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!)