Versailles in the snow.  We drank champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower and posed with the gargoyles at Notre Dame.   Susan introduced me to French Pastries and crème Brule, the French Metro and Pont du Carrousel and a boat ride down the River Seine.  The entire trip was magical and perfect.  Who would have thought that I would ever get to Paris- not me.  Retirement is great.

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One Comment on “Pattys Most Excellent Adventure – Part IV”

  1. […] Patty’s Most Excellent Adventure – Part IV (by Patty) […]

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