Sunday, 26 December 2010

Trip to Washington and Oregon, October 2009, Day 8

Into each trip some rain must fall, and these were the days it fell. The news mentioned a major storm hitting the coast, with dangers of landslides in California. Driving Burnt Ridge would have been outright scary in that weather. I was so grateful we had done it the day before!
We, or rather Chris, just drove North this day. By the way, my husband loves driving and I don't. So on joint trips I get to sit back, stare at the scenery, read, play Sudoku, and generally zone out.

The original plan had been to leisurely make our way home through the Oregon Outback, the South-East desert region that looks like Nevada and is about as densely populated. We have been there before and love the wide open landscape. 
I was also keen to have another look at Upper Klamath Lake. The one time we were there, at the end of September 1999, the views of Mount Shasta were obscured by the smoke from forest fires. This time all we could see was rain.
I have a special intimate relationship with Klamath Lake. The wild edible blue green algae that grows there has been the mainstay of my health program for 14 years. Eating it has truly been life-changing. But that is a whole other topic.

This is harvest season for AFA. I had been hoping to see the harvest barges at work. Alas, it poured rain and we couldn't even find a spot to access the lake.

We decided to focus on getting home, driving North over Bend, a route we had never seen before. Route 97, the same road that took us through the fruit country. This stretch was BOOORRRRING. Jackpine forests on both sides that looked more like tree plantations than woods. Pouring rain, occasionally mixed with sleet. If there are views to the mountains we couldn't see them.

To add insult to injury the road was full of impatient truckers, including the occasional honker or finger-giver. Not fair, since Chris is the most considerate of drivers and will pull over to let faster traffic go by at any opportunity. Near Madras we took refuge in a roadside diner for a bowl of hearty home-made bean soup. It was a fun place with an interesting mix of locals and truckdriving regulars. We eavesdropped on conversations about a patch-quilt economy that sounded a lot like home.

Past Redmond and especially past Madras the landscape got pretty again, more hilly and open.
Alas, the light was not great for taking good pictures. This is somewhere between Madras and Antelope. Poor Antelope. There is a tragedy. A tiny town in a stunningly beautiful region that is dying. I didn't get the chance to take pictures there. But it looked like there had been a school and it was gone. A few houses are still inhabited, but if memory serves the lone cafe had closed. If anyone out there is one of those lucky people who can work anywhere, there's got to be cheap real estate available. One could dream of a community of artists and homesteaders bring the town to life again.....
After I wrote that a Multiply Reader told me that Antelope had been taken over by the now infamous Baghwan cult. I got this plaque from the Internet, sorry, forgot where.

Back in October 2009 it was time to make camp again.
Just past Antelope we found a large lot with a big pile of slag or whatever it was, belonging to the department of transport.
There was no sign of industrial activity. It didn't look like we'd be in anyone's way.
Enormous views all around.
                                     Home again, free!


Trip to Washington and Oregon, Day 7

We were in Southern Oregon by now and it was time to start heading inland. By the way, the Southernmost part of the coast is every bit as gorgeous as the rest, but it is less crowded. We were on the way ere break of day. The funny light squiggle is the beam from the lighthouse.
Humbug Mountain seen from the North.

Just one more beach walk in the early morning light. Below is Humbug Mountain seen from Nesika beach to the South.

The waves were getting higher. We just missed a big storm that blew in the next day. Beach walks and storms go great together, but I would not have wanted to do the next stage in bad weather.
It was hard saying goodbye to the coast. I am very happy in my mountain paradise, but can any salt-blooded human resist the pull of the ocean?
Anyway, inland we went, from Gold Beach to Grants Pass. We had been in this region before but never on this particular road.
Even on the map the road looked daunting. Lots of crinkles, a fierce peak in the middle, and a warning that it is closed in winter. The stretch to Agness in the Rogue Valley was disappointing. All you could see was trees. Pretty trees, but hardly any views of the river. The map recommended inquiring locally about conditions.
As if that were not daunting enough there were signs just before Agness warning us about a road closure and a detour. The gentleman who ran the gas station and emporium in Agness was consulted. Oh yes, he knew all about it. The detour was easy to find and would take us around Bear Camp, whatever that was. The road was a gravel forest service road but the detour was no more than about 12, or was it 20? miles. He wouldn't recommend taking a big rig over that road, but a truck unit like ours should be OK.

Thus informed we struck out. The weather meanwhile had turned grey, with a flat ugly light, terrible for photography.
We found the detour signs. On we went, crawling at 15 or 20km an hour to avoid rattling the precious Thing to bits. The road climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more. There was hardly any traffic, and what we did see was sturdy vehicles ready to tackle the outback. That's just as well, since this was a one lane road in many places with sheer
Now if anyone can drive roads like this it is Chris. He has driven bus professionally. Certain seniors would book their trip to Nelson on days he drove because they felt safer with him. To top that he drives back roads for a hobby, places where two cars can only pass each other if one backs up to the nearest pullout, just like this road. So he was quite in his element.

The grinding miles passed by. At one point we passed a road crew and some signs, and there was much rejoicing. Surely the main road couldn't be far now? But no, we kept climbing, through howling wild wilderness. At least we saw that we were still on Burnt Ridge Road. It deserves its name.
It had definitely been more than 20 miles now. I kept panic at bay by trying to get a clear shot of an arbutus tree. In the gloomy light and the hostile-feeling mountains they were a gentle, friendly presence.

At one point we came to a large pullout where we could easily turn around. We stopped for a moment to rest and to argue. Where the H were we? Could we have taken a wrong turn somewhere? I had found the road signs confusing, but Chris claimed he knew the conventions of road signs (he does) and there had been no alternative. Besides, we were still going East, something I should be able to ascertain if I paid attention to the way the faint shadows grew on the moss of the trees, or something like that. My map reading skills were questioned. I retorted that one cannot read a road that does not appear on the map in question. I was in favor of going back, because that way at least we'd know where we where. Chris opted for going on and thank goodness we did. A few harrowing miles later we saw a stop sign. I have never been so glad to see a stop sign in my life. We had reached the main road. It was still a stressful drive over poor pavement and one-lane stretches, but at least we knew where we were! The Sasquatch-haunted Klamath Mountains are no place to get lost. Not that we live in fear of Sasquatch, but the fact that this is one region where sightings are frequent says something about how wild it is.
At last, signs of civilization: a large flat area by the Rogue River with a big information sign, full of warnings about the hazards of the road we had just come over. The original road, not the detour! It also showed the Burnt Ridge Road: a huge loop about as long as the original road, probably about 40 km. We would have been spared considerable stress if we had known how long the detour was.
Phew. We gratefully stopped for a rest. Chris had a much-needed nap while I climbed down to the river and took pictures, what else, including one of the arbutus trees on the slope above us. We call them Arbutus, some call them Madrone. Same graceful leafy evergreen with peeling red bark. In Canada they only live on the West coast.
There were some intriguing greenish rocks by the river.
Onwards! Refreshed by yogurt, pears and Earl Grey we braved the Medford metropolitan area where I salvaged my map-reading reputation by piloting us safely onto Route 140, direction Klamath Falls.

Past Medford the landscape got really pretty again. The vegetation is a lot like what we remembered from a trip through Northern California years ago. Those wonderful oaks. By now it was raining off and on.
We managed to find the forestry campsite that was on the map, just off route 140, before dark, and settled in for the night.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Trip to Washington and Oregon October 2009, Day 6

                         Day 6, Lighthouse Beach to Cape Bianco
To anyone slogging through this: it is not meant as public entertainment, but as a record for ourselves and some family. Maybe I should have done it in Dutch, :). Anyway, here we go again.
Day 6 was the very best day of the entire vacation. We were where we wanted to be and we had no distracting chores to eat up part of the day.

The picture above is the campsite at Oceanview RV park. Look at how many other people there are. This was one good Columbus Day weekend.
First thing in the morning we did the usual, another beach walk. It turned out we were on Lighthouse beach, but we could only see why it was called that after we had hiked all the way to the other side. The lighthouse is not visible from where we started. Above: view to the South. Below: View to the North.
A jetty forms the boundary of the beach at the North end.
We walked out there and came to a protected area between jetties that must be part of the harbour of Coos Bay.
Beautiful seaweed, like miniature trees. just below the rocks.
The view to the other side.
So that's why they call it Lighthouse Beach!
I messed with this picture to make it sharper and show the bridge between the cliffs and the island the lighthouse is on. The blobs in the waves are surfers, not seals.
Below, a better view of the lighthouse.
Alas, we did not know that there was a trail just below the cliffs till we came back from our hike. Heck, we didn't see the bridge till we played with the pictures on the computer! By this time more people were out on the beach and we could see figures below the lighthouse. The trail was slippery and about to be swamped by the incoming tide. My left ankle had gotten twisted badly a few weeks ago, and it had started to throb. We were wearing walking shoes, not hiking boots with ankle support. The combination of factors made me chicken out. I am a total coward. If we had known about the Southern trail we would have started there. As it was, we walked to the foot of the cliffs and admired tide pools just loaded with anemones. That was it, time for the next stage.
We followed the road to the viewpoint of what we thought to be Cape Arago, and were assaulted by a wall of sound: hundreds of sea lions and seals barking and whoofing their hearts out. This was the overlook of Shell Islands and Simpson reef, a major sanctuary for marine wildlife.

The hour we spent there was the best part, the very heart, of the whole trip. The sky and ocean were blue, the sun surprisingly warm for October. There were sea mammals everywhere, even visible with the naked eye. We were totally immersed in this crazy sound. I even took 45 seconds of wobbly video, just to capture the sounds. It makes us grin every time we hear it.

These pictures are best seen zoomed in, so you can actually see the critters. Piles and piles of them! Sunning themselves, slithering into the water and hobbling out, just amazing. I mentioned that I resorted to a picture of shadows, because there is no way Chris would do the tourist thing and pose while some stranger snaps us. Meet the Park Angel.
Jacqueline Schlaf, age 81, is a volunteer with the Oregon State parks. She lives in Coos Bay and takes beautiful photographs of the parks. She makes them into note cards which she hands out freely to visitors. Her wish is that people will actually write a note instead of sending an email. I did.

Jacqueline also passed around an excellent field glass that really made it possible to enjoy the beasts. And she offered to take a picture of us with our camera.
First one: Chris still unaware, me conspiring with J. Second one: Gotcha!

We had an early start so after all this it was still only 12.30.
Most of our traveling is done on the cheap, but we planned one really good seafood meal while we were on the coast. The small town of Charleston had a promising looking restaurant, High Tide. It had a nice atmosphere, patio on the bay, and superb fresh sea food. Another highlight. I feel a bit bad that we are such cheap travelers, but I must say this in our defense: on the rare occasions we eat out we are pleasant to deal with and we tip well.
 On to the next camp, the last one on the coast. Once again, the campsite on Cape Bianco was away from the sea. We started by parking near the entrance to the lighthouse. It was just closing for the day, which spared us the decision of whether to explore it or not.
View of the sea from there. Clouds have moved in.
We were still hoping to spend one night with a sea view from the window, instead of just behind dunes. This place would be so perfect. We asked another one of those friendly park volunteers if it would be OK to park overnight on the viewpoint parking place instead of in the woodsy campsite down the road. He told us he didn't see a sign against it. Since it was October, not July, no ranger was going to come around to check the place. YES! Ocean view from the living room at last! We, or rather Chris, parked in a more discreet spot and that was the end of driving for the day.

Another beach beckoned. This one was below the cape, down a steep trail to the South.
The hight tide made for tough slogging, so after we made our way down we opted for hanging out on logs and watching the pelicans fish. There was a whole flock of them. They are visible on the photo below in silhouette.
Focus on the rock on the left. It is easier to see if you zoom in.
This rock reminds me of a morel mushroom. Seen here from the trail down.
View from the beach, just under the morel rock. Doesn't the rock to the right look like a whale? Some weather was moving in and the feeling of the place was a bit threatening.
I was not looking forward to climbing back up the cliff. Oh well.....After enjoying dinner in our ocean view abode this splendid day had one last treat in store: Sunset!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Trip to Washington and Oregon October 2009, Day 5

Day 5, Beverley Beach State Park to Lighthouse Beach
I was up before daylight and trekked through the park in the dark to get rid of some garbage. The park is in a forest with enormous trees. The campsite is huge, and it was surprisingly busy for October. Many people were making use of the long weekend to have one last summer-like outing. The weather was amazing, more like late summer than early fall. The park is on the other side of the highway from the beach.
This was a disappointment till we noticed the underpass. Nice solution! We went for a good beach walk at first light. Alas, I forgot the camera. Oh well, if you've seen one beach......Actually this was a bit different because of the early morning light. There were patches of fog and the colours were all soft and shimmery.

After a second breakfast, hobbit style we headed South again. Nex stop: Cape Perpetua.
This should have been filmed, but I need to learn that. The place is filled with the sound of rushing water boiling up between the crazy black rocks in a geyser-like manner. The ranger dropped by while we were poking around the tide pools. He told us to come back some time on a stormy day for a much better show. He was also looking for some resident marine mammals, including a whale, but nobody obliged today.
On to laundry in Florence, what a waste of precious daylight hours, really. But a traveler's got to do what a traveler's got to do. The need for laundry was a consequence of packing light, and we had packed light just in case we had to abandon Thing if it broke down and would cost too much to fix. Thank Hermes that didn't happen! We had seen Florence last in 1979. In early spring that year we did a short coastal car trip that started with the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles. A dear friend looked after our 4-year old for 4 or 5 days. We lived on Vancouver Island at the time and I was pregnant with our son. We made Florence the turn-around point. It was a small village. Now it is humungous, with ugly strip development along the highway.
Just a pretty stretch of road, somewhere.

Judging by the map the next likely campsite on the ocean was Umpqua State park, but when we got there the campsite was quite a way from the ocean. We love salt water and don't get to be near it all that often. When we are in the neighborhood we like to make the most of it. The friendly ranger at Umpqua suggested we try Sunset South of Coos Bay, right on the beach.

Photo above: The big bridge near Coos Bay.

This required some city driving, but the signage to the recreational areas was really clear. Alas, when we got to Sunset we found that it was on a small sheltered bay. Probably a perfect beach for taking kids on a hot summer day, but not the place if you want to watch waves roll in all the way from China.
So we picked the private resort that we had noticed on the way in. Oceanside RV park is right on Lighthouse Beach, though you can't see the sea from the campsite. Nice site, nice people, perfect location, but the spaces in private parks are always smaller and the prices way higher than in those wonderful State Parks.
We had plenty of time left to do what we came for, another walk on the beach. I warned you this blog would be boring.
Chris is not the kind of guy to ask someone to take a picture of the two of us, so I cheated by taking our shadows.

                                            End of Day 5