Alaska-Part 11-Heading Back to SoCal

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

Day 72
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.

Where's Allyn?

We returned to the Oostema Farmstead, a very unique RV campground located right in the middle of a working farm. Judy reunited with Loretta, the calf that she got to name when we visited in June (named after country singer Loretta Lynn). (See previous post for details.)

One of our most unique campgrounds!
Judy reunites with Loretta, the calf she named back in June.
Loretta has grown since she was born on June 6th.

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!

Picking raspberries
And blackberries!
And more blackberries!
Angel food cake with freshly picked berries!

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.

Day 73
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.

Where's Allyn (and Judy)? In Allyn!
Judy's photo of the historic school bell of Allyn
Allyn sure has a lot of things named after him!
Allyn has several artists who do chainsaw carvings, like we saw in Chetwynd, BC.

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!

Big Bubba's World Famous Burgers

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.

Ron rows out to get the motorboat, for our trip to McMicken Island.
Where's Allyn?
Leaving Harstine Island
The cabin on McMicken that my grandparents built in the 1940s.
Judy and Allyn visit the outhouse that Hank helped to rebuild in the 1990s.

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).

Happy Hour on McMicken Island
Back on Harstine, with McMicken in the background

Day 74
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.

Ron cooked us breakfast on the wood-burning stove!
Blueberry pancakes and bacon!
There are thousands (maybe millions) of live sand dollars on the beach at Harstine.
McMicken Island looks quite different at low tide.
At low tide, this sandbar connects Harstine and McMicken islands.
At high tide, Penelope's Pebble is completely covered with water!
Mussels on Penelope's Pebble
Anemones cover most of Penelope's Pebble
Close-up of an anemone
There are many 1-inch crabs on these islands.

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).

This is the tree, as evidenced by bones and poop!
Judy and Allyn search for the tree that contains the eagles' nest.
A crow skull and bird bones on the ground confirm that this tree houses the eagles' nest.
This is where the nest is (picture taken from the boat the day before).
In the meadow. Did a bird poop on me?
Under the kissing tree

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.

It's always a good day when Mt. Rainier shows up!
Taking out the speedboat is a little more complicated.
Ron moors us up at the dock in Allyn. Or is he planning to dive in?
Dinner at the Boat House in Allyn
It was delicious!

Day 75
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.

Mom with grandson Andy and two great-grandchildren
Ron and Marie prepare the oysters and clams.
Chris, Cindy, Ron, and Brad together again.
Mom and her four kids
Mom with Andy, Marie, Daniel and Kathleen
Hank and Mittens have a stare-down!

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!

Oysters for the taking
And after being grilled
Fried butter clams for appetizers
Brad attacks an oyster.
Chris samples the clams.

Day 76
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.

With my brothers one more time
Steamed clams courtesy of Brad and Chris
A peak inside the old cabin

Danno and Leilani got multiple walks each day while we stayed on Harstine, and they have both confirmed that this is their favorite campsite!

Leilani says, "Two paws up!"
Danno concurs.

While we were visiting with family, Judy and Allyn explored the Spruce Goose and other parts of McMinnville, Oregon (photos taken by Judy).

Where's Allyn?
In Howard Hughes' seat!
Inside the fuselage
Beach balls were discovered inside the wings, still inflated!

Day 77
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.

Crossing back into Oregon over the Columbia River
Umpqua ice cream makes hot days bearable!

Day 78
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.

Back in California
Mt. Shasta still looks beautiful!

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.

Day 79
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.

A view of the San Joaquin River from our campsite
Larry and Nina, the day before Nina's birthday

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)!

Day 80
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.

Day 81
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!

The RV goes back into storage just in time for Tropical Storm Hilary to come through.
The cats endured one more ride in their carriers in the back seat of the car in order to get back home!

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!

Denali, one of our many Alaska highlights!

12 thoughts on “Alaska-Part 11-Heading Back to SoCal”

    • Thanks for sticking with us through all of those details. We’re so glad you enjoyed it. Sorry we didn’t get to see you in L.A…next time!

    • We’re so glad you enjoyed the journey with us, Beth. We still fondly remember visiting you and Andy over Easter back in 2017 (before we had the blog up and running). That was another great trip–to the Florida Keys and back in 65 days!

  1. Enjoyed all your blogs. Great adventure! and comments and photos were dynamite!
    Really was happy to see all your family at Harstine and especially your Mom. She looks terrific!
    Must be all that wonderful air in Washington State.
    Congratulations on completing your tour of Alaska and parts of Canada. Glad you’re home safe, gearing up for the next adventure.

    • So glad you enjoyed the blogs, Adrienne. It was fun to visit with my family in Washington on the way home. Mom really enjoyed getting back out to the island, even just for a couple of days. And yes, we’re glad to be home safe. Next adventure is coming up soon!

  2. Spectacular…simply spectacular! And very well chronicled, Cindy! Thank you for taking us “along” on your fantastic trip!


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