Thursday, March 9, 2017

Catch-Up Post #2: My Belated Birthday Trip

Before I take you along on my trip, I want to dedicate this post to my Dad, who passed away unexpectedly on February 15.  He had this giant wall map of the U.S. and would follow along on my travels, marking the places I visited with post-its.  I always traveled and took pictures with him in mind - what he might like to experience and see.  I will continue to take him along with me as I travel and live my life to it's fullest as best as I can.  I love and miss you Dad.

(This post is rather long, being more of a scrapbook of photos of my trip.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words - and it's the Oregon Coast!, so I will let most of them speak for themselves.  Grab a snack and I hope you enjoy the trip.)

As I left my campground in Washington, and made my way south and then west, I crossed over the Cascade Range just south of Mount Rainier.  I had visited there many years ago, so it was nice to see this majestic mountain again.  I remember when I lived in Seattle, some days it looked like it was just floating there in the sky - kind of like a mountain Brigadoon!  

From Washington, I headed for Astoria and Fort Stevens State Park.  It had been about 23 years since I had been to the Oregon Coast.  I had always wanted to see Astoria, but I was kind of disappointed in that it wasn't what I had pictured or imagined.  It still had some wonderful features, but I had hoped for something totally different.  But I was almost to the ocean so that was all I cared about!  The beach at Fort Stevens was exactly what I had been yearning for and desperately needed. 

First thing I had to do was run down to the water and put my feet in!  I was home. 

The sunset that evening was magical.  I was at the Pacific Ocean!  How could it be otherwise!

The moonrise was pretty spectacular too.

Staying at State Parks along the coast was costly - at least for me, so I didn't get to stay too long at any one.  Plus there was so much to see everywhere!  The next day I left Fort Stevens and made my way south to Newport.  There are so many scenic overlooks along the coast it is hard not to stop at all of them (but I did hit many of them - I just couldn't help it.  Too beautiful).  Of course, one cannot travel the Oregon Coast and not see Cannon Beach.  WOW!  THIS is exactly why I love this coastline - the sea stacks, crashing waves, rocky and sandy beaches all rolled into one.  

I had heard from one of my campers this summer about Beverly Beach State Park and what a lovely park it was to camp at, so I decided to try my luck at getting a campsite. Good thing I travel with Zelda and don't need hook-ups; I was able to fit into a tent site so saved a few bucks. I do highly recommend this campground.  It is right on the beach - easy walk, and has an interpretive visitors center with very helpful volunteers (and free coffee, if you like that stuff).

The day I arrived was gorgeous, and I spent the whole time out walking the beach.  I was having fun discovering what I called "Ocean Art".

At the end of the day, I was gifted yet another perfect sunset.

The next day I headed into Newport.  It had changed a lot since I was last there. 

But I was welcomed in a most wonderful way. . .

Probably one of the funniest things to happen to me on this trip was when I went into one of the shops down along the boardwalk in Newport and found this t-shirt:
AARRRGH!!!  I just couldn't escape the dreaded Sockeye!!!  WHAT are the odds?!  Wish I could have bought the shirt, I really loved it since I'm also a Star Wars fan.  Plus it was just too funny.

I ended up staying an extra night at Beverly Beach State Park since there was so much more to see in the area.  One of the volunteers at the interpretive center told me where I could find a local pod of Gray Whales, so I definitely had to go check that out.  My dream growing up was to be a Marine Biologist.  I studied along that course for a while in college, but then got hooked on Environmental Education, but my first love is still the marine world.  I worked my way north, stopping along the way here and there in route to Cape Foulweather, my Gray Whale destination.  Unfortunately, as the day progressed, the sun was taken over by the mist and fog, and the temperature dropped - though rather appropriate for arriving at a place named "Cape Foulweather".

The view from Cape Foulweather is really interesting.  You will see in the photo below the ring of rocks at the bottom.  These are ring dikes created by lava invading a crack in the earth 15 million years ago.  They are only visible during low tide and are a textbook example of invasive volcanic activity on our planet.  Pretty cool.  Above the ring dikes in the photo (south along coast), you will see a flat green grassed marine terrace and then a rocky outcropping above that, which is the Devil's Punchbowl. This photo is a great example showing the erosion of the softer sedimentary rock in between the hard basalt headlands and offshore rocks.  The perfect mixture of rock types, lots of wave action, and a few million years is what makes the Oregon Coast so beautiful.

Unfortunately, Cape Foulweather is located about 500 ft. up on cliff overlooking the ocean, so my view of the Gray Whales wasn't what I had hoped, but I did see them!  (Can you find the whale in the photo?).  Having studied Humpback Whales in Hawaii, I can still spot and hear the blows and find a whale in a haystack so to speak, which this was kind of like.  Unfortunately I didn't have a zoom lens to get any good photos, but it was still such a joy to see the whales.  

Before leaving Beverly Beach State Park, I had to get some photos of their Octopus Trees.  The camper who suggested this state park told me all about these trees, which is one of the reasons I wanted to camp at this park.  Octopus Trees are a result of early logging practices that left tall stumps behind, called Nurse Stumps, which as they decompose provide water and nutrients for new plants to grow.  Baby Octopus Tress - Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce trees - will push their roots down through the decomposing nurse stump into the soil.  As the tree grows and ages, the roots grow bark on them and become part of the trunk of the tree.  The nurse stump eventually decomposes completely, leaving behind a large hollow and the strange "arms" that make them Octopus Trees.  Pretty awesome.

Heading south from the Newport area, I stopped at what was one of my favorite scenic view points.  This is looking north toward Heceta Head Lighthouse,

And south towards Florence.

Next destination was Cape Blanco State Park.  I had heard lots of wonderful things about this park and it was also less expensive than others.  The plan was to camp there for a couple of days and make my way back north on day trips to Charleston and Bandon (the state parks there were full and cost more).  Back in the very early 90's I worked at a wonderful place called South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (or South Slough NERR for short - yes, it is a mouthful!) in Charleston, OR.

I had been wanting to go back to visit for years.  It is interesting how some things don't change much, yet other things change so much they are not recognizable.  Well, the visitor center still looked the same from the parking lot, but once I got inside, I saw that it had been remodeled with a large addition, but my buddy the porcupine was still there.  (People used to come in and ask me if that was the "South Sloth" because they didn't know what a slough was or how to pronounce it.)

I went for a hike along the trail I used to teach programs along - back then there was really only 1 trail, now there are several.  Talk about not recognizing anything!  Wow!  Nature can change a lot in 23 years.  When I worked there, the view from the visitor center and along the upper trail through the forest was pretty open and you could actually see all the way down to the slough, but not anymore.  What a difference.  The only thing that was still recognizable to me (though it had changed too) was the boardwalk through the skunk cabbage.  It was always one of my favorite places.

From South Slough, I headed over to Sunset Bay State Park and played in the tide pools, my favorite thing to do on the coast.  I didn't get to time it best with the tides, but it was better than no tidepooling.

From Sunset Bay I headed over to Shore Acres State Park.  (One of the great things about camping at an Oregon State Park, is that your camping pass gets you into all the other state parks for free as a day guest.)  Though Shore Acres is definitely worth the fee to get in.  It is amazing - both the costal view as well as the breathtaking gardens.

I love this photo.  It reminds me of a dragon protecting it's sea cave.

One of the Dahlia gardens.

Rose from the rose garden.

Heading down the coast a short distance, you come to Cape Arago and an enormous colony of various pinnipeds hanging out on Simpson Reef and Shell Island.  I so wished I could have gotten closer to them, because there weren't just California Sea Lions, but Harbor Seals, Northern Elephant Seals (one of my favorites), and Steller Sea Lions.  I could hear the Elephant Seals which made me smile.

Back at Cape Blanco, I took a tour of the lighthouse there.  I highly recommend that too.

The night I came back from Charleston, it was a full moon and I drove out to the point by the lighthouse and ate my dinner, watching the moon rise and the light from the lighthouse cast it's beam across the land and ocean. One of the BEST dinner views I've had!  The pizza I picked up was good too.

The next day I headed back north to Bandon.  Bandon was always one of my favorite places to go when I lived in Charleston.  I used to volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center that a man ran out of his home.  We took in abandoned and injured Harbor Seals, sea birds, and even had a baby coyote and 2 tiny fawns once that played together in the yard.  But it was taking care of the Harbor Seals that I loved.  I still remember many of the ones I helped care for.  Bandon had changed a lot too, so I wasn't sure if I could find the man's home again, but I did.  Sadly, he had passed away, but his wife, who was a volunteer when I was there, still ran it, but they were no longer able to care for sea mammals.  It was nice to see that she was carrying on her husband's legacy and such important work.

The beach in Bandon is one of the best along the coast - lots of wonderful and interesting rock formations, including the well-known Face Rock.

Up until now, I had gotten to see (at least at a distance) every creature I had hoped to see, whales, seals and sea lions, pelicans, and other birds, tidepool critters, but I had not gotten to see one of my favorite critters of the Pacific coast - the Banana Slug!  Finally, on my last day at Cape Blanco State Park, I was headed to the showers and there, along the path, was one of my beloved Banana Slugs.  On the way back, I spotted another one.  My visit to Oregon was now complete - as far as wildlife goes.
This one is "He-she"
This one is "She-he"
Slugs are hermaphrodites, meaning they are both male and female.
Would make finding a date a whole lot easier I suppose.

As I headed south I found myself unable to leave the Oregon Coast.  It wasn't time yet.  I dallied and stopped at several more scenic view points.  At one, I was able to easily walk down to the beach where it had some huge waves crashing in.  I wanted to get some good wave shots.  I walked out to where the waves were just coming up onto shore to get my feet wet and started shooting.  Next thing I knew a rogue wave hit and nearly washed me out to sea!  It was all I could do to hold onto my phone and  keep it dry.  I of course I got soaked - and I had just put on fresh, clean clothes a few hours before - Boo!

So back to the car I slogged and continued on my drive - rather uncomfortably.  Soon after, the sun started to come out again and I came to another lovely scenic view point at Myers Creek, so I stopped to stand out in the sun and dry out.

Once I wasn't dripping any longer and was mostly dry, I reluctantly got back into the car to continue my trip south.  I was supposed to get to the Redwoods in Northern California that day, but it wasn't looking like it was going to happen.  Like I said, I was having a very difficult time getting myself to leave the coast, so I ended up splurging and got a campsite at Harris Beach State Park just north of the California border in Brookings.  This was a stop I was meant to make.

Aside from enjoying the jaw-dropping gorgeousness of the place, I met a wonderful French Canadian couple from Quebec.  They took a couple of months each summer to travel in the U.S. in their little Boler trailer, keeping color-coded routes marked for each year in their road atlas.  It was fascinating talking to them and hearing what it was like for them to travel in our "foreign" country and what they liked and didn't like.  We traded ideas and suggestions of places to visit and even modification ideas for Zelda.  Best though, besides spending time with them, was they gave me a can of their homemade maple syrup.  YUM!!

My planned trip actually didn't end at the Oregon border, but was to extend into Northern California to visit and hug the Redwoods.  If you have never been to see the coastal Redwoods, you must make that part of your bucket list.  Photos can't even begin to show you the magnitude of these glorious trees - you can't even fit half of one within the picture.  They must be experienced in person.

The trees behind Grania and Zelda are "small" trees!!

My visit to the Redwoods was the last stop on my Belated Birthday Trip.  It was very sad to have to turn eastward and head away from the Pacific.  I had originally planned to give myself 5 days to make the trip, but ended up spending 7 days in all.  I wish it could have been longer, but I can't complain - it was a spectacular birthday present and one I won't forget.  I like to think of this trip as a survey trip to scope out the places I want to explore in more depth on my next visit - or visits as it will probably have to be - there are too many places I want to go back to.

Thanks for hanging in for the whole trip!  If you ever get a chance to go to any of these places or others along the coast, do it!

Next Catch-Up post will be the eastern Sierras.  After that I should be back to real-time in SW Arizona where I am currently camped.  Oh, and guess what!?  The weather is FINALLY warm here and even getting HOT!  (Insert big smiley face here and Jordan doing the Happy Dance!)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Catch-Up Post #1 - A Day of Exploring Around Lake Wenatchee

I am still alive!  Sorry I've been gone for so long.  It ended up being a crazy fall and early winter with an extended trip back east, but I am back out in Arizona and FINALLY enjoying some lovely weather!  Only took 15 months to get some.  So, let me backtrack a bit and get everyone, including myself, caught up.

As my summer as a camp host ended in early September, I took one last day before leaving to explore the area.  I never got to do that all summer.  One of those cases of "I'll get to it", but then never did.  So, the first thing I wanted to do was hike up to Hidden Lake which was above my campground.  It was a nice hike from the parking lot.  I didn't have time to hike up the old trail from the campground, but was told from many people it was steep and had lots of downed trees to climb over.  I needed quick and easy.  The hike was worth it.  The lake was lovely.

While there, I enjoyed watching dragonflies zoom around me.  They were crafty little buggers, never hovering in one place long enough for me to focus in on them.  But I did manage a couple of decent photos.
Can you find the Dragonfly?

A little "crab" fungus I spotted on a downed tree along the trail.  
After hiking back to the parking lot, I was off to the other side of the lake in search of those darned Sockeye Salmon.  After putting up with the never ending fishing season (which DID by the way close on Labor Day - FINALLY), I felt I needed to treat myself to seeing them "getting it on in their seedy motels and backseats", so I headed to the rivers where their spawning grounds were.  On my way, I took a detour where there was a sign that read "Scenic View".  Hmmm, had to check that out.  Turns out it took me up a mountain at the far end of the lake closest to my campground and boy was it worth it!  From my campground, you could only see a small part of the lake.  At the state park on the opposite end, you could get a better feel for how big the lake was, but still couldn't see the whole span.  From this vantage point it was amazing how big the lake was and the valley it filled.  The lake level at the end of the summer was much lower than it was when I arrived in May.  After all the snow this winter up in the mountains, I wonder what the level will be this May.

Lake Wenatchee
My campground was off to the farthest most right point in this picture
After taking in the view, I headed back down the mountain and up the White River which would be off to the left of this picture, in search of salmon.  Unfortunately, almost the entire way up the road was private property, so there were only a few places I could even see the river let alone park and get out to explore.  The best place I found was where the river cut right up to the road and I found a very small area to pull over.  I didn't realize it until after I'd been there watching and taking pictures that there was a small sign close to the ground that said "Private Property".  Oops.  Well, I was mostly standing on the road and no one came out with a gun to scare me away.  But as you can see below, it was a gorgeous spot and well worth the risk.
The White River
The Pesky Sockeye hanging out in their Seedy Motel.
You can see that they have changed dramatically in appearance.
They have their bright red middles, green heads and tails and those gnarly hooked mouths.

Spawning Salmon
They would hang out in the deeper areas then swim up over the shallow rocks,
sometimes floating the current back down again.  
I read that a female salmon can lay between 1,000 - 17,000 eggs, but with the high mortality rate of salmon throughout their lifecycle, an average of 3 returning to spawn is considered good!  WOW!  


This is a video of the salmon several miles lower down the White River swimming up to the area where I took the previous pictures.  I was about 6-7 feet up above the water on the bank in the shade of trees, yet the fish could see me there.  If I made any movements, they would scatter and swim back downstream.  I was surprised they could see that far, but glad for them that they were so visually aware of their surroundings and potential threats.

The life of these fish is amazing.  While I stood on the bank and watched them in the river, I kept wondering if they knew this was it for them?  Their last Hurrah.  I hoped they had lived life as fully as a fish can live, had many great adventures, and at the end, had one hell of a good time!

I was SO glad I stayed an extra day and went exploring.  It was the highlight of my summer getting to witness this extraordinary event of the Sockeye Salmon.  I will never forget it.

Coming up next . . . My belated birthday present to myself.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Unexpected Things I've Learned this Summer

Glacier Peak and Mount David (to the left) at the beginning of the summer.

This summer has been quite memorable.  I have learned a lot about things I never considered to learn about.  I thought as an end to my summer adventure, I'd share a few of these "learning experiences".

  • Having stood outside from 3:00 a.m. till 8:30 a.m. for almost a week straight, I discovered that it is actually coldest about an hour after sunrise.  You'd think it would start to warm up once the sun came up but it doesn't.  Of course I had to find out if this were actually true and not just me being a wuss.  I looked it up and turns out it's true!  Well, barring any other weather fronts or happenings.

  • People define "camping" in very different ways.  Some bring their entire household - INCLUDING the kitchen sink - setting up entire "rooms" in their campsite.  While others bring a tent and a meal that has to be cooked but no pot or stove to cook with.  (Yes, I actually cooked the guys dinner for him).  

  • I found that I like to keep a few spiders in the restrooms.  They help keep out the Riffraff insects.

  • Unfortunately I found out that you can kill your brand new, very expensive, Lifeline battery in just a couple of months using only about 3 - 5 amp hours a day and recharging once a week (or so I thought I was).  I have re-branded my battery "Flatline".

  • Some men would choose to risk flipping over their very expensive pick-up truck backing up their boat trailer than to listen to someone else / a woman? give them suggestions on how to do it easier.  I had a guy who came to fish for the first 4-5 days of Sockeye season and every morning he put his truck up on the hillside, but on the 4th day I swore he was going to flip his truck over when he ran it up about 6 feet onto the hillside!  His back tire was at least 2 1/2 feet off the ground.  He wouldn't listen to me on how to line it up before backing.  I just shook my head and prayed we wouldn't need the emergency crew out there again.

  • Feeding bats is great fun!  Stand out in a fairly open area where bats are flying around, turn on your flashlight and point it up and out from you a little bit.  The insects will be attracted to the light and the bats will swoop in and feed.  They will come really close to you too.  VERY FUN!

  • In general, most men say they aren't cat people.  I have discovered why - the secret they've been trying to hide for generations.  Men are actually descended from cats.  I know this because cats like to pee just outside the litterbox and in the corners, and so do men & little boys.  I have proof, pretty much every day cleaning the restrooms.  Yep, secrets out guys.  Sorry.  (In all fairness, I know sometimes it could have been women who like to hover and little girls who are afraid they will fall into the toilet if they sit back all the way - but mostly it was the guys).

  • Do NOT wear a headlamp when cleaning vault toilets at night.  Just trust me on this one.

Glacier Peak and Mount David just a few days ago.
Quite a dramatic difference!

Well, I am officially done with my job as of this past Wednesday.  Thursday I did my normal first day off routine - showered (so desperately needed, I was 4 days overripe!), laundry, grocery shopping and other errands including 2 new tires for Grania - now she has 4 new "shoes".  I think she is happy.  Now if only I could afford some new shoes for myself!  Friday I cleaned out Zelda and Grania and got all but a few last minute things packed up and ready to go.  I decided to stay an extra day to do some exploring of the area that I never got to do all summer.  So that's what I just finished doing today.  I am SO glad I chose to do this - don't ever let something you really want to do pass you by.  I had a great day hiking and exploring and watching the salmon heading to their seedy motels - and even watched them getting it on too!  ;0)  (Pictures and videos will be posted soon).  I will pull out tomorrow and start my journey to the ocean - just like a young salmon.  What adventures await me there?  Can't wait to find out.