2015 Summer Journal

Engaged on the Elwha

Engaged on the Elwha

Earlier this week we began our first “real” adventure on the bus. Though we got on the road two Sundays ago, we didn’t get too much bus time because our first stop was the beach house my parents were renting for their summer vacation.

Once their vacation was finished we packed up the bus and hit the road, driving two hours North from Hoodsport to Port Angeles, WA. The drive was incredible – we hugged the coast of the Hood Canal for a long while, then dipped in and out of the rainforests that the PNW is so well known for. I’m still amazed at how much more I see when we’re traveling in the bus.

Outside Found | View from the bus overlooking the Hood Canal

The Hood Canal is gorgeous!

We chose Port Angeles as our next stop because it’s home to a river that, though we’ve never seen it, holds a special place in our heart. When we lived in Boulder we made a trip to Carbondale, CO for the annual 5Point Film Festival. There we saw the premier of Damnation, a documentary that discusses the history of dams in America, and suggests that maybe we’ve reached a point where we no longer need so many of them.

The Elwha River of Port Angeles is featured heavily throughout the movie as one of the incredible success stories in the dam removal movement. They started working on taking out the Elwha dams in 2011 and quickly saw the environment responding to the changes – Salmon and other fish species who hadn’t been up the river in nearly a hundred years are returning in droves.

Damnation is a powerful, inspiring film, and seeing it at 5Point while surrounded with people who feel as strongly about the environment as we do made it even more so. (Ok, I’ll admit it – I cried. A lot.) Looking back, it may have been one of the things that kick started this whole bus project: it lit a fire that made us want to get out there and see what our country has to offer, perhaps before it’s too late.

DamNation from Patagonia on Vimeo.

PS – It’s available on Netflix!

So, it’s fitting that our first destination is an RV park a mere mile from the lower Elwha dam.

Outside Found | The Elwha Dam RV Park

The Elwha Dam RV Park

We decided to stay at the park because it’s close to the dam, a network of mountain biking trails, and they offer free wifi. We were a little worried that they would balk at the bus, but the owners were nothing but kind and welcoming when we rolled up. They directed us to a perfect spot with sun for our solar panels and shade for our picnic table, and we got to work settling in.

Parking, leveling, and “unpacking” the bus was easier than expected. Hallelujah! We’re really getting the hang of this thing.

After settling in we took Hilde on a run down to see the old dam site. It really was less than a mile from camp – a quick little jaunt through the forest. The dam site is incredible. We took a second to view it from the top and then continued to follow the road upstream to see what we could see.

Outside Found | Elwha River

Hilde’s having fun!

Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River

The old dam. They removed a section to the left of the earthen dam you can see to let the river run through.

Outside Found | Elwha River

Getting down to the overlook was steep!

Outside Found | Elwha River

Look at this gorgeous river!

The trail we were on looked like it might have gone around the old reservoir, but it was pretty clear that it hadn’t been used in a while. Going was slow, but Hilde was LOVING the opportunity to “swim” through the underbrush!

Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River Outside Found | Elwha River

So overgrown!

Outside Found | Elwha River

Look at this gorgeous river!

Outside Found | Elwha River

A view of the old lakebed

Eventually we decided that enough was enough and turned back, hoping to find a way down to the river below the dam site.

We found our trail pretty quick. It was steep and rocky, which made me a little bit nervous for Hilde. There was one section that required a little bit of bouldering skill to navigate around an overhanging ledge. Hilde surprised us by sauntering down the ledge like it was no big deal… a true adventure dog!

Outside Found | Elwha River Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River

We got to the bottom and marveled at the rock formations that used to be part of the dam. I’m amazed that they were able to get the whole thing out of there – what an incredible sight that would have been.

Outside Found | Elwha River

Will wanted me to get a photo of him standing on a big tree trunk but we were worried that if Hilde tried to follow him she might slip into the rapid-y section of the river. I’ve been working on her ‘stay’ a lot lately and thought that this might be a great chance to practice in real life. Even though it was torturous, she waited patiently beside me while Will scaled the tree trunk, got his photo taken, and came back to us. I’m so proud of my girl!

Outside Found | Elwha River

Not wanting to waste a perfectly good river, we stripped down and took a dip. Hilde, of course, was in and out of the water from the second we got there. She loves a good swim!

Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River

After swimming I dawdled, not wanting to get sand in my socks. Will headed downstream, I thought to get a good view of the old dam site. I picked my way over to him and we sat for a second, soaking up the view.

Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River

We’ve had a lot of conversations lately about the things we’ve done and the things we still want to do, so when Will started talking about how symbolic it was for us to be sitting in front of the free-flowing Elwha river, I didn’t think anything of it.

Then he turned to me and asked if I wanted to keep having adventures forever. Not sure where he was going with that, I panicked for a second – was he asking what I thought he was asking? He cleared it up when he got down on one knee and showed me the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen. Would I have adventures with him for the rest of my life? Hell yes I would!

Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River Outside Found | Elwha River Outside Found | Elwha River

So, we’re engaged! Hilde picked up on the excitement and got the zoomies, bigtime. She was in and out of the water, up on the bank, dragging big sticks around… she didn’t know what was going on, but she knew it was exciting!

It was absolutely the perfect moment. Then, we realized that the ring was juuuuuuuust a touch too small. I could get it on my finger if I tried, but then it got stuck!

We spent the rest of the evening calling our family and friends with the good news and trying to get the ring off of my quickly swelling finger. Everyone was happy for us, and Will’s Grandpa Bob said it best: “Well, I’m happy for you, but it’s about damn time!”

We also made our first dinner in the bus, a tomato basil pasta dish. The stove worked flawlessly and the pasta was delicious!

Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River

After dinner we set to work on getting the ring off my finger. We tried elevating it, icing it, oiling it, and the dental floss trick, which was truly terrible. Nothing was budging this thing!

Outside Found | Elwha River

Will’s cousins mentioned that their jeweler suggests Windex to help remove tricky rings. We didn’t have any, so I headed over to the campground office to see if they might be able to spare any. They were so sweet, I think the whole family came out to see if they could help! They worked on it for a minute and got it the closest by far, but I started to black out and feel nauseous before they could get it off.

Since it wasn’t turning purple we decided to leave it overnight, and try the ice / elevate / dental floss process again in the morning. Will did the floss and needless to say the attempt did not last long – I don’t know how the people on YouTube stand that procedure.

Disappointed (Well, I was disappointed; I think Will thought it was hilarious) we headed to the urgent care center in Port Angeles. (Side note – we got the bus road ready in less than 20 minutes! We thought it would be a pain to move but it was actually pretty easy.) The woman took one look at my finger and said that I didn’t want the doctors to come anywhere near it – if they cut it off there would be no saving the ring. She suggested that since my finger wasn’t in danger (it was uncomfortable, but not in danger) we find a jeweler who could cut it in a way that wouldn’t ruin the ring.

Surprisingly, there isn’t a jewelery store in Port Angeles! After a few stops we ended up at the local Pawn Shop, where the town jeweler works. She took one look at it and said “no problem, but I’ll probably have to charge you $10.”

With that, she got out a tiny ring cutting tool, and five minutes later I was free! Best of all, she said it didn’t hurt the ring and that another jeweler should be able to size it up for me no problem.

Outside Found | Elwha River
Outside Found | Elwha River Outside Found | Elwha River

Had to include a shot of these beauties! The darker colored ring in the right photo is the wedding band.

Lesson learned: if you get your ring stuck on your finger, just go to a jeweler. The pain of trying to convince it to come off was not worth it for how cheap and easy cutting it was!

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  • WEG

    What a great engagement story! And the dam story as well, of course. I just “discovered” you two through my Google alert for “family travel” (I run a FB page for travel), and now am reading through some of your adventures. I love the bus, and look forward to learning more about everything! AND I love that Hilde is with you – even more fun!

    Wynne
    NYC

  • Jo

    Love your blog so much. I’ve been toying with a tiny house idea, and your bus has solidified my desires…I get so excited reading about your adventures. Thanks for sharing your life. And a late congratulations on the engagement!