I now own a tiny home. It travels on two wheels and can go almost anywhere.
It's a Casita 17 foot Spirit Deluxe travel trailer. To me it seems large on the inside and tiny on the outside. It's very very easy to pull with the new F-150. Still working on backing up – practice makes perfect.
My friend Blake flew down from British Columbia to Texas to join me for the delivery from the factory and do a shakedown road trip back to Ohio.
We arrived at the factory on Thursday, 22 September, a half hour before they opened. When they were ready for us, Blake backed the pickup into their garage and they tested out trailer connections, which were fine. Tim at the factory went over everything, starting on the outside and working to the inside. Lots of systems to learn and things to remember, but it will all get easier over time.
Then we were on our way, with the first stop at Nelson-Putman Propane in Corsicana to get the two tanks filled up. After a lunch break, we did some shopping for needed items, especially some food and a couple of chairs and a table for sitting outside.
The first campsite was at Navarro Mills Lake. Most Casita owners spend the first night fairly near the factory in case any issue comes up that could be easily taken care of with a trip back to the factory the next morning. And Navarro Mills was only about 20 miles away and a highly recommended stop. It's a great campsite and I'd stop there again. We made some dinner and celebrated. It's still hot in Texas, but the air conditioner cooled the trailer off quickly. The refrigerator seemed very slow to get cold, but our campsite neighbors assured us that was normal. Indeed, the fridge was nice and cool by the morning.
After a stop in Corsicana at the world famous and very nice and friendly Collin Street Bakery, we headed to Fort Worth to show off the trailer to friends there. A very nice neighbor allowed us to park in their driveway overnight, which turned out very handy since there aren't that many campgrounds close by in Fort Worth.
Saturday morning I ran and Blake walked with my running and walking (and Grand Canyon rim-to-rim) friends in Fort Worth. That afternoon a number of them came over for a wine and cheese picnic under the canopy outside the trailer. Sally presented me with an awesome package of stuff to use in the trailer, much of which is already in place. Thanks!
We all had a great dinner at the Mexican restaurant Benito's in Fort Worth that evening.
Sunday morning Blake and I were up early to get on the road just after sunrise, heading east on I-20. We ultimately decided to make it a long driving day to be better positioned for our next stops and also to have more time when we got back to Columbus. After we got to Vicksburg, Mississippi, we decided on Tuscaloosa, Alabama as a good overnight stop and made things easy with a hotel stay instead of camping. We had a nice meal, but did find out that you can't get a beer after 9 pm on a Sunday in Tuscaloosa.
Monday morning we headed for the Huntsville Space and Rocket center. It's always fun to see these huge rockets and read about their history and development. I had visited here in 1995, but this was a first for Blake, as was pretty much everywhere we traveled. Blake enjoyed seeing the rockets and some of the models of them that he had enjoyed as a kid. Much of the rest of the facility looks a bit run down, though, and some exhibits don't seem a good fit with the original theme.
From there we headed to Chattanooga and an RV park. We were easily the smallest trailer in the park. It would be a good place to stay while visiting Chattanooga.
The next morning we drove along scenic US64 and US74 east of Chattanooga, along a river that was used for the white water competitions in the 1996 Olympics. The truck and trailer had no problem with the mountain roads. We even drove the steep road up to Georgia's highest point and then walked or rode the shuttle another half mile to the visitor center. Good views from there.
From there we had an hour or two of driving to the Clemson, South Carolina area to visit an old friend of Blake's that he hadn't seen in many years. We could stay overnight in their driveway and Blake expertly backed it up the somewhat steep and very narrow driveway to the flat spot at the top. I'm going to practice backing up so I can do that, too.
It was a great visit for Blake and I enjoyed meeting his friends.
We were out late the next morning and headed north on I-26, I-40 and then I-75 up to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky. The campground was not at all crowded and we enjoyed a nice walk along the falls.
In the middle of the night, a rotten tree fell on the campsite just two sites down from us, fortunately not hitting anyone. We were glad it didn't hit us!
After breakfast, we headed to the Lexington/Frankfort area for a quick stop at the Kentucky Horse Park and then a fun stop at the Buffalo Trace Distillery for a tour.
Coming north to Columbus, we hit downtown Cincinnati at early rush hour but thankfully had little or no delay. After the trailer spent the night in a friend's driveway for a visit, we took it the next morning to the storage area.
I'm sure looking forward to getting out with it again in a few weeks time.
On our hike out of the Grand Canyon in June, the memory card on my camera failed, with a write error. From then on, I used the in-camera memory feature to take more pictures on the way out.
After the trip, I tried a number of things to try to recover the pictures on that memory card, but nothing worked. I kept the card around, but I had given up, when a chance reading of one of my regular bloggers today pointed to a free program called PhotoRec, said to be useful for recovering lost pictures from digital camera memory cards. Could this be – I thought – and how come I hadn't run across this program before?
I installed it, ran it, and it recovered every one of my lost photos. Well, that just made my day! So, here is a photo album of the best of those photos.
Some comments to go along with the photos ...
"Tweeting from the Grand Canyon..."
Some of us did a day hike from Phantom Ranch. At the high point of that, we got cell phone coverage, which wasn't available down in Phantom Ranch. As others checked their cell phones, I pulled out the iPad to see that, yes, Verizon did have coverage down here, so I took a photo and sent it to Twitter. Everyone else thought that was pretty geeky, so there you go...
After the morning hike, I took a walk on my own to walk over both river bridges, a walk that most of the group would do later on in the day, hence the additional photos of the two bridges.
On the group hike over the two bridges, we spotted a Grand Canyon rattlesnake, the same species that we also saw at Cottonwood campground.
The photo of the Phantom Ranch dormitory should give you an idea of what they are like. 10 bunk beds altogether, 8 of which are in the photo. Everyone else in our dorm had already left that morning, the same morning that we hiked to the South Rim. Really not great accommodations, but not as bad as I originally anticipated. I'd rather have a cabin next time. In the next photo, Brad is coming out of that dorm, ready for the hike up.
The rafts along the river were rafting trips taking a break, just downstream from the Silver Bridge.
"heading up to the South Rim..." -- after the trail crosses the Silver Bridge, it follows along the river for more than a mile before heading up. Now we are finally starting up.
"relaxing at Indian Gardens..." -- really a nice spot. 4 1/2 miles to go.
"waiting for the mule team..." -- this was the only one we saw on the way up. My camera failed right after this, so for a long time I never expected to see these photos again. I have relived this part of the trip today, thanks to the recovery of these photos!
Trip length: 7 weeks, 2 days
- Truck stats (automatically recorded by the truck):
- Miles driven: 8,015.4
- Time driven: 160 hours, 58 minutes, 43 seconds
- Gallons used: 371.5
- Miles per gallon: 21.5
- Average speed: 49.8 MPH
Miles raced: 13.11
Mountains climbed: 2
Canyons traversed: 1 (but it was a big one!)
- Miles kayaked:
- On the ocean: 38 (33 nautical miles)
- On a river: 17 (15 nautical miles)
- Wildlife sightings:
- Bears spotted: 3
- Bears nearby but not seen: 2
- Elk: many
- Bald eagles: 20+
- Humpback whales: 10-20
Number of hotels: 18 (including Phantom Ranch, which is a bit of a stretch)
Number of pieces of wood hauled: a truckload
- States visited: 15
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Provinces visited: 4
- British Columbia
- Highest temperature:
- 111°F, crossing the Imperial Valley in California
- (observed in comfort in an air conditioned truck)
- 100+°F, at Phantom Ranch
- after hiking 15 miles from the North Rim
Updated Monday, 15 August 2011
I took a guided kayak trip to the Broken Group Islands in Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia, Canada. Many thanks to Batstar Adventure Tours for the excellent provisioning, logistics and behind-the-scenes details required for the trip; to their guide, Laurel Archer, an all-around expert guide, cook, and you-name it, and thanks as well to my fellow guests – Brooke, Tracy and Fred; it was great fun spending 4 days with you.
I recorded the GPS track for each day and I have added each day's track to EveryTrail.com. In July of 2011, Google (finally) added high resolution satellite imagery of the Broken Group Islands, so with these tracks you can zoom in and see a lot of detail for all the islands and areas that we visited. The tracks are:
I've created a photo album with 95 photos, taken by Tracy, Brooke and myself. Each thumbnail photo can be clicked for a larger version.
Tracy has some great video of a humpback whale going close by. I've combined that with some other video showing Dodd Island and some of the other places we visited:
This is my fourth trip to the Broken Group Islands, a unit of Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I was last here in 2006. Here is a writeup of that trip, along with some other Batstar trips from earlier.
The journey begins Thursday evening, when we meet for a trip briefing and to receive our trip bags. All clothing and gear needs to be packed into 3 dry bags. At first glance, you would think these bags couldn't possibly be enough space. There is a 20 liter tapered bag, specially designed to fit in the bow or stern of the kayak. Then there is a 25 liter bag for more storage, and finally a 20-25 liter day bag, which you keep with you in the kayak cockpit for ready access. Bulky items like boots and shoes do not have to go in the dry bags and you can keep a water bottle strapped to the kayak or inside the cockpit. A waterproof camera is the best choice, otherwise you'll want to have some kind of waterproof case for it and anything else that shouldn't get wet.
Breakfast Friday morning is at 6:30, to be ready for a 7:30 departure. It's partly cloudy, no rain in the forecast, but fairly strong winds are supposed to build in the afternoon. We want to get started as early as we can, to avoid the wind. Paddling in the rain is no problem, but too much wind could cause us to turn around and go back, or end up waiting for the wind to die down.
It's a beautiful drive on Highway 4, first along Sproat Lake and then through the mountains, some still with plenty of snow, past Taylor Creek and eventually along Kennedy Lake to the turnoff for Toquart Bay. We reached the turnoff at 8:55, then it's 10 miles of decent dirt road to Toquart Bay, arriving at 9:17. Besides being a campground, this is the most popular starting point for kayaking trips to the Broken Group Islands.
The tide is low, so it's a long walk with the kayaks and the gear to the water's edge. Batstar owner Blake and our guide, Laurel, expertly pack the kayaks and we are on the water at 10:25. They pack as close to the waterline as possible, because the kayaks will be very heavy at the start of the trip, until we get some of the food and water consumed.
There is some wind, but it's not too bad as we head around the Stopper Islands on our way into the Park. We've heard reports from incoming kayakers of humpback whale sightings and we do see some spouting in the distance as we begin. We stop at Hand Island for lunch - wild rice salad with tuna, cheese, fruit, juice and cookies. We collect a lot of driftwood to take to Dodd Island for a fire tonight. We see quite a few humpbacks after Hand Island, including one that goes right past us, close enough for one of the boats to feel the spray. (See the video.) The whales are large and they look even larger close up! They know where we are, of course, so there's little concern about a collision. I have seen orcas this close before, but not humpbacks. Very impressive. Humpbacks did not frequent the Broken Group Islands until just a few years ago; I had not seen them at all on my previous trips here.
After the Brabant islands we encounter the strongest wind and we are paddling directly into it. There's enough wind to generate a few waves and a lot of spray, making for a bit of splashing, but the weather is warm and we know we'll dry out soon enough. We arrive at our campsite on Dodd Island at 3:15 p.m. This is one of the more popular campsites, because of its central location, but we are the first to arrive, so we have our pick. The tents, new to all of us, are a bit of a mystery at first to figure out, but eventually we get them set up.
We paddled a total of 8.3 statute miles today. By 5:15, I'm having a glass of wine on the beach, listening to the birds in the trees and keeping an eye out for more humpback whales. Our campsite is on a spit of land, giving us a northwest view.
Foccaio is the appetizer, and dinner was a fresh cole slaw, and coconut chicken curry; all excellent. There was a dessert planned, but we were stuffed from dinner and opted for after dinner drinks and marshmallows over the fire instead.
Saturday morning I was up at 6 a.m. and read a book on the beach until the first coffee was ready at 7:10. The weather looks excellent, very calm, so we will head towards the outside of the Park today, the outside meaning the islands closest to the open ocean. They have some of the most ruggest coastline and always interesting history as well.
We get underway at 9:25 a.m. and spot a river otter with 2 babies just swimming over to Dodd Island as we were leaving. We spot more humpback whales throughout the day, as well as the Arctic Loon, several Bald Eagles, the American Oystercatcher and some small deer that live on a few of the larger islands, including Dodd.
We cross a very narrow passageway between Lovett Island and Trickett Island, almost too shallow for kayaks but not quite, then after a short break, head towards Clarke and Benson Islands. The sea was calm enough to paddle around the outside of Benson, i.e., the ocean side. This gives us a good chance to see the rugged outer coastline of Benson. The islands that face the open ocean are often very windswept and look different from the sides of islands that are more sheltered.
We land on Benson and have about an hour to explore the island, which has been inhabited for some 5,000 years by the Indians (First Nations) and also sported a hotel for some time as well, long before the area became a park. Tracy and I followed a trail that crosses the island to the ocean side, where there are views and also a blowhole, but the trails are faint and in the end, we decided we would not be able to find it before having to be back for lunch. But there were some nice old trees along the way, including a nurse log and some large fungi growing on the older trees. Our landing beach has some nice tidepools and some large driftwood.
Lunch on the beach:wraps with rice, fruit, cheese and cookies.
The weather was still calm as we head back, with a lazy paddle to Turret Island, where we stopped for a break and took a short trail to see what is reputed to be the largest tree in the park, a very large and old Spruce tree, probably 5 meters across. We saw a few harbor seals on the way and humpback whales, too. We scooted around the east side of Turret Island, cross Thiepval Channel and back to camp.
The appetizers tonight were oysters, brie and goat cheese and crackers. Dinner was salmon, boiled new potatoes and fresh green beans. Dessert was fresh raspberries and yogurt on shortcake. And after dinner, of course, another campfire and marshmallows. And some yoga for sore muscles. We paddled 11.7 statute miles today.
Sunday morning I was up at 6 a.m. again, and this time took a walk in the woods. The trail was going to involve more bushwhacking than I wanted, however, so I left the trail and walked along the shore at low tide, to a point we could see from our campsite. More humpback whales were visible again today.
Breakfast was ham, banana pancakes, fruit, yogurt and coffee. The weather continues to be partly cloudy, calm and warm.
As we head east towards Keith and Mullins Islands, we see some harbor seals sunning themselves on rocks barely above the water. Past Keith Island, we headed around Demster Island to see the sea caves there. We hear the waves crashing inside the caves, occasionally generating some spooky sounds.
We paddle around the southeast side of Demster to a tiny beach (a much larger beach at low tide), for a snack break, then head out again and across to Gibraltar island, where there is another cave and some more rugged coastline. We see a lot of Bald Eagles in this section of the Park.
Our lunch stop is the campsite at Gibraltar Island, where I camped on a Batstar trip in September, 2000. Another group was there for lunch; it's a popular spot. Lunch was hot butternut squash soup, meat, cheese, avocado, tomatoes and cucumber, and dessert with the usual fruit and cookies.
We head next for the shallow lagoon between Jacques and Jarvis islands, the best spot in the park to see some of the underwater life. There are numerous oysters, sea cucumbers, a few crabs, moon snails, batstars and other sea stars. The water is very shallow at low tide, only a few inches, but deep enough to float over most of it. This is also one of the areas where the Indians created fish traps, where they could herd fish and trap them at high tide.
We head for the west exit from the lagoon, which is dry at low tide and not passable by kayak. However, the tide was coming in and the passage was just starting to flood. We could tell that within 15-20 minutes, the tide would rise high enough that we could get through. Our guide, Laurel, in the single kayak, went first, since the single is narrower and she eventually floated through. Our two doubles came next after a few minutes, with some creative shifting of weight and waiting for the next rise of water, we all got through. (See the photo album.) This was worth the wait 1) because it was fun and 2), it's a fairly long way back out the north entrance. Once we were through, we had a straight 2 mile paddle back to Dodd Island.
Appetizers tonight were chips and salsa, and then two kinds of freshly made sushi. The main course was clam chowder and dessert was freshly made carrot cake. Quite a meal!
After seeing so many humpback whales each day, it was a bit disappointing to see only one on our way back to Toquart Bay. The weather again was partly cloudy and warm and the waters a flat calm. We were underway about 9:30 a.m., heading northwest towards St. Ines Island. We took a snack break there, then paddled west of the Stopper Islands along the Macoah Passage. We were in no particular hurry, since we were not due back at Toquart until noon. Arriving at Toquart, we exchanged greetings with the group who would be going out to Dodd Island. After loading the van, waving goodbye to the new group and having a nice lunch on shore, we headed back to Port Alberni for some welcome showers and a great big dinner with storytelling and great memories.
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