In this blog post, we wrap up our final nine days, spending time in Washington State and heading back home to Southern California through a severe heat wave.
To Alaska and Back Part 11: Heading Home to SoCal
With the Alaska and Canadian portions of our trip concluded, we arrived back in the U.S. yesterday afternoon, enjoying dinner at Bob’s Burgers and Brews in Sumas, Washington.
I went out and picked raspberries (which is one of the main crops the Oostemas grow on their farm) and blackberries (which the neighboring farmer makes available). Hank, Judy, and Allyn all pitched in on the blackberry picking. It’s such a novelty for us city folk to get free food that you’ve picked right off the vine!
All those berries gave us a delicious dessert and lots of berries for breakfast and drinks. Today we needed that fortification to drive through the rain and through Seattle, heading across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge through Gig Harbor and over to Harstine Island.
Harstine Island is a place I’ve visited since I was an infant, as my family had a summer cabin on neighboring McMicken Island (now a state park). My brother Ron built a cabin on Harstine that has RV hookups, so it’s a great place for us to visit. This was the first time we hooked up two RVs, and we managed to get them both into the driveway.
Judy, Allyn, Hank, and I headed about 30 minutes north to the town of Allyn, so that Allyn could pose in front of lots of signs that are spelled the same way as his name. We enjoyed roaming around this little town that we’ve never really explored before.
And of course we had to eat lunch at Big Bubba’s Burgers because they are ‘World Famous.’ And their blackberry shakes are pretty awesome!
Back on Harstine Island, we got an invitation from my other two brothers Brad and Chris to boat over to McMicken Island (where they are camping) for Happy Hour, so the six of us (including Ron’s wife Merrie) enjoyed a lovely boat ride the short distance across the water, searching for the bald eagles’ nest on McMicken as we drove by.
Though McMicken Island is now a Washington state park, there is a portion of the island that is reserved for our family’s use, so my aunt, cousins, and some brothers camp there each summer. Brad and Chris treated us to a great happy hour spread as we enjoyed the peacefulness of southern Puget Sound and Case Inlet.
We had a wonderful dinner feast prepared by Merrie once we returned to Harstine (the much bigger island).
We started our day early today with breakfast cooked by Ron on the wood-burning stove at his cabin. Blueberry pancakes and bacon gave us energy for our half-hour walk along the beach at Harstine Island, across the sandbar and over to McMicken Island. Judy and Allyn collected many shells (as we have all done in the past), as we gingerly walked on barnacle-covered rocks and avoided patches of clay, quicksand, and slippery seaweed.
On McMicken, we took the trail through the forest and spotted the exact tree where the bald eagles’ nest was located (there were clues on the ground, such as bird poop and discarded bones).
We easily walked back across the sandbar before the incoming tide covered it over with water.
In the afternoon, we headed out in Ron’s speed boat for a gorgeous ride up to Allyn for an early dinner at the Boat House.
It was a perfect day for a boat ride and a great day all around.
Judy and Allyn departed for Oregon, so they could have a couple of days to explore the Spruce Goose and other sights near Portland. But before they left, Allyn helped Ron harvest two buckets of oysters off the beach. More free food! I picked up my mom in suburban Seattle and brought her out to Harstine Island for a family dinner.
This was the first time my brothers and I had all been together with my mom since 2019, so it was fun to take a few photos and enjoy each other, along with the other family members who made the trek over—Mattea, Andy, Marie, Daniel, and Kathleen.
Oysters and fried clams made up the appetizers, courtesy of Ron/Allyn (picking up oysters on the beach that morning), Brad/Chris (digging and cleaning the butter clams in preparation for frying), and Marie (frying up the butter clams). Merrie had once again prepared an amazing meal, so no one went hungry!
Mom and I enjoyed a walk on the beach and a walk through the woods before I took her back home.
Then we got another invitation to happy hour on McMicken, so Ron, Hank, and I headed over for one final evening of spending time with my three brothers all together.
Danno and Leilani got multiple walks each day while we stayed on Harstine, and they have both confirmed that this is their favorite campsite!
While we were visiting with family, Judy and Allyn explored the Spruce Goose and other parts of McMinnville, Oregon (photos taken by Judy).
Though we dreaded the long drive in the very hot weather, it was time to head for home. Today’s destination was Seven Feathers RV Resort in Canyonville, Oregon, just off of I-5, where it was 104 degrees when we arrived.
So, we enjoyed a refreshing dinner at the air-conditioned casino and watched the thermometer slowly drop into the 90s.
Another hot day of driving greeted us today, but we enjoyed winding our way through the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon and Northern California. Thankfully, we avoided wildfires in both states as we traveled down I-5.
We rejoined Judy and Allyn, who had arrived a day earlier at Railroad Park RV Resort in Dunsmuir, California. This is a really fun place to stay where you can have a hotel room in a refurbished railroad car (which we did with the grandkids years ago) or camp in the RV park that is a short distance away.
We had a great dinner in a railroad dining car followed by a lovely evening walk, great views of Castle Crags, and a beautiful sunset. Though it was still hot here, the shade of the trees provided some respite from the heat.
It was still sweltering today, but we arrived safely in Stockton, CA, at River Point Landing Marina Resort, where the campsites are situated on the San Joaquin River. This gave us a bit of a breeze, and we enjoyed watching the boats travel up and down the river.
I went to college in Stockton and have good friends who still live there, so we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Papapavlo’s Bistro & Bar and catching-up time with Larry and Nina.
Judy and Allyn had a great dinner at Garlic Brothers Restaurant and Bar and came back to the river in time for a glorious sunset. What a great way to begin closing out our trip (See Allyn’s sunset photos below)!
The final push—on another very hot day—down to Valencia, CA, where our home campground is located. We had a terrific dinner to celebrate our last night together—at Wood Ranch BBQ, where we had eaten the first night the four of us were together on Day 2.
Back at the campground, we celebrated with blueberry cheesecake, champagne, and a special gift that Judy and Allyn brought from Fairbanks.
We also heard that Ron and June made it safely back to their home in the Phoenix area.
Judy and Allyn headed back home in their RV, and we began the process of taking our cats and all our stuff home in a couple of trips in the car. After spending several hours cleaning the RV (everyone’s favorite task at the end of a trip 😊) and then placing it into storage, we were home for good. We got home just in time, as SoCal prepared for Tropical Storm Hilary to make landfall. We were so thankful to travel 8,272 miles safely in our RV from SoCal to Alaska and back! What a journey it has been!
We’ll do one more post with a few highlights and videos of the trip. Thanks again for journeying with us in our great adventure To Alaska and Back in 80 Days!