Miscellaneous Adventures 2021

Note: Click on any photo to get a larger version.

We’ve had a pretty busy 2021 so far, especially the last couple of months, filled with home improvements, new cars, outdoor activities, and trips — so it seemed like time for another Adventures blog post!

In January, Zach purchased a Toyota RAV4 Prime (plug-in hybrid). Since this car was not being sold in Washington state, we drove down to Hermiston Oregon (the nearest dealer that carried it) — about 3 hours drive each way. We drove down in Jennifer’s car, and Zach got to drive his new car back.

Toyota RAV4
Zach’s new car, with 4WD, came in very handy for cross-country skiing in the winter

In March, we met up with Jennifer’s sister Alice and her partner Paul for a weekend of day hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, and camped nearby at a “HipCamp” (kind of like AirBnB for camping) at a small farm in Grass Valley, Oregon. We slept in Zach’s new car, on a very nice platform that he designed for the back.

Columbia River Gorge
Hiking on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge
Sleeping platform
Zach’s home-built sleeping platform in the new car, with storage space underneath. He also made blackout window shades for all the windows (which you can see in the raised hatchback window).

Soon after that trip, our 30-year-old gas furnace died, and we made it through a few chilly weeks in the house until we got both the furnace and the 29-year-old air conditioner replaced (the A/C was still working, but it was getting older and it was more cost effective to replace both at the same time). In June, when we had record 110-degree heat, we were definitely glad to have a much better A/C in the house, and now that it’s colder again, the new, much more efficient furnace is also welcome.

In April, Jennifer, Zach, Alice, and Paul returned to the Columbia Gorge region for a trip up the Deschutes River, on an old railroad bed that has been converted into a trail. We had been thinking of a backpacking trip there, but we found out that it was inadvisable to drink the water from the Deschutes, even with our usual backcountry water filters, due to contamination from agriculture. Carrying enough water for a 3-day trip on our backs didn’t sound like much fun, so we decided to do the trip on our bicycles instead. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that Zach and Jennifer are quite used to bicycle touring, but this was a bit out of the ordinary for us, because it was a trail ride instead of on paved roads. Paul has done a lot of bike touring as well, but Alice had never tried it. We all had a good time on our adventure, and we saw a lot of big-horned sheep, as well as a lot of birds and some neat rock formations.

Deschutes River canyon
Cycling up the Deschutes River trail to our campsite
Big-horned sheep
Big-horned sheep on the ridge above the trail
Rock formations on the Deschutes
We camped for two nights and took a day hike farther up the river on the middle day, which passed many interesting basalt rock formations

In May, we decided that the Pandemic was in enough of a lull that we felt comfortable getting on an airplane, so we flew out to Georgia and Florida to visit Zach’s family, whom we hadn’t seen in about two years. We spent two weeks in Georgia with Zach’s mom, aunt, cousin, younger sister, and her family (husband and nephews ages 2 and 4), and then drove down to Florida with Zach’s mom to visit Zach’s uncle and his older sister and her family (husband and niece/nephew ages 7 and 9). We did some hiking, saw some wildlife, and viewed a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral; Zach stayed one more week than Jennifer and also saw a night-time rocket launch. We also drove down to Ft. Lauderdale one day to visit with Jennifer’s aunt and uncle.

Woods of NE Georgia
Hiking in the woods of northeast Georgia
Tortoise in Gainesville, Florida

We took three backpacking trips with Alice and Paul this summer: July in the Strawberry Mountains of NE Oregon, August in the Olympic Mountains of NW Washington, and September in the Wallowa Mountains of NE Oregon.

Strawberry Mountains
Backpacking in the Strawberry Mountains
Olympic National Park
Hiking through mounds of moss in the Olympic Mountains
Ice Lake, Wallowa Mountains
The scenery was slightly different, but no less beautiful, in the Wallowa Mountains. This is Ice Lake.
Wallowa Mountains
Coming down from Polaris Pass, Wallowa Mountains.

In between the backpacking trips in the summer, we decided to replace our old, disintegrating grape trellis. We collaborated on a design for a very sturdy new trellis, which Zach built and installed in September, while Jennifer relocated the younger grape vine to a sunnier new spot and trimmed back the old grape vine to fit on the new trellis. Probably we’ll have a slightly reduced grape harvest next year, but it will be a much better set-up in the long run.

Grape trellis
The new grape trellis, before we removed the old one

In September, we replaced our roof and had solar panels installed on the south-facing section. The panels are not yet hooked up and generating power, as we’re waiting on inspections.

Delivering roof materials
Crane delivering roofing materials
The roofing crew at work
Solar panel installation
It seemed a little bit of a shame to poke holes in the new roof right after it was installed, but the main reason we got a new roof this year was so we didn’t put solar panels on top of an old roof.

Also in September, Jennifer purchased a new car: a Kia Niro EV (fully electric car). The local Kia dealer didn’t have one and didn’t think they would any time soon, so she bought it in Kirkland, WA (about 300 miles away). We did it in a long 1-day road trip: drove Jennifer’s old car to the dealership, bought the new car, drove to another dealership in Renton, WA, sold her old car, and then drove the new car back together. Since the trip home was farther than the electric vehicle’s range, we had to figure out where to stop to charge up the car on the way home, but our little adventure worked out fine.

EV charging
Charging up Jennifer’s new car in Ellensburg, WA, on its inaugural trip home

Since we both now have plug-in cars, we had two 240-V outlets installed in the garage for electric vehicle charging at the same time as the solar panel install. Zach’s car has about a 40-50 mile range on electric, and Jennifer’s has about a 270-mile range; we sized the solar panel system so that averaged out over the year, we should generate about as much power as we use in the house, plus enough to charge both vehicles when we’re at home. (The way it actually works is that the generated power we don’t use goes into the electric grid, and we get a one-for-one “net metering” credit for times when we’re generating less power than we use.) Zach got a wall-mounted “level 2” charger for his car, while Jennifer opted for a portable unit that can plug into either 240V or 120V outlets, so she can use it for road trips.

In October, we took another road trip in Jennifer’s new car, over to Lake Chelan to see some friends and help them close up their cabin for the winter. For that trip, we were able to make it there within the range of the car, and plug it in to charge at the cabin before we returned (the portable charging unit definitely came in handy!).

Whew! This post is getting long, so I’ll just briefly mention a few other activities:

  • Zach went on one Backcountry Response Trip (BCRT) with the Washington Trails Association (WTA) this summer. Jennifer and Zach also participated in several local WTA trail work days, including a bridge-building project. Jennifer recently completed her 100th work day with WTA; Zach is getting close to 200 days.
  • We rearranged some furniture in the house, got some new shelves, and are awaiting the arrival of a more efficient clothes washer and dryer, which are supposed to be delivered in about 10 days if they’re not delayed.
  • Jennifer took a short road trip to Seattle in August (in her old car) to help a friend’s mother pack up and move, and see a few people.
  • We did lots of local day hikes and a couple of local canoe excursions.

That’s about all to report for now! Stay tuned for the next adventure…